If you’re a frequent visitor to World’s Best Media, you probably already know that I love Batman and Superhero Animation. So I tend to get excited when I hear about a new animated Batman project. Warner Bros. and HBO recently announced a new Batman animated series in the works for HBO Max, called Batman: The Caped Crusader. The new series is being developed by Matt Reeves (the director of the upcoming film The Batman), JJ Abrams, and Bruce Timm (one of the creators of Batman: The Animated Series). There’ve been rumors floating around for a while now that Warner Bros. was developing a sequel series to the beloved and classic Batman: The Animated Series. While Batman: The Caped Crusader is not a direct sequel series or continuation of Batman: The Animated Series, it’s definitely a spiritual successor. When The Caped Crusader was announced Reeves and Abrams explicitly stated that BTAS (Batman: The Animated Series, for all you cool kids) was the new show’s biggest influence. Through the involvement of Bruce Timm as well as this promo art released during The Caped Crusader’s announcement, served to reinforce how much of an influence BTAS will have on this new show. As I mentioned before, Bruce Timm was one of the creators of Batman: The Animated Series and an icon in DC animation, and as you can clearly see in the promo art, which I posted below, Batman: The Caped Crusader is very evocative of the neo noir look of the 90s Batman series.
However, when I read the announcement for Batman: The Caped Crusader, I couldn’t help but think that I’d heard this all somewhere else once before. Which brings me to the main topic of this article, an animated series that you may not have even heard of called Beware The Batman. An extremely underrated animated series that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, Beware The Batman. The announcement about The Caped Crusader reminded me a lot of how Beware The Batman was described when it was first announced. Especially because of the comments made by Abrams and Reeves about “reinvention” and “reimagining” the Batman mythos. It was very similar to how Beware The Batman was pitched when first heard about it, just with some keywords turned around here and there. Beware The Batman was “pitched” to the audience as a darker, grittier animated Batman story, that wasn’t going to do the same old thing. The series certainly lived up to the claim, because it isn’t quite like any other adaptation of the character. The core of the show was something we see far too little of, in on screen adaptations of The Dark Knight, Batman: The World’s Greatest Detective. This was still a relatively early days Batman, at least a few years into his grand mission. The series really played up the “World’s Greatest Detective“ aspect of the character, which many of you may know, I fucking love.
The writers weren’t afraid to play up some of Batman’s other underutilized character attributes. For example. I loved how they played Bruce Wayne as a really fucking weird guy. Because of course he would be. This guys lives a pretty fucked up lifestyle, so he’s bound to be at little… off. It wasn’t over the top or anything like that, but this is not a normal dude and i thought it brought out something special in this version of Batman.
Bruce Wayne wasn’t the only character who went through some changes on Beware The Batman. Wherever Batman goes, so goes Alfred Pennyworth. There’s been a slow moving trend over the last 10 years or so, to change Alfred from an elderly butler into a slightly younger, badass in his own right, with a more active role in Bruce Wayne’s war on crime. This version leaned into Alfred’s history as a military combat vet/spy. Beware The Batman drew upon parts of the character seen in projects like the Epix TV series Pennyworth, the Batman: Earth One graphic novels, and arguably Jeremy Irons’ Alfred in the DCEU. In this animated series, Alfred was former MI-6 and his past catching up to him drives a surprising amount of the story throughout the season, but it works.
Batman may seem like a loner, but he surrounds himself with a lot of surrogate family. So when it came to figuring out who would be Batman‘s partner, the writers chose to buck the trend once again. Instead of Nightwing, Robin, or Batgirl, Batman‘s main partner in crime was Tatsu Yamashiro also known as Katana. Alfred brought her in as potential back up for Bruce. Tatsu was formally a member of both The League of Assassins (where she picked up the alias Katana) and MI-6, a formidable combination. Katana was also Alfred’s protege, Alfred having served with her father in MI-6. Alfred looked at Tatsu as a surrogate daughter. Which makes it almost poetic that he would call upon the woman he sees as a daughter, to help protect the man he sees as his son. Her presence in the story added a unique dynamic that wasn’t present in other animated Batman projects.
Beware The Batman also distinguished itself by not using any of the major Batman villains for the majority of the first and only season. Which I thought that was a really smart and cool way to go. You didn’t see villains like The Joker or The Penguin pop up immediately, which gave the show the opportunity to showcase lesser known villains. Batman has such a fucking incredible rogues gallery, you have to go real far down the list to find a character that is genuinely lame. Kite Man! Yes, there’s a Batman villain called Kite Man! Shockingly enough, in the right hands, even Kite Man is interesting.
So Instead of the usual suspects, Beware The Batman offers up villains like the horrifying Professor Pyg, or Magpie, a thief Bruce becomes infatuated with, or Simon Stagg, everyone’s favorite piece of dog shit industrialist. The overarcing villain for the series was Anarky, a white clad terrorist and madman with skills and fighting abilities dangerously close to Batman’s own.
The writers framed him as the polar opposite opposite of Batman. Anarky, the broken funhouse mirror version of The Dark Knight. Anarky adorned himself in white to Batman’s black, where Batman embraced order, Anarky embraced chaos. Watching Anarky and Batman playing an elaborate game of cat and mouse across the entire season, with Gotham City hanging in the balance, was a hell of a lot of fun.
But Anarky wasn’t the only Big Bad putting Batman to the test over this 26 episode series. The League of Assassins were present early on in the season, which gave Lady Shiva (another awesome, but under utilized Batman villain) some time to shine as the face of The League.
Until about halfway through the season when Ra’s Al Ghul himself enters the fray, menacingly played by The Wire’s Lance Reddick.
As the season went on, some other familiar faces began to pop up, like Killer Croc and Man- Bat. There was also a fair amount of set up dedicated to stories that would have played out had their been second season.
Harvey Dent was introduced in the final few episodes and had already suffered his infamous facial scarring by the end of the season. Presumably setting up Two-Face as the Big Bad for Season 2.
It really is a shame that we never got to see more of this show because the season ended with a cool mystery involving Deathstroke and Alfred’s past once again coming back to haunt him and the people he loves. I would’ve loved to have seen how these writers would’ve interpreted some of Batman’s other classic villains.
The animation style can be a little jarring at first, but it works once you get used to it. I really loved how the shine and texture of The Bat-Suit makes it looks like it’s made out of the same material as the Michael Keaton Batman suit‘s, but has the flexibility and range of motion of a much lighter material. The CGI animation also allows for some choreographed fight scenes that wouldn’t be possible in 2-D animation.
As I wrap it up here, I’ll also add that the show doesn’t really hit it’s stride until Episode 6 “Toxic“. That’s not to say that the first 5 episodes are bad by any means, but Episode 6 was really the one that clicked for me and made me begin to fall in love with the show. So if you plan on giving this series a try, make sure you give the show until at least Episode 6 “Toxic”, it only gets better from there. Honestly, you could probably go straight to Episode 6 without missing that much. Then once you’re really into the show, you can always go back and watch those first 5 episodes.
Beware The Batman: The Complete Series is available to watch on HBO Max, iTunes, and Blu-Ray. If you a fan of superhero animation, I highly recommend you check out this unique hidden gem.
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