“DCAU” is a term you’ll find thrown around whenever the topic of animated superheroes comes up but exactly what is the DCAU and how did it come about? The answer to these and other such questions may surprise you.
To begin with, DCAU is an acronym for DC Animated Universe only unlike the name suggests, it isn’t an officially recognized designation (in other words you won’t find it anywhere on Warner’s site or within the DVD material) and it isn’t all-inclusive when referring to animated shows based on DC Comics characters/ properties.
Surprisingly enough fans looking to differentiate the works of writer/ animator/ producer Bruce Timm, writer Paul Dini and a handful of other individuals from the abundance of other animated DC properties on shelves formed the designation. As such it is often referred to by other, less catchy nicknames such as “BT DC” or “the Dini-verse”.
Interestingly, while the original intention of the collaborative effort was to portray the mythos of the DC comics as closely as possible in the animated medium, some of the characters invented during the DCAU’s storied run were actually popular enough with fans to become integrated into the comics. Among these are the vivacious Joker sidekick/ love interest Harley Quinn and the wife of misunderstood rogue Mr. Freeze, Nora Fries.
Additionally, several video game adaptations of the DCAU have been released throughout the years, typically to fan & critical acclaim alike (full list below).
About the haziest area when defining the DCAU has always been the specific criteria required for consideration. Surprisingly, and contrary to common conception, it does not depend exclusively on the individuals involved in the production process. Evidence of this reality exist on both sides of the coin: Writer Paul Dini had pretty much left Warner Brothers by the time Justice League was in production and on the flip side, many of the DCAU’s most prominent figures have gone on to produce animated DC series/ films that are not considered a part of the DCAU.
The reason for this is that inclusion in the exclusive club depends upon a combination of talent involved in the production process as well as internal continuity between the story lines. To put it simply, all of the DCAU properties are said to be congruent with one another as in a single timeline can be used to define the events taking place against any or all of them.
Because of this, it isn’t uncommon to find crossover episodes between the various franchises whereby the heroes of the other property have aged accordingly.
All of this said, it was a succession of television series that kicked things off for the DCAU so let’s take a look at the animated series (in order of their release):
It should be noted that to many fans, the animated series list is redundant in that it includes several listings of programs that were essentially unchanged/ or grouped together to meet scheduling demands of the broadcasters. Taking that into consideration, perhaps a more accurate list would look like the following:
Each and every one of the animated shows earned a Warner Brother’s DVD release although to date Static Shock is the only one not to have been released in its entirety to the home video market. In addition to animation properties that appeared on broadcast television, the DCAU is credited for the creation of several web-based/ Flash animated series that are congruent with the events & timelines of the other mediums. Among these are the following:
Notably missing from the series breakdown are popular animated DC properties such as Teen Titans, The Batman, Batman the Brave & The Bold, and earlier animated efforts such as Superfriends or Filmation’s DC Superheroes.
On the fence is the Superman spin-off series, Krypto the Superdog, which was written and developed by Paul Dini and since it deals with characters outside of the main mythos, does not interfere with the DC Universe chronology. Two volumes of the show have been released to the home market on DVD from WB.
Additionally, and like most of the other properties mentioned, there is some deliberation as to which animated films make the cut. The following titles are typically considered:
Despite being developed and produced by many of the same individuals as the generally accepted DCAU titles, the following films are typically omitted due to continuity discrepancies:
As was mentioned above, the DCAU has several video game titles amidst their animated success. Among them are the following:
Though continually fluctuating, a few of the suspects generally considered responsible for bringing the DCAU to life (in animated form) are Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, Dwayne McDuffie, Andrea Romano, James Tucker, Dan Riba and several other prominent writers, animators, directors and producers in the employ of Warner Brothers and/or DC Comics.
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