As a superhero, you could be forgiven for thinking that when you join an elite super-team like the Justice League, the last thing you need to worry about is disloyalty. After all, you’re banding together with a bunch of equally-heroic, like-minded individuals dedicated to fighting a common enemy. And yet a startling number of betrayals have taken place across the many incarnations of the League that have formed since its inception way back in 1960!
Of course, sometimes the reason for this treachery is that the Justice League member in question was suffering from the effects of mind control, brainwashing, or some other kind of mental hoodoo. But other times, their motivations are a lot more calculated – if not necessarily always badly intentioned – and are therefore a lot harder to forgive.
Indeed, one League member betraying the trust of the rest of team is always taken very seriously, and this otherwise compassionate fraternity of heroes has even resorted to expelling guilty parties from their ranks (at least temporarily). Regardless of the reason, nothing hurts worse for a crimefighter than when one of their costumed peers stabs them in the back – which is why we pulled together this list of 15 Justice League Members Who BETRAYED The Team!
Shakespeare wrote “heavy lies the crown,” snd this certainly applies to Aquaman. Despite having held a prominent position on the team he helped found decades ago, Arthur is also the King of Atlantis, and it’s with this underwater kingdom that his true allegiance ultimately lies.
Sure, Aquaman is happy to help us surface dwellers out whenever an invading alien armada comes a-callin’ – despite the way we’ve polluted his realm over the years – but when push comes to shove, he will inevitably desert humanity (and the Justice League) in favor of his people.
Need proof? Consider the recent Throne of Atlantis storyline, which explored the Atlantean monarch’s inability to side against his own people – at the expense of supporting the Justice League!
14 The Flash
Imagine one of your parents was murdered – and then imagine you had the power to travel back in time and stop it from happening. You’d totally do it, right? The problem is, in doing so, you would run the very real risk of dramatically altering the course of history from that point onward – and not just for your loved one, but for the entire world! Well, this is the exact situation the Flash found himself in during Flashpoint, and despite being fully aware of the potential consequences of messing around with the space-time continuum, he still decided to go back and rescue his mother.
Now, we totally sympathize with the Flash on this one – but ultimately, it was a selfish move that (temporarily) transformed the entire world into a living nightmare. Even closer to home, the Scarlet Speedster’s choice also negatively impacted the lives of all his Justice League teammates – even erasing some from existence entirely – which constitutes a pretty major (if unintentional) betrayal.
Bottom line: next time, don’t make your pain other peoples’ problem, dude.
Et tu, Superman? That’s right, even the greatest hero of them all has betrayed his Justice League teammates – although as you might expect, two of the biggest examples take place in alternate future timelines.
The first of these is in seminal miniseries The Dark Knight Returns, where the Man of Steel – here portrayed as government lackey – has already taken down several of his anti-establishment allies, culminating in a legendary final showdown with Batman.
The second takes place in the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in comic, where Superman – pushed over the edge after being manipulated into killing a pregnant Lois Lane – kills the Joker and establishes a totalitarian new world order. Those members of the League who oppose this fascistic regime – including (you guessed it) Batman, again – are branded fugitives, splintering the team forever.
A big part of Batman’s deal is that he has a strategy in place for every eventuality – and unfortunately for his fellow Justice League members, this includes contingency plans to take each of them out of action! As with several other guilty parties on this list, the Dark Knight’s logic – that his super-powerful colleagues pose an incalculable danger if they ever turn heel – and subsequent covert plan-making is hard to argue with.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for our hero’s teammates to forgive him when supervillain Ra’s al Ghul gets his hands on these files in Tower of Babel and proceeds to neutralize the League in the same swift, brutal fashion Batman himself is known for. The wash-up of all this was that the League (having only just survived their ordeal) voted on whether or not to expel Batman from their ranks. However, being Batman, he promptly resigned instead when the deciding vote fell to Superman, rather than sit around and see his staunchest ally very possibly show him the door!
11 Martian Manhunter
Martian Manhunter is a founding member of the Justice League, and has featured on more team rosters than pretty much any other hero. For this reason – coupled with the fact that he’s never really been able to hold down his own solo book – J’onn J’onzz has long been established as an integral ingredient in the League mix.
This makes it all the more surprising (not to mention upsetting) to find that J’onn has betrayed the team on at least two occasions. The first took place during origin recap JLA: Year One, when it was revealed that he had been spying on his teammates, even using his shapeshifting ability to infiltrate their personal lives! J’onn was later forgiven – he successfully argued that as an alien outsider, his paranoia regarding his new allies was well-founded – but his colleagues were fairly miffed at the time.
The second instance of the Martian Manhunter turning on the Justice League will be covered in greater detail later in this list, but it involved J’onn joining a government-run version of the team, leading him into direct conflict with the original, non-sanctioned League!
On paper, Zatanna makes a valuable addition to any superhero team. She’s a brave, intelligent and personable young woman, and – thanks to her ill-defined, reality warping magical talents – crazy-powerful to boot/ Sounds like the perfect teammate, right? Wrong! As shown in the controversial Identity Crisis miniseries, Zatanna was part of a sub-group of Justice Leaguers who often handled clean-up duty after heavy hitters like Superman and Batman had moved on to their next adventure.
After Elongated Man’s wife is viciously assaulted by Doctor Light, this group voted for Zatanna to use her powers to permanently alter the depraved baddie’s personality, preventing him from causing similar harm ever again. Unfortunately for them, the Dark Knight walked in mid-procedure, and – less than thrilled by what he saw as an unethical practice – attempted to intervene. Panicking, Zatanna used her powers to freeze him in place, then completed the betrayal by wiping Batman’s memories of the event, to hide her and her co-conspirators dirty secret.
9 Steve Trevor
A “desk job” Justice League member, Wonder Woman’s longtime love interest Steve Trevor became the team’s government liaison in the wake of the DC Universe-wide New 52 relaunch. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of his affection for the League stemmed from his romantic feelings for the Amazonian princess, and as the pair drifted apart – and Wonder Woman struck up a passionate love affair with Superman – poor Steve soon grew to resent the team.
True, Trevor’s reasons for assembling a government-run equivalent of the Justice League of America featuring Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow had its roots in a very reasonable concern: the significant potential threat the team would pose if they went rogue, either individually or as a group. Yet his later actions – including espionage against his former allies – led to the in-fighting that (in part) paved the way for Forever Evil, and are hard not to chalk up as sour grapes from a jilted ex-lover!
8 Lex Luthor
This one seems kinda obvious, doesn’t it? After all, Lex Luthor is one of the oldest and most well-known supervillains in comic book history – give him a seat at the Justice League table and you’re practically begging to be disappointed! But in the aftermath of Forever Evil – where the bald super-genius played a key part in repelling the Crime Syndicate’s invasion of Earth – the Luthor star was shining brightly, and the seemingly-reformed criminal was grudgingly invited into the fold.
However, Luthor is still Luthor, even when he’s trying his hand at the superhero game – he’s unavoidably going to do something devious at his teammates’ expense (it’s just in his nature). So it wasn’t exactly a shock when it turned out that he had deceived the rest of the League and secretly kept samples of the volatile (and highly lethal) Amazo Virus. This chemical weapon was later unleashed to devastating effect, leaving Luthor’s teammates wondering what other deadly secrets he was sitting on – as well as why they teamed up with him in the first place!
7 Maxwell Lord
As longtime comics fans will already know, you don’t have to be superhero to be considered a member of the Justice League. Take Maxwell Lord – initially introduced as a non-superpowered businessman, he used his incredible wealth to back yet another version of the League. In subsequent years, he would continue to be associated with the team, never really leaving the sidelines even after gaining mind control powers.
Despite being more of corporate sponsor than an active operative, Lord was nonetheless a trusted associate of the League, and formed close friendships with the likes of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. As such, the Beetle’s discovery in Countdown to Infinite Crisis that Max was secretly the Black King of Checkmate – a covert organization hellbent on wiping out all metahumans, including the League – came as a brutal shock.
But what followed next was even more horrifying. Lord blew the Beetle’s brains out without flinching, before masterminding a ruthlessly effective, multi-pronged assault on the metahuman community that only ended with his death at Wonder Woman’s hands.
6 Red Tornado
It’s tough trying to be a loyal teammate when you’re a robotic lifeform created by an evil mad scientist – just ask the Red Tornado! The poor android has been programmed and re-programmed to screw over his Justice League teammates more times than we care to mention, and has wreaked serious havoc over the years.
In the Red Tornado’s defence, he’s technically blameless when it comes to each and every treacherous act he’s ostensibly guilty of committing. After all, he’s only following the protocols hardwired into his brain, and his non-mechanized, “air elemental” soul is always shown to be fighting to defeat these villainous urges.
All the same, we think the other members of the League could be forgiven for thinking twice before renewing this guy’s membership, given his dubious track record!
Atomica is walking evidence of a fairly obvious truth: that when you add a duplicitous psychopath from a twisted alternate dimension to your team roster, you’re asking for trouble! See, it turns out that this seemingly benign college student turned shrinking superhero was actually the Atom of Earth-3, a world populated by the Justice League’s evil counterparts.
To be honest, more people should have seen Atomica’s eventual betrayal – which included infecting Cyborg with the cyber-virus that made the Forever Evil invasion event possible – coming. Even when she masqueraded as a hero, Atomica was already engaging in questionable behaviour, snitching on her teammates to Amanda Waller and Steve Trevor. However, this pint-sized criminal’s “sweet and innocent” act was so good, that it was far too late before any of her heroic former allies finally twigged to what was going on!
You’d think if you were Geo-Force, the moment you received the call-up to join the Justice League, you’d be on your best behavior. Because let’s face it: despite his impressive powerset – including gravity manipulation and lava blasts – this guy is a C-list hero, at best! That’s not what happens, however, as Geo-Force winds up spying on the League at the behest of master assassin Deathstroke.
In fairness to him, Geo-Force was essentially coerced into betraying his teammates, as Deathstroke had meddled with the hero’s powers (impacting his health) in order to blackmail him for the cure. To his credit, Geo-Force later comes clean to League powerbrokers Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, and offering to act as a double agent, spying on Deathstroke on their behalf – but that doesn’t complete erase his treachery.
3 Rocket Red #7
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that diversity is a very good thing – unless the end result is a killer robot attack! While this may seem like an unlikely eventuality, it’s exactly what did happen when the Justice League – in an admirable effort to embrace a more international, less US-centric approach – recruited Rocket Red #7 from the then-Soviet Union’s Rocket Red Brigade.
This is because Rocket Red #7 turned out to be a Manhunter – a rogue android originally tasked with enforcing justice throughout the galaxy by the Green Lanterns’ bosses, the Guardians. Things quickly went south once Rocket Red #7’s true nature was revealed, and the robot was destroyed in the ensuing conflict with his former teammates.
On the bright side, Rocket Red #4, Dmitri Pushkin, stepped in to fill the vacancy in the League’s line-up, serving with distinction for several years.
While being a superhero should technically be a thankless task, the fact remains that most costumed adventurers – from living legends like Superman down on to lesser rans like, uh, Geo-Force – tend to enjoy at least some public adulation. Not so in the pathetic yet oddly-affecting case of Triumph, who was relegated to unknown status thanks to a mishap involving inter-dimensional and time travel shenanigans.
As a result of this misfortune, Triumph developed a rather large chip on his shoulder over having been forgotten by the very people he had dedicated his life to protecting. This most typically manifested itself as a refusal to follow orders and frequent jealous outbursts at his “elitist” teammates – and ultimately saw him expelled from the Justice League.
Perhaps his lowest point was when he started selling stolen League memorabilia to make ends meet, but ultimately, the person he betrayed most was himself, when he sold his soul trying to reclaim the decade of his life he lost.
1 Captain Marvel
There’s a thing about alternate futures: eventually, everyone breaks bad in one of them. This extends to even the purest of heroes, as illustrated by Shazam/Captain Marvel’s villainous turn in the fan-favorite Kingdom Come miniseries. In this dystopian reality, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal has turned his back on the Justice League (along with the rest of the superhero community) and now serves as Lex Luthor’s loyal bodyguard.
This was yet another instance of mind control – Lex keeps slipping nasty little worms into Marvel’s ears – coupled with extensive brainwashing of the Captain’s juvenile alter-ego, Billy Batson. During the story’s climax, Marvel’s formidable, magic-based powers negate Superman’s ability to avert an all-out superhuman war, but he later manages to regain his faculties and atones for his actions through a dramatic act of self-sacrifice!
Are there any other Justice League members who betrayed the team? Let us know in the comments!