Rewatched the Batman cartoon. Decided to make a list of my fave episodes. Though some are two-parters I’m counting them overall as one.
25: Shadow of the Bat: Part 1-2 (Batman: TAS #57-58), Directed by Frank Paur, Written by Brynne Stephens
The debut of Batgirl in the series. Her dad, Commissioner Gordon, is framed and Barbara Gordon dresses up like Batman to pull a stunt at a rally on his behalf. This gets her involved in the case when she suspects the new DA might be involved. I didn’t realize how much I liked this episode until I rewatched it. The chemistry between Batgirl, Robin and Batman as well as the villains plot were all stand outs. This episode has the air of mystery, cool sequences, and just overall a strong debut for Batgirl.
24: Eternal Youth (Batman: TAS #29), Directed by Kevin Altieri, Written by Beth Bornstein
The second Poison Ivy episode stood out when I was younger for its style and plot revolving around the horror of Ivy turning people into humanoid trees. Rewatching it again, it holds up. Ivy, the eco-terrorist had fascinating schemes even though they all ultimately were based around the same end game. I forgot how much I loved hearing Ivy’s voice which was provided by Diane Pershing. The way she could go from heartless to sympathetic to sexy at a drop of a dime. Anyway Ivy’s luring rich industrialists to her spa, but Wayne passes and Alfred with his lady friend go instead.
23: Catwalk (Batman: TAS #74), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Written by Paul Dini
Before this episode I was thinking that the series did not do good by Catwoman. Her debut two-parter is good, she has a small part in the excellent Almost Got ‘Em, and than there was a couple other episodes with her but no episode about her before this really struck a chord with me. Rewatching Catwalk, it felt like her voices was finally found. I don’t mean her actual speaking voice which was provided by actress Adrienne Barbeau, she always nailed it, but I mean the characters true personality. The struggle between staying on the straight or narrow or embracing her desire to prowl the night in search of thrills. The interactions with Bruce Wayne and his alter ego were always good but here they were stronger. Plus Scarface and Ventriloquist and made for good antagonists luring her into their scheme.
22: Joker’s Wild (Batman: TAS #41), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Written by Paul Dini
Another Kirkland/Dini episode. A little flashy, a bit over the top, and manic in spaces. One of the best Joker episodes. Joker breaks out to destroy a casino inspired by him. I love the scene where Jokers pretending to be a dealer at a table and Bruce is beating him.
21: Pretty Poison (Batman: TAS #5), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Story by Paul Dini and Michael Reaves with Teleplay by Tom Ruegger
That Kirkland/Dini team though. This episode is incredibly important to me. When I was a wee geek I went to a comic book convention with my uncles and their friend where the big attraction was Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm and some others were there promotion the upcoming series. I even asked an awkward question about the Riddler when he was left out of the list of villains they named for the show. They showed three episodes including the first episode On Leather Wings and what would be episode twelve It’s Never Too Late. This was the one that really hit a chord with me. I don’t think I ever heard of Poison Ivy before this but I became entranced. Her seductive nature and dedication to her cause. Classic episode.
20: The Forgotten (Batman: TAS #8), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Written by Jules Dennis, Richard Mueller and Sean Catherine Derek
Many of Kirkland’s episodes were among the moodiest and dramatic. This episode was a standout which featured none of the Rogues. While investigating the disappearances of Gothams homeless in disguise Batman gets knocked out and put into a labor camp. An intense episode and one of the best of the first season.
19: The Demon’s Quest: Part 1-2 (Batman: TAS #60-61), Directed by Kevin Altieri, Part 1 Written by Dennis O’Neil and Part 2 Story by Dennis O’Neil and Len Wein with Teleplay by Len Wein
One to Batman’s greatest foes finally arrives. He made a small cameo episodes before but here is Ra’s al Ghul in all his glory. Part 1 centers on him and Ra’s teaming up to locate Talia and Robin with the second part-well, you should check it out. Comic writer Denny O’Neil who created Ra’s is involved and what a smart choice. He’s joined by another comic writer, Len Wein, who has experience with the Bat. A good looking, exciting, two-parter. Also-Alteri directed some episodes with interesting locals and settings, good stuff.
18: I’ve Got Batman in My Basement (Batman: TAS #13), Directed by Frank Paur, Written by Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell
The first episode with the Penguin and the best episode with him as the primary baddie. In this episode Batman is out due to poison gas and a boy with his friend are hiding him in the basement. They got to help him out and avoid Penguin and his goons. The episode had great apcing and the setting in the suburbs and a suburban house was a great visual. Penguin is an odd villain, a traditional gangster who sometimes is portrayed more ruthlessly or more grim and dark like Batman Returns. This one tends to be a more straight laced updated version of Burgess Meredith’s portrayal? Voiced by the excellent Paul Williams, sad there was not another Penguin focused episode this good.
17: Two-Face: Part 1-2 (Batman: TAS #10-11), Directed by Kevin Altieri, Story by Alan Burnett with Teleplay by Randy Rogel
Harvey Dent had shown up here and there for a few episodes so it was only a matter of time and they did it pretty quickly. The build was brilliant. The scenes in therapy, the use of Rupert Thorne, the crimes Two-Face was pulling. Thorne was voiced by the last John Vernon who brought such gravitas to the role. Richard Moll nailed Harvey Dent and Two-Face’s voices, with the villains being so distinctive. This excellent two parter held together by his love story with his fiance. This is visually one of the most brilliant looking of all the Batman episodes. Man, those first thirty or so episodes, I got more ahead.
16: Robin’s Reckoning: Part 1-2 (Batman: TAS #32-33), Directed by Dick Sebast, Written by Randy Rogel
An Emmy award winner right here. I actually caught the episodes on primetime before they aired in their usual time slot when Fox would sometimes air cartoons or Power Rangers in primetime. Truthfully, was not the biggest fan of Dick Grayson through the series. He seemed at times as an after thought and the episodes focused on him were a mixed bag. This however was a great two parter focused on his origin. What happened to his parents and the decade long hunt for the man behind it. A lot of which had to do with with Graysons voice actor Loren Lester and Joey Simmrin who played the ten year old version. The anger, the sadness, the raw emotion. Not just them but also in Kevin Conroys performance. Plus the scenes with Alfred. Writing about this episode almost makes me want to rate it higher.
15: Beware the Creeper (The New Batman Adventures #23), Directed by Dan Riba, Story by Rich Fogel with Teleplay by Steve Gerber
The first episode on the list from the final season, and also the second to last episode of the series run. While the last season is not as consistant in quality as the early stuff there are some classics in there. This one might not make other peoples lists but I love this episode. The Creeper seeks revenge on the Joer and wants to date Harley Quinn. Thats it. Its just a lot of bad jokes and great performances all around. Episode featured comic legend the late Steve Gerber which is cool.
14: Batgirl Returns (Batman: TAS #85), Directed by Dan Riba, Written by Michael Reaves and Brynne Stephens
Technically season 2 and also technically the new Adventures of Batman & Robin though Robin was not in every episode. This is really the last episode of Fox run before it eventually went to the WB (pre-CW). Anyway-Barbara Gordon dons the Batgirl cape and cowl for the first time since her debut to look into a stolen statue. Her investigation makes her partner with Catwoman. Also, Robin is one the case too. This is a fun episode pairing up two gals who don’t get as much to do in the series.
13: Girl’s Night Out (The New Batman Adventures #20), Directed by Curt Geda, Written by Hilary J. Bader
Livewire is in town and decides to hook up with comic fandoms favorite girlfriends Harley and Ivy. Batgirl is the only one available and she needs help, so here comes Supergirl. More playful then my #14, I enjoyed all these lady team up episodes. Excellent use of comedy and action. Supergirl and Batgirl had great chemistry and too abd this is their only team up in the show.
12: The Laughing Fish (Batman: TAS #34), Directed by Bruce W. Timm, Written by Paul Dini
Oh look, the dream team. Producer, designer and occasional director Bruce Timm working with writer extraordinaire Paul Dini. Loosely based on a both a Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams issue and a two parter by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. BTW, Englehart and Rogers Batman run is my fave. The story involves Joker using his toxin on fish and then trying to copyright them. This was the second episode with Harley Quinn and features some good Harvey Bullock stuff, a great recurring character in the series. This episode was based on classic Batman comcis and feels off the bat like a classic Batman story.
11: Mad Love (The New Batman Adventures #21), Directed by Butch Lukic, Story by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm with Teleplay by Paul Dini
For not feeling a lot of the last season of the series I am putting some episodes high on the list. Based on the 1994 comic by Dini and Timm, tells the origin of the cartoons greatest import-Harley Quinn. It also delves into their toxic relationship. Its a brilliant story but hard to watch. Definitely nothing for someone young. Excellent direction and voice acting. One of the all time great comic book stories.
10: P.O.V. (Batman: TAS #7), Directed by Kevin Altieri, Story by Mitch Brian with Teleplay by Sean Catherine Derek and Laren Bright
Another episode that showcases just how good those first thirty episodes were. Three police officers including Bullock and Renee Montoya tell differing stories about a bust gone wrong. Montoya, is taken off the case but it does not stop her from following a lead. Montoya is another import from the cartoon though she actually debut in the comics before her cartoon appearance, neat huh? I really love Montoya. I always wish they did more with her in the cartoon series because this episode was so complex. I was maybe 10 when this episode aired, the whole series was on another level storytelling wise from the cartoons I had watched before and even after for a few years. back to Montoya, I am a big fan in part to the great work of Greg Rucka. Here, though, is where that love started. Such a moody, excellently structured, piece of animation.
9: Harlequinade (Batman: TAS #72), Directed by Kevin Altieri, Written by Paul Dini
Fifth time Alteri appears on the list. Definitely did great work. This episode, written by the shows most famous writer and Quinns co-creator Paul Dini finds Batman and Robin needing the help of Quinn to stop Joker from blowing up the city. Harley is a joy. Voice actress Arleen Sorkin nails all the notes. Whether crooning a song, having fun, or being angry at Mr. J. This is one of the quintessential Harley stories. Well, most her appearances in the cartoon were.
8: The Man Who Killed Batman (Batman: TAS #51), Directed by Bruce W. Timm, Written by Paul Dini
Cult actor Matt Frewer voices Sid the Squid, the Man Who Killed Batman. A great episode about a short small time gangster who appears to have killed the Bat. Jokers pissed off, Thornes pissed off, the news has the police stunned. Obviously Batman is not dead but watching Squids story unfold is brilliant. This is one of those episodes I just smiled through the whole time when I originally saw it and I still love it.
7: Beware the Gray Ghost (Batman: TAS #18), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Story by Dennis O’Flaherty and Tom Ruegger with Teleplay by Garin Wolf and Tom Ruegger
Fifth time for Kirkland on the list if you’re keeping count. This episode probably makes a lot of peoples top 10. A crime reminiscent of an episode from an old serial has Batman track down the forgotten TV hero Gray Ghost who was played by a man named Simon Trent. Simon/Ghost, voiced by the former Batman himself Adam West, gets involved to help Batman stop the Mad Bomber. This is a touching episode, excellently crafted. Bruce grew up watching the Gray Ghost as the shows creators grew up watching Adam West play Batman. Think of the emotions that had to swell up doing this episode. Beware the Gray Ghost continues to hold up as one of the best Batman stories ever.
6: Almost Got ‘Im (Batman: TAS #46), Directed by Eric Radomski, Written by Paul Dini
Another one beloved by fans. Inspired by four-issue story arc in Batman (1977) #291-294, entitled “Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?” and World’s Finest Comics #30, September 1947. This is one of the episodes where you know right from the start you’re watching something great. Ivy, Joker, Croc, Penguin and Two-Face playing cards and trading stories about how close the came to getting that damned Batman! Its an episode where when its done you can’t believe they did it all in less than thirty minutes without making it feel overwrought and stuffed.
5: Harley and Ivy (Batman: TAS #56), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Written Paul Dini
The episode that launched the biggest ship in comics? One that only recently did DC buckle down and (sorta) commit to. Ivy tries pulling a job at a museum where she runs into Ivy and they two bond over crime. Joker envious because he’s a bitch, Batman of course is there. Plus a great couple scenes with Renee Montoya including the ending. Twenty two years later and Harley and Ivy are dating in one universe while being in an open relationship in the main one. How long till Ivy makes her film debut? The proposed female-centric DC movie that Margot Robbie is spearheading? Even if they don’t get together in the films, they got together in the books and it all started here.
4: Be a Clown (Batman: TAS #9), Directed Frank Paur, Written by Ted Pedersen and Steve Hayes
I disliked the first Joker episode and hated the second one. Nothing about them did much for me. A bland Christmas episode and then a completely forgettable second appearance. I don’t know if I was watching these in order when they were on TV or not but getting them on DVD I just sat there and asked myself “When’s the good Joker episodes start?” Soon. This is the third appearance and one of the best Joker episodes. One of the few that does not include Harley as it aired before her debut. This episode was cool as a kid and remains so now. The mayors son wants to be a magician and feeling neglected by his father at his own birthday he runs away to train under a clown who was the parties entertainment. That clown is the Joker. Such a fascinating episode, a great showdown between Bats and Joker. This episode steered the ship in the right direction and gave Mark Hamill more to do as the classic villain then the previous episodes. There is little difference between his work here and the previous episodes except he feels scarier. More dangerous. Love this episode.
3: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? (Batman: TAS #40), Directed by Eric Radomski, Written by David Wise
Riddler is a character that is viewed as difficult by some. He’s been at the center of classic stories and played a major part in the classic Adam West Batman run but you don’t get as much with him as other villains, even Penguin. This episode is the first Riddler episode of only a handful where he was the main antagonist. It is by far the best of all the episodes. For me, its one of the greatest episodes of the show. Riddler seeks revenge but Batman and Robin get in the way. How does he hope to evade the Caped Crusader? This episode is just so cool because it works like a video game, or more appropriately a computer game from the 80s or 90s. The Riddler may not have been the shows favorite villain but they gave him one of the best stories.
2: Heart of Ice (Batman: TAS #14), Directed by Bruce W. Timm, Written by Paul Dini
The first episode of the series directed by Timm (not counting the pilot test) and the second episode written by Dini but the first solely credited to him. The first pairing of the dream team and what a devut. Emmy award winning episode that reinvented what was a second rate villain. Freeze had been around, even in the old TV series, but this episode changed his status. Freeze was elevated. They integrated his story into the comic book cannon. Voiced by Michael Ansara who brings such sadness to the role of the character while keeping it very flat and robotic. I won’t get into this episode too much because its generally the critics fave but if you are a Batman fan have not seen this episode, or any of the cartoons episode, find it and watch it!
1: Joker’s Favor (Batman: TAS #22), Directed by Boyd Kirkland, Written by Paul Dini
I’m not sure where this ranks on anyone elses list. For some it might only be notable as Harley Quinn’s first appearance. I, however, love this episode. While Be A Clown was the first great Joker episode in the series and allowed Hamill to truly embody the character, this episode captured his essence as a criminal. Not the whole thing about crashing Gordons party with a plan to blow him and other cops to smithereens but what he does to Charlie Collins. A poor guy who had a bad day who yelled at a driver who cut him off, unaware of who it was. Joker chases him down, gets his info, and says he’ll call back for a favor. Only to cash in years later. Joker committed deadly crimes and silly crimes in previous episodes but this one felt like he was playing a cruel joke on a poor schmuck, its a totally Joker thing to do. Of course, being a Batman episode the joke ends up being on him. Kirkland tops the list and is clearly my fave director from the series. Thank you Kirkland, for your work here and on X-Men: Evolution. RIP.