Quick Looks: ‘Justice League: The First Mission’ and ‘Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero’

Tuesday night I found myself kicking around the apartment with not a whole hell of a lot to do and I stumbled on a few things that caught my eye. The first was a neat little tidbit found in the extras section of the Justice League: Season One DVD set. The second came courtesy of NetFlix and my Roku box.


When Bruce Timm and company were getting ready to pitch a Justice League cartoon to the usual animation networks they decided that they best have a bit of animation to show to the executives.

Thus, after two weeks of quick mocking up was born the promo reel called Justice League: The First Mission.

It consisted of stock shots and background reused from the Superman and Batman cartoons as well as some very quickly put together new bits of animation, which was pretty impressive considering the time frame they worked under. The one minute promo featured an action sequence of the Justice League verses a variety of DC super villains in a dialogue and sound effect free scene set to music.

But this was not the Justice League you might remember from the cartoon. Sure, it featured Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, J’onn J’onzz (looking less stylized than he ended up in the cartoon and more like the comic book version), Green Lantern (John Stewart wearing a Hal Jordan mask) and Hawkgirl. But because KidsWB was one of the target networks, they added younger heroes to the team – Robin, Impulse (replacing The Flash) and a teenage female version of Cyborg.

Justice League: The First Mission — a fascinating look into what could have been.

Funny side note? The promo footage never ended up being shown to any of the networks. Timm ended up selling the show over the phone and we ended up getting the all-adult Justice League team and cartoon and this possible version of the Justice League is forever lost to the animation ether.

UPDATE! You can check the promo our for yourself.

Thanks to wellthatsalright for combing through YouTube to find it!



In 1998, and after some minor delays in order to distance itself from Batman & Robin (the movie it was meant to capitalize on), the second Batman: The Animated Series film was released, coming in at a brisk one hour and six minutes we have Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero!

I think I saw this when it first came out but it was like ten years ago so it all seemed vaguely familiar. But then, there’s a lot of these kind of stories bouncing around in my head and it’s hard to keep track.

The plot of the film goes a little something like this: Mr. Freeze is living peacefully in some arctic region with polar bears and an adorable Eskimo kid. He spear fishes in the arctic water. He laments his cryogenically frozen love and terminally ill love, Nora. He is mostly content to be left alone. So of course the U.S. military had to go muck things up with their submarine, accidentally surfacing right through Mr. Freeze’s home, and in the process destroying Nora’s cryotube.

This, of course, means war.

Mr. Freeze kills the whole crew of the submarine and then returns to Gotham City to kidna– er, get his old doctor friend to help Nora who is now dying. Having been removed from cryostasis, Nora’s disease is advancing and now she needs an organ transplant. There is no one matching Nora’s blood type on the donor’s list, so Mr. Freeze will just have to start a-killing.

Of course, Barbara Gordon is a perfect match to Nora’s rare blood type. and why Mr. Freeze and his doctor buddy chose to kidnap the police commissioner’s daughter rather than the 16 other blood type matches is beyond me. (I thought doctors were supposed to be smart!)

You can probably figure out the rest of the plot from there.

Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero came out soon after Batman & Robin (also featuring Mr. Freeze and Batgirl–synergy!) and this film blows that one away. I mean, it blows it away and buries it 1,000 miles beneath the earth. And then it salts the earth under which it is buried so that nothing will ever grow above it.

This film features some old school animated Batman action. It’s Batman, Robin, and Batgirl teaming up together in their original Timmverse designs and there wasn’t nearly enough of the three of them working together in the series proper in that early era to satisfy me. That beginning time before everyone was redesigned with a new sleek look, and Robin and Batgirl were de-aged, is my favorite era from the cartoon and it was great to revisit it. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched any Batman episodes from that time period.

Poor Mr. Freeze. Poor, poor Mr. Freeze.

This is the old, good version of Mr. Freeze. This is the version of Mr. Freeze that will break your heart at every turn and in every episode. This is the Mr. Freeze before they redesigned him in the cartoon to look like a skeleton. In the setting of Batman: The Animated Series, Mr. Freeze is the epitome of a great villain. He is a broken hearted man trying desperately to get back what he loved and lost. He is lashing out not out of malice or hate, but out of loss and hurt. The Mr. Freeze episodes of this series were some of the most emotionally affecting of all of the Timmverse DC cartoons.

To compare Mr. Freeze here to the godawful version in Batman & Robin, as realized by Governor Schwarzenegger, is to laugh. One character is a thoroughly nuanced portrait of a broken man in pain. The other is a cartoonish buffoon. Only, in this case, it’s the live action version that’s the cartoon.

If only he had gone into politics earlier.

If I have anything bad to say about this movie it’s that they made the curious to decision to slap some awkward computer animation in over the traditional retro style that the early part of the show was known for. Anytime the Batwing was used, it was rendered with computer animation and it just looked… weird, juxtaposed over the traditional hand animation. It was just odd.

Also, at one hour and six minutes it’s a bit on the short side. It’s more like two episodes from the show smushed together into one than it is one film.

But other than those two minor quibbles I really enjoyed this movie (either for the first time or again, I’m still not quite sure) and if anything it has made me hungry for more Timmverse stories…

Perhaps it’s time to write about Batman: The Animated Series. Or maybe I should finally get around to watching Justice League Unlimited.

Or maybe I’ll take a nap.


  1. I’m eagerly looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Justice League Unlimited. I loved it. Both seasons had unifying story arcs while still giving us a very wide-ranging tour of the DC universe. C’mon, Jonah Hex! Warlord! Viking Prince! Great.

  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeUUafIh4nY – A clip of Justice League: First Mission

    Interesting, I prefer the actual series though. 

  3. I remember being excited for SubZero when it was coming out. I was about 16 at the time, just old enough for it to be a little weird for me to care about a straight-to-video cartoon movie that resembled a series I first watched when I was 12ish. I think SubZero and the New Batman Adventures (or whatever they called the revamped cartoon series) were the things that put me over the edge and made me think. "I’m not a kid anymore, but I’m going to keep watching/reading whatever I want." Ironically, I don’t think any of the cartoons since were as "adult" as the original BTAS.

  4. I always thought the computer animation was bad, but other than that, you’re right. I found it kind of embarrasing for Warner Bros. that a mere "cartoon" was so much better than their multi million dollar mega (would be) blockbuster film. As always Bruce Timm and crew get Batman more than anyone else. 


    And yes Conor, you should move on to Justice League Unlimited. It’s a fun travelouge through the DC Universe.  

  5. Conor you must must must watch JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED it’s the best work that Bruce Timm and his crew did on any TV series.  I will let you borrow mine if it speeds the process up 🙂

  6. Netflix and the Roku box rock.  I’m getting caught up on the New Doctor Who without dropping the major dollars they cost for the DVDs.

  7. I am a HUGE fan of Batman: The Animated Series.  It’s great that you mention this is the ‘good version of Mr. Freeze’.  For me, and maybe its from growing up watching the show, this series is how I picture a majority of the characters in the Bat-verse.  These are my favorite versions of so many characters including Mr. Freeze, and most especially Gordon.  The animated series Gordon will always be my favorite.

  8. Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero was such a good film. I mean the original animated series did a great job making Mr. Freeze a better character and ultimately a depressing one….But this film did a fantastic job bringing more depth to the villain. Plus I was fine with the CGI, it might’ve stood out but it was the late 90’s…so of course it’s gonna look a bit clunky.

    Are you going to watch or review ‘Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker’? That could be the best DCAU film period.

  9. @TNC: I’ve seen RETURN OF THE JOKER many times – I have both versions on DVD.  Maybe some day.

  10. Hey Conor, you really need to make the time to watch JL and JLU. They really are the best animated series for super heroes ever created. Even if you watch an episode a week. The version of Batman in the series is particularly great, especially because of Kevin Conroy doing the voice work. All the acting strong. The writing is also great and gave me very high hopes for Dwayne McDuffie on the comic because the stories he wrote for the animated series were so good. If cannot think of any series currently on TV that is consistanly better than JLU and certainly not any animated series. My wife, son, daughter and I watch an episode of the series at least once every few weeks.

  11. @MJC1964: I have watched JUSTICE LEAGUE.

  12. Hearing a big DC guy like Conor admit he hasn’t watched JLU is like hearing Bill Gates say he’s never used e-mail.

  13. @ Jim, ROTFLOL. I think all us JLU fanatics need to do a JLU intervention on Conor.

  14. Wow never watched that JL First Mission.  I would have loved a proper Bruce Timm Teen Titans/Young Justice.  Also, sadly, Mask of the Phantasm is the only good Batman TAS movie that came out but I did watch Subzero on Cartoon Network recently and enjoyed it more then my first viewing.

  15. @MJC1964: I own the DVDs.  It’s just a matter of finding time to watch them.

  16. They made that little trailer in a couple of weeks?!?  That is amazing.  I would have thought it would have taken that long just to get the character designs done.  I did notice the jagged cheekbones on Luthor and MM that did not make it into the cartoon, but popped back up in Superman v. Doomsday.

  17. jlu is one of the best cartoons ………….it was better than justice league becauce there were more dc characters involved……and unique one used by bruce timm like b’wana beast and aztec

  18. i love the dc animated universe ……….i have every single action figure figure from it ……….i love the timm style …..why would they cancel jlu??

  19. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the John Stewart GL. The only time I really liked the character was in the Green Lantern:Rebirth storyline. Most notably the scene where the JLA are in the Watchtower and John calls out Batman in front of everyone on why he dislikes Hal Jordan. 

     "You’ve always had a thing against him, haven’t you? And I finally see why. Hal is the one person in this world that didn’t buy what you were selling. Hal was the man without fear. And what is ‘The Batman’ when you’re not afraid of him? Just a man." 

  20. Justice League Unlimited next please

  21. captamerica101 (@Autobot_Hunter) says:

    @lantern4life: I love mask of the phantasm.

  22. To be fair JLU starts off pretty clunky, but ends up matching the excellence of JL, especially after McDuffie fully takes charge.

  23. @jets

    From what I understand it was pretty expensive to produce and the ratings didn’t justify the expense.

  24. The Timm stuff is so fantastic.  I can never have enough of it.

  25. I really like JL and thought I wouldn’t like JLU cause there would be too many characters. I was proven wrong, it’s a great series that only get better and better. It has many great moments, alot of them with the Flash (maybe m bias cause I’m a flash fan). I still think Batman: TAS is the best written out of the Bruce Timm a shows.

  26. Why does everyone have some sort of beef with the later redesigned Batman episodes? The animation was slicker and not so stiff and I even felt some of the redesigns looked better, Batman/Bruce in particular now looked leaner and darker, Scarecrow looked creepy for once, Penguin looked more traditional, and Catwoman just looks better in black and with black hair(I love Michelle Pfeiffer but I hated how they designed the animated Selina after her)

     And the characters weren’t de-aged, if anything it was only because Jason became the new Robin(I dnot care if they call him Tim, that was Jason!)

  27. @DArkKnightDetective: Prefering one thing over another does not mean you dislike the other, or have a "beef" with it.  It’s just preference.  And the new Barbara was definitely de-aged in her appearance.

  28. @ darkknightdetective: i agree ……….bruce timm did change them for the better with the exception of joker …….i did not like the coloring in his eyes

  29. @ultimatehoratio: its a shame WB is wasting money on shows like batman brave and the bold ………..its down right awful …………..they should bring back jlu ………i think now with the action figures selling so well they would have a huge market for it . (again)

  30. @ultimatehoratio: and dvd sales


  31. I always thought a DVD movie done CGI in the style of JL opening credits would look pretty cool…it was quite ironic how the Timmverse seemed to have a better handle on how to approach characters that were being used in the DCU than how they were being used in the comics themselves…Oh my vote for an up coming DVD movie would be New Gods…I loved the Mister Miracle episode!

  32. @supertrack monkey: I would say you should check out Green Lantern: Mosaic, but it’s not traded and it’s really crazy. still one of my favorite series though, and my favorite interpretation of John Stewart.

  33. @John42 I think I remember that series, oh man it was weird and John Stewart was pretty creepy. My 10 year old mind couldn’t handle it.

  34. I watched Sub Zero and Mask of the Phantasm when I was a kid but can’t remember the occasion – whether it was on tv or what, but it was very good. I rewatched Phantasm and need to rewatch Sub Zero.

    It would be interesting to rewatch Batman Beyond and I definitely need to watch Return of the Joker.

  35. @ Conor, you will definitely have to make a post after you’ve watched JLU.  I’m surprised you’ve never seen it.  A fan of the DC Universe, such as yourself, ought to love the show.  The first season, with the Cadmus arc, is particularly good.  Despite the breadth of chararcters introduced, Timm & Co. did an outstanding job of developing several characters very well.  Green Arrow & the Question were probably my personal favorites. 

  36. i remember renting batma: sub zero and was so excited. mask of the phantasm was so scary when i was little.