Batman: The Animated Series Documentary Explores The Show's Perfect Villains

A new Batman: The Animated Series documentary digs deep into the classic cartoon.

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Now Playing: Batman: The Animated Series - The Heart Of Batman 'Villains' Official Clip

Will there ever be a better comic book TV show than Batman: The Animated Series? Given how tough it would be to top, probably not. In many ways, it was the thing that best-defined Batman in the 1990s. Whether it was Kevin Conroy's voice as Batman, the Gotham City it created, or the adventures it sent the caped crusader on.

Of course, there's another aspect of Batman: The Animated Series that was near perfection and that's its villains. From the introduction of Harley Quinn to having Mark Hamill voice The Joker, Batman: TAS's bad guys were second to none.

Now that the show has arrived on Blu-ray, fans are getting the chance to get to know the baddies a bit more. In The Heart of Batman, a new feature-length documentary included with the Blu-ray set, the cast and crew of the show speak in-depth about a number of topics. One that's particularly interesting, though, is the villains.

In the exclusive video above, the show's creative team says what makes the baddies on Batman: TAS so special is that you can relate to them. "They found a humanness in the villains," voice director Andrea Romano said. "They found a 'why' and they let us know the 'why.'"

"How much can you feel for a character like Victor Fries?" writer Paul Dini wonders. "Can you empathize with him? Can you love a character like Harley Quinn, who makes bad decisions and still keeps going back to this maniac? Can you empathize a little bit with the Riddler and his ongoing need to try and prove himself over Batman?"

And when the episodes came to a close, they didn't always leave a smile on your face. "In our show, we were able to end something without necessarily a happy ending," director and character designer Dan Riba explained. "The villain gets his comeuppance. But because we related to the character and we felt sorry for him, it's a tragedy."

It's hard to imagine another animated series--or comic book TV or movie, for that matter--that has treated its villains the same way. Then again. that's a big part of what makes Batman: The Animated Series so special.

The Batman: The Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Blu-ray is available now. The set contains all 109 episodes of the series--both Batman: TAS and The New Batman Adventures--as well as the animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub Zero. Besides the documentary, the special features also include a number of featurettes and episode commentaries.

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Avatar image for June-GS


As a kid growing up in the 90's, Batman: The Animated Series is literally a Sacred Cow to me. NOBODY disrespects that Bruce Timm Universe (which technically extends all the way to Justice League Unlimited) in front of me without risking immediate & brutal retaliation from me, hah, kiddin'. But seriously, even today, as an adult, many of the guiding principles that I have (like helping the helpless,giving people a second chance,etc.) are direct results of the Life Lessons I learned from that show and others like it. So it's a grave understatement to say that I'm grateful for its existence.

As for the villains themselves, since I was too young then, I never really gave it much thought. But now that you mention it (both your article above and the documentary itself), I totally agree. My mom & others used to say that I empathized well with so-called "bad guys" (both fictional & real ones). No, not because I side with them--of course I don't. But because I'm actually willing AND able to understand them, and why they do what they do. And I think that's because the show taught me to always keep a Fair & Just mind, because there's always more to it, than a villain simply being "Evil". As a quick example, the tragic story of Andrea Beaumont from the Mask of the Phantasm film is one of the best bittersweet stories that I use to teach people, both young & old, not to obsess about taking revenge on others who've hurt them. Because it's a very steep & slippery slope, and the cost at the end, may well be your own Soul anyway.

PS: Interestingly, just like the other commenters here, my grown-up relatives, including my mom (who never really liked cartoons), used to watch it with me too. Coz they actually considered it a regular mature series, which just so happens to be animated. :)

Avatar image for Barighm

That was some damn fine years for cartoons: Batman followed by Gargoyles. Even my mom watched those shows with me. Shame what happened to both.

Avatar image for heathen75

@Barighm: My grandma used to watch Gargoyles with me. Wouldn't watch any other cartoons but she liked that one. I got her season 1 and 2 about 3 years ago for Xmas.