While most fans will gush about Batman: The Animated Series, there was another fantastic Dark Knight-themed cartoon in The Batman. It ran from 2004 to 2008, introduced many characters across five seasons, and left another positive mark in the Caped Crusader’s animated TV legacy. One of its biggest talking points, though, was its animation style, which was provided by Jeff Matsuda, who was mostly known for his work on the Jackie Chan Adventures back then. Matsuda’s reinterpretation of Gotham’s heroes and villains became a controversial subject, with some praising the innovation and others detesting it.
In the same vein, the show absolutely nailed some of its characters, while missing the mark on others. Naturally, with such a rich, storied history and multiple versions of these comic book icons in existence, it’s all down to personal preference whether you agreed or disagreed with the decisions taken by the showrunners. But hey, it received its own spin-off comic book series called The Batman Strikes! as well as an animated movie, The Batman vs. Dracula, so it must’ve done something right. With that said, let’s take a look at the 8 characters it got spot-on and the 7 it didn’t.
15. RIGHT: BRUCE WAYNE/BATMAN
Most importantly, The Batman got its lead character right. While it’s easy to mess up the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character, the series managed to strike a healthy balance between the two. Sure, it never reached the same level of excellence of the depiction of the character in Batman: The Animated Series, but it was a remarkable interpretation.
On the voice front, Rino Romano was responsible for providing the pipes for the character. If you aren’t familiar with Romano, you’ve probably heard him as the narrator of Curious George and as the voice of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the short-lived Spider-Man Unlimited. While Kevin Conroy will always be the definitive voice of the character, Romano proved himself more than capable of portraying the Dark Knight, too.
14. WRONG: THE JOKER
Arguably the biggest failure of the series was the Joker. As Batman’s primary antagonist, it’s important for his characterization to be as accurate as the World’s Greatest Detective. Sadly, this long-haired, wild-child, cackling version of the character left a lot to be desired and many fans disappointed.
While Kevin Michael Richardson’s voice work wasn’t bad by any means, the Clown Prince of Crime’s writing was way off. Yes, you can argue that he was more evil, maniacal, and unpredictable than previous animated versions of the character, but it just didn’t feel like Mr. J. Something was missing here, and the villain lacked the charm and charisma that we’ve come to love from him. Also, what happened to his shoes? Is Arkham Asylum really that cruel to its inmates?
13. RIGHT: DICK GRAYSON/ROBIN
While “Robin’s Reckoning” might be considered the quintessential origin story for Dick Grayson, The Batman‘s “A Matter of Family” is just as good and shows the strong bond between Bruce Wayne and Dick. There’s an initial sadness in how their paths crossed, but an overall sense of triumph by the end of the episode.
The Batman did change things up by introducing Batgirl as the first sidekick, though. The reason for this was due to Robin’s presence on Teen Titans at the time; thus, the reluctance to make him a major character on another show. Robin’s inevitable appearance was worth it at the end of the day, as he became the ray of sunshine to Batman’s darkness. After all, it’s not really a Dark Knight show without Robin.
12. WRONG: CLAYFACE
One only needs to take a look at what James Tynion IV is doing with Basil Karlo in Detective Comics to see how he’s reenergized and made him one of the more interesting Batman characters in a long time. When you unravel his villainy and strange powers, there’s actually a tragic story beneath it all.
This is where The Batman failed Clayface in its two versions of the character. The first was Ethan Bennett, a GCPD detective who inhales a dose of the Joker’s “Joker Putty” and turns into the clay monster. The second is Basil Karlo who drinks a refined sample of the same mutagen that Bennett had. Neither version of the character encompassed what truly made Clayface tick and “muddied” the purpose of it all.
11. RIGHT: THE PENGUIN
Look, whichever way you consider it, the Penguin is a silly villain. First, he poses no physical threat to anyone. Two, he’s terrified of Batman. And three, he’ll squawk if it keeps him out of jail. Seriously, this guy is the biggest snitch of the rogues gallery and he’ll rat out all his colleagues to save his own fishy hide.
As such, it’s not too hard to get the character right in an animated series. Still, the look of Oswald Cobblepot in The Batman was rather neat, evoking memories of Danny DeVito’s turn as the Penguin in Batman Returns and not deviating too far from Bruce Timm’s version of the character in Batman: The Animated Series. If that wasn’t awesome enough, his voice was provided by Tom Kenny, whom you may know for his award-winning performance as SpongeBob SquarePants.
10. WRONG: BANE
Bane is a difficult character to adapt – some might even say that he’s best suited to the comic book medium and shouldn’t stray away from it at all. The biggest challenge is with the portrayal of his costume, which makes him appear like a luchador (if the source material is being respected). Naturally, depending on the interpretation, he can either come off as really cool or like something ridiculous out of Nacho Libre.
In the case of The Batman, the animators went with a completely different style for the character (and a whole lot of red). Unfortunately, it resulted in him looking like he was a Ben 10 character and not from the Bat universe. It was almost too cartoon-y, and even the sublime voice acting couldn’t save Bane from being one of the worst characters in the series.
9. RIGHT: CATWOMAN
Right off the bat, the fact that Gina Gershon voiced Selina Kyle/Catwoman was a stroke of genius. Gershon nailed the sultry and playful aspects of the character, while never falling into the camp trap of previous interpretations of the Cat. Hands down, Gershon as Catwoman has to go down as one of the best decisions made for the series.
Additionally, the spirit and writing of the character proved to be comic book-accurate, as was her costume, which foreshadowed the modern look that we’re more familiar with nowadays. She might’ve only made a handful of appearances on the show, but Catwoman certainly lit up the episodes she was in. If only the writers had explored her romance with Batman a little further; but alas, it was a children’s program after all.
8. WRONG: THE RIDDLER
Despite Robert Englund (AKA Freddy Krueger) voicing the Riddler, this interpretation of the character came off as a mouthy, first-year philosophy student rather than a highly intelligent, methodical supervillain. Also, what was up with his radical redesign? It’s as if Edward Nigma was auditioning for Marilyn Manson or something!
Nigma’s appeal has always been that he cares more about being the most intelligent person in the room than anything else – it’s his brain that he values the most and not the threads. In The Batman, though, image was everything and even his quizzes and riddles felt subpar compared to other versions of the villain. Thankfully, we weren’t subjected to this abomination of the Riddler for too long as he made less than a handful of appearances.
7. RIGHT: ALFRED PENNYWORTH
While Batman: The Animated Series‘ Alfred Pennyworth might be known for his meme-worthy lines and unflappable dry sense of humor, The Batman probably delivered an even better Alfred than that. It blended all the humor and quirks, but it also gave Al something to do instead of feeding Master Bruce a whole bunch of sandwiches, cereal, and cold tea.
The person responsible for bringing Alfred to life was Scottish actor Alastair Duncan. He’s voiced numerous animated characters over the years – more recently he provided the voice for Celebrimbor in the video games Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. In some unrelated trivia, you might recognize him for being the ex-husband of Anna Gunn, whom you might remember as Skyler White in the sensational Breaking Bad TV series.
6. WRONG: MR. FREEZE
Mr. Freeze is another character that’s incredibly hard to capture the essence of. He has one of the most tragic back stories of any villain and you can’t help but sympathize with him after all he’s been through, even if you know he’s going about trying to save his wife, Nora, in the wrong way. To make matters worse, it’s hard to look for a better, more definitive version of the character than Batman: The Animated Series‘ “Heart of Ice,” which portrayed Freeze as almost Shakespearean.
Sadly, in The Batman, we don’t get the same depth of personality and he’s portrayed as nothing more than a thug. In fact, it’s a disservice to Clancy Brown’s voice talents to see how Freeze was relegated to such a miserable chump in this show.
5. RIGHT: KILLER CROC
The name Killer Croc implies that he’s crocodile-like, right? Well, in the past, the character has looked more like a cross between someone with leprosy and a humanoid snake. It’s understandable, though, since DC Comics obviously wants to avoid its villain being too much like Marvel Comics’ the Lizard.
The Batman decided to go all in and make Waylon Jones look more green and crocodilian than ever before. In addition, the creators put Croc higher up the villain food chain by giving him his own henchmen, rather than portray him as someone else’s hired help. It’s a throwback to the character’s earlier appearances where he had his own goons and was actually a match for the Dark Knight. Nowadays, he’s relegated to being the comedic relief in the Suicide Squad.
4. WRONG: POISON IVY
Well, nothing can be as bad as Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, so you can rest assured that The Batman‘s version of the character is significantly better. However, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect or even an accurate depiction of the Queen of Green.
The problem with this version of Poison Ivy is two-fold. One, it changes her origin to make her a high school student and delinquent for her environmental activism. Two, it steals too much from other versions of the character without ever bringing it all together in a compelling way. Rather than establish her as a legitimate threat, she comes off as a whiny teenager who got a bit of a rough deal in life and is not acting out.
3. RIGHT: MAN-BAT
In all fairness, it isn’t too difficult to get Man-Bat right. He pretty much just flaps his wings and makes high-pitched noises, so how wrong can you go there? What we will praise The Batman‘s version of Kirk Langstrom/Man-Bat for is the exceptional design of the character. In Batman: The Animated Series, the creature looked like a furry Harvey Bullock, while in this series he appeared far more menacing.
Another plus was how Langstrom embraced the inner-crazy in him from the get-go. Think about it: any person who willingly drinks a serum that could turn them into a giant bat is not the sanest donut in the box, right? Yeah, he turned it around after a stint in Arkham Asylum, but we’ll always celebrate the fact that he was a mad scientist to begin with.
2. WRONG: BLACK MASK
Black Mask is a fun villain. He’s such a loudmouth and over-the-top gangster that you can’t help but love him when he pops up on the screen. You only need to watch the animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood to see what he has to offer – and big kudos need to go to voice actor Wade Williams, whose performance was downright sensational.
Unfortunately, in The Batman, Roman Sionis had about as much personality as a dried piece of steak. He had the look, but gone were the quirks and loudness, and in its place was James Remar’s iffy performance. While Remar is redeeming his superhero credentials as Peter Gambi in Black Lightning right now, he really didn’t do much with the character in the animated series.
1. RIGHT: BARBARA GORDON/BATGIRL
This might be controversial pick, considering how the series changed the source material, but it’s true: Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is one of the best depicted characters in The Batman. By establishing Babs as Batman’s first sidekick, it gave her more power and importance as opposed to her getting shoved further down the sidekick line.
Additionally, the show added to Batgirl’s influence by including her in the storyline that turned Pamela Isley into Poison Ivy. This led to her big moment, as she had to save the day by engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an entranced Batman, whom she defeated. Now, ask yourself: when’s the last time you saw Batgirl defeat the Dark Knight? This series established her as a legitimate superhero and not just a weaker member of the Bat Family. Thanks to this, Babs finally got the recognition that she richly deserved.
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