When it comes to DC and their animated department, they are a force to be reckoned with. They have managed to create an entertaining animated film universe and massively successful animated series universe. But considering all of the incredible content they are produced, what are the best ones? Each of these series has made some impact on each other and has allowed one to build up on the other. That being said, there are just too many great series to talk about. Series like Justice League: Action, Super Friends, Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Static Shock. Which is why we will only be covering the top ten DC animated series.
- Harley Quinn: The Animated Series (2 Seasons, 2019-Present)
Although the animation style hasn’t changed too much from what DC has already done with their other series. The Harley Quinn series was the one of the pioneering series that kicked off the new DC Universe subscription service. Introducing an animated series with a TV-MA rating, a move that could be disastrous in some aspects. However, in the case of Harley Quinn it worked tremendously. Not only did the series push the envelope with ratings, it also introduced us to some of the many villains of DC in a clever way that stayed true to who they are such as Dr. Psycho, Kite-Man and many others. This show also took the time to rewrite and alter the personality of their already known characters, and although this might have been a bold move it ended up benefiting the series. Treating Clayface as a theater actor who is a heartwarming gentle giant and King Shark as a charismatic techno geek has elevated the series into a charming and humorous new series from DC.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold (3 Seasons, 2009-2011)
The next Batman series was launched into a new yet similar feel and style of the Silver and Golden age of Batman. Batman: The Brave and the Bold took a step back from what we are use too when it comes to Batman cartoons, considering it was coming off of the gritty yet successful series Batman: The Animated Series and The Batman. Brave and the Bold took a lighter approach that was reminiscent of Batmans comics between the 1950’s and 1960’s with a campier and brighter Batman. The series also took the opportunity to show audiences some of DC’s lesser known characters and make them popular again like Red Tornado, Guy Gardner and Detective Chimp. With new adventures every week, Batman: The Brave and the Bold had a three season run and made a genius idea of making episodes about the lesser known heroes within the first half of the series run, saving the more popular Superman, Joker and Robin for the other half.
- Superman: The Animated Series (3 Seasons, 1996-1998)
Another pioneering animated series from DC, this one was released after the successful Batman: The Animated Series, and although it didn’t find as much success as its predecessor it was still a pivotal show that lead the greater DC Animated Series. Superman: The Animated Series managed to give us the origin stories of Clark Kents growth into the Man of Steel, along with the super powered villains to battle throughout the series. The series also started cross over episodes with its brother series The New Batman Adventures and launched this as a shared universe that was created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. However, this series strayed away from the darker Batman series and lightened things up with brighter and colorful worlds of Krypton, Metropolis and Smallville. At the same time this series is was what set up the massive stories in the following series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited by creating the iconic rivalries between Superman and his villains like Lex Luthor and Darkseid.
- The Batman (6 Seasons, 2004-2008)
At the time of this series release, there was so much skepticism that came with it. This was the first Batman/Bruce Wayne centered series we had seen since the amazing Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman was such a different direction from what we are use too. Kevin Conroy was replaced by Rino Romano, and the Bruce Timm style of animation was changed to Jeff Matsuda style of art, who was just coming off of the success of Jackie Chan Adventures. However, when the show came out it quickly changed out perception of the series and initiated a variation of Batman for a new generation. Reminiscent of an anime style of art, The Batman managed to find a perfect balance of Batmans detective side with the combat heavy action we have been craving from a Batman cartoon. Along with retellings and introductions too many of Batman’s villains, the series did the same for them by revamping them into intriguing and combat efficient super villains to face this new Batman.
- Batman Beyond (3 Seasons, 1999-2001)
The follow up to The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond takes place in 2019 and focuses on an aged Bruce Wayne and his new prodigy Terry McGinnis as the new Batman in Neo Gotham. Bruce is in his mid-50’s and has hung up the cape and cowl after an encounter that forces him to use a gun to survive. When Terry is being chased by the gang The Jokerz, he finds himself cornered at Wayne Manor and assisted in battle by Bruce Wayne. When the battle is over, Terry helps Wayne inside and soon after discovers the entrance to Batcave and learning Batmans identity. Terry steals a new advanced Batsuit, but is quickly stopped by Wayne. After a mutual understanding and Waynes decision to take Terry under his wing, Terry became the new Batman and Gothams protector. Batman Beyond gave us such a fresh take on Batman, and solidified Bruce Timm and Paul Dini as important creators to the Batman landscape as they created a futuristic reality for Batman that resonated with audiences and has become canon in Batman lore.
- Teen Titans (5 Seasons, 2003-2006)
Stepping away from Timm and Dini’s world of animation, Teen Titans was a different take on superhero cartoons that we hadn’t seen at the time. Introducing viewers to the teenaged group of heroes that included Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven. Teen Titans was sometimes considered cheesier and laughable from its predecessors, but after its first season it managed to find footing and turned out to create compelling stories that had so much heart to it. One thing this show got right was focus only on the Teen Titan characters, the Justice League are nowhere to be found in this series. While that might seem like a poor choice, it ended up being brilliant since we had the chance to see the growth and development of these characters as they deal with saving the world and also what it’s like to be on your own and not rely on the heroes they came from. An incredible blend of charm and action, Teen Titans has become one of the most iconic animated series from DC that has gotten a cult following and widely demanded by fans for another season.
- Justice League Unlimited (2 Seasons, 2004-2006)
Another follow up series, this one came off the reigns of Justice League. As Justice League mainly focused on seven core members of the league, this series decided to branch out in a much bigger and deeper universe. Bringing forward heroes and villains across the entire DC Universe, Justice League Unlimited was the original show to share so many stories of characters that no one ever really knew. Creating compelling stories for Green Arrow, Black Canary and Supergirl and expanding on some of the other well-known leaguers. Justice League Unlimited also decided to go with single episode stories rather than dual episodes, and somehow managed to still have incredible story telling within only twenty minutes. The series also established just how broad the DC Animated Universe was, with appearances from its other series Static Shock, Batman Beyond and both Batman and Supermans Animated Series. It managed to wrap up and entire story that began in Superman: The Animated Series and wrap up with an explosive finale.
- Young Justice (3 Seasons, 2010-2013, 2019-Present)
Considered as one of DC’s best, Young Justice was focused on the heroes sidekicks but was nothing like the series that came before it in Teen Titans. After the series was cancelled from its two season run, it managed to gather a large following and highly requested by fans for a revival. Luckily the series was brought back on the DC Universe subscription service for a third season in 2019. The success of the series was spawned from the rich storytelling that was targeted more toward young adults rather than children. Which was later even more expanded on in the third season that was titled Young Justice: Outsiders, that followed more real world problems than just fighting super villains. Although the inclusion of the Justice League was more prominent here, it managed to work for the stories that were being told as the heroes and sidekicks faced bigger threats and more dangerous villains like Vandal Savage and The Light.
- Justice League (2 Seasons, 2001-2004)
In an effort to expand on the established universe that began with Batman and Superman, Justice League pulled off a worthy continuation to its already incredible series. Justice League saw the combined forces of Batman and Superman, while also bringing back the Flash and Green Lantern who already made appearances in Superman: The Animated Series. It continued exploring origins for the unestablished heroes in the universe for Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, as well as new carrier of the Green Lantern ring with John Stewart. The series not only had exciting action scenes, but it found a way to humanize these heroes in a way we had never seen before. The cost of being a hero and the way it effects them is prominent in this series more than any other cartoon was doing at the time. When Green Lantern has to face an intergalactic trial after being falsely accused in In Blackest Night or Superman being transported to a destroyed future and the loss of his powers, causing him to rely only on his wits and brawl in Hereafter. Just a few among the many incredible stories that take place in this astonishing series.
- Batman: The Animated Series (3 Seasons, 1992-1999)
I don’t think there is an argument among DC fans that this is the pinnacle of DC Animation. Coming off the cuffs of the 1989 hit Batman, followed by its sequel Batman Returns. Some might have thought we might have too much Batman going around, but you’d be wrong. As far as cartoons based on a franchise goes, many times they will release the cartoon to bank off of the success of its film. However, in this aspect it lead to not only one of the best cartoons ever made but one of the best television shows ever made. This series has become so influential and iconic, it has created some of the most important parts aspects to the realm of Batman. Including its reimagining of Mr. Freeze and the Mad Hatter, the creation of Harley Quinn and the universe that came from it in future series. As well as the evolution of animation through the series, as it was the first one to create its animation on black paper instead of white. Creating the dark aesthetic of Gotham City, setting the standard for what is expected out of Batmans city.