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Meanwhile… A History of the Justice League’s Hall of Justice

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Meanwhile… A History of the Justice League’s Hall of Justice

Recently, photos emerged from the set of the upcoming Justice League movie that indicate the legendary Hall of Justice will appear in the Zack Snyder-directed DC Comics team-up film.

Long a staple of Justice League lore, the team’s headquarters is familiar to fans as the central meeting point the League. Here, Earth’s heroes congregate to discuss the goings-on of the world, and threats they must face. But while the Hall of Justice has been immortalized in comics for quite some time, it actually made its debut on television in the animated phenomenon known as Super Friends.

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The Hall of Justice made its first appearance in the pilot episode of Super Friends on September 8, 1973. Home to the “TroublAlert,” a computerized monitoring station that was designed to warn the League of danger, the Hall also contained a giant computer screen that somehow had access to video footage from around the globe. On the Hall’s front lawn, you could sometimes spot Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet or Batman’s Batmobile. In short, it wasn’t the most secret of superhero headquarters.

As the Super Friends animated series was retooled throughout the ’70s and ’80s, so was the appearance of the Hall. It would become more dome-like in the interior, and appear in a general pentagon shape. The front of the building maintained its classic look. It would even get a spinoff building, the “Hall of Evil” that made its debut on a parallel universe in the “Universe of Evil” episode that also introduced, yes, the “Super Enemies.”

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The Hall of Justice was likely based on a real-life building: The art deco-style Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio. While the connection has never been confirmed by Super Friends’ creators, a brief history points to the uncanny resemblance being a little more than coincidental.

Established in 1957 (20 years after their first team-up), the studio Hanna-Barbera was founded by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. In 1967, it was sold to Taft Broadcasting Co. — which was based in Cincinnati.

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Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio

“They came to Cincinnati once in a while,” Dudley Taft, former CEO of Taft Broadcasting Co., once said. “We would have company meetings and some of them were here.”

The original sketch for the Hall of Justice was done by Al Gmuer, a background supervisor for Hanna-Barbera for more than 30 years. His sketch was later revamped by Joe Barbera, but Gmuer’s initial concept, which was a building that closely resembled the Union Terminal in Cincinnati, remained at the core of the final design.

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“Mine had more windows,” Gmuer said. “In the long run, I hated that building…The way it’s designed, it was not easy to draw. I had nightmares about that damn building.”

On October 16, 1972 — eleven months before it would first appear on Super Friends — Union Terminal’s train station was decommissioned. Luckily, it would be immortalized on the DC Comics cartoon.

“Someone knew of a great building with a wonderful visual look that reeked of the power and energy it was designed for,” Ruby Rogers, director of the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, said. “It also wasn’t overused like, for instance, the Chrysler Building. It wasn’t a cliché.”

After Super Friends, the Hall of Justice made minor appearances on several other animated series. Its first DC Animated Universe appearance was in Part 2 of Superman: The Animated Series’ “Apokolips…Now!,” where Superman fights off Parademons in front of a structure that looks very similar to the Hall of Justice. And in the DCAU’s Justice League Unlimited, the Justice League eventually opens up an embassy called the Metrotower that looks a lot like the Hall.

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On the mid-2000s series The Batman, the JLA’s headquarters (though referred to as The Watchtower) owes quite a bit of its visual design to the Hall. Batman: The Brave and the Bold also featured a brief appearance of the structure in the episode “Sidekicks Assemble!” However, it wasn’t until the fan-favorite series Young Justice arrived in 2010 that the Hall once again played a significant role on television. In that series, it was a cover-up headquarters for the League, a public facade for fans to tour while the League actually operated out of the Watchtower satellite orbiting Earth. The Hall of Justice was destroyed on that series in the episode “Cornered.”

When it comes to live-action DC Comics stories, the Hall of Justice hasn’t seen quite as many appearances. Frankly, it isn’t even referenced much at all. This isn’t surprising, since there hasn’t been a live-action Justice League adaptation yet, unless you count the failed ’90s pilot. However, in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, the Hall of Justice was the name for Metropolis’ police headquarters — though it bore little resemblance to the Hall we know and love.

The Hall of Justice on The Flash

Most recently, during the “Invasion!” crossover that ran through the CW’s four DC Comics-based series — The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl — it’s revealed that S.T.A.R. Labs has an old hangar that looks an awful lot like the Hall of Justice. Furthering the nod to the classic HQ, the hangar was used as the headquarters for the Flarrowverse’s heroes during the run of the crossover.

In the comics’ pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths continuity, the Super Friends series featured the Hall of Justice, naturally. However, it wasn’t until the aftermath of Infinite Crisis that it would be brought into core DC Comics continuity. This version of the Hall of Justice was built on top of the former bases of the World War II-era Justice Society of America and All-Star Squadron. Designed by Green Lantern and part-time architect John Stewart, along with Wonder Woman, the Hall was financed by Batman. Similarly to the approach used in Young Justice, the Watchtower remained the true JLA headquarters, while the Hall of Justice offered the public a place where they could visit JLA-centric exhibits, much like a museum. In DC’s New 52 revamp, the Hall would become headquarters for the Justice League International — until it was blown up by protesters who were outraged an American landmark would be used to house international heroes.

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How the Hall of Justice will be presented in the Justice League film remains a mystery, but its mere presence in the movie will likely delight fans who have been waiting to see the structure make its true live-action debut. The efforts of the filmmakers to introduce the Hall of Justice may even pique the interest of fans who may have been turned off by the less-than-purist take on DC Comics in earlier DCEU entries like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. We’ll just have to wait and see what kind of nifty super-computer the Hall packs this time around…

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