Deathstroke in Justice League

In the new few years, The Batman will finally arrive, though not in the form it was first envisioned. While Matt Reeves’ movie sees Robert Pattinson’s Caped Crusader crossing paths with villains like Catwoman, Riddler and Penguin in a separate universe from the DCEU, The Batman was originally supposed to feature Ben Affleck’s version of the superhero battling with Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke, who we met at the end of Justice League. And man, was the one-eyed mercenary going to do a number on Bruce Wayne’s life.

While recently promoting his new movie Archenemy, Joe Manganiello informed Yahoo that the now-scrapped Ben Affleck-led The Batman would have have had a “strong David Fincher vibe,” with Affleck (who also would have directed) specifically being influenced by Fincher’s 1997 film The Game. The movie would have seen Deathstroke, whose real name is Slade Wilson, destroying both Bruce Wayne’s status as Gotham City’s leading citizen and his private life as Batman. Manganiello continued:

It was a really dark story in which Deathstroke was like a shark or a horror movie villain that was dismantling Bruce’s life from the inside out. It was this systemic thing: He killed everyone close to Bruce and destroyed his life to try and make him suffer because he felt that Bruce was responsible for something that happened to him.

It’s one thing for a super villain to cause trouble for a superhero strictly while they’re in costume, but for Deathstroke to also wreak havoc on Bruce Wayne’s life when he’s out of the Batsuit would have been a devastating scenario. It’s also possible Deathstroke’s plan would have involved other Batman villains, as in 2019, cinematographer Robert Richardson, who was going to work on the original version of The Batman, said the movie would have involved Gotham City’s Dark Knight exploring Arkham Asylum.

This story is also similar to the Daredevil comics storyline “Born Again,” which saw Marvel’s Man Without Fear having to deal with his life being systematically unraveled by Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin. It also turns out that Justice League’s post-credits scene, in which Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke meeting with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, was originally supposed to set up The Batman rather than a Justice League sequel, perhaps indicating Luthor was involved in this scheme.

Alas, The Batman in this form eventually died following Justice League’s critically and commercially underwhelming theatrical run. Once Matt Reeves came aboard and was given the go-ahead to start from scratch on the script, that spelled the end of this Batman vs. Deathstroke tale, which Joe Manganiello was jazzed to tackle. In his words:

It was really cool, really dark and really hard. I was very excited for it.

While things didn’t work out for Joe Manganiello on The Batman, and it doesn’t look like the Deathstroke movie is happening anymore, the actor’s tenure as Slade Wilson isn’t done just yet. He reprised the character earlier this year for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, donning a mohawk for these new scenes. Between that extra footage and seeing the original version of his post-credits appearance, Deathstroke fans will have a little extra material to enjoy from this incarnation of the villain.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League will air as a four-part miniseries on HBO Max, and is expected to drop within the first half of 2021. Matt Reeves’ The Batman is currently slated for March 4, 2022. Read through our DC movies guide to learn what else is on the way in this corner of the superhero movie market.

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