Looking at the movies based on DC comics, including the ones most people probably forget unless they’re comic fans that are adapted from Vertigo titles and other imprints, if you were to call that a movie universe it doesn’t fit that definition much. They’re all mostly just individual characters set in their own worlds and stories. With the Batman late 80’s/90’s movie quadrilogy and the Nolan trilogy a movie universe could have been expanded or built on that, but in the end that didn’t happen. In the Burton/Schumacher movies the only tie really was the same actors playing Alfred and Commissioner Gordon in Batman and Robin there is a scene between Batman and Robin where Superman is mentioned by Batman, but that’s about it.
With DC finally giving us a movie universe starting with Man of Steel and now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice it is off to a rocky start that I would best call a blueprint missing critical components. Also with their upcoming movies I think this one is here to stay even if what happens after the Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman movies feels pretty much up in the air in terms of what there movie universe will look like after those two movies. With how far ahead Marvel is and how well their more planned approach to the MCU has been for the fans, audiences and the box office returns I can understand why DC would want to go for a less planned and different feel and toned movie universe approach. However there is a better way to go.
In other mediums in what feels like a long time ago, TV and animation based on DC comics have pulled off universes with multiple characters and more thought towards the continuity. First on TV excluding animation for the moment back in the year 2001 Smallville aired its very first episode and aired the final episode in 2011. The show was basically a Superman origins and prequel TV show but it did grow to become more than that. Since it would go on to bring in characters that existed in that shows world and continuity such as Supergirl, Green Arrow, Aquaman and even ones more recognizable to comic book fans such as Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. Since then we have characters like Green Arrow and Supergirl who have gotten their own shows and now on the CW Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow are all set in the same universe. To sum all this up, DC has shown on TV in that medium they can do it and that also ties into animation based on DC comics.
In the 90’s Batman the Animated Series first aired a show Paul Dini and Bruce Timm developed and throughout its run worked on. That show led to Superman the animated series, Batman Beyond and Justice League the animated series which Dini and Timm also worked on. The animated TV shows Static Shock and the Zeta Project are also part of that same universe and continuity. Having watched all of Batman the Animated Series, Superman and Justice League including Justice League Unlimited, I’m convinced they, along with DC’s recent TV shows, are capable of creating universes and worlds outside there comic book one that DC comics fans and comic book fans want. These shows are not just thrown together but do interesting and compelling things with the source material and characters. Now put your imagination hats on and I will list what we could see and why Bruce Timm and Paul Dini should be writers, producers, creative consultants or have some kind of involvement guiding the still freshmen DC movie universe. Here are four reasons why they should be involved right now and to pretend for a moment on another earth/dimension with whatever happens next after the Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman movie.
Understanding the characters
When Batman the Animated Series came out in 1992, Batman had been on the big screen in Batman Returns and before that Batman 1989. Batman had appeared before that in other movies and animation. The animated series version of Batman drew inspiration from other sources but really ended up having its own unique and innovative take on Batman. The show explored his parent’s death, him outside the costume as Bruce Wayne but overall and heavily among several reasons because of how good Kevin Conroy’s voice acting was he is one of my all-time favorite and best portrayals of Batman. His Batman is at times dark, gritty and brooding but managed to still be likable, have sense of humor and would occasionally even smile.
Later with Superman the animated series they created a Superman that was shown as an opposite to their Batman but one that was still heroic, had good voice acting, and was likable. In Justice League the animated series while the same Batman and Superman were carried over as team members with some visual tweaks the show gave screen time to lesser known characters to some viewers such as Green Lantern John Stewart, Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl. A Justice League movie in the current universe would likely have a lineup based more around the new 52 league which is why it would have newer Justice league member Cyborg in it. However, because of how well those characters worked in that animated universe, I would be much more excited as a fan even if it was only saved for an end of the movie tease or reveal in future movies if we got something setting up John Stewart, Martian Manhunter or Hawkgirl as future Justice League members.
This shows that those two talented people could, even if they had to use characters from the new 52 side of things based on their past credits, could bring something unique to them. They would make them interesting, compelling, heroic, and exciting to the fans, and accessible to a broader audience.
Managing the supporting characters
In Batman the Animated Series there are episodes that have villains not from any of the source material that if the show was instead made as a monthly comic book series, certain ones would be pretty forgettable. Generally though the show excelled at giving Batman worthy and strong in terms of character adversaries. As examples I would point to Mr. Freeze and Two-Face on Batman the Animated Series. The show managed to make Mr. Freeze a powerful and serious foe to Batman, but one that was shown to actually be sympathetic in his first appearance and episode on the show. My other example is Two-Face. On the show we see him when he is Harvey Dent, his friendship with Bruce Wayne, and how he tries to suppress his literal dark side. It made the two part episode where his face is scarred and he becomes permanently changed a memorable, powerful, sad and tragic moment in the series. Although after that on the show he turns into a full villain with that other part of him gone it isn’t forgotten because that dramatic plot thread in a later episode is revisited.
Batman the Animated Series did add to Batman continuity with how the Gotham City police department was used and shown on the show. With characters like Commissioner Gordon who is an important recurring character on the show. The show also made other Gotham Police department members recurring characters like Renee Montoya and detective Harvey Bullock. There was even an episode where someone is out to get Bullock and he decides despite being opposed to him, asks Batman for help. Timm and Dini could develop, shape or manage to really pick the right villains for the movies and maybe even make the supporting characters shine even more. A DC comics movie that delivered the heroes, villain and supporting characters would help bring more real competition to the movies coming out from Marvel Studios and attract the fans.
The potential for something new.
Both guys created Harley Quinn who has now more fans, cosplayers, and more actresses that have played her since her first appearance in the year 1992 than just about anyone. On Superman the animated series Bruce Timm created Livewire, a villain with electricity based super powers, and she has since then appeared outside that show in the comic books and in other mediums. If Timm and Dini were guiding the new DC movie universe their credits show they are more than talented and creative enough to create some sort of brand new character, something I feel the DC movies could use because while I am excited to see the first ever movie appearance of Harley Quinn this summer and think Will Smith as Deadshot could be awesome, it would be something to attract DC comics fans and potentially some Marvel comics ones as well.
Lending the animated series ideas to the films
This one happening may be a long shot but I would be geeking out seeing some of what was shown in animation on the big screen. For examples there are two from Batman the Animated Series. The first is from the episode “Over the Edge”, one of my favorites that I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t seen it. Even seeing just elements of the basic plot if done right would be pretty amazing to see. The other example is Tim Drake as Robin. The only Robin shown in live action has been Dick Grayson. In the animated series he is a younger Robin, teams up with Batman while he is still a kid, and overall feels different from that show’s previous Robin. So if this DC movie universe at some point had a Tim Drake Robin, it would be a fresh direction to go.
Though the recent shake-up helps, Warner Brothers Should be begging and pleading for Dini and Timm to be involved with the current movie universe. Until then there is the Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman movies which still have a chance to be what fans want or do better critically however we will see what the future brings after that.