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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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Beware the Batman – Hunted (Review)

Batman is a character who thrives on reinvention and reimagining. The character has over second decades of interpretations behind him, covering a wide range of portrayals. He has been Adam West’s camp crusader, Tim Burton’s gothic outsider and Christopher Nolan’s urban warrior. In the comics, he’s undergone an even more diverse series of changes and reworkings. Beware the Batman is the latest animated series to focus on the Dark Knight, offering a take quite distinct from the variety of animated interpretations we’ve seen in the recent past.

A running start...

A running start…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Knight Time (Review)

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

It’s always fun to compare and contrast Superman and Batman, partially because they are two of the oldest and most iconic superheroes in popular culture, but also because the lend themselves to contrast. Superman is all smiles and primary colours, while Batman is shades of grey and shadows. It’s fun to see the worlds of the two superheroes overlap, if only because they are so radically different in tone, atmosphere, mood and content.

While World’s Finest brought Batman and the Joker to Metropolis to play with Superman and Lex Luthor, Knight Time sees the Man of Steel substituting in for an absentee Batman in Gotham.

I gotta get me one of those...

I gotta get me one of those…

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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 – Destroyer! (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.

Destroyer is the last episode of Bruce Timm’s shared, massive DC animated universe to air. Beginning with On Leather Wings, two decades ago, the producer brought an animated version of the publisher’s pantheon to the small screen. It’s certainly an impressive accomplishment, and I think that Timm’s work provided the definitive versions of many of the company’s characters and concepts. That said, the entire final season of Justice League Unlimited seems like one giant epilogue. The first season of the show finished on a triumphant note, with a four-part story that would have provided a nice finalé for the shared universe, and a one-episode coda to the entire world that Timm and his staff had brought to life.

Destroyer, the actual final episode, isn’t nearly that good. At best, however, it serves as a fond farewell, conclusive proof that, as Wonder Woman promises, “The adventure continues.”

Talk about an unlikely team-up…

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Batman: The Animated Series – Beware the Grey Ghost (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.

Adam West’s Batman! occasionally gets a bit of a hard time. Opinion has softened somewhat in the past decade or so, as pop culture has seemed increasingly willing to embrace camp, but there was a time when the sixties television show was unfairly dismissed and mocked for its bright and cheerful portrayal of the Caped Crusader. I’ve always found that a bit unfair, as Batman owes a considerable amount of his pop culture cache to that show, as an entire generation grew up with Adam West’s ham-tastic take on the Dark Knight. Evidently, Bruce Timm and the producers of Batman: The Animated Series understood that, and Beware the Grey Ghost is an affectionate shout-out to that earlier iteration, effectively allowing Kevin Conroy’s grizzled Caped Crusader to recognise Adam West as one of his defining influences.

Shades of Grey…

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Justice League – Starcrossed (Parts I, II & III) (Review)

Starcrossed serves as something of a grand finalé to the first two seasons of Justice League. At the time it was written, Timm and his fellow creators weren’t assured of another season. When they did get another season, the show was massively revamped – repracing the team of seven with a much broader cast of characters, scaling down the multi-part episodes to stand-alone adventures, and building on its own themes. As such, Starcrossed can be seen as a conclusion to this era of the show, tying up loose ends and also serving as an impressive showcase for each of the major character featured.

Flights of fancy…

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