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Real Name:
Bruce Wayne
The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader
Member of: The Justice League
Featured In:
DC Animated Universe
Voiced By: Kevin Conroy

I can’t say for certain what was my first true cartoon series that I watched as a child, at least one that wasn’t featured on PBS and was as much educational as it was entertaining. I can say however that it was Batman whom I well and truly grew up as he and he alone is the only superhero in the entirety of the DC Comics Animated Universe to have been in, or at least mentioned, in every animated series they had.

That means that Batman, the very same character who starred in the aptly named Batman: The Animated Series that premiered back in 1992 was the same Batman that was featured in Justice League: Unlimited in 2006.

To date, Batman is the only superhero to not only be in… let’s see here… nine different cartoon series, even if a few of them were mere guest or cameo appearances, but he was active for fourteen years. How amazing is that?! Batman is, quite literally, the one and only superhero that those of my generation or even a few years younger or older can claim to actually growing up with as his character did in fact grow and develop overtime.

When the cartoon series first started Batman was more… jovial I suppose? He was softer around the edges, less harsh when dealing with criminal scum both mundanes and metahumans alike, and he actually smiled. It was during this time that one could argue that Batman was far more… approachable… That a citizen off the street who needed help could walk up to him and ask for it if he happened to be around.

I suppose the best example would be when Batman was in pursuit of the child-sized villainess Baby Doll; she led him into a carnival filled with other kids. As a means of fishing her out, Batman stepped into the spotlight atop a game stand and the kids just swarmed to him.

That changed upon the “merging” with Superman: The Animated Series as the entirety of Batman, both himself and others, got a visual overhaul and Batman become the gruff and tough detective we know and love. Getting him to smile, actually smile, was incredibly rare and only a select few individuals, namely those close to Batman’s heart managed it to a point where Batman was actually sincere about it and thus no casualties were made. For as we all know, when Batman smiles, someone’s butt is about to get kicked.

Batman’s origin in the DCAU is the same as it’s always been and there isn’t a soul that doesn’t know it by now, I shan’t go over it. I will however say that Batman’s idea of vengeance took numerous ups and downs throughout his time as Batman. While not all of his villains are redeemable, a good number of them are individuals that Bruce Wayne, and not the Caped Crusader, could have helped in some fashion or another but Batman’s own stubbornness to believe that people can change for the better stopped him from trying.

That is perhaps the greatest weakness Batman possesses. He is paranoid, second only to the hero known simply as the Question, and his back-up plans have back-up plans and it has been shown both in this DCAU and others that he can and has conceived of ways to take down his own friends and allies should they go down a darker path.

He guards his heart with walls of titanium laced hoarfrost and not even the divine patience of Wonder Woman could do more than open a tiny crack. Still, it was enough for Batman’s humanity to show at the best and worst of times, solidifying the fact that he might be a jerk but he was a jerk with a heart of pure platinum beneath all that ice and steel.

Batman has had many villains over the years and while it can’t be denied that the Joker is chief amongst them, I shan’t talk too much of him as he, like Doctor Robotnik/Eggman for Sonic, is a character unto himself that require mores than a mere paragraph to speak of. I will say however that the Joker’s chief lackey, Harley Quinn, got her start in the animated series and proved to be so popular that she got a place in the mainstream comics continuity. The thing one has to realize though with most if not all of Batman’s rogues gallery is that they all are superhuman in some regard with powers and abilities that most mortal men cannot overcome.

Save for Batman. Why? Because he’s Batman that’s why!

Still… Batman is human and he does age. In the animated series Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne took off the cape and cowl when he realized that his advancing age was putting people in danger rather than saving them. This is actually the main reason why I hated the end of the Dark Knight trilogy of films so much.

It took the Batman having a stroke, an actual stroke, for him to consider retiring not because of his health but because his health put the lives of innocent people at risk. Yet, retirement would not keep the Dark Knight down for long as another wayward youth would make his way into the old man’s heart and create an entirely new legend…