"Clash" is the seventh episode of the second season of Justice League Unlimited, and the 20th of the overall series. It originally aired on June 11, 2005. Captain Marvel joins the Justice League, and his naïveté causes friction with the senior members, especially Superman.
With Superman occupied by a plummeting airliner, the Justice League's newest recruit answers Batman's call for backup. After quickly halting the Parasite's rampage through Metropolis, Captain Marvel is introduced to his idol Superman, though the Man of Steel isn't quite sure what to make of him. Circled by a swarm of reporters, including Lois Lane, Marvel makes an offhand comment about Lex Luthor's supposed reformation and rumored presidential bid. The new Justice Leaguer flies away to his hometown of Fawcett City and speaks his magic word ("SHAZAM") which transforms him into his true self—a normal 10-year-old boy named Billy Batson.
The next day aboard the Watchtower, Marvel is awed by the collection of heroes who see him as "one of the guys". Then Superman firmly brings Marvel before the League council, the seven original members, and tears into him; Marvel's remark about Lex Luthor has been inflated by the media into a full-fledged political endorsement by a major superhero. Superman lectures the young hero about how complicated the world is, and that someone like Lex Luthor shouldn't be taken at face value. Marvel argues his belief that people like Luthor can indeed change for the better, but Superman is having none of it, ordering him not to take any further actions without the League's consent.
Superman then watches a talk show, where Phil O'Bannon interviews Luthor, where he reveals his plans for a new project; Lexor City, which promises modern housing for low-income families in a safe and friendly community. Phil reveals to Luthor of how some people still don't believe him to have change, Luthor doesn't blame them but mentions that people can in fact change and points out Hawkgirl as an example. Captain Marvel then arrives and asks Superman about the show, but Superman quiets him and they both continue to watch the interview. Luthor points out that despite Shayera's actions of betraying the Justice League and almost letting the Thanagarian's destroy Earth, the Justice League have welcomed her back and are offering her redemption and a second chance. They begin to further talk about how Captain Marvel stated that the League is offering him the same, where Luthor admits he tends to make the most of it and reveals his hopes that Superman will attend the opening of Lexor City.
While battling a group of super-villains with Superman, Batman talks with him casually about Captain Marvel. Superman doesn't understand why everyone is defending him, but Batman admits everyone likes him as he is "sunny". Upon subduing the villains, Superman is contacted by Professor Hamilton, prompting him to investigate a theft at STAR Labs, where someone has made off with nearly four pounds of weapons-grade Kryptonite. Superman immediately pins it on Luthor, but Batman insists that this isn't his style. He then decides to go back to the Watchtower to review the evidence with help from the Atom and advises Superman to attend the charity event to keep an eye on Luthor.
Superman is distrustful of Luthor's motives and still irritated by his encounter with Marvel, but grudgingly agrees to make an appearance. However, during the event, he overhears Luthor and Mercy Graves talk about something "in place" and for an escape route to be secured. Superman scans underneath Lexor City and finds what he believes to be a potentially dangerous device. He orders the people present to evacuate, causing a panic.
Before Superman can act, Luthor explains that the device in question is simply a new power generator for the complex with Kryptonite as its cheap energy source, but it could go off if touched. Billy Batson, also present at the event, becomes Captain Marvel in a noble attempt to calm Superman, who is now openly accusing Luthor of planning a criminal act. Marvel suggests that they call someone to investigate the device, but Superman refuses to listen and shoves them aside to prepares to go underground. Marvel tries to stop him, but Superman, in a rare public display of anger, lashes out at him and begins to tunnel his way towards Luthor's machine. Marvel, seeing that Superman apparently can't be reasoned with, begins to fight him and a tremendous battle begins between them ensues in full view of the news media.
Much of Lexor City is damaged or destroyed as Superman and Captain Marvel trade thunderous, earth-shattering punches. Superman seems to have a slight advantage until Marvel grabs him in a bear hug and calls down a magic lightning bolt with his word of power. After two painful strikes, Superman dodges a third and reverses the bear hug, so Marvel is struck by the magic lightning and replaced by the harmless Billy Batson. Before Billy can say the word and change back to Captain Marvel, Superman gags him at superspeed, then melts the device with seconds to spare.
Later, the Atom arrives on the scene, analyzes what's left of the device and confirms Luthor's innocence: The machine was indeed a power generator. Superman is publicly humiliated, gives an apology to Luthor, and offers to have the League pay for the damage. Luthor not only accepts Superman's apology, but vows to completely rebuild Lexor City with his own money.
Captain Marvel is disgusted by Superman's actions and calls a meeting with the League founders. Superman tries to apologize, but Captain Marvel rebuffs his attempts and reveals his thoughts on how he looked up to the entire League, but most importantly Superman. However, after witnessing Superman's actions and of what the League has become, he announces his resignation and departs.
Superman expresses his regret to his teammates and agrees with Marvel, fearing that the Justice League has lost its way. Batman, while not stating his opinion in that regard, tells Superman that "they" set him up.
Back in Metropolis, Luthor reveals to an unknown companion that the "plan" went better than expected: The entire purpose of the Kryptonite power source was to arouse Superman's suspicion and cause an incident that would tarnish the League's reputation. The destruction of Lexor City not only embarrassed Superman and the League, but it boosted Luthor's "benevolent" public image as well. He pops open a bottle of champagne and shares a toast with his mystery collaborator, Amanda Waller.
- Captain Marvel alludes to Lex Luthor's criminal past, which refers to Superman: The Animated Series and every Justice League episode he was in, up until his alleged reformation in "A Better World".
- Superman comments to Marvel that "we don't sell deodorant on television" when speaking about the League's role as symbols of justice. At this remark, the Flash looks away with some embarrassment, having once learned a very similar lesson in the Justice League episode, "Eclipsed".
- Mercy Graves was last seen in "Tabula Rasa", as acting head of LexCorp and fighting (successfully, it seemed) against her reflexive loyalty to Luthor. Now she is back to taking his orders.
Home video releases
- Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League Unlimited - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
- This is Captain Marvel's only appearance in Justice League Unlimited. The creators had tried to work him into the DCAU for several years (going back to Superman: The Animated Series) but the character had been previously unavailable.
- After the Parasite absorbs Metamorpho's powers and drops him, his right leg is missing a white stripe.
- When the Parasite absorbs the powers and thoughts of a being, they are returned to the being after about 12 hours. Despite this, Elongated Man is back using his powers almost immediately after Parasite was tied up by Captain Marvel.
- When Billy observes the children going to the playground, there's a portion of foliage from the bush in the foreground that disappears in the shot.
- Lois' eye color changes from purple to black throughout the episode.
- During Lex's interview by Phil O'Bannon, his handkerchief disappears from his suit's pocket.
- The second time Captain Marvel hits Superman with the "SHAZAM!" bolt, footage is reused from the first one for a particular angle. Because of this, Superman's emblem can be seen for a second before the bolt hits when it's already been burned off.
- When Batman first appears to fight Parasite, a version of the Batman: The Animated Series leitmotif plays briefly.
- The Superman: The Animated Series theme music can be heard at the beginning of the episode when Superman rescues a falling airplane (the scene itself being very reminiscent of the one in "The Last Son of Krypton").
- This episode was nominated for an Annie Award for Best Directing in an Animated Television Production.
- This is one of many episodes intertwined with the Cadmus story arc; It provides the final confirmation of Lex's sinister intentions following his supposed reformation at the conclusion of "A Better World".
- This is the last appearance of Mercy Graves in the DCAU.
- Billy Batson goes to "C.C. Binder Elementary School", named for Captain Marvel creator C.C. Beck and longtime collaborator Otto Binder.
- DC Comics fans will note several subtle and not-so-subtle tributes to the classic clashes of Superman and Marvel in comics form; most notably the acclaimed mini-series Kingdom Come. In both accounts, Captain Marvel uses his magic lightning to attack Superman, Superman manages to make one of the bolts strike Marvel and proceeds to gag Billy.
- Additionally, Luthor's actions in rebuilding Lexor City to garner favor and support for a possible presidential run are similar to his actions at the end of the No Man's Land storyline in the Batman comics, where he offered to rebuild Gotham City and received much public support as a result.
- One of the buildings destroyed during the Superman/Captain Marvel fight is the Lena Luthor hospital. In the comics, Lena is Lex's mother, or sister, or even daughter, depending on the version.
- It's not a shocking revelation, but Superman seems very aware of how people generally perceive him: "I thought I was the boy scout". Yet he and Batman agree that Marvel's "sunny" demeanor makes Superman seem positively grim by comparison (and in truth, Superman is abnormally grumpy and irritable in this episode).
- Billy Batson is voiced by Shane Haboucha, who voiced the young Superman in "Kid Stuff".
- "Lexor City" is a small tribute to the planet Lexor from comic book stories of the 1970s and 1980s. Lex Luthor became a heroic figure to the people of a distant planet, so much so that the planet was renamed in his honor. Luthor would soon retire from crime to benevolently guide the worshipful populace of Lexor to prosperity. However, Lexor (much like Krypton) was destroyed; an event which Luthor would unfairly blame on Superman, re-igniting their ongoing rivalry.
- This is the only non-premiere or finale episode of the DC Animated Universe that features electrified knuckle dusters.
- In the DC Showcase Short "Superman/Shazam! The Return of Black Adam", George Newbern and Jerry O'Connell reprise their roles as Superman and Captain Marvel, respectively.
- Phil O'Bannon and his show, The O'Bannon Agenda, are inspired by the real-life political talk show The O'Reilly Factor and its host Bill O'Reilly.
Superman: When you joined this team, you became something more than just a hero.
Superman: Look, Captain, I wanna...
Lex Luthor: The plan worked better than I had hoped. All I wanted was for Superman to destroy the energy source. But battling Captain Marvel? Demolishing Lexor City while those media morons filmed every horrific moment? It was more than I ever could have hoped for! Everything's going according to plan... and we're just getting started.
“ We really did want to do the Captain Marvel/Superman fight and, since we're not going to be doing any more Superman episodes, that doesn't seem likely to happen. That's one that I'll kinda miss doing. ”
— Bruce Timm, Comicology Magazine
“ At that time, the rights to Captain Marvel weren't available to us, so we couldn't do that. Somehow that story got mixed up with "Hereafter", and somebody, I can't remember who, said, 'If we can't have Captain Marvel replace Superman, who would be the best person to replace him?' Well, it couldn't be anybody obvious that people would suspect, and we came up with Lobo. Within five minutes we had that whole story plotted out; everything just fell into place. ”
— Bruce Timm, RetroVision CD-ROM Magazine 
"Task Force X"
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