Rino Romano, Evan Sabara, Danielle Judovits, Mitch Pileggi, Kevin Michael Richardson
Series story editor: Michael Jelenic
Bruce Wayne – “Hello Dick, I’m Bruce Wayne.I’m sorry about your loss.”
It can often take a while to get into your stride and if you happen to follow in the footsteps of someone else, then it can turn a brisk walk into a marathon.When animated show The Batman first hit TV screens, the idea was to present a new take on the hero to an audience perhaps not so familiar with his previous animated exploits on Batman: The Animated Series.The problem with this however, was Batman: TAS had been so popular that a version of it still technically existed in the form of spin-off series, Justice League.Not only was Justice League a hit show, but amongst the team members of the League there was Batman, once again voiced by Kevin Conroy, who had previously managed to define the Dark Knight for a whole generation of fans.This meant there was already a TV Batman still being seen by viewers and so there were huge expectations when newcomer The Batman made its way on to screens.With this being a property as big as Batman it was instantly a hit when it came to securing viewing figures, but figures aside it couldn’t quite manage to make all Bat-fans warm to its new take on the mythology.For three years it continued to make misstep after misstep, but eventually in its fourth year it finally found a comfortable pace with which to establish its own kind of movement.
The biggest problem with the early years of the show seemed to be in its attempts to distance itself from Batman: TAS, which meant the most iconic characters Joker, Penguin and Catwoman got a radical make-over.This turned out to be one of the series’ biggest downfalls because none of the redesigned big three were particularly likeable, even for villains, and they quickly appeared in the show more times than an unwanted cold sore during party season.This wasn’t the only problem, as it often seemed the show was always going out of its way to try and make things different, like reversing Mr Freeze’s tragic back story, so that he was now just a common criminal, or introducing Batgirl in Season 3 before Robin had even arrived.The Batgirl situation had come about because at the time The Batman aired, Robin was appearing on the Teen Titans show (2003 – 2006), but her appearance never quite worked because it made little sense for her to have arrived prior to Robin.Thankfully when Season 4 made its debut, the first thing the show did was correct the previous faux-pas by introducing the Boy Wonder into the storyline.Instantly this managed to make the show more interesting as it brought it in line with years of previously established continuity from comics to movies and TV.It was ok for the show to attempt to shake up the status quo a little, but something as important as the relationship between Batman and Robin needed to simply be left as it was.By having Robin finally arrive with his origin pretty much intact, it was the first time the show felt as if it was no longer trying to make itself different.
As the season progressed it continued to make better choices, like introducing a second Clayface into the mix, which allowed for the opportunity to wrap up original Clayface Ethan Bennett’s storyline.Bruce and Ethan had been friends during season one and when Bennett transformed into Clayface it created an emotional conflict for Bruce, creating a separation between his role as a friend to Ethan and his duty as Batman.The introduction of Basil Karlo as Clayface II, gave Bennett the opportunity to redeem himself and it made for a perfect way to end his inner torment and give Batman some much deserved hope in his war on crime.Like Karlo, another character from the comics to appear was Black Mask, who was not only an interesting addition to the show, but also a character who hadn’t appeared in Batman: TAS.Black Mask’s attitude to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it, was his strongest trait, but the character also benefitted from the fact he wasn’t a high profile villain like Joker or Penguin, so needed no real redesign for the series.The Batman’s strongest point had always been tackling characters less familiar to TV audiences, as it meant it had nothing to be compared to and so Season 4 took advantage of this with newcomers like The Everywhere Man, Francis Gray and the vigilante Rumor.These characters had the phrase ‘one episode only’ written all over them, but that was all the time they needed to help make the series stronger and give them a place in Batman’s rogues gallery.The episode Rumor was yet another example of the show having fun with its own continuity as every villain from the previous three seasons showed up, from Poison Ivy and Cluemaster to Killer Croc and Maxie Zeus.In fact the show really began to embrace its own continuity as well as the continuity established in the comics with the episode Artifacts, which showed a futuristic Gotham City, where Batman had become a Frank Miller style Dark Knight, Robin had grown up to become Nightwing and Batgirl was the techno-wiz Oracle.
Of all the episodes from the season the most surprising was Strange New World, which involved Dr Hugo Strange releasing a plague on Gotham City, which only Batman and Robin could stop.The episode had a twist which had been set up from the very start and really helped to demonstrate that this was now a show with a huge amount of life breathed back into it.There were still a couple of clumsy moments, with the introduction of Harley Quinn being a second rate clone of the one seen in Batman: TAS, being one of them.But this at least demonstrated that The Batman was no longer trying to distance itself from all other incarnations of Batman and as the season ended, J’onn J’onnz the Martian Manhunter was introduced, along with a hint of what was to come for Season 5 with the Justice League.The following season was the last and it continued on from the foundations that Season 4 set in place, because that was the season which really made a difference to how The Batman was to be eventually regarded.Without Season 4 The Batman would have been forever viewed as just another show to have featured Batman, but thanks to it finally accepting it was all part of the same journey, The Batman was eventually able to run alongside the big boys for a moment of glory.
BATMAN BEGINS AGAIN:
*The episodes which made up season four were, A Matter of Family, Team Penguin, Clayfaces, The Everywhere Man, The Breakout, Strange New World, Artifacts, Seconds, Riddlers Revenge, Two of a Kind, Rumors and The Joining Parts 1 & 2.
*Season four had some fan-favourite names voicing characters, including Batman: The Animated Series’ Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill & Ron Perlman, Smallville’s Allison Mack and the Man of Steel himself from Superman Returns, Brandon Routh.
*Jeff Matsuda provided the character designs for The Batman.Previously he had also provided character designs for The Jackie Chan Adventures.
*Andrea Romano the voice director for The Batman, had previously been the voice director on shows such as Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League.Romano currently works on the ongoing series of DC animated films from Warner Bros.
*There were two theme tunes for the entire run of The Batman.The first theme was performed by U2’s The Edge.The theme used during the credits of Season 4 was the 2nd theme by Andy Sturmer.
*Killer Moth was introduced in the episode Team Penguin.
*Basil Karlo who appeared as Clayface II in the episode Clayfaces, was actually the first Clayface seen in the Batman comics.There have been numerous Clayfaces to fight Batman in the comics, including Matt Hagen, Preston Payne and Sondra Fuller.
*The diner Karlo eats at in the episode Clayfaces is very similar to the one seen in the movie Superman II (1980) and features characters who look like Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
*In the episode Artifacts, in the future Gotham City PD is run by Commissioner Yin and Chief Bennett.Yin and Bennett were the detectives from the first season of the Batman before Bennett became Clayface.This then led to Yin partnering with Batman briefly, before eventually leaving Gotham City when Jim Gordon arrived.
*Frank Gorshin originally voiced Dr Hugo Strange when the character first appeared in The Batman, but he died in 2005 and Richard Green took over the role.Gorshin famously played the Riddler in the 60s Batman TV show which starred Adam West.
*In Two of a Kind, Harley Quinn was introduced, and although she was still a doctor, this time around she was also the star of a TV chat show.
*As well as J’onn J’onnz appearing in the season finale The Joining, other members of The Justice League appeared and included Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman and Green Lantern.Although Superman eventually appeared in The Batman it wasn’t until season 5.
*Lucius Fox was introduced in The Joining part 1.
*The Batman ran for a total of five seasons (2004 – 2008) and produced one direct-to-DVD movie called The Batman Vs Dracula (2005).