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Beware the Batman

Batman has been DC’s mainstay when it comes to television, movies and animated series. From the 1960’s series, to appearances in Scooby Doo and the Justice League cartoon in the 1980’s. Batman has always found a place on television. Perhaps his most beloved appearance was on the critically acclaimed series Batman: The Animated Series (TAS). Premiering in 1992, TAS kicked off the DC Animated Universe and a whole new era of animated television shows as well as a well populated animated movie franchise. The success of the various Batman animated series has allowed DC to experiment with various incarnations of the caped crusader, and their newest series Beware the Batman is no different.

Airing on the Cartoon Network’s DC Nation on Saturdays at 10 a.m., Beware the Batman is a 3D computer animated series that takes its visual clues from the Green Lantern series, which concluded its run on DC Nation in March. I won’t lie, I was a bit hesitant when I heard they cancelled the excellent Green Lantern series and were launching a new Batman series. And my hesitation grew as the artwork was being revealed, and the fact that Kevin Conroy was no longer providing the voice of Batman. I was not a fan of the new look of Batman, especially the ears on his cowl.

After the first episode it’s won me over, for the most part. I’m still not a fan of Batman’s outfit, and I don’t think I ever will be to be honest. I just can’t get over those big pointy ears. The rest of the animation though, looked really good. From Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad’s appearances, to the new Batmobile, most of the animation was really well done. Unfortunately Bruce Wayne looks a little bland and had no real redeeming facial features that would make him stand out in a crowd. I suppose an appropriate description of him would be generic.

If you’re a fan of the Joker, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze or Two-Face then you might be disappointed to learn that the producers have decided to focus on the lesser-known Batman villains for Beware the Batman. I find this to be rather exciting for a Batman series. This will give other villains a chance to shine, and to be honest, how many stories of the Joker can was have rehashed? Another benefit of using lesser-known villains is that they come with less baggage, and writers have a bit more leeway to interpret them.

Using Professor Pyg and Mr.  Toad are good examples. Both are rather new characters in the DC Universe, having been created by Grant Morrison in 2009, and while Toad was a little undefined in the comics, Pyg was a severely disturbed individual who enjoyed experimenting on people with drugs and performing odd surgeries. In Beware the Batman, the pair were made into eco-terrorists who were less psychotic but still violent. It will interesting to see the direction the producers will take with the other villains.

Yet there was still some revisions that I particularly disliked. It’s been a time honored tradition that Alfred has always been the Wayne family’s butler (yes, yes, I know of Batman: Earth One, but still). Ever since Bruce Wayne was a young boy, it’s always been Alfred supporting him. Unfortunately the producers felt the need to do a complete retcon on Alfred, making him a big, bulky ex-MI-6 agent who’s come to work for the Wayne family. Alfred is a big, bald, Englishman with a cockney accent. The series is also making heavy use of the Alfred’s background as an MI-6 intelligence agent,making him a more direct and almost partner-level Alfred. One thing I noticed was the lack of “Master Bruce” or “Master Wayne”, Alfred simply addressed him as Bruce. He’s far different than anything we’ve seen before, and it will be off putting for a number of people. It certainly was for me.

One of the things that’s always stood out with the various Batman animated series was the voice acting, TAS did an amazing job and through the years fans have been blessed with Kevin Conroy’s interpretation of Bruce and Batman. As I mentioned earlier Conroy is not part of the cast, instead Bruce/Batman’s voice is being handled by Anthony Ruivivar. If you don’t know who he is, he played the paramedic Carlos in NBC’s Third Watch.  While he’s no Conroy, Ruivivar did an admirable job. To be honest you can’t recognize his voice at all.

To be fair, besides my gripe with Batman’s suit and the massive change in Alfred, Beware the Batman wasn’t a bad show. There was plenty of action, and the redesigned Batmobile looks especially cool. I think it’s safe to say that DC and Cartoon Network will definitely find an audience for this show, and considering how it’s geared at kids most of them won’t mind the change to Alfred anyways. Overall, I hope the show continues to challenge and push our expectations as it goes forward. It definitely has a new view in me.

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