Another DC Animated series that still stands the test of time. Justice League was a two season series between 2001 and 2004 and had a secondary series Justice League Unlimited. A series that was a worthy follow up to its previous entries Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. At the time of this series, we had already been introduced to The Flash and the establishment of the Green Lanterns. Which left this series with the chance to write origin stories and world building for the rest of the League including Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl. Similar to its predecessors, Justice League also redefined and added onto these characters mythology that translated into the comic pages and future video game, television and film installments. So let’s dive into this amazing series and talk about some of the most memorable episodes, covering only ten of the best stories.
Season 1: Episodes 1, 2, 3 – Secret Origins
Kicking off the list with the first three episodes that started it all. Secret Origins shows astronaut J. Allen Carter return from a space mission to Mars that sets off a chain of events that force the earths heroes to come together and face this threat. The world has begun betting all of their chips onto the Man of Steel but suddenly our planet is invaded by an unknown alien species. Batman and Superman attempt to be at the front lines of the battle but when Superman starts receiving unknown telepathic visions, he finally answers the call. Batman follows Superman to a military base where they find a Martian by the name J’onn J’onzz, who has come to here to warn us of the coming invaders. Just as they are about to leave the facility, they are met with soldiers of the alien armada. Overwhelmed by these invaders, J’onn telepathically summons Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl and the forming of the Justice League is born. The League work together to bring down this intergalactic threat, destroying their planted manufacturing facilities and conquering over the foreign trespassers. With a new and bold take on the already established DC Animated Universe, Secret Origins was the story that got us excited and ready for more that was to come.
Season 1: Episodes 16, 17 – Legends
A reimaging of the Justice Society of America, Legends was an exciting and ambitious story that ended up taking a dark turn. After a battle with Lex Luthor fires a weapon that sends our heroes are sent to an alternate reality. Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter are put into a version of the 1960’s and with it a group of Superheroes known as the Justice Guild or America. The League assist Tommy Turbine, The Streak, Cat Man, Green Guardsman and Black Siren in an ongoing battle against Music Master, The Sportsman, Dr. Blizzard and Sir Swami. But when Green Lantern starts to realize there is something more sinister afoot. He and Hawkgirl investigate more of the world they are in, they come to find that the libraries have books with no content, the newspaper shows the same story every day and tombstones for each member of the Justice Guild. They soon discover that the Guilds biggest fan Ray Thompson has untold information. J’onn telepathically engages Ray, and he transforms into his true form. A deformed, inhuman creature with psychic powers. A result that came from the actually reality of this world, where nuclear war was unleashed. Ray was among the few that survived and as a way to cope with the world he was living in, he telepathically created his favorite comic book characters and the world they lived in. After Ray is defeated, Seaboard City goes back to normal and the Justice League are sent back to our reality.
Season 1: Episodes 18, 19 – Injustice for All
A change of pace for the greatest criminal mind of our time, in an attempt to escape the League Lex Luthor has a seizure and is sent to a hospital. Doctors discover that Lex has a rare blood disease that has been caused by the radiation of Kryptoinite he has held onto for so long, making this disease terminal. In an effort to create a way to sustain this disease and sack revenge on Superman. Luthor breaks out of prison by the help of the Ultra-Humanite and forms the Injustice League consisting of Solomon Grundy, Cheeta, Shade, Copperhead and Star Sapphire. The Injustice League set up an ambush attack on the Justice League that goes south, forcing the villains to flee. Unknown of what their next move might be, the Injustice League are soon met by the Joker who comes up with another plan that involves luring Batman to their headquarters and capturing him, making him their prisoner. There is so much to love about this episode, the return of Lex Luthor and Joker, the appearance of diverse villains, the battle between heroes and villains. Everything about it works, and makes it for such a fun and entertaining episode. Not to mention if there is ever anything involving Mark Hamill voicing the Joker, you can count us in.
Season 1: Episodes 20, 21 – A Knight of Shadows
Although Jason Blood and his hellish counterpart Etrigan first made their appearance in The New Batman Adventures during the episode A Demon Within, it was this episode that fleshed out the character and told his origin story. During Medieval times, the sorceress Morgaine Le Fay attempts to overthrow Camelot and dub her son Mordred ruler over the Kingdom. Using Jason Blood as a pawn, she betrays him and inflicts a disease on him. But before he is killed by the infection the wizard Merlin appears and curses Blood with immortality and the shared duality with the Demon Etrigan. Jumping to modern day, La Fay searches for the Philosophers Stone which contains ultimate power and will conquer the world and give her son an even larger Kingdom. Jason Blood and Batman work together with the help of Wonder Woman, Flash and Martain Manhunter to find the stones before La Fay does. What made this episode so intriguing was the moral dilemma J’onn J’onzz faces throughout the episode. After J’onn tries to telepathically locate the sorceress, she fires back at him and causes hallucinations of his deceased family. Many instances where the League could have victory are at times jeopardized because of the constant manipulation La Fay has on the Martian. To the point where he is willing to serve her and bring the stones too her. Luckily, he realizes the reality of his actions and instead of giving her the stone he destroys it and stops La Fay from achieving her goals.
Season 1: Episodes 24, 25, 26 – The Savage Time
In this time-bending episode, the League returns from a space mission to find that their world has been altered and is being run by a dictator named Vandal Savage. After being saved from this time’s version of Batman who has created a resistance army. They learn that the events that caused the present to change were the loss the United States faced in World War II. In an effort to change the present, the League travels to the past during the war to try and change their reality in the present. When they arrive in the past, they are met with weapons and technology that never existed during the war. The split up to find the means to stop Savage and win the war. Hawkgirl, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Superman take the frontlines of the battle against the Germans. Green Lanterns ring is damaged and is separated from the League, to find himself joining a squadron of soldiers that are also fighting in the war. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is met by Steve Trevor who is on a mission to find a professor who knows how to hack into Nazi communication. As Vandal Savage and the Nazi armies plan to invade America, the Justice League are forced to speed up efforts before the invasion begins. These episodes gave us our first look at Vandal Savage and what this immortal being is capable of, leading into other shows and movies and making him one of our hero’s most dangerous adversaries.
Season 2: Episodes 17, 18 – Secret Society
What might come off as just another villains attempt to destroy the Justice League, this one comes with a bit more internal and personal struggle. Our heroes who work so close and tightly starts causing them to tear apart and not work as efficiently as they are use too. Meanwhile, Gorilla Grodd returns and has formed a new team of villains formed by the likes of Sinestro, Giganta, Parasite, and Killer Frost. Teaching them how to work together and earn each other’s trust, the League begin running training simulators to practice teamwork during battle. Tension builds and missions fail, the League decides to dismantle and go their separate ways. Grodd manages to recruit the last member of his now dubbed Secret Society, Clayface. Now with the proper training and a full line up, the Secret Society lure the League together and manage to overcome them. Defeated and confined, Grodd display the League at a football stadium during a game for the world to behold the beaten heroes. Something I have mentioned before is how well this show made these characters human, even the ones that are aliens. Representing in a way the relationship between siblings and how we might not always get along with them, but they are still family and despite the difference we may face we can still work together and overcome obstacles.
Season 2: Episodes 19, 20 – Hereafter
Something about these characters and stories in an alternate world just works so well. When Supermans villains Weather Wizard, Kalibak, Toy Man, Live Wire, and Metallo join forces to defeat the Man of Steel. One of them succeeds, when Toy Man fires off a massive blast into Metropolis. Superman makes the ultimate sacrifice and is vaporized, now with the greatest champion the world is left hopeless. The League hold a funeral for Superman and begin to decide if they should bring on another member to replace Superman. Unfortunately they are met by Lobo, an intergalactic bounty hunter who has come to be the stand in for Superman. The League rejects, but the Main Man insists on accompanying them on their missions. Meanwhile, Superman wakes up in the future that is nothing more but a waste land. In a world with no yellow sun, Superman is without powers and forced to use just his brains and will to survive. As he searches for answers, he is finally given one when he comes across Vandal Savage. Savage explains to him that they are 30,000 years into the future and he is sole survivor of Earth. He explains that shortly after Supermans apparent death, he managed to give himself gravity powers and single handedly defeated the Justice League and took over the planet. Now with Savages help, he and Superman must work together to create a portal to send Superman back to the past and stop Savage from destroying the world.
Season 2: Episodes 15, 16 – The Terror Beyond
I feel this episode is often overlooked, but has some of the best character development of the series. When Aquaman resurrects Solomon Grundy, the League believe Aquaman has gone rouge. To discover what is afoot, they follow Aquaman to the Tower of Fate where they are met by Doctor Fate. An alliance between the King of Atlantis, Grundy and Fate has been made. Grundy has agreed to help Fate and participate in a ritual that would close a portal to a place that holds a being named Icthultu and his followers. In return, Fate will turn Grundy back into his human self who is known as Cyrus Gold. When the League arrive to discover the ritual taking place, they unknowingly interrupt it and cause the portal to be open and the creatures to be unleashed. The heroes attempt to fight back and keep the monsters from entering our world. Meanwhile, Grundy and Hawkgirl attempt to defeat the massive Icthultu. Grundy finds his way inside the monster and manages to kill it, but sacrifices himself in the process. The heart of this episode lies with the relationship between Grundy and Hawkgirl. Two characters who are often misunderstood, but are showed different perspectives in this episode. When you think Solomon Grundy is just a mindless brute, turns out he has feelings and desires. Hawkgirl who is often considered brutal and at times heartless, is compassionate and caring.
Season 2: Episodes 11, 12 – A Better World
These episodes ended up becoming a major plot point for future episodes leading into Justice League Unlimited. A reiteration of the comic book story Crisis on Two Earths, this episode gives us this shows a version of the Crime Syndicate with the Justice Lords. A version of the Justice League from another reality, where Lex Luthor has become the President and Superman has finally had enough and kills Luthor. Now with nothing holding him back, Superman and the Justice League become dictators of their world and rule through fear and power. When they discover our worlds Justice League, they come to set things the way they see it. They trap the League and proceed to take on the monster Doomsday. Rather than defeating him though combat, Superman uses his heat vision to lobotomize him. The League managed to escape their confinement and search for answers about the Justice Lords. What takes place are some of the most entertaining in the series. The League visiting the Justice Lords version of Arkham Asylum, where all of the inmates have also been lobotomized, the confrontation between both Batmen and the battle of the Justice League and Justice Lords makes this episode one you’ll remember and want to watch again.
Season 2: Episodes 24, 25, 26 – Starcrossed
What was intended to be the series finale before the sequel series Justice League Unlimited. Starcrossed was the episode that changed everything in the series and almost encouraged you to go back and revisit both seasons. When an alien ship attacks the White House. It is quickly shot down by another ship and on it the leader of the Thanagarian Army, Hro Talak. Shortly after, Hawkgirl approaches him and it is discovered that she has a relationship with Talak and has been working as a spy to study Earth’s defenses, to make sure they are prepared for an attack by an alien species known as the Gordanians. So as Earth and the Thanagarians begin working together to prepare for an attack, it is also revealed that it’s all been a plot by the Thanagarians to weaken our planet’s defenses and take over. Betrayed by Hawkgirl, the League is taken into custody and the Thanagaraians declare martial law. Our heroes manage to escape but have to remain undercover in their alternate identities. Now John Jones, John Stewart, Wally West, Diana Prince, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent must make their way through the policing foreign soldiers and regroup to make a plan to stop this deadly force. This is one of the most brutal and intense episodes of the series, the betrayal of Hawkgirl is unexpected and the position she puts the League in is the kind of writing that makes this show such an incredible and memorable show.
Also Read: 10 Best Batman: The Animated Series Episodes