‘I Had a Bad Day Too, Once’: Reason 882 Batman – The Animated Series is amazing

Posted: May 24, 2011 in comic books, Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

Man, there is nothing better than a periodic re-viewing of Batman: The Animated Series.

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.

No, seriously. 

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.

  1. Moff says:

    Yeah, this is what’s so great about the kids’ cartoon as an entertainment medium (I know, I know—TAS isn’t just for kids, obviously, but you know what I mean): Stories are allowed—encouraged, even—to show people behaving in a genuinely maturely moral fashion, without any snarky undertones about it or the sense that it’s a sign of weakness or naïveté.

  2. braak says:

    It’s funny, because I think that kids’ literature has the most straightforward morality of any other kind of literature, and — for however much Stan may be a lunatic now — I am deeply, deeply grateful that it was Stan Lee’s and Jack Kirby’s morality that informed Spider-Man, because for better or worse, it’s Spider-Man morality that raised…well, more than one generation, anyway.

  3. Carl says:

    I like this thread.

  4. Carl says:

    TQP: why am I finding out about the DC Universe reboot from Facebook, huh? FACEBOOK!!? THIS IS YOUR PURVIEW. I go to Facebook for pictures of my friends’ kids and cats. Also, to be hounded about attending Philadelphia theatrical productions for which I was never called to audition myself. Also, to sift through multiple, redundant links to The New Republic and Huffpo. Also, to ignore invitations to games I don’t want to play and reject friend requests from sexbots. But THAT’S IT.

    For Comic-related news, its TQP. QUIT SLACKING!

  5. braak says:

    It’s primarily because my work computer goes at 2 miles an hour, and also I have to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure no one sees me playing around on the internet.

    Isn’t that life, though? You get a job to pay the bills, and what does it mean? It means that all your brain power is now dedicated to helping someone else get rich, and you’ve none left for your own work.

    Life is bullshit, man.

  6. Carl says:

    Preach on, brother.

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