September 5 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest shows ever – Batman: The Animated Series. BTAS introduced a generation to the world of the Dark Knight. The series marked the beginning of “The Timmverse.” To celebrate this historic occassion, the DKN staff will review our favorite episodes.
Batman: The Animated Series is rated the second best-animated series of all time by IGN. The 1990s were the epitome of animated stories, we had shows like The Simpsons, which BTAS was runner up to, Hey Arnold, Arthur, and countless series that inspired generations of morals. During a time when both parents began working, television was a strange and good support. These were good tv shows, made to engage and educate the youth.
Director: Kevin Altieri
Writer: Paul Dini
Actors: Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Loren Lester (Robin/Dick Grayson), Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn)
Batman: The Animated Series is a legendary show and the catalyst for the DCAU. From this came Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited and much more. I grew up with these shows. I had moved to Toronto, Canada from London, England in 1996. “American” television has such a difference, good differences. The show came out when I was two, but I started watching at age 6. It taught me a few mannerisms and pop culture. I’d watch it on reruns daily on YTV. And of course, who was a favorite of mine? Harley Quinn!
The character was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and has grown into one of our favorites villains/heroes. The episode titled Harley’s Holiday is about her redemption and a poignant moment for her character. It’s where we learn that at the core of her heart, she is a good person.
“I had a bad day too, once.”
What I love in BTAS is that it shows how much Batman cares for the growth of his city. We don’t talk about this side of Batman enough. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight has stapled an image of “psychotic” Batman, where his anger is fueled to fight crime. BTAS had given us so much more than that. Many of his villains are victims of tragic circumstances, much of his information networks are made up of ex-cons he’s invested care and finances into rehabilitating, yes, sometimes this fails.
He became a hero out of self-awareness, he sympathizes with Harley at the end: “I had a bad day too, once.” Because he sees how easily he could have become one of Gotham’s worst.
In Batman Eternal, the city repossesses Wayne Manor and transforms it into the new Arkham Asylum. Bruce Wayne accepts this, and becomes comfortable being closer to his enemies but also, to protect them, because he always believes they have a chance to reform. He stands for justice and vigilance, but he is Gotham’s hope.
“Harley’s Holiday” humanizes the criminal; Bruce sees her trying and although the episode ends in her imprisonment, he brings her a gift to help her smile; he has hope for her, and his hope pays.
Has anyone ever seen Bruce Wayne blush? Well, here he does. Embarrassed to say his butler dresses him. Spoiled trust-fund baby at his finest, this was probably a basis of many jokes on the Dark Knight’s level of reliance of his beloved butler/guardian.
“Who dresses you? Alfred?”
When Harley Quinn meets Bruce Wayne for the first time, she covers his eyes with her hand and asks “there’s something about that chin.” To his relief, she recognizes it’s Gotham’s billionaire and not Batman.
“I’m rehabilitated and ready to live my life right.”
Bruce is entirely proud of this, the touch of comedy with Harley walking around with her certification of sanity is brilliant.
Harley’s adventure and spiraling behavior send Batman on a chase, although she meant no mal-intention, her acts were hugely misinterpreted. Often criminals have a label on them that are never removed, and this isolates them from society, making rehabilitation so much worse. He spends the entire evening trying to help her.
Who hasn’t fallen for Arleen Sorkin’s Harley Quinn? She has that Brooklyn style-princess down, her character is built around that voice. She’s charming, and although Harley’s costume these days are hypersexualized, as a young girl, I didn’t label her as flirtatious. She was trapped in an abusive relationship; this was not love. She is a cute, powerful doctor which is why young girls still adore her. In my experience at conventions, she’s one of the most common DC cosplays for young girls. The best moment in this episode is in the last few minutes (yes, she does give him a smooch at the end).
“Nice guys like you shouldn’t have bad days.” Arguably where Batman and the audience learn that Harley can be trusted on some level. In addition, this line alludes to Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, where Joker says that all it does to make a sane man into a lunatic is just “one really bad day.”
Kevin Conroy is more than gifted at portraying the best Bruce Wayne and Batman. He has such a variety, from the horror/thriller video game Arkham series to the delightful Justice League Action cartoon series, he conveys genuine goodness and thick skin.
This is certainly an episode that imprinted me. This is one of my top three favorites of the show, and I still draw messages from it. BTAS teaches that people deserve second chances; Bruce had one. Sometimes, it’s okay if they need more than one “second chance,” people suffer and have bad days. It only takes one really bad day, but Batman shows us and Harley, that through perseverance, it doesn’t have to be that way. Happy 25th Anniversary to Batman: The Animated Series!