Problems with my computer, and consequently my internet has put a bit of a stopper on me continuing my journeys with The A-Team, so in the interim, I thought I would move on to the next series I wanted to revisit, the fantastic Bruce Timm series based on the Batman DC Comics, Batman: The Animated Series. Taking its influences from gothic Art Deco, to anime, to Flesicher’s Superman shorts, and including Danny Elfman’s gorgeous Batman theme from the 1989 film, augmented and expanded upon by Shirley Walker. It also features a fantastic voice, and guest voice, cast, led by Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego, Batman.
The series set a very high bar for what animated storytelling in the DC universe could be. Let’s dive in…
The Cat and the Claw – Part 1, was the series opener, airing on 5 September, 1993, the series introduced us to Conroy’s Batman, as well as Selina Kyle, voiced by Adrienne Barbeau, and her alter-ego, Catwoman.
We get some nice banter from the two characters as they test one another’s limits as Bats hunts down the new burglar in town. They also end up meeting socially at an animal rights charity, and the sparks fly there as well, though Selina reveals that she prefers Batman to Bruce.
Batman and Commissioner Gordon (James Hastings) have a working relationship from the beginning, which is cool to see, but makes you wonder how it developed.
There is a company, Multigon, who wants to build on some land that Selina is trying to protect, and it seems that this company is really a front for the international terrorist, the Red Claw (Kate Mulgrew). Once Selina has figured out what is really going on, that puts her right in the cross hairs, of the villains, which is where the episode ends, leaving us to worry about Selina’s fate until part 2 airs!
On Leather Wings aired 6 September, 1992, and introduced another classic from Batman’s rogues gallery, Man-Bat. It seems there is a bat-like creature terrorizing Gotham, and the police, including Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo) are pointing the finger at the vigilante Batman.
As Bruce investigates, he learns that there is something very strange going on, and that it does actually seem to be some type of creature. In fact, Kirk Langstrom (Marc Singer) is the Man-Bat, having been injected with a serum that brings on a rather scary (especially for a cartoon) transformation.
Batman and Man-Bat face off in the air, and on the ground, and in fact, one encounter actually leaves Bruce a little bloodied! But he has to catch Man-Bat, and put a stop to his violent acts, to protect the city, and hopefully to clear his name.
Bruce even does some investigating consulting with Langstrom’s associate Dr. March (Rene Auberjonois), who blatantly lies to Wayne, but that doesn’t stave off Bruce’s investigation. He works things out, and tracks Man-Bat down, trying to leave him unharmed, and get Langstom the help he needs, much to his wife, and March’s daughter, Francine’s (Meredith MacRae) relief.
A fun, and slightly scary adventure that shows immediately that Batman can do all manner of stories.
Heart of Ice, aired on 7 September, 1992, and introduced Dr. Victor Fries (Michael Ansara), who is committing crimes, all aimed at an act of vengeance as Mr. Freeze. What I truly like about this story is that it isn’t cut and dry, yes, technically Fries is a baddie, but the reason he is doing what he is doing. It makes his character a little gray, we can understand and empathize with his motivations.
When his work, which he hopes will save his ill wife Nora, loses its funding at the behest of the company CEO, Ferris Boyle (Mark Hamill’s first appearance before taking on the role of the Joker), who is nowhere near as kind and forthcoming as his supposedly philanthropist endeavors would make the city believe.
There are some great bits, including the introduction of news reporter/TV personality Summer Gleeson (Mari Devon), the Batmobile getting put through its paces (and I love the fact that it looks a lot like a riff on the Batmobile from the Burton films), and Bruce is fighting a bit of a cold throughout the episode, and I don’t mean Mr. Freeze.
So can Batman stop Freeze from exacting his revenge, but still render justice against Ferris? And what of Freeze’s wife, held in a state of suspended animation as a cure eludes the doctor?
Good stuff this week, come back for more next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel!