I’m a huge fan of the DCAU. In many ways, Bruce Timm’s animated DC opus has not only had a profound effect on fans like me, but has also carried over to the live-action depictions of these characters via the likes of Harley Quinn. Yet in recent years, Bruce Timm has begun to move away from his version of these characters, preferring new styles, new storytelling, and – to me, the most egregious of all – new voice actors. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been following the likes of Jason O’Mara (Batman) and Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman) for years, starting with the ABC remake of Life on Mars for the former and Rent for the latter. When it was announced O’Mara and Dawson were taking on the role of the Dark Knight and the Princess of Themiscara (along with a mixture of new and old talent) in a brand new animated continuity beginning with an adaptation of Justice League: Origin, I was intrigued. Batman and Wonder Woman have a long history in the animated format, whether it be Peter Weller in the two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns or Star Trek’s Bruce Greenwood in Under the Red Hood, Young Justice, and Gotham by Gaslight, and Keri Russell in the 2009 animated feature Wonder Woman, respectively. But there is such a nostalgia for the likes of Kevin Conroy, Susan Eisenberg, and even George Newbern (the latter of whom took over as Superman in lieu of Tim Daly in Justice League) in the roles that having the Justice League: War actors just hits the ear wrong. And the animation style, while good, is simply not, well, enough like DCAU.
So when I saw the trailer for the next film from Timm and company, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, I was very excited. Seeing Conroy, Newbern, and the classic designs instantly transported me back to November 2001 when the Justice League animated series premiered. Of course, I was particularly glad to have Conroy back, as it seemed he had been relegated to Arkham-themed projects. It’s really good to have him back in the booth on this one. In addition to a few old favorites, we’re also going to see some new additions, particularly Mr. Terrific and Ms. Martian – who, with the former’s role in the Arrowverse and the latter’s in Young Justice, have had a much bigger profile in recent years. Having them stand aside the trinity in their classic animated forms is something I can’t wait to see on the screen.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Justice League story without the need for a bunch of heroes to come together. With Justice League vs. The Fatal Five centering on the Fatal Five, it stands to reason that their 31st-century rivals the Legion of Superheroes would be involved. I remember watching the animated cartoon and their cameos on Smallville. With both of these iterations, I have always felt the team got the short end of the stick, particularly in the latter. Ryan Kennedy, who played Cosmic boy on the series, only showed up twice in season 8, then never again. Heck, our last reference to the Legion was in the penultimate episode, when Kara went into the future, thus setting up a pivotal part of both the character’s and the Legion’s mythology. While I have a love/hate relationship with the CW’s Supergirl, I have to admit that the depiction of the Legion was extremely well-executed, particularly Defiance alum Jesse Rath as Brainiac 5. It almost makes me want a spinoff with those characters. All that being said, I’m glad Timm is finally going to put the Legion front and center, as opposed to the brief appearance he gave them in the Justice League episode “Far From Home,” as well as Superman: The Animated Series.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how they were going to touch on social issues in Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. While I usually prefer my films and TV shows to stay away from things like that, I have to admit that it will be a bit interesting to see the good guys struggling with things like anxiety. Having those issues myself, I like the fact that superheroes instead of supervillains are going to be depicted with those issues. I just hope it’s done tastefully and doesn’t hammer the viewer over the head with it, as a lot of media is wont to do these days. The fact that Jessica Cruz and Star Boy will be our conduits into mental illness is also intriguing. With regard to the former, the Green Lantern of note in the Timm universe is typically John Stewart, which ultimately popularized the character in a big way. Unlike most characters in the DC pantheon – where my first encounter with them had been the old Super Friends cartoon and the Timm universe – I actually first discovered Cruz in the Green Lanterns Rebirth series by Sam Humphries and Geoff Johns, with art by Ed Benes and Ethan Van Sciver. As a result, I feel as though it is kismet that the first time I see Cruz on-screen will be under Bruce Timm’s expert purview. As for the latter, I haven’t had much exposure to the character, so it’s incredibly fun for me that multiple characters will be done in the classic Timm style. I can’t wait to see what the legendary animator will bring us.
My one disappointment with Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is that, insofar as I can tell, not only will Cosmic Boy not be involved with this story, but Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Wil Wheaton will not be bringing Cosmic Boy to this iteration as he had in the Legion of Superheroes cartoon. I know he wasn’t in the DCAU, but unless you’re asking early Big Bang Theory Sheldon Cooper, more of Wil Wheaton in any media property isn’t a bad thing. Justice League vs. The Fatal Five looks to be a return to form for Bruce Timm. With a legacy cast, new favorites, and a bold new depiction on the kind of problems superheroes deal with, this film has all the makings of a great time in the DC Universe. With any luck, this film will serve as a reminder that no matter how much nostalgia means to us, there’s always room for some bold new steps.