Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Superhero Teams

The notion of forming teams of Superheroes was first used by Sheldon Mayer (1917-1991) and Gardner F Fox when they created The Justice Society of America (later conveniently referred to as the JSA) in All Star Comics #3 (1940). This group began with eight members, all well established characters in their own right: Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Hourman, Sandman, Dr Fate, The Spectre and The Atom. The membership varied considerably – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and many others pitched in. The feature lasted until All Star #57 (1951). With the second superhero boom in the 1960s, the notion was revived with The Justice League of America (the JLA) in Brave and Bold #28 (1960), a similar team with some of the same members. These features gave Fox the opportunity to deal with troubled relationships between superpeople, which he handled expertly; he even established an annual team-up of teams after reviving the original JSA in 1963.

Imitators soon followed, many comics companies publishing books which starred two or more of their characters in the same story, though the membership of most such teams was fairly fluid. DC eventually used one of its titles, Brave and Bold, almost entirely for the purpose of teaming up various otherwise lone superheroes. This changed, however, with the creation of The Legion of Superheroes (Adventure Comics #267 1958), which featured a group of adolescents from the 30th century: Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl.

A milestone in the history of STs was reached with the publication of Marvel Comics's Fantastic Four #1 (1961), which featured a tightly knit team of supercharacters with "real" personality clashes and oddball dialogue. This formula was so successful (and Lee proved so adept at writing original dialogue for them) that other teams were soon formed, including The Avengers (in The Avengers #1 1963), another team-up of established characters, and The X-Men (in The X-Men #1 1963), a very original team of mutants; the latter, though it has undergone many changes, has remained popular ever since.

The ST remains a regular feature in comic books; although such teams remain a staple of children's animated tv series, they are less popular in the comic books of the 1990s, where standards of storytelling and characterization are higher. [RT]

see also: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.