DC Universe Animated original movies have been going strong for years. Since Superman: Doomsday was released on September 18, 2007, Warner Bros. Animation teamed up with DC Entertainment to bring their iconic library of characters to life. The DC Universe Animated Original Movies franchise has churned out 29 feature films and six short films. These movies brought some of DC’s greatest stories such as The Dark Knight Returns, “Superman: Unbound,” “JLA: Tower of Babel,” and Flashpoint, to life while introducing superhero groups such as the Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Dark and the Suicide Squad to a new generation of comic book aficionados.
Thanks to the countless creative teams of directors, producers, writers and animators, the DC Universe Animated Original Movies have grossed over $184 million in DVD sales. But at the heart of these productions are the voice actors who brought these characters to life. There have been great performances, but at the same time, fans have voiced their opinions regarding some of the abysmal casting choices that made no sense whatsoever and questioned Andrea Romano’s legendary capability of casting the right actors. CBR found the 15 worst casting fumbles that both DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation made throughout the series’ thus far.
15 MICHAEL EMERSON AS THE JOKER
Emmy-winning actor Michael Emerson brought The Joker to life for both parts of the animated adaption of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In the film’s behind the scenes featurette, the Lost veteran stated that the Clown Prince of Crime is “the embodiment of some wicked dark part of the human ID.” While Emerson had a fantastic Joker laugh that could at times match Mark Hamill’s iconic laugh, it was hard for fans to connect with his Joker.
Emerson’s Clown of Crime committed dastardly offenses to Selina Kyle, murdered his doctor with a coffee cup, annihilated an entire talk show’s studio audience with laughing gas, and even shot people point blank for no reason. If done by another actor, such as Hamill or John DiMaggio, we would have believed their performances but Emerson’s Joker did not scare the audience.
14 THOMAS GIBSON AS DEATHSTROKE
Thomas Gibson, the former Dharma & Greg and Criminal Minds actor, had big shoes to fill when he voiced the legendary Deathstroke the Terminator in Batman & Son. Many fans fell in love with DC Animated Universe veteran Ron Perlman when he voiced Slade for the Teen Titans cartoon series and had a hard time accepting Gibson in the role.
Gibson’s Deathstroke turned out to be a performance fans would not want to hear again as he was designated the main villain that killed Ra’s Al Ghul during the film’s first five minutes. Also, the actor’s Deathstroke came off robotic from the time he dueled with Esposito’s Ra’s Al Ghul and his dialogue with Talia (voiced by Morena Baccarin) to his final confrontation with Stuart Allen’s Damian Wayne.
13 MELISSA RAUCH AS HARLEY QUINN
Where do we begin with Melissa Rauch? Ms. Rauch is brilliant as Bernadette on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, but as Harley Quinn? Not so much. Both critics and fans were not happy with Rauch’s performance as The Joker’s former assistant. Rauch’s approach to Harley was not a pleasant listening experience. In addition, she portrayed Harley more as a depraved and desperate kitten that was more interested in hooking up with Nightwing and gyrated her body as she performed The Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” in front of memorable henchmen from the Batman series.
Rauch’s portrayal did not have the same heart that Arleen Sorkin brought into the character 25 years ago, as well as a brilliant blend of sarcasm and heat that Tara Strong brought to the role.
12 TAISSA FARMIGA AS RAVEN
It is never easy for new voice actors to take roles that have been embraced by the fans. Actress Taissa Farmiga had a hard time stepping into Raven’s hood. She is not only one of the Teen Titans’ most powerful members, but Trigon’s Daughter had a powerful fan base after Tara Strong’s numerous performances in Teen Titans and Teen Titans: Go!
While Ms. Strong’s Raven could take a joke in stride and be sympathetic when necessary, Ms. Farmiga’s Raven was noticeably un-Raven-like when Damian interacted with her in Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Sadly, Ms. Farmiga’s Raven portrayal did not improve during Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. At times, Raven came off as robotic and when she did have a tender scene with Damian at the end of the film, it was too little, too late.
11 CHRISTOPHER MELONI AS GREEN LANTERN (HAL JORDAN)
Hal Jordan is one of the most recognizable members of the Green Lantern Corps. But the Warner Bros. Pictures’ casting department has been having a tough time casting the legendary Justice Leaguer for both live action and animated films. While Christopher Meloni is an excellent actor, he was not a good fit to bring Hal Jordan to life in Green Lantern: First Flight.
One, Green Lantern: First Flight was supposed to highlight Hal Jordan’s origin story and offer an entry point to the Green Lantern Universe. The Law & Order veteran not only failed to carry the weight of the leading role. Future Arrowverse star Victor Garber, who perfectly voiced Sinestro, overshadowed Mr. Meloni. Fans did not sense that Mr. Meloni captured the emotional journey that Hal Jordan went throughout the film.
10 ANDRE BRAUGHER AS DARKSEID
Fans tremble in fear when they hear the name “Darkseid.” The evil Apokolips tyrant is one of the most influential villains in the DC Comics universe. The actor who is assigned to voice the warlord should have the audience cowering in fear. However, when Warner Bros. Animation’s casting team hired Andre Braugher to voice Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, it was not a good move.
Braugher’s Darkseid was not the towering God of Evil that both Frank Welker and Michael Ironside shaped in their respective animated series, but a shell of a New God. In previous animated adaptations, Darkseid never gave in to simple demands from a mere mortal like the Dark Knight. Also, Braugher’s Darkseid did not seem to have chemistry with his fellow Apokolips voice actors including Ed Asner, who reprised his role as Granny Goodness for the film.
9 GIANCARLO ESPOSITO AS RA’S AL GHUL
Ra’s Al Ghul is one of the Dark Knight’s greatest villains and the Warner Bros. Animation usually picks the right actor to portray the Demon’s Head. While the idea of casting Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul’s Giancarlo Esposito as Ra’s Al Ghul looked good on paper, both the producers and writers botched its potential. In early scenes, Deathstroke (voiced by Thomas Gibson) confronted the Demon’s Head and wanted to take over the League of Assassins.
After five minutes, Ra’s al Ghul time in the DC Animated Original Movie Universe came to a disastrous end. To waste a talent like Giancarlo Esposito, who could have done wonders voicing the international crime lord and seemingly immortal warrior, is inexcusable as Mr. Esposito would be a great assist to have in the DC Animated Original Movie Universe.
8 SEAN MAHER AS NIGHTWING
Actor Sean Maher became a household name to geek culture when he portrayed Simon Tam in Firefly and Serenity. Since 2014’s Son of Batman, Mr. Maher has voiced Batman’s ultimate protégé for five DC Animated Original movies. The biggest obstacle that Mr. Maher faced when he voiced these films was trying to distance his Nightwing from Loren Lester and Neil Patrick Harris’ impeccable takes on the original Robin in the DC Animated Universe and Batman: Under the Red Hood.
Mr. Maher’s vocals were strong in both Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, and Batman: Bad Blood. His scenes with Stuart Allen’s Daiman stole some of the films. But, it seemed that he was uninterested when he voiced Nightwing in both Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.
7 KARI WAHLGREN AS STARFIRE
Fans had a hard time accepting Kari Wahlgren as Starfire. For years, Hynden Welch’s portrayal of Teen Titans veteran Starfire made fans’ hearts soar. From perfectly nailing Starfire’s naivety to Earth customs to her warmth that radiated off the screen during both Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! When Ms. Wahlgren portrayed the Tamarian Princess for both Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, she did not correctly capture Starfire’s personality in her portrayal.
In both the comics and cartoon series, Starfire had feelings towards Dick Grayson. In Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, the original Robin revealed that he wanted to move in with Koriand’r in front of the whole team. Ms. Wahlgren did not correctly convey Starfire’s emotion to the life changing announcement. This was a missed opportunity that left many Nightwing and Starfire fans grumpy.
6 CREE SUMMER AS MERCY GRAVES
Like Harley Quinn before her, Lex Luthor’s right hand woman, Mercy Graves, made her first appearance in animation before making the jump to the comic books. Actress Lisa Edelstein first voiced Lex Luthor’s curt bodyguard and assistant from Superman: The Animated Series to becoming LexCorp’s CEO in both Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. However, when Cree Summer took over the role for Superman: Doomsday, Mercy’s character was torpedoed completely.
While Edelstein made Mercy Graves memorable with her sassy lines and chemistry with then Luthor voice actor Clancy Brown, Ms. Summer’s Mercy acted more like a moll up until her shocking death when her boss shot her point blank after she successfully covered up LexCorp’s affairs in the Doomsday incident. Because of the Superman: Doomsday producers’ decision to kill her off halfway through the film, it was hard for fans to connect with Summer’s Mercy.
5 SHEMAR MOORE AS CYBORG
The Criminal Minds actor was clearly the wrong choice to play Victor Stone in Justice League: War, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and Justice League vs. Teen Titans. For most of Cyborg’s animated incarnations, the former Teen Titan turned Justice Leaguer is seen as a young adult who is around the same age as his colleagues such as Nightwing, Starfire, and Raven. In addition, while Cyborg is one of the more light-hearted members of the Justice League, Cyborg also has a serious side as well.
Fans could notice that Mr. Moore only focused on Cyborg’s seriousness especially confronting his father at S.T.A.R. Labs and meeting the league in Justice League: War. In addition, Moore failed to bring the comedy during an awkward exchange when he delivered pizza to the Titans Tower as the Justice League talked with the Titans in Justice League vs. Teen Titans.
4 JAMES MARSTERS AS LEX LUTHOR
James Marsters is an incredible actor who won fans over with his portrayals of Spike and Brainiac in classic WB TV series: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Smallville. However, it is hard for fans not to divorce him for these roles and they were very hard on him for voicing Superman’s ultimate foe, Lex Luthor, in the very first DC Animated Original movie, Superman: Doomsday.
Marsters’ Luthor was completely cold and ruthless as he shot Mercy Graves in cold blood and creepily seduced Lois Lane while she was still grieving for the fallen Man of Steel. However, Marsters’ interpretation of the Metropolis tycoon seemed more robotic and he failed to live up to fans’ expectations, which earns him a distinguished spot on this list.
3 ROGER J. CROSS AS GREEN LANTERN (JOHN STEWART)
John Stewart is the second most recognized human member of the Green Lantern Corps. In the '00s, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation elevated John Stewart’s profile by making him a member of the JLA and a core character in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. However, John Stewart remained dormant until Justice League Dark, where he was briefly voiced by actor Roger J. Cross.
The main problem with Roger J. Cross’ portrayal of John Stewart was that the character made a brief appearance in the Hall of Justice as the Justice League investigated the chaos magic that was unleashed in Metropolis, Gotham, and Washington D.C. It would have been interesting to see John Stewart join Batman and the Justice League Dark team, but instead the screenwriters decided to just use him for only two minutes. Talk about wasted potential!
2 ADAM BALDWIN AS SUPERMAN
Another cast member of the first DCAU movie, Superman: Doomsday, to be featured on this list is the actor who voiced the Man of Steel, Adam Baldwin. While Mr. Baldwin found success in films such as Full Metal Jacket, Independence Day, and The Patriot, geek culture embraced him for his work as Jayne Cobb in Joss Whedon’s Firefly & Serenity.
However, fans were up in arms after Baldwin voiced the Man of Steel. It seemed that Baldwin forgot to add the hope and warmth that his predecessors, Tim Daly and George Newbern, brought to the DC Animated Series when he recorded the dialogue for the film. This could be seen with his last exchange with Lois Lane before he “died” from his battle with Doomsday and his confrontation with his clone near the decrescendo of the film.
1 KERI RUSSELL AS WONDER WOMAN
Actress Keri Russell found herself sandwiched in between Susan Eisenberg, who voiced Wonder Woman throughout the DC Animated Universe, and Maggie Q, who voiced the Amazonian Princess in Young Justice. The Felicity and The Americans actress voiced Themyscira’s Favorite Daughter for the 2009 animated film and she did the character a huge injustice.
Ms. Russell’s interpretation of the title character came off immature and only packed heat during emotional showdowns with both Ares (voiced by Alfred Molina) and Colonel Steve Trevor (voiced by Nathan Fillion). Another problem with Ms. Russell’s casting is that she was surrounded an all-star group of impeccable actors such as Fillion, Molina, Rosario Dawson, and Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen. All of the mentioned actors delivered spectacular performances that simply outshined Ms. Russell.
Which DC Animated Universe casting decisions disappointed you the most? Comment below!