Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #9 – The New Batman Adventures: Holiday Knights

I don’t know about you, but I do love a good anthology. The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror and Futurama’s Anthology of Interest episodes are the standouts from an animation perspective. But this opening episode of the second nineties Batman animated series breaks from it’s own mould and is a trio of tales set around festive period. This episode surprisingly aired on September 13th 1997. Not complaining, but you know, weird.

The New Batman Adventures S01 E01: Holiday Knights

The three tales of tinsel-time are divided by the dates they are set: December 22nd, Christmas Eve and, of course, New Year’s Eve. On the third day before Christmas Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, cooped up hiding in crappy digs, fancy some fun and fortune over Christmas. Their master plan is revealed as, while disguised among a group of well-to-do ladies on the arm of billionaire Bruce Wayne, a single chemical-laden kiss from Ivy means he is under her physical control. The subservient body of Bruce quickly becomes Harley and Ivy’s Christmas shopping spree wallet.

“May we give you a ride, Mr Wayne?” – Poison Ivy

“No thanks, I have my own car” – Bruce Wayne

“Oh, but we insist.” – Harley Quinn

Of course the villains get carried away with the use of a blank cheque Bruce Wayne. And as helpless as he is originally, and aware of his actions and state of mind, the chemical effects naturally dissolve which give Bruce the moment he needs to engineer an escape. The climax with the caped crusader also has a very different use for a Christmas Tree.

Tale number two is on Christmas Eve, with Barbara Gordon doing some late Christmas shopping. When she notices a small kid shoplifting, and attempts to stop him, the kid’s hand dissolves in hers. Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya are posing as Santa and his elf at the mall, aware of several robberies, supposedly by children. When confronted however they merge to form Clayface.

A simple yet fun tale, which features legend Tara Strong in her first credit for voicing Batgirl, replacing Melissa Gilbert from Batman: TAS. Harvey Bullock as a shopping mall Santa Claus is a definite highlight.

And finally there’s New Years Eve. Batman, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon discover that The Joker is planning to wreak havoc at Gotham’s countdown celebration. Enter the new Dynamic Duo: Batman and the new Robin, Tim Drake. Their search for The Joker leads them to room full of Jokers – all celebration participants are wearing Joker masks. This quick caper is brought to an end as Batman, although wounded, drops a giant bell on the Clown Prince of Crime just as the new year rings in. Great stuff. The episode ends with a denouement, following the Joker-centric event, as we learn that Commissioner Gordon meets with Batman every new year’s night. Also, amusingly, Batman manages to sneak away while paying for the coffee each and every time.

“Hi-ho couch potatoes. I’m interrupting the Toilet Bowl to bring you my very special New Year’s resolution: ahem, starting tonight at midnight, I, your loving uncle Joker, do solemnly vow not to kill anyone for a whole year. Which means I’m going to have to work extra fast to bump off a few more of you today.”. – The Joker

As a season opener, Holiday Knights works as a form of light entertainment, easing viewers back into the swing of things. The fact that it wasn’t aired closer to Christmas instead is a little strange in terms of placement, but it also serves well as a taster of the design changes of the new Batman season. Although a continuation of Batman: TAS, The New Batman Adventures is visually quite different. It looks more like a kids show, coinciding with its move in the US from the Fox network to WBKids at the time. But creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini have spoken previously about having more freedom following the move, and it is clear that the show’s integrity was preserved as a result. I still have issues with The Joker’s look, though. Nevertheless, a nice little collection of Christmas tales from the one of the best superhero shows ever produced.

Animation Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas #3 – Batman TAS: Christmas with the Joker

Finished your disappointing chocolate? Survived another day of Whamageddon? Seriously, google that. Time to move on to the early 1990’s with arguably the greatest comic book cartoon of all – Batman The Animated Series.

Batman: The Animated Series S01 E02 – Christmas with the Joker

Batman’s most famous villain, The Joker, makes his first appearance in just the second episode of this incredible and landmark animation showpiece. Its Christmas all right, but not if the psychotic clown has anything to do with it. After making his frankly hilarious escape from Arkham Asylum, The Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon, Detective Harvey Bullock, and reporter Summer Gleeson. As Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson prepare to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, the broadcast is interrupted as The Joker lures Batman and Robin into his latest game.

Mark Hamill’s debut as the clown prince of crime is but a taster of what is easily one of the world’s greatest examples of voice acting. But what a taster it is. Hamill’s sinister snigger is one of the most recognisable in film and television, and it all started right here. He is of course the standout in a show full of standouts – it cannot be stated enough how good both Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester are as Batman and Robin, respectively.

“Jingle bells! Batman smells! Robin laid an egg! The Batmobile lost a wheel and the Jo-ker got a-wa-a-a-ay!

Crashing through the roof, in a one-horse open tree. Busting out I go, laughing all the wheeeee! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!” – Joker

As Joker’s plan to kill the hostages at the stroke of midnight nears, this iteration of Batman shows his true detective colours that would become a staple throughout the show’s three years on air. Bruce Wayne’s 21st century tech surrounds him against Gotham City’s art deco 1930’s style setting. Bruce is of course a man with resources well beyond most and this purely amplifies that, whilst looking ultra cool on the eye to watch.

Originally airing on the 12th November 1992, Christmas with the Joker is simply brilliant comic book television. It serves as an excellent early episode of such a landmark cartoon series. This was the episode that got me hooked back in my pre-teen years, and enjoyed it just as much as research for this post. Easily one of the best Christmas themed TV episodes in existence.

DC Goes Interactive With Batman: Death in the Family

“Will you choose whether Jason Todd lives or dies? How will these choices affect Batman and the Joker? One thing for certain – It’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.”

Over 30 years ago DC Comics fans were given the remarkable chance to choose the fate of one Jason Todd as Robin. The question was simple: should he live, or die? After the votes of thousands of fans they incredibly chose for Jason to die. In turn, creating comic book history in the process.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is about to give us all the opportunity to answer a new question: if you had the chance to do it again, would you make the same choice? This time, there is no old-school hotline to call, or any online forms. Instead you can make the choice just by clicking your Blu-ray remote.

From the DC Comics announcement page:-

Produced by DC and Warner Bros. Animation, DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family is an anthology of 2019-2020 animated shorts anchored by a new, extended-length short that adapts the iconic Batman: A Death in the Family comic book storyline by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo. However, in a fitting twist, the Batman: Death in the Family short will take an interactive approach—a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment first—and offer viewers the opportunity to choose which direction the story goes by making choices using their remote control. As if that isn’t fascinating enough, this take on the classic storyline also boasts some intriguing connections to the popular 2010 DC Universe Movie, Batman: Under the Red Hood.

Batman: Death in the Family comes from director Brandon Vietti, who also directed Batman: Under the Red Hood, which also celebrated its tenth anniversary last week. Bruce Greenwood, Vincent Martella and John DiMaggio will reprise their Batman: Under the Red Hood roles of Batman, young Jason Todd and the Joker, respectively. Bruce Greenwood’s performance as the Joker 10 years ago alone will spark interest in this role reprisal.

“Batman: Death in the Family is essentially a comic book come to life,” Vietti says. “We’ve paid homage to the 1988 interactive experience of DC’s A Death in the Family comics release by giving fans a unique opportunity to craft their own story through a branching tool that can lead in multiple directions. The viewer gets to choose these characters’ paths, and each choice paves an alternate future for all of the characters and, ultimately, the story.”

DC has presented its viewers with a real opportunity here. An opportunity to re-write a piece of history. And furthermore, to write new futures. Multiple endings, twists and turns, or simply the opportunity to play out the original story if you wish, are all on offer here.

But that’s not all on offer. Batman: Death in the Family is but one of five shorts. Although not interactive, the other four shorts are as follows:-

  • Sgt. Rock (below), originally attached to Batman: Hush, directed by Bruce Timm. Karl Urban (Star Trek, The Boys and Dredd 3D) provides the voice of the titular character who thinks he has seen everything on the battlefield. But now he is tasked to lead a company consisting of legendary monsters into battle against – what else – Nazi zombies.
  • Death, inspired by Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, is produced and directed by Sam Liu (Superman: Red Son, The Death of Superman). It tells the story of Vincent, an artist with unresolved inner demons, who meets a mysterious girl that helps him come to terms with his creative legacy…and eventual death. Death was originally included with Wonder Woman: Bloodlines.
  • The Phantom Stranger has Bruce Timm (Batman: The Killing Joke) on board as executive producer and director, and was included on the release of Superman: Red Son. This one is set in the 1970s, as the enigmatic DC mystery man simultaneously playing both narrator and character in a supernatural story of good vs. evil.
  • Adam Strange, an original story attached to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, is produced and directed by Butch Lukic (Superman: Man of Tomorrow). It tells the origins of Adam Strange, played out in flashbacks, as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long as the local town drunk.

DITF-Trailer - Batman-batcyle-Robin_5f224f2b960eb4.34927330

DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family will be available on both Blu-ray and Digital from October 13, 2020. If you want the interactive experience of Batman: Death in the Family, you’ll need to buy the Blu-ray edition. The digital edition features the Batman: Death in the Family extended-length, non-interactive version of the story. Three other non-interactive versions of the main short (entitled Jason Todd’s RebellionRobin’s Revenge and Red Hood’s Reckoning) should be included as bonus features, along with the other four 2019-2020 DC Showcase shorts.

With DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family, DC have invited us to make a choice. Will you choose whether Jason Todd lives or dies? How will these choices affect Batman and the Joker? One thing for certain – It’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.

DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family will be available on both Blu-ray and Digital starting on October 13, 2020.

Batman_DitF_3D_5f224e9c4d9955.22192418

The 11 Best Episodes Of ‘X-Men The Animated Series’

As the 2010’s leave us like a bullet train passing through a station, franchise reboots and re-releases are as ingrained into our brains and bookshelves as the wealth of more recent material. Retro is back, and seemingly here to stay.

Recent examples of note include the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series getting the Blu-Ray treatment in 2018, more than 20 years on. 2019 marked the 20-year anniversary of Batman Beyond (1999-2001) with a similar effort. But enough about DC’s glorious gems, what about Marvel?

X-Men: The Animated Series is one such deserving gem. It originally ran from 1992-1997 for five, fun-packed seasons. With it came concepts more associated with TV dramas, such as progressive storylines, season-long narratives and multi-part adaptions derived from some of the most famous stories from the comic books.

Unfortunately, there is no high-definition re-release on the cards anytime soon. However, with the arrival of Disney Plus, as well as the handy aqcuisition of Fox, all episodes are indeed part of the gargantuan streaming service. With Disney Plus finally arriving in the UK on March 21, I for one am keen to revisit a near 30-year old animated classic.

So, without any further ado, and in no particular order, sit back and enjoy my favourite episodes from the series.

Night of the Sentinels Parts 1 + 2

X-MenTAS_33-1038x576

Where best to start than right at the beginning? Right off the bat, this 2-part opener sets the scene and tone of the show perfectly. We are introduced to the X-Men through the perspective of one Jubilation Lee (AKA Jubilee: “I blow stuff up”) as she seeks salvation from mutant prejudice. The pubertal manifestation of her mutant powers has all but ended her normal life. Even the authorities are out to get to her through the government-funded Mutant Control Agency, supposedly set up to help mutants, but is in fact a front to eliminate them.

Real issues such as racism and xenophobia are a constant throughout the series. X-Men: TAS does an excellent job in exerting such issues, through that of teenagers, even young adults, in a terrifying, relatable manner. I’m well aware that none of us are going to be hunted by giant, malevolent robots because we can blow stuff up with our bare hands. But these emotional notions can directly be transferred into the real world of teen angst; here it is simply in a alternative, fictional guise.

The threat posed to these would-be heroes, who are forced to operate outside the law, pulls no punches, with an initial tragedy thrown in to cement that. This is no origin story. You are thrown straight into the X-Men’s world and all that comes with it. All suitable for Saturday mornings, of course.

Deadly Reunions

1526783636218

By the fourth episode we’ve already been introduced emphatically to Magneto, Charles Xavier’s long-time friend, and one of the X-Men’s main rivals. The X-Men prevented a Magneto-powered missile attack in just the previous episode, but Mr Maniacal Magnetic Mutant is far from done. Magneto attempts to draw out Charles for a reunion years in the making, and is prepared to put human lives on the line to do so.

What follows is the first psychological pitting of two very differently motivated mutant minds. Charles’ idealism that all mutants follow his vision is also put to the test. It is so important that this rivalry is introduced so early in the series, as it will continue to become a backbone throughout. As will the animosity between Wolverine and Sabretooth, whose very physical battle also test’s Charles and his methods.

Cold Vengeance

maxresdefault (5)

This Wolverine-centric episode widened my eyes (“Deadly Reunions” had certainly pried them open) to the brutal relationship between Logan and Victor Creed, otherwise known as Sabretooth. After their brief yet destructive battle in Deadly Reunions, “Cold Vengeance” takes it up to eleven. They’re both literally trying to kill each other and, given the array of claws on offer, the intensity is maintained without the need for graphic violence. A true testament of the show for sure.

Elsewhere, the adaption of the “mutant friendly” nation of Genosha comes into play. Cyclops steals the show as his tetchy tendencies are unleashed on the charismatic but often-cocky Cajun, Gambit. Whether it’s combat or conjecture, Cold Vengeance really turns up the heat in a series just six episodes strong at this stage.

Days of Future Past Parts 1 + 2

x-men-animated-series-days-of-future-past-bishop-e1400983893900

A story so synonymous with the X-Men universe it was even adapted in the movie universe, Days of Future Past is up there with the best on offer. Kitty Pryde, the comic book’s original time-travelling saviour, is completely absent from the show, despite being the front of the original pilot from the show’s producers. Instead, Days of Future Past becomes the platform to introduce another time-traveller, Bishop, into the show. The switch is admirable, and even with a completely new dynamic as a result of the change, it works handsomely.

Days of Future Past taps into everything the X-Men’s world is all about; why they fight against persecution. The bleak tone of their potential future resonates from the page to screen perfectly. It is a 2-part adventure that casts doubt on the characters you’re just getting to know, interspersed with a nice dose of science fiction to boot.

The Final Decision

10

Artificial intelligence goes self-aware and runs amok in this first season finale. After the fallout of “Days of Future Past”, Senator Kelly is kidnapped by Magneto. This in turn leads to anti-mutant protest rallies, with the X-Men in the middle trying to keep the peace. The Final Decision really hammers home the nobility of the X-Men and Charles’s hope for human/mutant peace.

The sentinel program comes to a head, even rebelling against its creator, Bolivar Trask. What follows is the X-Men putting their lives on the line against an army of mutant-killing robots in a spectacular battle sequence that is among the best the series has to offer over its five seasons.

Time Fugitives Part 1 + 2

2x08

It wouldn’t be a true X-Men show without everyone’s, me included, favourite time travelling mutant, Cable. The show casts Cable as a hardened warrior, A non-killing Rambo, if you’ll pardon the reference. Cable fights the good fight, albeit in his own way. That is to say, helping the X-Men’s cause, just rarely directly or by the same methods.

In Time Fugitives, it is Cable’s future that’s on the line. Bishop is also back, and another time jump to the present day is subsequently erasing Cable’s timeline. The only probable solution? Take out Bishop. Time Fugitives is a 2-part adventure told in a before-then-after format, with direct comparisons drawn as an open-and-shut version of the Legacy Virus comic book storyline.

Above all else, this interlude in the show’s most progressive season showcases some of its best action sequences. With regards to Cable, TAS always did an excellent job of painting Cable as a top supporting character. The show manages to tease its audience with Cable’s true meaning to the team, particularly Cyclops, without feeling the need to delve any deeper. It’s a perfect nod for comic fans of the show, and enough for newcomers to be left asking themselves provocative questions that may or may not be answered down the line.

Reunion Parts 1 + 2

Mister_Sinister_Savage_Land

The second season of X-Men: The Animated Series, emboldened by the groundwork already laid in the first season, explored a TV concept usually reserved for adult shows: The season-long story arc. The season opener “Till Death Us Do Part” saw an X-Man, previously thought long gone, luring both Xavier and Magneto to The Savage Land. What begins as a secondary storyline becomes the foundation for this, the 2-part season finale.

Stripped of their powers, Xavier and Magneto must set aside their differences and work together to survive in a prehistoric land. These segments, usually on the back end of episodes throughout the season, explore the more distinctive element of their relationship: friendship. The mastermind of season 2 is an undoubtedly Sinister character (wink wink), whose obsession with Cyclops and Jean Grey’s mutagenic possibilities results in a battle for all the X-Men’s lives. His ability to even manipulate Xavier ranks Sinister above most if not all the foes the X-Men face throughout the entire series.

What were your favorite episodes of “X-Men: The Animated Series?” Leave a comment with yours! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9 Best Episodes Of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’

Remember, remember the 5th of November. A significant date for the ages. No, I’m not talking about Guy Fawkes or bonfire night. Instead I’m talking about the release of something special: Batman: The Animated Series has come to Blu-Ray.

This is not a review of that box-set, as I am not yet fortunate enough to own a copy. But it is definitely worth noting this is not some hasty dump of all 109 episodes that offers nothing more than the existing DVD collection already did. Warner Bros. have gone ALL out on this one. Every episode has been remastered, much like how Disney handle their remastered releases, giving them a new lease of life. And boy do they look fantastic.

https_blogs-images.forbes.comscottmendelsonfiles201810MT_Batman_Robin-1200x675

What always amazed me about Batman: The Animated Series, above all other animated shows, was the sound and the ambience of the show. The explosions were like nothing else on television at the time, certainly not cartoons. And the explosive launch of Batman’s grapple gun still gets me every time. You can feel them, let alone hear them. As an 11 year old upon its release, watching via the Warner Bros-sponsored UK children’s entertainment show What’s Up Doc?, it was a feast for the eyes. Now by all accounts, this box-set is just that all over again, and somehow more.

Then there are the extras, including the excellent spin-off movies Mask of the Phantasm and Sub-Zero. There are commentaries for several key episodes, several feature shows, even a 98-minute documentary that traces the origins of the show through to today’s still-existent influence. I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

In the meantime, I’ve been reacquainting myself with the series via Prime Video. Their affiliation with Warner Bros is worth the subscription alone, with the entire Batman and Justice League runs on offer, as well as several of the DC Animated Movie series. And so I offer you my pick of the 9 best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. This does not include the movies, but does include episodes of the latter series The New Batman Adventures. Nor are they in any particular order. I’m sure my picks will differ from yours, but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

Appointment in Crime Alley

20090307134709Appointment_In_Crime_Alley_Mourn-650x487

Adapted from the 1976 Denny O’Neill-penned comic story “There Is No Hope in Crime Alley”, writing legend Gerry Conway brings this tale of remembrance and reality to the small screen. Batman has an appointment to keep in Crime Alley, the location of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ murder. Corrupt businessman Roland Daggett however has plans to blow up Crime Alley in order to expand his own empire. It is in this wonderfully-scored episode that the relationship between Batman and Leslie Thompkins comes to fruition. Although a simpler episode with regards to scripting, this is an episode that instead lets its actions and soundtrack do the talking. This episode was also successfully adapted into a novel entitled Shadows of the Past, A first for the series.

Girls’ Night Out

Batgirl_and_Supergirl

On a recent episode of the Kevin Smith podcast-style show, Fatman Beyond, the magnificently talented Tara Strong (the voice of Batgirl in The New Batman Adventures) declared this among her favourite episodes to work on. It’s easy to see why. Forget DC Superhero Girls, this is the ultimate Superhero girl team-up. With both Bats and Supes away, Batgirl and Supergirl come to the forefront to take on the recently-escaped Livewire. Things escalate further when Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy also join the fray. The chemistry is electric (literally, in the case of Livewire, voiced perfectly by Tank Girl’s Lori Petty), as Batgirl demonstrates her true capability as a member of the Bat family. Even more so for Supergirl, desperate to prove herself and realise her dream of becoming a hero in her own right. What better place than Gotham? Speaking of Tara Strong (who is undoubtedly the best Batgirl, in one of the few roles using her natural speaking voice), she recently also spoke of the recording sessions taking place with the cast together, as opposed to separate recordings. This is key to the entire series, and imagining such a great cast bouncing off of each other only reinforces the fantastic character chemistry throughout.

Heart of Ice

MV5BYzNiOTVlYWEtM2RmZS00NDJkLWFlMmQtNGRiNTRkMDY0MDVlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjI4OTE1MTA@._V1_

I heavily considered this one as being my favourite episode, and is definitely up there with the best. In its first season, this is one of the few episodes that sat apart from the rest, establishing Batman: The Animated Series as a truly special series. This traumatic tale of tragedy depicts Victor Freeze as an exploited scientist, who becomes Mr Freeze after his former employer accidentally kills Freeze’s wife Nora, and also forces Victor to live on in an ice cold suit. As a result vengeance consumes him, as the now literally cold-hearted Mr Freeze will stop at nothing to harm those that harmed him and his beloved Nora. With Heart of Ice, the stakes in BAS were risen to new levels. Real drama is thrust at you, and as a fairly early episode of the show, Heart of Ice proves that the writers, Paul Dini in this case, were not kidding around. Even in a kids show. The screenplay for Heart of Ice also won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing. Cold as ice.

Joker’s Favor 

ah83rojxcg7mc6vatusf

Another contender for best-ever episode, Joker’s Favor is the perfect combination of everything Batman: The Animated Series is all about. Comedy, suspense, action, and in the case of Charlie Collins, a very relatable, very human protagonist. Charlie is just like you and me; living the responsibilities of an everyday working family man. After a bad day on all fronts, Charlie takes his anger out on a random driver – only to find that random driver is none other than The Joker. Now Charlie has to pay for his mistake by being on hand when the Joker comes calling. Joker’s Favor is a perfect BAS specimen; Joker wants to blow up the city, Batman needs to stop him, an innocent is inadvertently in the firing line, an all too familiar Batman tale. But its simple synopsis paves the way for a disturbing villain to be his chilling best as he terrorises Charlie into doing his bidding. But even the every-man has his limits, with Charlie’s standoff with The Joker proving that Batman isn’t the only hero in Gotham City. This episode also marked the debut of Harley Quinn into the DC Universe in an unremarkable yet subtle taste of what was to come. And although Batman does feature prominently, Joker’s Favor is a perfect tale of Gotham City. It proves that Batman: The Animated Series is not just about Batman or his Batmobile and Batcave.

Perchance to Dream

5497778-6131029378-ptd12

Every series has a “dream-scape” episode. Perchance to Dream takes that plot device and adds a typically Batman mystery feel to the proceedings. Bruce Wayne wakes up one morning to find his life as Batman is no more. Why? Because his parents are still alive, that’s why. Despite his memories of being Batman, there is no Batcave to speak of, with Bruce now living the idyllic life he never had. Or so it seems, as even this new life soon unravels to reveal the truth. Perchance to Dream delivers an emotional roller-coaster for Bruce, giving him a taste of the world where he no longer needs to be The Batman. The battle between Bruce and the Batman in this new life is one of the most humanising moments in the entire series, once again proving this series is playing for keeps.

P.O.V

montoya

Few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series delivered a different point of view from Batman or his numerous iconic villains. But P.O.V dials that concept up a notch by delivering four. After Detective Bullock rushes in alone on a planned heist without waiting for backup, who are still en route, the heist goes south. Bullock cements his place here as an unfavourable protagonist, willing to throw his fellow officers (and Batman) to the wolves (not literally) in order to protect himself and his self-proclaimed image. In the face of disciplinary action, all parties tell their side of the story to divulge what really happened. The concept of P.O.V is hardly ground-breaking. And yet its quirkiness and purpose of humanising the GCPD, particularly Montoya as potential detective material, shines throughout.

Robin’s Reckoning Part 1

x1080-aDT

Boasting some of the best animation in the entire series, this first half of Robin’s origin recap centres on some of the most tragic material also. Robin’s Reckoning displays intensity and sorrow like never before as flashbacks depict Dick Grayson’s defining tragedy. In a show that has very few clear-cut deaths to speak of, here we see the fate of Dick’s parents with their deaths taking place just off-screen. Couple that with Robin’s heart-rending dialogue as he recounts feeling the guilt of his parents’ death every single day, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a roller-coaster ride. And this is just part 1. All of the feels.

The Man Who Killed Batman

killed_batman_joker

What begins as a cautionary tale to the super-villains of Gotham descends into some of the show’s funniest moments. When small-time gang help Sidney Debris supposedly (and accidentally) causes Batman’s demise, Sidney, now dubbed the “Squid” given his developed reputation, seeks out Rupert Thorne and The Joker to tell all. Naturally, neither believe him, with The Joker becoming somewhat despondent at the news. The Man Who Killed Batman plays out in a similar manner to P.O.V, with Sidney’s flashback taking up the first half. But it’s Mark Hamill’s Joker, as is often the case, who steals the show with some of his best scenes. Joker’s eulogy for Batman is terrific viewing, and further cements Hamill’s Joker is the best Joker. Having seemingly disposed of Sidney, with Harley performing Amazing Grace on a Kazoo, Joker then declares “Well that was fun. Who’s for Chinese?” Genius. Pure Genius.

Two Face Part 1

maxresdefault

Like the first part of Robin’s Reckoning, the Two-Face origin story is one that began in the very first episode, On Leather Wings. There, a scene takes place with District Attorney Harvey Dent, repeatedly flipping his trademark coin during a discussion at City Hall. But here is where one face becomes two, as Harvey struggles to contain his anger in the eyes of the press as he seeks re-election. Following Rupert Thorne’s threat to reveal to the press that Harvey has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, Harvey cannot repress his anger any longer, and “Big Bad Harv” takes hold for good. Despite Batman’s intervention (and Harvey being one of Bruce’s closest friends), an electrical fire scars Harvey’s entire left side, thus creating Two-Face. There are several 2-part stories in Batman: The Animated Series, and Two-Face is up there with the best. Being only the 10th episode, this half was another episode that cemented the show’s quality. Immaculately acted, brilliantly animated, with tension you simply rarely see in cartoons anymore. I must add that there is nothing wrong with Two-Face part 2, but given only a few BAS villains have their origins told in its present time, this is a special one. And as Two-Face origins go, it beats both Nolan’s and Schumacher’s efforts.

And there you have it. Picking just 9 standout episodes from 109 (almost 10%) wasn’t easy. But I certainly had fun watching them again to come up with this list. As an 11 year this show was all about Batman and how cool and dark he was. The cool villains and the gadgets. If Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns were my starter, this was the main course. Now, as a 37 year old adult, I see Batman: The Animated Series for what it was truly intended to be: It’s not all about Batman. It’s Batman’s city, Gotham City, which is on show. The film-noir style and vintage timelessness is simply a joy to watch with each and every episode. Now I just need to get my hands on that Blu-Ray set. Anyone got £60 they could lend me?

Batman: The Animated Series on Blu-Ray is available now from Amazon and many other retailers.