Posted on

Batman: the Animated Series and Film Noir Style

Josh Guttman

COM 105


Batman was always a superhero who could be appreciated from the perspective of a child and an adult. For a majority of Batman’s existence, he is a character who has been used to explore and undergo adult situations, while still providing an execution that both kids and adults can understand. The dark tone and gothic storytelling of the Batman mythos, makes Batman a unique character in the comic book world, and is the main reason why the character has endured for so many years. While Batman was already critically acclaimed character, one of his big breakthroughs into the public spotlight (aside from the 1989 Tim Burton movie) was in 1992, during the debut of Batman: The Animated Series (or Batman: TAS). The show was unique because of its film noir style in terms of both visuals and content. The show didn’t only solidify Batman’s legend status, but it also became a huge influence in the world of children’s cartoons. The ways Batman: TAS can be considered noir can be best exemplified in three episodes: “Almost Got ‘Im,” “Heart of Ice,” and “Perchance to Dream.” Each of these episodes shows how the visuals, the hero, and the villains, all can be categorized as noir.

Bob Kane and Bill Finger first created Batman in May 1939 in Detective Comics #27 (Fleisher 31).  The character drew influence from various modes of pop culture, including pulp heroes The Phantom and The Shadow (Kane 41), films such as The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Bat Whispers (1930), and literary characters like Sherlock Holmes and Doc Savage (Boichel 6-7). During the book’s tenure through the 30’s and 50’s, the Batman comics were mostly detective and mystery based. While the subjects were mildly adult, it had yet to gain the dark, gothic look we all currently know. By 1964 sales for Batman comics began to decline (Daniels 95) and in 1966, the camp live action Batman TV series, staring Adam West, simply called Batman, began its debut. This campy nature soon began to influence the comics, and sales began to skyrocket (Benton 69). In 1969, the comics began to try and distance itself from the camp aspects and attempted to portray Batman in a darker light (Wright 233). This would prove unsuccessful until 1986, when famed writer Frank Miller, who would eventually pioneer noir style in comic books with his works on Sin City and Daredevil, created the limited series Batman: the Dark Knight Returns. This story, about a 50-year old semi-retired Batman attempting to regain his former glory in a dystopian future, not only regained popularity in the character, but would also be used as an influence for many future retellings as Batman (Daniels 147) (Wright 267). Then, in 1989, Tim Burton directed the critically acclaimed Batman film, which brought Batman back into the spotlight outside of the comic book world (Person 1). Tim Burton’s Batman and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns are both influences of Batman: TAS, and are what helped the show create their portrayal of Batman (Batman-On-Film).

The first episode that will be discussed is titled, “Almost Got ‘Im.” This episode will be used to establish how the visual style exercises film noir and how some of the character can be considered noir characters. In this episode, five of Batman’s villains: The Joker, Penguin, Two Face, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc, play poker with each other, and talk about how each of them almost killed Batman. Right at the title card we can see how the film noir style is used in both the visuals and the music. The title card shows the silhouettes of 5 people sitting at a table, with a dark purple background and only one light shining on the 5 people. The music gives us a smooth jazz sound, complete with snare drums, trumpets, a base guitar, and a saxophone. The music sounds like it belongs more in a bar than in a children’s cartoon. The dark background, shadows, and jazz music are all common uses in various noir films. The music plays as the opening credits fade in and out, and continue on through the first scene (1:02-1:13).

The first scene features various low angle shots of each one of the characters’ hands, as the Joker deals them their cards. It’s not until all of the character have picked up their cards and made their drinks until we see all of them together in full body form. As each character picks up his cards and fixes his drinks, we can see how each villain is characterized simply by how he takes his cards and drinks. First we see the Penguin, who picks up his cards and organizes them intently, while making himself some tea, giving us a sophisticated first-impression. Then we see Killer Croc, who clumsily picks up all his cards at once, exemplifying his brutish, unintelligent nature. The third pair of hands we see are the hands of Two-Face, which draw two kings, a two, and discard a three and four, so he can draw another two and an ace. The cards he draws exemplify his obsession with dichotomy, only further exemplified by his coffee, in which he adds Half-and-Half milk. Finally, we see the hands of the Joker, who smoothly performs many card-tricks, and cheats by swiping an ace from his sleeve After all the characters have their cards, we finally see the bodies of the four villains, with a low angled shot facing up, giving us a dark blue background, and only one light shining down in the middle. The low angles and intense shadowing are common themes in film noir, and the episode continues to practice these motifs throughout the show. As the characters were being dealt their cards, they were discussing theories about how Batman is always so successful. After Killer Croc asks about the possibility of Batman being a robot, we cut to a high angle shot of a woman’s legs walking to the table. In a seductive voice, the woman says “Hello boys,” and after a cut to the villains showing a shocked look, we cut to a forward angle shot of Poison Ivy walking out of the shadows in a brown trench coat, the music finishing with a huge blast of trumpets and Poison Ivy saying “Get me an herbal tea and deal me in” (1:14-2:23). When Killer Croc tells Ivy to scram, she kicks down Croc’s chair, and then knee’s him in the face, establishing herself as a true fem fatal (2:24-34). The concept of the “fem fatal” is very common in noir, and is exemplified in Batman through not only Ivy, but also Batwoman, Catwoman, and female characters that the show created, who would later become huge in the Batman comics, including police officer Rennee Montoya and the Joker’s sidekick, Harley Quinn.

After Poison Ivy sits down and Croc get’s a new chair, we learn that all the characters are on the run from Batman, and after Penguin claims to have come the closest to killing him, they each begin to tell their stories about each one of them almost killed Batman. As the characters tell their stories and make fun of each other, all of the conversations sound very natural and fluid. This is because all of the voice acting done in this episode was done while the voice actors were in the same room. This method is typically done during radio dramas, and allows the actors to react to their fellow actors’ movements and emotions. Also during the stories and jump cuts, we see a lot of wide-angle shots and close-ups that are seen mostly in noir, and even have a black-and-white segment when the Joker tells his story (13:34-17:34). By the end of the episode, we find out that after Catwoman saves Batman from being killed by the Joker, that she is being taken hostage by him and Harley Quinn, and is currently on a conveyor belt that will lead Catwoman into a cat food processor, which will kill her. After we get a wide-angle shot of the Joker laughing maniacally, we see Killer Croc through the Joker into a table, revealing Croc to be Batman in disguise. After Batman rescues Catwoman, we see Batman leave after Catwoman tries to kiss him. We end with a low angle shot of Catwoman saying, “almost got ‘em.” The lighting, setting, and angles presented in this episode showcase how Batman has the true look and feel of a noir show.

Look at various times throughout the episode

The next episode is titled, “Heart Of Ice” and is the début of one of the most reimaged Batman villains, Mr. Freeze. Before Batman: TAS, Mr. Freeze was simply a thief with an ice gimmick, but in Batman: TAS, he was transformed into a tragic character, who was betrayed by his superiors while Freeze tried to save his wife. This plays into a common noir theme, betrayal.

We begin the episode with a black background during a snowfall, with ominous chiming noises in the background, sounding almost like a ballet. The camera zooms out to show that it’s actually a snow globe, with a spinning ballet dancer animatronic inside. As the camera zooms out we hear a robotic voice saying, “This is how I’ll always remember you. Surrounded by winter, forever young, forever beautiful.” As the voice continues to talk we see a hand touch the snow globe. “Rest well my love. The monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish, best served cold.” As the voice finishes we see the lower part of his face, the upper part cast in shadow, as red eyes soon open (1:03-1:36). This dark, shadow-like introduction is pure noir; the ominous introduction, the implication of betrayal, the tragic aspect of the character perfectly encapsulated by his cold, robotic voice, all common themes of noir.

Throughout the episode we learn that Mr. Freeze has been stealing various parts from a company called Goth Corp. in order to create a freeze cannon. While trying to stop Freeze, Batman is continuously trying to discover who Mr. Freeze is, and why he wants to target Goth Corp. specifically. While under the guise of Bruce Wayne, Batman talks with the president of Goth Corp., Farice Boyle, discussing who could possibly want to hurt Goth Corp so extremely (8:33-8:56). The detective aspects of Batman: TAS are also a quality that makes this series noir. Batman is more than just a superhero, he is also regarded as the “World’s Greatest Detective” therefore a lot of Batman stories do revolve around detective work and mystery. Boyle tells Wayne that there is only one man who hates Goth Corp. that much, but he is dead. When Wayne asks who it is, Boyle simply says that it was a scientist who was caught using company property for personal reasons and that an explosion killed him when Boyle’s men tried to arrest him. When asked what the scientist was specifically doing, Boyle simply said that he was wasting company money and needed to be taught a lesson in superiority (8:50-10:01). Once the conversation was over, Batman returned to the Batcave, to try and find more details towards Boyle’s story. Once he and Alfred realizes there is no publicized information about what caused the explosion, Batman decides to go and uncover the private files to get more information on the cover-up (10:43-11:03).

When Batman sneaks into Goth Corp.’s filing room, he finds a folder labeled “Top Secret” containing: a picture of a woman, and picture of a married couple, a medical report stating “Fries, Mora Mrs. Diagnosis: Positive, Terminal,” a blueprint of a chamber, and a videotape (12:00-12:53). The tape is a video record made by a scientist named Victor Fries, who is designing a cryogenic freezing chamber. The chamber is meant to preserve a person who has an inoperable ailment, until a cure is found, and was being primarily used to help his terminally ill wife stay alive. Before Fries could finish talking, we see Farice Boyle and two security guards break in, and try to dismantle the equipment. Fries tries to stop them from dismantling the equipment because it’s the only thing keeping his wife alive, but Boyle says that the cut the funding for the experiment because it had already put him three million dollars in debt. After Freis says that bringing his wife out of the chamber could kill her, Boyle orders one of the guards to open it, stating that he has full control of the equipment and can do what he wants with it. Fries takes one of the guards’ guns and points it at Boyle, telling him to stop and calling him a murderer. Boyle tells Freis to lower the gun, saying they can talk, but when Freis does so, Boyle kicks Freis into a table full of chemicals, breaking the containers and spreading the chemicals all over the room, and all over Freis’ body. After Boyle and the guards run out of the room, we see a still shot of Victor Freis calling out his wife’s name, while trying to reach toward the glass container, and we cut to a close-up of Freis’ figures rubbing down on the glass covering his wife’s face, as Freis cries out his wife’s name, one last time, “Nora” (12:37-14:09). The finger marks left on the container over Nora’s face imply that the chemicals caused the chamber to shut off, killing Freis’ wife.

After Batman sees finishes the tape, we see Mr. Freeze point a gun at Batman, and we get a close up of the gun shooting a freeze ray. Right before he takes the shot, we see Mr. Freeze react to the tape, stating, “It would move me the tears if I still had tears to shed” (14:12-14:20). This tragic aspect of Mr. Freeze makes him an excellent noir villain. He is forced to his current position, driven only by revenge for the loss of the women he loves, killed by Boyle’s greed, which seemed to receive no karmic punishment for his actions. This is best exhibited when after Batman wakes up in Freeze’s layer, when Freeze states: “The snow is beautiful don’t you think? Clean, uncompromising,” “and cold” “like the swift hand of vengeance” (14:52-15:07). After Batman shows empathy for what happened to Freeze’s wife, Freeze answers stating, “I am beyond emotion, they are frozen dead in me.” (15:08-15:18). We then learn that the chemicals affected his body’s reaction the temperature, making it so Freeze cannot survive anywhere above a sub-zero temperature, which is why Freeze is forced to wear the suite. He then states that he intends to seek vengeance on Boyle, for ruining his life, and ending the opportunity for he and his wife to live a happy life together. When Batman asks his revenge is worth killing for, Mr. Freeze responds in his dark, robotic voice, saying, “Think of it Batman, to never again walk on a summer’s day with a hot wind in your face, and a warm hand to hold. Oh yes, I’d kill for that” (15:19-16:04). This is what makes Mr. Freeze a true tragic noir character. He doesn’t think that killing Boyle will make him happy, or bring back the Nora, Freeze only cares about killing Boyle for ruining his life. He knows he can never have his old life back, so he is only focused on killing the one who wrongfully took away everything that made him happy. Boyle not only took away Freeze’s life, but also prevented him from ever experiencing happiness again. Even something as simple as a warm embrace, Mr. Freeze can never experience again.

Mr. Freeze then leaves to go to an award ceremony, where Faris Boyle is being awarded the “Humanitarian Industrialist of the Year” award. After Batman frees himself from his ice prison, he leaves to the party, where Mr. Freeze is already halfway freezing Boyle, after Freeze reviles himself as the scientist Victor Freis. When Boyle begins begging that Freeze spare his life, Freeze stops and says, “You, beg? In my nightmares I see my Nora behind the glass, begging to me with frozen eyes. How I’ve longed to see that look frozen on you” (19:22-20:07). Before Freeze could kill him, Batman jumps in and the two fight. After Batman wins by breaking Freeze’s glass helmet with a thermos of chicken soup, Mr. Freeze still crawls to the half-frozen Boyle, saying in a struggling voice. “It can’t end this way. Vengeance.” Batman responds with, “No, justice.” Batman gives the videotape to one of the reporters at the party, explaining how it reveals that Boyle destroyed two lives with his actions (20:43-21:23). Our last shot is of Freeze sitting in his cell in Arkham Asylum, as a similar, but slower version of the chime song from the beginning plays in the background. Freeze begins speaking to a box, which is revealed to be the same snow globe as before. As he weeps, Freeze speaks in a pleading voice, stating, “I’ve failed you. I wish there were another way to say it. But I cannot. I can only beg your forgiveness and pray you hear me somehow, someplace. Someplace, where a warm hand waits for mine.” As Freeze touches the glass of the snow-globe, the snow from the globe falls to the bottom and the glass fogs up. Snow begins to fall in the cell, and we zoom out of the cell window to a shot of Batman, looking into the window from a building, and then walking away (21:35-22:26).

Everything about Freeze exhibits a noir villain: The tragic back-story with the theme of betrayal, the desire for his lost love, and his revenge filled motives with not thought or care of any lasting consequence. This quality is truly expressed in Freeze’s voice. His voice is very dark and robotic, basically inhuman. Every sentence he states almost sounds like a Shakespearian villain, and his voice harbors all the power that comes with every word he says. His pale face and red, glowing goggles covering his eyes show the lack of any humanity or soul in his person. The chemicals thrust upon him by his greedy boss froze any form of humanity left inside him. This all makes Mr. Freeze a true noir villain.

The final episode that will be analyzed is called; “Perchance To Dream” and it will be used in order to prove that Batman is a noir hero. In this episode, Batman wakes up from a battle into a world where is life is perfect. His parents are alive, he is engaged to the women he loves, Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman, and someone else has taken up the mantel of Batman. Everything seems perfect, and even when he begins to accept positive change in his life, but a dark, creeping feeling won’t leave him alone. We join Batman in the mystery of if it’s madness breaking through sanity, or sanity breaking through madness.

From the opening title card, we can tell that this is a very different kind of episode solely from the music. Unlike most of the previous music, which was usually dark and ominous, this music sounds much lighter and chaotic. In fact, the music actually sounds familiar to most fans of the series, and gives an important clue to solving the mystery in the story (00:00-00:13). This episode revolves more around Batman’s detective skills, and gives clues throughout the episode that allows the audience to have a chance to try and solve the mystery as well. Many noir stories are mystery based, and that ‘s the genre of this episode, mystery.

At the beginning of the episode, as Batman chases down some criminals, in a chemical plant a bright light flashes in his eyes and partially blinds him. When he comes too, we get a POV shot of Batman looking up as a piece of equipment falls down on his head. Right before the equipment makes contact, we see Batman wake up from bed as Bruce Wayne, panting as if he had a nightmare (1:25-1:35). We then cut to Alfred opening the blinds and saying good morning to Bruce. As Bruce gets out of bed and begins talking about the trap, Alfred shows a confused look, acting like he doesn’t understand what is going on (1:37-2:14). When Bruce tries to go to the Batcave through the clock, he is shocked to find out that it is simply an ordinary clock. When he asks about a technical issue to Alfred, he continues to question what Bruce is talking about. As Bruce talks about the Batcave his voice and body language makes him sound like he is crazy, as he waves his arms around and changes the inflection of his voice. Suddenly, we hear a voice say, “Son?” and the camera cuts to Bruce’s shocked face, as the camera cuts again to Bruce parents.

When Bruce sees his parents, he backs away saying “It’s impossible,” and runs away towards his room (2:27-3:10). Bruce’s dad walks over to Bruce, asking if he is feeling okay and if he can make it to a stockholders meeting. Bruce says he is fine, so his dad leaves, saying he is going to play some golf. As Bruce prepares for the meeting with Alfred, Bruce asks Alfred to tell him about his life. Alfred states that when his parents retired, Bruce got control over the Wayne Enterprises and that he is engaged to Selina Kyle. Bruce says that everything in his life is wrong and puts his hands over his head while he sits down (4:10-4:49). This scene really illustrates the tormented aspects of his life. The whole reason why Bruce Wayne is Batman is because his parents were killed when he was a child. That event sparked his war on criminals, and transformed him into a creature that could strike fear in the hearts of criminals, as well as make the streets safe so a kid won’t have to see his parents get killed. That creature is Batman, and it’s because of that life as Batman that he cannot have a normal life with the woman he love’s, Selina Kyle, because of his dedication to the job. Batman is more than an alter identity, it’s almost who Bruce Wayne is, and now that his life is perfect, he doesn’t know who he is anymore. If anything, it’s possible that Batman might be a dormant form of madness. Throughout the episode, as Bruce Wayne talks, his body moves around more and more, indicating he may be under the influence of a small form of insanity.

After Bruce meets up with Selina in his office, she sees Batman outside of the office window. Bruce looks shocked as he sees Batman swing on a rope, and hurries outside to watch Batman fight. When Bruce gets outside, we see some criminals come out of a jewelry store, but on the sign, it says, “ALXJYZIV” (6:00-6:02), another clue toward solving the mystery. Also, when we see Gotham City, it is notable that the buildings look slightly brighter than we see than in most of the Batman episodes, and the music seems slightly lighter and a little more whimsical than normal. The music is still the traditional Batman fight music, but at a slightly lighter tune. After watching Batman fight, Bruce comments that he is a good fighter and asks Selina if the name, Catwoman, means anything to her. Selina says she is growing worried about him, so Bruce sees his mother, asking her to help him. Bruce states that he feels like he is living someone else’s life and he doesn’t know what to do. As he raises his head from out of his hands, he pleads to his mother for help. His mother thinks that because Bruce is so used to having a privileged lifestyle, he feels empty and unfulfilled. Thus his subconscious invented a new, more exciting life for him, where he is more challenged and valued, the life of Batman. The discussion ends with Bruce smiling and saying, “The nightmare is over” (07:44-8:42).

This truly showcase what makes Batman a noir hero. He is a true tragic hero, viewing his existence not as a form of superiority, but a cursed obligation he is forced to endure. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be a hero, it’s that he doesn’t enjoy that there are criminals in the world and that he needs to spend his life fighting against them. Batman fights for a world where he is no longer needed and evil is gone forever, and since evil will always exist in the world, Batman is truly living a nightmare. However, now that Bruce’s life is perfect and someone else is taking the mantel, Bruce feels relief, knowing he can rest easy without the weight of the world on his shoulders. When he returns home, he gives his father a hug, and invites him to join him and Selina at the opera. Throughout the sequence, the music sounds triumphant, as Bruce states, “I’ve never felt better in my life sir” with a big smile on his face and a thumbs up to his dad. The music and the sequence with his father, and a funny sequence with Alfred (8:53-9:22), makes the viewer feel happy about Bruce’s position, and the feeling that Bruce overcame darkness and has reemerged in the life that he truly deserves after everything he has been through. Whether we suspect that something is wrong or not, the sequence makes us feel that we want the perfect life to be real. However, when Bruce tries to read the newspaper, he gives a look of shock when he sees all the letters are jumbled.

As he keeps looking through the newspaper, we see him getting more and more frustrated, as all the letters are jumbled and unreadable. After he throws the newspaper on the floor, he takes a book off of the shelf, only to notice that the letters on all the books are jumbled as well. Bruce begins to through all the books onto the floor, his eyes expressing strong madness and anger. He finally holds his head in pain, pleading that nothing is making sense. When his parents try to help, he resists them. He proclaims that everything is a lie, his eyes wide with madness (9:36-10:33). This scene not only possesses a clue to what is going on, but also amazingly represents the possibility of growing insanity. When Bruce walks into a room with a TV, reporting Batman’s latest victor, Bruce hurls a statue at the TV, proclaiming, “Batman, it’s always Batman” (10:36-10:56). This scene further highlights the tragic aspects of Bruce’s character. No matter how much he doesn’t want to be Batman, no matter how close he is to finally being able to live a normal life, Batman always seems to take over as the primary aspect of Bruce’s identity.

Finally, Bruce can’t take it anymore; he climes to the top of a bell tower in a cemetery, and calls out Batman so they can fight. As the lighting and rain pour down, Bruce and Batman face each other, as Bruce proclaims that everything is a dream. When Batman asks why he thinks that, Bruce says that when he saw all the jumbled words, and since reading is a function for the right side of the brain, he wouldn’t be able to read in dreams, which come from the left side of the brain. After they talk, both Bruce and Batman acknowledge that the only way to end this mystery is to fight, and that the victor decides who is the dominant identity in Bruce’s life. Throughout the fight, we hear a strangely familiar, wild kind of music, rather than the traditional Batman fighting theme (14:08-1646). This whole sequence best encapsulates whom Bruce is in terms of both as a person and a hero. The best way to describe this is a quote from a reviewer name Linkara in his “History of Power Rangers” show, who reviewed a similar situation in Power Rangers Dino Thunder, in which the Power Ranger, Tommy, was in a comma and forced to fight his three former Ranger forms inside his mind. Linkara stated, “…he’s been fighting the forces of evil for a very long time as a ranger, longer than any other person we’ve seen…fighting for so long especially in a struggle that never seems to have a true final outcome could have a psychological impact on anybody…more-so because of the fact that these days a lot of his enemies are people he knew. When he became stuck in his morphed form it could be interpreted that that’s how he saw himself all the time, as a ranger. He wasn’t Tommy Oliver, he became the powers, it was all he was anymore…the power was all he was. Whoever Tommy Oliver was didn’t have any image to him; he wanted to reject that part of his personality because that part of his personality had all his friends betraying him. When…the powers shattered he retreated into his own mind, having to face all the powers that led him to who he was. He had to overcome his identity crisis of being the powers. Is he the Green Ranger, the White Ranger, the Red Ranger, the Black Ranger? He’s none, he’s Tommy Oliver first and being Tommy Oliver had to be what he lived for

(8:19-9:42). That whole idea is a theme that is perfectly symbolized with Bruce Wayne fighting Batman. While Power Rangers isn’t noir, like Batman, it is a superhero show, and the whole theme of identity crises is a concept that is commonly explored in superhero stories. This idea is especially complex in Batman, since Bruce Wayne’s whole life and identity is revolved around Batman, since he spent most of his life training and fighting against the forces of evil. He has rejected all opportunities to lead a peaceful life, in favor of the dark loneliness of his life as a superhero. However, after spending so long in combat, who is the real fighter? Who is in control? Is it Bruce Wayne or Batman, the man or the mask? In the end, the one who wins the fight is Bruce Wayne, symbolizing that no matter how tragic and lonely his life is as Batman, Bruce Wayne is the true identity in duel life Bruce leads.

Bruce unmasks Batman, and under the mask is one of Batman’s villains, the Mad Hatter.  It is reviled that the Mad Hatter used a mind control device to place Bruce in a trance, while revealing nothing to the real world. Its sole purpose is to give the user the opportunity to live one’s own idea of the perfect life. Bruce pushes the Mad Hatter, back, shouting that none of this is real, to which the Mad Hatter responds, “Are you the Dreamer or merely part of someone else’s Dream” and continues to say that he can’t leave. Bruce then jumps off a the edge of the tower, hoping that the shock will wake him up, and we then fade to a scene of Batman wearing the mind control helmet (16:47-19:27). Batman angrily grabs the Mad Hatter from the control panel asking why he did what he did. Mad Hatter cries saying, “You of all people have the gall to ask me that! You ruined my life! I was willing to give you whatever life you wanted, just to keep you out of mine!” (19:46-20:11). The episode ends with police commissionaire Gorden finding the devise and asking what it is. Batman answers, “The stuff that dreams are made of,” As he walks into the darkness with his head down (20:28-20:38).

The episode showcase the mystery and tortured hero themes that both Batman and dream noir and made of. Throughout the episode the music was noted to be much lighter and crazier than usual. This is important because fans of the show would recognize that the music is the same style as the Mad Hatter’s theme music. In fact, the music during the fight is exactly the same as the Mad Hatter’s theme music. The jumbled sign on the jewelry store during Batman’s debut fight were an early indication that the idea that everything was a dream was a strong possibility. The episode was riddled with clues, but most of all, this episode showcases the tragic nature behind Batman’s identity. As stated before, the identity battle Batman faces throughout his life is a strong part of his character. Not only is Batman forced to battle evil his whole life, but he is also forced to battle himself, struggling to remain in control of both his sanity and his identity. He will never allow himself to quite or live a lie; whether he fights as Bruce Wayne or Batman, he will fight until the bitter end. The best way to conclude this idea is to quote the origin of the title itself, Perchance to Dream. The title was taken from a soliloquy in Hamlet, in which Hamlet states, “To be, or not to be, that is the question:/Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer/The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,/Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,/And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep/No more; and by a sleep,/to say we end/The heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks/That Flesh is heir to?” (Hamlet Act III, Scene 1). During this scene, as Hamlet contemplates suicide, he thinks about what the proper way is to live one’s life: by being stoically passive or heroically active? Bruce Wayne has a similar dilemma: should he live his life peacefully in the fantasy world, or arduously fight in the real world. That’s what the fight between Bruce and Batman symbolized, reality vs fantasy, action vs passiveness, the self vs the mask. In the end, reality, action, and the self won.

Batman: TAS is a true noir show based on both its characters and it’s setting. The dark backgrounds and gothic orchestral give us a very noir feel, especially due to the use of heavy shadow in the episodes. The mystery themed stories, which are present in noir, are also used in many of the Batman: TAS episodes. All of the characters are explored with deep scrutiny, and the tragic back-stories make the characters seem brutally realistic. The alienated hero, the villain who was betrayed and thus seeking revenge, the fem fatal, these are all common character tropes that are seen in noir and Batman: TAS. Overall, Batman: TAS is a true noir TV show, and can be appreciated both as a child and as an adult.

Work Cited:

Batman-On-Film, Batman: The Animated Series.

Benton, Mike. The Comic Book in America: An Illustrated History. Dallas: Taylor, 1989 p. 69

Boichel, Bill. “Batman: Commodity as Myth.” The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991. p. 6–7

Daniels, Les. Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books, 1999 p. 95, 147

Fleisher, Michael L. The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Volume 1 Batman Collier Books 1976 p. 31

Kane, Andrae. Batman and Me Eclipse Books 1989 p. 41

Pearson, Roberta E.; Uricchio, William. “Introduction.” The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge: London, 1991 p. 1

Wright, Bradford W. Comic Book Nation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2001 p. 233, 267

9 responses to “Batman: the Animated Series and Film Noir Style

  1. ali ⋅

    I throughly enjoyed this piece, since it was an extremely insightful look into why Batman has become such a significant superhero, withstanding many generations.

  2. Well written and thought out.

  3. Devin Bocks ⋅

    Well written and great

  4. Ross Seidman ⋅

    Great post man! Lot of great insight and analysis into a childhood favorite. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.

  5. El Sop ⋅

    Interesting take on Batman TAS, phenomenal take on the history and the analysis, although long, pretty deep. Makes you think in a whole different light

  6. Paul ⋅

    Please tell me you will submit it with that picture at the end.

  7. Ken ⋅

    Great analysis of batman: the animated series and brought back nostalgia

  8. Olivia ⋅

    Really fun to read. Great use of details! This makes me want to re-watch the entire series.

    Good job, Josh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s