Cartoons have always been cited as one of the best ways for new fans to get into comics. Whether it be people trying their hand at some Claremont because of X-Men: The Animated Series through to Justice League Unlimited defining John Stewart as the Green Lantern, cartoons have helped steer people into the world of comics for decades now. It’s because they’re the two mediums which fit closest to one another – although the current Marvel movies have raised attention in comics like nothing else, they come out two or three times a year. Cartoons, on the other hand, are out every week. If anything, they’re even more prolific in serialisation than comics are.
Which, to be honest, makes it feel crazy that I haven’t seen any of them. I remember when I was young, on BBC we had the Marvel Action Universe – an hour or so of programmes which always started with Iron Man and ended with Fantastic Four. There was a Hulk cartoon in the middle, I think, but it was the Fantastic Four I loved most. That aside, though, I didn’t touch any cartoons. Not the X-Men – strangely enough, given they’re my favourite comics franchise and the characters I always return to – nor Batman: The Animated Series.
For me, Batman is defined by the comics first, and the video games second. I have all the Arkham games, which work from Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s ‘Arkham: A Serious House on Serious Earth’ graphic novel and slowly move into darker and darker territory as things move on, taking elements of other comics whilst building up a definition of Batman as an unmoving, unyielding violent force against crime. The comics are more forgiving of the character, clearly, with the character generally shown as a silent, but more compassionate figure who thinks first before resorting to punches.
Yet what everybody says is that the Animated Series is a different take still. This is a Batman who smiles, who doesn’t know everything, and works in concert with his allies rather than begrudgingly letting them stand behind him. He’s the best Batman, as everybody says – including my ol’ pal Zainab, who knows more about Batman than anybody else I know. So in the back of my head, as I learn more about him, his city, the rogues that hurl fear through the night; I’ve always wanted to move into Bruce Timm’s and Eric Radomski’s version of the Batman mythos and get to know more.
One late night purchase online later, and now I’m sat on my sofa next to the boxsets for the first two seasons. And hey, as I have this blog about anything but comics, I figured it’d be a fun creative exercise to write about each episode as I watch them, and build up an understanding of this alternative take on who Batman is, and what his life is like.
As a comics reader firstly (you can see me every week on ComicsAlliance and fairly often on Comic Book Resources), I’m interested in how this will differ from the stories I’ve read, and the presentation of Batman in comics, movies, games and licensing. It’s a little different, going from comics to cartoon like this, and obviously these are all aimed at a younger audience than me. But still! The chance for another serialised version of Gotham City is too fun to pass up, and it’s about time I watched these anyway. So, for as long as I can keep going, I’m going to be doing little recaps and write-ups on the series, episode by episode!