The Animated Series of Batman is commemorated on September 5, 2022. As a lifelong fan of the series, I feel compelled to write about the legacy and impact of Bruce Timm and Eric Radomskis animated portrayal of Batman. However, I do this while knowing the long shadow of that particular legacy has already produced a substantial body 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 rogues gallery with a level of nuance and depth that were previously unknown in any medium at the time, or about the show's triumphant and bold title sequence. These topics, as you might have already guessed, are already well-trodden territory.
I can't remember a time before I saw Batman: The Animated Series. I've forgotten that it was just a cartoon, from Tom and Jerry to The Jetsons. But Batman: The Animated Series was much more than that. It was appointment television. The adventures of the masked brooding vigilante Batman and his battle against a cadre of villains amid the anachronistic Dark Deco expanse of Gotham City sent a jolt through my young imagination like nothing else
I absorbed Batman: The Animated Series with the kind of indiscriminate infatuation only a child can possess. From the engaging characters and beautiful title card designs, there was a point when that love developed into something deeper and more contemplative.
Even if I didnt have the knowledge or ability to articulate what I thought and felt at the time, there was no other Batman series on television that was quite like it. None of them knew nor particularly cared about animation, let alone how it was created, by whom, or for what reason. I wanted to know more about why this particular show made me feel something in a way that no other did at the time.
So, without any other recourse, I did what only seemed natural at the time: I continued to pursue as much art as I could, looking beyond my initial introduction to animation into the realm of films, visual arts, music, and even architecture in search of the answers to those questions that I held dear to my heart.
I discovered them in Robert Wiene's twisted corridor paintings, in Hugh Ferriss' architectural renderings, and in the art deco structure of the Carbide and Carbon Building in downtown Chicago. Each of these discoveries pointed towards a bygone collective future that might have been but would not come to pass.
My fascination with Batman: The Animated Series transcends the character or the medium. The program didnt just introduce me to the character of Batman, it also opened my eyes to other worlds of art and expression that I would not have discovered had I not encountered that series at an early age. My job is researching and highlighting work I find particularly noteworthy, insightful, and beautiful.
Since it first aired 30 years ago, Batman: The Animated Series has impacted the lives of countless people from all walks of life, fostering the artistic pursuits and aspirations of people from all walks of life. How many young artists might have been introduced to the likes of Frank Frazetta, Hieronymus Bosch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky for the first time because they grew up watching Adventure Time?
Anything that can induce such a reaction can in no way be characterized as trivial. They are, in the very literal sense, 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 to stream.