Sunday!

Sunday!Batman: The Animated Series is, seriously, one of the best superhero treatments out there. Gorgeous character design, gorgeous music, gorgeous city, and arguably the best actors playing the role.

Now, keep in mind, this cartoon came out from 1992-1995. You know what Batmans we had back then? We had the Adam West television show, the Michael Keaton movie, the other Michael Keaton movie, and (at the tail end of that run) the Val Kilmer movie. Two years after the show ended, we had the George Clooney movie.

Seriously, superhero stuff used to be a total wasteland.

But the cartoon (er, pardon me, “animated series”) took the show seriously enough to want to tell straightforward stories. They weren’t really winking at the audience, they weren’t trying to tell the adults in the room how sophisticated they were while, at the same time, feeding pablum to the kids in the audience.

They took some of the old campy bad guys from the 50s and 60s and turned them into really interesting characters. Mr. Freeze, for example, had pretty much been a straightforward “ice-themed villain” that was jockeying for position with The Flash’s Captain Cold and Green Lantern’s Icicle and Firestorm’s Killer Frost and Wonder Woman’s Minister Blizzard. I mean, jeez. How many “guys in a suit with a machine that freezes stuff” do you need?

Well, The Animated Series gave us a version of Mister Freeze where he was a scientist whose wife was cryogenically frozen hours before her death by some horrible disease and Mister Freeze is working tirelessly to come up with a cure. His crimes are in service to what he’s trying to work on and darn the consequences for anything that happens to anybody else as a result of it. This backstory is now canon and this throwaway character is now one of the most interesting bad guys in the DC universe.

Harley Quinn is a character that was created out of whole cloth by the series. There was going to be a scene where Joker jumped out of a cake to surprise Batman and, well, it was the (early) 90’s and some of the executives thought that that was a little weird. So the team created Harley Quinn to be a doctor at Arkham Asylum who was twisted by the Joker and turned to a life of crime with him and she was going to jump out of the cake and the executives were a little more okay with that. But they had Joker jump out of the cake instead. Where was I? Anyway, Harley Quinn provided a great counter-point to Joker, allowed for a surprisingly honest (for a kid’s cartoon, anyway) example of a toxic relationship between her and Joker, and, again, became canon.

The Animated Series had that much depth all over. Kevin Conroy is arguably the best Batman actor (for example, you can tell when he’s Batman or when he’s pretending to be Bruce Wayne). Mark Hamill is brilliant as The Joker. Heck, the entire cast was so good they brought everybody back to voice act their same parts in the video game series because those voices are the voices they knew the audience heard in their heads when they thought of these guys.

Following the paltry pickings given by Hollywood proper, this pretty much meant that, for years, when people asked “what’s the best Batman movie?” my answer was “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm“. It had the best acting, the best bad guys, the best music, the best sets, the best fight scenes, and moments of actual growth on the part of Batman Himself. It didn’t feel like a commercial that was trying to move product. It felt like a *STORY* being told by master storytellers that enjoyed their audience.

Anyway, the whole series is now (finally) coming out on Blu-Ray. And if you look at that pricetag and say “that’s a little steep!”, know that it’s a bargain. The series is Just That Good.

So… what are you reading and/or watching?

Photo by dailyinvention Sunday!


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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11 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. If you miss Conroy & Hamill as Batman & Joker, check out Justice League Action on Hulu. The show is a bit tongue in cheek, which is nice, and the whole series has a bit of a running gag* at Batman’s expense, except Batman is in on the gag and plays it straight, but every once in a while gets in a zinger.

    The episodes are broken into two shorts, and they got a lot of voice talent for the show. Notables are James Woods as Lex, John DeLancie as Brainiac, Patton Oswalt as Space Cabbie, and one of my favorites, Diedrich Bader as Booster Gold. About the only real miss was they didn’t get Matt Ryan for John Constantine. The IMDB cast page is quite the who’s who.

    *Because Batman is always super serious and humorless.

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  2. There was a brief attempt to promote Batman: The Animated Series as a prime time show when it first aired. People like Batman and they noticed that BTAS was much better written than the typical cartoon. It had great production values. Somebody had the bright idea of trying to air it in prime time. It failed and quickly went back to its afternoon time slot.

    The early 1990s were a somewhat interesting time for kids cartoons in the United States. There were a a few of them like BTAS, the Pirates of Dark Water, Conan the Adventurer, Peter Pan and the Pirates that really tried to push the envelope of what you could get away with in kid’s entertainment. They tried to be darker, more story driven, and have greater continuity. Based on recent kid’s entertainment, there overall influence seems kind of negligible. American parents are not going to have the tolerance of Japanese parents on what can and can not go into a kid’s show.

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  3. I’m watching the Mechanism on Netflix. It is an eight episode web series from Brazil that is a very lightly fictionalized version of the real life corruption scandal that is still rocking Brazil called Operation Car Wash. Imagine a corruption scandal so big that nearly every politician in the country is implicated from top to bottom, in the government and in the opposition. That would be it. It provides a lot of catharsis for people who hate Trump, believe that his administration is corrupt, colluded with the Russians, and are waiting for the results of Mueller’s investigation.

    For reading, I’m reading Bosnia Chronicle by Ivo Andric. Its about the intrigues and struggles between the French and the Austrians in late Ottoman Bosnian. Its set during the Napoleonic Era. Ivo Andric was a South Slav Catholic nationalist from Bosnian. He was implicated in the plot to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

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  4. Second the praise of Batman: The Animated Series. In my opinion DC has done their best work in the animated arena. Some of the other DC animated one-offs are equally fantastic.

    I’m grinding through the first 3 seasons of Poldark because I have a serious problem saying no to historical fiction and had a gap in my schedule. It’s beautifully shot and gives enough historical fact that I keep going down Wikipedia holes while watching because I didn’t realize THAT happened during that period and maybe my grasp of British history needs some more work. Basically it’s a lot of fun but I have to keep it from my guy friends like I do with Outlander because it’s a romance novel on TV.

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