Entertainment Magazine

The Future of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation – Why Not Make Tales of Metropolis a Full Series?

Posted on the 20 January 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

There is a bit of an arms race going on between DC and Marvel on the live-action TV front right now, which you can read about elsewhere on this site (DC’s 5 shows in-development, Marvel’s Netflix deal).  However, what about animation?  Marvel is a newcomer to live-action TV, but they’ve been a longtime player in the animation game.  Even so, historically DC has kind of kicked their ass both in quality and quantity, thanks in large part to Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe (Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited) from 1992-2006.  Plus, though existing in a different continuity than Timm’s shows with a different visual style Teen Titans (2003-2006) was also capable of greatness.  Marvel was content with making fondly remembered kids cartoons (X-Men: The Animated Series, Spider-Man) that have not aged well, and awkwardly experimenting with doing CGI animation (Iron Man: Armored Adventures) on a TV budget.

As of late, Marvel kind of caught up with DC.  Though not classics of the genre, short-lived shows like Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010-2012) featured significantly improved animation, voice acting, and storytelling.  Ever since 2012, Marvel has had a good run with Ultimate Spider-Man, which looks good and continues to entertain with the way it has incorporated a self-aware, Family Guy-esque propensity for cut-away gags into a superhero show.  Unfortunately, Marvel’s two other current shows, Avengers Assemble and Hulk and Agents of S.M.A.S.H., are serious steps back hampered by a shoehorned need to better conform with the film universe.  Speaking of which, Marvel is now reportedly prepping an animated series about Guardians of the Galaxy, which would actually be kind of great since most of us know very little about that little-read comic book universe.  Since being purchased by Disney, Marvel’s shows now air on Disney XD.

DC also leverages its corporate parent, Warner Bros., to air a block of programming (DC Nation, 2012-present) every Saturday morning on Cartoon Network (owned by WB).  It started off with two half-hour shows (Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice) intercut with a variety of interesting DC Nation Shorts, i.e., 1-2 minute cartoons.  However, while both Lantern and Justice eventually won over the hardcore DC faithful they were also mercilessly screwed over by Cartoon Network, who across each show’s 2-season runs yanked them from the schedule for months at a time with no warning nor explanation.  Many would scream as loud as they could that Young Justice had become one of DC’s best ever animated shows, but if it was never on the air what did it matter.  Plus, its related comic book tie-in didn’t sell well, and ratings don’t really matter for these types of shows but instead toy sales.  Cartoon Network canceled both shows without explanation or an official declaration of cancellation, merely announcing DC Nation would be occupied in 2013 by the first ever CGI batman show (Beware the Batman) and a revival of Teen Titans called Teen Titans Go!


To freshen things up, they focused on lesser-known villains, made Alfred a gun-toting badass, and gave Batman a katana sword-wielding female sidekick

As it came time for Beware the Batman to premiere this past July, in various interviews its creators begged spurned Green Lantern and Young Justice fans to tune in because from their viewpoint they thought the animated super hero show was dying.  So, kind of a “don’t blame us but instead support us for trying to still do the type of show you like, or else there may not be many more of these” thing.  What happened?  Cartoon Network pulled Beware the Batman before the end of its first season, promising it would return January of 2014.  Well, it’s January now, and Beware the Batman is nowhere on their schedule, although unlike Lantern and Justice no fans seem to have particularly missed Beware since its early departure.  Teen Titans Go! is still alive and kicking, though its episodes are only 11 minutes long meaning each new week brings a half hour block filled with one new episode followed by a re-run.


Arguably, DC Animation is more focused on cranking out their direct-to-video films which are predominantly devoted to adapting beloved graphic novels, like Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  There are multiple DC Animated films on the way, including JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time (released exclusively at Target tomorrow), Justice League: War, Son of Batman, and Batman: Assault on Arkham, and the prior ones they’ve made have been superior to the random direct-to-video originals produced by Marvel (Ultimate Avengers, Thor: Tales of Asgard).  The problem is these DC films mostly preach to the converted.  They are missing out on opportunities to convert new young fans via TV shows.

Teen Titans Go! is the only show they have going right now, and many DC fans despise it.  The show began its life as a series of DC Nation shorts, presenting the same characters (Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy) from Teen Titans (same voice actors) but with brighter animation and slap-sticky, juvenile humor.  Now that it has become a full series, they’ve essentially taken Teen Titans and turned it into a sanitized Adult Swim show right down to the 11-minute running time, with a great many dark joke and comic book reference lost on the non-adult viewer.  It is ostensibly aimed at a younger, male audience (and on my end I can say mission accomplished since my 5-year-old nephew adores the show, quoting it regularly).

However, if Teen Titans Go! can begin as a DC Nation Short why can’t they try it again with some of their other DC Nation Shorts?  Many have raved about Robert Valley’s series of Shorts centered around a 1970s-inspired version of a modern-day Wonder Woman:

While that is a gorgeous cartoon (part 1 of 3), I highly doubt it would translate to a full TV series like Teen Titans Go!.  I mean – how do you even make toys off of that?  Why not try a different Wonder Woman animated series, though?  Unfortunately, they keep saying her DC Animated Films sold poorly so they are reluctant to again grant her her own starring vehicle (and also because kids shows crave toy sales from little boys, couldn’t care less about little girls).

Lacking that, they are now building their film universe off of Superman in Man of Steel, but there hasn’t been an animated series devoted exclusively to him since 2000.  Superman: The Animated Series probably did just about as good of a straight take on the character as you can achieve in the animated series format.  Why not go a totally direction, and show us a more comedic side?  They already did that with a series of three DC Nation Shorts called Tales of Metropolis:

This one with Jimmy Olsen manages to make Superman pretty hilarious -

This one does the same with Lois Lane, featuring Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman - 

This one also finds some humor with Bizarro, who is tailor-made for this type of humor -

Granted, most of the humor with these cartoons is derived from how compressed the action is in a 1-minute running time, allowing them to (for example) heighten Lois’ tenacious reporter tendencies.  If expanded to a 11-minute running time, this humor may not be as effective.  Plus, maybe it would be the entirely wrong tone, so out of step with the more serious live-action films.  However, Superman is a very challenging character to adapt, and these three cartoons are the most fun I’ve had with the character in a long time.

Well, that is until I saw these drawings from freelance artist Brittney Williams from a planned fanart and fan comic series to be entitled: The Daily Planet Files (via io9.com):


ku-xlarge (1)


Basically, I want to love Superman, and Tales of Metropolis and Brittney Williams’ Daily Planet Files sketches indicate that could happen.  So, will Cartoon Network make it happen, or will DC hire Brittney Williams?  Of course not.  We’ll probably just get another Batman show or something (not that there’s anything wrong with that because Batman=awesomeness).  However, as someone who consumes super heroes mostly through animated TV shows as opposed to comic books I am a bit worried that DC is starting to yield the field to Marvel.

What do you think?  Could a Tales of Metropolis show work?  Do you hate, hate, hate Teen Titans Go!?  Is Williams’ version of Lois Lane the absolute best you’ve ever seen (there is no wiggle room here)?  Let us know in the comments section.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog