The DC Universe is full of world-threatening super-villains, and sometimes it takes more than one hero to defeat them. Citizens can sleep peacefully, however, because the Justice League is Earth’s first line of defense. Comprised of the World's Greatest Super Heroes, the League has saved countless lives since its debut in 1960. With most of its adventures now available to enjoy on DC Universe, there's never been a better time to dive into the League’s rich history. Whether you grew up in the '70s and '80s watching the Super Friends cartoon or were introduced to the team through its 2001 animated series, there's a Justice League comic book for you. Here are some great places to start reading…
THE STORY: When a group of aliens known as the Hyperclan makes its way to Earth, Superman grows suspicious of its intentions. These strange visitors claim they want to help, but the Justice League soon learns they aren’t what they appear to be... This story launched 1997's JLA title, DC’s flagship series in the late 1990’s. After years of lineups featuring second stringers, the Justice League now had its most iconic heroes back in its roster. Writer Grant Morrison and artist Howard Porter’s depiction of the White Martians inspired subsequent portrayals in shows like Young Justice and Supergirl.
FOR FANS OF: This run is written by Grant Morrison, whose run on the Doom Patrol comic inspired DC Universe's Doom Patrol. Morrison is also responsible for comic book classics like All-Star Superman and Batman and Son, among many others.
WHAT’S NEXT: The rest of Grant Morrison's JLA run is well worth reading. He also put the team up against their criminal counterparts from another universe in the graphic novel JLA: Earth 2.
WHERE TO FIND IT: JLA #1-4
BONUS: Check out the Justice League pilot episode “Secret Origins” for a take on the team’s origin that's heavily influenced by this tale, as the heroes go up against a group of alien beings similar to the Hyperclan.
THE STORY: The Justice League’s joyous 100th meeting is cut short when the team learns the Justice Society is in danger on Earth-Two. The League and the Justice Society then unite to search time and space for the Seven Soldiers of Victory, who may be their only hope in saving the universe. Writer Len Wein (at the height of his formidable powers) begins his run on the book with one of the most memorable DC team-ups ever. This story is seen by many as the Justice League’s “graduation” from the Silver Age into the Bronze Age, a more intense era with higher drama.
FOR FANS OF: The Justice Society, dimension- and time-hopping tales, and team-up epics!
WHERE TO FIND IT: Justice League of America #100-102
THE STORY: The Justice League is caught off guard when they're attacked by their teammate Red Tornado. It turns out the android's creator, Professor T.O. Morrow, is trying to counteract a prophecy that ends with his own death. The League must unite to stop Morrow and save the Tornado from his inventor's wicked influence. Along the way, the Tornado's true origin is at last revealed... Writer Gerry Conway and artist George Perez’s depiction of the League is among the most iconic of the "Satellite Era" (named after the team's Bronze Age headquarters).
FOR FANS OF: Readers who loved The New Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths, or the 1987 Wonder Woman comic will appreciate George Perez penciling another one of DC’s most iconic titles. Perez's Justice League also paved the way for the fondly remembered Super Powers toyline and comic book, as well as the Super Powers cartoon.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Conway-Perez run begins with issue #184 (continuing a story Conway began in #183) and -- barring a handful of fill-in artist issues -- continues through the landmark anniversary issue #200... For the next incarnation of the team, check out Justice League of America Annual #2, in which Aquaman unites a diverse new team of heroes. This era is affectionately known as “Justice League Detroit," and introduces some fan-favorite characters like Vibe and Steel who feature in several of DC's current live-action TV shows.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Justice League of America #192-193
BONUS: Red Tornado’s origin story was incorporated into the first season of the Young Justice animated series.
THE STORY: People have often said that Batman has a contingency plan for everything, but what happens when those plans fall into the wrong hands? Ra’s Al Ghul strikes at the Justice League, and, thanks to the Dark Knight’s plans, he’s able to bring the team to its knees. How can the Justice League overcome this demoralizing defeat, and can they go on after their trust in Batman has been shattered? The stakes have never been higher in this blockbuster story from writer Mark Waid and artist Howard Porter, as our heroes face a turning point that rocks them to their core.
FOR FANS OF: The Dark Knight takes center stage in this tale, so Batfans will love it. If you’ve ever been in a nerdy debate about Batman’s “prep time,” then this is the storyline for you! Fans of writer Mark Waid -- who also produced superlative work in Kingdom Come and Superman: Birthright -- will also be enraptured.
WHERE TO FIND IT: JLA #43-46
THE STORY: Journey back to the early days of the Silver Age and experience the Justice League’s first appearance! The League’s first outing puts them against an alien being known as Starro the Conqueror. Starro might look like a giant starfish, but his battle with the League is no joke, and inspired many homages. In the Justice League’s debut adventure, writer Gardner Fox introduces Snapper Carr, a teen sidekick who went on to have his own legacy in the greater DC Universe.
FOR FANS OF: If you grew up watching the Super Friends, this comic will feel like a blast from your past. If you appreciate the sleek, clear, midcentury lines of the Silver Age, you'll be in heaven with artist Mike Sekowsky's minimalist work.
WHERE TO FIND IT: The Brave and the Bold #28
THE STORY: The Justice League is here to save the day…if they can get their act together! In the wake of 1986's Legends event, Guy Gardner tries to take command of the team, Captain Marvel has the maturity of a young boy, and Batman and Martian Manhunter try to keep everything together. This incarnation of the team was notable for its humor, care of writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, along with the League's globe-trotting adventures. The “beyond America” focus caused the book to be retitled Justice League International and spawned a series of successful spin-off titles.
FOR FANS OF: Readers who enjoyed the recent Shazam! movie will be pleased to see Captain Marvel heavily featured in this story. In fact, this title was one of the first times the character was portrayed as a kid in an adult’s body. Comedy fans and those who prefer lighthearted stories will also be pleased to discover this book has a far less serious tone than other Justice League titles.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Justice League #1-7
BONUS: This story contains a moment when Batman knocks Guy Gardner out with one punch. Gardner’s resulting embarrassment became a long-running gag in the DC Universe, and was even parodied in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode “The Eyes of Despero.”
THE STORY: Many readers know the story of how Jonathan and Martha Kent found baby Kal-El’s rocketship and raised him to be the world’s greatest super hero. But what if the Kents hadn’t found the infant? What if a single nail ruptured their car's tire and changed the destiny of the entire planet? Writer-artist Alan Davis tells a dark Elseworlds tale that looks at what the Justice League -- and the DC Universe -- would be without Superman.
FOR FANS OF: This story is a must-read for fans of alternate universe tales and anybody who has ever devoured a DC Elseworlds title. As well as those who love Alan Davis' superlative art in Batman and the Outsiders (#22 through #36) and Detective Comics (#569 through #575).
WHAT’S NEXT: This story continues in the sequel Justice League of America: Another Nail... Other DC Elseworlds books featuring the Justice League include the Lord of the Rings-styled League of Justice, the steampunk-flavored Age of Wonder, and the western Justice Riders.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Justice League of America: The Nail #1-3
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Although their scope goes beyond the roster of the Justice League, no list of JLA classics would be complete without a mention of the late cartoonist Darwyn Cooke's masterfull retelling of the Silver Age in DC: The New Frontier and writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross' wildly influential deconstructionist epic Kingdom Come.