Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Favorite DC Superhero Teams

June 24, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Justice League

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed our Thoughts on X of Swords.Here’s what some of you had to say:

Gil: “Like Ken Wood said, this is the first time I’m hearing about this. Also think it’s weird that characters with god powers like Apocalypse, Storm, or Professor X are given swords.”

Ken Wood: “This is the first I’m hearing of this event.

Let me start by saying that X-Men is easily my favorite comic book out there. I’ve picked up and started reading Classic X-Men Essential and the ones after that to get the full history of the team.

I just read Dawn of X Vol 5. I’m waiting on Vol 6 to come down in price a little bit before picking it up. I absolutely love what Hickman has done with them. Having read all that I’ve read, his world just makes perfect sense to me and it’s so fun to see everyone in this iteration.

Excalibur and Fallen Angels are probably my least favorite of the six books but I still enjoy them a lot. It will be fun to see Captain Britain in this event as well as all the rest of the mutants.

The premise sounds a little goofy but I’m pretty much into anything X, so bring it on.”

unami218: “Started reading Powers of X last night, realized the guy in the middle is Charles Xavier.

He looks so stupid.

Spacecowboy: “I love X-Men. Hickman brought them back from the Inhuman disaster. This looks kinda meh but we’ll see. I’ll check it out at least.

Richard C: “It actually sounds as if it can spin into a pretty slick limited-run TV series.”

Thank you to everyone who commented!

This week we discuss our…

Favorite DC Superhero Team

I originally had this as a DC vs Marvel: Who Has the Best Superhero Team…but as you’ll see, that would have been a massive column that would take you a  week to read. Instead I pulled it back and we’ll do a two-parter that focuses on each publisher’s teams.

It’s no secret that I love the Legion of Super-Heroes. In fact, it’s rare a week goes by that I don’t mention that. While the Legion may be my vote for best/favorite, I fully know that this team has its problems and confuses a lot people. The team has undergone three major reboots and been cancelled and brought back more than any other title. The original version was replaced with a new rebooted version following the events of “Zero Hour” in 1994 and another rebooted team was introduced in 2004. A fourth version of the team, nearly identical to the original version, was introduced in 2007. From the 31st century, the Legion of Super-Heroes was inspired by today’s superheroes,with Superman being the one who stands above all. Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad founded the Legion and they’ve had their ups and downs. The team is huge but so is the universe they protect.
When I was compiling by list, I knew I couldn’t include huge write-ups on all my favorites because they’d be too obscure. I’m talking about teams like Infinity, Inc., Omega Men, R.E.B.E.L.S., Outsiders, Challengers of the Unknown, and Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, to name a few.

I’m including both The Minutemen from Watchmen fame and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as well. While not in the DC proper, they exist under the DC banner. The Minutemen is quite an interesting study on dysfunctional team dynamics. While they were minor players in the Watchmen story, they greatly influenced the actions and events of things to come. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a brilliant premise from the mind of Alan Moore. According to Moore, the concept behind the series was initially a “Justice League of Victorian England” but quickly grew into an opportunity to merge several works of fiction into one world. Who wouldn’t want to follow the adventures of a team comprised of Allan Quatermain from King Solomon’s Mines, Mina Harker from Dracula, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man, and brought together by the grandfather of James Bond. 
Quite a crew. Which leads to The Authority, an anti-hero super team. Violent and dark, Jenny Sparks, Jack Hawksmoor, The Engineer, Apollo and Midnighter made for an interesting read.

Moving over to the main DC timeline (if you could really pin one down), I’ll start with the Green Lantern Corps. An intergalactic military/police force that patrol the farthest reaches of the Universe under the leadership of the Guardians, a race of immortals residing on the planet Oa. The Green Lantern Corps has been in existence for three billion years, surviving multiple conflicts both internal and foreign. They have 3600 members who protect the 3600 “sectors” of the universe. The Corps has always been overlooked when it comes time to debate the best teams even though they’ve been involved in a number of high profile stories.

On the other end of the spectrum, a more intimate, smaller team is Birds of Prey. No, not the movie. The core of the team is made up of Oracle, Huntress, and Black Canary, with a rotating roster. Their stories are on the smaller scale but have produced some entertaining adventures and plenty of character development. And yes, I know the “Birds of Prey” was never acknowledged as their official name.

How could any list be complete without The Suicide Squad.  This might be pushing it since the Suicide Squad isn’t made of heroes. It’s a team of villains, both super and regular, that work for the government doing the dirty deeds that others wouldn’t want to. With a team like Deadshot, Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Bronze Tiger, and a number of others, you knew you weren’t reading a story about angels. What I liked best about the earlier run was how the series examined the various lives of the Squad, their motivations, and psychological makeup.

Right behind my love of the Legion of Super-Heroes sits the Teen Titans. I’ve followed them for years and have always liked the concept of sidekicks coming into their own. The Teen Titans debuted in 1964 with a lineup including Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl. Speedy would replace Aqualad but the theme of teenagers learning to take on adult roles and responsibilities played strong throughout. The series really found its footing in its 1980s revival with writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez. The team was called The New Teen Titans and aged the characters to young adults. The original members (Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash) were joined by new characters Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy/Changeling. I’ve always felt the Titans could really be DC’s main group, especially since they’ve found so much success across several mediums.

Going old school, we have to put some some shine on the Justice Society of America. The JSA first appeared in All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940), making it the first team of superheroes in comic books. That’s huge. Their roster has included early versions of characters like Doctor Fate, Hour-Man (as his name was then spelled), the Spectre, the Sandman, the Atom, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman. I can’t write enough about the longevity and influence this team has had. Not just for DC but every company that has a superhero team. The quality of writing and art has been consistent and their stories have been able to balance the smaller character moments with the high-impact action that you’d expect from the JSA line-up. A cool fact about the them, an old in-house rule laid out on the last page of All Star Comics #5, reprinted on page 206 of All Star Comics Archives Vol. 1, required that whenever a member received his or her own title, that character would leave All Star Comics, becoming an “honorary member” of the JSA.

We end with the Justice League of America. I know multiple versions of the League have come and gone but I’m talking about the main one. First appearing back in 1960, the Justice League originally featured Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter. The team roster has welcome over the years members such as Green Arrow, Captain Atom, Captain Marvel, Black Canary, the Atom, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Firestorm, Zatanna, Hawkgirl, Cyborg, Vixen,Tuckerman, and dozens of others. Their spin-offs have included Justice League Dark, Justice League Europe, Justice League International, Justice League Task Force, Justice League Elite, and Extreme Justice. The League IS DC’s premiere team and any major storyline of their’s usually has some sort of impact on the universe.

Who did I miss? The Shadowpact? Legion of Substitute Heroes? Young Justice? Secret Six? Gen13? Doom Patrol? Who’s your favorite DC superteam? No one is too small or too big to list!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!