As unofficially/officially announced at this week’s World Premiere of Justice League: Doom, the next DC Universe Animated feature will be based on one of the most critically acclaimed Superman stories of all time, pitting the Man of Steel versus a dark Justice League called The Elite.
We say unofficially announced, as Warner Brothers mentioned the feature without details back at their San Diego Comic-Con panel, and so far haven’t elaborated on exactly what the story would entail. Now, due to a minor gaffe at the Doom screening, we know: it will be based on Action Comics #775, written by Joe Kelly, with art by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo.
The story – titled “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?” – was a response to the dark grim and gritty antics of Wildstorm team The Authority. At the time, The Authority was extremely popular, and spurred a trend of superheroes who had no qualms about killing, or taking over the world when needed. Kelly created a team with similar overwhelming powers and loose morals called The Elite, then threw them into conflict with Superman. The ultimate boy scout, who never kills, versus a group of heroes who have no problem with solving a problem in the most extreme manner possible? Sparks will fly.
Eventually, Superman, unable to convince the world that killing was never the answer, decided to fake the deaths of The Elite in a massive fight off one of the moons of Jupiter. He secretly broadcasts the whole event to Earth, in order to show people just how awful killing can be… And it works. The world learns that Superman’s way is the right way, and nobody ever kills each other again. Just kidding, of course, there’s still plenty more murder… But Superman’s point is made.
The Elite returned a few more times, coming into conflict with – and occasionally teaming up with – members of the Justice League. But its this first appearance that many fans consider one of the best Superman stories of all time.
So what can we expect from the animated feature? We do know that George Newbern will be voicing Superman (the role he played in the Justice League cartoons), and Pauley Perette will be playing Lois Lane. We also know that we’ll get an actual first look at the feature when Doom hits DVD, as a preview is one of the extras. But there’s a few big questions about this. Specifically:
1) How extreme will this get? Superman goes pretty dark in the original story, even giving out a few heat vision lobotomies. There’s a fair amount of blood and darkness in the last few features, so we’re guessing Warners and DC will keep pushing the envelope here.
2) How will The Elite play to an audience who may not know who the Authority is? Again, the DC Animated gang have been doing a good job of updating and tweaking characters. We imagine that The Elite won’t be QUITE so rooted in the ‘90s version of “cool,” but otherwise Manchester Black and the gang will probably be all there.
3) How close will this be to the original story? This is a tough one, because unlike Doom, which adapts a four-issue arc, or many of the other features that draw on multiple storylines, this is one issue, and that’s it. Even with a fair amount of stretching for fights scenes, that’s a LOT of stretching. We’d be surprised if there wasn’t some other Superman or Elite story mixed in there.
So that’s all we know for now… We also know that after Superman Versus The Elite, we’re getting a two part version of Dark Knight Returns, which ALSO hasn’t been completely officially announced. We’ll continue to unofficially report news as it continues not to break.