Started in Animation, Now I'm Here: 5 DC Comics Characters with Cartoon Roots

Kyle Dodson

Kyle Dodson

Feb. 6, 2020


Countless DC characters have made the jump from the page to the screen with the big-screen debuts of Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya in the Birds of Prey movie as the latest example. But it's slightly rarer to find characters who began on the screen and making the transition into comic books.  But thanks to beloved animated classics like Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, there are many heroes and villains who made an impact across multiple media. Here are 5 major DC characters who got their start in animation before coming to the comics...





Harley Quinn BTAS.jpg

Harley Quinn comics.jpg


Many mainstream characters got their start in Batman: The Animated Series, but the most popular is without a doube Harley Quinn. First appearing in the episode “Joker’s Favor,” Harley was meant to be an expendable sidekick to the Clown Prince of Crime, but quickly rose to become his partner and a criminal in her own right.


She made the leap to comic book canon in 1993’s The Batman Adventures #12. From there she skyrocketed to a mainstay of Batman’s rogues gallery. She has been a member of the Suicide Squad in comics, animation, and film.


Since breaking up with the Joker, everything’s been coming up Harley. She’s starred in her own groundbreaking comic series changing up her look and asserting her independence. If that wasn’t enough, her hilarious, brand new series Harley Quinn is now streaming on DC Universe.






LIve Wire DC Comics.jpg


This electric villain put the “shock” in shock jock when radio host Leslie Willis was electrocuted during a late night rock concert in the Superman: The Animated Series episode “Livewire.” Harnessing the power of electricity, Livewire is able to shoot electric blasts and travel along any electric current, making her a slippery foe for the Man of Steel. Naturally, her main weakness is water, which means she probably doesn’t shower often… gross!


Livewire first made the jump in Superman Adventures #5, a tie-in for the show. Eventually, she was brought into the mainstream continuity in Action Comics #835 with one noticeable difference- she was born with her powers. Much like a battery, there’s a positive to every negative, and in this incarnation, Livewire was a hero. She's helped save the world with Nightwing and Superman in Action Comics #842 and even became a member of Supermen of America in Superman #714.








Another strong woman from Batman: The Animated Series, this time on the right side of the law. Renee Montoya is a no-nonsense cop under Commissioner Gordon’s command. She was initially conceived for the small screen, but due to production and animation schedule delays, she technically made her first appearance in Batman #475. That doesn’t discredit her though, she finally appeared in the episode “P.O.V." a few months after her initial debut.


From there, she's made her way into the upper echelon of Batman lore. She became a staple of the GCPD and ally of the Caped Crusader as one of the main characters in Gotham Central. During the series, she is outed as a lesbian by Two-Face and framed for murder. Eventually, she clears her name of all charges, while giving many queer and Latino readers a strong role model.


A few years later, she swapped her badge for a faceless mask when she took over the mantle of The Question in 52 #48. She had a run in Batwoman as Kate Kane’s crime fighting partner and love interest and this year, she'll finally make her cinematic debut in Birds of Prey.





Aqualad Young Justice.jpg

Aqualad DC Comics.jpg


Aqualad has been around since 1960’s Adventure Comics #269 and co-starred in the Aquaman animated series. However, 2010’s Young Justice debuted Kaldur’ahm as Aqualad. This version of Aquaman’s protege is the son of his nemesis, Black Manta and an Atlantean woman. Kaldur’s hydrokinesis comes from his Atlantean genes and proves to be helpful in most battles near a water source.


Technically, a version of this character appeared as Aqualad a mere two months earlier in Brightest Day #4 under the name Jackson Hyde, but was added as a compliment to the upcoming Young Justice series. His character bio has some slight alterations to it such as his upbringing and looks. The character was omitted from the New 52, but rolled back in with the tide in Rebirth. Still using his Jackson Hyde moniker, this teen looks more like his Young Justice counterpart and recently joined the Teen Titans.





Batman Beyond.jpg

Batman Beyond dc comics.jpg


This list would not be complete without Batman Beyond’s Terry McGinnis. This series combined Blade Runner aesthetic with 90s retrofuturism in a post-Batman Gotham. Terry was chosen by Bruce to take up the mantle and defend the city. Terry is hesitant at first, but signs up and the rest is history. The show broke new ground for the Batman franchise and allowed for old friends and foes to crop up among a heap of new ones. There are plenty of “ok boomer” moments between Terry and Bruce as they learn to trust one another and work as a team.


Despite only lasting three seasons, the show had a lasting impact on many viewers and catapulted Batman Beyond into the mainstream continuity. Aside from tie-in comics and one off appearances, Terry appeared in 2010’s Batman Beyond limited series where he and Bruce fought against Hush. Afterwards, Batman Beyond became an ongoing series that spawned the “Beyond Universe” title Batman Beyond Unlimited which included Superman Beyond and Justice League Beyond titles. The New 52 swapped a time displaced Tim Drake for Terry McGinnis during Future’s End. As of Rebirth, Terry is back in the saddle and has the help of a new Batwoman.


Due to its popularity, Batman Beyond spawned its own movie, Return of the Joker; a spin-off show, The Zeta Project; and even appearances in other DCAU shows like Static Shock’s “Future Shock.” In fact, the Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue” answered several unanswered questions from the series and served as a fitting send off for the characters.



What animated characters do you hope show up in comics next? Let us know in our Community!