The basic premise of the Justice League (“superheroes doing stuff”) leads to a lot of interpretation. Some people took it as “Let’s put all our popular characters into one book! That sounds like fun, right?” others went a different direction and said “Let’s make them a glorified street gang in Detroit” and at least one person said “EXTREEEEME JUSTICE!” As such, its membership has encompassed a lot of characters. Which means a lot of crappy characters have been on the team.
The Comics Bulletin staff lovingly assembled this list of the absolute shittiest characters in the entire history of the team, nominating their most hated JLAers and ranking them from bad to worst. But then something shocking happened: nobody wanted to write about these sad pathetic losers. So, it’s up to Daniel Djeljosevic and Maxwell Yezpitelok (our own sad pathetic losers) to tell you about them.
Danny: An aggressive, be-caped superwoman who intimidates the other members of the Justice League, Maxima was called upon to join the Justice League America after Starfire was deemed “too naked” by the other members and not because Dan Jurgens wanted to put one of his pet characters from Superman into the book. Unlike Power Girl, Maxima has a navel window instead of a boob window and is named after my uncle’s choice of automobile.
According to Wikipedia, nobody bothered to resurrect her during Blackest Night. Not even the DC Universe cares about Maxima.
And, hey, didn’t an issue of Extreme Justice show Maxima making out with Amazing Man while watching a porno?
Max: I’ve never read Extreme Justice, but you’ve just made me want to look it up. I’m only aware of the Maxima/Amazing Man romance because I just saw them making out in that recent Colgate ad featuring every interracial superhero couple ever published by DC (meaning: them).
I actually like those JLA issues where Maxima’s subjects in her home planet blame her for going off and trying to lay Superman while they’re being conquered by guys like Brainiac and Starbreaker. There’s a touching scene where Maxima suffers in silence over the loss of her crown and Booster Gold tries to comfort her. An unexpected display of emotion from a character so often treated as two-dimensional.
He was probably just trying to get laid, though.
Danny: Hey, another Dan Jurgens creation! I have a feeling we’re going to rag on the guy a lot. If you don’t remember Argent, I don’t blame you: she was part of Jurgens’ Teen Titans run from the mid-to-late nineties — you know, where they were all-new characters led by a teenage Atom? A neat move to take with the team, but it failed to catch on and was canceled after two years.
If you don’t remember Argent joining the JLA, I don’t blame you — she’s a member during the dystopian, Darkseid-ruled future of “Rock of Ages” where she dies helping the time-lost heroes save the day. Her powers are a bit like Green Lantern’s except she creates silver snot.
Hey, remember Team Titans? Why was that a good idea?
Max: Sorry, my memories of Team Titans were erased by an entropy wave during Zero Hour.
The thing about Argent’s inclusion in Morrison’s future JLA is that it was just so random. I mean, why Argent? Morrison probably emptied his comp box on the floor and used whichever character happened to be featured on the first comic that landed open. This could’ve easily been one of the guys from Young Heroes In Love.
8. Snapper Carr
Danny: Because Julius Schwartz thought kids wouldn’t care about the JLA unless come kid was hanging around them (“Who cares about Batman? I want to see someone like me!” the kids of the sixties screamed), Gardner Fox came up with Snapper Carr, a youngster whose abilities include snapping his fingers excessively and being covered in lime at all times. The latter turned out to be quite fortuitous considering it was Starro the Conqueror’s weakness in the team’s first published adventure.
Over the years, succeeding writers have realized that nobody cares about this young punk and so he’s become a one-man Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, getting superpowers from alien invasions, becoming future robot Hourman’s roommate, and becoming a minor agent in Checkmate — all the while none of us have noticed. It’s a miracle he hasn’t yet been killed to make a terrible story seem “edgy.”
Did I just speak too soon?
Max: Didn’t this guy use to hang out with the Hulk? No? That’s what’s he’s missing, you know. A big angry best friend who likes to destroy things and kill people. Someone hook him up with Doomsday.
I own that one-shot that featured Snapper and the other unremarkable humans that got superpowers in Invasion forming a new superhero team. I think that’s the only time anyone ever tried to use Snapper as a main character rather than a sidekick – which is probably why that team never ever showed up again (even if Snapper did).
7. Steel II (Hank Heywood III)
Danny: Ah, Steel — the character who refuses to go away. Did you know he had his own series in 1978? As you might have guessed, the Gerry Conway-written series only lasted 5 issues and a few years later Hank Heywood’s grandson (the “Worst JLAer” in question) ended up in the Justice League during the also-Conway-written and much-maligned “Detroit” years. J.M. DeMatteis mercifully killed him at the end of that series, and Geoff Johns mercilessly introduced a brand new superheroic member of the Heywood family in Justice Society of America.
I’ve got a feeling that Gerry Conway invented the idea of introducing pet characters into superhero teams when he brought Firestorm into the JLA a few years earlier. Anyway, Steel’s basic pitch is “The Six-Million Dollar Man meets Captain America” and I think we can all agree that this particular line of superheroes named Steel aren’t quite as useful as the one everyone associates with Shaquille O’Neal.
Max: That was mighty clever of Conway: he wanted to use his WWII-based hero in the modern day JLA, so he simply gave him a grandson who looked exactly like him. I guess throwing the guy into an iceberg and having Vibe and Gypsy discover him in the Detroit bay would have been too much.
I’ve just learned that the original Steel went back into action after his grandson was killed, and then became a member of a team called Shadow Fighters along with guys like Peacemaker and Chunk, the fat guy from Flash comics. He was later killed by Eclipso, the Geoff Johns of the 90’s.
Danny: A tragic figure in the Marvel Universe, Paul Jenkins devised Triumph as an apocryphal sixties Marvel creation, complete with a meta-story involving Stan the Man having
created Triumph only to just plum forget about him — totally understandable, since he seems like a thinly-veiled Superman clone and Marvel was in the business of creating thinly-veiled clones of Doom Patrol and Challengers of the Unknown. Still, it was an interesting meta-experiment, attempting to weave this completely new creation back into Marvel history.
A few years later Brian Michael Bendis ran with the guy, showcasing him in his Avengers books as their resident powerhouse (in lieu of Thor), growing ever unstable as the series progressed. By Siege, Triumph proved a tragic figure as he gave in to the literal demons in his head and suffered a death so ignoble that not even the superheroes seemed to care very much when he died. Probably because they, too, saw Triumph as a thinly-veiled Superman clone.
Wait, who’s Triumph?
Max: Silly Danny! That’s The Sentry you’re talking about! Triumph is a completely different blonde haired Superman clone who was also introduced as an old superhero everyone had forgotten, also turned into a villain, and also died an undignified death (he was killed off panel at some point during Morrison’s JLA, basically because Morrie forgot he had stored him in the Watchtower’s trophy room).
I haven’t actually read the issues where Triumph first showed up, so to me, his story sounds like an amusing comedy sketch: the JLA is having a meeting and this guy nobody has seen before shows up and sits on the main chair. “So – what’s new?” After a few seconds of silence someone asks who he is, and he’s like “It’s me, man! I’m Triumph! I founded this team? Come on!” Of course, the sketch would have ended with the guy being dragged out of the building by security, not turned into an ice statue by The Spectre and stored in a trophy room.
5. Black Condor
Max: Another member of Dan Jurgen’s “edgy” Justice League. This guy was a revamped version of a Quality Comics character created by Will Eisner, and his schtick consisted on constantly reminding people that he “wasn’t no hero”. He was in the League for like five issues, in which he acted as the surrogate jerk while Guy Gardner was indisposed. He also got to fight an evil version of Hawkman — the whole reason they put him on the team, I suspect. He left the League as soon as that storyline ended, because, you know, he wasn’t no team player either. Then he joined Primal Force.
Black Condor was killed along with most of the Freedom Fighters in Infinite Crisis #1, and later brought back as a DC zombie during Blackest Night. No, I didn’t spot him there either, I just read that in Wikipedia.
Danny: Ew, Primal Force. Where the highest-profile member is Red Tornado. Guy may as well have joined Xenobrood.
Can we assume that Black Condor is what happens when editors want to keep their characters out of other books? Dan Jurgens probably wanted Hawkman but his editor came to him with the bad news: “Sorry, the guy who edits Hawkman won’t let us use him. Have you heard of Black Condor?”
To which Dan Jurgens let out a loud sigh and said, “Fine. Only if you let me use Agent Liberty.”
4. Agent Liberty
Max: Is there a single member of Dan Jurgens’ replacement League that didn’t make this list? You know, from reading this article you’d get the impression that Jurgens’ was the worst run in JLA history. It really wasn’t; he just had some crappy characters, that’s all.
Agent Liberty was another Jurgens creation, introduced in Superman comics during the early 90’s. At the time I kinda liked him, my rationale being that he had a really cool costume. He looked a little like The Guardian, only he had a jetpack and retractable blades coming out of his sidearms. His suit could also generate a force field, an ability I loved to abuse when playing with action figures as a kid. Anyway, by the time I read the Justice League issues where he appears I had already turned 12 and didn’t see the appeal anymore. Like Black Condor, he was in the team for a short time and didn’t really do much.
He was killed last year by Lucy Lane. Yeah.
Danny: As a kid I owned the Agent Liberty Special one-shot, but I cannot tell you what happens in it or why I had it.
You see, the problem is that at this point JLA had a big Superman-shaped hole in it — one that could only be filled with Wonder Woman and dead weight like Agent Liberty.
JLA doesn’t need a Captain America. Cap works in the Avengers because somebody has to keep in line consummate fuck-ups like Ant Man and Hawkeye, but the JLA is a well-behaved bunch of do-gooders — even a JLA with Black Condor and Maxima on it.
Agent Liberty strikes me as a hardcore military superhero a la Cap in The Ultimates, so it seems like a missed opportunity that he wasn’t a CIA plant meant to keep track of these powerhouse vigilantes — by which I mean Bloodwynd and The Ray. But, according to Wikipedia (oh, like any of you actually know about Agent Liberty), he’s a burned CIA agent out to fight government corruption or something.
Let’s just be thankful that Jurgens had the good sense not to put Gangbuster on the team.
3. General Glory
Max: The most blatant of the Captain America rip-offs included in this list, and also the best one if you ask me, if only because this one was supposed to be a ridiculous joke. General Glory was an old World War II veteran capable of turning into a muscular adonis upon reciting a patriotic oath given to him by Lady Liberty herself. Under his geriatric idenitity he’s a pretty sensible person, but as a superhero he turned into a walking cliche. It’s a clever twist on the Captain Marvel concept, and one that becomes more relevant as the average age of the comic fan increases: instead of a teen power fantasy, he’s an old guy reliving the glory days of yore (by buying expensive comics at conventions, no less).
So why is he so high on the list? General Glory is depressing because he reminds us of the decadent part of Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League run, the issues we’d rather not think about. The storyline that introduced him wasn’t THAT bad, but it did signal the beginning of the end for the JLI. It didn’t help that future writers tried taking him seriously, even creating an updated version with wings, throwable knives, and a gritty attitude.
Danny: Gritty General Glory? You can’t be serious. [ Oh god, you’re serious.] Talk about missing the point.
JLI was at its best when it walked the line between serious superhero comic and comedy. And even then comedy came from the characters themselves, none of whom (save G’nort) were conceived to be parodic. General Glory, however, was created exclusively to take the piss, dragging the book into the territory of full-on farce that makes the recent reunion comics seem kind of, well, pathetic.
Max: Bloodwynd. Blood. Wynd. The worst possible name for a superhero — or anything, really. Created by Dan Jurgens (which goes without saying), Bloodwynd was an “accomplished necromancer” with a mysterious attitude and a dark secret. The secret, as it turns out, was that he was rea
lly J’onn J’onzz under the control of a demon called Rott, who was trapped in the gem embedded on his chest. Bloodwynd’s chest, I mean. Not Rott’s, that would be crazy.
Anyway, Rott’s genius plan to secure his freedom was to make J’onn pose as a new superhero called Bloodwynd, gain the trust of the Justice League, and wait for them to come across a large source of energy so he could drain it. Apparently Rott wasn’t aware that J’onn was already a trusted member of the Justice League, and that his master plan could have been accomplished in two issues instead of twelve if only he had shown up on their doorstep as himself. Re-reading those issues, it’s pretty obvious that Jurgens knew Bloodwynd was J’onn from the beginning, but he had no idea how or why.
Like most comic readers, I first encountered Bloodwynd in the Death of Superman trade paperback, where his real identity is teased but not revealed. I vividly remember the panel where Blue Beetle looks at him and yells “BLOODWYND IS…”, only to be yanked by Doomsday and having his head smashed against every surrounding object. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was left intrigued by this turn of events and jumped at the next chance to find out Bloodwynd’s identity… only to discover it was some other guy we’d never seen before.
Danny: Bloodwynd can only be the name of an ‘80s hair metal band. Nothing else.
My research tells me that Bloodwynd was an actual character onto himself, except that Rott trapped him in that big Jewel on J’onn’s chest. He’s made appearances in a few books since, namely in Day of Judgmentand something called JLA: Black Baptism.
Amazingly, Bloodwynd is still alive. Somebody tell James Robinson!
Also, the black guy turned out to be an alien? And somehow Vibe is #1 on this list?
Max: Could the number one spot belong to anyone other than Vibe? If Josef Mengele had been a member of the Justice League, I think he’d still come in second to this guy. Along with Steel II, Vixen and Gypsy, Vibe was a member of the infamous Justice League Detroit, a sad attempt at relevance that saw the team relocate to an urban setting and change most of its roster.
My exposure to Vibe is extremely limited: not only did I encounter him for the first time in the storyline where he was killed off (removing the frustration most readers felt when reading a comic in which Vibe did not die), I also read those issues translated to Spanish, which means that the effect of his annoying Chicano dialogue was completely lost.
Danny: “The Vibe Years.” You know you’re bad when an entire era of a franchise is named after you. Now, I don’t want to say Vibe wasn’t that bad (mostly because I’m not a racist), but the guy has his charms. By which I mean a brilliantly stupid costume. Mostly, I think Vibe is a result of Gerry Conway wanting to bring some diversity and urban flavor to the League only to wallow in seriously horrendous stereotypes because, well, comics. Also, why doesn’t Gypsy wear shoes?
As bad as Vibe is, there are so many worse/more inappropriate characters on the League than Vibe that are much less funny. Amazing Man? Yazz? Golden Age Flash? Mystek? Faith? Geo-Force? Congorilla? Manitou Raven? Mikaal Tomas?