Ever since the Justice League Snyder Cut arrived in March, DC’s premiere superhero team has taken its rightful place in the limelight once again. While the League have traditionally been the most iconic comic book team around, their thunder has been stolen in recent years by the emergence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the launch of the Avengers on the big screen.
Since the team first formed in 1960—in The Brave and the Bold #28 from Gardner Fox, the architect of the Silver Age of Comics—the Justice League’s roster has exploded from just seven founding members to countless heroes. It gets even bigger if you include the various denominations of the League that have been formed over the years, like Justice League Detroit, Justice League International and, most recently, Batman’s Justice League of America.
But who are the greatest Justice League members of all-time? With commiserations to runners-up like Firestorm, Power Girl, Captain Atom and more, here are the 20 JLA members who are really, in a league of their own.
20) Hawkman And Hawkgirl
The origins of this crime-fighting couple have been altered a lot over the years since their creation in 1940 at the hands of Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville. Sometimes they’re immortal Egyptians, sometimes they’re alien police officers.
Whatever their origin though, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are two of the longest-serving JLA members. The latter, in particular, will be a favorite of fans of a certain age as she was upgraded to founding member of the League in the classic Justice League animated series (and its follow-up, Justice League Unlimited).
19) Red Tornado
Even more so than the Hawkpeople, Red Tornado has one heck of a complicated backstory. Simply put, he’s an android originally designed to destroy the Justice League who turns to the good side instead. As well as being surprisingly powerful—his gale force winds can tear foes apart—Red Tornado is a sympathetic hero who continually seeks to become more human. He’s probably best known to non-comic readers for his prominent supporting role in the Young Justice animated series.
18) The Atom
The first Atom, Al Pratt, was a member of the JLA’s precursor the Justice Society of America, but the second and most famous Atom, Ray Palmer, has been a longtime member of the Justice League. A genius-level physicist, Palmer has the ability to shrink down to the size of an atom. Yes, like Ant-Man, but he came first. Fans will probably know him most for his major role in The CW’s Arrowverse shows, where he’s played by former Superman star Brandon Routh.
17) Blue Beetle
When DC acquired the library of Charlton Comics, they introduced the likes of Captain Atom and The Question into the mainstream DC universe. The standout, though, was Blue Beetle AKA Ted Kord. Created by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, Kord is a scientific genius—some say he’s even smarter than Batman—and a gifted athlete. Blue Beetle often serves as the comic relief of the team and is usually known for his partnership with his best friend Booster Gold (more on him in a moment).
The daughter of Golden Age hero Zatara, Zatanna is one of the DC’s greatest sorcerers. A stage magician by profession, and a real magician by nature, Zatanna has virtually limitless powers and casts her spells by saying a command backwards. Though The New 52 moved Zatanna into the supernatural superhero team Justice League Dark, she served on the JLA from 1978 until 2011, so she more than deserves her place on this list.
Superman’s cousin from Krypton has all the powers of her more famous relative. She’s another character with a very complex history but, simply put, Kara Zor-El was created in 1959 and ultimately sacrificed her life to save the Multiverse in 1985’s iconic Crisis on Infinite Earths event. She was later resurrected in 2004.
Supergirl is, of course, currently enjoying perhaps more popularity than ever before thanks to Melissa Benoist’s winning portrayal in the character’s self-titled TV show.
14) Booster Gold
Michael Jon Carter was a resident of the 25th century who traveled back to the 21st in an attempt to find fame and fortune as a superhero. Despite those less than honorable origins, Booster Gold grew into a true hero over time due to a series of personal tragedies—e.g.: the death of Ted Kord—and a firm member of the Justice League. He and his buddy Blue Beetle will be hitting the big screen soon, too, if the movie from Arrowverse exec producer Greg Berlanti ever gets off the ground.
13) Captain Marvel / Shazam
Originally a Superman analogue created by Fawcett Comics, Captain Marvel was later integrated into the DC universe and became a member of the Justice League.
When ordinary kid Billy Batson says the magic word “Shazam!” he transforms into, well, pretty much one of the most powerful beings in the universe. He’s even taken down the Man of Steel on at least one occasion.
In recent years, the character has been renamed Shazam, so as not to be confused with Marvel’s own Captain Marvel.
12) Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Hal Jordan might be the most famous Green Lantern, but many fans’ number one favorite is John Stewart. In particular, those who loved his founding member role in the aforementioned Justice League animated series know Stewart deserves a place in this list.
In contrast to Jordan’s generally lighter personality, Stewart is a former military man who takes his position a lot more seriously. He can be angry and arrogant, but his tragic past and everyman quality make him easy to root for.
11) The Flash (Wally West)
Here’s another hero who you probably love from the Justice League animated series.
Barry Allen might be the star of the DCEU and The CW’s TV show, but Wally West is still a terrific version of the Flash in his own right. Barry’s nephew-in-law, Wally was originally Kid Flash but graduated to solo hero after Barry’s tragic death. For over twenty years, Wally was the quick-talking heart of the team. He’s also the most powerful version of the Flash—the term “fastest man alive” first applied to him.
For most of his history, Victor Stone AKA Cyborg has been part of the Teen Titans but, in 2011, he was upgraded into a founding member of a rebooted Justice League as part of The New 52. Likewise, non-comic readers will know him for his place on the team in both Smallville and the Justice League movie. The modern version of the character is a former football star whose life was saved by cybernetic implants after a terrible accident.
9) Black Canary
After Wonder Woman, Dinah Lance AKA Black Canary is the second major female member of the Justice League. In her leather jacket and fishnet stockings, Black Canary is often known as a sex symbol, but she’s one heck of a useful team member, too.
As well as being a world-class martial artist, Black Canary’s primary ability is her super-sonic scream—her “Canary Cry.” A fan-favorite character, Dinah has appeared in the likes of Justice League Unlimited, Smallville and in at least two different versions on Arrow.
8) Green Arrow
Black Canary’s long-term professional—and romantic—partner is Oliver Queen, AKA Green Arrow. Initially depicted as little more than a Batman rip-off, Queen was later retooled as a “Robin Hood”-type socialist crusader.
The Emerald Archer is far much more than just nifty with a bow and arrow, though. His long years of service on the JLA mean that he’s to be the best member outside of the core seven. Plus, he’s the father of his own DC TV universe on The CW, where he’s played by Stephen Amell.
7) Martian Manhunter
The last son of Mars, J’onn J’onnz is the first of the seven original founding members of the Justice League on our list. Part of what makes Martian Manhunter so awesome is his amazing skill-set, which easily marks him out as one of the League’s most powerful members. He can shapeshift, fly and he’s the most powerful telepath on the planet. We really love J’onn, though, for his tragic war-torn past and role as the straight man of the team.
David Harewood played him on Supergirl and the character appeared briefly in the Zach Snyder cut of Justice League.
He’s often underrated, but Arthur Curry more than deserves his place as one of the foremost Justice Leaguers. He’s super-strong, highly durable, and his Trident is powerful enough to pierce Superman’s skin. The King of Atlantis has had his ups and downs, but recent comics have cast him as a brooding and troubled hero. The classic image of Aquaman as the butt-of-the-joke was blown right out of the water—zing!—when Jason Momoa played his rockstar version in the DCEU.
5) Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
There’ve been so many Green Lanterns over the years. Alan Scott, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, just to name a few. But the best has to be Hal Jordan. The very first human to be inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, Jordan is an immeasurable ally to the team. He’s suffered terrible tragedy—turned into a villain, had his murdered girlfriend stuffed in a fridge—but his lack of fear and incredible willpower mark him out as one DC’s standout heroes. Don’t let the Ryan Reynolds movie convince you otherwise.
4) The Flash (Barry Allen)
Like Hal Jordan, Barry Allen is the second man to become the Flash, but he’s definitely the best. With his super-speed and ability to traverse time and the multiverse, the Justice League could hardly do without him.
After his tragic death in the seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths event, Barry was absent for a long while. But for the past few years he’s been back in the cowl once again. Barry is so popular, in fact, that he’s one of the few heroes to be portrayed on both the big and small screens right now, as played by Grant Gustin and Ezra Miller, respectively.
3) Wonder Woman
And now we arrive at the Trinity, the League’s core three members. The most iconic woman in all of comic book history, Wonder Woman is an Amazonian demigoddess and the princess of Themyscira. With her bullet-proof bracelets and Lasso of Truth, there are few heroes as courageous and pure-hearted Diana Prince.
In fact, it’s hardly the Justice League if Wonder Woman isn’t part of it. Thankfully, after over three-quarters of a century, Wonder Woman finally made her big-screen debut in 2016 when Gal Gadot showed up in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and has since made quite a few appearances including her pair of self-titled films.
What more can be said about Batman? Unlike his fellow heroes, Bruce Wayne is a mere mortal who dedicated his life to becoming something more, in effort to prevent the tragedy he suffered as a child. With his endless arsenal of gadgets, he’s the World’s Greatest Detective and can strike fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere. It’s not easy to hold your own amongst kings, gods and aliens, but Batman—with his body and mind trained to peak condition—has never had any problems.
Is Batman or Superman the best Justice League member? It’s a tough question, but on this occasion, we’ve gone for the latter. Created back in 1938, Superman is the original superhero—who knows what shape the genre would have taken without him? More than that though, Kal-El of Krypton is not only the most powerful hero on the team, but also the most full of compassion, courage and astonishing inner strength. In short, despite his alien origins, he’s the most human and the truest hero of the lot.