If you ask any Bat-fan about Batman The Animated Series, they will most likely have nothing but praise for it. Many claim it is the greatest Batman TV show ever, and is unsurpassed by anything that came before or after it. The show premiered in 1992, and it was certainly something new. The show was much darker and more mature than any previous superhero cartoon. The series showed was large amounts of violence, real firearms used, blood shown on screen and many other things that were, especially at the time, boundary pushing. Studio executives were very resistant to the series, but due to the success of Tim Burton’s Batman films, they allowed a pilot to be made. The series was wildly popular and received high critical acclaim. And now, I am here to write reviews of every episode of the series.
On Leather Wings was the first episode of BTAS produced (although it aired second.) It was written by Mitch Brian and directed Kevin Altieri.
When a mysterious bat creature begins raiding pharmaceutical companies, the police assume Batman is responsible. Detective Harvey Bullock gets permission from mayor Hamilton Hill to set up a specialized task force with one goal; take down the Batman. However the culprit is actually Kirk Langstrom, a scientist who has been experimenting with a formula that turns him into the Man-Bat. Batman must stop Man-Bat to save Langstrom, and clear his name.
The show has an amazing style and animation. The backgrounds and set pieces are designed to look like they’re from the 40’s. The cars look like they’re from that era, the TV’s are in black and white, the computers are more like the low tech boxes of the past, etc. It looks fantastic. The whole style of the show is dark. The color palette is very dark, not bright and vibrant like most other cartoons, and it fits Batman’s world perfectly. The animation is heavily inspired by the Max Fleisher Superman cartoons, and it is beautiful. The animation of BTAS (and not to mention the Fleisher Superman cartoons) still holds up, and is even better than the animation of many cartoons today.
The voice cast is dead on. When someone says Kevin Conroy, you say Batman. 'Nuff said.
The music of this series is also unique. Most cartoons have a standard library of music they reuse every week. Composed mostly by the late, but great Shirley Walker, every single episode had its own score. Aside from character themes being reprised, musical cues were never rehashed.
The plot of the episode was also perfect for the pilot. The world and its characters are quickly introduced to new viewers, without becoming exposition, making the plot not seem to drag and bore viewers. We see Batman is still in the urban legend phase of his career, and he isn’t as well known yet. Had this been the last episode of the series, and Batman was well known to the public and the police, the Batman mistaken for Man-bat plot wouldn’t have made sense. By making it the first episode, the story works perfectly.
It's also nice to see Batman use his detective skills in investigating the Man-Bat, and his fighting skills to take Langstrom down. Too often writers focus on one aspect of the character, he's just the Caped Crusader fighting bad guys, or the Dark Knight Detective finding clues and solving mysteries. BTAS shows both sides of the character.
The voice actor who portrays Alfred in the first 3 episodes is Clive Revill, not Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (who aside from the first 3 episodes would voice Alfred for the entirety of the DCAU). While Revill`s performance is not bad, it is nowhere near the quality of Zimbalist`s. Kevin Conroy, and Mark Hamill receive large amounts of praise as Batman and the Joker respectively, but Zimbalist is often overlooked. But I think he is the best actor to ever portray Alfred, and I missed his voice in this episode.
Though it is early in his career, this is obviously not Batman's first outing, and the Gothamites, minus Commissioner Gordon are awful quick to blame Batman and set up an elite task force despite Gordon's protests. It's more of a nitpick, not something that ruins the episode, and it did need to happen to move the plot along. But it is a little annoying.
Trivia/Random Points of Interest:
Kevin Conroy also voices the pilot of the blimp in the first scene of the episode
We get to see the Batmobile`s full drive to Gotham from the Batcave. This is very rare, in fact, this may be the only time we see it
At about 6 minutes and 40 seconds into the episode, the book the cop is holding says something like, "PS Your dog is missing."
People are very rarely shown dying in the series. But there is a point in the episode when people clearly die. Batman is spotted investigating a building, and Bullock sends his task force in the building to subdue and arrest him. The policemen throw a can of tear gas into the room Batman is in, and lands next to a bunch of containers with danger labels on them. Batman gets out in time, but the canister sets off a huge explosion. Given they were not even aware of the danger, it`s likely all the police officers were killed in the explosion.
While not the best episode of the BTAS, On Leather Wings is an excellent start to the series. It introduces the tone, and characters of the series without feeling like that`s what it`s doing. As far as television pilots, this is one of the best.
What are your thoughts on BTAS? Do you agree that it`s the best Batman TV show ever? Or do you think it`s overrated? Also what`re your thoughts about On Leather Wings? Should it have done more or was it a good pilot? Write in or leave a comment and let everyone know, I`ll include your views in the next article!
And be here next time as the Joker makes his debut just in time to celebrate Christmas!
Posted by Caleb