Will James Gunn’s New DCU Have a Justice League Already In It?

A big shock to longtime DC Comics fans has been the news that James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy isn’t going to showcase the Man of Steel as its only superhero. Recently, they announced that DC heroes like Hawkgirl, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Mister Terrific, and Metamorpho would all appear in the film as well. Suddenly, this movie takes on a whole new light. As the first film in the new DCU, it will seemingly introduce a universe where superheroes are already everywhere. And that might even include an already formed Justice League. And this approach would show that Gunn is bucking the trend started by the MCU, and later, the DCEU.

Superman leads the Justice League in the Hall of Justice, art by Ivan Reis.
DC Comics

Superman: Legacy Might Skip Building Up a Superhero Cinematic Universe

Slowly building up to a big superhero team-up film had been the go-to approach since the MCU began in earnest with 2008’s Iron Man. When Marvel Studios started their big experiment, the strategy was to carefully establish their individual heroes before teaming them all up. There were four years between Iron Man and Avengers. With the introductions of Captain America and Thor in solo films taking place in between. This plan worked, and Avengers became an enormous hit. And some might say the true start of the MCU.

The Avengers form in the original 2012 film, and Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman fight Doomsday in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Marvel Studios/Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. wanted some of the superhero cheddar (outside of Batman, who always delivered). They introduced their new Superman, Henry Cavill, in Man of Steel. That was essentially meant to be their Iron Man. The other big DC heroes would, presumably, slowly roll out their own films before teaming up as the Justice League. But things didn’t quite work out that way. Man of Steel met with a lukewarm response. So its sequel, Batman v Superman, not only had the task of introducing the DCEU Batman, but also Wonder Woman. And in cameos, Aquaman and the Flash. It took four years between Man of Steel and Justice League. Yet their kitchen-sink approach to Batman v Superman made the whole thing feel rushed and unearned.

James Gunn Might Introduce a DC Universe Already Populated by Superheroes

Yet as different as the MCU and DCEU were in their execution, the approach was basically the same. Introduce one big hero as “the first,” then introduce others before the team up. But maybe James Gunn’s new DCU is just throwing that formula out the window. Gunn’s Superman: Legacy will introduce a Kal-El early in his career. And judging by all the other heroes in the film, there might already be a superteam in this universe. And although Superman is famously the first superhero in the real world, in the pages of DC Comics, there’s plenty of precedent for his not being the first superhero in-universe.

The timeline of the DC Comics universe, circa 1994.
DC Comics

In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe, there was a long legacy of superheroes before Superman arrived on the scene. The World War II era had the heroes of the Justice Society of America, punching mobsters and Nazis alike. Decades passed, and then the arrival of Superman ushered in a new era, which led to a Silver Age of heroes, and to the formation of the Justice League. But in modern comics, Superman definitely arrived into a world where superheroes were known. It seems James Gunn’s DCU might take the same tactic.

Will Superman: Legacy Feature an Already Existing Justice League?

DC Comics' Hawkgirl, Mister Terrific, Guy Gardner, and Metamorpho, all heroes coming to live-action in Superman: Legacy.
DC Comics

With Hawkgirl, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Mister Terrific, and Metamorpho in the film, we think they probably exist as a team of superheroes. While Mister Terrific and Metamorpho have been members of the team the Terrifics together, it’s more likely that this grouping is some form of the Justice League. Especially as Hawkgirl and Green Lantern Guy Gardner are iconic stalwart members of the team in the comics. Maybe we see them trying to recruit Superman into their ranks in the film. Possibly, the big guy just isn’t ready or interested. At least not yet.

Will James Gunn’s DCU Have a Long Superheroic History Behind It?

Pure speculation, but we could see James Gunn introducing a DCU with a significant history behind it already. There could have been a Justice Society of America during the ‘40s and ‘50s, one which gets casually mentioned perhaps (but might be the subject of some future project). That JSA could have eventually inspired a Justice League, just as in the comics. The “build-up” to the DCU Justice League might not be the organization just existing, it just might be a build-up to how the team gained its most iconic lineup in a world-ending event, which would include Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

This approach would also allow for other projects using the name brand of Justice League before we see DC’s Big Guns together in a film. With Guy Gardner and Metamorpho around, and soon Booster Gold, why not a Max adaptation of the iconic and hilarious Justice League International comics? Or an animated series about whichever modern-day iteration of the League we might meet in Superman: Legacy? The sky is the limit in terms of potential if this cinematic universe is already teaming with heroes.

Various TV Justice Leagues, including The Super Friends (1973), the Justice League (2001) and the League from Young Justice (2013)
Warner Bros. Animation

Between long-running animated shows like Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice, the audience that grew up with them, now mostly adults, are well aware of the DC heroes and their various teams. And older audiences are familiar with shows like Super Friends from their youth. We don’t need to see how the Justice League formed, or risk audience confusion. The world is different now. We can accept there’s a universe where all of these things are already in place. If all of this pans out, James Gunn’s Superman film might be even more ambitious than originally thought. And we’re even more here for it than before.

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