The ’90s was a treasure trove of superhero cartoons.
Long before live-action TV series came swinging back with Smallville Season 1 and Arrow Season 1, the heroes dominated cartoons. Between titles like Spider-man, X-Men: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Superman: The Animated Series, we Fanatics had a buffet.
But what was at the top of the tower? Easy! It was Batman: The Animated Series.
Batman: The Animated Series ran for two seasons between 1992 to 1995. Unofficially (but totally officially), the follow-up series The New Batman Adventures in 1997 continued the story as the “final season.”
For a sweet 30-minute runtime per episode, we were treated to the best Batman cartoon adaptation.
Just picture the era of Batman during this time.
It had been decades since Adam West’s Batman POW!’d and BONK!’d on the small screen or the Tim Burton Batman flicks dominated theaters, especially with the latest release of Batman Returns.
Both adaptations were fun and had their flavor, but they weren’t close to the style of the comics. For the comic fanatics, they needed some love, too.
Enter Batman: The Animated Series. It was a mighty cartoon that served more than a cash grab for toys, but it instead packed plenty of heart, excellent writing, and structure to become an award-winning show. (Four Emmys!)
Style And Substance
As mentioned above, Batman: The Animated Series had a design aesthetic that worked perfectly for the show’s tone. Its classic approach of mimicking a 1920s feel matched the energy from the Batman comics.
Gotham City as a location isn’t a modern city; it’s futuristic for its citizens, but something always feels off. It has an undercurrent of the glitz and flair of the 1920s, but it’s mixed with the gritty colors and tone of a crime noir.
The drawings never felt rushed or phoned in.
Every choice had a reason, and it elevated the series. Sure, it was a cartoon, but that didn’t stop it from giving its characters bold expressions or locations designed with care and detail.
And let’s not forget that the cartoon started in 1992. The design was setting itself apart to give iconic representations of these still beloved characters.
Just look at The Joker or Harley Quinn!
These character designs alone are still some of the most popular staples. A lot has changed since then, and Harley Quinn has incorporated a new aesthetic since Margot Robbie appeared in the Suicide Squad films. But the originals are still in the pop culture world.
When you think of a Batman cartoon, most fans typically think of this one and this style.
The Man Behind The Mask
Speaking of Batman, his portrayal during Batman: The Animated Series was a highlight by itself.
The late great Kevin Conroy (RIP!) started his legendary tenure as Bruce Wayne/Batman in this series. His voice was so iconic and captured the character’s magic that he became the de facto portrayer, making his voice the clear connection when you hear Batman speak.
Kevin’s voice work made Bruce Wayne feel like a great mix of a commanding billionaire and a fun-loving guy while making Batman the stern and focused hero.
That tone matched how the character was being portrayed in the series. Bruce Wayne and Batman felt like a fleshed-out person with depth, someone we wanted to root for and follow during every adventure.
A Rogues Gallery Unlike Any Other
Beyond the heroes we loved (e.g., Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Commissioner Gordon, etc.), the series also served as a stage for a great cast and group of characters. When in doubt, the supervillains always knew when to steal the spotlight
Seriously, Batman’s villains are iconic!
Batman: The Animated Series was no different. The Joker, Two-Face, The Penguin, Killer Croc, Catwoman, and many others shined as they faced off against Batman.
None of the villains felt two-dimensional or bland. You could feel the style and tone of each villain come off the screen, showcasing why these foes were the big bads of Gotham City.
Plus, their voice talent worked perfectly with their characters.
Case in point: Mark Hamill as The Joker! He defined the creepy and unnerving joy of the Clown Prince of Crime. And his laugh alone was iconic.
Batman: The Animated Series was starting legacies back in 1992.
Big Arrivals & Big Changes
With a platform like a cartoon, the series could try new things. Sometimes, it was significant changes like introducing a new character or more subtle like reinventing someone’s story.
Batman: The Animated Series made updates to the Batman mythos that are still felt today.
For example, Mr. Freeze’s new backstory turned the icy doctor into a sympathetic villain dealing with a lost love and a new motivation for his crimes. This change expanded to every medium, including the Batman & Robin movie.
However, the biggest impact on the fandom has to be the introduction of The Joker’s assistant and love, Harley Quinn.
Show of hands: who just discovered that Harley Quinn was first introduced in this cartoon? It was a big shock when I found out because it feels so recent for such an iconic role.
Harley Quinn is a popular and recognizable villain for anyone familiar with superhero movies and comics. When you think of The Joker, more often than not, you’d think of Harley Quinn, too.
Don’t get me wrong, the series introduced many other great new villains, like Baby Doll, and brought back many forgotten ones too. But the impact of Harley Quinn’s arrival can’t ever be forgotten for Batman fans.
Including the iconic voice work provided by Arleen Sorkin (RIP!).
The Stories Of Gotham City
We can’t forget the adventures from the episodes, too.
Throughout its run, Batman: The Animated Series had many exciting and well-crafted stories that put Batman and his allies up against the latest evils.
Sometimes, it was a one-on-one battle between Batman and the week’s villain. In other instances, it was a specialty story that changed things up.
For example, “Almost Got ‘Im” from Batman: The Animated Series Season 1 Episode 35 is a legendary episode that explores the villains all sharing stories of their losses against Batman.
It was a profound story diving deep into the villains’ mindsets, all framed in the backdrop of a poker game. Instead of one tale, we were treated to many mini-stories that packed a punch.
What more could you ask for?!
Other personal favorites include “Trial” from Batman: The Animated Series Season 2 Episode 9, “Harley and Ivy” from Batman: The Animated Series Season 1 Episode 47, and “Baby-Doll” from Batman: The Animated Series Season 2 Episode 9.
These episodes are only scratching the surface of what the series can deliver. Even all these decades later, it’s the perfect show for a binge-watch that holds up after all this time.
Now, over to you, Batman fans!
What was your favorite part of Batman: The Animated Series? What was your favorite episode? Was there a character or memory from the show that stuck with you?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Batman: The Animated Series is available to stream now on Max.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.