Christmas Comes Early with Batman: The Complete Animated Series on Blu-ray

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Batman Animated Series

The year 1992 marked a turning point for animated superhero adventure. After years of shows like SUPER FRIENDS and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN, the time was ripe for the Dark Knight to return to the screen, especially after the second coming of Batmania that followed the Tim Burton film starring Michael Keaton. Rumors began swirling on the prenatal Internet (BBSs in those days) of an animated Batman in the works, and there was even leaked a writers bible for the series written by J.M. Straczynski.  

Ultimately it was Bruce Timm who opened the hidden entrance to the Batcave and brought Batman to the masses. And what a Batman it was! It was a new style with art-deco sets with a dark brooding hero. In a way, it was a throwback to the Max Fleisher SUPERMAN cartoons of the 1940s, themselves leaps and bounds ahead of anything being produced in animation through the 70s and 80s. (And don't even get me started on comparing them to the garbage that passes for animation today!) There were fights, there were guns, there were serious bad guys, and there was nuance. The stories posited questions, gave us sympathetic villains, and drew the viewer in in a way that cartoons hadn't done for years.

Picking up any complete series based on nostalgia, I've found, is always something of a gamble. Things almost never hold up on second viewing the way they do in your memory, and if I'm going to gamble, I'd rather buy a lottery ticket, hit the bingo halls, or set aside some money to do some sports wagering. Then, even if I lose, I had the excitement of the game. Fortunately, deciding on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, now on Blu-ray, is a sure bet, with no disappointment to be had here at all. Every one of these episodes holds up, due in no small part to the timeless setting the creators utilized for telling these stories.

Looking over the discs from this complete series, I found myself questioning how such an impacting, seminal moment in animation that was so well-loved and well-remembered could have only ran for three seasons. But once you dive into this, time stretches out, again due to the compelling stories being told.

It wasn't just the artwork and the animation. The series boasted a voice cast of top notch acting talent, including Adriene Barbeau as Catwoman, Efrem Zimbalist Jr as Alfred, Richard Moll as Harvey Dent -- and, unforgettably, Mark Hamill as The Joker and Arleen Sorkin as his sidekick, Harley Quinn, who caught on with viewers like crazy (appropriately enough) and became a stand-out star villain in her own right. And it made a household name (in, you know, comic book savvy homes) of Kevin Conroy, who would become known as the voice of Batman in future animated features and series.

From "On Leather Wings" to "Judgement Day," the entire series is here to enjoy over and over again, And it's not just the episodes -- it's the extras! First up there are the optional episode commentaries, including:

“On Leather Wings” – Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski.

“Heart of Ice” – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Eric Radomski.

“Robin’s Reckoning, Part One” – Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski

 “Heart of Steel, Part Two” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Kevin Altieri

“Almost Got ‘Im” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Paul Dini

“Harley and Ivy” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Boyd Kirkland

“Read My Lips” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Boyd Kirkland and Shirley Walker.

“Harlequinade” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Shirley Walker and Eric Radomski

“Over The Edge” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.

“Critters” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.

“Legends of the Dark Knight” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.

Addtionally, on the bonus discs, there is a lengthy feature that takes viewers behind the history building up to making BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, which began with Steven Spielberg's proposal for WB to do ANIMANIACS. This is a fascinating historical piece with input from Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and several others that gives you a deeper appreciation for this classic series.

The average viewer will pore over this set for weeks before finally having explored all of this set. However, true fans may want to stock up on hot pockets and Sunny D pouches in advance, because this is some seriously good binge material!

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0