Pages: 128 Size: 5x7
Illustrations: 20 black-and-white images
It’s possible that no other version of Batman has been more influential than the one that debuted as a children’s cartoon in 1992. For millions of fans around the world, the voices of Batman and the Joker introduced in Batman: The Animated Series (BTAS) remain the default. The characters, designs, and major themes of the show went on to shape other cartoons, films, and bestselling video games. In this study, Joe Sutliff Sanders argues that BTAS is not only a milestone of television but a milestone in the public persona of one of the most recognizable characters in the world.
The series introduced a new generation to Batman and provided the foundation for a family of cartoons that expanded the superhero universe. It introduced or reinvented major characters including Mr. Freeze, Robin, the Joker, and Harley Quinn. In three chapters, Sanders pursues the intricate arguments that still energize BTAS. Chapter 1 explores the visuals of the show, the artistic histories and tensions that inform its revolutionary style, and what ideas—intentional and otherwise—its aesthetic implies. Chapter 2 turns to the task of defining a "good" wealthy person against a backdrop of "bad," getting to the heart of one of Batman’s most problematic characteristics. Lastly, chapter 3 considers Harley Quinn, a character who emblemizes much of what made BTAS successful. From her first appearance, Harley has been both sexy and witty, victor and victim, and this chapter explains the duality that defines her.
Since its debut in 1992, BTAS has garnered multiple awards, launched or developed the careers of countless important artists, and created aesthetic styles—in terms of both visuals and voice acting—that continue to resonate. Sanders’s book follows an informative and exciting path through the material and is designed to be accessible to aficionados as well as relative newcomers. Batman fans, popular culture enthusiasts, and media studies scholars will find within these pages insights and ironies to provoke endless conversations.
In a long overdue analysis of what has become one of the most influential animated TV series ever, Joe Sutliff Sanders cuts through glib fan and industry rhetoric to offer close readings of the show’s most prominent achievements. In his address of Dark Deco aesthetics, the psycho-pathologies of wealth, and the prominence of Harley Quinn as the embodiment of feminist discourses in the 1990s, the discussion elevates debates not only about Batman but popular culture, TV production, and animation as a distinctive art form.
– Paul Wells, professor at Animation Academy, Loughborough University, UK
A fascinating celebration and interrogation of the animated series that drills down below the show's sleek design—which we soon learn is more streamline than deco—to reveal Gotham City's nuanced conflicts around class and gender. Like Batman himself, Joe Sutliff Sanders approaches his subject with passion, commitment, and a forensic attention to detail, examining how the show was influenced by—and influenced—comics and movies, and its role in shaping the Arkham video games. An affectionately critical tribute, this is the ideal companion for fans and scholars revisiting the animated series.
– Will Brooker, author of Batman Unmasked and Hunting the Dark Knight
In his incisive study of Batman: The Animated Series, Joe Sutliff Sanders proves that there are still many secrets to be uncovered in the Batcave. Fortunately, he is as keen a detective as he is a savvy writer, and this monograph is strong evidence for the importance of the series in the character’s long history.
– Matt Yockey, author of Batman (Wayne State University Press, 2014)