At the beginning of the 90’s DC Comics and Warner Bros entered a renaissance period in animation when it aired the much loved ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ in 1992. The highly praised and award winning show was co-created by the inimitable Bruce Timm and Eric Ramdoski, the series was complex and explored themes oft unseen in Superhero cartoons previous to it’s existence. A dark and emotional ride with a noticeable film noir style, it ably captured the moodiness and angst of its titular star with consummate ease, and cogently drew influence from Tim Burton’s cinematic foray into Gotham lore, in the Michael Keaton starring ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns’.
The series was more adult oriented than previous comic-book animations, and was noteworthy for its voice casting especially one character in particular, The Joker, voiced sublimely by Mark Hamill. Hamill has been a fan and critic favourite since then as the Clown Prince Of Crime and has gone on to voice the Genocidal Jester in both animated films and video-games adaptations. The series was also the progenitor of the shared animated universe and brought into it’s continuity timeline ‘Superman: The Animated Series’ and ‘Justice League’ with each sharing the show’s distinctive art style.
In 2004 a sequel to the popular ‘Justice League’ series was produced, ‘Justice League Unlimited’ continued the shared universe begun by the Batman animated original, but added a veritable army of characters to the original JL roster. In fact the first episode of the new show contained over 50 characters, some of them were previously included in a guest starring spot on Justice League, but most were making their debut appearance in animated form.
The popular series ran for three seasons and left the viewer with many memorable storylines, including a long running romantic entanglement between Batman and Wonder Woman, and a complex love triangle for Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and Vixen, these story beats added an emotional depth to the characters and show itself and were quite often more compelling than any of the superheroics on display.
DC and Warner Bros have produced a plethora of animated shows and movies since JLU, with the most popular of more recent times being ‘Young Justice’. The series follows the teenage sidekicks and heroes of the DC Universe as they attempt to establish themselves as superheroes, but also focuses on their adolescent dramas and personal issues. The show is aimed squarely at the teenage market, yet fans of all ages have found themselves drawn to the animated antics of Robin, Superboy, Miss Martian et al, thanks to fantastic scripting and a genuinely uplifting and heartwarming ethos.
DC and Warner Bros’ newest animated series ‘Justice League Action’ will attempt to recapture their peers’ animated triumphs when it airs on the Cartoon Network on December 16 this year (though it has already aired on UK television). It’s been 10 years since Justice League Unlimited ceased and DC are hoping to once again produce yet another exemplary, industry leading cartoon showcase of their legendary creations. Returning voice actors from the 90’s shows include; Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as The Joker, James Woods as Lex Luthor, and Brent Spiner will be voicing Batman’s conundrum posing enigma The Riddler.