The first iteration of Batman: The Animated Series comes to a close with this episode, The Lion and The Unicorn, which had an airdate of 15 September, 1995.
In it, Gotham, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Alfred (Efrem Zimbalist jr.) are threatened one final time by the Red Claw (Kate Mulgrew) who returns and kidnaps an old colleague of Alfred’s, Frederick (Roy Dotrice) to gain access to a missile silo.
Alfred travels to London to aid Frederick, and falls afoul of Red Claw, who is holding him hostage, and even encounters a couple of her thugs, including Adam Ant as Bert. Batman and Robin (Loren Lester) take the Bat-Wing and race to England where they quickly find themselves embroiled in mystery and adventure.
We learn that Alfred wasn’t always the family butler, and may have served in one of the UK’s secret services, and could handle himself, but that won’t stop him asking for aid when he needs it.
And he needs it this time! The Dynamic Duo storm Red Claw’s hideout, a castle, while the devious villain drugs and tortures Alfred and Frederick for the access code, planning on launching the missiles and causing international havoc!
The foursome end up saving the day, and the series comes to a close…
Until, 13 September, 1997. Almost two years later. Rebranded as the New Batman Adventures, the series go a revamp in the animation department, and introduced some new characters.
It all got underway with Holiday Knights, which sees various heroes and villains having adventures around Gotham during the festive season.
With Tim Drake (Matthew Valencia) at his side as the new Robin (Dick Grayson will return as Nightwing), and Tara Strong donning the cowl as Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, new adventures beckon across the dark city.
Some of the character revamps work, I like Bat’s new suit, it has a Year One feel to it, Harley (Arleen Sorkin) doesn’t look to have changed at all, I don’t like the Bruce Wayne or Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) revamp, but worst of all, I really don’t care for the Joker’s (Mark Hamill) new look.
Ron Perlman returns as Clayface. Robert Costanzo as Bullock, alongside Bob Hastings as Gordon, Liane Schirmer as Montoya and Marilu Henner as Veronica Vreeland all continue their roles.
It’s interesting seeing the new Robin in action, he’s shorter, younger, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes.
The story, specifically Joker’s, is a little darker than some that have gone before, but the new animation style detracts from it. Maybe I just need to get used to it.
The last story this week is Sins of the Father which aired 20 September, 1997. This one provides us with Tim Drake’s backstory as the young boy, no more than a street kid, finds himself hunted by Two-Face (Richard Moll) and is adamant that he join his idol, Batman in putting a stop to the baddie.
Drake is street-wise, nimble, and, occasionally, has a smart mouth, something that could get him killed as Two-Face tries to track down Tim’s father, who has slipped out of town to avoid the former DA turned villain.
After the young boy escapes Two-Face’s thugs, with Batman’s help, and actually saves the Dark Knight, he wends his way into the Caped Crusader’s life taking on the mantle of Robin, not that Dick has left the nest.
It’s a nice, fast-paced origin story that revisits Batman’s own family history as Drake discovers the secrets of Wayne Manor. We also see that Batgirl has taken up the sidekick slack after Dick left, and she holds her own as she and Bats go after Two-Face.
But Drake proves himself to Bruce, Barbara and Alfred, and is invited to don the mantle of Robin.
See you next week, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!