“You’re Fired!” It’s not just this generation’s “Four score and seven years ago…,” it’s a phrase many of us have heard at one time or another. Maybe it was layoffs, maybe you missed a few too many shifts, maybe you got caught reading CBR articles on company time (we honestly can’t fault you there). The point is, in the real world, it’s not hard to find yourself fired.
Oddly, unlike in the real world, in the DC Universe, it takes a lot to get a pink slip as a superhero, even from the preeminent group, the Justice League. Seriously, you would be shocked what crazy things some League members have gotten away with and still get to keep their key to the Watchtower. Across the many comics and TV series, plenty of Justice League members have come and gone, but most of the time their departure is friendly and voluntary. You’ve gotta do something pretty darn bad to get the boot from the ol’ Brave and the Bold. From betrayals to murder to staggering incompetence, we take a look at some of the heroes who have been kicked out of the Justice League.
The 1997 revival of the Justice League, entitled JLA, was one of the most memorable comics of its decade, in no small part thanks to the work of its initial writer, Grant Morrison. However, arguably the most highly regarded and oft-referenced stories from this run began a few issues after Morrison left the series, Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel.
The story involves Ra’s Al Ghul determining the precise means by which to incapacitate every single member of the JLA so that he could unleash a language scramble upon the world to cause chaos. As the League wonders how Al Ghul could have possibly known and exploited their weaknesses, Batman reveals the truth: he had maintained files as a fail-safe with those exact plans, which he himself had designed, and that Ra’s had somehow gotten hold of. After the crisis was resolved, the JLA was at a split vote over whether to fire Batman from the League. In his typical fashion, Bruce left before Superman cast the final vote.
14. HUNTRESS (ANIMATED)
When the now-iconic Justice League series was rebooted as Justice League Unlimited, it allowed the writers to pluck from a wide stable and create character-driven stories focused more on single, lesser known characters. So when Gail Simone got her chance early on in the new series, she dove deep into the tortured psyche of The Huntress.
The episode, “Double Date”, unfolds into both Helena Bertinelli’s quest for revenge and a budding romance between her and the enigmatic Question. However, Huntress’ termination from the League arrives at the start of the episode, where a failed assassination attempt by Helena on Steven Mandragora, the mobster responsible for the death of her parents, is revealed to be a set up. Sensing that Helena would be willing to kill, Martian Manhunter has Mandagora placed in protective custody, and tells Helena that her murderous desires mean she cannot remain a member of the League.
13. SNAPPER CARR
You may not be familiar with Snapper Carr (who got his nickname from, you guessed it, snapping), but we assure you, his history with the League is as rich as it is grating. From the same type of “do something for those hip teens” thinking that stuck us with the interminable Rick Jones over at Marvel, DC decided the League really need a hip-talking, completely powerless teenager to join the gang.
Of course, times change, and Snapper was growing massively unpopular. Rather than just ignore him in future issues, however, Dennis O’Neil decided to give Carr the send-off he deserved. Feeling under-appreciated, Carr allows himself to be duped by a disguised Joker, leads him to the League headquarters and helps him capture Batman. The reason the League forever abandoned the “Secret Sanctuary,” Carr was dismissed from the League, never to return.
Dwayne McDuffie, creator of the iconic Static, wrote many episodes of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, but arguably his finest was the two-parter “Hereafter,” where a bevy of villains carried over from Superman: The Animated Series team up and seemingly “kill” Superman.
Unbeknownst to the League, Clark has just been transported to a different time, where he and Vandall Savage are the sole living beings. In present day, however, the League contemplates who should replace the Man of Steel when Lobo (voiced by Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett) arrives on the satellite and, after tussling with assembled heroes, joins them to fight an interplanetary threat on Earth. When Superman arrives back in his proper time period, he promptly fires Lobo from the League.
11. BARRY ALLEN
The period known as the “Trial of Barry Allen” is an interesting one, as was the question of his membership at the time. In order to prevent the Reverse Flash from killing Fiona Webb, Barry Allen grabs the evil speedster from behind, accidentally snapping his neck. Allen is soon arrested on manslaughter charges and has to stand trial.
The Justice League deliberates on Allen’s fate as a League member and are venally split, leaving Superman as the tie breaker. The series stretched out Superman’s answer over three issues, building suspense, before ultimately revealing that while Allen wasn’t technically terminated from the league due to the extenuating circumstances, the actual act of taking a life put him on a “probationary period” pending the results of the trial. Allen, however, disgusted and distraught, turns his back on the League, saying regaining his membership is the furthest thought from his mind.
10. THE JUSTICE LEAGUE ANTARCTICA
If you ever wondered why the grim, gritty ‘90s reboot of the JLA was needed, look no further. In the ‘80s there was a seemingly endless array of Justice League spinoffs, the most grating of which was easily Justice League Antarctica.
Originally formed when a group of C-level super villains known as “Major Disaster” spun a botched diamond heist into an act of heroism, the ever conniving Maxwell Lord smelled opportunity. Lord decided to take these “heroes” of questionable character and make them the Justice League Antarctica, simultaneously unloading his most loathed League member G’Nort onto the group as their team leader. After a colossal failure involving killer penguins, Lord decided to fire the entire team and dissolve the organization.
9. WONDER WOMAN
One of DC’s Holy Trinity, and a founding member of the Justice League (not counting that Black Canary retcon), Wonder Woman has always been a powerful presence and leadership force in the League. But for such a group to function, it has to adhere to its principles, even when one of its most powerful figures crosses the line.
Such was the case in Greg Rucka’s The OMAC Project. Maxwell Lord, now the leader of Checkmate, had been using Observational Meta-Human Activity Constructs to control and kill meta humans. In order to prevent more damage being done by a mind-controlled Superman, Wonder Woman murders Maxwell Lord, footage of which is broadcast by Brother Eye across the world. Though Diana felt her actions were justified, the major members of the League turned their backs on her. Most notably, Superman, who had once shown compassion and understanding when Barry Allen had killed Reverse Flash, now couldn’t even look Diana in the eye.
8. CAPTAIN ATOM, BLUE BEETLE & ICE
The 1991 Justice League America event “Breakdown” found the League squaring off against Queen Bee. An assassination attempt is made against team leader Maxwell Lord, who becomes hospitalized and comatose. A grieving League is soon overseen by the UN appointed Ambassador Kurt Heimlich, who immediately goes about “restructuring” the League.
Captain Atom believes Queen Bee was behind the assassination, and is suspicious of the newly appointed Heimlich’s intentions. His suspicions are confirmed when Heimlich promptly fires Atom, Blue Beetle and Ice from the League. Naturally, by the end of the arc, it is revealed that Heimlich was, in fact, working for Queen Bee. Evil is defeated, Maxwell Lord recovers from his coma, and goes on to create the OMAC project and take hundreds of lives. You know, maybe the Justice League doesn’t have the best taste in membership after all.
You’d think with the advanced technology and seemingly limitless budget the Justice League has, they’d invest in some background checks. Instead, they seemingly accept any stranger with super powers who did them a solid. Case in point: Rhonda Pineda, also known as Atomica. After diffusing an Atlantean bomb, the League recruits Pineda as the new Atom, and bestows their full trust in her.
Not the best call, as Pineda is actually from Earth-3, where she was a member of the Crime Syndicate and a noted child-killer. Her real intentions within the League soon reveal themselves, as she unleashes a virus in Cyborg, creating the villainous Grid and bringing the Crime Syndicate to Earth at the cost of the Doom Patrol. Thankfully, Lex Luthor was on hand, teaming up with Batman and the Injustice League. After dispatching the rest of the Syndicate, Luthor finds a shrunken Atomica and “terminates” her membership to the League… with the bottom of his boot.
6. MARTIAN MANHUNTER
The new JLA of 1997 was a huge hit, but their Post-Crisis origins were yet untold. So Mark Waid stepped up to the plate with the ambitious and controversial JLA: Year One. Though most notable for retconning Wonder Woman from the team’s original line-up, JLA: Year One also featured the removal of another founding member of the League when it revealed that Martian Manhunter harbored a dangerous secret.
Fearing any metahuman might one day prove to be a danger to society, Martian Manhunter had secretly disguised himself to interact with various League members and keep detailed notes, not just on their superhuman weaknesses, but their personal lives. When his secret was exposed, J’onn was expelled from the League. Though he would be welcomed back after the defeat of Locus, the seeds of J’onns sins were planted, and the reaping of what he sowed would come in the famous Tower of Babel story arc.
5. ROCKET RED 7
The Rocket Red Brigade isn’t exactly a popular aspect of DC lore, and they’re unlikely to crop up either in the DCEU or the Arrow-verse, given their complicated and quite frankly dated origins. They were a team of humans who underwent “forced evolution,” equipped with powerful armor, formed into a team by Kilowog to defend the Soviet Union.
Eventually, one of the team, Rocket Red #7, earned a spot in the Justice League International. Thought to be a Russian named Vladimir Mikoyan, it was revealed during the “Millennium” event that Rocket Red #7 was in fact a Manhunter android. Shocked by the betrayal, Rocket Red #7 was dispatched by Booster Gold and was replaced on the team by Dmitri Pushkin, the most well-known of the Rocket Reds.
4. GUY GARDNER
Guy Gardner has always been a divisive character in the DC universe. You either love him or you hate him. Yet, few will defend the “Guy Gardner: Warrior” phase, where he donned garish red pants, knee pads and no shirt like a nightmare version of Rob Liefeld-era “kewl.”
It was during this time that Gardner saw his opening make something of himself. Specifically, that something was the leader of the Justice League. In JLA Secret Files #2, it’s revealed that while various attempts were being made by classic members like Aquaman and Batman to reform the JLA, Gardner felt he could simply sit in a chair at the old League table and declare himself leader. When the rest of the membership arrived, Gardner cockily claimed that, as de facto leader, nobody could eject him from the League. A simple icy stare from Batman said otherwise, and Gardner left, dejected and defiant.
That Huntress makes for a bad Justice League member isn’t that surprising. What is surprising is who was the one to give Helena the boot in the comics: Batman. Sure, Batman is anti-killing (except for the many times he isn’t), but in the case of Huntress, he shows a shocking amount of hypocrisy. Prometheus, as part of Lex Luthor’s Injustice Gang, attacks the JLA Watchtower, and targets Helena’s friend, and fellow Bird of Prey, Oracle. Recognizing the enormous threat Prometheus poses, Helena attempts to kill him, which Batman prevents and promptly fires Huntress from the League, because killing is cruel and wrong.
Instead, this paragon of morality decides to replace Prometheus combat skills with the “physical skills of Stephen Hawking.” Uh huh, killing is bad, but intentionally giving a dude ALS is all good. Not to mention his decision to wipe Prometheus’ mind to the point of mental disability makes his Doctor Light in Identity Crisis meltdown questionable at best.
If you grew up watching cartoons in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, this is likely the first thing that came to mind when you saw “Fired From The Justice League”. The three part “Starcrossed” arc is one of the most poignant and emotional stories ever told in the Timm-verse, all focused around Hawkgirl’s dual allegiance, both to her homeworld and the JLA.
Sure, the story of “Rebuild our dying world on your new one” has been done with Kryptonians and Superman a thousand times. But by using Hawkgirl and the Thanagarians, a whole new dynamic comes into play. She’s torn, not just between two worlds, but two different sets of morality. Though ultimately she sides with the Justice League and the people of Earth, her choice is made too late to satisfy the other League members, including her lover John Stewart. When it’s clear the group is evenly split, Hawkgirl decides to walk away from the League before Superman casts the final vote.
People can mock Aquaman. They can laugh at his costumes, the limited usefulness of his powers. But he is a founding member of the JLA, and damned if he doesn’t know that charter backwards and forwards. Ultimately, it was Aquaman and his commitment to the cause that made the most significant change in the history of the JLA.
After the Justice League Satellite is destroyed due to the inability of certain League members to tear themselves away from personal crises in Justice League Annual #2, an outraged Aquaman uses his power as an original charter member to disband the current league, effectively firing every single superhero who won’t promises to commit themselves wholly and exclusively to League activities. Only Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter and Zatanna (a.k.a the people who couldn’t carry their own titles) stayed, and a new Justice League was formed, changing the course of DC Comics forever.
Can you think of anyone else who got the boot from the Justice League? Let us know in the comments!
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