One of the things I love (and what I’m sure other people love) about DC Universe is that it gives all fans, new and old, the chance to connect with bits and pieces of obscure DC media in a way that just wasn’t possible a few years ago.
From the WB Birds of Prey series to Filmation’s Shazam show from the 70’s to Cartoon Network’s DC Nation shorts, it’s just awesome that we now have a place where can discover (or rediscover) these cult-classics with just a couple clicks.
But there’s one piece of DC’s animation history that’s still relatively unknown to even some of the most hardcore fans out there. A series set in the DCAU that made an immediate impact in the time it came out and the era of animation it was apart of, yet it was gone almost as suddenly as when it arrived.
I’m not talking about The Zeta Project. I’m talking about this:
For this history lesson, I’m going to take you back to the early-mid 2000’s, when Flash animation on the web was one of the hottest things going on in the world of animation (besides the simultaneous rise of both Toonami and Adult Swim).
Newgrounds, Atom Films, Cartoon Monsoon, Icebox, the early days of ScrewAttack and Rooster Teeth. Anyone who was paying attention to any of this stuff (including kids like myself at the time) were exposed to this incredible groundswell of talent that largely came from outside the traditional studio system. Crude skits, serious drama, sitcom-level antics, stylized action. There was something for everyone.
And of course a big draw for kids (like me) who couldn’t stay up late for Adult Swim: a lot of this stuff was VERY adult and VERY raunchy and violent and just flat-out insane. The mods here would physically throw me out if I linked any of the Joe Cartoon stuff here. It was THAT crazy.
Well before YouTube, well before Netflix and the age of streaming, this stuff had me enraptured because you just weren’t seeing that anywhere else, certainly not on TV in the afternoons or on Saturday morning.
Somewhere, in this rabble-rousing, rebellious period of experimentation was one of the most fascinating experiments of them all: Gotham Girls.
A co-production between Warner Bros. Animation and Noodle Soup Productions, it ran for 3 seasons, totaling 30-31 episodes (if you count a two-parter as one episode), took place in the DCAU - animated in a simplified version of The New Batman Adventures’ visual style - and centered on the lives and exploits of some of the most recognizable female heroes and villains in Gotham’s orbit: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Renee Montoya and (in seasons 1 and 2) Zatanna.
Not only was it a Flash animated series produced by a major animated company, it was maybe the only one to have an entire cast of professional voice-actresses and actors, most of them reprising their DCAU roles for this series: Arleen Sorkin as Harley, Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman (also voicing Renee), Diane Pershing as Poison Ivy, and Tara Strong as Batgirl. Heck they even brought Bob Hastings on for season 3 as Commissioner Gordon.
While it may not be revolutionary by today’s standards, Gotham Girls was absolutely ahead of its time in almost every respect. A largely-female cast of characters? A season-long arc with a beginning, middle, and end? Flash animation that appears undistorted and unpixellated at any resolution (save for interactive elements)? A transgender character (Selma Reesedale, a GCPD detective) who’s identity is not cast in any negative light and only factors into the story during a key moment?
These were all things that you wouldn’t see in animation for years (decades even), but they were all qualities that made Gotham Girls a truly unique entry in DC Animation canon and, still to this day, one of the best Flash web animations ever produced.
Okay, lightning round:
Now, I wish I could tell you why Gotham Girls only lasted three seasons, but I can’t. To my knowledge, no behind-the-scenes document of the series’ creation exists. Only thing known to us is that Paul Dini and key creative personnel from the DCAU were involved with the show’s scripts.
The series was popular enough that at one point, it did spawn a five-issue tie-in miniseries, which is coincidentally being reprinted for trade release this month.
The Gotham Girls website, which had interactive games, character info, screensavers, polls, and message boards (among other things) is no longer in operation. It simply redirects to the Warner Bros website.
The .swf files for all the episodes were still accessible long after the website shut down…until mid-2015. Now, if I try to download them, I run the risk of harming the software on my new laptop.
The entire series did come out on DVD once, as a bonus feature for the release of Birds of Prey. The interactive portions are omitted.
If you want to check it out, the whole series is available on Youtube and not widely available anywhere else, unless you happen to have the Birds of Prey DVD (and a DVD player).
Do you remember this show? If you do, do you have any favorite moments? Any favorite episodes? Do you remember the interactive elements?
Discuss and enjoy. I’ll see you down in the thread.
EDIT: As promised, here’s all 30 episodes of Gotham Girls right here on Youtube.