‘I Had a Bad Day Too, Once’: Reason 882 Batman – The Animated Series is amazing
I honestly believe, before anyone is hired to write a Batman comic, they need to watch this show. Especially the later episodes. Because then there’d never be any confusion over Batman’s reasons for being.
Granted, that also means like 10 years of Batman comics (starting with the plague crossovers and ending after Greg Rucka wrote a Batman who let his bodyguard get stabbed in prison just to keep his secret identity) would never have happened.
But that’s okay, because everyone would understand Batman’s primary motivation a lot better. It’s not about revenge; It’s about caring.
The Batman of B:TAS is more compassionate toward his villains than I ever realized. It’s most evident in “Harley’s Holiday,” where he actively works to keep Harley Quinn from ruining her shot at rehabilitation. It doesn’t work, of course, but when she’s admitted back to Arkham Asylum, he offers a kind gesture and confides, “I had a bad day too, once.”
It’s not the only time. “Second Chance” shows a Two-Face who’s actually making progress psychologically, to the extent that both the doctors and Batman believe that plastic surgery may actually heal the rift in Harvey Dent’s psyche. It’s a cruel final push from the Two-Face persona that ruins it. At the end, Batman brings Harvey back to Arkham once more, but there’s a hint of hope – maybe not this time, but some day, Harvey may heal.
The show, by giving many of these villains more of a tragic shading, rather than out-and-out villainy, also provides a humanistic reason for why Batman’s okay with their continued rehab in Arkham, rather than locking them away in prison: he actually believes many of them can be helped. They are dangerous, yes, but they’re also sick people who need help and understanding.
It’s something Bruce Wayne probably feels deep at the core of his being. He sees something of himself in all of his adversaries, and knows that if there’s hope for him (though ironically, in his case, hope took the form of a terrifying costumed identity), perhaps there’s hope for these other poor souls so twisted by tragedy.
When Harley asks, “Why’d you stay with me all day, risking your butt for someone who’s never given you anything but trouble?” Batman tells Harley, “I know what it’s like to try to rebuild a life.”
Batman as a concept is much more about compassion and hope than a lot of people who play with the character tend to consider.
On the other hand, make of this what you will: Out of the entire major rogues gallery, only the Joker and Scarecrow appear to be irredeemable villains; the former is simply too insane to fix; the latter actively enjoys his experiments and actually grows worse as the series moves along.
But the real menaces in B:TAS are “respectable” businessmen – Roland Dagett, Walt Disney stand-in Grant Walker, gangster Rupert Thorne, and Mr. Freeze’s accidental creator Ferris Boyle among them.
They have no excuse for their horrific behavior – they simply believe they’re entitled to do what they want. If cartoons can be used as a teaching tool, I hope there’s a whole generation that learned this one lesson from Batman: Simple, human greed is more destructive than any costumed lunacy.