Welcome to Adventure(s) Time’s forty-forth installment, a look at classic animated series and their tie-in comic books. Suggestions are welcome, so feel free to leave one in the Comments. This week, we're reviewing the adaptation of a classic Adventures comic. (Perhaps the most important Bat-comic of the 1990s. If you're ignoring that bit about the broken back, of course.) Then, a later Adventures issue set "in-between the pages" of Harley Quinn's origin.
Perhaps the most anticipated episode of the series was the final one to air. "Mad Love" debuted on January 16th, 1999 featuring a story by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and direction from Butch Lukic. Fans had been waiting literally years for this one -- the ones who thought it could ever make air, that is.
"Mad Love" began life as a prestige format Batman Adventures comic, and unlike many "prestige" books released in the 1990s, this one was deserving of the title. Batman Adventures: Mad Love won an Eisner Award for "Best Single Story" in 1994, and earned the praise of "best Batman story of the decade" from America's favorite grizzled comics pro Frank Miller. The comic went into numerous printings, raising awareness of the quality of DC's Adventures line.
The story's genesis comes from Dini and Timm kicking around ideas for Harley Quinn's origin. Dini had the inspiration that she was a psychiatrist, and things snowballed from there. The duo soon realized that FOX Kids censors would neuter the story beyond recognition. However, DC editor Scott Peterson had given Dini and Timm an open invitation to contribute a story when Adventures was launched. Both were interested in producing a comic, and now they were sitting on a great story that couldn't work on the show. In-between their deadlines on Batman, Dini and Timm (with aid from Glen Murakami) produced Mad Love.
Big awards. Universal acclaim. Not bad for a major comics debut. (Timm always dreamed of penciling comics; the closest he came were He-Man toy package mini-comics.) But the frank depictions of abuse and violence proved the creators right -- no way this could air on FOX.