If you can’t tell, I love Justice League Action. It really is the revival of the DCAU, and not just because Kevin Conroy reprises Batman. I decided to do a deep dive into the Justice League Action characters in each episode.
Like Justice League Unlimited, the showrunners are pulling from very, very deep in DC Comics lore. I’m not actually much of a comics reader, but I do love falling down the “Wiki hole” reading about them. That’s what these recaps are all about.
The first episode, “Shazam Slam”, is a doozy. It’s really four episodes in one, but since JLA eps are only 10 minutes long, it adds up to an episode typical of previous DCAU shows.
Let’s take each part in turn.
Justice League Action Recap – “Shazam Slam”
We open as Batman is doing his broody thing on top of a gargoyle. He hears an old man yelling for help in an alley, and quickly descends to defeat a few thugs.
Which turn out to be Cthulhoid monsters that Bats only defeats with the help of the old man, who turns out to be a powerful wizard.
A wizard who knows exactly who Batman is. He’s very Gandalf.
He quickly explains that he’s the Guardian of Earthen Magics, Defender Against the Evil Plagues, and so on. Basically, he’s Captain Marvel’s version of Alfred.
Captain Marvel himself was imprisoned by Black Adam, who used a powerful artifact to siphon away his powers.
Batman offers to help after some bickering, and the two head out.
Both heroes fall into the “grumpy buttkicker” archetype.
Meanwhile, Black Adam is having some fun with the captive Billy Batson. Eventually, he unleashes a few evil spirits onto the Earth.
Right after he does, Batman and the Wizard arrive. They need to destroy the orb that keeps Billy from transforming into Captain Marvel.
Which they try to do, but the magically supercharged Black Adam is too much for Batman.
Luckily, the Wizard gives a pep talk to Billy, who is able to break the orb through sheer force of will. He becomes Captain Marvel, bops Black Adam around, and all is well.
Also, the Wizard does some sweet Emperor Palpatine lightning tricks. Shazam!
Unfortunately, they don’t manage to win before the Brothers Jin are unleashed upon the world. Tracking down these powerful demons takes up the other three episodes.
Justice League Action Recap – “Power Outage”
Part 2, “Power Outage”, sees Superman flying through a prison while the warden briefs him.
Parasite, Superman’s power-sucking villain, managed to break free by draining the life out of cockroaches.
It’s very Renfield.
Now that Parasite’s back to full strength, he’s taking down guards, too. Wonder Woman shows up to help, and the bug dude is locked up in no time.
There’s some Jimmy Olsen nonsense here that doesn’t bear repeating.
Anyway, a giant meteor falls right on top of Parasite, and the demon Calythos emerges from the ruins.
He’s a big lava dude with some bug dude mixed in.
Calythos leaps away, Hulk-style, and Wonder Woman pursues.
He steps on a cheese plate and burns it. Pure evil.
Wonder Woman kicks his butt handily, at least at first. Before long, though, the Jin has the upper hand. He’s drawing energy from Wonder Woman’s attacks, and quickly outpaces her.
Superman shows up, and Calythos runs through the same routine.
Superman also takes time out of the fight to save a helicopter… and then pauses to enjoy the adoration of the crowd. Wonderful.
Calythos picks up Superman’s powers of flight and heat vision, combined with the super strength he already had from Wonder Woman. Both heroes go down, and realize that as Calythos gains powers, the heroes lose theirs.
Jimmy realizes that Parasite is merged with Calythos after the meteor hit. That’s why he can steal powers. It’s Parasite!
The demon sets up shop at a nearby volcano, hoping to cause an eruption. Superman and Wonder Woman, weakened, show up for one last stand.
And it turns out they brought help. The Martian Manhunter materializes, and Calythos quickly drains his powers as well.
Picking up his flaming sword, Calythos… is defeated. He stole Martian Manhunter’s weakness to fire as well as his powers.
Parasite is freed from the Jin’s body, and the heroes take both villains into custody.
On to the other Brothers Jin!
Justice League Action Recap – “Night of the Bat”
In the opening sequence, Batman and Green Arrow chase down a Djinn as Superman directs them from the Watchtower.
The monster gives them a run for their money, but isn’t much of a fighter. He’s quickly caught, until he does something strange to Batman.
It’s intentionally obscure. We see a cloud of smoke, and then Batman comes walking out.
Uthool apparently escapes, though it’s quickly apparent that he’s shapeshifted into Batman.
“They’re incredibly powerful beings.” And handsome and smart, he was thinking.
Fake Batman is being a real jerk, and quickly ditches Green Arrow. He heads back to the Hall of Justice and makes for the energy core.
After a brief but hilarious sequence involving Booster Gold, Wonder Woman confronts Fake Batman. The imposter reveals himself as Uthool, and ties up WW with her own lasso.
Next, he heads down to the engine room, takes out Cyborg, and sets about blowing up the joint.
Green Arrow returns just in time to stop him, and Superman flies in to take over the fight.
Meanwhile, Booster Gold wakes up and helps Wonder Woman get loose from her lasso. Just in time, because Uthool is kicking Superman’s butt.
She tosses the Justice League’s power core at him, which blows up and knocks Batman right out of him. Superman finishes the fight with ease, and everyone assembles as the Hall of Justice collapses from the battle damage.
We end as the Justice League decides to build a new facility to replace the Hall.
Justice League Action Recap – “Abate and Switch”
The Big Three (that’s Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman) are chasing the final three Brothers Djinn. They’re headed for a volcano, and this is the League’s chance to stop them once and for all.
Suddenly, one of the demons casts a spell to cancel out Superman’s and Wonder Woman’s powers.
Luckily, Batman has no powers to cancel. He saves them from a nasty crash.
The Brothers are happy to give an evil villain monologue, and it turns out that the spell works by using each of the heroes’ names.
This isn’t a new idea. It comes up a lot in English folklore of faerie magic.
Before the Brothers can take down the heroes, John Constantine pops in via magical portal and offers a quick escape.
Also, he talks in a ridiculous Cockney accent due to a spell misfire. It’s a fun gag, and it’s gone by the next episode.
Constantine is one of the League’s magic experts, and he’s happy to explain how all this works. Green Arrow, Swamp Thing, and Plastic Man show up, too.
We’ll go into Swamp Thing in a later episode where he is more heavily featured.
After some strategizing, the group decides to disguise themselves as each other. That will defeat the Brothers’ magic, since they’ll be naming the wrong hero when they cast the spell.
The group switches clothes, Constantine switches their beards (really), and they head out.
Meanwhile, the demons are doing their best to make the volcano erupt.
The heroes arrive to stop them, the spell misfires as expected, and the fight is soon over.
Constantine shows up to whisk them off, just as something starts to awaken from the volcano.
John’s lollipop is a reference to his old smoking habit. He kicked it by chewing gum and sucking on candy. As covered in the underrated Keanu Reeves film.
Black Adam comes out of the volcano. He’s been trapped there for millions of years, after the Wizard knocked him back into the prehistoric past.
He’s a superpowered magical entity, and too much for the League.
Superman is weak against magic.
Just in time, Batman shows up with the secret weapon. Billy Batson.
The combined forces of the Justice League fight an epic battle against Black Adam, and manage to imprison him once again.
The Brothers Djinn are defeated. Black Adam is gone. It looks like the war is over.
Let’s just forgive Batman literally shouting, “Justice League… ACTION!” in the middle of the fight.
We close as work on the Watchtower completes, on top of the now dormant volcano.
It was a great opening to a great series. Now, where did they find all these heroes and villains?
Voice actor Kevin Conroy, who voiced the character in the entire mainline DC Animated Universe.
Info & Trivia
- Aside from the DCAU, Batman has appeared in scores of other animated projects and video games.
- Notable voice actors to play the Dark Knight include Rino Romano, Troy Baker, and even Adam West, the original 1960s Batman.
- To most superhero cartoon fans, Kevin Conroy is the one true Bat. He has been since Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1992. Conroy has quit the role on multiple occasions, citing the strain on his voice, but he’s back at least one more time. Luckily.
- “The wizard looking for a rock because the boy is a prisoner. Mm-hmm. Glad we cleared that up.”
- (While carrying the Wizard through mystical space) “If you want, I’ll drop you off right here.”
- Martian Manhunter: “My attempt at humor. How did I do?” Batman: “I’m the wrong one to ask.”
- “John was hit by an accent exaggerator spell last week while fighting a warlock last week.”
Voice actor Jason J. Lewis, who has played minor roles in several video games. You can hear him in Halo 5: Guardians, Disney Infinity 3.0, and more.
Info & Trivia
- Even in the mainline DCAU, multiple voice actors have played Superman. Outside the DCAU, there are dozens of Superman voice actors. Check out our guide!
- It wouldn’t be Justice League without Supes. He’s one of the founding members, and part of the Big Three of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.
- “Poor Parasite.” (Wonder Woman objects.) “Perhaps, Diana, but he was still a living being.”
Voice actor Rachel Kimsey, who has a long filmography in both live action and voice. She’s the voice actress behind Mira in Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, and appears in multiple Call of Duty games.
Info & Trivia
- Wonder Woman’s first animated appearance was in the 1970s Super Friends. She doesn’t appear in as many animated projects as Batman or Superman, though that may change depending on the success of her live-action film.
- Wonder Woman never received her own DCAU show. Her first appearance was in the pilot episode of Justice League, in which she was a founding member of the League. In previous DCAU shows, she’s played by the wonderful Susan Eisenberg.
- The character did get a standalone animated movie in 2009, with voice acting by Keri Russell.
- “You may be a hideous troll, monster, but I’ll say this for you. You <punch> can really <punch> take <punch> a hit! <punch>”
- “Getting ready to pulverize that bogus Batman. As soon as you untie me!”
Voice actor Carl Reiner, holder of 9 Emmys, legendary comedian, and a great voice. He’s a friend of Seth MacFarlane, and has appeared on Family Guy, American Dad!, and many, many other animated series.
Info & Trivia
- Although there is an existing DC Comics character called The Wizard, he bears little resemblance to the grouchy mystical guardian who aids Shazam. It turns out, this isn’t Wizard at all, but is instead Shazam himself.
- To be more precise, he’s Mamaragan, the previous hero to hold the title. The clue is when the old man asks Billy to “Call my name”. His superhero name is Shazam, which Billy shouts to summon his own powers.
- “If you had one tenth of my wisdom, you’d know that wizards don’t lose things.”
- “There you have it. Adam exiled me to Earth, where grown mortals in bat costumes ask annoying questions all day.”
- “Lately, I have learned to put more trust in mortals.”
Shazam / Captain Marvel / Billy Batson
Voice actor Sean Astin, best known as Sam from The Lord of the Rings.
Info & Trivia
- Although Captain Marvel doesn’t appear until the Kingdom Come-inspired JLU episode “Clash”, Billy made a cameo in Superman: The Animated Series. He’s one of the kids geeking out over Superman in “Obsession”.
- Shazam, aka Captain Marvel, originally came from another comic label. He was the Superman of Fawcett Comics, and he was similar enough that DC filed a cease-and-desist. In the early 70s, DC began using the character themselves.
- Shazam is one of the few characters strong enough to stand up to the Man of Steel, and his identity as a small child gives him an innocence and goodness that Superman sometimes loses.
- “Aw, I was just about to level up.”
- “You sound like one of my teachers!”
- (After managing to transform.) “Finally!”
- “What about the Monsters of Eternity? Can I take ‘em out? Can I? I mean… can I?”
Voice actor Gary Cole, whose career spans live action and animation. He’s Kent on Veep, Sergeant Bosco on Bob’s Burgers, and the narrator of 2014’s Tom and Jerry revival.
Info & Trivia
- Black Adam is Captain Marvel’s primary villain
- He made his first animated appearance in The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! That’s a Filmation series from 1981 wasn’t quite as successful as Super Friends.
- Black Adam also appears in the Justice League episode “Ancient History”.
- Black Adam’s story has changed over the years. Originally, he was the kind of mustache-twirling villain that we don’t see too much of these days. The character was a previous Champion of Shazam, a predecessor of Captain Marvel. Driven mad with jealousy when Billy Batson is granted the power of the gods, he turns to crime. The exact story of how he survives into modern times changes, too.
- Today, he’s more of an anti-hero trying to clear his name.
- “It’s Black Adam, old man, and I’m taking your throne… What’s it look like?”
- “At last! The powers of eternity are mine to command! Goodbye, old man.”
- “Silence is all that prevents me from blasting you to oblivion. That, and I want to see your face as the monsters of eternity wreak havoc upon your world.”
Voice actor Crispin Freeman, perhaps best known as Marty’s dad from Back to the Future.
Info & Trivia
- Martian Manhunter, aka J’onn J’onzz, aka John Jones. He’s been around in the comics since the 1950s, although always as something of a B-lister.
- He’s a major figure in the DCAU starting with Justice League and one episode of Static Shock, where he’s voiced by Carl Lumbly.
- The Martian also appears in Young Justice, with voice acting from Kevin Michael Richardson, and in numerous DC “one-off” animated films.
- Due to a marketing deal decades ago, he loves Oreo cookies. Later rebranded as “Chocos” when the Nabisco money stopped flowing. For real.
- “I have no interest in evading you. I am only interested in your inevitable defeat.”
- “We shall see. Or rather, you won’t see. That is my attempt at humor. What did you think?”
Voice actor David Lodge, best known for his work in Bleach and Naruto.
Info & Trivia
- The demons that plague the Justice League Action characters throughout this episode are largely new. Their only appearance in the comics is when Felix Faust uses artifacts named for them.
- Calythos is the namesake of the Red Jar of Calythos, one of Faust’s artifacts.
- “Ah. Nothing will stop Calythos now.”
- “Who dares? No mere man can defy Caly… argh!”
- “And what good are you against one with the combined powers of Superman and Wonder Woman?”
Voice actor Max Mittelman, best known as an anime voice actor. He’s the star of One-Punch Man, and appears in The Seven Deadly Sins as King.
Info & Trivia
- Their deal: He’s Superman’s Pal. That is, in fact, the name of the Jimmy Olsen standalone comic series. First conceived mostly as someone for Supes to rescue when people got tired of Lois, he’s evolved into a strong character in his own right.
- Jimmy debuted in animation with a short-lived 1988 Superman He appeared once on Super Friends, but it turned out to be an imposter. Oops! Jimmy’s also a major character in the DCAU Superman: The Animated Series, and makes cameos in The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
- “Ms. Lane asked me to grab some video of Parasite for her story, and when I say ‘asked’, I mean she threatened me. Physically.”
- “Great disaster footage equals 10 million more hits online. Hello, big time!”
Voice actor Max Mittelman, who also plays Jimmy Olsen.
Info & Trivia
- The power-sucker is a popular villain, appearing in multiple DCAU episodes and movies. He’s also in All-Star Superman, and even in DC Super Hero Girls. Who voices him there? None other than Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob!
- If Doctor Fate is DC’s answer to Doctor Strange, then Parasite is their answer to Venom.
- Alien goop transforms a hapless minor crook into a purple monster who can absorb the powers of anyone he touches. He’s especially dangerous to more powerful characters like Superman, since he can steal their super strength and speed.
Voice actor Chris Diamantopoulos, the current voice of Mickey Mouse.
Info & Trivia
- Green Arrow is featured in no less than ten animated series and films. In the DCAU, he’s voiced by Kin Shriner. Other Green Arrow voice actors include Norman Alden, James Arnold Taylor, Neal McDonough, and even Alan Tudyk. Yes, from Firefly, and the voice of Rogue One breakout star K-2SO.
- He’s essentially an alternate take on Batman, using a Robin Hood shtick rather than the bat suit.
- Green Arrow has historically been paired with Green Lantern in the comics, and the duo are often a vehicle to explore issues of race, class, and other politically charged subjects.
- This version is played for a little more comic relief than usual, probably to contrast him against Batman’s uber-competency.
- (After falling off the Batmobile) “I have the agility of a cat!”
- “We’re both in the billionaire, masked vigilante, making-the-world-a-better-place game.”
- “Not tonight, bad boy. By the way, you owe me a new suit and taxi fare.”
Voice actor Khary Payton, who voiced the character in Teen Titans as well.
- Cyborg’s very first animated appearance was on The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, an evolution of the original Super Friends.
- This version of Cyborg closely resembles his Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! incarnations, both in design and attitude. He’s goofy and silly, a big lunk who knows a lot about machines.
- The decision to bring the Teen Titans Go! version of the character to Justice League Action further cements JLA as a revival of the DC Animated Universe.
- “Boo-ya! Fixed it so good, it’ll last a thousand years!”
Voice actor Diedrich Bader, who hit his big break on The Drew Carey Show. Since then, he’s done a great deal of voice acting work, including The Missing Link on the Monsters vs. Aliens TV show.
Info & Trivia
- Booster Gold is great. He’s fantastic. You need to look him up. He’s a bored office worker from the future. Desiring a better life, full of fame and fortune, he steals some future tech and hijacks a time machine so he can be a superhero in the past.
- His powers are entirely based on technology he doesn’t quite understand, and his motives are entirely based on a desire to be loved.
- Booster Gold’s first and best appearance is in Justice League Unlimited. He’s one of several minor characters to receive a genuine story arc, going from self-absorbed glory hound to genuine hero over the course of several episodes. Tom Everett Scott provided his voice, with Billy West voicing Booster’s robotic pal Skeets.
- “I got that! I just flipped Batman!”
Voice actor Diedrich Bader, who also voices Booster Gold.
Info & Trivia
- Uthool exists in the comics only as the unseen creator of the Green Bell of Uthool, a powerful magical item used to bind The Demons Three.
- Uthool, Nyorlath, and Calythos never appear in the comics or in previous animation, and seem to be new creations for Justice League Action’s cast of characters.
- “You must have me confused with my brother Calythos. I am Uthool. I do… something else.”
- “The humans’ days on this planet are numbered, Superman.”
Voice actor Chris Diamantopoulos, the voice of Green Arrow.
Info & Trivia
- Like Calythos and Uthool, Nyorlath is only mentioned in the comics in the context of a magical item.
- He is associated with the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath, which is used by Felix Faust to bind The Demons Three.
- Nyorlath’s name is a play on Nyarlathotep, the scheming god in Lovecraftian mythos.
- “Let them come, Abnegazar. I’ll pound them to a powerless pulp!”
Voice actor Damian O’Hare, an Irish actor. His previous voice work is mostly in video games, particularly the Assassin’s Creed series.
Info & Trivia
- Constantine features heavily in the animated film Justice League Dark.
- He also landed a live-action film starring Keanu Reeves, and a short-lived TV show on NBC.
- Constantine is DC’s version of Doctor Strange, complete with a sarcastic attitude and a dire medical condition. In John’s case, it’s cancer from chain-smoking rather than a shattered hand.
- He’s also quite a bit like Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files, if you’re a reader.
- He does not typically have a Cockney accent, in case you missed Batman’s line about a misfired “accent exaggeration spell”.
- “Well, that was a googly wicked duck and dive!”
- “Spot on. That’s using the old loaf, mutton jugs.”
- “Scarper me treacles! That’s Black Adam, that is!”
Voice actor Damian O’Hare, who also plays John Constantine.
Info & Trivia
- Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast are known as The Demons Three, and have been a cosmic-level magical force in the DC universe since 1962. They most often appear as villains to magical characters, although Batman has tangled with them more than once.
- Abnegazar and his brothers are the villains in a single episode of The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. That’s the same show that only featured the Joker once. No accounting for taste.
- “It’s your names! We say your names!”
Voice actor Jason J. Lewis, the voice of Superman and a few other Justice League Action characters.
Info & Trivia
- Another of The Demons Three, Rath appears along with his brother Abnegazar. Ghast, the third brother, doesn’t appear in the show. He’s replaced by Nyorlath.
- “It’s more brotherly to welcome the forecoming destruction together!”
Voice actor Dana Snyder, the voice actor behind Master Shake in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Good choice!
Info & Trivia
- This stretchy dude (it’s NOT Mr. Fantastic! It’s not even Elongated Man!) first appeared in Super Friends, with voice acting by Norman Alden.
- Eventually, the character spun off onto his own show. The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show aired from 1979-1981, starring Michael Bell.
- He’s had a couple of memorable appearances in Justice League Unlimited as well, including one where he wonders aloud why the League needs two stretchy guys.
- (while dressed as Wonder Woman) “Not. One. Word.”
- “I’m starting to get used to the shoes. Is that weird?”