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[Alternate History is a new feature in which we take a closer look at some of the bigger “What Ifs” of the movie world.]

Marvel and DC have been at war for decades. But whereas most of their previous battles took place in the pages of comic books, the new front is now the world of mega-budget superhero movies, and Marvel has a very, very big lead. DC—by way of its home at Warner Bros.—is currently in “catch up” mode, hoping to explode its own interconnected universe of films with next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, whose very title makes clear the fact that it’s a prelude to a two-part Justice League event. But things almost turned out differently on the DC side. Very differently.

In 2007, following the success of Batman Begins and the disappointment of Superman Returns, Warner Bros. was unsure how to proceed with its bevy of comics properties. Christopher Nolan was developing what would become The Dark Knight, but WB was noodling around with the idea of culling its slew of popular characters together in a Justice League film. This would exist separately from Nolan’s films with Christian Bale not playing Batman in both movies, and would hopefully spinoff a series of other superhero movies for the future.

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