May 13, 2006

"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yes.  Yes, it is."

An exchange between Darkseid and Lex Luthor from "Destroyer"

Several months back, Toon Zone poster Legionaire saw "Destroyer" (when it aired in the U.K.) and figured out what the Anti-Life Equation was, at least in terms of this episode.  To paraphrase him a little, the equation goes something like this:  Anti-Life = the end of Justice League Unlimited and, perhaps, the DCAU itself.  In this context, I found this episode's climax to be incredibly satisfying on a metaphorical level.  

(I wonder:  in those final moments in the vortex, before Luthor and Darkseid disappeared, what did they see?  "Heart of Ice?"  "Over the Edge?"  "The Late Mr. Kent?"  Return of the Joker?  "Starcrossed?"  "Epilogue?")

I really didn't know what to write to mark the end of a series I've watched for nearly half my life; a series that started as a way to capitalize on a successful Tim Burton movie, only to take on a life of its own.  Originally a vehicle meant to feature only Batman, the spotlight moved and swerved, casting light on first his villains, then his allies, and then it drew back and cast its light across the length and breath of the larger DC Universe.  Sure, there were some nooks and crannies that managed to elude this light—the Vertigo characters, Black Lightning, Nocturna—but the rotating creative team managed to touch upon just about all of the major elements that make the DC Universe such a fantastic place to begin with.  And although the DCAU may have reached the end of its cinematic life, it will continue to have an impact upon the DC Universe proper, affecting its landscape for years to come.  After all, Harley Quinn and Livewire have crossed over into the comic books, haven't they?  And, although he may be mechanical, doesn't the new, post-Infinite Crisis Toyman bear a passing resemblance to our Toyman?  And isn't Paul Dini, the writer who brought many of our favorite episodes to life, the new writer of Detective Comics?  The DCAU will continue to live on in this fashion, even if another direct-to-video fails to materialize.

So, go ahead and shed those tears, people.  Curse the ground that Cartoon Network walks upon.  Rant and rage and shriek and sign those online petitions.  I'll be here, remembering the sage advice of the great Vera Lynn.

Thanks for the time and dedication, Bruce Timm.  And Paul Dini.  And James Tucker.  And Dwayne McDuffie.  And Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, Eric Randomski, Shirley Walker, Rich Fogel, Kevin Conroy, and all the rest.  Until next time.

Yours in chaos,



January 27, 2006

Now is as good a time as any to relay the news.  It's not set in stone—Cartoon Network rarely announces material like this—but I have two reliable sources that can vouch for it.  Justice League Unlimited will end with this current season.  In addition, Cartoon Network has moved the remaining nine episodes up in its schedule; they will begin airing on February 11th at 10:30pm, and I assume that their plan is to burn through them with little fanfare in order to be done with them and move on to their next project.  This information was released with little fanfare to a handful of news outlets, which the editor of Fanboy Planet was kind enough to share:

New episodes of Justice League Unlimited will being airing on Feb. 11 at 10:30pm.  The final episodes will be #31-39.

So, that's it.  I can't say that I'm happy about it but, at the same time, I'm not mad.  I've had plenty of time to come to terms with it and, frankly, maybe it's for the best.

Allow me to explain, lest you judge me a traitor and stop reading.  In your opinion, which would be better:  for the DCAU to end its run at the top of its' game, or peter out in mediocrity a few seasons from now?  Think about it—the critical acclaim about how good Unlimited is rivals the acclaim that the original Batman:  the Animated Series received.  Wizard Magazine recently declared that Unlimited was the best animated show on the air, and it seems you can't swing an Nth metal mace without hitting an article that just gushes with praise for the show.  With a run that spans fourteen years, three networks, 384 episodes (including Static Shock and The Zeta Project), 5 movies, 1 animated short, 30 web-exclusive cartoons, and roughly twenty minutes of animation for a Sega videogame; maybe it is time to close the book.  After all, how do we want to remember the DCAU?  Do we want to look back and think, "Wow, they were really at the top of their game!" or, "Damn, they should have quit two seasons ago while they were ahead!"?  Actually, I can think of a few posters on Toon Zone who would have been happy to just let "Epilogue" be the final word on the DCAU.

Nobody likes to see their favorite show get cancelled.  Take it from me—outside of the DCAU, I can think of at least ten television shows that got cancelled before their time.  By contrast, what about a show like Gargoyles, which had a fantastic 65 episode run, but was followed up by 13 episodes of the inferior Goliath Chronicles?  Or The X-Files, which probably should have ended around the time that David Duchovny walked?  It's a tricky situation that the creative team of every popular show must face:  do you end the show at its peak, or do you continue on and risk sucking?  Many, many people were pissed off when Jerry Seinfeld ended the sitcom that bore his name, but he felt that the time had come to end it and no amount of money (remember:  NBC was offering him 5 million dollars an episode!) would sway him.

Will we miss it?  Of course we will, but look at it this way—we already know what will happen.  As Bruce Timm has stated in interviews, the season finales for both Justice League and Unlimited work as both season finales and as series finales, just in case.  There will be a sense of closure, but it will leave a back door for potential future adventures.  And, somewhere, in some universe of the imagination, the League's adventures will carry on.  No matter how the John and Shayera arc ends in "Ancient History," they will still get together at some point and have a child.  J'onn J'onzz will either complete his sabbatical and return to the team he helped found, or he will continue to have solo adventures in some form.  Nightwing will live his life as the protector of Bludhaven, and he will either patch things up with his former mentor, or he will not.  Finally, Batman will get old, retire, and pass his mantle onto a worthy successor, and he will die knowing that his beloved city (and the planet it resides upon) will be protected by the support system he helped to create.  We know this to be true, because these events have already happened (there's literally no argument about whether or not Batman Beyond is canon at this point).

And, hey, who knows for sure that it's really over, huh?  This series has already faced the chopping block on two separate occasions and lived to air another day, so who knows what the future may bring?  In a year or two maybe the creative team will come back with Captain Marvel:  the Animated Series.  Or maybe a show about the Question will pop up.  Or, perhaps, we'll get one or two of the direct-to-video Justice League adventures that have been discussed.  World's Collide—chronicling the League's encounter with the Crime Syndicate—could still see the light of day at some point (note to Bruce Timm and to anyone on the creative team:  if there's the slightest chance for these DTVs to be made, we'll help you any way we can, as our successful letter-writing campaign will attest).  Hell, Superman ended in 2000, and now—six years later—we're getting a DTV this year, using the same animated style and some of the original voice cast.  Overall, I think that DarkLantern—Warner Bros. Animation insider and friend to the Watchtower—put it best when he said, "Never give up hope, just don't hold your breath along with the dream."  I can hardly think of a better way to put it than that.

So, where does that leave the Watchtower?  Well, the series may be ending, but I'm not.  I've got tons of characters to research and episodes to review, and I'm not planning on stopping until I've archived it all.  And, when I'm done with archiving Justice League, who knows?  Maybe I'll backtrack and do the same for the other shows of the DCAU.  I'm sure I could find some choice things to say about Jax-Ur and Mala, or the Batman episode "Baby Doll."  Finally, I'm thinking about turning this website's material into a book.  Websites are nice, but it would be nice to have a published edition of my ramblings, and the money it would generate certainly wouldn't hurt my feelings.  So, if there's any book publishers who want to take me up on the offer, my email address is on the front page!

So cheer up, friends.  We've got nine weeks of new episodes starting on February 11th to watch, as well as several upcoming box sets to enjoy and remind us that, had it not been for our devotion to this series of shows, the DCAU may have ended thirteen years ago, when "Paging the Crime Doctor" ended Batman's initial 65 episode run.

Yours in chaos,



January 22, 2006

My apologies for my absence from this website.  The past month has been non-stop craziness, during which I got laid off from my job, I had to move to a new apartment (harder than it sounds), and my car broke down at least four times.  So I haven't exactly had the time or energy to update this site, even to you all the news you've probably already heard:  we won the fight to get Season Two and all of Justice League Unlimited in glorious widescreen!  The decision came down in a matter of days—hell, it happened so fast that I didn't have time to put my letter in the mail!  It was a glorious example of the power of the consumer, and you should all be proud of your efforts.  Our victory was one of the few bright spots during my very bleak December.

Again, for those of you who continue to write me:  as soon as I have some definite airtimes for any episodes airing on Cartoon Network I will post them.  Right now the word I'm hearing is that the remaining episodes may air sometime in late spring / early summer, so settle down.  Speaking of which, I also haven't heard any news regarding any additional seasons beyond the current one.  We'll see soon enough, I suppose.

However, the lucky devils watching Cartoon Network UK are apparently seeing the new episodes before those of us in North America; as of this writing, they have already seen "Flash and Substance" and "Dead Reckoning."  Spoilers abound on the message boards so, if you prefer to be surprised when these episodes air, consider yourselves warned.  As for the content of these new episodes, I'm just going to say this:  keep an eye on Tala.  Based on her reappearance in "Reckoning," I suspect that there's more to his sorceress than meets the eye...

Yours in chaos,



November 20, 2005

Remember several months ago when I suggested that, with the current slate of DC-related Warner Bros. projects in development, it was only a matter of time before the axe dropped on another DCAU character?  Well, I told you so.

This week saw the revelation that Aquaman has been tapped for the Smallville treatment, as the WB is currently working on a live-action dramatic series featuring the Atlantean monarch.  All well and good, I suppose, but it comes with a price, as it has also been reported that DC Comics has requested that Aquaman be omitted from any future Unlimited storylines—which we've already felt, as "To Another Shore" had to be rewritten to omit both him and classic foe Black Manta, the latter being replaced with aquatic pitch-hitter Devil Ray.  Can you say "Aqua-Embargo?"

While sad, we can at least take comfort in the fact that, while a classic character and a favorite on the show, he was a minor figure on Unlimited.  Making only four appearances on the Justice League shows, he was—at best—a reluctant superhero, as his first priorities are to his kingdom and his family.  His absence will be felt, but not in the same way that...say, Flash or Green Lantern would be, but it still stinks that, following the loss of the Batman supporting cast, we lose another group of characters to the corporate process.  The DCAU continues to be fragmented, all for the sake of "Aquaville" (thanks, PeterFries!).

On another note, I'd like to give this message to everyone who's been emailing me:  I have no idea when Justice League Unlimited will be returning to Cartoon Network's schedule.  For the record, we have nine episodes remaining for this season, and they're probably still in post-production.  I don't expect to see them until sometime next year, but I've been proven wrong before.  As soon as I've heard a concrete date, I'll update the schedule page.  Finally, as for news of another season following this one, I have no idea, and I'd rather not speculate about it and start a bunch of vaguely-factish innuendo that will spread across the Internet like wildfire.

So let's calm down, people.  We've got nine new Unlimited episodes to look forward to, the holidays are fast approaching, and the next Batman and Superman box sets are due out on December 6th.  The DCAU isn't over yet, son.  Maybe I'll get my Bizarro / Galatea team-up after all...

Yours in chaos,



June 19, 2005

Over ten years ago, writer Peter David contributed an editorial for Wizard Magazine’s “The Dark Book:  A Comprehensive Look at Comic Book Villains,” where he made the argument that, after thousands of years, the “heroes” and “villains” of so-called heroic literature have changed places in terms of the literature’s needs:

Traditional heroic fiction had a specific pattern to it:  the young hero would leave the safe confines of his rural home, embark upon a great quest, encounter formidable villains who stood between himself and his goal, overcome the villains, and return home with riches / wisdom / a bride.  […]  Ultimately […] the hero was the instigator, the mover, the shaker, the protagonist.  He made things happen […] but it’s not quite that way in comic books.  The goals of the ancient heroes—great riches, or finding one’s true love, or becoming the king of a great empire—are not really viable in the day-to-day existence of the comic book superhero.  Consequently, superheroes have one purpose and one purpose only:  to stop the villains.  Period.  That’s all.  […]  It is the villains who are the movers and shakers.  The villains plan and scheme, conspire and machinate.  It is the villains who have the goals, the dreams, the long-term desires for power, riches, the girl, fame […]—all the things, in short, that the heroes of yore strove for.

In essence, David is making the case that it is now the villains who supply the dramatic needs of whatever comic book story that you’re reading; a fact that Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dwayne McDuffie, and other members of the ever-changing DCAU’s creative team have recognized and exploited for some of their most memorable episodes.

When it comes to literature and film, I love the villains.  Love them.  And when a superhero flick is announced, I’m don’t wonder “Who’s playing the hero” or “Who’s the love interest;” my first thought is, “Which villain are they using and who’s going to play him or her?”  This can sometimes be maddening, however, as Hollywood often takes the villain of the piece for granted.  For example, I hated the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.  Why?  Because Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor like a twit in three of the four movies, and the third one didn’t have much of a villain in it at all (the Phantom Zone criminals were pretty good, but their costumes were kind of blah compared to the Man of Steel).  The first Spider-Man movie was pretty bad as well, what with William Dafoe’s Green Power Ranger mugging for the camera.  And, in my opinion, Joel Schumacher’s real crime in his Batman films was transforming the Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Jason Woodrue, and Bane from serious threats into giggling cardboard cutouts…especially considering that, in the hands of another director, Tommy Lee Jones and Uma Thurman would have been very good as Two-Face and Poison Ivy, respectively.  And don’t get me started on The Batman’s less-than-lackluster, ghouls-for-ghouls' sake Rogues Gallery.

However, for each of these worst-case scenarios, there are cases where the film or television show not only gets the characters right, but they improve upon the formula.  For example, Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus (from Spider-Man II) was a creature of incredible passion and tragedy, putting the comic book version of him to shame.  Ra’s Al Ghul and the Scarecrow, from the recently-released Batman Begins, buck the trend of poorly-adapted Batman villains and, in turn, make the film ten times better.  And, of course, there’s our beloved DCAU, with its legion of well-adapted, “Ultimate” versions of the Joker, Lex Luthor…you name it.

Why bring this up now?  Well, for the past several months I’ve been updating, improving, and adding to the Watchtower’s villain entries.  This is difficult labor, considering the level of attention that the villains often get.  For example, you can find at well over a dozen web pages dedicated to the history of Green Lantern, but how many take the time to chronicle the life and times of his classical adversary Star Sapphire?  This endeavor has involved lots of research and—in some cases—guesswork on my part, as much of their animated, Justice League origins are kind of spotty.  Is the Ultra-Humanite still the brain of that unnamed bald scientist, or should I introduce Geoff John’s new material from his recent JSA appearance?  Is Tala still the demon from the pages of Phantom Stranger, or is she now just another run-of-the-mill sorceress?  Should I list the robot from “Initiation” as Brimstone?  Which Cheetah are they using?  For that matter, which Killer Frost?

Why bother with all of this?  Because I care.  As is often the case, the villains are forgotten about—their origins, motivations, and transformations over the years are often ignored in favor of their heroic counterparts—which is a shame, considering that their transformations are often more drastic and more interesting.  Take Justice League, for example.  Whereas the creative team has been incredibly faithful in adapting the classical, iconic versions of the heroes, they have been incredibly liberal in their adaptations of the villains, often with fascinating results.  For example, Gorilla Grodd has changed from a violent beast with a taste for human flesh into a suave networker with a taste for human women.  Hro Talak, Galatea, Aresia, and Tsukuri (?) were all based on DC Comics heroes.  Steven Mandragora is equal parts DC villain (Tobias Whale) and Marvel Comics villain (the Kingpin), while the Annihilator is based primarily on Marvel Comics’ sometimes-Thor adversary the Destroyer.  There is an incredible amount of depth and nuance that has gone into the creative team’s transformation of these classical villains, and it’s incredibly satisfying for me to pick them apart and uncover it.

As of this writing I’ve updated Aresia, Brainiac, Cheetah, Colonel Vox, Copperhead, Darkseid, Deadshot, Despero, The Imperium, Kanjar Ro, Lex Luthor, The Manhunters, Orm, and Star Sapphire; as well as added entries for The Cadmus Project, Circe, Clayface, and Ichthultu…and I plan to keep going.  In some cases I’m recapping a lot of what has already been chronicled, but in other cases I’m blazing a new trail of study, as many of these characters are blank slates in term of scholarship.  I just hope that my entries are worthy of the fine job that Bruce Timm and company have inspired me to write.

The villains of Justice League deserve this attention; after all, without Lex Luthor or Brainiac we really wouldn’t need a Superman, would we?

Yours in chaos,



January 25, 2005

Joel Schumacher was the best thing to happen to us.

The sound that you’re hearing, right now, is thousands upon thousands of fanboys coming to a screeching halt in their web-surfing.  “What?,” they’re shouting in righteous indignation, “How dare he say that!  The last two Batman films sucked!  Didn’t he see them?  What is he saying?”

Well, I’ll say it again:  Joel Schumacher was the best thing to happen to us.  Here’s why.

Flashback to 1997:  Batman & Robin—Schumacher’s craptacular ode to camp, sexual innuendo, and the wholesale theft of ideas from "Heart of Ice"—stinks up the box office and poisons the Batman film franchise for eight years.  Meanwhile, the animated franchise—The New Batman Adventures, Batman:  Subzero—are doing quite well, even with the creative team being divided between these projects and Superman.  They’re selling toys, TV ad time—the burgeoning DCAU franchise is just gathering steam.  Batman Beyond—a bold experiment, despite network meddling—takes shape and has a run of episodes, leading up to Justice League, featuring the Dark Knight and his super friends.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. continues to fumble the ball with Batman, moving more and more into la-la land.  “How about we get Howard Stern to play the Scarecrow and Jenny McCarthy to play Harley Quinn!”  “What about a musical?”  “We could do a Batman versus Superman movie!”  It wasn’t until recently that they managed to cobble together a Batman movie idea with top-level material, getting the director of Memento and an all-star cast together to make Batman Begins.  This was, of course, accompanied by a reset of the Batman franchise, with a new animated show, new toy lines, and new everything come this summer.

Don’t you get it?  The DCAU blossomed during the time period that Warner Bros. couldn’t get a superhero movie made.  With the characters available and the studio unable to even mention the idea of another Batman flick, Bruce Timm and company were able to make out like bandits, grabbing a ton of raw material that would have been otherwise tangled up in red tape.  I say this with certainty:  Justice League would not exist if Batman & Robin was a success.  If Schumacher’s cinematic mess made money it would have paved the way to more movies based upon DC’s icons.  A Superman franchise.  A Green Lantern franchise.  Without these heavy hitters we really would have been stuck with a League with only J’onn and a crew of second-stringers.

(Not to pick exclusively on Schumacher.  Also contributing to this fallow period was the mess with trying to create a Superman film, the unending list of failed Wonder Woman projects…all these perpetuating disasters kept them free for Justice League treatment.)

I bring this up now because, after nearly a decade, Warner Bros. is turning their fortunes around.  Batman Begins is coming out this summer.  Kids’ WB’s The Batman is picking up steam.  A Superman movie will begin filming in March.  There’s continuing talk of feature films for the Flash and Green Lantern.  What does this mean for us?  Well, consider:  due to a decision from the top brass, all of Batman’s supporting cast is now off-limits to the Justice League Unlimited creative team.  Think about it:  no more Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth; his appearance in "Starcrossed" was his last.  No more Batcave.  No more Rogues Gallery.  The “Near Apocalypse of ’09,” which was alluded to on Batman Beyond and would have featured Ra’s Al Ghul, may never happen.  And, unless they decide to incorporate the flashback sequence from Return of the Joker into continuity somehow, the Joker’s going to stay in that insanity-induced coma that he found himself in at the end of "Wild Cards."

Batman’s not going anywhere, of course—without him there is no show, and the executives know this—but cutting out a large portion of the show’s universe limits the creative team in ways that are still being felt (an appearance by Dr. Hugo Strange was nixed, as were possible stories involving Batgirl and Man-Bat).  That’s okay, we tell ourselves.  Most of Batman’s Rogues aren’t really a credible threat to the Justice League anyway.  But consider this:  what happens if the Superman movie is a hit and the bigwigs decide to remove Superman’s supporting cast from the show?  Do we lose Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and Lois Lane too?  And what about the other fledgling films based upon DC heroes?  And, finally, what if—God forbid—the dark day were to come when it is decided from on high that one of the main heroes on the series should be pulled out entirely?

It’s not my intention to scare you or cause a panic.  Save for the removal of Batman’s supporting cast, there’s not going to be any wholesale dismantling of the Justice League Unlimited cast…at least, as far as I know.  But heed my warning:  the good times can’t last forever.  Justice League may be the DCAU’s final breath and the creative team seems to know it—the fact that they’re tying this series into the other shows (Superman, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, The Zeta Project) gives me the impression that, on one level, Unlimited is a thank you note to the fans.  My point here is that this ending chapter in DC Comics' movies provided a window for the DCAU creative team to really stretch and flesh out their little corner of the DC Universe and, if it wasn’t for Schumacher’s folly, we may never have had the opportunity to have the Justice League series at all.

On another note, minimester is over and, with spring classes starting on Wednesday, I don’t know how much time I will have to continue this website’s maintenance.  I will try, however, to finish the 14 half-finished pages that I started working on this past January.  To tide you over, however, I can offer up an updated review of Secret Origins, as well as three brand new, DVD-quality image galleries for your perusal:  Secret Origins, In Blackest Night, and Starcrossed.  So, stay tuned, and additional updates will be forthcoming.

Yours in chaos,



November 13, 2004

The reports of my abandonment of this website have been greatly exaggerated.

As previously stated, my hiatus was due to the daily stresses of being both a college instructor and a graduate student, and it's very difficult to write an essay debating the pros and cons of Giganta's adaptation for Justice League while grading sixty papers or writing one of your own.  This site is a labor of love but, unfortunately, that also means that it must take a backseat to activities that, while not always as fun, pay the bills.  Sure, I could devote all of my waking moments to analyzing this show, but that would mean neglecting my other duties, getting fired, and being forced to sell my computer and television to survive.  This site will be updated periodically over the next month or two (such as right now!), but don't expect another major update until late December or January, when I have the free time to really get into it.

In the interest of keeping the non-essay elements of the website updated, I've renovated the Who's Who in the JLU? page, providing images and bios for everyone who has either appeared or been mentioned in every episode up to "The Greatest Story Never Told" (including Plastic Man, who was mentioned but did not actually appear).  Several of the bios and pictures have been updated or replaced, so be sure to check it out.  I also added a Links page, which is either a great resource to allow fans to check out my online research locations or an incredibly indulgent way of providing extra traffic to my favorite websites...I really can't decide.  Outside of today's updates, I'm currently preparing a page for the Jokerz—or at least the ones who appeared previously in Batman Beyond:  Return of the Joker—who will be appearing in Part Two of "The Once and Future Thing."  Oops...was that a spoiler?  Well, as far as I can tell, the cat's been out of that bag since at least late August.

Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet.  I did make an interesting revelation, however:  while browsing through Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse Message Boards, I was surprised to find that Jason Mews (Jay of Jay and Silent Bob fame) is apparently a fan of Justice League and this website, if his profile and his Deadshot avatar are any indication (see here).  It has to be him; he joined the same time as Kevin and his friends joined (the names in red, see here) and the content of his posts certainly sound like it's him.  Snooch to the nootch!

Yours in chaos,



July 30, 2004

Well, so much for getting the site updated before the premiere.

Actually, I'm not surprised, considering the amount of research involved.  Rest assured that I will continue to update the site on a regular basis for as long as I'm able (school starts in a month, though, and I have to start planning my lectures).  I'll get to the new League members soon enough, though I would prefer to wait and see what will be offered in terms of characterization before I go off and type up a bio that may be discredited a week later.  For now, look for an update to Who's Who in the JLU? in the coming weeks.

Speaking of which, I thought that "Initiation" was really good.  True, trying to decipher some of the cameos was infuriating, but it was fun to watch the plot progress and have lesser-known League members like Vibe or Steel walk past in the background.  Also, despite what some people thought, characterization has not disappeared from the series, as I got a definite sense Green Arrow and Captain Atom's character traits from listening to their dialogue.  We don't have time for the script to spell out every bit of their origins right away and, if we did, it would take up too much time.  This isn't a comic book, and we now only have twenty minutes to a show.  We'll have to take characterization where we can get it.

In other news, last week's San Diego Comic Con offered a report that Captain Marvel will, indeed, be appearing on Justice League Unlimited in an upcoming episode.  I'd like to think that my impassioned plea had something to do with it...

Yours in chaos,



June 17, 2004

I want to talk about cheese.  The big, red variety.

One of the last major holdouts for a DCAU-related appearance, today’s update to the Watchtower includes an entry on Captain Marvel, chronicling the succession of near-misses in bringing this almost-forgotten icon to the animated screen.  Now, the DCAU is littered with stories that never made it to final animated form—we may never know the final fate of Nightwing, the “pitch-black” Catwoman story for Batman Beyond will surely never see the light of day, etc.—but there’s something about the Captain Marvel situation that screams for closure.  With Justice League Unlimited playing like a highlight reel of DC Comics’ best and brightest stars, there’s something about the absence of Marvel that seems…untidy.

According to my sources (which can be read here), the problem here is one of legality—that is, his animation rights are tied up somehow.  Now, I don’t presume to know the specifics of the matter, but I do know that copyright issues can be complicated.  In terms of comic book rights, even DC Comics sometimes has only a tenuous grip over its icons; for example, legend has is that Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s deal with DC requires that a Wonder Woman title be published once a month or they lose their license.  In terms of animation, Wonder Woman was a holdout for a DCAU show until she was going to appear as more than a guest star but, going back to Captain Marvel, this doesn’t appear to be the case, as he almost got his own series a few years back—which Paul Dini and Alex Ross had a hand in developing—but that fell by the wayside as well.  So what’s going on, exactly?

And, while we’re on the subject, here’s another question:  assuming that the rights to Captain Marvel were to clear up tomorrow, how would he be incorporated into Unlimited?  Consider the following scenario:  his debut episode is winding down, with the Justice League aiding Marvel in bringing down one or more of his foes (I’d betting on the Monster Society of Evil—an assembly of all of Marvel’s enemies—because that would be more of a League-level threat than just Sivana or Black Adam).  Now, if previous origin episodes are any indication, one or more League members will learn the background of the character as the story progresses (Metamorpho in "Metamorphosis," for example), so the secret that Batson is both an orphan and homeless, having been tossed out by his uncle (depending on which version of Marvel’s origin they use, his legal guardian following his parents’ death could either be Ebenezer Batson [as it was originally], or Sivana himself [from the Shazam:  The New Beginning mini-series, which has been removed from continuity]; for argument’s sake, let’s go with Ebenezer).  So, after the fight, do they just shake hands with Marvel and leave young Batson to continue sleeping in gutters?  Would they turn him over to social services?  Or, considering, his power and the potential for someone to corrupt him, would they take the boy in themselves?  It’s plausible:  Batman would probably be the strongest proponent of this, considering his background and his inability to turn a blind eye to the needy, followed by Wonder Woman, who would want to keep an eye on one whose powers derive from two of her patrons…and one of her enemies (for those keeping score, her patrons would be Zeus and Mercury [or Hermes], and her enemy would be Hercules, who persecuted the Amazons prior to their settling of Themyscira).  This could go either one of two ways, with one of the League legally adopting Batson, or with them facilitating the boy in the charade that he’s still with his legal guardian.

As a result, the series would be altered to accommodate Captain Marvel as a new main character, which could have endless possibilities.  The League could gain compliance from Ebenezer through intimidation and could probably get back his inheritance as well, which he stole from his ward.  Batson would probably also move into the Watchtower, so that he would be supervised and safe from potential abductors (as shown in Kingdom Come, Captain Marvel would make an excellent potential weapon if brainwashed).  Batman and Wonder Woman would train him in the full use of his powers, and his interest in journalism could be sparked by hanging around with Superman.  Also, imagine Green Lantern picking Batson up from school, or J’onn J’onzz disguising himself as his guardian to attend PTA meetings.  This could easily take up an entire season of stories, but this would also have the potential to dominate the show, resulting in a “Cousin Oliver” situation (referring to instances where sitcoms add a child to a fading show to spark interest; a classic “jumping the shark” situation).  However, in its defense, Unlimited is rapidly turning into a larger ensemble cast than before—going from seven to fifty-seven—so maybe it wouldn’t matter.  Only time would tell.

In other news, going from one extreme to another, the other new addition to the Watchtower is a page dedicated to the Main Man himself, Lobo.  Next up:  the villains.

Yours in chaos,



June 4, 2004

Welcome to the first installment of the Watchtower Weblog; an attempt on my part to improve the communication between myself and you, my audience.  Until now the only ways to reach me were either 1) my email, which isn’t always checked as regularly as it should, or 2) Toon Zone’s message boards, where my messages tend to get lost amongst the enormous traffic of the site.  To combat this, this page will serve to give you updates on what I’m working on, when I’m taking a hiatus from updating this site (usually during school semesters, as I’m both a grad student and a college instructor), and answer your email, which usually can be boiled down to, “When are you going to update again?”  I’ll try to keep off-topic ramblings to a minimum, as most of you probably couldn’t care less about if I’m sick, who I’m dating, or what my political leanings are (take my college course for that).  I come here to discuss Justice League (or Justice League Unlimited now, I guess), and I believe you do as well.

Like many of you, I saw "Starcrossed" last weekend, and I’m currently planning entries for all the material that got covered, but it’s kind of backlogged at the moment, as half of Season Two needs to be added.  These will be done in due time, as I’m also working on revising all of the original pages as well.  There’s something about contemplating an entire, completed series at once—for all intents and purposes, Justice League is over, replaced by Unlimited—that puts it all the details of that series into perspective; I want to bring that perspective to the rest of the site.  With any luck I’ll complete this task before the premiere of Unlimited so I can fall behind again, as I race to come up with over sixty new entries in the remaining weeks before the fall school semester begins.  This will be fun.

On a related note, some of you may notice that some of the pages on this site have headings that use a sharp, new font that mirrors the Art Deco lettering of the original Batman series—it’s called PlazaDReg and it’s currently available as a free download from the distinguished gentlemen at The World’s Finest.  I wanted to use it because, as unrepentantly low-tech as this site is, I always look for ways to class the site up a bit, and I thought that it would make a stylish addition to the pages, rather than have everything in Arial font.  As it stands, it’s a nice tribute to the heritage of the series and, as I’m currently working page-by-page on the updates to the site, it will be a quick way to tell which pages are new and which are old (except for the Hawkgirl entry; I last updated it in January but now, thanks to "Starcrossed," it’s outdated again!).

Be sure to check out a new section of the site called the Trophy Room, which is a freeze-frame guide to the series, detailing the supporting characters, homages, and in-jokes that the creative team has crammed into this show.  You won’t believe how many Marvel Comics characters were referenced in this series; some say that Bruce Timm should do a Marvel show after this, but I think that he’s gotten most of it out of his system.

Yours in chaos,



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