It’s no surprise that I’m a huge DC fanatic, and I enjoy soaking up just about any and all things DC related, whether they be their comics, video games, movies, and television shows. I have dedicated today’s post to their much beloved animated series that they’ve been pumping out since 1992 (maybe even earlier, I’m note entirely sure). They continue to produce quality television shows and animated movies to this day, although some for the wrong [but necessary] reasons. My recent finishing of the television series Young Justice has prompted me to write this post and kind of cover all the great things about DC’s [or I guess Warner Bros.] animated divisions. It’s very clear that a lot of these great shows and movies were created by comic book lovers who enjoy introducing legendary and fantastic characters in the DC universe as well as dropping hints, easter eggs, and callbacks to those who are engaged and already familiar with the DC Universe.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the recent and personally significant series and movies I’ve had the pleasure of viewing.
Young Justice and Young Justice Invasion
As I mentioned, I’ve recently finished Young Justice and was absolutely floored with the level of maturity and quality of this show. While it was originally catered to kids to sell toys [which its failure to do so caused it’s wrongful cancellation], adults have picked up on the show and it gained a cult following. Young Justice follows the saga of the Justice League’s sidekicks and proteges ranging from Robin to Aqualad to Miss Martian. While it originally came off as a repetitive and predictable, ‘coming of age’ series, Young Justice quickly became popular with it’s lovable and well written characters and surprisingly adult themes. A lot of the faces are new here and to the uninitiated or those who liked the original Justice League, it’s fun to see some veteran faces even if only for a minute or two. Seeing Batman give a subtle nod to Robin after a good job or Superman’s estranged relationship with his younger clone Superboy are delights as well as seeing other veterans like Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Red Tornado given some character development as tutors to these younger and troubled teenagers.
After the first season, Young Justice continued it’s brilliance with Young Justice Invasion, a more continuous storyline while introducing a plethora of new younger players after an incredibly complex and even gut-punching 3-year time skip. Seeing the younger Robin grow up to be Nightwing and be tutor to the next Robin was incredible, the introduction of the lovable Impulse, and Blue Beetle being given an incredible storyline was an absolute blast to watch. Young Justice Invasion was an incredibly ambition and risky series, given it’s linearity that almost requires the watchers to be caught up with the previous episodes for the next episode to make sense, which might be some of the reason as to why it was cancelled. I’m really broken up with it’s cancellation as I’ve joined another cult following who is crying over another wrongful cancellation.
Justice League and Justice League Unlimited
I grew up with just about every episode of this show being under my belt when I was a kid. As I watched it at my current age, a flood of nostalgia came over me. Justice League gave me everything I had thought I had known about the DC universe. Bruce and Diana were a thing. Martian Manhunter is a sad and lonely superhero. Green Lantern has the craziest love triangle. Wally West is a hilarious superhero. The list goes on and on. When I saw superheroes I didn’t recognize on the screen, I thirsted for more and what their lore was. It was a blast and gave me goosebumps when I saw something like Captain Marvel and Superman fight or when the Joker had the entire Justice League in the palm of his hands, or even when I saw Jonah Hex be quickly introduced. I feel as though this series is what legitimately birthed my love for the DC universe.
Batman: The Animated Series
I might have been too young when this series came out to become a fan of it during it’s initial airing, but I definitely grew up on this show’s replays. It started airing in 1992 and went over several seasons and even other title changes as they added Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing. Giving its broader audience a darker and more serious look at Batman and his Rogue’s gallery, Batman: The Animated series gave life to the immortal Joker’s voice by Mark Hamill and even the birth of Harley Quinn, who remains today as a fan favorite. It also introduced Mr. Freeze as a sympathetic villain and even made children afraid of the Scarecrow. This also further cemented Bruce Timm and Paul Dini as key members in influencing future DC animated tv projects like Superman the Animated Series and the Justice League animated series as mentioned above.
Batman: Under the Red Hood
This particular Batman movie can be accurately described as a tragedy, as a follow up to the death of Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin. Dark, twisted, and compelling, Under the Red Hood is one of Batman’s most personal journeys as he investigates the violent nature of a new vigilante in Gotham City. The ending may be one of the greatest interpretation of Bruce Wayne and Batman’s character when it comes to his ‘no killing’ rule, even in the face of one of his greatest failures as a human being and a superhero. Like I said, this particular story is a tragedy, making it one of the more powerful story arcs I’ve had the pleasure of viewing in a Batman oriented story.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
I’ve done a review on this movie that can be read here.
TL;DR: This movie has definitely influenced a lot of what Batman is interpreted as today
Despite the name, this story is more or less the origin story of Kara Zor-El, aka, Supergirl. When Kara arrives on Earth, it’s up to Superman to introduce her to the ways of Earth and her new responsibilities of being a near god to the mortals around her. Her journey takes her to Diana’s home of Themiscrya and further involves the Dark Knight himself. Ultimately, the journey leads all 4 of them to Apokolips, the home of Darkseid, one of DCs most dangerous villains. The battle shows the pure strengths of Batman (which is not exactly physical), Wonder Woman, Superman, and Supergirl, making this one of the funnest movies to watch.
Batman: Year One
This movie is essentially the animated embodiment of Batman Begins. Based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, this was one of the key influences in interpreting Batman as a grounded and down to earth superhero, who truly uses his knowledge of criminal activity and fear to manipulate Gotham’s criminals. Scenes directly from Batman Begins such as the hesitant Jim Gordon (voiced awesomely by Bryan Cranston), the police assault, and the infamous bat attracting sound waves are all taken from this graphic novel/animated adaption. This is a really fun movie to watch if you want to see the mindset of how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. Also Bryan Cranston is Jim Gordon. Does it get more awesome than that?
Justice League War and Son of Batman
The two most recent DC animated movies were Justice League War and Son of Batman. Justice League War introduced one of the first movies adapting the New 52 revamp story. It’s essentially the origin story of how the Justice League was founded and is based on the New 52 comic Justice League: Origin. Changing a couple of things from the comic book, Justice League War is a full blown action movie, with punching, lasers, and stabbing make majority of the movie with witty one-liners of the heroes making fun of each other fit in between. Definitely a movie that’s good for introducing some of the lesser known Justice League members to the uninitiated as they get some quick characterization into some of the heroes such as Green Lantern’s cockiness, Batman’s leadership, Superman’s nobility, etc.
Son of Batman is DC’s most recent animated endeavor, covering how Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian, become the next Robin. An animated feature definitely aimed more at adults in terms of the humor and blood, Son of Batman is a step in a very different and mature direction [which I think is a good thing]. Characterization of many of its key characters like the unsure parenting skills of Bruce himself, his hot-headed and blood thirsty son Damian, and even the cool and collected Dick Grayson’s Nightwing are fun to watch. I enjoyed this film so much, I went out and got New 52 Batman and Robin to see more interactions between the dark knight and his son.
Overall, DC has had an incredible history of animated tv shows and movies. I hope they continue to make quality features of both. It’s hard to forgive them with the discontinuation of Young Justice and the sort, but it goes to show that DC can make ’em good if they want to. Let’s just hope toy sales don’t affect future installments.