Why DC Needs the Legion of Doom
When I think of supervillain team-ups, the first two that spring to mind are the Legion of Doom and Spider-man's Sinister Six. They are (mostly) organized under some genius, whether it is Lex Luthor or Doctor Octopus to fight the battles no one supervillain could. They are the Avengers and the Justice League of bad guys, and they can be oh-so corny most of the time. Similar to any superhero group, you usually have a misunderstood genius, the distrusting foil, the witless muscle, etc... all tripping over each other to get what they want. We all know that only one arch enemy isn't enough to take on a respective superhero, but suppose they pooled their resources and actually worked together.
In Hanna-Barbera's Superfriends, the Legion of Doom consisted of four Superman villains (Lex, Brainiac, Bizarro, and Toyman), two Flash villains (Captain Cold and Gorilla Grodd), two Wonder Woman villains (Cheetah and Giganta), two Batman villains (Riddler and Scarecrow), along with Aquaman's Black Manta, Green Lantern's Sinestro, and the League's Solomon Grundy. Truthfully, the show had nothing to offer in terms of characterization, with each villain failing in their goals because they overestimate themselves. The original Sinister Six was Doc Ock, Sandman, Vulture, Kraven, Electro, and Mysterio. They have a similar problem - they don't know what teamwork is.
It's the same with any villainous group. The Decepticons are quick to betray each other for unattainable power, the Masters of Evil and the Secret Society have their own (often conflicting) agendas, the Brotherhood will have an uneven amount of conviction.... their problem isn't their lack of strength, but conflicting determination.
It has been said (with great reasoning) that it will probably be another decade before we see a Justice League live-action film. Many have claimed that they would rather see a steady evolution of team-ups beforehand, such as "World's Finest" with Superman and Batman or "the Brave and the Bold" with Green Lantern and the Flash. I think that makes perfect sense.
For a Justice League movie, I think we're going to need a different take altogether than what we have seen in the Avengers (which I do regard as the best comic book movie). When it comes to the comics it always depends on the writer, but more often than not, I prefer the Justice League to the Avengers because..... (and here's the punchline) they seem to have the better villains. I'm thinking, instead of telling the story from the perspective of the superheroes, why not go for a self-aware (and moderately campy) rendition of a supervillain group such as the Secret Society, or the Injustice Gang, or the Legion of Doom (or a mixture of the three)?
I know I'm not the only one who has noticed that in every superhero movie, when someone like Spider-man gets his powers, there's always some nutjob out there who ALSO gets an upgrade the next day or week. Well, ALMOST every superhero movie. It is the formula - you have the superhero who has to stop some supervillain to save the day. Does that mean the central theme in these movies is containment? Who are these superheroes to police the rest of humanity and tell these men and women of science and recreational violence what is right and what is wrong? (Especially if these men and women are not human.) And suppose another "superhero" arrives on the scene and doesn't march to the same beat? Better yet, what if the world started rising up and rendered these "superheroes" obsolete?
In the DC universe, there is one constant, and that is Superman. All the bad guys know that he's capable of tossing them out into the Earth's orbit if he wanted to. In the movies, no human (unless they just don't know who he is) will engage him in combat unless he's been treated to Kryptonite. Even then, who wants to risk it? Who wants to get their hands dirty doing the groundwork? Apart from the coup de grâce performed by Lex Luthor in Superman Returns after he is softened up considerably, the only ones to have actually fought Superman were either from Krypton, or cloned from a Kryptonian. Like many things, I fall back onto one of my favorite video games: Team Fortress 2. In TF2, there are 9 completely different readily-available character classes, but not everyone makes use of them.
Even after the "Meet the Medic" video, few people want to play as the Medic because he lacks any devastating offensive weaponry and can't really defend himself if cornered - he is a supporting character. The Engineer will quickly build a sentry gun and a dispenser which automatically resupplies your ammo and replenishes your vitality if you stand close to it. If everyone played as an Engineer on either team, the entire map would be full of the constant stand-by beeping of every sentry and no one would want to move - nothing would happen. This is the hurdle the Legion of Doom faces - advancing each supervillain beyond one character class.
I thought the latest animated movie "Justice League: Doom" was good, but considerably flawed. Vandal Savage supplies each supervillain with a modified version of Batman's plans to neutralize their respective superhero nemesis. Note how each supervillain is perhaps formidable, but not the greatest enemy each Leaguer has gone up against... for the most part. Because Savage strangely trusts them to do their job and only just, he has hired THOSE supervillains. They are mercenaries with a personal vendetta and grievance against their foes, but SEEM to lack the intelligence to completely defeat them. The solution to J'onn is feeding him magnesium and lighting him on fire? (Please, Gorilla Grodd's telepathy alone could make J'onn think he's on fire while he's underwater!) Nail Flash with a bomb that will detonate if he slows down? (Does that really require the use of holographic projections?) Shoot Superman with a Kryptonite bullet? (Didn't Metallo do just that in "Public Enemies"?) Bury Bruce alive without searching him? (Even without the keys, this is BATMAN!)
Suppose that our Vandal Savage-type villain (Lex Luthor!) didn't have plans to destroy most of the Earth and conquer the rest, and simply wanted a contingency plan in case a member of the Justice League got in the way of whatever plans of worldwide domination or godhood. These plans really wouldn't be too hard to execute. Lex could bury Bruce alive. Lex could shoot Clark with a green bullet. Lex could trick Barry into opening a box that would nail an explosive through his wrist. Lex could stick Diana with a pointy metal object in passing. Lex could poison J'onn's drink.
With that in mind, I think there ought to be more focus on the characters within the Legion of Doom than their obvious previous encounters with the Justice League heroes. I prefer Grodd to Luthor anyway. And Richard III. As far as the audience's perception of the villains as the protagonists... I'm thinking towards Jack Nicholson's Joker, heck particularly Heath Ledger's rendition... but they would be the titular characters. I feel the change in perspective would keep things fresh, ensure that the villains are kept interesting, and also serve as a slight introduction to some of the "obscure" superheroes within the Justice League.
What DC villains do you feel deserve this special treatment?
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