Batman: The Animated Series, the show that introduced an entire generation of afternoon television viewers to DC Comics’ Dark Knight, today celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The series debuted on Sept. 5, 1992 with the episode “The Cat and the Claw: Part 1” which, despite being the 15th episode produced, was pushed to the front of the broadcast schedule to capitalize on the public’s newfound familiarity with Catwoman following the release of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns earlier that summer.
Batman: The Animated Series is arguably the most influential work of Batman fiction since The Dark Knight Returns, presenting Bruce Wayne as the mentally-wounded survivor of a tragedy who rescues himself through his actions as Batman. It doesn't over-complicate the Batman mythology by dwelling on Bruce Wayne's psychology, but neither does it strip Batman of that psychological depth by removing it entirely. It's there, but Bruce Timm and the rest of the series’ writers and producers, including Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, didn’t feel the need to make the show about that.
Also playing into show’s favor was that as a 22-minute animated series it is capable of emulating the feel of reading a 22-page comic book in a way that no 40 plus-minute live-action drama has ever achieved.
One of the most memorable aspects of Batman: The Animated Series is its impeccable voice cast who, under the direction of recently retired voice acting legend Andrea Romano, practically redefined their characters.
Few would have expected that Kevin Conroy, who was previously best known for soap operas and television movies, would become the definitive voice of Batman, but 25 years later many fans still claim to hear Conroy’s voice as they read Bruce Wayne’s dialogue in the pages of Batman comics. Conroy made Batman intimidating without resorting to the over-the-top theatrics of some of the actors who have portrayed the character in live-action, and has never lost the ability to imbue his Batman with humor or vulnerability.
Conroy himself marked the occasion with a Tweet earlier today:
'The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing but in rising every time you fail' Emerson. 25 years ago today the journey began! pic.twitter.com/3muc9MRvPx— Kevin Conroy (@RealKevinConroy) September 5, 2017
Mark Hamill's Joker
As Conroy redefinned the Dark Knight, so too did Mark Hamill – a last minute replacement for Tim Curry – do the same for the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. Where so many other interpretations of the Joker have chosen one aspect of the character and played it to its extreme, Hamill showed the versatility to bring out the Joker’s many different sides, from suave charmer to crime boss to agent of chaos, with a laugh that’s sure to be etched into the minds of many viewers forever.
Batman: The Animated Series offered the same kind of reinvention to many of Batman’s greatest villains, including supplying the once comical Mr. Freeze with a backstory so tragic that the episode, “Heart of Ice,” won one of the three Emmy Awards the series would collect over the course of its run.prevnext
But an even greater contribution to the Batman mythos may be the character of Harley Quinn. Created by Timm and Dini and originally voiced by Arleen Sorkin, the Joker’s perky henchman/romantic interest captured the hearts of many viewers.
Harley's popularity has only grown over her 25 =-year history as she’s made her way into the DC Comics Universe and the DC Extended Universe. Now Harley co-headlining Batman and Harley Quinn, Timm’s most recent return to the Batman: The Animated Series style and universe, and stealing some of "Batsy's" spotlight for this year's Batman Day festivities.0comments
In addition to all of that, Batman: The Animated Series led to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, an animated feature film that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best Batman movies to date (and which was also recently remastered and re-released on Blu-ray).
Happy 25th anniversary to Batman: The Animated Series, the series that birthed the DC Animated Universe, and gave the world Harley Quinn, Mask of the Phantasm, and the Batman and Joker voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. Its influence is sure to be felt in Batman stories for another 25 years at least.prev