On the beloved Justice League animated series, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman and friends were meant to be the best of the best—the World’s Finest, if you will. But the cartoon also spent a lot of time showing us that the Justice League were super easy to smack about. Here’s a handy dandy supervillain’s guide to beating the Justice League, according to the show.
Just a note going in: for this guide, we’re limiting ourselves to the main seven members of the Justice League from the two seasons of Justice League—Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, The Flash, Hawkgirl, and Green Lantern, rather than when the show was tweaked and expanded as Justice League Unlimited with a larger cast.
Anything you like—as long as he’s the first person you fight. It turns out the Man of Steel is, perhaps surprisingly, the easiest person to take out in the Justice League. Like, literally any villain facing him could spend a good few minutes of an episode whacking him about the place like he was actually called Superchump. Why?
Because Superman is Justice League’s prime example of the Worf Effect. To prove how dangerous a villain is, whether it’s a low-level bunch of jobbers like the Secret Society, all the way up to epic threats like Darkseid, Superman can be counted on to be taken out first, just so people would go “Oh no, they beat Superman!? They really are tough!” Seriously, target him first—punch him, kick him, blast him with a beam of energy, heck, even shoot the guy—and you’ll be fine, thanks to the wonderful world of tropes.
Explode something near him during a run. The Flash’s superspeed makes him one of the most agile and dangerous members of the Justice League. That is, until you realize you don’t actually have to hit the scarlet speedster to take him out of the fight. Time and time again, trying to hit The Flash looks like it doesn’t work, until he gets cocky enough to not get too far way from a volley of explosions or energy blasts or whatever—and he immediately goes flying, usually into a nearby wall or column to knock him out for full measure.
... Or trip him up. I shit you not, that is rather effective against someone as easily distracted as Wally West. There’s an episode early on in the series where Wally is zipping around a battle, only to end up flat on his ass because someone sticks their foot out in front of him. The fastest goofball alive!
Psychic feedback. J’onn J’onnz is usually quite a slippery Martian. If you get him in a hold, he can just phase through your grip. If you try to pull him apart, he just turns into Martian silly-putty and reforms. He is usually quite challenging to take out, but if you’ve got any form of psychic ability at your disposal, all you have to do is quickly overload his senses. Carl Lumbly’s wonderfully bass-laden voice cries out, J’onn crumbles, and then very conveniently only gets back up when the fight is over.
Disable her wings. Hawkgirl is kind of like Superman 2.0 on Justice League. Her “Mace first, questions later” attitude usually means that she is the first person to enter a fight... and usually the first person immediately out of it, sent reeling because she just couldn’t wait to thwack something.
Most often than not, though, the easiest way to render Hawkgirl useless is to not attack her, but her wings. Shoot them, freeze them, drench them in cement—the moment they stop working, she is either out of it or prime for a knockout punch. Bonus points if you do it while she’s mid-air, leaving her to tumble through the sky; it usually means you distract another member of the League’s flying heroes while they have go and catch her, lest she becomes Hawkgoop on a pavement somewhere.
Break his Ring constructs. A Green Lantern’s energy constructs are fortified by the sheer strength of the ringbearer’s will—the strength that defines them as a Lantern. John Stewart might have been one of the weakest-willed members of the Corps, though, because his constructs spend just as much time being shattered and overloaded as they do beating stuff up. And yet, he never expects it—so if you do break one, you’ve usually got a couple of seconds of him being shocked to punch him in the face.
... Or hope whatever you shoot breaks his energy barrier. John flies around and spends most of battle surrounded by a thin layer of energy protection from his ring, and a lot of the time, that barrier is impervious to conventional weaponry. But most forms of energy projectile on the show can usually hit through it or overload it long enough to momentarily incapacitate him. No harm in trying!
Yank on the lasso of Truth. Diana is one of the hardiest members of the League; more often than not, to take her out you have to pummel her into unconsciousness. But here is a much easier way—just tug on the Lasso of Truth whenever she wrangles you with it. Despite the fact that it happens time and time again to her, she never expects it, often being surprised for long enough to be carried away with the magical rope and you can simply redirect her straight into a wall or your foot.
Prey on his ‘Lone Wolf’ personality and overwhelm him. Naturally, because everyone loves Batman and he’s the best and never ever loses (oh wait a minute, he does), Batman is one of the toughest people to take out on Justice League, even though he doesn’t have any superpowers like his erstwhile allies.
That said, Batman’s usual downfall on the show is the fact that he really doesn’t like being part of a team. More often than not, he runs around on his own... and inevitably finds himself surrounded, knocked out from behind, or otherwise indisposed and having a sudden need to call his pals, because there’s way more super-bad guys than there are Batmen. “I work alone” isn’t always the best idea, Bruce.
Poison Gas! The predecessor to the next easiest way to take out all of the League at once, none of the League tends to expect knockout gas, even though the Justice League should be more than capable of dealing with it. Superman could use his super-breath to disperse it, as could the Flash with a twirl of his arms at superspeed. Martian Manhunter could just phase out of the cloud, or the Green Lantern could construct himself some sort of rebreather with his ring (after all, he uses it to breath in space, so it should work!). And yet, every time, it takes them out.
Electric Shock! This one is the real “So huh, the Justice League is surprisingly easy to defeat” moment of realization, according to the show. The Justice League’s greatest foe in Justice League isn’t Darkseid, or Lex Luthor, or the Joker, or any one—it’s the power of electricity.
There are countless times when either as individuals or as a group, the League gets the upper hand, only for said upper hand to vanish as they get shocked into unconsciousness. And seriously, it happens so much, it’s amazing that they don’t try to build suits or some technology to absorb the current or something. Batman managed to use his company to build a goddamn secret space station for crying out loud, they couldn’t get some shock-resistant spandex?
... Or just rely on the fact they’re not great at teamwork. Here’s the big secret about the Justice League (other than their apparent inability to deal with electric shocks): They’re actually pretty bad at being a team. In fact, there’s a whole two-part episode in the second season, “Secret Society”, that basically says this to the audience again and again, and even at the end of the story they don’t resolve their differences. They just hope they can get over the fact that they’re shitty teammates long enough to save the day.
They don’t coordinate that well. They go in one by one, making it easy to deal with them. You can distract them pretty easily when one of their comrades goes down (you know, from not coordinating or going in alone). For a group brought together to face insurmountable odds, they’re not that great at facing them together a lot of the time. The Secret Society managed to easily take out the Justice League a bunch of times, pretty much because they were busy being awful at teamwork. Divide and conquer, supervillains. Divide and conquer.