Yesterday marked 20 years since the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series aired on Fox. It kicked off with The Cat and the Claw, introducing this version of Catwoman as an environmentalist and animal rights activist. It was an epic start to one of the greatest cartoons ever created, and set a tone that would help redefine the entire Gotham universe. Following Burton’s first Batman movie, this was the next step in the wide-spread re-branding of the Dark Knight. Despite a plethora of great comic book stories in the ’70s and ’80s, the general public still associated Batman with the Adam West show that saved the dynamic duo in the 1960s, but turned them into a joke at the same time. The 1989 movie helped put the Dark back in the Dark Knight, but it was the excellent animated series that cemented the revised character for the minds of a new generation, one which included me.
The show would go on to recreate many classic stories from Batman lore, most from the 1970s, and brought back some obscure characters that even many avid fans had forgotten about. The reach of the show spread beyond the boob tube however, actually influencing the very comics it was based on. An early example of this was the revival of Dr. Victor Fries, who in the comics had been killed off by the Joker with little to no fan outcry. The show brought him back in a big way though, re-writing his back story and making him a much more tragic, and somewhat sympathetic character. The result bleed into the comic and has made Mr. Freeze a major player in the Bat-Universe ever since.
Another major character to come out of the widely popular show is Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, more commonly referred to as Harley Quinn, the Joker’s girlfriend. First appearing in the episode Joker’s Favor, Harley quickly became a regular on the show and grew to be quite popular among fans. Two years later was introduced to the comic world in a story called Mad Love and has since become one of DC Comics’ hottest properties.
Anyhow, we just wanted to say thanks to Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Kevin Conroy, and all the rest. From the brilliant writing to the animation done on black paper to give the darker aesthetic, to the definitive voice of Batman, we’re glad we were around when it was on, and a Happy 20th from some of your biggest fans…
Images: Warner Bros. Animation