With Justice League making its big-screen debut this weekend, fans are already wondering where the DC Extended Universe will go next. But, judging by one of the film's scenes, could a battle between The Dark Knight and a beloved comic villain be in the cards?
Spoilers for Justice League below!
As fans will remember, Bruce Wayne/Batman actor Ben Affleck broke the Internet a little over a year ago by sharing a short video clip of Deathstroke inside a plane. The actor wearing the mask was revealed to be True Blood alum Joe Manganiello, who was believed to make his DCEU debut as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke in Affleck's The Batman.
But for those who've seen Justice League (and stayed through the credits), the mystery of Deathstroke's DCEU debut has been solved. Manganiello played the role in a brief post-credit scene, setting up that he and Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) have some unfinished business with the League, and are tempted to form a League of their own.
As we wrote previously, there's a chance that this Batman/Deathstroke rivalry could play out in Gareth Evans' Deathstroke solo film. But, putting aside any speculation about Affleck's own role in The Batman, could the reverse happen instead? Could Justice League's post-credit scene hint at Manganiello's Deathstroke making an appearance in The Batman after all?
Before we discuss what could be next for Deathstroke's DCEU tenure, let's cover what we already know.
Deathstroke's presence in The Batman has been a bit of an enigma, beginning with Affleck's original Twitter video. Manganiello was officially cast in the film back in September, to the delight of many fans. At the time, Affleck was signed on to direct, co-write, and star in the Warner Bros. picture, but he stepped down from the behind-the-scenes roles back in January.
While this announcement, and the subsequent hiring of Matt Reeves to direct, sent DC fans in a tizzy, Manganiello's role in the film still seemed to be in the cards. That is, until Reeves essentially hinted that the film was starting from scratch -- which seemed to signal that Deathstroke would not be The Batman's primary villain, much less appear in the film at all.
It was later revealed exactly how Affleck's The Batman script included Deathstroke, with the villain reportedly setting up traps for Batman a la The Game. While that script might not be what Reeves and co. end up bringing to the big screen, could Deathstroke still have a role in the upcoming film?
Setting Up What's Next
While many fans have been excited to see Deathstroke appear in The Batman, others wondered if the cameo was necessary. After all, the pair's origins aren't exactly intricately tied, and some have even argued that the antihero belongs in another DCEU film instead.
But now that Justice League's post-credit scene has established Deathstroke, it's pretty easy to see why an appearance from him in The Batman -- no matter how small -- might be essential.
In a way, Justice League's post-credit scene could hint at a different path for Deathstroke, with him seeming to form a Legion of Doom-esque supervillain group. This could mean that Deathstroke's attack against Batman won't culminate until a future Justice League installment.
While that very well could be true, it isn't out of the cards that Slade could still make an appearance in The Batman, as a way to tease their feud to general audiences before a larger on-screen battle. As has been seen with Batman's role in Suicide Squad, a major DCEU character can easily factor into another solo film without distracting from the main narrative.
So regardless of whoever Reeves chooses as The Batman's main villain, there's definitely a way to place Deathstroke into the fold - further hinting at the larger battle that's to come. And as we argued when Manganiello's casting was first announced, there are plenty of stories across DC Comics media that could inspire Deathstroke's The Batman role.
The Batman does not currently have a release date, but is rumored to begin filming sometime in 2018.