The Batman is an animated television series produced by Warner Bros. Animation based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. It ran from September 11, 2004 to March 22, 2008, on the Saturday morning television block Kids’ WB.
Although the series borrows many elements from previous Batman storylines, it does not follow the continuity set by the comic books, the film series, nor that of Batman: The Animated Series and its spin-offs. The character designs were provided by Jackie Chan Adventures artist Jeff Matsuda; he also directed the ending. The series won six Daytime Emmy Awards.
In the first season of The Batman, Bruce Wayne (voiced by Rino Romano) is 26 years old, and has been the Batman, protector of Gotham City, for three years (before his existence was publicly confirmed in the first episode). Along with a secret Batcave, high-tech Batmobile and supercomputer, called the Bat-Wave, he has his trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth (voiced by Alastair Duncan), who guides him when needed. Other characters include Ethan Bennett (voiced by Steven Harris), a cop who believes the Batman is needed in Gotham, and at odds with Chief Angel Rojas (voiced by Edward James Olmos in his initial appearance, Jesse Corti in all his subsequent appearances), who has no room for vigilantes, and Ellen Yin (voiced by Ming-Na), Bennett’s partner who is torn between her belief in law and order and her personal feelings toward the Batman. Both Bennett and Yin are charged with capturing the Batman throughout Season 1. Adam West, who played The Batman in the 1960s The Batman TV series, provides the voice for Gotham’s Mayor, Marion Grange, for the first four seasons.
While crime in Gotham is at an all-time low, new foes emerge and the Batman confronts his rogues gallery for the first time. The first season featured new interpretations of the Batman’s villains such as Rupert Thorne (voiced by Victor Brandt), The Joker (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), The Penguin (voiced by Tom Kenny), Catwoman (voiced by Gina Gershon), Mr. Freeze (voiced by Clancy Brown), Firefly (voiced by Jason Marsden), Ventriloquist and Scarface (voiced by Dan Castellaneta), Man-Bat (voiced by Peter MacNicol), Cluemaster (voiced by Glenn Shadix), and Bane (voiced by Joaquim de Almeida in the first appearance, Ron Perlman in the second) and Clancy Brown in the third).
At the end of Season 1, Ethan Bennett turned into Clayface after being tortured and mutated by the Joker. At that time, Yin changes her view on the Batman and, from that point on, the two become allies.
As the series continues, other villains and characters such as Robin and Batgirl among many of the other characters from the Batman series start making their way into the show as well as other DC heroes such as Superman and Green Arrow.
Like with Static Shock, the show is definitely a mixed bag. But I think a lot of things about this show work really well.
For one thing, Rino Romano as Batman, what a great casting choice, he perfectly fits a Batman that’s just getting used to the job and he really nails the voice of Batman big time. The rest of the casting choices are also pretty good too, Gina Gershon as Catwoman, Clancy Brown as Mr. Freeze, Dan Castellaneta as Scarface, Ron Perlman as Bane, these are some really good casting choices here.
AND then you have the casting choices that don’t work, two primarily. The Joker voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson and The Penguin voiced by Tom Kenny. But then again, look at the designs for both of these guys:
I mean, my god, those sounded terrible and looked bad, even Peter MacNicol as Man Bat sounds off big time. And don’t get me wrong, Kevin Michael Richardson & Tom Kenny are great voice actors, no question about it but they just didn’t fit those roles at all. Hell, the Joker from Batman: TAS season four looked better than this and even that looked off.
But that does lead to one of the bigger problems of the show but back to the positives.
The writing for this show was really good, they got a lot of really good writers involved with this show including Greg Weisman, Stan Berkowitz, Duane Capizzi, Christopher Yost, Paul Dini and many more. They did a good job of expanding the series as it went on and making the new characters that come in each season feel fluently put in.
Some of the big flaws do come with the animation, this is done by the same team that did Jackie Chan Adventures and some of the character designs are really off. I talked about The Joker and The Penguin but even characters I like such as Mr. Freeze and Catwoman look really off. Also, the chin structure of Bruce Wayne is a little off too, I mean, look:
There’s just something off about that design of the chin on Bruce Wayne. To the credit of the show, they did a good job with the other characters such as Robin and Batgirl as well as Alfred but yeah, the designs on these characters are a mixed bag, even more than the newer character designs in the fourth season of Batman: The Animated Series were.
Another big problem with the show is that the music is not really all that good, it’s cool that they got The Edge to perform the theme song but the score itself is pretty generic and there’s nothing about it that really stands out on its’ own like Batman: The Animated Series did.
So, yeah, overall, The Batman is a mixed bag, the voice acting and the writing is what makes the show enjoyable but the music and the animation can be distracting a lot over the course of its’ run even though the animation does get a whole lot better by the end of the series. It’s an interesting show but not one that’s going to be on the level of Batman: The Animated Series anytime soon.