Without question, the Justice League is the premiere superhero team in comic books. Since their very first appearance, they’ve done battle with everything from your garden variety leagues of injustice and societies of secret super-villains to cosmic beings and gods both new and old, and no matter what, they always seem to come out on top. It’s no wonder, either; DC always makes sure the team is stacked with some of the most powerful super-characters ever created — aliens, unstoppable warrior princesses, and some of the smartest men and women on the planet.
But though the company has tried to keep the ranks of the World’s Greatest Heroes as high-profile as possible, the Justice League has also been around for nearly 60 years, and that sometimes you just can’t maintain the pedigree like you want. For whatever reason, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman aren’t available, and that’s generally when some…undesirable elements slip in that DC will later try to sweep under the rug. But CBR remembers. And that’s why we’re bringing you 15 Justice League members that DC is embarrassed by. Or at least, they should be — these characters are boring, or derivative, offensive, and in a lot of cases, just plain bad.
DC should be embarrassed enough that Bloodwynd’s origin is so confusing. It starts out with him being the descendant of a group of African slaves that had performed a ritual to create a Blood Gem that had magical powers. Using the gem, they killed their owner Jacob Whitney, and eventually passed down the gem through their descendants. Eventually, the gem starts granting super-powers to its wearer, but also holds the Rott, a demonic version of Jacob Whitney.
Eventually the Rott sucks the real Bloodwynd into the Gem, while convincing Martian Manhunter to shapeshift into him, and join the Justice League while figuring out a way to free Rott from the gem. Bloodwynd was later freed instead, but this remains one of the most frustrating characters to ever join the League from a reader perspective.
14. TASMANIAN DEVIL
Hugh Dawkins was a metahuman born with the power to transform into a large were-beast, granting him super-strength, and razor sharp teeth and claws. Because he was from Tasmania and not at all because of the popular Looney Tunes character that had already been around for 20-plus years, he started calling himself the Tasmanian Devil. For quite some time, Hugh worked as a member of the Global Guardians before getting an invite into the Justice League during its International years.
If DC wasn’t embarrassed by this guy, they probably wouldn’t have allowed him to be skinned alive by Prometheus in 2009’s Justice League: Cry for Justice. And he wasn’t just skinned — Prometheus made a rug out of him. The character managed to survived that, but we’re not sure his dignity did.
G’nort has been a giant joke from the moment he was created. Introduced in Justice League International #10 by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, he’s supposed to be a Green Lantern who attained a ring due to his connection to a famous member in the Green Lantern Corps. Even the Guardians didn’t take him seriously, as they assigned him an empty sector of the Corps to monitor. But after helping the League stop a collection of Manhunters that had set up in his sector, he spent some time as a member of the Justice League as well.
G’nort’s a founding member of the Justice League Antarctica, a joke team formed by Maxwell Lord to get some of the most useless members of the League out of his hair. Often the butt of many jokes in DC, every time he reappears it’s in substantially worse circumstances, most recently becoming Larfleeze’s sidekick.
Retro’s creation is an example of just how popular the comics-central magazine Wizard was in the ’90s. As part of a joint contest between DC Comics and Wizard Magazine, a fan was allowed to design a character that would get to become a part of the Justice League. In-universe, Retro wound up being a regular person that made up his own costume and fake origin story and was allowed to join the Justice League for the day as a part of a tour.
Unfortunately, Retro ran afoul of Prometheus and was quickly murdered in order for Prometheus to gain access to the Watchtower and make an attempt at killing the Justice League. This may be the most embarrassing member of the Justice League ever, as he’s not only remained dead since his murder 20 years ago, but they haven’t even mentioned him since then.
This might be the weirdest entry on this list. How could DC be ashamed of a character like Hawkman, especially when he’s so often at the forefront of the Justice League or featured so heavily in major DC events? Well, things weren’t always that way. In the past, Hawkman’s history was so twisted and tangled up that DC didn’t know what to make of it. Was he Katar Hol from Thanagar? Was he an archaeologist Carter Hall?
The “Crisis” had mixed things up so badly that they didn’t know what to do with him, and there was a rumor that Grant Morrison wanted the character for his Justice League, but they denied him because they couldn’t figure out the guy’s history, and that’s what led to Zauriel being made. If your backstory is so out of wack it’s easier to just make a new character, that’s gotta be embarrassing.
The character Super-Chief has been around in one form or another since his debut in All-Star Western #117 back in 1961. He underwent several different incarnations until finally a version was introduced into the Justice League during the weekly series 52. A young veteran named John Standing Bear, he’d kept his distance from from his family and his heritage until he was given the meteorite fragment that would grant him his powers.
He briefly joined up with Firestorm’s attempt to reform the Justice League during the year where the Big Three had disappeared, but was promptly killed off by Booster Gold’s Skeets when he was possessed by the villainous Mr. Mind. Not exactly a bad thing, when Super-Chief just might be one of the most embarrassing superhero names ever invented.
9. AMBUSH BUG
Irwin Schwab/Ambush Bug is a walking parody of a character created by Keith Giffen, debuting in DC Comics Presents #2 in 1982. He briefly joins up with an ersatz version of the Justice League featuring Plastic Man, the Creeper, Harley Quinn, ‘Mazing Man, and the Trickster. And that right there is what makes him such an embarrassment. Ambush Bug is essentially DC’s less popular version of Deadpool, a madcap parody character that bounces around talking metafictional nonsense, even though they’ve got several, much better versions of exactly that character.
Which is probably why we rarely ever see the character outside of guest appearances and the occasional one-shot: we can find better versions of him elsewhere. He also joins up with Firestorm’s cursed League during 52, which was so swept so far under the rug most people have forgotten it existed.
Maxima first debuted in Roger Stern and George Perez’s Action Comics #645 in 1989. An alien royal from the planet Almerac, she came to Earth in order to find a mate worthy enough to have a child with…and that’s pretty much the limit of her character. She was a part of the Justice League briefly in the early ’90s, helping to fight against Doomsday before she eventually joined up with Captain Atom’s Extreme Justice team.
But really, even when she was a member of super-teams it was mostly spent in service of trying to find a husband rather than fighting bad guys, which is why she had no problem joining the Superman Revenge Squad after being spurned by the Man of Steel one too many times.
“Congo Bill” was the son of a Scottish gamekeeper who joined up with the IRA before World War I caused him to spend some time traveling Europe in service to his country. Eventually, he retired and took on Africa as his adopted home, where he was given a magic ring by a dying witch doctor. The magic ring gave him the ability to merge bodies with a magical Golden Gorilla.
As Congorilla, he had many adventures before joining up with the Justice League to stop Prometheus after a group of hunters slaughtered his gorilla friends and fellow hero Freedom Beast. His time in the League was short, which is fortunate because I’m not sure why DC ever thought it was a good idea to make one of their biggest African heroes exist in the body of an ape, or remind everyone so strongly of colonialism.
6. AGENT LIBERTY
Agent Liberty started out as Benjamin Lockwood, a former member of the CIA who abandoned them after being frustrated with the type of missions he was asked to work. Not long afterwards he hooked up with a group known as the Sons of Liberty, who gave him a suit capable of generating force-fields, as well as a bunch of high-tech weaponry. He eventually wound up joining up with the Justice League for a short period of time after Superman died fighting Doomsday.
But the real question is…who thought creating a Captain America rip-off was a good idea? Particularly one that came not from the government, but from a paramilitary group that thought America was headed in the “wrong” direction? Even the Agent himself left after they ordered him to assassinate Pete Ross, one of Superman’s best friends.
5. COMMANDER STEEL
Hank Heywood the Third is another unfortunate member of the Justice League Detroit group. His grandfather, the original Commander Steel, performed a surgery on his grandson to give him the same mechanized parts that granted him super-powers in order to save his life, even though his grandson didn’t really approve at all. Still, he did his best by joining the League…but it really wasn’t for him, as he wound up being severely injured by the same Ivo android that killed his teammate Vibe.
Even worse, while he was recovering from the injury he got murdered by Despero. A terrible fate, especially when he’s another one of those characters who only got close to a revival when he was brought back to life as a Black Lantern. Honestly, DC should really let go of the Captain America rip-offs.
4. BLUE JAY
Jay Abrams started out as a man from the destroyed world of Angor, and one of a trio of champions who managed to escape his world’s ultimate end. Once he arrived on Earth alongside his allies Silver Sorceress and Wandjina, he wound up in a battle against the Justice League International after misreading the political climate. But after his friend Wandjina sacrificed himself to narrowly avoid Earth’s nuclear destruction, Blue Jay would soon join up with Justice League Europe.
Blue Jay and the Champions of Angor were meant to be a twist on Roy Thomas’ Squadron Supreme, which were themselves a twist on the actual Justice League, which means they added a parody of a parody to DC’s biggest super-team. And that’s before you get to how Blue Jay is supposed to be Yellowjacket, a character nobody should be copying to begin with.
Paco Ramon became a member of the Justice League after hearing that Aquaman was creating a new version of the team in his own Detroit, leaving the street gang he was leader of in order to try and make a difference. An admirable enough goal on his own, but at the time his seismic and vibrational powers were played much like a joke, and his “disco fever” costume didn’t help at all. He just felt like a walking stereotype, and so when he was killed off by one of Professor Ivo’s androids, there wasn’t really a rush to bring him back to life.
Still, the character has undergone extensive rehab with the creation of The Flash television series, making Vibe into the affable geek Cisco Ramon by changing everything about him, including the scope of his powers.
2. WONDER TWINS
The Wonder Twins were originally an animation only creation, debuting in Hanna-Barbera’s The All-New Super Friends Hour back in 1977. A team made up of brother Zan and sister Jayna, the two were still superheroes in training, with powers that activated when they touched one another and said the words, “Wonder Twin Powers, activate!” Jayna was capable of transforming into any animal she could think of by saying its common name, while Zan could transform into a state of water in any given form he chose.
The two briefly joined up with Captain Atom’s “Extreme Justice” team in the late ’90s, but their time there didn’t last very long thankfully. Sometimes when a thing is gone, it should stay gone, especially when that thing is one of the most goofy Silver Age creations ever made.
Gypsy joined the Justice League during the contentious Detroit era, when the League’s membership was pared down heavily after Aquaman disbanded the original team and only allowed those who could devote their full attention to the join the new team. Gypsy’s time with the League was short-lived, as they found this particularly unpopular League found itself constantly under siege, until eventually two of the team’s newer members were killed and she quit.
Even this wasn’t enough to save her from the wrath of Despero, who murdered her parents and nearly made her his next victim were it not for Martian Manhunter. Cool as she was, DC had no idea what to do with her and kept her to brief appearances for decades after her creation, until New 52’s Justice League of America and Flash’s complete rehabilitation of her character as a member of her world’s “breach police”.
What Justice League member do you think DC is embarrassed by? Let us know in the comments!
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