Top 10: Animated Series for Crisis on Infinite Earths

Top 10: Animated Series for Crisis on Infinite Earths by Jerry Whitworth

At the start of December, journalist Matías Lértora claimed that an animated film trilogy was in development adapting Crisis on Infinite Earths featuring the various animated incarnations of DC Comics’ assorted properties. With a history of scoring major scoops far in advance, the news media cycle picked up on the alleged project without any confirmation from Warner Bros. A rather vast concept especially when you begin to consider that live action projects like the Arrowverse/CWverse, which had its own vast Crisis on Infinite Earths, have been animated but there are certainly cartoon universes more likely than others to make it into such an endeavor. Lets take a look at what this undertaking could entail.


Developed by legendary creator Bruce Timm as a re-imagining of the trinity Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015) evoked a dark, parallel world to what he did with the DC Animated Universe. Therein, Superman is the son of General Zod, Batman is vampiric Kirk Langstrom (Man-Bat in the comics), and Wonder Woman a New God of New Genesis who act as a brutal force for good more in line with the Authority than the Justice League. Despite positive reviews, the film never saw a sequel. Given Timm’s presence in the history of animation based on DC Comics and his continued work there (such as the upcoming Batman: Caped Crusader for HBO Max), one can hardly imagine an animated Crisis on Infinite Earths without some level of input from Timm and given the excitement he had for Gods and Monsters, it would be an ideal opportunity to revisit it.


With an interest to return to a more kid friendly version of Batman in the vein of the 1966 Batman television series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold was a 2008 animated series that ran for 65 episodes across three seasons and one film. As with many of the incarnations of the comic book series The Brave and the Bold, the cartoon featured Batman teaming up with assorted heroes from across the DC Universe as well as others such as Mystery, Inc. and Space Ghost. The Justice League of this series was based on the Justice League International of the comics that included Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, Captain Marvel, and Captain Atom. Other groups such as the Justice Society of America, Outsiders, Green Lantern Corps, Doom Patrol, Mystery Analysts of Gotham, and the Marvel Family (with the Teen Titans teased) appeared. In terms of parallel Earths, there was a nod to the Crime Syndicate in the Injustice Syndicate as well as Batboy and Bat-Manga. For time travel, multiple Batmen from history emerged (including Thomas Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Damian Wayne). With such a rich catalog of characters, B:TBTB would be ripe for Crisis on Infinite Earths but may not be prominent enough to make the cut.


Where DC Comics first saw prominent animation, Fleischer Studios produced animated Superman shorts for movie theaters in 1941. The most expensive animated series of its time, seventeen shorts were made (the latter eight by Famous Studios, the remnants of Fleischer) and is considered one of the most innovative and important milestones in the history of animation. Absolutely gorgeous, the Fleischer toons helped inspire the animation industry to this day. When the iconic Batman: The Animated Series was in development, series creators cited the Fleischer Superman shorts as having a heavy influence. As such, there has to be little doubt there will be a desire to include it in a proposed animated Crisis on Infinite Earths but its only stumbling block is the relatively little content of it that was made.


The latest continuity of the animated DC films, the Tomorrowverse refers to the current series of movies including Superman: Man of Tomorrow (2020), Justice Society: World War II (2021), Batman: The Long Halloween Parts One and Two (2021), and the upcoming Green Lantern: Beware My Power. The Justice Society film introduced the multiverse to the project’s canon with Earths One and Two. A relatively new reboot of the DC animated slate, chances are good it could be the driving force of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Although, as the original limited comic series the films will adapt rebooted everything, this move would bring into question why this latest reboot is getting rebooted only a few years into its run.


Something of a roller coaster ride of an animated series from Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti beginning in 2010, Young Justice was part of the DC multiverse as Earth-16… until it wasn’t. Canceled after two seasons… until it wasn’t. Brought back for the DC Universe streaming service… until it wasn’t. And now in its fourth season on HBO Max with its future indeterminate. Telling the story of the Justice League’s teen sidekicks who didn’t form the Teen Titans but instead “the Team,” Young Justice featured a vast universe of characters and storylines making it one part super hero stories, one part space opera, and one part teen melodrama. As noted, the show was originally part of the comic book multiverse but the latest season makes a passing reference to “Earth-17” which may imply it now has its own multiverse. It also crossed over with Mystery, Inc. in Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (2014) and Teen Titans Go! Time travel also features into the cartoon with Bart Allen and the Legion of Super-Heroes making appearances. A cult classic resurrected again and again through a groundswell of fan support, chances are high that its characters could emerge in a Crisis on Infinite Earths adaptation but, as with the Tomorrowverse, brings into question its fate should such occur.


An attempt to appeal to young girls who buy Bratz and My Little Pony products, DC Super Hero Girls is a popular series of animated series currently in its second incarnation. Beginning in 2015 and centered around teenage girls attending a school for super heroes, the original series went for five seasons with 112 webisodes and five films (two of which set in the Lego multiverse). 2019 saw the series rebooted and re-imagined in the vein of the DC Nation Shorts Super Best Friends Forever. Currently in its second season with 78 episodes thus far, the show features Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Zatanna, Jessica Cruz, and Bumblebee and has already crossed over with Teen Titans Go! It also featured a few instances of time travel including the introduction of the character Night Sting. DC Super Hero Girls finds itself in a similar state as the Tomorrowverse and Young Justice in that it’s still ongoing and thus, something like Crisis on Infinite Earths could jeopardize its existence. Also, its silly nature could hurt its chances for inclusion while its prominence almost demands its use.


When people talk about cartoons based on DC Comics, chances are their first thoughts go to the Super Friends. Originally some cross between the Justice League of America and Mystery, Inc., the series initially under performed before its re-emergence due to the popularity of the Wonder Woman television series in the late ’70s. Introducing the Wonder Twins and seeing the Justice League fight various supervillains and aliens, the second run including the popular series Challenge of the Super Friends with the Legion of Doom ran for eight years with six seasons. Super Friends saw a live action adaptation in the two-part special Legends of the Superheroes which brought back Adam West as Batman, inspired Ruby-Spears’ The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show (which ended up being paired with Super Friends on TV), and nearly had a number of spin-offs including the New Teen Titans and Wonder Woman and Her Wonder Girls. When DC and Kenner produced the Super Powers toyline, two more seasons of Super Friends followed. All together, nine seasons with 93 episodes were produced across two decades (not including Batman and Robin’s appearances in The New Scooby-Doo Movies or the parody Aquaman & Friends Action Hour). Its characters also crossed over with the Powerpuff Girls in 2002 and Mystery, Inc. in the series Scooby-Doo! Team-Up (and were parodied in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law). Time travel (including Cheetah becoming Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor the Green Lantern) and the multiverse (Super Enemies from “Universe of Evil”) was involved over the course of the various seasons. It’s virtually impossible to imagine a project of this kind bringing animated DC series into a Crisis of Infinite Earths without the Super Friends.


When the original Justice League series as part of the DC Animated Universe was pitched, it featured a junior League with Robin, Impulse, and a female Cyborg. The teen heroes were pulled from the final product which left the door open for a separate Teen Titans series that ran independent but alongside Justice League and its subsequent Justice League Unlimited. Featuring Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Raven in an anime-influenced adventure series with comedic elements, the show ran for five seasons with 65 episodes and a film. The cast of characters was vast with almost every Titan in the comics (and then some) being animated at some point, the show included time travel with Starfire displaced in the future and Cyborg in the past (as the Speedy who appeared in JLU had the same character design as his Teen Titans variant).

A comedic version of the cartoon returned with the DC Nation Shorts New Teen Titans which inspired the series Teen Titans Go! Interestingly enough, TTG ended up having more staying power than its predecessor with seven seasons of 345 shorts and two films that remains ongoing today (with an upcoming spin-off called Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins to Shine). The sequel series has been a crossover machine bringing in characters from Scooby-Doo, Young Justice, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10, Steven Universe, O.K. K.O. Let’s Be Heroes!, ThunderCats Roar!, ThunderCats (1985 and 2011), DC Super Hero Girls, Beetlejuice, Freakazoid!, Space Jam (1996), Tom & Jerry, and assorted Cartoon Network properties like Adventure Time and Dexter’s Laboratory being referenced. The previous animated Titans emerged a few times with TTG‘s second film having various Titans incarnations including those they derived from as well as the DC Animated Movie Universe, Filmation, and Tiny Titans. One could almost view the 2019 film Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans as a Crisis on Multiple Earths-like precursor to an animated Crisis on Infinite Earths.


Starting in 2013 with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and ending in 2020 with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, the DC Animated Movie Universe was an attempt to create a film universe based on the 2011 reboot of DC Comics’ print titles. In many ways, the project was doomed from the start as that reboot collapsed by 2016 under a great deal of scrutiny leaving the movies to try and reconcile its continuity with the new Rebirth reboot in the comics and classic comic stories like Teen Titans: the Judas Contract, Death and Return of Superman, and Batman: Hush. The final project, Apokolips War, seemingly accepted its fate and featured an ending with the Flash going back in time to prevent the dystopian finale that emerged (apparently giving birth to the Tomorrowverse). However, in the context of a possible Crisis on Infinite Earths adaptation, the film’s ending could easily set the stage for a showdown involving multiple Earths. If not for the introduction of a multiverse in 2021’s Justice Society: World War II, one could almost see the Tomorrowverse as the post-Crisis animated universe. Though, the Arrowverse/CWverse post-Crisis has a multiverse so the rules from the comics may not so rigidly apply to adaptation.


If the Super Friends are what people think first when they think animated DC Comics, the DC Animated Universe is considered the perfection of DC Comics animation that many believe has yet to be surpassed. Starting in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series, the DCAU grew to have several branch series largely culminating with Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. It seemed as though 2006’s JLU was the end for the DCAU only to have it resurface in recent years with films like 2017’s Batman and Harley Quinn and 2019’s Justice League vs. the Fatal Five, comics in Scooby-Doo! Team Up, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, Batman: The Adventures Continue, and Justice League: Infinity, and Capstone book series like DC Super Heroes and Batman and Scooby-Doo! Mysteries. Time travel featured occasionally in the DCAU including instances with the Legion of Super-Heroes, Blackhawks, Easy Company, Justice Lords, Rough Bunch, and Batman Beyond‘s Justice League Unlimited (as the likes of the Gray Ghost and Justice Guild of America are fictional characters that nonetheless emerged). Given its regard among fans and its large re-emergence, the DCAU almost has to be a leading force in an animated Crisis on Infinite Earths. With eight TV series, six films (not including 2010’s Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths which was originally in the DCAU), two digital series, and a multitude of comics, it could fuel the cast for Crisis by itself.

Honorable mentions: Justice League Action, Harley Quinn, Filmation, Lego DC Super Heroes, Legion of Super Heroes, Krypto the Superdog, DC Nation Shorts, DC Super Friends, The Batman, Batman Unlimited, Beebo Saves Christmas (2021), Ruby-Spears Superman, Nelvana Batman, Lucifer, Wild C.A.T.s, and Gen¹³ (1998).

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