To mark the digital release of the newest DC animated film Justice League Dark coming out tomorrow, we decided to take a look at the history of the DC animated films and highlight some of the best and most interesting titles that they’ve released so far. While we won’t be reviewing all of the DC animated films, as of writing this there are currently 26 which were released direct to video, this doesn’t include Batman: Mask of the Phantasm or anything that has been released prior to 2007.
The One That Started’em All
The birth of the DC animated universe was Batman: the animated series. In1993 Warner Bros. Decided to take a big step and bring an animated batman to the big screen. At Christmas no less! It was, and still is a masterpiece. The story is completely original, and even gives an alternative origin story to the joker, while fitting in almost seamlessly with the continuity of the rest of the Batman: the animated series universe. It was not a success at the box office, bringing in only $5.6 million, but VHS sales were enough to convince Warner Bros that they could and should make more. It inspired a number of one-offs including Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. These along with Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000) would establish the foundation of the DC Animated franchise.
The Death of Superman
After taking a bit of a break, DC made the decision to move away from original stories and focus on re-imagining of classic story lines. The first of these was Superman: Doomsday (2007) based around the “Death of Superman” story. There are many differences between the film and the comic but the general plot is similar enough that you know what they were going for. Reviews were mixed and it was quickly followed by Justice League: The New Frontier which held much closer to the source material in terms of both plot and visual style and was much more well received. (Side note: I love the New Frontier story and this was an awesome film)
Bringing the Band Back Together
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies(2009) marked the return of voice actors Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy and Clancy Brown who reprised their roles as Superman, Batman and Lex Luthor for the earlier Batman and Superman animated series. While not originally slated to be part of the original DCAU the voice talent’s return leads many to believe that this should be considered to be connected. The success of the team up would lead to a sequel the next year Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. Both of these films were based off of story arcs from the Superman/Batman comics from 2004 written by Jeph Loeb. Apocalypse would mark the last time that we got a full team up from the original voice cast members until Justice League: Doom.
There have been a number of DC animated films that have been near 1:1 adaptations of story lines. I mentioned New Frontier previously, but the best examples, in my opinion have been Batman: Year One, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Batman: The Killing Joke. Each of these films, in my opinion, did an amazing job of sticking to the original source material in both the visual style and pacing. There are some criticisms about certain aspects in each that many people have but they’re about as close to a motion comic as you’re going to get.
My Personal Favorites
I’m going to close this article with my personal favorites. Why? Because I’m the one writing it. Justice League: Doom is an amazing story that shows how brilliant Batman truly is and how he has a plan for everything. Justice League: War is probably the best representation of a DC New 52 story brought to life on the screen that you’re going to be able to find. Finally, Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010). There is not enough praise that I can give for this movie. I can watch it over and over again without ever getting bored. The story is fantastic, the voice talent is on point and it looks like what I want from a comic book film. If you want to try to convince someone why you like comics, show them this film. If by the end they don’t want to immediately go to the nearest comic shop to pick up the latest issues or at the very least watch another comic movie, you should stop talking to them right away. Under the Red Hood is in my opinion the best DCAU film ever and will be very tough for anything to beat.
What’s your favorite DC animated film? What story line would you like to see made into a film? Tell us in the comments.
Image from warnerbros.com