Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"The Batman" (Alan Burnett and Sander Schwartz, 2005 - 2008)



Episodes Directed by …

Brandon Vietti (15 episodes)
Seung Eun Kim (7 episodes)
Sam Liu (7 episodes)
Vinton Heuck (5 episodes)
Christopher Berkeley (4 episodes)
Anthony Chun (4 episodes)
John Fang (4 episodes)
Matt Youngberg (2 episodes)

Episodes Written by …

Steven Melching (11 episodes)
Alexx Van Dyne (7 episodes)
Joseph Kuhr (7 episodes)
Greg Weisman (5 episodes)
Stan Berkowitz (4 episodes)
Michael Jelenic (3 episodes)
Bob Goodman (2 episodes)
Jane Espenson (2 episodes)
Douglas Petrie (2 episodes)
Paul Dini (1 episode)
J.D. Murray (unknown episodes)
Christopher Yost (unknown episodes)

Based on the DC Comics Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Series Executive Produced by Alan Burnett and Sander Schwartz

Series Produced by ...

Duane Capizzi
Michael Goguen
Linda Steiner
Jeff Matsuda
Glen Murakami
Kimberly Smith

Series Art Direction by Jeff Matsuda

Casting and Voice Direction by …

Andrea Romano
Michael Hack
Ginny McSwain

Series Editing by …

Myra Owyang
Christopher D. Lozinski
Michael Miscio
Tim Iverson
Bradford Keatts    
Donnell Ebarrete
Samantha Friedman
Jay Lawton

Original Television Theme Written/Performed by The Edge

Original Television Scores Composed by Thomas Chase

Rino Romano ... Bruce Wayne/Batman (Voice)
Alastair Duncan … Alfred Pennyworth (Voice)
Ming-Na … Police Detective Ellen Yin (Voice)
Steve Harris … Police Detective Ethan Bennett/Clayface I (Voice)
Jsse Corti … Police Chief Angel Rojas (Voice)
Mitch Pileggi … Police Commissioner James Gordon (Voice)
Evan Sabara ... Richard ‘Dick’ Grayson/Robin (Voice)
Danielle Judovits … Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (Voice)
Louis Gossett Jr. … Lucius Fox (Voice)
Adam West … Mayor Grange (Voice)
Kevin Michael Richardson … The Joker (Voice)
Hynden Walch … Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Voice)
Gina Gershon … Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Voice)
Piera Coppola … Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy (Voice)
Robert Englund … Edward Nygma/The Riddler (Voice)
Ron Perlman … Waylon Jones/Killer Croc (Voice)
Tom Kenny … Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Voice)
Clancy Brown … Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze (Voice)
Peter MacNicol … Dr. Kirk Langstrom (Voice)
James Remar … Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Voice)
Frank Gorshin … Professor Hugo Strange I (Voice)
Richard Green … Professor Hugo Strange II (Voice)
Jason Marsden … Garfield Lynns/Firefly (Voice)
Jeff Bennett … Ragdoll (Voice)
Patton Oswalt … Cosmo Krank (Voice)
Patrick Warburton … Cash Tankinson (Voice)

Three years after his first appearance in Gotham City, a youthful and mysterious vigilante called the Batman begins to fight a host of costumed super villains.

Key Episodes:
“The Bat in the Belfry”
“The Cat and the Bat”
“The Big Chill”
“The Rubberface of Comedy”
“The Clayface of Tragedy”
“The Laughing Bat”
“Grundy’s Night”
“Strange Minds”
“Night and the City”
“Batgirl Begins” Part I
“Batgirl Begins” Part II
“Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind”
“A Matter of Family”
“The Breakout”
“Two of a Kind”
“Riddler’s Revenge”
“The Joining” Part I
“The Joining” Part II
“The Batman/Superman Story” Part I
“The Batman/Superman Story” Part II
“Lost Heroes” Part I
“Lost Heroes” Part II


With the instant theatrical success of “Batman Begins,” the time seemed right for the masked man hunter to return to television screens in the form of a brand new animated series.

Perhaps in retrospect it was conceived in a bit of haste but regardless, 2005’s “The Batman” made its Saturday morning debut for Kids WB!

With some mixed results.


Opening up on the three year anniversary of his donning the cape and cowl, Batman (Rino Romano) has (supposedly) spent the past three years as little more than an urban myth, decimating the mob throughout Gotham including crime boss Rupert Thorne.

But as it will always be with Batman’s crusade, escalation rears its head.


Organized crime can’t stand up to The Batman, but a quick emergence of costumed villainy can as colorful but deadly foes like the maniacal Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson), the dapper Penguin (Tom Kenny), mutated jewel thief Mr. Freeze (Clancy Brown) and the flirtatious Catwoman (Gina Gershon) all step up to challenge Batman on his own terms.

Despite the fact that “Begins” was the catalyst for its creation, “The Batman” decided not to follow example by emulating gritty realism; instead it chose hyper-stylized fantasy anime for its inspirations.

The cast of the series does what they can, given they were the ones that had to follow up the legacy of the Timmverse (BIG shoes to fill, which they obviously don’t).

Rino Romano gives us a fresh, young Batman; still with the same resolve as Kevin Conroy but nowhere near the gravitas or presence. Romano’s youthful edge would definitely be more suited for Spider-Man (interestingly enough, Rino DID provide the voice for the webhead in Activition’s “Spider-Man” video game and its sequel, “Enter Electro.”)



Just like Romano, all of “The Batman” counterparts insist on playing second fiddle to the “TAS” versions i.e. Alastair Duncan’s overdone English accent for Alfred doesn’t measure up to the warmth of Efrem Zimbalist.

The casting for the villains is a bit intriguing however.


There’s also the absolutely sexy Gina Gershon providing the voice of Selina Kyle (which is funny; I’ve always been one to cast Gershon for a turn as a live action Catwoman!).

And what about Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, as the Riddler!? Wonderful choice there!


For a broad and bravado black actor like Kevin Michael Richardson to perform a lanky (and dare I say Rastafarian-inspired) Joker seems like it might not meld but in actuality that’s probably one of my favorite bits of casting. Now of course, like most fans, I was appalled by the Joker’s initial design. Even when they wised up and put him in the purple coat ensemble there’s just something off about a longhaired Joker dishing out karate at Batman. Overtime I came to tolerate it, but then again the same can be said about Jar Jar Binks, so.

In fact, a lot of the character design, right out of said anime, just seemed to be overdone.


At least when Bane pumped his Venom compound in the original series it made sense but here, it seems to turn him into a giant (not the problem) that turns red (little bit of a problem) and manipulates his mask, giving him a giant row of teeth (GUH!?).

There was also their bizarre adaptation of the Terrible Trio.

In the comics, the Trio was a band of rich socialites whose family fortunes were respectively gained by businesses on land, in sea and in air, thusly when they turn to crime they respectively take on the disguises of a Fox, a Shark and a Vulture.

For “The Batman,” its three no-name college (i.e. broke) students who’ve somehow created a chemical brew that allows them to temporarily mutate into said creatures.

As I said; GUH!?

Now of course I know full well that Batman’s universe is afforded such a lens through which to see his adventures but I’m never one to compromise intelligence for the piece.


“The Batman,” even by its fifth and final season, was really nothing more than a bloated example of style over substance. Aside from a few exceptions, most of the episodes were one note. A villain comes along with a self-themed scheme and Batman stops them with minimal detective work and a whole heap of fists and gadgets.

See that’s what made the original “Batman: The Animated Series” so enticing; the fact that it actually took the time to be cinematic. That show had entire scenes with nothing but Batman stalking through office buildings in silent investigation.


But nowadays, thanks to the almost non-existent attention span of viewers, producers felt it was necessary to make Batman nothing more than a brawler, apparently unable to use his mind and resorting to his fists instead. Granted we’re dealing with a younger and inexperienced crusader at the beginning of the series, but even so.

Many of the plot lines throughout the show make it clear that its audience is children. That I have no issue with, although when I was a kid we weren’t taken for granted like that by “The Animated Series.”


Where characters had psychological motivations for their actions, those are abandoned here for, well, no reason I’d say. There’s nothing wrong with making changes to the material, provided those alterations are just as compelling and inspired if not more so.

In the original animated series, for instance, Kirk Langstrom was attempting to discover a new species; a hybrid of man and bat, which led to his transformation into Man-Bat.

For “The Batman,” Langstrom’s motivation is that he wants to be feared.

Literally that’s it. That’s the ONLY reason he creates the mutagenic formula. I’m sorry but c’mon, that’s not enough.

Back in the 50s, it was fine for bad guys to simply state “I’m a super-villain” and have that be that.

But the show was being created in 2005. Audiences demand a bit more depth for their characters by now.

The same can be said for their idea on the origins of Mr. Freeze.


Gone is the concept of him being a cryogenics scientist, along with Nora Fries and that tragically emotional lynchpin.

Here? Victor Fries quotes himself as “A Common Bank Robber.”

What the hell!?

They took one of Batman’s most tragic adversaries and turned him into a thief? That's absurd!

This is same problem with the live-action “Catwoman” film that starred Halle Berry in 2004; when they took the strong foundation of Selina Kyle and abandoned her for some poor imitation called Patience Phillips. If you’re going to throw out Paul Dini’s groundbreaking origin for Freeze, you better have an interpretation that can at least match that. Otherwise, why deliberately turn your back on something that works so well for something that doesn’t work at all?


I know I’m probably being a bit too critical and for that I apologize. On the flip side, “The Batman” does have its strong points and few highlight episodes here and there.

What’s interesting about the show is that its strongest episodes seem to be its season finales.


There’s “The Rubberface of Comedy” and “The Clayface of Tragedy” two-part Season 1 finale, where the Joker kidnaps Ethan Bennett, a Gotham Police Detective and one of Bruce Wayne’s closest and only friends, and drives him to the point of insanity. Bennett is then accidentally exposed to a chemical called ‘Joker Putty’ which turns solid matter into clay. Thusly he becomes the show’s first version of Clayface.

I’ll always prefer this story being told with Harvey Dent and the creation of Two-Face, but it was nice to finally see some genuine emotion get into the show and to have a story that wasn’t resolved in one sitting (in fact, Ethan’s story following his descent into villainy doesn’t end until the 4th Season which was nice!).


Another favorite, despite skepticism from many fans, was the series’ handling of the Riddler, which I personally loved.

Yes I know; “He looks like Marilyn Manson, yuck!”

Blah, blah, blah.


The Riddler episodes were standouts, especially his debut in “Riddled.” I loved the idea of Batman and Detective Yin having to travel all throughout Gotham City to solve riddles and disable bombs (seems to be a great nod to “Die Hard: With a Vengeance”) and this particular interpretation of Edward Nygma and his motivations was superb.


Unlike Freeze or the Terrible Trio, one of the villains I thought the show interpreted very well was Black Mask; he's played a lot like the Ra's Al Ghul of this incarnation, complete with a global wide organization of trained warriors and disciples at his command.

Other key episodes came during the shows later seasons when it finally began introducing other key supporting characters for Batman, including his sidekicks.



“Batgirl Begins” (you get it!?) is the fantastic Season 3 two-part opener that introduced both Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy, even hinting at their being a friendship between them when they begin the story as partners-in-crime vandalizing ecologically damaging chemical establishments in Gotham.


Another wonderful episode is “Two of a Kind.” Written by Paul Dini himself, the episode presented a brand new contemporary interpretation of the origins of Harley Quinn (the fact that said origin was created by her original conceiver is just great). In this version, Quinn isn’t necessarily a full-fledged psychologist and she isn’t interning at Arkham Asylum. Instead, she earned her psychology degree online and became a talk-show personality akin to Dr. Phil (!) It’s a great modernization of the character and it was ingenious to have Dini be the one to do it. Too bad they couldn’t have consulted him the same way with Mr. Freeze.


There was also "Artifacts," which leaped into a distant future where researchers found and explored the Batcave, long abandoned. As they search for clues to aid in their fght against Mr. Freeze, whose immortality has allowed his villainy to live on beyond Batman, they remember the last encounter between the dark knight and Fries.


The flashback is a loose adaptation of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" as an aged and hulking Batman battles Freeze alongside Barbara Gordon, who now operates from the Batcave as Oracle, and Dick Grayson, who has abandoned the mantle of Robin in favor of Nightwing.

But my favorite episode in terms of storytelling, mood and character HAS to be “A Matter of Family,” which details the origins of Dick Grayson and his coming into the role of Robin; Batman’s official partner.


It’s a very emotional episode and what makes it so great, for me, is that the murder of Grayson’s parents isn’t at the hands of the Joker or some other rogue (the kind of move you’d think this show would make), but true to the comics, it’s at the hands of mob extortionist Tony Zucco.

Zucco’s characterization is beautiful here. Plus Dick’s father, John Grayson, is voiced by none other than the man himself, Kevin Conroy!

Overall “The Batman,” as valid as it is and for all its efforts, just can’t hold up in the long run.



By the end of the series, it became less about Batman and more about the Justice League, which was a much uninspired idea. This is Batman’s show. At least have the decency to wait like the original line of shows did. It just felt like they were overstuffing the show by the end, trying to keep it on life support with appearances from Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter.

As if Batman couldn’t sustain the show on his own.

Had they put more confidence in the character, well, you never know.


With gimmicks like the “Bat-Wave” (clearly meant to sell toys) and a naïve approach to storytelling, the series is fun to look at (along with a dynamite pair of theme songs; one of them designed and performed by U2 guitarist the Edge!) and a few episodes ARE downright enjoyable.

But in the end there’s little more to “The Batman” than that.



Chas Blankenship's 'Bat-Mania' 2012 is Proud to Present "A Matter of Family;" the Season 4 premiere of "The Batman."



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