The Justice League has been protecting the pages of DC Comic for nearly 60 years now, and during that time they’ve formed and re-formed several times. And almost in every time, the League is brought together in the act of fending off an alien invasion of some sort. And it appears their first appearance on the big screen will be do different, as the League will come together to defeat the alien despot Steppenwolf.
According to most who have experienced the film already, it seems ‘ol Steppy is maybe the movie’s weakest link. I keep hearing the words “generic” thrown around to describe him, but perhaps that’s not the film’s fault. In fact, this is in keeping with the long tradition of the Justice League forming to fend off alien invaders who are usually pretty lackluster. The alien baddies who bring Earth’s Greatest Heroes together are, generally speaking, not that great themselves.After all, the fun of the League has always been seeing the team interact, not really the villains they fight. As such, here’s a brief history of utterly forgettable aliens who helped form the Justice League time and again, and then were mostly tossed aside.
First Appearance: The Brave and the Bold #28 (1960)
The first time the world was introduced to the Justice League of America was in 1960, in The Brave and the Bold #28. Although the issue was the League’s first appearance, the idea in that first story was that the team had been around for some time already. But it’s the first time the kids of America had read about them, and what were they doing? Saving the world from an alien invasion. This would quickly become a pattern. In this instance, it was Starro the Star Conqueror, which was actually a giant purple starfish from outer space.
While on paper that may sound silly, in the comics it’s actually kind of cool. See, Starro released a bunch of baby Starros that would wrap around the face of an innocent bystander, Alien facehugger style. Then that person would become an extension of Starro’s will. Think the Borg hive-mind from Star Trek. It’s kind of creepy, but a lot of that creepiness is muted due to the fact that he’s a silly looking giant purple starfish. So from the first time we meet them, the Justice League of America’s main alien villain has no personality, and is a pretty generic alien menace—much like the giant monsters found in B-movies of the day—and needless to say, didn’t become a beloved fan favorite.
First Origin Story: Justice League of America #9 (1962)
The first time we get an actual origin story for the team was in Justice League of America #9, released in February 1962. The original seven members of the team tell new recruit Green Arrow that aliens from the planet Appellax had come to Earth after the death of their world’s ruler, so a representative of each of that planet’s races could fight it out on Earth to determine who wins supreme reign.
The aliens then come into contact with Earth’s heroes, and at one point, because reasons, the heroes all get turned into trees. After they get better and send the aliens packing, the decide to stick together as the Justice League of America. Once again, the Appellaxians, aliens who come to Earth and bring the group together, are generic as all get out, and are really more of a plot device than villains we’d ever want to see again.
League Reborn: Second Origin Story JLA #1 (1997)
After years of various franchise titles filled with less than iconic DC heroes, DC decided to bring back the “Big 7” together once more for a new version of the team, simply titled JLA. Grant Morrison was brought on as writer, and his trippy stories are still among the best Justice League stories of all time still.
But what did he do to bring the team together? Yup, it was an alien invasion. This invasion was at least as stealthy one: a group of heroes called The Hyperclan come to Earth from the far reaches of space, offering to solve all of our problems, like hunger, poverty, and war. They do this, making the Justice League of America look like chumps in the process.
But it turns out these so-called heroes are actually White Martians, and are looking to enslave mankind. While this twist is cool, once again, the evil aliens who have invaded the Earth are pretty one-note, and are not heard from much after the fact. But they did their job right, in bringing together the best version of the League comics had ever seen.
Justice League: The Animated Series (2001)
Due to the massive success of Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, it was the next logical step to bring the team to television in a new animated series. Bruce Timm’s show brought together his “Big 7” with Hawkgirl standing in for Aquaman, but it was exactly the show fans had waited years for.
And the mission that brings them together? You guessed it! Alien invasion. These aliens are protoplasmic beings called The Imperium… sort of based on the White Martians, but not exactly. Once again, they do their job in forcing the disparate heroes to come together and save the day, and that’s about it. In the 90-plus episodes of Justice League, we never see or hear from them again.
Which Justice League villains are your favorites? Be sure to let us know down below in the comments.
Images: DC Comics / Warner Brothers
More on the Justice League!
- Read our review of Zack Snyder’s new Justice League film
- The 11 best Justice League storylines in DC Comics history
- We gave Justice League the Buffy the Vampire Slayer treatment
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