DC Histories: Animated DCU Tie-Ins

These DC Histories are an attempt to showcase a specific character who has a book out in a given week. It gives a nice structure to these things and allows people to talk about a character they’re already excited to read new stories about. This works fine, most of the time. But what do we do when DC has a week like this one? I mean, look at it. It’s a pretty anemic lot of DC comics.  On weeks like this, I have to think outside the box a little bit. When scouring the solicits, I spotted Green Lantern: The Animated Series #0. Sounds like a great topic to me! So, strap in because we’re talking about the DC History of the animated DCU tie-ins.

Batman: The Animated Series hit the comics and cartoon communities like a bomb in 1992. It looked like no other cartoon on television. Its dark landscapes and moonlit settings were offset by smooth animation and more mature stories. Its Batman was a dark and broody character with few similarities to the often remembered 1960s Adam West version. It was as much inspired by Tim Burton’s then-current Batman movies as it was by the 1940s Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons. It was a hit.

The Batman Adventures (Vol. 1) #1 (1992)

To capitalize on the new cartoon, DC launched a new Batman title. The Batman Adventures arrived in late-1992. It mirrored the character models and story style of the cartoon. Batman worked alone for much of the time. When he did have a partner, Robin was Dick Grayson, not Tim Drake. Most of the stories were stand-alone, done-in-one tales so readers could pick up a random issue and get a full story.

The first six issues of the series was just okay. Beginning with issue #7, when penciller Mike Parobeck was paired with inker Rick Burchett, the art really sang. Parobeck’s naturally cartoony style dovetailed nicely with the character designs of Bruce Timm. This version of Batman on paper was every bit as dynamic as the one seen on television.

From The Batman Adventures (Vol. 1) #9 (1993)

An early favorite in The Animated Series was the new character of Harley Quinn. Debuting in a 1992 episode of the series, Harley began as just another henchman of the Joker’s. She quickly gained fans among viewers. When Paul Dini and Bruce Timm got together to finally tell her origin story, they decided to do it in comic book form. The Batman Adventures: Mad Love came to comic shops in 1994. While it ended with a fight between Batman and the Joker, its most memorable scene came in the middle. Harley, originally a psychologist at Arkham Asylum, sat down for a one-on-one session with the Joker.

From The Batman Adventures: Mad Love (1994)

This story would make its way into animation in 1999, though I prefer the comic book version. Seeing Bruce Timm do interiors is something special.

The comic book format also allowed writers to create sequels to stories that they didn’t have the time or inclination to do in animation. For instance, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm may have been the best theatrical Batman movie in the ’90s, but it never had an animated follow-up. Paul Dini would revisit the Phantasm years later, though the story didn’t quite live up to the cover image.

Batman and Robin Adventures Annual #1 (1996) Cover

In 1996, Warner Brothers Animation expanded upon its DCU franchise by releasing Superman: The Animated Series. Just like the Batman series before it, the animated version of Superman gained his own comic series. The Superman Adventures featured art in the animated style along with issue-long stories.

From Superman Adventures #2 (1996)

With the success of both of these animated shows and their respective comic book series, DC decided to do something new. In 1997, Adventures in the DC Universe‘s first issue hit stands. It tried to fit inside the continuity of the two cartoon series, who had shown in two episodes of Superman: The Animated Series to be existing in the same world. However, since Justice League hadn’t yet been developed, the animated Justice League wasn’t in canon yet. So, the writers and editors at DC just stuck Grant Morrison’s JLA team into an animated style for this series’ debut issue.

From Adventures in the DC Universe #1 (1997)

The JLA only appeared in the first issue. Later issues would feature other characters, some of whom never appeared in any animated DCU episodes. It was nice to see characters like Connor Hawke and Impulse in these pages even if they never had any screen time.

From Adventures in the DC Universe #13 (1998)

As each successive animated DCU television program was canceled and new ones began, the comics followed suit. When Batman’s animated look changed in 1998, a new series titled Batman: Gotham Adventures was launched which reflected the new status quo and character models.

From Batman: Gotham Adventures #1 (1998)

When the TV show Justice League was finally made in 2001, fans got a second shot at seeing these characters expressed in a simple, easily accessible style. Justice League Adventures launched that same year and it featured the official canon of animated Justice Leaguers.

Justice League Adventures #11 (2002) Cover

This pattern was followed for the next decade. When Teen Titans launched, Teen Titans Go! hit stands. Batman Beyond had both a six-issue miniseries and an ongoing series during that time period. Justice League Unlimited had a self-titled comic book. Synergy was everywhere.

As both the cover to Justice League Adventures #11 and the recent Free Comic Book Day adventure of Young Justice make very clear, the comics were always there to support the television show. They might be great reading on their own, but they aren’t above advertising the show on which they are based. This never made much sense to me as there are far, far more viewers of each of these television shows than there are readers of these comics. You’d think the shows would mention the comics, but I’ve never seen that happen.

From FCBD 2011 Young Justice Batman BB Super Sampler #1 (2011)

Currently, there are two ongoing animated DCU tie-ins. Neither are an official part of the New 52, as they’re relegated to the Johnny DC imprint. There’s Young Justice and The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is based on what very well may be my favorite version of Batman ever put on screen. The Batman Beyond universe is returning with the release of Batman Beyond Unlimited in February. And, of course, Green Lantern: The Animated Series should be in comic stores when the series returns to Cartoon Network early next year.

If you enjoy any of these animated series, check these comics out. Don’t be put off by the “all ages” feel to these stories. They’re meant to be read by fans of the various series, no matter their age.

And track down those Mike Parobeck/ Rick Burchett issues of The Batman Adventures. You’ll thank me later.


Jeff Reid needs to finally get that last season of Batman Beyond that he doesn’t own. Remind him to do so on Twitter.


  1. I always hated Lois Lane’s skirt in Superman: The Animated Series. What is it a bunch of pleats? It barely matches her outfit.

  2. Comprehensive, informative and entertaining. Great article.

  3. I need to track down those issues or trades or something for the Batman Animated and Superman Animated stuff. I just loved those shows, and i wasn’t really reading comics actively at that time. I think that could be a really good time if i can find this stuff.

  4. I wish I had known about these as a kid.

  5. BATMAN ADVENTURES and BATMAN AND ROBIN ADVENTURES were two of the best books in the 1990s. Fantastically fun all ages comics.


  6. Are any of these available as digital collections?

    • Some are. The first year of The Batman Adventures and Superman Adventures are available along with a good chunk of Batman Beyond. It’s not comprehensive though. There’s plenty that DC hasn’t gotten around to digitizing yet.

    • Thats cool. I might have to do a looksee for that. We really need a complete Jedi Library Archive for all of this stuff. =)

  7. I really don’t have interest in the Animated tie-in but the 90’s Batman stuff looked great. I wouldn’t mind reading those sometime. I remember reading the X-Men tie-ins and they were not that good.

  8. These books were great, and to my surprise they hold up fine today. Anyone who’s reading the current Daredevil book and likes its more bombastic flavor (intricate vivid colors, panel layouts, old-school sound effects etc.) really ought to check out the ‘Batman Adventures’ and ‘Batman and Robin Adventures’ back issues.

  9. Growing up I loved these comics. I still have some of my old issues, and can occasionally find one here and there (usually at The Goodwill or Out of the Closet, rarely at comic shops. Go figure.) And every time they are great. I still have the cover to issue 21 of Batman Adventures burned into my mind. If no one knows what I’m talking about… go google that.

    These series are the perfect series to go digital. Tracking them all down would take a while (believe me, I have tried).

  10. I have a few of the early issues of The Batman Adventures comic, some of the first comics I ever bought. The Animated series definately made me want to buy these as the artwork is so similar.

    Looking forward to another DC History article.

  11. I love the Superman digests with Mark Millar issues. Those are really fun Superman stories. I hope DC collects those in a hardcover one day.

    I also like Dini & Timm’s Harley & Ivy mini series.

    Ed Brubaker has a fantastic story in Batman: Gotham Adventures #33.

  12. I lost most if not all of my Adventures in the DC Universe comics in the water heater incident I have mentioned a few times on here. Man those hurt to lose!

  13. After I read and absolutely loved Superman Red Son I just knew I had to check out Mark Millars run of Superman Adventures and man oh man those were some really fun comics, say what you will about Millar but if theres one thing he can do, its definitely writing some good Superman stories. And while I have a few Batman Adventures issues here and there, I guess I never paid as much attention to them as I should have since they were always solid fun stories.

  14. I didn’t notice this until now. I did read Batman Beyond and I was tempted to read Young Justice, but I changed my mind.

  15. I also really enjoyed the series based on the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon.