A Look at Justice League Relaunches

Echoing its rival Marvel’s decision over the past few years to re-orient it’s main team book (Avengers) to become the flagship of its entire line, the upcoming relaunch of DC’s title in the fall puts DC’s primary super-hero team, the Justice League, front-and-center. Dropping the “of America” and putting its two top-selling creators (and staff employees) Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on the book, August’s Justice League #1 promises to be the go-to place to find out what’s what in this bold new era of DC Comics.

Yet this isn’t the first time it’s been done. Relaunches, reboots and revamps have become part-and-parcel of the American comic book businesses. Although newspaper readers might balk if they saw an “All-New, All-Different” Garfield anytime soon, relaunches have been a way of refreshing and refashioning company-owned characters when they begin to weaken; in fact, the entire Silver Age era happened because of DC’s relaunch of Golden age hero The Flash in 1956’s Showcase #4. Appropriately enough, it’s The Flash that has had the highest number of relaunches and number ones at DC with a minimum of six, not counting miniseries like The Flash: Rebirth that ran when the titular title was on hiatus.

But given the Justice League’s new status as the flag-bearer of the DCU, we thought we’d take a look at its relaunches and how they faired.


Justice League of America #1 (October 1960)

Fresh of the successful relaunches of The Flash and the Green Lantern, DC editors pulled out the Golden age concept of the Justice Society of America and, borrowing from the popularity of the National Football League and Major League Baseball, added the word "League" to it. They debuted in the pages of The Brave & The Bold #28, and were put into their own title the same year. Initially featuring the "Big Seven" heroes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, the series expanded to show heroes like Black Canary, Hawkwoman and even Snapper Carr. The series ran for 27 years, with its final issues showing a team of B-list heroes set in Detriot with a rotating set of leaders ranging from Aquaman to Martian Manhunter and Batman.




Justice League #1 (May 1987) 

During the waning days of volume one, plans were already in the works for a new era and in May Justice League #1 with Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire debuted. The trio brought with them a kind of humor not seen in the halls of DC, and a cast of characters pulled from various Earths as seen in the then-recent Crisis on Infinite Earths. After six issues, the title was first renamed Justice League International to emphasize a more global approach, and then finally split into two books: Justice League America (no "of") and Justice League Europe. The series ended up running for 163 issues in total. (113 for Justice League America; 50 for Justice League Europe.)




JLA #1 (January 1997) 

After years of ancillary spin-off teams in the early to mid-90s failed to capture readers’ imaginations, DC gave the keys to the title over to creators Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. Shortening the title to the three-letter abbreviation JLA, the new series focused on a “back-to-basics” approach with a cast comprised of the “Big Seven” heroes which hadn’t been seen together in over 10 years. Morrison brought big ideas to the series such as the team’s allegorical stance as a pantheon of gods and some new heroes like Aztek. The title quickly became DC’s top-selling book for a majority of Morrison’s run, but after his departure it began to lose its foothold at the top of the sales charts despite A-list talent like Mark Waid, Bryan Hitch, John Byne, Geoff Johns and others. The series ended up running for 125 issues, with DC’s future Editor-In-Chief turning out the lights in a final arc showing Green Arrow grasping at arrows straws to keep the team alive.



Justice League of America #1 (September 2006) 

With just five months off, DC’s #1 super team returned to service with writer Brad Meltzer, who just came off the white-hot Identity Crisis series. The first issue featured a who’s who of DC art talent at the time, but as the series went on the stories failed to match up to readers out-sized expectations. After Meltzer’s departure DC turned to string of other veteran writers like Dwayne McDuffie, Len Wein and James Robinson to turn the book around but they were unsuccessful.




Justice League #1 (August 11) 

Once again dropping the “of America” part of the name, with this series DC is going all-in as they put their chief writer (and CCO) Geoff Johns with artist (and co-Publisher) Jim Lee. Not much has been revealed just yet of the story, barring its “early days” approach, but DC has promised a new origin for the team as well as an expanded line-up featuring most of the “Big Seven” (no Martian Manhunter), with a double-digit list of other heroes joining the cause. For Johns it's the culmination of his rise in comics (and at DC), and although it's his second run on the title after his largely-forgotten 2005 run, but this is a whole new ball game.


  1. I thought Morrison’s JLA came out in November, 1996, and Meltzer’s in August of 2006. Not a huge deal…and I could be wrong. Morrison’s my favorite by far, but also like Giffen + DeMatteis + Maguire (Formerly Known as the Justice League).

  2. @Dondi  Those are the cover dates, which are three months ahead of the actual dates of release.

  3. I really enjoyed the Meltzer run coming out of Idenity Crisis.  I thought focusing on Red Tornado was great and it was nice to see a lesser used character be the lead in the series. 

  4. I absolutely loved Meltzer’s JLA. One of my favorite superhero runs in recent memory.

  5. @conor  That’s something I wondered, why are cover dates three months ahead of the release dates?

  6. Meltzer’s JLA run was great. Johns was on JSA at the same time. Loved the crossover they did too. The Meltzer & Gene Ha story about Vixen and Red Arrow was one of the best one-and-done issues in recent memory. Johns was excellent on the Avengers and JSA so he’s shown he has chops with team books – I think the new run’s gonna be good!

  7. @Cedric  It’s a hold over from the old news stand days. Three months was how long they were supposed to stay on the news stand before being returned as unsold. Some magazines are still dated ahead of the actual date too.

  8. @conor: It is 2 months ahead.  It was 4 months ahead until around mid-80s.

  9. @odino1  @conor  @Dondi  – lol

  10. @odino1  I split the difference, apparently!


    I mean, ahem… What?

  12. Well its good to be able to comunicate again with everyone on here. The Justice League of America is what started me on reading comics way back around 1978 and I have not stopped yet. There have been some many changes in the league over the years it kinda drives me nuts. There have been some good times and there have been some bad. I get excited and the new series runs good for a few issues and then drops off and becomes so boring. Right now I am enjoying the Eclipso saga it has been really fun. I have been waiting for them to go back to the heavy hitters for some time and like I have said on here before this should always be DC’s flagship!!!!! Cross our fingers and hope DC does’nt disapoint again!? 
        Conor knows it all!! LOL just messing with yah bro…………..


  13. Morrison’s run is still my favorite Justice League and my favorite Morrison work.

    He gave them more than a team dynamic he made them a family.
    Something that was missing until then and well missing in x-books now too.

    I’m hoping this new run brings some of that back rather then just assembling a collection of powerful people. 

  14. The Lightning Saga is just a great story by Meltzer & Johns and Ed Benes art is just sweeeet!

  15. I really liked Meltzer’s run, too. I have actually never read the Morrison run on JLA. By the time I jumped on with the “Tower of Babel” story, I believe Mark Waid was writing it. i really liked the book at that time, I should go back and read Morrison’s run, as it gets such high praise from everyone.

  16. I’m really excited for DC Comics….they’re making a lot of noise this year!

  17. @2Kwon  I can’t remember the last time i was this excited for DC comics. I used to read probably 10 books. Then i was down to 3. Currently, I’m down to just 1. but come September, I’l be up to 12, the most DC I have tried in YEARS. They seem to have divided the readers down the middle with this “reboot” but it certainly made me want to read what they are doing.

  18. Wasn’ there a series between the JLE era and Morrisons? I remember buying the 2 Justice league spectaculars at the end on the JLE era and being disappointed I dropped it but swear I got the Morrison stuff from the start.

  19. Hmmmm. Morrison had the best run, vivid storytelling with high concepts.  I’m getting a little concerned with this New DC, the more I read about it the more I feel that its not for me. The updated look to feel fresh are just rehashed 90’s designs. Detail for detail sake. Very Marvel and Image from the 90’s. And I just feel that point was a low period for solid storytelling, it was pin up art, splash pages (Morrison, Starman & Vertigo were the exception)

    Back then they tried to youth it up with younger stand ins for GL, Flash and Green Arrow. While Kyle and Wally stood the test of time, the idea of playing youthing it up rarely works.

    All I know is that the Ollie I like would mock the one that they’ll use in the new Green Arrow. He’s an old liberal/hippie fighting against the system. Now he looks like his Smallville version, sunglasses and no beard? UGH.

  20. Glad to see everybody agrees that Meltzer’s run was great, cause I really loved it. Putting a so-called “B-lister” as the lead of a story was always great, this is how I got to find out about these chracters. Vixen, Red Tornado, Black Lightning, Firestorm…these guy’s were the bomb!

  21. Hmm… Averaging the ratio of launch-to-reboot dates (1940, 1960, 1987, 1997, 2006, 2011) suggests the next JLA reboot is due in 2015. If we treat 1960 as the start of the sequence, the next reboot is due in 2014. I wonder what the comic-book marketplace will look like in that far-flung future. (An will we finally have personal jetpacks?