The Animated Series Perfectly Nailed The Dark Knight


Following the untimely death of Kevin Conroy, many are revisiting his iconic work on Batman: The Animated Series, acknowledging that the 1990s cartoon was hugely important to the Batman franchise. The series, which ran from 1992-1995, is repeatedly voted the second-greatest cartoon ever made after The Simpsons and has won four Emmy Awards. The series was praised for its mature tone, orchestral music, and complex themes. It is often considered the greatest Batman adaptation outside the comics, and for very good reason.


Batman: The Animated Series might be the significant portrayal of Bruce Wayne’s adventures in Gotham. The show, spearheaded by the ultimate Batman actor Kevin Conroy, heralded the golden age of superhero cartoons and unified the various strands of Batman media into one cohesive whole. It marked a noted reassessment of Batman’s tone at that stage of the franchise. It combined what had worked previously across disparate adaptations and then crafted what would be the definitive version of Batman for years to come, serving as the blueprint for all subsequent Batman tales. It remains a categorical masterpiece.

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Batman: The Animated Series Captures Everything Batman Should Be

Batman The Animated Series' Batman and Joker

The explosion of “batmania” following Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman demonstrated definitively that the Dark Knight had wide appeal while being able to explore mature themes with an adult tone. Batman Returns is a true Christmas movie, but Burton’s sequel also further explored themes of duality and femininity previously thought to be beyond the remit of Batman. Batman: The Animated Series built upon these mature topics and presented them in a child-friendly package that viewers can scrutinize as deeply, or not, as they desire.

The design of Batman: The Animated Series was also lifted from Burton. Over the two Burton Batman movies, an aesthetic was crafted that combined elements of art-deco, German expressionism, and the Gothic. Re-packaging these into a more palatable film-noir style, the series managed to perpetuate this interpretation of Gotham’s grimness while also making one of the first noir shows for children. Interestingly, one of the reasons the series was able to capture the tone so perfectly was because it was animated on black paper, an industry first. This contributed to the tone of the series, which became widely regarded as the gritty realism Batman movies should continue to portray Gotham with.

With the continuation of the 1989 Batman movie in the comic book Batman ’89 and its influence upon other comic books, the portrayals of Gotham across film, television, and print were all unified. The same process happened to Batman himself, who, ditching his dancing shoes from the swinging 1960s, became a darker and scarier embodiment of the Dark Knight. This characterization would become synonymous with the figure and was arguably explored to its greatest extent in Batman: The Animated Series. Its influence can even be seen in Ben Affleck’s Batman movies.

The series also combined Burton’s character designs with the early comic book versions. The most notable example is the Penguin’s bird-like physical deformities. This rendition of the character has endured for decades, and in hindsight, its Penguin perfectly blended all movie versions. Batman: The Animated Series even borrowed composer Danny Elfman’s theme from Batman before later composing its own updated version of the theme tune. In fact, each episode was orchestrally scored individually. Using Elfman’s themes as an initial basis, the scores further elaborated upon the Batman aesthetic previously established.

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Batman: The Animated Series Defined Batman For A Generation

Batman: The Animated Series offered young fans an accessible Batman adaptation of Batman, with Burton’s movies having a decidedly more adult disposition. Meanwhile, the mixed quality of other Batman movies available for fans during this period (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, and 1966’s Batman: The Movie) meant that for quality Batman adventures, Batman: The Animated Series was unparalleled. It was the best of both worlds, accessible but mature and gothic but friendly. It served as a gateway for kids to move on to the Burton movies and instilled the passion that the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy would later generate.

Batman: The Animated Series also defined how Batman and Gotham should look and feel. It invented many of the tropes and ideas now considered not only Batman canon but integral to the wider franchise. This was facilitated by the stellar voice cast, which includes the version of the Joker often voted the greatest (Mark Hamill’s), and a Batman performance in Conroy quickly becoming as well-regarded. For millennials who grew up outside the US and had limited access to comic books, the animated series was the closest thing available and left an impression on young Bat-fans.

A great example of the lasting influence of Batman: The Animated Series was its introduction of Harley Quinn. First created for Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn has flourished into one of DC’s most popular antiheroes encapsulating modern comic book feminism, a feat impossible without her animated debut. The great episode “Mad Love” explains how Harley Quinn met Joker. Another classic addition to the canon was​ blimps. Many associate the Gotham cityscape with the lumbering air-ships, unaware that this was their origin.

Kevin Conroy’s Batman Is As Important As Any Live-Action Version

Batman The Animated Series Kevin Conroy as Batman

Conroy’s iconic performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series influenced all subsequent Batman performers. He brilliantly blended somber seriousness with dry humor and fragile humanity, making him a sympathetic person as well as a charismatic hero. Conroy also established the tradition of giving Batman a deeper, gruffer voice than his alter-ego Bruce Wayne.

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This is now ubiquitous with the character, including Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy and the Arkham video game series, most of which Conroy also voiced opposite Hamill’s Joker. The pair’s collaboration was so successful it lasted over 30 years, serving as the characters’ longest-running actors throughout animation, movies, and games. Conroy’s Batman has been a franchise staple for decades, and, for many, Conroy is even the definitive Batman.

Before Batman: The Animated Series was canceled, it was a triumph of coalescing the various comic books, movies, and very early television shows into one cohesive whole, creating a quintessential version of Batman and Gotham. Taking inspiration from Tim Burton’s movies and combining that with the source material and unmatched vocal performances, Batman: The Animated Series is, quite rightly, regarded as one of the greatest feats in televisual history.

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Denis Ava
Denis Ava
Denis Ava is mainly a business blogger who writes for Biz Grows. Rather than business blogs he loves to write and explore his talents in other niches such as fashion, technology, travelling,finance,etc.

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