DC Animated Universe

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"War World" is composed of the tenth and eleventh episodes of Justice League. It originally aired on February 24 and March 3, 2002.


Part I[]

Superman and J'onn J'onzz are planting explosives on a large asteroid in danger of hitting the earth, while Hawkgirl monitors from the Watchtower. The scanners detect a pocket of hydrogen gas inside the asteroid, and when the charges are set off, the explosion knocks Superman and J'onn unconscious, and severely damages their Javelin.

Their unconscious bodies are picked up by an alien ship on a scouting expedition for Mongul, the ruler of War World. On the planet, Mongul emcees the latest gladiatorial fight between the reigning champion, Draaga, and the latest contender. The fight is over within minutes, and the crowd boos. Mongul calls the ship's captain, who had brought the latest contender, to complain about how poor a show the fight was. The captain assures him that their latest prize, a Kryptonian, will give the people a good show.

In the Watchtower, Green Lantern joins Hawkgirl, and they fly off together to investigate. Examining the wreckage of the Javelin, Lantern picks up the slave ship's ion trail, which he follows to an outlying world. Interrogating the locals, they find one who overheard the ship's crew mention their destination, War World.

Superman awakens in the cell beneath the arena. He breaks free of his chains and finds J'onn, whose powers have been weakened by the planet's atmosphere. They try to escape, but only J'onn can pass through the energy shield surrounding the prison. As the guards come for Superman, he tells J'onn to leave.

In his throne room, Mongul is hearing, but discounting, the reports from his minister of the worsening conditions in the city, insisting that as long as he can give the people good spectacles, they'll forget the squalor in their lives. Hearing news of Superman's attempted escape, he decides to make an example of him by immediately matching him against Draaga.

With his powers weakened, J'onn can do little more than act as a spectator at the next fight, where Superman is matched against Draaga. Though Draaga's strength and endurance are nearly the Kryptonian's equal, Superman still beats him. The people are thrilled with the show, and Mongul gives the thumbs down, ordering Superman to finish off Draaga. Superman refuses. Draaga asks Superman for an honorable death on the battlefield but Superman still refuses. Angered, Mongul orders the robotic guards to kill Superman.

Part II[]

Superman withstands the first blast from the guards, but is severely weakened. As Superman falls, J'onn exhorts the crowd, encouraging them to root for their new champion. Before Mongul gives the last order, J'onn starts cheering “Superman! Superman!” The crowd takes up the cheer with enthusiasm, and Mongul realizes that executing Superman will alienate his subjects. He reluctantly sends Superman back to the cells.

Back in the cell, Superman is likewise cheered by the other prisoners, who warn him that both Mongul and Draaga are angry about the events in the arena, and tell him that they've arranged an escape route for him. Superman says he can't leave without J'onn, and instead asks them to smuggle away the unconscious Draaga, who is being dragged away to be discarded.

Hawkgirl and Lantern cram themselves into the alien's ship as he promises to take them to War World. However, when they are distracted, he gasses them unconscious, then dumps their bodies on a garbage dump world. With no idea of where they are, they can't risk leaving the planet to search for another inhabited world, as Lantern's ring might run out of power before then. However, they happen to have landed on the same world where Draaga has been dumped by the escape ship. Obsessed with avenging his defeat by Superman, Draaga offers to show them the way back to War World.

In his throne room, Mongul offers Superman a choice: throw his next fight, with Mongul himself, or watch as a death ray under his control destroys Draaga's home world. Superman has no choice but to agree to a fight.

The entire population watches avidly as the next fight begins, with Superman deliberately losing. In the middle of the fight, Lantern and Hawkgirl arrive on War World, with Draaga, who detaches himself and rushes into the arena, determined to finish Superman off himself. Superman tells him that he has to let Mongul beat him, or his world is doomed. Draaga is taken aback that his opponent would sacrifice his life for Draaga's people.

As the fight goes on, J'onn meets up with Lantern and Hawkgirl. Together they manage to destroy the death ray before it can fire on Draaga's world. They rush to the arena and inform Superman, who stops taking Mongul's punches, and fights back. But it is Draaga who administers the final beating that knocks Mongul unconscious, and takes his crown. He offers it to Superman, who refuses, and advises Draaga to take it and rule the people well.


Background information[]

Home video releases[]

Production inconsistencies[]

  • There's never given an explanation as to why War World's atmosphere debilitates J'onn's powers.
  • When J'onn is impersonating Mongul and couldn't keep it up, he reverts to his humanoid form when he should have reverted to his original Martian form.


  • Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash do not appear.
  • The story is an adaptation of the comics storyline "Gladiator" (Superman #28-32, 1989), in which the characters of Mongul and Draaga are the main antagonists.
  • There are several parallels between the plot of the episode and Ridley Scott's 2000 film "Gladiator":
    • The tyrannical emperor using free entertainment to distract the people from the squalor in their lives and his ineptitude as a ruler.
    • A champion gaining popularity in the ring that makes the tyrant powerless against him.
    • The tyrant seeking to quell this popularity by facing the champion himself in the ring, in a fixed fight.
    • The champion defeating the tyrant in front of the entire populace and instating somebody else as the new ruler.
  • The episode shows the nascent beginnings of the romantic attachment between John Stewart and Hawkgirl.
  • On the special feature "Inside Justice League", Bruce Timm confessed that this episode was one of the most poorly received of season one. One reason for this may have been that, as happened many times during season one, Superman was portrayed as unnaturally weak and vulnerable to harm.
  • When Mongul's minister finds out that Superman's logo is painted all over the place, the main theme from Superman: The Animated Series is heard briefly.


Actor Role
Maria Canals Hawkgirl
Elderly alien (uncredited)
Phil LaMarr Green Lantern
Alien gladiator (uncredited)
Carl Lumbly J'onn J'onzz
George Newbern Superman
Ian James Corlett Thug
Pilot (uncredited)
Phil Proctor First Humanoid
Alien gladiator (uncredited)
Eric Roberts Mongul
William Smith Draaga
David Paymer Chancellor

Uncredited appearances[]


Draaga: Shall I spare him, my lord?
Mongul: What say the rest of you? (Crowd jeers) The people have spoken! Long live democracy!

Draaga: Pathetic. The whole lot of you. Not a real warrior in the bunch. And you, the Kryptonian, you're the biggest disappointment of all. (Spits on Superman and walks away. Superman breaks out of his chains.)
Alien: Why didn't you do that when Draaga was here?
Superman: It's called "turning the other cheek."

Mongul: Rebellion? There's not going to be any rebellion. Not if I can give them fights. Good ones. Enough to keep their minds off their troubles.

Alien: I don't know if he's brave or just plain crazy.

Mongul: Hear what they think of their new hero now? Game over!
John: Not yet. We're going into overtime.

Superman: Draaga, the real test of honor isn't how you die. It's how you live.