The 6 Best Premiere Superhero Teams (That Aren’t the Avengers or the Justice League)
Posted by Sean Ian Mills
The Avengers and the Justice League represent the best of the best of their superhero universes. They are the heroes on the front lines of the fight against evil, drawing together their champion heroes and spear-heading their entire caped communities. So, of course, they’ve become shorthand for superhero teams from other universes as well.
Marvel and DC are not the only publishers in the superhero business. But just like we’ve got both Green Arrow and Hawkeye and both Superman and the Sentry, sometimes ideas and characters get copied across publishers. The same is true for superhero teams. Marvel has the Avengers, DC has the Justice League…but who does everybody else have?
Just for the fun of it, and because I love comics, I decided to look around and pick out the best Avengers/JLA analogues!
Honorable Mention: Judgement League Avengers
Roster: Super-Soldier, Dark Claw, Captain Marvel, Angelhawk, Goliath, Canary, Hawkeye, Blue Jacket, Wonder-Gold, Red Vision, Speed Demon, Amazon and more.
If I ever get a chance to mention Amalgam Comics, I’m going to take it and revel in it! Back in the 90s, there was a huge event called Marvel vs. DC, which pit the biggest characters in comics against each other. It was amazing! And then to up the ante even more, both companies collaborated on the Amalgam Universe, where they melded their characters together into this amazing, hilarious combined universe. Just the fact that this exists is reason enough to love comics. Behold all the glory!
My brain would probably explode if an Amalgam revival suddenly popped up in the near future. Or maybe they could make a guest appearance on one of the cartoon shows? I’m still disappointed that Spider-Boy didn’t get to make an appearance in Spider-Verse.
At any rate, the main superhero team in the Amalgam Universe was the Judgement League Avengers. It has a long and storied history in the Amalgam Universe, just like all major super teams — but for some reason, they didn’t get a comic of their own! Instead, since it was the 90s and the X-Men were far more popular, the JLA were featured in the spin-off book, JLX, in which the team’s metamutant members split off to form their own league! It’s complicated, but that’s how the Amalgam Universe rolled. Though I guess you had to be there…
Roster: Eternal Warrior, X-O Manowar, Livewire, Ninjak, Bloodshot, GIN-GR, Zephyr and Toyo Harada.
When Valiant Comics came roaring back to prominence last year, they did so with a new superhero team. Their individual characters had been marginally popular in the 90s, but this is a new day and age, and Valiant wanted their share of that awesome comic book pie. So not only did they revive all of their major characters, but they decided to put them all together into the Valiant Universe’s premiere superhero team, Unity. That was also the name of the big relaunching crossover. Unity is a government-sponsored super team that responds to any weird or potentially dangerous situation in a world of growing superhuman threats.
Roster: Empowered, Captain Rivet, Sistah Spooky, Syndablokk, Heavy Artillery, Major Havoc, Phallik, Protean, Robotomy, and more.
The wonderfully named Superhomeys are the major superhero team of the Empowered universe, a delightful series by creator Adam Warren about a self-conscious superhero whose heroics are often overshadowed by her negative body image. It’s a great comic, and the its packed to the brim with superhero shenanigans. Empowered presents a world where superhero teams are like sports teams. They have drafts to recruit new heroes, they have superhero-specific news programs, they have award shows, they have sponsorships and commercials; it’s a world rich in irony, satire and fun, and the Superhomeys are smack dab in the middle of it all. Though not all of them are very heroic, especially in how they treat their newest associate member, Empowered. The girl has body image problems for a reason!
4. The Guardians of the Globe
Roster: Robot, Dupli-Kate, Rex Splode, Monster Girl, Shrinking Ray, Black Samson and The Immortal.
One of the most popular superhero comics outside of the Big 2 is Invincible, created by Robert Kirkman, the mastermind behind The Walking Dead. Invincible is about a young superhero living in the shadow of his supehreroic father, while juggling a pretty complicated personal life. The main superhero team of the Invincible Universe is the Guardians of the Globe, who were originally just a pastiche of the Justice League, because Kirkman knew he was going to slaughter them all mercilessly in their original appearance. That gave way to a new Guardians of the Globe, made up of non-murdered characters from the Invincible Universe.
The Guardians of the Globe are another government-sponsored team, but this time they weren’t very good and continued to underperform in their efforts to be quality superheroes. Invincible wasn’t an official member of the team, but he reported to the same government agency, and often teamed up with the Guardians. But I guess he was too special to actually join.
Roster: Hooded Justice, Captain Metropolis, Nite Owl I, Silk Spectre I, The Comedian, Dollar Bill, Moth Man, Silhouette, Nite Owl II, Silke Spectre II, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach.
The superheroes in Watchmen weren’t actually called ‘The Watchmen’ in the comics. That was a movie change for clarity’s sake. Instead, the team in Watchmen were the Minutemen, for what are probably deeply thematic reasons. They started out as a bunch of do-gooders in silly costumes in the early 20th century, getting their kicks by dressing up in masks and smacking around criminals or the occasional Moloch. But as with all things Watchmen, the first team was shattered in tragedy. And the second generation, with the more famous heroes, never really came together. Still, in the world of Watchmen, it’s important enough that they went to the trouble of putting a team together. Everybody loves teamwork!
2. The Authority/Stormwatch
Roster: Apollo, Midnighter, Doctor, Jenny Sparks, Jenny Quantum, Rose Tattoo, Engineer, Jack Hawksmoor, Freefall, Rainmaker and more.
This team started out as Stormwatch in the Wildstorm universe, a United Nations-sponsored super group that went about the usual heroics. It’s only when legendary writer Warren Ellis got his hands on them that Stormwatch became a series to see. He made the characters grittier and more realistic. He brought depth and understanding to their superhero fight. He made them interesting, to say the least. But when sales got low, Ellis and his creative team relaunched Stormwatch as The Authority, a tougher, no-holds-barred supergroup that always got the job done, no matter the consequences. It was the end of the 20th century, after all, and badass heroes were all the rage. Ellis was followed by the likes of Mark Millar, and The Authority handedly left their mark on the superhero world.
1. Honor Guard
Roster: Samaritan, Black Rapier, Quarrel, N-Forcer, M.P.H., Cleopatra, Beautie, Starfighter, Mirage, Hummingbird, Mermaid, and many, many more.
Astro City is one of the best superhero comics on the stands, bar none. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson took a long look at the huge histories of the Marvel and DC Comics and decided to make their own, from scratch. But rather than start at the beginning or focus on just one superhero, Busiek and Anderson created an entire world of superheroes and villains, with decades worth of backstory. From the early superheroes of the 1930s to the heroes of the swinging 70s to the modern day warriors, Astro City is a sprawling tapestry of awesomeness. Each individual issue or short story picks one or two characters in the world to focus on, telling little stories about the nooks and crannies of this epic world.
And Honor Guard is their premiere superhero team. Started in 1959 (in the Astro City timeline), Honor Guard has always been the shining, heroic harbinger of superherodom. The best and brightest fill their ranks, including Samaritan, the Superman analogue of the Astro City Universe. No matter what nook or cranny Busiek and Anderson explore in their latest issue, Honor Guard is always the backbone of their universe. Whether they’re telling a story in the modern day, or they’re writing a flashback to the 1960s, there’s always an Honor Guard fighting the good fight. Rarely do the comics focus on Honor Guard directly. Instead, it’s a special treat to watch the roster change depending on what decade the story is set in.
It’s nearly impossible to describe the depth and creativity behind Astro City and the Honor Guard. Fortunately, you can read it for yourselves! The issues and collected editions are still widely available, and I highly recommend each and every one.
About Sean Ian MillsHello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.
Posted on September 30, 2015, in Comics, Lists of Six! and tagged Amalgam Comics, Amalgam Universe, Astro City, Empowered, Image Comics, Invincible, Stormwatch, The Authority, Unity, Valiant Comics, Watchmen. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.