JLUCast Doomsday Sanction

13th Dimension’s Dan Greenfield join Chris and Cindy to discuss one of the most pivotal episodes of JLU, “Doomsday Sanction”. The Cadmus story arc escalates, and battle lines are drawn as Superman’s deadliest enemy is unleashed. Batman’s dilemma is a moral one: is Cadmus right? Is the League the greatest threat to humanity?

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Clip credits:

Clips from Justice League Unlimited “Doomsday Sanction”, music and theme by Michael McCuistion

18 responses to “JLUCast Doomsday Sanction

  1. Great episode! Love hearing from Dan in any context.

    The Phantom Zone, like (in a less serious way) Superman’s Interplanetary Zoo, is one of those concepts that you totally accept as a kid. But when you become an adult you go, “Hold on…” It’s another reason why these characters, IMO, just do not work in the “real” world, and attempts to force them into it just don’t really work in the long run.

    Like you and Dan, I rolled my eyes when Luthor got elected POTUS in the DCU, because it was so ridiculous. Now…ehhhhhhh.

    Finally, I think Cindy’s “That’s worth a Google” should become network-wide catch phrase.

  2. The Silver Age Superman was willing to discredit his friends and nearly drive them insane to protect his secret identity, so less than humane zoos and imprisonment weren’t real stretches, I guess!

    Cindy’s “That’s worth a Google” line was something we say a lot around our house, and was paraphrased from the Joker in The Lego Batman Movie.

    1. This is speculative and potentially way off base, but I attribute a lot of Superman’s questionable behavior in the Silver Age to the influence of the editor Mort Weisinger. The stories about him portray his behavior as callous and toxic. That’s just me rationalizing (or no-prizing) it, though.

      1. I was just making a funny, but yes, I think Weisinger’s treatment of others, particuarly his staff (and especially E. Nelson Bridwell) informed how Superman related to his friends and co-workers at the Daily Planet.

  3. Great show, Cindy, Chris and Dan. This may be my favorite episode of the series. Nothing beats a Superman/Doomsday slugfest in an active volcano! Especially with Supes actually getting to win a fight for once. Maybe one day he’ll get a rematch with that electrified manhole cover. I have to say I see Batman’s stance a little different than you guys. It’s hard to stomach his sanctimonious accusations towards Superman for sending a purely evil weapon of mass destruction into the phantom zone when earlier in the episode Batman broke about 17 laws sneaking into Amanda Waller’s home and accosting her while she’s showering. Maybe he should climb off his high horse and worry more about that brace he’s wearing. It looks like it’s stretched his neck out about a foot and a half. He’s gonna need a new cowl!

    1. Ha, good points there. Brett. And I can’t believe I forgot to bring up something we mentioned in “The Once and Future Thing, Part 2: Time, Warped”. Batman traps Chronos in a time loop. He’s going to relive that moment of Enid yelling at him and then him escaping through the time tunnel over and over for infinity. How is THAT different or less humane than the Phantom Zone? And who appointed Batman to be Chronos’ judge, jury and executionor? Sure, maybe the stakes were a bit higher (he was about to reboot all reality in his own image), but still, it’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.

      Hey, Deadshot is coming back in the next episode, and he rigged up that electrified manhole, so you never know!!!

  4. I was for the darker tone of this series untill Superman whumped ass on on Captin Marvel for no good reason
    1. I want them to be freind
    2 IT’S A fight they ALWAYS DO.
    3 i Question any universe where superman dislikes cm more than CAPTAIN ATOM Or (if he exists) guy gardener

    1. We’ll get there soon, but I think it was a way to show the League was kind of losing their way, when Mr. Gee-Whiz called them out on it. Of course, he ends up being duped and incredibly naive too. Nothing is easy in this series!

  5. This was an appropriately super episode, and I delayed listening to MASHcast to finish it. I don’t know if that sounds like a big deal, but for me, it is. Loved the analysis all three of you offered, and Dan was the perfect guest. I will now offer my quibbles and musings.

    Quibble #1: Chris, you referred to Superman’s (attempted) homicide of Doomsday in the comics as “murder.” I know that on a podcast, you don’t have time to choose your words carefully, so I don’t think we’re really disagreeing here, but I still want to point out for the record that killing in self-defense or the defense of others is not murder. Murder is unlawful killing. The superheroes we love could legally and justifiably kill a lot more people than they do. The creators have them find ways around it for valid in-story reasons, but also to keep from bringing us, the readers, down, man. (Tom King excepted, of course.)

    Quibble #2: I don’t agree that the Phantom Zone is worse than solitary confinement. I haven’t seen every portrayal of the Phantom Zone, but I know what it was in the Silver and Bronze Age. if I’m disembodied, nothing feels good, but nothing hurts, either. If I’m lonely, I have fellow criminals to talk to, and if I’m bored, I have everything going on in the entire universe to watch. I’ll admit, a life of conversation and voyeurism devoid of physical experience would get old pretty quickly, but I don’t think that beats solitary confinement for overall suckitude.

    Musing #1: Regarding Batman and whether his insecurity as a non-powered Leaguer keeps driving him into these near-martyrdom situations, I don’t think so. In my head canon, Batman’s feelings about the League are complex. Sometimes he’s in awe of their power, their courage, and their nobility. Sometimes he’s disgusted with their ignorance and naivete. But he isn’t insecure. I think the higher stakes and increased danger of his League missions (as opposed to stopping The Riddler again back in Gotham) put him in positions where he has to put his life at greater risk to win.

    Musing #2: This episode portrays Batman as being very committed to certain rules. He picks and chooses which rules he cares about, obviously, but things like turning the bad guys over to “proper authorities” for judgment and punishment are red lines to him. That may be even more true after the Chronos experience. Maybe after fighting the Justice Lords, he looks back on what he did to Chronos as a warning of his own corruptibility, and that makes him even more resolute. This makes sense to me. As Tim Price like to quote, “If one lives outside the law, one must be honest.” I think the people who get the authority, de jure or de facto, to ignore some of the rules, had better cling even more tightly to the ones that remain. They’re all that prevent you from becoming the Justice Lords.

    Musing #3: I empathize with the rest of the League founders, too, though. Some problems we’re supposed to resolve ourselves, and some problems we’re supposed to hand over to others with more authority in that area. Sometimes the question arises, “Do I trust those with more authority to have the will and ability to resolve this — more will and ability than I have, right now, in the moment?” Some might argue the question should never occur to us or maybe never be entertained, but it comes up anyway. Then, if the answer to that question might be “no,” the next thing we think about is what will happen if the authorities aren’t willing and able to resolve it. Then you start to wonder what you can live with better — knowing you took unauthorized action or knowing you could have prevented the consequences and didn’t. Sometimes false assessments of our own abilities or a limited grasp of the situation cloud the issue even further. Sometimes we think too narrowly and fail to see other ways we can help the authorities get it right. According to Elliot S! Maggin and Mark Waid, Superman has said, “There is a right and wrong in the universe, and the difference is not that hard to distinguish.” I think he’s got it half right.

    1. Thank you for the very thoughtful response Captain! If you missed MASHCast for us…WOW! I’m flattered! A few points:

      Quibble 1: You’re right, it shouldn’t be called murder. I was using that word as a shorthand for Superman violating his usual “no kill” rule, which is generally pretty set across all media intepretations of Superman. In the comics, the Post-Crisis Superman killed the Pocket Dimension Phantom Zone villains and then had a nervous breakdown that resultedi n a dissassociative identity issue when he “became” Gangbuster without knowing it. Yes, he HAD killed, but he didn’t do it again lightly, for sure. I was just pointing out that in another continuity, Superman actually killed Doomsday, and was asking which is more merciful, a quick death, or the Phantom Zone?

      Quibble 2: I don’t know, the Phantom Zone sounds pretty horrible. I’ve never been in solitary confinement, or the Zone (obviously!), but I would think being an incorporal spirit would suck pretty hard, and it may be worse to witness events in the “real” world without being able to intervene, or interact with anyone there. I think of the scene in “A Christmas Carol” where Marley shows Scrooge how all the spirits are trying to help the homeless woman and her child in the snow, but are “powerless to do so”. Of course, most of the Zoners wouldn’t want to be too helpful, but still!

      Musing #1: That was just a passing thought. I think it’s an intersting angle for a creator to explore with Batman, if they wanted to. But writers nowadays rarely want to make Batman “that” human.

      Musing #2: I would hope Batman considered that his treatment of Chronos was “out of line” according to his usually strict code of dealing with his adversaries. I wish the creators had brought up Chronos’ fate in the context of the League’s Doomsday decision, just like I wish I had brought it up in this episode! Maybe he did reconsider his actions there, and decided he wasn’t going to do that, or let it happen again.

      Musing #3: One thing we didn’t consider in our episode discussion is that the League suspects Cadmus created Doomsday (and they are right, they just don’t have confirmation). If they turned Doomsday over to the authorities, i.e. the US Government, they could possibly be handing back a weapon of mass destruction (with an obssession with killing Superman) to an organization they currently do not trust, and that apparently does not trust them, and wants to possibly eliminate them. So, that “higher authority” was probably in question. I would think even Batman could understand that, considering he operated outside the law for part of his career, and was never officially sanctioned by anyone but Jim Gordon in the DCAU.

      1. Okay, those are all great responses, Chris, but two of your points are particularly outstanding. The point about seeing everything in the Phantom Zone and not being able to do anything about it — yeah, that might be Hell. I hadn’t thought of that, and it’s huge.

        Aaaaaand so is your point about Doomsday coming from the government to begin with. Of course, with an operation like Cadmus, one hand doesn’t always know what the other is doing, so if they turned it over to a more open part of the government and told them their suspicions, they might have found people who would’ve done their best to keep Cadmus from regaining custody. But who knows if their best would’ve been good enough? So, yeah, from the League perspective, Doomsday’s final disposition is a real puzzle.

        I almost wonder if this becomes a conversation between the League and the White House. “Hey, I don’t know how much they’re telling you, but here’s what we’ve seen…”. Of course, Walker has a direct line to POTUS, so the assumption is he knows everything (probably wrong), but a direct conversation would be an opportunity to read his reactions and make sure he knows everything. Politicians hate this kind of attention, so it could do a lot to restrain Cadmus. It would show him they’re not as good at hiding as they tell him they are. Of course, if he’s an entitled narcissist with the impulse control of a toddler (not thinking of anyone in particular here), he could just say, “Oh no, we’re caught! Waller! Eiling! Kill the Justice League, or make them look like lying monsters!” But I don’t get the impression they have a guy like that running the show in the DCAU.

        Thanks for a great discussion, Chris!

      2. In Donner’s Superman 2, Jor-El dismisses the death penalty as barbaric while somehow justifying the living death of the Donnerverse’s Phantom Zone, which looks miserable!

        To Captain Entropy’s point, Superman would’ve been legally justified in killing Doomsday as soon as he assaulted him. Hell, he even says, “I came here to kill you.” That would be enough to justify lethal force.

        Often, the “no killing” rule is approached in a strange way, I think. The question is raised, “Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker,” as it’s a matter of Batman suffocating him with a pillow. More realistically, the question would be “how does the Joker survive long enough to get to Arkham?” Cops frequently and justifiably kill criminals who are actively harming others. If the average mass shooter doesn’t survive, it’s strange that the Joker would, but obviously, this is all fiction and we need the Joker to keep appearing.

        Even Jokerized Tim Drake justifiably kills the Joker.

        No, Superman killing Doomsday in this episode wouldn’t have crossed our legal lines but ironically, the League sentencing him to the Phantom Zone without a trial or legal representation does!

  6. Chris and Cindy, another great episode! Thanks for including Dan in the commentary. I hadn’t been checking out his content on 13th Dimension but I will be from now on. I have to say that this episode is one of my favorites of the entire JL/JLU series, even if the content can be a bit dark at times. Between Dr. Milo’s mass murder fantasy, Eiling’s enthusiastic jump at the (literal) nuclear option, and Doomsday’s unique approach to solving Milo’s problem, Cadmus seems like an operation off the hinges, making it easier to root for the JLU. But the conversation Batman has with Waller at the beginning of the episode helps put Cadmus’ perspective in order so we don’t lean too easily toward the JLU this time.

    Speaking of which, breaking into Waller’s “fortress” is one thing, but dang! Can’t he at least let the lady get dressed!? Boundaries Bats! I do love their interaction – even back in Ultimatum you can see she isn’t afraid of him, but he clearly does rattle her a bit in this episode. For Superman’s part, I always thought he resorted to the lobotomizing tactic against Doomsday too quickly. I originally thought it was to show the start of his descent (evolvement?) to the Justice Lord Superman, but then I realized that he must have known any damage done would be temporary, because here was Doomsday, fully recovered and all.

    1. I hadn’t thought of Superman reasoning that way with Doomsday, but I like it. It helps him save face a bit, knowing it was only a temporary solution. Of course, then he sentences him to the Phantom Zone. But you’re right. While Waller seems to have a valid point, Eiling and Milo aren’t helping her sell it!

  7. This was such an amazing episode of the show, but I think you guys missed a few story beats and implications in your coverage. I’m going to chalk it up to Kevin Conroy’s excellent voice work, as always, but this was far less a one-sided issue than you made it out to be.

    To start, Batman. Picking a fight with the government without League approval. Threatening a government official on behalf of the Justice League. Did you note that Batman told, not asked, the Justice League that the Question had been assigned to an investigation? It was clear at the table the other Leaguers would not have agreed to send the Question. Batman continues to dictate League policy, while refusing to become part of the League in an official capacity. Batman is using his sense of justice and his priorities to inform his choices and the risks of his actions, but since its Batman doing it there’s no recriminations – in his own head. His friends might disagree with him, but they know a) he likes to get his own way on these things and b) he has good instincts, so they trust him.

    Subtly telegraphed here is the idea that Batman is arrogant and a control freak; these are some of his known character flaws, and we’ve seen these crop up from the Batman animated series onwards (so it’s not just a comic book idea). As we saw in the Justice Lord episode, Batman also has the capacity to become a fascist. J-Lord Batman Gotham is full of compliant citizens who live in fear of justice, and Batman uses the system (police, jail, sanitariums) to enforce compliance. J-Lord Batman views his world as one where he, the Dark Knight, will bring others into line in order to keep the order in the world he desires. Our Batman is the sort of man who has always used fear and intimidation to pursue an agenda, and ignores those who aren’t as “enlightened” as Batman to understand this his agenda is for the greater good.

    We also see that when the chips are down both Batman and Superman will fight for the good of others to protect the world and the League from threats. And both he and Superman are aware that they could go down the wrong path, and become Justice Lords. Note their approach.

    Superman: If I go wrong, my friends will be there to stop me and put me in my place, but I won’t let myself go wrong.
    Batman: I have to make sure I don’t become the very thing I swore to fight, and I have a code to prevent that from ever happening.

    Batman may be called the Dark Knight, but Superman is just as chivalric. Like all good friends, they’re so alike they frustrate each other at times.

    Okay, a few other thoughts.

    1) Batman is quick to judge on putting a Superman-level threat into the phantom zone, but offers no tangible alternative. The government of the USA is 100% complicit in utilizing first Doomsday, then a nuclear weapon against a civilian populace in order to assassinate Superman. I’m fine with Batman being angry about it, even disagreeing, but its a disservice that not one of the League puts Bruce on the spot to have him list the actual alternative. And if he did offer one, they could pull Doomsday out of the phantom zone and implement that deterrent.

    2) Superman has every right to defend himself from an assassin. Superman will attempt to kill galactic threats when there’s no viable alternative. They weren’t trying to bring the Anti-Monitor to justice – multiple Supermen were punching him until he was *dead*, because he was erasing the universe. This goes for Darkseid, Zod, and all of the others that Superman felt it was appropriate to reciprocate their multiple assassination attempts.

    2a) Batman has a strong code against killing, just like Superman. It drove Bruce’s Hardac-duplicant crazy to think he’d taken a life. It’s an admirable trait, but it leaves the character as one dimensional if not explored over time. These two in the Justice League have always sought for, pushed for, fought for better solutions than “kill the bad guys”, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be pushed to killing in self-defense. And hey, Batman didn’t cry when Joker (apparently) died in the Best of Both Worlds episode – he, in fact, made a joke about it. Batman may have a code against killing, but he’s no saint – you can’t radiate menace and fear like he does if you aren’t actually capable of following through on those threats.

    2b) Batman complains about the phantom zone, but seemed to have no problem leaving Mongul to the Black Mercy at the end of “For the Man Who Has Everything”. But hey, Mongul attacked Bruce personally, so there a permanent solution that removes Mongul’s free will is okay, because in that instance Batman approved. It’s hypocritical. And that’s Batman. Dick left to join his own team for a reason.

    3) The Justice League can have a super laser pointed at the Earth if it wants, since there would be no Earth by this point if it wasn’t for them. By this point, how many times had the Justice League saved Earth? Batman has saved the entire planet multiple times (the first worldwide threat came in The Demon’s Quest if I recall correctly), Superman has personally saved the world on his own a few times. Together the Justice League could send a bill to the United Nations for services rendered for more than one deed. The USA, which has a stockpile of nuclear weapons capable of wiping out the planet multiple times over (somewhat depleted after the JL into episode) is more concerned about the Justice League as a sovereign micro nation. And in typical US clandestine style, their solution is “assassinate, and who cares about the collateral”. But its rich seeing a group of US clandestine killers sitting atop a nuclear arsenal complaining that… they’re outmatched, and that in their book gives them the moral authority to wipe out the competition.

    3a) Without getting too lost in this, there’s some social commentary not very hidden in here. Cadmus represents the interests of the wealthy, corrupt, super-elite who want to find a way to either control, replace, or erase the Justice League. They’re willing to use coercion (we see this next episode), violate every ethical rule of medicine, send a weapon of mass destruction at a civilian population, and engineer a being capable of wiping out life on the planet. Cadmus is 100%, completely, without a doubt, in the wrong here in their methodology.

    3b) The JL doesn’t have a laser to threaten other nations, because what they want has nothing to do with a national identity. They’re the protectors of the Earth, and they’re willing to use said laser on super-threats roaming the surface of the planet. In a normal world this would be outrageous to have a laser pointed down at us, but in their world the entire planet is threatened on a quarterly basis.

    Well, this response is getting over long. I enjoy the heck out of this podcast, as even when we disagree a little, it gets us talking – and I think that was one of the goals of this episode. Get fans talking about the consequences of these demi-gods in a world, and showing the various viewpoints. Years later, we’re still coming back to this well to find new perspectives and ideas. Also, yes, this is at least 10 times more enjoyable than Identity Crisis was.

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