The world was introduced to the first iteration of the Justice League back in March 1960 in The Brave and the Bold #28, and since then, the superhero team has become one of the most beloved properties in comic book history. Although individual members of the League have been adapted to film and television since the group’s conception, Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon’s recent pic is the first time that DC Comics’ greatest heroes have come together on the big screen.
Surprisingly, with five decades worth of source material, the biggest influence on Justice League comes from the New 52 reboot of the title, which kicked off in 2011. Written by Geoff Johns, the storyline saw Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman and Green Lantern come together to face Darkseid and his army of Parademons – which no single hero could have tackled alone.
When it comes to Justice League the movie, there are several moments that are ripped straight from the New 52 story but, inevitably, changes had to be made to fit in with the established DCEU continuity. So, without any further delay, let’s dig into the most significant changes that Justice League made while adapting the source material, with the first example featuring everyone’s favorite power ring wielding smart ass.
1) No Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Yes, the absence of Green Lantern from Justice League’s line-up was extremely obvious to fans; however, it affected the story a bit more than you might think. In the 6-issue New 52 run (also known as Justice League: Origin), Hal Jordan is almost the centerpiece of the ensemble. He’s the second member who arrives to investigate the rash of Parademons in Gotham City and becomes the driving force in discovering the oncoming invasion.
In Justice League, the Parademons arrive on Earth the same way they do in Origin, but in the comics, Green Lantern stumbles upon Batman when he comes across the first one. From their initial interaction, Green Lantern and Batman become fixtures in the story, with Hal Jordan being the comic relief in the face of tremendous danger. Lantern’s absence also causes Justice League to make several alterations to the source material throughout the film, but it mostly resulted in a power vacuum in the team dynamic.
Throughout Justice League: Origin, Green Lantern’s arrogance leads to mistakes when confronting Darkseid, but his resolve to correct those errors ultimately causes the team to unify. Without the character in the film, the weight of his role fell upon Batman and Wonder Woman, which worked out fine, but at the same time, the group felt incomplete and a bit outgunned.
2) The Replacement Of Darkseid
Even for hardcore fans of DC Comics, Justice League’s villain, Steppenwolf, is not the most recognizable character. Sure, he played a large role in Jack Kirby’s New Gods storylines, but in the catalogue of great DC supervillains, he’s relatively small potatoes. In Justice League, however, he serves as the main foe for the newly formed team, even if he’s just really a fill-in for the Justice League: Origin villain, Darkseid.
While it’s true that Darkseid could still appear in later DCEU films, his absence was surely felt in the recent blockbuster. When he appears in Origin, he not only overwhelms the group with his sheer power, but he also forces them to grow as individuals and as a team. In fact, even with the combined forces of all seven Leaguers, they only managed to repel him and don’t even come close to beating him.
In Justice League, Steppenwolf was easily bested by Superman and almost totally defeated by the heroes. While this moment was definitely a victory for them, it almost diminishes the challenge they faced in the first place and felt like a watered downed version of the source material.
3) Batman Recruits The Justice League Members
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad set up the idea that Bruce Wayne was going to assemble the Justice League – which was a huge divergent from the New 52 story. Yes, it was fun seeing him track down Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg, but it took away a big aspect of what made Justice League: Origin special.
Part of what made the New 52 League different from other superhero teams was that they all came together naturally in the fight against Darkseid. Through their own journeys, they all converged in the same fight and realized they had to join forces to defeat an overwhelming threat.
In Justice League, Batman was basically Nick Fury from The Avengers and recruited members to fight. While it might not seem like a huge change, it takes away some of our heroes’ agency and forces them to join the battle. The recruiting aspect of Justice League is a popular movie trope – especially in comic book films – but it seems a bit forced in comparison to the common ground the Justice League members found in the source material.
4) How The Mother Boxes Were Used
Every single tentpole superhero blockbuster needs a MacGuffin to propel the story forward, and in the case of Justice League, they were the Mother Boxes. While it’s true that it did avoid the “giant sky beam” as seen in multiple superhero films, it still took liberties with what the Mother Boxes are and how they’re used in the source material.
In Justice League: Origin, the Mother Boxes are used to created boom tubes, which are basically transportation devices. Once activated, they open stable wormholes, which allow Darkseid and his army to travel to Earth simultaneously. Interestingly enough, in both Justice League and the comics, the big bads looked to terraform our planet. However, in Orgin, Darkseid used machines similar to those in the first DCEU film, Man of Steel.
Since they were already used, then, it makes sense that Justice League would repurpose the Mother Boxes to accomplish the same goal. It also reduced the number of them from the hundreds used in the comic books, to only three. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the “Unity” that Steppenwolf created in Justice League by forming the Mother Boxes was a new idea for the film, but it did serve the plot well.
5) The Justice League vs. Superman
While not all the changes that were made worked out for the best, some of them led to truly great moments in the film, such as the scene after the team brings Superman back from the dead.
After the Leaguers successfully use the Mother Box to resurrect the Man of Steel, the confused Kryptonian ends up attacking Bats and the gang – and thoroughly wipes the floor with them. In Justice League: Origin, there are a few panels where Supes battles Green Lantern and Batman, but it’s under an extremely different set of circumstances and outcome.
In the comic book version of the story, the two aforementioned heroes believe Superman has some intel regarding the Mother Boxes and seek him out. Unfortunately for them, they encounter the Man of Steel during a fight with a Parademon, and due to his arrogance, Green Lantern confronts Superman aggressively. This interaction leads to Supes attacking Batman, Lantern and later The Flash. However, he’s holding back throughout the fight and stops after Batman talks some sense into him.
Unlike the miscommunication in the source material, Justice League unleashes an angry Superman on the team, which could have ended very badly for any one of them. While it’s not a huge change from the comics, it’s still a big example of how the movie had to make alterations due to the already established DCEU continuity.
6) Cyborg’s Origin Story
Unlike the Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Cyborg is not a founding member of the Justice League. The seventh member of the team was originally Martian Manhunter, but when the DC Universe rebooted with the New 52 continuity, Cyborg was added and given a new backstory.
Justice League: Origin not only provided the team with a fresh start following the events of Flashpoint, but it also served to promote Cyborg from the Teen Titans roster. In Justice League, we saw bits and pieces of the character’s origin, but his creation is a huge part of the comic book storyline.
Much like in the DCEU, Victor Stone was involved in an explosion, but in the New 52 continuity, his origins tie into Darkseid’s invasion. That’s because Victor confronts his father at S.T.A.R. Labs and is caught in the explosion of a Mother Box creating a boom tube. His dad, Silas Stone, works to repair his son using technology, which ultimately fuses with Victor’s body.
While his connection to the Mother Boxes is shown in Justice League, it’s an abridged and somewhat jarring version of his origin. In fairness, the film had a lot of ground to cover regarding introducing characters into the DCEU, but the lack of backstory on Cyborg left a lot of non-comic book fans confused.