3 Justice League stories that need to be blockbuster movies

It’s finally happened! After years of disappointing reboots and remakes (we get it, we already know Superman’s backstory, you’ve been retelling it since 1938), the Justice League movie is finally done.

Unfortunately, if you’re a Justice League fan, you’re probably going to be let down because, well, with the exception of Wonder Woman, the current DC movieverse is a real shitshow. Hell, the movie League is even missing two of its founding members. Instead of Green Lantern, we’re getting Cyborg, a Teen Titans character who was barely into puberty when the League was founded in the comics, and instead of the Martian Manhunter, we’re getting… nothing. Yeah, they didn’t even bother replacing him with anyone. Is that racist? Can you be racist against a fictional species?

He’s probably just intimidated by your gigantic eyebrows.

The plot isn’t anything to cheer about either: it’s your standard alien invasion story, because goddammit, DC is going to replicate the success of The Avengers if they have to bankrupt themselves to do it. To be fair, yeah, that is actually how the League was formed in the comics; there aren’t really any other threats big enough to get seven costumed weirdos to get their shit together (in the case of the Justice Society, it took WW2), but do we really need to see it again? The Justice League has been around since the late ’50s and they’ve done so many other crazy stories that would make amazing films. Instead of just cranking out another CGI masturbatory fantasy disguised as an origin story, how about turning one of these storylines into a blockbuster instead?

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1. JLA: Earth-2

Back in the day, DC was absolutely lousy with alternate universes. An all-Nazi universe, more post-apocalyptic earths than you could shake a batarang at—basically, any random shit the writers wanted to do got labeled as an alternate universe and assigned some random number (aside from Earth-X, the one with all the Nazis. Originally it was Earth-Swastika, until the censors had a nervous breakdown and bit off their tongues). Then DC decided it was time to stop using the multiverse as a crutch and committed comic book genocide.

Untold trillions died to make DC’s filing system more streamlined.

Of course, they soon ended up with the opposite problem. There was only one universe, so they couldn’t write any Justice League stories with a wildly different premise, just the same Superman and Friends over and over. That is, until someone remembered that there was still technically one other universe left: the Anti-Matter universe, a “mirror” version of the regular universe, rather than just another regular universe with some random crap thrown in. This led to the 2000 graphic novel JLA: Earth 2 by professional weirdo Grant Morrison, who reintroduced one of the most iconic concepts of the original multiverse: the Crime Syndicate of America.

Who were much like the JLA, if they had worse taste in costumes. And if they were murderous sociopaths. So, yes, just like the current DC movie-verse.

While the CSA might just look like evil versions of the JLA, it’s actually a bit more subtle. They’re actually completely different people who only superficially resemble their counterparts. For example, Ultraman is a former human astronaut who was given superpowers by aliens who put him back together after a spaceship whoopsie in hyperspace. Unfortunately, this had the side effect of screwing up his mind, giving Earth the gift of a super-powered psychopath. Owlman is actually Thomas Wayne, Jr., the brother of the deceased Bruce Wayne, and Superwoman is a super-powered Lois Lane, and so on. This story is somewhat unique in that it ends with the villains technically winning, as the JLA realizes that it’s impossible to change the CSA’s Earth due to its nature as a reflection of the regular one; in this universe, the villains always succeed eventually. Which, in this case, means letting Ultraman lobotomize his version of Brainiac.

Who for some reason looks like a beanie baby designed by HR Giger.

Of course, this also means the opposite is true, in that the CSA get their asses kicked by Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, who were left behind to hold down the fort on JLA’s Earth. I mean, Jesus, that’s like invading the U.S. and losing to the Boy Scouts.

2. Tower of Babel

If you’ve ever made the mistake of skimming over a comic book message board online, you’d know that Batman has by far one of the most obnoxious fan bases on the planet, rivaled only by Sonic the Hedgehog and the New England Patriots (they have more or less the same amount of sex offenders). If you ask a Batman fan, the guy can beat anyone because he has “contingency plans” to deal with all his teammates who could punch him to another galaxy if they ever get sick of his shit. Apparently, he doesn’t have contingency plans for what happens if someone steals his little black book of Achilles heels, because that’s exactly what happens in the “Tower of Babel” story arc.

“Oh sure, you can make ANYTHING sound bad if you say it out loud, Plastic Man. It’s a little harder to SHUT UP!”

Written by Mark Waid, “Tower of Babel” begins with a series of attacks on the Justice League, which disables each of them through exploiting a weakness: Green Lantern is rendered blind, Martian Manhunter is set on fire, and Superman is exposed to red Kryptonite, which makes his skin transparent and overloads him with solar radiation. Arguably the biggest kick in the balls goes to Aquaman: he’s rendered hydrophobic by the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. That’s like Batman being afraid of money and daddy issues; it strips him of everything he has. As for Batman? Well, he’s too busy to help his teammates because someone stole the bodies of his parents and he’s freaking out about that.

“Okay, you COULD argue that this entire thing is my fault, but counterpoint, I’m Batman!”

The mastermind behind this disaster turns out to be Ra’s al Ghul, who wanted the League dead/distracted so he’d have time for his latest environmentalism-through-genocide plan, i.e., scrambling everyone’s brains so they’d lose the ability to speak to each other. Did it ever occur to this guy to just advocate for birth control and higher incomes in third world nations if he wants to bring down the population numbers so badly? It’s always giant space lasers or robots with these people. At any rate, the League isn’t super thrilled that Batman had written plans about how to kill each of them and then lost track of said files like a clumsy Wikileaks informant. This actually got Batman kicked off the team, meaning there’s apparently a point of incompetence beyond which no amount of nepotism can save you.

The Donald Trump method of facing criticism.

3. Formerly Known as the Justice League

Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the time eventually came to relaunch the Justice League of America after DC gutted it and made all of its history completely irrelevant. Unfortunately, DC ran into a problem: all the iconic Leaguers were either caught up in their own reboots or dead. Instead, the writers were given a bunch of B-listers to head the company’s premiere superteam, including Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Black Canary. It was like watching the New York Yankees draft players from a local fat camp. Still, just like the actual Yankees, a team consisting of glory-obsessed egomaniacs, neurotic has-beens, and antisocial vigilantes managed to become something truly entertaining.

Oh yeah, and Batman had to guest star all the damn time. DC may be crazy, but they’re not stupid.

In 2003, long after this version of the League had disbanded, DC got the sudden urge to recreate a team with the same humorous feel as the Justice League International. Brought back together by their former sponsor Maxwell Lord, a team consisting of Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, the Elongated Man, Captain Atom, Mary Marvel, and Fire (in other words, the majority of the comic relief from the original team) became a kind of hero-for-hire group. What followed was basically Girls with superpowers. The characters were more interested in standing around and picking away at each others’ insecurities and flaws than actual crimefighting. It was like a high school girls’ bathroom with more cliques and body issues.

Actually, Girls has less homoerotic overtones.

They did get up to actual superhero stuff in between the Seinfeld-style hijinks, such as an alien invasion that they foiled by random chance, getting brainwashed into joining an underground fight club for superheroes, a trip to an alternate universe where they fought evil versions of themselves who for some reason ran a strip club, and Booster Gold accidentally sending the team to Hell while screwing around with one of Dr. Fate’s artifacts (you’d think that guy would know to lock his door). Also, Fire ran a side business doing something you don’t usually associate with superheroes, unless they’re being written by Garth Ennis or Alan Moore (and then you don’t exactly get a PG-13 product).

The real joke here is that anyone would be willing to PAY for softcore nudity, even in 2003.

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  • someone stole the bodies of his parents and he’s freaking out about that.

    Did Batman devise contingency plans again himself?

    • PhysUnknown

      He does. It’s pretty simple, really: “Be Batman”.

      I think that was just Ra’s knowing Bruce pretty well and screwing with him. It doesn’t really defeat him, just keeps him distracted.

    • Sean Tadsen

      They kind of addressed this in one of the DC animated movies (not sure which, but might be Justice League: Doom). So whether this is canon or not is debatable.

      Batman literally says that his contingency against himself is the Justice League; presumably the logic being that while he might be able to take on any one of the League’s members, he knows that he can’t take on the entire Justice League on his own.

      • Clockwork

        Interesting. I read Batman’s reply to the contingency for him as “any one of the Justice League” since any one of them would pulverize him on a surprise attack (except maybe Green Arrow; Batman would beat him down, but everyone else would destroy him instantly).

  • Deneb T. Hall

    While I agree that an alien invasion story’s kinda been-there-done-that at this point, I would argue that, while the three stories you cited are indeed good stories (as best I know of, anyway; haven’t actually read the first or the third), they all pretty much hinge on their readers having a basic familiarity with the team. As such, for a ‘let’s introduce everybody’ movie, they might not be the best choices – I’d save one of them for a Part 2 or Part 3.

    Personally, I think that if we’ve got to go with an alien invasion plot, it should at least be of a different type than what ‘Avengers’ trotted out. My solution? Partially adapt ‘JLA: Year One’. Yeah, you’d have to dump a lot, but that alien invasion is a mostly-covert, slow-burn sort of thing that winds up with the whole Earth in danger – not just New York, I mean every corner of the globe. In order to do it justice, you’d have to spread it out over two films, at least – and in the meantime, you’ve got lots of good plot twists, character development, etc.

  • clockwork

    First two already have movies in animated form, both which are pretty good:
    Crisis on Two Earths: Crime Syndicate

    and

    Justice League: Doom

    …and both would make a damn fine live-action movie.

  • MichaelANovelli

    Call me crazy, but Justice League International was always my favorite iteration of the team!