Hope you are all well.
Welcome to another instalment of #throwbackthursday, the feature where I get to indulge myself by revelling in the things that made me the raging, sweaty nerd I am today!
I’ve spent the past couple of evenings thinking about the things that would excite me during my formative geek years. In the early days, I spent a lot of time watching TV as comic shops were hard to come by in Peckham and there was only so many times I could read Alan Moore’s brutally brilliant V for Vendetta without feeling thoroughly depressed at humanity’s darker side. It was a little more than my 12 year old mind was ready to confront. But my alternatives were thin on the ground, the local library had the same racist Tintin graphic novels I had read with some discomfort at primary school and reading my Conan comics for the 1000th time wasn’t giving me any joy in spite of the gratuitous nudity and graphic violence. I needed my fix of geek, something to truly get excited about. Whilst watching the Saturday morning entertainment show ‘Wacaday’ (ask your parents, kids!) there was a short trailer for a new show that the presenter Timmy Mallett (again, ask your parents) seemed to be even more excited about than usual. Now, Timmy Mallett was (is) the kind of guy that could get the average 12 year old excited about going to the dentist, so when he was excited about something, you sat up and took notice. He announced that there was a new show arriving to the channel very soon, a called Batman: The Animated Series. This, got my attention immediately as I had read a few Batman comics over the years and was very familiar with the Batman TV series starring Adam West, so anything Batman related had to be better than sitting through yet another Dick Tracy episode. So, I resolved myself to make sure I caught the 1st episode of this new Batman show.
When the following Saturday finally rolled into view, I couldn’t contain myself. I woke up at around 6am that morning, well before the show was scheduled to broadcast. I sneaked past my mum and step-dad’s bedroom as I knew they would give me grief for being up this early to watch a cartoon, made my way to the living room down the creaky old stairs of our council flat, which seemed to be particularly creaky that morning. After raiding the fridge for some milk and the biggest bowl I could find, I poured in some coco pops (other brands of cereal are available) turned on the old Ferguson TV with the huge ass, settled down on our family sofa and begin my vigil. I had to sit through 3 hours of relentless puerile jokes, Mallett seemed to be well off form that day, but finally at 9am Batman: The Animated series began. I was treated to opening sequence that I had never seen before in an animated feature, it was clearly set at night in the heart of an oppressive looking city, the roof tops of the buildings seemed like sinister ghouls, waiting to pounce on some poor unsuspecting civilians.The street lighting shone like the eyes of a cat, seeing all that happened before them and trusting nothing. As I gripped tightly on to a cushion, it was quickly becoming clear to me that this was as far removed from the 60’s Batman TV show as anything I had ever seen before. The opening strings of Danny Elfman’s theme began and I sensed a feeling of impending doom, the next shot featured the silhouette of two men standing in front of a bank, no features could be discerned about them other than their eyes, which conveyed a wickedness that betrayed their intentions, they were about to do a very bad thing..suddenly, an explosion! The doors from the bank burst into flame and the music gained a frantic pace as these obvious villains attempted to escape from their nefarious deed. As I watched on, I was gripped. Who were these criminals? and who would punish them for this misdeeds? Then I saw the Batmobile, or at least what I thought was the batmobile as it had flames roaring from it’s rear, a sleek powerful predatory machine like a black panther hunting it’s prey. The criminals attempted to use the rooftops for their escape, but they were pounced upon by Batman, square jawed and every bit as menacing as the men he confronted. Batman unleashed a flurry of kicks and punches, downing his foes in a flurry of cold hard justice. As the police were left to scratch their heads as to who had subdued these two, I was treated to one of the most iconic images we have ever seen in popular culture. I fork of lightning cracks across the sky and we are given a glimpse of the Caped Crusader as I had never seen him before. He stands proud, fearless. A Dark Knight, ready to defend this city and protect the innocent. A man that even criminals would grow to fear.
After picking my Jaw up off the floor, I then found myself on a visual roller-coaster. I was introduced to more of the stunning art work of Eric Radomski and the legendary Bruce Timm. They had loving created a retro Gotham city, it’s art Deco style was so fresh and inventive, the period setting seemed to fit the show perfectly. Kevin Conroy’s voice work was flawless. He gave Batman a grounding that was lacking from everyone cartoon I had seen up until that point. He will for ever be Batman in my mind, regardless of how many different actors take up the cowl and cape. And if every hero can be defined by their villain, then The Joker seemed to be the perfect foil. A maniacal maestro of chaos, his creepy demeanour and sinister smile keep me hooked every time he was onscreen. It was only after several episodes that I realise that he was voiced by none other than my childhood hero Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker. At 1st I was troubled by this discovery, who could the saviour of the rebellion be suddenly playing someone so twisted? But the brilliance of the script meant that I couldn’t help but be sucked along for the wild ride.
To be honest with you all, I don’t remember too much about that first episode’s plot, but I remember enough to know that when it finished, I programmed our VCR to record next weeks episode (taping over my big Sister’s recording of Top Of The Pops and earning me an almighty ass-whooping). Over the course of the series I met even more disturbing characters like The Ventriloquist and his psychotic talking doll that seemed to murder people for fun and of course, the beautiful, hilarious and completely insane Harley Quinn, who frankly deserves who own post, such is her cultural significance and influence. I will certainly revisit Miss Quinn and make sure she gets the acclaim she deserves.
The series ran on right until 1995, and I think I can honestly say I have watched almost every episode bar or or two in season 3. In my eyes, it remains the greatest comic book Tv show of all time, regardless of the format. It’s influence has been vast, it has spawned Video Games, Comics, feature length films and characters that have been adapted and added to wider popular culture. Ask any child of the 80’s about Batman: The Animated Series and I guarantee they will speak about with the same reverence that I have. In fact, ask any child of any generation to watch the show and you will see from their reaction that this is a thing of pure genius.
I could go on and on about this show, but I think you get how I feel about and i’m sure if you’re reading this you feel the same way or are at least a tiny bit curious to see what all the fuss is about. If you’d like to check it out for the 1st time or revel in nostalgia, a quick visit to Youtube will fulfil all your needs.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my post, but now I must go to rest and dream of Kevin Conroy counting sheep in my head, so I bid you all goodnight and until next time, see you space cowboy..
Twitter; @WooLongTalks/ @Shakes_P
None of the above would have been possible if it wasn’t for the great job Tim Burton did in 1989s Batman. He showed everyone that the Bat was back. This animated series was, as you rightly pointed out, the pinnacle of TV Animation. Not only was it dark, funny and entertaining but it gave us Harley Quinn! Great blog post on an even greater subject. Thank you!
Hello John, thank you so much for much for your feedback! Your quite right, Tim Burton’s Batman was a huge influence on the animated series, the only reason I didn’t reference this is that I didn’t actually see the film until 1994. It was released in the UK with a 15 certificate, meaning no one under the age of 15 would be able to see the film at cinemas, regardless of how much I begged my parents! Oddly enough, Batman Returns was released in the UK with a PG certificate (Parental Guidance) even though that film seemed even darker in tone than the 1st. I still don’t understand how movie rating systems work! Anyway, it’s great to meet a fellow Batman fan, stick around, we’ll have lots more fun posts to come.
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