The DC Animated Universe or DCAU or Timmverse or whatever you would like to call it took over the cartoon scene from the early ’90s to early ’00s beginning with 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series and ending in 2006 with Justice League: Unlimited. And during these 14 years of animation domination, kids everywhere were clamoring to turn to Kids WB and watch critically acclaimed shows like Static Shock, Batman Beyond, and others that were more grandiose or more personal. Fans marveled as the fantastical elements of the world’s most popular heroes were infused with stories that were relatively adult-themed for a cartoon. This was the original Arrowverse.
With such an expansive and beloved universe, there were undoubtedly going to be a number of theories developed by the fans to provide further connections between the shows, explain away plot holes, or just give them more of a reason to talk about this extensive universe. These theories range from ones that question the familial relations of certain characters to ones that manage to deepen the mythos. Some have strong foundations and were developed after careful study and consideration, while others are just fun to ponder. So, without further ado, we’re going to highlight these 15 DC Animated Universe Fan Theories.
15. BATMAN’S VILLAINS ARE FRACTURED PARTS OF HIS PSYCHE
Batman has never been known for his mental stability, but this theory posits that the Caped Crusader is actually in a more literal battle for his mental state. According to this fan theory, each one of the main villains in Batman’s rogues gallery represents several different aspects of his fractured psyche. Crazy, right? But if you think about it, Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze are, in their own way, dark mirrors of Batman.
Joker represents the chaos and insanity that broke his normal life the night his parents died. Penguin is the dark reflection of the life of wealth that he used to be a part of. Two-Face represents his alternate personalities: Bruce Wayne and Batman. And rounding it all off, Mr. Freeze represents his frozen orphan heart that is very reluctant to accept new people that he cares about into his life.
14. JOKER CAME BACK TO LIFE BECAUSE OF MAD HATTER
Joker has a penchant for chaos and thinking in ways that nobody could predict, let alone understand. So why should we assume that we’ve learned every aspect of his plans throughout the years? According to a fan theory, he pulled a longer con than anybody ever knew about when he returned in Batman Beyond.
“Make ‘Em Laugh” was one of the more lowkey episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. That is until you realize that this was the first step in Joker’s biggest scheme yet. In this episode, he uses microchips stolen from the Mad Hatter to make comedians commit crimes. But these microchips, with a little experimentation from technology found at Cadmus, could easily have been the basis for the microchip he used to take over Tim Drake’s mind and essentially come back from the dead.
13. WHY BATMAN NAMED HIS DOG ACE
In the Batman Beyond series, Bruce had a dog trained from birth to be a fighter that he named Ace. But, according to a particularly grim fan theory, there’s a lot more to that choice than nostalgia for the ’50s. In the Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue”, Terry McGinnis talks to Amanda Waller and she recounts a tale where Batman had to mercy kill Ace from the Royal Flush Gang.
Ace had no childhood due to her being a subject of Cadmus experiments. And before she died, she couldn’t do anything but lament about that. Then, in one of the most tender moments Batman has ever been a part of, he sat next to her on a swing and empathized until the end. Batman may have named his dog Ace as a tribute to a girl, like his dog, who lost her childhood due to the oppressive will of others.
12. THE DCAU EXISTS IN A FRACTURED TIMELINE
It’s difficult to pin down the exact era that the DCAU takes place in. There’s dated technology like tommy guns and blimps, there is also technology that is far more advanced than we have present day. There must be an explanation besides aesthetic pleasure. Well, if this fan theory is to be believed, it’s because the Justice League in an alternate timeline and doesn’t know any better.
In the Justice League episode “The Savage Time”, Vandal Savage travels back in time to give his past self the technology necessary to take over Nazi Germany and win World War 2. Obviously, the Justice League travel back in time and defeat him. But defeating Vandal Savage in the war doesn’t remove the technological advancements that he introduced to the world before they were naturally supposed to come about. Therefore, they’re stuck in an alternate timeline where technology evolved much differently than normally.
11. SUPERMAN ACTUALLY DOESN’T BELIEVE IN SANTA
Let’s go for a more lighthearted fan theory now. Superman is known worldwide as a man whose inherent benevolence is only challenged by his perceived innocence. Because of this, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think Superman still believes in Santa Claus, which is seemingly shown in the Justice League episode “Comfort and Joy”. But viewers should look a little deeper.
In this episode, J’onn jokes that the Kents had to wrap their presents in lead to prevent little Clark from taking a peak, prompting Clark to say it was Santa. One could assume that this was showing the mighty Superman still believed in Santa. But according to this fan theory, that wasn’t it. J’onn was still new to Earth customs and as innocent as a child in that respect. So Clark’s insistence that it was Santa was really just him trying to preserve that innocence.
10. BATMAN HAD A PLAN TO TAKE DOWN THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
Batman has always lived by the notion “better safe than sorry”, and this notion has been shown in the comic book storyline “Tower of Babel” and the movie Justice League: Doom. There’s been no equivalent in the DCAU, but what if that’s just because nobody ever discovered it? This fan theory explores that possibility.
In the Justice League Unlimited episode “Grudge Match”, Roulette and Lex Luthor devise a way to use the League’s own comlinks to brainwash several superheroines into fighting in Roulette’s underground metahuman battles. But with Batman, the master of “what if”, developing the comlinks, why would they ever have the ability to mind control the person wearing them. Well maybe that was always an option Batman developed in case the League ever got out of the control. With Batman dealing with the Mad Hatter in the past, he’s definitely had access to the technology.
9. ORIN WEST IS THE FLASH’S GRANDSON
The Zeta Project was one of the lesser known additions to the DCAU. It was a show that spun off from a Batman Beyond episode “Zeta” about a robot assassin by the same name. It follows the exploits of Zeta as he tries to make a life for himself and run from the authorities. One of the authorities pursuing him is Detective Orin West who, according to a fan theory, may actually provide another link to a sister DCAU show.
Doesn’t that last name look familiar? If this theory is correct, Detective West is actually the grandson of Wally West. Besides sharing the same last name, Detective West also has red hair and a very chipper attitude just like the speedster. On top of that, he’s very driven to catch Zeta, which is perhaps his attempt to do something heroic to live up to his superheroic grandfather.
8. JOHN STEWART BELIEVES HE’S A COMIC BOOK CHARACTER
This fan theory believes that a Justice Leaguer has smashed the fourth wall. While battling a giant robot in the Justice League episode “Legends”, some of the League is transported to an alternate dimension exactly like the comic books Green Lantern used to read as a kid. There, things are just slightly off. The ice cream truck never stops, books don’t have any words, and there’s a giant robot attack that’s too similar to the one that sent them there.
Eventually it was revealed that a boy with powerful psionic powers recreated the heroes after a missile destroyed them. The League escape in the end, but John is especially morose. One could assume that was from seeing his heroes die. But what if, instead, he recognized some similar inconsistencies in his home dimension and figured that it’s possible that his world could be as fictional as the one they left.
7. THE BIG BANG DIDN’T GIVE RANDOM POWERS
The Big Bang in Static Shock was the inciting incident for the show. It granted superpowers to irresponsible teenagers. But what if those powers weren’t as random as we were lead to believe. This fan theory states that the Big Bang gas is actually not mutagenic but instead (due to a very complicated theory involving Planck’s constant) allowed their thoughts to affect reality locally, granting them powers specific to their personalities.
In the case of Static, he was worried about the “static” between him and Francis and had also been shocked by static electricity earlier in the episode. Francis was a hothead and, as such, gained fire powers and became Hotstreak. Ivan Evans had darkness in his heart and became Ebon because of that. Granted, giving people powers that match their personalities is a common tactic for writers, but this theory at least gives an in-universe explanation for it.
6. LEX LUTHOR’S BRAINIAC VISIONS ARE BECAUSE OF GRODD
In the finale of the first season of Justice League Unlimited, Lex Luthor and Brainiac are merged until the Flash is able to phase through and separate them. From that moment on, Luthor’s sole purpose in life was to merge with Brainiac again. Throughout the series, it appears that Brainiac wants the same thing. But what if that wasn’t Brainiac.
According to this fan theory, it was actually Grodd that implanted these false visions in Luthor’s mind in order to coax Luthor into joining Grodd’s Secret Society. Thinking about it, this would be a brilliant tactical move that’s not beyond Grodd’s abilities. He possesses a piece of Braniac that Luthor desires and, with Grodd’s psychic abilities and genius intellect, he’d be able to manipulate a desperate Luthor into doing exactly what he wanted. Plus, it’s not Brainiac’s personality to desire to be merged with a lifeform he’d consider beneath him.
5. PHANTASM HAS SUPERNATURAL POWERS
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, despite being an animated movie, is considered one of the best Batman movies ever made. Much of that acclaim was due to the main antagonist: Phantasm, a scorned and brutal vigilante who was able to match him in wits, martial arts prowess, and theatricality. But that may not be all that Phantasm is capable of if this fan theory is to be believed.
Phantasm has done some odd things that would be incredibly difficult for a normal person to accomplish such as seemingly teleporting under the guise of smoke and claiming to be able to commune with the dead. We’re supposed to believe that this is subterfuge, similar to Batman, but perhaps Phantasm possesses metahuman powers and is able to do these things for real. Who knows (it’s probably subterfuge like Batman though)?
4. MARTIAN MANHUNTER ISN’T WHO WE THINK HE IS
Anytime there’s a character who can shapeshift, there going to be questions about whether that character is who he or she says he or she is. Martian Manhunter is no exception. According to this fan theory, the J’onn J’onzz we met at the beginning of Justice League could have been switched for another being who is impersonating him.
In the Justice League episode “A Better World”, the League is kidnapped by an alternate universe version of the League known as the Justice Lords. During the inevitable battle between the two teams, both of the Manhunters transform into the same being to do battle until Luthor hits one of them with his power disruptor. But what if he hit the wrong one? It’d be almost impossible to tell which one was which.
3. BRAINIAC 5 IS THE DESCENDENT OF GEAR
In the Static Shock and Justice League crossover episode “A League of Their Own”, Static and Gear are called to assist the Justice League aboard their Watchtower. While there, the League is called away to investigate a distress signal, leaving Static and Gear as the only heroes present to defend the Watchtower from a Braniac attack. They’re successful, but Richie is assimilated by Braniac and, upon returning, it’s up to the League and Static to stop Braniac for good and save Gear, which they do. Except maybe they weren’t as thorough as they thought.
According to this fan theory, Braniac 5 from the Legion of Superheroes is a descendent of Richie. He said that he was born from biological means, he’s good instead of evil, and he has blonde hair just like Gear. Perhaps the way Brainiac passed down his code biologically was through Richie.
2. THE BATMAN BEYOND SUIT APPEARED IN JUSTICE LEAGUE
The Batsuit donned by Terry McGinnis first made its appearance in the first episode of Batman Beyond…except maybe it didn’t. That may be the first time you’ve seen that version of the iconic Batsuit, but this fan theory says that audiences have already seen a prototype version of that suit in Justice League. In the finale of the show, during the battle at Wayne Manor, there’s a brief moment where you can see a Batman Beyond suit that’s yellow instead of red.
We’ve already seen a previous versions of the Batman Beyond batsuit. In the Batman Beyond episode “Disappearing Inque”, we’re shown the Bat Armor, which is a clunkier early attempt at increasing Bruce’s strength and endurance to compensate for his old age. Perhaps before this armor, Bruce developed the yellow Batman Beyond armor seen in Justice League as his first foray into strength enhancement.
1. DIANA ISN’T THE FIRST WONDER WOMAN
Diana Prince was introduced at the beginning of Justice League in her “Secret Origins” episode. In that episode, she decides to take the Wonder Woman armor and venture into the world outside of Themyscira in order to help save the world from invading White Martians. Through several peoples’ reactions to her, including John’s and Wally’s, it’s easy to deduce that this is the first time the world has seen her.
In that case, why did Lois Lane sarcastically to claim to be Wonder Woman in the Superman: The Animated Series episode “Blasts from the Past”? That quip could be explained away by this fan theory that believes Diana wasn’t the first Wonder Woman. In Justice League, Hephaestus remarked about how he originally made Diana’s armor for Hippolyta, who has also been the JSA’s Wonder Woman in the comics. Therefore, it’s entirely possible that Hippolyta was Wonder Woman before Diana.
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