It’s no surprise that as the times change, so will the styles and fashions of our favorite superheroes. Every hero and villain has seen both favorable and horrible changes in their appearance. Since their first appearance together in 1960, DC’s staple super-team, the Justice League of America, has had many changes through the years – particularly with stories which take place in the Elseworlds multiverse titles.
Each of the selections below deal with some of the most controversial, radical, or surprising costume changes to the Justice League. From battle armor to goofy live-action costumes, it’s all here! Please be warned, there are spoilers present!
10 Injustice: Gods Among Us/Earth 50
The 2013 run of comics, a prequel to the video game, follows the storyline of the Joker drugging Superman into killing Lois Lane, their unborn son and all of Metropolis, then causing Superman to violently seek revenge, killing Joker. But Superman doesn’t stop there; he creates a dictatorial society to stop crime. The storyline is gritty and vicious, but one of the most notable aspects is the extreme change in costumes. Superman and his regime of Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern (who becomes a Yellow Lantern) have a more authoritarian, battle-suit look compared to what fans are used to seeing, betraying the approachable heroes they’re supposed to be. Similar in tone is the Earth 50 Justice League, who kill Lex Luthor as revenge for Luthor killing the Flash, and Batman trying to overthrow them.
9 DCEU Justice League
When Zack Snyder’s DC Extended Universe (DCEU) premiered films for Superman and Batman as well as Wonder Woman, most fans and critics panned the dark tone of the films and the costumes. When Justice League was released in 2017, and Joss Whedon had to take over directorial duties for Snyder, the film and costumes were brightened.
Superman’s dark blue and muddy reds turned to bright royal blue and ruby red. It was the overall tones of the films rooted more realism which also caused an uproar from critics saying the film didn’t match the tone of the comics.
8 Flashpoint Justice League
In this major turning point in the DC Comics universe, Flash’s attempt to save his mother inadvertently kicked off the New 52. While in the Flashpoint universe, Barry Allen encounters a brutish, hulking Aquaman; a blood-thirsty Wonder Woman who uses a beheaded Mera’s crown as her own; a trigger-happy Batman who literally sees red from his red eye visors; and a weakling Superman who’s been under government seizure, constantly zapped with red sun rays, his prime colored outfit reduced to gray. It’s a stark contrast from the beacons of hope readers are used to and makes you long even more for the return of the heroes we know.
7 Smallville Justice League
The WB channel premiered its take on a young Clark Kent during his teen years with the 2001 premiere of Smallville. While the first few seasons featured a typical villain-of-the-week type format, it wasn’t until later that major villains and heroes from the comics appeared.
The pinnacle of the series was in season 6 when Clark’s friends Bart Allen/Impulse, A.C./Aquaman, Victor Stone/Cyborg, and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow return to Smallville to take down one of Lex Luthor’s experimental labs. Since the creators of the show promised “no tights, no flights,” attempting a more realistic look, the usual tights were replaced with leather – lots of it – and rather basic-looking, generic outfits.
6 Red Son Superman/Earth 30
In this 2003 limited series story by Mark Millar, Superman’s rocket ship lands in the Ukraine rather than Kansas, and young Kal-El is raised as a Soviet communist. In a world where Green Lantern and Bizarro are America’s heroes, Wonder Woman is a Soviet ally, and Lex Luthor and his wife, Lois (Lane) Luthor, corruptly fight for America, many fans were upset with the idea of Superman and the Justice League not only being communists but also the story having such a bleak ending; and, as is consistent with Millar’s stories, regardless of a character’s popularity, no one is safe from death.
5 Kingdom Come/Earth 22 Justice League
This team was introduced in the 1996 limited series Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. In this Elseworlds story, the superheroes we know have long since quit or retired ever since the emergence of a new hero called Magog who easily kills to deliver justice.
However, a new generation of super-powered individuals who abuse their powers soon run amok, causing a huge toll of innocent lives. It is Wonder Woman who convinces an older recluse Clark Kent into reforming the Justice League; however, due to age and the times, most of the costumes are dramatically different compared to the mainstream heroes look we all know. Superman’s logo pays homage to his first appearance while the Flash’s, Green Lantern’s, and Batman’s costumes are all drastically different.
4 JLA: Gods & Monsters
Most of the entries on this list have to do with a corrupted Justice League and this one is no different as Superman is the son of General Zod, Batman is a superhuman vampire, and Wonder Woman is Bekka, wife to Orion and an escapee of the Fourth World. They brutally enforce the law on earth but are soon framed for murdering human scientists and must clear their names before making a positive difference in the world. In this version, their costumes look nothing like the outfits fans are used to seeing, so it was all the more shocking to see the Trinity in these drab garbs.
3 Justice League One Million – Justice Legion Alpha
The Justice League of the 853rd century – Justice Legion Alpha – first appeared in this crossover event series from 1998 by Grant Morrison. Superman lives in exile in his Fortress of Solitude on the Sun (ironically connecting this tale with Morrison’s All-Star Superman) while his son, Kal Kent, joins Alpha, which consists of future versions of Wonder Woman, Batman, Hourman, Starman, Aquaman, and the Flash – each protecting a different planet in the solar system. Their costumes bear vague similarities to their 20th century counterparts but caused a few lifted eyebrows when matched with their odd origins.
2 Justice League Of America 1997 TV Movie
Prior to the WB’s Smallville, superheroes on TV was hit-or-miss (mostly miss). However, it didn’t stop CBS from putting out this TV movie in 1997, followed by an unsuccessful pilot. Even though it’s called Justice League, there is no sign of Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman due to copyright infringement issues, so we get the Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, Fire, Ice, and occasional shadowy appearances by Martian Manhunter. The idea was to make these characters’ real lives take center stage amongst their heroic duties – sort of like Friends-meets-superheroes. But what was one of the most horrific aspects to this movie were the costumes, proving the film industry had a long way to go before coming up with stylish costumes.
1 JLAxis/Earth X
On Earth 10/Earth X, the Nazis won World War II and each member of the Justice League now works for the Nazi machine. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl all sport swastikas or SS emblems on their uniforms. No matter how many years have passed since the Nazis’ real-life invasion of Europe in the early 1940s, it’s still shocking to see beloved superheroes wearing such symbols and working for such heinous people. Their stories have made them so infamous with all DC fans that when they appear, there’s promise of true evil.