Written by Anthony Toto
Long before The Avengers took over pop culture, 90s children were introduced to the fiercest collection of superheroes ever assembled in one team: The Justice League. Justice League premiered in the fall of 2001 and continued down the path of excellence previously seen by Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. This golden era of DC Animation also produced renowned classics like Batman Beyond and Static Shock.
Just like its predecessors, Justice League merged rich storytelling with beautiful artistry to create a compelling yet mature television series geared towards superhero fans of all ages. I was eleven years old when this show premiered and I could not wait to see Batman return to the animated screen. Combined with the debut of John Stewart’s Green Lantern and Wally West’s Flash, it didn’t get much better for DC fanatics. Justice League ultimately became a huge success for DC and ran for two seasons on the Cartoon Network. The series produced a sequel Justice League: Unlimited, which finished airing in the fall of 2006.
So here we are in 2015, it’s been nine years since the cast of Justice League was together in the same room. The impossible happened: the team was called from The Watchtower and reunited at the New York Comic Con. An all-star panel hosted by DC fanatic Sean Lynch welcomed the voices of Batman (Kevin Conroy), Superman (George Newbern), Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), Green Lantern (Phil LaMarr), Hawkgirl (Maria Canals-Barrera), and Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly). Unfortunately, Flash voice actor Michael Rosenbaum could not attend this event due to a high school reunion. Atop of this list, legendary voice director Andrea Romano (Batman: The Animated Series, Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs) commandeered the panel since she was quintessential in launching this program.
This was a massive event for DC fans so we decided to rank our 7 favorite moments from Friday’s panel and celebrate the reunion of the “Seven.”
1) “Kevin Conroy is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be…”
Andrea Romano started casting for this series in 1999 and considered the presence of Kevin Conroy as crucial to this show’s success. He was arguably the greatest performer to ever dawn the cape. To Conroy’s credit, there was no such thing as ego or complaints in accepting a smaller role. He welcomed his fellow team members like a true leader (since Batman is pretty much the leader) and spoke about his approach, “Up until Justice League, I had been the superhero. Batman was the hero. Suddenly, I’m one of seven and I was the only one without superpowers. I was the weakest physically but the strongest spiritually.”
Romano also mentioned how the Batman character prided himself on isolation and this series featured “The Dark Knight” learning to trust in others. He was initially reluctant to accept this role but grew to flourish as the leader.
Conroy also dropped some introspective knowledge about his personal lessons from playing the role of Batman, “I think the lesson of Batman is to be a better person no matter what it takes or what life throws your way. You have no excuse not to strive to give. I think that’s the whole lesson of the character. He suffers this horrible tragedy as a child and he spends his life giving as a way to deal with his pain. I think that is an extraordinary lesson for all of us.”
2) “Phil LaMarr’s Green Lantern”
Phil LaMarr walked onto the stage wearing a smooth leather jacket before he revealed his Green Lantern t-shirt to a massive applause. Believe it or not, Phil LaMarr reflected back on his audition process for Green Lantern. He mentioned that he tried out right after veteran actor Dennis Haybert – the All State spokesperson – finished his audition. He thought Haybert’s deep voice and strong posture would cement him the role but LaMarr surprised everyone with his diverse range of talent.
An insightful discussion occurred when LaMarr described his reaction after he learned that John Stewart would be the definitive Green Lantern in this storyline. In the comic books, John Stewart was originally introduced as a substitute for Hal Jordan. In Justice League, there was no Hal Jordan, Alan Scott, or Kyle Rayner to diminish Stewart’s credibility. According to LaMarr, producer Bruce Timm didn’t want just seven white superheroes to save the world. That quote certainly caught the Green Lantern’s ear. The Justice League were pears on an equal level. LaMarr believed it certainly had a positive impact on audiences in teaching important lessons about diversity, teamwork, and breaking racial stereotypes.
Towards the end of the panel, LaMarr led a “Green Lantern” oath where the audience cheered like it was Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden. Until further notice, this man is the greatest actor from the Green Lantern Corps.
3) “Dwayne McDuffie’s legacy”
Romano spoke in-depth about Dwayne McDuffie’s contributions to DC Animation. She mentioned that he had a Masters Degree in physics and decided to pursue his lifelong love of animation instead. He passed away a few years ago but she stated that, “Dwayne was instrumental in creating the first black teenage superhero in Static Shock.” According to Romano, McDuffie’s biggest contribution came from his ability to translate the comic book thought bubble into compelling television drama. She said, “There’s a skill to reading comics. Dwayne was the master of adapting a comic book to an animated project that we could actually act out and convey the emotion.”
4) “Justice League Unlimited”
Unlike the first series, Romano mentioned how Warner Brothers/DC executives wanted to incorporate more characters into Justice League: Unlimited. In her own words, “For toy purposes.” This was a daunting task; she even asked the main voice actors if they had any friends interested in taking the role of a superhero. There were 67 new heroes introduced in this series altogether and it boggled Romano’s mind. Somehow, it all worked out in the end and the cast all agreed that heroes like The Green Arrow, The Question, and Huntress thrived in their roles.
5) “The Secret Origins Part 2”
Panel host Sean Lynch suggested that the Justice League members reenact the second episode of the first season. “The Secret Origins Part 2” is where the Justice League members teamed together for the very first time. Since Michael Rosenbaum couldn’t attend this panel, Lynch changed into a Flash t-shirt and filled the void for his team. The talent level within this cast was highly evident; my jaw seriously hit the floor. Fans weren’t used to this sort of perspective and hearing Martain Manhunter’s commanding voice in-person gave me the goosebumps. Attendees were able to recognize the passion among the actor’s faces since this was very much a physical role. The whole cast displayed some noticeable posture and body positioning to summon the ultimate command.
6) “This Little Piggy”
Let me focus on Susan Eisenberg for a second, Lynch made a crucial point when he called her “The definitive Wonder Woman” for most DC fans. Perhaps no character shined brighter throughout this series quite like Wonder Woman. In one of the weekend’s greatest moments, Kevin Conroy and Susan Eisenberg reenacted a scene where Batman tells Wonder Woman why they can’t date.
While Eisenberg certainly kept her focus, Conroy hilariously improved for a few lines, which caused a huge round of laughter. He said, “One, dating within the team always leads to a disaster. Two, you’re a princess from a society of immortal warriors and I’m a rich kid with issues. I have LOTS of issues. Baby, have I got issues?”
Conroy proceeded to sing the fan favorite “Am I Blue?” from the episode once the scene concluded and he sounded like a primetime Elvis Presley. He spontaneously sang, “Am I Blue?” throughout the rest of the panel and it was hilarious every SINGLE time!
7) A Bid Farewell: “Destroyer”
Each hero recited their last lines from the final episode of Justice League: Unlimited, which ended the panel on the perfect note. It seemed fitting to see these heroes simultaneously bid their farewells since the audience was there to experience the goodbye in person. Again, Kevin Conroy stole the spotlight as his sarcastic exchanges with Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter cemented the beautiful chemistry among the seven. This wasn’t just a team of hired voice actors; this was a family that organically came together and launched one of the greatest animated series in television history.
Photos Credit: Nerdchurchpodcast.com