“I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!”
I promised myself and several other people I’d try to keep the number of superhero-related cartoons in this column to a minimum, but depending on whether or not you also see the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon on here, I might have failed to keep that promise.
Regardless, Batman: The Animated Series is without a doubt one of the best superhero cartoons ever to grace television- it’s dark, it’s kid-friendly (just) and the art direction and writing are pitch perfect- this show is dripping with style. Batman’s had about 6 trillion cartoons about him (The Batman, Brave and the Bold, Beware the Batman to name a few) but in my opinion out of all of them this one deserves a continuation or revamp.
However, does it deserve a reboot? A difficult question.
I have watched a lot of cartoons. Maybe not as some but in the grand scheme of things I’ve spent a good few days if not weeks (definitely weeks) of my life watching cartoons in total. Hell, I spent a big portion of my childhood glued to the TV (ever see The Cable Guy? Basically me, except not awful) and as such I have a large plethora to compare stuff to. In all my time (relatively short compared to the inevitable heat death of the universe, I know) there are so few animated programmes intended for children which so deeply explore character as Batman: The Animated Series. Not only is the hero portrayed as morally-ambiguous, but fallible, tortured and at times as insane as the villains he fights. The villains themselves? Also as multi-faceted and as tortured as Bruceman Batwayne himself. This is becoming something that is touched on more and more in ‘toons these days—it’s the kind of writing that inspires kids to be writers themselves, or actors, or just to think more emotionally. I dare anyone to watch the episode where Mr Freeze cries snowflakes at the end and not feel pangs in their itty bity Bat-heartstrings.
2.Batman is infinitely interesting
The amount of tv shows, cartoons, movies and merchandise show nothing if not that Batman is a marketable character. Why? Well, brand dilution and flexible character dimensions. But those are ‘bad’ things so let’s focus on the positives- Batman is cool. There’s no two ways about it—if unfortunately inherently boy-oriented as some could argue (settle down there, keyboard warriors), Batman is a character who will never get boring– he’s strong, spooky and he wears black (or very very dark grey) which as everybody knows, is the coolest colour. He’s a character with appeal without expiry date and therefore, engaging for viewers.
3. It’s Dark
Now I’m not one of these people who thinks cartoons need to be grim, dark and all-encompassing opuses- sometimes it really is nice to watch something really bright and colourful. However, sometimes I want (and miss) something a little more dark from cartoons. B:TAS is loudly and proudly an art deco piece, seen in the curving style of Gotham’s skyline and the permeation of dark and muted colours to almost every single episode, leaving it with a very recognisable and distinctive style not seen these days. Thematically, it unashamedly tackled things like loss, survivor’s guilt and if you really want to be serious for a second, mental illness without ever being explicit. There are some clever themes that get bandied around in shows like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls but sometimes I don’t think that we should be afraid to discuss things with children (and eachother) through the medium of cartoons. The creative team behind Batman: The Animated Series showed this can be done and given the time and budget, could be done again.