|Riddler, Bane, Poison Ivy, a Riddleman, Black Mask, Man-Bat, Mr. Freeze, Temblor, Spellbinder, Firefly, Ragdoll, Killer Croc, Joker, Harley Quinn, a henchman, Penguin, the Kabuki Twins and Cluemaster.|
May 26, 2018
(WB/CW, September 11, 2004-March 8, 2008)
Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment
For the history of Batman, check out the post here.
With the DC Animated Universe (DCAU) having migrated to Cartoon Network, The WB Network needed a new show to help turn around its sinking ratings. It was decided to go back to the beginning with a new Batman series, but since Batman (Kevin Conroy) was starring in Justice League it would be a new take on Batman.
Called simply The Batman, the series focused on a much younger Bruce Wayne (Rino Romano), who was only into his third year as Batman. His existence was largely an urban myth when the series began, until he gradually worked his way into the spotlight as Gotham City’s defender. While his Batsuit resembled a modified version of the original one seen in Batman: The Animated Series (with shorter ears to make him resemble a boxer, and talons on his gloves), the show had no connection to the previous one or the DCAU. The series was largely inspired by Batman comics from the Golden Age, although it did take elements from the various incarnations over the years; particularly the 1960s live-action Batman series as evidenced by the shape of the bat-symbol and the casting of Adam West as Mayor Marion Grange (changed from a woman in the comics).
Batman went up against two types of antagonists. The first were the GCPD, headed by Chief Angel Rojas (Edward James Olmos for one episode, Jesse Corti for the remainder). Rojas viewed Batman as dangerous as any criminal and assigned two officers to bring him down: Detective Ethan Bennett (whose appearance was based on his actor Steve Harris) and his partner, Metropolis-transplant Detective Ellen Yin (Ming-Na Wen). Bennett largely regarded Batman as necessary to preserve the peace in Gotham, while Yin took some time to come around to the idea.
The other type was the standard assortment of villains. Character designer Jeff Matsuda took a great many liberties with the appearance of the classic villains, and many of their stories were heavily revamped for the series. Of the ones featured in the previous Batman series was mobster Rupert Thorne (Victor Brandt), depicted as younger and sporting 1970s-style clothing; Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson), who was more physical and almost ape-like, sporting dreadlocks and a straightjacket with bare feet initially before adopting something closer to his traditional purple suit; Penguin (Tom Kenny), depicted as more athletic and capable fighter (inspired by heavyset characters in martial arts movies), and often accompanied by his silent bodyguards, the Kabuki Twins; Catwoman (Gina Gershon), given a more exaggerated version of the costume appearing at the comics at that time; Mr. Freeze (Clancy Brown), reimagined as a diamond thief who got trapped in a cryonic freezer that gave him a freezing touch; Firefly (Jason Marsden), a professional arsonist who transforms into the unrelated villain Phosphorus after overexposure to the isotope; Ventriloquist and Scarface (Dan Castellaneta), with the murderous puppet redesigned with an outfit reminiscent of Al Pacino in Scarface; Man-Bat (Peter MacNicol), who developed his formula because of an obsession to want to be like Batman; Bane (Joaquim de Almeida, Ron Perlman & Brown), a South American mercenary whose usage of Venom for extra strength not only increased his muscle mass, but also turned his skin red; Riddler (Robert Englund), a disgraced inventor who turned to crime, adopting an almost goth-like visage; Killer Croc (Perlman), given a Cajun accent, he was designed to look like a humanoid crocodile in a vest; Spellbinder (Michael Massee), a mystic who achieved the power of the “third eye” allowing him to create illusions and hypnotize; Hugo Strange (Frank Gorshin until his death, then Richard Green), the head of Arkham Asylum who was more interested in learning how the criminal mind worked than curing them; Poison Ivy (Piera Coppola), a teenaged eco-rights activist who ended up exposed to a powerful plant growth compound, giving her powers; Maxie Zeus (Phil LaMarr), an eccentric billionaire obsessed with Greek mythology who sought revenge against Gotham after losing the mayoral election in a specialized suit of armor; Tony Zucco (Mark Hamill), upgraded from a thug to a Mafia don and former circus performer that accidentally killed his own father; Killer Moth (Bennett), Penguin’s gofer that ended up transformed into a moth creature; Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), a disgraced television psychologist whom the Joker takes a liking to; the Wrath (Christopher Gorham) and Scorn (Daryl Sabara), an anti-Batman and Robin who wanted to make sure hard-working criminals could stay free; and the Terrible Trio (David Faustino, Grey DeLisle and Googy Gress), university students who get ahold of Langstrom’s formula and become aspects of their namesakes. Because Christopher Nolan had begun development what would become his Dark Knight Trilogy, the characters of Scarecrow, Two-Face and Ra’s al Ghul were prohibited for use on the series (Bane escaped this restriction since his film was not yet in consideration). Joker was only allowed due to his strong connection to the franchise.
Newly adapted for animation was Cluemaster (Glenn Shadix, Kath Soucie as a kid), changed from a failed gameshow host to an overweight former contestant on a child’s gameshow who believed he was cheated out of a victory; the triple-jointed Ragdoll (Bennett), who could bend himself to fit into impossible spaces; Gearhead (Will Friedle), a crook who could hijack any vehicle via cybernetic implants in his arms; and Black Mask (James Remar), the ruthless head of a criminal organization whose face was always covered by (what else?) a black skull-like mask. Back Mask to make an appearance on the revival series of the previous show but was never worked into a story.
Villains created for the show included Toymaker (Patton Oswalt), the former CEO of a toy manufacturer whose dangerous toys led Bruce Wayne to campaign for their closure; Prank (Michael Reisz), a university student who became the Joker’s sidekick; Temblor (Jim Cummings), a mercenary that used shockwave-generating gauntlets; D.A.V.E. (Digitally Advanced Villain Emulator, voiced by Bennett), an AI created by Hugo Strange whose storage of a combination of insane intellects led him to believe he was a human trapped in a machine (based on H.A.R.D.A.C. from the previous series); Rumor (Perlman), a former bodyguard who decided to kill all of Gotham’s criminals after he failed to protect his client from the Joker; and Everywhere Man (Brandon Routh), a wealthy scientist that accidentally created an evil duplicate of himself.
Straddling the line between new and classic villain was their interpretation of Clayface. Initially, Clayface was Bennett after he had been captured and tortured by the Joker, and exposure to the fumes from Joker’s “putty” gave him the ability to reshape himself; similar to the Silver Age Matt Hagen version. As Clayface, he did take the form of the powerful zombie Solomon Grundy (Kevin Grevioux) for the episode “Grundy’s Night”. He was eventually cured in order to make room for the Basil Karlo version (Wallace Langham & Lex Lang). Karlo was still a poorly-reviewed actor, but this time he stole a formula from Waynetech that was designed to cure Bennett in order to give himself the right look to get the work he wanted. After Bennett’s change, Yin’s new partner became Cash Tankinson (Patrick Warburton).
The Batman debuted as part of Kids’ WB on September 11, 2004, running for five seasons and a made-for-TV film through the network’s change to The CW. The series was developed by Michael Goguen and Duane Capizzi and was produced by Alan Burnett, Glen Murakami, Linda M. Steiner, Goguen and Matsuda. For the first two seasons, the show opened with a moody theme composed by U2’s The Edge. For the remainder of the show, the theme was switched to a lighter, ‘60’s-inspired theme by Andy Sturmer. Thomas Chase Jones served as the series’ main composer. Writers for the series included Capizzi, Burnett Steven Melching, Adam Beechen, Thomas Pugsley, Greg Klein, Greg Weisman, Christopher Yost, J.D. Murray, Robert Goodman, Joseph Kuhr, Michael Jelenic, Alexx Van Dyne, David Slack, Paul Giacoppo, Stan Berkowitz, Paul Dini, Douglas Petrie, Jane Espenson, Steve Cuden, Brian Swenlin, and Len Uhley.
During the third season, a direct-to-TV film was shown on Cartoon Network called The Batman vs. Dracula. Written by Capizzi, the film involved Batman going up against the real Dracula (Peter Stormare) after he’s accidentally resurrected by Joker and Penguin as they escaped Arkham. While it may seem an odd pairing, Batman has gone up against several vampires—including Dracula—in comics, both in canon (such as Detective Comics #455, 1976) and in alternate tales (Batman & Dracula: Red Rain). The film also introduced The Batman’s version of reporter Vicki Vale (Tara Strong).
The series departed from the established mythos further by introducing Batgirl (Danielle Judovits) before Robin (Evan Sabara). Robin was unavailable until the fourth season due to his being used on Teen Titans, so a younger Batgirl was brought in the third season along with her father, Commissioner James Gordon (Mitch Pileggi), who became a series regular after two previous appearances. Batman, however, was reluctant to take her on and resisted formally making her a sidekick until Robin’s debut. The younger heroes developed a sibling-like rivalry between them. Robin’s origin remained mostly unchanged, with former Joker Mark Hamill voicing Tony Zucco, the man who killed his parents during a trapeze act at the circus, and former Batman Kevin Conroy voicing his father. Batgirl’s costume utilized the original 1960s coloring scheme but looked like a long dress. Robin’s design remained relatively close to his Titans appearance, however with the colors of his “R” symbol reversed like in The New Adventures of Batman. Season four would end up being Matsuda’s last, but before he left, he redesigned Batman to be more angular; increasing his resemblance to the previous show’s incarnation.
The fifth and final season of the show shifted focus away from Batgirl and onto Batman and Robin; relegating both her and Commissioner Gordon to cameos with the explanation that Batgirl now attended and was busy with college. They spent the season teaming up with various members of the Justice League, including Superman (George Newbern, reprising his role from Justice League), Martian Manhunter (Dorian Harewood), Green Arrow (Chris Hardwick), Flash (Charlie Schlatter, reprising his role from Superman: The Animated Series), Green Lantern (Dermot Mulroney), and Hawkman (Robert Patrick). With them came their villains: Lex Luthor (Brown, reprising his role from Superman), Mercy Graves (Gwendoline Yeo), Metallo (Green), Count Vertigo (Greg Ellis), Toyman (Green), the Shadow Thief (Diedrich Bader); Sinestro (Miguel Ferrer), and Mirror Master (John Larroquette). The final episode was a 40-minute movie featuring all the heroes joining forces to fend off an invasion of Earth. Dana Delany also reprised her role of Lois Lane, while Jack DeSena took on the role of Jimmy Olsen. Other characters, like Wonder Woman, were planned but never appeared.
Despite the show’s long run, it never quite caught on with diehard fans and was criticized with being designed just to sell toys. The toyetic nature of the series was evident in how many of the variants in the action figure line by Mattel appeared on the show, and how some of the figures could interact with the Batwave; the computer system Batman used to detect criminal activity and control a lot of his gear. The show did manage to win its fair share of awards and nominations. It was nominated for three Annie Awards between 2005 and 2006, though it didn’t win any of them. It was nominated for 12 Daytime Emmy Awards, of which it won 6. It was also nominated for three Golden Reel Awards, winning one in 2008.
DC Comics published a comic based on the show under its Johnny DC young-readers imprint, which primarily published comics based on cartoons from Kids’ WB and Cartoon Network. The Batman Strikes! ran for 50 issues between 2004 and 2008. It introduced characters not seen on the show—such as Perry White, Bruno Manheim, Cat Grant and Etrigan—as well as expanded on the ones that had been. Three collected editions were released; the first two in 2005, with the third delayed until 2007, collecting the first 18 issues (excluding #15). A fourth was planned but never published. The first issue was reprinted in 2004 as a Burger King giveaway and in 2005 for Free Comic Book Day. In 2006, Post released a limited-edition chocolate and marshmallow cereal to promote the show.
Warner Home Video released the complete series across five volumes between 2007 and 2008. Two editions of the film were released: one in 2005 with collectible figurines, and a standard edition in 2007. The Batman would make a brief return to television in Darwyn Cooke’s Batman Beyond Short in 2014 for Batman’s 75th Anniversary celebration.
“The Bat in the Belfry” (9/11/04) – Detectives Ethan Bennett and Ellen Yin are tasked with capturing the Batman, who is on the trail of the Joker after he freed inmates from Arkham.
“Call of the Cobblepot” (9/18/04) – A series of thefts involving birds leads the Batman to the Penguin, who takes Alfred as a hostage to avoid capture.
“Traction” (9/25/04) – Three mob bosses hire Bane to deal with the Batman, leaving him critically injured after their confrontation and Bane free to terrorize the city.
“The Man Who Would Be Bat” (10/2/04) – Kirk Langstrom claims to be working on a cure for the deaf, but secretly works on a project to make himself a true Batman.
“The Big Chill” (10/30/04) – Batman realizes a cold-seeking jewel thief named Mr. Freeze is a crook he chased into a cryogenic chamber some time ago.
“The Cat and the Bat” (11/6/04) – Catwoman gets the upper hand on Batman when she steals his utility belt to use a batarang for a theft.
“The Big Heat” (11/13/04) – Batman discovers a connection between his competition for the children’s hospital and Firefly’s rash of break-ins at various tech firms.
“Q&A” (11/20/04) – Cluemaster abducts two people who once humiliated him on a quiz show in order to enact his revenge.
“The Big Dummy” (11/27/04) – Scarface and the Ventriloquist plot to rob the gold reserves from Gotham Bank while Alfred uses online dating to find a girl for Bruce.
“Topsy Turvy” (2/5/05) – After Joke escapes Arkham Asylum, he goes after all the people who locked him away.
“Bird of Prey” (2/12/05) – Unable to get revenge on Batman, Penguin decides to rob Bruce Wayne and takes Alfred hostage in the process.
“The Rubberface of Comedy (Part 1)” (4/30/05) – Joker returns with a putty that can morph anything into a springing substance and captures Ethan.
“The Clayface of Tragedy (Part 2)” (5/7/05) – Joker’s putty turns Ethan into Clayface bringing Yin and Batman together to try and stop him from going after Rojas.
“The Cat, the Bat and the Very Ugly” (5/14/05) – Penguin and Catwoman join forces for a robbery, but a double-cross forces Catwoman to work with Batman to stop Penguin.
“Riddled” (5/21/05) – Riddler terrorizes the city by combining his puzzles with bombs in various locations around the city.
“Fire & Ice” (5/28/05) – Firefly and Mr. Freeze join forces to steal all the parts Freeze needs to permanently freeze the city.
“The Laughing Bat” (6/4/05) – Joker decides to become Batman and injects the real one with a Joker Venom to make him his arch-rival.
“Swamped” (6/11/05) – Killer Croc steals what he needs to flood the city’s lower districts in order to have free reign to plunder them.
“Pets” (6/18/05) – Penguin steals a device in order to control a rare bird but ends up attracting Man-Bat instead.
“Meltdown” (6/25/05) – Clayface’s probation is put in jeopardy when the urge to get revenge on the Joker becomes irresistible.
“JTV” (7/9/05) – Joker launches a pirate TV channel and takes the Mayor and Yin’s new partner hostage, but it’s all part of a much larger plan.
“Ragdolls to Riches” (7/16/05) – Ragdoll moves in on Gotham City, stealing Catwoman’s targets before her and giving Batman a new headache to face.
“The Butler Did It” (8/20/05) – Spellbinder hypnotizes the wealthy’s butlers into stealing for him, but plans to use their masters for a much larger score.
“Grundy’s Night” (8/27/05) – Solomon Grundy is resurrected on Halloween and goes after the descendants of the city’s founders.
“Strange Minds” (9/4/05) – Batman enters Joker’s mind in order to learn the whereabouts of the kidnapped Yin.
“Night and the City” (9/10/05) – Joker, Penguin and Riddler decide to compete in capturing Batman while Yin’s support of him is discovered by Rojas.
“Batgirl Begins, Part One” (9/17/05) – Barbara Gordon and Pamela Isley become endangered when Temblor seeks payment for attacks against polluting companies organized by Pamela.
“Batgirl Begins, Part Two” (9/24/05) – Pamela is mutated into Poison Ivy and forces Barbara to become Batgirl when she captures Batman and Commissioner Gordon.
“A Dark Knight to Remember” (10/1/05) – Bruce loses his memory, and when Batgirl tries to stop Penguin’s crime spree herself she ends up captured.
“A Fistful of Felt” (10/8/05) – Hugo Strange separates Scarface from Ventriloquist allowing him to be freed from Arkham in service of Strange’s larger plans for him.
“RPM” (11/5/05) – Gearhead steals the prize for a charity race and destroys the Batmobile, inspiring Batman to build a better one to take the villain down.
“Brawn” (11/12/05) – Joker steals Bane’s Venom and uses it to become a major threat.
“The Laughing Cats” (11/19/05) – Batman, Batgirl and Catwoman investigate the theft of a rare leopard only to be lured into a death maze by Joker.
“Fleurs du Mal” (11/26/05) – With the passing and enforcement of bizarre new laws causes Batman and Batgirl to investigate, they learn Poison Ivy replaced city officials with plant clones.
“Cash for Toys” (2/4/06) – A disgruntled toymaker decides to get revenge on Bruce Wayne with his dangerous toys, leading to Detective Cash being assigned as his bodyguard.
“Thunder” (2/18/06) – On the verge of losing the mayoral race, Maximillian Zeus decides to take over the city by force.
“The Apprentice” (2/11/06) – After Batman takes on Batgirl as his sidekick, Joker decides to get one of his own and turns Barbara’s classmate into Prank.
“The Icy Depths” (5/6/06) – Alfred’s old friend visits and invites him on a treasure hunt, unaware that Penguin and Mr. Freeze are after the same treasure.
“Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind” (5/13/06) – Strange programs an AI called DAVE with the minds of Gotham’s greatest criminals and lets it free to commit crimes.
“A Matter of Family” (9/23/06) – Bruce adopts an orphaned Dick Grayson and brings his family’s killer to justice.
“Team Penguin” (9/30/06) – Penguin forms a team of villains to take Batman down while Batman reveals his identity to Batgirl and they learn how to work together with Robin.
“Clayfaces” (10/7/06) – Ethan tries to prove himself to Batman by foiling Joker’s plans, but washed-up actor Basil Karlo steals some of Joker’s putty and becomes the new Clayface.
“The Everywhere Man” (11/4/06) – When the replicating Everywhere Man frames one of Bruce’s friends, Batman tries to prove his innocence.
“The Breakout” (11/11/06) – Black Mask is freed from prison and captures Batman, leaving Batgirl and Robin to thwart his plans alone.
“Strange New World” (11/18/06) – Batman and Robin have to save the city from Strange’s virus that turns them into zombies.
“Artifacts” (2/3/07) – A thousand years in the future, the citizenry of Gotham have to learn about Batman’s history in order to stop the new Mr. Freeze.
“Seconds” (2/10/07) – Batman and his partners go up against a foe that seems to know their every move.
“Riddler’s Revenge” (2/17/07) – When Riddler and Batman are sealed in a crate and sunken into the harbor, Riddler reveals his origin.
“Two of a Kind” (2/24/07) – Joker decides to make disgraced TV host Harleen Quinzell into his new partner.
“Rumors” (3/3/07) – Batman and Robin have to save the city’s villains from the mysterious Rumor before he executes them.
“The Joining, Part One” (4/28/07) – Bruce learns that Wayne Industries has been distributing alien technology around the world and an alien race is coming to conquer Earth.
“The Joining, Part Two” (5/5/07) – Batman and Martian Manhunter attempt to use Wayne Industries satellites to stop The Joining.
“The Batman/Superman Story, Part One” (9/22/07) – Lex Luthor opens up shop in Gotham and recruits its villains in his efforts to destroy Superman.
“The Batman/Superman Story, Part Two” (9/29/07) – Batman and Robin take on a Lex-controlled Superman while Lex plots to use robots to take over the world’s armies.
“Vertigo” (10/6/07) – Batman teams-up with Green Arrow to take down Count Vertigo.
“White Heat” (10/13/07) – Trying to upgrade himself leads Firefly to becoming the even more dangerous Phosphorus.
“A Mirror Darkly” (11/3/07) – Mirror Master plans to trap everyone in their own image, but Batman, Robin and Flash set out to stop him.
“Joker Express” (11/10/07) – Joker makes it so that the citizens of Gotham hysterically dump stolen loot into the river.
“Ring Toss” (12/8/07) – Green Lantern seeks Batman’s help to find Sinestro, but the encounter leaves Penguin with a power ring.
“The Metal Face of Comedy” (12/15/07) – Joker has a hacker put his mind into WayneTech nanobots that build him an improved body in his quest to destroy Batman.
“Attack of the Terrible Trio” (2/2/08) – A group of college misfits use Langstrom’s formula to turn themselves into animals to get revenge on those that have wronged them.
“The End of the Batman” (2/9/08) – Wrath and Scorn aid the villains of Gotham City.
“What Goes Up…” (2/16/08) – Black Mask hires the Shadow Thief to break him out of prison, leading to Batman teaming-up with Hawkman.
“Lost Heroes, Part One” (3/8/08) – Batman and Green Arrow investigate the disappearance of the rest of the Justice League.
“Lost Heroes, Part Two” (3/8/08) – The Joining plans a new attack on Earth while the Justice League fight robotic counterparts to get their powers back.
“The Batman vs. Dracula” (10/18/05) – Batman has to deal with Joker and Penguin, as well as keep Dracula from turning the city into vampires.