For me, growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s meant watching Superfriends on Saturday morning. I loved this show. Classic good vs. evil. Pitting the forces of the Justice League against the Legion of Doom. Peering back into my recollection of the series and its superheroes, I began to ask some fundamental questions such as these:
- Who is the most powerful member of the Justice League?
- Who is the most powerful nemesis in the Legion of Doom?
- Why did individual superheroes/villains decide to form a league (or legion)?
- What did local, state, and federal government think of this?
- Why did they bother with the Wonder Twins and especially Gleek?
- What were the politics and motivation behind the scenes of each respective organization?
“Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…”
Very nicely landscaped, reflecting pool, ample grounds, the Hall of Justice appears to be located near downtown Metropolis. There is no fence and it looks suspiciously like the love child of an art-deco amphitheatre and public library. One gets the feeling that this is funded by tax dollars and subsequently is accessible to the public. Everyone knows where this building is. No more impenetrable “fortress of solitude” or hidden batcave–everyone knows its location. This would seem to pose a security problem. The Legion of Doom are not above terrorism and one would think would attack this building with stunning regularity in an attempt to destroy as many League members as possible in one fell swoop. Yet, they don’t. I think this reveals the most fundamental fear among Legion members: fear of Superman.
Who Lives Here?
There are five permanent members of the Justice League that have, for all intents and purposes, given up their secret identities (if they have them–Aquaman apparently has never sought a secret identity) and given up the charade of dual lives. They are Superman, Batman, Robin, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. Of course the Hall has the most advanced in computer and technology, owing to both Batman (via Wayne Industries) and Wonder Woman (via Diana Prince’s unnamed company). Let us not forget the amazing technology of Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet, and the untold billions in selling this and other weapons technology, similar to Bruce Wayne.
Visiting and likely rotational responsibility allows other supers to maintain some modicum of privacy and keep their secret identities. Besides, the Hall of Justice ain’t that big. These heroes include:
- The Flash
- Green Lantern
- Hawkman [spare]
- Hawkgirl [spare also]
- The Atom [very powerful–more on him later]
A few other heroes were not DC comics creations, but were created for the series, primarily to emphasize multicultural/multiracial nature of the League (the Justice League is an equal-opportunity volunteer organization): These also were some of my personal favorites:
- Black Vulcan [African-American]
- Apache Chief [“Inyuk-Chuk!”…saying the Apache word for “Big Man”…]
- Samurai [Japanese]
- El Dorado [Hispanic]
Who leads this thing?
Obviously, Superman. Although the permanent members appear as a “council” for decision-making purposes, Superman could destroy any of them should he choose to do so.
“…Superman never made any money saving the world from Solomon Grundy…he could have broke into any bank in the United States–he had the strength, but he would not. ” Crash Test Dummies, Superman’s Song.
So in forming the League, Superman must have the trust and support of the other members, who can weaken, but likely not destroy him, save one.
- Wonder Woman can cause damage to him–by crashing her “Bracelets of Victory” together (technically these are called “vambraces”), it has been reported that the shock wave was able to cause Superman’s ears to bleed. Her Golden Tiara, a stabbing and throwing weapon, is able to cut Superman’s skin also.
- Green Lantern could create a “Kryptonite Ray” at his will that would weaken Superman, but the effects are only temporary and much weaker than actual Kryptonite. Besides, his ray is effectively negated by the yellow “S” on Superman’s cape.
Atom: The Most Powerful Superhero?
The Atom, arguably is the most powerful and the only superhero truly to be feared and respected by Superman. Since Atom can shrink to sub atomic size, and can rearrange molecular structure, it is possible, he could shrink small enough to enter Superman’s bloodstream and then rearrange the molecules of his heart to form Kryptonite, elegantly destroying him. There never appears to be any tension or power-hungriness exhibited by Atom in his few appearances, but it must be constantly in the back of Superman’s mind, and the other supers as well. Especially Wonder Woman with her superior intellect, surely has thought of this scenario.
The Kryptonite Question
I envision that the Justice League had a brainstorming session early in its formation about each member’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as strategies to counter them. Superman would be the first to admit his Kryptonite problem. Naturally occurring Kryptonite would occur very rarely on Earth, so the first item on the agenda would be to secure as much of it as possible, keeping it from evildoers. They would be fool to destroy it, in case Superman went rogue, so there must be a repository of Kryptonite on site at the Hall of Justice compound. At the government level, surely it had been posited early in Superman’s tenure as non-governmental protector that a Kryptonite “weapon” of some sort should be created, with a two-key nuke-type system in place to destroy Superman should he prove a threat to mankind. Superman has no significant oversight other than his integrity. If not enough could be found on Earth, or if it had already been gathered up by the League, a covert space mission would be required to gather some from Superman’s exploded home. Likely some exists on the moon, or in orbit, for example.
If I Were The Man of Steel…
- I would first dispatch Atom, quietly, in his sleep. He still clings to a secret identity, so we know he takes off his suit. His “shrinkage power” is activated by a buckle on his belt, so separate him from his power and he will be easy to eliminate.
- I would eliminate all sources of Kryptonite on Earth and space as much as is practical. Tricky, but enlisting the trusting help of The Wonder Twins sidekicks could make this possible. Once these obstacles are gone, my power would be complete.
What of the L.O.D?
It is my theory that the Legion of Doom was organized by Lex Luthor in response to always getting bested by the Justice League since their formation. The only way to allow crime to indeed pay is to divide and conquer. Most members of the League have their own nemesis with srtrikingly similar powers, each effectively nullifying the other. This also allows better strategy to defeat the League with some members causing a diversion while others damage the weakened remnant.
The Hall of Doom
The Hall of Doom, unlike its Justice counterpart is depicted as based beneath a swamp where it can be raised and lowered. It is mobile and can fly via rockets, be remote-controlled, has laser defenses, and has been modified to travel through time. Its design appears to be heavily influenced by the designer of Darth Vader’s helmet. Awesome! (The bad guys always have the more kick-ass toys.) I never quite understood the vilians’ deference to their leader, Lex Luthor, with no powers save his intellect. In my personal opinion, they value his planning and organizational ability, and he likely has the vast funds necessary to keep the Legion operating and awash in high-tech weaponry during lean times of crime when halted by the Justice League. Anyway. The continual members of the Legion no longer seem concerned with secret identity. They are as follows, listed with their linked Justice nemesis:
- Lex Luthor – Superman
- Bizarro – Superman
- Black Manta – Aquaman
- Brainiac [evil android] – Superman
- Captain Cold [able to slow down Flash with freeze ray] – Flash
- Cheetah – Wonder Woman
- Giganta – Apache Chief, Wonder Woman
- Gorilla Grodd – The Flash, Black Vulcan
- The Riddler – Batman and Robin
- Scarecrow – Batman and Robin
- Sinestro [yellow power ring] – Green Lantern
- Solomon Grundy [super-powered Cajun zombie from the swamp. Yup] – Green Lantern, others
- Toyman – [makes destructive toys?!?] – Batman and Robin
The recurrent plotline is that the Legion concocts some evil plan to destroy the Superfriends who, in the end, always prevail. However, at the last moment, a pre-conceived escape plan kicks in and they all get away. The League makes no significant attempt to chase them. They all suffer from hero complexes and will wait to fight another day instead of rendering themselves obsolete.
The Most Powerful Villain: Mr. Mxyzptlk
Mr. Mxyzptlk is not a member of the Legion. He is appreciated by the Legion and should be feared by all. He is an impish creature from the fifth dimension who, for some reason, appears to exist to revel in torturing Superman. His powers are only limited by his imagination. Just by willing it, he could turn Superman to dust, for example. He can only be banished back to the fifth dimension [for a minimum of 90 days] if he says his name backward. Superman always pronounces this “Klipt-il-sim”. He is extraordinarily gullible, and this is usually accomplished fairly easily. Not even the Legion messes with this guy. They have no contact with him and are mostly desperate not to gain his attention. Luckily, Mr. Mxyzptlk would be bored if Superman is not in the world, so he is jointly his nemesis and his insurance policy. One can assume that the Legion is most active in their efforts against Superman during his 90-day banishment period.
“Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!”
Zan and Jayna. So why the sidekicks? It is my theory that Superman befreinded these two, plus their blue pet monkey, “Gleek” to keep them close and positively influence them so they don’t fall to become minions of the Legion. Jayna was a shape-shifter and had the ability of turning herself into any animal, real or imagined, as long as she knew its name. Ant to whale, anything was possible. Zan could change himself into any state of water (liquid, gas, solid). He could form anything from an ice cage to house a criminal or even complex machinery like an “ice jet-engine”. They would travel by Jayna turning into a giant eagle; Zan would transform into water and “jump” into a bucket held by Gleek. Gleek’s superpower appears to be able to make a wooden bucket appear at will.
Jayna, however could potentially be quite a threat to Superman. Since she adopts the characteristics and “powers” of any animal she shifts into, she could potentially turn into an animal from Krypton, thereby gaining all the powers of our yellow sun and possibly overcome Superman. Can you imagine a huge bulletproof Kryptonian tiger with super strength and heat vision? Superman wants to keep her under his thumb.