Because of the unique visual style and compelling character incarnations producer Bruce Timm helped to create, the collection of animated shows that Timm has worked on are often referred to by fans as the “Timmverse.” Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond are all part of the Timmverse, but it’s Justice League that truly allows you to appreciate the scope of the world that Timm and his fellow producers, writers and animators have created.
What’s great about the recently released 15-disc Justice League: The Complete Series box set is that it allows you to see the evolution of this universe. Through the episodes themselves and the bonus featurettes, you can see how Timm and the rest of the creative team were able to create an entire world populated with all of these different DC Comic characters and how they were able to juggle the various characters so that the 22-minute episodes didn’t seem too cluttered or confusing.
In the first two seasons, the League consisted of just seven characters – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and J’onn J’onzz (a.k.a. Martian Manhunter). The seven met inside of a space station orbiting earth and they all worked together to fight evil on this planet and in other galaxies. To best utilize all of the characters, most stories were two or three-parters.
In the bonus featurette entitled “Inside Justice League,” the producers admit that season one was rocky at times while they attempted to figure out the right formula for the show. By season two, though, they had hit their groove and they seemed to figure out the best way to utilize the characters in the allotted time in order to tell the most compelling stories.
When season two came to an end, many people thought it was the end of the Justice League. However, the show was rebranded Justice League Unlimited and was expanded to feature a larger cast of heroes. The first episode, “Initiation,” depicts over 50 different superheroes together in the space station as Superman conducts the first ever meeting of this expanded Justice League. J’onn J’onzz is put in charge of assigning missions, so he decides which collection of heroes is sent out to take on each new threat.
In Justice League Unlimited, the writers did away with the two and three-part stories and instead elected to have overarching storylines throughout the entire seasons. In the first season of Unlimited, the overaching plot involves an organization called Cadmus that believes the League poses a threat to mankind. Cadmus believes they are actually the good guys, protecting us all from these all-powerful beings. In the second season of Unlimited, the Legion of Doom – a collection of supervillians with no illusions that they are the good guys – form to take down the Justice League.
It’s in the two seasons of Unlimited that you are truly able to appreciate the scope of this animated universe. By opening up the group to more characters than the original seven, they are able to introduce a wide range of new heroes into this continuity, creating a new complexity and depth. Also, during the Cadmus storyline, the writers tied the conspiracy theories from old Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series episodes into the plot, which intricately links those shows into this one, which again reinforced the idea that this was one big universe.
Also helping with that continuity was the fact that Kevin Conroy was retained as the voice of Batman. (Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, Tim Daly did not return at the voice of Superman.) However, they did alter the look of the character for this show – Batman was given longer ears and the coloring of his costume was a mix between his look in Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. Superman’s look was also tweaked – he was redesigned to look a bit older in the first season of the show, but fans didn’t like the new look, so it was eventually phased out.
The featurette “The Look of the League” has an in-depth look at how they settled on the look of the seven original characters. Mostly, they tried to stick with the original comic book depictions of the characters, while adapting their looks to Bruce Timm’s signature style.
“Inside Justice League,” “Justice League Declassified,” “Cadmus: Exposed” and “Justice League Chronicles” are all panel discussions that take you through the evolution of the show. There is also “Unlimited Reserve: A League for the Ages,” which is a retrospective looking back at the entire run of the series.
“Storyboards: The Blueprint for Justice,” “Voices of Justice” and “Themes of Justice” take fans even deeper into the creation of the show. As the name suggests, the first featurette shows you how they create storyboards for each episode and how those storyboards are adapted into the animation. “Voices of Justice” shows you how the ensemble cast of voice actors record their lines together (although for some reason Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, is left out of this featurette). “Themes of Justice” allows you to isolate the musical tracks on a variety of scenes so that you can appreciate the musical score.
There is also an excerpt from the Bryan Singer and Kevin Burns produced documentary “Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman,” which is a broad overview of the various incarnations of Superman in the comics, film and television.
Unless you already own each individual season of the Justice League already, I definitely recommend picking up this box set. The stories are rich, the animation is beautiful and the featurettes allow you to appreciate the evolution of the series. So get lost in the Timmverse; it’s a wonderful place to be.
Written by Joel Murphy. Justice League: The Complete Series is available now on DVD.
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