Viewers all know the founding members of the Justice League. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter work tirelessly to protect the Earth from monsters and villains, but it’s still a tough job for only seven heroes. When they choose to expand the League, many other colorful characters join their ranks.
While their times in the spotlight are fewer than the main seven, these additional superheroes are no less fun to watch. Whether they are entertaining to watch like The Question or their episodes have interesting plotlines like Booster Gold’s, they definitely deserve more appreciation.
While Orion doesn’t appear in many episodes, the background he must contend with is very compelling. He is the biological son of notorious warlord Darkseid. Unlike his brother Kalibak, who is willing to do anything to earn Darkseid’s approval (which the villain makes clear he’s never going to get), Orion hates his father and wants him dead. Far from being upset, Darkseid is proud to have such a fierce and powerful son.
Of course, Darkseid being Darkseid, Orion’s reward for impressing him is torment, on the grounds that it will make him even stronger. Orion’s harsh warrior lifestyle means that he is often unable to relate to Earth’s better-adjusted heroes, such as in the episode “Flash and Substance” where he is baffled by the Flash’s easygoing approach to handling his villains.
Much like one of the most tragic Batman villains, Mr. Freeze, Captain Atom was robbed of his human form during a military experiment gone horribly wrong. Transformed from flesh and blood to a sentient cloud of radiation, he is forced to live in a specialized containment suit to both keep some kind of solid form and to protect everyone around him.
When he became a part of the Justice League, Captain Atom retained his military precision and sense of duty. He also retained his rank of captain and his ties to the Air Force, which causes strife in season 2 when he is ordered by Cadmus to turn on the team. He winds up being no match for Superman, though he didn’t hold back in their fight in the episode “Flashpoint.”
Though Wildcat isn’t on the field himself as often as the other heroes, it’s not for lack of strength and toughness: he is a champion boxer who relies only on the power of one good punch. His heyday may be over, but he is still the best trainer of the new generations of heroes around. He even mentored some of the younger League members, such as Black Canary.
The episode “The Cat and the Canary” delves into the aging hero’s resentment and insecurity about being outdone by stronger, flashier superpowers. He joins an underground cage fighting ring that lets him pummel all the superpowered villains he wants to vent his feelings, but is convinced to quit when Green Arrow fakes his death in a match against him. Despite his gruff exterior, at his core he only wants to do good.
A close ally of Batman even before joining the Justice League, Zatanna is a powerful spell caster. She previously appeared in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Zatanna,” in which she and her father teach Batman escape artistry. Since she’s upgraded to wielding genuine magic, viewers can only assume she learned quite a lot more between series.
She plays a major role in the Unlimited episode “This Little Piggy,” in which she helps Batman figure out how to reverse the curse that has turned Wonder Woman into a pig (long story). In doing so, she not only gets to wail on Circe by levitating tables, chairs, and even a grand piano at her, but is the only superhero in the world who gets to learn about Batman’s secret blues-singing talent.
Black Canary’s sonic scream, dubbed the Canary Cry, is devastatingly powerful, capable of destroying whole buildings by sound alone. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, she prefers the old-fashioned approach to taking on villains: a nonlethal but still solid beatdown.
Like her mentor Wildcat, a traditional boxer, Black Canary does not care much for style or showiness. Her attacks are as quick and to the point as her sharp wit. She loves thrills and adrenaline of all kinds, and approaches heroics with the same reckless zeal she rides her beloved black motorcycle around with.
Like these Arrowverse side characters with main character energy, Justice League Unlimited‘s Green Arrow comes to play a pivotal role on his new team. After their terrifying encounter with their despotic counterparts the Justice Lords in the episode “A Better World,” the seven original members recruited Oliver Queen specifically to be the team’s conscience, to keep them from ever going that far over the edge.
Kind and humble despite his wealthy background, Green Arrow is always willing to provide support to his teammates, whether he is fighting beside them with his trick arrows or being the brutally honest voice they need to hear.
Despite being quite the fish out of water as a literal knight of King Arthur’s court transported to the twenty-first century, Shining Knight still fits right into the Justice League. His courage, determination, and strict moral code let him adapt better than many others to a life of super-heroism. (The enchanted sword and armor do help, though.)
In the episode “Patriot Act,” Shining Knight is hopelessly outmatched by the monstrously mutated General Eiling, but refuses to retreat while there are still civilians in need of protection. Wounded and on the verge of defeat, he still declares, “I’ll die as befits a knight: defending the weak!”
Shining Knight’s opposite in personality and time period of origin, Booster Gold is a superhero from the twenty-fifth century who traveled to the present in the hopes of gaining fame and glory with his futuristic tech. While his powered suit and gear don’t give him quite the advantage he hoped for, the League accepts him anyway.
The episode “The Greatest Story Never Told,” one of Justice League Unlimited‘s best standalone episodes, centers around him. Nothing seems to go right for Booster as he struggles with the unglamorous parts of the job, but by the end of the day, he accepts that selfless heroism is its own reward. It’s a great episode for highlighting the mundane but essential work that the newest Leaguers do.
Certainly not to be confused with Supergirl, Stargirl is a human teenager whose powers come from the Cosmic Staff she wields, which allows her to fight crime alongside her mecha-piloting stepfather Pat Dugan, also known as S.T.R.I.P.E. Her character arc focuses on her learning to put helping others above her own ego.
The episode “Chaos at the Earth’s Core” puts this journey front and center, when she is forced to work with a depowered Supergirl. While Supergirl gets a good look at what she was like before she became more experienced in hero work, Stargirl must get over her jealousy of Supergirl and learn to cooperate. By the end of the episode, the pair go from bickering to beginning to become friends.
The Question is undoubtedly an odd fellow, his behavior often bewildering his fellow League members. A socially awkward conspiracy theorist, he spends his spare time investigating mysteries, determining the sinister true purpose behind aglets, and, by his own admission, going through everyone’s trash.
Batman, often called the World’s Greatest Detective, admits that the Question’s deductive skills are superior to even his own. His utter lack of logic and sense let him find trails that there were absolutely zero clues to. The only way to beat him is to be even more outrageous, as demonstrated by one of the DCAU’s best villains: the Question didn’t anticipate that Lex Luthor’s presidential campaign wasn’t to gain power, it was solely to tick Superman off.
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