With Batman v Superman considered disappointing by many, fans around the world wait in anticipation to see how Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment will correct the course of the DC Extended Universe (“DCEU”). While the next movie will be this August’s Suicide Squad, followed by next summer’s Wonder Woman, it is no secret that the crown jewel of the franchise will be the Justice League. The pressure is on for Warner Bros., as Marvel has largely turned creating successful superhero franchises into a science, and fans are already worried that DC tried to do things too quickly with the underwhelming (for most) Batman v Superman.
We got our first taste of really big news just a few days ago with the release of the official logo and synopsis for Justice League. We have been given greater clues into the role William Dafoe will be playing, and that Aquaman’s supporting cast will largely be introduced in the big team-up. However, there is still so much more we do not know about the film. Fans are cautiously optimistic, knowing that Geoff Johns and Ben Affleck have taken more creative control, but we do not know fully the direction Justice League or its sequel will take.
The good news is, as with any comic book adaptation, there are no shortages of storylines that the creative team behind the DCEU can borrow. While the comic books go back generations, there are many fans who were introduced to the Justice League, and subsequently became life long fans, by Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe (“DCAU”). Two of the revered shows of this universe featured the Justice League predominately. We are talking about Justice League and its continuation, Justice League Unlimited.
With all of that said, we figured we would scour through the episodes of those two shows and pick out 15 Storylines Justice League Should Steal From The DCAU. Enjoy!
15. “The Enemy Below”
“The Enemy Below” was a two-part episode from the first season of Justice League. This is a significant storyline in that it introduced Aquaman, who was not a founding Justice League member in the DCAU, to the League. The episode starts off with Aquaman (who was already King of Atlantis) and his Atlantean army coming face to face with the Justice League when a nuclear submarine is attacked in the Atlantic. With Atlantis fearing an attack by the surface dwellers, Superman convinces Aquaman to air his grievances with the various world governments.
While on the surface, an attempt is made on Aquaman’s life by Deadshot. This places tensions between the Atlanteans and surface dwellers at an all time high. It turns out that the entire attack was orchestrated by Aquaman’s brother, Lord Orm (known to most as Ocean Master). In the end, Aquaman had to sever his own hand to save his infant son and prevent a war between Atlantis and the surface.
This would make a great storyline for the Justice League for several reasons. We do know that Aquaman and many of his supporting cast will be introduced in the Justice League film. Mera (Aquaman’s wife) and Ocean Master were both introduced in this episode, and we know at least that Mera will appear in the first Justice League, portrayed by Amber Heard. While we do not know for certain that Ocean Master will appear, he certainly could, and William Dafoe will be appearing as Atlantean politician and adviser, Vulko. This episode also lays out a wonderful blueprint for how the tensions between the surface and Atlantis should be portrayed.
14. The Savage Time
“The Savage Time” was the three-part finale to the first season of the Justice League. While this episode almost certainly will not be adapted, at least in the first Justice League film, it would be an amazing story to see in live-action, on the big screen. The episode starts off with the Justice League (all but Batman) off planet on a space mission. While away, Vandal Savage feeds information to himself in the past that allows himself to reshape the world by winning World War II. When the Justice League returns to Earth (they retain their memories of the real timeline due to being protected by Green Lantern’s energy), they see that an alternate reality has formed.
Batman, who was not protected by Green Lantern’s energy, turns out to be a resistance fighter in the alternate present. While he decides to stay behind, the rest of the League must then travel back in time to fight against Savage and the Nazis to restore the true timeline. The episode was notable for being the first in the Justice League to utilize time travel, and introduced important characters such as Vandal Savage, Steve Trevor, and the World War II squads, Easy Company and the Blackhawks.
This episode would certainly be difficult to adapt to live action. While the DCEU is not grounded in reality – there will be aliens, metahumans, and time travel (via Barry Allen), it seems unlikely they will go as far as sending the entire League back in time to World War II. But there are reasons why it would work. We do know that at least part of Wonder Woman will take place in the past. and we saw a still picture of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor from the past in Batman v Superman. The DCEU could boldly decide to adapt “The Savage Time” to the big screen as a way to link the Wonder Woman film, taking place in the past, and Justice League, taking place in the present. Perhaps this story would be best saved for the sequel once the DCEU is back on track.
13. A Better World
The two-part episode “A Better World”, was a second season storyline in the Justice League that introduced the League to their alternate universe counterparts, the Justice Lords. This episode introduced the Justice League to the multiverse, and was loosely based on the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 (Pre-Crisis). In the beginning of the episode, we see who we think are the Justice League, attacking the White House and President Lex Luthor. We later learn this is after Lex Luthor kills the Flash. Lex taunts Superman saying that he will never be able to stop him because he isn’t willing to kill him. But, unexpectedly, Superman decides to kill his archenemy.
Two years later, we learn that this was not the Justice League, but the Justice Lords, who have since taken a much larger role in the world’s government. They have become harsh, and borderline dictators. When the Justice Lords’ Batman learns of the Justice League’s universe, the Lords decide to capture the Justice League and embark on trying to make the League’s Earth like their own. Of course, the Justice League escapes, due to Batman’s (the Lord version) sympathy for Wally West (the DCAU’s Flash), and they defeat the Lords.
This would be a flat-out awesome story to see unfold on the big screen. Practically, it is difficult because each Justice League actor would have to play two version of themselves. But it would be thrilling to see the drastically different personalities and motivations of the counterparts. While we likely won’t see this anytime soon, perhaps a compromise by using the Crime Syndicate would make the movie easier to film.
12. Secret Society
“Secret Society” was a two-part episode in the second season of the Justice League. In this episode, Grodd (who was introduced in a prior episode) organizes a society of supervillains, calling themselves the Secret Society, to defeat the Justice League. Using psychic powers he has developed, he is able to manipulate the moods of the individual Justice League members, causing their cooperation as a team to dwindle. This gives Grodd and his team the chance to defeat the League and capture them.
In typical villain fashion, Grodd does not want to kill the League members right away. Rather, he wants to do it in a full stadium for the world to see. Well, you guessed it, he doesn’t succeed. Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz), who was impersonating society member Clayface, rescues the rest of the League, and they ultimately defeat Grodd’s society.
While not the best episode to adapt in the first Justice League, it could make a good storyline for future installments. Villains like Gorilla Grodd, Killer Frost, and Clayface, who appear in this episode, could all appear in one shape or form in future DCEU installments subsequent to the first Justice League. Hopefully by then we will also get an incarnation of Martian Manhunter, who has long been a pivotal member of the League.
“Ultimatum” was the ninth episode of the first season of Justice League Unlimited. This episode continued to explore the government’s distrust of the Justice League and their attempts to neutralize them – should they have to do so. In this episode the Justice League are introduced to a team of superheroes, calling themselves the Ultimen. It turns out that the Ultimen are a super human team made from a government experiment, and as a result do not have long to live. When they learn of their fate, and that their memories were implanted, the Ultimen lash out against the Justice League – though ultimately are reasoned with and their rampage ends.
There are several reasons why this episode will never fully be adapted in the DCEU, but there are elements that would work very well on the big screen. The Ultimen characters are largely inspired by the old Super Friends TV show, and thus are not a part of the mainstream DC Universe. It is therefore unlikely that they would have any type of involvement in the DCEU. However, the Ultimen were created by Project Cadmus, which likely will be a part of the DCEU at some point. We already know that Amanda Waller will be appearing in Suicide Squad, and there is no reason to believe she won’t appear in future DCEU films, perhaps in a similar crossover role as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU”).
An important element of this story, which is reiterated in several episodes of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, is that the government is fearful of the Justice League’s power. And this makes sense. As Bruce Wayne says in Batman v Superman, “if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we need to take it as an absolute certainty.” That’s a powerful sentiment, and one that, even if Bruce has changed his mind, the government could agree with. And the power of Superman alone pales in comparison to the power of the entire Justice League. It would be fun to see how this would play out in a Justice League film, and how the heroes would react to the lack of trust.
10. Fearful Symmetry
“Fearful Symmetry” is the sixth episode of Justice League Unlimited, and the first to introduce Project Cadmus. The episode features some characters that we are unlikely to see introduced in the first Justice League – Green Arrow, Supergirl, and The Question. The episode begins with Supergirl having some horrible dreams, and she is unable to shake the feeling that they are more than dreams. Green Arrow and The Question help her investigate, and we learn that she shares a psychic connection with a clone of hers – Galatea (the DCAU’s Power Girl).
Ultimately a battle ensues between Galatea (who is physically older than her counterpart) and Supergirl. Supergirl is eventually able to win the battle when The Question distracts Galatea by revealing that she too has been having sleepless nights due to her psychic connection with Supergirl.
It is unclear when, or if, characters such as Supergirl, Green Arrow, or The Question will appear in the DCEU. However, it is likely we will at least see Supergirl at some point. With so much controversy over the lack of female-led franchises in superhero films, it would be a waste for Warner Bros. to not take advantage of one of their star female heroines – another of course being the in-production Wonder Woman. And once Supergirl is introduced, the DCEU would be foolish not to look to this storyline as a way to create a complex female villain embodying the government’s distrust of these powerful heroes.
Despite the title of the episode, the story has nothing to do with the popular Flashpoint comic arc – the one we likely will be seeing soon on The CW’s The Flash. This was the second part of a four-part story arc in the second season of Justice League Unlimited. In the episode, government’s fear of the Justice League comes to a head when Lex Luthor remotely causes their weaponized space Watchtower to fire on Earth.
The Justice League attempts to help clear the survivors, but their reputation is tarnished when one by one the victims realize it appears the attack was orchestrated by the League. Despite the President ordering her to stand by, Amanda Waller decides to send Galatea, along with an army of Ultimen clones, to attack the Justice League.
OK, this one is probably a bit to cartoonish to see on the big screen. Let’s be honest, we’re not going to see a bunch of cloned Super Friends characters attacking a space watchtower being led by a character we don’t even know will be introduced in the DCEU. But, the broad plan orchestrated by Luthor is made for film. We already know that the DCEU’s Luthor is a master manipulator. He was, after all, the man behind the “greatest gladiator fight of all time.” Should Luthor escape his imprisonment, which he almost certainly will, a great future Justice League story would have Lex Luthor manipulating the world’s governments into attacking the people who have sworn to protect them.
8. Divided We Fall
The final part of the aforementioned four episode story line was “Divided We Fall.” This is a real wacky but cool episode. In “Divided We Fall,” we get to see what would happen if Brainiac and Lex Luthor merged into one being. The result is an incredibly dangerous foe for the Justice League and the world. The Luthor/Brainiac fusion ends up becoming so powerful, it is able to conjure up nano-tech replicas of the Justice Lords to fight the original Justice League.
Again, not surprisingly, the Justice League succeeds, and Superman, who was close to killing Luthor, decides not to take the same path as his Justice Lord counterpart. The episode is cool in that we get to see Flash stand out as the one who defeats Brainiac – by tapping into the Speed Force. We also get to see Flash enter the Speed Force, and his reluctance to leave it behind.
We do not know when Brainiac will be introduced into the DCEU, but as one of the Man of Steel’s greatest adversaries, it is likely he will appear at some point. Perhaps, in the yet to be dated Man of Steel 2, Brainiac will show up as a primary villain, and in the second Justice League, we can see what a fusion of Brainiac and Luthor looks like in IMAX 3D.
While we are on the topic of Brainiac, let’s talk about a story that could see the Justice League team up with Darkseid to defeat him. “Twilight” was the two-part premier episode of the second season of the Justice League. In the episode, Darkseid convinces the League to help him defend Apokolips (Darkseid’s home) from Brainiac’s invasion. It turns out that the whole thing was a ploy to deliver Superman to Brainiac. The Justice League ultimately defeats Brainiac and Darkseid, and when the Brainiac asteroid is destroyed, it appears to be the end of Darkseid.
If the minds behind the DCEU were willing to set a story primarily in space, this would be a great storyline for the second Justice League film. While apparently not the main antagonist in the Justice League, we do know that Darkseid will appear. Should Brainiac appear in a subsequent DCEU film, the combined forces of Brainiac and Darkseid would be a threat that only the Justice League could defend against. And with stakes continuing to grow in these types of movies, this would be a story that would continue to escalate the danger and potential destruction.
6. The Once And Future Thing
“The Once and Future Thing” was the two-part finale to the first season of Justice League Unlimited. This episode sees Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Batman traveling back in time to the Old West to defeat the time jumping Chronos, who had originally tried to steal a relic from the Justice League Watchtower.
The two-part episode is notable for including several characters from the DC Universe that take place in different points in time. In the first part, we meet several Old West characters, the most notable being Jonah Hex. In the second part of the story, our heroes travel into the future (where Chronos is hiding), and team up with the future Justice League, led by Terry McGinnis (of Batman Beyond).
Should the DCEU try to monetize characters such as Jonah Hex and Terry McGinnis’s Batman, a great way to link them to the main Justice League series would be to feature a time traveling villain like Chronos. While perhaps not a villain worthy of an event film like Justice League, the character could be combined with another, or altered creatively. Either way, you cannot say it wouldn’t be cool to see Bruce Wayne, Jonah Hex, and Terry McGinnis all in one movie.
5. For The Man Who Has Everything
“For the Man Who Has Everything” was the second episode of season 1 of Justice League Unlimited. The story was adapted from the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic book story of the same name. The episode sees Batman and Wonder Woman (who are sort of an item in the DCAU) visiting Superman at the Fortress of Solitude for his birthday. When they arrive, they find that Mongul has used a parasite, known as the Black Mercy, to trap Superman in a dream state, where he believes he is back on Krypton.
In the dream, Kal-El lives as if Krypton was never destroyed. He has a son, his father is still alive, and he is happy. A similar storyline was used in the first season of CBS’s (now The CW’s) Supergirl. Superman is eventually able to break free of the parasite when he notices that things are not right in the idyllic reality. However, the parasite soon leeches onto Batman causing him to envision his father beating Joe Chill senseless, instead of being killed by him.
This story would be a great way to pit DC’s Trinity (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) against a strong foe in Mongul, while also peering into their deep desires. This would give the filmmakers narrative flexibility to bring back characters such as Thomas Wayne (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe), and depending what happens in Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine).
“Epilogue” was the second season finale of Justice League Unlimited, and also served as an epilogue to Batman Beyond. The episode primarily takes place in the future after Terry McGinnis finds out that he is Bruce Wayne’s son. Believing Bruce knew this, Terry withdraws and seeks out an aged Amanda Waller for answers. Waller reveals that she ended up cloning Bruce’s DNA because she felt that the world needed Batman.
In order to convince Terry of the person Bruce really is, Amanda Waller tells of a time when the Justice League were fighting against Ace and a newly formed Royal Flush Gang. Ace had become so powerful that she was altering reality. Waller gives Batman a weapon that would kill Ace, but Bruce instead convinces her to return reality to normal as she dies peacefully in his arms.
While the episode may not be of the scale required of a Justice League event film, the narrative was brilliant. Should the DCEU decide to include Terry McGinnis, or to flashback to some of each individual Justice League member’s exploits, Batman humanizing Ace would be one they should look at.
3. Task Force X
Now we have made it to the top three, the stories we not only want to see adapted to the big screen, but need to see. “Task Force X” was the fourth episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited. In this episode, Amanda Waller calls upon Rick Flag to put together a task force made up of super villains to steal a powerful armored suit from the Justice League Watchtower. For those that don’t know, Task Force X is the Suicide Squad.
The actual goings on of the episode are not that important, but what we would love to see is the Suicide Squad pitted against the Justice League in the theater. Hopefully, Suicide Squad will be a hit, which will lead the creative minds behind the DCEU to look for ways to incorporate the squad into future movies. While Suicide Squad sequel is the most obvious, their resulting popularity would be perfectly suited to an event film like Justice League.
“Starcrossed” is the three-part finale to the Justice League television show. This story has everything that is needed in a team-up film like Justice League. There is an alien invasion, the threat of world destruction, and a betrayal from a member of the team. The episode begins with Earth being attacked by a Gordanian battleship. Earth is eventually saved by Thanagarian forces led by Hawkman.
Hawkman is reunited with Hawkgirl, who convinces the Justice League and the government to allow the Thanagarians to create a shield to protect Earth from future Gordanian attack. However, Batman soon learns that the true intent of the Thanagarians is to use Earth as a half-way point to attack the Gordanians, something that will ultimately destroy Earth. When Hawkgirl realizes that is the plan of her people, she betrays Hawkman and sides with the Justice League in preventing the destruction of Earth.
As mentioned earlier, this episode has everything you need in an event film like Justice League. Furthermore, should she not already be introduced, a story like “Starcrossed” would allow the DCEU to introduce another strong female hero, Hawkgirl.
1. Secret Origins
The first episode of the Justice League TV show is also the one that should absolutely be borrowed by the DCEU for a Justice League film. In “Secret Origins”, Superman and Batman rescue J’onn J’onzz from government captivity, while the White Martians attack Earth. J’onn J’onzz telepathically calls on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Flash, and Green Lantern to defend the Earth. The result is the Justice League.
Of course, the team goes on to win, and they realize that together they can act as the protectors of Earth from future catastrophic events. J’onn J’onzz decides to stay with the team, and with the help of Bruce Wayne’s immense fortune, they set up the Watchtower in space.
J’onn J’onzz has been a pivotal character in the Justice League for years, and he deserves to be in the films. The DCEU could create an epic Justice League movie and introduce Martian Manhunter to the masses, all by following the “Secret Origins” blueprint.
As more news regarding Justice League is released, fans will continue speculate on the story, and what the DCEU should do with future installments. There is no doubt one medium that has already delivered a plethora of high quality Justice League stories is television in the form of the DCAU. Let us know in the comments what stories you hope to see adapted in the Justice League!