As we reported last week, a rumor is currently circulating that 2015’s “Justice League” movie will be based on a 3-issue arc of “Justice League of America” circa 1980, featuring the villain Darkseid.
While that rumor hasn’t been confirmed by any official sources, and likely would not be for some time, it may prove to be instructive to take a closer look at those three issues, and examine which elements could potentially work their way into the “Justice League” film.
Written by Gerry Conway, who had taken up the reins of the Fourth World characters including Darkseid in a relaunched “New Gods” series after the original Jack Kirby run ended, “Justice League of America” #183-185 was that year’s installment of an annual tradition for the team, where they would regularly team up with their counterparts from the alternate dimensional world known as Earth-2. This arc is also sadly notable for the fact that issue #183 was the last for longtime JLA artist Dick Dillin, who suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after completing the issue. Legendary artist George Perez, who was just beginning his career at DC after distinguishing himself at Marvel on such books as “Avengers” and “Fantastic Four”, was brought on to complete the arc.
Although this arc revolves heavily around DC’s parallel worlds with the Earth-1/Earth-2 team-up, it’s unlikely a debut “Justice League” movie would make much use of that concept for several reasons. For one thing, the “Justice League” movie will likely be introducing several of the DC characters, including Wonder Woman and Flash, to the big screen for the first time. To try to introduce alternate versions of those same characters at the same time would probably be unnecessarily confusing to audiences.
Additionally, DC’s parallel worlds concept is a bit different from the standard version that we see in most sci-fi; on Earth-2, the heroes are meant to have started in an earlier era, circa the 1940s, and so are older than their Earth-1 counterparts, even having adult children who join in their adventures. That, of course, is part of the charm of encounters such as the one told in this arc, but would only add to the confusion for audiences not already immersed in DC history.
The impetus for this particular cross-world adventure comes when, as part of the team’s annual meet-up, they attempt to transport a delegation of members to each other’s world, only to find both parties whisked away to the world of New Genesis which, as we discussed in our recent profile of Darkseid, exists in another dimension entirely along with the evil world of Apokolips. The delegation from the Justice League consists of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and Firestorm. The first 3 of those will almost certainly appear in the “Justice League” movie; less likely to make an appearance is Firestorm, a character introduced in 1978 by Gerry Conway and artist Al Milgrom. Although a mainstay of the DC Universe, Firestorm has never matched the popularity of those other characters, and various attempts at solo series for him have been relatively short-lived, meaning there are a number of other Justice Leaguers past and present who would likely be ahead of him on a list of characters to feature in the movies.
The Justice League’s counterparts, known as the Justice Society, are represented in this story by Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Huntress, and Doctor Fate. As noted, this is not the Wonder Woman of the regular DC Universe, but her Earth-2 counterpart, meaning she is older and perhaps a little wiser, having battled evil in the world of men since the days of World War II. Wonder Woman is expected to be an integral part of the “Justice League” movie, though she’ll almost certainly be rooted in the modern day, and not from any parallel world. The other three Society members featured here were integrated into the regular DC Universe in the wake of 1985’s world-shattering “Crisis On Infinite Earths” event, in the process changing their own personal histories and backgrounds, as we noted in our profile of Huntress, who is already appearing on the small screen. Still, these three are probably not quite significant enough in the scheme of DC’s pantheon to merit a role in the “Justice League” movie… at least not on the first go-round.
When the League and the Society reach New Genesis, they encounter the heroes of that world, who are known as the New Gods. This group includes Mr. Miracle, Orion, Big Barda, Oberon, and Metron, all of whom have complex histories of their own. For instance, Mr. Miracle and Orion are the sons of the Highfather, ruler of New Genesis, and Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips, respectively. The warring rulers brought about an uneasy truce by agreeing to send each of their young sons to be raised by the other, thus ensuring that each side would have a reason to restrain their aggression.
The result was that Orion, the son of one of the most evil despots in existence, was raised in the enlightened and noble world of New Genesis, while Mr. Miracle, AKA Scott Free, was raised on the hellish world of Apokolips, where he learned to hone his abilities as an escape artist in order to break free of that prison. That’s only one part of The Fourth World’s rich history, and with a world that expansive, any number of compelling stories can be told within it. But despite the rumored role of Darkseid in the “Justice League” movie, the introduction of Fourth World elements and characters may be limited at first, both so as not to overshadow the characters of the Justice League, and also to give the debut of the franchise a degree of grounding in the real world in order to make it relatable to a wider audience.
The New Gods quickly get their Earth-based guests up to speed, informing them that the entire population of New Genesis has been kidnapped and taken to Apokolips. However, it seems Darkseid cannot be behind it since, as told in 1978’s “Adventure Comics” #460 (also by Conway), Darkseid was destroyed through the efforts of his son Orion, who recognized the evil of his father’s ways and turned against him. Instead, it appears the villains are old foes of the Justice Society, the aptly named Injustice Society, this time consisting of The Fiddler, The Shade, and The Icicle, who in addition to carrying out the kidnapping, have forced the abductees to construct a mysterious machine which they are about to activate. The machine turns out to be used to reconstitute the deceased Darkseid, who in turn had reached out from beyond the grave and bent the villains to his will in order to do his bidding.
Obviously, the “Justice League” movie will not have to deal with resolving any previous plots regarding Darkseid’s status, but his use of mortal villains as pawns is a recurring theme for the character, and could work well in the Justice League movie, in order to present them with a smaller-scale threat before facing off against the big bad. One would assume, however, that the makers of the film will come up with more credible villains to use than The Fiddler, The Shade, and The Icicle.
Darkseid’s ultimate plan is to transport his nightmarish world of Apokolips into the universe that Earth-2 occupies, where he believes that his goal of universal supremacy will face no challenge as he currently does from New Genesis. Unfortunately for the people of Earth-2, this move will displace and destroy their world, leaving it up to the combined forces of three worlds to stop him. It certainly seems that a simplified version of this plan could serve as a driver for the plot of the Justice League film; eliminate the references to Earth-2, and simply introduce Darkseid as an otherworldly threat determined to encroach on our world’s existence, and you’ve got a plot not far removed from this summer’s “Avengers.”
But whether the influence of this particular story, or for that matter, the involvement of Darkseid at all, amounts to anything more than idle rumors is something we’ll all just have to wait to find out, as the heroes of the Justice League continue their march to theaters.
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