A little history
In 1992, Tim Burton’s second film on the Batman universe worked less well than the first, but enough for Warner to launch an animated series on Bruce Wayne. For that, she will call on three people: Bruce Timm is in charge of the appearance of the characters, while Alan Burnett supervises the stories and Eric Radomski the sets and the overall look of the series.
And how can we not talk about music? The theme of Batman is inspired by that of Danny Elfman for the feature films of Tim Burton, but the sublime compositions of the episodes will be signed by the composer Shirley Walker.
The series has two seasons of 65 and 20 episodes, broadcast from 1992 to 1995. Between these two seasons, a film will be released: Batman against the masked ghost, released in theaters in the United States, but directly on video in France. Another series follows in 1997, The New Batman Adventures, which takes the chronological continuation of the original series, and in which we find Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl and a new Robin: Tim Drake.
Contrary to popular belief, Tim Burton was not involved in the series at all. If we think so often, it’s because the Penguin’s look is inspired by that of Batman, The Challenge, but it will change its appearance in The New Batman Adventures, to get closer to what he looked like in the comics before Burton.
A unique tone
The creative idea of the series, we owe it to Eric Radomski. He draws from black sheets on which he will bring out the colors, which will give the show all its dark side, especially since the majority of the action of the episodes takes place at night. With Batman’s nickname being the Dark Knight, it was a pretty logical decision. The aesthetic of the show is heavily influenced by 1940s America film noir style, with clear references to German Expressionism and Art Deco. However, the series takes place in contemporary times and we find all the technological elements of that time, from the cell phone to the “super computer”.
The heavy-handed humor of superhero cartoons that there was before is gone and the villains are no longer puppets but human beings suffering from a withdrawal and episodes rarely end with a happy end. The scriptwriters’ bible that served to describe the tone of the series even said that Batman should be written as a character that is a little scary and always in the shadows.
To keep its serious side, the series abandons good-humored punches by giving its villains machine guns and guns. Before the series Batman, it was not tolerated. In the past, DC series like Super Friends and Super Power Team bathed in a cartoon atmosphere inherited from the Batman series of the 60s.
The series will also tackle topics that we didn’t talk about much in cartoons at the time. For example, we see Poison Ivy arriving in a 100% male meeting to let them know that it is shameful that there are no women. But the series also speaks of precariousness, of difference (with Killer Croc) and by doing that, it will mark the spirits and give legitimacy and credibility to the super-heroic genre.
The entire DC animated universe will follow closely or far from the visual foundations laid by Bruce Timm. Even one of the recent animated films, Batman and Harley Quinn, takes on an aesthetic very close to the series. The fact that these films are also very violent and rude is also a consequence of the very dark tone that the animated series had established. Today, we take that for granted, but it was a crazy bet for a series that was intended for children. In the United States, it even went on Saturday mornings!
His influence on comics
The series has changed the villains of the DC Comics universe a lot, it has shaken them up, modernized them, and even created new ones. We owe him in particular the appearance of a cult supervillain: Harley Quinn. Created by Paul Dini (the author / reviewer of 26 episodes of the series), the character is initially an accomplice of the Joker for a few episodes, until Crazy Love of New Batman Adventures, who explores his past and his first encounter with the Joker. We learn that she was the clown’s psychiatrist, before finding herself manipulated by him and totally under his control.
We become all the more attached to Harley as she lives an absolutely unrequited love with the Joker, who uses her. And the series of 92 is also going to give a past and a purpose to some villains. This is the case with Mister Freeze. Before the show, he was a guy with an ice gun. Afterwards, it is a man who gave everything to save his wife from death, and will always live alone. Worse still, in Tea New Batman Adventures, Freeze is even doomed to die. And these stories will influence the comics and even be incorporated into them.
Harley has his own comic book in 1999 and Mister Freeze his in 1998. Other characters created by the series who will end up in the comics include police officer Renee Montoya (recently seen in the feature film Birds of Prey) or Lockup, a violent former Arkham Asylum guard who becomes a psychopath. On the other hand, other characters like the terrorist leader Red Claw or Baby Doll, the child star of a TV show suffering from a disease that prevents him from growing, will never appear there.
Batman the animated series and The New Batman Adventures are inevitable not to be missed under any pretext. Also recommended is their sequel, Batman: The Succession.
Where does the Joker come from? Decryption by the Origin Story team: