The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Monday, April 23, 2012

DCAU Bashing?

I want to take a little bit of time to clarify something that I've been seeing quite a bit of since my review for the season finale of "Young Justice" went live at World's Finest. I was not DCAU bashing. Not at all. Do I put the DCAU on a pedestal? No. Do I like it? I like a lot of it.

1. "Batman the Animated Series" started the DCAU and it is my second favorite animated series of all time. It's not even a distant second, it's second by a fraction of a hair. I think it's terrific. It's a flawed masterpiece. Sure there are several episodes of the series I can't bring myself to ever watch again, but when it shined, it shined! And it shined a lot. And "Mask of the Phantasm" is still the best Batman film ever made.

"Superman the Animated Series" didn't do it for me. Mostly because I just don't care for the title character (and those who know me know that's an understatement). But it had some gems. I thought the first appearance of Brainiac and Metallo were pretty good episodes. I thought the one where Clark Kent "was murdered" was great, and I thought most of the Darkseid episodes were fucking brilliant and awesome.

"Batman Beyond" well, before "The Spectacular Spider-Man" came about, I called BB "the best Spider-Man cartoon ever." I like it, I really like that first season. But it did shamelessly steal a lot from Marvel, and from Spider-Man. I tend to think if it wasn't part of the DCAU, a lot more people would have called it out over this. I felt there were many missed opportunities, and I really have mixed feelings about Terry being a clone of Bruce. But I thought "Return of the Joker" was terrific.

"Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited" is a series I have such mixed feelings about. When it worked, it shined. When it didn't, it landed flat on its face. I know the series is very highly, highly regarded. And I love, genuinely love, parts of it. I'm not trying to say the Emperor had no clothes, I just don't think his robe was made of the finest materials. There are things that could have been done far better. I remember being disappointed that Lex Luthor was trotted out as the main villain again, and felt the Justice League should have someone else to be their Big Bad. I thought the character of Vandal Savage had potential for such a role, even if I didn't think the show explored the concept of an immortal neanderthal as well as I would have liked.... making him mostly a Bond villain with a gimmick.

Well, if you guys want an analogy. The DCAU is the "Star Trek" of animation. B:TAS is TOS with a ton of spin-offs. But, while I respect and even enjoy a lot of "Trek," I prefer "Babylon 5" and "Firefly" by no small margin.

Frankly, I hate that we live in an era where anything but glowing praise is interpreted as bashing. I was not bashing the DCAU and I never will. If you want to see bashing from me, read my "ThunderCats" reviews, or anything I've ever said about a Michael Bay movie. I'm not at all subtle when I bash.

2. I don't think heavy continuity automatically makes a good show. While my preference is towards heavy continuity and character development, like anything else it needs to be well executed. Look at Marvel's animation output in the 90's. I think it all sucks. They did have (or attempted) continuity and character development, but I thought they mostly botched their shows. And I say this as a lifelong fan of Marvel Comics. Despite all my criticisms in the preceding paragraphs, I'd still rather watch any of those DC shows than any of the 90's Marvel shows.

But yes, some shows which I think used their continuity and character development extremely well include "Gargoyles," "Spectacular Spider-Man," "Avatar the Last Airbender," "Exosquad," "Young Justice," "The Venture Bros.," "Beast Wars," "Transformers Animated," and "Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes."

EDIT: 3. Because I just saw someone accuse me of this, and I am annoyed by it. Just because I do not like Superman doesn't mean I don't understand his importance in the DC Universe. I understand it plenty, it doesn't mean I have to like the character. Superman is not a character I enjoy watching. There is no lack of understanding on my part. The character just doesn't do it for me. Period.

I think to accuse me of just not understanding the character is pretty damn obnoxious. I have a friend who is a HUGE fan of the fantasy genre, and gobbles fantasy books like a fish drinks water. But J.R.R. Tolkien doesn't do it for him as an author. He understands Tolkien's importance in the fantasy genre, but his books just don't do it for him. I love Tolkien, but I am not obnoxious enough to accuse him of not understanding Tolkien.


  1. So I'm not alone in thinking the DCAU and JL/JLU in particular is overrated? I don't dislike it either but I've always been bugged that fanboys insisted on putting JLU on a pedestal and holding it as some golden standard for animation. Which it's not. "Gargoyles", "Avatar: The Last Airbender", "The Spectacular Spider-Man", "Animaniacs", even the old Disney Afternoon cartoons like "Darkwing Duck" easily beat it out for me! None of them hold a candle to the original "Batman: The Animated Series", however. ^_^

    1. I actually like "Gargoyles" more than Batman, and did a post a while back about why.

  2. ^ Yeah, I know that. I've read that post before. I'm just saying they don't hold a candle to "Batman" for me.

  3. Good Lord, are people really that dumb that they take everything you say about the DCAU that's NOT POSITIVE, and think that automatically means you hate it?

    1. Some people are just really, really, really stupid.

    2. I didn't think you were bashing the DCAU, particularly JL and JLU, at all personally. But it did seem like you thought the heavily serialized continuity storytelling was the *only* way to do great animated action television, and the DCAU tended to take a more general approach.

      I'm glad you cleared that up, Greg.

  4. I persoanlly diagree with your pov on JL/JLU(DCAU in general) not implementing continuity and character development well, it use different story telling methods but I think it is unfair to try and compare it to other shows who also use different story telling methods.

    However I will agree that DCAU is alot like Star Trek and the YJ is more like newer scifi.

  5. You don't 'bash' but you do tend to often 'jab' at btas and JL. And considering spec spidey and and YJ wouldn't be what they are without btas or JL, it's a little unnecessary. Were getting to a point where superhero shows are more commonly produced and people know now how to improve and present these show. Of course they're hopefully going to be better than their 'predecessors'.

    And I think JL and btas has plenty of have continuity. I remember episodes where we focused on flash (flash and substance), wonderwoman (maid of honor and savage time), martian manhunter (knights shadows and to another shore), superman got darkseid eps and the cadmus/justice lord arc and hawkgirl's betrayal was definitely foreshadowed. The show wasn't perfect, particularly the two parters of the first two seasons. But they were one of the superhero shows that helped to establish and prove that presenting a cohesive and well directed show of a large ensemble cast was possible and could be executed (Bruce timm even expressed his worries of having a large ensemble cast after batman beyond's experimental justice league episode). So at the same time, the DCAU wasn't perfect, these current shows have a lot to thank for JL proving how ensemble shows work and helping to progress not only DCanimation but other superhero shows today.

    1. I've never jabbed at BTAS. I have jabbed at New Batman Adventures (which I did not like).

      That being said, I don't think JL taught Weisman how to do an ensemble work. He had experience there long before JL, with a show called "Gargoyles." The same characters aside, I think JL feels a bit more like "Gargoyles" than JL. I think "Gargoyles" paved the way for Spec Spidey and YJ more than JL did. But I tend to think in terms of creative teams and auteurs more than anything.

      I never said JL or JLU were bad. I like a lot of it, but I don't think it was quite as innovative as a lot of people think. So much of what it was doing, or what it was trying to do had been done already in animation. With mixed results, of course. God knows, I've really bashed on 90's Marvel plenty.

      Just my opinion, of course. Like I said, I'll take "Babylon 5" over "Star Trek" any day.

  6. JL/JLU was not an innovative show so much as an example of a show that took what worked in other cartoons and used it well. It was inconsistant but still among the best super hero ensemble shows. No question, YJ packed way more into its' first 26 episodes. They are good in different ways but if YJ Invasion tops season 1 then it very well could completely surpass JLU for me.

    I wont make that call just yet but Spectacular Spider-Man puts all other Spider-Man cartoons to shame and YJ is already nipping at JLU's heals for me.

    There was continuity in the DCAU but up until JLU story arcs were uncommon. I think the Cadmus arc was well foreshadowed and Luthorac was a story that began in Superman:TAS as were the Darksied stories. Was that always the plan? I doubt it. They wrote as they went along and that can and did turn out well regardless. I think of JL and JLU as an extension of Superman: TAS because of the Luthor and Darksied stories. IMO Superman:TAS is vastly under-appreciated.

    But I prefer a well handled serial story than well handled stand-alone stories more times than not for action series because they are more engrossing for me. I like a consistant and engaging experience and YJ arguably beats the first 26 episodes of most action series to date including all of the DCAU with the exception of maybe Batman.

    I think you discredited JLU just a bit in your review though. JLU's story arcs had set up and consequences. Hawkgirl was shunned after Starcross but she was granted another chance. Cadmus had growing concerns due to the Leagues actions and took matters into their own hands. And even that armor story was meant to give Dianna some more backstory. Luthorac was foreshadowed. Other team members recieved consequences for their actions as well and they were eventually forgiven as with the various secrets of M'Gann, Conner and Artemis in YJ. M'Gann could have got Garfield Logan killed and Artemis jeapordized missions a few times. Still forgiven at the drop of a hat. So I don't think JLU forgiving characters shows no consequences to actions by comparrison to YJ. But what the Light had the JL do probably puts the Justice Lords to shame and they will not be quickly forgiven I for that. But without question JL does not make every episode matter in the grand scheme and that is one of YJ's strengths. JLU had so great stories but YJ told a season long story coherently and that is something to be admired especially if the first season was really setting the stage for what is to come and that much is assured.

  7. Hi, I'm ShadowStar from the DC animation forum. I read through this blog post the other day but forgot to respond, so I'm doing so now. I had a good mind not to after seeing that "Some people are really, really, really stupid" comment above just now, but let's clear this up anyway. Reading your review of "Auld Acquaintance", it just seemed so sudden to me that you were praising a show that you had been quite luke-warm on for so long, and I did think that it sounded like you were playing down how good some episodes of JLU were, like "Task Force X".

    I didn't get the vibe that you hated the show per say, but it felt like you were suddenly rounding on JLU in order to put Young Justice on a pedestal. I was a bit unconvinced. It did sound like you were thoroughly dissatisfied with the conclusion of the Cadmus arc though, and that you hated how everything was all right in the end for Hawkgirl/Shayera Hol.

    Some of your complaints, like the dismissive "Unlike the overrated Justice League Unlimited where you were lucky if anything had even short term consequences, and character development was non-existent unless you were named John Stewart or Shayera Hol" comment, seemed thoroughly opposed to the show, hence why I agreed with the one or two people before me who had said that part of your review sounded like DCAU bashing.

    As it turns out though, looking at your blog post here, I actually agree with you on a lot of your views about the DCAU and the quality of its individual shows! I would never have got that you were a JLU fan from your "Auld Acquaintance" review alone though. It did sound like you were 'toppling' JLU to make room for Young Justice. I don't see why that's a stupid perspective based on your review...

    Anyway, I hope you read this and reply. I apologize for the "DCAU bashing" remark even though there was a "Well, JLU wasn't that great" tone to your review. I never thought that you were blindly bashing/hating the show, if that helps. I thought you weren't keen on it and were just expressing as such, and with my "DCAU bashing" comment I wasn't trying to suggest that you were the of person to hate something blindly and brainlessly. I do think there's more to the Cadmus and Hawkgirl arcs than you let on in your review, but never mind.

  8. Another interesting what could have been: STAS Legacy was supposed to kick off a season long arc where superman had to bust his ass off to win back humanity's trust, culminating in a rematch with Darkseid that would ultimately allow him to finally face his fears and earn humanity's trust back. By all accounts it was supposed to be extremely dark and brooding.