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Summary:  Superman and J'onn J'onzz are abducted by slave traders and taken to War World, a dangerous, troubled planet ruled by the despotic Mongul.  While Green Lantern and Hawkgirl search for their friends—and try not to kill each other while doing so—Superman is forced to fight in the arena against Mongul's champion, the dreaded gladiator Draaga.

JL Roll Call:  Superman, J’onn J’onzz, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl

Featured Character:  Superman

Villain:  Mongul

Supporting Villain:  Draaga

 

Cartoon Network on “War World”:  “When Superman is apprehended by intergalactic slave traders, he is taken to a savage planet called War World and forced to fight in endless gladiatorial games staged for the amusement of Mongul, the planet’s ruthless conqueror" (courtesy of Cartoon Network).

Rich Fogel on "War World":  “'War World' is a great, action-packed episode.  I thought it would be fun to throw Superman into the gladiator’s ring on an alien world.  I also wanted to do it because I thought [that] Draaga could be an interesting character to explore with his warrior’s sense of honor…but the most important reason for doing this episode was to highlight Superman.  By putting him through this ordeal, we really get to see his deep commitment to his ideals.  George Newburn perfectly conveys Superman’s steely determination and his strength of character.

I wanted to make the episode over the top, just like WWF wrestling.  Luckily, writer Stan Berkowitz is a WWF fan and he captured the tone perfectly.  Eric Roberts powerfully plays War World’s heartless dictator Mongul, and director Butch Lukic did a stellar job staging the brutal fights in the arena" (courtesy of [website name removed]).

Bruce Timm on "War World" (circa 2002):  “Not too much I can tell you about 'War World' without spoiling the fun, [but] as you might guess from the commercials, there’s a fair amount of intense hand-to-hand combat scenes—pretty brutal at times—kinda like a weird cross between Gladiator and WWF Smackdown in an interstellar setting!

“What really makes the show as far as I’m concerned is the vocal performances.  Our two ‘lead guest stars’ were both just awesome…there’s great stuff from our series regulars, too (of course).  George Newbern gets to show a little bit of Superman’s darker side.  I mean, he’s still pretty...polite, shall we say, and in the course of his two big battle sequences, he does take some punishment, but you can be sure he comes back swingin’!  In addition to her regular role as Hawkgirl, Maria Canals does a hilarious unbilled second voice as…well, you’ll see" (courtesy of Toon Zone).

Bruce Timm on "War World" (circa 2003):  “'War World' is one of those…basic ideas that animated series’ have a tendency to do every now and then, where you basically take a real simple kind of idea:  it’s like, 'Okay, it’s Superman as a gladiator in space.'  It is fun to watch, [but] it’s not necessarily as dramatic, you know, as some of our other episodes—it doesn’t have quite as strong a character development as some of the other episodes.  Like I said, it’s a very basic kind of an idea—it’s fun to just put Superman in the gladiator arena and watch him go.  The two guest star characters, Draaga, the alien gladiator (played by William Smith), and Mongul, king of War World (played by Eric Roberts).  They, to me, are what really make the episode really fun to watch; both of them were a joy to work with.

“The one criticism of this episode that I’ve gotten a lot of from reading the Internet—and I kind of have to agree with it, in retrospect—was that the show is mostly about Superman and it’s about Superman fighting in the gladiator arena and going toe-to-toe with this Mongul character, [but] the biggest problem is that Superman doesn’t get to clean Mongul’s clock at the end of the show.  It’s unfortunate, because you really want that—you want that nice closure, you want Superman just to sock him a good one and, you know, teach him a lesson at the end, but the problem is [that] we have this Draaga character on the show…and half the story is about him, about his lost honor.  When we got to the ending of this story, I think that the way the script originally was that Superman did finish off Mongul [but], unfortunately, that left Draaga’s story unresolved, so…we went back and forth and tried to find a way to resolve…the two storylines, and this is what we came up with" (courtesy of the Justice League:  Paradise Lost DVD).

Bruce Timm on “War World” (circa 2005):  “Most people consider this the weakest Justice League episodes off all the ones we’ve done, [and] I would pretty much have to agree.  It’s a basic story that almost every fantasy adventure science fiction show has to get around to at some point or another, whether it’s the original Star Trek or Angel, there’s always going to be that show where the character has to go fight in an arena.  Obviously we were coming on the heels of Gladiator, which had come out just a year or two before that.  I thought it was a story worth doing, I just wish it had developed in a way different way than it actually had.

“I think having J’onn J’onzz there and conveniently powerless just really drags the story down, [and so does] doing the whole big cliché of the hero who says, ‘I won’t fight for you entertainment,’ and then ends up fighting for your entertainment.  The big problem, [however], with it is that the story is structured in such a way that you really want Superman to clean Mongul’s clock by the end of the story [but], unfortunately, the way Draaga’s story goes, you want him to clean Mongul’s clock by the end of the story as well.  In the first draft of the script, Draaga was a character who had nothing to do and you wondered why you went through the trouble of setting him up.  So then we were stuck in a situation in which both Superman and Draaga kind of have to take on Mongul—we were kind of between a rock and a hard place.  I admit we dropped the ball on that one, but that’s just the way it goes" (courtesy of RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine).

Bruce Timm on Green Lantern and Hawkgirl:  “One of the tricky parts of doing a show like Justice League is you have so many characters and they can’t literally all be in the room at the same time.  You can’t have a show where all seven of them go charging into battle…I mean, we do that, but you’ve got to have other things to do during the story.  So, one of our favorite tricks is, of course, to split them up into teams, so Superman and J’onn J’onzz end up on War World and Green Lantern and Hawkgirl have to try and find them and help them.

“From the very beginning, we thought that Green Lantern and Hawkgirl would be interesting to pair up because, on the face of it, they’re both very similar, in that they’re both real no-nonsense warrior types.  You know, Green Lantern having a military background and Hawkgirl coming from a very warlike planet.  They’re both very, very strong and forceful characters, so we thought [that] it would be interesting to put them together and watch the sparks fly; this is like the first time you get a…hint of that.  They’re alike, but they’re also un-alike, so they’re attracted to each other, but they’re also repelled by each other.  So, it’s interesting—their scenes together on the show are, [another] one of the things [that] really, really kind of sell this episode…Some of the most enjoyable moments in the show are the scenes where they’re stranded together on an alien planet and realize that they have to work together to get off it" (courtesy of the Justice League:  Paradise Lost DVD).

Maxie Zeus on Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and "War World":  "There is so much distressing about 'War World' that the conscientious critic will hardly know where to begin.  Shall I start with the technical imperfections—stilted movements, a distractingly inadequate CGI fire, the obvious 'cheats' in the arena crowd scenes?  Or perhaps with the script, stuffed as it is with placeholder dialogue and banal exposition?  Or with the story and its reliance on accident and lapse of character to propel a shaky plot?  No, fairness requires that I start with what works [...] basically, that means Green Lantern and Hawkgirl.

"Green Lantern's hard-ass attitude may not give him much depth or interest as a character, but it does not make him a good foil for the other JLers—see, for instance, the excellent Oscar-and-Felix routine he has going with Flash.  Similarly, Hawkgirl is treated as the 'tough one' by the other JLers, even as there are hints that she resents it (again, Flash highlights the paradox:  she seems disarmed by his frivolity).  It might seem a bad idea to pair these two; they are too much alike.  But their essential similarity actually produces bright, hot sparks—they come off as a cranky married couple who have been together so long that they have picked up each other's habits.  This is the episode's great discovery, and all credit is due for it, even as it has nothing to do with the intransigent plot in which they are trapped.  Still, you perk up when the action shifts to them; you begin to wish that the story had been about Superman's mysterious disappearance, and about the comic misadventures Green Lantern and Hawkgirl have as they track him down, bantering and bickering, all the way across the universe.  That wouldn't have been 'War World,' of course but, then, anything would have been better than that incoherent and manipulative episode" (courtesy of The World's Finest).

 

Images

Screen Grabs from "War World"

 

Commentary

"Pathetic…the whole lot of you.  Not a real warrior in the bunch.  And you—the Kryptonian—you’re the biggest disappointment of all."

Draaga (to Superman) in "War World"

Commentary coming soon!

 

Image courtesy of Toon Zone.

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