Sunday, 3 April 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Batman: The Animated Series Overview

After Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns were successful, Bruce Timm developed a cartoon series that mixed Tim Burton with Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons. The series had a very film noir look to it and flourishes were added such as police blimps, 1930s cars, an art deco city. the black and white title cards and even backgrounds drawn on black paper, rather than white.

The series ran for 85 episodes over 2 seasons. The first season was solely Batman, but after episode 65, Robin became a major piece of the show, so it was retitled to The Adventures of Batman and Robin. It also spawned two movies that fit into the series, Mask of the Phantasm and SubZero. It spawed several spin-off movies as well. 

Music was a redone Danny Elfman soundtrack as done by Shirley Walker, but also had 1940s Film Noir flourishes thrown in for good measure. Bruce Timm actually gets a lot of credit for creating everything, it wasn't. Bruce Timm merely drew out what Eric Radomski had already designed and had been signed off on.

The series was well known for it's voice cast of well known voice actors doing main parts, but then bringing in movie and TV stars for guest roles and support roles as well, These included Kate Mulgrew, Adam West, Mark Hamill, Ed Asner, Ron Perlman, Roddy McDowell and Michael York to name but a few.

Several episodes were remade from issues of the DC comics and these include:

  • The episode "Appointment in Crime Alley" is based on "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley" from Detective Comics #457 (March 1976) by Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano.
  • "Dreams in Darkness" is loosely based on "Batman: The Last Arkham" of Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4 by Alan Grant. This episode adapted the comic book story with the inclusion of the Scarecrow instead of Victor Zsasz and Dr. Bartholomew instead of Jeremiah Arkham.
  • "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" was an adaptation of "The Cape and Cowl Death Trap!" from Detective Comics #450 August 1975, written by Elliot S. Maggin.
  • Part 1 of "Robin's Reckoning" takes its cues from Detective Comics #38 June 1940.
  • The episode "The Laughing Fish" was based on three Batman comics, blended together; "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" from Batman #251 September 1973 by Denny O'Neil with art by Neal Adams, followed by "The Laughing Fish" and "Sign of the Joker!" from Detective Comics #475 and #476, of February/March 1978, both by writer Steve Englehart with art by Marshall Rogers. During a spotlight podcast from Comic-Con 2007, Paul Dini explained that the reason why the episode combined those stories was because the show's creators could not adapt them separately, because their content and thematic elements would not have been cleared by the censors.
  • "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne" was based on the comic stories "The Dead Yet Live" and "I Am the Batman!" from Detective Comics #471 and #472, of August/September 1977 by Steve Englehart.
  • "Moon of the Wolf" is based on the comic story of the same name by writer Len Wein with art by Neal Adams, from Batman #255, April 1974.
  • The episode "Terror in the Sky" is loosely based on "Man-Bat Over Vegas", originally presented in Detective Comics #429, by Frank Robbins. The setting has been shifted from Las Vegas to Gotham Harbor, and in keeping with the family-friendly rating of the television show, She-Bat is not a vampire in the adaptation. The final line of the episode, "the nightmare's finally over", is similar to one of the final lines from the original comic, "Now Fran's vampire nightmare is about over".
  • The episode "Almost Got 'Im" appears to be influenced by a four-issue story arc in Batman (1977) #291-294, entitled "Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?". In each of the four issues, one of Catwoman, Lex Luthor, Riddler, and Joker all recount their claims to have killed the Batman. However, the plot for "Almost Got 'Im" is quite different (six stories in the show, and four completely different ones in the comic book), with only the Joker as an overlapping antagonist.
  • Two-Face's strategy in "Almost Got 'Im" (strapping down Batman to a giant coin and flipping the coin in the air) was taken from the comic; World's Finest Comics #30, September 1947. In a back up tale both Batman and Robin were tied to a giant penny that was catapulted onto spikes by a lesser known villain the Penny Plunderer.
  • "Off Balance" is a direct adaptation of "Batman: Into the Den of the Death-Dealers" of Detective Comics #411, May 1971 by Denny O'Neil famous for the first appearance of the character Talia al Ghul.
  • Also a direct adaptation is the two-part episode "The Demon's Quest", based on "Daughter of the Demon" from Batman #232, June 1971, and "The Demon Lives Again" Batman #244, September 1972, also by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams. Famous for introducing one of Batman's deadlier foes; Ra's al Ghul, father of Talia.
  • The episode "Sideshow" is loosely based on "A Vow From the Grave" by Dennis O'Neil. This episode adapted the comic book story with the inclusion of a separate Killer Croc story.
  • "A Bullet for Bullock" is based on the comic of the same name from Detective Comics #651, October 1992, by Chuck Dixon.
  • The episode "Legends of the Dark Knight" contains a direct adaptation of part of the comic "The Dark Knight Returns".
  • The feature film Mask of the Phantasm is also an adaptation. The film's flashbacks were inspired by "Batman: Year One", whereas the character of Andrea Beaumont and the storyline itself were modified from Mike Barr's story "Batman: Year Two", which ran in Detective Comics #575-578 in the late 1980s; the villain in the comics was named The Reaper.

Now, the series spawned so much out of it. In 1999, Batman Beyond aired, spun off from Batman: TAS. It was followed up by Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans and The Batman, all inspired by Timm's look of The Dark Knight. Lego have done figures based off the series. The series also serves as one of the main inspirations for Rocksteady's Arkham series of video games and they even have animated themed skins for the characters as pre-order bonuses.

The series was incredibly popular with critics and fans alike, as it mixed in enough that kept children entertained, yet was suitably dark and adult themed so parents could watch it as well. Even now, many fans consider it to be the most definitive Batman series ever made. It is currently available in all markets on DVD. If you haven't seen this series, it's well worth watching.