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All 34 DC Comics' animated series, ranked from best to worst!

We rank every DC Comics related cartoon! Who got first place, and which show was the worst?

Justice League animated version
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

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Are you ready to explore the DC Universe? DC Comics has ruled animation for decades. From the goofy but endearing Super Friends to the iconic and exciting Batman: The Animated Series, Saturday mornings haven’t felt complete without DC Universe cartoons. But which cartoon series is the best? Popverse decided to investigate and come up with a ranking. Join us as we go through DC’s animated library and determine once and for all which DC cartoon is the greatest of all.

How we came up with this ranking

Before we begin our ranking, let’s go over our criteria. First of all, the list only applies to DC cartoons. This means animated shows, not animated movies. This list does not cover web-shows like Gotham Girls or the original DC Super Hero Girls. This doesn’t cover bumpers like the DC Nation animated shorts. In addition, this ranking doesn’t cover the Fleischer Superman shorts, because those were theatrical shorts, not an ongoing cartoon series. If it’s not a full-length television show, it isn’t on here.

In addition, this list doesn’t cover repackaged programs. For example, The Batman/Tarzan Hour is not included because the Batman segments were just episodes of The New Adventures of Batman. In those cases, we’ll only cover the original show/segment, rather than any repackaging. We’re also counting Super Friends as one show, rather than counting its seven incarnations as separate shows. That would be tedious and unnecessary.

These rankings were determined based on a few factors. Writing and animation quality was a key factor, but it wasn’t the only one. For example, Beware the Batman has better animation and more nuanced characterizations than Super Friends, but we’ve ranked Super Friends higher due to its historical and cultural importance. Most of this list is ranked in favor of new cartoons, since older cartoons don’t contain as much creative depth or good animation. In other words, I apologize to anyone who grew up loving the 1968 Aquaman cartoon, but I couldn’t rank it higher than The Zeta Project.

I’ve also ranked these animated projects based on how much I enjoyed them. After all, I am the author of this list. Rankings are subjective, and I won’t pretend mine is infallible. If you feel Plastic Man should be higher, or think someone else should’ve gotten the top spot, feel free to drop your own ranking in the comments section.

With that in mind, let’s get started!

34. Wild C.A.T.s (1994-1995)

WildC.A.T.S. animation
Image credit: Wildstorm Productions

This short-lived cartoon was an adaptation of the hit Wildstorm series. It focused on the adventures of the WildC.A.T.s, a team of warriors fighting to protect Earth from an alien race known as the Daemonites. The series has its charm, but it felt like a watered-down version of the comic. It lacked the depth contemporary superhero cartoons like X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series had. However, the animation did a great job at capturing the character designs from the comic book.

33. Swamp Thing (1990-1991)

Swamp Thing cartoon
Image credit: DiC Animation

A cartoon adaptation of Swamp Thing. This animated series was created to sell toys, and it shows. Anton Arcane’s Un-Men looked like rejects from the Toxic Crusaders cartoon. Swamp Thing was given two human sidekicks named Bayou Jack and Tomahawk (a separate character from the DC Universe adventurer). After all, they needed more toys to sell. The series was also known for its theme song, which was a parody of the Troggs’ ‘Wild Thing.’

The cartoon was cancelled after 5 episodes, and you only need to watch a few minutes of it to see why.

32. The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show (1979-1981)

Plastic Man cartoon
Image credit: Ruby-Spears Productions

A Saturday morning cartoon series following the adventures of Plastic Man. Plas would travel the world with his girlfriend Penny, solving mysteries and battling colorful villains. Plas and Penny would eventually marry and have a baby, who was appropriately named Baby Plas. The series was known for its imaginative villains, many who were created exclusively for the cartoon. Who could ever forget Disco Mummy?

31. Batwheels (2022-present)

Batwheels
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Batwheels is Warner Bros. Animation’s attempt to get into the preschool market. Seeing how successful shows like Paw Patrol and PJ Masks was, WB realized they could do the same thing with Batman. The series focuses on the many vehicles in the Batcave, including a Batmobile named Bam. The stakes are relatively low, and each episode is filled with the usual lessons you will find in preschool shows. Still, the series has its charm, and it’s a great way to introduce toddlers to Batman. It feels unfair to rank a preschool show against all these other cartoons, but a list of ever DC animated series would be incomplete without Batwheels.

30. The Kid Power Hour with Shazam! (1981-1982)

Shazam cartoon
Image credit: Filmation

A cartoon following the adventures of Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Marvel. We even had animated versions of Uncle Marvel and Tawky Tawny. This animated series matched the earnest tone of DC’s Bronze Age era Captain Marvel revival. There wasn’t much depth to the stories or plots, but it was a sweet cartoon that perfectly adapted the irreverent nature of Captain Marvel’s old comics.

29. Krypto the Superdog (2005-2006)

Krypto the Superdog
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series focusing on Superman’s dog Krypto. The canine hero would battle animal supervillains, such as Mechanikat and Ignatius. Supporting characters included Streaky the Supercat and Batman’s dog Ace. The series skewed towards younger kids, so the plots could get a bit silly. Believe it or not, the cartoon was developed by Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, the team behind Batman: The Animated Series. As you can imagine, this series went in a different direction.

28. The New Adventures of Superman (1966-1970)

Superman 1968
Image credit: Filmation

The first ongoing animated series starring Superman. Debuting alongside the Adventures of Superboy, these shows were the first cartoons based on a DC Comics character. The episodes constantly relied on reused animation, but the series was still a perfect adaptation of Superman’s Silver Age world.

27. The Adventures of Superboy (1966-1969)

Superboy cartoon
Image credit: Filmation

Airing alongside The New Adventures of Superman, this cartoon series explored Superboy’s heroic career. Superboy was voiced by Bob Hastings, the actor who would go on to voice Jim Gordon in Batman: The Animated Series. The cartoon followed the tone and characterization from Superboy’s Silver Age comic books. While the episode don’t have much depth, they’re still a fun time capsule to early DC Universe animation.

26. The Adventures of Batman (1968-1969)

Batman 1968 cartoon
Image credit: Filmation

This series came hot off the heels of Batmania. Thanks to the live-action Adam West series, Batman was one of the hottest things in American pop culture. However, by the time this series premiered, much of the hype had died down. This series follows the campy tone of the live-action show, but doesn’t have nearly as much of the humor.

25. Aquaman (1968-1970)

Aquaman cartoon
Image credit: Filmation

A cartoon series featuring Aquaman and his sidekick Aqualad. The undersea duo had many entertaining adventures, battling undersea villains, alien invaders, and pirates. The series also included segments featuring other DC heroes. Not many people know this, but these segments feature the first animated appearances of the Justice League and the Teen Titans. While there wasn’t much to these segments, they are historically important, thanks to the way they expanded DC’s animated universe.

24. The Boys Presents: Diabolical (2022)

The Boys Presents: Diabolical
Image credit: Amazon Studios

No, this isn’t a mistake. Why is The Boys on this list? The original comic book was published by Wildstorm, a DC imprint, before being picked up by Dynamite Entertainment. Technically speaking, this means that The Boys Presents: Diabolical is a DC Comics property. I’ll be honest, I feel funny putting it on this list, but I wouldn’t be thorough if I had omitted it. The Boys Presents: Diabolical is a spin-off of the live-action Amazon series. The cartoon is an anthology, with each episode telling a standalone story in different animation styles. It’s a fun series that gets creative at times, but I feel funny putting it too high on this list since it’s only a DC show because of a technicality.

23. The New Adventures of Batman (1977)

Batman 1977 cartoon
Image credit: Filmation

This cartoon can almost be considered an unofficial fourth season of the 1966 Adam West Batman series. This animated series featured Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles as Batman and Robin. Batgirl was along for the ride, along with a comedic (but bumbling) imp named Bat-Mite. The villainous schemes were often silly, but that was part of the charm. If you’re a fan of Adam West’s portrayal of Batman, don’t sleep on this series. It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the 1966 show, and at times surpasses it.

22. Justice League Action (2016-2018)

Justice League Action
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series starring the Justice League. The series was intended for younger audiences and got a bit silly at times. However, it wasn’t afraid to pull out obscure DC heroes and villains. For example, this cartoon featured Space Cabbie! It was clear that the team behind this cartoon had a deep love for the DC Universe, and that love can be felt with each episode.

21. Superman (1988)

Superman
Image credit: Ruby-Spears Enterprises

This animated series blended Superman’s Post-Crisis status quo with the tone of the 1978 Christopher Reeve film. It was the first Superman cartoon to feature the businessman version of Lex Luthor. Comic book writer Marv Wolfman served as the show’s story editor, while longtime DC artist Gil Kane provided the character designs. This series also featured artwork from Jack Kirby, who was working for Ruby-Spears’ animation studio at the time. While this cartoon didn’t have as much depth as the 1996 Superman series, it was a huge step up from DC’s previous animated projects.

20.The Zeta Project (2001-2002)

The Zeta Project
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Like The Boys Presents: Diabolical, this series is here on a technicality. The Zeta Project is not based on a DC Comic, but it’s a cartoon that takes place in the DC Animated Universe. It follows the adventures of Zeta, a shapeshifting android who was introduced in an episode of Batman Beyond. Zeta was meant to be a weapon, but the android developed a sense of morality and refused to harm innocent people. As a result, Zeta is on the run. The machine is joined by a teenage runaway named Ro Rowan. This is an often overlooked chapter in the DCAU, which is a shame, because this series was entertaining.

19. Legion of Super Heroes (2006-2008)

Legion of Super Heroes
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series starring the 31st century superhero team. A teenage Clark Kent is recruited from the 21st century, but due to corporate legal issues (which have since been resolved), Warner Bros Animation was required to call him Superman instead of Superboy. The series was mostly faithful to the original Legion comics, with a few notable exceptions. For example, Brainiac 5 was an android instead of an alien. The cartoon ran for two seasons before ending on a cliffhanger which has never been resolved.

18. Beware the Batman (2013-2014)

Beware the Batman
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A CGI series set during Batman’s early years. The Dark Knight is joined by Katana and a revamped version of Alfred Pennyworth. This version of Alfred leaned into his secret agent background, regularly putting the butler in the midst of the action. The cartoon wasn’t afraid to try new things, breaking away from the formula that previous Batman adaptations followed. However, the show was the victim of network interference. Cartoon Network delayed the series various times and changed and gave it an inconsistent schedule. It was cancelled after 26 episodes.

17. The Batman (2004-2008)

The Batman
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A Saturday morning cartoon set during the early days of Batman’s career. The series was known for its offbeat character designs, such as a longhaired and barefoot Joker and a version of Riddler who looked like Marilyn Manson. The cartoon also played with traditional lore by having Batgirl debut before Robin. It juggled a few subplots, making it more serialized than previous Batman animated projects. This show is often overlooked because it didn’t have the cultural impact that Batman: The Animated Series had. Don’t sleep on this show, because it has plenty of stellar episodes.

16. Teen Titans Go! (2013-present)

Teen Titans GO!
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A zanier version of the 2003 Teen Titans animated series. This is less of a superhero show and more of a comedy show for young children. The characterization of the Titans are exaggerated, and they rarely fight villains. In fact, continuity is almost non-existent. Some episodes will end with a character dying and then showing up perfectly fine an episode later.

As of this writing, Teen Titans Go! has aired 397 episodes and multiple specials, making it the longest running DC animated show. In fact, it is currently Cartoon Network’s longest running show.

Teen Titans Go! can be irreverent, but that’s part of the fun. As long as you don’t take things too seriously, you’ll have a great time. Plus, there is a lot to offer for longtime DC fans. Some episodes contain loving homages to past DC animated projects like Super Friends. Not only that, but Marv Wolfman and George Perez even showed up in an episode, playing zanier versions of themselves.

It might not have a lot of depth, but it’s a fun show, and isn’t that what cartoons should be?

15. Green Lantern: The Animated Series (2011-2013)

Green Lantern: The Animated Series
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A CGI series that was meant to capitalize on the 2011 Green Lantern film. The film bombed at the box office, putting the animated series in a precarious position. Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network lost confidence in the show and cancelled it after 26 episodes. However, viewers enjoyed the show, finding it to be a fun adaptation of the comics. The show focused on the Green Lantern Corps in a series of cosmic adventures. Years after the cartoon was cancelled, one of the unresolved plotlines was revisited in the Young Justice animated series.

14. Super Friends (1973-1985)

Super Friends
Image credit: Hanna-Barbera Productions

Super Friends is probably one of the most important pieces of DC media ever produced. This cartoon featured the adventures of the Justice League of America, but the show often called them the Super Friends. The series introduced many young viewers to many of DC’s heroes for the first time. The early seasons were full of goofy villains, but over time the show evolved and introduced more serious threats. The show was rebranded many times, getting new titles and adding new characters.

The series introduced many characters and concepts who have become important pillars of DC canon, such as the Hall of Justice, Wendy and Marvin, and the Wonder Twins. In addition, Super Friends was the first time Darkseid appeared outside of the comics, and it was the first time Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder had been depicted in adapted media.

While many other DC shows have better animation and have stronger writing, this series paved the way for so much of what came later. Because of this, I’m giving it a high spot on our ranking.

13. Teen Titans (2003-2006)

Teen Titans
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series following the adventures of the Teen Titans. Unlike their comic book counterparts, this version of the team didn’t have any secret identities. The animation was inspired by Japanese anime, giving the series a fun stylized feel. At times the tone would be irreverent and zany, such as the episode where Robin is forced to go out on a date with a villain’s daughter. Other episodes would be dark and serious, such as the show’s adaptation of the comic book storyline Terror of Trigon. The series also inspired Teen Titans Go!, which uses exaggerated versions of the characterization and concepts introduced here.

12. The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999)

The New Batman Adventures
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

This series is hard to classify. Some view it as another season of Batman: The Animated Series, while others view it as a sequel series. The episodes originally aired as part of Kids WB’s The New Batman/Superman Adventures package series. As a result, these episodes never received their own title sequence. On DVDs and streaming, they either use the original Batman: The Animated Series intro or The New Batman/Superman Adventures title sequence. The series is unofficially known as The New Batman Adventures, a title adopted by DC Entertainment in their marketing.

The show is set a few years after Batman: The Animated Series. Some of the character designs have been updated. Dick Grayson has quit being Robin and adopted the identity of Nightwing, while a young orphan named Tim Drake has become the new Robin. While the series never reached the creative heights that Batman: The Animated Series did, it still has many enjoyable episodes and creative moments. Plus, it’s great to see a Batman series that features extended Batman Family members like Batgirl, Robin, and Nightwing.

11. DC Super Hero Girls (2019-2021)

DC Super Hero Girls
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A cartoon inspired by the DC Super Hero Girls web series, but set in its own unique continuity. The animated series was developed by Lauren Faust, who is best known for creating My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Many people sleep on this series because they view it as a ‘girls show,’ but it’s actually one of the best animated shows DC has ever produced. The series follows a teenage Barbara Gordon, who moves from Gotham to Metropolis. She quickly deduces that her classmates are (coincidentally) secretly superheroes. As Batgirl, Babs fights alongside Bumblebee, Zatanna, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (Jessica Cruz), and Supergirl.

The dynamics between the girls were fun, and the show had building subplots to keep viewers hooked. It was a fun and entertaining take on the DC Universe that never got the attention it deserved.

10. Justice League (2001-2004)

Justice League
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series starring the Justice League. The cartoon built off the foundation laid by Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. In addition to Batman and Superman, the League consisted of Flash, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern (John Stewart), and Wonder Woman. While the DC Animated Universe had always featured complex themes and character development, Justice League took things to the next level. The characterizations had more depth and the pacing was slower, allowing more breathing room for serious adult moments. This is where the DCAU matured and evolved, becoming more than Saturday morning entertainment.

9. Static Shock (2000-2004)

Static Shock
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series based on the adventures of the Milestone Media hero Static. The cartoon follows Virgil Hawkins, an African-American teenager who gained electricity powers after being exposed to experimental gas. Virgil navigated the complexities of teenage life while trying to find his way as a superhero. Some episodes were silly, such as the ones where Static teams up with Li’l Romeo and Shaquille O’Neal. Other episodes dealt with gun violence, racism, and grief. Those episodes are some of the finest pieces of DC animated media ever produced.

8. My Adventures with Superman (2023-present)

My Adventures with Supermsn
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

This animated series is a reimagined version of the early days of Superman’s career. Previous versions of canon presented Lois Lane as a veteran reporter when Clark Kent came to Metropolis, but this cartoon takes another approach. In this series, Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Jimmy Olsen all are newcomers to the Daily Planet, struggling to find their way as reporters. The cartoon is a true ensemble show focusing on the trio. Of course, Clark Kent’s status as an aliens superhero complicates that dynamic, but that’s what makes it fun.

The series feels like a mix between modern anime and an early 2000s Adult Swim show. It also features cool redesigns of classic Superman villains like Metallo and Mr. Mxyzptlk. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it takes the Superman mythos in a bold new direction while still honoring the core canon.

7. Harley Quinn (2019-present)

Harley Quinn
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A raunchy animated sitcom focusing on the adventures of Harley Quinn. The series was developed for the DC Universe streaming service but moved over to HBO Max (now Max) when the app became DC Universe Infinite. The series is about Harley Quinn’s quest to find herself after ending her relationship with the Joker. This involves trying her hand as a supervillain, toying with the idea of becoming a hero, and finding love with Poison Ivy. Warner Bros. Animation has described the tone as Daria mixed with the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Add in some gratuitous violence and sex, and that statement is accurate.

The series is very risqué. For example, one episode involves a naked Bane growing to Kaiju size and humping buildings. The series has many DC Universe deep cuts, including obscure villains like Codpiece. You can tell that the team behind the series have a deep love for the DC Universe. Plus, the show is truly funny, and it isn’t afraid to knock our favorite heroes and villains down a peg.

6. Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

The premise of this cartoon was that Batman would team up with a different DC Universe hero in every episode. This cartoon was more lighthearted than previous Batman shows. In many ways, it felt like Diedrich Bader was voicing a modern version of Adam West’s Caped Crusader. Batman was fun and earnest, without being too campy or dark. The series was an optimistic take on the DC Universe. It was almost like the producers wanted to bring the Silver Age into the modern era.

The revolving guest-hero gimmick meant that many of DC’s more obscure heroes got a turn in the spotlight. Throughout the series, Batman teamed up with characters like Detective Chimp, G.I. Robot, and the Metal Men. The inclusion of Bat-Mite allowed the show to break reality from time to time, adapting Bat-Manga and teaming up with Scooby-Doo.

The show felt like a celebration of the DC Universe. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend watching the final episode, ‘Mitefall.’ It’s a loving tribute to the Dark Knight’s legacy across all mediums.

5. Batman Beyond (1999-2001)

Batman Beyond
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Set decades after Batman: The Animated Series, the series introduced Terry McGinnis, a teenage boy who becomes the new Batman. An elderly Bruce Wayne serves as a gruff and humorless mentor to Terry. Unlike Bruce, Terry was impulsive, upbeat, and at times immature. The dynamic between Bruce and Terry was one of the highlights of the show.

Batman Beyond was an original concept not based on any DC Comic. With no source material to draw from, Warner Bros. Animation created new villains for Gotham’s futuristic world, including Blight, Inque, and Shriek. There were also fun references to the past, including appearances from Superman, Ra’s al Ghul, and Mr. Freeze. Batman Beyond was a fun update on the Batman mythos that took the franchise in a refreshing new direction.

4. Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006)

Justice League Unlimited
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

A sequel series to the 2001 Justice League cartoon. This series expanded the League’s roster…by a lot! Nearly all of DC’s notable heroes (and many of their obscure ones) were included. Many of the episodes put different heroes in the spotlight. The scope was huge. In many ways, Justice League Unlimited could almost be considered ‘DC Universe: The Cartoon.’ In addition, the series continued the mature storytelling that viewers had come to love with the 2001 Justice League cartoon.

3. Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)

Superman: The Animated Series
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Following the success of Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Bros. Animation sought to give Superman a similar treatment. Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, the team behind B:TAS, developed the series, hoping lightning would strike twice.

It did.

Premiering in 1996 on Kids WB, Superman: The Animated Series quickly became an audience favorite. The series was heavily inspired by John Byrne’s Superman reboot that had occurred a decade earlier. Clark Kent was more assertive, Jonathan and Martha Kent were still alive, and Lex Luthor was a corrupt businessman. The series streamlined the best parts of the Superman mythos, creating an entertaining cartoon that has stood the test of time.

The influence of the animated series can be felt in the comics today. The series featured the first appearances of the villain Livewire and Lex Luthor’s bodyguard Mercy Graves. In addition, it’s the first time in the Superman mythos that Lois Lane used “Smallville” as a nickname for Clark Kent.

2. Young Justice (2010-2022)

Young Justice
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

An animated series focusing on the next generation of heroes. Although it’s named after the Young Justice comic series, the show goes in its own direction. In fact, the team of young heroes is never actually called Young Justice in the show proper. Instead, the refer to themselves as The Team.

When Young Justice began in 2010, it was an animated series focusing on the DC Universe’s teenage heroes. By the fourth season, many of the main characters were in their twenties. It was a series where characters grew up, and in some cases started families. The series also tackled mental health issues, showing the importance of therapy and self-care.

The series was an audience favorite, but it was constantly bedeviled by executive meddling. The first two seasons aired on Cartoon Network, but the show was cancelled due to low toy sales. The series continued to garner high viewership on Netflix, and a fan campaign convinced Warner Bros. Animation to greenlit a revival. A third season aired on the DC Universe streaming service, before moving over to HBO Max for its fourth season. Although the streaming seasons did high numbers, a fifth season hasn’t been ordered. For now, it looks like Young Justice is finished, but fans are still campaigning for a revival. Perhaps one day we’ll see one.

1. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

Batman: The Animated Series
Image credit: Warner Bros. Animation

Was there ever any doubt about which series would take the top spot? Batman: The Animated Series is not only the gold standard for DC cartoons, but it’s the gold standard for animation period! Warner Bros. Animation initially commissioned the cartoon as a way to capitalize on the Tim Burton Batman films, but the series left a bigger impact than anyone had anticipated.

The cartoon fused the feel of the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams comics run with the imagery of the Tim Burton films. Batman: The Animated Series not only adapted the source material, but in some cases, it improved on it. For example, the series took the gimmicky villain Mr. Freeze and gave him a tragic new origin.

To many fans, Kevin Conroy is the iconic voice of Batman, and Mark Hamill is the iconic voice for the Joker. These are the voices many fans (including myself) hear in their heads when they’re reading a comic book. Plus, the series introduced Harley Quinn, a character who has become one of the biggest pillars of the modern DC Universe.

This is Batman at his creative height. Look no further than the ending of the episode ‘Baby-Doll,’ where Batman hugs a villain who is having an emotional breakdown. This series launched the DC Animated Universe, one of the most enduring and beloved corners of DC continuity. Oh, and it won multiple Emmy Awards. In terms of DC media, this has never been topped.

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