Summary:  Following a battle with Lex Luthor, the Justice League are attacked by the Justice Lords, a fascist version of the team from an alternate universe.  Imprisoning the League in their own reality, the Lords assume the roles of the Justice League in an attempt to "help" their counterparts by doing for them what they did for their own reality:  create "a better world" by assuming command and imposing their will upon it.  Meanwhile, trapped in the Lords' universe, the Justice League must escape a prison fashioned by the Lords' Batman, return to their reality, and figure out a way to stop a foe that possesses all of the League's assets, but none of their restraints.

JL Roll Call:  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, J’onn J’onzz, Hawkgirl

JL Roll Call:  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, J’onn J’onzz, Hawkgirl

Featured Character:  Superman

Villains:  The Justice Lords

Supporting Villains:  Lex Luthor, Doomsday


Cartoon Network on “A Better World”:  “When Lex Luthor finally goes too far, Superman decides to take the law into his own hands.  Ruling with an iron fist, the Man of Steel and his fellow heroes set out to eliminate all crime from their world, but at what price (courtesy of Cartoon Network)?”

Stan Berkowitz on “A Better World”:  “There was one [Adventures of Superboy episode] in which he had become a dictator.  The idea was that the rocket he had been sent in from Krypton had overshot the Kent farm and landed in one owned by this agricultural conglomerate.  So the guy that owned the conglomerate realized right away what he had and raised the super-kid to be the leader of the world.  So Superkid takes over and Luthor in that world was a freedom fighter and Lana Lang was his girlfriend.  I guess it was inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life; so was this Justice League story (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”

Bruce Timm on “A Better World”:  “The episode actually started off as a Crime Syndicate story.  In the Justice League comic the Crime Syndicate is an alternate universe version of the Justice League consisting of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, [Johnny Quick], and Power Ring.  We thought that was something we could explore, but the more we got into the story, the more we realized we were changing the basic idea of the Crime Syndicate so much that it wouldn’t be worth calling them that.  It would be better for the story rather than being Justice League-type guys, if they were literally an alternate universe version of the Justice League.

“It was also somewhat of a response to the comic book series The Authority, the basic premise of which is what if the Justice League really existed, would they be content with just putting a band aid on a crime or would they get to the point where they realize they could do much greater good for humanity at large if they basically took over.  The original Authority is kind of tongue in cheek, almost half-satirical.  Bottom line, [however], is the Authority go act like fascists.  They defy the world governments, including the United States, saying they know what’s right.  That’s a real scary attitude.  I think the series is great fun in its ridiculous over-the-topness, but we wanted to explore some of the moral questions raised by that series.

“So it kind of goes into the whole concept of super-powered vigilantes, which technically the Justice League are.  They’re not sanctioned by any elected body.  So we explore the philosophy of that, both the good and the bad.  The more we got into it and started to play around with the themes of it, we ended up with a story that was much richer than if it had been a Crime Syndicate story.

“Specifically, I’m thinking of the scene when the alternate universe Superman is having dinner with Lois and she’s literally the voice of the people saying, ‘What you’re doing isn’t right,’ and he’s saying, ‘Well, you’ve got to trust me on this one, Lois.’  Then he leaves and you learn that Superman has actually put the woman he loves under house arrest to keep her from speaking her mind.  That’s certainly a pointed comment from us about silencing the press and freedom of speech and all these political things that, once you give up certain rights, it’s hard to get them back (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).”

Bruce Timm on parallels to current events:  "It's not so much that we were deliberately trying to inject 'political commentary' into the show; it's just that we're constantly on the look-out for story hooks or springboards, and we just happened to find some juicy ones in current events.  In the case of 'A Better World,' the story became much more timely after the story had been written; months later, while the show was in post-production, it was right around the time Mr. Bush was rattling his saber at Iraq, just before the U.S. actually invaded.  Not that it was really all that similar to whatever President Luthor was seemingly up to in 'A Better World,' but as we were putting that show together, we seemed to find haunting echoes of Lex in Mr. Bush's stubborn insistence on going to war with Iraq, against the better judgment of the U.N., etc.  It was eerie.

"Also, Justice Lord Superman's lockdown on Lois' freedom of speech had interesting parallels with what was going on in the world post-9/11, where, for instance, anyone who publicly disagreed with the President was labeled 'un-patriotic.'  But it's not an overtly political episode, for all of that.  Its 'message' is pretty basic:  'Democracy isn't perfect, but it's better than the alternative' (courtesy of The World's Finest)."

Dan Riba on Superman in “A Better World”:  “This is the crux of Superman’s real weakness—it’s not kryptonite, it’s himself.  He has to stop himself from hurting anybody.  He’s seen [the Justice Lords] and the choice they’ve made and wants to prevent that from happening (courtesy of ToyFare Magazine).”

DarkLantern on Luthor’s power disruptor:  “Luthor’s power disruptor works by generating an energy wave that permanently disrupts the electrical impulses of the central nervous system so the Justice Lords couldn’t activate their natural powers / abilities (thus, Superman can’t fly, Hawkgirl can’t use her wings, etc.).  This includes preventing Justice Lords Green Lantern from generating enough willpower to activate his ring.  Even Superman’s invulnerability, which is created by an electrochemical bio aura, would be shut down.  […] The disruptor can also disrupt the energy field in Hawkgirl’s mace, rendering that useless as well.

“There was an old John Byrne Superman issue in the 1980s that explained this concept in greater detail but, in short, the Justice Lords still have their powers, they just can’t use them anymore (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

Bruce Timm on Lex Luthor in “A Better World”:  “Besides keeping it out of villainous hands, the main reason Luthor had to hand the power disruptor over to Superman (and, by extension, the Justice League) was so that they could analyze it and come up with some kind of ‘anti-power disruptor’ defense against it, should Lex ever try to make another one.  Lex is smart enough to realize they would do this, so he’d never bother making another one (courtesy of Toon Zone).”

DarkLantern on Superman’s clout in “A Better World”:  “Superman doesn’t have the ability to grant a pardon, but he may have good relations with the governor and made this arrangement through him / her (courtesy of Toon Zone).”



Commentary coming soon!


Image courtesy of The World’s Finest.

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