New World Order: 15 Guesses for Steve Orlando’s JLA

Let me let you in on a very poorly kept secret: I am a JLA roster nut.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with the changing of the guard for the Justice League of America. It could be because, when I was coming of age, I witnessed the very first dissolution and reformation of the League happen right before my eyes on the rack at the grocery store. Little 10 year-old me, watching as Aquaman tore down the League I knew and rebuild it with a new set of characters — all in the pages of one comic, Justice League of America Annual #2.


Fast forward 32 years and the League has seemingly been through a million and one roster changes, and I have salivated in anticipation for every single one. From the Grant Morrison-era roster reboot in JLA #16 to the slow reveal of Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America post-52, I have never tired of asking myself, “who’s it going to be?” Thank heavens for GoogleDocs. Because the sheer number of notebooks I used to go through…

With the advent of a new team post-Justice League vs. Suicide Squad this winter, presumably to run alongside Bryan Hitch’s Big 8 team, it’s got me humming all over again. And I’m not the only one. Who will fill out this dream team? Well, series editor Andy Khouri had this to say in the moments immediately following the announcement of the new Justice League of America title:

Well, Andy, challenge accepted. Here are my best (and in some cases, crazy) guesses for who will fill out some of Steve Orlando’s upcoming roster as he takes the reins of Justice League of America this February.


1. Midnighter and Apollo


Alter egos: Lucas Trent and Andrew Pulaski

First appearance: Stormwatch #4 (1998)

Last appeared: In this year’s Midnighter #12, written by Steve Orlando, which leads to next month’s Midnighter and Apollo #1, also written by Steve Orlando. Convenient, eh?

Why them?: Midnighter has quickly become a fan favorite — and not just among readers, but within the halls of DC as well. As their most prominent gay male super-hero, Midnighter is poised for the big Leagues, more than any gay hero has been before. And his relationship with Apollo definitely deserves a home for the long haul. Not to mention, both of these guys kick ass.


2. Martian Manhunter


Alter ego: J’Onn J’Onzz, among others.

First appearance: Detective Comics #225 (1955)

Last appeared: In this year’s Martian Manhunter 12-issue series, which wrapped up right before Rebirth in May.

Why him?: Martian Manhunter is one of the guys who got a bad deal coming into the New 52: he was stripped of his place in the Big 7 Justice League and replaced by Cyborg in their origin story. J’Onn has been at the core of the Justice League in so many incarnations, from Aquaman’s Detroit League to the Justice League International, from the animated series to Morrison’s JLA — an Orlando favorite (as you’ll see from many of the guesses below). J’Onn joining up is a no brainer.


3. Zatanna


Alter ego: Zatanna Zatara

First appearance: Hawkman #4 (1964)

Last appeared: In Harley’s Little Black Book #3, alongside DC’s crazy fourth pillar. But before that, as the lead in Justice League Dark.

Why her?: Zatanna has a long pedigree with the Justice League and is one of DC’s most chronically underused female heroines — one, in fact, who has far overshadowed the male hero she was based upon. And while it’s been many decades since Zatanna took up a long term spot in a core Justice League roster, it’s about time to see what magic she can bring to the table.


4. Starman


Alter egos: Jack Knight, Mikaal Tomas, and Danny Blaine, among many who have bore the name

First appearance: Zero Hour #1 (1994), First Issue Special #12 (1976), Adventure Comics #282 (1961), respectively

Last appeared: The only Starman who has appeared since the start of the New 52 is Mikaal Tomas, the alien Starman, in Shade #1. Jack Knight retired at the end of the 1990s Starman series, and Danny Blaine (otherwise known as Thom Kallor) last appeared fighting alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes in Justice League United.

Why any of them?: Starman, as a brand, has been absent from the pages of DC Comics for far too long. The likelihood of Jack Knight making a comeback without the involvement of his co-creator James Robinson may be slim, but there’s certainly enough characters to go around who can pick up the name. And nothing wrong with having another high-profile queer super-hero in the League again, as Mikaal Tomas served immediately before Flashpoint quite valiantly.


5. Doctor Fate


Alter egos: Khalid Nassour and Kent Nelson

First appearances: Doctor Fate #1 (2015) and More Fun Comics #55 (1940)

Last appeared: Both men are still appearing monthly in Doctor Fate and Kent is making guest appearances in Blue Beetle.

Why one of them?: Well, I may be overstating this, but I’m pretty sure Steve Orlando would stop you in the street to ask if you too love Doctor Fate if you just happen to be wearing a light blue hoodie. He’s a mega-fan. Which is convenient, considering his editor worked on the Doctor Fate series for its first dozen issues. And Muslim-American Khalid would bring some much needed diversity to the League, which currently only has one other Muslim member in Green Lantern Simon Baz.


6. Zauriel


Alter ego: None

First appearance: JLA #6 (1997)

Last appeared: Aiding the Phantom Stranger, Pandora, and the Justice League Dark against the forces of the Blight, during the Forever Evil event.

Why him?: Well, once again, we’re left with a dead Hawkman. WWGMD? Bring in an angel. Zauriel is best remembered for his place on Grant Morrison’s JLA team, and like so many of Orlando’s favorite heroes, he has never quite gotten his due outside of membership in the Justice League of America. Time to get him back where he belongs, I say.


7. Jakeem Thunder


Alter ego: Jakeem Williams

First appearance: JLA #26 (1999)

Last appeared: Alongside the Justice Society of America pre-Flashpoint, although his predecessor, the aged Johnny Thunder recently made an important appearance in DC Universe: Rebirth.

Why him?: Rumor has it Steve Orlando made a custom action figure of young J.J. Thunder when he was but a lad, and that sounds like deep comics love to me. With rumors swirling about the return of the Justice Society, and the whereabouts of the Thunderbolt tied to one aspect of Wally West’s return, this seems like a given. And again, Jakeem was another brainchild of JLA scribe Grant Morrison. I’d say odds are even for Jakeem’s place on the team.


8. Aztek the Ultimate Woman


Alter ego: Unknown

First appearance: JLA #13 (1997)

Last appeared: JLA #14 (1997)

Why her?: OK. This is the opposite of a sure bet, but… this version of the short-run Grant Morrison-created hero appeared in just one story arc of JLA, set in the future where Darkseid had conquered Earth. As the successor to the then-current League member, Aztek had taken up the mantle and responsibilities of the Brotherhood (then Sisterhood?) of Quetzalcoatl, a group determined to use technology to stop the rise of Tezcatlipoca and its subsequent armageddon. She sacrifices her life to stop the enemy in a foreshadowing (echo?) of what the Ultimate Man himself would do in the present. Likely? Maybe not. But you gotta have a few long shots.


9. Vixen


Alter ego: Mari Jiwe McCabe

First appearance: Action Comics #521 (1981), although meant to first appear in Vixen #1 (1978)

Last appeared: Alongside Batgirl and Black Canary at the conclusion of each of their ongoing DCYou series in May. She is, however, a recurring character in the upcoming season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Why her?: Like Zatanna, Vixen is one of the most chronically underused DC heroines, and as their most prominent African-American female hero, she deserves a spot in the limelight. Since she’s been left out of the Rebirth cast of Birds of Prey, Justice League of America seems like just the right fit for a woman of her stature.


10. Lobo


Alter ego: Lobo

First appearance: Omega Men #3 (1983)

Last appeared: Well, this is complicated. Maybe the ongoing Lobo series that ended last year. Or maybe the upcoming Harley’s Little Black Book #6. Hmmm.

Why him?: Depending on what type of team Steve Orlando is assembling for his Justice League, the Main Man might be the wild card to out-“wild card” Midnighter. All signs point to the original rude dude taking up residence in the post-Rebirth DC Universe again, and it’s hard to argue Lobo isn’t iconic. Alongside Deathstroke, Harley Quinn, and the cast of the New Teen Titans, he’s one of the few break-out characters for DC since the Silver Age. Those dreadlocks have to go, though.


11. Prince Ra-Man


Alter ego: Mark Merlin

First appearance: House of Secrets #73 (1965)

Last appeared: Good lord. Um, maybe the Reign in Hell mini-series a few years back. Grant Morrison’s Zatanna series? Not really much of anywhere since he died in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986.

Why him?: That said, Orlando has mentioned on more than one occasion his fondness for the hero/anti-hero, and he would certainly be an opportunity for blank slate. This is a deep cut, people. But the guys in charge of JLA are deep cut type of fans.


12. Tomorrow Woman


Alter ego: Clara Kendall

First appearance: JLA #5 (1997)

Last appeared: In the alternate reality portion of DC’s Trinity series, as well as alongside the android Hourman in his short-lived ongoing. Neither of these appearances technically undid her death in JLA #5, the very issue she first appeared in.

Why her?: An android collaboration between T.O. Morrow and Professor Ivo, designed to infiltrate and destroy the new JLA, Tomorrow Woman captured all of our hearts immediately. I’m not sure if it’s because she perished saving the world and swearing her allegiance to the JLA, or because she’s just such a cool idea, but I know I’m fond of her, as well as the Red Tornado currently operating on Earth 2. Maybe there’s room for a woman android on this team, too. [See more below for this.]


13. Rocket and Icon


Alter egos: Raquel Ervin and Augustus Freeman IV

First appearance: Icon #1 (1993)

Last appeared: As antagonists up against the Justice League of America, written by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, pre-Flashpoint. Presumably, Icon and Rocket will be reappearing once Milestone Comics begins its series of graphic novels, distributed by DC Comics.

Why them?: Rocket and Icon are two of the shining stars of the Milestone line and represent brilliant reinterpretations of the super-hero mythos by way of American Slavery and 1990s African-American gang culture. Two of Orlando’s favorite heroes from wayback, Icon and Rocket would likely be shoo-ins, if not for the complicated publishing relationship between their creator/owners, Milestone Comics, and DC.


14. Red Tornado


Alter ego: Ma Hunkel

First appearance: All-American Comics #3 (1939)

Last appeared: As the Justice Society of America’s den mother and chief caretaker of the JSA museum, pre-Flashpoint.

Why her?: Literally the oldest character on this list (in more ways than one), Ma Hunkel is the original Red Tornado, a woman who was just fed up with crime and decked herself out in whatever was on hand to fight it. She’s tough. She’s compassionate. And she makes a mean lasagna. Sounds perfect to me.


15. Superwoman


Alter ego: Lana Lang

First appearance: Superboy #10 (1950)

Last appeared: Currently appearing in her powered up electric form monthly in Superwoman.

Why her?: There is no doubt that one of writer Steve Orlando’s fondest out-there memories of Grant Morrison’s JLA run (and that late 1990s era) is the Electric Blue Superman. I have no doubt that if Orlando could get Superman to do the blue electric boogaloo again, he’d do it. Well, Lana may just be the next best thing. Bring along boyfriend Steel for the ride, and you have a little piece of nostalgia tied to a great current monthly title.


Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long to know the answer to who will fill out the roster of the Justice League of America. But in the meantime, I’ll be working my lists. Now, should that be a 7-member team or a 12-member team…



Related posts