Ok here we go with part two of our countdown to the best episode of one of the best animated television shows of all time.
20.Harley And Ivy-1993
When Paul Dini created Harley Quinn he intended her to be a sympathetic villain but her popularity ballooned so much that he had her flip flop between villain and hero. Her mental state was such that it was believable for the character to be influenced by whoever is leading her and teaming with her. Another character that fans always wanted to turn good was Poison Ivy and the reason for that is her mission is admirable…she’s disgusted by human’s treatment of nature and it’s a fair point so although she’s clearly a villain, she can do good and the fans buy it. So anyway here we have two hugely popular characters drawn with that 40s pinup beauty by Bruce Timm who go on a road trip clearly influenced by Thelma and Louise. (Dini denies it though) After being dumped on the street bu The Joker Harley finds kinship with a sympathetic Ivy and they hit the town in this positive feminist adventure. Uh oh I said feminist that must make me an sjw cuck or something…..feminism isn’t a bad word you morons that think it’s somehow destroying your life because you can’t get laid.
19 (Tied). Old Wounds-1998
This one caused a lot of controversy and is still incredibly divisive within the fanbase as it deals with the split up of the the relationship between Dick Grayson and Batman. After watching Batman beat a thug in front of his kids, Robin (Grayson) starts to think of leaving to do things his own way. There are more issues including one with his Barbara who he is dating at the time that strains the relationship. As in the comic he leaves to become Nightwing and it would be some time before the relationship was mended so the darkness of the episode hurts some fans but hey, life happens and relationships break down. This episode captures that in a really horrible but realistic way.
19 (Tied). I Am The Night-1992
An introspective and contemplative episode written by Michael Reaves. It’s a depressing and incredibly dark episode for a kid’s show that delves into the mind of Batman to find out what makes him do what he does. It deals with personal tragedy, trust, friendship and the will to always get back up when life beats you down over and over again. Insanely brave and mature storytelling for a Saturday morning cartoon. Reaves’ episodes often liked to look within characters and get heavy. Jim Gordon (who takes a freakin’ bullet) also features heavily which always works for me as I’m a huge fan of the character and he was voiced by the excellent Bob Hastings who passed away a couple of years back.
18.Feat Of Clay-1992
Another Michael Reaves episode co-written by comics legend Marv Wolfman that looks at the very soul of a character. This is a character study of long time villain Clayface, in particular Matt Hagen as there was several versions of Clayface over the years. Ron Pearlman voices him too which adds a hell of a lot of gravitas with that gravelly, deep voice of his. Hagen was a populer actor who was disfigured and became addicted to a substance that could reconfigure his face and let him turn his appearance to anything he wants. Obviously the substance turns him into the big blobby mess we know as Clayface and sends him completely insane. This episode sees him using his shape shifting abilities to frame Bruce Wayne for the attempted murder of Lucius Fox. A classic early two parter.
Another episode from the underrated New Batman Adventures and one that stars a favourite villain of mine, The Ventriloquist with Scarface. Scarface/The Ventiloquist was created by Scottish writer Alan Grant (along with partner and Judge Dredd legend John Wagner who admitted he didn’t do much for Batman) during his epic run with artist Norm Breyfogle which heavily featured on my list of best Batman stories. The animated series did a great job taking him from the page to the screen with the meek and fragile Ventriloquist completely bossed and bullied by his gangster dummy. In this episode he is released from Arkham and is desperate to go straight (a theme used a lot in the series) and Bruce Wayne offers him a job to keep him occupied. He tries so hard but his old friend just won’t leave him be. It’s actually really sad as we see his mind completely broken as he tries to go clean.
16. A Bullet For Bullock-1995
An almost flawless adaptation of the great detective comics story by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan that came out not too long beforehand. Somebody wants the grumpy detective Harvey Bullock dead and he turns to the last person he ever wants to get help from in Batman. It has a very noir score with the old school jazz and Robert Costanzo is brilliant in the role of Bullock with his thick Brooklyn accent.
15. Fear Of Winning-1992
I loved the early seasons’ treatment of Robin (Dick Grayson0 as a teen who had been doing it for a few years and was at college. Here we see his school mates and popular athletes suddenly shaking with fear whenever they come close to winning. It turns out The Scarecrow’s new formulas is triggered by adrenaline and he’s betting against them in a scheme to become rich. One of the episodes I watched over and over as a kid and it was the first redesign of The Scarecrow.
14. Mad Love-1999
Based on the hugely popular comic by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, this episode looks at the back story of Harley Quinn and how her abusive relationship with The Joker. Harley worked at Arkham Asylum as a psychiatrist who saw Joker as a patient. He slowly seduced and brainwashed her with his psychotic charm and drove Harley to insanity herself. While there is plenty humour and innuendo (most famously the “rev up your Harley” line) it’s an upsetting look at an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationship on a kids show.
13. Never Fear-1997
Most of the redesigns for the New Batman Adventures were not particularly well received but my word did they nail it with The Scarecrow. He’s far more menacing and just looks fantastic but they also brought in horror legend Jeffrey Combs (Re-animator) to voice him adding to the creep factor. In this episode he has created an altered version of his fear toxin that actually removes all fear from it’s victims. It causes chaos as the inhabitants of Gotham are jumping from building to building and demanding things from their bosses but things get really sinister when Bruce Wayne is infected. A Batman with no fear is truly a terrifying thing as he has no boundaries, no control and no cares.
12. Legends Of The Dark Knight-1998
Robert Goodman written love letter to all eras of Batman as three kids share their stories of what they believe Batman to be like. One of the kids is Carrie Kelly who was Robin in Frank Miller’s seminal comic The Dark Knight Returns and when she’s telling her story we get that Miller art style. We also get the 40s/50s style homage with big smiles and happy adventures. It was one of the latest episodes of the series which is fitting as it really is a massive love letter full of fan service and knowing winks to the audience.
This episode is largely seen as an adaptation of Detective Comics #410 by Denny O’ Neil and Neal Adams which it is (only that story didn’t have Killer Croc) but it also takes heavily from the Alan Grant story Requiem For A Killer. Anyway here we have Killer Croc, a former wrestler with a horrendous skin condition who has been completely ostracized by society, leading him to a life of crime. He escapes from his convoy to prison and finds sanctuary with a retired circus freak show who band together. I love these kinds of stories where outsiders find each other.
10 (Tied).The Laughing Fish-1993
A fan favourite episode that combines elements of the excellent Joker’s Five Way Revenge and The Laughing Fish comics from the legendary 70s runs by Denny O’ Neil and Neal Adams and Steve Englehart and Marshal Rogers respectively. The Joker is poisoning fish with his rictus grin formula, copyrighting them and making money from the fishing industry. It’s mental but with Mark Hamill’s intense and intimidating vocal performance it turns a goofy premise into a horrifying and violent nightmare.This would be on many people’s number one spot.
10 (Tied). Joker’s Favour-1992
This episode contains the first appearance of Harley Quinn for fans of those kinds of facts. Anyway this was The Joker at his most intimidating. as a little pudgy middle aged man insults him in an ill advised bout of road rage without seeing who he was. He then begs for mercy and says he’ll do anything. In typical Joker fashion he waits two years to cash in a favour and plays with the poor man’s sanity as he desperately tries to get help from Batman.
9. Dreams In Darkness-1992
In terms of animation and artistry this is up there with the best episodes with some hallucination sequences that blow the mind. The episode starts with Batman in a straight jacket in Arkham Asylum and we get a hard boiled noir voiceover from Kevin Conroy that explains how he came to be in this situation. Scarecrow fear toxin is at play and the whole show plays out like a horrific Willy Wonka ride of violent acid trips. The gun barrel scene in particular is stunning.
8. Almost Got ‘Im-1992
What a fun episode written by Paul Dini. It sees the main villains from the series sitting around a table playing cards and lamenting the times they came so close to killing Batman but couldn’t quite get the job done. Each character gets their own flashback which makes for a fast paced and varied episode with all these escapes and traps and fights coming thick and fast. Dini was always fantastic at these fun character moments and seeing them sitting around whining about how good Batman is at stopping them is a blast.
7. Read My Lips-1992
Joe Lansdale had the job of bringing my boy The Ventriloquist/Scarface to the screen for his debut and what a great job he did. A new series of crimes is occurring in Gotham and nobody can figure out who the gang is. Obviously you know who it is now but the reveal as great as you hear the conversation between Ventriloquist and Scarface from outside an office and then the weirdness hits you as you find out it’s a guy and his dummy. The violence and 50s gangster movie vibes are great with tommy guns and Scarface’s old school dialogue bring a great retro fell to the episode with great music again from Shirley Walker.
Damn this is such an important and brilliantly written episode for Robin fans. On a routine street sweep, the dynamic duo are smashing up thugs and when one of them gives up a lackey name “Billy Marin” which freezes Batman’s blood. Robin is confused and wants to know who he is but Batman grows distant and leaves his partner out of this mission. It turns out Marin is an assumed name of Tony Zucco who murdered Robin’s parents. Robin sets out to kill him before Batman can take him in and we see lots of flashbacks of how Dick Grayson came to be Robin. This two parter won an emmy and thoroughly deserved it.
5. Perchance To Dream-1992
Written by legendary author Joe Lansdale (Bubba Ho-tep) this introspective tale sees Batman wake up to find his parents alive and a marriage to Selina Kyle on the cards. Was all this crime fighting shenanigans all a dream?. Kevin Conroy is bang on form here as he voices Batman, Bruce and Thomas Wayne in a powerhouse performance. Of course everything turns out to be a cruel ruse by Mad Hatter in this deep episode with brilliant direction from Boyd Kirkland.
4.Heart Of Ice-1992
One of the most famous and beloved episodes of the series was the third one to air so early on in the series audiences got a look at one of the best character pieces of the entire series and it was on Mr Freeze of all people. The comics never came close to making the goofy villain as legitimate as this episode did and what an incredible compliment that is as the comics had decades to do it. The tragic story of him freezing his terminally ill wife while he desperately tries to find a cure is painful to watch and the emotionless and distant voice acting from Michael Ansara helps drive his frozen soul home.
3.Over The Edge-1998
Shoutout to Cartoon Sara for the fan made title card as this episode was from The New Batman Adventures where there wasn’t any. What a great job of capturing the feel of the originals. I adore this episode as it starts out in absolute chaos. The Scarecrow has killed Batgirl by knocking her off a building. Jim Gordon discovers it’s his daughter and launches a furious police assault on Batman and his team. Everything Batman feared has come true as his best friend has turned on him and everything is going wrong. We later find out that it was….wait for it…..Scarecrow’s fear gas and none of it happened. Seems like a cop out but the relief is so strong that it works beautifully. My heart was racing the first time I watched it.
I can see the raised eyebrows in the bleachers and I understand. I don’t know a single other person who holds this episode in high regard but I do and hey, it’s my list. I remember obsessing over this one as a kid and it genuinely intimidated and kinda scared me. It’s about an abusive guard at Arkham Asylum who the villains are all terrified of which I understand is pretty ridiculous but it was so tense for me as a young un. The scene where they put him on trial and he intimidates them all with a single look so they don’t rat him out stayed with me for ages. Some things just click with you and Lock Up was one them. If I ever get to write Batman (one day my friends) you better believe Lock up will be involved. The only time I’ve ever seen him in the comics was a short scene in No Man’s Land where he had set up a little prison for escaped prisoners.
1 Two Face-1992
When I was around 11/12 years old I did a talk at school about this two part classic and delved into how this wasn’t your run of the mill cartoon with it’s deep psychoanalysis of characters and their motivations. I like to think I turned a few people on to the series that day who may have been laughing when I first started talking about a cartoon. Twenty years later and I’m still talking about it in detail. This one just hit me hard, the pathos has always stood strong with Harvey Dent/Two Face as he was a good guy fighting for justice when a horrible facial injury sent him insane and gave him a split personality. The slow build up to the accident that you know is coming is so tense and unbearably sad when it happens. Randy Rogel’s writing and pacing is fantastic and watching all Dent’s relationships fall apart is heart breaking. A true classic that shows what these kinds of shows are capable of when the storytelling is strong.
There we go then, I’m sure this one will cause some debate as most people reading this will no doubt have some connection with the show. Let me know your thoughts folks and catch me @swing_kinker