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So, this one is a little different than writing the Avengers list for me, and I was intending to mention it in a preamble to Wednesday’s post.
You see, there is a difference to the spirit and nature between the Justice League and the Avengers. It’s easy to count each as the “main hero team” of their respective companies, but there is a bit more to it than that for the readers who are familiar with both teams. At least, I think there is. If I’m wrong, I genuinely want to hear from you guys because I’m curious what you think. I will admit that I have been reading Avengers comics for a good while longer than I’ve been reading Justice League, so I’m more well-versed in the ins and outs of the Avengers team. So it’s entirely possible that I’m completely off-base here and talking out of my ass.
My perception of the difference between the Avengers and the Justice League is based on one primary fact: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all mainstay Justice League members. That seems random, but hear me out.
It wasn’t that long ago when the only Marvel characters the average person knew were Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Hulk with maybe some passing knowledge of the Fantastic Four and a couple of other X-Men. Though Spider-Man and Wolverine have joined the Avengers in recent years, and the Hulk was a founding member, I wouldn’t call any of them mainstay or quintessential Avengers members (Exhibit A: my list from this past Wednesday).
Meanwhile, the big three for DC, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, have been on the Justice League since the founding of the team and have stayed on the team for much of its existence. This links their most iconic characters directly to their most iconic team. In addition, many people have always had some passing knowledge of Aquaman, the Flash, and at least one Green Lantern, and Arthur Curry, Barry Allen, and Hal Jordan were also founding members and frequent participants in the Justice League.
Plus, who is Marvel’s most iconic team, truly? Many people would probably say the Avengers, myself included. However, there is a decent argument for the Fantastic Four, the first Marvel comic of the Silver Age, or the X-Men, the Marvel comic that has maintained popularity since the 1970’s of which most people have some passing knowledge. The Avengers hadn’t really ever gotten that popular with the common person until this past decade (the 2010’s, not the 2000’s).
Each team kind of represents something different for each company. The Justice League has always been the same thing for DC: it’s their headlining team with some of their most popular heroes who save the world from threats both terrestrial and alien (Justice League International, Justice League Europe, and Extreme Justice notwithstanding). The Avengers have always been similar, but it hasn’t always had their most popular characters and different iterations of the team have had different tones, goals, and have represented something different. Not even counting the New Avengers, the West Coast Avengers, and the Secret Avengers, you have very different incarnations of the team. The original lineup was an oddball team that fought oddball threats. Captain America’s Kooky Quartet was a bunch of ex-cons intent on proving themselves. From there, it did become more of a Justice League analogue with a powerhouse team that fought major global threats. In the 1990’s, it got a little weird again with Wasp as the leader and Triathlon as a mainstay member. After Civil War, you had this top-cop authoritarian team under Iron Man and Ms. Marvel. In the Heroic Age, you had a return to form followed by Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers World army of heroes. Now, you have Mark Waid’s team under Sam Wilson which seems like a beleaguered lineup that is having difficulty keeping a team together. The weirdest and most obscure lineup we have had for the main Justice League is that late 2000’s/early 2010’s lineup with Supergirl, Congorilla, and Starman. Don’t get me wrong, that was a weird team, but it was also a major anomaly in the team’s history.
Why am I saying all this? Partially to pontificate and to air ideas. I’m also doing it to apologize in advance for how boring this list is probably going to be. It’s not really going to be as controversial or “uniquely mine” has many of my lists. You could probably guess who these seven are fairly quickly. I might not have even done this list if I hadn’t put together the Avengers list, and, from there, you just feel obligated to do the same of the DC parallel. I may not really have as an extensive explanation for my choices due to their obvious nature, but I will try my best. Maybe I can get a little weird with the alternates…
Art by Jim Lee
Case-in-point. What do you want me to say? It’s friggin’ Superman. Of course he’s the first choice. He is the strongest hero in DC Comics (except maybe for Shazam and Martian Manhunter), he is a natural leader, and his moral purity is what the Justice League as a whole strives for. He has stumbled and been beaten back in the past, but he has always gotten back up. He is the super hero after which super heroes are named, and he is an obvious first pick for the Justice League.
Art by Greg Capullo
Another obvious pick, despite having no powers of his own he is very skilled and intelligent…*yawwwwwn* he’s the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight, and…whatever. I can’t be the only one burned out on this guy right? Maybe I am. That’s not me discrediting him as being qualified for this list, but, as a character, I find him infinitely more boring than Superman who is commonly considered the archetype of bland moral purity. Anyway, he’s smart, he’s skilled, and he bankrolls the Justice League. BAM! Batman, Justice Leaguer.
Art by Jason Fabok
Okay guys, I gotta be honest: I’m not that big on Diana Prince either. She is incredibly iconic and more than deserving to be on this list. She was the first super heroine, and she has historically always been a really strong and determined character. She is to the Justice League what Thor is to the Avengers: the powerful warrior whose strength has driven the team through difficult challenges. And yes, I know Wonder Woman has 20+ years on Thor. I’m not opening an originality debate here.
Art by Jim Lee
He is the king of Atlantis and…well, he’s just always been on the Justice League. I would consider him another Thor-like character (yes he has 20+ years on Thor too). Like Thor and Wonder Woman, he is a warrior from a different culture with immense determination and fortitude. Plus, the orange fish-scale shirt is fantastic no matter what anyone says.
Art by Neil Googe
Alright, here is a character that is more in my wheelhouse to talk about. He is the Fastest Man Alive and has often been the heart of the team. He is a gentler character with a good sense of humor and is more grounded than most of the team. He helps the League from getting too dark and too serious, and he is definitely worthy of being on this list.
Art by Ethan Van Sciver
The traditionally space savvier and cockier member of the team (Kyle Rayner and John Stewart notwithstanding on that last detail), the Justice League has always needed a Green Lantern (or two these days). They bring yet another powerhouse to the table and, well, I just love the Green Lanterns. So there. I’m a professional writer.
Art by Eber Ferreira and Eddy Barrows
Another really gentle and loveable member of the Justice League, he is a character who has had the most of their story told within the Justice League comic books. He is arguably the most powerful member of the team (suck it Kal-El), and he is just wants to do right by his adopted home. He wants to help people so the same fate that befell the Green Martians does not happen on Earth.
Art by Dave Wilkins
To me, Green Arrow is to the Justice League what most people say Batman is. Oliver Queen also has no powers and is willing to challenge the team on their more arrogant and out-of-touch moments. He also has a sense of humor that helps lighten the team like the Flash. I mean, yes, he also has the power of money on his side, so there is that. Moving on.
Art by Philip Tan and Sunny Gho
Another hardcore warrior, he has brought the fury and thunder to the Justice League during his time with them. He does not possess the power of Superman, Wonder Woman, the Manhunter, or Green Lantern, but he more than makes up for it with sure unadulterated piss-offedness.
Art by Jim Lee
A more recent addition to the team, I feel that Victor Stone has more than justified his place as a mainstay Justice Leaguer. His youth brings an optimism to group, and his strive to maintain his humanity brings the same to this group of aliens, gods, and rich people. He is also quite a lovable character that helps ground the Justice League.