When it comes to adapting Batman to media outside of comics, few efforts have been more successful than or as widely beloved as Batman: The Animated Series. To this day it remains THE definitive interpretation of Batman and his world in the eyes of many fans and understandably so. It was a dark, serious noir series that managed to appeal to viewers of all ages. Whether it was the creation of new characters like Harley Quinn or reinterpreting others such as Mr. Freeze, Batman: The Animated Series has carved an undeniable and significant mark in the Dark Knight’s 75 year history. Even now, many fans – including myself – hear the voices of actors such as Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill when we read for Batman and the Joker, respectively, in comics. The same applies to many others. And how could Conroy have guessed that a voice acting gig he took would lead to nearly a quarter century of steady employment?
To celebrate 75 years of Batman, we at DKN have compiled a list of our favorite episodes of Batman: The Animated Series as a love letter to a show that we have an affection for that started at childhood and followed us to adulthood. Narrowing down to a list of five from so many classics likely wasn’t an easy task for any of us, but we each have our own favorites that I put into a cumulative list. We could do more than five, but we’d be here all day – this is the best of the best.
It’s also worth mentioning that back in 2005 movies like Batman Begins and Sin City got me back into comics. In addition to reading the most definitive trade paperbacks, watching the DVD sets of Batman: The Animates Series as they were being released really helped reacquaint me with these characters. Everything is presented in a timeless, iconic fashion and is probably making new fans and renewing the interest of others in 2014.
NOTE: We also included The New Batman Adventures AKA “the revamp episodes” in our consideration.
5. I AM THE NIGHT
This may not feature any villains of the costumed variety per se, but it’s a touching tale that sees the Batman/ Jim Gordon relationship come to the forefront. The running theme is Batman grappling internally with the notion of if anything he does really makes a difference when it comes to the big picture. When Gordon is shot by the Jazzman, It weighs heavily on Bruce’s conscience. An uplifting subplot sees Batman set a juvenile delinquent straight, proving to himself that there are many ways that he can save a life. Even when placed among so many classics, this is undoubtedly one of the most well rounded and rewarding episodes.
4. ALMOST GOT ‘IM
There’s a lot to love about this one. We observe villains like Poison Ivy, Penguin, Two-Face, and Joker engaging in a poker game while recounting their nearly successful attempts at vanquishing the Caped Crusader. It’s quite commendable how everyone got their spots in and how multiple villains were juggled well. The payoff comes when we find out that Batman was disguising himself as Killer Croc to procure information relating to the location of the missing Catwoman. On that note, the Batman/ Catwoman dynamic wraps up things nicely and will make any fan smile.
3. OVER THE EDGE
This one is probably beloved by so many because it’s a “what if?” tale gone horribly wrong. This episode sees Batgirl killed during an encounter with the Scarecrow, with Jim Gordon finding out about his daughter’s nighttime masquerades. The dominoes fall as the GCPD begins a ruthless hunt for Batman, Robin, and Nightwing; the heroes see their covers blown and an unlikely alliance between Gordon and Bane is birthed. We ultimately discover that it was all the product of Batgirl’s fear toxin induced nightmare, but it makes you wonder if things would be any different if it weren’t.
2. PERCHANCE TO DREAM
This gem was one of the top picks for two members of our staff and how could you blame them? It’s somewhat comparable to our previous entry, insofar that it’s based in a false reality. Batman is working a case, is knocked unconscious, and wakes up to find himself in unfamiliar settings. How unfamiliar? His parents are alive, he’s engaged to Selina Kyle, and someone else is Batman! Although it seems like this would be his ideal life, he feels deep in his bones that something just isn’t right. He eventually finds the culprit to be the Mad Hatter, a villain that many feel is underused.
1. HEART OF ICE
This episode would likely be a top choice for many and you can no doubt understand why it reigned supreme on our list. It made the lists of several of our staffers and even topped my own. Some will even go as far to say it’s one of the best Batman stories ever told in any medium, if not the best. Why? This is the groundbreaking tale that reinterpreted Mr. Freeze as more than a jewel thief with a penchant for all things cold. He is seen as a “grey hat” villain that was wronged by a ruthless company that left his terminally ill wife indefinitely frozen in a cryogenic state and left him physically altered and mentally broken. It makes you question how far you would go if something so tragic befell a loved one. And who else doesn’t yearn for “a warm hand”?
Do you agree with our list? Are there any episodes that you favor that didn’t make ours?