Back in in the early ‘90s, the last thing I ever thought as I sat transfixed in the TV glow, watching an animated Batman as he defied villains in the darkness, was why the show had power over me. He just appeared in a flash and took down the bad guys. Twenty-five years later, the Batman: The Animated Series Writer’s Bible, written by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Mitch Brian lays out why it really had me and so many other Bat-fans transfixed. It was the meticulous fleshing out of characters and storylines from which sprang a vision of the Dark Knight that would remain as iconic as it was when he first flew onto our television screens.
If you want to keep exploring the city (which had the coolest dark Deco vibe) and its denizens, lose yourself in the guide right here, but these are five of the team’s top weapons used to transform the world of after-hours Gotham.
Gotham City is dark. Very dark.
The city where Batman swoops in to the rescue after nightfall is like a shadow of New York, but infested with more crime than 42nd street before its major revamp. City bosses wallowing in ill-gotten money have corrupted some areas into gangster paradises. Gangs are constantly facing off for control of underground gambling. The city never sleeps because it is a nightmare.
Bruce Wayne is the Batman’s alter ego, not the other way around.
This concept isn’t exactly new in today’s iterations of Gotham, but it was at the time. Instead of Bruce Wayne transforming into the Batman, for his crime-fighting identity to stay in the shadows, Batman would (reluctantly) transform into hard-partying manchild Bruce Wayne. The mask he wears is that of the playboy, while the Bat-mask is the face of his true persona.
The Joker is supposed to be the scariest clown ever.
Not that his face isn’t chilling enough already, but the Joker isn’t into cheap greasepaint and one-liners from the party store. His quips are sharper than his sometimes bizarre array of weapons. The terror of this cold-blooded clown is that he could be flashing a roguish grin at one moment and easily have you screaming at knifepoint the next. Ha, ha—you’re dead.
Speaking of which, other villains should use him as an example.
Dark humor was always a reflection of the character’s twisted wit instead of the writer’s, and never, ever campy. Characters were meant to seem larger than life, as superheroes and supervillains should be, and humor would arise from their personalities and reactions. To keep the series relevant past the ‘90s, pop culture references had no place in Gotham.
The most powerful weapon Batman has is fear.
Think about it. Someone who looks like a human bat and can zoom around in a Batmobile, fly on a bat-shaped hang glider and swing from skyscrapers with the Batarang isn’t exactly a character you’d want to mess with. He seems almost invincible in the dark night, and that power of intimidation is what struck fear into his enemies and awe into his viewers.