Justice Lords' model sheets
The Justice Lords are an alternate Justice League from a parallel Earth whose roster resembles the original DC animated universe 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 is dead.
Their world diverges from that of the Justice League; their Lex Luthor is elected President of the United States, establishing policies resulting in the country's "being on the brink of a war that could destroy the whole planet" according to Superman and killing the alternate Flash. The alternate Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman try to stop the war, storming the White House and confronting Luthor (who threatens nuclear war). When he tells the alternate Superman that no matter how many times Superman sends him to prison, Luthor would find a way back to power, Superman kills Luthor with heat vision and decides that he likes this new form of "justice". The other Lords also lose faith in humanity.
The Justice Lords seize the world's governments, ruling with an iron fist. Using their satellite base for surveillance, they suppress free speech, outlaw elections, impose curfews and eliminate crime by lobotomizing criminals and supervillains. Although they justify their behavior as "temporary" and for the good of the people, it is tyranny to the Justice League.
"A Better World"
The Justice Lords discover their counterparts when the alternate Batman finds the League during an experiment. Bored with their world, the Lords "assist" their counterparts by taking over the League's world and trick the League into going to the alternate Earth. When the League arrives, they are imprisoned and rendered unconscious. They are later transferred to cells designed to neutralize their powers (except Hawkgirl, who is injured trying to escape).
When the Lords arrive on mainstream Earth (masquerading as its true heroes) they meet Doomsday, a monstrous fighter who challenges Earth's mightiest combatants and goes on a rampage. The Lords (especially Superman, who predicts that the Lords will win over the earthlings with their "justice") are happy to fight him. After a hard fight, Lord Superman lobotomizes Doomsday with his heat vision (to the surprise of reporter Lois Lane). Luthor, who knows the real Superman's character, deduces that the Lords are not the League.
The League escapes from the holding facility when the Flash accelerates his heartbeat to make Lord Batman think that he has flatlined. Lord Batman opens the Flash's door, is locked in the cell by the Flash and the League escapes. Most go to Arkham Asylum to retrieve Hawkgirl, although Batman goes to the Batcave to get the dimensional transporter. There Batman and Lord Batman fight, and Batman convinces Lord Batman that the Lords' methods are wrong. Lord Batman saves the League from the alternate Earth's security forces and sends them back to their reality.
On mainstream Earth Superman approaches Lex Luthor for help against the Lords. The League distracts the Lords long enough for Luthor to strip them of their powers. The Lords are arrested, and Luthor expresses his intention to enter politics.
The Lords' proposed alterations of mainstream Earth have repercussions in the first two seasons of Justice League Unlimited. The events of "A Better World" aid Amanda Waller's crusade against the destructive capabilities of the metahuman population if the government left it unchecked. When Waller is confronted by Batman, she reveals simulations to see what would happen if the League went rogue; each time, the government was defeated. Project Cadmus, 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 entire Justice League. Mistrust increased within the League; Batman and the Question fear that what happened to the Lords' Earth would happen to theirs when Luthor nearly wins the presidency, and the Question tries to kill Luthor.
The League's apparent degeneration (including Superman’s fight with Captain Marvel and his attempt to lobotomize Doomsday) cast it in an increasingly bad light. However, it recruits the populist, astute Green Arrow as its political conscience; he puts the role of Cadmus in perspective for the League, preventing it from succumbing to the temptation that created the Lords.
Luthor hacks the Justice League Watchtower to attack Cadmus headquarters, with extensive collateral damage. As the public turns against it, the League decommissions the Watchtower and surrenders as a good-faith gesture (except Batman, who wants to clear the League's name himself). When Batman and Waller learn that Luthor is responsible for the attack, they confront him in his Lexcorp offices. The rest of the League arrive to save them, learning that Superman's old enemy Brainiac (last seen in a battle with Darkseid) had been hiding in Luthor's body for many years.
"Divided We Fall"
Brainiac, resident in Luthor, creates duplicate androids of the Lords in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall". He adds an android duplicate of the Flash, in a costume nearly identical to that of comic-book villain Zoom, to distract the League from his (and Luthor's) goal of universal domination. The androids fight the League, playing on its worst fears: Superman becoming a Justice Lord, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl's failed relationship and her pariah status on Earth and Thanagar. Only Flash seemed unaffected by his replica's taunts, but the androids were quickly destroyed.
The growing fear that the League might become the Lords reaches a climax in this episode, when the Flash exceeds his maximum speed (vanishing into the Speed Force) to destroy the link between Brainiac and Luthor. Unlike Lord Superman (who killed the alternate Luthor), Superman resists the temptation. The League pulls the Flash back from the Speed Force, saving his life and avoiding the path of the Justice Lords.
Realizing that they are estranged from those they are trying to protect and fearful of becoming the Justice Lords, Superman announces the dissolution of the Justice League. Green Arrow challenges his decision, saying that the Justice League was bigger than any individual hero and would continue without the original seven members, and Superman changes his mind. The League establishes an embassy on Earth as a secondary Watchtower, maintaining a closer relationship with law enforcement.
In Batman Beyond, the effects of Lex Luthor’s power disruptor are temporary. When the Lords’ powers are restored, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl refuse to choose sides in the conflict between Superman and Batman and leave. Lord Superman marries Lady Wonder Woman during their war against Lord Batman and his benevolent followers. When the League returns to the Lords’ world to help Lord Batman, the League's Wonder Woman and Lord Batman fall in love; she remains in the Lords’ world and marries him. The League’s Batman is heartbroken; he and Wonder Woman were attracted to each other, but he thought a romantic relationship in the team would cause trouble.
Decades later, Lord Batman dies fighting the other Lords; the world remains under their tyranny, with wars between Superman and Batman's followers. Although the League's Wonder Woman returns to mainstream Earth, Superman and Batman’s successor Terry McGinnis are suspicious; their Wonder Woman and her Lady counterpart are identical, and they think this Wonder Woman may be Lord Superman’s wife working as a spy. McGinnis travels to the Lords' world, and learns about Lord Batman's death. The comics introduce parallel-universe versions of Terry McGinnis and Dick Grayson. In this world, McGinnis never meets Bruce Wayne (and never becomes Batman); Grayson is an officer on the Justice Lords' task force, despite being Lord Batman's partner decades before. Lord Superman arrives on the League's world with his followers—including the Justice-Lord versions of Warhawk, Aquagirl (Mareena), Micron, Captain Marvel, the Flash (Danica Williams), and Curare—telling the Justice League that Wonder Woman is his wife.
Years after Wonder Woman's marriage to Lord Batman, her Lady counterpart lures her husband out of hiding and murders him; Wonder Woman kills Lady Wonder Woman in retaliation for her husband's death and marries Lord Superman, conceiving their son Zod so their followers will declare a truce. However, their marriage is a sham; Zod is conceived from the genetic engineering of his parents' DNA with technology from Krypton, Themyscira and Project Cadmus. After Lord Superman discovers that Terry McGinnis has traveled to his universe, he returns to his world to confront him and his counterpart. McGinnis discovers a Batsuit, more advanced than his own, made by Lord Batman before his death which gives its wearer the strength and speed of a Kryptionian or Amazon. McGinnis dons the Batsuit to battle Lord Superman, with his counterpart as a witness. The first fight ends with Terry faking his death (with the Batsuit) when Lord Superman uses heat vision. Terry later discovers that the suit is powered by synthetic kryptonite, with which Lord Batman planned to kill Lord Superman.
When Lord Superman returns to the League's world, he fights Superman, Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman in the Batcave and Zod arrives to help his mother. Terry defeats Lord Superman when the fight spreads to Gotham's downtown area, while the rest of the League defeat the rest of the Justice Lords. Superman sends Lord Superman to the Phantom Zone, where he meets Superman's old enemy Jax-Ur. Seeing the Lords' world finally at peace, Wonder Woman returns to the Justice League and Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne plans to build another synthetic kryptonite Batsuit, in case Lord Superman escapes. As McGinnis and Dick Grayson upgrade McGinnis' Batsuit based on Lord Batman's design, their counterparts repair Lord Batman's Batsuit (which McGinnis returned); Grayson intends to groom McGinnis' counterpart as the new Batman for the Justice Lords' world.
- Superman - Leader of the Justice Lords, who breaks into the White House and kills President Luthor after Luthor kills The Flash. He and the other Lords then impose their version of justice on the world. Superman lobotomizes the villains (including The Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Doomsday and The Ventriloquist), despite opposition from Lois Lane. He and the other Lords capture the Justice League, and plan to take over their earth. Responding to Lex Luthor's escape from prison, he leads the others into a trap in which Luthor is the Justice League's Martian Manhunter. Superman defeats Flash, and is willing to kill him when Luthor blasts him with an energy disruptor. He is voiced by George Newbern.
- Batman - He and the Lords rule the world with an iron fist. Unlike the others, Batman is morally ambiguous; while he does not join in their escapades, he is unperturbed by them. He discovers the Justice League, captures them with the other Lords and takes over their world. When Batman remains behind to guard the League, the Flash accelerated his heart rate until he seemed to flatline. Although Batman is alerted, the Flash overpowers him and locks him up. He escapes, surrendering to League Batman in the Batcave when he is convinced that the League's cause is just. League Batman convinces him to help the League return to their world. He is voiced by Kevin Conroy.
- Wonder Woman - Helps Superman defeat and lobotomize Doomsday. She is defeated by her counterpart when Luthor blasts her with an energy disruptor. Wonder Woman is voiced by Susan Eisenberg.
- J'onn Jonnz - When the Lords discover the Justice League, he leads them into a trap and helps in the fight against Doomsday. He is defeated by his League counterpart (Martian Manhunter), aided by Luthor and his energy disruptor. J'onn Jonnz is voiced by Carl Lumbly.
- Green Lantern - Unlike his League counterpart, he maintains his relationship with Hawkgirl and is bitter over Flash's death.Green Lantern is voiced by Phil LaMarr.
- Hawkgirl - Voiced by María Canals
- The Flash - When Luthor becomes president, he sends the army after him and kills him on television with a double-barreled shotgun. Hawkgirl and Green Lantern are bitter about his death. He is voiced by Michael Rosenbaum.
The Justice Lords were released in the Justice League Unlimited toyline in three 3-pack collector sets. The first set featured Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. A reviewer wrote that although they do not stand up on their own, they "represent one of the most popular episodes of the entire Justice League series." The next pack contained Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and the Flash. The final set contained Hawkgirl and the Brainiac versions of Superman and Batman. In 2012 Treehouse Kids released its Heroics line of collectable figurines, which includes Justice Lords Superman as a chase figure.
Inspiration and parallels
According to the DVD commentary on the second part of "A Better World", although the Justice Lords began as a Crime Syndicate of America story the writers decided that a story about a rogue Justice League had more story potential as the Crime Syndicate was simply evil. The episode is similar to a Dan Jurgens Justice League America story, "Destiny's Hand". In that story, the Atom dreams about the original Justice League becoming 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-type super-team establishing a totalitarian state for what they see as the good of humanity was explored in Marvel Comics' original Squadron Supreme miniseries, its recent reworking of that story, in Wildstorm's The Authority and the "Titans Tomorrow" storyline of the Teen Titans comic book. The idea of metahumans taking control of humans, and of Superman leading them to make a better world, is also developed in the Elseworlds mini-series Kingdom Come. According to Bruce Timm's DVD commentary, Batman was to form Outsiders as a counter-superteam of the Lords but the idea was discarded. In the Avengers Annual #2, the Avengers are sent to an alternate world by an early version of Kang; the original Avengers take over the world and imprison other super-beings, allegedly for their own good. The idea of altering criminals to prevent them from returning to crime was also part of the DC Comics mini-series Identity Crisis and in Marvel Comics' original Squadron Supreme miniseries.
- "The World's Finest - Justice League". Worldsfinestonline.com. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- Batman Beyond Universe #9 (April 2014)
- Batman Beyond Universe #10 (May 2014)
- Batman Beyond Universe #11 (June 2014)
- Batman Beyond Universe #12 (July 2014)
- 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