Batman, the Dark Knight, and his gallery of rogues and anti-heroes have been apart of our lives in one form or another since his birth in the 1930s. From Comic Books and Radio Serials to Television and Movies, Batman has become the epitome of the vigilante who balances both the light and dark paths of Justice when fighting crime. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939 for DC’s Detective Comics, Batman started out as a homage to Pulp Fiction that was popular of the time (The Shadow, The Bat, Zorro) and inadvertently became the standard that others have emulated time and time again. Batman has gone through many incarnations from Pulp Fiction’s “Caped Crusader” to the campy 60’s Adam West version to the tortured detective in Frank Miller’s aptly named The Dark Knight Returns. Frank Miller’s version inspired many people to reevaluate Batman including Warner Brothers who hired Tim Burton to reboot Batman in 1989. Tim Burton’s Batman and its sequel Batman Returns broke box office records and grossed over $600 million dollars combined and changed the perception of Batman and Superhero movies in general.
Wanting to capture on the excitement of the Batman movies Warner Brothers commissioned Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski to translate Batman to a television series — Batman The Animated Series. Taking cues from the movies and Timm and Radomski own concepts, they turned Batman’s World into a art deco vintage film noir movie right out of a 1940s movies like Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and M. Timm and Radomski worked with Danny Elfman to make a variation of his music score for the two Batman movies to give the new series its own unique sound and mood. Batman The Animated Series (TAS) premiered on September 5 1992 and during its three year run on television produced 85 episodes and two feature films: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (released to theaters in 1993) and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (a direct-to-video release in 1998).
Batman TAS featured top acting talent to voice many of their characters; Kevin Conroy, Efem Zimbalist Jr, Bob Hastings, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin, Melissa Gilbert, Marliu Henner, Adam West, Richard Moll, Ron Perlman, Marc Singer, Kate Mulgrew, Alan Rachins, John Vernon, Michael York, Ed Asner, just to name a few. At the HamWeg Library we consider Batman TAS with its style, depth of character development, storytelling, and voice talent, the best version of Batman ever produced. Each half hour episode is a mini-movie that pulls you in with its unique atmosphere and keeps you engaged through its intelligence and high adventures. Batman TAS became so popular with children and adults alike that it spawned many spin-offs; The Adventures of Superman, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, The Zeta Project, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. All the spin-offs are amazing in their own rights but nothing compares to the original Batman TAS.
Batman TAS is considered the “Best adaptation of Batman anywhere outside of comics, and the best comic book cartoon of all time” voted by Wizard Magazine.
When asked by friends and family which episodes are a “must watch” we have a hard time narrowing down our favorites, but if we were pressed we would list these 10 episodes that showcase the best elements of Batman TAS and the reason why its the best Batman of all time!
• Feat of Clay Parts 1 and 2; Bruce Wayne is framed for the attempted murder of Lucius Fox. The real perpetrator is an actor and master of disguise named Matt Hagen, who was disfigured in a car accident years ago.
• It’s Never Too Late: A mob war between crime bosses Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell is nearing its end, and comes to a cilmax when Stromwell is set up to be killed in an exploding restaurant by Thorne. Batman saves him at the last moment, and aided by Stromwell's brother.
• Appointment in Crime Alley: With the help of arsonists, Roland Daggett plans to destroy Crime Alley and use the land to expand his business empire. But that plan would mean killing the residents or forcing them to abandon their homes. Now, Batman must foil Daggett's plan and try to prove that he is a criminal.
• Robin’s Reckoning Parts 1 and 2: During a fight with some gangsters at a construction yard, Batman and Robin learn the name of their boss: Billy Marin. Robin investigates on the Batcomputer, and soon realizes that Billy Marin is the man who killed his parents.
• Off Balance: While following Count Vertigo’s trail, Batman encounters Talia, daughter of the head of the Society of Shadows, who was sent by her father to prevent the capture of a sonic drill that the Count stole. But after his identity is mistakenly revealed to Talia, Batman remains off-balance as to where her true loyalties lie.
• Paging the Crime Doctor: Dr. Matthew Thorne, losing his medical license and forced into becoming the crime doctor by his younger brother, crime boss Rupert Thorne, must perform delicate surgery on Rupert. He can't do it alone, and kidnaps Dr. Leslie Thompkins to assist.
• The Demon’s Quest Parts 1 and 2: When Robin is mysteriously abducted from his college campus, Batman begins a fruitless search... until he is astounded by the sudden appearance in the Batcave of Ra’s al Ghul. Ra's quickly reveals that his daughter, Talia, has been abducted under circumstances similar to Robin's, suggesting that the same people are responsible.
• His Silicon Soul: When a Batman impersonator appears in Gotham City, the real Batman deduces that Karl Rossum is somehow involved and confronts the inventor. The other Batman, a duplicate, then shows up and a battle between the two takes place.
• A Bullet for Bullock: Someone has put a hit out on Gotham's toughest cop, Harvey Bullock. After surviving several near misses, Bullock realizes he has no choice but to ask his arch-rival Batman to help him discover who is behind the murder attempts.
• Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: A mysterious vigilante begins murdering Gotham's criminals. Due to the killer's resemblance to Batman, he becomes the primary suspect. Around the same time, an old love of Bruce Wayne's, Andrea Beaumont, returns to Gotham after having suddenly left Bruce ten years ago for reasons Bruce has yet to discover. While Bruce rekindles his relationship with Andrea, he must find a way to clear his name, catch the killer, and find out his connection to Andrea and to the Joker.