The 30th anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series will be commemorated on September 5, 2022. I feel compelled to write about Bruce Timm and Eric Radomskis animated portrayals of the Dark Knight while acknowledging that the long shadow of that particular legacy has already produced a substantial quantity of critical work that would otherwise render any such effort redundant.
I may have written about the origins of Batman: The Animated Series as a result of the 1990s Tiny Toon Adventures, or about the show's winning and courageous title sequence, although these are already well-trodden territory.
To be honest, it's difficult for me to remember a time before I knew about the Batman: The Animated Series. I can't recall the first episode I saw. I'd seen more than my fair share of cartoons up to that point; from Tom and Jerry to The Jetsons to Tom and Jerry. It's all about appointment television. The adventures of Batman and his savage foes amid the dark dark expanse of Gotham City sent a surge through my young imagination like nothing else.
I absorbed Batman: The Animated Series with the kind of indiscriminate infatuation only a child can engender. From the memorable characters and captivating orchestral score to the beautiful title card designs, there was a moment when that love matured from infatuation into something deeper and more thoughtful. During a sitting in my dad's apartment, I asked myself: Why does this look so different from everything else?
Even if I didnt know what it was that inspired Batman: The Animated Series, there wasn't any other Batman story like it on television at the time. I didn't have access to home internet or the ability to enter a question into a search bar and get answers in full order; none of them knew nor particularly cared about animation, let alone how it was created, or by whom, or for what reason. I wanted to be able to express and describe why this particular show made me feel something in
So, without any other recourse, I did what only seemed natural at the time: I continued to watch and study art as much as I possibly could, immersing myself in the world of films, visual art, music, and even architecture beyond my initial introduction to animation.
I found them in Robert Wiene's twisted corridors in the background of Gotham City's back alleys, in Hugh Ferriss' architectural illustrations, and in the art deco edifice of the Carbide and Carbon Building in downtown Chicago. Each of these discoveries pointed toward a bygone collective future of a future that might have been but did not come to pass.
My passion for Batman: The Animated Series transcends the subject or the medium. The program didn't just introduce me to Batman, it also opened my eyes to other perspectives on art and history that I would never have encountered or imagined if I hadn't discovered that series at an early age. My job here at Polygon is to catalog and highlight work I find particularly noteworthy, thought-provoking, and beautiful.
Since it first appeared 30 years ago, Batman: The Animated Series has impacted the lives of many individuals of all walks of life, inspiring artistic pursuits and aspirations. How many young artists might have been introduced to the likes of Frank Frazetta, Hieronymus Bosch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky for the first time simply because they grew up watching Adventure Time?
Anything that might be deemed as trivial is in no way considered to be trivial. They are, in the very literal sense of the word, amazing. Art matters. Animation matters. Stories matter. Go out and discover the ones that matter most to you, and then tell your own. You are the only one who can.
On HBO Max, Batman: The Animated Series is available for viewing.