After successes with Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond, Bruce Timm & Co. tackled their biggest project yet: The Justice League. While this wouldn’t be the first time the League was seen in animated form, as Super Friends was released decades prior, this would be the first time they were taken seriously. Given the pedigree Timm and his team had established at this point, Justice League was guaranteed to be stellar. Thankfully, it was.
The show centered on seven core characters, featuring a cross of iconic and newer characters to keep everything balanced. Batman and Superman were obviously included, adding Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern (John Stewart), and Hawkgirl. Most of which were making their first appearances in animated form. Helping to establish the same continuity, Kevin Conroy returned to voice Batman, starting his second decade as the character. Tim Daly, who voiced Superman in TAS, did not return due to scheduling conflicts, with the part going to George Newbern. Other established voices returned when called upon as well, such as Michael Ironside as Darkseid, or Mark Hamill’s Joker.
Justice League stories were mostly in two parts, with the occasional three-part episode for the premiere or finale. Most episodes averaged only five Leaguers, or sometimes fewer, keeping production costs down while allowing for different types of stories. Only for the bigger episodes were all seven present.
The first season of the show had a few problems, most of which centered on Superman — something I’m sure DC can relate to. Aside from his design, which I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference, his represented power level bothered fans the most. Superman was often captured or incapacitated by new threats. The writers used this to show how strong or capable the villain was. Quickly it became a crutch, happening too often, something Timm admitted in the DVD commentaries. It had the side-effect of making Superman look weak. Fans complained; it was fixed.
The stories were mostly standalone tales, with some bits of smart continuity smartly woven in. In “Wild Cards,” near the end of season 2, the Joker planted bombs across Las Vegas. There was a countdown timer that synced with commercials keeping it in real-time. One of the biggest payoffs though, was Darkseid, with everything that came before in Superman: TAS culminating in a climatic battle. Another was the Season 2 finale, with small seeds planted throughout the show, and the final outcome changing the dynamic entirely.
Justice League only lasted two seasons, with a total of 52 episodes. It was mostly a precursor for the followup, Justice League Unlimited, but that’s a story for another time. This is a fantastic show that continues the legacy of what came before while completely owning the animated space at the time, and in the minds of many still today. Something another company has yet to achieve. Except for those opening credits … Man, they were ugly.
What was your favorite arc? Think they handled the big blue boy scout poorly? Comment below!
Only got better as it went.