Batman Animated

As this is a sort-of-if-you-squint comics blog, it’s inevitable that I’ll end up talking about some of the icons of the medium – Batman, Superman, Spider-Man – the characters that people in the street will mention if you asked them to name some superheroes.

I’ve already talked about Spider-Man, and I’m sure I’ll get round to Superman at some point, but today I want to talk about Batman.

Batman first appeared back in 1939 in Detective Comics #27, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. In the 72 years since, there have been numerous different portrayals of him in various media – comics, radio, films and TV.

(Unlike Superman and Spider-Man, there’s not been a Batman musical yet. This is probably a good thing.)

My favourite interpretation isn’t the comics. It’s certainly not the “The Dark Knight” (which I could rant against for ages). It’s not even the Adam West TV series from the 60’s.

It’s Batman: The Animated Series from the early 90’s.

It could have been just another kid’s cartoon, produced in the wake of the 1989 Tim Burton film. What we got was something that children could still watch, but was also far, far more.

It takes place in a highly stylized world – one that owes as much to film noir and art deco as to comics. It’s an amalgam of the 1940s and the 1990s – Gotham City is filled with  art deco skyscrapers, the cars are Cords and Duesenburgs and the gangsters wear fedoras, but there are computers and TVs (albeit only with black and white screens.)

And it’s dark – all of the scenes were painted on to a black background. instead of a white one. It adds a surprising amount of depth and menace.

Dark Knight

Then there’s the voice acting. The trick in the latest Batman film of Bruce Wayne lowering his voice an octave when he becomes Batman was lifted from the animated series.

Finally, there’s the characters. Some of the characters had been around for 50 years when the series started, but it came up with new and fresh interpretations. The villains are often tragic figures, trying save loved ones or gain revenge for loved ones they’ve lost, like Mr Freeze in Heart of Ice.

Of course, it doesn’t help if your loved one is a dangerous homicidal psychopath, like the Joker…

Harley with the Joker on the cover of Batman: ...

Image via Wikipedia

But that’s the premise of the character of Harley Quinn – a goofy gangster’s moll, where the gangster is the Joker. (With the Joker’s voice being provided by Mark Hamill. Yes, Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill.)   

It’s certainly far more than the average Saturday morning cartoon – it’s well worth checking out if you’ve not done so.

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6 Responses to Batman Animated

  1. lolakola says:

    Batman is definitely one of my total favourites!

    • Posky says:

      Agreed. When I was younger, I was a rather committed comic book nerd. Batman always has and always will, reign supreme. I liked the goofy old Adam West shows, then hated them and now love them again for their bizarre brand of comedy. I loved the Tim Burton films. I followed the comics religiously, my heart pounding as I watched Bane snap the Dark Knight’s spine in half- thinking him to be dead. I even liked the new films.

      However, the Animated Series was what sealed the deal in the early 90s. This was uncompromising art that had a wide level of appeal. I could watch it with my little sister, mom or dad and everyone enjoyed it. I still watch the show and it remains superb. If you want a modern day thrill that will take you back to the show, play Batman: Arkham Asylum. It uses all the same voice actors and feels a lot like the show.

      While, I’ve loved many mainstream comic book franchises (X-Men) and have a passion for indie and weird autobiographical comics (King-Cat) Batman was the one that I never got tired of and has the most special place in my heart.

      • Thanks for the comments.

        Many people have recommended Arkham Asylum to me – I think it’s written by Paul Dini, who was writer and co-producer on the series.

      • Posky says:

        Yup, it totally was. It has a strangely familiarity to the show despite being very different. If you enjoy one, you’ll likely love the other.

        I wish the comics were more cohesive like the animated series was. I collected a lot of the comics but they are often jump around a lot and (like the movies) are interpreted very differently by the people that have made them. Still, Batman seems to be the one superhero that you can sort of pick up and be hip to what’s going on. He doesn’t change that much and his story line isn’t normally so complicated or crazy that you can’t follow it. Generally, you can grab the newest edition and, even if you’re a fair-weather Batman fan, have a general understanding of what’s going on.

        Again, I’m going to cut myself short rather than go nuts over The Bat.

  2. Yay, for somebody else who rants about The Dark Knight!

  3. Pingback: OK Computer | Pointless Ephemera

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