Top 10: Justice League Members by Jerry Whitworth
With filming beginning already on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the announcement of a Justice League film being produced directly afterward, a lot of focus has been placed on the super group in recent memory. The premier superhero team for DC Comics, the Justice League of America was a 1960s update of the 1940s Justice Society of America. Traditionally, the group is made up of the most powerful and popular heroes for the publisher originally starting with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter (the first three commonly referred as the Trinity and the seven called the Big 7). However, within subsequent issues the cast grew to include the likes of Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, and dozens more as years passed. With such a powerful group, the Justice League fought the worst of the worst as foes like Starro, Amazo, Despero, Doctor Destiny, Felix Faust, Lord of Time, Queen Bee, and the Crime Syndicate not only threatened the League but many times the world. Out of around two hundred members across such variations as International, Europe, Antarctica, Task Force, Unlimited, Elite, Dark, United, and more, lets examine who qualifies as the best of the best.
10. BLACK CANARY
Last of the 1960s recruits to the Justice League, Black Canary is the daughter of the original character to bear that name. Originally, the writers of the Justice League of America comic wanted the original Canary to join the League only to realize her advanced age would be a problem. So, a solution was devised such that Justice Society of America foe the Wizard magically gave Canary’s daughter the Canary Cry, a devastating sonic blast emanating from her mouth that the child couldn’t control and the Society’s Thunderbolt genie couldn’t remove. As a compromise, the daughter was placed in suspended animation (though aging) until a remedy could be found while everyone’s memories were wiped of the affair by the genie. When the original Canary was dying from a battle with a living star that fought the League and Society, the genie imparted her memories into her now adult daughter’s body. Along the way, she became a love interest to Green Arrow and largely the character came to be identified as Arrow’s partner and lover. However, everything changed with the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
After Crisis, Earths One and Two were merged as both mother and daughter Canary existed in a more traditional relationship (having the same first and last name, the daughter had the middle name Laurel to distinct her). While Laurel’s mother didn’t want her daughter to follow in her footsteps, her father Gotham City private detective Larry Lance and the members of the Justice Society taught Laurel in secret (as many Society members didn’t have children, or didn’t raise them for different reasons, Laurel largely became a surrogate daughter of the bunch). This was especially true of Ted Grant, the golden age Wildcat and one of history’s greatest boxers (such that Bruce Wayne sought him out as one of his teachers on his road to becoming Batman). Laurel became a fighter, detective, tactician, and stealthy heroine with few parallel, taking on her mother’s mantle and costume (so far as donning a blonde wig to cover her natural black hair) at the age of nineteen. Following the public emergence of Superman, other heroes began to come out of the shadows and within time, five such heroes formed the group the Justice League of America (namely, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Black Canary). Considering the changes to history because of Crisis, the Manhunter largely filled in Superman’s role to a degree and Canary took on that of Batman (until Green Arrow appeared) with elements of Wonder Woman. As such, Canary became significantly more interesting, unique, and dangerous because among a team of self-styled gods, the very human Dinah Lance held her own and contributed to the group thanks to her skills and abilities.
While indeed Black Canary and Green Arrow became an item down the line, there’s was a rocky relationship- oft times on and off again. More importantly, Canary wasn’t an accessory to Arrow though becoming a matriarch to his growing group of archers, as the heroine found herself as a founding member of the mostly female group known as the Birds of Prey. Along with former Batgirl Barbara Gordon, confined to a wheelchair following an attack by the Joker and becoming the hacker Oracle, Black Canary became a bit of a superhero secret agent as Oracle worked behind the scenes and Canary steamrolled over criminals. The group would take on many members, notably Huntress, Savant, and Misfit, as Oracle and Canary shared responsibility in leading the team. Along the way, Canary and Oracle went from being known as bit players to Green Arrow and Batman, respectively, to become stars themselves. Both at different times would return to the League as titans within the group, Canary as the League’s chairperson following the event Infinite Crisis (speaking of which, retroactively, Canary was a founding member of the JLA alongside the Big 7). She would lead the team until its disbandment after Final Crisis where Green Lantern and Green Arrow formed their own rogue Justice League team following the death of Martian Manhunter, a group that would be rocked by the return of the villain Prometheus.
Ray Palmer was at one time simply a brilliant physicist at Ivy University until he discovered a chunk of white dwarf star that enabled a ray able to shrink anything. Using this apparatus to save his girlfriend and students during a spelunking accident, Palmer decides to become the costumed adventurer known as the Atom. In addition to shrinking, he could alter his mass and density such that even in a smaller state, he can have the weight and strength of his full grown self. Further, he could travel on air currents similar to gliding and even travel along phone wires to get from one place to another at super speed. Joining the Justice League, the Atom was their science advisor whose knowledge of various scientific disciplines made him invaluable when dealing with the likes of robots, energy beings, and various phenomenon (not to mention his shrinking ability allowing him to be the perfect covert operative). However, Palmer felt like the group’s weakest member as he only saw his ability to shrink being his sole contribution to the League. Regardless, the Atom went on various harrowing adventures on his own including traveling through a time portal a colleague created, crossing over into other dimensions, and discovering diminutive and microscopic societies as well as forming a brotherly relationship with fellow Leaguer Hawkman. The Atom, though, would evolve past simply being a science geek with shrinking powers out of necessity.
When Jean Loring, Palmer’s girlfriend turned wife, cheated on the hero with a fellow lawyer, the Atom divorced her and would embark on an assignment in which the world thought him dead. Discovering a race of miniature humanoids in the jungles of South America, Palmer found himself unable to return to normal height and had to become a warrior to survive and topple those in the tiny race that sought to enslave their fellow beings. Drawing inspiration from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series, the Atom fell in love with their princess Laethwyn and decided to abandon his civilization in favor of the race he found. This peace would not last, however, when the Atom’s adopted race is wiped out and he’s forced to again become a hero to avenge them, bringing those responsible to justice. A superhero again, the Atom changed mixing his brilliant mind with an arsenal of new technique and primal presence such that to combat a myriad of new, more powerful and dangerous enemies (notably Humbug the Reusable Man).
Following a brief spell with the Teen Titans, the Atom became an active on-call reservist for the Justice League, something like a guided missile called in when the need was great enough. When Sue Dibny (wife of Elongated Man) was killed while in her home, the Atom was brought in as part of some secret team within a team of Justice Leaguers where it was retroactively revealed would get their hands unusually dirty when the League’s loved ones are endangered. When it’s revealed Palmer’s own ex-wife Jean was the killer, the hero retreats from civilization again. Later, when the Atom’s protege Ryan Choi is murdered, Palmer rejoins the League to bring his killer to justice. Post-Flashpoint, another Atom named Rhonda Pineda would appear in the Justice League only to be revealed to be an evil double agent.