20 Years of Batman: The Animated Series
by Dark Knight Detective

Batman: The Animated Series, a cartoon that has influenced many other cartoons alike & even future Batman comics, has finally reached its 20th birthday. Viewed by many as one of the finest media interpretations of the Dark Knight & his universe, it captivated many with its edginess, compelling storylines, dark, quirky & colorful cast of characters, & much like the Tim Burton movies, opened the eyes to the general public of a more serious, true-in-spirit viewing of who & what the Batman is, why does he fight crime dressed as a bat & so forth. I just wanted to take the time to look back on what I view as my favorite cartoon.


On September 5th, 1992, Batman: The Animated series debuted on Fox Kids. While it may have been on a program block meant for kids, the show itself definitely took a darker, groundbreaking tone. It was the team's intentions to not make a Batman not necessarily for kids, aiming for a more adult audience. What separated this Batman from previous tv incarnations were the sophisticated storylines & complex characters. There was more to it than just beating up the bad guys & saving the day; actual drama, emotion & conflict shaped each episode. Batman himself was no longer dancing in clubs, carrying Bat-cookies & least of all happygolucky; he was a dark avenger of the night, using his strength, speed, intellect & detective skills to take out the mad men of Gotham City's underworld. While he was Bruce Wayne in the day, Batman was who he truly was; a tortured soul traumatized by his parents' murder all those years ago.


Batman's rogue gallery, like himself, were taken to a darker route this time around. They weren't petty crooks thieving for jewels as before. Most of them were driven insane by a "bad day" & went to crime to plauge Gotham. Most notably, the Joker himself was no longer a mere trickster, but a psychotic clown driven on showing Gotham City his idea of a good joke. The Mad Hatter had an obsession with Alice in Wonderland that went too far to the point he put his co-worker under mind control for him to love forever more as his "Alice". But perhaps the biggest improvement without a doubt had to have been Mr. Freeze. Before the series, Freeze was a generic ice themed villain with cliched villain motives, had little depth & was to the point of obscurity. Enter Paul Dini, who took Freeze from there & remade him a tragic scientist whose wife contacted a terminal disease. Angry for this incident, he takes up his mantle to unleash an icy vengeance on Gotham City for his pain. This interpretation of Freeze was met with so much applause that he was redone with this origin in the comics sometime after.


Supporting characters were certainly more significant this time around. Alfred was more than just Bruce's butler; he was his confidant & surrogate father who gave him the support whenever needed. Commissioner Gordon was dedicated to taking down Gotham's crime & has a close partnership with Batman & friendship with Bruce Wayne. Harvey Bullock, as in the comics, always viewed Batman as the menace Gordon didn't see, but was actually quite the helpful ally in certain situations, to the point Batman even helped him solve who wanted Bullock dead twice, from Killer Croc & an angry landlord. The character of Robin was certainly improved over past versions. Now a more hip, cooler character, Robin has his own insecurities as most teenagers do & is explored well as Dick Grayson. At one point he even wanted to avenge his parents' killer once he found out he returned to Gotham. Certainly a stark contrast from the "Holy (insert line here) Batman!" of the 60's show.


 Another thing that made Batman stand out was its environment, from the visual to the music. The score actually performed by an orchestra, led by Batman's (1989) Shirley Walker with an intro & ending theme by film composer Danny Elfman, highly unsual to most kids cartoons at the time. Like the Tim Burton films, it went for a dark, dynamic feel to go with Batman's Dark Knight image. A pretty versatile one at that, it could range from a clownish one for the Joker, a cold, sad one for Mr. Freeze, & a heroic one for Batman. Gotham City itself was more of a character than just a mere city; its 30's Art Deco designs, with a red sky, gave it a feeling of a classic pulp setting than anything modern as with the films.


The voice acting is top notch to boot. Andrea Romano knows just who to cast. Kevin Conroy is surely the best Batman voice actor in my book; taking inspiration by Michael Keaton performance, he made a clear distinction with Bruce for a more businessman approach, but turned 180 with Batman by giving him a darker, raspy voice to strike fear in the hearts of criminal scum. Mark Hamill is perfect as the Joker, getting the quirks & insanity that define him as the Clown Prince of Crime. Richard Moll as Two-Face comes off the way he's meant to be; one half is golden boy district attorney Harvey Dent, the scarred side Big Bad Harv, the more aggresive, demented personality of the two. For some reason I always loved Alfred's voice; Efrem Zimbalist Jr. just knows how to pull of the British gentleman voice so perfectly like Michael Gough did.


To sum everything up, Batman: The Animated Series left a great impression on me. I don't know if it was the 40's Superman cartoon styled animation, the story, characters, music or classic design. It just stood out from a lot of the things I liked when it was on Fox Kids; Animaniacs, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, The Tick, etc. All I know for sure is that it made me like Batman (& cartoons in general) even more, & gave me a taste for the 30's. The show was way ahead of its time, managed to gain a favorable audience between adults & kids, & ultimately paved way for the DC Animated Universe with later cartoons such as Superman: The Animated Series.

WB, if you're reading this, from the request of a fan, release this on Blu-Ray with extra features & memorabilia, the series truly deserves it.

Happy Birthday B:TAS, your candle shines the brightest today.


   -Dark Knight Detective

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