Justice League comics house some of DC’s best stories. Naturally, many writers on the team love to play into good fan service to please readers and boost sales, an idea that has been put to great use over the years. Fan service can be a great thing in comics, but it certainly has its drawbacks too, and can throw off the pacing of a great story.
The Justice League in particular has a few vulnerabilities when it comes to fan service, such as too much Batman, depending on the Dark Knight’s involvement to draw casual readers in, or revisiting old stories to unsatisfying conclusions, banking on nostalgia or past successes. These comics are more than worth the read, but they could have been so much better without constraints of the writer’s vision of fan service.
Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
Doomsday Clock holds a unique place in comics as a story that simultaneously over and under-delivered on fan service. On the one hand, the story was incredibly underwhelming, and focused on relatively few of the characters from either world. On the other, it tried to capitalize on more Watchmen, a new Rorschach and set the timeline back to normal.
Aside from the much welcomed restoration of the pre-Flashpoint continuity, Doomsday Clock missed the mark on what readers wanted from this crossover. The introduction of the new Rorschach felt unnecessary, and some pages felt as though they only served to cram as many DC heroes into as few panels as possible.
9 DC Universe Decisions
Bill Willingham, Judd Winnick, Rick Leonardi & Howard Porter
DC Universe Decisions is one of the few stories intended to please readers that wound up annoying just about everyone. The intent behind the series was to showcase how each of the DC heroes leaned politically around the 2008 US general election, using stand-in characters to represent four political positions, from bleeding-heart progressive to staunch conservative.
DC Universe Decisions is now looked back on as a ham-fisted attempt to capitalize on politics and, naturally, many fans were annoyed to see how their favorite hero voted. The series is actually a good read, with some great character moments and a good handling of the subject, but many readers were understandably annoyed to see heroes take up a partisan position.
8 Justice League Incarnate
Joshua Williamson, Dennis Culver, Ariel Olivetti & Andre Bressan
The Justice League Incarnate was one of the best ideas Grant Morrison created for DC, uniting a slew of interesting superheroes from across the multiverse. In their 2022 series, the team faced off against Darkseid and a range of threats from alternate worlds, and readers were given a tour of Elseworlds universes.
Justice League Incarnate was a mostly good story, but the side quest into the real world — one where heroes met with DC Comics editors — felt like a strange piece of meta fan service. It created more questions and over-complicated the already befuddling nature of the multiverse, not to mention having to fit in with the Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths event.
Dan Jurgens, Scott Lobdell, Jeff King, Ethan Van Sciver, Carlo Pagulayan & Jason Paz
Convergence is a divisive event for many readers due to its shallow storyline. In effect, the entire thing was meant to be one big piece of fan service, showcasing the pre-Flashpoint versions of DC heroes at a time when readers were starting to sour on the New 52.
Convergence was a nice idea when it released during the New 52, but it mostly played on nostalgia of great heroes, and wound up feeling redundant when Rebirth happened. The story followed Brainiac recruiting heroes from across timelines to save the world. It was an interesting idea and had some great moments, but it only reminded New 52 readers of what they’d lost.
Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s sprawling Metal saga was the biggest event post-Rebirth that followed the Bat-god Barbatos’ attack on the multiverse, with evil Batman variants at his side. It was here that the embodiment of DC fan service, Batman Who Laughs, made his debut appearance.
Batman Who Laughs and the event’s excessive focus on Batman in all his variations took what could have been a fantastic League story and just focused on Bruce. Wonder Woman and Superman were seriously under-utilized, and other heroes were wasted on side-quests. Despite Death Metal attempting to shift the focus to Wonder Woman, it was inextricably tied to the various versions of Batman.
5 Tower Of Babel
Mark Waid, Steve Scott & Mark Propst
In defense of Mark Waid’s iconic “Tower of Babel” arc, it wasn’t so much that the story itself was ruined by fan service, but rather that it set a new template for a particular kind of annoying fan service: The “contingency” Batman. Ever since Ra’s al Ghul acquired the hero’s failsafe plans against the League, the concept of Batman as having endless, brilliant contingencies against his friends has become common.
“Tower of Babel” is one of the JLA’s greatest stories, but it also helped set the precedent that every League story should be a showcase to Batman’s intelligence. It worked great in the original story, but it’s since been remembered as the comic that started one of the Justice League comics’ worst trends.
4 Infinite Crisis
Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning
Infinite Crisis, despite its divisive reputation among some readers, was an enjoyable sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths that explored the fates of heroes from worlds destroyed during the event. This included the arrival of Earth-2 characters, as well as Superboy-Prime, who battled the Justice League.
Infinite Crisis‘ attempt to give the multiversal heroes a satisfactory ending was well-intentioned, but the fates were disappointingly grim. The addition of Superboy-Prime did leave the world with a great new villain, but even this felt like an overly edgy attempt at an evil Superman trope that could have been better.
3 The Brave And The Bold #28
Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella & Murphy Anderson
The Brave and the Bold is known and loved as being the comic where the Justice League first teamed up in their battle against Starro the Conqueror. However, the comic was also the debut of one of the most hated, yet well-intentioned creations in DC history: Snapper Carr.
Snapper Carr was created for no reason other than to give the JLA a hip, young and relatable kid sidekick, a common idea of what fan service meant at the time. However, he was almost universally hated, and his reputation is closer to that of being the Scrappy-Doo of the JLA. With an unlikeable personality and simply being too forced, he was a weight on the otherwise enjoyable story of the team’s first battle.
2 Year Of The Villain
James Tynion, Scott Snyder,
At the time, DC’s Year of the Villain seemed like a great idea, and many of the stories contained within were a great read. The event, which saw DC’s villains gain the advantage over the heroes for the first time since Forever Evil, subsumed every aspect of the DCU, taking over series that were fine without it.
Year of the Villain should have been more focused between specific titles, especially since the tie-ins ranged from derailing good series to being ultimately inconsequential in others. The concept was good, and it’s understandable why DC would include all the main books, but it made the full event basically impossible to collect.
1 Crisis On Infinite Earths
Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Crisis on Infinite Earths was created by DC Comics in a move to simplify their convoluted timeline, with various conflicting stories and some heroes overdue for a reentry into the DCU. It also wound up becoming an incredibly dense story, with countless characters thrown into the mix.
Crisis on Infinite Earths was successful in what DC wanted from it. The continuity was simplified, necessary changes were made to characters, new titles spun out of it and new readers were given a jumping on point. The series is a fun read and important for DC, but it definitely could have benefited from focusing on fewer heroes.
DC focused too heavily on fan service, and these iconic Justice League comic events suffered for it. Read More