Even though they’re a pop culture dynasty now, Marvel’s really the new kid on the pop culture block. Its rival DC Comics, along with their parent company Warner Bros., have been cranking out beloved animation and live-action productions for over 75 years, all the way back to the classic art deco Superman cartoons by the Fleischer brothers in 1941.
Over the years, plenty of A-list stars have lent their voices and talents to DC comics productions, and some have cameos so quick that you wouldn’t even know you were seeing or hearing an A-lister until their name showed up in the credits.
For some, it’s a fun way to let their geek flag fly as a fan of comic books, while for others, it’s easy money when animated series are hungry for premiere talent that they can boast.
Maybe in another 15-20 years people will even look back at Marvel and find future megastars hidden in the background of scenes or popping up as one-episode villaisn or guest stars. Right now, DC boasts an impressive list of Easter egg worthy cameos, including some who would later go on to Marvel’s camp.
With that said, here are the 15 A-Lister Cameos You Totally Missed in DC.
15 Amy Adams in Smallville
Coming after the Dean Cain/Teri Hatcher Lois and Clark series but before the CW’s explosion of superhero shows, Smallville kept the live action DC Comics torch burning on TV from 2001 to 2011.
It spun a modern, in-depth look at Superman’s teenage years in Kansas, and grew from monster-of-the-week style episodes in early seasons to develop its own mythology. While it was still featuring a new resident of Smallville being mutated by kryptonite weekly, Amy Adams gave a performance that is now hilarious in hindsight.
She played an overweight student of Smallville High who rapidly sheds pounds after drinking smoothies made from vegetables contaminated by kryptonite. However, here's the catchL she is now forced to suck the fat out of animals and people to sate a never-ending vampiric hunger.
Nobody at the time could have thought that the unknown girl with a one-off role as a fat vampire would eventually become the first lady of the DC cinematic universe, playing intrepid reporter Lois Lane in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League.
14 Rosario Dawson in Wonder Woman (2009)
Rosario Dawson has become an institution in Marvel’s Netflix streaming series as Claire Temple, the beleaguered nurse who patches up every superhero in New York in her spare time.
She’s also arguably the best character in each series, having gained a certain perspective and wisdom that comes with treating the most powerful heroes in New York when they’re at their most vulnerable.
However, six years before, Dawson cameoed with Marvel’s rival DC in the animated direct-to-video Wonder Woman movie as Artemis, an aggressive and hot-tempered Amazon sister of Princess Diana who nevertheless proves key in stopping Ares’ assault on Washington, DC.
In a case of pure coincidence, Dawson also narrates the audiobook of Artemis, which is totally unrelated to DC-- it’s the first novel from Andy Weir since his smash hit The Martian.
13 Dave Franco in Young Justice
Dave Franco is generating major Oscar buzz as the lead in The Disaster Artist, which follows up starring roles in the 21 Jump Street and Now You See Me film series. He’s arguably had a more consistent career as a leading man than his brother James Franco, who first showed up on most people’s radar as Harry Osborne in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies.
Where James went Marvel, Dave went DC, and cameoed on the fan-favorite series Young Justice as Edward Nygma. Although Young Justice was canceled after only two seasons, fan fervor and Netflix ratings were enough that the series has been resurrected for a third season.
It’ll premiere on DC Entertainment and Warner Bros’ streaming service debuting sometime in 2018, and we can only hope Dave will come back as The Riddler.
12 Carla Gugino in Man of Steel
No matter what you think of his movies, Zack Snyder at least deserves credit for taking care of his own. Actors who’ve starred in past Snyder films often get to have cameo roles or voiceover work in his subsequent productions.
For example, Gerard Butler narrated Tales of the Black Freighter, a companion piece to Snyder’s Watchmen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan got to play Bruce Wayne’s father in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Carla Gugino lends her voice to the robot servant Kelor of the House of El in Man of Steel. She helps guide Jor-El, Superman’s father, to the growth codex, so that he can send it with his son to Earth.
She also voices the computer that helps guide Clark Kent through the Kryptonian scout ship that he finds in the Arctic Circle, allowing him to discover his true parentage and ancestry as the last son of Krypton.
11 Channing Tatum in The Lego Movie
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have proven time and again that they can take an questionable idea for a movie and make it incredible. They even surprised the world by showcasing Channing Tatum’s incredible comedic ability when they cast him in 21 Jump Street.
They brought him back for a mere two scenes in The Lego Movie as the Lego Last Son of Krypton, Superman, alongside his Jump Street co-star Jonah Hill as Green Lantern.
Luckily, it was quality over screen time, and both returned for The Lego Batman Movie. Hopefully, this role prepared Channing Tatum for his first starring role as a superhero in the upcoming Gambit movie, which has finally emerged from development hell and is set for release in February 2019.
10 Josh Hutcherson in Justice League Unlimited
Justice League Unlimited was the culmination of Bruce Timm’s animated universe: a vibrant, complex, yet fun love letter to the heroes and villains of DC’s multiverse.
It achieved the impossible by adapting an Alan Moore story in a way that actually got the bearded curmudgeon’s seal of approval in the episode “For The Man Who Has Everything”.
The story sees Superman trapped in his own mind by an alien parasite that allows him to live out his heart’s deepest desire: raising a family and having a life on a Krypton that never blew up.
Unfortunately, Superman knows that something’s amiss, and in the climactic scene has to confess to his dream son that he knows, even though he loves him more than anything in the world, that he’s a fantasy.
His son Van-El is voiced by a young Josh Hutcherson in a tear-jerking scene where Superman’s fantasy world disintegrates around him. It’s a preview of his ability to make grown men ugly cry in Bridge To Terabithia three years later.
9 J.K. Simmons in Justice League Unlimited
J.K. Simmons straddles both sides of the superhero fandom divide, having turned in a classic performance as J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies before switching sides in Justice League to play Batman’s stalwart partner-in-justice Jim Gordon.
His voiceover career is just as eclectic, so it isn’t surprising he showed up for a role on Justice League Unlimited.
He voiced General Wade Eiling in Justice League Unlimited for a couple of short cameos before taking center stage in the episode “Patriot Act”, where Eiling injects himself with serum from the Captain Nazi project retrieved by Spy Smasher after World War II.
The newly super-powered and super-crazy General Eiling crashes a parade in Metropolis hoping to challenge Superman, only to discover that a bunch of Justice League third-stringers are the only ones on duty to oppose him.
8 Alfred Molina in Wonder Woman (2009)
Possessed of a chameleonic voice, Alfred Molina has played a rainbow of nationalities and ethnicities over the course of his career, from the Mexican painter and revolutionary Diego Luna in Frida to Afghani Attorney General Ali Massoud Sadiq in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
However, he’s been just as active behind the microphone, lending his voice to shows like Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken, among others.
He also beat David Thewlis to the punch, technically, as the first actor to play Ares, enemy of Diana Prince, in a Wonder Woman movie. Before DC got their act together to make the best superhero movie of 2017, they made a fantastic direct-to-video Wonder Woman movie starring Keri Russell as the titular Amazon.
Opposing her was Alfred Molina as Artemis, who raised legions of Amazon dead from the underworld and tried to manipulate the President of the United States into nuking Themyscira.
7 Conan O’Brien in The Lego Batman Movie
The Lego Batman Movie is such a cornucopia of cameos and A-Listers that it’s hard to pick just one: Eddie Izzard plays Voldemort, Jermaine Clement plays Sauron, and Doug Benson plays Bane. However, one of the most interesting roles is Conan O’Brien’s turn as The Riddler, aka Edward Nygma. It fits because they’re both tall, pale, and ginger.
However, it’s a special bit of casting because Conan O’Brien almost never appears in any production outside of his hit late-night talk show, and even when he does it’s usually for a joke or a bit related to it, such as when he made guest appearances in a Korean drama and a Mexican telenovela.
This was not the case with The Lego Batman Movie, where Conan lends his infectious laugh to a few scenes, most notably when The Riddler blocks Batman’s path with a giant Lego question mark.
6 Nathan Fillion in Justice League Unlimited
Nathan Fillion has become famously known for his Firefly role. He’ll forever be remembered as Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the transport ship known as Serenity in the sci-fi western series Firefly and its sequel movie. It’s only fitting that, when he cameoed on Justice League Unlimited, he was a cowboy thrust into a very science-fiction situation.
Fillion voiced Vigilante, a hero who dated back to the very beginnings of the DC Universe. In the DC animated universe, Vigilante was a skilled handgun marksman and rider who dressed as a cowboy to fight against the alien invasion that closed out the first season of Justice League.
He eventually became a full-fledged member in Justice League Unlimited after impressing the heroes enough to bring him back for a few crucial episodes.
5 Michael B. Jordan in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
If it hadn’t been for Creed, Michael B. Jordan’s career goose might have been cooked after the cataclysmic bomb that was Fantastic Four. Instead, he’s getting another shot at playing a comic book character when he stars as the villain Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s 2018 blockbuster Black Panther.
Before them all, though, he played the role of Cyborg in the direct-to-video movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
You might know that Cyborg is one of the main characters in the most recent DC live-action movie, but he has a very different role in The Flashpoint Paradox, which takes place in a universe where Barry Allen went back in time to save his mother from being murdered, and cataclysmically altered the timeline of the DC universe as a result.
Cyborg plays a crucial part in the animated movie. DC is planning to adapt the Flashpoint storyline in the first live-action movie starring Ezra Miller as The Flash, so perhaps Cyborg's role will be as equally important.
4 Alan Tudyk in Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Alan Tudyk is geek royalty. Firefly and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are enough to enshrine his legacy forever, but he’s also had an iconic and varied a voiceover career. In DC, he voiced Superman in the direct-to-video Justice League: War, but he also cameoed on the supremely underrated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Brave and the Bold was a showcase for obscure DC characters with the fun, self-aware tone of the '60’s Batman TV series. Alan Tudyk showed up briefly as the Barry Allen version of The Flash in a few episodes.
Eventually Batman and the entire lineage of Scarlet Speedsters had to travel forward in time to rescue Barry from the clutches of his nemesis Professor Zoom.
3 William Hurt in A History of Violence
Fun fact: William Hurt’s part amounts to fewer than nine minutes of screentime in A History of Violence, and he still got nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
A History of Violence was directed by Canadian scream master David Cronenberg. It was based on the 1997 graphic novel of the same name, which was published under two different DC Comics subsidiaries. Both follow a seeming everyman who has deep ties to organized crime and is desperate to escape from his old life as a violent enforcer.
In the movie, that everyman is Viggo Mortensen, revealed by unfortunate circumstances as a former mob hitman. When he’s recalled to Philadelphia, he has a final showdown with his brother, William Hurt that devolves into a brutal, bloody confrontation.
William Hurt milks every bit of tension and danger out of his short screen time, rivaling Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in making the most of a short role.
2 Rob Zombie in Justice League (animated series)
Justice League and its follow-up Justice League Unlimited occasionally dipped into horror stories in episodes like “Only A Dream”. They went full Lovecraft for “The Terror Beyond”, which featured the Justice League going toe to tentacle with a monstrous alien god that has menaced and enslaved intelligent worlds for thousands of years.
Hawkgirl’s people and Aquaman’s kingdom had both successfully repelled the skull-faced terror from space known as Icthultu prior to the beginning of the episode. However, the Justice League accidentally awaken it.
So who better to voice this horrific monster from beyond the stars than Rob Zombie, musical maestro of horror? Besides fronting the metal band White Zombie, Zombie has made a name for himself as a director of surreal, insane horror movies like House of a Thousand Corpses and Lords of Salem.
It only makes sense that he’d voice a character who’s basically a big homage to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, the patron saint of surreal cosmic horror.
1 Jason Isaacs in Batman: Under The Red Hood
Imagine you’re the casting director for DC animated movies. You need someone to play a regal, evil, cape-wearing leader of a society of killers known to use sorcery and fear to topple governments and grab power.
Obviously, you choose Ralph Fiennes, the man who played Voldemort, but if he’s busy you get his Harry Potter second-in-command Jason Isaacs. Isaacs brought a refined sense of menace to the role of Lucius Malfoy, and he brings that same air of class and brutality to the role of Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman: Under The Red Hood.
It’s a small part for a character as well-known in the comics: Ra’s is essentially only there to drop exposition on how he felt guilty for indirectly getting Jason Todd killed, and decided to resurrect him using a Lazarus Pit.
The former Robin was driven briefly insane by the pit’s effects before deciding to wage a deadly one-man war on Gotham’s criminals as the Red Hood. It’s a brief scene, but Isaacs’ stately baritone pipes make it a memorable one.
Know of any other megastars you totally missed in DC cameo roles? Let us know in the comments!