So I thought a good irregular feature here on the blog would be talking about something I remember from my childhood in the 90’s and looking into how it holds up now, as a guy in my 30’s. I’ll admit to owning more than my fair share of 90’s media on DVD and reading and watching things that are “technically” too young for me.
A word about the term X-Millennial. I’ve spoken before about not really feeling part of either Gen X or the Millennials. Technically speaking I’m probably a Millennial, though I’m not what most people think of when the use the term. And I’m not alone. There’s a group of us who have some of the values of the X’ers, and the idealism of the Mille’s. I’ve heard this called the “Oregon Trail” generation, but I’m trying on a new term today.
First up in the wayback machine … Batman – The Animated Series
According to Wikipedia this show ran from 1994-1995 (producing about 90 episodes), but I know it was in re-runs for years after that.
This show defined my early perception of the character and tone of Batman and his rogues gallery. It’s been pointed out to me that Joker is a little more impotent than his comic book form, the WB show didn’t allow for the depiction of murder which is kinda Joker’s thing. But any loss in tone is more than made up for in Mark Hamill’s gleeful performance. It’s not a coincidence that most of this voice cast showed up in the popular Batman games of the last few years starting with Arkham Asylum.
Watching the episodes now I can feel what might be perceived today as slow pacing in a couple of episodes, but this seems reflective of the Batman titles of the era. Indeed this was my first introduction to some classic tales by Frank Miller, Marv Wolfman and Max Allen Collins without even knowing it. I tend to favor a more light-hearted dark knight, without descending into full Adam West absurdity. We definitely see Batman’s angst in movies like Mask of the Phantasm and encounters with The Scarecrow. Guilt over believing he has broken his code of not killing it was destroys a Batman robot duplicate (from some of my favorite episodes involving the robo-cloning computer HARDAC).
My favorite episodes still are Blind as a Bat in which a temporarily blinded Batman must face off against the Penguin, the aforementioned HARDAC episodes particularly His Silicon Soul which features robot-Batman, the whole Mr. Freeze saga (starting with Heart of Ice), Harley and Ivy featuring the Joker’s girlfriend (sort of) teaming up with Poison Ivy on their own crime spree free of men.
Watching these again I don’t think I realized how many recurring characters and elements ran in the background, particularly Rupert Thorne and the gangster elements. The origins of most rogues are told, notably Harvey Dent as DA and eventual turn to Two-Face. The show isn’t just a series of one-off adventures, but does build on one comes before.
Overall, these are good as remember them, maybe not as good as some of the best of the comics, but they hold their own nonetheless. And despite some deliberate pacing, there are other storylines that are told more tightly and dramatically than serial comics can manage.
Trivia Question: There were a number of notable actors who gave their voice talents to this show including at least 7 from the Star Trek films and movies. Can you name them all? Hint: As far as I know TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY are represented as well as at least two actors from the movies.