On September 5, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids, introducing the world to a vision of The Dark Knight that appealed to all age groups. Created by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, with writers including Paul Dini and a voice cast centered on Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Loren Lester, Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Mark Hamill, and more, Batman The Animated Series was both a distillation of everything that made The Caped Crusader popular for decades as well as an inspiration for countless TV shows, comics, movies, and of course fans, in the years that followed.
Personally, BTAS was the thing that not only made me a Batman fan, but got me into superheroes in general. From its initial season to its rebranded second season of The Adventures of Batman & Robin to its update in The New Batman Adventures, I was obsessed with Timm and company’s interpretation of The Dark Knight. In my eyes, it’s the version of the character that I see first when I think about Batman. Every interpretation is ultimately compared to this version, and in its balance of all ages thrills with a mature storytelling style, the animated series encapsulated everything that makes this character special.
So to celebrate 30 years of Batman: The Animated Series, I’m ranking my 30 favorite episodes from across the series’ 109 episodes that were made from 1992 through 1999. And while this doesn’t include the animated movies, Batman Beyond, or the 3-part “World’s Finest” from Superman: The Animated Series, those stories also have a special place in my heart.
Of course, I couldn’t fit every episode here, but honorable mentions go to “Baby-Doll,” “Girl’s Night Out,” “Time Out of Joint,” “Mudslide,” “Dreams in Darkness,” “Harley’s Holiday,” “I Am The Night,” “Read My Lips,” “Harlequinade,” “Second Chance,” “Deep Freeze,” “Never Fear,” “The Demon Within,” and “The Ultimate Thrill.”
And remember, these are my personal favorites, so I’d love to hear yours in this 30th anniversary celebration.
Written by Mitch Brian and Directed by Kevin Altieri
Bane is a tricky character to get right, because his brains are just as important as his brawn. Here, the BTAS team are taking on their newest comics character to date, with Bane only debuting a year before this episode. And while a single episode that mostly portrays him as scary hired muscle can’t quite do him justice, the story builds him up as a real physical threat by keeping his venom transformation off screen for awhile and having him run through Croc and destroy the Batmobile with his bare hands (that’s the best Batmobile design ever by the way) Luchador Bane is a choice and his big fight with Batman is part “Knightfall,” part wrestling match, and just enough to scar me as a kid.
29) Nothing to Fear
Written by Henry Gilroy and Sean Catherine Derek and Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
The first appearance of Scarecrow. I think this episode would largely fall into the solid but not memorable category that a lot of the early season 1 episodes fall into if it weren’t for the writers leaning into Bruce’s torment from the death of his parents. Scarecrow (in his first and worst design) is a great way to quickly drill down into the personality of a character and here, after many episodes that haven’t mentioned the origin of Batman, having Bruce forced to face his fears makes this a compelling story. Hanging off the blimp and confronted with a nightmarish giant vision of his father, Bruce overcomes his toxin fears by proclaiming, “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman.” I think that’s the moment when Kevin Conroy fully solidified himself as the character and it’s synonymous with this interpretation.
28) The Demon’s Quest Parts 1 and 2
Written by Dennis O’Neil and Len Wein and Directed by Kevin Altieri
With O’Neil adapting his own classic Ra’s Al Ghul stories, “Daughter of the Demon” and “The Demon Lives Again,” this is the series’ big Ra’s story, using its 2-part format to tell a globe trotting adventure that shifts from a search for the kidnapped Robin and Talia to a Indiana Jones-esque battle against the Demon’s Head. The time allotted lets moments breath and extra character beats to be felt. Of course, the BTAS team was super talented in leveraging every second of their 20 minute runtimes. It’s just that even more time means a grander story. Here, that means Ra’s plans can go bigger and crazier. And even if the villain’s betrayal is super obvious and there’s some broad stereotypes here, it’s fun to see O’Neil’s style of Batman come to life.
27) Cold Comfort
Written by Hilary J. Bader and Directed by Dan Riba
Mr. Freeze episodes are generally darker than the average BTAS episode and this is the darkest of all of them. Like The New Batman Adventures overall, “Cold Comfort” uses a time skip to track the progression of its villain and the result is a Freeze who is darker than ever and has lost more than thought possible. Having Freeze now just be a head in a spider-walking helmet is the most extreme choice the series makes with a recurring antagonist and it’s messed up, man, resulting in a cold and vindictive villain. While it’s a little sad to see Freeze pushed back into an even more outright villainy, his personal attacks designed to destroy something a victim loves most is scary and his massive plan to destroy Gotham out of spite for Batman is a big climax. It’s really compelling and with so few Freeze episodes, I value it highly.
26) Double Talk
Written by Robert Goodman and Directed by Curt Geda
One of a few villain redemption stories but the only one with a truly happy ending, “Double Talk” is the second Scarface episode, this time seeing Arnold Wesker rehabilitated and released, only for his old associates to come for him and the threat of the Scarface personality resurfacing to haunt him. Like a lot of The New Batman Adventures, “Double Talk” has Batman as the secondary lead, with Wesker the true hero of the story and the threat of his reversion being a tragedy. It’s super stylish and willing to take chances by changing its focus and being equally funny, strange, and sympathetic to a character that could easily be a punchline. Also, I love the permanently deep red skies of TNBA.
25) Make Em Laugh
Written by Paul Dini & Randy Rogel and Directed by Boyd Kirkland
What makes this Joker story unique among his many episodes is just how ridiculous its central threat is, as Joker brainwashes comedians to become ludicrous supervillains. Of course, Condiment King is the standout here, with the new villain shooting ketchup and mustard and weaponizing surprise hot sauce packets, but the continual cavalcade of corrupted comedians gives the entire episode life. The reveal of Joker being a failed comedian gives a small tip of the hat to “The Killing Joke,” now using it as a personal motivation for revenge, which is rare for the chaotic clown prince of crime. It’s really just a silly episode that leverages the more petty side of Hammill’s Joker just enough. Yeah, Joker can be a serious and scary threat, but he’s also literally a clown you can laugh at. BTAS didn’t forget that.
24) If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Rich?
Written by David Wise and Directed by Eric Radomski
The first Riddler episode, one of only 3, and the origin of the villain in the series, “If You’re So Smart” has elements of “Heart of Ice,” with our villain seeking revenge on the boss that destroyed his life. But Edward Nygma lacks the sympathy of Victor Fries and in its place is an over the top revenge scheme. The giant deadly maze filled with riddles and traps makes Batman and Robin’s battle of wits with the Riddler be more action oriented. Having Nygma be a video game designer is a smart update, even if his best selling game is, well, a little underwhelming by today’s standards. And really even standards at the time. Still, having Batman go up against a villain that matches his intelligence is awesome. The BTAS team had no sympathy for corrupt businessmen and the final stinger of Riddler’s terrible old boss being a paranoid shell is a bit of dark justice at the end.
23) On Leather Wings
Written by Mitch Brian and Directed by Kevin Altieri
The first episode made and the proof of concept for what this show could be beyond its opening titles. Those opening moments are iconic and having Man Bat be who we see first is a nice subversion of audience expectations. Even with the team learning on the job, “On Leather Wings” is filled with great moments and a strong tonal control. Showing off the Batmobile in an extended sequence is stuff that doesn’t need to be shown in every episode but with this being the start, we’re flexing the iconography of the series and it does wonders. Detective work is also a major element that grounds the story, even if the Swat team is a little too exaggerated and silly. There’s some fantastic bits of animation with the characterization of Man Bat, the transformation, and the aerial battle. Man Bat is just scary enough to demonstrate the tone of the series. Your kids might be a little scared but they won’t be too damaged.
22) Holiday Knights
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Dan Riba
This season premiere kicks off the new style of The New Batman Adventures, with 4 short stories revolving around the holidays. First, Harley and Ivy mind control Bruce to bankroll a shopping spree that’s silly in a menacing sort of way complete with a dress montage. A Clayface fight sees Batgirl team up with Bullock and Montoya that establishes the new series’ focus on the extended Batfamily. A New Years Eve Joker threat shows off our new Robin, Tim Drake, but leaves us with questions about what happened. The final scene of Batman and Gordon meeting for the annual toast is one of my favorite moments of the entire series and shows how New Adventures builds off everything that came before. Holiday Knights settles us into the updated animation style, with its angular characters and more exaggerated aesthetic. This is the show’s classic dark deco look pushed into a more modern lens. It’s sort of an “everything you want from a BTAS episode” episode.
21) The Laughing Fish
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Bruce Timm
Combining the comic stories of “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” “The Laughing Fish,” and “Sign of the Joker,” Batman and Bullock are on the trail of The Joker, who has poisoned Gotham’s fish into bearing his likeness. The story constantly switches between Joker’s silly side and moody and rainy stakeouts (with a surprising twist hidden very well by shot composition), culminating in the insanity that is Batman fighting a great white shark underwater. Being able to have these disparate tones all in the same episode while feeling like a carefully balanced story is what made BTAS exciting. Any episode could go in any direction. “The Laughing Fish” is also one of the earliest episodes to delve into Joker and Harley Quinn’s demented relationship, which gives great flavor to the story and elevates it above the tons of Joker episodes that filled the early days of BTAS.
20) Harley and Ivy
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Boyd Kirkland
Over time, the original creation of Harley Quinn became a breakout star thanks to creator Paul Dini giving her the time and focus needed to elevate from interesting henchwoman to fully formed anti-heroine. “Harley and Ivy” is what started that push with an episode led by Harley and Poison Ivy forming a fast friendship, as the independent Ivy tries to snap Harley out of her abusive relationship with Joker. Dini and others in both the comics and future TV would progress them into a romantic relationship, but all that starts here, with the two creating an unforgettable oil and water dynamic that really does wonders for both of them in a sort of cartoonish Thelma and Louise on-the-run story that makes them the leads. Honestly, Batman and Joker could play smaller roles here and it would make the episode even better.
19) Perchance to Dream
Written by Joe R. Lansdale, Laren Bright & Michael Reaves and Directed by Boyd Kirkland
After quite a few episodes that took trips inside Bruce’s psyche, this is BTAS’ ultimate trip through the mind of Batman, with the hero blindsided and waking up as normal Bruce Wayne, compete with still living parents and an engagement to Selina Kyle. For the most part in BTAS, Bruce is not conflicted over being Batman. He’s really one of the more level headed and healthy versions of the hero, especially during the first season, before stories like “Mask of the Phantasm” and “Old Wounds.” Here, Bruce’s internal conflicts and mess get to directly inform the plot. The reveal of Mad Hatter being the villain here is actually a little surprising, especially since it hadn’t been long since the character’s introduction. Also, Kevin Conroy gives an awesome performance, which is basically saying water is wet, but he gets the chance to shine on multiple levels as the tortured character.
Written by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and Directed by Dan Riba
The biggest supervillain team-up episode, Trial sees basically every major villain take over Arkham and capture Batman for a mock trial of his morally grey actions and the only person who can save him is the person who hates him the most – District Attorney Janet Van Dorn. Supervillain team ups are nothing new, but the BTAS team has a lock on each villain’s personality. Using them in various trial roles, like Joker as judge and Two-Face as prosecutor, bounces them off each other in exciting ways. The episode also interrogates if Batman has a collectively negative effect on Gotham. Of course, it eventually comes down on Batman’s side, but having Van Dorn be the voice of reason who questions the hero adds some complexity. So much of this episode is propelled by characters and dialogue and not action, which underlines the strengths of this series. But Batman’s escape and shadowy takedown is so moody and cool! Like the Arkham Asylum game before it was ever made.
17) Legends of the Dark Knight
Written by Robert Goodman and Bruce Timm and Directed by Dan Riba
One of the most experimental episodes of the series, Legends sees a group of kids on the trail of Batman and Firefly and telling their own experiences with the Caped Crusader, with each story homaging a different interpretation of Batman. Specifically, we see a cheesy and exaggerated version of Dick Sprang’s Silver Age comics and an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns’ fight with the Mutants. And while the real world story isn’t amazing, (it should probably be more stylish to fit in with the kids’ stories) the hard contrast between Sprang and Miller is such a hard tonal whiplash that it turns comedic. BTAS is often seen as the definitive interpretation of Batman, but it’s a show that never insisted it was the only correct interpretation. Its homages to the past are what make this show incredible. And this far into its run, it had the experience and assuredness to experiment like this. As a kid, this was a gateway into the wider Batman universe. This one is style over substance, but what awesome style it is.
16) The Clock King
Written by David Wise and Directed by Kevin Altieri
A fastidious time keeper who runs everything in his life to the precise second is ruined by the casual advice of the man who would be mayor. Seven years later and Temple Fugit enacts his perfectly timed revenge. And while The Clock King isn’t scary in the ways many other Batman villains are, his meticulous plan keeps him multiple steps ahead of Batman. Seeing how it all comes together is exciting and melodramatic moments like the camera pushing into Fugit’s screaming mouth is a great surrealist touch. I love how banal Fugit’s motivation is and how manic he becomes in his revenge. Tying the mayor to clock hands to crush him at the time that ruined his life is a perfect old school villain plan. Fugit is not a villain you can use often in the series. He’s super specific. But here, he’s the center of a perfect little story.
15) Feat of Clay Parts 1 & 2
Written by Marv Wolfman and Michael Reaves and Directed by Dick Sebast and Kevin Altieri
In the same vein as Two-Face’s two-part story, this works to flesh out the character of Matt Hagen as a scarred and addicted actor turned into Clayface by Roland Daggett. Giving an ample amount of screentime to Hagen in the first episode before his change really helps give the character a lot of personality and motivation, with Ron Perlman providing excellent voice work. Really, this is Hagen’s story first and Batman’s second, with Clayface becoming both a vengeful victim and an increasingly unhinged villain in the second part. The animation here is also top notch, providing so many little details to the changing texture of Clayface and making his transformations palpable, with many shifting faces and forms displayed with little short-cutting. A really great take on the character that samples bits from multiple comic book Clayfaces for another tragic BTAS villain in one of the most horror-tinged episodes.
14) Shadow of the Bat Parts 1 and 2
Written by Brynne Stephens and Directed by Frank Paur
The majority of Barbara Gordon’s appearances would happen in The New Batman Adventures, but here in her second appearance, Barbara becomes Batgirl to help prove the innocence of her father, Commissioner James Gordon. What’s great about this 2 parter is the slow escalation of stakes, largely using the mob as the main threat that propels Barbara to become a hero, at first out of desperation and then as an ongoing choice. The reveal of Two-Face as the major threat is what pushes the story out of everyday mobsters and into supervillainy. A really great part 1 cliffhanger, a story that puts Barbara at center stage, and a very satisfying climax make this a great debut for Batgirl, who would only appear once more in the initial series before being a large part of TNBA, with Tara Strong now voicing her, although I do really like Melissa Gilbert’s more subdued and mature approach here.
Written by Joe R. Lansdale Kevin Altieri, Paul Dini, and Bruce Timm and Directed by Kevin Altieri
Flexibility is one of the strengths of BTAS and this is easily its most unconventional episode, with Batman and Robin acting as a wraparound story for a Jonah Hex adventure. The story is a really tightly paced steampunk western with Hex taking on a bounty that leads him to Ra’s Al Ghul and the scoundrel Arcady Duvall’s plan to use a weaponized airship to destroy the United States. It’s old school western meets big budget action, complete with an extended sequence on an exploding airship. The setting, hero, villains, and style make it one of a kind in BTAS and illustrate the team’s understanding of what was possible in the series. The result is a heightened western that I really love and that successfully mashes genres together in ways that I’ve never seen other creators do as well. It’s like Will Smith’s Wild Wild West but, you know, good. Add in the wraparound story and you’ve got added depth to Ra’s and a larger world that expands BTAS.
Written by Michael Reaves and Directed by Frank Paur
A great moody, Bullock-centered noir story, complete with the first appearance of Killer Croc, who is legitimately menacing here. Bullock’s shady past and grey morality, which makes him more of a noir protagonist, colliding with Batman’s distrust of him creates a cool mystery, with the pair playing co-leads. Basically, if Bullock has a major role in an episode, I’m a fan. I think this episode illustrates what makes BTAS great – moody noir detective stories meets a slightly elevated superhero twist, while still maintaining a serious yet always enjoyable pace that has only seemed more and more mature as the years go by. The dark deco approach, rainy atmosphere, seaside setting, and deep shadows are perfect for this mystery. BTAS rarely gave Killer Croc his own episodes, he became more of a punchline as the series went on, and he’s really more of the shadowy threat than a full character here, but he is perfect as the unknown, intimidating threat lurking in the dark.
11) Old Wounds
Written by Rich Fogel and Directed by Curt Geda
The running mystery of what broke apart Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne in the timeskip of New Batman Adventures is finally revealed in an equally tragic and complex story. Seeing an increasingly cold Batman chasing a criminal back to his home and assaulting him in front of his wife and young son is heartbreaking. It’s a rare moment in the series that shows the humanity of people forced into a life of crime and how Batman’s obsessions are turning him cruel and inhuman. It’s a really sad scene and addresses something rarely discussed in Batman stories in any medium. That’s a big break from the typical shallow wiseguys of past episodes. Meanwhile, Batman enlisting Batgirl into his war, which nearly gets her killed, further shows how New Adventures was willing to interrogate the title character. Really, it’s the reveal that Bruce has helped the past criminal turn his life around that means more than any fighting could ever do.
10) Joker’s Millions
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Dan Riba
Mark Hamill’s Joker is incredible, of course, and my favorite ever interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime. But to be honest, the early days of BTAS overused him. And while Hamill’s interpretation was always great, the episodes themselves didn’t always work. I’d put “Joker’s Millions,” based on the comic of the same name, as one of his best because it allows Hamill to play all shades of the villain, this time with Joker inheriting millions of dollars and living out his best life, leveraging his wealth to be exonerated. But what is a Joker that doesn’t do crime? The question slowly eats away at both the villain and Batman. The reveal that the millions are fake as an elaborate revenge plot on Joker turns him into a sort of hapless protagonist that you can’t help but kinda root for. The fake Harley auditions and the real Harley’s quest for revenge are such a great subplot, plus I think without this idea there would be no Batman White Knight comic. Plus, I love that the IRS is Joker’s greatest fear in this fully comedic episode.
9) Riddler’s Reform
Written by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini & Randy Rogel and Directed by Dan Riba
Riddler stories are rare in the series and here, with Nygma seemingly going straight and becoming a successful toy creator, the mystery surrounds not just what Riddler’s true motive is, but whether Batman and Robin are actually right about their suspicions. John Glover as Riddler is perfect casting and his continued obsessive taunting of the heroes is just irritating enough. As a kid watching this, I was so compelled by figuring out what Riddler was really after and how Batman survived his final attack. With reruns, knowing the truth and seeing how it all played out from the beginning was so satisfying. Now, years later, it’s still a fantastic Riddler mystery because it slowly shifts from whether Riddler has done anything wrong to waiting to see how his obsessions will unravel him. Plus, the Riddler commercials are great fun. I love old black and white TV in the BTAS world.
8) Over The Edge
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Yuichiro Yano
An absolutely crushing episode. We know now that “Over The Edge” is all a fear toxin-induced hallucination by Batgirl, but by opening with Gordon and the cops chasing Batman and Robin through the Batcave guns blazing, we’re thrown into absolute chaos and the worst outcome imaginable. Eventually, we see Batgirl’s death at the hands of Scarecrow in one of the most intense, horrifying, and tragic moments in a children’s cartoon, with Gordon only realizing that it was his daughter as she dies. Having the Gordon-Batman dynamic flipped on its head after being an even bigger part of New Batman Adventures is a huge reversal. Plus, there’s some classic BTAS social commentary on the media as the rogues gallery uses the opportunity to play the victim on TV. Of course having it all be a dream lets the creators really go nuts here, but the sheer trauma inflicted in these 20 minutes makes this episode unforgettable. In the end, having a reconciliation between Barbara and her father gives all those horrifying nightmares greater meaning. But man, what a ballsy story.
7) Almost Got Im
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Eric Radomski
Batman’s greatest villains reflect on the times they almost got him during a poker game. A great way to showcase the personalities of Penguin, Two-Face, Croc, Poison Ivy, and Joker and also have some meta commentary on the series. You can feel the team getting more confident in their skills here and the result is a show that experiments with its format really well and doesn’t rely on Batman as the constant focus. Croc’s “I threw a rock at him” punchline is perfect, but the fun is in how each short adventure has its own structure, all while hiding a fantastic twist whose reveal is super slick. Having Joker’s segment be a black and white TV segment is a gutsy choice for the time. In the end, being able to enjoy just how great the BTAS rogues gallery is makes this a really great time, and I think each of these are among the best versions of every villain.
6) Heart of Ice
Written by Paul Dini and Directed by Bruce Timm
It’s hard to overstate just how great this episode is or to reiterate everything that makes it special. Years ago I made a video on “Heart of Ice” that summed up my feelings on the episode that redefined Mr Freeze and illustrated the storytelling power of BTAS. So to not repeat myself, I just want to say that Heart of Ice is a beautifully made, character-driven, tragic story that is filled with pathos while still being a compelling all ages adventure. It has bite to it and really does tug at the heartstrings. A perfect BTAS episode so early in the series and the career of Dini and Timm. Voice acting and sound design are next level here.
5) Robin’s Reckoning Part 1 & 2
Written by Randy Rogel and Directed by Dick Sebast
BTAS almost always hit it out of the park with their 2 parter episodes and here, the series leverages the expanded format to tell maybe its most emotional story. Switching back and forth between past and present to tell Robin’s tragic origin and his present search for the man who killed his parents, “Robin’s Reckoning” is about obsession, loss, and whether things can ever be made right. There’s this great contrast between young Dick Grayson’s heartbreak over his parents and Bruce’s angry crusade to find him justice, and in this we see how their losses bonded them together in the past, only for it to break them apart in the present. It illustrates the importance of Robin (with great performances by both Loren Lester and Joey Simmrin) and how he makes the world of Batman more human. The 2nd part isn’t quite as strong as the first and its climax is a little too cut and dry, but it’s all propelled by the raw emotion of the 1st half. It’s tragic, it’s stylish, it’s steeped in noir, and most importantly, it shows what makes Batman both a great hero and a permanently flawed human.
4) A Bullet For Bullock
Written by Michael Reaves and Directed by Frank Paur
A dark horse favorite of mine, this jazzy noir is everything that makes BTAS special wrapped in an unconventional package as we follow Harvey Bullock, who enlists the help of Batman to figure out who is trying to kill him. Composers Harvey Cohen and Shirley Walker create a jazz score that is easily the best in the entire series, which is already filled with incredible music, making a moody and swinging set that underlines the broody and classic detective story here. And with Harvey at the center, we have a morally grey anti-hero who can’t figure out who wants him dead because he’s stepped on so many toes over the years. I love the character of Bullock and few have done him as much justice as BTAS. Like so much of the series, “A Bullet for Bullock” creates a mature story (referencing things like getting popped and running rock crystal) that is still somehow for all ages, thanks in part to its undercurrent of comedy coursing through its noir structure, ultimately ending in a darkly comedic subversion of expectations.
3) Two Face part 1 and 2
Written by Randy Rogel and Alan Burnett and Directed by Kevin Altieri
After an earlier introduction, BTAS turns the upright Harvey Dent into the vicious and tormented Two-Face. Having Harvey have a pre-existing condition is such a smart addition to the character, with the big Bad Harv split personality being the result of Harvey’s repressed anger as a kid. And having Bruce and Harvey be long-time friends, gives Batman a different sort of motivation as he tries to save Harvey, not just stop him. With Richard Moll putting in stellar work as the two sides of Harvey, the villain’s revenge and eventually psychological unraveling is as scary as it is sad. These early two-part villain origin episodes have so much pathos and depth of character that they really outshine the other episodes happening around the same time. And this is the strongest of all of them.
2) Beware The Gray Ghost
Written by Garin Wolf, Tom Ruegger and Dennis O’Flaherty and Directed by Boyd Kirkland
A wonderful tribute to Adam West who, at the time, was still in the low part of his career before a real resurgence in love for his 60s Batman series and unable to really escape from the role. West as Simon Trent, aka the Gray Ghost, is the inspiration for Bruce as a child and connects him to his father. So we have a lot of different layers happening here, Bruce’s inner child, a real world parallel to West’s Batman, and the animated series’ creators homaging their own childhood hero, all wrapped up in a great little mystery. The black and white television adventures and the real world bathed in the orange glow of the mad bomber’s attacks look amazing. Some of the best mood in the entire series. Plus, there’s a little pointed commentary on the worst superhero fans with The Mad Bomber being an obsessive and immature Gray Ghost fan. This is a real leveling up from the other early episodes that invented their own characters. The level of emotion in this story is rarely reached in BTAS.
1) Mad Love
Written by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm and Directed by Butch Lukic
Adapted from Dini’s comic of the same name, Mad Love finally gives us the origin of Harley Quinn after being hinted at for years, with the Harley narrated flashbacks balanced with her present day quest to get Joker’s approval. What stands out about this episode is how it handles the really dark subject matter of Joker and Harley’s abusive relationship, making it extremely clear how horrible Joker is and how Harley is stuck in their dynamic, while still making this a very stylish and enjoyable episode. The dark moments are dark and handled with a serious approach, but the comedic moments are allowed to be funny, which makes the darker story beats hit even harder when they come without warning. New Batman Adventures doesn’t get enough love in the larger context of BTAS, but “Mad Love” is rightfully loved by fans. It’s a late addition to the series that is as iconic as anything established in those early episodes. There’s INCREDIBLE voice work from everyone here, as usual, but special shout out to Arleen Sorkin as Harley, who masterfully plays all sides of the character in both past and present.
I have so many memories of watching Batman: The Animated Series in syndication as a kid, never knowing whether it would be one I hadn’t seen before or that I’d seen a dozen times. Either way, I was always excited. Years later, I would return to them when they got their first DVD release and it confirmed how much I still loved them. Returning to them yet again for this video and they still make me so happy. Sure, not every episode was great, but this series still feels special. BTAS, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited helped form so much of my love for the DC Universe.
To me, Batman: The Animated Series encapsulates everything that’s great about The Dark Knight. And while there have been many interpretations before and after and in every medium, what Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini, Shirley Walker, Mitch Brian, and so many more first brought to life in 1992 has continued to hold a special place in my heart. Thank you, BTAS, and happy 30th anniversary.