Batman The Animated Series Essential Characters

first_imgStay on target The 11 Weirdest ‘Scooby-Doo’ Guest StarsChristian Bale Shares Cheeky Batsuit Advice for Robert Pattinson Over the 86 episode run of Batman: The Animated Series, the show re-defined classic Batman characters and created a handful of new ones to tell lightly serialized, comic-book inspired tales of the Dark Knight. During the three years, it was on the air, the show transformed from a production based on the comic book cast of Batman to one that influenced how many properties, comic book and film, would use the Bat-lineup going forward. Below are ten characters irrevocably changed by their appearances on the animated series, which makes them essential to the Batman world.Harley QuinnProbably the most famous contribution from The Animated Series to the Batman canon, Harley Quinn first appeared in the episode “Joker’s Favor” and was just meant to be a female henchmen for the Joker before Story Editor Paul Dini stepped in and based the character on his friend Arleen Sorkin who had appeared on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. In one episode, Arleen was in a dream sequence as a court jester and that loosely translated over to the cartoon look of Harley Quinn. Sorkin would end up voicing the character and Harley’s popularity lead her to be introduced into the man Batman comic book continuity during the No Man’s Land crossover event. The best Harley episode of the series is season two’s “Harlequinade” where she has to team up with Batman and Robin to find Joker before he can set off an A-bomb. The last act of the episode is dedicated to Harley turning on Mr. J seemingly for good (it wasn’t).Two-FaceHarvey Dent’s introduction to Batman: The Animated Series is one of the series overall best episodes as well as one of the essential ones in establishing this portrayal of Two-Face and Dent as a violent case of multiple personality disorder. In “Two-Face,” we learn that District Attorney Harvey Dent once got angry at a bully when he was a kid and attacked that bully in retaliation. The bully ended up in the hospital for appendicitis, but Harvey thought it was because he had punched him and the guilt never left him. Because he suppressed his anger, his feelings created “Big Bad Harv” who took over when a chemical explosion made him Two-Face. This portrayal followed the origins of the character from the 1980s era of D.C. comics and using the gritty psychological backstory allowed for some great character moments in episodes later in the series. Most of the show pre-dates the release of Batman Forever (where Two-Face was played by Tommy Lee Jones with none of the psychological nuance), but early in the first season, Dent is established as one of Batman’s key antagonists.Mr. FreezeThe two-part Mr. Freeze origin story “Heart of Ice” won the 1993 daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program, and it completely changed the origin story of the character in future appearances. The whole Batman and Robin plot where Arnold Schwarzenegger is making ice puns while trying to save his cryogenically frozen wife? That came from Batman: The Animated Series (well, not the ice puns, but the origin story). Mr. Freeze was a re-purposed villain from the comics called Mr. Zero who was mostly around for a joke during the 1966 live action Adam West Batman series. His first origin story was as a mad scientist who was building a freeze ray when it backfired, meaning he’d need constant cooling. The Animated Series origin involves Dr. Victor Fries trying to save his wife’s life through cryogenic treatment when his boss bursts in and messes up the experiment, transforming him into Mr. Freeze. Like other Batman villains that were re-imagined for the animated series, a character that could have ended up silly (and eventually did, thanks to Joel Schumacher) instead comes off as tragic and cold (pun intended).ClayfaceThe Animated Series version of Clayface isn’t the first version of Clayface that appeared in the comics but manages to have a memorable run during his few appearances, aided by having Ron Pearlman as the voice actor bringing him to life. In the comic books, Clayface was first an out of work actor called Basil Karlo that had played a character called “Clayface” in a movie and took on that moniker. The version of Clayface with powers from DC Comics was Mike Hagen, explorer, who found a pool of radioactive goop that would give him temporary shape-shifting clay powers. The series combines elements of both to make Matt Hagen an actor who gets in a horrible car accident and needs the highly addictive cosmetic drug “Renuyu” to keep his disfigurement under wraps. Unfortunately, Hagen has to get the creme from a gangster, and when things go south, his body gets saturated with the cream, turning him into Clayface. When the villain returns to the series, his body is beginning to break down. The entire arc of the monster isn’t as villainous as Batman’s other rogues and once again the tragedy of the origin raises this version above others.The JokerTo many, Mark Hamill’s portrayal of the Joker is the ultimate one, even if it’s only been a voice acting job. Hamill’s Joker arrives in the second ever episode of Batman: The Animated Series and is fully realized as a clown of terror in the show’s first season. Not only did the original designs crooked nose and black-lined eyes give the character a look that could be either sinister or silly, but the characterization itself managed to have its malice cake and eat it too. Despite being a show aimed at children, the Joker’s creepiest qualities seeped into the show from all sides. Hamill’s voice can go from gravely serious to drenched in mockery from phrase to phrase which keeps the audience as on edge as the Joker’s victims. Sometimes, Joker is concerned with his image, like in “Joker’s Wild” when he decides to burn down a casino that is using his likeness, but other times he’s riding a Christmas Tree rocket right out of Arkham just because the walls can’t hold him. As soon as the show introduced Harley Quinn as the Joker’s foil, Hamill’s portrayal gained a new edge as the character flirted with cartoon comedy around an abusive relationship. It’s no wonder that fans love Hamill reprising his role in the Arkham games – he’s one of the (if not the very) best Jokers.Robin (Dick Grayson)Although there is times when we can look to the sky and curse Chris O’Donnell’s portrayal of the character on screen, the Animated Series version of the Dick Grayson Robin actually wasn’t that bad. Considering the character was developed way back when children were the primary consumers of comic books, Robin was devised as a way of letting readers insert themselves into a story in a more believable way – they can’t be Batman, but they could be Batman’s partner. The Animated Series version of Robin spent most of his crime fighting youth off screen since the character was aged up to be splitting his time between crime fighting in Gotham and attending college. This makes Robin’s first few forays into the series exciting without knowing for sure that Dick would be hanging around the Batcave for next week’s adventures. Also, the speed of the plotting and dialogue on the original run meant that Robin could genuinely get some good jokes and puns in, despite also being shown as a genius at puzzles and a gifted fighter. Up until the animated series the Robins of the comic books had been both extremely campy and extremely beaten-to-death by the Joker, so a tolerable and competent Dick made for an essential character inclusion.H.A.R.D.A.C.The acronym stands for Holographic Analytical Reciprocating Digital Computer; H.A.R.D.A.C. only appears in two story arcs of Batman: The Animated Series because a superhero noir only has so much room for Terminator riffs in the storytelling gaps. Bruce’s old friend Karl Rossum and his assistant Randa Duane created H.A.R.D.A.C., but like Skynet before it, the machine was discontent with humanity. Unlike Skynet, H.A.R.D.A.C. wastes no time in replacing Detective Bullock and Commissioner Gorden with android replicants that Batman has to fight off before Batman shuts it down. If that’s not enough robot craziness, then you must know what’s coming next: why bring back an artificial intelligence who can make androids if you’re not going to have a robot Batman fight actual Batman? Luckily, “His Silicon Soul” delivers the Robo-Bat closer to “Heart of Steel” parts one and two. Yeah, H.A.R.D.A.C. might be a little rote in a world that includes Ultron, but Batman’s Gotham still has police blimps, so something like H.A.R.D.A.C. popping up is as good as magic.Poison IvyIvy didn’t appear in the Adam West live action Batman series, so this was her first time gracing the small screen to oppose Batman. Introduced early in the series, Ivy actually gets a chance to try and assassinate a pre-Two-Faced Harvey Dent with a poison she derives from a special rose. Even as Ivy sporadically shows up in the series (she only appears in five or six episodes), the development of the character ended up informing how Ivy would be portrayed in the DC animated universe for years to come. Most notable among these character developments was Ivy’s friendship with Harley Quinn. Developed during the episode titled “Harley and Ivy” and continuing through the run of the second season, the villainess duo ended up making quite a pair in other DC animated series (like Static Shock) but originated here. Ivy’s other storylines aren’t slouches either, especially when she creates a plant family and pretends to have given up a life of crime (“Home and Garden”).Renee MontoyaAnother strange of The Animated Series producing a character that would go on to have a long life in the comics, Latina Detective Renee Montoya originated as an idea for the show but was preemptively integrated into the Batman DC Comics continuity before her 1992 shows made it to air. Originally created as a police officer that could act as a foil to the more bullish Harvey Bullock, Montoya has grown as a character outside The Animated Series and eventually ends up being The Question – a vigilante in her own right. Instead, Montoya’s appearances as a recognizable police officer to contrast Detective Bullock against aligns her with Commissioner Gordon as “the police who trust Batman.” Even though it’s not an easy relationship between the Dark Knight and the GCPD, having Montoya around to remind the audience that not all cops are faceless villain fodder was essential. Plus, the character’s arc in the Gotham Central comics where Two-Face outs her as a lesbian is a great arc in that series. Where’d that character start? Right here on television (even though she appears in Batman #475 first).Red ClawRed Claw is another one of those characters that is only around for a few episodes but manages to make an impression. Maybe it’s because Kate Mulgrew voiced the character and Captain Janeway as the head of an international terrorist group is a great thing to put into a cartoon. Red Claw leads her own terrorist cell, is an expert in espionage and blackmail and is a Batman: The Animated Series character who – unlike everyone else on this list – appears only on this show. First appearing as the third side of a crime triangle in “The Cat and the Claw” (with Catwoman, as you can tell from the title), Red Claw then sat out the rest of the series (in prison from getting caught) until the very final episode of the run “The Lion and the Unicorn.” At the end of that episode, her fate remains unclear, but she never returns. How has this character not shown up in the CW’s Arrowverse yet? She’s a female international terrorist who keeps vexing Batman while wearing a lot of red and sporting a paw-tattoo on her shoulder, it seemed perfect for television and was…for three episodes.last_img

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