For many DC Comics fans around the world, since the creation of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, the series that make up the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) have been the be-all and end-all of DC-in-motion (yes, that includes the live-action movies). This is in thanks not only to the creative minds behind the series producing well-written and often riveting storylines but also in part to the the unique and sometimes revolutionary techniques in animation, and of course the timeless voice cast behind the characters. Fans across the globe, myself included, still associate Kevin Conroy as THE definitive Batman, and Mark Hamill‘s Joker as one of the all-time great portrayals of the character. Whenever I read a Superman comic, I hear George Newbern‘s voice in my head. Carl Lumbly IS Martian Manhunter!
For the past several years DC has been creating a series of original animated movies. Some are hit and some are miss, but they never quite live up to the expectations that you have after having been exposed to the original DCAU series of programs. I was watching a lot of these original movies recently and when I finished, I decided to get nostalgic and binge-watch the entire Justice League series on Netflix. I thought this was the perfect time to come up with my own “top storylines” list!
I say “top storylines” and not “episodes” because in the Justice League series pretty much all of the arcs were two-parters (sometimes three-parters). For the purposes of this list, I consider the entire storyline when choosing my favourites and not just individual episodes. These are also not in any order of preference, and are simply chronological in order of air-date. These are my favourites that I really enjoy re-watching, but I can’t bring myself to actually rank them.
LEGENDS (S1 E18+19)
In this arc, members of the Justice League are accidentally transported to an idyllic parallel world where they encounter the Justice Guild of America. The Guild is a group similar to the League and is made up of heroes named The Streak, Tom Turbine, Green Guardsman, Black Siren and Cat Man. While helping the Guild do battle with the super villains of this alternate universe, the League discovers that all is not what it seems in this world.
THE SAVAGE TIME (S1 E24+25+26)
The League returns from a mission in space to find the world transformed into a fascist police state. Immortal villain Vandal Savage has been relaying information to his younger self in the 1940’s, which has allowed him to take over the planet during World War II. The League must travel back in time to stop him (oh, and the Nazis).
A BETTER WORLD (S2 E37+38)
Probably one of my favourite arcs of any DC cartoon, ever. The Justice Lords, an alternate Earth version of the League, are on a rampage after the death of their Flash at the hands of President Lex Luthor. Superman takes the ultimate revenge and vaporizes Luthor with his heat vision. Years later, Justice Lord Batman discovers the dimension which the Justice League inhabits. The Lords find their alternate Earth counterparts to be weak, ineffectual and naive. Crossing dimensions to spread their brand of order, the Lords lure the League into a trap in an attempt to bring this Earth to its knees.
THE TERROR BEYOND (S2 E41+42)
Doctor Fate and Aquaman attempt to use Solomon Grundy to help battle an ancient evil – Icthultu (inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu). Bruce Timm has stated that the pairing of these characters is a direct homage to Marvel Comics team The Defenders (Doctor Strange, Namor and the Hulk), which is pretty damn cool.
HEREAFTER (S2 E45+46)
A time travel story! Some hate time travel.. I love it! Superman is transported to the future.. 30,000 years into the future. Earth is barren and populated by mutated monsters.. oh, and Vandal Savage! Savage, as it turns out, is responsible the state of the planet and despite his insanity, wants to make amends. Savage teams up with Superman in an attempt to get the Man of Steel back to his time and prevent a younger Savage from setting his plans in motion.
The best interaction of the episode, in my opinion, takes place between the two..
Vandal Savage: The earth belongs to the cockroaches now… Oh, and me.
Superman: You’re insane.
Vandal Savage: … True. But that doesn’t mean I’m not good company. Say, you want to come over to my place?
Vandal Savage: Like you have anything better to do.
Back on present day Earth, the League copes with the loss of Superman, only to be joined by the newest self-appointed member of the League, and Superman’s replacement, Lobo! Good times!
STARCROSSED (S2 E50+51+52)
The Thanagarians (hawk-people) invade Earth under the guise of protection. Hawkgirl’s loyalties to her people and to her team are tested as the League prepares for all out war against the winged invaders, all the while trying to evade capture. A great ending arc for the original Justice League series, and a perfect catalyst behind the idea of the Justice League Unlimited follow-up.