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A Better World

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Justice League episode
Justice Lords
"A Better World"
Airdate: November 1, 2003
Production Number: 37-38
Airdate Order: 37-38
Animation Services by: Dong Woo Animation Co., LTD.
Written by: Stan Berkowitz
Directed by: Dan Riba
Episode images (21)

"A Better World" is composed of the 37th and 38th episodes of Justice League. It originally aired on November 1, 2003.

Plot

Part I

In an alternate universe, the Justice League storms the White House. Batman and Wonder Woman take on the Secret Service guards, clearing Superman's path to the Oval Office. Inside the Oval Office, President Lex Luthor frantically gathers up papers. Superman busts in, saying he's taking Luthor in for crimes committed in office.

Half-mad, Luthor rants that he's not to blame. The people are, for not being able to see or accept his "grand design" for the world. Luthor prepares to press a button that will start a nuclear war, saying they will "burn" for their mistake. But then he calms himself, and waits to see what Superman will do; he points out that Superman can't stop him without deadly force.

Superman hesitates, and Luthor mocks him, saying that the Kryptonian has been Luthor's greatest accomplice all along: he loves being a hero and all the glory that comes with it so much that he continues to thwart Luthor time and again, rather than having the guts to end it once and for all. Although Luthor may lose his presidency, he'll find a way out of prison eventually, and the whole thing will begin all over again. Alas, this proves to be Luthor's final error; Clearly affected by his arch-enemy's accusations, Superman decides that if being a hero has led to this endless cycle, he's done with it. He glares at Luthor, eyes glowing red...

...and outside the Oval Office, a strange smell reaches Batman and Wonder Woman's noses. They rush in, and stop dead in their tracks to see that Superman has burned Luthor to death. Wonder Woman is shocked while Batman coldly proclaims that it had to be done. Wonder Woman asks Superman if he's all right; turning around, Superman reveals an unnerving grin on his face, and says he is great.

Two years later, Earth has become a very different world. Superman and his five remaining teammates are now the effective rulers of the planet. It is revealed that the catalyst for their rebellion was the death of the Flash, murdered as part of Luthor's schemes. Monitoring events from their new, heavily-armed Watchtower, they have taken over governments and subverted freedom of speech, all in the name of the people's safety. After denying the current U.S. President permission to hold an election to choose his successor, Hawkgirl and Green Lantern are sent to disperse a protest in Smallville. Batman has retreated to the Batcave, claiming to be busy with a project.

The mere appearance of Green Lantern and Hawkgirl causes the protesters to disperse, out of fear. Hawkgirl shows some doubts, wondering why they need to go to such lengths, when the world has already become a much safer place. Lantern says that they have to remain vigilant, and he's at ease with their actions because the dangerous world needed their leadership.

While Superman dines with Lois Lane, she too voices her misgivings about the Lords' fascist regime. Superman tells her that she's missing "the bigger picture", but their conversation is interrupted by Batman, who calls an urgent Justice Lords meeting. As Superman leaves, Lois tries to follow him out of the apartment, only to be stopped by guards at her door. She berates the soldiers, and by extension the people of Earth, for being blindly obedient and complacement under the rule of the Justice Lords.

In the Batcave, Batman shows the other Justice Lords an image of the "Justice League" battling Lex Luthor. What they are seeing, Batman explains, is a real-time event from an "alternate reality" in which Flash is still alive, and the League is still playing a passive, law-enforcing role. Deciding that the alternate world needs their brand of law and order as much as their own did, the Justice Lords decide to intervene.

In the primary universe, the Justice League continues to battle Luthor, ultimately defeating him and disassembling a weapon he had been preparing. Shortly thereafter, the Lords' J'onn J'onzz emerges from an interreality portal, saying he has been sent from an alternate reality by an embattled League that needs the "primary" League's help. Although the League has some doubts (especially Batman), they decide to trust Justice Lord J'onn.

Once the League has emerged into the alternate universe, they are quickly incapacitated by a trap. Hawkgirl, however, refuses to go down without a fight (a fact noted with some pride by her Justice Lord counterpart) and is badly injured when Lantern has to knock her out.

While Hawkgirl is taken for medical attention, the other League members are locked in a specially designed cell block. The Lords, with the exception of Batman, then cross over to the primary universe, planning to impose order on the new world.

It seems that the Justice Lords arrive just in time: the rogue behemoth Doomsday is on the loose. The Lords each attack, but none is a match for the creature except Superman. When it becomes clear that they are outmatched in strength and endurance, Superman ends the fight by lobotomizing Doomsday with his heat vision. The primary 's Lois Lane is shocked by Superman's brutality, but others in the crowd cheer, saying "It's about time" the heroes took a more aggressive approach. Watching this from prison, Luthor alone realizes that these heroes aren't the true Justice League.

Part II

Back in the Lords' reality, Justice Lord Batman acts as jailer to the rest of the League. Batman and Flash both berate him for the extremes to which the Lords have gone. Justice Lord Batman only retorts that such a thing could just as easily have happened to them if they were pushed far enough—for the Lords, he admits, the "push" came with Flash's death.

Justice Lord Batman tells them not to bother with trying to escape, because he's already thought of everything their Batman would have. But Flash's heart rate becomes erratic, and then stops altogether. Afraid that another Flash has just died on his watch, Justice Lord Batman rushes to the cell and opens it to see what's going on. As soon as Justice Lord Batman unshackles Flash's arm, the Fastest Man Alive clobbers him with a flurry of superspeed punches, knocking his warden across the room. Flash escapes and emerges from his cell to free the others. Batman says he didn't know that Flash could speed up his own heart rate to the point where it appears to flatline, prompting Flash to confess that he didn't either; It was the first time Flash tried such a stunt, but since Batman couldn't come up with a plan, it fell to him to think of something.

Batman heads to his counterpart's Batcave to activate the interreality portal, while the rest of the League heads off to find Hawkgirl.

As he nears the portal device, Batman is confronted by his counterpart, who has anticipated all his moves. Concealed in the shadows, the two stalk each other through the cave, all the while debating the ethics of what the Lords have done. Batman says they have crossed the line by seizing power, but Justice Lord Batman replies that, with said power, they've made a world where no other eight-year-old boy will lose his parents to violence, as they did. At that, Batman drops his batarang, steps into the light, and surrenders.

The League track Hawkgirl to Arkham Asylum, the only hospital equipped to hold metahuman patients. But the asylum is a far different place than the one from their reality. The staff are all former criminals, particularly from Batman's rogues gallery, all of whom are placid, docile zombies. All of the inmates have apparently been lobotomized by Justice Lord Superman's heat vision, revealing that Doomsday wasn't the first victim of Justice Lord Superman's brutal tactic.

A very calm and polite Joker is acting as the superintendent. Pretending to be the Lords, the League asks to be taken to Hawkgirl. Joker requests a password, which J'onn gives by reading Joker's mind ("applesauce"). Joker says they got it right, but apologetically triggers the alarm, because Wonder Woman was supposed to say it. Robotic versions of Justice Lord Superman attack the League, but are easily defeated, and the League breaks Hawkgirl out.

Batman and his counterpart drive through Gotham City towards Arkham. When they stop at a red light, they see a restaurant, where a customer is arguing with the manager about the amount of his bill, and in short order is arrested by the police for disturbing the peace. Batman needles his Lord counterpart that "Mom and Dad would love it here." Clearly annoyed, the Lords' Batman says tersely, "Just drive" as the light turns green.

By the time they reach Arkham, the military has been alerted and the League is barricaded inside. By this time, Justice Lord Batman has had a change of heart, and tells the military to back off.

As the League prepares to return to their reality to confront the Lords, Batman wonders openly what they will have to do: The Lords are their equals in powers and intelligence, and they are willing to kill whereas the League isn't. Superman isn't willing to cross that line, but Batman says that some kind of line will have to be crossed if they mean to succeed.

In the primary reality, the Lords have occupied the League's Watchtower, when they receive an alert of a prison breakout: Luthor has escaped.

The Lords fly to the prison, but it is a trap set by the League, mirroring the Justice Lords' own trap that captured the League. In the fight that follows, each League member fights his or her counterpart, and neither side is able to gain the upper hand. The exception is Lord Superman, whose own counterpart is mysteriously absent, and who ends up fighting Flash. Lord Superman is goaded so far that he is prepared to kill Flash to end the fight, but then Superman arrives with Luthor, who has rebuilt the weapon from his earlier fight with the League.

Luthor fires the weapon at each of the Lords, draining them of their powers. He is tempted to turn the weapon on Superman, but then hands it over, as "a deal's a deal." It is revealed that Superman secured a presidential pardon for Luthor in exchange for his help in defeating the Lords, who are taken away.

Lord Superman rages that everything Luthor does from now on will be on Superman's head. Superman agrees that it's a high price, but declares that it's one of the many hard choices he's had to make.

Later, Luthor holds a press conference to answer questions about his new freedom. He says that the business world doesn't seem as challenging as it used to be, but he has been giving some thought to politics.

Continuity

  • Doomsday would later return in the Justice League Unlimited episode, "The Doomsday Sanction", where it would be revealed that he was an altered clone of Superman.
  • In the same episode, Luthor follows through on his hints by announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Presidency, which was a major component of the Cadmus arc.
  • This episode proves to be one of the most pivotal in the continuity (similar to "Legacy" from Superman: The Animated Series), providing the motivation for much of the events in the second season of Justice League Unlimited, and the background for the particular events of the four-part season finale:
    • The brief rampage of the Justice Lords and Superman's accounting of their actions in their own universe (given as part of getting Lex's deal) is said to be a major cause for the development of Project Cadmus by Amanda Waller.
    • There are several references to the election of Luthor to the presidency and the murder of the alternate reality's Flash as the catalysts for the Lords' actions.
  • After becoming a prisoner/fugitive/prisoner-once-again in "Injustice For All", Luthor is finally pardoned, and states that he's reformed.
  • This is the League's first time in the Batcave (except Superman who was there on the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Knight Time" and albeit, this is the Justice Lord Batman's cave). They would later take refuge in their Batman's Batcave after learning each other's identities during the Thanagarian invasion on "Starcrossed". How they entered the Justice Lord Batman's cave without learning Bruce's identity, is unknown (though they could have entered from one of outer exits e.g. for the Batmobile, Batboat, etc.).
  • This is Lois Lane's first true appearance since Superman: The Animated Series ended. An imaginary version of her appeared in Superman's nightmare in "Only A Dream".
  • This episode also shares many elements with Superman: The Animated Series episode "Brave New Metropolis", in which Lois visits an alternate reality where a version of Superman became an oppressive dictator who seized control and ran the world as he (and his partner Lex Luthor) saw fit after her death.
  • Justice Lord Hawkgirl's helmet is revealed in the series finale, "Starcrossed" to be another type of Thanagarian helmet that is apparently more commonly worn. The reason for the switch is unknown.

Background information

Home video releases

Production notes

  • On the commentary, Bruce Timm states that the sound effect used for Flash throwing rocks at Justice Lord Superman was machine gunfire with a silencer.
  • On that same commentary, the creators also pointed out a scene during the prison fight where Green Lantern was trying to shoot down Justice Lord Hawkgirl with his power ring on the wrong hand. The creators explained the shot was "flopped" because in the original version, GL was actually shooting his energy bolts in the wrong direction from where Justice Lord Hawkgirl was flying.
  • The commentary also revealed that the tone of Lex Luthor's press conference speech at the end of the episode (wherein Lex foregoes big business to take up politics) was inspired by the speech given when Jerry Levin retired as CEO of AOL Time Warner in 2002. The line "There's no poetry in it" (meaning the business world) is a direct quote.

Production inconsistencies

  • In "The Doomsday Sanction", Project Cadmus is credited with the creation of Doomsday. However, Cadmus itself was formed in reaction to the rampage of the Justice Lords. Also, Doomsday's motive and personalty seem different (not just after Superman).
  • In the reaction shot when the Leaguers are shocked to find a mild-mannered Joker working at Arkham Asylum, J'onn J'onzz's belt looks like Superman's belt, only colored differently. By the next scene, J'onn's belt returns back to normal.
  • During the fight at Arkham Asylum, one of the Justice Lord Superman robots displays a white "S" symbol on a yellow background, instead of Justice Lord Superman's red background.
  • When Green Lantern picks up Hawkgirl and carries her from her hospital bed, his power ring disappears.
  • The American Flag on the White House is backwards in the opening sequence - being mounted along the stripes edge, not the proper stars and stripes edge.

Trivia

  • The Justice Lords seem to be aware of (at least) Superman's identity as Hawkgirl comments about Smallville being his hometown. Whether they are aware of Batman's identity or he managed to get them in and out of the Batcave without revealing it is unknown.
  • In Lord Batman's Batcave, the costumes of Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Batman's previous outfit (the one in The New Batman Adventures) are seen, similar to the Batman Beyond era Batcave.
  • Lord Batman's costume bears a Bat-insignia on the chest similar to that of Terry McGinnis's Batsuit in Batman Beyond.
  • During the battle with Doomsday, J'onn is defeated when Doomsday lights a petrol leak causing J'onn to be enveloped in fire and knocked out. Just before this, J'onn seemed to be somewhat shocked at the flames. This seems to be a nod to the comic mainstream where Martians are weak against fire.
  • On the audio commentary for Part II, the writers state that these episodes were written in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq. The writers noticed several similarities between the Bush Administration's policies and the Justice Lords and were very disturbed by the similarities. The writers also state they were not intending a parallel but rather a compelling story.
  • As a note to the above, the President who the Lord Superman speaks to following their fascist rule seems to be very much based upon the (at the time) real life President George W. Bush.
  • This is the second time in DCAU to feature Batman fighting with himself (the first one being the H.A.R.D.A.C.'s duplicant in "His Silicon Soul"). In both cases, one side represents the free choice, and the other complete order and safety. In both cases, Batman wins by seemingly losing.
  • Batman's secret code is 91939. This is a reference to Batman's debut, published in 1939.
  • During their fight, the Justice Lord Superman and Doomsday punch each other simultaneously. In the comics, this is what resulted in both of their deaths during the famous Death of Superman storyline.
  • The audio commentary also revealed that the Justice Lords were heavily influenced by the comic book "The Authority", which features an uncompromising superteam who took over their world "for its own good" and will use any means necessary to accomplish their goals.
  • The audio commentary further stated that the scene where Wonder Woman threw her tiara at Justice Lord Wonder Woman was an homage to Lynda Carter, who played the Amazing Amazon in the popular 70s TV show "Wonder Woman". In said show as well as the comics, Diana frequently used her unbreakable tiara as a throwing weapon.
  • In the commentary, Bruce Timm states that lines uttered by Justice Lord Superman's robotic replicas are unpopular quotes spoken by Superman back in the first season. The gag was episode writer Stan Berkowitz's idea.
Robot's line Superman's line Episode Context
You must be stopped. Orm must be stopped. "The Enemy Below, Part II" After the Justice League discovers Orm's plan to submerge the entire world.
Thanks! No, thanks. "Secret Origins, Part III" After declining an Iced Mocha from the Flash.
  • Superman almost uses profanity, saying,"I don't know about you, but I'm ready to kick some serious-", before The Flash cuts him off.

Cast

Actor Role
Maria Canals Hawkgirl
Justice Lord Hawkgirl (uncredited)
Watchtower personnel (uncredited)
Kevin Conroy Batman
Justice Lord Batman (uncredited)
Watchtower personnel (uncredited)
Susan Eisenberg Wonder Woman
Justice Lord Wonder Woman (uncredited)
Female reporter (uncredited)
Watchtower personnel (uncredited)
Phil LaMarr Green Lantern
Justice Lord Green Lantern (uncredited)
Lieutenant (uncredited)
Carl Lumbly J'onn J'onzz
Justice Lord J'onn J'onzz (uncredited)
Waiter (uncredited)
George Newbern Superman
Justice Lord Superman (uncredited)
Watchtower personnel (uncredited)
Michael Rosenbaum Flash
Cop (uncredited)
Student (uncredited)
Clancy Brown Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor (Justice Lords' universe) (uncredited)
Dana Delany Lois Lane
Lois Lane (Justice Lords' universe) (uncredited)
Brian George Mr. President (Justice Lords' universe)
Watchtower personnel (uncredited)
Mark Hamill Joker (Justice Lords' universe)
Restaurant guest (uncredited)
Jason Marsden Snapper Carr
David Markus Student
Diane Pershing Poison Ivy (Justice Lords' universe)
Michael Jai White Doomsday

Uncredited appearances

Quotes

Justice Lord Superman: There are at least six different ways I can stop you right now.
President Luthor: But they all involve deadly force, don't they? And you don't do that. No, you need me. You wouldn't be much of a hero without a villain, and you do love being a hero, don't you? The cheering children, the swooning women, you love it so much, it's made you my most reliable accomplice.
Justice Lord Superman: Accomplice? What are you...?
President Luthor: You could've crushed me any time you wanted and it wasn't the law or the will of the people that stopped you. It was your ego. Being a hero was too important to you. You're as much responsible as I am. So go ahead, fix it somehow, put me on trial, lock me up, but I'll beat it and then we'll start the whole thing all over again.
Justice Lord Superman: I did love being a hero, but if this is where it leads, I'm done with it.


Justice Lord Superman: What do you want?
Doomsday: Same as you, I imagine. Power. Control. But I had to see the best this planet had to offer. I am not impressed.


Lex Luthor: (caught) Watch. I'll be out in days.
Wonder Woman: Not with a broken leg you won't.


Batman: One question: why?
Justice Lord Batman: Because you and your friends couldn't do what needed to be done.


Flash: What are you lookin' at? Huh?
Justice Lord Batman: Calm down. You'll appreciate this someday.
Flash: Yeah? I don't think Hawkgirl's gonna appreciate it too much.
Justice Lord Batman: That was an accident. She's in our best hospital now, and...
Flash: I don't want to hear it.


Batman: You've thought of everything.
Justice Lord Batman: No. Just everything you'll ever think of.


Batman: I think he likes you.
Flash: Must be my magnetic personality.


Justice Lord Batman: Think about it. A world where there's no crime, no victims, no pain.
Batman: And no choice. Who elected you, anyway?
Justice Lord Batman: Who elected you? The problem with democracy is it doesn't keep you very safe.
Batman: It has other virtues, but you seem to have forgotten them.
Justice Lord Batman: I didn't forget. I just chose peace and security instead.
Batman: You grabbed power!
Justice Lord Batman: 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 drops his batarang on the ground and stands silent for a minute)
Batman: You win.


Batman: They'd love it here, don't you think?
Justice Lord Batman: Who?
Batman: Mom and dad. (sarcastically) They'd be so proud of you.
Justice Lord Batman: ...Just drive.


Flash: Hey, he was the conscience of your group and that means I must be...
Green Lantern: Come on, Jiminy!


Flash: Wow, Supes, you really know how to bring down the house!
(Justice Lord Superman picks Flash up and raises his fist, but then hesitates)
Flash: Can't do it, can you? I'm the last piece of your conscience, and this is the one thing you'll never do.
Justice Lord Superman: I've done a lot of things I thought I'd never do these past two years. One more won't hurt.


Lex Luthor: (aiming a weapon) This would be so sweet. (hands it to Superman) But... a deal's a deal.
Green Lantern: What deal?
Superman: A full pardon in exchange for his help.
Justice Lord Superman: Everything he does from now on is your fault!
Superman: It's a high price, but it's better than the alternative.


Batman: How did you get out?
Flash: I sped up my heartbeat until it looked like it flatlined.
Batman: I didn't know you could do that.
Flash: Neither did I. But I had to come up with something if you weren't going to.
Batman: I couldn't. Not with him anticipating everything I could ever think of. But who could anticipate you?



Previously produced episode:
"Hearts and Minds"
Episodes of
Justice League
Next produced episode:
"The Terror Beyond"
Previously aired episode:
"Hearts and Minds"
Next aired episode:
"Eclipsed"

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