It’s the perfect storm of fandom this year, as Batman is celebrating eighty years in pop culture, while “Batman Beyond” is celebrating its twenty year anniversary. For 2019, Warner finally unleashes their fantastic follow up “Batman Beyond” on Blu-Ray in a stellar Limited Edition box set that is also conveniently in time for Halloween and the impending holiday season. With the Limited Edition featuring an exclusive Batman Beyond Funko Pop, and the inevitably regular set coming down line, Warner will cash in for sure. “Batman Beyond” is still the juggernaut follow up to the classic Bruce Timm “Batman” series that hasn’t aged a bit, despite being conceived during a period where everything had to be futuristic, and darker.
I think one of the two reasons why Bruce Timm’s iteration of Batman continues to be such a celebrated staple of animation is that Timm didn’t just take Batman seriously, he took his audience seriously. Before then, if you wanted to see an animated version of Batman, you had to watch “The Super Friends,” “Scooby Doo Movies,” or the Filmation series. “Batman: The Animated Series” stands on its own in the annals of 90’s animation and is still considered the gold standard by fans, right down to the voice actors.
With the end of Batman: the Animated Series, the DC Comics/Warner Bros. animation golden boy of the 90s, Bruce Timm, was called upon once again to create another hit Saturday morning series. This time it would a series geared to a much younger audience, full of futuristic technology and action packed, and it would be called Batman Beyond. The show wasn’t a pandering, youth-oriented take with no substance (I’m looking at you Spider-Man Unlimited) either; it was a dark, complex, and very unique spin on the Batman lore.
With the success of his iconic adaptation, “Batman: The Animated Series” behind him, creator Bruce Timm was asked by Warner Bros. in 1996 to produce a companion series to the darker crime drama. The natural jumping off point from Batman was, of course, Superman, the equally recognizable and ever immortal character from DC Comics. With “Batman: The Animated Series” ensuring the success of DC translating in to the animated medium, Superman was a welcome change of pace for the medium Timm had helped innovate for the decade. It was also a welcome reboot for Superman fans who wanted the Man of Steel brought in to the decade.
“Batman: The Animated Series” is one of the seminal animated creations of the nineties and is still considered a quintessential depiction of Batman. It’s a masterpiece of animation and meticulous storytelling. The voice work by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker are so definitive, that some fans can’t possibly imagine either character on screen without either actor portraying them. Here we are in 2017 with Bruce Timm reviving his animated version of “Batman” and what do we get? A very long gag involving Harley Quinn farting in the Batmobile as Batman sniffs it in with pleasure, all the while Nightwing retches in the side seat. This is the bar of “quality” we get with “Batman and Harley Quinn.”
When “Batman Beyond” was introduced in 1999, fans of old and new were given a peek in to a Batman for a new generation while also exploring what happened to Bruce Wayne’s legacy many decades in to Gotham’s Future. When the series took off, fans were able to see that the legacy of the Joker lived on, as he inspired one of future Gotham’s most violent army of gang members “The Jokers,” however we were never given a definitive explanation as to what happened to the clown prince of crime. “Return of the Joker” holds true to its title, spending a feature length narrative explaining what happened to the Joker and how he left a lasting scar on Bruce Wayne and his family.
Sue me but it’s pretty cool to be seeing a Hispanic man playing Superman for once; if only for one time in an Elseworlds tale. “Gods and Monsters” is set in an alternate DC Universe that has its own Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, and damn it they’re not the clean cut superheroes and titans we know them as. Imagine an alternate fate for the trio of titans. What if Zod programmed his DNA in to Superman and Superman was taken in by a Mexican farming couple rather than Kansas farmers. Imagine if Wonder Woman was from the new gods, and Batman was actually a bat like man who sucked people’s blood.
With Batman celebrating his 75th anniversary this year, I thought it’d be a good idea to remember Bruce Timm’s classic animated series about the Dark Knight. No animated series since has gained such acclaim and love from fans of all kinds. Whether you’re a nineties kid, a Batman fan, or an animation buff, there’s no denying “Batman the Animated Series” set the bar high. It was a masterpiece of storytelling, characterization, and mythology, all the while giving Batman a new dimension. It didn’t pander to kids, and often provided mature, complex, and morally gray tales of evil, crime fighting, and Bruce Wayne’s struggle to maintain his humanity under the cape and cowl.
These are our top five favorite episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series,” what are some of your favorites?