There have been numerous adaptations of the Caped Crusader over the years, but none arguably as iconic, enduring, and groundbreaking as “Batman: The Animated Series.” From its vivid animation and artistic style to the talented performances of a memorable voice cast, the show was a fantastic success on every level.
Due to launch in 2018, DC’s streaming service will certainly be a haven for new and original content like the live action “Teen Titans” adaptation simply dubbed “Titans,” as well as the much anticipated “Young Justice” season 3 revival, both of which are slated to debut on the platform. Where can the classics fit in to Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s new streaming service? Well, what about the classic? “Batman: The Animated Series” definitely deserves a place on the roster. Here are 15 reasons why!
15. ICONIC VOICE ACTING
The voice cast of “Batman: The Animated Series” not only defined the heroes and villains of Gotham City for a generation of kids back in the ’90s, but also they’re still the enduring gold standard for animated television in general. No, really, many of the actors who appeared in the series’ original 1992-1995 run have returned multiple times to their respective characters in much of the DC Animated Universe since, a trend that continued through TV shows, animated feature films, and video games. Move over Batfleck, because Kevin Conroy has portrayed Batman longer than any other actor (he’s still doing it). Can a person even read a Harley Quinn line that doesn’t sound like Arleen Sorkin’s outrageous Brooklyn accent?
Even the supporting cast was filled with memorable and surprising appearances by well-known actors. The shapeshifting Clayface was portrayed by none other than Ron Perlman, for example. A smattering of the extended cast also included Nichelle Nichols, Elizabeth Moss, Ed Asner, John Rhys-Davies, John Vernon, and Megan Mullally. Even Adam West dusted off his Shark Repellent Bat Spray to voice Simon Trent. And who could forget…
14. MARK HAMILL AS THE JOKER
Mark Hamill’s Crown Prince of Crime has continued to cackle his way through DC’s animated properties since his debut in the season 1 episode, “Joker’s Favor.” Hamill’s performance captures every side of the complex character and his portrayal effortlessly ranges from blissfully anarchic to unpredictably threatening. From a writing perspective, Hamill’s Joker certainly feels inspired by the original comic incarnation as well as Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in Tim Burton’s “Batman,” but unlike Nicholson, Hamill’s personality utterly disappears into the role.
In great part due to Hamill, the Joker of “Batman: The Animated Series” is both humorous and hostile, a versatility that has fit perfectly into not only the show and its subsequent spin-offs, but more recent adaptations like 2016’s “The Killing Joke” and the “Arkham” video game franchise. The man even reads Donald Trump’s tweets in the Joker’s voice in his spare time! Fans still desperately clamor for the voice of the Joker to remain in the capable hands of Mr. Hamill. For many, Mark Hamill is and will always will be, the Joker.
13. DC ANIMATED UNIVERSE
“Batman: The Animated Series” also spawned the incredibly important shared DC Animated Universe of the ’90s that still in part exists today. The “Timmverse,” unofficially named for series creator Bruce Timm, started with “Batman,” and continued with: “Superman: The Animated Series,” “The New Batman Adventures,” “Batman Beyond,” “Static Shock,” “The Zeta Project,” “Justice League,” and finally came to an official conclusion with 2006’s “Justice League: Unlimited.” Not to mention 1993’s critically acclaimed and theatrically released “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” as well as three other films: “Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero,” “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker,” “Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.”
Creatives Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, among others, went on to either develop or produce many of the aforementioned shows and films while Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and DCAU regulars like Clancy Brown (Lex Luther) and C.C.H. Pounder (Amanda Waller) have also returned to participate in more recent DC Animated Original Movies. Talk about an extended Bat-Family!
12. BRUCE WAYNE
The closest Kevin Conroy comes to the character of Bruce Wayne is his height (6’2”), but that didn’t stop the Julliard-trained actor from becoming the embodiment of Batman for a new generation. Although Conroy’s late-game audition decision to adopt two separate voices for Bruce Wayne/Batman was similar to Michael Keaton’s in 1989’s “Batman,” there is a subtle difference. Conroy chose to make Bruce Wayne’s lighter, softer voice an act the hero put on, rather than the voice of Batman. In his mind, Batman was the real Bruce and the Caped Crusader’s gruff, threatening tone drew from the honest, unfiltered pain of a young boy forced to witness his parents’ murder.
Not only that, but the Bruce Wayne of “Batman: The Animated Series” also differed from the character’s earlier comics and film portrayals by having the show feature the billionaire playboy as more of a conscious and skilled Wayne Enterprises C.E.O., instead of an indulgent, vapid celebrity. Conroy even had to re-record his lines for a few episodes, as the studio thought his initial take on Bruce Wayne was too light for the show’s dark tone!
11. ALL THE AWARDS!
The awesomeness of “Batman: The Animated” series isn’t just the opinion of some fans on the internet, it’s a bulging, bulky, Bane-sized fact. During it’s original run, the show was nominated for countless Saturn, Young Artist, Annie, Daytime Emmy, and even Primetime Emmy Awards, which demonstrate its achievement in categories like voice acting, music, producing, writing, sound editing, and sound mixing. All in all, the show won a Daytime Emmy Award for the acclaimed season one episode “Heart of Ice” and a Primetime Emmy for “Robin’s Reckoning” in 1993, as well as two more Daytime Emmys for Music Direction and Composition, and Sound Editing in 1996.
Needless to say, the show has topped a whole bunch of lists with titles like “Best Animated Shows of All Time,” or “Top Comic Book TV Adaptations.” What about something along the lines of: “The Best DC Comic Animated Series?” Well, here at Comic Book Resources, “Batman: The Animated Series” is ranked Number One.
10. AMAZING MUSIC
“Batman: The Animated Series” also featured an impressive, dynamic, and complex score that helped elevate it beyond a simple cartoon for kids. Danny Elfman’s score for Tim Burton’s “Batman” served as the template for the show’s music and a version of the film’s main theme was re-scored by Elfman for the first season’s opening and closing credits. Shirley Walker, recipient of the aforementioned Outstanding Music Direction and Composition Emmy, then composed a good chunk of episodes for the series and, together with several other contributors, wove a deeply cinematic and orchestral score that perfectly matched the darker Gothic visuals of the series.
The music feels like it can fit right into any of the live action Batman adaptations and far expands upon and exceeds the similar musical work that began in Tim Burton’s films. Not bad for a cartoon! Shirley Walker would also be tapped to score the fantastic “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” after the success of the show’s first season.
9. INSPIRED COMIC BOOK WRITERS
Nothing is more of a testament to the show’s influence than the fact that various writers and creatives from DC have cited it as a tremendous inspiration on their own work. According to “Detective Comics” artist Francis Manapul, the beautiful and emotional complexity of the story and visuals of an episode like “Heart of Ice” discusses love and loss in a way that challenges both younger and older viewers alike. Writer Peter J. Tomasi of “Batman and Robin” (the comic not the film), was particularly influenced by “Beware the Gray Ghost,” which sees Adam West himself voice Simon Trent, an actor from one of Bruce’s favorite childhood shows join forces with Batman to stop a series of crimes. “Gray Ghost” subtly compares the viewers’ experience watching “Batman” with Bruce Wayne’s own experience with heroes in his youth!
DC creatives like Manapul and Tomasi echo what really made “Batman: The Animated Series” an enduring and beloved success. The show is the perfect adaptation because it understands the true spirit of its source material while also modernizing and expanding upon the prevalent themes of Batman’s story. It’s a faithful, honest, and timeless Batman narrative, as timeless as the Batman comics themselves!
8. A COMPLEX STORY FOR ALL AGES
This crucial aspect of “Batman: The Animated Series” has been mentioned earlier and there are a few must-see episodes of the show that really demonstrate how thematically rich, powerful, and entertaining it really is. Beginning with a heavy one, season 1’s “Perchance to Dream” has Bruce Wayne wake up to a life in which he never became Batman. A life where Bruce is engaged to Selina Kyle, his parents are alive, and someone else has become the Batman. “Perchance” deals with the toll that Batman has taken on Bruce’s life and chances for happiness, and served as a deep dive into the motivations behind the World’s Greatest Detective as well as an exploration into what makes Bruce Batman.
Another story from season 1, “Almost Got ‘Im,” featured several of Batman’s villains playing poker and swapping tales of how they nearly brought down the Batman. It was a refreshing departure from the show’s formula and offered perspective for viewers regarding characters like Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, and Penguin while also fleshing out the antagonists as more than simply villains for Batman to capture and cram into padded cells at Arkham. Of course, “Heart of Ice” is often considered one of the greatest arcs from “Batman: The Animated Series” as it rejuvenated Mr. Freeze as one of Batman’s most dangerous baddies and one of his most tragic and heartbreaking as well.
7. REVAMPED ROBIN
Robin seems to be one of the trickier “Batman” characters to adapt for more modern readers and audiences. Sure, his costume sometimes features shorts that are a little too short for practical ninja-inspired crimefighting in pitch darkness, but it must really get stuffy on those late-night summer patrols around Gotham without the top down on the Batmobile.
“Batman: The Animated” rarely featured Dick Grayson-heavy stories, but “Robin’s Reckoning” more than makes up for it. The two-part story has Robin confront the man responsible for his parents’ death, which inevitably leads Batman to deal with his own desire for vengeance while he tries to pull his sidekick back from the brink of taking revenge on the killer himself. The Dynamic Duo’s rocky relationship in the show and subsequent spin-offs really contrasts with their earlier media portrayals and brings up difficult questions regarding Bruce’s actions in taking Robin in and inducting him into Batman’s crimefighting crusade.
6. SIMILAR TO MODERN DC CONTENT
“Batman: The Animated Series” is right in-line with the two flagship shows Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have queued for DC’s streaming service and would compliment the new content beautifully, particularly the much anticipated revival of “Young Justice.” The animated “Young Justice” was written like less of an adaptation of the comic by the same name or a Teen Titans revamp, but more as a story about the entire DC superhero world with an emphasis on the younger generation of heroes like Robin, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, Red Arrow, and Artemis.
The first two stellar seasons originally aired on Cartoon Network from 2011 to 2013 and, woven between episodes packed with outstanding action and exciting visuals, were intimate, character-heavy stories that dealt with a broad range of themes. One intriguing arc deals with Superboy’s alienation from both society and Superman himself, the closest thing to a family or father that he has. Another examines how Miss Martian’s growing psychic power permanently damages those that she uses it against, and her questionable attitude about the damage she causes. Red Arrow’s arc in particular is unbelievably complicated, satisfyingly emotional, and poignantly tragic.
5. VISUALLY AND STYLISTICALLY BRILLIANT
Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski fleshed out a Gotham City for “Batman: The Animated Series” that took a visual inspiration from Tim Burton’s films and really ran away with it. Gotham is a dark, retro, film noir-styled feast of art deco shapes and designs that punctuates Batman’s timeless qualities.
Nothing highlights this impressive “Dark Deco” style, as it was called by the show’s producers, better than the series’ main title sequence. It perfectly captures the show’s unique visuals and tone while functioning as a captivating, highly styled action sequence and vignette in its own right, which is cool because the concept was basically used to sell the show in the first place! Including “Batman: The Animated Series” on DC’s streaming service could showcase how unbelievably gorgeous the 25 year-old kickoff of the original DC Animated Universe hasn’t aged a damn day, and how its unique visual style influenced countless shows, films, and media that followed in its footsteps.
4. GAVE NEW LIFE TO OLD VILLAINS
The show breathed unexpected life into several gimmicky members of Batman’s extensive rogues gallery that up until that point had languished in mediocrity or suffered from the qualities of their previously adapted incarnations. In the two-part episode, “Two Face,” the series creatives envisioned Harvey Dent much more tragically, introducing the concept that Harvey and Bruce were friends, which made his damnation all the more tragic. In past comics and adaptations, the character of Clayface has been given various differing origin stories, ranging from a B-movie actor committing crimes under the identity of a bad guy from one of his flicks, to a radioactively-powered treasure hunter. “Feat of Clay,” another acclaimed arc, revamped Clayface into a sympathetic soul who is driven to use a form of addictive make up to treat his horrible disfigurement, which transforms him into the familiar, mud-covered monster fans know and love.
Also, elaborating on the brilliant “Heart of Ice,” there should be no way to make Mr. Freeze, a man who is forced to wear a suit that keeps his body temperature at subzero temperatures and blasts people with an ice gun, compelling. Nevertheless, “Batman: The Animated Series” did just that. The Mr. Freeze of the show was so compelling that he was re-adapted into the comics…and 1997’s “Batman and Robin.” Oh, well.
3. HARLEY QUINN
It’s hard to believe now but Harley Quinn, who has become one of the most beloved and iconic characters in the DC mythos, is actually an original character not from the comics, but from “Batman: The Animated Series!” The character was also inspired and voiced by actress and buddy of Paul Dini, Arleen Sorkin. Over the years, Harley Quinn has been featured in most of the subsequent DC Animated Universe, DC Animated Original Movie Universe, video games like the “Arkham” and “Injustice” series, mainstream comic continuities (including starring in her own titles), and played by Margot Robbie in David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.”
Harley Quinn, an amazingly enduring fan favorite character that got her start in “Batman: The Animated Series,” is showing no signs of losing popularity anytime soon. Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment should seriously consider any and all things Harley Quinn for the DC streaming service, especially since WB is re-teaming director David Ayer and Margot Robbie for “a feature film adaptation of the Gotham City Sirens” comic. Meanwhile, Bruce Timm, Kevin Conroy and original Robin voice actor Loren Lester are joining “The Big Bang Theory” star Melissa Rouch (as Harley), for this summer’s “Batman and Harley Quinn” animated film!
2. BRING LONGTIME FANS TO THE APP
Another benefit of potentially including the show on the DC streaming service is that it’s guaranteed to attract the interest of older generations of DC comics and Warner Bros. fans, especially those who grew up with or enjoyed “Batman: The Animated Series” and the DCAU back in the day. It’s literally one of the only older DC shows not officially streaming anywhere, but 2018 could and should change that.
Hardcore fans who live, eat, and breathe all things DC would certainly applaud the decision and even causal fans who maybe only know the characters from their film or TV incarnations would be more likely to tune in. “Batman: The Animated Series” also has the potential to bridge the gap between different fan communities as the character and story of the Dark Knight transcends DC comics. When people think comics, they think Batman. Marvel, DC–doesn’t matter! If you love comics, you love the Caped Crusader.
1. INTRODUCE BATMAN TO A NEW GENERATION
The character’s representation on a modern media platform in one of his most beloved interpretations is simply a must have! “Batman: The Animated Series” modernized and redefined the Batman mythos for an entire generation. It’s also arguably both the most faithful and quite often, the most original adaptation of the character outside of the comic source material. Sure, other animated adaptations have come and gone (and have actually been pretty good), but those would not have been possible without the enduring creative and artistic achievements of this show.
Why not give another generation of kids the chance to fall in love with Gotham City by re-introducing this beloved franchise on the grand stage of DC’s streaming service? Not only will it make a lot of old and new “Batman” and comics fans happy, it will also bring those groups together, just as “Batman: The Animated Series” did way back when! Bring back the Batman!
“Batman and Harley Quinn” will be available to purchase on Digital HD, Blu Ray, and DVD this summer. Let us know in the comments if you intend on picking it up!
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