Why Batman The Animated Series Is The Best Version (So Far)
Batman: The Animated Series offered a vision of Batman that has yet to be equaled, thanks to creators who honored the past even as they innovated.BY MATT MORRISON
It has been almost three decades since the premiere of Batman: The Animated Series, and despite many versions of the Dark Knight being presented in comics, animation, and live-action in that time, it remains the definitive take on Batman. This is due to the show’s creative team, which included many legendary comic book creators, distilling the essence of the Batman characters, visually and vocally, honoring the past even as they built upon what had come before to craft something wholly unique and innovative.
The influence Batman: The Animated Series had on the mythology of Batman cannot be overstated. Stories taken from the series and revamps of the characters found their way into the movies and the comics even before the series came to a close. The show also set a gold standard for Warner Bros. animated adaptations of DC Comics’ characters, with Batman: The Animated Series inspiring a shared universe with the equally acclaimed Superman and Justice League animated series, as well as Static Shock and Batman Beyond.
Batman: TAS Was Made By Comic Book Creators
One thing that set Batman: The Animated Series apart from other superhero cartoons was that it employed many of the same creators who had worked on the Batman comics. This lent the series a certain sense of prestige that other animated series lacked. It also ensured a higher quality of writing, as the scripts directly adapting stories from the comics were often written by the comics’ original writers. The show’s writing team included legendary figures like Martin Pasko, Gerry Conway, Mike W. Barr, Elliot S! Maggin and Marv Wolfman, who is best known today as the chief writer behind Crisis on Infinite Earthsbut also was the co-creator of the third Robin, Tim Drake.
Perhaps the greatest example of this was the two-part story” The Demon’s Quest,” which formally introduced the character of Ra’s Al Ghul into the world of Batman: The Animated Series. Ra’s was unusual among Batman’s villains, being an eco-terrorist who operated on a global scale and possessed a rigid code of honor. The first part was written by Dennis “Denny” O’Neil; a legendary writer and editor on Batman, who had co-created the character of Ra’s Al Ghul and done much to restore a dark sense of mystery to the Batman comics of the 1970s. The second half was written by Len Wein, who also wrote the episodes “Moon of the Wolf,” “Blind as a Bat”, and “Off-Balance.” While perhaps more famous among comic fans for co-creating the characters of Swamp Thing and Wolverine, Wein also had a lengthy run on the Batman comic book and co-created the character of Lucius Fox.
Artists also had a major role in shaping Batman: The Animated Series. Most of the show’s aesthetic was the work of producer Bruce Timm, who had gotten his start as an animator with Filmation while drawing some of the mini-comics that came packaged with the original line of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe action figures. Timm was also responsible for most of the series’ character designs. The exceptions to this were the designs for Man-Bat and The Mad Hatter (which were the work of Kevin Nowlan) and the designs for Mr. Freeze and The Riddler, which were drafted by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.
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