Justice League isn’t nearly as bad as its detractors say, but it’s also not exactly the movie everyone wanted, either. Suffering from some hasty editing, likely studio interference, and perhaps a mismatch in directorial styles between Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, it’s a miracle that Justice League is as coherent as it is. And for all its DCEU ambition, the uniting of six of the biggest heroes in comics doesn’t quite reach the epic scope that fans might have expected, especially since they go up against a secondary villain in Steppenwolf.
But for several years before Chris Terrio took over the script, Darkseid was the intended villain of Justice League. Will Beall (Gangster Squad) wrote at least one draft of Justice League back in 2011, and I remember hearing that he was still working on the project as late as 2013, including after the release of Man of Steel. While I never got my hands on any of Beall’s Justice League drafts, the buzz was never great, although the one consistent thing that kept coming up was that the main villain was Darkseid.
One of Beall’s drafts from 2011 has finally made its way into the hands of the press, and it sounds pretty bonkers. While you might expect this to be a loose adaptation of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League: Origin comic (much like the current movie), you’d be wrong. This wasn’t just a Justice League vs. Darkseid throwdown. Instead, we would have had a Justice League that also included multiple Green Lanterns, Green Arrow, and Hawkman taking on a full scale invasion from Apokolips, as well as a diverse array of villains including moments for Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc. As if that’s not enough, there’s a time travel element, a Batman v Superman fight (since Supes gets mind-controlled by Darkseid, something we honestly expected to see happen in the current film), and a climactic battle on Apokolips including the entire League and the Green Lantern Corps. There are even more crazy details over at The Wrap.
While this certainly sounds like a desperately overstuffed superhero blockbuster, what’s interesting about it is how it presupposes a fully formed DC Universe. And I don’t mean a DCEU that had existed for just a few movies. Instead, this draft of Justice League just jumps right into a well established world that doesn’t need years of setup. The Justice League: Mortal script by Michele and Kiernan Mulroney that was very nearly brought to life by George Miller also took that approach. While it would have been released roughly during the era of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, it wouldn’t have had anything to do with them. WB’s plan was to just let Justice League be its own thing. It seems that was still the case as production for Man of Steel was about to begin and the Dark Knight trilogy was wrapping up.
On the other hand, George Miller’s unmade Justice League movie was far less ambitious than the details of this Beall draft (although moreso than the film we got this year), which seems to have an everything including the kitchen sink approach. While Beall eventually left the project, he remained in the mix for other DCEU movies for a little while longer, and was commissioned for work on Aquaman early in that project’s development. I’d love to give any of these other scrapped Justice League drafts a read, but haven’t had any luck. If I do, I’ll let you all know.