ECCC12: 20 Years of "Batman: The Animated Series"
While "Batman: The Animated Series" has long since concluded, the love for the show is still going strong, as evident by the few hundred fans that packed the room last Saturday at Emerald City Comicon for a mini-reunion featuring some of the show's cast and creators.
On hand were series producer Bruce Timm, writer Alan Burnett, Tara Strong, who voiced Batgirl (as well as Harley Quinn in "Arkham City") and Kevin Conroy -- for many, the defining voice of Batman -- who spoke to the crowd in his unmistakable voice, after they loudly welcome him to Seattle.
"I love you, too," said the man who has been playing Batman for 20 years.
That was just a warm-up for the man behind the iconic Bat-voice, who over the course of an hour gave the audience a taste of his older, "cranky" Batman from "Batman Beyond," a blues-singing Batman, and a playfully ad-libbed in-character bit between Batman and Harley Quinn delivered by Conroy and Strong.
Burnett and Timm started the conversation, telling the origins of how they pitched and developed the noir cartoon that was unlike anything else when it debuted. Then Conroy and Strong talked about how they landed their respective roles.
Conroy explained that getting the role was "a very lucky break" since he had never voiced animation prior to the audition. Even going into the audition, Conroy said he was imagining the character in a more '60s-Adam West direction, but after talking to the producers, he had a better handle on Bruce Wayne as a tragic and pained Hamlet-type character.
Strong had been performing in animation since she was 13 and was thrilled about her chance to be part of the Bat-mythology, professing she collected Batgirl memorabilia growing up in Toronto. She also mentioned the thrill of working alongside Conroy and Mark Hamill, who fate had almost skipped over for the role of the animated Joker.
Timm explained how the Joker role originally went to Tim Curry, who recorded several episodes. "We realized that he wasn't quite what we wanted," Timm said, adding that his laugh never quite fit their vision.
The series, and Kevin Conroy's depiction of Batman, have an enduring legacy.
A couple months later, they auditioned for a new Joker, and Hamill owned it immediately.
"From the minute he opened it out, it was like -- bang -- no one was even close," said Timm.
Kevin Conroy talked about his favorite episode, "Perchance to Dream," where Bruce Wayne struggles with reality. Conroy enjoyed the challenge of playing so many parts in a single episode.
Strong talked about the pressure of honoring Arleen Sorkin, whom she had worked alongside on "Batman," when she took over the mantle of Harley Quinn in "Arkham City," and Conroy talked about how nervous he initially was working with Adam West in "Beware the Gray Ghost."
A fan complimented Conroy on the subtleties of his jaded, older Bruce Wayne from "Batman Beyond" and asked if Conroy had been approached for the role in a "Dark Knight Returns" animated movie.
Conroy and Strong, both acted surprised about news of an animated take on Frank Miller's classic, looking down the panel at Bruce Timm for clues.
"No one's told me anything," Conroy added.
"Well, that makes me incredibly angry," said the fan.
"Well, it should," said Conroy playfully, with the crowd obviously agreement.
After being asked about the "Justice League" episode where Batman sings "This Little Piggy," Kevin Conroy crooned for the crowd who ate it up.
One of the final questions gave a tiny sample of just how far ahead of the curve "Batman: The Animated Series: was when Timm explained they wanted to do an episode featuring the character Nocturna.
"She wasn't a vampire in the comics, but we liked the idea of Batman and vampires," Timm said. "At the time FOX didn't like idea," noting that the now-ubiquitous nature of bloodsuckers in pop-culture.
It hard to believe it's been twenty years since this show first aired. It's one of my all time favorite series.