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 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), along with my own general thoughts and musings. If you want to play catch-up, then check out Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of this series.
Lots to get through today – a whopping 14 episodes in fact! Today I’m sitting down to watch episodes 32 to 45.
And here we go…
Robin’s Reckoning – Part 1
I can’t express this enough – Robin’s Reckoning – Part 1 AND Part 2 – are excellent episodes. EXCELLENT. If you’ve only ever watched a handful of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and you’ve never seen these two stories, check them out!
I remember watching this first episode when it aired on TV originally and being completely blown away by it. I knew nothing of Robin’s origin, so everything about this episode was new to me and I couldn’t quite believe what I’d watched.
As a kid, I knew Robin’s Reckoning was going above and beyond regular cartoons – I knew this was something that adults would enjoy too. In fact, I felt a little frustrated that few adults would be watching because I was convinced this was something everyone should be watching!
2mins – A nice little interaction between Batman & Robin to open the episode and demonstrate the differences in their personalities.
5mins – “It’s Marin. Billy Marin!”
5mins 50secs – Batman just got very, very angry. A thug has just used the name Billy Marin – a name Batman is more than familiar with. Marin is an alias for Tony Zucco – the man responsible for the death of Robin’s parents.
6mins 15secs – Robin just made reference to being at collage. This off-the-cuff remark explains the reason why he only appears in the series on occasion.
8mins – Time for a flashback to a time when Dick Grayson was a boy who performed at Haley’s Circus as part of the Flying Graysons – an aerial acrobatics act comprising Dick, his mother and father.
10mins 45secs – A young Bruce Wayne is in attendance at the circus.
11mins 55secs – Dick’s parents just died. One of the wires was cut and they fell to their deaths. This whole scene is so well executed (no pun intended). We don’t see Mr. & Mrs. Grayson fall; instead we see the rope cut then the scene switches to the audience’s horrified reaction.
12mins 45secs – Bruce has just offered to take care of Dick to protect him from Tony Zucco.
15mins 45secs – Batman is wearing a disguise so he can go undercover on the streets and get information about Zucco.
17mins 20secs – This episode marks the second appearance of Arnold Stromwell, last seen in the episode It’s Never Too Late. Stromwell is Zucco’s uncle.
18mins – Robin’s Reckoning – Part 1 won an Emmy Award in the category Most Outstanding Half Hour or Less Program – and deservedly so. This episode is a fantastic piece of television.
19mins 45secs – As the majority of Robin’s Reckoning – Part 1 is told in flashback, Batman’s costume is slightly different to what we see in most episodes. The Batsymbol on his chest is a plain black bat without the yellow background.
21mins 10secs – End of flashback. Back in the present, Robin is pissed with Batman for keeping information from him about Zucco.
A solid story which looks great in HD. Episodes like this demonstrate that Batman: The Animated Series was and still is one of the best cartoons of all-time.
And now for Part 2…
Robin’s Reckoning – Part 2
The first time I watched this episode, when it aired in 1993, I had to view it on a crappy TV in my brother’s bedroom. For some reason (that I can’t recall), there was some issue with the television downstairs (the big TV), so I was resigned to watching this episode in my brother’s room, on a small television.
Problem 1: My brother’s TV had a portable aerial, so the picture quality was spotty at best.
Problem 2: On this occasion, the TV was refusing to tune into ITV unless I stood holding the TV aerial.
For the entire length of this episode (20 minutes), I stood in my brother’s bedroom facing the television while holding the TV aerial in the air. I couldn’t move from this position otherwise the picture would disappear into a haze of static and interference.
So that’s how I watched the concluding half of one of the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series. Stood in the same spot for 20 minutes clutching a portable television aerial. Marvellous.
Flash forward 25 years and today I am sat on a comfortable chair, a good distance away from a large widescreen television, watching Robin’s Reckoning – Part 2 in high definition. The picture is crystal clear, the sound is perfect and there’s not a portable aerial in sight.
How things change.
3mins – We’re back in flashback territory, getting another insight into Dick’s early years at Wayne Manor.
6mins 20secs – The Batwing makes a brief appearance.
7mins – There’s a… ‘lady of the night’, on screen. At no point does anyone confirm she’s a
prostitute lady of the night, but that’s who she is.
10mins – “Only place you’re going is up the river, you scum.”
11mins 45secs – Batman has just taken Dick to the Batcave… and revealed he’s secretly Bruce Wayne.
19mins – Robin is so bad-ass in this episode. For anyone who is not a fan of Robin, this is the story to check out – it will change your mind.
One of the great things about the relationship between Batman and Robin is the fact that they are very different people. They both share a tragic backstory which has shaped their lives, but they both have different approaches to crime fighting – and different opinions.
Their differing opinions mean they are inevitably going to clash (see: Old Wounds for more details). What’s interesting in this episode is that while they do clash there’s a very good reason for it.
Batman completely understands why Robin wants revenge; so in this situation they’re clashing because Batman is genuinely worried about Robin. Batman believes if Robin gives into his desire for revenge then it will be a path he won’t recover from and that scares him.
Robin’s Reckoning is a fantastic two-part story, where both episodes are as strong as each other. They also look terrific on Blu-ray.
The Laughing Fish
1min – The Laughing Fish is one of only a few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series episodes not to open with a title card. The episode’s title merely appears on screen.
1min 20secs – This episode is written by Paul Dini and is directed by Bruce Timm. The episode is based on three stories taken from Batman comics: The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge (Batman #251, September 1973) by Dennis O’Neill and The Laughing Fish and Sign of the Joker! (Detective Comics #475/476, February/March 1978) by Steve Englehart.
3mins 30secs – Harley Quinn makes here second appearance in this episode.
5mins – The colours in this episode look so good. Harley in particular looks great!
7mins 45secs – Batman has just revealed his lamest disguise yet – he was dressed as Batman, dressed as a cop! As if no one would notice.
12mins – Batman has just switched places with the Joker’s next victim. His disguise is much better this time around.
13mins – The Laughing Fish is a really creepy Joker episode. It’s not my favourite Joker episode, but it is very popular amongst fans of Batman: The Animated Series and it’s not difficult to see why – it’s a great 20 minutes of classic Joker/Batman action.
15mins – The Joker/Harley Quinn relationship isn’t quite fully formed in this episode. Harley seems more of a lackey than a romantic sparring partner.
17mins 25secs – “You’re right Harley, fish are disgusting, I think I’ll start using my toxin on cattle. Joker burgers! Talk about a happy meal… ah ha ha ha ha ha!”
20mins – A dark ending, in keeping with classic Joker stories and yet another example of why Batman: The Animated Series was and still is a cut above the rest when it comes to cartoons.
Night of the Ninja
3mins – Night of the Ninja is the first of two episodes to feature the villain, Kyodai Ken – the other episode is Day of the Samurai. Ken is an original villain created specifically for Batman: The Animated Series. He kind of works as a one-off villain in this episode, but his reappearance in Day of the Samurai is less successful.
3mins 30secs – Dick Grayson/Robin appears in this episode. At this point in the series, Robin is only popping up occasionally. Back when this originally aired I always found it a treat to discover Robin was in an episode as he was largely absent from the show.
4mins – This episode includes flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s past. There are a number of episodes in the series which include flashbacks detailing Bruce’s life pre-Batman. In this episode we get to see how Bruce learned martial arts while studying in Japan.
9mins 40secs – Robin is great in this story. Loren Lester is perfect as the voice of Robin and here he’s given some great material to work with.
10mins 20secs – Batman has just referred to Bruce Wayne as though he’s a completely different person – an example of how the show treats Bruce as the disguise.
20mins – The art is pretty good in this episode and it looks great in HD. Nothing particularly pops off the screen, but it doesn’t need to because consistency is the key here.
Not the greatest episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but a decent one nonetheless. The villain isn’t the most exciting character to appear in a Batman story but thankfully the direction, visuals, dialogue and the inclusion of Robin really help sell Night of the Ninja.
Cat Scratch Fever
Not going to lie – I’m not a huge fan of this episode.
1min – This episode marks the second appearance of Catwoman/Selina Kyle in Batman: The Animated Series, following her debut in the two-part story, The Cat and the Claw. Catwoman’s next appearance is in Tyger Tyger, which is six episodes on from this one (see below).
5mins 50secs – “None of your business, so kiss off.” Once again, Batman: The Animated Series has found a way to get around swear words.
8mins – Roland Daggett makes another appearance in this episode.
8mins 10secs – This episode marks the first appearance of Professor Milo. The character makes his second appearance in Moon of the Wolf.
9mins 30secs – This episode gives further insight into the Batman/Catwoman Bruce/Selina relationship. Batman likes Catwoman, but he can’t condone her criminal ways. Bruce likes Selina, but Selina only sees Bruce as a friend. It’s all a bit of a mess.
10mins 30secs – Lucius Fox makes another appearance in this episode, but it is very (very) brief.
11mins 30secs – One of the reasons I’m not a fan of Cat Scratch Fever is because the animation is a bit shit. The story is the biggest problem, but the animation lets it down too.
12mins – I’ve not really spoken about the animation in this series, but it’s something worth noting. When the first series of Batman: The Animated Series was in production there were 65 episodes to animate – a lot of animation for one studio to get through. In order to complete the series, Warner Bros. hired various studios to animate the show. TMS, Spectrum Animation, Sunrise, Studio Junio, AKOM, Blue Pencil, NOA Animation and Dong Yang Animation all worked on the series, to varying degrees of success. Because so many different studios worked on the series, the animation varies in quality from excellent to sub par.
The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
Disclaimer: This episode marks the first and only appearance of Dr. Hugo Strange in Batman: The Animated Series. The character re-appears in Justice League Unlimited for a small cameo in the episode, The Doomsday Sanction.
3mins – The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne opens up with mobsters, blackmail, extortion and near death. Just your usual Saturday morning cartoon fair, right?
5mins 30secs – Batman is investigating the procedures of Dr. Hugo Strange. His disguise? Bruce Wayne, of course!
7mins – We’re getting snap shots into Bruce’s past.
7mins 30secs – Bruce has inadvertently revealed he is secretly Batman.
10mins – Here’s where the real fun begins. Now that Strange knows Batman’s secret he’s auctioning off the details to three of the Caped Crusader’s most famous adversaries – Two-Face, Penguin and Joker. This is the first episode to feature multiple villains (if you discount episodes with cameos/hallucinations).
18mins 40secs – Strange has revealed Batman’s secret but no one believes him, least of all Two-Face who used to be friends with Bruce Wayne. Two-Face refuses to believe Bruce Wayne could be Batman.
21mins 30secs – A last minute appearance by Dick Grayson as the episode concludes.
The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne is a fun episode that does exactly what it needs to do for a one-off, 20-minute story. There is a loose end – the fact that Strange knows Batman’s secret identity – but this is something which is addressed in episodes of Justice League Unlimited and actually plays quite an important role in that series.
Let’s keep things going…
Heart of Steel – Part 1
Disclaimer: Dust appearing on screen in episodes of Batman: The Animated Series a bit of a problem and one that I’ve spoken about previously. This Blu-ray set has so far handled the dust issue very well, clearing things up as best as possible with dirt and debris being kept to a minimum in previous episodes. So, let’s see how the HD update handles Heart of Steel – Part 1 – the most dust covered episode of the entire series.
1min 30secs – A bit of dirt – but not as bad as the old SD version of this episode.
4mins 30secs – Again, more dirt and more noticeable this time, but it’s still not as bad as it has been previously. This whole scene has been cleaned up as best as it can.
4mins 40secs – One of the coolest moments now. Bruce Wayne is locked in an office in Wayne Industries (for his own safety). Bruce touches a panel on the wall to reveal a secret exit, allowing him to slip away and change into the Batsuit. Brilliant!
6mins 20secs – Cool moment Number #2: Batman has just opened a cupboard door on the roof of Wayne Enterprises to reveal the hiding place of the Batglider. Great stuff!
8mins 50secs – Another appearance from Lucius Fox now. Fox’s appearances are few and far between, but his role is very important in Batman: The Animated Series as he runs Wayne Enterprises in Bruce’s absence. This episode gives Fox the most amount of screen time and makes it clear that he’s running the business while Bruce is otherwise occupied.
10mins 10secs – Barbara Gordon makes her debut in this episode. Here she is voiced by Melissa Gilbert. Gilbert voices Barbara for the remainder of the original run of Batman: The Animated Series, before Tara Strong takes over for The New Batman Adventures. Mary Kay Bergman took on the role for the movie, Batman: Subzero (1998).
11mins 35secs – Karl Rossum makes his debut in Batman: The Animated Series. The character – an inventor and robotics expert – is voiced by William Sanderson.
12mins 30secs – H.A.R.D.A.C. makes its first appearance in this episode. H.A.R.D.A.C. is an artificial intelligence system that appears in this two-part story, Heart of Steel as well as the follow-up episode, His Silicon Soul.
18mins – The crux of this episode is that H.A.R.D.A.C. is using robot duplicates to replace important figures from Gotham City. The plot is a lot more sci-fi than previous episodes of Batman: The Animated Series yet it works very well. A great two-part story.
Dust is still an issue in this episode (as it has always been), but the HD transfer seems to have reduced it where possible and this is probably the best we’re ever going to get. It’s not a huge issue, so don’t believe that it is, I’m merely pointing it out as this episode is where the dust is most noticeable.
Hey, this is a 26-year-old show. HD transfers can only do so much.
Heart of Steel – Part 2
7mins – Barbara Gordon is taking the first few steps on the road to becoming Batgirl.
8mins 40secs – A very cool, creepy moment here. Bullock and Batman are having a scuffle, which results in Bullock falling onto the Batsignal and being electrocuted. It’s a shocking moment (pun intended) that for a brief second seems to suggest that Batman has killed the detective. That is, until it is revealed that Bullock has been replaced by a robot.
13mins – Heart of Steel – Part 2 is more action packed than Part 1, but both halves are equally as good as each other. For those who’ve only seen a handful of episodes, every two-part story in Batman: The Animated Series (Feat of Clay, Two-Face etc) is good.
14mins 30secs – More scenes of Barbara doing detective work. This episode lays the foundations for Batgirl very well.
18mins – As with the first part of Heart of Steel, this second part is very much steeped in sci-fi, something the show largely avoids in favour of the noir/gangster angle.
For those keeping track, this is the last episode on disc 3 of the Blu-ray collection.
If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
Disclaimer: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? is the first episode to feature the Riddler and therefore explains his origin. However, in the UK, rather confusingly this was the second Riddler episode to air.
2mins 30secs – Edward Nygma (aka the Riddler) is voiced by John Glover. Fans of Smallville will know John best for his role as Lionel Luthor. The actor also appeared in the movie Batman & Robin (1997) as Dr. Jason Woodrue.
3mins – I really like this episode, but boy the animation is a bit ropey.
4mins 30secs – Robin appears in this episode.
8mins – Yeah, the animation in this episode really let’s it down. Some of the character proportions are off.
12mins – Riddler episodes are in short supply in Batman: The Animated Series and I believe it is to do with the riddles themselves. Coming up with all the riddles and solutions was too time consuming for the writers, so Riddler stories are limited to just three episodes. The character does appear in more than three episodes, but his later appearances are cameos at best.
15mins 50secs – The animation is making me groan. Such a shame.
One thing I’ve yet to mention, while working my way through this boxset are all the special features that are on this set and boy, there are a lot. I’ve largely ignored them for now and that’s because the majority have been carried over from the DVD set, so I’ve seen them before.
I will be watching the new documentary that has been included in this collection, but I doubt I’ll listen to any of the episode commentaries as I’ve listened to them previously. However, if you’ve not listened to any of the commentaries in this set, then check them out as they’re all very informative.
The commentaries appear on select episodes, so check out the boxset for the full details.
Onto the next episode…
1min 50secs – This episode opens up in Arkham Asylum and includes a couple of Batvillain cameos. These cameos also include one for Lyle Bolton, an Arkham guard who will eventually become a Batvillain called, Lock-Up.
12mins – The Joker and Bruce Wayne get a rare moment to interact. Later interactions – in the 2000 movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker – will be less playful.
13mins – The Joker Mobile makes an appearance. This is its one-time only appearance in the show.
16mins – Batman has just been knocked unconscious by the Joker, giving the Clown Prince of Crime the perfect opportunity to a.) unmask the Caped Crusader and b.) kill him. Of course, this being the Joker, he doesn’t pick either option.
Not one of the greatest Joker episodes and not much to say about it, but it’s enjoyable enough. The HD doesn’t really add much to this one, but there are a few moments where it has chance to shine.
And now back into sci-fi territory for a story inspired by The Island of Doctor Moreau.
1min 30secs – Catwoman returns for this episode and once again, it’s not a great one, which is a shame because Adrienne Barbeau is SO GOOD in the role of Catwoman – it’s the material that let’s her down. Thankfully, Catwoman has a couple of really good episodes coming up. For now, she get transformed into a cat-woman.
4mins 40secs – This episode marks the first and only appearances of Dr. Emile Dorian and Tygrus in Batman: The Animated Series. The characters do make a reappearance in the spin-off comics.
6mins – Kirk Langstrom gets a quick cameo in this episode. Langstrom was last seen in the episode, On Leather Wings. He’ll make a reappearance in the episode Terror in the Sky (see below).
8mins 30secs – In this episode, as with On Leather Wings and Moon of the Wolf (see below), Batman: The Animated Series flirts with the idea of humans transforming into human animals. This idea is touched upon again in Batman Beyond, when the show looks at splicing – a technique whereby animal DNA is used to modify humans.
13mins – While not the strongest story in the series, this episode looks pretty good on Blu-ray.
21mins – The episode ends with Selina Kyle as a cat-woman. She has the antidote, but as the story concludes Selina has not transformed back into a human yet. Of course, she will and by the next time we see her things are back to normal without any reference to the events of this (rather bizarre) story.
Tyger Tyger isn’t a story to return to too often, but on Blu-ray it looks the buisness!
Moon of the Wolf
1min – This is another human/animal episode and sadly, it’s another one that isn’t great.
2mins – Moon of the Wolf was the last episode to be broadcast on What’s Up Doc? before the Saturday morning show took it’s summer break. Therefore, if you watched Batman: The Animated Series in the UK, this was the last new episode you would have been able to watch for a few months before What’s Up Doc? returned to TV screens in the autumn of 1993. However, because Batman: The Animated Series was very popular, the series did receive some repeats on CITV in the interim period.
6mins – Professor Milo makes his second appearance in Batman: The Animated Series. This is the last time he appears in the series, but he doesn’t exit the DC Animated Universe altogether. Milo returns in Justice League Unlimited.
14mins – Anthony Romulus (the werewolf) is voiced by Harry Hamlin. Hamlin is perhaps best known for the role of Perseus in the Clash of the Titans (1981). This is the second role that Hamlin has in Batman: The Animated Series – he previously voiced the role of Cameron Kaiser in Joker’s Wild.
Not a good episode.
Moon of the Wolf is simply a rubbish episode. I’m afraid things don’t get much better for this next one.
Day of the Samurai
1min – Can I just say, I’m now 44 episodes into this boxset and I’m still not bored of watching the opening titles!
1min 10secs – Also, 44 episodes in a six day period is pretty intense. Talk about binge watching.
2mins – This episode marks the second and final appearance of Kyodai Ken.
9mins – I really don’t have much to say about this episode.
11mins – Erm… interesting fact: Night of the Ninja and Day of the Samurai were adapted into a tie-in novel called The Dragon and the Bat. The paperback – by Geary Gravel – can usually be picked up (on the cheap) via eBay.
I love Batman: The Animated Series, but there really was no need for this story. Day of the Samurai isn’t the worst episode of the series, I’ve still got that to come, but this is very much bottom of the barrel stuff.
Sorry if you’re a fan of this episode.
Right, time for one final story for today…
Terror in the Sky
2mins – This episode marks the third appearance of Kirk Langstrom, but only the second appearance of Man-Bat.
2mins 30secs – The truth is, it isn’t actually Man-Bat in this episode. Kirk’s wife, Francine is the bat creature that appears in Terror in the Sky.
9mins – Yay! Batman in the snow. I do like to see Batman in the snow. I don’t know why, I just think he looks really cool in the snow.
10mins – This (Wo)Man-Bat has pink trousers. I think this is supposed to be a hint that we’re dealing with a female bat here. Pink trousers = female bat creature.
10mins 30secs – The Batbike gets a lot of screen time in this episode. If I recall, after I watched this episode back in ’93, I played with the Batbike quite a lot. Up until this point, not so much.
16mins – The Batwing puts in an appearance. The Batbike and the Batwing in the same episode!
Again, not a great episode. Sadly, while Batman: The Animated Series is a FANTASTIC show, there are some less than stellar episodes in the series. Terror in the Sky is one of them.
Not a great end to this 14-episode marathon, but when I pick things up tomorrow I begin with one of the BEST episodes of Batman: The Animated series. I promise.
That’s all for today. Some good episodes and some not-so-good episodes, but overall the quality of this boxset remains top notch.