This year, DC is releasing one animated team-up movie (Justice League: Throne of Atlantis), one animated Batman movie (Batman vs. Robin) and one animated non-canon movie (Justice League: Gods and Monsters). Seeing as Batman's animated features tend to make a good amount of money and there's so many great Bruce Wayne stories to pull from, we had some fun and wrote an article about what we'd like to see in Batman's animated future. It was especially fitting since Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, was our Character of the Month at the time. The objective was to say why the Death of Robin and Robin Rises could be quite awesome as a 2-part feature (the approach certainly worked for The Dark Knight Returns), and, if you're not a fan of the idea, we wanted to know which other Dark Knight stories you'd like to see serve as inspiration for future projects. While some discussed the idea and presented other Batman stories, a number of readers said they're tired of seeing Batman getting so much attention. While discussing the subject with several Viners, I had an epiphany: DC Animated projects are trying to offer more variety. It may not be as fast as some of you would like, but it seems like they're attempting to explore the universe and all that is has to offer. Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is proof of this.
The limited amount of movies per year means we won't get a flood of non-Batman movies, but based on this month's upcoming movie, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and the past few years of animated movies, it looks like they're at least trying to show us more of the DC universe. Yes, they'll continue to give us more Batman and understandably so (not only does he sell, but there's so many excellent stories to draw from, especially now that Damian Wayne is in the universe), but there's hope the future of DC's animated projects will become more and more diverse. Last year, the Suicide Squad -- a team that has appeared in Arrow and now has a movie on the way -- received their own feature. Yeah, Batman was on the cover and his name was in the title, but having a movie in the Arkham franchise's world without Batman would be a little odd. That said, this wasn't Batman's story. He plays a role and gets a fair amount of time, but this one was all about the Suicide Squad. Deadshot received more love than the others and popular characters like Harley Quinn and Joker were present, but this was a great way to introduce casual fans to more characters and maybe -- just maybe -- motivate them to do more research about these villains or pick up one of their must read stories. It's important to keep in mind this movie was released before the Suicide Squad movie was announced, so once again, they took a risk featuring a team that isn't well-known to many casual fans and has only been lightly featured over in Arrow. Before that, they turned Flashpoint into an animated feature. This was well before general audiences knew Barry Allen would get his own CW show, so interest in the character outside of the comic book community wasn't exactly at an all-time high. It's important to remember these movies need to appeal to us, but it also has to hook the casual fans who only see movies or occasionally watch some of the TV shows. With that in mind, they still went forward with these projects and I'd say that's a bit of a risk, especially when even Superman's animated movies don't always sell well compared to the others (according to The Numbers, Superman: Unbound made less money than 2013's other movies).
As comic book fans, we know Aquaman isn't a joke. He isn't some lame guy with silly powers who is jealous of the other heroes. He's formidable and he's most definitely someone his fellow Justice Leaguers don't disrespect. However, not everyone is a fan of the comics and it seems a fair number of casual fans, a.k.a. the ones limited to movies and occasionally shows, still enjoy a good joke about Aquaman and don't know all that much about him. In 2018, an Aquaman movie on the big screen may win over non-comic fans and make them realize the dude's a badass. Maybe that'll even happen in next year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the point is, nothing big has happened to win over non-comic book readers and make them interested in this guy. Yet that didn't stop them from making Arthur Curry the focal point in one of this year's three animated features. Maybe they think the news of an Aquaman movie with Jason Momoa is enough to pique the curiosity of some people, but the fact remains that Aquaman just isn't a popular character among casual fans. He's technically one of DC's bigger names, but when compared to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, you don't see too many casual fans sporting an Aquaman shirt or thinking he's an immensely powerful hero. Comic fans give the guy respect (or at least they should), but non-comic fans who watch the movies or have a slight interest in popular superheroes -- which is a group that's bigger than us and must be appealed to on some level -- don't appear to be demanding more Aquaman content. Yet DC/WB Animation is taking a risk and giving comic fans what they want to see and hoping it's enough to win over the casual fans, too.
Yes, the Justice League is on the cover and yes, "Justice League" is slapped on the title, but to be fair, they were a part of Geoff Johns'Throne of Atlantis. Additionally, this movie is being promoted as an Aquaman movie, not a Justice League movie which happens to also include the King of the Seven Seas. The trailers make it clear the iconic team is present, but a substantial amount of time will be spent focusing on Arthur and his world. Whether that's what actually happens in the movie has yet to be seen, but they're definitely not promoting it as "Batman teams up with Aquaman. Buy it, Bat fans!" Instead, it's saying, "Do you want to know more about Aquaman and see why his world is pretty cool? We'll show you. Oh yeah, some other heroes are in here as well, so there's that." If they're giving Aquaman, Flash and the Suicide Squad movies well before they get a popularity boost from trailers for their upcoming big screen movies, who's to say Diana won't be the main character in one of 2016's projects or Hal Jordan in one of 2017's? The need to put "Justice League" on these movies may be off-putting to some, but I'd say what matters is the quality of the movie and not the title. If they deliver a stunning Wonder Woman adventure and it just happens to have Justice League on the cover and incorporate other characters, I don't think many of us will mind as long as Diana is the focal point and the quality of the animated feature is up there. Sure, it's a bummer we have to wait so long, but at least we have comic books every single week to help ease the wait, right? Also, as the DC Cinematic Universe begins to expand and give other characters solo movies, it wouldn't surprise me if the animated movies take advantage of this and continue to put each of these characters front and center. Maybe if we're lucky enough they'll begin to set the stage for one of Johns' excellent Green Lantern events. That probably wouldn't be for quite some time, but as long as these stories are worth the wait, a good number of us won't mind waiting.
If you enjoy DC's animated projects but want more diversity from them, speaking with your money is a pretty effective way of letting them know. Buy this and, if you're really against Batman getting more solo movies (I'm not, but to each their own), don't buy Batman vs. Robin. If this sells well, it shows they can take a risk on a character that isn't very popular among casual fans and they can continue to give heroes other than Batman and Superman the lead role. We may see only one of these stories a year, but based on the last few years' movies (Flash, Task Force X and now Aquaman stories before they receive a popularity boost from their live-action films), it definitely looks like they want to expand this world and show us why each character has the potential to lead the way. Here's hoping they continue to do just that and use the non-canon movies as an opportunity to branch out even further. Don't be shocked if next year's Justice League movie finds a way to focus on Wonder Woman and Themyscira and then they shift to Green Lantern (or maybe Flash again) in the year after that one!
What say you, readers? Do you agree DC's trying to slowly branch out and offer more variety with its animated projects or are you feeling pessimistic about the variety of movies they'll offer in the upcoming years? Justice League: Throne of Atlantis goes on sale January 27 and we'll have a review posted either the night before or the morning of its release.