The Batman is a Fun Reimagination That Deserves More Attention

The Batman in a promotional image for the 2004 series of the same name.

Picture, WB Animation

Amongst Youngsters WB’s many accomplishments, it ended up being a boon for cartoons primarily based on DC Comics characters, finally contributing to the creation of the DC Animated Universe, Whereas DC exhibits would later transition completely to Cartoon Community for animation, the superhero exhibits on the community have been nothing to shrug at. However whereas Static Shock and Batman Past are all the time fondly remembered, and 2004’s The Batman deserves its personal serving of affection.

In rewatching The Batman Through HBO Max, it rapidly turns into clear how irregular it was on the time and stays nonetheless as each a Batman present and within the common superhero house. One of many issues that instantly stands out in regards to the present is its title character, who’s only some years into being a vigilante. Listening to Rino Romano’s voice—just some years prior, he voiced Spider-Man on Spider-Man Limitless over on Fox Youngsters—actually places into perspective how a lot youthful this tackle Bruce Wayne is. He has a laidback vibe befitting a man in his mid-20s, and the present’s first season highlights this in moments the place he builds new tech only for enjoyable or cannot listen throughout an opera live performance. Not inexperienced, and never fairly comically overpowered, he is a Batman that is snug in his place as Gotham’s protector, which makes it an ideal time for some precise villains to enter the image.

The rogues are an necessary a part of any Batman story, and there is a stunning quantity of vary on this present as a substitute of counting on heavy hitters. As odd because it first appears for nearly all of them to be strong melee fighters, the present commits to this alternative, and it retains the motion beats thrilling. There’s some enjoyable fights throughout the present’s run, from a three-way brawl between Batman, Catwoman (Gina Gershon), and Ragdoll (Jeff Bennett) in a clocktower to a late recreation episode the place Batman and Robin (Evan Sabara) face off towards the villains throughout the present’s historical past.

A lot of the enjoyable of the villains might be owed to their designs. Jeff Matsuda of Jackie Chan Adventures fame served because the present’s artwork director, and there is a distinct model to everybody that also has some attraction immediately. Making Bane into principally Pink Hulk when he makes use of his Venom or portraying Riddler as a goth twink on his technique to the membership are the sort of seems to be that DC tales simply aren’t in a position to do anymore until they’re explicitly AUs, like a cellular recreation. No matter how they give the impression of being and struggle, their voice actors largely do an important job in making every villain really feel like they belong on this particular model of Batman’s world.

However Penguin and Joker are the spotlight of the bunch, and each are a number of the extra recurring villains of the collection. Primarily identified on the time for voicing good or dopey guys, Tom Kenny’s having a number of enjoyable with Penguin as an absolute sleazebag who repulses everybody he meets. In the meantime, Kevin Michael Richardson’s deep voice and booming giggle give the present’s Clown Prince a extra playful however nonetheless lethal edge that stands proudly alongside the raspy wit of Mark Hamill. Since this was earlier than the villain transitioned into being principally a serial killer, his crimes are sinister whereas nonetheless being extremely goofy, and the present is aware of easy methods to make him menacing in some fairly ingenious methods.

Simply from the present’s intro for its first two seasons, you’d suppose this was a darker tackle the Darkish Knight for youths, as bat screeches and guitar strums from The Edge give the present moody, noir-ish vibe the place Danny Elfman’s theme for Batman: The Animated Collection felt grand and adventurous. Typically throughout these first two seasons, that unique intro is a misdirect, and an episode might be goofier than you’d imagine. Whereas the primary two seasons are fairly sturdy, introducing Danielle Judovitz as Batgirl in season three (and later the aforementioned Robin in season 4) helps the present discover a higher thought of ​​its tone. Each younger heroes are enjoyable additions to the forged, and the new energetic opening feels prefer it higher matches the episodes for the present’s following three seasons.

For as typically as individuals complain about Batman being “too darkish,” The Batman manages to discover a sturdy stability between playful and gritty more often than not. When it hits its stability, you get enjoyable episodes such one early into season two the place Joker’s dressed as Batman, attacking civilians for minor crimes whereas Batman’s at risk of laughing himself to demise after being hit with a brand new dose of Joker Venom. (Romano’s recreation of the Joker giggle is its personal sort of unsettling.) One other excessive level is the finale to season one; After the clown kidnaps Batman’s childhood good friend turned cop Ethan Bennett (Steven Harris), half one abruptly ends on the nonetheless fairly horrifying visible of Bennett’s face sliding off his pores and skin. Half two, fittingly titled “The Clayface of Tragedy,” opens like a mini-monster film as Bennett tries to ask for assist, solely to be attacked and averted by anybody who catches sight of him. However Bennett disappears for respectable stretches of time all through the present’s run, considerably neutering the affect of his and Bruce’s relationship. However not less than he will get one thing of a conclusion to his arc, in contrast to his fellow cop Ellen Yin. Voiced by Ming-Na Wen lengthy earlier than she turned the de facto Competent Ladyshe’s set as much as be a long run ally (and perhaps a love curiosity?) for Batman earlier than she’s simply straight up gone after season two.

With how common Batman is and all the time has been, it is genuinely stunning how The Batman simply barely averted the trendy day superhero increase. A couple of episodes into its second season, Batman Begins debuted in theaters, and the collection would finish in March 2008, a pair months earlier than The Darkish Knight would develop into a field workplace juggernaut. From there, Christopher Nolan’s extra grounded tackle the superhero would assist chart the character’s path going ahead. Rocksteady’s beloved Arkham video games drew upon the Nolan for a lot of its tone and elegance, and so does Titans, ridiculous of a present that it’s. 2013’s Beware the Batman animated collection, the speedy successor to the extra lighthearted Courageous & the Daring, was marketed as being extra critical, little doubt due to The Darkish Knight Rises.

Surprisingly, the show doesn't do much with the Cat/Bat dynamic.

Surprisingly, the present would not do a lot with the Cat/Bat dynamic.
Picture, WB Animation

In the meantime, each Courageous and Lego Batman served as counterarguments to Nolan’s trilogy, exhibiting the Caped Crusader as a light-hearted adventurer or goofy father and intentionally poking enjoyable on the extra “grownup” tackle the character. Even Batman’s handful of appearances over in Teen Titans Go poke loads of enjoyable on the notion of the hero that Nolan helped popularize. Whether or not you want Nolan’s trilogy or not, the Batman work that is adopted it since 2005 hovers over Batman and anybody in his orbit like an extended shadow, for higher and worse.

However The Batman is not actually in dialog with how the world has seen its Caped Crusader, and in a number of methods is all the higher for it. Whereas it will possibly’t assist however really feel like a relic of a bygone age, it was a reasonably good age the place superhero exhibits simply ran off of vibes and experimentation. Much like Youngsters’ WB’s different beloved cape collection Spectacular Spider-Man and X-Males: Evolution (or arguably Younger Justice immediately), it was free to do its personal factor with out being caught up in company nonsense, nostalgia of doubtful advantage, or cultural pissing contests. On the finish of the day, it is only a present whose pitch started and ended with: “Batman’s fairly cool. You wanna see him be fairly cool?” And to The Batman’s credit score, it was proper. He is fairly cool.


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