A lot unfolds in Justice League, out today, including the big-screen debuts of a few heroes. And the movie closes with a hint about where the DCEU might be headed that’s fairly compelling. There will be spoilers beyond this point.
If you’re spoiler-averse, au revoir and have a Batman GIF:
Still here? OK. After the credits, where superhero movies traditionally place their teasers, we go to Arkham Asylum. It’s not explicitly identified as such, but if you look at the patches on the guards, it’s pretty clear where we are. An Arkham guard goes to roust Lex Luthor from his cell, only to find it’s another cackling unhinged bald guy. Then we cut to a gorgeous coastline and a speedboat driven by, of all people, Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello). He gets on a luxurious yacht and, of course, there is Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), with some champagne and a proposition: If the heroes are forming their own league, shouldn’t the villains?
This is an idea with a long, long history. DC has been teaming up its villains since the Golden Age, and for a while in the ’70s the idea even had its own comic book, The Secret Society Of Supervillains. That idea was picked up for the Superfriends cartoon in the form most people know it best: The Legion of Doom. In the cartoon, the Legion — primarily made up of each hero’s archnemesis — mostly proved they couldn’t run a committee meeting to save their lives. But at least they had an awesome evil lair, the blatant Vader helmet ripoff the Hall of Doom.
Usually, this set of villains picked a fight with the League and lost, although they were often saved by Luthor’s elaborate, contrived escape plans, and even when they were caught, the notoriously lax and corrupt justice system of the DC Universe never seemed able to keep them in prison.
In recent years, Luthor revived the Society in the comics as more or less his attempt to quietly take over the world by organizing its evil bits. Called The Society for short, it’s notable for being sprawling, orderly, and includes a condition that villains would join it or else. Luthor and his committee aren’t shy about killing off villains who don’t toe the line, although they do leave the Joker alone because, come on, even if he weren’t homicidal and utterly insane, would you want to attend a staff meeting with that guy?
So, who might join any future Secret Society in the movies? Membership has always been fluid, considering who’s running the thing and who Luthor recruits, so DC could really add anybody they wanted into the mix. Luthor and Deathstroke are obvious nominees, but beyond that DC is free to throw in everybody they want. But there is one important caveat about the leadership.
You might remember we explained the cosmic origins of Justice League’s villain, Steppenwolf, and that he’s the general for one of DC’s most dangerous, tyrannical villains, Darkseid. You might also remember, at the end of Batman v Superman, it was heavily implied Luthor had used Kryptonian technology to contact… something, out there in the void of space. It’s worth noting that the Secret Society of Supervillains was originally founded by Darkseid, in secret. That means Luthor may just be a pawn in a larger game. We’ll no doubt find out as the DCEU moves forward.