[NOTE: The following post contains potential SPOILERS Batman V Superman and Justice League.]

Shared cinematic universes have changed moviegoing. Until the formation of the MCU, moviegoers typically consumed one franchise film at a time – rarely looking beyond the current release for anything more than hope of a numbered sequel. Now, movie fans regularly talk about in-development projects (some that are half-a-decade from hitting theaters) and, if it weren’t for record-breaking ticket sales, some might wonder if cross-over storytelling was reducing the impact of any one film individually. As a result, even though the big screen meeting of Batman V Superman is still months from debuting in theaters, fans are already looking past Dawn of Justice – on to what Warner Bros. and DC have planned through 2020.

Recently, the studio offered a sneak peek at Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad, with quick teases for Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps; however, as part of the on-going in-flux of Batman V Superman build-up, the studio is also offering an early glimpse at their high-profile team-up movie, Justice League, by teasing a villain that Earth’s superhero team will likely face.

batman v superman movie justice league characters Will the Justice League Movie Villain Appear in Batman V Superman?

The remainder of this post includes potential SPOILERS for Batman V Superman and Justice League.

The latest issue of Empire has already offered intriguing new details of the face-off between the Dark Knight and Man of Steel – with specific comments from director Zack Snyder and other Dawn of Justice contributors. However, one of the magazine’s biggest teases was sidelined to a standalone image, offered with no caption or comment, depicting iconography that should be very recognizable to any longtime DC comic reader.

Currently, the reveal is only available as print scans (which we are not posting here). We’ll update the post if Warner Bros. releases the image officially.

Until then, check out concept artwork of the Justice League villain by clicking on the image below.

Justice League Movie Darkseid Plot Will the Justice League Movie Villain Appear in Batman V Superman?

Click to see the Batman V Superman Darkseid tease!

One of two villains mentioned for the Justice League team-up, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that DC could introduce Darkseid, or at least an easter egg-like tease, in Batman V Superman. There’s certainly no guarantee the villain will appear but a scene hinting at Darkseid’s presence in the DC universe makes sense.

Since comparisons to the MCU continue to dominate discussion of the DC Extended Universe plan, it’s worth noting that if Warner Bros. intends to get the character onto the big screen for Justice League: Part 1, they’ll need to start introducing casual moviegoers and fans to Darkseid sooner rather than later. Some moviegoers believe Marvel has spent too much time teasing their Infinity War baddie Thanos, while others believe a galaxy-threatening rogue like Thanos should require as much build-up as possible. Either way, since (presumably) Thanos won’t get a starring villain role until IW: Part 1 in 2018, DC has nothing to lose by getting their big bad into the main story sooner – so that he’s ready for a headlining debut in 2017 (one year ahead of Thanos).

NEXT PAGE: What Does the Batman V Superman Darkseid Teaser Really Mean?

darkseid1 Will the Justice League Movie Villain Appear in Batman V Superman?

Fans might be right in saying DC is trying to get ahead of Marvel by rushing Darkseid’s introduction and subsequent battle with the Justice League – but it’s also an understandable move. Expectations are higher than ever for cross-medium shared universe stories, and comic book films in general, meaning that DC doesn’t have the luxury of waiting ten years to get their big bad into a featured role on screen. Similarly, while comic book fans will be able to differentiate Thanos and Darkseid, no question there’s a benefit to getting Darkseid onto the screen for a major role first – since, to a lot of casual viewers, the two villains will mostly be big grey/purple/blue punching bags for Marvel and DC’s superhero teams (and that isn’t even including an appearance by Apocalypse in the X-Men universe this summer).

No doubt, Thanos and Darkseid are very different characters – each with a rich history in their respective comic book source material; still, their larger goals (read: universal domination) and certain powers (superhuman strength, invulnerability, speed, stamina, telepathy, and telekinesis) are relatively similar – depending on how much time DC and Marvel spend developing the villains as actual characters, not just movie antagonists.

Marvel Phase 3 Thanos Infinity Gauntlet Tease Will the Justice League Movie Villain Appear in Batman V Superman?

That’s all to say: DC has a good reason to hint at Darkseid in Batman V Superman. It’s understandable that some fans might be cynical about how DC is building their shared universe but, on the flip side, it’s interesting to see Warner Bros. taking a different approach (even if that different approach is also a streamlined approach). After all, as shared universe team-ups in the MCU have changed expectations for theater event movies, enthusiasm for superhero origin stories has begun to decline by comparison. So, it’s possible that instead of rushing the story of Darkseid, DC is actually just cutting out some of the filler – and getting viewers to bigger stories sooner.

As for how Darkseid will be introduced into the DCEU, the image might not be as clear-cut as initial inspection would indicate – since the concept artwork is in the same style as Bruce Wayne’s “Knightmare” set piece. Previously, it was confirmed the desert shots of flying aliens (possibly Darkseid’s parademons) and a militaristic Man of Steel were actually nightmares that plagued Wayne – a worst-case scenario feature where aliens battle for Earth with humanity caught in the crossfire (prompting Batman to take-out Superman). For that reason, it’s hard to know exactly how to interpret the new Batman V Superman image – which shows Batman overlooking a scorched earth with Darkseid’s “Omega” symbol branded into the ground. The image suggests Darkseid is going to play a major role in the unfolding DC universe but, given that the image shares the style of a dream sequence, it’s possible that hints to Darkseid may not actually appear in the “real” world of Batman V Superman.

Batman V Superman Trailer Desert Hostage Will the Justice League Movie Villain Appear in Batman V Superman?

In previous DC stories, the mark is an indication of a place or person that is susceptible to Darkseid’s influence and corruption (viewers of Smallville will remember the Omega symbol appeared on the forehead of corrupted humans who served Darkseid). As a result, the appearance of the Omega symbol suggests, thematically, that Earth could be Darkseid’s next target – but, again, the image alone isn’t official confirmation that the character will actually appear or that his story will be teased in anything but Wayne’s nightmares.

We’ll know more when Batman V Superman debuts in theaters – and, in the meantime, we will keep readers up to date if Warner Bros. or Snyder provide official comment.

MORE: Batman V Superman Desert Batman Scene & Winged Aliens Explained

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on March 25, 2016, which is followed by Suicide Squad on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman on June 23, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 23, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and then Green Lantern Corps. on June 19, 2020.

Source: Empire [via Coming Soon]