All this week on DCComics.com we've been celebrating one of the greatest shows in the history of television. No, not Breaking Bad, but we totally get that. Not The Wire either, although, again, good guess. No, we're talking about the Emmy Award-winning, insanely awesome, genre-defining Batman: The Animated Series, a.k.a. the series that set a benchmark for animated programming and that also introduced an entire generation of fans to the Dark Knight, serving as the defining interpretation of the character.
Through awe-inspiring writing, a chilling score, unforgettable characters, uniquely stylized animation, and incredible voice acting, Batman: The Animated Series created a legacy. A legacy still found to this day not only in the memories and DVD collections of comic book fans the world over, not only in every geeky conversation about the best portrayals of the Dark Knight, but even in the very comic books themselves that feature and star the Caped Crusader.
Without a doubt, Batman: The Animated Series forever impacted the world and legend of the Dark Knight, in ways that still echo into today. Continuing this week's five-day "Batman: An Animated Celebration" event, we're giving readers 5.2 Ways Batman: The Animated Series Impacted the Dark Knight!
1. Public Perception
Prior to B:tAS and the 1989 Batman feature film starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, the general public saw Batman a certain way. Namely, as portrayed by Adam West in the cult classic Batman live-action television series, which had a more... let's say "Silver Age" tone to the character. It was fun and entertaining, but ever since "The Dark Knight Returns," comic fans saw the character's potential. The Batman film helped start to change non-comic readers' views on the character, showing that he could be taken as a serious, grounded character. B:tAS continued that trend, not only showing that Batman can be treated seriously but also that a cartoon series could tackle real problems and tell adult stories.
2. Phenomenal Voice Work
To this day, many fans regard Kevin Conroy as the definitive voice of the Dark Knight. Heck, the phrase "I am Vengeance. I am the Night. I. Am. Batman!" has become synonymous with the character, and we're pretty sure you just read that sentence in Conroy's voice. Then of course there's Mark Hamill's Joker, whose laugh is hands down spot on for the character, chilling, terrifying, and appropriately psychotic. Just those two alone are enough, but beyond that there's Ron Perlman's Clayface, David Warner's Ra's al Ghul, and so much more, including the late Michael Ansara as Mr. Freeze, which, speaking of that character...
3. Heart of Ice
We'd be remiss not to talk about this. The Emmy Award winning episode "Heart of Ice" made Mr. Freeze one of the most popular and recognizable Batman villains ever. Prior to this episode, Mr. Freeze was just another gimmicky villain from the comics. "Heart of Ice" gave him a backstory so incredible and sympathetic that it became the actual origin in the comic books themselves. Bring up B:tAS to fans and this episode is almost guaranteed to come up. Even some of the comic writers today reference this episode as one of their favorites.
4. Animation Revolution
We touched on this a little earlier, but it really is important to note just how much of an impact B:tAS had on the world of animation itself. With shockingly mature and often heartbreaking storytelling that addressed issues such as death, identity, family, and more, the series showed viewers that a cartoon could tell stories just as impactful and poignant as any other medium. The aforementioned Mr. Freeze episode showed how far you can go for the person you love. The Clayface stories discussed ideas of self and identity in ways we'd never seen before. Without B:tAS it can be argued we wouldn't have half the animated shows we have today.
5. A Whole DC Animated Universe
It started with B:tAS but it didn't end there. Just as Batman: The Animated Series set the tone for the Dark Knight, the subsequent Superman: The Animated Series, the Batman/Superman Adventures, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited set the tone for almost the entire DC Universe. It created a whole continuity that introduced non-comic readers to countless DC Comics characters and concepts, and includes some of the best stories in the history of the characters.
5.1 "Growing Pains"
This gosh darn episode. Holy crap. A perfect example of the series' ability to show character depth and growth.
5.2 Harley Quinn
Not only impacted the Dark Knight but gave us one of the greatest contributions to the world of fiction.
Let's talk "Batman: The Animated Series!" How did the series influence you as a fan and reader? What are some of your favorite episodes? Let us know in the comments below!