While Judge David Gutierrez really likes this animated series and all, he kept wondering, where's The Eggman?
Our reviews of Batman: The Animated Series, Volume 3 (published June 30th, 2005), Batman: The Animated Series, Volume 4 (published January 25th, 2006), Batman: The Animated Series, Volume 2 (published February 10th, 2005), Batman: The Animated Series: Secrets Of The Caped Crusader (published November 10th, 2004), and Batman: The Animated Series: The Legend Begins (published April 23rd, 2002) are also available.
"I am your worst nightmare."—The Batman
I don't think Bill Finger and Bob Kane set out to create the second most popular comic icon on the planet in Batman. Who'd have guessed a playboy that never recovered from a childhood trauma would be grow into the celebrated World's Greatest Detective? Who'd have predicted the best thing to happen to man who dresses up in grey tights so he can beat up other guys would be an animated series?
Facts of the Case
After witnessing his parents' murder, Bruce Wayne trains his body and mind to the peak of perfection in order to wage a war on crime in Gotham City as the Batman. Aided by Alfred Pennyworth, his butler; Dick Grayson, his ward and sidekick (AKA Robin); and Police Commissioner James Gordon, Batman fights a cadre of freaks, menaces, and organized crime.
Drawing heavily from its comic book roots, Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves following the successes Batman and Batman Returns. Mirroring the films darker, timeless look, Batman: The Animated Series quickly became the definitive version of Batman.
Batman: The Animated Series—Volume One showcases the first twenty-one episodes of the series in a four-DVD set.
• "On Leather Wings"
• "Christmas with the Joker"
• "Nothing to Fear"
• "The Last Laugh"
• "Pretty Poison"
• "The Underdwellers"
• "Be a Clown"
• "Two-Face: Part One"
• "Two-Face: Part Two"
• "It's Never Too Late"
• "I've Got Batman in My Basement"
• "Heart of Ice"
• "The Cat and the Claw: Part One"
• "The Cat and the Claw: Part Two"
• "See No Evil"
• "Beware the Grey Ghost"
• "Prophecy of Doom"
• "Feat of Clay: Part One"
• "Feat of Clay: Part Two"
• "The Joker's Favor"
• "Fear of Victory"
• "The Clock King"
• "Appointment in Crime Alley"
• "Mad as a Hatter"
• "Dreams in Darkness"
Bonus features include commentary by series producers Bruce Timm and Eric Rodomski is available on "On Leather Wings." Timm and Radomski are joined by series writer Paul Dini for their commentary on "Heart of Ice." Additional special features include the featurette "Batman: The Legacy Continues;" the original version of the pilot's title sequence; and a Tour of the Batcave. Also included are previews for other DC/Warner Brothers animated DVDs.
Batman: The Animated Series is one of the finest examples of how strong a television show can be. It doesn't even matter that its intended audience is children. The show isn't dumbed down, doesn't cater to small minds, and strives to get better and better with each outing. Not every show's a winner, but the majority make a good deal of what's on television today look like a Barney episode—or even worse, The Wiggles.
Each episode is self-contained and doesn't rely on anything that came before. It's important to be able to walk into a show and get it instantly. Batman: The Animated Series doesn't push anyone away. To make a show that's both good and accessible is no easy feat.
The colors, direction, character design, and architecture work in tandem to make the series look like nothing else on Earth. The show builds upon the look and feel of the old Fleischer Superman animated shorts. As noted in the commentary and in the featurette, the producers decided to make Batman and his world look like the World's Fair never ended. It's the mark of a good show when the city becomes a character in the story.
The performances aren't the type usually featured on an animated series. I'd argue that Kevin Conroy was born to voice Batman. Conroy supplies the proper pitch, anger, and intimidation to properly pull off the central character. Additionally, the rest of cast is pitch perfect. Every guest star and regular cast member is expertly cast. Mark Hamill seems to struggle with the Joker at first, but quickly captures his mania and insanity. Arleen Sorkin finds the ideal amount of moxie to help create series standout Harley Quinn. The character becomes popular enough to warrant inclusion in the Batman comic, her own comic book series, and becomes the main villain in the Batman-based spin-off Birds of Prey.
Batman: The Animated Series—Volume One is presented in its original full-frame format. Some scratches and specks are highly noticeable. It behooves me to point out that these visual errors are original production flaws and not a result of a weak transfer. The scratches are occasionally distracting—especially against the black background used to paint the series cels—but are mercifully brief and fleeting. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack suits the DVD set. The explosions, vehicular sounds, and dialogue all comes across perfectly clear.
The commentaries are best suited for those interested in how the series came to pass and why it has such a unique look. "Batman: The Legacy Continues" parrots much of the production trivia presented in the commentaries and adds more of the series' developmental history, featuring input from comic book professionals Geoff Johns (Teen Titans), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come), and author Les Daniels (Batman: The Complete History). I agree with their reverential testimonials; this show is something to behold.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I wish there were chapter stops for each episode. As much as I love the opening sequence, I don't have to see it every time.
Fans of the Adam West Batman series probably won't enjoy this show. It takes the character of Batman seriously and returns him to his broodingly dark roots.
Watch this show. Rent it or buy it—just watch it. I'm dating a girl who hates animation and doesn't get the appeal of Batman. I showed her "Heart of Ice" and now she's asking to see more. That's how good this show is.
Classic animation fans should pick up this set. It will make a very nice companion piece to a Superman Fleischer DVD set.
Batman: The Animated Series—Volume One is free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary on "On Leather Wings" and "Heart of Ice"
Review content copyright © 2004 David Gutierrez; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.