The quintessential Batman series celebrates its twenty-five year anniversary
A dark Gotham night is suddenly interrupted by the sound of mad laughter and maybe even an explosion or two as a mad man with a completely white face, save for brightly painted red lips, attempts to make his latest get away from Gotham’s Dark Knight. The characters in question are of course The Joker and Batman respectively. It was just over 25 years ago that they made their debut on the small screen in DC’s Batman The Animated Series.
From the moment this show premiered, it was a hit. Fans loved the darker tone and style of the show along with the fact that it appeared to treat them seriously. As the show went on, it actually took chances on its fans and showed them the darker side of heroism. More than that, it also gave its audience the chance to see series regular villains in a different light as well. Until this point, many super-hero shows kept their environment and characters brightly lit regardless of their source material if any. One just has to look at Adam West’s Batman for am example. It was completely campy and while it did put the titular character in danger, the way in which he always got out of it was completely ridiculous.
Of course Batman would have a specific spray to get him out of this situation. This show was made to be made safe and sanitary for kids of all ages to watch, regardless of the fact that they were and still are capable of handling more. During the time of this show’s airing, Batman forbid they see any actual violence.
Then, on this day September 5, in 1992, Batman The Animated Series debuted to massive ratings. Along with a darker and grittier look, this show allowed its audience to really get inside their characters’ heads. Throughout its two to four season run (depending on if you’re going by production order or original air date,) the show demonstrated Batman not just at his best constantly fighting random criminals such as Killer Croc, Scarface, Two-Face and of course The Joker(voiced by Star Wars icon Mark Hamill), but it also showed the titular character at his worst and most vulnerable.
In one episode titled “Perchance to Dream” the audience gets to witness just how conflicted Bruce Wayne is about being Batman. As much as he would love to be free of the bat burden, he accepts again in a heart beat as he fights to get his life back to the way it was. For reasons of spoilers for those who haven’t seen it or watched it again in years, I will not post any spoilers, accept for the fact that it’s a great episode that deserves a watch.
For those who want a more thrilling episode, they have to look no farther than “Over the Edge”. It starts off strong and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wonder, “they can’t really be ending this episode the way I think they are…can they?” From beginning to end it’s a non-stop thrill ride as you get to see what would happen when/if his best friend, Police Commissioner Jim Gordon learns of Batman’s true identity. While on the surface it may seem like a simple enough story, but what it does with the images and danger it puts its main characters in is amazing. Alfred even gets arrested for his hand in helping Batman. Along with the others on this list, it is worth a watch on this 25th anniversary.
Batman aside, this show goes not just one, but two steps further in that it gives its audience the ability to step into the villains’ heads as well as the hero’s. The two episodes that brilliantly demonstrate this in order of airing are “Almost Got ‘Im” and “Trial”.
The first episode, “Almost Got ‘Im” starts off basic enough. Reoccurring villains Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Two Face, the Penguin and of course Joker sit around a card table playing poker as they each recount the time they almost offed the bat. While simple at its core, this episode does a brillant job of showcasing each villain in a new, more relaxed light. Usually the only time viewers see these characters is when they are going up against the bat and thus it’s all about the crime. Here though, they are able to just breath and be themselves. Or, that’s what the villains think at any rate. Without giving away the ending, I will say that it’s completely hilarious and definitely worth the time.
In allowing the villains to simply be themselves not have to worry about fighting their main enemy, it gives the fans the ability to see who these characters truely are, something that would have been impossible in any other episode. This episode gives them the opportunity to simply talk and be themselves, an ability that is all but impossible in any other situation.
Something else that would have been impossible in just about any other episode is many of Batman’s enemies coming together to determine who creates who; Does Batman create his villains, or do they create him? This is what happens in the second episode listed here, “Trial”. After being captured along with Gotham’s District Attorney Janet Van Dornby, by a few of his enemies, both are forced to go through a kangaroo trial (a mock trial that is held only for show and to give a “reason” to convict the charged, in order to get to the bottom of this question.
Of course, things can never be easy for Batman can they? From the start, the DA is against him, believing as the villains do, that he creates them. To her, he should be locked up with them. In theory, once Batman is gone, his villains should go with him. Despite this, Ms. Dornby knows that if she wants to get out alive, she must put her personal beliefs aside and actually attempt to defend the bat. This is of course ignoring the fact that she understands all of what she is about to do is likely for show and Batman’s fate already decided. There is a twist here though at the end of the trial though that is always fun to watch.
Without getting into too many details, once the trial has ended and Batman tied up and seemingly unable to escape in a straight jacket, the villains are just about ready to finally unmask the bat and answer the question that has been plaguing Gothamites seemingly ever since Batman began his crusade against crime, “who is under that mask?” In order to find out what happens at the end of this amazing episode, you will have to watch for yourself. All I’ll say is that it was a fun episode and one I would not mind watching again.
From it’s darker tone and style to allowing fans to get into both the hero’s and villains’ heads, this show had it all. If it would not take forever and a day to talk about each fantastic episode, I would sit here and talk about them all. Each did an amazing job of contributing to the overall quality of this show that can still be enjoyed today, on the day after its 25th anniversary. This show definitely stands the test of time and is worth a view. Enjoy!
May The Force Be With You
You can see Mark Hamill return to his iconic role as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, coming to cinemas on December 15th 2017