Pros: The Gray Ghost episode is awesome; great voice acting and animation
Cons: Only two episodes
Batman: The Animated Series revolutionized how people looked at superhero cartoons. This wasn’t the Super Friends of yore. It wasn’t the campy 1960s Batman that was the ultimate preconception of the Dark Knight with the general masses. No, what this 1992 animated series brought was the wonderment comic book fans enjoyed about this character from the funny pages to the small screen without compromising anything about him. The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Batman offers two episodes to show why this version of Batman is the best.
“Dreams in Darkness”
Arkham Asylum, the institution for the criminally insane, has admitted its newest patient, and his name is Batman. He is suffering from hallucinations that nearly causes him to harm innocent people. What the doctors don’t realize is that he has been exposed by Scarecrow’s fear gas. His rantings and ravings are not just in his head but Batman cannot convince them otherwise. He needs to find a way to escape Arkham and stop the Scarecrow from dumping his fear toxin into Gotham City’s water supply. This is, of course, if Batman can trust his own mental state to get the job done.
“Beware the Gray Ghost”
A new crime spree is hitting Gotham City courtesy of someone named The Mad Bomber. This incident reminds Batman of a television episode he saw as child featuring the Gray Ghost against the Mad Bomber. However, he doesn’t know how it ends because he fell asleep when he was a child. Batman does manage to track down Trent Simon, the actor who portrayed the Gray Ghost now living in Gotham City. He is now an unemployed actor selling off his original Gray Ghost memorabilia just to pay the rent. However, all evidence points back to Trent as being the culprit. Trent needs to prove that he isn’t The Mad Bomber while he and Batman look for the real one.
The Gray Ghost episode is one of my all-time favourite. There’s so much nostalgia seeping from it. Plus, I feel like it’s the perfect passing-of-the-torch from one Batman to the next. Adam West, the actor who portrayed the Caped Crusader from the 1960s Batman live-action series, provides the voice for Trent Simon, aka the Gray Ghost. Here is an actor who’s in a downward spiral because he has been pigeonholed to this one character. He cannot get any other work because no one can take him seriously. But there’s an exchange between Batman and the Gray Ghost that sums it all up:
Batman: “As a kid, I used to watch you with my father. The Gray Ghost was my hero.”
Gray Ghost: “So it wasn't all for nothing. . . “
It’s all about feeling appreciated and knowing that you somehow made a difference. Batman’s validation to Trent Simon was what he needed to hear.
The Scarecrow episode was pretty decent as well, though the villain really took a backseat to the psychological warfare Batman was waging in his mind. It’s an interesting look because when you really think about, no matter how much good Baman has done, one would think he would eventually end up in Arkham Asylum as one of its patients.
The animation is top notch with a nice fluidity in movement and style. The whole “Dark Deco” look really set the tone and atmosphere for this series that helped punctuate that world Batman lives in. However, the voice acting is what really grounds this series. It would have been easy to go over the top and be melodramatic about everything. Instead, we get subdued performances that add gravitas and weight to these characters are in making these situations much more believable. This is led by Kevin Conroy, the man behind Batman’s voice. His gravelly-toned vocals really convince us of a confident Dark Knight.
I know these episodes have been compiled to DVD format but back in the day when it was first released, VHS tapes were the only way to see them. At the time only two episodes were featured on each tape. The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Batman takes a look at what makes the Dark Knight tick in different ways and showing the different sides to his personality. Batman is much more sentimental than people realize. Why else would he have that giant penny and all those trophies in the Batcave?
DC Super Heroes (1967-1968): The Filmation Adventures
Super Friends (1973-1974): Season One, Volume One
Challenge of the Superfriends (1978-1979): The First Season || Attack of the Legion of Doom
Super Friends: The Lost Episodes (1983-1984): The Complete Series
Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984-1985): The Complete Series
Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995): Volume 1 || Volume 2 || Volume 3 || Volume 4 || The Legend Begins || Tales of the Dark Knight || Out of the Shadows || Secrets of the Caped Crusader
The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1993-1995): The Joker || The Penguin || Poison Ivy || The Riddler || Robin || Two-Face
Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000): Volume 1 || Volume 2 || Volume 3 || A Little Piece of Home
Batman Beyond (1999-2001): Season One || Season Two || Season Three || Batman Beyond || Crush || Disappearing Inque || Spellbound
Justice League (2001-2004) : Season One || Season Two || Justice On Trial || Paradise Lost || The Brave and the Bold
Teen Titans (2003-2006): The Complete Second Season
Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006): Season One || Season Two
The Batman (2004-2008): The Complete Fifth Season
Legion of Super Heroes (2006-2008): Volume One || Volume Two || Volume Three
Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-2011): Volume One || Volume Two || Volume Three