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 boxset). I am watching all 109 episodes and talking about them in turn.
Yesterday I talked a fair bit about this new Blu-ray boxset, including various discussions and comments on episodes ten to 21. Today, I will be continuing my journey with Batman: The Animated Series with episodes 22 to 26.
I’m aware that the images in these posts aren’t showing the set off to its fullest, as they are rather grainy SD shots. As HD images aren’t available at present, I’ve included a couple of images below which give you a slightly better understanding of how good the show looks now it has had a makeover.
These images should give you a clearer picture, but they still don’t do the HD transfers justice. So, if you’re mulling over whether to buy this boxset or not, I’d strongly advise picking it up and checking it out for yourself.
Right, let’s get started…
*Please note I’ve spelt the word Favor using the American spelling. Yes, as a UK resident I do have the urge to insert a ‘u’ in the word, but I’m going to let things slide on this occasion. Hey, our American cousins have a lot more going on right now than worrying about a missing ‘u’.
OK, so Joker’s Favor is a brilliant episode and one of my favourites. The premise is that Charlie Collins, a mild mannered accountant, is momentarily rude to the Joker, causing the Clown Prince of Crime to demand a small favour from him in way of an apology. For two years the Joker lets Charlie sweat until one day he calls in that favour, turning Charlie’s life upside down in the process.
1mins – Joker’s Favor is one of the first episodes I recorded off the television. As such, I watched this episode again and again and again (and so on) until the VHS tape was practically worn out. It’s possible that I’ve seen this episode more times than anyone should watch anything, ever.
1min 20secs – Joker’s Favor also marked the first time that I actually started paying attention to who was involved with the writing process on this show. Not surprisingly, this is because this episode was written by fan-favourite scribe, Paul Dini and it’s a corker!
7mins 15secs – The first appearance of Harley Quinn! Hurrah!
8mins 45secs – The Joker has just tracked Charlie down, years after he relocated and changed his name. This whole situation really freaked me out as a kid – the idea that the Joker would always find you, no matter what. *Shudder* I kind of feel like he’s watching me now. He is, isn’t he?
11mins 40secs – The Joker is hilarious in this episode. Very disturbing, but hilarious.
14mins – The role of Harley Quinn could have easily been a one-time only thing, but thanks to voice actress, Arleen Sorkin, it becomes clear there is a lot of potential here.
18mins 15secs – Best line of the episode (and there are some great lines): “I know, you’re thinking what a shame – a pure innocent little thing like her, led astray by bad companions.”
Such a good episode.
Not much to comment about the HD upgrade on this one.
Joker’s Favor is quite a dark episode, so while the HD update looks good, there aren’t many moments where visually the episode has a chance to shine. However, the makeover has kept a good episode looking (and sounding) great.
On a side note, Arleen Sorkin is friends with Paul Dini and that’s the reason why she was cast in the role of Harley Quinn. For Dini, Sorkin was Harley Quinn and he created the role for her.
Should you want to see Sorkin playing a clownish role which isn’t Harley Quinn, here is a clip taken from the American soap opera, Days of Our Lives. The actress appears 50 seconds into this clip.
Time for the next episode now, and this episode – Vendetta – marks the first appearance of Killer Croc.
2mins – Gotham City in the rain – could there be a more beautiful sight? But seriously, I do love the atmosphere that’s being created here.
3mins 30secs – The Batboat returns!
3mins 45secs – “What kind of shuckin jive is this, Jim?” – Harvey Bullock doing his best not to swear.
5mins – What I like about this episode is the idea that Bullock might be a dirty cop. It’s an idea the series flirts with on a number of occasions before finally making it clear he’s actually a pretty decent cop.
7mins – Rupert Thorne makes another appearance. For a not-so-well known Bat-villain Thorne appears in this series quite a lot.
8mins 10secs – Thorne and Batman are in a rooftop greenhouse. It’s raining outside, a glass panel in the greenhouse is smashed and boy does that glass look good. Yeah, I’m getting excited over a bit of broken glass but I’m saying it as I see it and that glass looks good!
14mins – Killer Croc appears in Batman: The Animated Series a number of times, but often with very little explanation as to his origins. We get a bit here and there, but not much. In this episode we learn he performed in a circus, then he was a wrestler, but no explanation of why he’s a man-crocodile.
19mins – Croc just commented that he grew up looking the way he does, but nothing more than that. I guess Croc is the sort of villain that doesn’t really need a detailed backstory – he is who he is.
Vendetta looks fantastic in HD. The upgrade really ups the ante when it comes to creating the right atmosphere and once again highlights the fact that if you have strong animation to begin with, this HD transfer really raises the bar.
Time for episode 24…
Fear of Victory
2mins 50secs – The Scarecrow has just turned up (in disguise) at the dorm room of Dick Grayson. Yep, this is a Robin episode, which is great because I really like Robin in this series. The character was used sparingly during the first season (i.e. the first 65 episodes), but became a mainstay from the second season onward.
6mins 30secs – Another great looking episode here.
8mins 30secs – In the UK, Fear of Victory was the 17th episode of Batman: The Animated Series to be broadcast on television. By this point in the show’s run, Batman: The Animated Series was becoming must-see TV on a Saturday morning.
11mins 30secs – Batman is walking the halls of Arkham Asylum, cue cameos for the Joker, Poison Ivy and Two-Face.
13mins – The late actor, Henry Polic II voices the Scarecrow in this episode. Polic voiced Scarecrow in five episodes of Batman: The Animated Series: Nothing to Fear, Fear of Victory, Dreams in Darkness, Harley’s Holiday and Lock-up. When the character returned for the episode Never Fear, he was voiced by Jeffrey Combs.
17mins – Robin – under the influence of Scarecrow’s fear toxin – is finding it difficult to get over a fear of heights.
18mins – This is the second appearance of the Scarecrow in Batman: The Animated Series (following his debut in Nothing to Fear) and since he last appeared he’s had a little makeover. The costume is pretty much the same, except now he has straw hair. This costume remains his default costume until Never Fear where he gets a radical and rather frightening new look.
Fear of Victory is a great Scarecrow episode, but in truth, there isn’t a bad Scarecrow episode in the entire run of Batman: The Animated Series. Every time the character appears the writing team find a new way to make him seem fresh and interesting.
Thumbs up for the HD too. Great stuff!
And now for an appointment with…
The Clock King
As much as I like the iconic Bat-villains (Ivy, Riddler, Scareface etc), I do have a soft-spot for the lesser-known villains. Case in point – The Clock King.
Sure, the villain is very gimmicky, but there’s something about this episode which I really, really like. It was a particular favourite when I was a kid – I probably watched it as many times as I watched Joker’s Favor – so I can’t wait to see what it looks like in HD.
2mins – The Clock King’s real name is Temple Fugate – a play on the Latin phrase, Tempus Fugit, which means ‘time flies’.
4mins – Fugate experiences one really bad day and it leads him down a path of villainy – a common theme amongst Batman’s adversaries.
9mins – In the UK, The Clock King was the 18th episode of Batman: The Animated Series to air. Incidentally, Batman: The Animated Series aired only one new episode a week, so by this point in the show’s run we’d just entered 1993.
14mins – Mayor Hill is experiencing problems with the railway system in Gotham. He should count himself lucky that he doesn’t have to get a train to and from Manchester on a weekend, then he’d know what problems are!
18mins – “I’m here to clean your clock, Fugate!”
Gimmicky but I really do like The Clock King. Plus, the score for this episode is SO GOOD.
And now time for episode 26 and an…
Appointment in Crime Alley
This is yet another example of Batman: The Animated Series producing an episode that is more ‘adult’ in content and tone than some of the more, comic booky stories.
The premise of Appointment in Crime Alley is that Batman is on the way to a very important appointment, but gets waylaid in the process. At the conclusion of the episode is it revealed that every year Batman/Bruce Wayne places flowers at the spot where his parents were murdered and that’s what the aforementioned appointment is all about.
2mins – Roland Daggett is the villain of this episode. Daggett was last seen in the two-part story, Feat of Clay.
4mins – Two things to note: The HD update makes this episode look stunning; and the score is one of the series’ best. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – Shirley Walker did some amazing work in this series.
6mins – Appointment in Crime Alley marks the debut appearance of Wayne family friend, Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Diana Muldaur voiced Thompkins in Batman: The Animated Series. Muldaur is perhaps best known to genre fans as Dr. Pulaski in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
11mins – Batman’s origin is never explained directly in Batman: The Animated Series; instead elements of the backstory are teased out here and there during the course of the show. This episode fills in a few of the blanks.
19mins – Ed Asner (the voice of Roland Daggett) also voiced Granny Goodness on Superman: The Animated Series.
21mins 20secs – “Good people still live in Crime Alley.”
A very strong episode to finish on and one with an emotional ending.
*Wipes tears from eyes*
Before I go for the evening, earlier today I stumbled across a video that every Bat-fan should watch – the opening credits to Batman: The Animated Series… in Arabic!
This video is currently doing the rounds on the net and showcases the Arabic version of the B:TAS theme song.
Rather different to the version you’re used to, right?
Yeah, I’m not sure it’s on par with Danny Elfman’s theme, but each to their own.
Right, that’s all for today. If you’ve not checked out my previous posts, then take a look at Part 1, 2 and 3 of this ongoing discussion about Batman: The Animated Series, then come back tomorrow for more.