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I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman.
April 19, 2011 7:37 PM   Subscribe

The AV Club has been writing in-depth recaps of Batman: The Animated Series. They were originally written by Leonard Pierce but after a small scandal Oliver Sava has taken over the write-ups. They've already covered some of the series best-loved episodes, including Feat of Clay, Heart of Ice, and the Mask of the Phantasm film.

Want some visual accompaniment? The series title cards are available online, and Comics Alliance has picked the 14 best ones. Previously Metafilter has discussed the show's Writer's Guidlines. Batman: The Animated Series has previously been recapped and reviewed on Toonzone.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (54 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm looking forward to reading this. I need to clear some room in my Netflix queue so I can watch the whole series again with my husband.
posted by immlass at 7:47 PM on April 19, 2011


This was pretty much my childhood and my favorite vision of Batman. When I was debating whether to buy the game Arkham Asylum that fact that it had the BTAS voice cast was the clincher.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:49 PM on April 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: "after a small scandal"

That was such a weird episode, and so pointless. Why not just let your editor know if one book among many you're assigned to review isn't available yet? It's about the most legitimate excuse there is. I wonder what he's doing now, since I understand shenanigans like this are the kiss of death for most serious writing gigs, especially when the economy's this bad.

Anyway, I suspect I'd enjoy the Batman reviews more if I remembered anything about the show beyond the ridiculously cool opening sequence. Also, if you like the score, there's a neat video from the late composer Shirley Walker explaining how the different elements of it -- custom-scored for each episode, IIRC -- were constructed. (h/t Dandeson Coates, Sec'y)
posted by Rhaomi at 7:51 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd wondered what happened to Metal Box. Ugh. What a dumb thing to do.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:01 PM on April 19, 2011


I remember driving 30 miles (and this is in southern california, where you can see pretty much any movie within a few miles of my house) to see Mask of the Phantasm at a mall theater on a screen about the size of a large projection TV with an audience of 5 or so. Don't remember if it was worth it... I'll have to netflix it.
posted by Huck500 at 8:04 PM on April 19, 2011


Oh, man, thanks for reminding me about these. Saw MotP opening night with a bunch of friends. Used to watch the series with my best friend in my college years. After class for me, first thing in the morning for him. (He tended bat.)

So good. My Netflix queue (and Amazon wishlist) are both about to get a lot longer.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 8:15 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Er, bar. He tended bar.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 8:17 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


The big art book on B:TAS was one of my most treasured poessions growing up.

"Baby Doll" freaked me out something huge growing up.

< small> animation nerd trivia time, Batman does that awkward push off of Baby Doll's bodyguard cause her bodyguard is a woman and Standards and Practice said Batman Can't Hit Girls. Throwing them through a wall is apparently okay
posted by The Whelk at 8:18 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I began watching this series again as a 23-year-old for the first time since my childhood, and I am amazed at how this show has held up, unlike some of my other childhood shows (eg Beast Wars). The writing is on par with any adult show. The background art, the voice acting, the "dark deco" is all so perfect. Highly recommended.
posted by aesacus at 8:36 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It had a big wading pool of detective pulp to draw from plus ready made tropes and villains. B: TAS brought Batman back to his home base and then shot it out of the park. It could have been so, so stupid and it really really wasn't and that is amazing.
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


dvorak_beats_qwerty: "Oh, man, thanks for reminding me about these. Saw MotP opening night with a bunch of friends. Used to watch the series with my best friend in my college years. After class for me, first thing in the morning for him. (He tended bat.)

So good. My Netflix queue (and Amazon wishlist) are both about to get a lot longer

Er, bar. He tended bar.
"

Suuuuuure he did. No freudian slips here regarding secret identities, I'm certain.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:49 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


B:TAS treated kids like they could like something other than just 30 minute toy commercials, which I think is why I still have fond memories of the show today.
posted by codacorolla at 8:50 PM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Should probably note that TV Club Classic is also covering Buffy and The X-Files, among others. Thought this was the most notable because it seems like we've been needing a good BTAS recap site for awhile.

I found a few of the old O'Neil/Adams Batman comics. The Reaper was, I think, the inspiration for The Phantasm. They had the same sort of hard boiled style.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:54 PM on April 19, 2011


Also the show was pitched as an all ages show, not For Kids. It was shown on prime time during it's first run, like the Simpsons.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the show gave us Harley Quinn, the best thing to happen to the francise in a while. Her rant in Harley's day out - I'm just trying to have a good day! - her team up with Posion Ivy, her cackle, " Mad Love" , and that episode when she,s in the hospital ready to give up her jokerphilia and then at the last second finds a note he left and screams " I knew he loved me!" ack! Heart. Breaking.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on April 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


And the show gave us Harley Quinn, the best thing to happen to the francise in a while. Her rant in Harley's day out - I'm just trying to have a good day! - her team up with Posion Ivy, her cackle, " Mad Love" , and that episode when she,s in the hospital ready to give up her jokerphilia and then at the last second finds a note he left and screams " I knew he loved me!" ack! Heart. Breaking.

There's a girl in Sydney who's pretty much a full-time Harley cosplayer. Goes to all the cons and sometimes wanders around Newtown in the full outfit. It's pretty neat.

I don't like her redesign for the Arkham Asylum game, but I'd love to see her in the next Batman movie as a devoted Joker fangirl devastated by his death. Might be slightly tasteless though.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:06 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The comic book for B:TAS was pretty awesome as well. It was easily the best Batman title in the 90's. Also, the Sub Zero animated film released on home video to tie in with the Clooney Batman film wiped the floor with the live action movie.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:52 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dream is for the cast and crew of the series to be given a new show on HBO. Imagine what they could do without the limitations imposed on them in B:TAS.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:01 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


B:TAS treated kids like they could like something other than just 30 minute toy commercials, which I think is why I still have fond memories of the show today.

The cartoons Warner Brothers made for Fox in the 90s generally did that. I think it was a push-back against the 30 minute toy commercials of the 80s. Tiny Toons did an entire episode parodying SNL sketches none of the 8-year-olds watching could have seen before.
posted by riruro at 10:10 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, the X-Men cartoon, Pinky and the Brain, Freakazoid... heaps like that
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:14 PM on April 19, 2011




My dream is for the cast and crew of the series to be given a new show on HBO. Imagine what they could do without the limitations imposed on them in B:TAS.


Isn't that the Arkham Asylum game? Though I haven't played it yet.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:14 PM on April 19, 2011


I really dug Mask of the Phantasm when it came out, and it still holds up when it comes on cable. It was easily the best Batman movie until Nolan's recent entries, and I'm not even going to say those were better. Bale does a great job, but Kevin Conroy certainly has a better Batman voice, and the animated movie has the stronger romance. And while Ledger's Joker portrayal was probably the best, Hamill also has a great interpretation (especially considering the constraints of animated ostensibly-children's television).
posted by Edgewise at 10:18 PM on April 19, 2011


In case you weren't as familiar with the Batman series as I was last summer, when a certain action movie came out, this might amuse you:
Bruce Wayne wakes up to find his dearest wish has come true: his parents are not dead, and he is not and has never been Batman. Not only that, but he’s engaged to Selina Kyle. At first he’s ecstatic, but a number of clues force him to the conclusion that somehow this is all an elaborate charade. His quest to find the truth eventually pits Bruce against Batman in a surreal battle atop a church tower. Batman is unmasked and revealed to be the Mad Hatter, who has put Bruce in a forced dream state. Bruce’s only way to wake up is to throw himself from the tower, which he does — and returns to his life as the Dark Knight.
http://www.batmantas.com/cmp/episode.htm#PTD
I used to have a link to the episode, but alas, it's down now. If my episode guide is right, AV Club should be covering this episode next.
posted by jng at 10:40 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't that the Arkham Asylum game? Though I haven't played it yet.

Yes and no. It's got great gameplay and brilliant voicework - but a videogame plot.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:40 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Found it: S1E26 - Perchance to Dream
posted by jng at 10:43 PM on April 19, 2011


Yes and no. It's got great gameplay and brilliant voicework - but a videogame plot.

Ah, shame. But if the gameplay is good and it's got those voices I assume I haven't wasted my money.

In case you weren't as familiar with the Batman series as I was last summer, when a certain action movie came out, this might amuse you

Yeah, that was one of my favorite episodes. Felt very Neil Gaiman.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:44 PM on April 19, 2011


Well, Geez, no wonder Perchance to Dream was so good-- Joe R. Lansdale wrote it!
posted by KingEdRa at 1:13 AM on April 20, 2011


This series came up here on MeFi last fall sometime, and I took the time to watch the whole series then, in order. It was great fun, utterly watchable to an adult seeing it for the first time. The animation quality was outstanding for a TV show, and the voice work was world-class.

When I was debating whether to buy the game Arkham Asylum that fact that it had the BTAS voice cast was the clincher.

Yeah, if anyone really likes this series, and HASN'T played Arkham Asylum, hie thee to a Steamery and pick it up the next time you see it on sale. I'd already played it on PS3, but I think I got the PC version for ten bucks sometime around Christmas. It feels remarkably like the series, using most of the same voices and exactly the same personalities.

I'm a little worried about the sequel. It sounds like they're getting pretty dark with it. One of the real joys of TAS and Arkham Asylum was that it was a bit dark and brooding, but rarely if ever outright grim, and it sounds like the next game takes the Joker a little (or possibly a lot) too far.

Hamill announced that he wasn't going to do the Joker anymore, and I can't help but wonder if he was unhappy with what they did with that next game.
posted by Malor at 2:11 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, the Scarecrow vignettes more than make up for the video game plot.

I recently picked up Batman: Brave and the Bold - it's a different critter than B:tAS, more Silver Age whimsy than pulp noir - but it's still pretty good. Worlds better than The Batman, but then again I think the Batman movie where Adam West runs around with a bomb is better than that Poochy-fied animated pile of poop.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:06 AM on April 20, 2011


The brave and the bold us just pure fun but the animation is lacking. The show just looks cheap.
posted by The Whelk at 4:29 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone rightfully praises Mark Hamill but Andrea Romano deserves numerous lifetime achievement awards for the entire voice casting of that show.

"Beware the Grey Ghost" remains one of my favorites of the original two seasons, and it's one of the few times I remember watching a cartoon with my mom and it made her cry. Making an entire episode about childhood heroes, and then getting Adam West to be the voice of Batman's childhood hero. Brilliance.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:38 AM on April 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Although, reading a few of these, I could do without the current references. Batman the Animated Series is set in a sort of timeless era, where computers can be giant UNIVAC style machines or small dashboard computers. References to Charlie Sheen (in the Clayface recaps) are dated even now and really stick out in contrast to the show's timeless quality.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:47 AM on April 20, 2011


The comics that accompanied the series were easily the best mainstream superhero title of the time - concisely written, beautifully illustrated in the show's art style, they stand up very well even against the cream of the current crop.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:33 AM on April 20, 2011


I thought it said Oliver Sachs at first, and thought it'd be interesting to hear about the neurology of Batman. I was really excited.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:45 AM on April 20, 2011


Knowing Sacks it would conclude that he is, in fact, Batman.
posted by The Whelk at 6:48 AM on April 20, 2011


Andrea Romano deserves numerous lifetime achievement awards for the entire voice casting of that show.

If you watch the direct-to-video movies that are coming out of DC's animation workshop on a regular basis, you can catch interviews with her in the special features. She's amazing and has a great sense for what voices work across a wide spectrum of characters.
posted by immlass at 6:51 AM on April 20, 2011


Both Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy will forever define the voices of Joker and Batman in my mind. Everyone else gets compared to them.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 AM on April 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just watched Gray Ghost ep. with Adam West, wonderful! The thing that stands out watching these old episodes is how human Batman is as a character. I'm so accustomed to the 'invincible sociopath' portrayal, it's refreshing to see little things like Batman yelping in surprise as he's nearly taken out by explosions and smiling as he fondly remembers a warm moment of his childhood and geeking out over getting to meet the Gray Ghost (even going so far as to show off his Gray Ghost memorabilia collection!)

It's a portrayal of Batman I don't recall seeing elsewhere, one that isn't overly serious or overly goofy. I suppose it's closest tonal equivalent would be the Tim Burton films, but they don't get the character at all (indeed, Burton bragged about never having read a comic book in his life before making Batman).
posted by Ndwright at 7:39 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if anyone really likes this series, and HASN'T played Arkham Asylum, hie thee to a Steamery and pick it up the next time you see it on sale.

I paid 80 for it on Xbox. Looks like the joke's on me.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:51 AM on April 20, 2011


Yes and no. It's got great gameplay and brilliant voicework - but a videogame plot.

Interestingly, the game was written by Paul Dini.

I paid 80 for it on Xbox. Looks like the joke's on me.

You're in Australia. It's not your fault.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:06 AM on April 20, 2011


Is this where we can talk about how good the AV Club's gotten over the past year or two? Because, for me, that answer is "A Lot."

Pity about Leonard Pierce -- maybe he can get a job over at Pitchfork, given that their reviews rarely seem to discuss (or even have any correlation) to music these days...

posted by schmod at 10:28 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Schmod, I love the AVClub, but I think it's been great for a number of years now. Not to be more hipster-than-thou, but I used to love reading it back in The Onion when it was a print-only weekly in Madison. Not that nothing has changed since then. If I were to pick a point where things really changed for the AVClub, other than the initial transition to the web, I'd cite their coverage of TV shows, which is probably second only to Sepinwall's.
posted by Edgewise at 11:28 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great stuff. It happens that I'm rewatching these now. Feat of Clay and especially Heart of Ice are some of the strongest episodes of any show. Thanks for the post!
posted by churl at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2011



Yes and no. It's got great gameplay and brilliant voicework - but a videogame plot.

Interestingly, the game was written by Paul Dini.


Yeah I'm usually an 'ignore the story, it's all about the GAMEPLAY, man' kinda guy but when I saw the BTAS team were involved my childhood told me I needed it.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:35 PM on April 20, 2011


Well, the game plot is pretty straightforward, without real surprises, but the only part I'd consider excessively videogamey is the section in Killer Croc's lair. That's the only part of that entire game that I thought was poorly done, definitely the low point.

Beyond that, the fundamental structure is a bit Metroid-ish, in that you start with few of your gadgets, gradually recover them, and gain access to new sections of the island, but the plot itself is perfectly fine. It could have used at least one major twist, it's a bit too predictable, but I wouldn't call it notably worse than the average TAS episode.

And everything is worse than the great TAS episodes.

I paid 80 for it on Xbox. Looks like the joke's on me.

Well, Steam has absolutely outrageous sales on stuff, so if you're willing to be patient on a game, it's often easily possible to pick it up for a tiny fraction of the original asking price. In exchange, you have to wait a long time and keep an eye on the sales; if you miss one, too bad.

Right this second, Arkham Asylum is $30 on Steam. Honestly, I'd call that an excellent price, quite good for the number of hours involved and the overall quality of the production. But if you're a really price-sensitive shopper, if you hang tough for the sales, you might be able to get it substantially cheaper.

I suspect that their pricing model is high initially, with a few waves of sales over the next couple years to pull more people in at a lower price, but I believe after some point, they'll stop putting the game on sale -- as it moves into the long tail, the relatively small number of extra copies sold for an "old, tired" game, even if it's great, won't make up for the loss in per-copy revenue. So I suspect it's probably only going to go on one or maybe two more really KILLER sales, and then it'll be $30 forever.
posted by Malor at 5:42 PM on April 20, 2011


I pretty much bought it because I was already buying a bunch of stuff and it was part of a 'buy one, get one free deal' with Nier. plus i got the GOTY edition. Don't buy much off Steam since I'm mostly an XBox gamer. But thanks!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:59 PM on April 20, 2011


I loved this show as a kid, but it always puzzled me why none of the villains just went ahead & shot Batman in the face.
posted by broken wheelchair at 7:58 PM on April 20, 2011


Cause in Detective Noir Drama World no one ever does that.

Although "Mad Love" does address that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2011


Also I think S&P had a whoooooole bunch of rules about guns.

Imitable behavior and all that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:16 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I understand now why they didn't do it, but as a kid "shoot them in the face" was my go to, all purpose plot resolver.
posted by broken wheelchair at 8:30 PM on April 20, 2011


Shoot them in the face brings a lot of storylines to a halt.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 PM on April 20, 2011


Batman is being shot at constantly in the show.
posted by churl at 9:19 PM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


But not...in the face.

I just remember the art book having this whole section on the details of what they could and could not show, like above, batman can't punch a girl but he can shiv her through a wall. He can be fired at but nit ...in the face. So strange.

Plus that had a picture of all the big things they couldn't do, nudity, drug use, religious symbolism, child in danger, etc. I think it was batman and catwoman falling out of a window,firing guns at each other, naked while a kid shot up surrounded by falling crosses.
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]




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