Here we are at the end of another cycle. For the 25th anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series, we’ve been exploring the comic books inspired by the show that was inspired by the comics. INCEPTION!
While many of my series here span decades and sometimes lifetimes of creative output, such as this summer’s Journey with Jack, this one focuses on the 1990s, when this version of Batman was arguably that era’s definitive Caped Crusader. We began with early issues of The Batman Adventures that were released shortly after the cartoon’s debut, continued on to 1996’s The Batman & Robin Adventures, and now we’re finishing in 1998 with the first issue of Batman: The Gotham Adventures. This incarnation of BTAS-inspired comics ran for an impressive 60 issues. Let’s check out the first.
This issue is written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Terry Beatty, colored by Lee Loughridge, and lettered by Tim Harkins. Stylistically, even though Burchett drew The Batman & Robin Adventures issue that I covered, this is a huge departure from anything we’ve seen on these titles. The style is far looser, matching the revised models for the accompanying NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES with an aesthetic that, oddly enough, can only be described as “cartoonier.” Everything looks a lot more simple and it lacks the darkness and well-placed shadows that makes the first series so distinguishable. Still, it’s drawn with energetic action scenes and a great sense of fun, but the stylized art and the sheer number of painful puns throw off the series’ balance of hard-boiled detective action and humor.
In the end, it reads like a much more comedy-focused Batman than previous tie-ins to the animated series. Still though, this is a double-sized issue at almost 40 pages, and it uses that length well to create a tense story with large scope, a ton of action, and some of that classic Batman/Joker dynamic that fans eat up.
The plot is the most interesting of what the issues I covered this month. A rich man who has suffered a great loss at the Joker’s hand goes on live TV and puts a 50 million dollar bounty on the villain’s head. Gotham, predictably, goes crazy. Criminals and citizens alike go full on Purge and clamor to find and murder the Joker. We mostly focus on the supervillains’ attempts to find the Clown Prince of Crime, with the Riddler luring Batman into a trap and Clayface attempting to win the bounty with trickery. I wanted to see more of the civilians who were after the Joker, considering how many people in Gotham have been affected by his wicked deeds. That aspect of the story was embodied by Douglas Reid, the man who initially put the bounty, and has a bit of powerful payoff at the end when Batman gives him the chance to face the Joker and find out what kind of man he, Reid, truly is.
That part is what I’m looking for in Batman stories. He uses his power and his rage to give another person the chance to come to the same conclusion that he came to when he put on the cowl – that killing, even when it feels justified, is wrong.
And that’s it! We’ve reached the end of our adventures through the animated world of Gotham as captured by the comics. Batman: The Animated Series changed and in some ways defined Batman for my generation, and its influence continues to shine in the comics, cartoons, films, and other media to this day. Long live the Dark Knight!
(But, of course, especially Harley and Ivy.)