Batman has made some incredible appearances in the world of animation over the years. Our own Grant Billings took a look back at what makes Batman such an incredible cartoon character to watch.
One of the most beloved comic book characters of all time has a great history in animation. Live-action movies are always in the big spotlight, with their huge budgets and big stars, but with animation fans get to see another side to their heroes. With Batman in animated films you get to see more than just The Dark Knight, you get to see his family - the medium allows for an expanded universe. Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl and even Red Hood have been in animated movies with the The Caped Crusader. Only Robin and Batgirl have been in live-action, and let's be honest those appearances weren't worth seeing (i.e. Batman & Robin & Batman Forever). Ever since Batman the Animated Series back in the 90's, Batman has been in countless animated films that are beloved by most fans and represent - to many - some of the greatest moments in Batman storytelling.
Ready for some serious Batman nostalgia - and spoilers?
Let's do this!
No. 1: Batman The Animated Series & The Adventures Of Batman And Robin
Developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and produced by Warner Bros., Batman the Animated Series is one of the most adored animated series in the past two decades. It's darker tone, artistic quality and the way it modernized the Caped Crusader's crime-fighting origins are all memorable themes. It was awarded four Emmy's including Outstanding Animated Program and voted by TV Guide as the seventh best animated cartoon of all time.
Wizard Magazine voted it second, only behind The Simpsons. During the first season, the Series was more about Batman, showing the reasons why he became his crime fighting alter ego and how villains like Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Man-Bat came to be. After it's first season the show was changed to The Adventures of Batman and Robin, showing more of the relationship between Batman and his sidekick. Three years later, the show came back to television as The New Batman Adventures with a different look and cleaner animation lines that resembled the art style in Superman: The Animated Series. In this season all of Batman's sidekicks were more in the spotlight (Tim Drake was now Robin, as Dick Grayson had become Nightwing in between the seasons). The Series also introduced his female sidekick, Barbara Gordon, as Batgirl.
Each episode was artistically beautiful, expertly depicting each villain and all of the Batman lore we love. With amazing voice acting by Kevin Conroy (Batman), who has voiced him since the early 90's. Conroy has voiced Batman in animated movies and even video games. The Series also brought on Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker) as the Joker. Hamill's time as the Joker has become iconic, forever cementing Hamill as the prime Joker voice actor. The show was even the beginning for Joker's beloved sidekick Harley Quinn.
Writer Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created her for an episode but the fans loved her so much that now one can barely picture the Joker without her.
No. 2: Batman Beyond
People were initially unsure about the spin-off show of Batman: The Animated Series, but with many alumni from the decorated show (the well-liked Bruce Timm for instance) it is now considered a worthy extension of the Batman animated universe.
It was ranked the 40th greatest cartoon of all time by IGN. The show was on air from 1999-2001 and was set 30 years into the future, around the year 2019; in a world of highly advanced technology. Bruce Wayne's allies (Batgirl, Nightwing, Robin etc.) are all dead or retired. The show follows a much older Bruce, who is somewhere close to 60 years old at this time. But the main character is a teenager who is still in high school, Terry McGinnis - who's father was recently killed. After the tragedy, Bruce takes him in and becomes a mentor to him. Terry takes up the mantel of Batman to get justice for his father's death, with the help of a tech-bat suit that has lots of gadgets built into it; even giving him enhanced strength.
With new villains, like the medically enhanced Stalker, McGinnis has his hands full. There's the radioactive monstrosity Blight, who is extremely similar to Lex Luthor and the one who had Terry's father murdered. There's the shape shifter Inque, the deadly assassin Curare, the deaf sound expert Shriek and the hypnotist Spellbinder. The show was filled with awesome fight scenes and even showed some of the original Batman villains.
Fans took in the enthralling stories of how Terry learned to become a great Batman of the next generation.
During an episode of the cartoon Justice League Unlimited, we find out that, as an older man, Terry questioned Amanda Waller (The woman who led the Suicide Squad), who told Terry that she had found Terry's parents years ago. A young couple with great hearts, and reminded Waller of Thomas and Martha Wayne only they didn't lead a multimillion dollar company. So Waller did what she did best (meddling) and injected Bruce's DNA into Terry's mother, making the kid they were having Bruce's and not her natural husband.
The rest, as they say, is the future.
No. 3: Batman The Brave And The Bold
A show that was definitely created for younger audiences, but that doesn't mean that anyone can't love what the show is about. With each episode bringing a new and different team up, like the comics of the same name, with all your favorite heroes like Green Arrow, Blue Beetle, Aquaman, Flash, and B'wana Beast (really any hero you can think of), it really showed the diversity of Batman and how many friends he did make in the crime fighting business despite being so dark and brooding. It really showed how much respect he got from all his fellow crime fighters. Bringing up some great comedy along with it, show casing how much Batman hated his upbeat allies, while also showing that he does have a heart underneath that suit.
No. 4: Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
Arguably the best Batman movie ever made (up there with The Dark Knight). Ask any comic nerd or Batman fan and I would bet a lot of money on it that they'd agree with you. The Phantasm is a vigilante, like Batman, who is taking out high ranking mobsters. Batman has no idea who or why this is, and the police start to suspect Batman is the killer because of their uncanny resemblance, so they recruit the Joker to take out Batman as a last resort.
Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles. The most surprising character was Dana Delaney (Andrea Beaumont), who was Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Kevin's and Dana's on screen voice chemistry was great.
I would say more...but it's one I just can't bring myself to spoil for you if you haven't already seen it. If you haven't make it a priority to do so, you won't regret it.
No. 5: Batman: Under The Red Hood
Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown and Damian Wayne have all held the moniker of Robin. Then Dick Grayson became Nightwing, Tim Drake became Red Robin leader of the Teen Titans, Stephanie Brown became Batgirl and Damian Wayne was killed (but soon resurrected). Jason Todd had the worst time as Robin, as his original DC Comics appearance illustrated.
The Joker beat Jason to a pulp with a crowbar. Fans disliked the second robin to say the least, so DC held an open vote to save or kill Jason, which ended in his death. So, during Batman: A Death In The Family the Joker used his laughing gas to capture Robin, which led to the beating and then because of how badly Jason was hurt he ended up laying in his pool of his own blood while the building he was in exploded. Batman arrived too late to save his protege. Though he wouldn't say it out loud, Batman took the death hard - at least until a while later Red Hood showed up.
Batman had no idea who he was, but of course he is the worlds greatest detective so he had some theories for sure. Red Hood killed and used his scary 'will to kill' to scare mob bosses (even Black Mask) to make him a leader of sorts for money. Batman obviously soon figured out that he was in fact his dead protege Robin. And then figured out that Ra's Al Ghul was apart of the whole thing, using his Lazarus Pit to bring him back to life. Only when you use the Pit you come back different, blood thirsty (why do you think Ra's is so crazy?).
This time Bruce Greenwood in his first bout as the Dark Knight voiced the beloved character. Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) voiced Jason Todd, Mark Hamill did not end up voicing the Joker this time around and Nightwing was voiced by Neil Patrick Harris.
No. 6: Son of Batman
When the new Robin turned out to be Batman's illegitimate son, after Talia impregnated herself with Batman's DNA to have his baby without his knowing, fans - along with Batman - were surprised to say the least. Damian was trained by his grandfather, Ra's Al Ghul, who encouraged him to kill; something we know Batman does not do. Talia brought Damian to Bruce after Ra's Al Ghul was killed by Deathstroke. Talia Al Ghul brought Batman their son in order to have Damien have a father and learn from the best. Batman tries to have him stop killing, but Damian won't have it which brings on great dialogue and scenes between the two, as well as Nightwing after Batman calls him for help.
Even Alfred has some great scenes with all three of them, Alfred is practically Bruce's father, so seeing that his 'son' has an actual son brings out his paternal instincts, like it did with the first three Robins. Nightwing and Damian even have a fight and Damian literally trys to kill Dick Grayson.
Seeing Batman's paternal instincts come out was great and seeing Nightwing fight with his 'little brother' was kinda like seeing a younger batman and Robin fight. We also got to see how tough Damian is, while he gets swords through both arms and almost loses his life to the much stronger Deathstroke (the assassin that killed his grandfather).
All in all, its a story for the record books.
No. 7: Batman vs Robin
As discussed, Damian has a slight pension for killing, which bodes badly for his father who prides himself in not killing his victims. In this movie the fight of whether or not to kill hits the ceiling. After meeting a killer like him who also has the same views, Damian finds out the man is an assassin apart of the Court of Owls a secret society. The society is a violent cabal consisting of the oldest and wealthiest families in Gotham using murder and money to wield political influence throughout history. But they brought in a young boy of the streets who came into their society to become a well trained assassin. When he met Damian, who had just ran away after a fight with batman about his killing habits, Damian thought that he belonged with him instead of his father bringing Damian to the society under the city he finally realized that the man he had met was insanely crazy. Batman soon found Damian and his new friend, and Damian turned on his new friend after he began fighting his father. By the end of the movie you get to see Batman apologize and Damian as well which ends in a hug (the first one I have ever seen Batman give, or at least in a long time).
If anything this movie shows the father & son relationship really well under the circumstances. And we get to see Batman and Robin fight. Also the Owls are badass fighters who attack like undead ninjas.
No. 8: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Parts I & II
Spoiler Alert Renewal
Hey, ever heard of this little project called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Well Zack Snyder the director of the 2016 movie is a huge fan of these movies and pulled a bunch of stuff from the Frank Miller cult classic. This is one of the most bad ass Batman movies out there while also being one of the most gruesome. Batman is old or at least older than we know him to be and him and superman are on the outs. These movies are honestly so good that unlike the rest of these movies I've talked about I don't want to give anything more away you just need to watch it and find out for yourself. Just know that the end of Part II will literally blow your mind. HE KILLS THE JOKER BY THROWING A BATARANG THROUGH HIS EYES AND BEATING HIM TO A PULP. (sorry had to have one spoiler).
No 9: Batman: Gotham Knight
Depicting six different events in Batman's life with six different writers (David Goyer, Josh Olson, Brian Azzarello, Greg Rucka, Jordan Goldberg, and Alan Burnett) and artisitc styles just as comics do, only resemblance are the fact that the awesome Kevin Conroy voices the Caped Crusader. During the movie he fights everyone from Killer Croc, Deadshot, Scarecrow, and more.
His fight with Killer Croc, who has completely been taken over by his genetic mutation to make him more croc than man shows how tough Batman is as he gets bit a few times by his powerful jaws.
Other Notable Appearances:
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Lex Luthor is President so he wants all the heroes to be with the government. Batman and Superman won't have it so they fight him and the other heroes who have joined him. But after they save the world from a kryptonite meteor, Luthor is out of power again.
Justice League Doom
Vandal Savage, Cheetah, Ma'alefa'ak (Martian Manhunter's twin brother), Mirror Master, Star Sapphire, Bane, and Metallo are the Justice League Doom.
Savage uses stolen intel from Batman's computer to come extremely close to killing the team. From breaking Hal Jordan's will, shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet, putting a bomb on the Flash, making Wonder Woman hallucinate, Bane buries Bruce Wayne (yes they know his secret identity), and making Martian Manhunter see fire (his only weakness).
Not until they overcome this and recruit Cyborg to help do they find a way to win
Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, GL John Stewart, Hawkgirl and Batman) many people in this generation grew up on this show, and such a good one it was.
Justice League Unlimited
Set after Justice League, this one shows more of the others heroes that have joined the JLA, the Original team is less prominent but still the leaders.
The Batman Superman Movie
World's Finest Set around the time of BTAS and STAS the two heroes stop Lex Luthor.
Apocalypse Superman finds Supergirl, wonder woman captures her takes her to Paradise Island where she trains to be a fighter, then Darkseid takes her to Apokolips so Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Big Barda go after her. Only to find her in a different state of mind.
The movie follows the comic book really well.
Batman: Year One
Batman hasn't met Jim Gordon yet and Gotham City thinks he is a criminal, he just became Batman is still learning the ropes of the vigilante life.