Why The DC Animated Universe (DCAU) Should Return

Why The DC Animated Universe (DCAU) Should Return

Why The DC Animated Universe (DCAU) Should Return

DC Animation has been a dominate force for many years. Whether it be in film or TV, the animation division rarely, if ever, fails. But, in recent years, DC animation has been quite absent on the TV side of things. And the DC animated movies projects have been mixed in terms of quality. I think its time for a revisit to greatness. The DC Animated Universe (DCAU) was the epitome of excellent animation for DC. It needs to return.

Thanks for the read!!! Always open to critique!
 
Shared universes seem to have a major association with only cinema. It seems to be widely presumed that the first type of visual media they originated in was film. With companies like Marvel ushering in the beginning of the shared universe revolution, other film studios have followed suit such as: DC & Warner Bros, Fox, Sony (failed) and other studios. Notably, other Hollywood studios are now using this method with other franchises that aren’t comic book movies. However, it appears to be most notable with comic book movie franchises. These massive cinematic universes did have a predecessor of sorts; something that came before them. It wasn’t some old shared universe in cinema that started everything way before anyone; not a studio that was before its time. No, it was in the field of animation where cohesive universes for comic book media began. The DCAU was a set of animated TV series and films that focused on the mythology and world of DC Comics. This animated universe began almost over 20 years ago and it was a successful forerunner to all of the film universes, preferably with superheroes.
 
The DCAU has been defunct for quite some time. DC animated TV series have come and gone after it. Teen Titans, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and Beware the Batman were the most distinguished series to come after the end of the DCAU.  Most of these shows were actually very good successors to the excellent series that came before it. For example, Young Justice was an animated series that tackled mature matters while showcasing young teenage heroes as the emphasis. Unfortunately, most of them were also cancelled when they shouldn’t have been.
 
*The cancellation of Young Justice still hurts to this day


 
With such a gleaming record in animation, it’s surprising that DC and Warner Bros. would cancel such good content. Even one of the DCAU series was abruptly ended before its time: Batman Beyond. I’m fully aware of “at the end of the day it’s a business” cliché and how that actually is a major factor. There may be other issues on the business front that affect these shows cancellation. The talk of cancellations makes me think back to the DCAU. I could never imagine many of those shows being cancelled together (Batman Beyond was the only unfortunate series). The reason for their longevity and success, I believe, was the fact that the shows were a part of a cohesive universe. The interconnectedness and strong show of shared continuity is what made these shows and films so great. Not to mention, the amazing talent that was behind the making of these series.
 
DC animation has had somewhat of a resurgence with a new set of films that are based on the NEW 52 debuting. These films are connected obviously. But, it can debated, that these films aren’t very good. For the most part, the films don’t have the same high standards as their predecessors such as: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (a personal favorite), Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. I think a revisit to what was great is in order. It could be a reinvigoration to a somewhat dying DC animated TV division. As well as a new DC animated film universe that’s not as impressive as hoped for.  Here are my reasons why the DCAU should live again:
 

NOSTALGIA IS SEDUCTIVE

Nostalgia is like a forceful magnet that pulls one back to the sentimentality of the past. In media, particularly movies and television, nostalgia is a huge factor; especially today. The recent box office hit Jurassic World attracts some serious nostalgia from viewers who hold the original Jurassic Park in high regard. Nostalgia and legacy are easy to build off of when selling something.  What came before, when its good, can keep a strong grasp on an audience. Classic films and TV shows are made immortal through fan and audience admiration.  The DCAU is classic in terms of animation and comic book television. Reruns of the timeless shows can be seen on multiple media mediums such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, cable TV networks and online TV watch sites. The old VHS and DVD films are also available as well.  These shows and films aren’t going away and that’s great. With fans and reruns making the universe everlasting, nostalgia opens up opportunities for a revisit.  
 
We are in an age where reboots are replacing originality in Hollywood. There are positives and negatives to this. When a franchise has more to give a reboot or revisit can be a welcome opportunity. But, when something has given all it can, a reboot of it can be seen as trite and unnecessary. The burning question is whether a return to the DCAU is necessary. I wholeheartedly believe it is. The sheer memories of the greatness of this animated universe are enough to get fans invested in its return. The key is to build off of the nostalgia of the DCAU. This generation is very into nostalgia. This is an age of reboots and remakes of classic films and TV show and this generation is eating it all up. The possibility that these remakes could correctly recapture the greatness of their predecessors is enough to get people to watch. It can be argued that the Hollywood of twenty years ago was jam-packed with better blockbusters and classic characters. The audience of this generation wants that back; kids and adults. Kids want to see what all the hype is about; what their parents won’t shut up about. Adults want to travel back to their own childhood.
 
The DCAU can use nostalgia to make a prominent return and continuation.  Many fans, who enjoyed it as kids, or even as adults, are members of a time where a longing of the past is alluring and common.
 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Static Shock, Batman: The Animated Series & Superman: The Animated Series all had successful runs. They also ran for the appropriate amount of years it took to tell their stories. But, Batman Beyond (BB), Justice League (JL), Justice League Unlimited (JLU) did not. BB ran for 3 season while JL/JLU ran for 4 seasons (2 seasons between the two shows).  JL/JLU could have gone on longer. It really could have expanded on so many characters, mainly lesser known ones, and created new fans. JLU started to do this for characters like Green Arrow, Supergirl and Captain Atom. The show adapted and told so many stories and there could’ve been more. So many characters shown in JLU were never fully expanded on. I feel as if it wasn’t given the right amount of time. Same goes for Batman Beyond. It presented a new Batman and his way of doing things which was cool and sometimes out of the ordinary. It dealt with the dilemma of being Batman but also being a normal person. Terry was a teenager who had to balance his daily life and carrying a legendary mantle.  Now, Batman Beyond did continue on a comic book but there’s something to be said about seeing it in action as a cartoon.
 
There’s unfinished business with both of these shows in my opinion. These shows did expand on a lot in there short amount of time. Especially, JLU which introduced so many new characters. But, I feel as if those new characters could’ve taken on more domineering roles in future seasons. In the case of Batman Beyond, the JLU episode “Epilogue”, gave us a definitive ending to the series/ But, seeing Terry as an older and more experienced Batman, I wonder how he got there. What battles, tragedies and trials did he overcome to get being a seasoned hero? There’s more to be explored here.

 
DC TV IS DOING IT WELL

The DC television live action shows are doing pretty well. Primarily, the CW universe has created a small but successful cohesive universe with B list characters such as Green Arrow. The Flash is definitely a DC Comics big dog. Both heroes supporting casts have gained as much of a following as them. Sarah Lance aka the original Black Canary is set to appear on the Flash and Arrow spinoff Legends of Tomorrow. Captain Cold, Firestorm and Heatwave, Flash supporting characters, are also set to appear on the upcoming CW miniseries. The upcoming CBS show, Supergirl, isn’t a part of the CW world, but it’s still a new show DC can say it’s created. Let’s not forget about Gotham as well. DC is really taking the TV game by storm. The DC CW universe has started off faster than the DCCU.
*R.I.P. Constantine
 
With a small live action universe growing on the CW, as well as other DC shows being on other networks, DC seems to have a lot of faith in its TV future. Teen Titans is a property that’s expected to be coming soon to TV as well a prequel series about Superman’s home world of Krypton. The confidence is all there. But, where’s the sureness in the animation side of things? Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series & Beware the Batman, all promising shows, were cancelled way before they should have been. These were shows that ranged from good to amazing in terms of quality. As a fan and fervent watcher of Arrow, I believe it’s gone downhill somewhat in terms of its storytelling. But, the CW is sticking with it and it should because it’s the big brother of the CW universe. It’s had its bumps in the road, but it’s still being supported by its network. Why didn’t Young justice get that support? A show that had little to no problems.
 
The shared universe of Arrow and Flash is booming. Supergirl is coming from the creators of the CW shows and it’s expected to bring the same success. And Gotham is a top show on FOX. And more DC live action shows are coming. This support is needed in the animation division. The DCAU is a proven success. Bringing it back can mirror the success of the live action series. Green Arrow is a popular character today; more so than he was ears ago. Having him come back in a continuation of the JL show, he could become a more prominent member.  Same goes for Flash. He was already a top member of the JL, but why can’t he receive his own animated show in a new DCAU? Black Canary is a fan favorite on Arrow. A Gotham Sirens show could be adapted as a cartoon. DC characters big and small have gained more popularity due to DC TV and that allows for opportunities to further that popularity in other mediums such as animation.  A combination of the DCAU’s excellent reputation and the popularity of DC TV could help the DCAU’s return.
 

TIME CHANGES THINGS

 

Years have passed since the ending of the DCAU and with that things have changed. Characters have changed. Mythologies, origins and stories have altered. New characters have been created. The DC universe has transformed in a number of ways. These alterations are apt for being adapted into a continuance of the DCAU.

Man of Steel hit theaters two years ago and it changed the character in some drastic ways. The Last Son of Krypton killed a man and that must come with its own burdens. The Dark Knight Trilogy has come and gone and it’s given us different interpretations of classic Batman mythos. The DC Cinematic Universe is about to give its own take on other characters such as Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Lex Luthor and The Flash. All of these changes and new interpretations can be factored into the tropes and nuances if the DCAU. Shows like Justice League and Batman Beyond always played with alternate timelines, universes and worlds. The new versions of the characters we’ve seen in film and other media could be made into stories in the DCAU. Have an episode where Superman’s origins are altered to be like they are in Man of Steel. What if Superman killed? Or, how about exploring Green Arrow’s connection to Deathstroke in an animated format.
The possibilities are endless.

 
Justice League: Gods & Monsters is a creation of DCAU pioneer Bruce Timm. It contains the same art style and a little of the tone that the old DCAU shows had. It’s a feature that’s focused on an alternate universe. A new DCAU could make alternate reality stories into animated videos or episodes of a show. JL: Gods and Monsters is a good example of what that could be. Not only have films and TV shows changed characters, but the comics have as well. The New 52 has altered a lot. I understand that there is a current slate of DC animated films that are connected and adapting the New 52. I personally believe most of the films have been underwhelming. If the minds behind the DCAU were able to get their hands on New 52 story arcs, I think they would do it justice. 
 

THE ART & STYLE

The art deco style; the 1940s pastiche; hyper-streamlines art style. This is what the DCAU brought to the table in terms of art. It can be applied to new and different costumes for the heroes for example, Imagine the Man of Steel suit, drawn in the DCAU style; Or the Arrow costume; the new Aquaman DCCU look as well. After seeing Justice League: Gods & Monsters, display the classic Timmverse style, I’m keen to see it brought back. 

 

TRINITY

Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Paul Dini; these three names should be highly revered in the animation world, particularly when it comes to DC. They are the godfathers and innovators of the DCAU. This is a trinity that created the classic animated universe. There involvement is of the utmost significance in a continuation. Timm has continually worked with DC animation and worked on a number of projects; most recently the aforementioned Justice League: Gods & Monsters. Burnett has co-produced projects from Warner Bros. Animation as well as writing Green Lantern: First Flight and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Dini worked on Batman: Arkham City. They’ve all still worked with DC to some extent over the years. They’re still involved in the universe in some way. Having these three in the driver’s seat of the revisit/continuation would add some serious clout. There would be no doubts about what fans would be getting in terms of quality.

Many have learned from what these three men did. The animated features that followed the DCAU have been pretty impressive. The above mentioned Young Justice, and Green Lantern: Animated Series were great series. On the animated film side, movies like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman/Superman Apocalypse are very good films. Those who have followed Dini, Timm and Burnett have learned well. The influence of the men is felt strongly. With all that knowledge and influence, why not use it to continue to support the new generation of animators?  Why not combine talents as well?

 

UNITE THE SEVEN

Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Greg Weisman, Brandon Vietti, Lauren Montgomery and Jay Oliva; all  of these names represent the very best of the old school and the new school. Vietti and Weisman gave us Young Justice. Oliva directed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Montgomery directed Batman/Superman Apocalypse as well as co-directing Batman: Year One and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. The résumés of the new generation are impressive to say the least. Combine this with the knowledge and continued talent of the Trinity, and you’ve got a new think tank and team that can lead an extension of the DCAU. Two different generations teaming up allows for new insights to mesh with older wisdom.

I believe the best reboots, revisits and continuations of old franchises work best when a fresh take can find a way to still reinvigorate the classic qualities of the original franchise. Jurassic World worked well because Spielberg and Trevorrow seemed to work well together by paying homage to what came before, but also bringing something new. Same can be said for Star Trek and Casino Royale. I’ve got to mention the old voice casts. For example, Kevin Conroy (Batman) could work with CCH Pounder (Amanda Waller) once again. How great would that be? I personally think the old voice casts are the best cast you could possibly get. Having them work with new material would be a prize.


 


CONCLUSION

Greg Weisman said an interesting thing about what he wanted people to take away most from Young Justice. I like to think this applies to the DCAU. Those characters and that world meant something to a lot people. I know it meant a lot to me. It did indeed feel genuine.

…Mostly, I just hope that the characters meant something to them. That they felt real. Not perfect. Real.

--Greg Weisman


 






LET IT MARINATE!!! 

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