Justice Lords' model sheets.
The Justice Lords are an alternate version of the Justice League from a parallel Earth. The roster of the Justice Lords was the same as the original DCAU Justice League — an alternate Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman — with the exception of The Flash, because the Flash from their universe had been killed.
The Justice Lords' world appeared to have diverged from that of the Justice League when their Flash died. Later their Lex Luthor was elected President of the United States and created policies that eventually resulted in the country "being on the brink of a war that could destroy the whole planet" according to Superman. The alternate Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman decided to try to stop the impending war, storming the White House and confronting President Luthor, who threatened a nuclear launch. After Luthor goaded the alternate Superman, that no matter how many times Superman sent him to prison Luthor would find a way back into power all over again in an unending cycle, the enraged Kryptonian targeted Luthor with heat vision and killed him. This decision led to far-reaching consequences, as Superman decided he liked this new brand of "justice". Soon, the other Lords lost faith in humanity's ability to do what was right, as well as their own moral compasses.
The initial act of staging a coup eventually led to the Justice Lords taking over the world's governments and ruling with an iron fist. Using their satellite base for global surveillance, the Justice Lords went on to suppress free speech, outlaw elections, impose curfews, and eliminate all crime by lobotomizing all criminals and supervillains (to the point of having a man arrested for complaining about the food quality and incorrect calculation of cost at a restaurant). Although they justified their behavior to the masses as "temporary," and to each other as for the good of the people, it amounted to tyranny in the eyes of the Justice League.
A Better World
The Justice Lords learned of their Justice League counterparts when the alternate Batman came across the League while experimenting with a dimensional transporter he had built. Bored with their own largely domesticated world, the Lords decided to "assist" their counterparts by taking over the League's world. The Lords tricked the League into coming to the alternate Earth. Upon the League's arrival, they were trapped in a specially designed prison built by Lord Batman and electrocuted unconscious. Later, they were transferred to cells that had been designed to neutralize their powers, except for Hawkgirl, who had suffered serious injuries trying to escape, but had been stopped by Lord Green Lantern.
When the Lords came to the normal Earth (posing as the 'mainstream' Earth's true heroes), they soon encountered Doomsday, a giant monstrous fighter. Doomsday had apparently come to challenge Earth's mightiest combatants, and went on a rampage. The Lords, particularly Superman, were more than happy to fight him since they had not had any villains to fight in their world for some time (the Martian Manhunter being the only one skeptical on winning stating "IF we can stop it"). Attacking first and asking questions later, the alternate Superman predicted the Lords would win over the normal Earth people with their brand of justice. The fight ended with the Justice Lords beaten down and Lord Superman almost losing at the hands of Doomsday; however Superman managed to lobotomize Doomsday with his heat vision, to the shock of reporter Lois Lane. Lex Luthor, intimately aware of the real Superman's character (and what he would or would not therefore do) was the only one who figured out that the Lords weren't the League, stating "It's not them."
The League escaped from their prisons when the Flash, in an attempt to play on his status as martyr in the eyes of the Lords, sped up his heartbeat to trick Lord Batman into thinking it had flatlined. Lord Batman responded by releasing the Flash and was subsequently knocked out and imprisoned by the Flash in the cell. The League then escaped. Most of the League went to Arkham Asylum to retrieve Hawkgirl, except for Batman, who went to the Batcave to hijack the dimensional transporter. Arkham Asylum was run by a lobotomized Joker and when the League didn't say the code word right Superman robots were sent against them. At the Batcave Batman engaged Lord Batman in a fight. The fight ended abruptly with Lord Batman playing off their mutual tragedy after Batman says the Lords have created a world without freedom or thought by seizing power, countering with, "And with that power, we've made a world where no eight-year-old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun." Batman was eventually able to convince Lord Batman that the Lords' methods were wrong by (like the alternate Batman) playing on their mutual tragedies by sarcastically remarking, "They'd love it here, don't you think? Mom and Dad. They'd be so proud of you." Lord Batman saw the error of his ways and saved the Justice League from the alternate Earth's security forces, and transmitted them back to their reality, presumably then going on to rebuild his world.
Back on the normal Earth, Superman approached Lex Luthor, offering him a presidential pardon in exchange for his help against the Lords. The Lords were defeated when the League engaged the Lords again to distract them long enough as Mr. Luthor used a power disruptor to strip them of their powers. The helpless Lords were then arrested, but it is never revealed what happened to them afterwards, save Lord Batman, who never went to normal Earth.
At the end, normal Earth Luthor said that he would go into politics.
The Justice Lords' proposed alteration to the Justice League's world had repercussions in the first two seasons of Justice League Unlimited. The events of "A Better World" added fuel to Amanda Waller's crusade against the destructive capabilities of the metahuman population if the government left it unchecked. Project Cadmus, which was originally established to counter Superman if he went rogue (as shown in the Superman: The Animated Series two-part episode "Legacy"), expanded its threat list to the whole Justice League. It also led to some increasing paranoia and distrust within the rank of the Justice League, including Batman and The Question, who feared that what happened to the Justice Lords' world would eventually happen to theirs when Luthor appeared close to winning the presidency as his counterpart had.
Further examples of the League's degeneration in the public eye — such as Superman’s fight with Captain Marvel over what turned out to be a fake emergency, staged by Luthor and Amanda Waller, and Superman’s later near attempt to lobotomize Doomsday in a similar manner to his Lords counterpart — cast the League, and particularly Superman, in an increasingly bad light.
Fortunately, the League had also taken precautions such as recruiting the ardently populist and politically astute Green Arrow as their political conscience. He in turn is critical in putting the role of Cadmus in a reasonable perspective for the League and thereby prevents them from falling into the same temptation that created the Lords.
Divided We Fall
As a major insult, Lex Luthor/Brainiac combined, creating duplicate androids of the Lords in the Justice League Unlimited episode Divided We Fall. However, Brainiac added an android duplicate of the Flash in a costume design almost identical to that of comic book villain Zoom, to distract the League from his and Luthor's ultimate goal of universal domination. Not only did the androids fight the League, but they also played on their worst fears at the time: Superman was confronted with the possibility of becoming a Justice Lord, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl played off their failed relationship, as well as Hawkgirl's pariah status on both Earth and Thanagar, and Flash confronted his role among the world's greatest heroes. However, the fears of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Martian Manhunter were not revealed (Batman was able to destroy his double the second quickest next to Flash, so that his double never even had a chance to mock him). Only Flash seemed unaffected by his replica's taunts, apparently due to his overpowering sense of self-confidence, and also considering that, while he faced off against the Justice Lords themselves, he never actually had a Lord counterpart to begin with. The androids were destroyed after a short fight.
This growing fear concerning the League somehow turning into their Justice Lord counterparts reached a climax in that episode when the Flash surpassed his maximum speed by tapping into the Speed Force in order to destroy the link between Brainiac and Luthor. This caused the Flash to vanish into the Speed Force, to which the defeated Luthor amusedly remarks: “What do you know? I did kill him.”
Unlike the Justice Lords' Superman, who killed the alternate Luthor, the League’s Superman, refused to succumb to such temptation and follow the path of his tyrannical counterpart and states that “I’m not the man who killed President Luthor. Right now, I wish to Heaven that I were, but I’m not.”
A few minutes later, the League succeeded in drawing the Flash back from the Speed Force, saving his life, and avoiding the path traveled by the Justice Lords.
Realizing that they had allowed themselves to become distanced from the very people they were trying to protect and fearful of becoming the Justice Lords, Superman publicly announced the immediate disbandment of the Justice League. After Green Arrow points out that the Justice League had grown to be far bigger than any individual hero and would continue even without the original seven members, and with public support, the League opted instead to open an embassy on Earth which would serve as a second Watchtower.
- Superman - the leader of the Justice Lords. His costume is black with a white cape and his famous crest on his chest. Superman broke into the White House to confront President Luthor after he killed The Flash. Luthor mocked him that he would get out of jail soon and called him his biggest accomplice. This pushed Superman over the edge and killed Luthor. After that, he and the Justice Lords took over the world by imposing their own version of justice. He lobotomized every villain in the world, including The Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and The Ventriloquist. He endured railing attacks by Lois Lane and the president. He seems to have a more sadistic personality than the other Lords, displaying enthusiasm at battling Doomsday. Later, he and the other lords captured the league and planned to take over their earth. Superman did battle with Doomsday and lobotomized him. Responding to Lex Luthor's supposed escape from prison, planning to kill this version as well, he led the others into a trap, where Luthor turned out to be the Justice League Martian Manhunter. Superman battled Flash and won, and showed true lack of moral when he was even willing to kill him. He was defeated when Luthor blasted him with an energy-disruptor. Voiced by George Newbern
- Batman - He and the Lords took a fascist hold on the world. Unlike his teammates, Batman is morally ambiguous; while he is not seen joining in on their escapades, he does not seem perturbed by their actions. Batman eventually discovered the Justice League. He and the Lords captured the League and took over their world. Batman stayed behind to keep the League locked up. The Flash sped up his heart rate til it went flat. That alerted Batman but Flash beat him up and locked him. Later, he escaped and battled his counterpart in the Batcave. He convinced Batman of the Lords' cause by saying that his methods made the world into "a world where no 8 year-old will ever lose their parents because of some punk with a gun". This prompted Batman to surrender and he accompanied his counterpart on a tour of Gotham City. When a man was arrested for arguing over his food bill, League Batman commented that Mom and Dad would be proud of him. Batman eventually convinced him to help the League get back to their world. Voiced by Kevin Conroy.
- Wonder Woman - When Superman murdered Luthor, she and the Lords ruled the world with an iron fist. Her hair is shorter than her counterparts'. When the Lords discovered the League, they captured them and took over their world. She helped Superman take down Doomsday which resulted in Doomsday being lobotomized. When they discovered Luthor escaped from jail, she and the lords went after him. She battled her counterpart but was defeated when Luthor blasted her with an energy disruptor. Voiced by Susan Eisenberg.
- J'onn Jonnz - When Superman murdered Luthor, he and the Lords took over the world. This J'onn comes across as cold and aloof, without even the occasional smile seen from his counterpart. When they discovered the Justice League, he led them into a trap and then they went and took over their world. He assisted in their battle against Doomsday. When Luthor escaped from jail, he and the Lords went after him. He battled his counterpart but was defeated by Luthor and his energy disruptor. Voiced by Carl Lumbly.
- Green Lantern - When Superman killed Luthor, he and the Lords took over. Unlike his counterpart, he managed to maintain his relationship with Hawkgirl. He is also sad and bitter over Flash's death. When he and the Lords discovered the Justice League, they captured them and took over their world. He assisted in the battle against Doomsday. Later, when Luthor escaped from prison, he and the Lords went after him. He eventually battled his counterpart but was defeated by Luthor's energy disruptor. Voiced by Phil LaMarr.
- Hawkgirl - When Luthor killed Flash, Superman killed him and they took over. She was able to maintain her relationship with Green Lantern, unlike her counterpart. When she and the Lords discovered the League, they captured them and took over. She assisted in the battle against Doomsday. Later, when Luthor escaped from prison, she and the Lords went after him. The League intervened. She did battle with her counterpart but was defeated by Luthor's energy disruptor. Voiced by María Canals.
- The Flash - When Luthor became president, he sent the army after him. The military caught him and Luthor killed him on TV with a double-barrel shotgun. Flash's death caused his teammates to turn into the Justice Lords and take over the world. Hawkgirl and Green Lantern are still bitter and sad over his death. This gives Justice League Flash the notion that he is the League's conscience, and as long as he is around they will all be fine. Voiced by Michael Rosenbaum.
All the Justice Lords were eventually released in the Justice League Unlimited toyline in three 3-pack collectors sets and "the big three" were re-released later with a lava Doomsday variant in a 6-pack. The first set featured Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. One reviewer criticized for not standing on their own, but noted "represent one of the most popular episodes of the entire Justice League series." The next pack included Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and, oddly the Flash. The final set had Hawkgirl and featured the Brainiac copies of Superman and Batman. The characters did not appear in the Justice League Unlimited series, except in flashbacks.
In 2012 Treehouse Kids released the Heroics line of collectable figurines which includes Justice Lords Superman as a chase figure.
Inspiration and Similarities
As revealed in the DVD commentary on the second part of this episode the Justice Lords started out as a straight Crime Syndicate of America story but as the writers worked on it they decided that having it about a Justice League that went fascist had more story potential as the Crime Syndicate was simply evil.
This resulted in the episode being very similar to a saga that Dan Jurgens wrote during his run on Justice League America titled "Destiny's Hand". In that story, the Atom dreams about the original Justice League becoming the oppressive rulers of the world. Doctor Destiny tries to make this "dream universe" absorb the mainstream reality, and the modern Justice League fights the "evil" old Justice League.
The premise of a Justice League-esque superteam establishing a totalitarian state for what they see as the good of humanity has also been taken up in Marvel Comics' original Squadron Supreme miniseries, its recent re-imagining of that story, in Wildstorm's The Authority, and the Titans Tomorrow storyline from the Teen Titans comic book. The idea of metahumans taking control away from humans, and of Superman leading them to make a better world, is also developed in the Elseworlds mini-series Kingdom Come, albeit after Superman had retired only for the new violent heroes to push Earth to the brink of apocalypse. According to the DVD commentary from Bruce Timm, that the plan for Batman's distrust on the League because of the Justice Lords was to have him form Outsiders as a counter-superteam to it, but the idea was discarded. Also in Avengers Annual #2 the Avengers are sent to an alternate world by an earlier version of the time-traveler Kang, where the original Avengers took over the world and imprisoned other super-beings, apparently for their own good. This version seemed to have originally started out like the original Avengers, however just before the Hulk should have left the Scarlet Centurion caused history to diverge. In the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, The Joker's killing of Lois Lane along with millions of people triggers Superman and The Justice League to revisit their mission and take control with only Batman leading a group of insurgents to oppose them.
The idea of having criminals surgically altered to prevent them from returning to lives of crime seems reminiscent of Superman: Red Son, which in turn was inspired by Doc Savage, who brainwashed criminals after his battles with them. It was also a plot point in the recent DC Comics mini-series Identity Crisis—although in that case the alteration was magically-induced rather than surgical and primarily consisted of the heroes erasing the villains' knowledge of their secret identities, save in extreme cases, such as when Doctor Light raped Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man—and in Marvel Comics' original Squadron Supreme miniseries.
- "The World's Finest - Justice League". Worldsfinestonline.com. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED JUSTICE LORDS 3-PACK: By Thomas Wheeler
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A Better World
- World's Finest Online biopage
- "A Better World," Part 1, at tv.com
- "A Better World," Part 2, at tv.com