The Justice League of America is the premiere superhero team of the DC Comics Universe. Its members are often considered to be the best crimefighters the superhero community has to offer. While the most iconic Justice League roster includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, many other heroes have joined the fight against evil over the years.
The Justice League might be remembered as a team of heroes, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t welcomed members with checkered pasts before. On more than one occasion, the team has recruited a new teammate who has either been on the wrong side of the law before or is just a straight-up supervillain. What follows are the 15 times a criminal has joined the ranks of the Justice League of America.
15. VIBE JOINS JUSTICE LEAGUE DETROIT
Vibe was a creation of Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton for an infamous new era of the Justice League that has come to be known as Justice League Detroit. Introduced in 1984’s “Justice League of America Annual” #2, the Puerto Rican Francisco Ramon was a walking stereotype as a breakdancer and leader of a street gang. When he heard the Justice League was setting up shop nearby, he quit Los Lobos to join the team.
At the time, Aquaman wanted a group of heroes who could commit to being in the Justice League full time. While that isn’t the worst idea, it also shouldn’t mean you pick just anyone who is willing to stick around. It was believed that Vibe’s sonic vibration abilities would make him an effective member, however, he soon put the team in conflict with a rival gang. Though he managed to prove his mettle on several occasions, fans were not impressed and Vibe was killed off in “Justice League of America” #258 just three years after his debut.
14. BATMAN RECRUITS PLASTIC MAN
Created in 1941 back when he was owned by Quality Comics, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian was a small-time crook who was exposed to an unknown chemical during a heist. His partners in crime abandoned him and the effects of the chemical gave him the ability to stretch his body. He and his sidekick Woozy Winks eventually become involved with crime fighting in hopes of making money off the endeavor.
After the rights to Plastic Man were acquired by DC Comics, he was recruited by Batman to infiltrate the Injustice League during Grant Morrison’s “Rock of Ages” storyline in the 1990’s. He became a member of the team’s extended lineup in the pages of “JLA.” When the size of the team was cut down after the “World War III” story, Plastic Man stayed on as the team’s eighth member. Over many different adventures, Plas was able to prove that he belonged on the team.
13. THE TATTOOED MAN HELPS SAVE THE WORLD
The story of the third Tattooed Man, Mark Richards, is a complicated one. He was a Marine who acquired the ability to consume the sins of others and transform them into tattooes he could control. He debuted in “Green Lantern” #9 by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver as a villain, but we were later introduced to his family and the complicated life he lives in Liberty Hill.
During “Final Crisis,” the Tattooed Man is seen protecting his neighborhood from Darkseid’s Justifiers. He saves Justice League member Black Lightning and becomes instrumental in freeing those under the control of the Anti-Life Equation. For his actions, he is given honorary membership into the Justice League. At first he uses this status to become a hero in “Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink,” however the murder of his son and ongoing gang violence get him in trouble with the law. The League eventually revokes his membership before he joins Deathstroke’s Titans team.
12. DESPERO JOINS THE LEAGUE…SORT OF
When Despero was a part of the Justice League, he wasn’t really in control of his own body. Still, having the space tyrant’s giant purple frame on a Justice League roster has to count for something. Despero proves to be far too dangerous to defeat by conventional means, so the League finds a way to transfer the robot servant L-Ron into the villain’s mind in order to take control of his body.
In the body of Despero, L-Ron joins Justice League Task Force alongside his former Justice League International teammate Martian Manhunter. While many were caught off guard by the bestial form of one of the baddest villains in the universe, L-Ron was able to do a lot of good in this body. Though his mind returned to plague the Justice League on a few occasions, Despero missed out on most of the 1990’s before getting his body back prior to 2002’s “JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice.”
11. JUSTICE LEAGUE ANTARCTICA
During Keith Giffen’s run on “Justice League International,” he introduced an iteration of the Injustice Gang that only proved to be utterly incompetent at committing crimes. Under the leadership of Major Disaster, Big Sir, Clock King, Cluemaster, and Multi-Man accomplished nothing. At one point, they attempted to rob a bank but were beaten to it by another crew. When the cops showed up, it looked like they had been trying to stop the criminals.
In 1990’s “Justice League America Annual” #4 Major Disaster used their new celebrity status to get them a place on the Justice League. It was too bad for them that Maxwell Lord sent them to Antarctica, seeing the need to keep them close but still out of the way. Under the leadership of the incompetent Green Lantern G’Nort, the Justice League Antarctica proved to be an utter failure when their headquarters were destroyed by mutant penguins. The team was then rescued and disbanded.
10. MAJOR DISASTER GETS A CHANCE
After Justice League Antarctica doesn’t work out, the former members of the Injustice Gang decide to join the Suicide Squad (great idea!). Most of them perish during a mission, but Major Disaster survives and ultimately impresses both Batman and Superman. When the Justice League of America is believed to have been killed during “The Obsidian Age” story arc, Major Disaster is recruited into a replacement team–alongside Nightwing, Firestorm, and other heroes–tasked with rescuing the first group.
Following that storyline, Paul Booker remains with the Justice League and becomes close with fellow newcomer Faith. He continues to prove he belongs on the team and works to make up for his time as a supervillain. Major Disaster joins the Justice League Elite splinter group where his trouble with alcoholism ultimately gets one of his teammates killed. He quits the team and leaves to finally get the treatment he needs for his disease.
9. TOMORROW WOMAN INFILTRATES THE LEAGUE
Early into Grant Morrison’s run on “JLA,” the Justice League of America is infiltrated by a double agent. The team recruits a new character known as Tomorrow Woman but unknown to her new allies, she is an android created by Professor Ivo and T.O. Morrow. The two scientists gifted her with a body that could fool even Superman, and a mind that allowed her to think and feel for herself.
Built with a powerful bomb inside her, she was designed to destroy the Justice League from within. After spending some time with the team she was sent to destroy, Tomorrow Woman fought against her programming. She learns the concept of freedom for the first time and sacrifices herself to save the lives of her teammates. In 2009, Tomorrow Woman is revived by Kurt Busiek in the pages of “Trinity,” where she found redemption and had the opportunity to live as a hero.
8. ROCKET RED EXPOSED
Seeking to even the superhero odds against their American enemies, the U.S.S.R. created the Rocket Red Brigade with the help of Green Lantern Kilowog. This team of Russian protectors wore high-tech suits of armor that allowed them to fly, lift heavy objects and use all sorts of built-in weaponry. It wasn’t until one of them joined the ranks of Justice League International that the superhero grew to accept them as a force for good.
Unfortunately, Rocket Red #7 turned out to be an undercover Manhunter robot in disguise. During DC’s lead-up to the 1988 “Millennium” event, the Manhunters had been secretly infiltrating the superhero community in order to bring it down from the inside. After showing his true colors, the robot Rocket Red fought Justice League International until Booster Gold was able to destroy it. Another Rocket Red, Dmitri Pushkin, soon joined the team and served as their teammate for a long time.
7. FEL ANDAR IS HAWKMAN
Most DC Comics properties were rebooted following the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline, however, Hawkman went on with the Silver Age version of the character for some time after. When the decision was finally made to relaunch the character in “Hawkworld,” the publisher needed some way to explain why Hawkman had gone unchanged for so long. They decided to make it known that the Hawkman who had joined Justice League International was actually Fel Andar, a Thanagarian spy working to ready Earth for an invasion.
It was further explained that he met and fell in love with an Earth woman named Sharon Parker, who he had a child with. That child would grow up to be a member of the Teen Titans known as Golden Eagle. The Thanagarians brainwashed Sharon into believing she was Hawkgirl. When her conditioning eroded, she told the Justice League the truth and Fel Andar killed her before he fled.
6. PROMETHEUS STANDS REVEALED
In the miniseries “Justice League: Cry for Justice,” Green Arrow and Green Lantern start a Justice League splinter group that sought to be more proactive against criminals. A rash of deaths within the superhero community eventually gets the Atom, Supergirl, Starman, Congorilla and Shazam to join their cause. During the course of their adventures as a team, it is revealed that the person they thought was Freddy Freeman was actually the supervillain Prometheus in disguise.
In the ensuing altercation, he dismembers Roy Harper and defeats much of the Justice League before finally being brought down. Prometheus tells the heroes about his plans to blow up their home cities, and to gain his freedom he gives them the locations of the bombs. Unfortunately, the team is unable to save Star City and a good portion of the city is destroyed. It is discovered that Roy Harper’s daughter was killed in the explosion, causing Green Arrow to hunt the villain down and execute him.
5. KILLER FROST GETS A SECOND CHANCE
A new iteration of Killer Frost named Caitlin Snow was introduced in the New 52 to bring her closer to her counterpart in “The Flash” television show. This Killer Frost was a reluctant villain and proves helpful in “Forever Evil: A.R.G.U.S.” where she, Martin Stein and Steve Trevor were instrumental in retrieving Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. The Lasso was eventually used in “Forever Evil” to free the Justice League from captivity.
Killer Frost was added to the Suicide Squad during the events of “Justice League vs. Suicide Squad,” where she gave off the impression that she wasn’t like the other villains. She used her energy-leaching abilities on Superman to take down the entire Justice League, but ended up helping the team defeat Eclipso. Seeing that she wasn’t really evil, Batman took her away from Amanda Waller’s control and asked her to join his new Justice League of America team.
4. THE ATOM IS EVIL
Rhonda Pineda was introduced in “Justice League” #18 as a new recruit during the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline. Using the name Atom, she joined the team in an official capacity before it was discovered that she had been secretly spying on her teammates. Apparently, Amanda Waller had tasked her to find the weaknesses of some of the other members, including Firestorm and Element Woman. This wasn’t even the worst betrayal she would commit.
During the events of “Trinity War,” Superman kills Dr. Light, which causes a fight to break out between three different Justice League teams. Atomica reveals that she is actually from Earth-3 and is the one responsible for the incidence by implanting a sliver of Kryptonite inside Superman’s optic nerve. She betrays the team in order to help bring the Crime Syndicate to this universe so they can begin their takeover of Earth. She is even shown to be in a relationship with evil Flash counterpart Johnny Quick.
3. CAPTAIN COLD TURNS OVER A NEW LEAF
During the “Forever Evil” event by Geoff Johns and David Finch, the Justice League is taken off the board by the invading Crime Syndicate. While many of Earth’s villains embrace the new world order by joining the Secret Society, Captain Cold and a small band of criminals decide to resist. Cold immobilizes the evil Johnny Quick and helps take down the Crime Syndicate. For his actions, he is considered to be a hero by the public.
With the help of Lex Luthor, Captain Cold is given a full pardon for his crimes by the U.S. government. When Luthor joins the Justice League, he invites Leonard Snart to become his head of security. This new role gives him a place on the team and a chance to do some good for once. Cold protects Luthor’s life on several occasions and helps the league handle the Amazo Virus outbreak in the pages of “Justice League.”
2. LEX LUTHOR IS A HERO
Lex Luthor has always been an enemy to Superman and the Justice League, but after the events of “Forever Evil” he was considered a hero. When the heroes were nowhere to be found, Luthor and his group of criminals were able to defeat the Crime Syndicate, save Dick Grayson’s life and even save Superman from Kryptonite poisoning. Riding high off this major victory, he was able to secure himself a place on the Justice League.
Luthor debuted as a member of the world’s premiere superhero team in “Justice League” #30 where he helped to recruit both Shazam and Captain Cold. Unable to handle the idea of Lex Luthor being a member of the Justice League, Superman quit the team in disgust, though he wouldn’t be gone for long. He continued to be a member of the team when “The Darkseid War” broke out between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor, and remained all the way to the end of the event before he decided to take the title of Superman for himself.
1. MAXWELL LORD’S LONG CON
The businessman known as Maxwell Lord was introduced as the founder and benefactor of the new Justice League team that would eventually be known as Justice League International. While he was always shown to be greedy and of questionable morals, Lord always displayed the desire to do the right thing. After years leading the League in all its many forms, a more insidious and dangerous person was discovered to be hiding under the guise of a wonky tycoon.
When the Blue Beetle investigated a money trail “Countdown to Infinite Crisis,” he found that Maxwell Lord had taken control of Checkmate and had stolen the Brother E.Y.E. Satellite from Bruce Wayne’s control. The former boss of the Justice League then told Ted Kord of his plans to wipe out super-powered beings for the good of humanity. He offered Blue Beetle a place in his plan, but when the hero refused, Lord shot him in the head.
Are there any other villains who have joined the Justice League who we forgot to mention? Be sure to tell us which ones in the comments!