As we are 15 months away from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, there are plenty of mediums in which we could enjoy the exploits of The Dark Knight. If you’re like me and enjoy animation you have probably seen just about every incarnation of the Bat on the small screen. A year before 2005’s release of Batman Begins, Warner Bros. Animation produced a new animated series that focused on the early years of The Batman. The series was created by Michael Goguen and Duane Capizzi, with character designs by Jeff Matsuda (Jackie Chan Adventures). It went on for five seasons, ending with Batman meeting Superman and forming the Justice League. While the series received criticism, especially after following the classic Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman did go on to develop a cult following and provide fans with a fun and alternative approach to one of DC Comics most lauded of characters.
The Batman opened to a younger Bruce Wayne, a 26 year-old crime-fighter celebrating his third year as the Caped Crusader. But he wasn’t the Caped Crusader just yet. He was… The Batman! While the previous animated series focused heavily on Batman’s war on crime, this retelling focused more on the rise of “freaks” as most of the crime bosses and families had already been taken down. The first scene of The Batman actually starts with him chasing after Rupert Throne, an established character on Batman: The Animated Series. It was a fresh and dynamic take on Batman, heavily inspired by Japanese anime and Hong Kong cinema. The development of The Batman series allowed the creators to explore a new direction for Batman and deliver one of the last great Saturday morning cartoons.
The first season saw the introduction and rise of freak villains, appearing more and more as they were believed to be drawn by The Batman’s appearance in Gotham City. The Joker, Bane, The Penguin, Man-Bat, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and others were introduced and re-envisioned by Jeff Matsuda in a significantly different way than that of Bruce Timm’s interpretation for the 90’s animated series. The Joker appeared more as a garish, nightmarish, and overly cartoonized version of how he normally is depicted. Complete with a more fitting clown jester’s outfit, gigantic red eyes, and wild green hair, The Joker proved a violent and decidedly more sinister version of himself and was integral to the origin of The Batman‘s version of Clayface. In re-watching the series it was interesting to note how reminiscent Mr. Freeze was to his comic-book counterpart in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s New 52 comic books, along with Bruce Wayne’s robotic Bat-Bot armor that brings to mind The Thrasher suit worn in the New 52 “Batman” comic books. Producers Michael Goguen, Duane Capizzi and Jeff Matsuda created a take on Batman that has certainly inspired others in their approach to the character. Watch episode 2 “Traction”, episode 5 “The Big Chill”, and then take a look at the collected editions of “Batman” by Snyder and Capullo. You don’t need to be a detective as skilled as Bruce Wayne to spot the similarities.
The Batman was also notable for not featuring Gordon, Bullock, and the familiar faces at the G.C.P.D. Instead, a reinterpreted version of the Frank Miller character Commissioner Ellen Yindel from The Dark Knight Returns appeared. This time she was a young and fresh-faced police detective assigned to The Batman case and voiced by Ming-Na. The cast of characters were all developed quite well and proved to be another worthy addition to the new animated series that established this as The Batman! The first season of the series clearly established itself over the course of thirteen episodes that this was not following in the footsteps of any previous version of the DC Comics character. However, the spirit of the show always respected the mythos of what had been established over the years.
The Batman season one is a great start for a worthy Batman animated series. If you’re looking to mark each day leading up to March 2016’s Zack Snyder film, then this is a great show to watch. Be it an episode a night or a day of binge watching, The Batman could become highly addictive. It’s also very cool that the theme was performed by The Edge of U2, a band rooted in comic books, having contributed “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” for 95’s Batman Forever.
“The Batman” season one is available now and gets five out of five stars!