Since the first revelation of his casting, speculation ran wild regarding which character Willem Dafoe would play in the upcoming Justice League. After his impressive turn as Green Goblin in the first Sam Raimi-helmed Spider-Man, it wouldn't have surprised anyone if his delightfully wicked turn as a Norman Osborn landed Dafoe a villainous role in the DC Extended Universe. Fortunately, at least for the sake of going against type, producers revealed early on that Dafoe would actually be playing a “good guy” this time around.
Despite their assertion of his valiant character, the possibility engines cranked into overdrive. If Dafoe wasn’t playing a menace – assuming the announcement was upfront – who exactly would he play in Justice League and Aquaman?
As Justice League filming began, further hints teased that not only would Willem Dafoe’s character be an ally of Aquaman., but his character would actually be an Atlantean as well. Of course, there are only a handful of Atlanteans running around Atlantis, so this hint narrowed things down dramatically. During a recent SR visit to the set, all was revealed. In the film, Dafoe will portray Nuidis Vulko.
Vulko might be familiar to long-time DC readers as an on-again off-again confederate of Aquaman. Initially launched in the late '60s (in The Brave and the Bold #73), Vulko began life as the chief scientific advisor to the throne of Atlantis. An outspoken political figure, he would sometimes rule the subterranean lands in Curry’s absence. During the Bronze Age of Aquaman, the character even rebelled against Arthur Curry's rule at one point.
Later, Vulko was killed, becoming a ghost for a time before being resurrected during the retconned New 52 (Geoff Johns’ time on the series). This reborn Vulko would betray Atlantis (for his own valid if petty reasons), leading to the surface-Atlantean war depicted in the Throne of Atlantis saga - something which could play a role in both upcoming films. In the long run, Vulko is somewhat vindicated, when he aids Aquaman in fighting the Dead King.
It's quite possible Dafoe’s Vulko in Justice League and the Aquaman standalone will be an amalgam of the New 52 character and the Modern Age re-envisioning of the characters. In the film, Dafoe appears in a costume similar to the newer, more gladiatorial look of Aquaman and Mera – but more translucent and tattered due to time and the ravages of subaquatic life. Dafoe also sports a long silver mane and has sage, wizened quality to his character. These reports also support his role as counsel to Aquaman in the film as in the comic books.
However, in spite of his purportedly heroic role, Vulko clearly has a shady side. Whether the film version is a tried and true (if outspoken) ally to Atlantis or harbors ulterior motives remains to be seen. Dafoe's Vullko may play an important role, driving the plots of both films, seeing as Justice League is the direct precursor to Aquaman.
Suicide Squad will hit theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020.