After wondering for so long whether Warner Bros. would make a greater commitment to its DC Comics properties on film, it recently announced that a Justice League film would be following on the heels of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Although no casting announcements have been made, it will likely see the return of Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and the recently announced Ray Fisher as Cyborg. That leaves, at most, three vacancies on the superhero team if it follows DC Comics’ regular lineup of seven, which may include Green Lantern, the Flash and Aquaman.
Some fans and observers have questioned Warner Bros.' wisdom of jumping from one quasi-team-up film to a conceivably massive undertaking like the Justice League without having more solo films to lead up to it, a la The Avengers. Marvel’s first massive crossover had the benefit of introducing both the individual heroes as well as the primary villain in prior films before assembling everyone together, which DC won’t really be doing.
So, without a whole lot of prior legwork to do, who should the Justice League square off against for their first big-screen adventure? Luckily, I’m quite a comic book nerd, and it just so happens that Comics on Film here at Movies.com has five suggestions for just that question.
Any alien menace will be the easy answer for adversaries of big superhero teams in movies, but Despero has the distinction of being one of the only DC Comics villains to truly require the might of the entire assembled team to defeat him. Despero has had a couple of run-ins with heroes on solo adventures like Superman, but since his first appearance in Justice League of America #1 in 1960, he has consistently been an enemy that is worthy of opposing the entire seven-member Justice League all at once.
An alien warlord, Despero has brilliance, incredible strength, and a very strong ability to manipulate the minds of his foes. One of the most memorable stories featuring Despero in recent years was in the Justice League animated series of the early 2000s, where the villain had created a vicious personality cult in his name, and spread the “gospel” of Despero to the far corner of the galaxy. After decimating several members of the Green Lantern Corps in deep space, it was up to the assembled might of the League to stop him.
If anything, Despero would make for a cunning villain for the Justice League to square off against on the big screen, and that third eye would definitely create a visual audiences would remember.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a young boy who loves his parents sees them brutally shot before his very eyes. Vowing vengeance on the very law enforcement officials that killed them, that boy hones himself to the peak of physical and mental perfection and fights the law as Prometheus! Wait… what?
Created by Grant Morrison in 1998 to face the League in the JLA comics title, Prometheus was envisioned as a mirror of Batman. Where Thomas and Martha Wayne were philanthropists and do-gooders, Prometheus’ parents were thieves and murderers. The one specific detail of seeing their parents shot in front of them would set both men on their respective paths, though, and Prometheus would similarly travel the world and use his hidden resources to train with international terrorists and skilled killers in a twisted reflection of the Dark Knight’s own origin. This eventually leads him to a very personal and ugly confrontation with the Justice League, who find themselves at first unable to deal with the brilliance and brutality that Prometheus exhibits.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the League focus on a villain that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of flashy powers or world destruction on his mind: if anything, he just despises the rule of law, and does such an effective job of staying one step ahead of the League that their first encounter ends in more of a draw than anything else, forcing Prometheus into a tactical retreat to fight another day.
Using a villain like him would certainly be a statement that the DC Comics movies of tomorrow are going for something fundamentally different from Marvel, while at the same time using a character that has yet to be adapted in either live action or animation.
3) The Crime Syndicate
Having recently faced off against the Justice League in DC’s Forever Evil crossover event, the Crime Syndicate from an alternate Earth, at first glance, may be a little too “on the nose” as far as villains are concerned. Historically, they’ve come from an Earth that is essentially an opposite of our own. Instead of Kal-El of Krypton becoming the world’s greatest hero, he instead becomes a maniacal supercriminal called “Ultraman,” seeking world domination, with only the heroic Lex Luthor to stop him. Owlman and Superwoman begrudgingly serve at his side, while simultaneously seeking their own endeavors. Johnny Quick and Power Ring round the group out as the respective doppelgangers of the Flash and Green Lantern, and instill terror in their world’s citizens instead of inspiring hope like their counterparts.
While in an ideal scenario you would have each principal actor playing both the parts of their main hero and villainous counterpart, making a film face-off between the Justice League and the Crime Syndicate would probably make for a visually and thematically distinctive movie, while also creating many opportunities for mind-blowing action scenes and several different interesting character dichotomies.
2) Ocean Master
The brother of Aquaman may not be an obvious choice to face off against the entire League, but if a story featured a struggle for the Atlantean throne with different sects of the underwater city pledging allegiances to Orm (Ocean Master) and Orin (Aquaman), it might make for an interesting turn of events. A recent comic book story by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis called Throne of Atlantis did just that, and showed a full-scale Atlantean invasion of the surface world, necessitating the response of the full Justice League to repel them. It also presented a very interesting dilemma for Aquaman, who had to choose whether to defend the surface world from an unprovoked attack, or join his people in defending, what they believed, to be an infringement on Atlantean sovereignty.
Using a villain like Ocean Master would also provide a unique opportunity to both flesh out and prop up the image of Aquaman to general audiences. Although many comic book fans appreciate him, and the sales of his new title would indicate people warming up to the character, it may not be a bad idea to give one of the lesser known DC heroes a bit of the limelight to take the film in a new direction. Allowing Aquaman to make a choice between what his blood is telling him to do and what is actually right would likely be a fascinating moral journey for him and the audience, and Ocean Master would be the perfect villain to deliver it.
Plus, maybe we’d get to see Batman fight a shark.
Darkseid is one of the absolute best villains in the entire stable of DC Comics characters. He’s an evil god, and that kind of presence demands the greatest possible force for good in the DC Universe to try and oppose him, which automatically means the Justice League.
On paper, a Justice League vs. Darkseid conflict may not be different enough from the Battle of New York that we saw during The Avengers. You have a powerful figurehead leading legions of nameless followers into battle against superheroes, which would most certainly be an element of a conflict with Darkseid and his famous Parademon troopers.
Where this could be different and more substantive, though, lies in Darkseid’s view of the universe: he knows he is destined to control it through the elusive “Anti-Life Equation,” and his warped sense of what is noble and just extends to brutality and despotism.
In the graphic novel Superman/Batman: Supergirl, Batman tells Darkseid that he has armed a series of devastating bombs on the despot’s homeworld of Apokolips in an attempt to secure the release of Superman and Supergirl. If he doesn’t act, it may mean the death of the entire Apokoliptian population, a last resort by Batman that Darkseid found endearing, of all things.
“Well played,” he told Batman. “Had the Kryptonian or the Amazon taken this gamble, they would’ve lost. They do not have the strength of character it would take to destroy an entire planet to achieve success. But you… a human. You kill your own kind to win battles. It is… an admirable quality.”
What do you think? Would any of these five villains make for the ideal match against the Justice League in their inevitable cinematic debut? Do you have another idea for someone to face off against them? Leave your ideas in the comments section below, and we’ll see you next week on Comics on Film!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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