What’s better than one superhero? A bunch of them in one comic book. The superhero team concept has been around since 1940 and led to some of the biggest franchises both in and out of comics. But which ones are the cream of the crop? Our criteria for this top 10 ranking of the best superhero teams is as follows. First, each team must have comic book origins. So sorry, no Power Rangers or Thundercats. Second, although each entry originated in comic books, their popularity in other media does factor into their greatness. So without further ado, we present the 10 greatest comic book superhero teams of all-time, ranked from least to most great.

The Avengers by Alan Davis, the Justice League by Art Admas, and the X-Men by Jim Lee.
Marvel Comics/ DC Comics

10. The Defenders

Marvel Comics

If you only know superheroes from their live-action adaptations, you may think the Defenders are just Marvel’s street-level heroes. After all, that’s what the Netflix series of the same name suggested. But in the comics, from 1972 to 1985, the Defenders were a staple of Marvel Comics, with an ongoing series that lasted 150 issues. The original concept for the Defenders series showcased “loner” Marvel heroes like Namor, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, and Silver Surfer. Strange summoned these heroes together to stop world-ending threats no one else could handle… not even the Avengers.

Eventually, characters like Valkyrie and several others joined the ranks of this “non-team.” Their non-teams status came as they had no formal headquarters or leadership structure. They just teamed up when bad things were about to go down, stopped the bad things, and went their separate ways until the next time. Almost every Marvel character who was not a regular Avenger was a Defender at some point, including three original X-Men. However, the core roster always defaulted to the original four and, because of them, this is a forever iconic team. Not only should Marvel Comics consider giving them a series again, it’s high time they arrived in the MCU too.

9. The Doom Patrol

DC Comics

Let us describe an iconic superhero team to you. A group of freaks and outcasts, led by a genius in a wheelchair, who works out of a mysterious mansion. Oh, and they debuted in 1963. All of that applies to the X-Men, but I am also talking about DC’s Doom Patrol, who actually debuted three months earlier. Debuting in My Greatest Adventure, the Doom Patrol was originally made up of Robotman, Elasti-Girl, Negative Man, and their leader, the Chief. After five years, DC deemed the comic as too weird for their readership at the time, and all the Doom Patrol died saving a small village in their last issue. And they’d stay dead for years.

In the ‘70s, jumping on Marvel’s successful revival of X-Men, DC tried to do their own “New Doom Patrol.” But it didn’t click until 1989, when writer Grant Morrison took a crack at it. And they made the group deeply, deeply weird. Less “superheroes,” and more “support group for damaged, super-powered people.” This surreal and psychedelic version of the team, which carried over original members Robotman and the Chief, was a hit with readers. It was simply unlike any other superhero team book of the time. The Morrison Doom Patrol heavily inspired the Max streaming series, which introduced the Doom Patrol to the masses. All of this increased their popularity even further, thus earning them a spot as one of the best superhero teams.

8. The Justice Society of America

DC Comics

None of the other teams on this list would even exist if not for the Justice Society of America. Created by DC in 1940, the idea behind the JSA was simple — bring all the publisher’s main heroes together into one big group. Well, almost all our heroes. Superman and Batman were seen as too popular, and didn’t need the boost. But every other headlining DC hero made the cut, including the Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman who, despite outselling every male member, was relegated to “team secretary.” But when superheroes lost their popularity after World War II, the JSA went away.

The JSA would make sporadic appearances after that, usually crossing over with their successor team, the far more high-profile Justice League. But the team really came into their own 60 years from their creation. In the early 2000s, writers David S. Goyer, James Robinson, and Geoff Johns gave the JSA their first-ever ongoing series, which focused on the group as a legacy team, one whose roots go back to the ’40s. Some older members were still around, like Flash and Green Lantern, but the focus was on newer legacy members. New characters like Mister Terrific, Stargirl, and others really came into their own in the pages of JSA, and the team proved they were more than just a bunch of old guys in tights. Between their status as the original superhero team, and their superior modern-day roster, the JSA remains one of the best.

7. The Legion of Super-Heroes

DC Comics

These days, the Legion of Super-Heroes does not get much love from DC Comics. But once upon a time, mainly through the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was one of their biggest sellers, and helped carry the line. And to think, they were intended as “one and done” guest stars in a single Superboy story. First appearing in 1958, the Legion was a group of super-powered teens from across the galaxy who lived 1,000 years in the future. Using time travel technology, they traveled back to 20th century Smallville, to recruit their inspiration Superboy to join the team. But the Legion was so popular, that DC brought them back. They eventually received their own feature in Adventure Comics, and their ranks grew and grew, way beyond the original three members.

At its peak in the ‘80s, the Legion was so popular that they expanded to 25 regular members, living up to their name. By 1980, the group didn’t even need Superboy to sell anymore. Instead of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, the title shifted to Legion of Super-Heroes, leaving the big guy behind. The series was a teenage superhero soap opera, one done several years before Marvel would receive similar acclaim for inventing the genre. Specifically, under writers like Paul Levitz, comics fans were into the interpersonal dynamics of heroes with the names Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl. And long before Star Trek had a utopian United Federation of Planets, DC had the Legion’s United Planets. Too many reboots have rendered the LSH inert at DC, but at its core, they are still one of the greatest super teams of all-time.

6. The Teen Titans

DC Comics

When Justice League of America became a sensation for DC, the company knew it wanted some kind of spinoff. Someone at DC realized that several JLA members had kid sidekicks, most famously, Robin the Boy Wonder. In 1965, writer Bob Haney brought these teen sidekicks together as the Teen Titans. The original Titans was a very goofy title, and by the early ‘70s, their Silver Age campiness had worn thin. However, it was a revival of the team in the 1980’s by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez, New Teen Titans that blew the doors of the barn, by combining some of the original team with brand new characters, heroes like Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven, who were all compelling, often tragic, and instantly iconic.

New Teen Titans was DC’s biggest hit of the decade, and without it, we would have never got Dick Grayson graduating from Robin into Nightwing, or Wally West going from Kid Flash into Flash. In 2003, DC revived the series with writer Geoff Johns, once again to huge accolades, with the older Titans now teaching younger junior legacy heroes. The most important update to their legacy came in the form of an animated series that same year, which made them all world famous. Between that cartoon, Teen Titans Go!, and their live-action streaming show, the Titans are currently a household name and still one of the coolest superhero teams around.

5. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

IDW Comics

Most of the superhero teams on this list come from either Marvel or DC. Let’s face it, when you’re the two biggest publishing houses and superhero universes, you’re going to have characters that stand the test of time. But one heroic team from an independent publisher shines among these Marvel and DC icons. Those are the “Heroes in a Half-shell,” the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For nearly 40 years, this quartet of sewer-dwelling martial artists has fought the good fight. Why are they so popular and enduring? There’s just something inherently silly yet also endearing about a family of turtles turned into badasses by toxic waste.

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird started Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a small print black and white comic. It unexpectedly took off and became a phenomenon. They originated as a parody of popular DC and Marvel heroes, only to become famous before many of the characters they parodied. Spoofing DC’s Teen Titans, Marvel’s mutant X-Men, and the ninjas of Daredevil, the Ninja Turtles would quickly become an animated series, a live-action movie, and a true cultural phenomenon. They are still a perennial brand to this very day, with a recent animated film hitting theaters, Mutant Mayhem. No other comic book superhero team from an independent publisher has found as much longevity as the Ninja Turtles.

4. The Fantastic Four

Marvel Comics

Thanks to the massive sales success of DC’s Justice League of America, word got out to the Marvel offices that superhero teams were making a comeback. Marvel publisher Martin Goodman tasked writer Stan Lee with making a superhero team of their own in the JLA vein. The problem was, Marvel had no current superheroes to group together in a new team. So Lee got together with artist Jack Kirby, and the duo came up with a group of all-new heroes. In 1961, the Fantastic Four was born. Unlike DC’s JLA or JSA, these heroes had totally different personalities and were constantly butting heads. Nevertheless, they were also a family, something new and unique for comics.

Gaining their powers from cosmic rays, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) was the “dad,” while Sue (the Invisible Girl) filled the role of Den Mother. Her brother Johnny (the Human Torch) and Ben Grimm (the Thing) were the bickering kids. Using this dynamic, Lee was writing for slightly older audiences. Meanwhile, Kirby was changing the art form of comics with each subsequent issue. The first 100 issues of FF remains one of the best creative runs of any comic book, and literally created the Marvel Universe as we know it today. The idea of the family of superheroes was a big influence on the Ninja Turtles and Pixar’s Incredibles. Thanks to multiple cartoon series on TV, and several feature films (of admittedly varying quality) Marvel’s first family remains one of comics’ most famous and influential teams, even as groups like Avengers and the X-Men often overshadowed them.

3. The Avengers

Marvel Comics

Just a little over a decade ago, it’s unlikely the Avengers would have ranked quite this highly on a list of best superhero teams. It’s funny what a multi-billion dollar film franchise will do to raise your profile, though. Even before the MCU, the Avengers were Marvel’s “All-Star” team of heroes with a little more room for misfits and weirdos than DC’s counterpart Justice League. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, the Avengers was Marvel’s answer to DC’s JLA. Several of their solo heroes came together to fight evil. Once Captain America joined the team in issue #4, the book really clicked with readers, as Cap led the team through various permutations.

Sometimes, Cap led a team of fellow “big name” solo acts like Thor and Iron Man. Yet Avengers made former villains like Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Scarlet Witch into some of the publisher’s most prominent heroes. If the Fantastic Four were a family, and the X-Men were a school, the Avengers would be Marvel’s premiere sports team. Simply put, the best players, all in the right positions. Rarely selling as well as Fantastic Four or X-Men, Avengers never benefited originally from a high-profile media franchise like a TV cartoon to boost their profile. ( One attempt in 1999 failed utterly.) Then, the MCU’s Iron Man happened, ultimately leading to the massive success of the Avengers franchise. It took decades, but Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are now as big in the real world as they are in the Marvel Universe.

2. The X-Men

Marvel Comics

Comic book teams presented as an ongoing soap opera wasn’t an X-Men invention. That can probably be credited to Fantastic Four, or even DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes. But without a doubt, the X-Men perfected the formula. Especially once writer Chris Claremont took over for Marvel’s mutants in 1975, with an epic 16-year run. Unlike most of the other teams on this list, the X-Men were (eventually) racially and nationally diverse. And they had a central metaphor about prejudice and alienation that other “let’s get together to save the Earth” teams just didn’t have. This placed them higher than most teams just in terms of actually being about something other than just superpowered people punching each other. (It is also that.)

Every reader who felt like an outcast in some way could relate when reading Uncanny X-Men, amping up the team’s popularity. They just meant something more to readers, on a deeper level. All high-minded reasons aside, the visuals of a burly man with claws, a weather goddess, and a guy with laser eyes instantly grabbed the attention of any kid. Without a doubt, the X-Men’s high profile in comics eventually translated to other media, helping make them icons to folks who never read a comic in their life. The ‘90s X-Men: The Animated Series propelled the team into household names. Later, their live-action films in the 2000s pushed their fame even further. It took the X-Men almost 20 years from their inception to become the comic book medium’s biggest-selling title. Once they hit that mark, they became superstars.

1. The Justice League

DC Comics

Three of the greatest, most famous superhero icons in comics for over 80 years are Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Pretty much everyone alive knows who they are, whether they’ve picked up a comic or seen a superhero movie in their life. So it’s almost by default that the Justice League gets the top slot. The fact that so many other iconic DC heroes are part of the lineup simply pushes them over the edge. The Justice League isn’t comics’ first super team. That honor goes to DC’s Justice Society. The League did improve on the concept of the JSA however, by having all three of DC’s trinity in leading roles. That made them a true All-Star team.

From the get-go in 1960 when they first appeared, Justice League of America was so successful, that rival Marvel Comics brought back superheroes themselves. So without the JLA, there’s no Fantastic Four, and no Avengers. Although their list of creative team runs has not been as impressive as say, the X-Men, they still have some great stories to their name, particularly by creators like Grant Morrison.

Every since Super Friends aired on Saturday mornings 50 years ago, they’ve been the template for all superhero team success in other media. The Seven on The Boys, and the Guardians of the Globe in Invincible? All League analogues. When you have the greatest characters in comics leading the way, you’re always going to be thought of as the greatest super team of all time.