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DCAU Fortnight Kicks Off!

Right, I am taking a little break from work and blogging and everything for the next little while, just trying to clear my head a bit, so I won’t be around quite as much as I would like to be. However, I do have a treat for the nerdier children of the nineties out there – I’m going to take a retrospective look at the animated DC universe, the Warner Brothers cartoons produced during the nineties and into the last decade which gave us Batman: The Animated Series among many other things. Anyone who grew up during the decade can’t possibly have missed these wonderful little shows, which perhaps got me interested in comic books in the first place.

And he always times it juuust right to catch the bolt of lightning...

Note: Over the course of this two week event (and a schedule can be found below), I will occasionally return to cover something big or huge (like our scheduled Tron: Legacy review, for example). I also hope to have more time to get back into reading and engaging with other bloggers. It has been far too long.

I don’t doubt that this branch of animated stories featuring the iconic characters actually helped the comic books in the long run. Of course, you can track the introduction of a variety of characters (from Livewire to Harley Quinn to Renee Montaya) back to these half-hour shows, but you can also detect general trends. While the live action Batman would wallow in camp in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, and the comic book character would embrace depressing and destructive nihilism, the cartoon showed us a world where it was possible to reconcile the multiple facets of the character and his universe.

More than that, I think I was just at the right age to appreciate the show – old enough to want a little something darker and more mature than your standard fare, but also still capable of believing that a man could fly. There’s a lot of nostalgia for shows like Thundercats and the like, perhaps because that demographic has reached an age where they want to look back to a rose-tinted past, a simpler time. I think that when my generation begins to look back like that, they will remember this collection of shows.

Sure, there were other superhero shows at the time (including X-Men or Spider-Men from Marvel), but none of them felt like this. There was just something magical that came from the way the show was put together – whether it was the decision to let screen icons like Mark Hamill or Roddy McDowell or David Warner or Malcolm McDowell voice characters, or simply the love with which the show was constructed. Perhaps it was the fact that you didn’t get the sense that the writers were condescending to the children in the audience – like Pixar, you get the sense that they were taking the opportunity to tell the stories that they wanted to tell.

I think Superman: The Animated Series offers perhaps the finest distillation of Superman’s continuity that has ever been produced – it single-handedly convinced me that the character could be more than just a giant flying brick and compensated for his rather… disappointing selection of villains by telling increasingly epic stories featuring him. The Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons perhaps represent the best example of a superhero ensemble I have seen outside of comics, and also provided an excellent showcase for a wide variety of characters who would never have gotten a moment outside the medium of comic books were it not for the shows included.

More than that, the shows repeatedly demonstrated the way to tell compelling stories with the characters. Most of the writers have ventured into comic books – Paul Dini, for example, is writing a handful of modern Batman comic books (including an amazing stint on Detective Comics and the quite good Streets of Gotham) and superstar writer Mark Millar got his big break writing the comic book companion to Superman: The Animated Series. The shows reinvigorated any number of stale characters, providing them with moving, complex and tragic backstories – the most obvious of which being the way that the show upgraded Mr. Freeze into a respected member of Batman’s rogues’ gallery (until Batman & Robin promptly kicked him out of it again).

It showed that you could do serious and violent drama (unlike Marvel’s efforts, the villains fired machine guns, not lasers) while retaining a sense of fun and adventure. Kevin Conroy made Batman a character to fear, but Robin felt at home in this gigantic shared universe. The sun never rose on Gotham and it never set in Metropolis, and yet it somehow all managed to fit together.

The last of the series which comprise the DC animated universe, Batman Beyond, was released in a deluxe collector’s edition last week, so it seemed a fitting time for a retrospective. The fact that All-Star Superman, the tenth animated DC universe movie, is being released early next year also provided me with the motivation to put all this together. I’m looking at the movies, the television shows and even some of the comics that tie into them. There should be something for everyone over the next two weeks.

Flyboy...

The schedule is below.

Saturday, 4th December

Sunday, 5th December

Monday, 6th December

Tuesday, 7th December

Wednesday, 8th December

Thursday, 9th December

Friday, 10th December

Saturday, 11th December

Sunday, 12th December

Monday, 13th December

Tuesday, 14th December

Wednesday, 15th December

Thursday, 16th December

Friday, 17th December

Saturday, 18th December

Sunday, 19th December

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