Well, now that I’m making money, I decided to send away for my most coveted book: Batman Animated by Paul Dini & Chip Kidd. This tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the making of Batman: The Animated Series. As I write this, I’ve already read it 12 times over! It’s got: original character designs, storyboards, the genesis of each character, a complete episode guide and just stuff about the show. I love this book so much, that I just had to do something to commemorate my getting it. So then, here I present to you, my Top 12 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series!
12. Beware the Grey Ghost
A mad bomber is holding Gotham City for ransom, while blowing up buildings left and right. Batman can’t help but see similarities to the plot of an episode of The Grey Ghost, a TV show about a super-hero that he loved when he was a kid. Batman then seeks out the aid of actor Simon Trent, who played the Grey Ghost, and just might know enough to uncover the bomber’s true identity. Trent, however, has fallen down on his luck, and doesn’t want to be a hero. But, Batman convinces him. Trent even dons his old Grey Ghost costume, and fights along side the Dark Knight. Can Batman and the Grey Ghost stop the bomber?
Why I Like It: Throughout the episode, we learn that the Grey Ghost was Bruce Wayne’s primary inspiration to become Batman. He even shows the Grey Ghost his “Grey Ghost shrine” in the Batcave. I also love how this episode was referenced in an episode of Batman Beyond, when Bruce Wayne dons the Grey Ghost’s mask in order to help Batman but keep his true identity a secret. And finally, ya gotta love who did the voice of Simon Trent/Grey Ghost: Adam West, TV’s Batman from 1968.
11. Perchance to Dream
Batman wakes up one morning to discover that his parents still live, he’s engaged to Selina Kyle…and someone else is Batman. At first he tries to relax and enjoy this new life, but he can’t help this feeling that it’s all not real. After some investigation, he learns that this is all an elaborate dream induced by the Mad Hatter’s technology to disable Batman.
10. Legends of the Dark Knight
A trio of kids wander Gotham’s streets, and tell their tales of what they think Batman is really like. The first kid tells a tale of a somewhat goofy Batman, just like the old live-action show from the 1960’s. The second kid tells a tale of a mean old Batman, just like from the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. And then, they finally get to watch the real Batman in action. Besides presenting us with three different takes on Batman, you’ve got to watch quickly for the reference to the film Batman & Robin, directed by Joel Schumacher. In that scene, our trio of kids run into a fourth kid named Joel:
Joel>> Are you guys talking about Batman? I love Batman! The tight rubber outfits! And that car! I hear it can drive up walls!
The other kids>> You’re so weird, Joel.
9. Harley and Ivy
Thrown out by the Joker, Harley Quinn soon runs into Poison Ivy. Here, Poison Ivy teaches Harley all about female empowerment as they go on a crime spree in Gotham. But, Harley’s success soon annoys the Joker, and he tries to hunt down this duo. Can Batman stop the Joker and bring in Harley and Ivy? I love how this episode ends. Batman and the Joker are slugging it out as Harley and Ivy drive away. Ivy screams out “No man can catch us!” Then, they run head first into a police car. Out comes officer Rene Montoya (one of the bigger supporting characters of the show) to arrest them.
8. Christmas With The Joker
The Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum on Christmas Eve, and commandeers Gotham’s airwaves with his own twisted Christmas special. Can Batman and Robin shut him down before Joker murders his special guests on-air? I love this for many reasons: Batman’s Scrooge-like exterior, Robin’s obsession with seeing It’s A Wonderful Life, and how Joker starts his special. I always wanted to lift that sound clip to start my Christmas radio shows: “It’s A Wonderful Life will not be seen this year. In it’s place is the following. Greeting’s folks! Joker here! Live from Gotham Square! It’s the show no one wants to see but everyone will be watching! It’s…Christmas With The Joker!” Oh, and it manages to work in that classic song parody: “Jingle bells/Batman smells/Robin laid an egg….”
7. Mad Love
At long last, the origin of Harley Quinn is told! (I say at long last because this was the final episode of the show.) We are presented with the tale of Dr. Harleen Quinzele, a psychiatrist fresh out of med school and working in Arkham Asylum. Soon, she assigned to work with the Joker, and she finds herself falling hopelessly in love with him. This episode always blows my mind because I can’t believe they got away with showing that kind of violence towards women in a cartoon. Harley has managed to capture Batman and almost succeeds in killing him. Joker then bursts in, infuriated that Harley has done what he could not. Joker raises his fist above Harley. We cut to Batman’s look of shock as we hear the sound of someone being hit. We then cut back to a crumpled Harley. She tries to explain herself, and Joker throws her out a window. In a kids show.
6. Second Chance
After years of psychiatric care, it seems that Two-Face is finally gone, and Harvey Dent can resume a normal life. As the reconstructive surgery to heal his face is about to begin, two thugs break in and kidnap Harvey Dent from the operating table. Batman and Robin soon narrow down the suspects to Rupert Thorne (Gotham’s mafioso) and the Penguin. Batman goes to check out Penguin, and Robin looks in Thorne. Both turn out to be dead ends, and it finally occurs to Batman who the culprit is. It is the man who would lose the most from the resurrection of Harvey Dent: Two-Face. Batman then heads off alone to bring in Two-Face.
5. Old Wounds
After defeating a couple of muggers one night, Nightwing finally tells Robin why he quit being Batman’s sidekick (Robin #1). We are presented with a tale taking place shortly after Dick Grayson’s college graduation. He’s starting to disagree with a lot or Batman’s crime-fighting tactics, and just takes off into the night. He soon comes to the home of his girlfriend, Barbara Gordon, for sympathy, but leaves frustrated, because he knows he can’t blow his secret identity. Barbara confronts Bruce Wayne, so Bruce lets her into “the circle,” telling her that he’s Batman, Dick’s Robin, and he knows she’s Batgirl. Robin, seeing this as an attempt by Batman to manipulate his life, kicks Batman’s ass and leaves for good. After Nightwing finishes this tale, Robin explains that perhaps it’s time to forgive and forget. Nightwing agrees, and heads off to the Batcave with Robin. I LOVE THIS EPISODE! Especially when Robin/Nightwing kicks Batman’s ass. He levels Batman with one punch. Then, he symbolically removes his Robin mask and tosses it down next to Batman’s crumpled body. And the music in that scene! As he removes the mask, we hear the Robin theme slowly morph into the Nightwing theme.
When Janet Van Doren, Gotham’s anti-Batman DA is kidnaped, Batman investigates, only to be captured by several of his greatest enemies. Batman soon awakens, with Van Doren, in Arkham Asylum. Here, all of his greatest enemies have rebelled against the guards, and taken control. Now, they wish to put Batman on trial for creating the villains he fights. Van Doren is Batman’s defense, Two-Face is the prosecution, the jury is comprised of Scarecrow, Riddler, Poison Ivy and more, and the Joker is the judge. Can Batman and Van Doren escape from this mockery of justice? Just about all of Batman’s enemies get one big scene in this film. And a trivia note: this was the original proposed idea for the first animated movie.
3. Dreams in Darkness
Batman has been hit with a super-concentrated dose of Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Now, hallucinating wildly, Batman has been branded insane and is locked away in the bowels of Arkham. Meanwhile, Scarecrow has escaped, and is plotting to dump his latest fear toxin into Gotham’s water supply. Can Batman fight through the hallucinations, escape from Arkham, and defeat the Scarecrow? This episode probably has the most graphic depiction of Batman’s origins. In one of his hallucinations, his parents walk into a tunnel. The tunnel then turns into a giant gun dripping with blood that blows away Batman.
2. Almost Got ‘Im
While hiding out from Batman, Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc all play a game of poker. During the game, they all share their tales of how they almost got Batman. Oh, and Catwoman and Harley Quinn also make appearances. Also, I love the final scenes. When Killer Croc is revealed to be Batman in disguise, the poker table is thrown aside, knocking the light and causing it to swing. When the light shines on Killer Croc/Batman’s face, we see Croc. When the light swings away, we see Batman’s trademark silhouette. And when Batman goes to rescue Catwoman from Harley Quinn. Catwoman, bound and gagged, is being rolled down a conveyor belt towards the meet grinder. Batman has Harley Quinn. Harley says “Whatcha gonna do? Beat me senseless, or rescue your girlfriend? You’ve only got enough time to do one.” Then, holding Harley with one hand, he calmly reaches behind him, opens up the fuse box, and cuts power to the conveyor belt. Catwoman is saved. He then turns back to Harley. Harley says “Good call,” and gives a half-hearted cry for help.
1. Over The Edge
Scarecrow manages to do the impossible: kill Batgirl. Batgirl’s crumpled corpse is thrown from the top of a skyscraper on to Commissioner Gordon’s car. Gordon unmasks the corpse to discover the face of his daughter. Now, blaming Batman for his daughter’s death, he learns of Bruce Wayne’s secret, and tries to do everything within his power to bring in Batman. Even if it means cutting a deal with Bane. And, just as Bane is about to kill both Batman and Gordon in one fell swoop, Batgirl screams and wakes up. This was all a hallucination, brought on by Scarecrow’s fear toxin. I love the opening scene, with Gordon chasing Batman through the Batcave, screaming out “Bruce Wayne, you are under arrest!” while his officers blow up everything left and right.
If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
The Riddler’s origin episode. The episode itself is only so-so, but I just love that title. It’s even worked into the plot. As computer programmer Edward Nygma is fired from his job, his former employer (who just screwed him out of several billion dollars) taunts him: “OK, then, riddle me this. If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” And that taunt drives Nygma to become the Riddler.
Harley Quinn is finally branded “sane” and is released into the streets of Gotham. But, soon she accidentally takes a hostage and is once again on the run from the law. I like it only because it has the greatest Scarecrow scene in the whole show. (To get the joke, you need to know that Scarecrow was one a professor, and Harley Quinn was once a doctor.) As Harley is being escorted out of Arkham, she runs into Batman and Robin, dragging the Scarecrow kicking and screaming back to his cell. The Scarecrow is on some insane rant: “You can’t do this to me! I am the lord of fear! The master of terror! You should all be bowing before me!” Scarecrow and Harley soon lock eyes. Harley simply says “Hi, professor!” And the Scarecrow, in a perfectly calm voice, says “Good day, doctor.” Scarecrow then continues on his rant, as Batman and Robin turn him over to two Arkham orderlies. Robin then turns to Batman and says “Ya know, I think he’s getting better.”
Riddler is released from Arkham, and seems to have finally gone straight. But has he? Or is he still obsessed with out-Riddle-ing Batman? I like it simply because of the final shot. Riddler has set up this elaborate death trap to kill Batman once and for all, but Batman managed to escape. As the cops drag off Riddler, he begs Batman to tell him how he escaped. But, Batman doesn’t. And the final shot is of the Riddler, in his cell at Arkham, screaming at the top of his lungs “HOW DID HE DO IT? I NEED TO KNOW! I NEED TO KNOW!”
Robin’s Reckoning, part 2
At long last, we see the second half of Robin’s origin! Robin goes out to finally get the man who killed his parents. But will Robin kill the man, or will Batman make sure that justice is done? Talk about delayed gratification. After I saw part 1, it took me 2 YEARS to finally get my hands on a copy of part 2.
Two-Face, parts 1 and 2
Right after Scarecrow, Two-Face is my second favorite villain, so I just had to mention his two-part origin episode.