Franchise / DCAU

Earth's mightiest heroes. No, not those mightiest heroes.

Short for DC Animated Universe, a group of animated series based on DC Comics characters and, unlike other DC adaptations, all sharing the same continuity.

Batman: The Animated Series began first, intended as something of a tie-in with Batman Returns but with its own distinct canon and take on the mythos and airing on the Fox Kids network. The high quality animation, scripting and voice work received near instant praise, helping to redefine Batman to the general public as neither the campy Adam West Batman or the ultra dark Michael Keaton Batman, but as someone who often has to protect his Rogues Gallery from themselves. The specific character design is referred to as Timm Style, and has been very influential with elements based on it seen in many western animation action shows. After 85 episodes over 3 seasons (65 episodes in the first season alone, generally unheard of) the show ended in 1995. Soon afterward, the same creators went on to make Superman: The Animated Series for the Kids WB network, featuring a similar but more streamlined art style. When the license to BTAS on Fox Kids expired, they went on to make a Sequel Series called The New Batman Adventures, which in practice was more of a revival and featured a massive art redesign to match up with STAS.

The inevitable crossover occurred with World's Finest, which teamed Batman and Superman against the Joker and Lex Luthor and firmly placed them in a Shared Universe. After several more crossovers, both shows ended about the same time in 1999, when Batman Beyond came on to take their place. While initially diversive for its premise as a teenage Batman in the future mentored by an elderly Bruce Wayne, Beyond was able to continue the legacy of the prior shows and had many standout moments of its own. In fact, an episode featuring a future version of the Justice League proved popular enough that Cartoon Network made an order for the production to create Justice League in 2001. For this new show Justice League introduces what can be considered a third Timm Style revamp, an attempt to include more individuality between characters that was lost with the streamlined design. With two seasons showcasing seven core members of the league, the production staff made a massive retool for the following season to include dozens of characters never before seen in the DCAU, rebranding itself Justice League Unlimited. After another couple of seasons, reaching the absolute height of ambition to showcase the entire DC Comics roster, the DCAU officially ended in 2006.

There are two other shows that take place in the same universe but are considered more of on the fringe than being a core series. The first is Static Shock, based on the comics character Static and initially taking place in its own continuity (there is a reference to Superman as a fictional character in an early episode) but eventually having modern day Batman, modern day Justice League and Batman Beyond via Time Travel appearances, and he appears in Justice League Unlimited in another time travel story. The second is The Zeta Project, which was a Spin-Off inspired by a standalone episode of Beyond about a shapeshifting android assassin gaining a conscience and his struggles to avoid his handlers who want to reprogram him, unique in that it features entirely original characters and stories, excepting a later Batman Beyond crossover. Neither show was as successful as the primary shows, but had its fans.

It is generally accepted that the DCAU includes:

Webseries based on DCAU cartoons:

Comic Books set in the DCAU include:
  • Adventures in the DC Universenote 
  • Batman Beyondnote 
  • The Batman Adventures
  • The Superman Adventures
  • Justice League Adventures
  • Justice League Beyond
  • Justice League Unlimited

Video Games based on the DCAU:
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • The Adventures of Batman and Robin
  • Superman 64
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
  • Batman: Chaos in Gotham
  • Batman: Gotham City Racer
  • Batman: Vengeance
  • Superman: Shadows of Apokolips
  • Justice League: Injustice for All
  • Superman: Countdown to Apokolips
  • Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu
  • Justice League: Chronicles

The DCAU is sometimes referred to as the "Timmverse" (after character designer Bruce Timm) or the "Diniverse" (after writer Paul Dini). Some purists argue that "Timmverse" is more appropriate, as Bruce Timm was a more consistent creative force in the various shows than Paul Dini, who left before the end of it. Rather more to the point, Dini is a writer, not a character designer. Timm, who is a character designer, is the one responsible for the "standard DCAU art style". On the other hand, the writing of the DCAU is as notable as the art, plus the name is catchier (having three syllables and all). On the other hand, Paul Dini was just the foremost of several writers and worked for Alan Burnett, who thus technically had more to do with the managing of the DCAU than Dini did. The debate continues.

The DCAU ended production with the final episode of Justice League Unlimited. However, its influence continues to this day both in Comics and Western Animation, and due to the distinct art style of the 'verse (aka Timm Style) being applied to later animated adaptations of The DCU, other properties are frequently and incorrectly cited as part of the DCAU. The DC Universe Animated Original Movies is something of a Spiritual Successor, featuring many of the same production staff with a similar design aesthetic and story tone, but are mostly in their own self-contained universes.

Tropes named or made by the DCAU:

Tropes present in the DCAU shows:

  • Adaptation Distillation: All DCAU shows took the best parts of all DC Comics elements and modernized them.
  • Art Evolution: The universe as a whole steadily improved in animation with each new show.
  • Art Shift: Was done with The New Batman Adventures in order to tie it in with Superman: The Animated Series, as well as make it easier to keep characters On Model.
  • Bookends:
    • The first superhero ever seen in the DCAU was Batman. The last hero in the final Curtain Call at the end of Justice League Unlimited is Batman.
    • The final scene in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epiologue" mirrored the first shot of the very first Batman: The Animated Series episode, with the episode being written before the series was renewed for its third & final season. Whilst it didn't end up book ending the DCAU (at least, not by our chronology), it did book end the first shot of BTAS with the final shot of the future Batman.
  • Continuity Snarl: The tie-in comics are least until an actual episode of one of the series contradicts them. This has resulted in discrepancies in characterization and origin for several characters, including Superman, Catman, and Huntress.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted in most cases, making the DCAU cartoons unique among TV shows of the '90s era. Although it's pretty rare for anyone (other than Superman) to actually get shot, as most bad guys who use guns seem to have graduated from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Well...
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Compiled here (as well as Curses Cut Short). The only one that doesn't count is the Lobo series because it is very R-rated.
  • Growing with the Audience: Especially Justice League Unlimited.
  • Leitmotif: A constant element of the universe's musical scores - Batman: The Animated Series famously had motifs for every major character, including full themes for every member of his rogues gallery. Superman had them less often, but most villains and heroes still had their own themes. The most famous themes from both of these shows remained with the characters for the entirety of the DCAU, and this practice continued on to Justice League and Unlimited, which gave several of the most important heroes themes.
  • Motif Merger: In the animated DCAU crossover movie "World's Finest", the Bat-Signal (Batman's emblem) is broadcast onto the globe on top of the Daily Planet Building (Superman's).
  • Ruritania: Kaznia, a Balkan nation that is referred to multiple times in several DCAU shows.
  • Story Arc: Superman TAS and Justice League (Unlimited) were very arc-based in structure.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The vast majority of episodes set within the DCAU end with the villain's hideout exploding, for reasons ranging from self-destruct devices to joy buzzers falling into loose wiring.
  • Timm Style: Trope Namer, Maker, and Codifier.

Alternative Title(s): Dini Verse, The DCAU, DC Animated Universe