Despite good ratings and the fact that The WB wanted a fourth season, Batman Beyond concluded so that Bruce Timm could utilize his crew at Warner Bros. Animation to bring about the next entry in the DC Animated Universe: Justice League. The series saw the previously established Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Superman (George Newbern, replacing Tim Daly who was working on the short-lived The Fugitive revival) forming a team with group of heroes: Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern John Stewart (rather than the Kyle Rayner version that previously appeared in Superman: The Animated Series, voiced by Phil LaMarr), Hawkgirl (Maria Canals-Barrera), Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly) and The Flash (Michael Rosenbaum, replacing the unavailable Charlie Schlatter from Superman). Both Batman and Superman received slightly altered designs for the series, with Batman gaining longer ears and blue highlights to his costume and Superman made bulkier and given facial features to make him look older (although Superman’s proved unpopular and he was reverted to his classic design the next season). Flash was portrayed as younger and brasher than his comic counterpart, and Hawkgirl was given a romantic attraction to Green Lantern rather than her counterpart, Hawkman. Initially, Wonder Woman couldn’t be used due to legal issues, but Timm was adamant that she be included in the series. She was a fish out of water, having just come to man’s world from the island of Themyscria, and she and Batman would develop a hinted attraction to each other (as the producers disliked pairing her up with Superman despite fan requests) that would come to be dubbed “WonderBat” on social media.
|The Justice League: Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Flash and Hawkgirl.|
Justice League debuted on Cartoon Network on November 17, 2001, becoming the first DCAU entry since Superman to not originally air on Kids’ WB (although it would make its way there in reruns) and the network’s highest-rated premiere (until it was surpassed in 2009 by Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins). While the show was still traditional 2-D animation, the series’ intro was rendered in CGI with a theme by series composer Lolita Ritmanis. Episodes were generally 2-parters, airing in consecutive weeks. For the second season, Cartoon Network would air both parts in an hour-long block and the production was changed to a widescreen format.
Originally, the show was meant to
end at the conclusion of the second season; however, Cartoon Network ordered a
continuation. Rebranded Justice League Unlimited with a new intro and
theme by series composer Michael
McCuistion, the series was overhauled to feature a wide array of
characters (including the original seven) from DC Comics. Some were seen in the previous
entries in the DCAU, but many made their animated debuts such as the
(Amy Acker), brother
emissaries of the Lords of Chaos and Order Hawk and Dove (Fred Savage and Jason Hervey, reprising their
relationship from The
Wonder Years) and sonic-powered brawler Black Canary (Morena Baccarin). Each episode,
now mostly stand-alone half hours, centered on a small grouping of heroes sent
out as a team to deal with trouble that didn’t require the attention of the
entire, expanded League. Unfortunately certain characters were off-limits; such
as Batman characters due to The
Batman and Batman
Begins, members of the Teen Titans until their
program ended, Aquaman
characters due to the development of the failed Smallville spin-off,
and characters from the mature Vertigo
imprint. The tie-in
comic, however, had no such restrictions, and often featured characters
that never made it to the show. There was also meant to be
a film bridging the end of season two into Unlimited, but ultimately
that ended up scrapped by Warner Bros.
Unlimited ended after 3 seasons, marking the end of the DCAU until Darwyn Cooke’s Batman Beyond short in 2014.