Bootleg Classics: Justice League Unlimited “Question Authority”

Watchmen week continues here at Art of the Cartoon…

The original “superheroes” that were supposed to be used for Watchmen were taken right from the pages of Charlton Comics. Charlton Comics was bought out, however, by a major comic studio named DC Comics in 1985. Since DC planned to incorporate the heroes from Charlton Comics into the DC Universe, Alan Moore, writer of Watchmen, along with Dave Gibbons, Artist/ Penciler of Watchmen, decided to create original characters for their soon to be classic book. Even though the new characters were original, they were still influenced by the Charlton Comics superheroes that were supposed to be in Watchmen.

Case and point, Rorschach was loosely based on The Question:


Question on the left, Rorschach on the right
Question on the left, Rorschach on the right



And Doctor Manhattan was loosely based on Captain Atom:


Capt. Atom on left, Dr. Manhattan on right
Capt. Atom on left, Dr. Manhattan on right

What would have happened had Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons been able to use the Charlton Comics superheroes for Watchmen? This intriguing question is somewhat answered in this Bootleg Classic.

Justice League Unlimited “Question Authority” 2005 


Justice League Unlimited (JLU) came from the mind of Bruce Timm, who also created Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and the precursor to JLU, Justice League. These shows were the backbone of what is dubbed the DC Animated Universe (DCAU). Justice League Unlimited was (unfortunately) the last series in the DCAU. Justice League Unlimited expanded the roster from the previous Justice League show, which only focused on 7 main heroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, and Hawkgirl) to include almost every character from DC’s Universe. 

The Episode:

Certain events and developments during the DC Animated Universe have culminated in the public distrust of the Justice League (more specifically Superman), the government has started a secret program called “Cadmus” to deal with the Justice League, and Lex Luthor has garnered enough public interest and affection that he is running for President. While Superman and Captain Atom are out fighting the Mantis and the Power Parasite in Metropolis, the Question investigates further into the secret government project “Cadmus.” The Question uncovers a conspiracy that could not only threaten the Justice League, but may also bring turmoil to the world. In the end, the Question is captured, Superman goes in to save him, but Captain Atom, who has been recently re-commissioned to the U.S. Air Force, stands in his way. An epic battle between Superman and Captain Atom is about to begin…

The Impact:

I know, this sounds nothing like Watchmen. But since JLU was an animated show geared toward youths 10 – 16, “Question Authority” is the closest thing Watchmen will get to a 30-minutes youth oriented animated program. When I saw the scene where a paranoid Question is talking about conspiracy and fall-out, I was immediately reminded of Rorschach. 

In fact, there were many things in this episode that reminded me of Watchmen: The public distrust of “superheroes” especially the conversation between Superman and Lois about League’s purpose and mission, the question of morality, the conspiracy, Lex Luthor seemed very Adrian Viedt-like, and I mean Captain Atom was working for the government, doesn’t that sound Doctor Manhattan-ish to you? 

The real impact is that “Question Authority” and actually all of Justice League Unlimited seasons 1 & 2 (I would actually count all of the DC Animated Universe as well) dealt with very mature issues in a smart way that also featured some good action. Plus, comic book geeks were totally taken into account since these shows’ writers were comic book geeks (Many have moved onto actual comic books and some ended up on Lost) Unfortunately, today’s “superhero” animated programs deal mostly with action and have little to no character and/ or story depth. 

I have to say, “Question Authority” in 2005 gave me so many elements of Watchmen that I had to go back a re-read Watchmen after watching this episode. See the episode here in 3 parts:

Alright, I’ll admit this though, I really dig the Question!

This isn’t the last Bootleg Classic from the DC Animated Universe…

PS: If you’re a comic book geek and you have NOT watched the DC Animated Universe, you better hit me up, I’ll let you borrow the whole run…BEST ANIMATED ADAPTATION OF THE COMICS EVER…rivals even some live-action movies.

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