Justice League was the big team up show that finally united Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter in a serious, story driven series. Coming out of shows such as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and the rest of Warner Bros. Animation decided it was finally time to bring DC’s biggest characters together inside the DC Animated Universe.
The series brought Kevin Conroy back as Batman, but replaced Tim Daly’s Superman with George Newbern. Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter were brought to life by Susan Eisenberg and Carl Lumbly, respectively. The Flash was changed from his guest role on Superman in both design and voice. He was now much younger with a different costume and voiced by Michael Rosenbaum. The Green Lantern also differed heavily from the previous incarnation. Instead of Kyle Rayner, who was seen in Superman, this Green Lantern was John Stewart, portrayed by Phil LaMarr. Hawkgirl was also introduced in this series, played by Maria Canals-Barrera.
Justice League was the ensemble show that brought together many important elements of the DC Animated Universe. The series beautifully fused comic book story telling with serious drama, especially for a children’s show.
The show had many layers beyond just a typical action-adventure of Saturday morning cartoons and tackled several topics that children’s shows would not touch. Looking at ideas and concepts that related to the viewers gave Justice League relevancy and staying power. The relationship of Hawkgirl and Green Lantern was one of the show’s greatest strengths, because of its strong and realistic romantic writing of an interracial couple.
The series was primarily built upon two part episodes, giving each story time to develop organically. An interesting and often forgotten episode of the show is the episode “Legends.” This episode was a tribute to Gardner Fox, who co-created the Justice League and the Justice Society of America. This two-parter started with members of the League being trapped in an alternate universe inhabited by the Justice Guild of America, who are fictional in the Justice League’s universe. The episode was an interesting look at the superhero stories of yesteryear and how they had their problems (racism, sexism, weird characters, odd plot holes).
There were no films made of the show, but every episode of Justice League felt like it could have been a movie. Each was interesting, complicated, and entertaining, with very little filler in between. Every episode of the show fired on all cylinders. Some of the most noteworthy arcs include “The Terror Beyond,” “A Better World,” “Savage Time,” and “Starcrossed” (the series finale).
The show was really well received by fans and critics alike. Justice League was praised for its smart, yet fun writing and strong action sequences. Each character had their time to shine, with no character overshadowing the others throughout the entire series. Timm and company treated the fans with a continuation of the themes and strength that started with Batman: The Animated Series. The series was a serious take on DC’s premier superhero team that was not only accessible to people of all ages, but was sincere and true to the source material.
After the second season, the show was re-branded as Justice League Unlimited, which is a tale for another day.
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