Monday, December 24, 2012

The Detective Comics Animated Universe (or DCAU)

Verdict: This is a continuity of five, technically six, television series all set in the same world, all developing different stories that all come together to present a greater tale. While I do not like to rely on comparisons to praise or put down, it is not universally or ultimately very descriptive, here it is appropriate. This continuity of television, for children primarily but adults too, spans over a decade of seasons, and manages to do the almighty. It tells the archetypal tales behind the general X-men story, the Spider-man tale, the basic Superman myth, the Avengers films, the Watchmen graphic novel, and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, except it retells, or is it foretells, each of these myths better.

It does so not merely because it interconnects all of these distinct and starkly different tales about super-powered humans and or superheroes into a world that makes sense with all of them in it, but moreover because the series is not afraid to have fun whilst still building to tragedy and redemption. Somehow no one else has been able to do that with superheroes, especially the most famous one: Batman.There are a lot of great nostalgic television shows from the 1990s and 2000s, but this one takes the crown for champion. Buy and watch as much of this as you can (they are released sporadically everywhere).

Facts: The chronology of the series goes: Batman then Superman the Animated Series, Static Shock, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond (and the Zeta Files). The animated feature films are all needed to understand the overall plot. Paul Dinni and Dwain McDuffie are the writers to credit with most all of this. Bruce Timm is the producer of note. Andre Romano deserves nothing but credit for gathering the voices that she did:

(Note the Justice of this Cast and Development: the DCAU could be a lot better on all the tests, but when it is good, it does a really good job.)

(Also hate to give the cast and crew the short end of the stick, but the people at the DCAU wiki covered most all that I was going to profiling them, and more on each of the shows.)

Mark Hamill (The best Joker and villain who defines nightmarish inevitability)

Kevin Conroy (The Batman himself)

Tim Daly (Superman)

Phil LaMarr (Green Lanter--this Green Lantern Corps. was not centered around the crutch of straight jawed white yuppie, and I did not care, till I learned that this was not always the case--
and Static Shock--the best plucky fanboy reborn as a hero, as  he's the most real and his power and responsibility the conflict of him having to deal with his ignorance to his own privilege: he does not have to worry about hiding his mutation.)

Tara Strong  (Barbara Gordon as she chooses to become Batgirl--Batgirl is also kid turned hero, but is someone who has to fight for her ideals and respect: no powers, no money.)

Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor)

Jason Marsden (Gear)

Arlene Sorkin (Harely Quinn was created here, and this is the most respectful empathetic version of her.)

Michael Ansara (Mr. Freeze was also recreated here)

Stockard Channing and Angie Harmon (Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, as Commissioner of Gotham City ever critical and generally opposed to Batman's continued antics, not proven wrong entire or ever entirely swayed in this. Married to the DA, who is an African American man named Sam Young.)

Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder (Amanda Waller, the powerful government offical who is against all superheroes and their private armies, especially Batman and Superman, but it must be said she has good reasons to be. She is the most interesting character. Much more so than in the new comics.)

(Will Freedie as Terry McGinnis, Batman Beyond, the prodigal son, who might just save Batman, and maybe the world. It is most interesting because he is not lawful good, nor a paragon of virtue or any sort of work ethic.)

Plot: I should like to profile every series, but this behemoth is one I am going to only be able to tackle via examining its soul. The series at the soul of this is Batman the Animated Series and its sequel, Batman Beyond.
This is the series that started and ended the whole of the DCAU, by a happy accident I might add. It is also the third and greatest of the three great tragedies of modern animation. Unlike the other two tragedies, this one is a slow subtle decaying build of rising action that spans over almost ten seasons of television. It also happens to be a two part tragedy. The inevitable fated fall build to is also a sudden jerk that does not even span an entire episode, and yet it is still the greatest.

This is the tragedy of father. The father no matter how scary he may seem you want to hug all the same because he seems to be doing no wrong. He is there for you (Robin) and all your favorite aunts and uncles (the Justice League, Batgirl, Batwomen, Nightwing) too, always with the right advice, the right bit of information, the right action that pushes you and them. He dedicates so much of his time to helping all of us save the world, he hardly gets any for himself. What does he do with all that spare time: he says and seems to be making it so that no eight year old kid ever has to loose their parents, like he did, because of some punk with a gun.You feel safe because of this man, and yet he becomes the reason for all the dangers in the lives of those most precious to him.

Batman never once stops to question that his ruthless pummeling and incarcerating of virtually anyone who breaks the law without much remorse  mercy, compassion, or desire for reconciliation does nothing to help anyone. In fact, he seems to be under the impression that this is what directly lead to the formation of his new families, their functionality, and strengths, as oppose to his hands-off behind the scenes assistance. None of the criminals he constantly throws in the slammer get any better, in fact over the course of the show, they all get worse, but Batman cannot see this because he has mistaken mere correlation for causality in terms of how his war on crime affects the development of his family, and moreover his fourteen year old adopted son: Tim Drake, Robin.

It makes him think that he truly is protecting his family right this time, and subconsciously, it makes him feel great too. He never has to feel that weakness that helplessness he felt when his parent's died ever again, and his son, and children like him, will never have to know that pain. Unfortunately that is a lie. A lie born out of fear and pride.  There are worse pains for children to feel than loss of a parent, and worse failures for adults to experience than the helplessness of that loss. It only takes one petty clown with an interest in "adopting" a son himself, to make Batman wish it all had ended not with a bang but with a whimper.

There is a part two to this tragedy, for Batman, despite his pride, still managed to raise some of his children right. It is prodigal illegitimate  rejected son who lived most of his life as a criminal that saves father. Well not completely, but he manages to do that father could only wish to do, and recognize the better way to do it. See also: Batman's friends called Superman and the Justice League. In this tragedy, like the other three, it may be the case that morality and ethical law are torn asunder by evil's inevitability, leaving us with only the void of relativism from which to grasp at straws, but despair, while it is nothing but anguish to leave once there, is an arbitrary state of being. There is good to be found in change, in death, and even in failure, for reconciliation and faith and the solidarity renewed by them are powerful--when done right of course.

There are no super powers in the real world, and no way to stop evil from winning, or convince people to care to realize their--our mistakes--before it is too late (again), except by our own hands. If the DCAU, and Batman in particular, do all they do to show that, despite how super and or terrifying they may seem, they are still people too just seeking the same as you and I: companionship, then it may also be true that we could be the opposite. It won't come without great self-sacrifice, but I firmly believe that there may be a hero in all of us. Act to make it so.

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