DC Animated Universe

"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.

They are soon joined by that era's Justice League Unlimited: Batman II, Static, and Warhawk. As they square off against the Jokerz, Warhawk catches sight of John and says... "Dad?".

To Be Continued...


Background information[]

Home video releases[]

Production notes[]

  • This episode underwent multiple working titles. Originally, it was "A Brief History of Time: Part One", but was retitled "The Once and Future Thing, Part One: The Weird, Weird West" in a revised script before receiving the final title.[1]

Production inconsistencies[]

  • 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 The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond look 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.
  • 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.
  • The pianola music in the bar is reused from Luminus' saloon hologram in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Solar Power".
  • Clinton's checklist includes "M's Dress"; a reference to Monica Lewinsky's dress[2], that likely was meant to serve 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.


Actor Role
Kevin Conroy Batman
Phil LaMarr John Stewart
Static (uncredited)
Earl (uncredited)
Susan Eisenberg Wonder Woman
Peter MacNicol Chronos
Ben Browder Bat Lash
Adam Baldwin Jonah Hex
Bonk (uncredited)
Jonathan Joss Sheriff Ohiyesa Smith
Nestor Carbonell El Diablo
Ed O'Ross Tobias Manning
Guard (uncredited)
Mindy Sterling Enid Clinton
Peter Onorati Warhawk
Robber (uncredited)

Uncredited appearances[]


John: Anyway, why are we always talking about my love life? What's going on between you and Diana?
Batman: Nothing. She's a respected colleague.
John: (unconvinced) Uh-huh...
Batman: I don't have time to pursue a relationship. My work is too important to allow any distractions. (Wonder Woman walks up to him as he speaks) Diana's a remarkable woman, she's a valued friend, she's... standing right behind me, isn't she?
Wonder Woman: Don't let that stop you. (leans over Batman flirtatiously) Keep digging.

(after swapping their costumes for cowboy clothes)
Wonder Woman: These shoes are killing me.
Batman: You fight crime wearing high heels.
Wonder Woman: High heels that fit.

Bat Lash: Seems like a waste of a good-sized pot. How 'bout we split it and both walk away?
(Manning's gun extends six additional barrels)
Tobias Manning: How 'bout I keep it all?
Bat Lash: Sounds fair the way you explain it.

David Clinton: He keeps me here to show him out how to work the stuff he can't figure out for himself.
Bat Lash: Which I'd suspect is most of it, what with him being so mule-stupid and all.

Wonder Woman: You're with us.
(tears the door off David's cell)
Bat Lash: That's a healthy gal.

Batman: Go ahead... give me an excuse.

Ohiyesa Smith: What have you learned?
Bat Lash: Among other moral failings, the man cheats at poker.
Jonah Hex: (scoffs) I could have told you that. (hacks and spits)

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.
El Diablo: There's no such thing as magic, my friend. It was some sort of trickery.
Ohiyesa Smith: Well, he "tricked" me near to death.

Batman: Six guns. Six of us. Nobody miss.

  1. "The Dwayne McDuffie Interview" Conducted March 2005 by Danny Fingeroth via e-mail and phone segments transcribed by Steven Tice Copy-edited by Dwayne McDuffie and Danny Fingeroth - Write Now! Magazine #10 July, 2009
  2. Entertainment journalist John Trumbull relays message from Dan Riba