Superhero media is the fad these days, and most comic-book franchises are doubling down on their efforts to produce more related content with each passing year. However, there was a period when even the big two comic-book franchises, DC and Marvel, explored different genres like horror, western, space adventure, and fantasy in the comic-book medium, which were totally free from the continuity of mainline superhero-related series and had their own space to grow. Some of the most iconic stories and characters were introduced through these non-superhero comics, and they had their own separate audience to cater to as well.
Generally, as comic-book sales dwindled, most of the iconic titles ceased to exist and were integrated into mainline comics continuity; as a result, many of yesteryear’s popular characters were largely forgotten. In the recently released DC animated movie Justice League: Warworld, which is a part of the Tomorrowverse, the narrative takes viewers through three different worlds as the Trinity—Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman—get trapped inside simulations. As a result, the audience gets to meet a number of the forgotten DC characters in their respective worlds, some of whom have never seen the outside of comic-book pages. Let’s take a brief look at their comic counterparts and what role they played in the movie itself to better appreciate their importance.
One of the most significant characters in the revisionist Western-themed comics genre, Jonah Hex made his appearance in DC’s All-Star Western comics. Perpetually set in frontier townships of the Wild West during the pre-and post-Civil War eras, these narratives examined the characters of gun-slinging ruffians and outlaws with a bit more nuance, shunning the simplistic binaries of the earlier tales, and Jonah Hex was a result of this reinvention. After having a rough childhood, thanks to being raised by an abusive father, Jonah finally gets a taste of freedom when he gets sold to a tribe of native Indians.
After growing up with them through the years, circumstances led Hex to move out of his tribe. He initially joined the Civil War one the Confederate side, but his firsthand experience of learning the evils of slavery and the treatment of the natives at the hands of settlers made him feel guilt-ridden. Hex mistakenly betrays all his Confederate comrades and leads them to their deaths, and after returning to his tribe, he himself gets betrayed by the tribe chieftain, who gives Hex the iconic scar on the right portion of his face. In later years, as a lone ranger, Hex took up the profession of bounty hunting and, more often than not, fought alongside the law, protecting the needy and helpless from the powerful and corrupt. In Warworld, however, Jonah Hex is seen in a villainous role as we find him using mercenaries to flank the townsfolk, and he gets into a conflict with an era-displaced Wonder Woman. Hex kills Bat Lash, the one do-gooder who befriended Diana, in the end, and still manages to live another day, but Diana makes sure his face gets symmetrical on both sides by pummeling it to oblivion.
In the Western segment of Warworld, viewers were introduced to Bartholomew ‘Bat’ Lash, and although his appearance in the movie was very brief, it was through Bat Lash that DC started its journey into reinventing Western comics. One of the notable traits of the character is that he wears flowers in his cowboy hat, which denotes his anti-violence and pacifist approach, as well as the fact that the character was conceptualized as a charming ladies’ man. In the movie, Bat Lash is one of the townsfolk who seized the town bank and was caught in a conflict with Hex’s men, which led him to take up arms as well. Bat Lash befriended and assisted Diana in taking down Hex’s outlaws and offered for her to settle down with the townsfolk, but unfortunately met his end when Hex shot him to death. Both Bat Lash and Jonah Hex also appeared in Justice League Unlimited in the episode that adapted Weird Western Tales.
Warlord And Deimos
The second segment of Warworld takes a dive into the sword and sorcery fantasy comics genre, and viewers meet the honorable, valiant warrior of the savage land of Skartaris, the Warlord. By creator Mike Grell’s own admission, he was inspired by the stories of Tarzan, Jules Verne’s exotic sci-fi adventure tales, and the hollow earth theory while creating the world of Skartaris and the associated characters. Travis Morgan was a Vietnam War veteran pilot who entered the mystical hollow earth while passing over the North Pole and reached the treacherous world of Skartaris. Filled with prehistoric creatures, Skartaris is essentially a land trapped in time, and the primitive human-like denizens of the land reside in a place known as Shamballah, which is plagued by an evil master sorcerer named Deimos. The powerful sorcerer is an adept user of occult magic and seeks to rule all over the Skartaris.
Using his advanced (compared to Skartaris) technology, Travis aids Shamballah in their battle against Deimos and eventually gets known as Warlord. In his adventures, Warlord gets assisted by his friend Machiste, the king of the Kiro tribe of Skartaris, and a Russian scientist named Mariah, who also got trapped there like Travis. In the movie, as a mercenary in the land of Skartaris, Bruce Wayne aids Warlord in reaching Deimos’ castle and betrays him, only to regret his decision and later help him battle Deimos at the end. Travis Morgan remembers his identity beyond his role as Warlord but chooses to stay and help his compatriots anyway instead of returning to the modern world.
Justice League Unlimited featured an episode where Warlord and his band of Skartaris made an appearance, and the character was voiced by Teddy Sears in the movie, who also played the role of villainous Zoom/Hunter Zolomon in the CW Arrowverse.
In the last world-displaced segment of the movie, viewers are taken to a black-and-white, 50s McCarthy-era noir setting where rookie Agent Clark Kent meets Agent King Faraday. Among all the previously mentioned characters, the highly skilled spy made his first appearance the earliest and played a major role in the seminal Justice League comic New Frontier. He is a veteran member of the CBI in the DC Universe and keeps entangled perpetually in the political intricacies led by the likes of Amanda Waller, Mr. Bones, and others. In the movie, his role as the paranoid senior detective justified the period when the character first appeared, and in the short role, he utilizes the character in a somewhat decent way.
King Faraday made his appearance in the Justice League Unlimited animated series multiple times, along with Young Justice and the New Frontier animated movie, all of which we highly recommend readers take a look at. Here’s wishing that more obscure yet significant non-superhero comic-book characters get their chance to shine like this, preferably in solo ventures as well, which can really emphasize the versatility of the medium itself.