JLA: The Nail

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For the 2009 film about boxing, see The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone.
JLA: The Nail
Cover for JLA: The Nail #1, by Alan Davis.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
Schedule Monthly
Format Limited series
Publication date August – October 1998
Number of issues 3
Main character(s) Aquaman
Flash (Barry Allen)
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Martian Manhunter
Wonder Woman
Creative team
Creator(s) Alan Davis
Mark Farmer
Collected editions
JLA: The Nail ISBN 1-56389-480-7

JLA: The Nail is a three-issue comic book mini-series published in the United States by DC Comics as part of its Elseworlds imprint. It is a self-contained story by Alan Davis that is set outside the mainstream continuity of the DC Universe.

In this fictional universe, Jonathan and Martha Kent's pickup truck has a flat tire caused by a nail. This prevents them from discovering the spaceship outside Smallville with the baby Kal-El, negating Superman.

The story's theme is set in the first paragraph:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost.
So it was a kingdom was lost – all for want of a nail.


Twenty-four years ago, farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent miss the arrival of a Kryptonian spacecraft due to a flat tire on their truck, preventing them from discovering and raising the infant Kal-El as their adopted son. Without Superman, the Justice League consists of Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash (Barry Allen), Hawkwoman (Shayera Thal), the Atom (Ray Palmer), Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). However, the League is not a united team as it lacks a moral compass due to Superman's absence.

Xenophobia against metahumans is fueled by propaganda from Perry White which is backed by Metropolis mayor Lex Luthor and his deputy Jimmy Olsen, as well as former hero Oliver Queen (Green Arrow), who became a bitter paraplegic after a battle with Amazo which resulted in the death of Hawkman (Katar Hol). Queen claims that the Justice League are aliens conspiring against humanity. Flash, Wonder Woman and Atom are the only League members "confirmed" as human; Green Lantern pledges allegiance to an interstellar power, and Batman's nature is mysterious. Metahumans are eliminated or captured one by one: first the supervillains, then superteams such as the Doom Patrol and the Outsiders.

The Joker liberates Arkham Asylum with energy-generating gauntlets which he uses to trap Batman and kill Robin (Dick Grayson) and Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). Catwoman frees Batman by attacking the Joker. Batman damages the Joker's gauntlets before snapping his neck on the roof of Arkham in front of witnesses just as Arkham explodes. Batman then retreats to the Batcave with Catwoman and collapses from post-traumatic stress. The killing tarnishes the superheroes' reputation, and Batman becomes deeply depressed.

Metamorpho is brainwashed and kills Perry White and the Thinker, dying when he tries to tell J'onn what happened to him. Green Lantern discovers a strengthening force field around Earth that prevents anything from leaving the planet. Although Adam Strange died when the Zeta Beam was blocked by the force field, Green Lantern could still travel to Oa. Seeking a mastermind behind the attacks, the Flash saves Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins from an attack by Amazo.

The White House is destroyed by a bomb after Wonder Woman leaves, making it look like she planted it. Riots erupt soon afterwards, and Lex Luthor establishes a totalitarian state, with platoons of strong, flying masked robots known as the Liberators enforcing the law. The Justice League are captured by the Liberators, (which are revealed to be Bizarro clones), until only Batman, the Flash, the Atom and Catwoman remain.

Lois Lane, an investigative reporter covering the anti-metahuman campaign, suspects a coverup. At a secret metahuman research facility, Lois meets Dr. Lana Lang, who sends her to Smallville where the Kents help shelter escaped metahumans. Lois confronts Jimmy about her discoveries, only to be captured by him. After short-lived attempts at heroism caused by having his DNA altered, Jimmy became disillusioned with the superheroes and retired, becoming Luthor's aide. Jimmy reveals to Lois that, after finding Kal-El's empty spaceship, Luthor retrieved DNA samples from the ship and used them to create Bizarro clones and graft Kryptonian DNA onto various subjects, with Jimmy turning out to be the only successful graft as the other subjects mutated and died. The graft transformed Jimmy into a Kryptonian who is determined to replace human life with Kryptonian life. Metahumans are imprisoned for their DNA in order to convert Earthlings into a Kryptonian society ruled by Olsen.

Batman, Batwoman (formerly Catwoman), the Atom and the Flash free the Justice League captives and destroy the Liberators, only to be confronted by an insane super-powered Olsen. Inexperienced with Kryptonian powers, the League is defeated by Olsen. The fight spreads to an Amish community; as Olsen is about to kill Batman, he is stopped by one of the farmers. The farmer tries to reason with him, but Olsen tries to incinerate him with heat vision.

However, the young man is immune; he is Kal-El, found as an infant by an Amish couple and raised to ignore the world and walk in righteousness. Olsen tries to persuade Kal-El to join him; he refuses, unable to ignore what he has detected with his super-senses. Angry, Jimmy kills Kal-El's adoptive parents with heat vision in front of him and Kal engages Jimmy in an apocalyptic battle. Evenly matched, with Jimmy's experience countered by Kal's power, the stress of the fight causes Olsen's body to disintegrate as the graft fails. With Olsen and the Liberators defeated, the Justice League (without Batman, who resigns from the League after his acquittal for the Joker's murder) regains public confidence with the help of its newest member: Superman.

Another Nail[edit]

The story was followed by a sequel, JLA: Another Nail, which wrapped up several loose ends from the original mini-series such as the aftermath of the war between New Genesis, Apokolips, and the Green Lantern Corps and Oliver Queen's public betrayal of the Justice League.

Collected editions[edit]

The three issues were collected into a trade paperback published in 1998 by DC Comics and 1999 by Titan Books.[1][2]


In 1999, JLA: The Nail was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, Alan (1998). The Nail: an Elseworlds tale of the Justice League of America (1. printing ed.). New York, NY: DC Comics. ISBN 1563894807. 
  2. ^ Davis, Alan (1999). The Nail: an Elseworlds tale of the Justice League of America. London: Titan. ISBN 1840230649. 

External links[edit]