There is simply no better interpretation of the Batman universe and the characters it contains than Batman: The Animated Series. Period.
Television, comics, movies have all provided great and varied implementations of the Dark Knight world of DC comics, and many have perhaps reached more profound, more entertaining, or simply greater places at times, but on the whole B:TAS has never been matched. This is a proclamation I would have hysterically expressed to you while barely taking a breath between words as a six or seven year old watching the show eagerly each week as it aired in later seasons (I was four when it first premiered on September 5th, 1992), and it’s one I will emphasize without hesitation now, twenty years later.
It’s a show that influenced an entire generation of kids that have largely driven the hysterical enthusiasm that has surrounded Nolan’s franchise, even to the point that the most rabid cling to shallow notions of the inherent “darkness” and “grounded” reality that Bruce Timm and his collaborators helped shape in their minds. The show was and is so much more than that though, as it blends darkness with entertainment, believability with the outright supernatural, and possesses a sense of humor that Nolan’s film have only made clunky attempts at capturing.
Even admitting that having this show so engrained in my development as a consumer of media/entertainment/comics/etc might skew my perspective, there is also the fact that B:TAS is recognized as a classic example of superhero storytelling by viewers of all ages, including cats that were strapped with Bats long before I was cuddled up with Cabbage Patch. You’ll see cries endorsing Mask Of The Phantasm as the best Batman film ever from commenters of all ages, and the show has been cited by major creatives of many generations. It’s just that damn good. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will likely be cited as the best performers of Bruce Wayne/Batman and The Joker for decades to come, while every other supporting character’s work on the show will give us the slightest twinge of disappointment every time we hear a Batman character voiced differently. I am also absolutely convinced that the flavor of the Arkham Batman games and the decision to sort of play out the Animated Series to its conclusion is as much a part of that franchise’s success as its sharp gameplay.
In any event, one particular pundit, Scott Mendelson, is using this week as an opportunity to explore the legacy of the show, how it came together so brilliantly, and in his two entries so far has shown great insight into what made the show so special. The most recent of the two also does a fantastic job of running down the other major creative partners that have not gotten the same kind of credit that as Timm and Dini over the years. His essays will continue through the week, and any big Batman fans would be wise to keep up with them over at his blog.
Keep an eye around here for a special tribute to the show later in the week, but until then enjoy this 1992 promo for what is arguably the greatest episode of such a great show, “Almost Got ‘im.”