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For nearly 50 years, Darkseid has been one of the most powerful villains in the DC Comics universe, making him an excellent candidate for cinematic adaptation. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice alluded to Darkseid's existence through Batman's Knightmare, and in the years leading up to Justice League, it was rumored several times that he would have a small role. In the end, Steppenwolf served as Apokolips' only major representative in the theatrical cut, though he did namedrop his powerful nephew. However, it turns out that Darkseid was indeed supposed to show up in Justice League, as evidenced by some artwork depicting him in the Knightmare world.
For those who need a refresher, during Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice when Bruce Wayne fell asleep while the Batcomputer was decrypting Lex Luthor's files, he dreamed of an Apokoliptic future (see what I did there?) where Earth had been taken over by Darkseid's forces and Superman was ruling with an iron fist. The Justice League storyboards posted by Screen Rant show that the latest DCEU movie would have revisited this future, as we would have seen Darkseid successfully performing The Unity with the Mother Boxes, thus terraforming Earth to make it resemble Apokolips. Aside from seeing that Darkseid did indeed have a role to play in Justice League back when director Zack Snyder was still overseeing it, another particularly interesting element of these drawings is that the Hall of Justice archway is seen buried in the rubble following Earth's transformation. Batman and the other Justice Leaguers established Wayne Manor as this universe's Hall of Justice at the end of Justice League, but even it couldn't withstand devastation of that magnitude.
These storyboards confirm a rumor that came out shortly after Justice League's release, which mentioned that while battling Steppenwolf, Superman would have had a vision of Darkseid and flashes of the Knightmare future. Although Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's Knightmare (as well as the future Flash delivering a cryptic message to Bruce Wayne) looked like it would set something up for Justice League, ultimately there was no payoff in the theatrical cut. Still, it's good to finally know for certain that at one time, Darkseid was going to be teased in the movie.
It's also worth mentioning that this Knightmare may not have been the only way could have appeared in Justice League, because a few months before the movie came out, it was reported that the movie was originally supposed to end on a cliffhanger, with Steppenwolf playing a "Silver Surfer role" and Darkseid playing a "Galactus role." Whether this is true or not, I doubt I'm alone in wishing that Justice League had kept Darkseid in some form or fashion, if only to directly show who was pulling Steppenwolf's strings. As things stand now, it's unclear if/when Justice League 2 will happen, so unless Darkseid is instead used as a villain for a movie like Man of Steel 2, it's possible we may never see this legendary antagonist in the flesh (so to speak).
Justice League is now available for digital purchase, and for all the latest in DC movie news, including whether or not we'll one day see Darkseid on the big screen, keep checking back with CinemaBlend. Don't forget to also look through our DC movies guide to learn what DCEU projects are in development.