Batman in Batman: The Animated Series

"Batman: The Animated Series" is an innovative series with its approach to the Batman mythos. Using the vast and rich history of Batman comics, "The Animated Series" feels like all the best parts of Batman while also taking certain creative liberties with different characters and their origins to better fit the world of the show. Even today, the series is still considered one of the definitive Batman stories and has inspired many other movies, shows, and video games. Look no further than Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, whose performances as Batman and the Joker, respectively, have carried over from the show onto a myriad of other projects.

Interestingly enough, series co-creator Bruce Timm never thought "Batman: The Animated Series" would be a failure. However, that reasoning wasn’t because of anything done on his part. In reality, Timm’s belief in the series becoming a hit was all because of the character they were adapting. The popularity of Batman alone was enough for Timm to think that no matter how they approached their series, the world and characters from the comic would make the show a success. Thankfully, the series creators had the best of both worlds by not only finding success because of how iconic Batman is but also leaving their mark on the character that can still be seen today.

Staying faithful to the spirit of the comics

Clayface in Batman: The Animated Series

In an interview with Science Fiction in 2017 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of "Batman: The Animated Series," Bruce Timm admitted that the popularity and critical success of the show were unexpected. Despite that, Timm still had faith in himself and the production team of the show to stay true to the essence of Batman and his rogue’s gallery:

"I mean, we kind of always knew that we had a lot of faith in our approach to the show. Because it seems kind of like, ‘well, it’s not brain surgery,’ you know? But it seems like we cherry-picked stuff from the entire history of Batman in the comics, the movies, the serials, and the TV show, and we took things and kind of messed around with them. But for the most part, we really stayed faithful to the spirit of the character and the spirit of the comics."

Villain origin story episodes in "Batman: The Animated Series" are some of the best examples of staying faithful to the spirit of the comics while also carving their own path. Episodes such as "Two-Face Parts I & II" and "Feat of Clay" are tragic origins of Batman villains Two-Face and Clayface that, while different from the comics in some key aspects, retain everything important about the characters and their relationship with Batman. Besides the fundamental understanding that Timm and Co. had of Batman comics, the Batman high that everyone was riding off of at the time led the creator to believe that the show would be a hit.

A hit, whether good or bad

The Bat-Signal in Batman (1989)

"Batman: The Animated Series" aired its first episode in September of 1992, just three years after Tim Burton’s "Batman" and three months after the sequel, "Batman Returns." Both films were a critical and financial success, with the gothic style of the production design and even elements of Elfman’s score carrying over into the animated series. Burton’s iteration arguably gave the caped crusader a relevancy that was desperately needed, and the demand for more Batman made Timm feel like he had a guaranteed success on his hands:

"Back then, we were coming off of the first Tim Burton ‘Batman’ movie, and people have a tendency to forget that back then, that movie was huge! It was a mega hit back then! So Batman was just super hot. I had a feeling that the show was probably going to be a hit, whether it was any good or not. But the fact that it really resonates with people is awesome!"

Judging from Bruce Timm’s comments, the supposed guaranteed success that comes with having Batman in a project could have easily led to a lazily made animated series. Thankfully, in an approach that mirrors co-chair and co-CEO of DC Studios James Gunn’s approach to elevating writers passionate about DC, the team behind "Batman: The Animated Series" genuinely cared about the source material. Because of that, no matter what automatic success comes from a Batman story, this was a show that wanted to do right by the character.