Patton Oswalt’s interest in comic books and genre material has been well documented – look no further than his improvised eight minutes Parks and recreation buccaneer detailing how to merge the Marvel and Star Wars universes. The actor, writer, and comedian became a voracious comic book reader, eventually penning a few stories across DC Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel. Oswalt has also appeared in several comic book adaptations, including a live-action role on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and voice work on Teen Titans Go!, Spider Man and Joyful!.
What fans might not know is that he also appeared in several minor parts of the groundbreaking DC Animated Universe. Oswalt was credited on several episodes of batman beyond and Static shock — roles that indirectly set him up for an offer to write the Justice League Unlimited related comic. The latter only resulted in the sale of a single untold story, but the story of how it happened is still worth telling.
Despite being a well-received comedian with writing credits for Mr. Show and MADtv under his belt, when Oswalt starred in batman beyond “Sentries of the Last Cosmos” in May 2000, he was best known for his supporting role as Spence on the CBS sitcom king of queens. His appearance on batman beyond (before his comics reboot), aside from being his first time voicing a character not based on himself, it was more in line with Oswalt’s career trajectory and interests.
Like Eldon Michaels, Oswalt played a cross between star wars creator George Lucas and famous turn-of-the-century Internet critic Harry Knowles. The creator of the “Sentries of the Last Cosmos” video game, Michaels had been dismissed by his former business partner Simon Harper, who had come to believe the game was real. This led to future Batman Terry McGinnis battling Harper as an ersatz version of Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine. Michaels’ involvement in the “Sentries” games was reaffirmed at the end of the episode, and the game will appear in later episodes of batman beyond and its fallout The Zeta Project.
Six months later, in November 2000, Oswalt made his first of several appearances on the Kids’ WB superhero series. Static shock as Specifications. Introduced in the episode “The New Kid” as a student of the elite Vanmoor Institute, Specs and his friend and classmate Trapper (Michael Rosenbaum, who is currently developing a Smallville animated series) were enlisted by Edwin Alva to capture Static. Initially set apart from other DC animated programs – as are the original Milestone comics and their most recent revival – Static the second season tied him to the larger DCAU through a guest appearance as Batman. Specs made two additional appearances over the four seasons.
Oswalt’s prolific writing career had branched out into comics by this time, notably at DC with contributions to from batman 600th issue and 2003 JLA: Welcome to the work week one-shot (with newcomer Patrick Gleason). With these titles and a few more under his belt, Oswalt submitted a pitch to take on writing duties on Justice League Unlimited, the tie-in comic running concurrently with the 2004-2006 Cartoon Network series. Oswalt opened up about his fondness for the show in a 2006 interview with The Pulse of Comiconciting the series’ scale, variety of cast, and handling of its villains among his favorite aspects.
Only one of Oswalt’s ideas was bought off (as he put it, “they thought a lot of my stories blew up”): a glitch pairing the time-traveling hero Booster Gold with the futuristic Atomic Knights. This perhaps reflects less on the quality of Oswalt’s writing and more on the concerted move away from a regular creative team on the title – a change made after the release of the original. JLU writer/artist combo Adam Beechen and Carlo Barberi. Nevertheless, Oswalt’s issue was not published in the two years preceding JLU canceled in June 2008 with its 46th issue.
Patton Oswalt’s star has continued to rise since his fleeting experience with the DCAU. He has since appeared in other DC Comics animated series, including The Batman as a toymaker, “anything goes” Justice League action like Space Cabbie, and on The Teen Titans Go! like Atom. It took a little longer for the ‘distinguished pageant’ to knock on his door, but Oswalt voiced Uncle Ben in 2017 Spider Man and played like MODOK in the Hulu stop-motion animated series. Oswalt’s time with the DCAU was brief and could have amounted to so much more, but as a singular talent and avowed super-fan, it’s only fitting that he crossed paths with the seminal animated universe.
Justice League brings back Hypertime – and another classic team-up
About the Author