With some of the greatest heroes on Earth, the Justice League is the ultimate force for good in the DC universe. When something is that good, it’s fun seeing what it would look like if it was evil. Alternate realities have been a theme in comics since the Golden Age, and the Justice League has been twisted up in countless universes.
There have actually been evil versions of the Justice League that run from not scary at all to a group you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. In just a few months, we’ll be seeing a new “Justice League” movie and there are rumors of an evil Superman making an appearance. With that in mind, it’s time CBR showed how scary the Justice League can be.
16. HONORABLE MENTION: RED SON
What would have happened if Superman had landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States? That’s the premise of “Superman: Red Son,” a 2003 Elseworlds miniseries by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson and Kilian Plunkett. In an alternate reality, Superman’s Kryptonian spaceship landed in the Ukraine during the Cold War instead of in Kansas. Raised by the state, Superman became a tool of the Soviet Union, and disrupted the power balance of the world.
As far as “scary” Justice Leagues, we’ll start with the least scary but a definitely evil version: the Super Enemies. If the classic 1970s TV show about DC was called “Superfriends,” there had to be some bad guys called the Super Enemies, right? 1979’s episode “Universe of Evil” started with Superman transported to a parallel universe where the Hall of Justice has been replaced by the Hall of Evil, and all the Justice League members are bad guys. There was even an evil alien-monkey Gleek.
As Superman tried to escape from the Super Enemies and the military armed with kryptonite weapons, the evil Superman was transported to the real universe to fight the Superfriends. Superman-Prime ended up getting an antimatter flask that switched them back, which was good news for everyone. Later on, Lex Luthor organized his own Legion of Doom to be the real anti-Justice League, and had a much better name.
14. THE INJUSTICE LEAGUE
In 1989’s “Justice League International,” Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis created the Injustice League in “Justice League International” #23. The JLI was more of a sitcom than a serious comic, so the Injustice League were a team of really bad supervillains who wanted to be evil, but couldn’t quite pull it off. The Injustice League’s members included Cluemaster, Major Disaster, Clock King, Big Sir, Multi-Man and the Mighty Bruce. They mostly got beat up a lot.
Now, things get complicated, because 2000’s “Silver Age: The Showcase” #1 (Geoff Johns and Dick Giordano) retroactively made 1989’s Injustice League the second version of the team. The “original” team was brought together in the Silver Age by the evil intergalactic Agamemno, who used Lex Luthor to recruit other villains like Black Manta, Bizarro and the Joker. This Injustice League was way more effective, and switched minds with the JLA. When the Justice League managed to switch back, they erased the memory of the event from the villains’ minds.
13. THE CONGLOMERATE
We’re going to switch it up here, because when we talk about the Justice League, there are different versions of the JL than just the ones with Batman and Superman. There’s also a smaller and less-powerful team called Justice League International, and Mark Waid and Rod Whigham had them face their evil duplicates in 1992’s “Justice League Quarterly” #8.
12. THE JOKER LEAGUE
In 2000’s “Superman: Emperor Joker” (J.M. DeMatteis, Mike S. Miller), the DC universe was turned upside-down when the Joker tricked the fifth-dimensional imp Mister Mxyzptlk into giving him a portion of his power, giving Joker the chance to reshape reality in his image. Metropolis became a twisted sideshow of its former self, where Superman was a wanted criminal held in Arkham Asylum, Batman was slaughtered every night and brought back to life, Aquaman couldn’t go in water, and Bizarro was the world’s greatest hero.
In this reality, the Justice League is the Joker League of Anarchy, made up of criminals instead of heroes. Bizarro and Poison Ivy led a team of new supervillains Gilly, the hellish Scorch, Ignition, Skism, and the gunfighter Bounty. They did the work of the Joker, which was spread destruction and chaos wherever they went. Although the Joker’s Justice League was more incompetent than effective, they still enforced the rule of law, which was basically chaos.
11. CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS
In 2010, the DC animated movie “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” brought an evil League version to the small screens. Written by Dwayne McDuffie and directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu, “Crisis on Two Earths” was about an alternate reality where the Justice League was evil, and Lex Luthor and the Joker were the heroes. When the two teamed up to steal a Quantum Trigger, Luthor escaped into the mainstream universe.
There, Luthor explained he was from an alternate world where the superheroes of the Justice League were a criminal organization known as the Crime Syndicate. Led by Ultraman, the villains Superwoman, Johnny Quick, Owlman and Power Ring tried to recover the Quantum Trigger as a way to dominate their world. The Justice League uncovered a plot by Owlman to use the trigger to destroy all the other parallel universes. It was a bad world, but not as bad as we’ll see later on.
10. CRISIS ON EARTH-THREE
“Crisis on Two Earths” was partially inspired by our next entry, “Crisis on Earth-3,” first released in 1964’s “Justice League of America” #29-30 (Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky). In that two-part issue, we first met the Crime Syndicate of America, which would become the premiere evil Justice League in its many different forms. The Crime Syndicate had conquered their world of Earth-Three when Ultraman discovered Earth-One, and decided to invade it.
Just because the Justice League belongs to DC doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who get to make the team evil. Marvel got into the act with 1969’s “The Avengers” #69, created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema. In the final panel of that issue and continuing into the next issue, the cosmic Grandmaster decided to pit four members of the Avengers (Thor, Goliath, Iron Man and Captain America) against a team of new villains called the Squadron Sinister.
The Squadron was a thinly-veiled evil version of the Justice League. Doctor Spectrum was a multi-colored version of Green Lantern, Hyperion was a powerful god-like being like Superman, Nighthawk was a black-clad hero like Batman and the unfortunately-named Whizzer was super-fast. They were beaten by the Avengers, but returned later on to fight the Defenders, and even showed up in 2015’s “Secret Wars” where they tried to rule Battleworld.
8. INJUSTICE SYNDICATE
What do you get when you combine the Injustice League with the Crime Syndicate? You get the Injustice Syndicate, which made its debut in 2009’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” In “Deep Cover For Batman” (directed by Michael Chang and written by Joseph Kuhr), the Injustice Syndicate was an evil version of the Justice League that faced Batman, made up of Owlman, Blue Bowman (Green Arrow), Scarlet Scarab (Blue Beetle), and Silver Cyclone (Red Tornado). They managed to get their hands on a dimensional portal from the Red Hood (one of the good guys in his dimension).
In this episode, Batman was the one who traveled to the evil dimension to pose as Owlman to trap the members of the Injustice Syndicate. There, he discovered the Injustice League planned to destroy other worlds. Using his detective, gadgets and martial arts skills, Batman managed to defeat the Injustice League.
7. THE SQUADRON SUPREME
In “The Avengers #85” (1971) by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the Squadron Sinister was changed into the Squadron Supreme in a retcon. The Avengers traveled to an alternate reality where they discovered Hyperion, Whizzer, Nighthawk, Power Princess and Dr. Spectrum. When the Avengers attacked, they discovered that the Squadron Supreme were really heroes, and the Squadron Sinister were evil clones. With the help of the Avengers, the Squadron Supreme defeated their enemy, Brain-Child. The heroes returned several times, but made their mark in a dark new series.
6. THE JUSTICE LORDS
Once again, we’re going to an animated series, where we met the Justice Lords. They first appeared on the 2003 “Justice League” animated TV show in the episode “A Better World.” In their alternate reality, President Lex Luthor executed the Flash, which made Superman so mad that he killed the former supervillain. Superman and the Justice League set themselves up as the new rulers of the world’s governments and became the Justice Lords.
As villainous Justice Leagues tend to do, the Justice Lords went to the world of the regular Justice League, where they captured the League and tried to impose their totalitarian rule. Starting by using his heat vision to lobotomize his arch-enemy Doomsday, Lord Superman moved on to try a takeover of the world’s governments. Fortunately, the regular Superman was able to free himself and convince the real Luthor to strip the Justice Lords of their powers, and that stopped the Lords for good.
In 2013, another evil Justice League came along in the video game “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” Set in an alternate reality where the Joker tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis, the Man of Steel broke his rule about killing to get revenge. Having crossed that line, Superman and the rest of the Justice League set up a new global government as tyrants. To stop him, Batman pulled members of the Justice League into the Injustice universe.
They weren’t really called the Injustice League, but the title of the game gave it away. It was an excellent fighting game that led into a great comic book series as a prequel, which explored how mighty heroes could fall to the level of criminals. It’s scary to watch Superman go from the world’s greatest hero to its greatest villain, not because of some hokey “evil universe” but because he was pushed too far.
4. CRIME SOCIETY OF AMERICA
In the new continuity of 2006’s “Infinite Crisis,” the alternate universe with an evil Justice League returned along with the DC multiverse, and the Crime Society of America was born. Given center stage in a title almost as long as the story, “Countdown Presents The Search for Ray Palmer: Crime Society” #1 was written by Sean McKeever and illustrated by Jamal Igle. It featured the story of the Jokester, a clown-faced hero fighting the five members of the original Crime Syndicate. The Society also added a host of new members including evil versions of Black Canary, Booster Gold and Supergirl.
In the new “Countdown: Arena” series, the evil Monarch brought together different characters from the new Multiverse to fight for the chance to join his army. The Crime Society was part of the battle, seen in the sidelines. Fortunately, the entire universe was later destroyed except for Superman-Prime and a single plant in a final battle with Monarch, taking the Crime Society with it.
3. KINGDOM COME
In 1996, Alex Ross and Mark Waid teamed up to create the miniseries “Kingdom Come,” set in a near-future where the traditional heroes of the past came together to stop the brutal superheroes of the new generation. The new Justice League of elderly (but still strong) heroes like Superman and Green Lantern set up a prison to hold rogue heroes and supervillains alike. Unfortunately, the Gulag erupted in a riot between metahumans that threatened to destroy the world.
Just like the Squadron Supreme, the Justice League of “Kingdom Come” was scary because it was trying to make the world a better place, not because it was pure evil. Throughout the story, the Justice League struggled to follow their morals, even as they imposed their own brand of justice on an unhappy world. Batman in particular sided with Lex Luthor to “liberate” mankind from the Justice League. In the end, Superman saw his failure, but only at the cost of thousands of lives.
2. THE CRIME SYNDICATE OF AMERIKAAfter the “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” the alternate universe of Earth-3 ceased to exist, but a new antimatter universe was introduced. 2000’s “JLA: Earth 2” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly brought back the Crime Syndicate with a slightly different spelling: the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. In Earth 1, Alexander Luthor is a hero who travels to the main DC universe to ask for help to stop the Syndicate.
Once again, the Syndicate were evil counterparts of the Justice League, but way more evil. Ultraman incinerated people just for criticizing him, Owlman was a brutal murderer and Johnny Quick was a drug addict. It took almost all of the Justice League’s power to travel to the antimatter universe and try to bring order, only for the Crime Syndicate to make the jump to their Earth to bring terror. It was a brutal fight that was more about the nature of good and evil than punching.
1. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
When alien warlords attack New York City, it’s time to call in the Justice League, but what happens when the threat is more supernatural? How do Superman and Wonder Woman fight legions of undead or immortal sorcerers? That was the question raised when the Enchantress actually beat the Justice League, causing them to form another, darker team. Yes, we’re talking about Justice League Dark, created by Peter Milligan in 2011’s “Justice League Dark” #1 (Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin).
The series introduced the titular heroes, made up of mystical characters of the DC universe like John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Shade the Changing Man and Zatanna. They all worked together to investigate the bizarre and otherworldly monsters and magical beings that lay outside the norm. Justice League Dark is technically a team of superheroes, but they also give most people goosebumps. A team of undead, magicians and monsters, Justice League Dark is definitely one of the spookier versions of the Justice League. Just be glad they’re on our side.