JLUCast : For the Man Who Has Everything

Chris and Cindy review Justice League Unlimited’s adaptation of the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic story, “For The Man Who Has Everything”! Mongul gifts Superman the parasitic Black Mercy for his birthday. The plant grants its host their fondest desire, and if the Man of Steel hopes to save Batman and Wonder Woman from the alien despot, he’s going to have to say goodbye to the family he never had!

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Clip credits:

Clips from Justice League Unlimited “For The Man Who Has Everything”. Justice League Unlimited theme by Michael McCuistion

35 responses to “JLUCast : For the Man Who Has Everything

  1. As you two detailed, this is a great episode based on great source material.

    I do miss Robin (in the comic, I loved it when he was trying to carry the Black Mercy and some alien living in the Fortress grabs his leg and he goes “Let me go, you little sleaze!”), but I agree that Moore’s Krypton is less than ideal, as opposed to the version DeMatteis came up with for the episode. So its more compelling when Superman has to give it up,

    I of course loved that Timm and Co made the effort to get my pal Mike Farrell for just that one line. That attention to detail is what makes stuff great.

    I kinda wish the show had done more direct comic book adaptations, it would have been fascinating to see what they would have come up with.

    1. Agreed Rob! As someone suggested over on our Patreon page, can you imagine if they had adapted JLA #200? Green Arrow could lead the JLU new recruits against the original Leaguers, out to pull some brainwashed mission for the invaders from the pilot 3-parter “Secret Origins”!

      I loved the “little sleaze” line too!

  2. Oh, and before anyone writes in, I know I goofed on the title of the BTAS episode we referenced. It is “Perchance to Dream”, not “Dreams in Darkness”. Honest mistake, but I know better than that!

    1. It’s pre-Crisis Jason’s best moment. I would argue post-Crisis Jason’s best moment is saving Batman in The Cult mini-series, written by the guy who bumped him off, Jim Starlin!

  3. A Great episode and a great story behind it. However, on the whole it left me feeling disappointed. After all that setup to introduce such an expanded lineup of characters the first episode we get has …..Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman…
    It wasn’t that I wanted the whole justice League army vs an Earth shattering threat every episode, but I really was looking forward to this being more of a showcase series featuring characters we HAVEN’T been watching for the last two years.
    Thankfully, we would get that as the series went on. but at the same time, we also had a few too many that still centered around the trinity and/or the founding members.

    1. Hmm, I hadn’t thought about that, but I get your point. I wonder if Cartoon Network had an eddict that the big three (especially Batman and Superman) had to appear in so many episodes? In their defense, every episode ends with a big prominent shot of the Trinity in silhouetee, with other, nameless heroes tiny flying behind them. So, I guess the mission statement is still up front. But the variety of characters intermingling is really the hallmark of the show as well.

    1. Yep, that’s it! Full disclosure I said “Tapestry” in the recording, but then realized that was the wrong episode title. That was the one where Q showed Picard what his life had been like if he hadn’t been stabbed in the heart. I wasn’t good at pulling episode titles out this time!

  4. This is a great episode, but I still prefer the comic version for a few reasons. First, the fantasy is less idyllic, like you said, but I like to think (and it’s not an original idea) that the reason for this was Superman’s subconscious fighting back. His mind knows this isn’t real, so it’s making it possible for him to break free. It would still be painful to see him say goodbye to Van, but it would show his strength of mind more. Second, while Newburn is a good actor, I just don’t buy him being upset in this. At most, he seems mildly annoyed. The “Burn!” line is supposed to be full of anger and pain, but this sounds more like “Burn, or not.” I don’t know if that was an acting choice or the direction, but I would have much rather had Newburn cut loose, especially if they had the “MONGUL!!!” scream at some point, either at the end of the pan or during the flight.

    I do agree that Wonder Woman’s part in this version is much stronger, since she’s the one that ultimately defeats Mongul. That is a nice improvement and I really wouldn’t have bought tiny Tim Drake being able to pull the Black Mercy off of Batman.

    1. I agree the “Burn” was weak, and could have used another take. I think Newburn sold it with his “HAPPY?!?” response to Mongul. I still personally maintain Newburn gave us more raw emotion than Tim Daly would have. We’ll see an angrier Superman as the seasons progress, to the point of wondering “Hey, what’s up with you?”. But it all pays off.

      And I guess little Tim would have had some trouble getting that Black Mercy off. Gibbons draws everyone kind of beefy, even young Jason Todd!

  5. Impressive podcast most impresses. I always liked this episode. I definitely enjoyed it way more than I did the original written version. The speech in fact is not word for word. When Superman is talking to his son. All he does is look him in the eye with this blank stare and says I don’t think your real. And that’s when the whole thing breaks apart. It loses a complete emotional impact that is made in the cartoon where this is actually hurting Clark to have to do. Also hold up, where you just upset that Green Lantern was calling Supergirl by her real name in your last podcast? But not one word of the fact that Mogal is standing right there in earshot. And Batman keeps calling Superman Clark that even Kal EL. So next time it is go to the daily planet and pick out what hostage he wants? Just than if you’re going to point out the fact that it’s bad form for green lantern to use Supergirl’s real name in earshot of soldiers who probably be no harm to her. Here’s a super villain who will more than likely go after all of Clark’s family. And here’s that man just say the same right there in front of him.

    I am glad that wonder woman still gets to shine in this episode. And yes since they haven’t had everybody still like to get Superman in the earlier episodes. Mongol being able to do this to her makes him look powerful as a villain. The old saying when everybody’s over nobody’s over. I.e. if you have everyone beat the most powerful character your group every time. It just makes that character look weak. But, if you have it worth only Mongol who can do this to wonder woman but yet she still treated as the second most powerful member of the league. Then you you make that character look like a threat after you’ve established that wonder woman is still extremely powerful and capable. Her skill set might make the most dangerous. After all she is second in power to Superman in a strength wise and vulnerability. But her fighting skills or at least on Bruce’s levels may be beyond. So this deftly does establishing this villain as powerful and why they need to bring back Superman as quickly as possible. Batman is also getting used as the mop in this.

    So be physically most powerful character and the one that they push as one of their elite heroes are both unable to take out Mongol. So this does help to prove how much they need Superman and how important he is to the whole thing. And the background story is kind of cool. There was good that they use John’s voice for that one bit. Also know that if you watch the Superman cartoon. As well as the intro for Superman and the cartoon in the animated universe. Superman is not a fetus. He is a small baby. But, his spine and skull has already heartened. Watch the way he was put into the crib like shuttle in the cartoon. So he is not in fact born on earth like the John Byrne Superman. He was still the ultimate immigrant in the cartoon.

    in fact in that very intro when Martha picks him up he’s already got hair on his head. So is closer to the old-school origin in the cartoon. Though a lot of it does keep the John Byrne aesthetics like no super boy. He does keep a lot of the beginning of all he was in the bronze age. Though he doesn’t go back and visit krypton every other week. So it’s kind of place or he was born and he slightly knows about it. I am glad that in this one Jar El. Has gotten over his opps. And got not one with his life. It is kind of better that in this version it is such a perfect fake world. That it would hurt Clark to leave it. So him fighting against Mongol and being that angry fits better. Though you are right it is much more impactful when he gets the red eyes of doom and he just barely says burn. Instead of screaming it at the top of his lungs. Kind of fits like what happened in Star Trek to. In the original rehearsal Shatner did the whole heroic over-the-top all right. Combs delivery of that line. Instead of the laid-back version we get in the theatrical release. But, the director was smart enough to realize it would’ve worked so much better with him just calmly saying it. When they shut down the shields of Khan’s ship.

    And then blow them away with torpedoes. Well damage them enough so they can look away and get repairs done. At any rate back to this cartoon. I do like that they added the bit where Batman rips off the black mercy and gets attacked by it reliving the idea of Thomas Wayne stopping Joe chill. And I’m sorry it doesn’t change anything that he stops chill. It makes perfect sense that Bruce Wayne would keep doing it. Because he’s obsessed now. He is trying to do the impossible and make sure know child goes through the same loss he did. That’s the whole Batman must continue. It has nothing or at least very little with stopping Joe chill. It being Joe chill and him catching it is a nice bit. But it’s not like even when Dick Grayson stops Zuko. Batman was too young with his parents were killed in front of him. He psychologically will never get over that moment. That’s why he doesn’t just find more police. Or just become a cop or something like that. He is stuck psychologically as Batman.

    He knows bringing back the Wayne’s his parents would stop Batman from existing. He will try to do it every chance he gets. Because a big part of him is still that child in that alley. Stopping Joe chill is putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole. It’s a nice bit for the audience to see. But, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter he’s going to continue on doing the same damn thing. It’s what Marvel thinks they’re doing with the punisher. But I think Frank would get over it if his children and wife were alive. Since he was an adult when that happened. It is as psychologically scarred as Bruce. But, for Bruce the mission just cannot stop. It doesn’t matter if he stops chill chill it doesn’t matter if he goes all the way up to who ever put out the hit. Any stops them. At the end of the day he’s going to put that mask on and go out there. We think you may have stopped what he almost married the woman who became phantasm. But, I suspect after a few years of happiness would slowly sneak back into becoming Batman. Because at his core. He is still trying to make sure no child ever goes to what he went through. I mean look at it he can even go forward in his imagination.

    I thought wonder woman gave him the bottle city of Kandahar in the comic. And Batman gave him the plant. Then again it’s been a long time since I read the thing. I am glad that he just gives them cash in the cartoon. That is funny. It is sad that Robin can’t be in this. As for why not Supergirl. That’s simple enough. She probably already did the celebration of Clark’s birthday at the Kent’s house with the Kents. Also I’m pretty sure wonder woman and Supergirl teaming up would’ve taken out Mongol. They would’ve had to waken up Clark to save the world. It would be important to waken up. But, that power level especially with Batman’s help with been enough to take out Mongol by himself. So the writers smartly kept her out of this. Eric Roberts did a great job as this villain. As did the rest of the cast. This kind of makes him a three point of geek cultural. After all he was in the Batman movie. He was in this and he played the master in the eighth Dr. TV movie. For if you count the dead or alive movie. As bad as that was.

    The rest of the cast was great as always. Doing their lines perfectly. And the script worked out great. I had always just assumed the woman he was married to his just the actress from the original story. Weird that it no point did Clark question that his wife and this was putting two of his girlfriends together as one person. But, it’s better that he figured everything out gradually. Has crypto appeared in the justice league cartoon other than this dream? At any rate can’t wait for the next episode.

    1. Batman never called Superman “Clark” while Mongul was around. Mongul was then busy fighting Wonder Woman, and I don’t think he has established Super-Hearing. Plus, he whispered it for the most part. Wonder Woman did yell out “BRUCE!” repeatedly, but Mongul was busy fighting Superman at that point, and no doubt sufficiently distracted.

      And yeah, the DCAU Superman was a small baby on Krypton, not a fetus like Byrne. But like nearly every post-Crisis iteration, he’s still much more “Clark Kent”, than “Kal-El”.

      Supergirl being there would have made a lot of sense, but I guess they probably felt like they were using her plenty in other episodes at this point.

      1. Again WW and Super Girl vs Mongul would have meant. Mongul loses. The need to pull Clark out wouldn’t be there as much. They would still need to save their friend, but the impact isn’t as much. The Army was fighting a giant Radiative monster when GL said Kara. So probly not. WW yelling Bruce would be something he may hear. If a Kaiju destroying a city. Isn’t enough to distract solders from getting the name Kara. Then Mongul can hear Bruce inspire of getting hit or burned. Cause I would be much more distracted by a giant skull faced monster that has a flaming head and is going nucellar. And is walking and may crush my home town. Than some man punching me. Defiantly if I’m use to his power levels. Sorry if Regular solders can think past something like this. and Hear Kara. then Mogul can hear WW yelling Bruce. Thanx for your time.

  6. Not a fan. And it’s got nothing to do with the episode’s (or original story’s) qualities. I just felt at the time that this went against the JLU concept that had just been birthed the week before. Was this something that was in the works before they made the format changed and they were loath to lose it? It was in the wrong season for me. Is that a weird complaint? I guess I died on this hill.

    1. You and Michael Kramer can form the “For The Man Who Has Everything” Revenge Squad. 😉

      Seriously, I get it now. It never ocurred to me that this episode “violates” the format of the new series, but I can see where it does. I guess I always assumed the big 3 (and the original 7 overall) would still be the “stars” of the series. Maybe it’s because I was knee-deep in the merchandise and toy line as well? I knew they wouldn’t put the characters they’d promoted for the past two years on the shelf completely. Although Flash is strangely absent from Season 1.

      I’m glad you two brought this point up, because I honestly never considered it.

  7. Chris, I bought the comic off the rack as well, and it blew my mind after first reading it. I used to reenact the book with my Super Powers actions figures, using Darkseid as a stand-in for Mongul.

    The JLU adaptation refines the story and manages to make it accessible for a TV audience without losing any of the emotional power. One of my all-time favorite episodes in the series.

    1. Ooh, a Super Powers Darkseid in for Mongul! Great idea! I wish I had thought of that when there were cases of Darkseids on clearance in the late 80s. I could have made a cool custom!

  8. A favorite episode of mine, and no, I hadn’t read the original story before seeing this. I did finally read and re-read it thanks to DCU Infinite. I’m really bad at ranking, but both takes work for me. I could believe that a faithful adaptation of the comic would have been 30 minutes or longer, just a bit too long for a one-in-done cartoon episode. And JM’s style definitely leans more to giving Superman the ideal and taking it away, whereas Moore lives in shades of grey. Just depends where your tastes lean. (Yes, I’m a middle child, if you get my drift.)

    I’m fascinated by the discussion of “Burn.” I agree, normally Neubern is spot on. I have to think they did several takes, and the director decided they liked this one best to go with how they storyboarded Superman’s face in that moment, which is crucial. His mouth is open and shouting. Compared to the comic (and I will admit this *is* the way I prefer it) where Superman’s teeth are grinding in fury. Saying the line thru gritted teeth would have sounded amazing, but not matched the animation plans. If they had taken a similar approach, with just Superman’s lips moving and all we see between them is the whites of his teeth, it could have worked beautifully.

    Well, I certainly overthought THAT part. But like in the comic, that moment and Wonder Woman’s “Go to hell” are the best fist pump parts of the show. Thanks for a fantastic discussion, and I’m so glad we’re getting episodes more often!

  9. Good work, Franklins. I first saw this episode as part of one of those three-episode JLU DVDs that they sold for cheap, so I didn’t initially realize that it was the very second entry in the expanded-team season. Once I bought the full-season box set, I did indeed think it was odd, but the quality of this episode more than makes up for it.

    I bought the original comic off the stands back in the day (despite not being a frequent Superman reader) and loved it from moment one, perhaps telegraphing my unhealthy level of obsession with Watchmen when I’d read it years later. I don’t mind the absence of Robin here, especially since it gives Wonder Woman more of a chance to kick ass, which I always appreciate in Justice League stories. And I loved how the episode gave us some of the rawest, most emotional moments from all three of the trinity: Superman screaming, “HAPPY?!?,” Wonder Woman saying “Go to hell,” and Batman’s look of pure bliss as his father pounds Joe Chill into oblivion. Mongul really is the perfect villain here, and more than justifies his existence as a B-grade Darkseid crossed with Thanos. (While it might have been cool to actually see his Black Mercy fantasy—with Brainiac and Bolphunga the Unrelenting among those paying homage to him—just hearing the screams made it delightfully creepy.)

    It’s hard to think of a greater Big Three story in all of comics or other media. Worth the delay to get to the giant-team format.

    1. I agree Noah! And on further thought, was THIS the story that cemented the trinity? I think Wonder Woman’s popularity in the 70s with her TV series (and Super Friends) helped assure her spot alongside Superman and Batman, but it was more of a merchandising thing before this. There’s that image from the 1982 DC Style Guide by JLGL (PBHN) and Dick Giordano that shows the silhoueted faces of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman looking outward, much like the end scene of JLU’s title sequence. Heck, that JLGL image is etched into the Kenner Super Powers Hall of Justice! But this is the first story I can think of where it was JUST those three (and Robin) together, as if they are the exclusive club of A-List heroes. Another innovation from Alan Moore? Perhaps!

  10. Definitely loved your episode analyses, and truly missed Robin in the adaptation of this episode, be it either Jason or (my favorite Robin), Tim.

    Fun fact: did you guys know that in 1988, Canadian animation company Nelvana was gonna do a Batman cartoon which featured Jason Todd as the Robin featured, but in the full-color concept art collage he had his bright orange-reddish hair instead of his dyed black mane. (Maybe you two could check it out on the Super Mates podcast?)

    Also….is there any chance you guys would be down to check out the accompanying comic tie-ins for the JL series (Justice League Adventures, Justice League Unlimited) and do analyses on them?

    On that note, I can’t help but wonder if there are any podcasts that cover the tie-in comic books for the DCAU: The Batman Adventures/Batman & Robin Adventures/Batman: Gotham Adventures, Superman Adventures, Adventures in the DC Universe, Batman Beyond…
    I mean, they might exist, but when you all on the Fire & Water Podcast Network do your podcasts, they have a certain flair to them that just fits nicely. Here’s hoping someone on the F&W podcast network decides to take that big step.

    1. I had heard whispers of a proposed Nelvana Batman series (probably from the old Comics Scene magazine of the time), but never had seen the images until your message sent me Googling. WOW! What a strange series this would have been! I know Hanna Barbera was also pitching a Batman series at this time, with the Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians episode “The Fear” working as a backdoor pilot. But the fair-haired Jason Todd? Again, WOW!

      As for the animated-style “Adventures” comics, who knows? Cindy and I will probably eventually talk about the recent Justice League Infinity comic written by show creators James Tucker and J.M. DeMatteis, since it’s considered “canon”, at the moment anyway. I really enjoy the animated style comics, in particular the early days of The Batman Adventures. After that first series I stupidly dropped buying them regularly at one point, choosing to spend my money on “in continuity” DCU books that weren’t nearly as well-crafted. I wouldn’t be opposed to covering any of them, but just trying to figure out where to fit them into the schedule, and on what show, is the problem.

      Cindy and I do have a rough plan of what we’re going to cover after we’re finished with JLU, but who knows, that may change between now and then. But thanks for the interest! And for listening!

  11. Also, of COURSE Superman’s ideal mate would be a fusion of the two girls he likes the most: Lois and Lana.

    This is one case where a quote from ‘Road to Él Dorado’ applies: “Both. Both is good.”

  12. Also, when I listened to your review for “Starcrossed”, I couldn’t help but notice that you guys didn’t mention that said episode was the very last time we see and hear Alfred in the DC Animated Universe, due to Efrem Zimbalist, Junior’s death a little while after this.

  13. Another great podcast guys, thank you as always for sharing your thoughts. I never knew the story was based on a comic – the original published story was a bit before I started collecting and I never came across it as a back issue. In any event this is one of my favorite episodes because we do get to see a bit of range with Superman’s character (loving father, playful husband, dutiful son and of course mad as Hell warrior!) I have a young son of my own and every time I watch Superman tell his son that he isn’t real and says goodbye – I just get chills. I have an uncle who descended into insanity and basically did the same to his own son. It tore his family apart, so I can’t ever imagine saying the same thing to my own child.

    I do have to say, one of my more fonder moments of the episode is at the beginning as Wonder Woman and Batman are approaching the Fortress. Batman can’t seems to help himself from critiquing Wonder Woman’s flying technique but her response of “Sorry if I scared you,” really put him in his place, didn’t it? 🙂 I was hopeful you would have selected that line for the Justice League Communicator superlative, but I can understand why you selected Superman’s speech to Van.

    1. That is a great line, and certainly worth mentioning! The scripts always had a great dialog during the JL days, but the creators kicked it up several notches for the Unlimited era. It makes it hard to choose!

      I’m so sorry to hear that about your uncle and cousin. I can’t imagine what that would feel like.

  14. This is one of my top 10 DCAU episodes of all time, hands down. I had not read the comic version when I first saw this episode, and I must admit that the sheer quality of this episode coloured my impression of the comic when I did get a hold of it to read. But I’d prefer to judge each by its own merit, and this episode gets a 10/10 for me. Mongul exhibits sheer menace, and his brawl with Wonder Woman is fantastic, even if he beats her to her knees. Batman getting right to action trying to snap Superman out of his trance also helps the pacing in the episode immensely!

    In fact, what I like most about this episode is that we get to see the character of each of the Trinity characters explored and exemplified here.

    Batman uses Superman’s real name to try and snap him out of it. He’s always careful to use code names, but when he tells him “Kent, snap out of it, he’s killing her!” you can feel the growing desperation in Batman here. Like Chris, I also think that the utter joy Bruce experiences as he watches his father beat Joe Chill into a pulp is very telling of the deep rooted problems Batman has, but I would have preferred to see something the called back to the “What Dreams Are Made Of” episode.

    Wonder Woman knows she’s outclassed against Mongul very quickly – and doesn’t care. Exactly like Superman, she continues to fight to try and buy time for Batman to break Superman out of his trance. The only thing I would have liked to have seen here is some acknowledgment of Wonder Woman’s superior martial training here; Mongul himself is likely a better fighter than Superman (I mean, he ran a War World, he must have learned a few moves), but Wonder Woman is an amazon! But what I was most satisfied with is that they didn’t cut the fight out just because Wonder Woman is a female – she got to slug it out exactly like Supes would against Mongul. I think if we swapped places with one of Wonder Woman’s villains, and had Superman being Worf-pumelled while Batman tried to break Diana out of it, the scene would have worked just as well!

    I prefer Superman’s dream world in this version to the comic book. The comic explores Superman’s idealized view of Krypton as it was portrayed pre-crisis, and offers the reader a view they can contrast against Earth. Again Moore explores facism and super heroes, a theme he would continue in Watchmen. The comic is a disturbing read, and challenges pieces of what we accept about Superman, suggesting that if we tip the lampshade a bit the shadows don’t look as complimentary to our hero and his past. It provokes thought, which is good. But I personally prefer the animated series version because this speaks more to Clark’s personality. He has desires for the women in his life, he wants children, he enjoyed being a farmer, and he misses his family. Heroically as Batman pulls the lotus off him, Superman is also fighting to be free of the dream because his call to heroics and responsibility is stronger than own wants and needs.

    This is another moment where Superman gets close to loosing it. While only Batman and Wonder Woman sees this, it is building in the audience a growing awareness that the Man of Steel can be dangerous and isn’t perfect. I feel this will be relevant for some of the overplot that is steadily introduced in the rest of the series, and therefore I applaud the subtlety.

    Franklins, another great review of the episode!

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