Sunday, April 1, 2012

Batman's History In Animation

      In wake of recent news of Batman receiving yet another animated series, I thought I would pay tribute to the Caped Crusader’s history in cartoon television.

The Superfriends
         In the early 1970’s, Hanna Barbara created the widely popular superhero show, which featured many heroes from the DC Universe including the Dynamic Duo. The Superfriends had a large variety of incarnations over the years, with different names such as “Challenge Of The Superfriends”, “The Superfriends Hour”, “Galactic Guardians” and many more. The show was a huge success and attracted a lot of young audience members due to its upbeat and somewhat corny portrayal of the heroes. The Superfriends is still considered today to be a classic series in DC’s television history.

The New Adventures Of Batman
         Created several years after the Superfriends run, this series lasted only one season, but was unique for having the voice talents of Adam West and Burt Ward to play the Dynamic Duo (they also played those roles in the live-action 1966 Batman show). This series saw the introduction of Bat-Mite as a main member of the Bat-Family, confrontations with classic foes like the Joker, Penguin and Mr. Freeze and Batgirl even guest-starred in a few episodes. At the end of each episode, the Caped Crusaders would give a “Bat-Message” about respect or morals, which always related to the theme of that particular episode.

Batman: The Animated Series
         I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the best animated series of all time. Created just after Tim Burton’s second Batman film, the show’s creators had a lot of references to choose from when they made their darker, serious, more detective skilled Batman. The series had great animation and retold a lot of the villains’ origins including Two-Face and Mr. Freeze, changing them and making their back stories more realistic. Robin (Dick Grayson), Alfred and Commissioner Gordon were three key supporting characters, each bringing a unique set of skills to aid the Dark Knight in his war on crime. By the third season characters like Batgirl, Ra’s Al Ghul and Bane were introduced and by the fourth season the creators had revamped the look of the show, matching the style with Superman: The Animated Series, which aired at the same time. In the fourth and final season Dick Grayson became Nightwing and Tim Drake took over the role as Robin and Batgirl was informed of all their secret identities. Overall, it was an iconic part of Batman’s history, not just cartoons, but everything (for more info on Batman: The Animated Series, check out my top 5 episodes of each season in earlier articles).


Batman Beyond
         This was the “sequel” to Batman: The Animated Series. Set around 50 years in the future, young high school student Terry McGinnis becomes the new Batman in a new Gotham City full of new villains like Inque, Blight and Spellbinder. Terry is guided by an older Bruce Wayne (voiced by Kevin Conroy who play Batman in the Animated Series and in the Arkham videogames and just about everything else after the 90’s) who may not be able to throw a punch like he used to, but can still help Terry become the hero that the new Gotham needs. Great stories and cool animation helped this series become a “classic” in Dc’s animated history.

Justice League
         One of the original seven members, Batman joined his fellow heroes to stop an alien invasion, which led to the creation of the Justice League. The show took the same artistic style from the Batman and Superman animated shows, along with the voice actors for both those characters. With a large range of characters, the stories took our Gotham Knight to places he’d never thought he’d go like alien planets or alternate realities. Things really picked up as the show expanded to Justice League: Unlimited and added hundreds of new heroes to the team. The main members faded slightly into the background of most stories after that as the series tried to focus o the lesser-known heroes. One of my favorite moments of the series is when Batman becomes the first being to dodge Darkseid’s omega beams and then proceeds to attack the warlord himself, leading Superman to say, “that man wont quit as long as he can still draw a breath…” (Whoa, goosebumps!)

The Batman
         This series focused on the action thriller side to Batman, rather then making it a detective based show. The origin of all of the Batman characters are revisited and redefined in this new take on the classic character. We get to the see the struggles between The Batman and Gotham City police and the journey from vigilante to hero. Batgirl is introduced in the third season ahead of the Boy Wonder to change things up a bit, but Dick Grayson does enter the series in the fourth season. We even see him as Nightwing in the futuristic episode “Artifacts”. The Batman’s final season saw a large number of hero team-up episodes and the joining of the Justice League.

Batman: The Brave And The Bold
         Aquaman, Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, The Atom, Detective Chimp, Super-, wait, Detective Chimp? Yes, this show is all about Batman’s many team-ups with other DC superheroes, some of which can be a little strange. The show took the design of characters from back in their early comic book days and the animation was simple, but yet fantastic, especially during fight scenes. The goal for this series was to show a comedic, light-hearted side to Batman’s adventures and the addition of some funny superheroes helped achieve that goal. One of my favorite shows out of all of Dc’s animated series so if you haven’t checked it out by now I definitely recommend it.

         Last November saw the end of Batman: The Brave And The Bold, and not too long after that DC released word of a new series called Beware The Batman, which would take the Caped Crusader back to his darker roots. The show will focus on a darker, edgier Dark Knight, a gun-wielding Alfred, a new female sidekick and an array of lesser-known villains like The Toad and Professor Pyg. I have no clue what the future of this show has in store for us fans, but I know hat as long as Batman is a part of it, it will be great.

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