Bear with me on this one. I have a lot of explaining to do, and it's followed by speculation. But it's worth thinking about.
More than two years before the New52 debut of the Justice League, Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston received inside information that Geoff Johns and Jim Lee would be working on a Justice League book together. There was no date set, and there were no rumors that the book would be tied to some kind of reboot. You can find my sources for this bit of information here, here, and here.
Something else you all should know about Flashpoint and the New52 is that originally not many of DC's creators knew that it would lead to such a massive reboot. And there wasn't a plan for what to do after the reboot. Many of them found out when the fans found out, and they only had around three months to prepare. You can find my source for this information here.
There's been some speculation that the New52 reboot was forced on DC by it's higher ups. If sales didn't take off, Dan Didio would have lost his position at DC. It is described as being his last ditch effort to keep his job, and it worked. It's also been said that Dan wanted to reboot in 2008 right after Final Crisis, so there's that too. But for the first time in decades, DC has been competing on equal terms with Marvel for marketshare.
This leads me to believe that after Flashpoint, DC would not have been rebooted. And if it did, if would be only a very soft reboot--nothing like the New52. Flashpoint's ending may have been altered a little bit to make everything work. If this is true, then we probably would have seen a different Justice League then the one that we saw. If would have been set in a universe closer to the post-crisis universe with much of post-crisis history in tact. And it would have probably looked like this:
*Obviously you should ignore the made up video game heroes in the second picture.
Why to I think this way?
1) If Flashpoint didn't lead to a reboot, then the 1960s Justice League founders (including Martian Manhunter and Aquaman) would have remained the founders. Hawkman and Cyborg were probably just characters that Johns and Lee wanted to use on their run. Once it was decided that Flashpoint would lead to a reboot, the two still wanted to use Cyborg. This helps to explain why Cyborg became a founder.
2) Before the reboot, Aquaman wasn't very popular, and no matter what anyone tried his book never took off sales-wise. On the other hand, Hawkman's series was relauched in 2003 to great critical and financial success. Sure his numbers sank after Johns left the book, but before then Hawkman proved that he was a star.
3) Aquaman didn't start becoming popular again until Young Justice and Geoff Johns introduced a new Aqualad. It helped that Aquaman was one of the most well written characters in Brightest Day, which also starred Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, and Firestorm as lead elemental characters. It wouldn't be too crazy to think that Brightest Day worked partially as a test for which of these characters should take the seventh spot. Aquaman's sales won out, and there are some rumors that Ivan Reis wanted to work on an Aquaman book.
4) Aquaman may also have been kept on BECAUSE Johns's and Lee's Justice League shifted from being a simple team book to being a founding roster. This could have been the final bit that pushed Hawkman out.
5) Cyborg was probably featured prominently in Flashpoint to get him ready for whatever version of Justice League Johns and Lee put out. I don't think that he was going to be a teenager in the original plans though or that he was going to have his origin retold the way it was in Justice League:Origin. I mean, pre-Flashpoint Cyborg was an adult and so was Flashpoint Cyborg. It would have made sense to keep him older so that he felt more like he were among equals. Furthermore, many pepole complained that John Stewart was taking a backseat to Hal Jordan and that he was being underused. Having Cyborg shows that it wasn't a race thing, and Hal could continue to keep his spot without giving more spotlight to Stewart. And Johns liked Cyborg enough to use him prominently on his original Flash run, so there's that too.
6) Flashpoint issue five has art that seems to show this shift in what the DC originally planned. The decision to consolidate universes was probably to boost sales for DC, but we see a tiny glimpse of what DC would have been if there weren't a New52 (posted above).
7) I always over-think things.
Now for why I find this interesting:
If Johns and Lee weren't going to use Justice League to create a new universe with new costumes and a new history, then what would Justice League have been like? Well before Flashpoint, Johns's popularity was on a high from both his critically acclaimed solo series (Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Booster Gold) and his critically acclaimed team series (Justice Society of America, Teen Titans). I'd like to imagine that his Justice League wasn't originally just about creating company-wide crossovers. I'd like to imagine that his small Justice League roster would have led to a series that was a cross between his thematic work on JSA and his deeper character and relationship work on Teen Titans. What I do know is that Johns and Lee were put on Justice League to save that title after it's sales crumbled in the wake of Grant Morrison leaving the title.
Whatever the case was, you have to admit that it would have been great to see what Johns and Lee put out if they spent two years working a a Justice League book set in a pre-Flashpoint universe. They would have had so much history to work with, Lee would have had plenty of time to complete his art, Johns could have further honed his stories and the characters may have been a little more mature. It definitely seems like they should have gone the graphic novel route if they had something to say--especially since everyone knows Lee is busy and slow on art. Somewhere along the way, I think that the plans changed--and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The book probably shifted from being one of Johns's one year sales-boosting projects to DC's big crossover set-up book that is also in charge of world building. I guess you could say it went full-Bendis to become more competitive with Marvel's Avengers brand.
I'd like to see your thoughts below. Would you have enjoyed the Johns and Lee Justice League more if it were set in the pre-Flashpoint universe?