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Almost Got Em: 20 DC Cartoon Designs You Never Saw On TV

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Almost Got Em: 20 DC Cartoon Designs You Never Saw On TV

Since Batman: The Animated Series first catapulted onto airwaves in 1992, the DC Animated Universe has been one of the most beloved, celebrated versions of the DC Universe ever. With their dynamite storytelling and their stylized action, filmmakers like Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini defined Batman and his villains for a generation. With subsequent shows like Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited, many of those same creators used that approach to reshape the rest of the DC Universe in their remarkable vision. Even though the DCAU had lasting impacts on dozens of DC characters, some aspects of the DCAU never quite made it to TV screens.

RELATED: 16 Cartoons From The 90s Way Too X-TREME For Kids Today

Now, CBR is taking a look back at some DCAU character designs you never saw on TV. For this list, we’ll be looking at some concept art with characters or versions of characters that were never used on any of the DCAU shows. We’ll also be pulling examples from DCAU comic book series like The Batman Adventures and Adventures in the DC Universe. While some later cartoons contradicted those comics, they were ostensibly part of the DCAU when they were initially published, and they also featured some surprising characters and versions of characters that never appeared in DCAU cartoons.

20. THE ORIGINAL JUSTICE LEAGUE

Original Justice League

When Justice League debuted on Cartoon Network in 2003, some fans were dismayed at the team’s somewhat surprising lineup. While the group included standards like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the DCAU’s Justice League included John Stewart, a lesser-known Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. This early piece, by frequent DCAU contributor Tommy Tejeda, based on a similar Bruce Timm sketch, shows what a more traditional Justice League would look like if Aquaman and Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern had taken their usual spots on the team.

Ultimately, both John Stewart and Hawkgirl were brought into help add diversity the show’s cast. While Aquaman and another Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, had already appeared on Superman: The Animated Series, they were only guest-stars on Justice League. On a few occasions, Timm has also said that some minor concern over the infamous legacy of Aquaman’s often mocked role on TV’s Super Friends kept him in an occasional supporting role.

19. CATWOMAN

Catwoman cartoon DCAU 2

Just a few months after Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman stole the show in 1992’s Batman Returns, Catwoman was the first villain audiences saw Batman take on in Batman: The Animated Series. Even though “The Cat and the Claw Part 1” wasn’t supposed to be the series premiere, Adrienne Barbeau’s sophisticated take on Selina Kyle was a perfect introduction to the series’ darker tone.

For a short time in the early 1990s, a “Catwoman” spin-off show was briefly considered. Although it ultimately went unsold, some of Bruce Timm’s concept art for the show has trickled out over the years. While she wore a gray bodysuit in BTAS, she would’ve worn a black bodysuit in her own show. Even though these designs were completed in 1993, Catwoman wouldn’t get a new costume until BTAS became The New Batman Adventures in 1997, when she began wearing a more stylized version of the black bodysuit.

18. TEEN TITANS

Teen Titans DCAU

When Teen Titans premiered in 2003, it proved that there was life for DC’s cartoons beyond the DCAU. To the annoyance of some fans, it took place in its own universe, which won a generations of fans and set the stage for the ongoing success of Teen Titans Go! But in 1996, Warner Brothers briefly entertained the idea of a Teen Titans show set in the DCAU.

While this iteration of the idea never got past the conceptual stage, the DCAU’s Teen Titans would’ve been inspired by the 1960s’ version of the team. While that means newer Titans like Cyborg, Starfire and Raven wouldn’t initially be parts of the show, the team would’ve included Robin, Speedy, Wonder Girl, Aqualad and Kid Flash. As this concept art by Tommy Tejeda suggests, Flash and Aquaman would’ve had roles to play as well. Ultimately, work on the proposed series ended without much fanfare.

17. GREEN ARROW

Green Arrow Connor Hawke

By the mid-1990s, the DC Animated Universe included Batman, Superman, and the handful of heroes who appeared on their respective TV shows. In 1997, DC Comics launched Adventures in the DC Universe to explore some other corners of the DCAU. Over 20 issues, the series put a spotlight on characters who never starred in their own series or appeared on any DCAU TV show.

Connor Hawke, the second Green Arrow, was one of those characters. After his father, Oliver Queen, seemingly died in 1995, Connor served as DC’s main Green Arrow until Queen’s return in 2001. While Queen’s Green Arrow regularly appeared in Justice League Unlimited, Connor’s only DCAU appearances came in Adventures in the DC Universe #13 and #16, both by Steve Vance and John Delaney. In those issues, Connor fought the villain Nightfall and teamed up with Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern to take down a drug ring.

16. LOBO

Lobo Cartoon Vril Dox

During the 1990s, the alien bounty hunter Lobo was one of DC’s most popular characters. Even though the Last Czarnian doesn’t always have the most kid-friendly adventures; he made a well-received guest appearance in Superman: The Animated Series. After that, Kids’ WB! and Cartoon Network both considered a Lobo animated series.

Steven E. Gordon designed several off-kilter aliens as part of the show’s proposal. While Gordon’s Lobo is slimmer than his DCAU design, his concept art also appears to feature the now-forgotten DC hero Vril Dox. Traditionally, Dox is the son or clone of the Superman villain Brainiac, and he brought Lobo into the intergalactic police force L.E.G.I.O.N. While this kid-friendly Lobo cartoon never made it to air, Lobo starred in one of the first web series in 2000. Some of Gordon’s other designs were used in that appropriately dark, violent take on the Main Man.

15. SUPERBOY

Superboy DCAU

While Superboy was a main character on Young Justice in the 2010s, he never made an appearance in the DCAU. Created by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett in 1993’s Adventures of Superman #500, Kon-El, also called Connor Kent, was one of DC’s most memorable 1990s creations in the wake of Superman’s brief-but-memorable death. Even though Project Cadmus, the operation that created Superboy, was a major player in Justice League Unlimited, Superboy’s only DCAU adventures happened in comics.

In the light-hearted Adventures in the DC Universe #14, by Steve Vance and John Delaney, Superboy had a good-natured race with Flash around the world. In Adventures in the DC Universe Annual #1, by Hilary J. Bader and Michael Avon Oeming, Kon-El and Zatanna teamed up to keep the villain Joquian from making a dormant Hawaiian volcano erupt. Despite his absence from the DCAU, Superboy will return in the upcoming Young Justice: Outsiders.

14. NOCTURNA

Nocturna

Over four seasons, Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures included almost all of the villains from Batman’s famous rogues gallery. Even though the DCAU gave new life to villains like Mr. Freeze and introduced villains like Harley Quinn, one relatively minor villain, Nocturna, never appeared on the show.

Created by Doug Moench and Gene Colan in 1983’s Detective Comics #529, Nocturna was originally a pale-skinned thief who went on to romance Batman for a little while. On BTAS, the show’s creators wanted to use her in a story where Batman became a bloodthirsty vampire. Although Bruce Timm redesigned the character in his signature style, the vampire story was too much for Fox and the WB, both networks that aired the show. Although she didn’t appear in the DCAU, the vampiric aspects of the character were brought into comics when Nocturna was reintroduced in 2011.

13. SUPERMAN’S JUSTICE LEAGUE

Expanded Justice League DCAU

While Superman: The Animated Series was still in development, the DCAU braintrust briefly considered introducing the Justice League alongside Superman in the mid-1990s. In this series, Superman would have teamed up with two new Justice League members in each episode. At the request of DC’s then-President Jenette Kahn, Bruce Timm said that they dropped that approach to focus on reinvigorating Superman.

As Timm’s designs from that era show, this series would’ve drawn from an eclectic mix of Justice League members. While more famous characters like Flash, Green Lantern and Supergirl were considered for this show, minor heroes like Black Lightning, Dr. Fate, Mister Miracle, Nightshade, Lightray, Vixen and the Question also could have appeared. Over the course of its run, STAS introduced Supergirl, Green Lantern, Flash and Aquaman. There was talk of bringing those characters together to form a Justice League in the show’s finale, but that ultimately didn’t happen.

12. SCARECROW

Scarecrow DCAU TNBA red shirt

After Batman: The Animated Series jumped from the Fox network to the WB, the show was given a major stylistic overhaul and returned as The New Batman Adventures in 1997. While these changes were done for budgetary reasons, TNBA‘s streamlined style was also more in line with the concurrently-running Superman: The Animated Series.

While some of Batman’s villains only had slightly modified designs, some villains, like the Scarecrow, received complete makeovers. In BTAS, Dr. Jonathan Crane had a bright red costume with hay-like hair and a farmer’s hat that made him look like a real scarecrow. After the TNBA redesign, he became a ghastly Grim Reaper-esque figure with a broken hangman’s noose around his neck, which Ty Templeton claimed was a remnant of a failed execution attempt. This model sheet appears to capture a Scarecrow in transition, where his dark new costume covers his old red shirt.

11. GREEN LANTERN

Green Lantern Kyle DCAU

While Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern was introduced in Superman: The Animated Series, he never appeared in his most famous costume. In the 1999 episode, “In Brightest Day,” Rayner wore a simplified Green Lantern costume that was virtually identical to the one John Stewart wore when he became the DCAU’s resident Green Lantern in Justice League.

At that point in Rayner’s history, his Green Lantern wore a more complex black, white and green costume. While that never appeared in the DCU, Rayner’s Lantern used that uniform in Adventures in the DC Universe. In several issues by Steve Vance and John Delaney, Green Lantern wore his signature 1990s costume through his solo adventures and team-ups with other Justice League heroes. By the time he returned to TV’s DCAU on Justice League Unlimited, Rayner’s Lantern costume had evolved into a modified version of Stewart’s costume while he was on the Lantern homeworld Oa.

10. THE PENGUIN

Penguin BTAS DCAU Original Design

Originally, the makers of Batman: The Animated Series wanted to make the Penguin a sophisticated, cerebral villain who had an unhealthy obsession with birds. As Laura Lee Lizak’s painted concept art shows, the DCAU’s Penguin was based on his traditional appearance, which was perfected by Burgess Meredith’s Oswald Cobblepot on Batman in the 1960s. With tuxedo wear accented by purple pants, this costume perfectly captures the Penguin’s high-class status and eccentric criminal mind.

Those plans changed when the WB told the show’s producers to base their Penguin on Danny DeVito’s deranged Penguin from Tim Burton’s 1992 film, Batman Returns. As a result, BTAS‘ Penguin lost his purple pants and became shorter, rounder and ruthless. When the character was redesigned for The New Batman Adventures, he returned to his classic look. Although he still didn’t have purple pants, he operated the Iceberg Lounge, where he ran Gotham’s underworld of organized crime.

9. GENERAL ZOD

DCAU General Zod

Even though the evil Kryptonian General Zod is one of Superman’s most famous foes, he never appeared on TV in the DCAU. In place of Zod, Superman: The Animated Series used new versions of two lesser known Kryptonian villains, Jax-Ur and Mala. Like Zod, those two military leaders survived Krypton’s destruction by being imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, a Limbo-esque prison dimension filled with nothing.

While he never appeared on screen, General Zod made two small appearances in DCAU comics. In Superman Adventures #21, by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer and Brett Blevins, Zod was introduced as a military ruler from Argo, Supergirl’s homeworld, who tried to conquer Krypton. After Supergirl single-handedly defeated him, Zod re-emerged in Justice League Unlimited #34, by James Peaty and Gordon Purcell, where he briefly captured Superman and held him in the Phantom Zone.

8. JUSTICE LEAGUE: FIRST MISSION

Justice League First Mission1

During the late 1990s, the Kids WB! programming block had a penchant for airing shows with young characters that were supposedly more relatable to kids. That’s part of why shows like X-Men: Evolution, Static Shock and the DCAU’s Batman Beyond featured teenage heroes or younger versions of adult heroes. When the DCAU braintrust began developing a Justice League show, they developed a pitch where older Justice Leaguers would train Robin, Impulse and a female Cyborg to accommodate the WB’s potential demands.

In a short demo reel, largely assembled by producer James Tucker, this League fought villains like Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy and Cheetah. While the Flash wasn’t in this demo, the promo also featured a masked version of John Stewart’s Green Lantern. Despite all that, the promo went unseen after Bruce Timm sold the show to Cartoon Network’s programming head Mike Lazzo with a single phone call.

7. BLUE BEETLE

Blue Beetle DCAU

Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle can’t catch a break. While he became an iconic Justice League International member during the team’s comedic years, the Blue Beetle was slaughtered by his former friend Maxwell Lord in 2005. When the producers of Arrow wanted Brandon Routh to play Ted, DC turned them down, and Routh became Ray Palmer, the Atom, instead.

While he’s arguably the most famous hero missing from TV’s DCAU, Ted’s Blue Beetle made a few appearances in DCAU comics. In Steve Vance and Jon Delaney’s Adventures in the DC Universe #8, Blue Beetle teamed up with his best friend Booster Gold, and in Adam Beechen and Carl Barberi’s Justice League Unlimited #5, he single-handedly defeated the General. While Ted eventually appeared in the non-DCAU shows Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Young Justice, he was only a memory who had been replaced by Jamie Reyes, the new Blue Beetle.

6. THE RIDDLER

Original Riddler DCAU

In the 1960s, Frank Gorshin gave a definitive performance as the Riddler on the Adam West-starring Batman. When character designers like Bruce Timm and Kevin Nolan began working on Batman: The Animated Series, they naturally based their initial versions of the character on Gorshin’s hyperactive jumpsuit-wearing criminal mastermind.

That approach to the Riddler was abandoned when the show’s creators decided to make the DCAU’s Edward Nygma a more calculating, intellectual villain. The DCAU’s Riddler traded in his leotard for a green suit and a tasteful bowler hat to give him a more sophisticated appearance, which was augmented by John Glover’s chilly vocal performance. Although he was redesigned with a simplified bodysuit in The New Batman Adventures, the Riddler didn’t make too many appearances. As writer Paul Dini has admitted, it was exceeding hard to write the Riddler’s riddles and fit his complex plots in a half-hour format.

5. SUPERMAN’S CAST

Superman DCAU First Designs

As its creators have noted on numerous occasions, Batman: The Animated Series was heavily influenced by Fleischer Studios’ Superman, a landmark series of animated shorts from the 1940s. Those cartoons inspired BTAS‘s retro-futuristic art deco style and its classical storytelling. While the DCAU eventually toned down those elements as t became more streamlined, the spirit of Fleischer’s Superman was especially strong in Bruce Timm’s early character designs for Superman: The Animated Series.

Like BTAS, Timm’s early designs for Superman and his cast drew heavily on antiquated fashions. While Superman’s design didn’t change much, Lex Luthor and Superman’s friends Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White all wore clothes that they could’ve been pulled out of the 1950s. By the time STAS hit the airwaves, all of those characters had been redesigned with more modern cuts and styles of clothes. Despite that, the show’s Metropolis still had a mild art deco influence.

4. GUY GARDNER

Guy Gardner Green Lantern DCAU

After John Stewart and Kyle Rayner appeared in the DCAU, Hal Jordan, DC’s most famous Green Lantern, guest-starred in a dimension-hopping Justice League Unlimited adventure. That left one major existing Green Lantern without an on-screen appearance in the DCAU, the loud-mouthed Guy Gardner. Thanks to his disruptive role in Justice League International, Gardner became a fan-favorite character in the late 1980s.

Even though dozens of Green Lanterns appeared on TV in the DCAU, Gardner was still left out. While he made a brief cameo in one of Kyle Rayner’s Adventures in the DC Universe, Gardner didn’t take on a major role in the DCAU until Justice League Unlimited #32, by Stephan Nilson and Dave Santana, where he helped the League battle Darkseid. Since then, Gardner’s Green Lantern has made several appearances in the non-DCAU cartoons Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

3. BANE

Bane Timm DCAU

While Batman: The Animated Series mainly focused on Batman’s established villains, the show introduced some newer villains into the DCAU. Bane was created by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan in 1993’s Batman: The Vengeance of Bane #1. Just a year later, the Venom-powered mastermind made his animated debut in the DCAU.

Even though his design is relatively tame, Bane’s mammoth proportions still reflect the excess muscle mass that most of that era’s characters had. When Bruce Timm initially tried to translate Bane’s look into his signature style, he gave Bane’s design a strong Jack Kirby influence. With a massive belt, fairly even proportions and a simple wrestling-inspired uniform, Timm’s first Bane bears a passing resemblance to Kirby’s iconic Darkseid design. When Bane actually appeared on BTAS, he was more top-heavy, like his comic book counterpart. After his The New Batman Adventures redesign, Bane’s muscles grew into a Hulk-like mass.

2. THE THREATENING TRIO

Threatening Trio

While the high-flying Roxy Rocket leapt from the pages of The Batman Adventures onto TV’s DCAU, some other villains who were introduced in that comic series never quite made that jump. In Batman Adventures #10, Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck introduced the Threatening Trio, a hapless gang modeled after DC Comics editors.

The Trio was led by the detail-obsessed Mastermind, who was inspired by DC’s executive editor Mike Carlin. The “Perfesser” was an absent-minded intellectual prone to tangents of thought and modeled after Batman editor Dennis O’Neil. Finally, longtime editor Archie Goodwin inspired Mr. Nice, a joyful criminal who was too polite to carry out Mastermind’s plans. The group stuck around Batman’s DCAU comics until Archie Goodwin’s death. In a touching tribute, the Trio pulled their last scheme in Kelley Puckett, Rick Burchett and Terry Beatty’s Batman: Gotham Adventures #13, where Mr. Nice left Gotham to help impoverished children.

1. SUPERMAN

Superman DCAU Mullet

Before Superman: The Animated Series premiered in 1996, the Man of Steel made his first unofficial appearance in some DCAU comics. After Superman came back from the dead, he had a mullet for a few years in the 1990s. Since the DCAU’s classic Superman wouldn’t be designed for a little while longer, the mulleted Superman appeared in some early DCAU comics.

Most of Superman’s pre-STAS appearances were in Superman & Batman Magazine, a kids magazine that included DCAU-adjacent comics. The mulleted Superman also appeared in Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck’s Batman Adventures #25, where he teamed up with Batman to fight a hairy Lex Luthor. In addition to his untamed mane, this Superman was bulkier and had a bigger “S” symbol than the DCAU’s main Superman. While Superman and Luthor had major haircuts before their proper debuts, their luscious locks live on as a lost part of the DCAU’s legacy.

Stay tuned to CBR for all the latest in comics and pop culture news! Let us know which of these designs you would’ve liked to have seen on TV in the comments!

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