January 22, 2022

CROSSOVER: WORLD'S FINEST

 
 The DC Animated Universe was the biggest shared universe in animation. While Spider-Man had constantly crossed over with unused characters in his own shows and eventually X-Men: The Animated Series, the DCAU was the crossover of several shows based on DC Comics characters.

The DC Animated Universe.


It all began with Batman: The Animated Series. The show itself was largely insular, restricted mostly to Batman-related characters with a non-powered version of magician Zatanna (Julie Brown) being the only major outside character featured. But then came Superman: The Animated Series from the same crew, and based on its success The WB wanted more episodes of Batman. The New Batman Adventures, while utilizing Superman’s design-style due to a significantly reduced budget, maintained largely the same cast and was treated as an extension of Batman. It would also be paired together with Superman in a block called The New Batman/Superman Adventures.

The long-awaited meeting of these two titans.


Shortly after its debut, Batman (Kevin Conroy) would find himself in Metropolis meeting Superman (Tim Daly) for the first time in the three-part episode “World’s Finest”, written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Rich Fogel, Steve Gerber and Stan Berkowitz, which was also released as a separate film. A cash-strapped Joker (Mark Hamill) stole a statue made out of a large piece of Kryptonite and went to Metropolis to try and form an alliance with Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) by promising to get rid of Superman for a big payday. Lex ultimately tries to back out of the deal when Joker fails, leading Joker to steal a LexCorp super jet that will allow him to destroy the city.

Superman helping Robin keep the peace and find his mentor.


Batman returned to the show in the episode “Knight Time”, written by Robert Goodman. When Batman goes missing, Superman disguised himself as Batman to help Robin (Matthew Valencia) deal with the crime in Gotham City while investigating his disappearance. The final crossover episode, “The Demon Reborn”, written by Fogel, saw immortal villain Ra’s al Ghul (David Warner) steal a mythical staff that would allow him to steal Superman’s powers, leaving it to Batman to rescue him.


Bad girls just wanna have fun.


Over on Batman’s show, Batgirl (Tara Strong) and Supergirl (Lauren Tom) got in on the crossover action with “Girl’s Night Out”, written by Hilary J. Bader. Livewire (Lori Petty) escaped a prison transport taking her to Gotham for experimental treatments to remove her electrical powers. She joined forces with Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) to help them commit some crimes. With Batman and Superman both away, it became up to Batgirl and Supergirl to stop the villains—which didn’t always go quite that smoothly. This marked the only time a character from another DCAU show would appear on Batman.

Zeta taking the Batmobile for a spin.


At the conclusion of both series, a new Batman spin-off was produced: Batman Beyond, which took place in the future and saw teenager Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) taking up the mantle with an elderly Bruce Wayne guiding him. The episode “Zeta”, written by Goodman, saw the debut of Infiltration Unit Zeta (Gary Cole), a synthezoid built for the NSA that could disguise itself with holograms in order to gather information through interrogation or impersonation with extreme prejudice. Zeta would develop a conscience and go on the run from his creators, with his adventures continuing in the spin-off The Zeta Project.


Classic hero misunderstanding fight.


Zeta (now Diedrich Bader) would return to Beyond in “Countdown”, written by Fogel and Dini. Zeta and his companion, Ro (Julie Nathanson), came to Gotham in search of Zeta’s creator. Radical Mad Stan (Henry Rollins) rescued Zeta from NSA agents that manage to shut him down, but upon discovering he was a robot believed he was sent by the government to kill him. Stan strapped a bomb to Zeta and made him believe that Ro was being held at the Department of Health as a means to get revenge on the agency for raising the price of pet licenses (as he had a dog, Boom-Boom). The same day that episode aired, Batman would appear on Zeta’s show in the episode “Shadows”, written by Fogel and Bader. Infiltration Unit Seven (Bader) tracked Zeta and Ro down to a mall owned by Wayne-Powers. Their resulting fight drew the attention of Terry and Bruce, with footage making it seem like Zeta reverted to his old programming. Batman arrived and attacked Zeta, believing he was going to hurt an injured Ro in the hospital. Ro tried to convince Batman Zeta was innocent, but it was only with the arrival of IU7 that Batman believed and helped them stop it.

Static on the case with Batman and Robin.


Also airing on Kids’ WB was the series Static Shock, based on the character from Milestone comics that was also under the ownership of DC. Initially, the show was an entity unto itself until it joined the DCAU in its second season with the premiere episode “The Big Leagues”, written by Len Uhley. The Joker came to Dakota to recruit Bang Babies—the powered individuals of the city who all gained the abilities from a chemical unleashed by an explosion—for his new gang after Batman put his old one in jail. Batman and Robin (now Eli Marienthal) follow Joker to Dakota to help Static (Phil LaMarr) put a stop to his plans (while they were from the revamped Batman series, by this point that show was long over and Batman was currently starring in Cartoon Network’s Justice League).

Static and Gear hanging out with the Justice League.


For Static Shock’s third season premiere, “Hard as Nails” written by Dini, saw Bang Baby Allie Langford (T’keyah Keymรกh) having trouble coping with her transformation into the hard-skinned and taloned Nails. Static tailed her to Gotham City where she had been communicating with people who could supposedly cure her online, turning out to be Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn who convinced her to help on a robbery. Static teamed-up with Batman to stop them, urging him to go easy on Nails as she needed help, not prison. Later that season, the two-part “A League of Their Own”, written by John Semper, Jr., Ernie Altbacker and Static co-creator Dwayne McDuffie, saw the Justice League call on Static to recharge the Justice League’s Watchtower as it was drained by a cosmic storm and was threatening to crash into Earth. During the chaos, Brainiac (Corey Burton) managed to escape confinement and took control of the Watchtower while the Justice League were off dealing with what turned out to be a false distress signal. That left Static and his sidekick, Gear (Jason Marsden), alone to deal with Brainiac.

Static with the future Batman.


Continuing the one-upmanship of the previous seasons, the final season of Static Shock was crossover heavy with three episodes. “Future Shock”, written by Berkowitz, saw Static in Gotham helping Batman and Robin with a criminal named Timecode. Static trying to free Batman from one of Timecode’s devices ended up shunting him into the future of Batman Beyond. Old Bruce requested Static’s help in rescuing a high-value prisoner taken captive by criminal organization Kobra in exchange for their leader in GCPD custody. Static had no choice but to accept when he learned that the prisoner was his future self. “Toys in the Hood”, written by Semper, Altbacker and John Ridley, presented the first encounter between Static and Superman (George Newbern). Darci (Nicollette Sheridan), the mechanical woman created by the maniacal Toyman (Bud Cort) to be his companion before she escaped, had come to Dakota under the guise of teacher Miss Moore. It seemed as if Toyman had found her and sent his toys after her, drawing the attention of Static and Superman. However, that turned out to be a ruse so she could study Static’s classmate Daisy Watkins (Crystal Scales) in order for Toyman to place Darci into her body and take her place completely. The final one, “Fallen Hero” written by Semper and Berkowitz, saw Static forced to take down his personal hero, Green Lantern (also LaMarr), when it appeared he went on a crime spree. However, after doing so Static learned that it was actually Sinestro (Ted Levine) disguising himself as Lantern utilizing power from his stolen Power Battery. Static teamed-up with Lantern, provided a power source to recharge his ring, and helped take Sinestro down.

The Justice Leagues of two eras working together.


Finally, in the last entry of the DCAU, Justice League Unlimited, there were two last crossover episodes. The two-part “The Once and Future Thing”, written by McDuffie, saw Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) chasing time thief Chronos (Peter MacNicol) into the Wild West, where people there were equipped with advanced weaponry. After helping that era’s heroes take down the corrupt sheriff, the modern heroes again follow Chronos into the future Gotham City where they encounter that era’s Justice League: Batman, Static and Warhawk (Peter Onorati), who turned out to be Lantern’s son. There they learned that Chronos had decided to abandon his restraint in traversing time and instead became a warlord. However, his mucking about had caused serious disruptions to the time stream: Wonder Woman faded from existence and John Stewart’s Lantern is replaced by his predecessor Hal Jordan (Adam Baldwin). Ultimately, Chronos headed to the beginning of time where he planned to re-write history and become a god.

Terry learns the truth about himself.


“Epilogue”, also by McDuffie and Bruce Timm, served as a finale of sorts for Batman Beyond and was intended to be the series finale of Unlimited, bringing things full circle by ending where the DCAU began. 15 years into the future of Beyond, an elderly Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder) revealed to Terry that he was a clone created by her in order to carry on Batman’s legacy as she felt the world would always need a Batman. She initialized a program called Project: Batman Beyond and took Batman’s DNA, found Terry’s parents to be near-psychological match for Batman’s parents, and overwrote his father’s DNA with Bruce’s making Terry his biological son (as was Terry’s brother).

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