Superman: Man of Tomorrow has the ability to launch a brand new shared universe for DC Animation: by relying on the film’s greatest strength. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War marked the end of Warner Animation’s shared universe earlier this year. Starting in 2013 with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the studio initiated an interconnected universe for their animated properties, similar to the DCEU and the MCU. The series adopted a lot of familiar DC arcs from page to screen that ultimately concluded with the Apokolips centric film that saw the Justice League’s ultimate fight against Darkseid. While it may not be the last time fans see that iteration of DC in animation, it’s not the current focus any more for Warner Animation.
Earlier this fall, the studio brought Superman: Man of Tomorrow to the animated screen with Darren Criss voicing the Last Son of Krypton. The film followed Clark in his early days as the iconic DC hero with a completely original story putting him against the villainous Parasite. Throughout Superman: Man of Tomorrow, various DC Easter eggs are dropped and teased, giving DC fans plenty of things to hopefully look forward to. While there haven’t been any concrete plans made for a shared universe going forward, that is exactly what Superman: Man of Tomorrow should help launch. But this time, Warner Bros. should rely on what made the latest iteration of Superman in animation as strong as it was.
While many of DC’s past animated films did solid adaptations of some of the comic publisher’s biggest arcs, it also came with a downside. Even if it’s new for viewers who have never read those books, a lot of viewers who watch the movies have also already read the books they’re based on. In the case of Superman: Man of Tomorrow, the film was a breath of fresh air because it tackled the Superman story differently. Even if the destination is still the same in this Superman origin story, it was the journey that was refreshing and compelling. The struggle that Clark had to face while getting used to being Superman added a new layer to the Man of Steel that hasn’t been seen a lot in animation.
That same approach should be applied to other DC Comics heroes that will get animated films too. Even if it’s still not clear if Superman: Man of Tomorrow is the style and direction that Warner is going with for their animated films, it’ll hopefully be the one they take into great account. Just like with DC TV shows through the Arrowverse and the live-action DC films, the animated films should be able to feel like their own entity. The other divisions for DC in media may adapt or draw inspiration from DC publications, but they tend to mostly find their own spin whenever they do.
If Superman: Man of Tomorrow can help launch a new shared animated universe, the best approach is to focus on original stories. Along with the fascinating animation style that the Superman film had, other DC characters should get stories that really explore new territories in their mythologies. The key element, though, is that they should focus more on establishing the respective heroes before doing any crossovers. A gathering of the Man of Tomorrow-universe’s Justice League should get to be earned and more intimate than perhaps the DC Animated Movie Universe did. Whatever the plans are for Warner’s DC animated films, it’ll hopefully lead into a shared franchise again that gets to do things differently this time, thanks to Superman: Man of Tomorrow.