What is there to be said about the brilliant animated show that acted as a jumping on point for a generation?. Dark, mature writing that didn’t pander to kids and reveled in delivering comic book fan service for long time readers. Coming off the success of the Tim Burton movies, the dark tone transferred well into the show and the same epic and sweeping style of musical score fits Bruce Timm’s art style beautifully. Main writer Paul Dini was a massive fan of the character so really knew what he was doing and many of the guest writers were brought in from comics so there was always a real sense that it was a show by fans for fans. I remember the adverts for the show started airing and I begged my parents to tape the first episode as I was at football training so I came back to Tiny Toons followed by Batman…..what a wonderful Saturday lineup.
41. The Forgotten-1992
A very divisive episode amongst fans of the series as the heavy handed message puts some off. I on the other hand think that for a kid’s show….which essentially this is meant to be, you sometimes need to drive the point home. Here writers Richard Mueller and Sean Catherine Derek tackle the issue of homelessness with a ruthless and gross pit boss who is kidnapping them and forcing them into labour with the police doing nothing about their disappearance. Batman ends up undercover to figure out what’s going on but ends up attacked and suffers amnesia. Will he be able to overcome it?….yes of course he can, and within a few minutes too. A lot of fans, mainly right wing types complained that it was a shot at American police which as we all know is a fine upstanding institution….ahem. For the interest of transparency I’m not talking about individual police officers in America….I’m talking about the institution…..and some individuals.
40.Fire From Olympus-1993
The only episode to feature Maxie Zeus which is probably a good thing as he works in limited doses. Maxie is a shipping magnate who goes insane and believes he is the reincarnation of the ancient Greek god Zeus and lives in a large penthouse high in the Gotham sky. He buys an experimental electrical canon and plans to smite the mortals of the city with lightning bolts. It’s up to Batman to talk him down.
39. Heart Of Steel-1992
This two parter is something of an homage to Blade Runner which is one of my favourite movies so it works for me. A lot of folk aren’t a big fan of this one as they feel the whole sci fi, robotic aspect to it took away from the street level crime noir that the show usually went for. I on the other hand appreciate the references like the robot duplicants a nod to Blade Runner’s replicants and most cool is the fact they got William Sanderson to play the role of the creator of the supercomputer HARDAC. Sanderson played a character that helped make the replicants in Blade Runner. The episode also introduced Barbara Gordon to the show which is always a good thing.
38. Batgirl Returns-1994
Speaking of Babs Gordon…..I love me some Batgirl and this episode released near the end of the original run sets the focus squarely on the red headed hero. At this point in the series Barbara had given up her vigilante ways but the theft of a rare cat statue leads her to don the cape again. She seeks out Catwoman as all signs point to her but they end up in an unlikely alliance. Batman isn’t in town for this episode (Maybe visiting the paren…..nevermind) so Robin conducts his own investigation.
Such was the impact of Bane in the comics when not long after his debut the famous “Knightfall” story saw him defeat Batman and break his back that writer Mitch Brian got him into this episode. It’s the only one he was in and in the 22 minutes of allotted time he is ten times as awesome as Tom Hardy’s abortion of a performance with voice actor Henry Silva giving him that South American charm and deep gravitas. Intelligent, insanely powerful and charming, he’s a real problem for Batman even if he didn’t get nearly the time to develop that his comic book version did.
36.If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?-1992
For such a well known villain in the Batman rogues gallery The Riddler was not a popular character with comic book writers in the early 90s it seems. He had only been used very sporadically for years at the point the series started and his inclusion in some episodes may have been the catalyst for including him in the movie Batman Forever. Anyway this episode goes back to Edward Nygma’s origin and pays homage to his first comic book appearance and how his firing led to him becoming the villain we know today. He may be so sparsely used due to writers having to come up with loads of riddles in order to get any stories told!.
35. The Strange Secret Of Bruce Wayne-1992
Oh boy I love that intro picture. One of Batman’s earliest nemesis’ from back in the early days of the comic makes his one and only appearance. That man is Professor Hugo Strange who is using a machine that can project people’s thoughts onto a screen when under hypnosis. He has been using this on Bruce Wayne and has found out that he is Batman and plans to sell the information to the highest bidder. This brings out several of the villains to try and get the info while Batman desperately tries to stop him.
34 (Tied).Mad As A Hatter-1992
Jervis Tetch, otherwise known as The Mad Hatter is another character that wasn’t used much in the comics at the time so his inclusion in the animated series kind of kick started his popularity. He’s quite one note which is maybe why writers shy away from him and the pedophilia aspect of his character is only really applicable to the more adult oriented stories. Obviously that side was taken away from this version of the character but his search for his ideal Alice stays intact and his hypnotic 10/6 hats are there. A creepy story for a creepy character.
34 (Tied). Beware The Gray Ghost-1992
This episode is a tribute to geeky fandom and in particular the staff members on the show’s love of the Adam West tv show. It famously features West as the voice of the Gray Ghost who had a tv show when Bruce Wayne was a kid that Bruce was obsessed with. The actor ho played him is now destitute and broke when Batman finds him so he brings him in on the latest investigation and gets him to believe in himself and his old character again.
A group of Batman’s greatest villains kidnap him, take him to Arkham Asylum and force district attorney Janet Van Dorn to defend him despite her stance that he is a detriment to Gotham. Both Batman and Van Dorn’s life depends on it so they must find a way to outsmart their prosecutors. A Paul Dini and Bruce Timm written fan favourite that crams a lot of characters into it’s short run time. Van Dorn delving into the villain’s psyches is a trip.
32. Shadow Of The Bat-1993
Heart Of Steel introduced us to Barbara Gordon but here is where we see her become Batgirl. The show was fantastic for letting us get to know characters before they became their alter egos. Batgirl managed to stand out from the likes of Robin by constantly going with her gut and often standing up to and going against Batman’s wishes and working her own investigations. In the comics, Barbara had been paralyzed by The Joker and was working in a wheelchair as Oracle at the time so this was the place to see Batgirl in action.
Although Harley Quinn is by far the most successful and critically acclaimed fan favourite character that came out of the animated series it also brought us Renee Montoya who, once brought into the comics has been involved in much more brilliant stories than Dr Quinzel ever did. This episode focuses on the plucky and determined detective in the Gotham City Police Department along with Harvey Bullock and officer Wilkes. It was a brave move to do a character piece on the police officers in Gotham whilst having very little Batman involvement in what again is essentially a kids show. They knew exactly what they were doing though in appealing to older comic book fans and I’m appreciative that they did so.
This was one of the last episodes of the original run before it had a break and became The New Batman Adventures. As the title suggests it involves Catwoman who is trying to go get back to thrill ride days of being a cat robber. She had dropped the moniker and was living life straight as Selina Kyle but she decides to get back into it and teams up with Scarface and The Ventriloquist…..bad idea. She ends up framed by the double crossing dummy and things go from bad to worse. Catwoman was well developed within the show (and voiced by Adrienne Barbeau) and I’m a huge fan of The Ventriloquist so this one is right up my street.
Two Face is such an important character in the Batman universe and one that I’m very surprised hasn’t been that stand alone villain in a movie. He has the pathos, the history wit h Bruce Wayne and the great coin flipping split personality gimmick. The series treated him so well (more on that later and here we see him undergoing surgery to “fix” his facial scarring and hopefully return him to being Harvey Dent.Before the surgery is performed he is abducted and the main suspects are Rupert Thorne and Penguin……but the dynamic duo are missing something.
For people who are sick of the overexposure of Harley Quinn nowadays in the comics and all media it’s easy to forget how awesome she was when she was in the series. Adorable, funny, cute and psychotic with some of the most appropriate and loveable voice work from Arleen Sorkin, she really was a standout which is a great feat in a show with so many established characters. This episode sees her helping Batman and Robin track down The Joker who has got a hold of an atomic bomb. Harley is torn between her puddin’ and the duo who got her out of Arkham Asylum. The wacky journey on their way to find The Joker leads to many laugh out loud moments. with Batman playing a great comeduic straight man to Harley’s insanity.
27.Sins Of The Father-1997
The New Adventures Of Batman doesn’t get nearly enough love in my opinion but one thing I hate about it is that it got rid of the beautiful title cards and that’s unforgivable I tells ye. In this series Dick Grayson has moved on to become Nightwing and this is the story of how Tim Drake became Robin. The character of Tim is kind of an amalgamation of the second and third Robins (Jason Todd and Tim Drake). Tim’s father it seems was part of Two Face’s gang and has stolen something which leads to all kinds of confrontations and meetings that end up with Tim becoming Batman’s new ward as he was in the comics at this time.
When The Riddler is released from Arkham for good behaviour his charisma and charm makes him a celebrity with his own line of toys and gadgets. He’s gone straight but there’s a stinging resentment in the back of his head that he never bested Batman in a battle of wits so he sets up a death maze and lures him in. Poor Eddie just couldn’t hang on to his sanity and it taps into that theory that Batman makes these villains and hurts Gotham more than helps it. Like with a lot of the designs in the series, I love Bruce Timm’s take on The Riddler, so smug and confident.
Killer Croc is one of those characters that when used right is absolutely brilliant but is all too often used as a big dumb monster. Here, it’s by no means my ideal characterisation of him but the episode itself is one I’m very fond of. In fact it’s one of those ones I watched a lot as a kid for some reason, always gravitated towards it. It sees Croc out for revenge against Harvey Bullock for arresting him years earlier.The story is framed to make Bullock look like he’s on the take (what?… never) and that Croc may have been innocent so there’s an element of mystery to the episode.
24.The Man Who Killed Batman-1993
Ahh Sid The Squid, the most unlikely of underground mob boss villains. He’s a low level lackey who is supposedly the cause of Batman’s death after a rooftop battle. One excellent scene in particular sees a furious Joker confront Sid because as we know, nobody gets to kill Batman but him. It’s also got a great score by Shirley Walker and the classic noir sensibilities shine strong with great angles and cinematography. It’s such a fun episode that keeps you on your toes at all times.
23.Nothing To Fear-1992
The Scarecrow is one of my favourite characters in the entire Batman universe. That is probably due to my love of all things horror and although he has to be used sparingly due to his one note fear gas gimmick,if he’s used correctly it’s awesome. This was early on in the series when the villains were all being introduced and we see a re-telling of his comic book origins and his obsession with fear. His look would change a lot throughout the series and all of his looks were great and they would get a better grip of the dark horror tone as he appeared in more episodes.
22. House And Garden-1994
Poison Ivy is often used as a writing tool to highlight environmental and patriarchal issues in society and it’s no difference in the animated series and in particular this disturbing and powerful episode. She is let out of Arkham if she agrees to settle down with a husband and go for the whole white picket fence deal. She goes along with it but by the end of the episode her true intentions are revealed and it goes full on David Cronenberg….it’s mental but totally engrossing.
21. Appointment In Crime Alley-1992
An emotional episode based on the brilliant Detective Comics #457 by Denny O’ Neil and Dick Giordano that appeared in my top Batman comics list. It’s also written by comics legend Gerry Conway and introduces Leslie Thompkins into the series as an old friend of the Waynes. Crime alley is where Bruce’s parents were gunned down and the episode sees him reflect on that which is obviously contemplative and upsetting stuff.
Ok that’s part one down, join me back here shortly for the finale and let me know what you think and what episodes you loved @swing_kinker