Now that the Justice League’s newest origin is wrapped up in The New 52, let’s take a look back at some of the team’s most iconic cover images. (NOTE: Some are sentimental choices.*)
20. The Super Friends #25 (Artist – Ramona Fradon)
*For instance, this one. This was the first comic I remember ever getting. I said “getting” not reading because I was maybe four and couldn’t read yet, but gazing at this gripping Ramona Fradon illustration, I was immediately intrigued! Why were the Super Friends fighting one another?! What happened to Jayna?! Was she dead?! My four year old self NEEDED to know! Of course this is one of those comics where the scene on the cover never actually happens in the book. The villain, The Overlord (the one playing with puppets), brainwashes the Super Friends into trying to take over the world, but they are thwarted by Mera and other heroes from around the globe.
19. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #241 (Artist: Chuck Patton)
“Justice League Detroit” gets no love. At the very least, this era gave the team Vixen, who has served as a member off and on for years. Of all their covers, I think this is the most dynamic. It’s the Bad News Bears of super teams against Amazo, a villain with all the powers of the original Justice League, y’know, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, et. al. Those guys. How this wasn’t this team’s last bloody, bloody mission is a mystery!
18. Justice League International #19 (Artist: Kevin Maguire)
There were several of these Guy Gardner-face-to-face covers during Maguire’s run on the book, but this is my choice. If there’s one thing Maguire is known for, it’s his excellent facial expressions and that’s on full display here. Prior to this issue, Guy Gardner had suffered a bonk on the head and was behaving like a sweet, obedient child. That changed here as we got back the a-hole GL we all know and love! That smirk says it all!
17. Justice League of America (Volume 2) #19 (Artist Ed Benes)
Sometimes it’s just fun to see a pack of super heroes lunging right at the reader and this is a grand example of that! The energy explosion in the background already ramps up the intensity, but the kicker is Superman in the foreground, grimacing, eyes aglow! Man, you do NOT want to piss Superman off!
16. Justice League America #34 (Artist: Adam Hughes)
Adam Hughes made his name on ‘Justice League America’ before turning the bulk of his work toward covers. His style is as smooth as frozen yogurt! In this humorous tale, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold embezzle money out of the Justice League’s coffers to open a casino on the fictional island of Kooey Kooey Kooey. The details really drive this cover home. You have Beetle and Booster yucking it up in the foreground, with a seriously perturbed Max Lord in the background along with villains Big Sir and Major Disaster absconding with the casino’s loot. Man check out that body hair on Beetle! I believe, outside of Wolverine, that’s the first time a super hero was depicted as having body hair! And maybe it’s a coloring error, but is Booster wearing a bikini?! Moving on…
15. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #207 (Artist: George Perez)
This certainly isn’t the first cover to depict two teams lined up on each side of the cover, coming at one another, but George Perez packs in so much energy in this image of the Justice League being taken out by their parallel dimension counterparts the Crime Syndicate. Look at Power Ring blasting Firestorm! You can practically feel that blow! The same for Super Woman socking it to Superman! Old JLA comics frequently showcased the featured characters on the sides of the covers, but those were always stock images. Perez drew all these from scratch and gave them all such unique and interesting expressions. This cover showed up on a tee shirt recently and I’m pretty sure it’s the only piece of merchandising in history to feature the All-Star Squadron – Liberty Belle, Firebrand, Johnny Quick, and Robotman!
14. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #216 (Artist: Ed Hannigan)
This was a fun storyline, in which the League has to venture into the “Microcosmos” to rescue their missing member, The Atom. They find a swords & sorcery world and ally themselves with the Siren Sisterhood, sort of a pre-She-Ra Great Rebellion and must battle The Atom who is a mindless, rampaging giant! I just love how The Atom, normally about six inches tall, is this imposing, powerful giant in this image! He’s absolutely the focus of this cover, which is a rarity. And there are just so many nice details, Red Tornado’s tornado trail wrapping around The Atom, the energy in Hawkman’s movements, Batman helping Sisterhood member Krystal climb onto the ledge and Sister Star throwin’ her hands in the ai-yer and waving them like she just don’t cay-yer. Just a great, well composed cover!
13. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #219 (Artist George Perez)
Would you just look at the faces of the Justice Leaguers in the foreground, who are being shocked to death by Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt?! You can FEEL the agony they are experiencing! (Yet, Green Lantern still has time to grope Zatanna. Hat’s off, Hal.) There’s just so much palpable emotion on their faces! This cover truly delivers! (But hey, Justice Society, don’t all rush to help out at the same time!)
12. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #168 (Artist: Dick Dillon)
In this tale, made infamous by the ‘Identity Crisis’ miniseries of a few years ago, The Secret Society of Super Villains trades bodies with the Justice League. (Fun fact: Floronic Man switches bodies with Wonder Woman! You know he took a peek!) The non-affected Leaguers must corral the villains and switch them all back to their correct forms. The image of both heroes and villains shackled, under the supervision of Hawkman and company is just so dramatic! (But I can’t help myself, I loathed Zatanna’s baby blue jumpsuit! Nrub taht ytisortsnom, lrig!)
11. JLA #43 (Artist: Howard Porter)
The opening of the fan beloved “Tower of Babel” story features a symbolic cover of mastermind Ra’s Al-Ghul amid the tatters of a defeated League’s costumes. Indeed, this story featured one of the team’s biggest beat-downs ever and it was all the fault of their own master strategist Batman! Paranoid? Cautious? Fans were just as torn and divided on the issue as the League members themselves! This cover, embodies that storyline – Ra’s calmly surveying the barren wasteland, the crow, the League’s tattered costumes billowing in the wind… very symbolic and powerful!
10. JSA #54 (Artist: Carlos Pacheco)
Carlos Pacheco could draw a toaster instruction manual and it would look amazing! This homage to the legendary Norman Rockwell just oozes charm and warmth. They aren’t just beings with the powers of gods, saving the world from rampaging, intelligent suns and literal evil gods… they’re family! Awwwww!
9. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #1 (Artist: Murphy Anderson)
The very first issue of the very first Justice League series, sported this eye-catching cover, rendered by legend Murphy Anderson. With all their might, the majority of the team is immobile and it’s up to speedster The Flash to save them… by using his wits! He must, apparently, win a game of chess against the very pink Despero! It’s a classic and has been recreated repeatedly over the years!
8. JLA #1 (Artist: Howard Porter)
This image may seem simple at first, but the shot-from-below angle adds a great deal of drama and intensity, as it should, as this was a huge re-launch for the JLA. Up to this point, the book had meandered for more than a decade, featuring whatever haphazard cast of characters were free at the moment. Agent Liberty? Why not! Ice Maiden? C’mon over! That girl that was on that team in the eighties? Remember her? What the heck! This was a new beginning. Superman. Wonder Woman. Batman. Green Lantern. Aquaman. The Flash. Martian Manhunter. No more. No less. THIS is what the League should be. (Too bad creators forget that all too often.) You’ll have to forgive Superman’s long, 90s, grunge hair which looks less mullet-y here than it did at other times.
7. Justice League #1 (Artist: Kevin Maguire)
Speaking of getting back to the basics, DC had gambled with Justice League Detroit, attempting to emulate the edgy success of ‘The Uncanny X-Men’ and ‘The New Teen Titans,’ only to have it fail miserably. Writer Keith Giffen had hopes of restoring the League to its former glory, but alas others at DC had other plans for The Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, and the other big guns. Instead, he and co-writer J.M. DeMatteis assembled a team composed of various representatives of the parallel Earths that has recently been merged into one. From Earth 1, there was Batman, Guy Gardner, Black Canary, and stalwart Martian Manhunter. From Earth 2 came Dr. Fate. From Earth S, we had Captain Marvel. From Earth 4, there was Blue Beetle. Dr. Light was the first hero to emerge from ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths.’ And Mister Miracle represented Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. This quirky blend soon established its own voice and is still a fan favorite era for the team. And this static group shot was recreated over and over over the years with various twists and cast members.
6. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #200 (Artist: George Perez)
One of the first wraparound covers in comics, this George Perez confection is too much for just one facing! In this story, the original seven Justice Leaguers become mind-controlled by the Apellaxians, their very first foes, and the subsequent members are forced to battle the founders. The highlights of this cover for me are Green Arrow in the lower corner, taking aim at Batman above and Flash smacking the snot out of his buddy Elongated Man! The low points are Aquaman, clearly about to get flung aside by Red Tornado and… seriously, Black Canary and Hawkman against Superman? Yeah, good luck with that.
5. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #9 (Artists: Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson)
Believe it or not, it took them nine issue to even get around to explaining the origin of the Justice League of America! It’s wacky! It involves aliens and meteors and shape-shifting, as in what you see in the image below, and the Justice League turning into trees. As goofy as the premise is, it stood for over 50 years! And this classic cover has been paid homage to many times!
4. Justice League of America (Volume 1) #217 (Artist George Perez)
Another Perez bonanza! The story in this particular issue is fairly pedestrian – the team battles elementally powered villains – but that cover! Just a fantastic, team shot featuring several of the group’s biggest names. Like #15 on this list, last year, I found this image on a book cover! A random choice, but good eye!
3. The Brave and the Bold #28 (Artists: Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson)
This is the one that started it all! The first adventure starring the Justice League of America! Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, “John Jones” (as the Martian Manhunter was billed in those days), and Wonder Woman, combining their might to battle the mind-controlling Starro the Conqueror! The image is nicely balanced, with each hero taking on one of the evil starfish’s tentacles, dispersing them evenly around the cover. It’s simply an iconic image that has been replicated numerous times over the years.
2. Kingdom Come #2 (Artist: Alex Ross)
‘Kingdom Come’ marked the end of the bloated, 90s era of comics, notable for hording, speculation on future value, packed in trading cards, foil/cut out/color change/glow in the dark/scratch and sniff covers, EXTREME art, minimal storytelling, leather jackets and… oh, thongs. Did I mention thongs? And mullets. Visionary painter Alex Ross wanted to tell a tale of the return of virtue and honor to the realm of super heroics. This iconic cover features the returns of Superman, Wonder Woman and their peers, returning to subdue a new generation of violent, careless and EXTREME anti-heroes. It’s quiet, dignified and powerful! He did similar style renderings for the collected versions of his miniseries ‘Justice’ but this came first and honestly ‘Kingdom Come’ occupies a bigger space in comic history.
1. Justice League of America #21 (Artists: Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson)
Beginning a long and beloved tradition, the contemporary (at the time) Justice League of America is joined by the Golden Age heroes of the Justice Society of America, who dwell in a parallel universe, Earth 2. The kids of the day, were newly introduced to the heroes their parents read stories about and the two teams made an annual tradition of teaming up often bringing in outside heroes to assist! But this was where it all started, with the JLA performing a seance to contact the veteran Society. Like many of the classic covers, this one has been paid homage to many times over the years, but this is the original and still the best!
I’m sure I missed someone’s favorite! Please respond below with any personal picks that I failed to mention!