Looking back on one of the greatest versions of The Dark Knight.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/j55zxy/batman-the-animated-series-encapsulated-everything-great-about-gotham
Looking back on one of the greatest versions of The Dark Knight.
This was my one and only after school show. If the bus driver made good time and I double-timed it home, I would be back in time to catch the start of the show.
The storytelling and art were just so incredibly done for something in a time slot otherwise reserved for low-budget fare and pseudo advertisements. (The other Warner Bros. properties where pretty good too but I was never much into them.)
What I always appreciated especially after revisiting the series for the first time a few years ago, is how it never talked down to its audience. It often took on tough themes (outside of the typical realm of comics), didn’t take the edge off Batman, and gave the viewers the benefit of the doubt that they’d understand it and be able to handle it.
Also, the animation was just incredible:
I don’t know if they’re necessarily my favorite episodes, but the one that sticks in my memory the most is “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy”. I remember being exasperated when Batman finally admits he’s beaten and takes off the cape and cowl, thinking, “No! your secret identity!”. Good little turn at the end, too.
This was my favorite shows as a kid and then as a teen I re-experienced it through the DVD box-sets and got to enjoy all the sweet bonus features and learn about the production and how it came to be and the commentary and now as an adult this article makes me want to dive back in again. The DC Animated Universe was my jam, and in highschool I finally tried to dive into the comics fresh off of Final Crisis, only to find that everything they had been building since then which I was enjoying was immediately undone by the New 52. Haven’t bought a monthly comic since.
My fav Batman episode is a tough call. 1. it’s been a while, 2. They’re all so good. The one standing out to me right now is probably “His Silicon Soul,” because I also love robots, and it was such a classic tragic “robot with emotions about its identity” story.
I’ve truly soured on a lot of Batman fiction but this show still holds up for many of the reasons Rob brings up and more. To me it’s such a deep, human portrayal of many of the characters, especially the villains. You truly feel sorry for characters like Clayface, Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Harley Quinn, The Mad Hatter, etc.
They’re all people with deeply tragic and broken backgrounds and not just baddies who need to be put away like the current round of baddies in MCU who are completely inhumane, psychopathic megalomaniacs who rarely show any of the deep pain and hurt that causes the characters in Batman TAS to reaching a breaking point where they feel a desire for some sort of vengeance outside the law.
As for actual episodes I love, Almost Got 'em is up there. I love how it shows the villains swap stories over a game of poker in a seedy club. It’s a moment where you’re in a mundane moment in the lives of these characters, swapping stories like people would do over a game of poker.
I also love Perchance to Dream as this examination not only of the character of Batman but the nature of perception and reality. Bruce is faced with a dream life but is also tormented by the fact that on some level he knows the reality he faces is false. For a superhero kid’s show, it’s headier stuff than the usual fare.
I remember this was the first cartoon I ever heard the phrase “Oh my God” used in. Growing up in rural Mormon Utah at the time, I was pretty surprised that a cartoon would have used the worst swear word.
I think “Perchance to Dream” is the first time I ever heard of the phenomenon that you can’t read in your dreams. To this day when that piece of information pops into my head, I have to look up whether or not it’s considered true or if it’s just something I remember from Batman The Animated Series.
Almost Got 'Im is a great episode in how Joker and some other villains discuss theories about Batman. But my favorite moment in the entire series, is the eulogy Joker gives for Batman’s apparent “death.” Some of the most sharpest writing I’ve ever seen for Joker in this. And of course, Heart of Ice gives a great and much needed backstory to Mr. Freeze.
Heart of Ice , I think. Mr. Freeze is such a tragic villain, he just wants to save his wife and take revenge on some real buttholes. Now that I think about it, being defeated by a thermos of chicken soup even more tragic, so humiliating.
Oh my goodness, I’m so glad to see this. This show had a huge impact on me growing up and it’s been really refreshing to revisit the series as an adult.
I’m continually amazed at how consistently well they nailed the tone of a character that was veering wildly into toxic hypergrimdark psychopathy. TAS Batman was driven, compassionate, tortured (that graveyard scene from Phantasm was perfect), yet still able to bring some levity to a scene (what a novel concept!). Most importantly, he was balanced and almost believable.
The art is obviously incredible. That red moon is perfect, as was the neo-Art Deco design they chose. This Gotham had this sense of an old shining city that was just a hair past it’s glory days.
I’m so glad that this series trusted its audience too. It never felt like it was talking down to its audience, even if it was supposed to be a kid’s show. The show wasn’t afraid to question itself or pose tough questions to its viewers.
My favorite episode is definitely Heart of Ice, but close seconds would be Perchance to Dream, The Grey Ghost, Mad Love, Almost Got 'Im, and Two-Face.
Weird that this article comes up as i’m in the middle of rewatching it.
I can’t add much that hasn’t already been said. Bless this show for giving us Harley Quinn, though.
Yeah this pretty much solidifies my growing suspicion that Rob is my brain twin
I’ve had that suspicion for awhile now. This is the confirmation I needed.
Batman: The Animated Series was good, but my all-time favorite B-man show would be Batman: The Brave & the Bold. I think it’s highly underrated.
Batman TB&TB is phenomenal. I can’t say it’s “better” than TAS because they’re going for two totally different things, but yeah it’s amazing. It opened my eyes to the potential of the silver age, an era I feel like too many comic snobs just kinda shrug off as “weird nonsense that was objectively bad” or at-best “so bad it’s good.” Like in the right context, with the right amount of love and care and self-awareness, a Batman and hero comics in-general cartoon CAN be that super wacky and campy and also be good.
I totally agree!!! The writing was great - they even had super musical episodes! The people behind the show put a lot of love & thought into it & it showed.