It is no surprise when someone says that Marvel and its Cinematic Universe are light years away from any attempt made by DC to present a world of its own, in which all superheroes have a place of their own – and that is also one of the reasons why we cannot wait for 2017 to arrive, when Marvel’s Captain America will go toe to toe with DC’s attempt at unifying the universe in Batman vs. Superman.
However, things are exactly the opposite when it comes to smaller productions, whether we are talking about TV shows or, better yet, animated features. In this latter case, we are still waiting for that Marvel animation which would leave us with our jaws dropped (by the way, have you seen they’re latest Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher release?) On the other hand, DC has delivered almost every time, giving us countless, if we may say so, of hours of sheer joy when seeing our favourite superheroes taking on their nemeses.
Here are our top choices of comic book superheroes translated into full-length animation features (keep in mind that we aren’t talking about the most faithful adaptations, about animations which follow the cannon to the letter).
10. Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)
Every once in a while, Marvel does surprise us with an animation which is both fun and intelligent, thus making it aimed to all audiences. In Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow we are following the children of the Avengers hidden in a secluded location after their parents’ nemesis has taken over the world. Children will be children, so sooner than later they accidentally reveal themselves to Ultron – now it is up to them to rescue the aging Tony Stark and to avenge their parents. In the process, they will also save the world, of course.
This is a movie which will be hated or loved – it is light-hearted, enjoyable, and doesn’t fall into the bleakness of the most recent adaptations. The plot is very simple, and yet it is presented in a logical way which makes it even more enjoyable than if it was otherwise.
Also, more notably, this animated feature debuted the miniature superheroes into the Marvel multiverse.
9. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
One of the most profitable DC original animated movies, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies sees the two superheroes squaring off against both friends and foes. Lex Luthor manipulates his way into the White House and, once he is there, he declares Sups and Bats public enemies. This leads to several well directed confrontations, with the likes of Solomon Grundy, Grodd, and Deadshot, but also Captain Atom and Powergirl.
To make things better, a meteor from krypton is heading straight for Earth – as Luthor himself fails to stop it, it is up to DC’s leading superheroes to do their best – the rocket is fabulous, if we may say so.
As you can realize, there are countless nods to both the Superman and the Batman universes in here – from the villains to the friends (with Lois Lane arriving and hugging the Man of Steel in the end), almost everybody is here!
8. Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
What was very surprising to this animation wasn’t the fact that it was like witnessing the characters jumping out from the comic book, but the fact that they kept the 1950’s setting – which makes the story even more interesting!
Basically an origin story (way better than the one delivered this year in Justice League: War), Justice League: The New Frontier has quite a few superheroes revealing themselves to the world, hence the new frontier. Also, the Wonder Woman featured in here is probably the best one in all the animated features.
The movie has a flaw nonetheless, since there are quite a few subplots which were left out because of the time limit imposed by DC. So even if we get to meet all of the heroes close and personal, so to speak, there are a few things that are still missing.
However, this is still one of the best origin stories!
7. Hulk vs. (2009)
Moving again on the other side of the comic book universe, we find two of the most expected confrontations in the comic book history: Hulk going toe to claw against Wolverine, and the same mean green behemoth battling Thor.
Our own personal favourite is, however, the Wolverine confrontation. When battling Thor, Hulk isn’t actually the Hulk, but rather a puppet for Loki, which means that he cannot unleash his all power. However, when with Wolverine…
These animated features are made just for the fun of it – don’t expect some complex plots and storylines, but rather plain old fun when seeing Hulk bashing Thor’s face. After all, we aren’t with DC now, but rather to the more relaxed Marvel.
6. Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms (2006)
Surprise! It’s everyone’s favourite demon landing on the 6th place!
This is yet another faithful adaptation which makes you feel as if you’re reading the comic book and you’re seeing it all in your head – as an extra bonus, it has the same cast as the Hellboy movies.
But what makes us believe that it deserves to be in here is the perfect combination of slick animation, mysticism, Japanese mythology, action, and humor – as you can see, there are quite a few things to condense into one animated feature. However, the result was a ground-breaking one!
We are still wondering when we’ll see the 3rd del Torro Hellboy movie. And we are still wondering why they didn’t go on with making the animated features (the second one, Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron got even better reviews than Sword of Storms).
5. Justice League: Doom (2012)
If you truly want to see how paranoid Batman can get, then you should definitely watch this one – in here the Legion of Doom has the upper hand, while all the heroes are trying (without succeeding) to get back on their feet.
More than a simple study on the psychological mannerism of the Dark Knight, the film also presents us with another perspective: who is there to protect humanity from the meta-humans, if they were ever to turn to the other side?
4. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
Before jumping out, just here us and our motives for choosing this one so high on our list – in most of the cases, the reason for which a superhero team is created is for saving the world from a greater evil. This time around it may seem the same but it is actually quite different – who is the one that triggered that ripple in the continuity of time?
While, of course, it’s the Flash who didn’t realize what his powers are! So it comes down, ultimately, to one point – a superhero bringing on the destruction of the entire world! Furthermore, we aren’t given reasons such as lust for power, like in many other superhero features. Instead, the reason is a completely different one, and it is related to the difference between two cultures. Even if at first it might seem that apocalypse I brought by simple revenge, it isn’t so!
Also, it is always cool to see a different Dark Knight, one who hasn’t the same rules as Bruce Wayne.
3. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (2013)
One of the most brutal animations on this list is also the one which brings the most iconic words to be heard: In all the years to come, in your most private moments, I want you to remember the one man who beat you!
So yes, we have a very complex story (which is, obviously, the continuation of the first part), top notch animations, an old and weary Bruce Wayne finally losing it and almost killing the Joker, and we also have the Dark Knight defeating Superman (and we are filled with joy when seeing Clark Kent smiling, knowing that Batman hasn’t died).
2. Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
It was quite obvious that one of the most tragic stories in DC would be in here somewhere – Batman: Under the Red Hood brings us the former Robin transformed into an antihero after being killed by Joker.
It isn’t just one of the best animations out there, but also one of the best stories because it actually presents what is hidden under all that paranoia, under all the toughness – the fear of losing the close ones.
The final scenes in which Red Hood, Batman, and Joker are brought together are simply heart-wreaking.
1. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
After all these years, this is still the best superhero movie made – mind you, we didn’t say animation!
This is the film which started it all and it was so successful at that time (because of its story, but also because of the great voice work, superb animation, and beautiful shots) that the studio decided to release it in theaters!