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Why JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED Deserves a Revival

With the news of Zack Snyder’s long-awaited cut of Justice League coming to HBO Max, it’s got me thinking about another fan movement to get a different Justice League property back on the pop culture radar. I am speaking of the animated Justice League Unlimited series, for which the #JLReunion hashtag has been gaining momentum for years on social media, pushing for a comeback of the series of some kind. And it’s not only devoted fans behind this potential return, but also the entire original voice cast.

Why JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED Should Be the Next Big Revival_1

Warner Bros. Animation

When Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Paul Dini began what would become the DC Animated Universe (DCAU for short) with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, it changed how superhero animation was perceived. In the following years, they extended the universe with Superman: The Animated Series, and then The New Batman Adventures. In 1999, they took us to the future with Batman Beyond, which established the idea of a DCAU version of the Justice League. From that moment forward, fans begged for a proper Justice League animated series. In 2001, Timm and company delivered.

A Brief History of the Animated Justice League
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Warner Bros. Animation

Although a proposal for a Justice League cartoon was created for Kid’s WB in the early 2000s, that was more kid-cetric, and with several teenage characters. It ultimately went nowhere, although that brief presentation is available online. In 2001, Cartoon Network ordered a version of the series that was far more akin to what comics fans knew and loved. The first two seasons of Justice League focused on the classic comic book line-up, with a few tweaks. Hawkgirl replaced Aquaman in the “Big 7,” although the King of Atlantis would appear frequently.

While Batman and Superman’s show’s focused on their respective corners of the DC Universe, Justice League went in whole hog on almost the entire DC Comics canon. It was a DC Comics fan’s dream come true, and as such was a hit with viewers young and old. Of course, the through line for all these different shows over the years was Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman. He provided the primary character journey throughout the entire 14 years of the DCAU.

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Warner Bros. Animation

As each season progressed, the show’s roster enveloped dozens of other heroes from the comics. It formally became Justice League Unlimited in season three, and became much more sophisticated in its storytelling. It drew from the legacy of all the prior DCAU shows to create something wonderful, and perhaps the best, most streamlined version of the DC universe ever. It has been suggested by some fans that the MCU was inspired by how the DC animated universe operated. Although that’s never been confirmed by anyone, it certainly feels as if Kevin Fegie and company took a page out of DC’s playbook.

Why JLU Should Return
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Warner Bros. Animation

So why bring Justice League Unlimited back now? Is it just for nostalgia’s sake? Well, that’s undeniably a part of it. But more than that, the series should come back because, even some 15 years since it left the airwaves, it’s still the best representation of the DC Universe in any media outside of comics. I say this with no shade meant towards the CW Arrowverse or the DCEU. Unlike those properties, this is one version of the DC heroes that is pretty much accessible to almost all ages. This is a version almost every DC fan can get behind.

Another reason for a proper revival is that when JLU was being produced in the early 2000s, they were somewhat limited as far as the DC Comics characters they could use. Because of the 2004 animated series The Batman, the producers of JLU were only allowed to use the Kevin Conroy version of the Dark Knight and no other Bat-family characters or villains (at least past the initial pre-The Batman seasons). No Nightwing, no Robin, no Catwoman, and so on.

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Warner Bros. Animation

There were also several iconic Justice League heroes like Blue Beetle, Firestorm, and Plastic Man that were off limits to the producers for one reason or another. Those rules no longer apply, so a new JLU could welcome the entire cast of DC comics characters at last. We know those old rules are no longer valid in regards to certain characters because the most recent Justice League Action series (aimed at younger viewers) was allowed to use them.

A new season of JLU could also serve as a “stealth” Batman: The Animated Series revival. At least certain episodes could scratch that itch. While the original BTAS might be too sacred of a cow to revive (and too “of its time” in a way JLU isn’t), the next best thing could be solo episodes focusing on Batman and other Bat-family members having an adventure in Gotham City. And fans would certainly go wild for it.

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Warner Bros. Animation

Also, a move to HBO Max or DC Universe (or both) could facilitate even more sophisticated storytelling and serialization than the old Cartoon Network show did. A move like this would allow for something more akin to the DC Universe’s Young Justice series. That said, it should still retain its all-ages style—we’re not suggesting lots of blood or cussing (we’ve got the Harley Quinn show for all that)—simply something that takes the series to another level in its narrative, certainly more than they could have accomplished back in the old days.

Why JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED Should Be the Next Big Revival_1

Warner Bros. Animation

Though we might entertain the idea of rebooting the series as a movie, JLU worked best as long-form storytelling. A mini-reunion did take place in the animated film Justice League Vs. The Fatal Five, which came out last year, but not all of the main cast came back for that one. That was a fun little movie, but mainly served to whet our appetites for more. Hopefully, it’s but a precursor to something more substantial.

With Zack Snyder’s Justice League coming to the service in 2021, it would be wise to have another high profile Justice League project to go along with. And given the high amount of fans for the DCAU, this could bring in even more subscribers to the service. We’re not sure if Bruce Timm and the other JLU writers and producers are as down for a revival as the voice cast is, but even if they are not, there are others who could pick up the baton and run with it. The 20th anniversary of the series is coming in 2021, and honestly a return in some form would be the greatest way to celebrate.

Featured Image: Warner Bros. Animation