"The Once and Future Thing Part One: Weird Western Tales" is the 12th episode of the first season of Justice League Unlimited, and the 12th of the overall series. It first aired on January 22, 2005.
In the future Gotham City, David Clinton is scolded by his wife about clogging up the garage with his collection of historical artifacts. Timidly, he tries to explain their importance: they're originals that he retrieved from their respective time periods, using a time machine he built. Enid's initial amazement turns to fury, and she delivers an even more blistering scolding, saying that he could have used the machine to make them rich and powerful instead. David objects by saying the consequences of the misuse of time travel, but Enid won't listen. He's had enough of her and disappears into a time portal leaving behind his shocked wife.
In the present day, Batman and John Stewart are lunching in the Watchtower's commissary. Though Shayera has rejoined the League, John denies any awkwardness, claiming he's moved on and is now seeing Vixen. Batman scoffs in disbelief, so John turns the tables and asks Batman what's "going on" between him and Wonder Woman. Batman stiffly denies that anything is going on, saying that his work is too important for him to be distracted by a relationship, while admitting that Diana has many admirable qualities—only for Wonder Woman herself to appear behind him, having heard a good deal of what he said, and seductively tell him to "keep digging".
The awkward moment is interrupted when an intruder alarm sounds. The three of them follow it to Batman's crew quarters and find David trying to steal one of Batman's utility belts. He escapes into a time portal, and they follow. They arrive in the middle of the Oklahoma Territory in 1879. After turning the tables on a trio of highwaymen, they adopt cowboy clothes and ride into the nearest town Elkhorn. Right away they see what is wrong: the new "sheriff" Tobias Manning and his thugs are equipped with radically advanced weapons. After losing a hand of poker, Manning throws his opponent in jail. The League go to break him out, and he introduces himself as Bartholomew Aloysius Lash, a.k.a. Bat Lash. His cell mate is David, who explains that Manning stole his time machine and has been using it to poach advanced technology from the future and make himself ruler of the town.
As they leave the jail, they are attacked by Manning's thugs, who are overcome by a sort of Wild West Justice League, to which Bart belongs: Jonah Hex, El Diablo, and Ohiyesa Smith (the former sheriff of Elkhorn).
Banding together, the new and old Leagues travel to Manning's headquarters in the desert; his men confront them with an arsenal of bizarre weapons, including robotic dinosaurs, main battle tanks, and android exoskeletons. They overcome his men, and Smith personally bests Manning in a knife fight.
Freed, David snatches the time belt away and disappears into another portal. Again, Batman, John, and Wonder Woman follow him. This time, they arrive in the future Gotham City and are immediately confronted by the Jokerz: Bonk, Chucko, Dee Dee, Ghoul, and Woof.
- Wonder Woman's condescension towards Shayera Hol refers to the events of the Justice League episode "Starcrossed".
- John Stewart's dislike for time travel refers to his previous experience in the Justice League episode "The Savage Time".
- As often demonstrated, Batman's disdain for guns is made evident when he's offered a revolver in order to keep up appearances. Despite the fact that Batman wouldn't have needed to use the gun, he still refused to even carry it. Of course, his hatred of guns stems from the infamous night when a gun-wielding thug killed his parents.
- It's possible that Batman recognizes Jonah Hex's name from Ra's al Ghul's story in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown".
- Warhawk first appeared in the Batman Beyond episode "The Call". His parentage is not revealed until this episode.
- The Joker's Jokerz first appeared in the feature movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Home video releases
- Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DVD)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Justice League Unlimited - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
- Green Lantern: First Flight (2DVD, Blu-ray only)
- Static Shock: The Complete Fourth Season (DVD)
- The pianola music in the bar is reused from Luminus' saloon hologram in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Solar Power".
- Warhawk's skin tone is considerably darker in this episode compared to the Batman Beyond episode "The Call", perhaps due to the revelation that John Stewart is his father.
- When the three Leaguers catch David Clinton stealing a utility belt, he drops it on the ground beside him and escapes. When the three chase after him, the belt is no longer on the floor, which could mean that he did manage to steal it.
- The eyes of Batman in this episode are blue, which is consistent with his Batman Beyond incarnation but not with previous Justice League episodes (such as "Maid of Honor" and "Starcrossed") in which they were black. Strangely enough, his older self in the next episode has black eyes.
- During the poker game, after Earl folds and the view shifts to Tobias Manning, the table is only partially drawn; the right edge is missing.
- Jonah Hex's previous appearance in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown" takes place four years after this episode yet Hex seems to have aged several decades.
- Batman's grapple line is left hanging from under the skull on the ranch's entrance. But during the shots from inside the ranch, it's missing. When it does show up again, it's hanging from the skull itself.
- During the shot after the gunman on the velociraptor shoots at Batman with a revolver, Batman is shot at in a SMG fashion even after the gunman stops shooting.
- After Batman says "Six guns, six of us. Nobody miss.", John Stewart pulls out the gun in his holster. But after Manning's gun's destroyed, the gun's back in the holster and he's pointing his ring at him instead.
- When Ohiyesa Smith confronts Manning, he tosses away his guns. After defeating him, the guns are back in his holsters.
- When John beams the futuristic tech upwards, the bubble is green but the beam coming from his ring is yellow.
- The wings Batman (Terry McGinnis) uses are black unlike the red seen throughout Batman Beyond.
- The title is a pun on "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White. The subtitle is a reference to Weird Western Tales, a comic series in which many of the western heroes like Jonah Hex and Bat Lash appeared.
- Both episodes are thematically very similar to the Justice League episode "The Savage Time". In that episode, the League travels back in time to World War II, and finds history altered because of technology contributed from the future, and also finds itself assisted by a host of DC Comics heroes created for that era.
- Clinton's checklist includes "M's Dress";. This probably refers to Monica Lewinsky's dress as an in-joke to his own last name.
- This episode features a Western-style rendition of the original Justice League theme.
- One of the guests at the saloon when the Leaguers enter is based on the barmaid from the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Showdown".
- In the comics, Tobias Manning is the real name of the villain Terra-Man.
- In the poker game, Manning's ace has the A index on the upper-right/lower-left, while Bat Lash's aces have the indices on the upper-left/lower-right corners. Tobias Manning's kings are also all missing one K at the bottom of the card and Earl already has 2 legal kings in his hand; which would prove that Manning was cheating.
- Jonah Hex's line "I've had an interesting life" and understanding of ray-guns are a nod to the 1980s comic series Hex, in which the character was time-transported to a Road Warrior-esque post-apocalyptic future.
- Batman gives an obvious spoof of one of Clint Eastwood's famous line.
- The scene with Batman, Wonder Woman and John in the canteen lampoons a scene from the movie City Slickers when Billy Crystal's character is talking about Jack Palance's and says "He's crazy... He's a madman. We are being led into the desert by a madman... He's behind me, isn't he?".
- The Pterodactyl in the Western is a reference to the classic 1969 B movie The Valley of Gwangi.
- Bat Lash's line "My pappy always said..." is taken from the series Maverick.
- John Stewart’s look was based on Woody Strode in Sergio Leone’s film Once Upon a Time in the West.
- Batman: The Animated Series director Kevin Altieri served as a storyboard artist on this episode. Ironically, he conceived the story for and directed Hex's previous appearance.
|Phil LaMarr||John Stewart|
|Susan Eisenberg||Wonder Woman|
|Ben Browder||Bat Lash|
|Adam Baldwin||Jonah Hex|
|Jonathan Joss||Sheriff Ohiyesa Smith|
|Nestor Carbonell||El Diablo|
|Ed O'Ross||Tobias Manning|
|Mindy Sterling||Enid Clinton|
John: Anyway, why are we always talking about my love life? What's going on between you and Diana?
(after swapping their costumes for cowboy clothes)
Wonder Woman: You're with us.
Batman: Go ahead... give me an excuse.
Ohiyesa Smith: Tobias Manning's always been trouble. I've run him out of town before. Well, he came back, except this time he had... I don't know, magic powers.
Batman: Six guns. Six of us. Nobody miss.