Over the near half a century that the Justice League (and its numerous incarnations) has existed, they’ve had a variety of places to call their home. Happy Harbor is both easy to remember due to the alliterative nature of the name and for being the very first place that the Justice League ever operated out of when they were through being the Justice Society—or more accurately, when the JSA became the superteam of Earth-2 at the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics. Fans of Young Justice (whether from its on screen or on page incarnations), should also recognize the name Happy Harbor as being the home base for this iconic team of legacy characters.
As each individual member of the Justice League has changed over the years and the roster has grown and shrunk, so has the scale of the threats that they were facing. Starro was a pretty formidable bad guy in the beginning. He was at the very least a big enough threat to bring the very first team together (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter). The team did graduate to bigger and badder threats, and I think the existence of DC villains like Darkseid, Doomsday and the Dominators are reason enough why a cave by the sea was insufficient.
From where I’m standing, the Hall of Justice presents a very similar set of problems. There’s a nice idea with The Hall of Justice in that it provides a very public face and interface for the public that relies on the world-saving powers of the Justice League regularly. A museum as well as a team HQ, this structure does something interesting by bringing these god-and-goddess-level heroes down to a human level. But aside from the Hall of Justice being a smart branding move, it provides little advantage over Happy Harbor. Both locations ultimately suffer from creating tunnel vision for the team’s worldview. Tragedies that happen to take place within the vicinity of the Hall of Justice are probably taken care of with increased speed and gusto. If something terrible is taking place in a more outlying area there’s a chance it will not be attended to as readily.
Now, if the team we’re talking about is the Justice League of America and their domain is going to be mainly the continental United States, then either of the headquarters previously mentioned will do the job just fine.
But when the Justice League has to worry about the fate of the entire world (sometimes throughout time), then there’s a need for a larger presence. In the past, the Justice League has had embassies sprinkled all over the world and that’s definitely a step in the right direction, although in order to keep them all staffed, active members of the League often have to split apart by significant geographic distances.
The middle of the Silver Age saw the introduction of the Justice League Satellite and this is the scale of headquarters that I’m talking about. If you are a long-time DC reader, then you know the Satellite Era of the Justice League has some pretty crazy adventures (and equally tragic events) that take place out in space. I think this does a good job at illustrating how widespread the danger is that these superheroes are facing on a regular basis.
In and of itself the Satellite is not perfect, however. It lacks any real ease of transportation for characters who don’t fly, are not invulnerable or can’t breathe in space. Those are some pretty significant shortcomings when you consider how important Batman and the rest of the members of the Batfamily are to any number of Justice League teams.
What this really boils down to is my love of the Justice League Watchtower. It was first introduced by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter in their kick butt JLA series. A lot of DC fans probably first met the Watchtower in the Justice League animated series that came a few years later and took a lot of notes from this same comic run. Transportation to-and-from the Watchtower was streamlined by Boom Tubes, technology was upgraded from anything they had ever possessed in the past and it was big. The Watchtower allowed for more reserve members—more members overall—so the Justice League was capable of operating at the most highly productive rate possible. The very existence of the Watchtower allows them to save as many people as possible, as often as possible.
Side note: If you want to check out the aforementioned JLA series (and you should!), you can get volume one right here.
By opening up the scale upon which the Justice League can function, we, as readers, are being told that the Justice League has all of our backs. Anywhere in the world, at any time. For those few of us who have ever gone interstellar, we can count on them too. Some critics, prone to paranoia, might want to argue that the Watchtower creates a Big Brother state where citizens of the world would be constantly watched. I would encourage those people to flip the script and consider it from this viewpoint: the Watchtower allows the Justice League to watch over and watch out for as many people who are relying on them as possible.
Some of this is a matter of geography, but it’s mostly a matter of scale—and the scale upon which our modern myths can operate.