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8 Reasons the DCAU Is One of DC’s Most Tragic Universes

It's More Tragic Than You'd First Think.

By Will JackPublished 3 years ago 11 min read

Before Marvel’s fabled MCU DC had their own interconnecting universe on the small screen known as the DC animated universe (DCAU). It’s cantered around numerous animated shows and movies starting with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and includes other shows such as Superman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond as well as others. The latest addition to the universe came this year with Justice League vs the Fatal Five. Despite many of us growing up and enjoying this universe it without a doubt hides a darker side for many of these characters which can be seen if you take a closer look and think about the implications a little more. Plus, unlike many films and franchises some characters get a definitive end to their stories such as Bruce Wayne’s version of Batman. Yes there are also numerous comic series that are meant to be continuations of numerous DCAU shows however, there are numerous continuity issues in them so they wont be counted here.

8 – Aquaman

Aquaman first appeared in the DCAU in Superman: The Animated Series and would make multiple appearances in the Justice League shows, however during Batman Beyond’s third season in “The Call” two part episode we see a future version of the Justice League in which Aquaman’s daughter Mareena is a member of. When Batman is researching the league members files, we see that when he gets to Mareena’s we clearly see that Aquaman’s whereabouts are unknown. If he were at Atlantis it would simply state that, but it doesn’t, which very well hints to the fact that at some point between Justice League Unlimited (JLU) and Batman Beyond he went missing.

7- The Phantasm

The Phantasm was first introduced in the film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Andrea Beaumont, Bruce Wayne’s ex-fiancée takes on the role of the Phantasm to get revenge for her fathers death at the hands of the mob, which also involved a certain hitman who would later become the Joker. In a final confrontation between Batman, the Phantasm and the Joker Bruce begs Andrea to let go of her vengeance but in response explains that “one way or another it ends tonight”. After the fairground they are in explodes Bruce believes Andrea is dead until finding her locket hidden in the Batcave proving to Bruce that she still lives. The final scene of the film shows Andrea on a ship leaving Gotham.

During the JLU episode “Epilogue” which at the time of release was the canonical end of the DCAU as it took place at the furthest end of the timeline after all three seasons of Batman Beyond. When Terry questions Amanda Waller on his true origins we get a flash back where she states she hired an assassin to murder his parents, the assassin, the Phantasm. This flashback showed Andrea never found peace and was never able to give up this new life the murder of her father created for herself, even becoming an assassin for hire. Although she never went through with this specific contract there is no doubt she would have gone through with previous ones.

6 – Talia Al Ghul

Talia Al Ghul the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul leader of the society of shadows (aka the league of shadows/assassins) was an occasional ally, enemy and love interest of Bruce Wayne. We see her several times throughout the DCAU with her last on-screen appearance being in Batman Beyond’s episode “Out of the Past” where her fate is revealed. It is mentioned during this episodes that Talia betrayed her father and once again aligned herself with Batman to defeat him in the off-screen known as the Near-Apocalypse of ’09 and from then it was said that she took over the Society of Shadows and sought to transform their mission to a noble and charitable one rather than continue to follow Ra’s’ genocidal intentions.

During the “Out of the Past” episode Talia finds Bruce to offer him a chance to enter the Lazarus Pit to become young again which he eventually agrees to. Bruce, Terry (the current Batman) and Talia travel to her estate in New Cuba where Bruce undergoes the first treatment which makes him appear fit and relatively young again at least in comparison to what he was now. But Bruce feels that the pit is a cheat and refuses any more treatments only to get captured and placed in a machine by Talia. It is then revealed that after the Near-Apocalypse of ’09 Ra’s could no longer use the Lazarus pit due to his extended use of it throughout the years so Talia was asked to accepted to being purged from her body so Ra’s could use it for himself, transferring his consciousness into it, via a machine that Bruce is in now. So since the events in ’09 Talia has been Ra’s all along and everything Bruce believe she had done had all been a lie.

Ra's as Talia

Despite her ability to be a hero and ally to Batman Talia could never fully get rid of the blind loyalty to her father to the point where she agreed to give her body so that he may live effectively killing her. It’s a common theme among characters of the DCAU, never being able to free themselves from vicious and tragic cycles.

5 – Mr Freeze

The DCAU has long been accredited with changing the origin of Victor Fries, a.k.a Mister Freeze to a more engaging and sympathetic one. From the start his main motivations were simply to cure his wife of a deadly disease. But thanks to interference with his then boss an altercation resulted in an explosion causing his entire body to mutate to the point where Victor couldn’t survive outside sub-zero temperatures. Victor appears a total of four times across the DCAU being in the episodes “Heart Of Ice”, “Deep Freeze”, “Cold Comfort” and “Meltdown” as well as appearing in his own direct-to-video film Batman & Mr Freeze: Sub-Zero. Throughout these appearances we Freeze’s wife eventually saved but all hope for Victor diminish entirely. Due to his initial accident Victor eventually requires a robotic body with the only original part of him left being his head "Ironic, isn't it? After all I did to keep my wife whole, I end up like this. You understand now why I could not return to my Nora. My treasure. There's no hope for me... or you or your city. Everyone's going to feel my loss. "

Victor would appear one final time in Batman Beyond’s episode “Meltdown”. Thanks to Derek Powers and Dr Stephanie Lake they transferred Victors brain into a clone body. Once this has occurred Victor attempts to repent and puts himself on a path of redemption for his criminal past. But after some time, his clone body began to show signs of reverting to the fate his previous one did. Once this occurs, he is betrayed by Powers and Lake which makes him once again return to his criminal ways. At a final confrontation at the Wayne-Powers Medical Complex Terry attempts to save Victor but he instead decides to stay in the compound as it collapses explaining to Terry that he’s the only one that acres about him and in a final act being to delay the complexes destruction so Terry could escape. Like so many other characters Victor Fries ends up alone and full of regret.

4 – Batman

Though we don’t see Bruce die in the DCAU (at least not yet) we can see the person he becomes in his old age, which to certain extent is simply alone. Once he’s given up being Batman his company is partly taken over and he’s pushed out and becomes a recluse, similar to how we see him in The Dark Knight Rises. At some point Alfred must have died and as detailed in “Epilogue” Terry mentions how “Dick, Barbara, Tim, Selina they all loved you but eventually every single one of them left you” with Bruce’s response simply being that they didn’t have the “heart for the mission”. Although this shows Bruce’s true obsession about his mission, he’s a character that is also full of regret despite the good he's no doubt done.

During the Return of the Joker film Bruce explains to Terry that he had “no right to force this life on anyone” obviously being a direct comment to the fate of Tim but could also apply to others such as Dick, whose falling out with Bruce is partially shown in the New Batman Adventures episode “Old Wounds” and which is also expanded upon in the comics. But those comics contain certain continuity errors and so aren’t counted in this list. Plus, in the Batman Beyond episode “Out Of The Past” we see Bruce sat alone at the Bat-Computer scrolling through old loves of his life obviously reminiscing on what could have been, these include Zatanna, Lois Lane, Selina Kyle and Barbara Gordon. With knowledge from the rest of the DCAU we know that this list would also include Talia Al Ghul, Andrea Beaumont and Wonder Woman. So many chances of happiness left untaken. Not to mention thanks to the events of “Epilogue” we find out that Amanda Waller had Warren McGinnis’ reproductive DNA changed with Bruce Wayne’s making Terry and in turn his brother Matt Bruce’s biological sons/partial clones. When Terry confronts Bruce of this he just states that what Terry wanted he “couldn’t give” truly showing how distant and disconnected he had truly become.

3 – The Entire Green Lantern Corps

Thanks to the latest addition to the DCAU of the direct-to-video film Justice League Vs the Fatal Five this year it is revealed that at some point between the events of Batman Beyond, as they have a Green Lantern on the Justice League and the 31st century, the entire Green Lantern Corps have been wiped out. This shown by Mano stating that the Green Lanterns are merely a “legend” in his time along with the Emerald Empress wondering if she is the cause of their destruction as she takes the power from the Green Lanterns central power battery on Oa. The source of their destruction is currently unknown but could potentially be addressed to in a future DCAU project.

2 – Superman

During Batman Beyond’s episode “The Call” a now older Superman asks Terry to help him investigate the Justice League as he believes one of them is a traitor. After an investigation it is revealed that Superman was actually the traitor due to a parasite that escaped from the Fortress of Solitude and seized control over him. Once Batman, Terry, defeats Superman and the parasite it is revealed that he held sway over the Man of Steel for years! So a character that we had followed since his initial first season eventually ended up being enslaved for years with none of his team members, friends, family even noticing. It can also be assumed that because of this his relationship with Lois also fell apart as it would be pretty noticeable something was wrong if she saw a star-like creature attached to his chest.

1 – Robin (Tim Drake)

Unlike a few others on this list we get to see what happens to Tim Drake in its entirety thanks to the direct-to-video film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. During a flashback sequence its explained that at some point after Nightwing (Dick Grayson) had left to establish himself in another city (assumedly Bludhaven) Robin was kidnapped by the Joker and Harley Quinn. For three whole weeks Batman, and Batgirl can find no sign of him only to then be given an invitation by the Joker to o to the old Arkham Asylum. Once there, Batman is shown how the Joker mercilessly tortured Robin, disfigured him and brainwashed him into becoming a child-like version of himself referred to as Joker Junior or “JJ”. Due to all of this Robin tells the Joker everything, including who Batman really is. This results in a final fight between Batman and the Joker n which, depending on the version iof the film you watch either the Joker slips and electrocutes himself due to Tim or Tim straight up shoots him.

Barbra Gordon, the former Batgirl then explains that after that it took a year to bring Tim back to sanity, he was haunted for years and he was done with being Robin and Barbara left soon after. She also tells Terry that Batman never took another sidekick again.

During the events of the film the final reveal comes when its shown that the current older Tim Drake is the Joker. During those three weeks of torture the Joker implanted a device in Tim that contained all his memories so that eventually he would be able to take over Tim’s body and live again. Although finally defeated by Terry its without doubt that Tim will continue to be haunted by a ghost he’s lived with almost his entire life, it should also be remembered as well that all of this initial brainwashing and torture happened to a child!

These are just a few examples of the tragic fates of characters in the DCAU as there are no doubt others too such Harley Quinn, Harvey Dent and Ace from the Royal Flush Gang. The DCAU is truly one of DC’s darkest and saddest universes.


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