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If you don’t want to read the comics

November 16, 2008

My ex-boyfriend borrowed our Batman: The Animated Series DVDs for like a year, but we finally got them back when he went on vacation (sneaky!–nahh, he left them on the table for us to pick up) and have been watching them ever since.  We just finished “Heart of Ice” and…wow.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen these episodes.  I probably watched some of them half a dozen to a dozen times during their first airings, and at least twice since I got the DVDs.  They’re still brilliant.  They might even be more brilliant in my grown-up eyes.  I can appreciate now how the series managed to be kid-friendly (maybe a little too scary for LITTLE KID-friendly, but kid-friendly) but never, ever dumbed anything down.  We were watching the episode “P.O.V.”, where Internal Affairs is trying to figure out what went wrong during a police operation, and they never say “Listen, Guy From Internal Affairs, the people who police the police.”  They let the child “get it” on whatever level that child can get it–whether it’s “This guy’s a jerk, but he’s important somehow” to “He’s the one who makes sure policemen are doing their jobs” to “Oh, he’s from Internal Affairs.”  A child sees the episode “Underdwellers” and sees kids who are afraid of a crazy guy; an adult sees the complicated relationships between abused children and damaged adults, as well as the obvious play on Oliver Twist–albeit a twisted one.

These stories are the ones that you can sit down and watch with your children and be as drawn into the stories as them.  But the show never creates such a continuity that you can’t just pick it up from any episode.  That’s brilliant in itself, because the show goes forward with the characters, creating its own mythology, but takes the time to make sure everyone, even the kiddos, can catch up without feeling like someone’s reciting old episodes for you.  You watch a Victor Fries episode, you almost always learn right away through the plot his and Nora’s backstory, without the awkwardness of infodump.  You don’t need to watch the old episode, nor do you feel like you’ve been recited to.

This is the Batman for those who want to get into Batman more than two hours of a movie can delve, especially those with children.  Batman Begins was a great movie, I’m not going to argue that, but Bale isn’t a Batman everyone can relate to.  For those who grew up with the Adam West show, Bale’s Batman might be far too dark.  The Batman of B:TAS is dark, don’t get me wrong, but he likes it there.  He’s comfortable there, really.  Bale’s Batman doesn’t like where he is.  That can be off-putting.

It’s fun and funny too.  Alfred’s and Batman’s dry, witty exchanges can be hilarious, and the Joker is the best.  Mark Hamill (yes, THAT Mark Hamill) pulls out all the stops.  Don’t even get me started on the voice actors.  I could go on all night.  But Dexter will be on soon (NOW, my roommate tells me), so I’ve gotta wrap this up.

The awesome part is that when you’re done with B:TAS, you can start watching Superman: The Animated Series, and by the time you get through all that your kids will be older and they’ll be ready for Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.  By THEN you’ll know about as much about the characters as any comic reader.  TRY IT TODAY.

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