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.