Batman: The Animated Series has finally arrived on Blu-ray! To celebrate this milestone release, I am publishing Batman: The Animated Series: Revisited – a collection of posts which focus specifically on the show’s recent upgrade to high definition (HD).
The aim of these posts is to talk about the long awaited digital upgrade through a discussion of each episode (in order of their appearance on the Blu-ray box set). I am watching all 109 episodes and talking about them in turn.
Yesterday I talked about the first nine episodes in the box set, today I plan to talk about the next 12.
But before I get on to that, now seems a good time to talk about the box set itself and what you get for your hard earned cash.
What is included in the Batman: The Animated Series Blu-ray box set?
The Batman: The Animated Series Blu-ray box set is exhaustive and includes the following:
- All 109 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (in HD)
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (in HD)
- Batman: Subzero (in HD) + The Mr. Freeze Saga (four episodes covering the Mr. Freeze story, including the Batman Beyond episode, Meltdown)
- A digital code to redeem all 109 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (SD only at present)
- Episode introductions on selected episodes
- Episode commentaries for: On Leather Wings, Heart of Ice, Robin’s Reckoning Part 1, Heart of Steel Part 2, Almost Got ’em, Harley and Ivy, Read My Lips, House and Garden, Harlequinade, Over the Edge, Critters and Legends of the Dark Knight
- The Heart of Batman (NEW) documentary
- Concepting Harley Quinn (NEW) featurette
- The Dark Knight’s First Night Pilot Promo featurette
- Batman: The Legacy Continues Retrospective featurette
- Tour of the Batcave featurette
- Robin Rising featurette
- Gordon’s Guardians featurette
- Voices of the Dark Knight featurette
- Gotham’s New Knight featurette
- Arkham Asylum featurette
All of the above is presented in a ‘Deluxe Edition’ box, which includes an outer slipcase and a book-style inner case that showcases embossed artwork and red foil lettering. The box set is priced at £59.99.
In addition to this set, HMV has been selling a limited edition version of the set which includes all of the above, plus a collection of lenticular art cards & three mini Funko Pop figures. The set – which I believe has now sold out – is priced at £79.99.
Is the set worth £59.99 (or £79.99)?
Taking into account the fact this set includes 109 episodes, two movies and all the additional material then yes it’s definitely worth the money – if you can afford it.
The HD updates of the first nine episodes alone look stunning and there’s so much additional material in this set that it more than pays for itself. Of course, the majority of this material is lifted from a previous DVD release, but it was a worthy inclusion before, so it remains a worthy inclusion now.
My only gripe, so far, is that the set is missing the animated movie, Mystery of the Batwoman (2003). Sure, it’s a pretty rubbish Batman movie, but it is part of Batman: The Animated Series continuity so it should have been included.
Right, back to the episodes themselves and I’m now up to episode number ten.
Here we go…
Two-Face – Part 1
2mins – I freakin’ love this episode.
2mins 30secs – For those who don’t know, this two-part story focuses on Harvey Dent’s transformation from District Attorney to conflicted villain. Forget what was depicted in Batman Forever (1995) or The Dark Knight (2008), this is truly the best onscreen origin of Two-Face.
4mins – Oh boy, the animation in this episode is beautiful. This whole scene with Harvey Dent is gorgeous to look at. I said it last night and I’ll say it again now – THE COLOURS! THE FREAKIN’ COLOURS ARE TO DIE FOR!
5mins 30secs – A criminal has just kicked mud at Harvey Dent. He completely lost it and it’s being made clear that Harvey has an anger issue. His rage is just bubbling under the surface. Marvellous.
8mins – Harvey is losing control again. To reflect his change in mood the sky has just turned a luscious deep red. Once again – THE COLOURS! THE FREAKIN’ COLOURS!
10mins – And here’s where things get really deep for a cartoon primarily aimed at children. Harvey is talking to a shrink and through conversation his other personality – Big Bad Harv – has just surfaced. This whole scene is brilliantly executed. There’s a bit of exposition, but the way the information about Harvey’s past is revealed fits into the situation well. This episode is easily one of the best episodes of the entire run of Batman: The Animated Series.
12mins – I should mention that Richard Moll – the voice of Harvey Dent/Big Bad Harv – does such a good job in this episode, creating two very distinct personalities. Harvey is all sweetness and light, while Big Bad Harv is mean and has a deep, gravelly texture to his voice.
13mins – Prior to this episode, Moll voiced Harvey Dent in two episodes – On Leather Wings and Pretty Poison. Outside of those episodes, the actor popped up in Nothing to Fear and The Last Laugh as the voice of the Bat-computer.
18mins – Insert comment about how stunning this episode looks in HD.
19mins – Time for the cliffhanger ending!
Before this episode aired I knew nothing about Two-Face, so when the cliffhanger appeared at the end of the story, with Harvey stumbling out of his hospital bed all bandaged and scarred, I had no idea what was going to happen next. Easily one of my favourite cliffhanger endings of the series.
And now time for part two!
Two-Face – Part 2
3mins – What I like about this episode is the fact that Two-Face isn’t all that fussed about Batman in this story; his main motivation is to ruin Rupert Thorne who he blames for his disfigurement. It’s good to see a villain not obsessed with bumping off Batman.
4mins 35secs – A dream sequence now about Harvey’s transformation and rather surprisingly it’s not coming from Harvey, but instead from Bruce. It’s actually a nightmare and one that makes reference to the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne – Bruce’s parents. Great writing here.
9mins 30secs – The first appearance of the Batbike! The Batbike would be used sparingly throughout the series, but it was pretty damn cool when it did appear. Kenner released a Batbike toy as part of its line of action figures based on Batman: The Animated Series. It was pretty cool too.
13mins 30secs – As much as Two-Face is the villain in this episode, the story is written in such a way that you can’t help but feel sorry for Harvey Dent. This ’empathy’ trait is something that crops up in other episodes in the series (Mad as a Hatter, House & Garden, Baby-Doll etc).
18mins – I should probably mention how good John Vernon is in the role of Rupert Thorne. Thorne might not have been an iconic villain like the Joker or Riddler, but thanks to Vernon’s performance he really stood out as an odious mobster.
Two-Face – Part 2 isn’t quite as strong as part one, but it’s still a humdinger of an episode.
Time for episode number 12…
It’s Never Too Late
OK, so this is an example of Batman: The Animated Series doing something a little more ‘adult’ in its approach. This story doesn’t feature one of the iconic villains and it isn’t a fun, comic book adventure – instead its a story about warring mobsters and about past indiscretions.
3mins – Bruce Wayne has adopted another non-Batman disguise.
4mins 40secs – A flashback sequence, not about Batman or Bruce Wayne. Instead an insight into the life of a mob boss. Told you it was different.
6mins – A shout out for Shirley Walker (again). Her work scoring episodes of Batman: The Animated Series can never be overstated. In many ways, the music is the heart of each episode, with themes and sounds which capture both the mood and the characterisations perfectly. This is evident in this episode.
7mins – While I’m talking about important people I should also mention how important voice director, Andrea Romano is to this series. Romano was responsible for all of the awesome voices that we hear in this show, including John Vernon who once again reprises the role of Rupert Thorne for this episode.
10mins – And in 3… 2… 1… THE COLOURS! When this episode gets the chance to shine (usually when parts of Gotham are on fire) the colour palette is beautiful. Basically, what I’m saying, is that if Gotham was on fire in HD all the time then this show would be mesmerising. Harsh, but fair.
12mins 30secs – The main character in this episode, Arnold Stromwell, reappears in the episode, Robin’s Reckoning – Part 1.
18mins – It’s Never Too Late is a strong episode that doesn’t wear out its run time.
I’ve Got Batman in My Basement
I’ll be completely honest – I don’t like this episode. Danny DeVito aside, I’m not much of a fan of the Penguin, so Penguin episodes really need to be special to capture my interest.
In my opinion, there’s only two really good Penguin episodes in the entire run of Batman: The Animated Series and this isn’t one of them. It also doesn’t help that the story about kids helping Batman fight the Penguin seems all very juvenile.
3mins 30secs – Three-and-a-half-minutes into this episode and I’m already bored by the kids that have just appeared. Ugh.
5mins 30secs – The Penguin makes his debut. Paul Williams – the voice actor behind the Penguin – is fantastic in the role, it’s just a shame the character let’s him down.
9mins 30secs – One of the reasons I dislike this episode so much is because Batman is written out of the episode for a large chunk of the action. The Penguin drugs him, leaving the kids to save the day. Once again…. ugh.
11mins – I think the main aim of this episode, i.e. the inclusion of the kids, was to give young audiences someone to identify with. If that really was the intention then it missed the mark somewhat as even back in 1992 (when I was a kid) this episode sucked.
Nothing more to say about I’ve Got Batman in My Basement. Time for episode 14 – arguably the best episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
Oh and I’m having to change disc to disc 2 in this Blu-ray set.
Heart of Ice
1min – Unlike every other episode of Batman: The Animated Series, this one doesn’t have a title card. The episode’s title simply appears on screen surrounded by falling snow.
2mins – Ferris Boyle – the guy responsible for Victor Fries’s transformation into Mr. Freeze – has just appeared on screen. Boyle is voiced by Joker actor, Mark Hamill.
3mins 30secs – I remember the morning I sat down to watch this episode. I was familiar with Mr. Freeze as a Batman villain from the ’60s Batman show, so I was very interested in Heart of Ice. Little did I know that this episode – written by Paul Dini and directed by Bruce Timm – would turn Mr. Freeze into one of the best characters in the entire show.
5mins 45secs – Batman Vs. Mr. Freeze. Yeah, Freeze is kicking Batman’s ass.
6mins – The design of Mr. Freeze is so cool – no pun intended.
8mins 25secs – Batman just referred to himself in the third person.
9mins – It’s kind of bizarre to think of Mark Hamill voicing Ferris Boyle in this episode, because the Hamill/the Joker is such an intrinsic part of the show.
10mins 40secs – The animation in Heart of Ice is superb. This HD update is only making it look better.
11mins – Bruce Wayne has adopted another non-Batman disguise – this time as a security guard.
12mins – Here’s the real meat of this episode – the backstory of Victor Fries and the tragic circumstances that led to his transformation into Mr. Freeze. Prior to this episode, Mr. Freeze was just a common crook with a freezing gimmick. After this episode, Mr. Freeze became a truly tragic figure in Batman mythology.
13mins – As mentioned earlier in the post, this Blu-ray boxset includes all of the Mr. Freeze episodes, including his appearance in Batman Beyond. For anyone reading this post who has never followed his story, I suggest you check out the episodes/movie in the following order: Heart of Ice, Deep Freeze, Subzero, Cold Comfort, Meltdown.
18mins – There’s a brief moment here where the colours on the Batsymbol on Batman’s chest are incorrectly reversed. This was a production error that occurred during the making of the episode that has never been fixed.
20mins 55secs – “Good night, humanitarian.”
Such a good, yet tragic episode. Heart of Ice is without doubt a masterpiece.
And now for something else that is really quite important.
The Cat and the Claw – Part 1
Disclaimer: The Cat and the Claw – Part 1 was the very first episode of Batman: The Animated Series to air on television. As noted in Batman: The Animated Series: Revisited – Part 1, the show received its world premiere in the UK on Saturday 5th September and The Cat and the Claw – Part 1 was the first episode to be broadcast.
I remember watching this episode as if it happened only yesterday.
On the Friday night before this episode aired, I was watching CITV – a tea-time television block dedicated to children’s programmes. I was watching CITV because I wanted to watch an episode of The Real Ghostbusters which was airing that night.
Upon the conclusion of The Real Ghostbusters I was just about switch over to BBC (to watch Neighbours) when something caught my attention – an advert for a new Saturday morning TV show called What’s Up Doc?. The advert highlighted what What’s Up Doc? was all about and included a plug for a new Batman cartoon that would appear on the show.
Being someone with an interest in super heroes I figured I should probably check out this new Batman cartoon – and I’m so glad I did. From the moment I watched The Cat and the Claw – Part 1 on Saturday 5th September, everything changed.
Cartoon shows that I’d watched religiously prior to the arrival of Batman: The Animated Series (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Real Ghostbusters etc) now seemed very, very dated. As such, I pretty much left them behind (for ten years at least) while I focused on this new way piece of animation.
Batman: The Animated Series became my new favourite show because of this episode and 26 years on it remains my favourite television series of all-time – heck, I even wrote my university dissertation on it!
No pressure, but this HD update for The Cat and the Claw – Part 1 had best be good – there’s a lot of history here.
3mins – The interaction between Batman and Catwoman as they spar across the rooftops of Gotham City is a joy to watch. Catwoman is so sassy.
7mins – Watching this episode really does take me back to 1992. It’s difficult to put into words how this episode made me feel, but I can tell you this – for an entire week after this episode aired I thought of nothing but Batman. NOTHING.
7mins 20secs – Oh and as I didn’t record this episode and it wasn’t repeated (at least not for a year anyway), the only way to replay the events of this episode was to replay them in my mind. Kids today don’t know how lucky they are with the internet and catch-up services etc… *Insert old person grumbling*
11mins 30secs – What I really like about this episode is the fact that Selina Kyle is just as interesting as Catwoman – if not more so.
13mins 30secs – Red Claw!
14mins – Red Claw – the villain of this episode – is voiced by Kate Mulgrew. I find it amusing that Mulgrew is playing Red Claw here and currently plays the part of Red in Orange is the New Black.
14mins 30secs – Batman is roughing up some mob bosses. This pretty much set the tone for the series and it’s easy to see why this became the first episode to air on TV.
19mins – Red Claw is an OK villain here, even if she is paper thin. It’s a shame that the character wasn’t given some character development.
The Cat and the Claw ends on a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger isn’t very exciting, but back in 1992 I didn’t care – I was totally hooked.
The Cat and the Claw – Part 2
1min – I forgot to mention that Selina Kyle/Catwoman is voiced by Adrienne Barbeau. Based on her performance and the popularity of Catwoman, Barbeau could have easily headlined her own spin-off show.
6mins – “Red Claw, a woman?” Oh, dear – not the greatest line the show has ever delivered. The fact that the main villain is a Soviet terrorist is also not a great move for the show either.
7mins 30secs – Bruce Wayne’s mustard coloured car has just made an appearance. Back in the ’90s, Ertl produced a series of (excellent) die-cast toys based on the vehicles featured in Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Wayne’s car was featured amongst the collection and it was a beaut!
17mins – It’s becoming very, very redundant to say, but once again the animation looks great in this episode. And also, as I’ve yet to mention it, the sound is fantastic too. Everything is sharp and clear to understand. If I didn’t already own this box set I’d go out and buy it now. The images I’m using in these posts, which are taken from old standard definition copies of the show, are so crap in comparison to what I can see on my TV screen right now.
See No Evil
I’ll be completely honest with you, although I watched See No Evil when it originally aired, I have no clear memory of sitting down to watch the episode. In fact, it wasn’t until the late ’90s, when Cartoon Network began repeating episodes of Batman: The Animated Series that I remembered this one even existed.
Is it a bad episode? No – I actually like it. However, for some reason it simply didn’t make an impression the first time around.
4mins – The villain of this episode, Lloyd Ventrix, is voiced by Michael Gross. Gross is perhaps best known for playing the part of Burt Gummer in the Tremors movie series.
4mins 30secs – Ventrix is a one-time-only Bat-villain, and there’s a reason for that – his story is done and dusted in this episode. Still, he’s a pretty creepy villain.
10mins 50secs – Lucius Fox makes his debut in this episode. Brock Peters provides voice over duties.
12mins 55secs – Lovin’ the music in this episode.
19mins – Batman on top of an invisible car, riding through the streets of Gotham City = AWESOME!
Not much to say about See No Evil other than this is a decent episode with some great visuals. It’s not a milestone story and it doesn’t feature one of the major villains from Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery, but it’s still good… and lookin’ sharp in HD.
Beware the Gray Ghost
Another important episode now – Beware the Gray Ghost aka The One with Adam West.
1mins – The Gray Ghost was a character created specifically for this episode and the reason for this was to create an old school superhero that Bruce Wayne could look up to as a kid. The character was played by former Batman star, the late Adam West.
3mins – The villain of this episode is called The Mad Bomber.
4mins – What’s great about this episode is that a.) It’s a fun story; b.) It pays tribute to pulp heroes of the past; and c.) It acts as a passing of the torch from one Batman actor (Adam West) to another (Kevin Conroy). It also throws light on what it was like for an actor like West to play an iconic role like Batman, then find himself typecast for years. Some clever writing here that really pays off because of West’s casting.
17mins – This episode is a joy to watch. Seeing Batman and the Gray Ghost working together is so much fun. A truly excellent way to bring two heroes together without it appearing contrived.
18mins – The Mad Bomber is voiced by Batman: The Animated Series Co-Creator and Co-Producer, Bruce Timm.
21mins 30secs – “The Gray Ghost was my hero – and he still is.”
Prophecy of Doom
Unless you’re an uber-fan of Batman: The Animated Series then chances are you’ve forgotten this episode exists. The villain is bland, the story is dull and there’s nothing particularly memorable about the episode.
Can HD change my feelings towards Prophecy of Doom? Doubtful, but let’s see shall we?
3mins – I have to admit, the HD upgrade has provided this episode with a very colourful opening.
11mins – Nostromos is a rubbish villain, but he looks damn good here.
Yeah, nothing else to talk about I’m afraid.
Time for the final two episodes of the evening – and it’s a two-parter. An excellent two-parter.
Feat of Clay – Part 1
2mins – Lucius Fox returns!
6mins 45secs – Matt Hagen makes his debut in the series. Hagen is voiced by Ron Perman.
7mins – The face cream that Hagen uses to reshape his face is called Renuyu. This cream eventually leads to Hagen’s transformation into the villain, Clayface.
8mins – An explanation for Hagen’s disfigurement can be seen in the background of his dressing room. Newspaper clippings explain that Hagen was in a car accident.
12mins 30secs – Hagen is being covered in Renuyu cream. This scene is pretty gross.
15mins – The Batwing makes its debut. It looks rather swish!
19mins – Hagen mostly sits out of this episode, but that’s fine because the second part, which sees Hagen in full-on Clayface mode is brilliant and gives him chance to shine.
Feat of Clay – Part 2
3mins – Clayface is another villain who I was unfamiliar with prior to Feat of Clay. Upon watching this two-part story, I fell in love with Clayface. To this day, Clayface remains one of my favourite Batman villains.
3mins 30secs – The Clayface action figure was also one of my favourites from Kenner’s range of Batman toys.
8mins – A comment about the animation – yep, it’s superb. Did you expect anything less? OK, so sometimes the animation can be a bit ropey – due to all the different animation studios that worked on the series – but here it’s top notch. I believe TMS animated this episode.
8mins 20secs – Incidentally, the animation in Feat of Clay – Part 2 is better than the animation in Feat of Clay – Part 1.
10mins 30secs – The rooftop fight between Batman and Clayface is beautiful. The sky is SO RED. This £60 box set is worth buying just for this episode alone.
15mins – Clayface’s ability to shapeshift is always fun to watch, but here it is beautiful… and also kind of yucky. Why this villain has not been used in a Batman movie yet is beyond me.
18mins – Nearing the end of the episode and the colours are so vibrant. Ignore how crappy the images are above, these are taken from an SD episode – the HD version looks nothing like this. I really wish I had some images to show you.
Right, that’s all for this evening. I’ve just spent the last four hours watching episodes of Batman: The Animated Series – I think it’s time for a break.
More to talk about tomorrow.