25 March 2010

Evolution of the Batman (and Robin) - The Batman

Debuting in 2004, The Batman had the difficult job of succeeding the much revered Batman: The Animated Series. The series lasted for 65 episodes over 5 seasons and helped to sell a lot of toys, but overall it never won over the more die-hard fans of the Dark Knight. The series found itself not sure if it wanted to be serious or not, juxtaposing a nacho loving Bruce Wayne with a gritty Gotham full of psychopathic villains.

In particular, season 1 received a lot of criticism from fans due to odd redesigns and over reliance on the Joker and the Penguin. Other characters like Mr. Freeze were reimagined from their complex origins in the previous animated series into two-bit thugs (always in search of shaves and haircuts). Batman spent most of the first season at odds with Gotham Police in spite of a personal friendship with one of the detectives who eventually became this series' Clayface.

Season two was an improvement over the first though criticism continued of strange designs such as the one for the seemingly Marilyn Manson inspired Riddler. Batman began a partnership with Clayface's former partner, Detective Yin, who after season two inexplicably vanished.

In as much as season two was a step in the right direction, season three was a big step back. Though Batgirl was added to the lineup with relative success, her origin tale was followed-up with a lackluster season of forgettable and silly episodes like one with a "hulked out on Bane venom" Joker. The onslaught of Joker and Penguin was still in full force.

In season four, Robin joined the Bat-Family and thus began a run of pretty good episodes. Season four was easily the series strongest, creating new villains such as Everywhere Man and some time rewinding dude and introducing Batman villains Harley Quinn and Black Mask.

One of the fourth season's stand out episodes set in the future revealed a Dark Knight Returns inspired Batman fighting side by side with Nightwing against Mr. Freeze. The season culminated with an alien invasion story teaming The Detective with Detective John Jones AKA the Martian Manhunter. This set the stage for the final season, the Justice League season.

In retrospect, The Batman season five was sort of a test for Batman: The Brave and the Bold as a large number of the episodes featured Batman team-ups. Batman and Green Lantern took on Sinestro. Bats and Supes fought Metallo and Luthor. Batman and Flash fought the Mirror Master. Unfortunately, the pacing and story quality during the final season declined a bit from season four and some of these team-ups just came off as dull. Rather than pulling out a new and intimidating villain for the finale, the final story arc featured the whole Justice League, including Batgirl and Robin, fighting off once again an alien invasion. It was a bit of a letdown, so basically it was the icing on the cake for an underwhelming series.

By the way, the series had two theme songs, the second began running in season three:

Up Next: Special Batmans That Never Were Edition

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