Not to be confused with Batman: The Animated Series; not that anyone would. Just saying. The Batman may not have been the animated series we deserved, but I for one needed it.
Batman: TAS is arguably the greatest animated series based on a comic book. I don’t want to get into it right now since that is a discussion all unto itself. When a new animated Batman series was announced back in 2004 I was both excited and a bit wary. I knew that fairly or unfairly it would be compared to the previous one. Batman: TAS was a somewhat serious take on the Dark Knight that drew both from the comics and the Tim Burton films, and it was something that the grown ups could enjoy while watching with their children. The Batman was aimed more toward younger viewers, but adults could enjoy it as well since it never veered into Super Friends territory.
The Batman was a series about a younger version of the Caped Cruader. In the first episode Alfred notes that it has been three years since Bruce Wayne first donned the cape and cowl–and it’s at this point where things start getting interesting. Previously, Batman had been capturing run of the mill criminals, and now he is starting to aquire the Rogues Gallery that we are familiar with. The villains in the series are, how shall I put this… a bit cartoony? Some were better written than others, but since this was more of a Kids WB series I let it slide because we need children to become interested in Batman and comic book characters in general because they often become adults who read comics. At least that’s how it worked for me.
I thought that the Joker was used as a villain far too often in The Batman. Yes, he is Batman’s main villain, but if you don’t have a good reason for him to be there, or a good story to tell, it’s just a waste of a good villian, and he tends to lose his menace if Batman can so easily defeat him.
The Penguin was kind of interesting in that he had a real hatred of Bruce Wayne and even more so Alfred the Butler. It seems that the Penguin’s family, the Cobblepots, were once a wealthy family that had become disgraced. It was an interpretation that I never would have thought of.
There were a few good Riddler stories. One of them involved him being trapped, along with Batman, in a shipping comtainer which happened to be at the bottom of Gotham Harbor. My main problem with the Riddler was that he looked a bit too much like Marilyn Manson.
At the time I thought The Batman was a pretty good series, and when I recently watched it again I realized that it was better than I remembered, but maybe it’s just me. I was always a big fan of the first two seasons which contained an ongoing story about Bruce Wayne’s friend Ethan Bennett who happened to be a detective with the Gotham City Police Department. Bennett eventually becomes the villain Clayface and this storyline was where I thought the series really shined. There was a sadness in watching Bennett deal with his fate. This was also about as dark as the series ever got. I’m not saying that every Batman story has to be dark, it’s just that you have to acknowledge that the darkness is there otherwise what you end up with is the live action television series from the Sixties. But that too is another story.
The final three seasons saw a few more appearances by Clayface, and these were some of the better episodes, yet it didn’t feel the same. I understand that there were other stories to tell and they had to move beyond Clayface, but part of me felt that the series had found something special there. Maybe they didn’t want to overuse the character.
That wasn’t the only change made, but I’m saving that for part two.