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Tear Jerker: Justice League
You cried. Don't deny it.
The reactions of Flash and Superman to Dr. Destiny's Mind Rape. Flash, normally the most cheerful member of the League runs from person to person in the time-stuck world in which the supervillain trapped him, begging anyone to say something to show him that he won't be alone for the rest of his life. When this fails, he curls up into Troubled Fetal Position. And Superman could give him a run for his money. (No pun intended.) When he sees Lois Lane die due to his out-of-control Eye Beams, he screams and thrashes - an expression of pain that neither Kryptonite nor Omega Beams could drag out of him. Then there's Jimmy Olsen's death. Overjoyed to find a friendly face, Superman scoops his young colleague off his feet and hugs him. Then he hears the boy scream and opens his eyes to find that he's holding his pal's limp body. This becomes even worse when you realize that for Superman, this might call back memories of the events of "Legacy". No wonder that when Martian Manhunter broke him out, he greeted Destiny with a Megaton Punch to the face.
Jason Blood's backstory is even more tragic in the DCAU universe than the DCU universe. First he's tricked (most likely bewitched) by Morgan le Fay into betraying Camelot. Then Morgan stabs him in the back! Then, instead of letting him die for it, Merlin decides to get vindictive and bind him with the dark and brooding Etrigan.
The episode "For the Man Who Has Everything." The Black Mercy grants its host their heart's deepest desire at the cost of rendering them completely comatose. In order to break free of the parasite's grasp, the host must sacrifice that desire. Superman gets to live out a perfect fantasy life on Krypton with a wife, son, and his real parents. He's even given memories of all of it. Upon figuring out the illusion, he tearfully explains to his fake son that none of it was real, that he couldn't stay because he had responsibilities, and promised he'd never forget him. Then the planet goes supernova. Supes is so understandably pissed he doesn't even stop to help Batman or Wonder Woman and goes straight for Mongul. And also there's how Batman, in a rare moment of vulnerability, regresses to the night his parents were killed. This time, Dr. Thomas Wayne overpowers Joe Chill and starts beating the crap out of him while Bruce cheers.. You actually see his real world self genuinely smile in happiness. As Wonder Woman rips the Black Mercy off of Batman, little Bruce watches in despair all over again as Chill regains control and fatally shoots Thomas Wayne. Their faces are heartbreaking.
Mongul(sneering): It must have been like tearing off your own arm.
Aresia's backstory in "Fury" was bad enough with her family being murdered and the survivors displaced by despotic rulers, but then the ship they're fleeing on is destroyed with only the Captain and Aresia left to try and swim to shore. He swims without rest for an unknown amount of time until he's able to safely deliver her to the shores of Themyscira where he dies from hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. He is the only man to ever be buried on the island and at the time it was thought that despite his noble act "he didn't matter." Aresia's descent and eventual death means his sacrifice was meaningless.
Moreover, Hippolyta never told Aresia this until it was too late, and she was so convinced that all men deserved to die at that point that it didn't matter to her. Aresia, bitchy as she was, was a Tyke Bomb because of not just negligent men that ruined her life, but also negligent Amazons that hate men so much they banished Diana, one of their own, for bringing a few over just to save the world from Hades.
It wasn't necessarily hate towards men that Hippolyta had, she just thought the life of the girl was more important than the already near dead male. She did at the least do him the honor of burying him rather than leaving his body. As for banishing Diana, it was moreso because it was the rule imposed by the gods, Hippolyta even said as a mother she was proud, but as a queen, her duty still needed be done. Regardless, it was stil Hippolyta's fault for preaching that men aren't so great, especially when she and her Amazons have missed a few thousand years of progression.
"Legends". The Justice Guild sacrificing themselves to do the right thing, even if it means ending their existence.
The Streak: We died once to save this Earth. And we can do it again.
Followed by: "In Seaboard City, crime doesn't pay." It's not the line itself, but the note of resignation in Tom Turbine's voice. He knows he is sentencing himself to die, but he does it anyway, because that is what they do. They fight the bad guys.
And then there's the ending of the episode, where John Stewart (Green Lantern) is actually mourning their deaths and Hawkgirl comforts him. Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
John: It's stupid really... I mean, they weren't even real. Hawkgirl: They gave their lives for us, that's real enough for me.
Fittingly, the episode is dedicated to Gardner Fox, the late writer who created the Justice Society, on which the Justice Guild is based.
Both times Solomon Grundy dies, because clearly the first death just wasn't enough.
Grundy: Do you think... Grundy's soul is waiting for him? Hawkgirl: Grundy, I don't bel- (stops herself) Yes. Yes, it is waiting for you. Grundy: (whispers) Then Grundy gets his reward.
Pictured above: Justice League Unlimited had a massively sad scene in "Epilogue" when Ace, realizing she's terminally ill and has hours to live, asks Batman to stay with her until the end. He agrees. And then he carries her lifeless body in his arms. This scene gets an added layer of sadness when you take into account Batman's own troubled childhood, and how he always seems to reach out to children who are suffering from similar tragedies. See also: Robin.
The most gut-wrenching part might just be that, despite everything that's happened to her, and how different her psychic powers make her from the rest of us, Ace's reaction to knowing she's about to die is one we all as human beings would have: she's scared, and doesn't want to be alone.
And then when you realize, fifty years later, he named his dog after her. D'AWWW.
Actually, Ace the Bat-Hound has been around in the comics since the 50s... but within the context of the DCAU, this works.
Ace is ripping your heartstrings out even sooner than that. In her introductory episode, the flashback images of her in the laboratories, her psychologically broken parents, the mental-restraint helmet holding back her powers, and the rare occasion where she cries are enough to make you choke.
Ace: When I was little, Cadmus used to make me play all kinds of games, but they weren't any fun, either. They'd strap me into their machines; poke wires into my brain. "Ace, can you move this object with your mind?" Yeah, I can move it. They weren't really games, you know. They were training me; turning me into a weapon. "For justice," they said. They got their weapon. I got cheated out of my childhood. Batman: I know what that's like. Ace: You do, don't you?
Also from "Epilogue" the scene with Bruce and Terry. While Terry argues with him, Bruce's heart condition acts up and the man who was Batman is seen struggling to so much as open a bottle of his medication all throughout the rest of the scene. This man saved Gotham countless times thanks to training his mind and body to their physical peak and this scene is most likely exactly how he will die. Not in some blaze of glory fighting to save those around him. He will die when he someday finds that his body no longer has the strength to open that bottle at all. And the Batman will die alone, killed by time and aging.
Not to mention that it's implied that he's like this now because he burnt himself out fighting, training, and getting the living hell pounded out of him in his youth. He's literally sacrificed everything, including his health. Just the way the original Batman looks at this point, ravaged by time and close to being permanently bed-ridden, is nothing short of heartbreaking.
Good thing that the monochrome (Gray / grey) parts were just Terry's imagination and didn't happen, according to Word of God.
In the episode "Starcrossed, Part 3", GL and Shayera Hol's big farewell after the failed Thanagar invasion of Earth, Hawkgirl is disgraced from both her native and adopted home world. The beautiful music and voice-acting did not help matters.
John: You never asked how we voted. Shayera: It doesn't matter. John: So, where are you you gonna go? Shayera: I don't know. Someplace where the fate of the world isn't in my hands. Someplace where there are no more secrets... No more lies... John:Was it all a lie? Shayera: I love you, John. I never lied about that. [flies off] John: [tearing up] ...I love you, too.
Also, the scene where Batman pilots the Watchtower into earth - with him on board, and his farewell to Flash and J'onn.
The Speedforce scene in "Divided We Fall". It's more the fact that he sounds so freaking serious about it all - and this is WallyWest we're talking about.
"Shayera? It's so beautiful here. There's a force. A Speedforce. It's calling me home."
Similarly, when he realizes he can't slow down and stumbles toward his friends, with a dazed "I feel kind of... funny." It's anything but.
It's even worse if you look closely. He didn't take Hawkgirl's hand; she had to drag him out by his wrist.
The entire first half of "Hereafter, Part 1" after Superman "dies". The aftermath of the battle, the mourning, and especially J'onn's eulogy are all very tastefully done. Then Lobo shows up, and the episode quickly skips into a series of what, depending on your point of view, might be either Crowning Moments of Awesome... or not.
Special mention has to go to Lois, who ends up breaking down in the the arms of Lex Luthor, of all people. Speaking of which, it's the one moment where you can tell Lex is genuinely sad.
Luthor: Believe it or not, I'm going to miss him too.
The Flash hugging the little girl he was in the midst of saving when Toyman "kills" Superman, as everyone starts to realise what had just happened.
Batman has adamantly refused to believe that Superman has died, even avoiding going to the funeral. He shows up at Superman's memorial on his investigation to find out what happened to the Man of Steel, but is stymied by another dead end (which actually forces him to consider that he may be wrong—he would never allow himself such despairing thoughts, had he not be hurt really bad). It's then that Batman admits how much he respected and admired Superman, and how he showed him that "justice doesn't have to come from the darkness." It's a wonderful piece of acting from Kevin Conroy, who's voice subtly breaks during his confession, showing that the Dark Knight is truly affected by the loss of one of his teammates.
Speaking of Hereafter, there's also its ending: The alternate, eccentric but now good-natured Vandal Savage fading out of existence as the dystopian wasteland is replaced with a more optimistic future... and before disappearing, he simply says, "Thank you, my friend."
Worth mentioning in regards to Hereafter, when Supes seemingly dies, Wonder Woman fully intends to kill Toyman for what he had done.
(Diana raises a fist, clearly intending to put it through Toyman)
Flash:(gently restraining her hand) We don't do that to our enemies.
The episode "A Better World" has Batman and his alternate universe duplicate arguing ethics and morality in the Batcave. Batman actually agrees with and surrenders to his Justice Lord counterpart when the latter declares, "With that power, we've made a world where no eight year old boy will ever lose his parents because of some punk with a gun" (Conroy's emphasis just hammers it all the more in). It's easy to forget, but beneath all the training, the fighting, the costume, and the gadgets, Batman is still a scared little boy crying in that alley.
Apparently, the writers had intended for League!Batman to win that debate, but when they came up with that line for Lord!Batman, they couldn't think of anything League!Batman could use to top it off, and they went with it.
Similarly, there was an episode in which a magic spell turns the League into children. At the end, after they're restored, Wonder Woman and Batman have this exchange:
Wonder Woman: Still, it was nice to be a kid again. Batman:(in a bitter, completely un-nostalgic tone) I haven't been a kid since I was eight years old.
Also in "A Better World", Justice Lord Batman can't quite spit out that their Flash is dead to the Justice League Flash, and is panicky (uncharacteristic of any Batman) when he thinks the League world Flash is dead.
In "Flashpoint", after they've rescued The Question from being tortured, he and Huntress share a moment.
Question: You were right, I am the ugliest guy of all time. Huntress: Not in my eyes.
And in the same episode, after having to beat Captain Atom to unconsciousness, Superman refuses the help of the Cadmus lackies, and then gently picks him up.
Anybody else feel tears well up for Captain Marvel during "Clash"? He spends almost the entire episode gushing about how much he loves being in the League, especially since it gives him a chance to hang around with his idol Superman (who acts prickly and jealous toward the kid). His life as Billy Batson is shown to be complete crap, but he doesn't seem to mind now that's he's on the League. What happens? Superman, his idol, the man he aspires to be like, ends up attacking him.
Cap: My whole life, I've looked up to the League. You were my heroes, every one of you. And you [Superman], you were more then a hero... I idolised you, I wanted to be you. Whenever I was out there fighting bad guys I'd think "What would Superman do?" Now I know. I believe in fair play - I believe in taking people at their word and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Back home, I faced some nasty bad guys but I never had to act the way they did to win a fight, I always found another way. I... I guess I'm saying I like being a hero, a symbol. And that's why... I'm quitting the Justice League. You don't act like heroes anymore...
To be fair, it wasn't jealousy, it was Superman being insanely paranoid of what looked like a bomb Luthor planted. It's really more power to Lex being a Magnificent Bastard. But even so, Superman is not supposed to act like a total tool in public, and definitely not throw punches at other heroes completely unprovoked, Captain Marvel was the sensible one, requesting to call someone in to see what the device was.
And this was part of Lex's plan all along, to discredit the Justice League, which Batman figured out. And Captain Marvel's speech made them realize what they're becoming, like the Justice Lords.
Terry's death in "The Once and Future Thing" - As the four Dee-Dees electrocute him, the scene cuts from Terry screaming in agony, to Bruce sat at his computer screaming Terry's name in horror, and then repeating it, absolutely dejected at his successor's death. Becomes worse after "Epilogue," with The Reveal that Terry is actually Bruce's son.
Wonder Woman's banishment at the end of "Paradise Lost." No one actually wants it to happen, yet she broke the law and Hippolyta's hand is forced.
Flash unknowingly makes it worse for both Diana and Hippolyta for calling them out on this. Incidentally, the exile happened just after the men were all rewarded and praised for stopping Felix Faust and Hades.
In "Dead Reckoning," Deadman possesses Batman and shoots Devil Ray, accidentally killing him. When Batman realizes what happened, he hurls the gun away in horror and storms out without a word.
It might be more expedient to list the moments from "Comfort and Joy" that aren't going to hit one in the stomach like a sack of bricks, but here's an annotated version: the Justice League helps out a group of peaceful aliens by building a device for them. As it's close to Christmas time, they all decide to take some time off in their own ways.
Green Lantern and Hawkgirl initially stay on the alien's planet, with him showing her Earth customs such as snowmen and snowball fights, but eventually fly to another planet to celebrate the season in Hawkgirl's way: a bar fight. After the melee, the two collapse in each other's arms on the barroom floor and rest peacefully.
Superman, meanwhile, heads back home to Smallville, bringing J'onn with him for dinner at the Kents'. J'onn initially feels out of place, taking in an Earth holiday with Earth customs, but after sneaking out at night and wandering around Smallville on Christmas Eve, he sees (and mind-reads) so much joy and goodwill in the small-town folk that his longing to be with his own family doesn't seem so bad. Hearing the thoughts of a young girl convinced Santa is real despite her brother's assertions to the contrary, he flies up on the roof, comes down the chimney, and eats the oreos and milk she left out for Santa. The next morning, the Kents are awoken by an eerie noise. They head downstairs to see J'onn sitting in the bay window, in his default Martian form, stroking the pet cat, and singing a song in his native tongue. (Superman: "And he said he didn't bring a gift.")
Next we're treated to a shot of an orphanage, where the director tells the children that they'll be getting a visit from their favorite man in a red suit shortly. True to her word, in zooms Flash, offering to bring the children a gift of their desire. They all agree on a DJ Rubba Ducky, the hottest toy of the season - which is, of course, completely unavailable. Flash, being the Flash, runs to Japan in order to score one straight from the manufacturer, but this plan is accidentally foiled when, in trying to stop the villainous Ultra-Humanite, Flash breaks the Rubba Ducky. Flash chastizes the rogue for his part in destroying Christmas for orphans, at which point he is knocked unconscious with the butt of the Ultra-Humanite's weapon. Flash awakens to see the Ultra-Humanite working on repairing the toy in his workshop, having been swayed by the Flash's point that one claiming to personify the best traits of humanity, such as Ultra-Humanite does, should have a little humanity himself. Ultra-Humanite believes the children are pure, not vulgar like most of the human race, and should therefore not be made to suffer as all the rest deserve. He and the Flash return the repaired toy to the orphanage, and though the toy now recites a recording of the Humanite reading The Nutcracker (with accompanying music) instead of the hip-hop and fart sounds it did before (due to Humanite wishing to give the orphans some culture), their Christmas is nonetheless a happy one, and the Humanite submits to the Flash and is taken to jail. Once in his cell, Flash arrives with a token of thanks: an aluminum Christmas tree. He acknowledges that it's tacky, especially for one as cultured and refined as the Humanite, but his explanation is cut short: the Humanite intimates that his family had one when he was a child, and trails off in mid-reminiscence before telling the Flash that he may have the guard show him out of the cell. Flash looks on as the Humanite lights up the tree.
Of course, the episode isn't all Crowning Moment of Heartwarming tears. The reason Batman isn't mentioned here? Batman's parents died in December. He's presumably laying roses on the place they died in Crime Alley (his yearly custom), patrolling the area to prevent another such incident, or just defending Gotham City from the usual havoc around the holidays. (Two separate episodes from his solo show took place on Christmas, with the latter having several villains involved all the way up to New Year's.) A line earlier in the episode makes it known that he refuses all invitations to spend Christmas with any of the other Leaguers.
In the comic based on the series, the Phantom Stranger shows the Flash a vision of one of Bruce's Christmases past, perhaps even the very first one after. The Flash is irritated that little Bruce shows no enthusiasm for Alfred's gifts, but then he lights up at a Grey Ghost playset, dancing around the living room with his new toy... until he sees the portrait of his parents. "I'm sorry", the boy murmurs, apologizing for his lapse, for forgetting his vow to them, for being happy for a moment. He quietly thanks Alfred again and leaves the room, not seeing the tear his guardian sheds. And a solemn and humbled Flash tells the Stranger that he's seen enough.
How has "Ultimatum" not been mentioned yet? Imagine being a teenage superhero and finding out that you're a genetically engineered experiment by the government, all of your memories are fake, your family is really a bunch of actors, and your new powers are a sign of your body breaking down, giving you less than a month to live after which you will be replaced by another clone. No wonder all of them except Long Shadow went off the deep end.