For nearly a decade and a half, the DC Animated Universe — sometimes called the “Timmverse” or “Diniverse” — could seemingly do no wrong as it distilled decades-old characters to their essence and presented familiar stories in new ways.
These beloved TV shows introduced a new generation to the heroes of the DC Universe using an adult sensibility but still maintaining an all-ages approach. Little Jimmy might watch to see Batman in action against insanely fun villains, while mom and dad tuned in to enjoy the quality storylines and near-flawless visual design.
From “Batman: The Animated Series” and “Superman: The Animated Series” to “Static Shock” and “Justice League Unlimited,” Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Eric Radomski, Alan Burnett and an army of animators, writers and other creatives brought these characters to the small screen, adapting existing stories in new ways, and creating new stories and concepts that felt like they’ve always belonged. So what made the DC Animated Universe so successful?
Strong Characters and Storytelling
The DC Animated Universe was born with the 1992 debut of “Batman: The Animated Series.” The show followed Tim Burton’s “Batman” films, which had proved the non-comics reading world was ready for a Caped crusader who didn’t dance the Batusi. Comics fans, of course, had been reading about a Batman with more complexity and a darker tone for a while; Frank Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” was a few years old at that point, but even before that, Batman had evolved.
The series introduced a new take on not only Batman and Robin, but also on Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, deepening the characters of both. However, it didn’t stop there, as viewers were introduced to a well-developed supporting cast, from Alfred Pennyworth to Commissioner Gordon and a police department fighting the good – but daunting – fight against Gotham’s growing mob and supervillain element. And of course, there were the villains themselves, as Dini, Timm & Co. went in deep not only with Batman’s rogues gallery but also with their treatment of the characters: the brutal origin of Two-Face, the tragic tale of Mr. Freeze and his wife, the sometimes-humorous, sometimes-ugly co-dependent relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn (who of course debuted on the series). No matter which character they chose to feature in an episode, the creators could reach into the core of what makes them so appealing and present them in a clever way. In a half-hour.
Both accessible and exciting, “Batman: The Animated Series” defined who Batman was in the 1990s. Those first two seasons in particular set the tone for the future of not only the rest of the series, but for the franchise as a whole.
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