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Dan Slott, Ty Templeton and Rick Burchett’s Run on The Batman Adventures (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

More than two decades after its original broadcast, Batman: The Animated Series remains one of the most insightful and most elegant distillations of the Batman mythos. While the show was on the air, DC published a variety of tie-in comic books featuring a variety of talent. Some of these count among the best Batman stories of the nineties, and it is a shame that DC has not done more work to keep these in print.

Indeed, it is a surprise that DC has never thought to produce a suitably deluxe or high-profile collected edition of the work that Mark Miller did on the tie-in to Superman: The Animated Series. However, it is worth noting that DC did make a nice gesture by offering the first issue of The Batman Adventures as their free comic book day issue in 2003. It is much more appealing free comic book day than a collection of promotions or previews.

Batman. In a nutshell.

Batman. In a nutshell.

The Batman Adventures was a tie-in comic published within the animated continuity while the animated Justice League was still on the air. However, it was written after the end of The New Batman Adventures. As a result, it had a lot more freedom than the comic books that had been published in tandem with the animated series. The Batman Adventures was no longer a supplement to a television show set in Gotham, it was the only continuing glimpse at this version of Gotham.

The Batman Adventures was a wonderful inclusive comic book – it was appropriate for children, it was accessible to people with only a casual familiarity with the world of Batman. In many respects, it was the perfect “free comic book day” comic. A light, fun read with a clever take on Batman and his world. The Batman Adventures is a fantastic little book that ended far too soon – a demonstration that comics don’t need to be “adult” or “mature” in order to be smart or fun.

Deadshot is dead to the world...

Deadshot is dead to the world…

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Batman: The Brave and the Bold – Battle of the Superheroes (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Batman and Superman. It’s a great combination, like cookies and cream or spaghetti and meatballs or… feel free to insert your own analogy here. The two characters are two of the oldest and most enduring superheroes, both owned by the same company. They also both embody two very different ideals. Batman is a pulp action hero in a silly outfit with gothic trappings, while Superman is an alien from another world dressed in primary colours. Pairing the two up to compare and contrast is great fun.

Battle of the Superheroes focuses on Batman and Superman as friends and colleagues, a portrayal which seems somewhat dated. After all, ever since Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns, the tendency has been to treat the pair as grudging allies rather than bosom buddies. Still, the Silver Age aesthetic of The Brave and the Bold suits this approach well, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the wry enthusiasm of it all.

Superhero team-up time...

Superhero team-up time…

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Superman: The Animated Series – The Way of All Flesh (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Although it was quite clear from The Last Son of Krypton that Superman: The Animated Series was going to be quite a different beast than Batman: The Animated Series, there were times when the show borrowed a trick or two from its older sibling. Particularly early in the show’s run, there were a number of “villain origin” episodes which seemed to emulate the more successful villain-centric stories from Batman: The Animated Series.

Fun and Games, the origin episode for Toyman, could easily have been adapted for the other show with a minimum of fuss. It was probably too similar, and a demonstration that Timm’s approach to Batman couldn’t be expected to work perfectly for Superman. Feeding Time and The Way of All Flesh are two single episodes designed to introduce two of Superman’s second-tier bad guys, the Parasite and Metallo.

While they retain a stronger sense of serialised storytelling than many of the Batman stories, there’s a very clear attempt on the part of the writers to humanise and almost empathise with these villains. The Way of All Flesh is probably the most successful, in part because Metallo has a great hook for writer Stan Berkowitz to mine, in part because he’s an interesting villain is his own right, and in part because it does this without seeming too much like an attempt to copy Batman: The Animated Series.

The real man of steel...

The real man of steel…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Last Son of Krypton (Parts 1, 2 & 3) (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series must have seemed like the most logical choice. Bruce Timm had already assembled a team of writers and production personnel who had collaborated to produce one of the finest distillations of one of DC’s most iconic characters. Giving Timm a chance to work with Superman seems only reasonable. After all, Superman is a character that Warner Brothers has always had a bit of difficulty exploiting to his maximum potential.

However, Superman is not quite Batman. Despite the fact that he’s older and (at the very least) just as iconic, Superman hasn’t been quite as popular as Batman for quite some time. He doesn’t have the same depth of supporting characters, and his iconography isn’t as thoroughly integrated into popular consciousness as that of Batman. Superman didn’t have a live-action technicolour sixties television show to introduce an entire generation to the Parasite, Metallo, the Kryptonite Man or many others.

Opening with a three-part pilot, it’s immediately clear that Timm knows that Superman is a very different character than Batman, and that he can’t simply apply the same formula which made Batman: The Animated Series such a high-profile success. From the opening episode of Last Son of Krypton, it’s clear that Superman: The Animated Series is going to be a very different animal.

Up, up and away!

Up, up and away!

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Justice League Unlimited – Task Force X (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

I’ll freely concede that I’m not as fond of Bruce Timm’s Justice League and Justice League Unlimited shows as most seem to be. With a larger and more expansive cast, and an impressively epic backdrop, the shows often felt a little too impersonal, when compared to the work that Timm did on Batman: The Animated Series or Superman: The Animated Series. As a result, I tend to favour the smaller and more intimate episodes of those two spin-offs, the ones very clearly focused on the characters rather than on the larger story arcs. I think Task Force X is one instalment that stands among the very best that the animated DC universe has to offer.

X marks the spot…

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The Adventures of Batman & Robin – Deep Freeze (Review)

This September marks the twentieth anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, and the birth of the shared DC animated universe that would eventually expand to present one of the most comprehensive and thorough explorations of a comic book mythology in any medium. To celebrate, we’re going back into the past and looking at some classic episodes.

Heart of Ice is a phenomenal piece of television. Paul Dini’s sharp script somehow managed to take one of the most camp and forgettable theme villains in Batman’s iconic selection foes, and elevate them to a prime position. After all, were it not for that reimagining of the villain, Victor Fries would likely be a footnote in Batman history, ranking not too far above the Killer Moth or the Calendar Man in the dregs of Batman’s rogue’s gallery. However, while the story provided a concrete and grounded origin for an otherwise Z-list villain, it also raised some interesting questions about where the character could be taken after that.

His second appearance in the series, Deep Freeze seeks to answer those question. While, ironically, it’s considerably shallower than its predecessor, it’s still an interesting look a villain defined by this show.

Freeze frame…

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Recommended Batman Comics 102: Batman – The Animated Series…

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

I know that movies traditionally have a minimal impact on comic book sales, but to celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, I thought I’d make a list of accessible jumping-on points for fans of Batman in mass media. There are several wonderful things about Batman. There are two especially relevant to this article. First, Batman is an infinitely adaptable character. He can literally be anything to anybody. It is entirely possible for somebody to love one interpretation of Batman while loathing others. So I’ll be breaking down my recommendations by source, so you can look at your favourite interpretation of Batman and find the most thematically and tonally relevant jumping-on points:

The second factor is that Batman is one of the few characters blessed with a back catalogue of accessible runs and stories, so there’s quite a few recommendations for each. It’s as simple as finding one that works for you.

We’ll continue with perhaps the most comprehensive and consistent portrayal of the character in mass media, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Batman: The Animated Series.

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