After seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend, there’s one big question on everyone’s minds: What’s gonna happen in the upcoming Justice League movie? We’ve been introduced to all the key members of the Justice League: Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, The Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, and Wonder Woman. We have no idea though who the villain is going to be. I’ve been talking to people a lot about which villain would work best in a Justice League movie, and honestly, there are way too many to choose from. The League has fought an insane number of baddies since their 1960 first appearance in Brave and the Bold #28. I decided to put together a list of the different types of Justice League villains.
I’m starting with Darkseid because he’s the most obvious choice. Darkseid, ruler of the New Gods of Apokolips, is maybe the single most terrifying figure in the DC Universe (other than Dogwelder of course). He is the abstract concept of hatred personified, and his search for the mythical Anti-Life Equation has led him to try enslaving Earth many times. The only thing keeping his power in check is a constant war against his virtuous counterpart Highfather and the New Gods on planet New Genesis. Darkseid was originally more of a Superman villain, but in recent years, he’s become directly tied to the history of the Justice League. Their rebooted 2011 origin story had the League come together when Darkseid first invaded. The recent storyline “Darkseid War” has seen the League members become gods themselves while caught up in a battle between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. Of course, the obvious downside is that Marvel already has two Darkseid look-a-likes running around. Apocalypse is a dead ringer, and Thanos was directly inspired by Darkseid. Darkseid came first though, and he deserves the chance to make cinematic his mark on the world.
Amazo has never been hugely popular, largely because he’s a robot, but he’s given us some of the greatest fights in Justice League history. Designed by mad scientist Professor Ivo to destroy the Justice League, Amazo has the ability to mimic any League member’s powers. This obviously makes him a huge physical threat. He has the strength of Superman, the speed of the Flash, a ring like Green Lantern, and Batman’s talent at Dance Dance Revolution. What makes his story interesting is that he’s an android and it’s never really been clear whether or not he’s human. This is usually played in contrast to the android hero Red Tornado, designed by rival scientist T.O. Morrow. I am aware this plotline might sound familiar. I like Amazo though because he never seems too concerned about the philosophy here. He’s not worried about determining right from wrong, or learning how to love, or making a real friend. He’s just a chill dude who might be gaining sentience but is happy to destroy the Justice League either way.
The Injustice League
I’m calling this entry “Injustice League” but really I just mean any of the various super-villain teams who have assembled to fight the Justice League. There are a LOT of them. There’s the Injustice Gang, the Legion of Doom, the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and I’m not even getting into deep cuts yet. It’s a simple idea and it’s one that’s always fun to watch or read. Who better to fight the Justice League than a group of their greatest arch-nemeses? This might be difficult to work into an origin story movie like Justice League is supposed to be, but it stands to reason that most of these characters would already have enemies when they meet. Doesn’t it just make sense for their enemies to team up?
Prometheus is one of my more obscure favorites, a villain created as sort of the ultimate Anti-Batman. Born to a family of lowlife criminals, he swore vengeance against law and order when he watched his parents gunned down by the police. Creating an evil version of Batman has been tried multiple times before (Hush, The Wrath, Killer Moth), but it’s never been successful on a scale like Prometheus. In his first appearance, Prometheus infiltrated the Justice League Watchtower and nearly took out every League member. His self-proclaimed mission was to ‘take the fire from the gods.’ He defeated Batman by using Batman’s skills against him, shut down Green Lantern’s mind so he couldn’t use his ring, neutralized the Flash with speed-triggered explosives, and nearly convinced Superman to commit suicide. I don’t want to spoil how they beat him, but if you haven’t read Grant Morrison’s JLA you should make it a priority.
This list needed at least one supernatural terror, and who better than the Devil himself? Neron isn’t exactly Satan or Lucifer, but he’s the ruler of Hell in the DCU most associated with super-heroes. He seized the throne during a power vaccuum and began his reign by aggressively campaigning for more damned souls. In the story Underworld Unleashed, Neron famously offered every super-villain in the DCU a huge upgrade to their powers if they would simply promise him their souls. The Justice League were later caught up in the middle when Neron attempted to conquer Heaven by convincing the top angel Asmodel to betray God. Neron might not always come out on top, but he’s always happy to strike a deal.
Graves, despite his terrible name, has an important place in the history of the Justice League. Following the 2011 reboot and the retold origin with Darkseid, Graves was the first major villain we saw the Justice League fight in the modern day. He’s also one of the few original Justice League villains created for the 2011 reboot. David Graves was originally a writer / historian, and his book Justice League: Gods Among Men is credited with getting the world to accept the Justice League. The League saved his entire family when they were caught in the first Darkseid invasion. Fittingly, the first man inspired by the League is also the first to lose faith in them. Graves watched his family slowly die from an alien disease contracted during the invasion while the Justice League did nothing to help. In return he swore vengeance on the League, vowing to make them all suffer as he had. This search lead him to bond with an ancient Eastern deity that gave him incredible powers, such as the ability to summon ghosts in battle. Graves is a formidable fighter, but what makes him dangerous is his commitment to hurting the League members emotionally where they are most vulnerable.
Doctor Destiny is one of the League’s creepier villains. It doesn’t help that he looks like Skeletor joined the opera. Originally a simple mad scientist, his interests later expanded to include the occult. His Materioptikon allows him to control dreams and build worlds out of them. Sometimes this has involved warping reality itself, and sometimes it has involved trapping people in their own nightmares. Doctor Destiny is an excellent Justice League villain because he cuts to the heart of every character and immediately forces them to confront whatever they fear the most.
It’s maybe cheating a little bit to put down Batman so soon after Batman fought Superman. The guy is probably exhausted. It stands on the record though that Batman has always been one of the Justice League’s greatest adversaries. The League is a collection of the mightiest warriors on the planet, and somebody has to be there to stop them if anyone ever turns them evil. Batman has been shown to have contingency plans for every Justice League member turning evil or being mind controlled. This was originally introduced in the classic Tower of Babel storyline, where Ra’s al Ghul stole Batman’s secret files and used them to take down every League member. I can’t imagine we’ll get a Justice League movie where Batman is the main villain, but I’d be very surprised if Batman’s contingency plans don’t come into play at some point. We’ve already seen that the DCEU’s Batman is extremely paranoid.
The Crime Syndicate
I have been saving this one because it is my favorite. The Crime Syndicate are evil counterparts to the Justice League who live in the alternate universe Earth-Three, where good is bad and bad is good. Ultraman gets his powers from Kryptonite, Owlman is the greatest criminal in Gotham City, Super-Woman proved her superiority by killing the other Amazons, Johnny Quick is a thrill-seeking drug addict, and Power Ring is the world’s greatest coward. After terrorizing their own homeworld to the point of societal collapse, they meet the Justice League when they go looking for new worlds to conquer and exploit.
This is just a matter of respect. Starro was the first villain the Justice League ever fought (I’m talking about their first published appearance, chronologically their first enemy was the Appellaxians obviously). To this day it just doesn’t feel like you’re doing the real Justice League if you don’t get Starro mixed up in there somewhere. He doesn’t even need a real job, just give him a mop and he’ll pitch in. Starro has never had a lot of clear characterization… after all, he is a hivemind starfish alien whose only real priority is universal conquest. There are multiple forms of Starro. The tiny starfish things latch onto people’s faces and control their minds, and the bigger ones attack whatever the smaller ones can’t get. I love Starro because he gives the Justice League a lot of potential in two different genres…he makes for a great giant monster story, but he’s also excellent for a creepy horror story similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The little Starros might seem harmless at first, but what happens when one latches onto Superman and the other League members have to run from their former friend? His appearance is a little silly, but that’s part of what makes him so special. It’s refreshing to see an alien villain more imaginative than the standard human in prosthetics and makeup.
Ah. Simpler times.