Batman: The Animated Series Title; Source: Warner Bros Animation
In 1992, Batman: The Animated Series premiered. The series was widely praised for its thematic complexity, darker tone, artistic quality, and faithfulness to its title character's crime-fighting origins. The series also won four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program. Its impact is still being felt in pop culture, and here are five ways.

1. Mr Freeze

Prior to his portrayal in B:TAS, Mr. Freeze was just a gimmicky mad scientist. He'd run around with what looked like a spray bottle of ice and make cold puns. He'd fallen into disuse in the DC universe.
Mr. Freeze, originally known as Mr. Zero;
Source: DC Comics
In the episode, Heart of Ice, Mr. Freeze became a tragic villain whose dying wife inspired him to research cryogenics as a way of saving her, and is frozen physically and emotionally in an accident. His new origin so captivated fans that it was adopted by the comics, and also the big-budget movie, Batman and Robin.
Left: Mr. Freeze (Arnold Swarzenegger) in Batman and Robin;
Right: Mr. Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series

2. The Dark Knight's Voice

Batman (Christian Bale); Source: Warner Bros.
Actor Christopher Bale came under fire for using a deep and gravelly voice for Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy. But the voice actor for B:TAS (Kevin Conroy) was the first to come up with the idea of using two completely distinct voices for Batman and Bruce Wayne. The effect highlighted the duality of the character. Director Christopher Nolan and Bale took the concept for their portrayal of the Dark Knight, calling back to the animated series, and made it their own.

3. The Joker's Voice

The Joker (Jack Nicholson); Source: Batman
There was a time when Mark Hamill was known only as "that guy who played Luke Skywalker," and the idea anyone could play the Joker better than Jack Nicholson was blasphemy. B:TAS took a chance by casting Hamill, and he knocked it out of the park. With his loopy voice and haunting laugh. Hamill has become THE voice for the villain. His voice has been so identified with the character that he's returned to voice the Joker in other shows like Birds of Prey, toys, amusement park rides, and video games like Batman: Arkham Asylum.
The Joker (Mark Hamill); Source: Batman: The Animated Series

4. Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn, Source: Warner Bros Animation 
In one episode of the animated series, the Joker holds someone hostage with a sidekick who jumps out of a cake. That's where Harley Quinn, a female sidekick for the usually male-oriented villain, was born. Though only planned as a one-shot appearance, Harley returned again and again, becoming Joker's greatest ally and (it's heavily implied) lover. Harley has since made appearances in the comics, where she was given the backstory of a psychiatrist who fell in love with the evil clown, and has made appearances in video games like Arkham Asylum, and other TV shows like Arrow. Harley has become one of the biggest parts of the Joker's mythos.

5. The Animated DC Universe

 When B:TAS aired, it broke new ground in visual style, realistic action sequences, and more dramatic themes. Later TV shows followed the artistic style and theme of Batman with Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited.  Batman opened the door to an entire shared DC universe on television years before the Marvel shared cinematic universe.

What impact did the animated series have for you? What other ways did the animated series impact pop culture?

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Tony Laplume said...

Hamill's Joker was also inspired by...Hamill's Trickster from the first Flash TV series.

Pat Dilloway said...

Harley Quinn has her own comic book series now. I hadn't realized she came from that TV series, or that the more modern Mr. Freeze originated there, though I think the original description of a guy with a spray can who makes ice puns was more in line with the Ahhh-nold version.

He Geek She Geek said...

BTAS is the standard by which Batman will be judged for decades to come. I'd love to see Bruce Timm get to play in the Marvel sandbox for a while.

MarkM said...

For me, whenever I see Batman in a comic book, I hear what he says in Kevin Conroy's voice. Great article!

Tom Badguy said...

BTAS Freeze was the best. Though it did start DC Universe's animated shit, BTAS is still the best animated TV media DC has put out, at least, IMO. Which is just weird.


Best Batman series ever!


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