JLA – Big 7 vs Classic 7
September 1, 2009

The JLA.  The Worlds Greatest Super Heroes.  There are proponents for the return to each era of the team for current stories.  The "Big 7".  The Satellite Era.  JL International (Giffen/DeMattis).  Morrison era.  Post Obsidian Age, Meltzer/McDuffie.  All of these have their good and bad stories.  But one name bugs me every time I hear it.  "The Big 7".

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and … Aquaman, Martian Manhunter.


Many feel this should be the be all and end all of the team.  While I disagree, that is not the point of this blog.  It is the label of "Big 7" applied to this group.  Why?  To me, DC has a "Big 5".  Frankly, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter just do not deserve being in a group with the label "BIG"that implies the same level as the other 5.

Martian Manhunter

1. Was not a member of the JLA during their MOST popular bygone era, the Satellite years.  MM left the team (#71) before they moved to the Satellite (#78) and did not return until the story where the Satellite was destroyed and abandoned (#228).  That is over a dozen years.  MM appeared in one panel in issue #100, a flash back story in #144, and was featured in 177, 178 and 200.  Anyone with that few appearances over than length of time cannot be considered critical to the team.

2. Is virtually unknown compared to heroes who were on the Super Friends.  The decision to not showcase MM in a single episode means that way more people who only watched cartoons in that era know of Rima the Jungle Girl than MM.  I certainly remember the Green Arrow episode.

3. Cannot support his own title.  After a number of mini series, DC attempted a MM ongoing.  It lasted 36 issues and was canceled.

Martian Manhunter has gained prominence in the public eye by being in the JL cartoon, but we should point out that he was rarely used in the 3 seasons of JLU.


I love Aquaman. 

1. JLA prominence downgraded over the years.  At a certain point, JLA writers stopped writing stories which involved water scenes.  Early issues often included going to the "harbor".  And they stopped using him.  There was a run of over a year and a half where he did not appear at all.  

2. Super Friends disappearance.  In the later seasons, Aquaman went from primary member to background character. Firestorm took over as the #4 SF character.

3. Aquaman also has an issue maintaining a long running solo comic.  Some times it runs for 13 issues, sometimes 75, sometimes – did the latest run get to issue 50?

4. DC felt he needed to be replaced.  Yes, DC attempted to replace the King of the Seas Aquaman with a younger version.  This decision appears to be currently being reversed.

5. Aquaman was left out of the main team in the Justice League cartoon.   While he  was prominently featured in a number of adventures, clearly the creators felt he was not a critical member of the team.

Green Arrow

Gardner Fox is quoted as saying he intended to include Green Arrow from the beginning but forgot about him when writing the first adventure, so including him in this list is necessary.

1. Green Arrow was in one episode of the Super Friends, barely remembered by the general public.  When I showed a coworker a HeroClix of Green Arrow, he asked why there were two characters whose names started with "Green".

2. GA never had a monthly comic until the 80s.  Mike Grell revised this character as a viable solo act.  Even so, his title goes through continuous changes, cancellations, and restarts.

3. DC decided to kill off Green Arrow and replace him with a younger version.  It worked for Flash, it kind of worked for Green Lantern, why not Green Arrow?  I believe it was writer Kevin Smith who wanted to write a Green Arrow story featuring Oliver Queen that got Ollie back and put Conner Hawke on the way out.


Brad Meltzer decided not to include any of these in his run of JLA, in an interview he stated MM was out because MM was not a member during his childhood that led to him leaving out the character.

Different heroes at DC command a different amount of recognition.  "Big" should mean head and shoulder above the rest.  I propose that the original 7 membership of the JLA be referred to as the "Original 7" or the "Classic 7".  Because no matter how much we wish it, not all heroes are in the same League.


Update – Wow.  Thank you all for the insightful responses.  I think I need to add a bit to clarify my main point.  I am NOT saying that Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Green Arrow – or any other hero for that matter – should NOT be part of the JLA. What I am trying to say is that the NAME used to describe the original team, "Big 7" is inaccurate because

1) there are really only 5 BIG heroes in the DCU:  As Dan Didio said, there are 5 cornerstones in the DCU – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern.

2) Green Arrow should be included in any classic listing of the membership because he was intended to be included from the beginning per reports of Gardner Fox, the writer.

and 3) – although its not the point of this blog – limiting the team to just the founders to me is incredibly short sighted.  It would mean never reading a JL story with the likes of Firestorm, Booster Gold, the Ray, Zauriel, Plastic Man, or Black Lightning.  And as I told Dan Didio in 2005, I’ve been waiting for Black Lightning to join the team since JLA 173.

Erik "Superfriend" Skov
"Gathered together from the four corners of the universe." Oh, wait, that's the show, not me. Erik "SuperFriend" Skov never actually got to appear on the show, although he did watch it every week. Erik spent 6 years working for Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI before leaving for a job that paid more (Why else would a collector leave the company that was making Star Wars, Transformers, and while I was there Batman). I used to post all over the net. These days I tend to hang my hat at AFI.
Read other articles by Erik "Superfriend" Skov.





  • stewbacca says:

    Have to say I agree 100% with Martian Manhunter– Didnt even know what his powers were until the JL cartoon came out (I had only seen previous pictures of him in one of the Super Powers mini comics)-

    Aquaman has always been cool to me just beacuse of his orange suited Superfriends days–but I think he works better as an outsider (just as Namor is used in Marvel universe) and is definitely not a part of the main 7.

    I always like green arrow just beacuse of the archery- and he seems to have gotten a major push recently due to Brave and the Bold, Smallville and JLU– made me like him even more as a character..

    As a youth if you asked me my main 7 — I would have kept Aquaman and added Hawkman– he seemed a bit more iconic to me as a kid– and still has one of the coolest designs–(though I would have been able to name a single enemy of his until the JLU cartoons)

    But my beliefs arent always exactly in line with true DC fans..

  • Bill says:

    You are forgeting that Aquaman and MM founded the Justice League. They are original members, unlike Batman and Superman. That alone gives them the right to be in the Big Seven. But are Arthur and J’onn as popular as Barry, Hal, Diana, Bruce, and Clark? Absolutely not. I think the League should always have a majority of the Big Seven, but there’s always room for GA, Canary, Zatanna, Hawkman, and Atom.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      My point is that being a founder does not make you a big name or an automatic member in later incarnations.

      • Bill says:

        Tell that to the founding members of the Avengers or the X-men all of them (except Hulk who only lasted 3 or 4 issues) are still members of their teams and were members over the decades for significant periods of time.

        • Erik superfriend says:

          Hank Pym is not a big name character using any. Neither is Wasp. That is the whole point behind adding Spider-man and Wolverine to the Avengers, a move I thought should have been made long ago the moment I finished my first Avengers comic, #226.

          • Bill says:

            See, I think the Avengers LOST a bit of themselves when they allowed Spider-man and Wolverine to join. Spidey’s grown on me as an Avenger, but I still think Wolverine doesn’t belong on the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and I think if Captain America was portrayed correctly, he never would have asked Logan to join. Of course, I don’t think Cap would have ever disassembled the team in the first place.

  • Here’s the thing though, no matter how much Aquaman may have failed as a member or on his own, he’s one of the most famous superheroes of all time. I don’t know why. Ask a lamen to name 10 superheroes, I bet Aquaman comes up in that list more often than not. I’d say he’s DC’s third or fourth most popular character in mainstream terms. People know Aquaman is the underwater guy.

  • Chris says:

    Do you even collect comics? I have every issue of Justice League from Brave and the Bold #28 to present. For you to somehow cast aspersions on two of the FOUNDING members of the league says exactly how much you know about them.

    Martian Manhunter is the same power level as Superman and is frankly a JLA mainstay. He and Aquaman might not sell their own books but you realize that’s why the Justice League title was started right? To give (at the time) B-list DC characters a monthly home.

    Your opinion is fine but this post comes off as being written for no real purpose. Did you want to run down the iconic JLA line-up for a reason?

  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Great read, Erik. Well thought-out, and I agree with you. 🙂



  • 60'schild says:

    As a 50 year old, who has been reading DC comics since the mid 1960’s (creak… gad I’m old), I’d have to agree with poster Chris on this… the “face” of the League and its original purpose make it clear there was only one “Big 7” (Green Arrow’s addition soonafter notwithstanding). Thank Gardner Fox that it’s a “Rubber band” thing … no matter how far we stray from that, we eventually return to the one and only “Big 7” (plus one).

    • Erik superfriend says:

      I’m 44 myself and been reading JLA since the mid 70’s. And its exactly that “Big 7” idea I’m trying to counter point here. Fox, and 3 decades later Morrison, both started to expand the team almost immediately, which to me means that the team was never intended to be thought of as restricted to just those 7 specific characters.

      Plastic Man for instance. A great classic member of DC’s pantheon of heroes. For some reason it took until 1997 for a writer to include him in the team. That does not make his membership any less valid. (Enjoying seeing him back in action during the past two issues).

  • Erik superfriend says:

    From Newsarama:

    “DiDio kicked things off by explaining part of their mandate this year was to focus on the five cornerstones of the DC Universe, meaning Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern.”


  • UncleMarsellus says:

    Who the big 7 are is in direct relation to the era you grew up in. Meltzer’s quote and all the comments are indicative of this. For me, you can’t have the Justice League without Martian Manhunter and the JLU cartoon (or Super Friends/Super Powers) has nothing to do with it. I grew up in the 80’s. He was fixture of the Justice League comics in both JLI and JLA. While he may not be an A-list hero in the DC universe as a whole, he is synonymous with the Justice League.

    As for Aquaman, he’s one of the more famous heroes who has transcended geek culture. Him being downgraded in team activities speaks more to writers realizing he’s not useful outside of ocean-centered adventures and forcing the issue.

    I don’t necessarily think you’re wrong but this is a discussion that’s colored by our childhood biases and eras. It all depends on your point of view and how you want slice the cookie.

  • Chris says:

    In retrospect I see a bit more what your article was pointing out. However putting Plastic Man in there does not really lend any credibility to your case. He is in no way worthy of being part of a “Big” or “Classic” incarnation of the League.

    The fact is for me (and I think many others) the bigness of MM and Aquaman has to do with their presence on the original roster as well as their VERY long term standing on the team. Power level and sales don’t automatically equate to bigness. In this case, respect and tenor have more to do with it.

  • alterclark says:

    Good article. Always a fan of JL-centric blogs. My question revolves around your opinion of the Phantom Stranger. Just as you mentioned J’onzz shouldn’t be considered a member in the Satellite Era, should the same be said about Stranger? Both are listed as members in the convenient roster listings in “JLA: Hereby Elects…” tpb.

    P.S. Thanks for listing J’onzz’ appearances. I didn’t realize he showed up so few times in that era.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      Mars (as I like to call him) resigned. And rejoined.

      The questionables that I know:

      Metamorpho – declined membership in #42, appeared in #100.

      Phantom Stranger – offered membership in #103. No reply was printed. PS later appears in #110. #146 certainly makes it look like PS is a member. #150 clearly states PS is a member. PS makes a handful of other appearances – issue numbers escape me. I always counted him as a member because of #150. More recently, I think the issue of whether or not he was an official member is open to debate. I did not know it was a debate until I read something somewhere where someone mentioned the fact PS had never answered the offer in #103.

      Black Lightning – #173 Ollie suggests the team invite BL to join, the rest of the team decides to “test’ BL. BL passes with flying colors but says his place is on the ground, turning down the offered membership. #174 is a real adventure with BL working side by side with the JLA. Once again BL refuses membership.

      Adam Strange: Honorary member. I like to think of him as the JLA’s man on Rann. Wouldn’t make sense for him to be a full JLA member since he’s usually light years away.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    As UncleMarsellus pointed out, it’s all relative to the era you grew up in. Meltzer has no love for Martian Manhunter because the character wasn’t around when he was reading the book. Likewise, Alex Ross doesn’t consider Firestorm a Satellite era member because Ross didn’t read or care for stories with Firestorm in them. So any painting he does of the SE roster only goes up to Zatanna.

    The same argument could be made against Green Lantern and the Flash. Hal Jordan was exiled in space near the end of the Satellite years. He didn’t return for the Detroit or JLI incarnations until shortly before Emerald Twilight. Barry Allen was dead from 1985 to 2007. Wally West was the Flash during the late JLI period and Morrison years.

    To me, the Big Seven are the “Brave & the Bold Seven” even though I had yet to be born when they debuted. So I view them from a historical angle. If those were the seven heroes who kicked off the JLA, they should always be considered canon at the very least. That’s why replacing Wonder Woman with Black Canary didn’t fly with me in the 80’s. And even though I didn’t grow up with J’onn during the Satellite era nor did he appear on Super Friends, he became the heart of the team during the Detroit, JLI, and Morrison years, a tenure which vindicates his absence during the 70’s.

    I also think of the B&B guys as The Founders. Without them, there wouldn’t have been a Satellite, JLI, no Blue & Gold, Fire & Ice, Super Friends or JLU cartoons, and so on. It all started with Gardner Fox’s League. Everything else that follows is inclusive or not according to your own tastes and beliefs.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      I find it fun that Ross not only excludes members – Firestorm – but also includes others who he thinks “should have” been there – Capt Marvel and Plastic Man for example.

      • FIRESTORM has always been an appealing character to me since i was a kid. But only the RONNIE RAYMOND version is the one i care about.

        It’s a shame that the only Leaguer ALEX ROSS hasn’t drawn in any DC Comic has been of him. The only image painted by ROSS that i recall that exists of him, is in the CRISIS on IE poster. and it happens to be a small image.

        I wonder, why doesn’t ROSS like him?.

  • red Ricky says:

    Well, I don’t know SuperFriend.

    I think Membership does have its privileges. So you know, I guess being a founding father entitles you to certain perks.

    Membership for life, banding and disbanding the league at will, etc., etc., etc.

    To be honest, you may not like J’onn, but he certainly has the resume to hang in there with Big Boys. Out of the League’s original 263 issue run, he has 114 issues and 2 Annuals under his belt. Plus the JL International stuff. The Jurgens Doomsday/Extreme Justice stuff; and the Morrison renaissance. He is the John Hancock of Superheroes.

    I mean… the “original league”, the “satellite league”, even the “Detroit League”; it’s all part of the same run. An uninterrupted run. So you can’t ding him from not being there “during the issues Meltzer read” considering that, at that time, all the big characters took a break sooner or later. Wonder Woman left for a while during the Satellite Era. So did Batman, Green Arrow and even the Flash (after the death of Iris Allen).

    And speaking of uninterrupted runs… You can’t say the same about Green Lantern, for example. His run breaks up as often as Aquaman’s does. So does Wonder Woman’s. Sure they are more popular than Aquaman… today. But I remember a time when Aquaman was more popular. I believe the year was 1991, maybe ’92. Aquaman’s origin had been retold in PAD’s best selling Time and Tide; while GL sales were so lame, DC decided to turn him evil. Oh, and for some reason, Wonder Woman was working at a Burger King; so it was time to give Artemis a chance, too.

    So what I’m saying is that Popularity is a fickle mistrees and a poor judge of character. It’s the same for Power levels. In fact, a good deal of Justice League and Teen Titan comics make the case that the most difficult heroes to beat are Batman & Robin. And they are the less powerful.

    When Grant Morrison recoined the term “Big 7”, as opposed to the term, “Original 7”. He wanted to denote longevity and status within the DC UNIVERSE. They are big, not because of popularity or power levels; but because they are the angular stones of the modern comics era. The architects and founding fathers of the silver age (which all modern ages are based on, or a continuation of).

    It also had another purpose. It was meant to back DC into a corner. Remember, DC had banned some characters from appearing in Justice League (much like they recently did in today’s current run). And you have to admit, it’s easier to paint DC as a bad guy and back them into a corner if you accuse them stifling the BIG 7, Superhero’s Magnificent Seven! More so than accusing them of withholding the Original 3.

    Hyperbole is everything in this business!

    If the name stuck, then good for J’onn! I’m happy for him. He deserves it more than Firestorm and/or Zatanna.

    You know, now that I think about it; you never gave us your top choices after you knocked the classics off the pedestal. And everyone of those guys represents something. I mean… is your Justice League composed of only 5 members?

    ‘Cause you know… after J’onn, Aquaman, Green Arrow and Atom; it pretty much gets repetitive. DR.Fate is JSA, so technically, in order to represent Magic, you have to go with Captain Marvel and/or Zatanna.

    Powerwise, there’s Firestorm and Captain Atom; but Captain Atom works for the Government, so technically, he is the Judas of the team (meant to Spy & report.) With Firestorm… well, you can’t argue longevity either, so it’s back to square one.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      I’d like to see Capt Atom get another shot at being in the JLA. One where he is neither Gov’t spy nor arbitrarily made leader just because his name includes a military rank, but instead allowed to shine as just another hero on the team.

      • I agree with u Erik, CAPTAIN ATOM is acool character on his own, hope someday he stays away from that MONARCH shadow that was forced over him.

        The “ARMAGGEDON 2001” was a cool crossover, but the conclusion wasn’t too satisfying to me. even with its sequels “Armaggedon:the alien agenda” & “ZERO Hour”.

        • red Ricky says:

          You know, it’s funny that you guys brought up the Monarch issue. It lets me indulge my inner geek and point out that…


          you guessed it!

          Back in the day I thought that both Aquaman and/or Martian Manhunter would’ve been a better fit for Monarch than Captain Atom or Hawk. Yup. Back in 1991, I was one of the few that considered them “2 of DC’s Biggest Guns”; specially regarding their Huge Telepathic Power Levels.

          You see, people think of Aquaman as the guy who talks to fish. But back in the day, if you pissed him off, hey would command you to walk off a cliff. I don’t remember correctly, but I believe he left the Detroit League because he got tired of having to force Commander Steel, to do what he was asking. Basically, he is the Professor X of the DC Universe. But with more attitude and less regard human opinio; after all, he is the King. Hell, PAD even had him repel an Alien Invasion with his psychic powers.

          So basically, if you think of the SuperFriends when you picture Aquaman; then you are selling the character short.

          Like I said. He could’ve been Monarch. And it would’ve made sense for him to wear an armor. Same with J’onn. By concealing their identities, you conceal their weaknesses and vulnerabilities (I’m thinking extreme heat). Once that base is covered and they are protected, they are pretty tough to beat.

          The same can’t be said about Captain Atom or Hawk.

          That is, the Monarch Armor doesn’t really do much to protect them or enhance their powers.

          So yeah, talk about a wasted opportunity. Oh, and for those of you thinking: “No, don’t turn my beloved Aquaman or J’onn evil! They are great just the way they are!” Well, my Ace in the Hole would’ve been that it wasn’t the real Aquaman or J’onn…

          It was their Earth 3 counterparts! The ones that we have been told exist, but we’ve never seen!

          (Top That Alan Moore! …err… I mean, Geof Johns!)

  • El Honez says:

    Yeah, Big 7 works for me. To echo the statements above, Aquaman and MM were founding members.

  • chad says:

    nice points you make but have to disagree for other then the satilite era martian man hunter is considered the heart of the jla even if his powers are too similar to superman. and has been part of almost every incarnation. green arrow was orignaly suppose to make the big seven the big eight. otherwise most of the article i agree with

  • I consider your thoughts about a classic line-up of the JLA, as far as i agree, there are indeed, 5 cornerstones of the DCU, SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN (the 1st “TRINITY” as it has been recently stablished by DC COMICS), GREEN LANTERN, and THE FLASH.

    Besides i have always thought for the JLA as a “modern myth” KING ARTHUR and his KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE. the “ROUND TABLE” consisting mainly of TWELVE KNIGHTS.

    For me, the JLA CLASSIC, SUPERPOWERS, MODERN or ANY ERA SHOULD BE (somehow) REPRESENTED mainly like artist extraordinaire ALEX ROSS has depicted them in several media.

    The King:

    His Knights:
    2:BATMAN/Bruce Wayne
    3:WONDER WOMAN/Diana Princess of Themiscyra
    4:GREEN LANTERN/Hal Jordan
    5:FLASH/Barry Allen

    6:AQUAMAN/Arthur Curry
    7:MARTIAN MANHUNTER/J’onn J’onzz
    8:GREEN ARROW/Oliver Queen
    9:HAWKMAN/Carter Hall
    10:BLACK CANARY/Dinah Lance

    11:ATOM/Ray Palmer
    12:ELONGATED MAN/Ralph Dibny

    now, the rotative roster could always end with up to 15 members

    13:FIRESTORM/Ronal Raymond
    14:ZATANNA/Zatanna Zatara

    Now you have a Round Table with 12 to 15 Knights. 3 teams of 5 cornerstones itselves. One solid JUSTICE LEAGUE.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      My only issue with your list, and a lot of others I see is that it only includes characters who were members during the Silver and Satellite eras of the team. They ended in the early 80’s. We have 25 years of stories about the League that happened after that and you did not list a single member who was added after that.

      Wally West and Kyle Rayner who helmed their franchises for a decade or two.
      Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Metamorpho, or anyone else from the International era.
      Mr. Miracle, Orion, Barda, and Lightray of the New Gods.
      Captain Marvel/Shazam.
      Plastic Man, Huntress, Zauriel who Morrison added.
      Manitou Raven, Faith, Major Disaster, John Stewart.
      Hawkgirl, Vixen or anyone else made popular by the JLUnlimited TV Show.
      or Black Lightning.

      • Well, IMO this is the JLA, that forged what we see in today’s comics. An 80’s rennaisance, the old is NEW again!.

        The Line-up i wrote, was because, those are DC MAIN GUNS, The HEAVY HITTERS. Now DC has a BIG Superheroes pantheon, which we all love also, and would like to see any other hero in the JLA besides the CLASSICS ones.

        I read the “Obsidian age” arc in the JLA a few years ago, and really liked what BATMAN had in mind in case there wouldn’t be any JLA to keep a fight. So he developed a simple “PLAN B”.

        IMO, the “Plan B” JLA could be all the other Leaguers that should make a new Knight’s “A” list; like:

        1:SUPERGIRL/Kara Zor-El
        2:NIGHTWING/Richard Grayson
        3:TROIA/Donna Troi
        4:GREEN LANTERN/John Stewart or Kyle Rayner
        5:FLASH/Wally West
        6:SHAZAM/William Bastón
        7:STARMAN/Prince Gavyn-Will Payton
        8:RED ARROW/Roy Harper
        9:HAWKWOMAN/Kendra Saunders
        10:VIXEN/Mari J. McCabe
        11:BLUE BEETLE/Ted Kord
        12:BOOSTER GOLD/Michael Jon Carter
        13:PLASTIC MAN/Patrick O’Brian
        14:MANITOU RAVEN/Raven
        15:METAMORPHO/Rex Mason

        And finally CAPTAIN ATOM/Nathaniel Christopher Adam.

        Just for a few choices.

        • Erik superfriend says:

          I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. There is no way I would ever consider Elongated Man as a big gun. Especially after the writer who created him admitted EM was created because he wanted Flash to meet Plastic Man but thought he was not allowed to use Plastic Man at the time.

          I agree the “Plan B” move was cool. Except that it did not work / writers forgot about it during Infinite Crisis and allowed the League to be non existent for yet another major DC cross-over.

          • Hey, if you consider that PLASTIC MAN is a better character than Elongated Man, well…how can i argue with you about that subjet Erik.

            I can always prefer PLASTIC over ELONGATED; he was in my “A” list because i wanted to save a better and appealing “B” list.

            Thank u for sharing your thoughts.

  • kevfett says:

    Who’s this Wonder Woman, Superman and BAtman you speak of? I though the JLA’s “Big 5” was Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Black Canary? Yeah…I’m a big fan of the Waid/Kitson JLA Year 1.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      Don’t even start with me about the crazy things DC did to attempt to fit JLA history into post Crisis continuity. No Batman, No Superman, No Wonder Woman, add Black Canary, and Hawkman …

      Hawkman – Say What? All that Thanagarian tech is now Atlantean and Kryptonian? The Hawkman in JLA is Carter Hall from the JSA? And the Hawkman and Hawkwoman from JLI 19 to 24 is an impostor?

      No thanks. JLA historians know Black Canary first appeared on Earth 1 right before the team moved the Satellite. Issue 75 if I recall correctly.

  • Emerald says:

    There’s a disconnect between what DC deems the “Big 7” and the Justice League. What DC means to say is the biggest 7 most marketable franchises.

    For the JLA, Aquaman is like Hulk to the Avengers, nearly everybody has heard of him but don’t usually think of JLA or Avengers when their names are mentioned. But I agree that he has the potential to be a very marketable character if done right and was a much more popular character in the 70s. Martian Manhunter was just as absent to the JLA as Hal Jordan to me but no less important. Hollywood is only now realising the potential in a Green Lantern franchise so maybe Martian Manhunter’s day will come.
    After all, Iron Man is now an official A-list character, when not too long ago not very many non-comic people had ever heard of him. If the stories are good a fan base will follow. It’s that simple.

    Flash wasn’t any more popular than Green Lantern in the early 80s but once the Flash TV show came and went suddenly Flash was that much closer to icon status. If the GL movie is done well it will, like Iron Man, cement him to the rest of the world as an A-lister.

    I’ve always thought of DC as the “BIG 4” – Superman, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman (the only real A-listers), and the JLA as all the other B-listers who occasionally team up with them. There is no sacred membership roster – its all relative to whomever DC feels will sell comics, and cartoons, and movies, and games……

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    Interesting blog and intersting comments.

    The only point I’d strongly disagree with is the idea that the the ability to sustain a solo tile in any way effects the fitness of a character to be in a team book, or considered a “big” character.

    The fact that Aquaman and Martian Manhunter can’t sustain solo books to me doesn’t have anything to do with their worthiness as “Big 7” Justice League members.

    Solo Title characters and Team Book characters are not necessarily the same thing.

    If the premier Team books at Marvel and DC were filled only with top selling solo title characters, that would get boring and redundant pretty quickly.

    Consider X-men. Professor Xavier is the founding force behind the team and often (but not always) has a place in the book or on the team. I doubt however that he could sustain a title of his own without his X-men. But few I think would argue his importance or power in the X-Men world.

    I think from a marketing perspective there is a temptation to see the JLA as the most popular or marketable heroes in the DC Universe. While I tend to look at them as the greatest TEAM in the DC Universe. Which means team players that work together well and become more than the sum of their membership.

    Certainly, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter are not as popular or powerful the rest of the Big 7, but to me they bring something to the JLA that makes the team more of a team.

    Part of it may be the fact that they are founders, but to me part of it is the fact that when I see them all together the “Big 7” just feel like THE JLA.


    • Your POV that either AQUAMAN or the MARTIAN MANHUNTER cannot sustain a solo book is too relative to the DC Editors responsibles at that time.

      When G.Morrison decided to regroup the JLA into only 7 members, it was because 7 means PERFECTION, and to fullfil that “perfect” league, he chose the most obvious RECOGNIZABLE DCSH that people loved and felt akin at that time.


      That resource was also used by B.M.Bendis in the “relaunch” of the AVENGERS a few years ago, and proved to be, like Morrison’s JLA, a huge success. Great Comics, Great Reads, Great Adventures and Great SUPERHEROES.

      AQUAMAN & MMANHUNTER only need better writers (hopefully like GEOFF JOHNS) to POTENTIALIZE THEM and take them to their rightful steps in the Modern Superhero Stardom, were they were always intended to be.

      I keep my fingers crossed for a FIRESTORM/Ronald Raymond to come back ALIVE! that’s it. and maybe a comeback as the Heavy Hitter he is.

  • bambam says:

    “If the premier Team books at Marvel and DC were filled only with top selling solo title characters, that would get boring and redundant pretty quickly.” – Spy

    Kind of like how boring New Avengers and Trinity are. 😛

    Anyway, I always liked Grant Morrison’s explanation that the major JLA members are analogues to the Greek gods of Olympus:

    Zeus – Superman
    Hera – Wonder Woman
    Hades – Batman
    Poseidon – Aquaman
    Apollo – Green Lantern
    Hermes – The Flash
    Prometheus – Martian Manhunter*

    *I chatted with then JLA editor Dan Raspler about which Greek god Martian Manhunter is analogous to. Morrison only labelled MMH an advisor. I argued the Titan Prometheus was perfect because he was an older outsider that brought wisdom to the team. Raspler agreed.

    • I thought that SHAZAM stood for something like it.

      Besides Apollo wasn’t a god, but a demi-god, anyway.
      The Justice League is the most powerful association of superheroes in any comic, (Even More powerful than the AVENGERS), so with a team made of 5, 7, 12 to 15, or with the UNLIMITED membership, they are more present in the world’s pop culture as a team, rather than as single individuals. Opposed to the AVENGERS, who are more commonly known as solo individuals.

      They shouldn’t be depicted as “GODS”, (besides DC has their own NEW GODS of the FOURTH WORLD) They are UNIQUE characters on their own with a common goal.
      The JLAers should be depicted as KNIGHTS, DEFENDERS, HEROES and over all INSPIRING LEGENDS, just like how DARKSEID described them in the DC’s LEGENDS mini-series back in the 80’s.

      So they will always be, to many of us, BIG and CLASSIC,right?

      • Erik superfriend says:

        I think SHAZAM stands for:


        Which is really odd because some of them are Greek, some are Roman, and some are Israeli.

        • Yes, that is for what SHAZAM stands for. besides being an odd conjuction of “Mythical Gods”, SHAZAM has never been a REALLY cool Character, The only real cool story in which i consider him being awesome was in the JLU cartoon episode in which he battled Superman.

          Besides that, nothing more to me. Even BLACK ADAM is a better written character than him. Maybe some day he will be.

  • Hourman says:

    That John Ostrander/Tom Mandrake Martian Manhunter series was terrific, short-lived or not.

  • Brainlock says:

    I was going to ask about the post-Crisis “Year One” team, but the point of ‘everyone has *their* own team’ has been made several times. During the last years of SF, I was just getting into comics and even then, I knew Firestorm was on the team as my brother picked up JLA while Cyborg was brought in from NTT, which I read. I’m not sure whether J’onn was introduced to me by (brother’s) SP figure or the comics, altho SP did introduce me to Dr Fate, Steppenwolf, DeSaad, and several others. Darkseid I knew from X-Titans and only knew he was DC’s property from SF/SP. but I digress….
    I do have to question the lack of Robin/Dick Grayson/Nightwing on your ‘pillar’ list. Between Burt Ward and SuperFriends, not to mention the cartoons of the last two decades, most people would name him before Flash and GL, probably naming him before WW or even Aquaman. This is despite the fact that Dick now wears the cowl.
    Heck, there are a percentage that even know that Dick is now Nightwing and there is another Robin, even if they don’t know Tim Drake by name.

    • Well, i placed DICK G. as #2 in a “Plan B” Justice League.

      Besides ha has been also leader (as ROBIN or NIGHTWING)for almost every incarnation of the TITANS and also JLA’s during the aforementinoed “Obsidian Age”. well sort of.

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