“I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman.” From that phrase was born Batman: The Animated Series, a show that define the Dark Knight for an entire generations of comic book fans everywhere.
Kevin Conroy voice Bruce Wayne, Mark Hamill voiced the Joker, veteran actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. voice Alfred Pennyworth, and Bob Hastings voiced Commissioner Gordon. It was produced by Bruce Timm, originally made for Fox Kids, it eventually transition over to Kids WB.
For those too young to remember, it premiered on September 5th, 1992, when I was four years old. It was the first comic book based television series I had ever seen. To me, it started a journey one of which I will never forget.
The series had a darker tone, providing new origins for Gotham City villains like Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Scarecrow, while assuming you knew the origin of The Joker and Penguin. They also paid excellent tribute to Batgirl, voiced by Tara Strong, Nightwing voiced by Loren Lester, and Robin (Tim Drake) voiced by Mathew Valencia in The New Batman Adventures (season four).
The series was based on Neil Adams and Chuck Dixon’s run on the Batman comic books, which, along with Frank Miller, brought the Dark Knight out of the campy 1960s and into the modern world.
Not a single series, Beware the Batman, Batman: Brave and the Bold, The Batman, have even come close to matching the mystique that surrounded TAS. I would watch, memorized by the gritty nature, serious tone, and powerful intrigue of that Bruce Timm and Paul Dini brought to the Caped Crusader. The series spawned several films including the theatrical Mask of the Phantasm, the direct-to-DVD Batman and Mr. Freeze Sub-Zero, and Mystery of the Batwoman. It also had a spin-off in Batman Beyond where Will Friedle voiced Future Batman under the tutelage under Bruce Wayne. That had its own film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
It was not only the quality and acting. It was the originality to the mythology. For those who don’t remember, Harley Quinn made her debut on TAS. In the episode “Joker’s Favor”, she was voice by Arleen Sorkin, who was also the inspiration for the character. Paul Dini often spoke that only Lucille Ball could pull the character. Not even Margot Robbie, who did a sufficient job, did as good a job in Suicide Squad.
Now, twenty-five years later, no one has come close to portraying the Batman as well as Kevin Conroy, with the SINGLE exception of Christian Bale. Conroy defined the character for so long, that he has voice him in independent animated films and several video games.
I look back on Batman The Animated Series with fondness. It will forever hold a special place in my heart since it started me on the journey of being a comic book fan.
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