The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader. The World’s Greatest Detective.
Whatever you want to call him, Batman holds the distinct honor of sitting atop the hill as many fans’ all-time favorite hero and one of the most successful characters ever created. With his backstory, suit/gadgets, smarts, fighting skills, alter ego, rogues gallery, and occasionally antihero persona, it’s easy to see how the Batman ingrained himself in our hearts and minds.
As a big fan, I was really excited when asked to write an article for Batman Day. I knew almost instantly what I wanted to write about…
Batman: The Animated Series.
For the young-uns, newcomers and fans that might not be as well versed in it, let me tell you something…this wasn’t just a show, it was THE show.
So what made it so great? I’ll do my best to sum things up, but it won’t be enough!
Right off the bat, the opening credits set the tone for the whole show. The use of heavy shadows and the epic theme scored by film great, Danny Elfman, seems to transport you into your TV and on the rooftops with the Batman. Instead of choosing to go with a modernized Gotham, we see a very stylized cityscape that feels like a mix between an old noir and German Expressionist film.
The Look and Feel:
Piggybacking off the intro, the series as a whole is that of a very dark, dreary place. Why? Because that’s what Gotham is! If you want sunshine and rainbows, head to Metropolis, buddy.
I can remember thinking Gotham must be a terrible place, but for some reason, I was intrigued to go. Now as an adult, there is a strange beauty to how the show portrayed the city and it’s inhabitants—sort of a ghostly elegance.
Bruce Timm and the Animation:
Artist Bruce Timm and his animators were masters at delivering a timeless feel.
What do I mean by “timeless”?
When you watch, it looks and feels like everything is happening in the 1940’s or 50’s, but the characters are using modern things like computers, cell phones, etc. They were able to blend classic elements with the luxuries and tech of the time and create something that was unique and out of any space/time that we know of.
I don’t think there’s been anything like it since.
Kevin Conroy is and will always be the voice of Batman.
I can’t do this justice, but here it goes…
This show was so ahead of its time, it’s ridiculous. When you’re a cartoon for kids and winning multiple Emmys, you’re doing something right.
I was all of seven when the show aired. I still draw a lot from those episodes (maybe more now that I’m older). But I will tell you this…even as a kid, I understood that the stories had more going on than your run-of-the-mill cartoon. Being able to recognize that at a young age is not pumping my ego—I was not then, nor am I now, some Frasier-type intellectual—it’s a just a huge compliment to the writing.
I really appreciate the creator’s decision and network’s approval to allow writing that was in-depth, thought provoking and often emotionally driven. They could have easily made a watered down good vs. bad show, but instead, chose to deliver something that made the audience think and one that left a lasting impression on fans with its often-bittersweet and somber endings.
Another strength of the writing was its ability to humanize many of Batman’s villains—in some cases, bringing them out of obscurity and into the light. If you need any proof, watch Heart of Ice and Feat of Clay and do it without getting choked up.
So there’s no surprise that the show would produce a character that would go on to become one of the most popular in Batman lore. Everyone’s favorite loon: Harley Quinn.
I loved the goofy jester suit and low-key, jolly insanity of the cartoon version. Her relationship with the Joker always seemed a bit balanced in the show, too—with her being more of a partner and lackey than a subordinate. But that’s just my opinion.
I hope I was able to do the show some justice.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run. I think I see a faint Bat signal on my TV…
Matt Ross writes about Rebirth for DCComics.com and covers Arrow for the #DCTV Couch Club.
Batman Day is this Saturday, September 23rd! Look for articles celebrating the Dark Knight and Harley Quinn all week on DCComics.com leading up to the big day. To learn more about Batman Day and to find a participating shop near you, click here.