By Ragna Cook
For years now, DC Comics has been adapting the characters from their comic books to both the big and small screens. From the 1960’s Batman series to the Super Friends cartoon to the Superman and Batman live action movies to the DC Animated Universe (DCAU for short) which ended in the mid 2000s to Smallville which continues today, DC Comics has been bringing their iconic characters to life in many ways. Their newest offering has become the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, which started with “Superman: Doomsday” and has continued with their most recent release, “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.”
Most of these movies adapt well known storylines into an animated movie with an all star cast, though a few (such as “Batman: Gotham Knight” and “Green Lantern: First Flight”) take a direction that isn’t based on a particular comic storyline: “Batman: Gotham Knight” is a bridge between the live action Christopher Nolan movies “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” while “Green Lantern: First Flight” takes the idea of Hal Jordan’s origin story and puts a new spin on it. But all of the movies feature characters familiar to DC Comics fans, some more familiar than others.
The first movie adapted two famous Superman storylines, “The Death of Superman” and “Reign of the Supermen.” It follows Superman in his fight against Doomsday, resulting in his death and the appearance of a new Superman who isn’t quite the Superman the public remembers. Following that was “Justice League: The New Frontier,” which was an adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s “DC: The New Frontier,” showing the formation of the Justice League during the Silver Age of comics, and focuses on the Hal Jordan origin story.
The next movie, “Batman: Gotham Knight” tells multiple Batman stories after he began his crime fighting, including his first meetings with Killer Croc and Deadshot. What makes this particular movie stand out is that each story was directed by a different director, and all of them are done in a Japanese anime style. “Wonder Woman” came out next, and is loosely based on George Perez’s reboot of the Wonder Woman series in 1987 with the “Gods and Mortals” story arc., which shows Princess Diana leaving Themyscira and becoming Wonder Woman.
Next came “Green Lantern: First Flight,” which skipped over most of Hal Jordan’s origin story (which had been covered in “Justice League: The New Frontier”) and went straight into his training at the hands of fellow Green Lantern Sinestro, who was harboring a dark secret. After that was “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies,” adapted from the storyline of the same name by Jeph Loeb, where Superman and Batman are framed as enemies of the United States by President Lex Luthor and must save the world from a meteor while fighting off the heroes and villains who are after them.
The most recent movie was “Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths,” which was based on a discarded movie script by Dwayne McDuffie to bridge the last two entries in the DCAU, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, as well as a storyline in the Justice League comics by Gardner Fox and Grant Morrison’s JLA: Earth 2 graphic novel. In this movie, a good Lex Luthor comes from another world to the Justice League of our Earth to enlist their help in defeating his world’s Crime Syndicate, who are made up of the evil versions of the Justice League.
All of these movies have had much critical praise, both from those in and out of the comics industry. The casts are stellar, full of well known actors and actresses who for the most part play the characters to near perfection. In fact, in “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies,” four former DCAU voice actors returned to voice the characters they had played on TV, including Kevin Conroy as Batman and Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, much to the delight of fans. These movies are definitely worth a watch for comic book fans, as well as those who have a passing familiarity with some of the characters and want to explore more of their stories from the comics.
There are more movies being planned and made, with the next one, “Batman: Under the Red Hood,” coming out on July 27, 2010. This particular movie covers Judd Winick’s storyline of the same name, where Batman and Nightwing, the first Robin, deal with a murderous vigilante who seems to know all their secrets. The voice cast includes Bruce Greenwood, Neil Patrick Harris (in his second foray into the movie line, his first being Barry Allen in “Justice League: The New Frontier”) and Jensen Ackles. It will be interesting to see where this goes, but one thing is for sure: it will most likely be another dynamic entry for the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series.