One of the big differences between Marvel and DC is that Marvel has always claimed that they reflect “the world outside your window.” DC, on the other hand, fills its roster with characters that are larger than life, sometimes as literal gods that walk the earth, giving the Justice League an almost mythical status when they join forces. Superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter are almost obscenely powerful, giving the impression that they can never be beaten.
The consequence of living in the DC Universe, however, is frequently having to face enemies on a multiverse-shattering scale. Not only can the world’s greatest heroes be wiped out, but there can be plenty of times when heroes are turned on one another by the twisted machinations of their foes. The only thing harder than facing off against a powerful enemy, after all, is facing one of your powerful friends. All too often, the Justice League has not only been forced to fight against one of their own, but due to the strength and power of their roster, that newly heel-turned hero can handily wipe the floor with the whole team. CBR is taking a look at those Superheroes who single-handedly dominated the Justice League!
It’s no secret that Batman is a master tactician. Aside from being a skillful fighter and the world’s greatest detective, the Dark Knight prides himself on being prepared for anything. It makes perfect sense, therefore, that he’d meticulously plan for the day when his fellow Justice League members would turn on him.
It wasn’t until the year 2000, however, that this concept was explored in the JLA storyline “Tower of Babel.” Ra’s al Ghul stole the files that Batman had gathered detailing the strengths and weaknesses of all of his colleagues. This seeming betrayal on the part of Batman was nothing more than exceptional forethought and planning on the Dark Knight’s behalf. In the years since, we’ve seen that preparation come in handy, such as in the 2014 storyline “Endgame,” where we saw Batman’s mech suit fight against the Justice League when they’re overwhelmed by Joker toxin.
The mercenary assassin, Slade Wilson’s star has never shone brighter than it is right now. Not only did he have a cameo in the 2017 Justice League movie (played by Joe Manganiello) but Manu Bennett has regularly portrayed him on CW’s Arrow, and his DC Rebirth series -- written by Christopher Priest -- is arguably the greatest portrayal of his character to date. And while we may be pushing the definition of "superhero" here, he has fought as much on the side of the angels as he has the devils, especially in more recent years.
Over those years, we’ve seen Deathstroke square off against almost all of the Justice League members, and for a human assassin -- albeit a highly skilled, physically enhanced one -- he’s always held his own. He’s most prominently a Teen Titans villain, but in the 2004 series Identity Crisis, we see Deathstroke take on several members of the Justice League single-handedly, easily defeating them thanks to a merciless assassin who does his homework.
Being the Man of Steel is essentially putting a giant target on your back, and over the years possessing the mind and body of Superman has been the primary goal of many a supervillain. We’ve seen the last son of Krypton square off against his fellow Justice League members many times over the years, from the Injustice comic book series, to The Dark Knight Returns.
Most recently, however, we’ve seen the big screen version of Superman spend more time fighting against other superheroes than villains. Firstly he fought against Batman in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice thanks to the manipulations of Lex Luthor, and then in 2017’s Justice League we saw Supes wipe the floor with the newly formed super team after recovering from a nasty case of death.
12 SUPERBOY PRIME
Superboy Prime has had a weird, extremely comic-book history. He’s prominently known as a villain these days, but he started off wanting to be a hero just like the Superboy he read about in his comic books. Clark Kent was a boy in the Prime universe, where no other heroes exist. His parents named him after the comic book character Superman, not realizing that he actually was Kal-El, teleported to their Earth from a dying Krypton.
Following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, where Superboy Prime ascends to a paradise dimension, it’s revealed in the 2005’s Infinite Crisis that he has been watching the DC universe all this time, and hates what he sees. Manipulated by Alexander Luthor, he breaks through the barriers of reality and heads to the DC Universe, destroying anyone in his path.
Hardly a hero, but a supervillain that has masqueraded as heroes in the past in order to gain access to the secrets of the JLA Watchtower, allowing for complete domination over the Justice League. There have been many iterations of prometheus over the years, but the most prominent version is from Grant Morrison and Arnie Jorgensen.
Possessing no superhuman abilities, Prometheus is much like Batman in that he is a single minded individual that has travelled the globe to perfect his mental and physical proficiency. He vows to wage war against justice after witnessing his parents gunned down by police in front of him, in a dark reflection of Batman’s origins. After gaining access to the JLA Watchtower, Prometheus systematically and thoroughly takes out the Justice League one by one, only to be beaten by Catwoman, who he hadn’t prepared for.
10 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Due to not being seen much for the last few years in DC Comics, as well as not being included in the big screen Justice League line-up, you’d be forgiven for not knowing just how formidable Martian Manhunter is. His power set is immense: superhuman strength, durability, flight, regeneration, shape-shifting, intangibility, invisibility, telepathy and telekinesis are his main powers, with more uncovered over the years, making him one of the strongest members of the Justice League.
If we wanted to know what would happen if J’onn J’onzz faced off against the Justice League, we need look no further than the JLA storyline “Trial by Fire.” J’onn attempted to conquer his fear of fire by making a deal with a flame-wielding villainess named Scorch. Their telepathic bond regressed his mind, transforming him into the ancient burning Martian Fernus. In this state, Fernus, using J’onn’s body, almost killed the Justice League until they were rescued by the reluctant anti-hero Major Disaster.
9 THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS
So technically this one is a little bit of a cheat, but because we loved Dark Knights: Metal so much, we couldn’t resist an excuse to talk about one of its primary antagonists. Also, if we’re speaking technically, The Batman Who Laughs did used to be Batman, a superhero, so it definitely counts!
Over on Earth -22 within the Dark Multiverse, the Joker -- dying from his own exposure to toxins and becoming more and more unhinged -- basically infected Batman with his own personality. The merged being that resulted proceeded to murder all of the Dark Knight's allies. He also set out to destroy most of Gotham, as well as murder the parents of young children before infecting those children with Joker toxin. Batman broke free and snapped Joker’s neck, but the damage was done: Joker’s toxin infected Bruce, and within a week he had murdered the entire Justice League.
In Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, part of the animated DC Universe, Amazo is a giant golden Android created by Professor Ivo as a being designed to mimic a person’s abilities for his own use. He’s created under the watchful eye of Lex Luthor, who engineered him as part of his plan to obliterate the Justice League.
Once Amazo discovered the truth about his creation, he fled Earth in order to seek out more intelligent life. Having absorbed all of the powers of the Justice League, Amazo was now akin to a god, so when he returned to Earth, he was a formidable threat. He returned for the sole purpose of killing Lex Luthor, and when the Justice League stood in his way, he had no problem wiping them all out.
We're not talking about the city or the TV series of the same name, but the mysterious superhero that arrived in the first issue of Tom King’s run on Batman. Gotham and his sister Gotham Girl looked a lot like Superman and Supergirl and claimed to be here to make Gotham a safer place to be. For a short while Batman thought he could train these new heroes and hang up the cowl for good.
Alas, this dream wasn’t meant to be, as fairly soon the truth about Gotham and his partner became clear. Hank and Claire Clover somehow bought superpowers that drained their life energy every time they used them, and thanks to the manipulations of Hugo Strange and Psycho Pirate, along with the degeneration of his powers, Gotham went on a rampage, overpowering Superman and very nearly obliterated the Justice League.
6 WONDER WOMAN
An Amazon warrior and founding Justice League member, Diana Prince is as powerful a superhero as you can get. It’s hard to imagine anybody not knowing about her skills and powers at this point, seeing as she starred in one of the biggest superhero movies of all time, but being an Amazon and daughter of Themyscira, Wonder Woman is among the best of the best.
While we’ve not often seen her turn her formidable powers against her fellow heroes, if we expand our search to the multiverse at large, we can see just how threatening she can be. In the Flashpoint universe, we see her storm through those heroes who stand in her way, killing Aquaman, beheading Mera and stabbing Billy Batson through the heart. In the Injustice universe, her allying with the twisted Superman sees her kill heroes and villains alike, including Enchantress and Captain Atom.
While you wouldn’t normally associate the former Robin with being capable of dominating the entire Justice League, you have only to look at the recent alternate universe series Nightwing: The New Order to see what Dick Grayson is capable of.
The New Order showed us a world in which a violent, all-encompassing battle between good and evil saw Nightwing commit the unthinkable: activating a device that nullified the superpowers of everyone in the world. Soon, he became leader of the government-sanctioned Crusaders, whose job was to hunt, capture and neutralize errant metahumans. What started as a deed done to save lives turned into a fascistic state that captured innocents and restricted the freedoms of everyone. This is all not to mention the swift elimination of the Justice League, along with almost every other hero in the world.
William Macintyre, aka Triumph, was created in 1994 by Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid and Howard Porter, and revealed to be one of the original founding members of the Justice League, except the memory of him was erased from the world when he was dragged into a dimensional limbo.
Instantly disliked by fans, Triumph was a hot-headed, arrogant hero with entitlement issues, always feeling like it was his destiny to be the greatest hero of all. He fell on hard times in the late ‘90s, and came under the influence of an evil imp named Lkz. He believed he was using Lkz to create a threat that only he could save the world from, but Lkz had other ideas. It took the combined might of the Justice League and the Justice Society to bring him down, making him a serious threat to be dealt with.
3 KID AMAZO
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s the philosphy of Professor Ivo, who, after failing to eliminate the Justice League with his android Amazo, blended cybernetics with biology to create the cyborg known as Kid Amazo. He turned his creation loose to learn more about his humanity as a boy named Frank Halloran.
It wasn’t long before Frank came face to face with Amazo, who revealed the truth about the boy’s lineage. Over time, his dangerously unpredictable nature saw him fully embrace his villainous side. Becoming just as powerful as the Justice League feared, Kid Amazo took on all of their powers and personalities, as strong as his “father” Amazo before him. The superheroes had to confuse the boy’s mind by fighting amongst themselves in order to bring them down.
2 GREEN LANTERN
For years, Hal Jordan was the primary Green Lantern in charge of protecting Sector 2814, in which Earth was situated. In time, he was joined by other Green Lanterns, but Hal’s skills in his former life as a fighter pilot, mixed with the strength of his character, made him among the greatest the Corps had ever seen.
When Hal became consumed by the ancient force of Parallax, however, we saw just how threatening he could be. Overwhelmed by grief when his home Coast City was destroyed, Hal became unhinged and used his powers to recreate the city and its seven million dead inhabitants. This is a serious misuse of his powers, and when he was confronted by the Guardians, Hal -- now Parallax -- went on a rampage that saw him kill nearly every Green Lantern, wipe out the Justice League and attempt to reshape the universe in his image.
Ever since DC bought out Fawcett Comics and acquired the rights to the Captain Marvel family, Shazam (name change due to a copyright battle with Marvel) rivalled Superman when it came to powerful heroes (and popularity). That wasn’t an accident, Fawcett created Shazam to literally rival Superman on the newspaper stands, so when Billy Batson shouts the magic word “Shazam!” he absorbs the powers of seven Greek gods and transforms into his superheroic alter-ego.
In Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ 1996 miniseries Kingdom Come, a now adult Billy Batson becomes manipulated by Lex Luthor into fighting against both the Justice League and Batman’s Outsiders. As you can imagine with a hero that rivals Superman’s level of power, he is able to handily take on his fellow heroes, nearly killing the Man of Steel before freeing himself of Luthor’s control and sacrificing himself to save them all.