It was back in 1992 that Timm and Dini's Batman: The Animated Series first glided into the scene, and it cast a long shadow indeed over the 1990s. Chief animator Timm and series producer Dini created an animated version of the Dark Knight that was finally as edgy and complicated as the original comic. In the Timm/Dini Gotham City, Batman was a creature of the night (no daytime appearances ever) who really did lose his parents to a mugger, the Joker was a true psychotic and people actually died in horrible ways. The cartoon's dark style was borrowed from Japanese anime, particularly the look of Akira and other "serious" animated stories. And then there was that voice talent: Kevin Conroy as Batman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred, and a seemingly never-ending array of voices behind the rogues's gallery. The two that stick out in my mind most were Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze and Mark Hamill, who created a whole 'nother career after Luke Skywalker as he gave the Joker frightening new life (in my opinion better than Jack Nicholson ever could).
In the years following Batman: The Animated Series's success, Timm and Dini came out with Superman: The Animated Series, playing out in the same "universe" created in Batman: TAS. Tim Daly provided Superman/Clark Kent with his voice while Clancy Brown was brought in to counter Supes as Lex Luthor. And if you want to see the Timm/Dini 'verse at its most potent, watch the Superman series's two-parter "Apokolips... Now!": in my mind one of the DC animated team's two finest works from its entire decade and a half.
A few more series (mostly centered on Batman/Superman) came out during the Nineties, including Batman Beyond: a bold "foretelling" of the Timm/Dini DC saga set some 50 years in the future. In 2000 that series gave us Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the other acme of Timm/Dini greatness... and probably (in the unedited version anyway) one of the most chilling stories ever told in the animated medium.
In 2001 the Timm/Dini setting grew dramatically with Justice League, and then broadened further in 2004's Justice League Unlimited. By that point the Timm/Dini environment had included darn nearly every super-hero (and villain) from DC's sixty-some years of history.
And tonight, something that began "On Leather Wings" in 1992 (actually the first Batman: The Animated Series episode was "The Cat and the Claw" that aired Saturday morning before the next evening's "world premiere"... I know 'cuz I watched both :-) will end with Justice League Unlimited's finale episode "Destroyer". The episode pits Batman and Superman and Lex Luthor and all those other heroes and villains against Darkseid: the biggest, most bad-a$$ enemy of the entire DC cosmos. Tonight we are supposed to see Superman go full-tilt berzerk with his powers against Darkseid... something I've been wanting to see happen ever since what Darkseid did in "Apokolips... Now!" Can't wait to watch it.
And afterward, I'll raise a toast to what Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and everyone they worked with have given us all these years. Thanks for the good times, guys!! And Lord willing, may you someday return to this great setting that you've given us :-)