Top 10: Heroes Not Yet In The Justice League by Jerry Whitworth
In its nearly six decades long existence, the Justice League has gone through many transitions. Big 7, Satellite, Detroit, International, Refuge, Extreme, Big 7 Redux, Pantheon, Leagues, Substitute, Elite, One Year Later, Super Buddies, Cry for Justice, New Generation, Generation Lost, and the myriad of Rebirth groups (Dark, International Redux, America Redux, United, America Redux Redux, and China) represent most of these changes in a roster of some approximately 200 individuals. However, despite so many versions over such a significant period of time, some heroes have yet to earn a seat at the table (even as honorary or reserve members). While the League has often represented the best the Earth has to offer, its nonetheless been home to many lesser known characters (of perhaps best described the B, C, or even D-level). So, where obviously it’s unfeasible that DC Comics’ hundreds of heroes could all have served some time in the League, there are those whose absence is somewhat surprising. With this in mind, let us then take a look at some heroes that have yet to serve in the Justice League but may someday.
In 1989, John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake took an idea from Alan Moore and Stan Woch’s Swamp Thing to create a rather intriguing storyline. The concept around Moore and Woch’s Parliament of Trees was that plant elementals, such as Swamp Thing, existed on Earth long before humanity protecting plant life. The Parliament of Trees concept gave way to other Parliaments in Flames, Vapors, Waves, and Stones (and later, Limbs and Decay with the Quantum Field and other elements left yet explored in a similar manner). Ostrander and Mandrake expanded these ideas with the “Elemental War” storyline in the pages of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man. Therein, Japanese environmentalist Mai Miyazaki was murdered by an oil company and she was resurrected by the Parliament of Waves as their elemental Naiad. Seeking vengeance for her demise, Naiad destroyed an oil rig belonging to the company that had her killed but its oil corrupted her form (and by extension, her psyche). Around this time, the Red Tornado (Vapors’ elemental) suffered similar damage leading to the pair seeking the destruction of humanity. This turn of events brought Firestorm (Flames’ elemental) and Swamp Thing into a confrontation with their fellow elementals where Naiad and Tornado were successfully cured of their madness. Subsequently, Naiad would combat heroes like Superman, Spectre, and Corona for various reasons. While on the surface the character appears to be villainous, her role as a protector of Earth would indicate her limited appearances leave her ill-defined. As for why she’s notably absent from serving time in the Justice League, this relation is directly connected to the group’s association with Earth’s other elementals. Swamp Thing, Firestorm, Red Tornado, Captain Atom, Geo-Force (arguably Stones’ elemental), and Animal Man (father to Limbs’ elemental Maxine) have all been League members, some with notable runs. Whether by accident or design, the elemental representatives of the various Parliaments seem drawn to membership in Earth’s premier guardians with Waves the only entity yet represented.
Created in 1960 as part of a post-apocalyptic narrative, the Atomic Knights were a band of heroes wearing irradiated suits of armor giving them protection from the energy weapons of the villainous Black Baron. Later, the Knights were grouped within the Great Disaster storyline that included Kamandi and Hercules. Originally, the Great Disaster had its own unique Earth among DC Comics’ infinite Earths multiverse but, following Infinite Crisis, aspects of it were folded in to the primary Earth’s future. Regardless, the Atomic Knights concept was revamped in 1983 when Gardner Grayle (the Knights’ leader) was revealed to be in a virtual reality experiment where his Great Disaster adventures were explained away as a fantasy. Grayle stole a hi-tech suit of armor from S.T.A.R. Labs at the behest of the goddess Cassandra who had the power of premonition. Now known as the Atomic Knight, Grayle became something of an agent of Cassandra in order to prevent the fall of man including teaming with Wonder Woman to defeat the alien Ytirflirks and, following the destruction of the multiverse, teaming with the Forgotten Heroes to enlist the aid of Darkseid against the Anti-Monitor.
His history revised due to the Crisis, S.T.A.R. Labs provided Grayle (leader of the decorated Platoon 13 troupe of soldiers) a suit of experimental hi-tech armor where he briefly became the Shining Knight as part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory to combat the Injustice League. Grayle developed the power of premonition which he sought to extinguish with the help of metahuman expert Dr. Helga Jace. Unbeknownst to Grayle and the superhero team the Outsiders, Jace was an agent of the Manhunter cult who trapped Grayle and the Outsiders in a VR prison based on the original Atomic Knights adventures. Upon freedom, Grayle employed a new suit of armor as the Atomic Knight and as a member of the Outsiders. Subsequently, the Outsiders would disband only to return and Grayle would again join the team with yet another new version of his armor. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, Grayle lead an army of Atomic Knights under the organization Roundtable to reclaim the decimated city of Blüdhaven until his death at the hands of Darkseid’s forces during the events of Final Crisis. Having been a member of the Atomic Knights, Forgotten Heroes, Seven Soldiers of Victory, and Outsiders, the Justice League more or less is the only major hero team Grayle has yet been a member of since his creation. There were plans to make an Atomic Knight action figure for the Super Powers toyline which likely would have seen the character join the League in the toyline’s comic and cartoon had the line continued.
Three thousand years old and the son of an Atlantean and Kherubim, Marc Slayton traveled the Earth seemingly drawn into conflict across the span of history. Several decades ago, Slayton would be a member of the US government’s highly decorated spec-ops unit Team 7 where he was exposed to a chemical unlocking several new abilities including manifesting psychic whips and turning into sentient mist. Subsequently, Slayton adopted the codename Backlash and operated as a spy for the US in the organization StormWatch. Backlash later abandoned this mission to rescue his girlfriend Major Diane LaSalle which led to his moving on to another love in Taboo, the pair going to work for the US’ Department of Paranormal Science Investigations (PSI) where he founded the Wildcore unit. Following the near massacre of Wildcore, Backlash rejoined his Team 7 associates to save the world from the godlike being Tao. Hailing from the WildStorm universe, Backlash is one of a handful of established superheroes not generally tied down to a single team (though, as noted, he’s been a member of several notable ones). When the WildStorm universe was folded into the DC universe, there was undoubtedly a missed opportunity to fold a significant WildStorm character into the Justice League and Backlash was a strong example of one who likely would’ve fit in well with the group.
In the year 2030, scientist Matthew Ryder wanted to prevent his time period from coming under the rule of the tyrant Monarch. Constructing a time machine, Ryder traveled back to the 20th century but his body was somehow merged with the timestream transforming him into the Waverider. Monarch would find a way to follow Ryder back in time only to be defeated at the hands of Earth’s heroes. Having altered his timeline, Waverider aligned with his self from the new future as members of the Linear Men, a force to protect the flow of time from destructive elements. Nonetheless, Waverider remained an ally to Superman until the time traveler met his demise at the hands of Extant (an evolved version of Monarch) forcing the other Matthew Ryder to became another Waverider to save the flow of time. This new Waverider would also be killed but by the robot Skeets under the influence of Mr. Mind. Liri Lee, a Linear Man and the second Ryder’s lover, later absorbed Waverider’s powers and became the Linear Woman. However, the pre-Flashpoint Booster Gold later became another Waverider. While Waverider inevitably didn’t end up in the Justice League, producers saw fit to include him in the animated series Justice League Unlimited as a member of the eponymous group.
Hailing from the planet Aegena, Ohmen was a member of the Protectorate which was in a civil war with rival faction the Directorate. Empowered by a stone embedded in his chest, Ohmen was a member of his world’s weakest and lowest class that was transported to Earth via a portal where he was frozen for some time in a lake in Maine. After his frozen slumber, Ohmen learned the Directorate had established a secret base on Earth and was captured by the enemy. Brought before their leader Darian, Ohmen attempted to sacrifice his own life to kill the group’s leader only for something miraculous to occur. Somehow, in his attempt to kill Darian and himself, Ohmen absorbed the leader’s power and ascended to the highest class of his race. Taking the name Union, Ohmen decided to become Earth’s protector with his newfound abilities eventually joining the organization StormWatch as a reservist. Along with the WildC.A.T.s’ Mr. Majestic, Union is often times referred to as the Superman of WildStorm. In much the same way Backlash would have been an excellent choice of WildStorm character to have joined the Justice League, Union meets the same criteria as largely being a notable, singular entity whose ideology aligns with that of the League.
Spoiled prince of the Crown Imperia empire, Gavyn saw his life change drastically when his sister Clryssa attempted to assassinate him (as per custom in ascending to the throne of emperor upon their father’s death). However, tossed out into space, Gavyn survived and was found by the hermit scholar Mn’Torr. Believing at first Mn’Torr had saved his life, Gavyn learned instead he was the source of immense power and surviving unaided in space was merely one of his abilities. Mn’Torr provided Gavyn with gauntlets allowing him to channel his powers and trained Gavyn to take full advantage of them. Becoming Starman, Gavyn decided to become the defender of Crown Imperia until falling in love with and subsequently marrying Lady Merria convinced him to also take the throne as its ruler. When antimatter threatened the Throneworld of Kranaltine, Gavyn was transformed into pure energy and crashed into Earth, killing hiker Will Payton.
For some time, Payton thought he had gained super powers and fought crime as Starman until his apparent demise at the hands of Eclipso. However, rather than die, he emerged on Kranaltine where his old friend Jediah Rikane determined Gavyn had supplanted Payton’s body but retained his host’s memories. With a thirst for power, Rikane captured Gavyn, stole his powers, and ascended the throne taking Merria as his bride. Starmen Jack Knight and Mikaal Tomas sought Payton and emerged on Kranaltine where they helped free Gavyn and overthrow Rikane. Still unsure if he was Payton or Gavyn, the hero begrudgingly retook his throne with Merria by his side. During the events of the Rann-Thanagar War and Rann-Thanagar Holy War, the Crown Imperia placed its support behind Rann however while Rann’s Adam Strange and their ally Bizarro was dealing with the menace Synnar, Lady Styx ravaged the empire. Gavyn blamed Strange for the destruction of his 24 worlds but, as members of the Aberrant Six (chosen by the universe as those that maintain its balance), the pair were forced to work together to stop Styx. With the destruction of Rann but the survival of its people, Kranaltine became their new world and changed its name to New Rann. The intergalactic military agency L.E.G.I.O.N. would make New Rann its base of operations. While Gavyn never emerged as a member of the Justice League, producers for the television series Justice League Unlimited made him a member of the eponymous group.
Following the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the resulting singular universe would no longer have a Superboy which threatened the existence of the Legion of Super-Heroes and their reality. Time Trapper, arguably the Legion’s arch-nemesis, could not alter the emergence of this new universe but managed to forge a pocket universe with its own Superboy modeled after the original to ensure his existence. However, Trapper attempted to use his Superboy to defeat the Legion resulting instead in the demise of the Boy of Steel (though, the Legion’s future was nonetheless secured). Subsequently, without a Superboy (not to mention Superman), the pocket universe’s Earth became defended by its Lex Luthor. Unfortunately, Luthor accidentally released prisoners of the Phantom Zone in General Zod, Zaora, and Quex-Ul who conquered the planet. Lana Lang, the love of Luthor’s life, was murdered by the trio as Luthor formed a league of heroes to combat the prisoners to no avail. Luthor, who monitored the main universe, tried to create a warrior to defeat the Kryptonian villains modeled after Superman called Matrix. However, saddened by the loss of his love, his artificial protoplasmic being had the appearance of Lana and even her memories. Sadly, Matrix was no match for Zod and his minions so, in a last desperate bid, Luthor sent his creation to the main universe to request Superman’s aid. While Matrix was successful in bringing Superman to her Earth, they returned to a lifeless husk as the Kryptonians wiped out all life therein. Superman would not only defeat but execute the trio as they threatened to do the same to his Earth and Matrix, the sole survivor of a barren world, was invited to return with Superman to his Earth where she became Supergirl. Becoming a steadfast companion, Supergirl underwent many trials as Superman’s partner (including becoming the lover of Lex Luthor’s clone and a member of the Titans).
Matrix’s life underwent significant change when the demon Buzz attempted to sacrifice youth Linda Danvers to summon another demon to Earth. Matrix merged with Danvers in order to save her life but the event transformed the pair into an Earth-born Angel of Fire. Becoming a new being that expelled its former protoplasm self, the protoplasm remainder became a new Matrix seeking the destruction of the new Danvers entity. Subsequently, the other Matrix merged with the Earth Angel of Light Blithe as Matrix would be separated from Linda and combined with the New God Twilight who became the new Angel of Fire. Linda would be forced by Lilith, Mother of Demons, into her service during the civil war in Hell during the events of Reign in Hell. For twelve years, Matrix was DC Comics’ Supergirl and during that time, she was one of its more prominent heroes and became a fixture of its universe. However, with the return of the Pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El, Matrix was largely forgotten. While Matrix was not and will never be the iconic Supergirl, her impact and subsequent absence are nonetheless tragic to have slipped into obscurity.
Due to a malfunctioning starliner, the Terminan child Arnus crash landed on Earth where he was adopted by an African slave and was given the name Augustus Freeman. Virtually un-aged since reaching adulthood, Freeman would pose as descendants of himself to escape suspicion of his alien nature reaching his fourth incarnation of his original identity in the modern day. When youths broke into Freeman’s house, he employed some of his remarkable powers witnessed by one of the intruders in Raquel Ervin. Amazed at what he could do, Ervin convinced Freeman to become the superhero Icon as she became his sidekick Rocket. Icon and Rocket were the central duo of Milestone Media which was folded into the DC Universe following the events of Final Crisis. In the revised version of the universe, Superman and Icon are close friends where Icon would aid the Justice League against their foe Starbreaker. While Icon never emerged as a member of the Justice League, producers of the television series Young Justice included the character as a member of its Justice League.
Teenager Angela Roth fell in with a crowd of occultists who used her in a ceremony to summon the demon Trigon. Roth and Trigon were wed and laid down together where the teenager witnessed the true face of her husband and, when she learned she was with child, attempted suicide. Rather than die, Roth emerged in the dimension of Azarath where she took the name Arella and gave birth to a daughter named Raven. Mother and daughter were largely separated as they were each taught the pacifist ways of the Azarathians. Soon after Raven’s eighteenth birthday, she learned her father planned to invade her dimension so she sought the aid of the Justice League to combat him. Unfortunately, League member Zatanna sensed Trigon’s darkness in her and they refused. Undeterred, Raven reformed the Teen Titans and the team defeated Trigon saving the Earth (if not the universe). Raven remained with the Titans moving forward though she consistently had to fight the darkness inside her from taking over. For a time, Raven existed bodiless as a spirit until the Church of Blood implanted her soul into a teenage girl. As it turned out, the Church of Blood worshiped Trigon and required Raven in order to destroy the Earth. Raven and the Titans defeated the Church as she returned to the fold and adopted a secret identity in Rachel Roth. Following the events of Flashpoint, Raven’s origins are largely unchanged save that she works as an agent for her father infiltrating the Titans. Of the group of Teen Titans Raven formed when she came to Earth, she is largely the only member of that group to have yet joined the Justice League. Taking this fact into consideration and the fame the character enjoys in pop culture due in large part to her animated adaptations, it’s likely Raven’s emergence in the League is less about if as it is when she will join. Raven was a member of the Justice League in the video game series Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Michael Holt was a man who had it all. One of the most brilliant men on Earth, an accomplished athlete, exceedingly wealthy, and married to the woman he loved with a child on the way. When a car accident took the lives of his wife and child but spared him, Holt contemplated suicide. A visit from the Spectre inspired Holt to take up the mantle of the superhero Mister Terrific where Holt would join and eventually lead the Justice Society of America. Following the events of Flashpoint, the Justice Society no longer existed so Holt’s origins were completely revamped. Therein, Holt’s son that died in the crash instead lived in a parallel universe who visited his parallel universe father to inspire him to become Mr. Terrific. At some point, Terrific ended up on the post-Flashpoint Earth-2 as a member of the Wonders of the World. Seemingly, he will lead a team on superheroes called the Terrifics in the near future which appear to be a homage to the Fantastic Four. While not a member of the Justice League, Terrific has been a member of the League in the animated series Justice League Unlimited and Justice League Action (as well a prominent member of Green Arrow’s team on Arrow).
Honorable mentions: Nubia, Manhunter (Mark Shaw), Manhunter (Kirk DePaul), Manhunter (Kate Spencer), Hardware, Robotman (Cliff Steele), Corona, Alpha Centurion, Supernova (Daniel Carter), Shining Knight (Ystina), Skyrocket, Goldstar, Tiger-Man (Desmond Farr), Isis, Ragman, Conjura, Fleur-de-Lis, Pozhar, Weird, Vulcan, Kapitalist Kouriers, Atlan, Yellow Peri, and Deep Blue.