Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
In the Marvel vs DC debate (which, in my opinion, was won by Image about a decade ago), I'm mostly Team Marvel. I significantly prefer their comics. DC may have done wonders with about half their 20th century Batman movies while Marvel movies were originally trash, the 21st century Marvel movies have left DC's movies in the very dark, very boring dust. I prefer Marvel's politics to DC's. Working in the industry, I prefer the way Marvel has treated their retail customers. But when it comes to animated TV shows, no amount of Spider-Man goodwill can overcome DC's dominance. From Superfriends to the DCEU movies, DC rarely missteps with its cartoons.
That said, I tried to watch Superfriends a few months ago, and was physically in pain watching it, but that's because, unlike everything DC has done since the mid-80s, it had no interest in speaking to adults, it was a cartoon for very young children whose frontal lobes hadn's developed yet. That's a totally viable audience to shoot for.
But while the comics started to go Dark and Adult in the mid-80s, the late 80s saw DC create Batman: The Animated Series. It wasn't ADULT. There was no swearing, no hyperviolence, no sexual tension as plot device. It was a show for kids that was written so well that older teens and adults could enjoy it. From then on, DC's series were always well-targeted for specific demographics, and seemed meticulously planned to make a universe akin to what Marvel has done with their live action movies in the 21st century.
This series will focus on the members of the justice League: Batman and his Batfamily, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, etc. It will have A Lot of Batman because there have been a ton of very good Batman series and animated films in the last forty years. While it is somewhat chronological, it will not start with Bruce Wayne's parents dying. We will not watch Superman's home planet explode while he's tossed in a space crib. I don't think we'll see The Flash get struck by lightning for a while. I assume, because the stories have been told a billion times, and almost Never Well, that people know the basic premises of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, and don't need to see every second of the characters' lives and development. This is a Best Of watchthrough. There will be timejumps, as some more modern series, like Young Justice, had massive timejumps between seasons. But it should all be easy to follow, and mostly fun.
Season One is mostly Batman because without The Animated Series, the whole Justice League cartoon history might look more like the old Superfriends cartoon than what we, thankfully, were given.
Season 1: New Frontier
Episodes 1 & 2: Batman Year One
Frank Miller's "Year One" reset Batman in the mid-80s, and established Gotham as a gritty city full of mob bosses and petty criminals struggling to take control of a city patrolled by corrupt cops. It sets a cool tone that DC has struggled to overcome ever since it came out. It's still a masterpiece, and introduces crime families who will be extremely important to the series, as well as introducing Catwoman and Jim Gordon.
Episode 3: Nothing To Fear
Batman's origin story is exhausting. I never want to see it again. I stopped watching Gotham during its first episode when I realized they were telling the same story I'd read/watched hundreds of times, but they were going to tell it poorly. So instead of seeing baby Brucey being traumatized outiside of Zorro, or The Lone Ranger, or Space Jam, or Air Bud, or whatever movie he watched with his parents, we're going to watch adult Bruce deal with hus trauma courtesy of Scarecrow's fear toxin. It's a way better experience.
Episode 4: Heart Of Ice
The story that made The Animated Series a classic show. This is the story of Doctor Victor Fries, and how a supervillain can be forged by relatable events, as opposed to The Desire To Take Over The World. Oh, he goes way too far, and is clearly a Bad Dude, but you do see where he was coming from.
Episode 5: Pretty Poison
It's Poison Ivy's turn for the origin treatment, as District Attorney Harvey Dent is poisoned during a dinner date with Pamela Isley and Bruce Wayne.
Episodes 6 & 7: New Frontier
The Animated Series takes place at some point in the 20th century. When is unclear. There are police blimps, noir-era architecture and weapons. It's a shrug. But we open in the 1950's Silver Age era of comics with the foundation of The Justice League. While this is definitely a different animation style than the rest of the season, it is a gorgeous, bright, Darwyn Cooke story that gives us all the major players for the series meeting for the first time to fight a mysterious crisis much bigger than The Joker or Lex Luthor could pull off.
Episode 8 & 9: Feet Of Clay
It's the origin of Clayface, as Bruce Wayne is framed for the murder of Lucius Fox.
Episode 10: POV
When a police bust goes awry, three GCPD cops: Bullock, Wilkes, and Montoya are interrogated and each explains how things went bust from their own perspective.
Episode 11: Joker's Favor
It's almost criminal how far we've come already without Mark Hamill's Joker, as he calls in a favor in order to kill Jim Gordon. This episode also features the franchise debut of Harley Quinn.
Episode 12: Appointment In Crime Alley
Leslie Thompson makes her debut, as she's taken prisoner by a mob boss who wants to destroy the landmark where Bruce's parents were killed.
Episode 13: Mad As A Hatter
There are A Ton of Terrible Alice In Wonderland stories in the Batman universe. Sam Keith has only written 1/3rd of them. This origin story for The Mad Hatter is probably the best version, and is an actually compelling story based on the Lewis Carrol classic.
Episode 14: Perchance To Dream
Infamous DC Overlord, Dan Didio pounded his fists on tables and made it clear that Batman should never be married. Yet, here, Bruce Wayne wakes up married to Selina Kyle in a world without a Robin or a Batcave. What has happened?
Episode 15: The Strange Secrets Of Bruce Wayne
Evil psychiatrist, Hugo Strange, tries to use brain technology to learn the secrets of wealthy industrialist, Bruce Wayne!
Episode 16: Dreams In Darkness
Scarecrow escapes Arkham and wants to make the whole city succumb to his fear toxin. Wait, isn't this the plot to Batman Beg....oh! this is the cartoon based on a comic that the movie was based on. Cool!
Episodes 17 - 20: The Long Halloween
An astounding follow-up to "Year One", Gotham's crime families are all hit with a murder spree that sees pretty much every villain in Gotham as a potential suspect. Batman, Catwoman, and Harvey Dent all work together to figure out whodunnit.
Episode 21: Beware The Grey Ghost
Batman teams up with an actor who portrayed a hero that inspired Batman to stop a series of bombings. Featuring Adam West (aka Batman from the 1966 live action series) as The Grey Ghost.
Episode 22: I Am The Night
Bruce just can't get over his parents death, as he and Leslie Thompson visit Crime Alley when he Should be heloing Jim Gordon, who ends up getting shot. Will he hang up his cape and pointy ears?
Episodes 23-25: Gotham By Gaslight
An elseworlds tale set in Victorian-era Gotham, featuring all the familiar Bat-characters. This is more violent than the rest of the series, and even has a few naughty words in it. It's still pretty great.