The Matt Signal: The New Batman Adventures Findings

With the conclusion of The New Batman Adventures that basically completes the entire original run of Batman: The Animated Series. We have a few more stops to go after this, but it seems a good point to check back in on those all important NUMBERS!

No title cards in this season, so see the Season 2 findings for final tallies of those.

Best Directors

Overall while there are some smoother animations and a few of the costume re-designs are good, this is a much less visually striking season of television, ditching the iconic ‘dark deco’ style in favour of red skies and more modern aesthetics, as well as getting rid of the beloved title cards. All of this was a deliberate choice to streamline production and make the show quicker and cheaper to make, and you’d hope if HBOMax does revive it in any fashion they’ll toss far more money at it and restore the discarded elements.

Oh hey, some new directors! Six of them! In fact Dan Riba is the only director this season who had directed for BTAS before!

With the launch of Superman: The Animated Series, and the impending debuts of Static Shock, The Zeta Project and Justice League, it was clear that some of the producers’ energy had to be diverted elsewhere (no new episodes by Timm or Radomski) and resources needed to be shared.

Thus a few TNBA episodes were directed by the animation houses that worked on them, giving credits to Atsuko Tanaka, Hiroyuki Aoyama, Kenji Hachizaki and Yuchiro Yano to mixed results, with Yano going straight to number one overall by directing only a single episode, ‘Over the Edge.’

Curt Geda and Butch Lukic graduated up from the storyboard department and made strong impressions. Geda was the strongest new director who did multiple episodes, while Lukic lucked into getting to direct ‘Mad Love’.

Boyd Kirkland & Kevin Altieri moved on to new pastures, with Dan Riba filling their workhorse role. This dramatically hurt his numbers, slipping from third to eighth.

  1. Yuchiro Yano (1) (NEW ENTRY)
  2. Bruce Timm (5) (Previously: 1)
  3. Curt Geda (7) (NEW ENTRY)
  4. Hiroyuki Aoyama (1) (NEW ENTRY)
  5. Butch Lukic (5) (NEW ENTRY)
  6. Eric Radomski (4) (Previously: 2)
  7. Boyd Kirkland (21) (Previously: 4)
  8. Dan Riba (17) (Previously: 3)
  9. Kevin Altieri (22) (Previously: 5)
  10. Kenji Hachizaki (1) (NEW ENTRY)
  11. Atsuko Tanaka (2) (NEW ENTRY)
  12. Dick Sebast (9) (Previously: 6)
  13. Frank Paur (16) (Previously: 7)
  14. Kent Butterworth (1) (Previously: 8)

Best Writers

Much like the direction, this season was mostly comprised of new talent, with only Paul Dini, Joe R. Lansdale, Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett having writing credits on BTAS. Former regulars Michael Reaves, Randy Rogel and Brynne Chandler all got pushed out of the top ten by the newbies after being ranked 5th, 6th and 7th respectively.

To me the writing on the show improved with each season, likely due to it becoming clear what did and didn’t work, so Hilary J. Bader, Rich Fogel and Robert Goodman were likely writing to the house style established by Paul Dini.

Speaking of Dini, you may see his sixth place position and freak out, but let’s once again dig deeper. Dini wrote the top nine episodes of my rankings, and many of the episodes that drag his average down saw him sharing writing duties with inferior talent. Also remember all of Bruce Timm’s writing credits are for story only (often alongside Dini), and Boyd Kirkland and Dennis O’Flaherty only wrote one script each, so averages work in their favour.

Our top ten:

  1. Boyd Kirkland (1) (NEW ENTRY)
  2. Robert Goodman (3) (NEW ENTRY)
  3. Bruce W. Timm (5) (NEW ENTRY)
  4. Rich Fogel (6) (NEW ENTRY)
  5. Dennis O’Flaherty (1) (Previously: 2)
  6. Paul Dini (30) (Previously: 1)
  7. Hilary J. Bader (6) (NEW ENTRY)
  8. Marv Wolfman (2) (Previously: 3)
  9. Gerry Conway (2) (Previously: 4)
  10. Alan Burnett (8) (Previously: 9)

The bottom still remains broadly unchanged, with the majority of it being people who wrote one episode and weren’t invited back. Steve Gerber is the worst-performing new writer.

Best Performances

I don’t think anybody who debuted in TNBA does enough to dethrone the existing top 10, but I do think I was overlooking some oldies but goodies so have re-shuffled accordingly.

Tara Strong was generally great when given enough lines. Mathew Valencia was surprisingly decent as Tim Drake, with his Robin predecessor, Loren Lester, taking much better to the Nightwing incarnation of Dick Grayson. I was also impressed with the guest appearances of Lori Petty, Sela Ward, Charity James and Karla DeVito.

  1. Kevin Conroy (Batman)
  2. Mark Hamill (Joker)
  3. Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn)
  4. Diane Pershing (Poison Ivy)
  5. George Dzundza (Ventriloquist)
  6. Roddy McDowell (Mad Hatter)
  7. Robert Costanzo (Harvey Bullock)
  8. Richard Moll (Two-Face)
  9. Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman)
  10. Alison LaPlaca (Baby-Doll)

Rankings

The communist in me is delighted by my final top 10 being comprised of 3 episodes from season one, 3 from season two, 3 from New Batman Adventures and the theatrical movie.

For a hot minute I was willing to declare this ‘third season’ of the show the strongest of them all, as I really dug the ensemble approach and slightly more mature stories… but then they got into a real rut of animal-themed episodes and sub-standard guest appearances by Etrigan the Demon and The Creeper. I would also punish the season’s mostly inferior art design more when talking about it as a whole in a way that isn’t reflected in the individual episode rankings. But still! Some incredibly strong showings from TNBA, which doesn’t get enough love compared to BTAS in my opinion.

In my first one of these findings columns I identified four types of episode: Villain Spotlights, Villain Ensembles, Batman Spotlights and Ally Spotlights. Obviously there’s some wiggle room on which episodes are classified as what but Villain Spotlight remains the most enduring type as it’s mostly what the show is known for, with 66 out of 109 episodes and 2 movies focusing primarily on one member of the Rogues Gallery.

As for the rest, I counted 8 Batman Spotlights, 22 Ally Spotlights (plus a movie), 15 Villain Ensembles and one true blend of everything (‘Holiday Knights’) that split the difference between the four types. The ratio leaning more to allies and combinations of villains was boosted greatly by TNBA, which was far more of a team-up show.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Mad Love
  4. Over the Edge
  5. Almost Got ‘im
  6. Heart of Ice
  7. Harlequinade
  8. The Trial
  9. Riddler’s Reform
  10. Double Talk
  11. Judgment Day
  12. Legends of the Dark Knight
  13. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  14. I Am the Night
  15. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  16. Baby-Doll
  17. Sins of the Father
  18. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
  19. The Man Who Killed Batman
  20. Perchance to Dream
  21. Two-Face Part I
  22. Girls’ Night Out
  23. Torch Song
  24. You Scratch My Back
  25. Bane
  26. Batgirl Returns
  27. A Bullet For Bullock
  28. Joker’s Favor
  29. Read My Lips
  30. Feat of Clay Part II
  31. The Ultimate Thrill
  32. Catwalk
  33. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  34. Harley and Ivy
  35. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  36. House & Garden
  37. Beware the Gray Ghost
  38. Mean Seasons
  39. Old Wounds
  40. Growing Pains
  41. Holiday Knights
  42. Mystery of the Batwoman
  43. Second Chance
  44. Mad as a Hatter
  45. Heart of Steel Part II
  46. Appointment In Crime Alley
  47. Two-Face Part II
  48. Pretty Poison
  49. Deep Freeze
  50. Chemistry
  51. Harley’s Holiday
  52. Lock-Up
  53. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  54. Feat of Clay Part I
  55. Cold Comfort
  56. His Silicon Soul
  57. Off Balance
  58. Vendetta
  59. Birds of a Feather
  60. Joker’s Millions
  61. Heart of Steel Part I
  62. Never Fear
  63. On Leather Wings
  64. Love is a Croc
  65. See No Evil
  66. The Clock King
  67. It’s Never Too Late
  68. Make ‘Em Laugh
  69. Joker’s Wild
  70. Eternal Youth
  71. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  72. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  73. Zatanna
  74. Day of the Samurai
  75. Avatar
  76. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  77. The Mechanic
  78. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  79. Terror in the Sky
  80. P.O.V.
  81. Christmas with the Joker
  82. Fear of Victory
  83. Be a Clown
  84. The Worry Men
  85. What is Reality?
  86. The Demon Within
  87. Animal Act
  88. Night of the Ninja
  89. Fire From Olympus
  90. Mudslide
  91. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  92. Nothing to Fear
  93. The Lion and the Unicorn
  94. Prophecy of Doom
  95. Cult of the Cat
  96. Tyger, Tyger
  97. Blind as a Bat
  98. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  99. Dreams In Darkness
  100. The Last Laugh
  101. Cat Scratch Fever
  102. Moon of the Wolf
  103. Paging the Crime Doctor
  104. Time Out of Joint
  105. Sideshow
  106. Beware the Creeper
  107. The Under-Dwellers
  108. The Forgotten
  109. Showdown
  110. Critters
  111. The Terrible Trio
  112. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

The top 10 have remained broadly unchanged for a long time, with Mr. Freeze dipping down a little and then climbing again. Harley Quinn came a lot closer to dethroning Joker for number on than I expected. Catwoman continued to benefit from being an out and out villain, The Ventriloquist remained strong and Two-Face found new life at the last possible moment. Poison Ivy was underrated for a long time by me, but no sooner had I put her where she belonged than she hit a bit of a slump.

Bane made his way into the top ten thanks to another strong showing in ‘Over the Edge’, while big names like The Penguin, Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul were a little disappointing compared to the other heavy hitters.

TNBA debuted several strong characters in Firefly, Calendar Girl, Roxy Rocket and Superman’s Livewire, while Farmer Brown and Thomas Blake were… less good.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. The Phantasm
  9. The Riddler
  10. Bane
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. The Penguin
  14. Clayface
  15. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  16. Ra’s al Ghul
  17. Livewire
  18. Calendar Girl
  19. Roxy Rocket
  20. Firefly
  21. Killer Croc
  22. Scarecrow
  23. Lock-Up
  24. Lloyd Ventrix
  25. Rupert Thorne
  26. Mutant Leader
  27. Count Vertigo
  28. Clock King
  29. Klarion (and Teekl!)
  30. Nivens
  31. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  32. Enrique el Gancho
  33. Josiah Wormwood
  34. Talia al Ghul
  35. Sid the Squid
  36. Queen Thoth Khepera
  37. Maxie Zeus
  38. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  39. Tony Zucco
  40. Man-Bat
  41. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  42. Hugo Strange
  43. Red Claw
  44. Arnold Stromwell
  45. Mad Bomber
  46. Tygrus
  47. Kyodai Ken
  48. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  49. Farmer Brown (and Emmylou!)
  50. Grant Walker
  51. Gil Mason
  52. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  53. Cameron Kaiser
  54. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  55. Carlton Duquesne
  56. Mad Dog
  57. Ubu
  58. Thomas Blake
  59. Professor Milo
  60. Romulus
  61. Arkady Duvall
  62. Sewer King
  63. Boss Biggis
  64. Montague Kane
  65. The Terrible Trio

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, continues its coverage of What If…?

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day. This week it’s Groundhog Day.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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