We have seen a lot of DC stories in the last few years. From the numerous Batman adventures, starting as early as 1943 (The Batman, a theatrical series directed by Lambert Hillyer, starring Lewis Wilson) until the recent Justice League (2017) which had most of the DC characters we craved for.
But there have been a lot of stories that haven’t made it to the big screen in all these years (so far), and in some cases, even the small. Stories where the Justice League once swapped minds with the Legion of Doom, or even some as comedic (but still intense), as when the Justice League teamed up with the Looney Toons to save their respective universes from colliding.
In this article, I hope to bring to light a few stories, both popular and unpopular, about the Justice League and all things DC that give you a little push into understanding the collective consciousness that goes into these incredible stories.
1. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Four, Volume 2.
I know, I know. A lot of people have heard this name. But nonetheless, for the noobs that may be out there, and other people that are just getting into DC fandom, I had to start with this. So Injustice: Gods Among Us is essentially a story-line where in the midst of all the madness, Superman’s loved ones, the future that he has dreamed of, is put at risk. And his response is to finally act to create a world that he believes to be one of peace. But as should be the case, his methods force the question, can peace truly exist in a world without freedom. My opinion, (the dark knight is on my side!) no, it can’t. But you be the judge. Watch this 5-year saga unfold over 11 graphic novels (2 volumes for each year, except the 5th which has 3), enveloping you in an incredible story where good and evil become relative, pits loved ones against each other in an all-out super-war and our favorite characters somehow become the people we pray don’t succeed. This franchise began with the release of the video game Injustice. Injustice 2 (video game) released in May 2017 and a few issues of the comic for Injustice 2 have also been released.
Flashpoint, Issue #1-5, 2011.
So Flashpoint is a storyline you may or may not have heard of. Here’s how it goes. We start with an everyday Flash, saving the day. Somewhere in the mix, his faith is shaken and we see him at odds with himself, struggling still with the death of his mom, at the hands of his father. We fast-forward to the future, where Barry Allen wakes up at work, and everything is completely upside down. The peaceful world he had helped build was no more, Armageddon lay on the brink, the Justice League was simple a faction of the imagination and the Flash never came to be. You can see all this in the animated movie The Flashpoint Paradox (2013). But what the comics told, and the movie skipped (time constraints!) was the parts that each individual character played. In the comics, there are a series of stories, under the descriptive titles, “Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash”, “Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman”, “Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern”, “Flashpoint: The World of…”- I’m going to stop now. But you get my point. The world of Flashpoint is long and unending. So much to be discovered. It’s the creation of a completely parallel universe and in this story, Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman, Wonder Woman isn’t so wonderous, and irreplaceable characters are lost in a saga leading toward imminent doom. Prepare thyselves.
3. Batman: Death In The Family
Batman: A Death In The Family, from Batman Issue #426-429, The New Titans Issue#60-61. 1988-1989.
This story arc follows the saga of the surly teenage Jason Todd, the second Robin, following Dick Grayson who, after about 30 years of yellow-and-red-caped crime fighting as a teenager, eventually grew up, went to college, and went solo as Nightwing. Jason Todd was brought in to make the Dark Knight less… batty. In this tale, coming from a somewhat difficult background (Batman brought him in off the streets when he caught him stealing the tires from the Batmobile), Jason Todd’s aggression towards the criminal characters they face on a nightly basis, increases to the point where Batman begins to worry about his young ward and curtails his nighttime activities. Todd leaves in anger, and eventually makes a discovery that leads him to believe his mother might be alive and unbeknownst to our Caped Crusader, sets out on a quest across nations to find her. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Joker has broken out of Arkham, grabbed himself a dirty bomb and pulled the Dark Knight on a merry chase across the globe. Along the way, Batman runs into his sidekick and decides (against his better judgment) to help him in his journey. But poor Jason Todd never had a chance, from the beginning right till the very end. The Joker takes away Jason Todds dreams of a family and then his life. And his sad demise becomes a living nightmare for the Bat. The fans voted Jason Todd into the comics, and then voted him right back out. Though the hunt never ends for Batman and he continues his nocturnal crusades, now, his fists are fuel by grief and rage, not justice. It is here that we finally see the entrance of Tim Drake, the third Robin. We don’t see Jason Todd again until his appearance in Under The Red Hood.
4. Batman: Under The Red Hood
Batman: Under The Red Hood, 2010
Following the death of Jason Todd in the 1988 comic discussed above, for nearly 15 years the character laid dormant. It was in the Batman: Hush storyline, that ran from 2002-2003, where questions began to form regarding the true fate of Jason Todd when his grave was revealed to be empty. Those questions were slowly answered in the comic series Batman: Under The Hood, that ran from 2004-2005. It was adapted later into a film, entitled Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010), starring Jensen Ackles (Supernatural), and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), as Jason Todd and Dick Grayson respectively. A new mobster appears in Gotham, and he’s cleaning the scum off the streets, taking over the gangs, one hit at a time. Jason Todd resurfaces as the Red Hood, this anti-hero that works from within the criminal world to make it better. He organizes the gangs and keeps them in check. And he does so by pushing away the principles the Bat once tried to teach him. But he had an ulterior motive as well. Revenge on the maniac who murdered him. And the Red Hood’s version of revenge doesn’t involve handcuffs.
5. Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker
Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker, 2000.
The Batman Beyond story takes place in a Gotham city about 30 years into the future from the one we know and love and was created as sort of a continuation of Batman: The Animated Series. This show ran from 1999-2001, with Bruce Wayne, still voiced by the amazing Kevin Conroy, being somewhere between 65-75 years old(I’m guessing, they never say), Alfred has long since passed (again, assuming), and the Batsuit has laid dormant for many many years due to our aged Dark Knights waning health. Until one day, the dust is shaken off it by one Terry McGinnis, a new Gotham kid, voiced by Will Friedle, whose father is murdered in an attempt to cover up illegal corporate activity. Terry takes matters (and the Batsuit) into his own hands in an attempt to save lives, and get justice for his father. Bruce takes the boy as an apprentice and teaches him the ropes of being the new Batman. Following this storyline, a movie was made called Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker, in which some 30 odd years after his supposed death at the hands of Batman, the Crown Prince of Crime, voiced again by Mark Hamill, appears to have suddenly resurfaced, or someone pretending to be him at least. Terry goes on a pursuit for the truth to discover what really happened that night nearly 30 years ago when Joker supposedly died, questioning now Police Chief Commission Barbara Gordon, and currently an engineer and a married man, Timothy Drake, both former members of the Bat family, now bitter and cold towards their once hero. As the Joker’s crimes escalate, the new Batman will have to face the original Caped Crusaders oldest and evilest of foes. Will he be able to hold his own?
6. Final Crisis
Final Crisis, 2008, 2009 and 2012.
This storyline is about, exactly as the name suggests, Earth’s Final Crisis. The story begins with a death, the death of a God. A New God to be exact, named Orion. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the name, Orion is the Soldier God of the New Gods, a sector of super-beings created parallel to Darkseid and his planet, Apokalips. Darkseid is coming. And he’s going to make Earth just like Apokalips. It seemed to be an easy enough task. A few loud voices in all the right places, rile up the people, get them angry. Get them panicked. Kidnap some kids. Kill a few more heroes. First, make them lose faith in the Justice League. Then make them hate the Justice League. And one by one, each and every day, turn a few more minds toward the anti-life equation, Darkseid’s ultimate goal. His powers of brainwashing and mind control are well practiced, he’s done it to many planets in the past. But along the way it is discovered, there are much greater, much more powerful factions at play than anyone could have ever imagined. I’m going to be totally honest with you. The story goes insane. Unimaginable unreal scenarios, but depicted with such beauty, frankness, and depth. It’ll open up a whole new world of comic book stories to the reader. Definitely worth the overwhelming madness that comes while reading it.
7. Emperor Joker
Emperor Joker, S02E19, Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
So this storyline was first conceptualized with Superman, and written in a fluent but topsy-turvy world but put on screen with Batman, in a much simpler display of levity. In the comic book, the Joker manages to trick Mr. Mxyzptlk, a creature from the 5th dimension without reality-altering powers in the 3rd dimension where we are, into giving Joker his powers. The story is split into two arcs, Superman: Arkham, and The Reign of Emperor Joker. In the former, Superman is in Arkham Asylum. Bizarro No. 1 is the head of the Justice League. The bald Lois Lane is the wealthy and evil enterprising business owner whose terrible schemes are legendary. Something just isn’t right, and Superman can feel it in his gut. But he doesn’t know what it is causing all of this. In the latter part, Joker reveals himself and it with his newfound powers, he’s putting his energies to the best use. Finding different ways to kill Batman, so every time he can bring him back to life and start the process all over again. The second part of this story was put forward in an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, under the title Emperor Joker, where Bat-Mite, a different 5th-dimensional creature accidentally gives the Joker his powers while trying to help the Dark Knight in battle. In a much lighter on-screen representation of the Caped Crusader, the Joker kills the Bat over and over and over again in some twisted sadistic endless playtime. If you want to know how it ends, you’ll have to read it.
8. Identity Crisis
So there are one too many crises happening in the DC Universe, from Final Crisis, to Infinite Crisis to Crisis on Infinite Earths. This one is less world-wide universally devastating but follows a sad dark story in the long and varying history of the Justice League. This 7-issue series begins with the death of Sue Dibny, wife of Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, and the first hero of the Justice League to publically reveal his secret identity. The story takes place in the somewhat near future, where all the sidekicks we knew in their childhood are grown up and their heroic counterparts are older, wiser, and a lot less innocent. As the story unfolds in a long and harrying crusade to determine who committed the murder, who broke into a house with human, martian and Kryptonian security measures, and burnt Sue Dibny to death, slow revelations are discovered by the younger and new members of the Justice League about the methods used by our shining knights, many of which were less than above board. As the Justice League pulls closer together after this tragedy to protect each other, and hold their loved ones closer than ever, the villains also band together and join forces to protect one another, knowing that the death of Sue Dibny would cause an undeniable ripple effect through members of the Justice League spread across the planet. Every single one claims innocence, and so much evidence destroyed by the fire, will the World’s Greatest Detective and the rest of his fellow crime fighters be able to solve this mystery that hits so close to home? More importantly… as more terrible things are discovered, will they want to?
9. Green Lantern Dragon Lord
DC Comics Presents Special Issue #2, Green Lantern Dragon Lord, 2003.
We all know Hal Jordon. He’s the handsome, smooth-talking air force pilot, with the hots for his boss, and the first person of Earth formerly inducted into the Green Lantern Corps by the Guardians of the Universe. Before him, in the Justice Society of America in the Golden age of Heroes, the days of Wild Cat and the former Black Canary (who would be the Green Arrows Mother-in-law), there was Alan Scott, who originally called himself the Green Lantern, but his power came from a gem known as the Starheart, and not the power of the Guardians of the Universe granted to the Green Lantern Corps. However, the first Green Lantern ring from Oa, the Planet of the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps, arrived on Earth in the year 600 AD. And it was found by Jong Li, the last remaining survivor of a religious sect of warriors known as the Dragon Lords. Of course, the story also involves a country full of the oppressed, a fat and dictatorial emperor, who rules with a careless and violent attitude, a beautiful woman on the run, and a child lost in a series of destroyed villages trying to find a way to survive. Our hero finds the ring and attempts to do good with it, but one man with limited knowledge of his power can only do so much, and it doesn’t take long for word to spread of the man in China with the magical green powers. As a dragon lord, he also understands the value of power and how it can corrupt absolutely and embarks on a journey to save his country, the girl, and himself, attempting to do so without the aid of the ring.
10. Mad Love
Mad Love, Comic book Adaptation from Batman: The Animated Series.
This was originally an episode of Batman: The Animated Series that was later then adapted into comic book form. It follows the story of our Maid of Mischief and her puddin’. For those of you who didn’t know this, the character of Harley Quinn was first conceptualized in Batman: The Animated Series, to give the Clown Prince of Chaos a little extra color. But the fans enjoyed her presence so much, they brought her back again and again, and now our blonde haired harlequin has her own story arc in the comics, and plays a pretty important role in the Injustice Series. But in the story Mad Love, we’re taken back to the roots of this once sweet and innocent woman, looking for her payday as she joins Arkham Asylum to work with the criminally insane. You’ll never guess who she meets there. This story, told from Harley’s perspective, shows you the true nature of the twisted relationship between Harley and the Joker, as she attempts to capture and kill the Batman to make her man happy so that she and Mistah J can finally settle down in that mansion in the jungle with their two hyenas. After all, that’s what every girl wants.