Even in this day and age, 1992’s “Batman: The Animated Series” remains the definitive iteration of Bill Finger’s Batman. Combining all of the best elements from past Batman lore, Bruce Timm’s iconic animated series is a mature, often compelling take on the Dark Knight that’s action packed enough for children, but sophisticated enough for older audiences to appreciate. Timm approaches the Batman with enough care and delicate creativity to allow the character to flourish in a contemporary setting, embracing the fantasy elements of the character as well as basing a lot of the aspects of the character and his background in reality as much as possible.
In its day, “Batman: The Animated Series” was considered a very edgy show, as it avoided the wrath of censors, allowing Bruce Timm to portray Batman’s world with real weapons. This gives the series the neo-noir and pulpish aesthetic that’s still rich and beautiful. “Batman: The Animated Series” is, of course, the story of Bruce Wayne, a rich business executive whose parents were murdered when he was a child. By night he masquerades as Batman, a costumed vigilante who fights crime, and infiltrates the criminal underworld. “Batman: The Animated Series” delivers on all fronts, with both crucial fan service, and rich masterful writing that keeps the show consistently balanced, and engaging.
Along with skirting the censors, “Batman: The Animated Series” is still widely celebrated thanks to its unique animation, and brilliant voice work by its immense cast. Even today, fans consider Kevin Conroy the definitive Batman and Bruce Wayne, while Mark Hamil’s Joker is the preferred interpretation. The show also goes down as creating two iconic Batman characters, one of whom being Renee Montoya, while the other is Harley Quinn. Quinn was initially created for the show as a means of giving the menacing Joker someone to play off of, but she inevitably rose to such popularity, she eventually earned her way in to the DC Comics canon, and in to pop culture fame.
Timm and co. keeps the world of “Batman: The Animated Series” timeless, allowing it to be accessible by just about everyone. From colorful, dynamic villains, excellent analyses of the psychology of Batman and his rogues, and some wonderful new takes on once goofy villains like Mr. Freeze, and Mad Hatter, it’s impossible to walk away from this masterpiece of a show disappointed.
The new release from Warner comes packed to the brim with special features and an SD Digital Copy for consumers. The Digital Copy garners every episode of the series sans the Batman animated movies. The Deluxe LE packs the discs in a hard cover flat book, with full color illustrations and features an envelope filled with seven lenticular art cards from the series. There are also 3 Funko pop mini-figures of Batman, Harley Quinn, and the Joker, for folks that collect it. Among the extras there are audio commentaries for episodes like “On Leather Wings,” “Heart of Ice,” “Robin’s Reckoning Part One,” “Heart of Steel Part Two,” “Almost Got ‘Im,” “Harley and Ivy,” “Read My Lips,” “Harlequinade,” “Over the Edge,” “Critters,” and finally “Legends of the Dark Knight.”
The commentaries feature folks like Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Ribi, James Tucker, and Eric Radomski, respectively. There’s also a video commentary “House & Garden” with producer Bruce Timm, director Boyd Kirkland and writer Paul Dini. There are introductions for “On Leather Wings,” “Christmas with the Joker,” “Nothing to Fear,” “The Last Laugh,” and “Pretty Poison,” along with The Dark Knight’s First Night Pilot Promo: Hosted By Bruce Timm, clocking in at five minutes. There’s the eight minute “Batman: The Legacy Continues” retrospective, and a three minute Tour of the Batcave with looks at his Utility Belt, Vehicles, and much more. “Robin Rising: How the Boy Wonder’s Character Evolved” is an eight minute look at the new direction taken with Robin for the series and his origin as a kid friendly character, and the ten minute “Gotham’s Guardians” supporting characters like Harvey Bullock, Alfred, Jim Gordon, and Renee Montoya.
“Voices of the Knight” is an eight minute look at the iconic voices behind the characters, the recording process and the like. I’d love to see a two hour exploration of the process, but this is an okay segment. “Gotham’s New Knight” is a great eight minute look at the introduction of Batgirl to the show, her evolution as a character, and introduction to the comic books. Finally, there’s “Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes” a nearly half hour look at many of the series’ rogues including Clayface, Harley Quinn, The Joker, and many more. It’s a neat run down of the whole show’s big bads. The Bonus Disc comes with “The Heart of Batman,” a one hundred minute, three part retrospective explores the whole run of “Batman: The Animated Series,” along with Warner animation, Tiny Toons Adventures, Batman before his animated series, and much more.
“Concepting Harley Quinn” a brief interview with Paul Dini, who discusses the creation of Harley Quinn, a character intended as a one episode side kick for The Joker, who then rocketed in fame as a pop culture icon. The Bonus Disc comes packed with the stellar “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” with both Theatrical and TV aspect ratios, and the original trailer. We also get the excellent sequel “Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero” along with four Mr. Freeze Episodes from the DCAU Saga including “Cold Comfort” from “The New Batman Adventures,” and “Meltdown” from “Batman Beyond.” There’s “Art of Batman: Music Montage” a look at the animation process for Batman, the original trailer, and finally “Get the Picture” a short tutorial on drawing Batman in Bruce Timm’s classic style.