"Hereafter" is the forty-fifth and forty-sixth episodes of Justice League. It first aired on November 29, 2003.
A group of supervillains are gathered around and plotting to take their revenge on Superman. They arrange an ambush for the Man of Steel by attacking Metropolis. They battle the rest of the Justice League, but when Superman arrives, Toyman reveals his secret weapon: a giant toy robot equipped with a disintegrator beam. Toyman fires several times and sections of the city disappear without trace. Superman evades the beams, but Toyman takes aim at Batman and Wonder Woman. Superman throws himself in front of them and takes the blast, disappearing without trace. Shocked, the League and the Earth believe that the blast killed Superman. In anger, Wonder Woman destroys Toyman's robot and threatens to kill him, but Flash talks her out of it, telling her it goes against Superman's memory.
The only person who refuses to believe that Superman is dead is Batman. He analyzes the evidence from the battle, insisting that objects can't disappear without a trace, citing the law of conservation of mass. He snubs the invitations of Alfred and the other Leaguers to attend Superman's funeral in Metropolis.
At Superman's funeral, the attendants include the League (minus Batman), the staff of the Daily Planet, Jonathan and Martha Kent, several Earth leaders, and superheroes. However, everyone gasps as Lex Luthor arrives. Lois Lane is furious that Lex has appeared, as she believes he came to gloat over Superman's death, but she soon breaks into tears until Lex comforts her and genuinely admits that he will also miss Superman greatly. J'onn J'onzz pronounces a eulogy and the League ceremonially inters a coffin in a monument. As they bring the coffin to his memorial, Wonder Woman spots Batman watching the procession from the shadows.
Holding a wake for Superman in the Watchtower, the League swaps stories about him, then J'onn tentatively proposes adding a new member. Suddenly, Lobo crashes through the window, announcing that he's there to take Superman's place. When the League orders him out, he decides to "audition" by tearing the Watchtower apart and attacking them. They hold him off, then hear that dozens of supervillains are running amok in Metropolis, celebrating Superman's death in their own fashion. The League reluctantly bring Lobo along as they go to fight, mainly because they don't trust him alone in the Watchtower. However, given his unique fighting ability, they allow him to join the battle, only as long as he follows their direct orders.
Investigating another of his theories, Batman follows a trail to Superman's memorial. Finding nothing, he wonders if he's wrong and Superman really is dead. Alone, he takes this opportunity to tell Clark that, despite their differences, he has always respected him and what he taught him and that he will miss him... but his tribute is interrupted by a nearby explosion, and takes off to battle the attacking supervillains.
The League attacks, with difficulty subduing the rogue villains. Lobo makes himself useful in his own fashion, beating Kalibak into submission with a few cars, forcing him to say Uncle, and causing plenty of destruction in the process. To an already grieving League, Lobo boasts how with him on the team, Superman is no longer needed. The Leaguers bow their heads, contemplating life without the Man of Steel. Elsewhere, on a barren landscape, under a red sun and some rubble lies... Superman.
Superman regains consciousness and sees the barren landscape, as well as a few sections of Metropolis that were hit by Toyman's disintegrator beam. Wherever he is, the beam transported him there instead of destroying him. He sees that the sun is red, meaning his powers will wane. Also, his communicator does not have any audio. He picks up a signal on the communicator and decides to move towards it and find the source. Salvaging what food and supplies he can from the cars in the street fragments, he then siphons gas into one of them and drives off.
Unable to find anything else, he makes camp one night and is menaced by a pack of wolf-like creatures. He manages to drive them away with fire. To prepare for any more dangers that lie ahead, he uses some flares to fashion an iron bar into a crude-but-effective sword. Before too long, his car is out of gas and he is forced to walk. Attacked that night by the creatures again, he kills their leader and subjugates the rest of the pack, harnessing them as sled dogs for a new improvised vehicle and wearing the leader's pelt.
After a few more days, he reaches the ruins of a city and finds the source of the signal: the Watchtower, crashed to the ground. Entering, he tries to access its computer. It tells him that the rest of the League's whereabouts are unknown, then shuts down due to low power. Superman bangs his fists down in frustration and asks aloud, "What happened to everybody?" A voice answers, "They died, Superman. Thousands of years ago." A figure appears from the shadows... Vandal Savage.
Savage seems uncharacteristically glad to see Superman and he soon explains why: the planet they are on is Earth, 30,000 years in the future and the entire human race, except for the immortal Savage, is dead, meaning that the whole Earth belongs to him now.
Savage explains that, only a few months after Superman disappeared, he stole a piece of white dwarf star matter from Dr. Ray Palmer and used it to create a gravity-based superweapon. Without Superman, Savage killed the rest of the Justice League and proclaimed himself ruler of the Earth. However, the weapon disrupted the balance of the solar system, killing the rest of the human race. Upon hearing this, Superman attacks Savage in rage, and Savage does not resist. Superman almost crushes Savage's head with a rock, but refrains due to the awareness that Savage cannot die. Savage acknowledges he deserves such treatment and more; after millennia of loneliness and isolation, he's come to realize that his obsession with conquest was meaningless.
With plenty of time on his hands, Savage has built himself a luxurious multi-story mansion in the ruins of Metropolis, with a large garden and plenty of technological amenities. He passes his time reading self-help books, working on various inventions, or on hobbies such as restoring other parts of the city. One of them includes a spaceship that he intended to use to explore the universe, but later chose not to as penance for his previous misdeeds. He treats Superman to a home-cooked meal and invites him to stay. Wandering around the mansion one night, Superman finds a time machine. He wakes Savage and asks why he did not finish it. Savage explains there would be no point, as the machine would not allow him to travel back to any time where he was already alive. Superman points out that he can since he's 'dead', having been removed from the time period entirely and can stop Savage's destruction of the Earth.
He and Savage work together to complete the machine, but find that they can't keep the portal open without a much larger power source. Savage knows of only one: a zero-point energy generator that he built but was stolen some years ago by a colony of giant cockroaches. Since Savage stated that building another one will take fifty years, he and Superman arm themselves and sneak into the colony to get it back. In battle with the roaches, Superman apparently falls to his death into the pit containing the generator – but instead the device, which as Savage has explained, is like a "miniature sun", instantly restores his powers and he is able to get himself and Savage away safely.
Savage opens the portal, giving Superman the information he needs to thwart his younger self's plan. Before going, Superman asks what will happen to Savage if he succeeds. Savage says he may be possibly redeemed but tells him not to worry. The two men shake hands and Superman departs.
Back in the present, while Lobo is crowing over Kalibak, Deadshot takes aim at Batman with a missile. Superman's hand appears and catches it. In wonder, the League crowds around him (except for Batman). Superman tells Lobo he's fired and the bounty hunter angrily jets away on his bike. Superman says he'll explain what happened to him, but first they have a job to do. The League flies into action, with Superman leading the way.
In the future, Savage is quietly sitting alone among the ruins of Metropolis. He sees a ghostly figure of a child run by, then more people. Slowly, the ruins disappear and a living city replaces it, filled with people. Savage sees his own body becoming translucent and gratefully says, "Thank you, my friend..." before fading into the new timeline.
- Metallo claims that he and his teammates have been wronged by Superman. This refers to all the times that each villain felt aggravated by the Man of Steel:
|Metallo||"The Last Son of Krypton, Part III"||Corben was defeated after battling Superman with the Lexo Suit and then was thrown to jail.|
|"Action Figures"||Metallo was defeated and stranded by Superman in a volcanic island, trapped under solidified magma without his Kryptonite battery.|
|"Superman's Pal"||Metallo tried to kill Superman using Jimmy Olsen as bait, but was bested again.|
|Toyman||"Fun and Games"||Superman foiled his attempt to kill Bruno Mannheim.|
|"Obsession"||Superman prevented him from retrieving Darci Mason.|
|"Toys in the Hood"||Superman interfered with Toyman's plot to build a new body for Darci, which ultimately ended with Toyman's defeat and arrest.|
|Weather Wizard||"Speed Demons"||Superman foiled his extortion plan and jailed him.|
|Livewire||"Livewire"||Leslie blamed Superman for becoming Livewire. Even before that, she made a career airing her many grievances about him on her radio show.|
|Kalibak||"Father's Day"||Superman defeated Kalibak in battle, thus humiliating him in his father's eyes.|
|"Legacy, Part II"||Superman bested Kalibak with two swift blows, again humiliating him in front of Darkseid.|
|"Twilight, Part II"||Superman was partially responsible for Darkseid's demise.|
- Lobo claims to have saved Superman's life once, alluding to the events of Superman: The Animated Series' "The Main Man". John promptly objects that this is not an entirely truthful account, although technically it is, as Superman and Lobo saved each other once in the episode.
- Superman made a deal with Lobo in Superman: The Animated Series' "The Main Man" to free Lobo from his cell if Lobo would "leave me and everyone else on Earth in peace", to which Lobo agreed. In this episode, Lobo only battles the League in the Watchtower, which is in orbit (believing it to be an audition and not intending permanent harm) and on Earth, he only fights Kalibak (who is not from Earth, but Apokolips). Technically speaking, Lobo has kept his word.
- Superman carries a box of Lightspeed Energy Bars that the Flash sponsored in "Eclipsed".
- John suggests Metamorpho as a team member. Metamorpho first appeared in (and was established as John's friend in) "Metamorphosis". Metamorpho would later join the league in Justice League Unlimited.
- Superman references the times Vandal Savage attempted to conquer the Earth in "The Savage Time" and "Maid of Honor".
- The future Vandal Savage mentions that in order to stop his past self, the League must prevent his theft of a piece of dwarf star matter from a scientist named Ray Palmer, who would later appear in Justice League Unlimited as The Atom. In the comics, this piece of matter is what enables The Atom to manipulate his own size.
- This is Vandal Savage's last appearance in the series. It is never shown or explained exactly how the League stopped his plan involving Ray Palmer.
Home video releases
- Justice League - Season Two (DVD)
- Justice League - Season Two (Blu-ray)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Prior to the premiere of Justice League Season 2, interviews stated that the team was to have a temporary addition. This episode, in which Superman was supposedly killed, would prompt the rest of the team to recruit a new member. Originally, the new member was to be Captain Marvel. However, legal rights prevented that appearance and Lobo was chosen instead as the least likely suspect. 
- In part I, when Volcana absorbs her fire blast, there's an explosion that is reused footage from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, when the console that the Jokerz tried to steal blows up.
- This episode raises some questions regarding the people's awareness of Superman's secret identity.
- Nobody notices that Clark Kent was absent for Superman's funeral. They don't even seem to notice that Clark has not been seen or heard from since Superman's death.
- Considering that Superman's funeral would be a planet-wide event, Jonathan and Martha Kent are still invited, even though their relation to Superman is unknown to the Earth.
- Jonathan and Martha are consoled by Kara (Clark's "cousin") and Lana Lang (Clark's high-school sweetheart) at Superman's funeral without Clark, their own son.
- Kara is not wearing her brown wig and glasses as she did in the Superman: The Animated Series episodes "Little Girl Lost" and "Unity", potentially endangering her secret identity as she consoles Clark's parents.
- Snapper Carr mentions heads of state from over 400 countries attending: even with "in-universe" countries such as Kaznia and Atlantis, the actual number of countries of the Earth does not even reach 200.
- John Stewart wears a green overcoat throughout Superman's funeral, including when he is a pallbearer for the coffin. However, in the final scene of the funeral, it is missing.
- The ground at Superman's memorial is all green except for his S-Shield on the ground. When Batman gets close to it, however, there's a straight pathway behind him.
- When Flash redirects a blast of fire Volcana aimed at Wonder Woman, an ATM in the background reads "MTA", indicating the background has been mirrored.
- During the fight with Lobo aboard the Watchtower, all of the Leaguers' black armbands disappear and reappear in various shots.
- The attendants at Superman's funeral include:
- This episode features many characters from Superman: The Animated Series, such as Livewire, Metallo, Volcana, as well as Lobo.
- Due to budgetary issues, Corey Burton served as a stand in for Bud Cort as Toyman and Malcolm McDowell as Metallo for this episode. Both Cort and McDowell would reprise their roles in the final season of Justice League Unlimited.
- Likewise, an uncredited Maria Canals voiced Livewire in this episode.
- Several elements of the story are similar to the comics storyline Funeral for a Friend, including Batman watching Superman's memorial procession from a rooftop.
- Part II is reminiscent of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend and its film adaptation The Omega Man, both depicting the life of a single man on Earth after the rest of humanity is wiped out by some disaster.
- Vandal Savage's fade in Part II is similar to the way the characters of the Back to the Future trilogy do so when time is altered.
- Virgil and Richie from Static Shock do not attend the funeral, despite the Justice League's guest appearances on their show.
- Although Barbara Gordon was a close friend of Supergirl, she was not seen at the funeral, nor was Dick Grayson.
- Snapper Carr appears to have been Superman's sixth pallbearer, though he can only be seen as such when the pallbearers are seen from behind.
- The plot of Superman being shunted into a barren, uninhabited Earth under a red sun in a distant future through the actions of a Superman Revenge Squad shows similarities to "Superman Under the Red Sun", the leading story in Action Comics #300 (1963).
- Wonder Woman's ceremonial dress incorporates the eagle-shaped chest plate she has worn in the comics and the Super Friends animated series.
- Despite his hatred of Superman, Lex Luthor states that he will miss him, too. This moment is somewhat similar to Batman: The Animated Series episode The Man Who Killed Batman where Joker mourns Batman, lamenting the loss of his archenemy. In both cases, however, reports of the hero's death turned out to be greatly exaggerated.
- During Vandal Savage's lunch, Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons plays in the background.
- Superman's car appears to be a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.
|Susan Eisenberg||Wonder Woman|
|Phil LaMarr||Green Lantern|
|Carl Lumbly||J'onn J'onzz|
|Maria Canals|| Hawkgirl|
Watchtower computer (uncredited)
|Michael Rosenbaum|| The Flash|
|Clancy Brown||Lex Luthor|
|Corey Burton|| Metallo|
|Dana Delany|| Lois Lane|
Maggie Sawyer (uncredited)
|Jason Marsden||Snapper Carr|
|Phil Morris||Vandal Savage|
|Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Alfred Pennyworth|
Kalibak: I just flattened Wonder Woman! You really think you can beat me?
Flash: I used to be able to goof around so much because I knew Superman had my back. Now all I've got is his example, and that's gonna have to be enough.
(Lex Luthor arrives at the funeral)
J'onn J'onzz: Though we gather here today, bound together in sorrow and loss, we share a precious gift. We are, all of us, privileged to live a life that has been touched by Superman. The Man of Steel possessed many extraordinary gifts, and he shared them with us freely. None of these gifts were more remarkable than his ability to discern what needed to be done, and his unfailing courage in doing it, whatever the personal cost. Let us all strive to accept his gift, and pass it along, as an ongoing tribute to Kal-El of Krypton, the immigrant from the stars, who taught us all how to be heroes.
Lobo: What's with all the long faces, Justice-Dweebs? It's like a wake in here. Lighten up! The answer to all your problems has arrived. Since we're gonna be workin' together, you can call me Lobo.
Lobo: The Main Man happens to be the best bounty hunter in the known universe. You can ask Superman if he weren't busy pushing up daisies.
Wonder Woman: You're no Superman.
Lobo: You want an audition? C'mon, ladies, let's dance!
Batman: I've got some things to say. I should've said them when you were here, but... despite our differences, I have nothing but respect for you. I hope you knew... know that. You showed me justice doesn't always have to come from the darkness. I'll miss...
J'onn J'onzz: The Justice League is about more than physical power. It's about ideals, caring, helping.
Kalibak: I'm going to grind you into paste!
Superman: I should smash your skull!
Superman: Self-help books? You don't seem the type.
Superman: What happens to you?
Deadshot: Bang, you're dead.
Wonder Woman: Don't let him fool you. Your death hit him as hard as it did any of us.
Lobo: Next time you lollipops need help, don't bother asking the Main Man! (flies off)
Vandal Savage: Thank you, my friend. (fades away)