While defeating the Justice League is hard enough, actually outwitting and out-muscling the DC Universe protectors might be the greatest feat in villainy. From above Earth in their satellite Watchtower, the Justice League lord their powers over the people like true “gods among us.” To bring down so many heroes with such a variety of power and abilities is next to impossible.
Nonetheless, it wouldn’t make for very compelling comic book and animated series stories if the Justice League were never brought low by more powerful super villains. Whether in comic books like Justice League of America or in the animated Justice League Unlimited, creators over the years have found new and surprising ways to threaten the team consisting of the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash. The Justice League are never down for long, but on occasion their resolve is tested and we are left to wonder if the Justice League can’t stop a DC villain, who is left to try?
Any of these DC villains would present formidable foes we’d love to see on screen in the DCEU, giving the Justice League all they can handle. In the meantime, below you’ll find 15 great DC villains who have absolutely clobbered the Justice League, sending the ultimate team to some of the lowest points in their history. These are the villains who destroyed the Justice League!
15. THE JOKER
Sure, the Justice League are typically beyond the purview of the Clown Prince of Crime, but hurting Batman’s friends hurts the big bad Bat, and that’s right up The Joker’s twisted alley. We could point to the time he tricked Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him powers of the 5th Dimension and ruled the world as “Emperor Joker”. Or to the alternate reality of Injustice, where The Joker tricked Superman into thinking a pregnant Lois Lane was Doomsday and nuking Metropolis.
For us, though, the most memorable recent Joker and Justice League showdown occurs in the New 52’s Batman #35, during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Endgame”. While Batman thinks The Joker has disappeared (perhaps for good) following “Death of the Family”, The Joker manufactures a specialized strain of Joker toxin to infect the Justice League and send them on a murderous rampage to kill Batman. This leads to an all out throwdown between Batman and the jokerized Justice League, with Batman (of course) enacting his pre-prepared plans to take down the entire League.
Mongul is frequently able to go toe to toe with Superman in a battle of fisticuffs, but in the classic Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons story “For the Man Who Has Everything”, Mongul wreaks a new kind of destruction on the Man of Steel. Batman and Wonder Woman (and Robin!) show up to the Fortress of Solitude for Superman’s birthday, only to find that Superman is trapped in an inescapable dreamlike state placing him back on Krypton for the life he could have had without the planet’s premature explosion.
Whether we’re talking the comic origin or the Justice League Unlimited adaptation in the second episode of season one, Mongul lies in wait to prevent anyone removing Superman’s aid. Mongul proceeds to absolutely demolish Wonder Woman with truly unsettling brutality, before once again engaging in a brawl to end all brawls with a freed Superman. Mongul doesn’t just destroy the Justice League physically, but emotionally as well, presenting Superman and Batman with paradise only to tear it away from them.
Slade Wilson is always going to be most well known as the Teen Titans archnemesis, but in Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales’ Identity Crisis he takes on the Justice League. As in, Slade Wilson, mercenary hired by Dr. Light, takes on the entire Justice League. Deathstroke stares down The Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, The Atom, and Zatanna, and he smiles.
It’s perhaps the ultimate in Deathstroke proving his tactical genius and physical prowess, proceeding to outsmart and outmaneuver the entire league. He even nearly overpowers Kyle Rayner and takes control of his Green Lantern ring before Green Arrow stabs an arrow into Deathstroke’s blind eye. The Justice Leaguers are able to subdue him from there, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an insanely impressive showing for Deathstroke.
12. WHITE MARTIANS
During Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s first story arc on their late ’90s JLA, the Justice League are confronted by a new supergroup that appears to simply do a better job at world peace than the Justice League ever has. A new era of prosperity is ushered in with the Justice League’s images as planetary protectors essentially shattered. Perhaps the peace-keeping heroes had been going about it all wrong this whole time?
In classic DC Comics fashion, the shiny new Justice League redux turns out to be shape-shifting White Martians from J’onn J’onnz home planet of Mars. After destroying the Justice League’s image, the White Martians physically beat and capture the Justice League and turn to their world-conquering masterplan. Their only mistake? They forgot about Batman.
In “The Death of Superman”, Doomsday tears through the Justice League like they’re mere paper dolls. In fact, one of the reasons Doomsday is able to eventually bone claw punch his way to Superman’s demise is because the Justice League are such a non-threat. Justice League International members from this mid ’90s period include Guy Gardner (Green Lantern), Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Maxima, Fire, Ice, and Bloodwynd. So, no, Doomsday wasn’t exactly punching above his weight until Supes arrived.
Part of the Justice League’s power is their roster depth, but let’s be honest: Destroying Superman is always going to be challenge number one. In this regard, Doomsday is the Justice League’s greatest threat, as he was able to plow through the pitiful Justice League backups and slug it out with Superman long enough for both of the heavy hitters to have nothing absolutely nothing left in the tank.
10. NEKRON / BLACK LANTERNS
In Blackest Night, Nekron and the Black Hand begin reanimating superheroes and empowering them with Black Lantern rings in an effort to wipe out life from the DC Universe. This desecration of former Justice Leaguers extends to Batman (well… sort of), Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Ralph and Sue Dibny, Firestorm and Martian Manhunter among others. In addition to physical threats, the gruesome threat of Nekron and the Black Lantern rings leads heroes face to face with friends they thought long dead.
This forces the likes of Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and the Flash into something of a zombie civil war with their former teammates. Even after seemingly overcoming the dangerous threat of the Black Lanterns, Nekron remains a potent threat to the Green Lanterns and the Justice League.
Fighting the Justice League to a standstill is one thing, but straight up wiping them out of existence is another level of villainy. That’s exactly what the Reverse-Flash achieves in his plot to mercilessly destroy the Flash leading to Flashpoint. Reverse-Flash is always seeking sadistic ways to strike out at Barry Allen, but his involvement in Flashpoint actually creates a reality where there is simply no Justice League at all.
Ironically, Reverse-Flash is only indirectly responsible for Flashpoint, as his plan to kill Barry’s mother forces Barry to travel back in time and damage the timestream preventing his mother’s murder. Admittedly, it’s tough to lay too much blame at Barry Allen’s feet for that desire. In addition to wiping out the League for an entire reality, the more cynical among us might even note that the actions of Reverse-Flash led to the destruction of the real Justice League, and the rise of those New 52 Justice League imposters.
8. RA’S AL GHUL
While you could make a case that it’s actually Batman that truly destroys the Justice League in Mark Waid, Steve Scott and Howard Porter’s Tower of Babel (JLA #43 to #46), Ra’s al Ghul is the one who steals the plans and enacts vengeance. As part of (yet another) long con, Ra’s Al Ghul steals Batman’s contingency plans for defeating the Justice League and begins to enact them one by one until no one in the league is left standing.
In terms of Justice League destruction, the Demon’s Head’s actions have the added impact of sowing distrust and discord between the members of the League and Batman. Although planning for the eventual mind-control or jokerized Justice Leaguer seems relatively practical, Batman is faced with accusations of conspiratorial malfeasance. The Justice League naturally gets over the disagreement eventually, but it’s always hanging over the heads of League members that Batman may be scheming to take them down at a moment’s notice.
7. VANDAL SAVAGE
On the surface, Vandal Savage seems almost quaint, a literal immortal caveman scheming throughout history of ways to conquer the world. Time and time again, Savage has proven his mettle as a Justice League rival, with nearly unending resources and a warrior’s mind honed throughout all of time. Legends of Tomorrow fans know full well that Vandal Savage is much more of a threat than meets the eye.
This is rarely clearer than in Grant Morrison’s DC One Million, with Savage spearheading a war across two timelines. The Savage of the present traps the Teen Titans inside nuclear missiles and launches them on major metropolitan areas, while the Savage of the future teams with Solaris the Tyrant Sun to end the reign of Supermen once and for all. It’s only through the Superman of the future’s heroic efforts to punch through the time barrier (comics!) that Savage and Solaris’s schemes are averted.
Few supervillains receive quite the boost Amazo sees in Justice League Unlimited, with near omnipotence upon his appearance in the eighth episode of season one called The Return. You wouldn’t necessarily guess it from his DC Comics history, but Amazo might be the single most invincible foe the Justice League faces in their 2000’s animated series. In The Return, Amazo begins his quest for vengeance against Lex Luthor by (seemingly) blowing up all of Oa and the entire Green Lantern Corps.
Amazo then speeds to Earth’s atmosphere where he wipes out just about every Justice League heavy hitter known to man. Lex Luthor and Ray Palmer concoct a plan to end Amazo’s wrath, but really it isn’t until Dr. Fate intervenes and identifies the good in Amazo that the battle finally ends.
Ironically, in DC’s New 52, Darkseid could actually be credited with forming the Justice League. His presence, and Apokolips’ invasion of Earth, actually brings the core lineup of Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman together to fight evil for the very first time. Sure, once Darkseid encounters these misbegotten do-gooders, he swats them away like the flies they are, but without the embodiment of evil invading the planet, the New 52 Justice League may have formed quite a bit later.
Prior to the New 52, Darkseid has squared off against the Justice League on many occasions, perhaps most notably in Final Crisis. After perfecting the anti-life equation on Earth, Darkseid finally sees evil triumph over good (for a time) setting up Apokolips on Earth. Darkseid’s schemes come crashing to an end when Batman fires a Radion bullet into the evil one’s heart, but so long as there’s a Justice League promoting good there will be a Darkseid to challenge them.
Only the Anti-Monitor can lay claim to the Justice League’s first true crisis, as the cosmic supervillain of ’85s Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Anti-Monitor is so powerful that he threatens the entire DC Multiverse, and both Barry Allen (The Flash) and Supergirl have to sacrifice their lives in order to prevent him from ushering in an age of anti-matter.
Even after those sacrifices, it took many more heroic efforts, lives, and the combined might of the Spectre, Darkseid, Superboy, Alexander Luthor, and Superman in order to finally stop the Anti-Monitor’s assault on life. Likewise, in the New 52, the Anti-Monitor is presented as a near omnipotent threat that callously wipes out Earth-3, and engages in fierce cosmic combat with Darkseid in the Justice League’s “Darkseid War”.
3. LEX LUTHOR / BRAINIAC
In the season two finale of Justice League Unlimited, “Divided We Fall,” Lex Luthor combines with Brainiac and nearly wipes out the Justice League. Lex is already a super genius with an unrivaled hatred of Superman, so combining his threat level with Brainiac’s alien technology and near limitless capabilities makes for the greatest foe the Justice League can imagine. Combine that with a multiple part season finale, and Lexiac (Brainior?) feels like he really could end the Justice League with his savage assault.
The Lex and Brainiac combination is so powerful it takes Wally West, aka The Flash, literally running around the world to build up enough speed for each punch to do damage. Even in his downfall, the Luthor machine is able to nearly destroy the Justice League with Superman giving a press conference announcing the League’s disassembly.
Prometheus will always stand out among Justice League destroyers for wiping the floor with the entire League on their home turf of the Watchtower. The character was introduced by Grant Morrison and Arnie Jorgensen in 1998, and in JLA #16 and #17 proceeded to go from unknown to one of the Justice League’s most dangerous enemies. Motivated by the opposite of Batman’s childhood (his parents were criminals shot dead by the police and he vowed revenge on forces of justice), Prometheus travels the world training and preparing for infiltration of the Watchtower.
Once inside the Justice League’s base, Prometheus systematically lays waste to the entire onboard roster. Much like Batman, Prometheus has a plan for every League member, taking out Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Huntress, Zauriel, and Green Lantern directly. Most impressively, through downloaded neural martial arts, Promotheus is able to take down Batman one-on-one before manipulating Superman and Flash into bending to his will. It’s only through the secret presence of Catwoman that Prometheus is ultimately defeated, making him one of the most effective Justice League beaters in comics.
1. CRIME SYNDICATE
As English Lit tried to tell us all those years ago, we are all our own worst enemies. That’s especially true for the Justice League, whose Earth-3 counterparts are twisted, corrupt overlords of their planet. The diametric opposite of the League, the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate consists of core members Ultraman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick, Superwoman, and Owlman.
In the New 52 Forever Evil story arc, the Crime Syndicate not only overpower the Justice League, but actually make them disappear from Earth entirely. With the aid of a corrupted Cyborg (aka Grid), the Crime Syndicate take over the planet, and torture and “kill” Nightwing on live TV. It takes a Lex Luthor led Injustice League to deal with the threat of the Syndicate, making them forever one of the Justice League’s most humiliating defeats and greatest threats.
Can you think of any other villains that can give the Justice League a run for their money? If so, head to the comment section and let us know right now.
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