Batman The Animated Series came out in 1992 and brought to fans courtesy of Bruce Timm and Paul Dinni. It was created on the heels of Tim Burton’s Batman films, and through the years was praised for its dark tone and noir aspects. Mark Hamill’s performance is legendary, and Batman The Animated Series became the definitive version of Batman. Kevin Conroy brought The Dark Knight to life in a way no one else could and the series even brought in original characters, such as the iconic and now the famous Harley Quinn. It provided backstories for Two Face/Harvey Dent and Clayface in tragic fashion. It included villains throughout the Batman mythos and managed to do all of this with severe restrictions put on the development team by Fox.
Back in the early ’90s, gun violence on cartoons was a no-no. Even though characters carried and in Batman The Animated Series, no one was actually shot on camera and bloodshed was not allowed. Gordon was shot once, but, this was shown off screen. Batman had to deal with all of these restrictions despite its dark tone, but it was able to overcome these limitations and deliver a masterpiece. In later Fox shows characters did have guns, but instead they were laser guns to bypass these rules, like in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. The 1990s were a very different time than the present, where violence is common place in cartoon and television.
Many people regard The Dark Knight Trilogy as the pinnacle iteration of Batman. While it is a great portrayal of Batman, it fails to truly capture the essence of Bruce Wayne. This is something Batman The Animated Series does in perfectly harmony. It balances the two characters unlike any other adaptation to date. As opposed to The Dark Knight Trilogy, where Bruce goes out of his way to be a womanizer and play the role of billionaire playboy, Bruce in Batman The Animated Series is much more subdued. He does play the billionaire playboy angle with a smile on his face, but he is much more natural. This may be due to him being a bit older than Bale’s version. His transition to Batman is much more believable. Although his voice changes once he dons the cowl, it’s not over the top like Bale’s performance. Batman is shown to be a true detective as well and lives up to the name “The World’s Greatest Detective”, which the films are not able to portray adequately. Kevin Conroy is an absolute delight in the role of Batman, and it’s no wonder why he returned for the Arkham series.
Mark Hamill’s performance of the Joker steals the show. He is fantastic and nails the character beautifully. Although Heath Ledger’s Joker was fantastic, Mark Hamill’s will live on for years to come. He even reprised his role, like Conroy, in the Arkham games, which gave the games a nice sense of continuity with the animated series, although the two are not necessarily connected. In fact, Hamill’s performance in Arkham Knight is perhaps his best performance as a voice actor.
Batman The Animated Series beats out every other iteration of Batman, not only because of its portrayal of Batman, but of the dark atmosphere and essence of the Gotham universe it managed to create, despite restrictions placed on them. Batman was terrifying at times and even though the series included Robin (later on), it worked and didn’t shift the show to a “lighter” tone. Rocksteady did a fantastic job with their Arkham games, as did Christopher Nolan with his trilogy, but no other iteration of this iconic character has quite been able to capture Batman the way Bruce Timm and Paul Dini did. Paul Dini even participated in the first two Arkham games, but those focused on Batman and had very little Bruce at all.
With Batman’s latest outing, Batman a Telltale Story, it will be interesting to see what their take on Batman is. It may not outshine the animated series, which was released before most young gamers today, but it’s not your dad’s Batman/Bruce Wayne. Batman The Animated Series has informed what Batman has become today, and without it perhaps we wouldn’t be getting Telltale’s Batman or have even gotten The Dark Knight Trilogy. Harley Quinn wouldn’t have been in Suicide Squad if not for the series and her creation in the animated masterpiece. Batman The Animated Series is the best version of Batman there is, period. It contains the best elements from all of Bruce’s various adventures and maintains the dark complexity of the character.