Justice League Unlimited (or JLU) is an American animated television series produced by and aired on Cartoon Network. Featuring a wide array of superheroes from the DC Comics universe, and specifically based on the Justice League superhero team, it is a direct sequel to the previous Justice League animated series. JLU debuted on July 31, 2004 at 8:30 PM on Toonami
The series is a continuation of its predecessor, taking up soon after Justice League ended. It is sometimes considered to be the same series as the original; the first season of Justice League Unlimited is referred to by the producers as the third season of Justice League. However, seasons referred to below treat Justice League Unlimited as a separate series; the series is currently in its third season.
It features a greatly-expanded League, in which the characters from the original series are joined by a number of superheroes (in the first episode, well over 50 characters appear), as well as a number of DC heroes who had made guest appearances in the first two seasons of Justice League.
Also unlike Justice League, Justice League Unlimited features ongoing story arcs, the first involving the building conflict between the league and a secret government agency known as Project Cadmus. This plot line heavily builds upon events that occurred during the second season of Justice League, and has affected the plotlines of most of its episodes. It was resolved in a four-part story at the end of the second season of Justice League Unlimited. The third season story arc focuses on the Legion of Doom as the main villains, a loose-knit organization formed to combat the increased superhero coordination of the first two seasons.
Besides the addition of dozens of new League members, the show has changed format somewhat, though keeping the same Bruce Timm style artwork. Justice League Unlimited stories are mostly half-hour episode in length, unlike stories for Justice League which almost all ran for a full hour. The stories in the second and third seasons of Unlimited have, however, tended to align along a season-long story arc.
Justice League Unlimited, similar to the second season of Justice League, is animated in widescreen. The show also features a new theme song. It has been hailed by fans as one of the best parts of the DC animated universe and is currently the only Dini/Timm show in production, although there are currently two other nonrelated cartoons set in the DC universe: the anime-inspired Teen Titans and The Batman. Many sites are reporting through anonymous sources that the show has ceased production, and Cartoon Network will not renew after this season. This show is also being billed as Bruce Timm's DC Animation swan-song. However, in Wizard #173 (cover-dated March 2006, released January 25, 2006), an interview with Timm indicates that he is still very much involved with Justice League Unlimited and the second half of the third season is well underway, though nothing was said about the series' future after the third season. At the 2006 WonderCon DC Comics stated that, as far as they were aware, production would be ending with the conclusion of the third season.
Connection with Batman Beyond
The term "Justice League Unlimited" was used first in the two-part episode ("The Call") of the animated series Batman Beyond that aired more than a year before the first Justice League series began. Decades into the future of the DC Animated Universe, the Justice League still exists, and is referred to as the "Justice League Unlimited". This future League consists of Superman, a new Green Lantern, Big Barda, Warhawk, Aquagirl, and Micron. Like his predecessor, the new Batman becomes a part-time member of the League.
Justice League Unlimited's first season two-part finale ("The Once and Future Thing") again features the league of the future, with a reduced lineup. Villain David Clinton and the Jokerz killed most of the future members of the league, leaving only the original Batman, the second Batman (Terry McGinnis), Warhawk and Static alive. This episode also features the revelation that Warhawk is the son of John Stewart and Shayera Hol. Some of these members appear again, along with the rest of the now-restored future heroes, in the season two finale, "Epilogue".
The final scene in "Epilogue" is an homage to "On Leather Wings", the opening scene in the very first episode of the first Batman animated series that the Timm/Dini team collaborated on. It is the same scene but reversed shot by shot, with the original Batman theme.
Hawk and Dove were voiced by Fred Savage and Jason Hervy, who played the bickering brothers Kevin and Wayne on the TV series Wonder Years. Ironically, Fred voiced the older, more aggressive brother Hawk/Hank Hall while Jason voiced the younger, more docile brother Dove/Don Hall, which was a complete reversal of their roles on Wonder Years. It was originally intended for Jason to voice Hawk and Fred to voice Dove, mirroring the Wonder Years relationship, but during the voice over readings they unexpectedly swapped parts and it was left that way for the episode.
Dwayne McDuffie stated that the golden shield on the back of Superman's cape would never appear in Justice League Unlimited and the issue of where Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker fits into continuity rarely comes up. Supergirl received a redesign because they said that the white-T design was "too 90s". The new design is described as being based on the new Supergirl from the Loeb/Churchill series with DCAU Supergirl's face and DCAU Black Canary's hair.
All characters except for Superman and Batman received minor redesigns following the end of Justice League and start of Justice League Unlimited. Some, like Green Lantern, received new heads, or (in the case of Hawkgirl and Supergirl) new bodies. Others like the Flash had some of their lines changed.
The Justice League's Metro-Tower in Metropolis at the start of the third season is the former site of Lexor City and the future site of the Justice League Watchtower in Batman Beyond's time. Its current design is based a homage of the Hall of Justice from the television series Superfriends, with its shape extrapolated as a tower and pavilion rather than a hall.
During the production of the Teen Titans animated series, the idea of the show crossing over with Justice League Unlimited was discussed several times, though no such crossover ever occured. However, each show has referenced the other several times. In the Teen Titans episodes "Lightspeed" and "Titans Together", Kid Flash appears and is voiced by Michael Rosenbaum, indicating that the Teen Titans incarnation of Kid Flash is Wally West. The same Kid Flash costume from that show appears in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Flash and Substance". In addition, Green Arrow's ex-partner Speedy appears in "Patriot Act". His costume and look are nearly identical to the one he had in Teen Titans (though his Justice League Unlimited incarnation appears to be older), and he is also voiced by Mike Erwin in both Teen Titans and this episode.
During production of the Justice League Unlimited series, a decision was made to limit appearances of Batman's rogues' gallery due to the new The Batman animated series and the Batman Begins film franchise. Since that time, only obscure Bat-villains would appear in the current animated continuity. The Joker, foremost villain to Batman, has not appeared since this decision, despite several prior appearances in the first and second seasons of "Justice League" (episodes entitled "Injustice For All", "A Better World", "Only a Dream", and "Wild Cards").
Fans have named this change in the show the "Bat-Embargo". Some fans have started petitions in an effort to reverse this restriction, or at least to convince Warner Bros. to allow the inclusion of Batman's archenemies the Scarecrow and the Riddler in the Legion of Doom, as they were members of the original Legion.
A similar restriction appears to exist due to the announcement of an Aquaman television series, and therefore DC Comics has proscribed the use of Aquaman or associated characters in Justice League Unlimited.