Few fictional characters have made such a long-evolving impact as DC Comics’ caped crusader Bruce Wayne Aka Batman, who resides in Gotham City. This is a character that has been taken in several forms and spawned into several franchises like video games, comics, and TV series besides the movies. This is a character everyone is familiar with and during this articles-series Batman: The Caped Crusader we’ll take a deep dive into the mythology of the famous comic-book character.
The animated world of Gotham and our favourite crusader goes without saying one of the most crucial parts of the mythology behind the character. It’s cheaper and easier with the cartoon genre and makes action scenes that would either cost too much or would be not possible as a live-action film.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the first films that was animated with Batman in the latest canon. It’s from 1993 with Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland, and Frank Paur all sharing the directing duties. Kevin Conroy, who has been honoured to voice Bruce in other productions as well, is a renowned name when it comes to animated features such as TV series and films of high production value. It was the first film set in DC’s own Animated Universe and the productions took eight months to finish. This first film in animated form was a satisfying start for DC and Warner Bros. Animation Department.
Shortly after the release, Batman The Animated Series came and everyone gasped at its sincere brilliance in getting the groove back for the hero. It’s still after thirty years considers the best-animated series out there. This was a series that contained 85 episodes and again featured Kevin Conroy as Batman and had Mark Hamill voicing Joker in a recurring role, which later on became a nice gig for him. It was in the nineties a major milestone for the animation industry and many shares fond memories of it. It’s dubbed to be the best-animated series ever made after The Simpsons. Conroy talked with Mark when watching the animation for the first time.
“I was really blown away. I turned to Mark and I was like ‘Did you have any idea we were working on something like this?!'”
But the series didn’t start in 1992. Instead, we must get to the 1960s to look at the first series. To the Adam West moment in the spotlight as Bruce Wayne. The Adventures of Batman was segmented into a collective Batman/Super Hour. It ran for 17 episodes and followed up on Adam West’s popular live-action show. It’s also called Batman with Robin The Boy Wonder. Super Friends which ran for 93 episodes between 1973 and 1986 had Batman joining something of a Justice League – team. Batman was companioned by Robin. It was cancelled twice before it was axed for good. It was even in this series that Batman and Robin joined Scooby-Doo in two episodes. Each episode was 44 minutes long and featured Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, and Robin. Super Friends was followed by The ill-fated The New Adventures of Batman. Adam West and Burt Ward reprised their roles from the 1960s. It was filled with bad ideas thus there’s only one season with 16 episodes of the series.
Back in the 1990s, after the success of Batman: TAS, produced by Bruce Timm. DC and Warner Studios produced The New Batman Adventures on air between 1997 and 1999. It had a new style for its 24 episodes. Harley Quinn was introduced properly. This was shortly after the disaster of Batman & Robin was released. Batman was the profit-maker the studios were good for, so another series was greenlit. Batman & Mr Freeze: SubZero from 1998 was another project Kevin Conroy was involved in. Boyd Kirkland returned from the last film. Bruce Timm, has spoken out in 2017 that it was weird Mr Freeze was returned as he has pointed out that she died in the series but in the Batman: The Animated Series, she isn’t confirmed deceased. Shortly thereafter, Batman Beyond was another project. It’s set within a cyberpunk futuristic Gotham City. Batman retires due to a heart condition and a teen named Terry McGinnis. Bruce thereafter gives Terry the suit and role of the caped crusader. It ran between 1999 to 2001 with 52 episodes.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker premiered in 2000 in an edited version, then in 2002 in an uncut version. A film directed by Curt Geda. It was a continuation of Batman: Beyond, Batman: The Animated Series, and the new Batman Adventures. It was also the return of Mark Hamill as his interpretation of Joker, that has later on become a very popular character of his. The studio released first an edited version of Joker’s death due to Columbine High School Massacre in April 1999. Joker lived in that version. But because of the online petition fans more or less forced the team to release the real uncut version. It’s also the first film of Batman that uses digital ink and paint. Another batch of direct-to-DVD and TV-Series spawns has come after this film, it’s too many to mention exactly here. We move on to Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. This film from 2003 is set before Batman: Return of the Joker. Kevin Conroy returns as Batman and it’s still set in Timm’s universe or continuation. The Batman, a series between 2004-2008 and with 85 episodes was one of the more divisive aspects of the Caped Crusader. Batman was in this series voiced by Rino Romano. It had its own style. It also introduced Batgirl, Robin, and Martian Manhunter. Batman: The Brave and Bold is like a modernized version of the Adam West series. With 65 episodes between 2008 and 2011, it follows batman teaming up with someone famous from the Silver Age. It was a fun and appreciated series by kids on Cartoon Network.
Besides the original canon, we’ve Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is based on Frank Miller’s comic book series. The series stands out from the others of the story. Batman: Year One from 2011 is basically an original story about Bruce Wayne in his first years as the title tells. The other one from 2013 is a retired hero that returns to fight crime. Peter Sellers voices the broken protector in both parts. It’s a film split in two, directed by Jay Oliva. At one moment, the producers wanted a live-action film of the story starring Clint Eastwood as the titular character.
Another film that is worth mentioning is The Killing Joke, an adaption of the graphic novel of the same name. Kevin Conroy voices Batman. There’s a big chunk of the prologue with Barbara/Batgirl that gained controversy so the filmmaker added it in any way, adding even more problems. Bruce Timm voiced fans’ concerns;
We were aware that it was a little risky. There’s definitely some stuff in that first part of the movie that’s going to be controversial. Here’s where we came down on that specific issue: It was really important to us to show that both of the characters make some pretty big mistakes. I mean, his “parental skills” aren’t that great. Maybe never having had any kids of his own, he doesn’t realize that if you tell a kid to not do something, they’re going to want to do it even more. And then she makes some mistakes and then he kind of overreacts to her mistakes and then she overreacts to his overreaction. So it’s very human; it’s a very understandable story. It’s tricky because it’s messy because relationships are sometimes messy. But to me and to Alan (Burnett) and Brian, it was all very fascinating to us to explore that angle.
Then we have Young Justice from 2010 with at least 98 episodes and ongoing and Beware the Batman. Young Justice details the life of young heroes and is still running on HBO Max. Well, at least the fourth season. Beware Batman added a darker, grim turn on the caped crusader. Anthony Ruivivar played Bruce Wayne. What’s different with this one, is that it never followed other storylines. Batman And Harley Quinn from 2017 were released with Sam Liu as director. Kevin Conroy returned as Batman again. It’s the 29th film based on DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Like so many other films it cuts below the 90 minutes line. Bruce Timm also wrote the story for this one as well. In this film, Batman meets Harley Quinn. Justice League Action between 2016 to 2018 was the return of Kevin Conroy. It only lasted for 52 episodes and featured short episodes. It aimed also at the younger audience. The latest series isn’t a Batman-orienting series. Instead, we’ve Harley Quinn starring in her own series. It’s a series from 2019 and still going strong with at least 30 episodes. The focus here is not on Batman and thus has a minor role to play.
An anticipated project that is in the pipeline is Batman: Caped Crusader which doesn’t have premiered yet nor how many episodes announced. J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves are teaming up with Bruce Timm, that made Batman popular with his Batman: The Animated Series. It’s said to be a reimagined series of Batman mythology. It’s set to premiere in 2023.
What about the films? Well, We have got a Lego Batman, and we’ve Batman in Space Jam: A New Legacy. Will Arnett reprise Bruce twice as the caped crusader in the lego-version? The latest in 2022, is Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons with Keanu Reeves voicing Batman. Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons had the return of Troy Baker. Safe to say is that Batman is a recurring regular character, showing up in several projects every year and this time it’s no different.