|First appearance||Justice League, episode A Better World|
|Created by||Stan Berkowitz|
Justice Lords are a fictional team of anti-heroes/anti-villains who first appeared in the televised two-part Justice League episode "A Better World" which was broadcast on November 1, 2003.
The Justice Lords were brought into DC Comics' canonical Multiverse with The Multiversity Guidebook #1 by Grant Morrison in 2015. Their world is situated on Earth-50 of DC's Multiverse.
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 world of the Justice League; their Lex Luthor is elected the President of the United States, kills the Flash, and establishes policies resulting in the prediction that a nuclear war between the League and the government could destroy the entire Earth. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman try to stop the war, storming the White House and confronting Luthor. When Luthor tells Superman no matter how many times he sends him to prison, he would find a way back to power, Superman kills Luthor with his heat vision, and decides he likes this new form of "justice". The others also lose faith in humanity.
For two years, the Justice Lords seize the world's governments and begin ruling with an iron fist. Using their satellite base for surveillance, they ban free speech, limit elections, and eliminate crime by lobotomizing criminals and supervillains through Lord Superman's heat vision, although they justify their behavior as "temporary" and for the people's own good. Lord Superman has also imposed severe restrictions on his girlfriend Lois Lane's way of life, forbidding her from making phone calls, having unauthorized guests, or leaving her home.
The Justice Lords discover their counterparts when Lord Batman finds the League during an experiment which allowed him to view the alternate universe, as well as be transported there. Bored with their own world, the Lords decide to "assist" their counterparts by having their tyranny on the League's world, and trick them 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), and Lord Batman stays behind to keep watch over them.
When the rest of the Lords arrive on mainstream Earth, they meet Doomsday, a monstrous fighter who challenges Earth's mightiest combatants and goes on a rampage. The Lords (especially Lord 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 cell door, is quickly 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, after sarcastically saying if "Mom and Dad" were alive, they would be proud of what Lord Batman has done to his world (to the point of having a man arrested for complaining about the food quality and incorrect calculation of cost at a restaurant). 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, who agrees in exchange for a presidential pardon, and so the League distracts the Lords to allow Luthor to use a power disruptor to permanently strip them of their powers. The Lords are sent back to their Earth, 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 that show 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"), then called "Project: Achilles", 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 the public's shock at Doomsday's lobotomization from an image of a hero they trust, and Superman's fight against Captain Marvel that resulted from Cadmus and Luthor setting up Superman, and all through a mere act of him jumping to conclusions) cast it into an increasingly bad light. However, it successfully 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, causing extensive collateral damage to the surrounding area. The public turns against the League, and they decide to decommission the Watchtower and faithfully surrender (except for Batman, who wants to clear the League's name on his own). However, Cadmus decides to retaliate, sending Galatea (a clone of Supergirl) and an army of genetically engineered metahumans to destroy the Watchtower and kill the rest of the League on board. The League subdues the clones and Supergirl defeats Galatea. When Batman finally convinces Waller Luthor is responsible for the attack, they confront him in his Lexcorp offices, only to be beaten back by Lex, demonstrating unnatural speed and strength. The rest of the League arrives to save them, learning that Luthor's recent actions is due to Superman's old enemy Brainiac (last seen in a battle with the League, Static, and Gear) having been hiding in Luthor's body for several years.
Brainiac and Luthor unite into an entity that creates duplicate androids of the Lords in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Cadmus Plan", adding an android duplicate of the Flash that resembles comic-book villain Zoom, to distract the League from his 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 appeared to be the most unaffected by his replica's taunts due to his overly optimistic nature, and the androids were quickly destroyed, though the group of androids was merely a delaying tactic on the part of the Brainiac/Luthor entity.
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 Brainiac. With Flash supposedly dead, and Luthor at his mercy, Superman is put in exactly the same position as his Justice Lord counterpart, but resists the temptation and proclaims that he is his own person. J'onn then senses Flash's presence, and the League successfully pulls him back from the Speed Force before he can vanish completely, saving his life.
Realizing they have estranged themselves from those they are trying to protect and still fearful of the future, Superman publicly announces the complete dissolution of the Justice League. However, Green Arrow challenges him, saying the Justice League was bigger than any individual and would continue without the original seven, and Superman changes his mind, deciding for the League to establish an embassy on Earth as a secondary Watchtower and maintain a closer relationship with governments and law enforcement.
The Justice Lords were released in the Justice League Unlimited toy line 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.
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 alternate universe presented in Injustice: Gods Among Us also shared much similarity to the Justice Lords, in that a parallel version of the Justice League, save for Batman, became oppressive rulers of the world after Superman was tricked by the Joker into killing Lois Lane, their unborn child, and destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb, for which Superman kills the Joker in retaliation, leading to his descent to tyranny. The alternative Batman, who had formed an underground Resistance movement to combat Superman's methods, brings in the mainstream version of the Justice League to combat Superman and his forces. Notable differences from the Justice Lords include Flash (who, in this continuity, is Barry Allen) being alive and fighting on Superman's side (before he realises how far the "heroes" have fallen and defects), Martian Manhunter was killed during the prequel comics fighting for Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan now a member of the Sinestro Corps as he fights for Superman, while John Stewart is killed along with most of the Corps.
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 Wild storm'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 (albeit using magic and primarily intended to protect the heroes' secret identities) and in Marvel Comics' original Squadron Supreme miniseries.