Feb. 29 saw the release of the latest offering from DC Animated films, Justice League: Doom. If there’s one thing that DC has cornered the market on, it’s the animated adaptations of beloved comic-book story lines that come out on Blu-ray and DVD once or twice a year like clockwork.
Justice League: Doom is an adaptation of the popular Tower of Babel story line that was published in Justice League of America #43-46, written by Mark Waid. The story begins with a group of supervillains neutralizing the entire Justice League. How could they do this, you ask? Well, Batman keeps a file on how to best defeat every hero in the Justice League in case they go rogue—and when those files are stolen, the villains have Batman’s brilliant contingency plans to defeat every super-powered hero in the world, paving the way for their global domination.
This particular feature-length cartoon brings the action to life in a way that is compelling on the highest planes of geek awareness. There were moments in the film where I had a tear in my eye; it was so true to the spirit of the characters and stories and there was so much at stake. Since it brought back the voice talents of Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy—the most recognized animated voices of Superman and Batman from the ’90s cartoons—and added Nathan Fillion as The Green Lantern, the voice acting lends the film the gravitas it needs to make you believe the fate of the world is at stake. I’ve enjoyed most of the DC Universe’s animated films, but this one truly feels like the pièce de résistance.
DC has even been able to improve on some of my least favorite comic story lines and turn them into my favorite animated films of all time. Batman: Under the Hood is a perfect example. The comic documents the death and return of Jason Todd, the second orphan to pick up the mantle of Robin. Todd had been dead in comics for two decades when they brought him back, and I felt betrayed by the decision. But the animated film, Batman: Under the Red Hood, helped me divorce that fanboy mentality and enjoy the movie as a one-off. It’s a brutal story about Batman’s single largest and most defining failure, and the animated film is near flawless in its improvement over the original material.
Another character who seems like he’ll never make it to the big screen in a live-action format, but was translated flawlessly by DC’s animation department, was Captain Marvel (whom you might know as Shazam!). Teaming him up with Superman, Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam tells the origin of the young, homeless Billy Batson who receives the power of the gods when he says his secret word, turning him into Captain Marvel. The character could be cheesy, but this film handled him with terrific effectiveness.
And if you’re going to watch a Green Lantern film, ignore the abysmal live-action version with Ryan Reynolds from 2011. Instead, pick up the animated Green Lantern: First Flight. It’s actually a well-told story that gives you a real taste of what the comics are like, and why people love the character so much.
There is so much to love in these films, and most of them are available instantly on Netflix. You should definitely give them a chance, especially if you’ve loved the summer-blockbuster versions and haven’t crossed over into reading comic books. These animated films might just make up your mind to do it.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.