Good news! HBO Max just announced that Static Shock, the beloved DC Animated Universe series about the Milestone hero Virgil Hawkins, is now available to binge for your viewing pleasure. That means you can watch every DCAU show but one: The Zeta Project.
This raises three important questions: 1) Why isn’t The Zeta Project on HBO Max? 2) What is The Zeta Project? 3) Why the hell have I never heard of it before today?
I have to assume the third question is at least partially the answer to the first question, in that the clearly lower-profile series isn’t on HBO Max’s priority list. I mean, it’s a spin-off from Batman Beyond, which is already pretty much a spin-off from the various Batman DCAU series (and is beloved because, well, it’s very good, but also, it’s about Batman). Plus, it stars an ex-assassin robot named Zeta who appeared in two episodes of Beyond, who may have been inspired by a character who showed up in a World’s Finest comic from 1984, and was never seen again. Here’s the official description of the show, which ran from 2001-02, from Wikipedia:
The story’s main character, Infiltration Unit Zeta, is a humanoid robot (synthoid) designed to carry out covert assassinations on the behalf of the National Security Agency. When Zeta discovers that one of his targets is innocent, he experiences an existential crisis about goodness and the value of life; following this epiphany, Zeta finds that he can no longer kill. The newly enlightened Zeta refuses to continue on as an infiltration unit and abandons his mission, going rogue. Zeta is pursued by a team of NSA agents, led by the obsessed Agent Bennett, and is aided by a 15-year-old runaway, Rosalie “Ro” Rowan.
Besides having zero fandom as a comics character, Zeta only appears to have been in five DCAU episodes—and that’s both the actual character and appearances by random assassin robots of his same design. So it actually makes sense that I wouldn’t have heard of him... if he hadn’t had his own TV series. That ran for two seasons.
I’ve been watching cartoons regularly since 1999, and a lot of those have been DCAU series. I’ve also been a professional nerd since 2001, which means it’s been my job to keep abreast of new animated series, especially cartoons based on Marvel and DC properties, and I’ve also researched them probably a hundred times for various articles over the decades, if not more. And yet never in my life have I heard of The Zeta Project.
I am somewhat mollified by the discovery that news editor James Whitbrook had also never heard of the series, but that only makes this a real Mandela Effect/Berenstain Bears situation, and I’m quite concerned I woke up this morning in a parallel universe where the only difference is the existence of this DC Animated Universe show. A show where apparently Terry McGinnis could show up and occasionally punch the protagonist?
This is not the sort of question I enjoy throwing out to the internet at large, but...am I crazy? Have you guys heard of this show? Was it any good? Should we be lobbying HBO to add it to Max? Whatever your answers are, I suspect I will find them deeply disturbing.
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