Welcome to another Adventure(s) Time special installment, a look at animated heroes of the past. This week, we're examining the unusual path that led to an animated Justice League.
Because it's become such an integral part of DC's animated history since its 2001 premiere, it's hard to fully explain the significance of Justice League. This is a show fans had been demanding for almost ten years, ever since the animated Batman debuted on FOX. Sure, the previous generation grew up on Super Friends, which featured no shortage of (extremely kid-friendly) DC heroes. And a cult following exists today for its later incarnation, which wasn't quite so watered down. But the show was never truly the Justice League. With the debut of a more sophisticated Batman series, followed by Superman from most of the creative team, fans were expecting a modern, classy take on the League.
They got a series about a teenage Batman set in the future, instead.
How Superman's Series Could've Become An "Almost-JLA"
And, per producer Bruce Timm's comments at this time, this Justice League show would remain nothing more than a fantasy. (At one point, Superman was to feature a gradual gathering of the League. By Season Three, they would act as recurring players on the series. Fearing Superman would come across as a guest star on his own series, this idea was scrapped.)
Justice League's such an enticing fantasy, though, the fan press never stopped running rumors about its production. At one point, a fan cut together some of the superhero cameos from the Superman series and displayed it at conventions. He swore this was test footage for the upcoming Justice League cartoon.
He was lying.
The Comics Inspired by the Cartoons Inspired by Comics
The comic creators behind the tie-in books were also eager for an "animated" Justice League. Assuming there'd never be any continuity to trip up, the Adventures line introduced its own version of the League. Several references in Superman Adventures indicated he was already a member of the team. Plus, the League existed as a concept in 1997's Adventures in the DC Universe.
Even before this, the Welsh publication Superman and Batman Magazine introduced the League in its final 1995 issue. The magazine was overlooked by many comics fans, but if you're just in it for the Mike Parobeck art, it's worth locating.
The art for #8 comes from Ty Templeton, however. (One of the few issues without Parobeck's work.) Templeton's no slouch, either, of course. He's joined by writer Roger Stern, who presents a story fans might find familiar...an alien invasion forces Batman, Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman to join forces and form a Justice League. This predates even the Superman animated series. Notice that the artists, without animation models, extrapolated a Bruce Timm-style for Superman and the rest of the cast.