It’s Batman Day, so I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on “Batman: The Animated Series”. Batman is my favorite comic book character, practically since I walked out of the womb. I was a kid when “Batman: The Animated Series” premiered on FOX Kids back in 1992. It opened the door to Batman for me. I went back and watched “Batman: The Movie” (1966), “Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992). Once I found out he was a comic book character, I started reading those too. Let’s just say I have a deep affinity for the show.
Looking back at it now, I still enjoy it. The maturity of the series is something I missed as a kid. Back then, I saw Batman and Robin chasing the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, The Riddler, and of course Mr. Freeze. Unfortunately, Dr. Victor Fries has had a bad rap since Arnold Schwarzenegger was so punny in “Batman and Robin” (1997). If you get the chance, I highly recommend watching the episode “Heart of Ice”. The episode is a reimagining of the character from the comics. Mr. Freeze was given a more tragic back story by the incredible Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. His wife suffers from a rare disease. When the project is pulled, Dr. Fries doesn’t react kindly. He seeks revenge against his former boss and Batman tries to convince him that isn’t the way to help his wife. The dialogue is what makes this episode so chilling (excuse the pun) and earned it an Emmy. It is my favorite episode.
The Joker has been done many times before in Live Action. Everyone has a favorite between Jack, Heath, Caesar Romero and now Jared Leto. But, my favorite is still, and probably will always be, Mark Hamill’s Joker from Batman the Animated Series. Hamill is able to be funny and goofy while still being serious and haunting. Over the last 20-plus years, Hamill has voiced the Joker in animation as well as the “Arkham Asylum” series of video games. Some will say it’s the animators who make his character great, but it’s the energy and liveliness that Mark Hamill brings to the table. He gets engrossed in the character, which he recently portrayed in “Batman the Killing Joke”. Also, this is the series that created everyone’s new favorite DC character, Harley Quinn. She started off as a henchwoman, but fans responded to her and the show runners brought her back, until they finally brought her to the comics in “Mad Love”. “Mad Love” is a graphic novel that illustrates the origins of Harley, which was adapted for sequel to “Batman the Animated Series”, “The New Batman Adventures”.
You can’t talk about a Batman show without touching upon the Dark Knight himself. With most of the stories being adapted from the Bronze Age of Comics, Batman had a good balance between light-hearted and gritty. Kevin Conroy’s performance as both Bruce Wayne and Batman is nothing less than superb. He thought of the idea that Batman and Bruce should have two different voice, which has been used in Live Action ever since. The gravitas he brings to the role is outstanding. He truly became the Batman to many people. He has also voiced Batman in the “Arkham Asylum” series and “Batman the Killing Joke”. The dialogue comes off so well with Conroy’s way of speaking.
Of course, there isn’t a show without writers and animators. Bruce Timm, who is responsible for the DCAU of the 90s and early 2000s, along with Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Eric Radomski created this show. If you have noticed, I haven’t called it a cartoon because that gives an air of unsophistication. This series was greatly written and drawn. It was actually drawn on black paper to get that shadowy look. This crew of creators really have their pulse on the Bat of Gotham. The dialogue, characters, plots and more were all magnificent. I really can’t think of one negative to say about anyone behind the scenes. They all function like a well oiled machine. A little aside… If you are already a fan of this series, I do suggest picking up “Dark Night: A True Batman Story” by Paul Dini. It recalls a traumatic experience he had while working on “Mask of the Phantasm” and how he used Batman and The Joker to cope.
Overall, you have heard the rantings of a “Batman the Animated Series” super fan. Top to bottom, this series is the cream of the crop and is what many Batman stories are compared to today. This show also resulted in “Superman the Animated Series”, “Static Shock”, “Batman Beyond”, “The Zeta Project”, “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited”. Paul Dini wrote for DC comics for a while after the show ended. His run in “Detective Comics” is fantastic. Bruce Timm is now in charge of Warner Brothers Animation and championed a great original concept like “Justice League Gods and Monsters”. “Batman the Animated Series” is closing in on 25 years and is still growing its fan base with young people who don’t mind the 2D animation, as well as keeping a grip on the older fans. With collectible statues of the series coming out and with people comparing everything new to what that series has done, I doubt the love for “Batman the Animated Series” will ever die down or disappear. So Enjoy this Batman Day and celebrate by watching an episode or a movie or picking up a comic either online or at your local comic shop.