Batman: Caped Crusader Could Be the Spiritual Successor to The Animated Series

Batman: Caped Crusader, a new animated series from Bruce Timm, J.J. Abrams, and Matt Reeves, looks to evoke the spirited of Batman: The Animated Series

Batman: Caped Crusader
Photo: DC Entertainment

Batman: The Animated Series is often lauded as the best encapsulation of the Bat mythos ever put on screen. And for good reason: no other movie or TV show has ever captured the essence of the Dark Knight quite like the noir-inspired ’90s cartoon that turned Gotham into an art deco nightmare full of criminals, monsters, and laughing fish.

That series, which was spearheaded by Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett, went on to spawn a whole universe of animated DC TV series, including Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League Unlimited, and others. It also introduced us to the lovable anti-hero (then villain) Harley Quinn as well as established the definitive origin story for Mr. Freeze. Not to mention that the Batman: TAS film, Mask of the Phantasm, has been named one of the best Bat movies ever made.

But since the series ended its run in 1995, no other Batman show has quite captured the magic of storytelling, art style, or so clearly translated the world of the ’30s comic books that first gave life to the character. HBO Max and Cartoon Network think they’ve got the winning formula, though.

A new animated series, titled Batman: Caped Crusader, will see the legendary Bruce Timm team up with J.J. Abrams and The Batman director Matt Reeves to “once again reinvent Batman and his iconic rogue’s gallery with sophisticated storytelling, nuanced characters, and intense action sequences all set in a visually striking world,” according to a press release. For Timm, this will be his first time working on a proper Batman series since Batman Beyond ended its run in 2001.

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While the networks shared few details at the time of the announcement — like if Kevin Conroy will be back to voice the Dark Knight — Timm, Abrams, and Reeves teased in a joint statement that the series “will be thrilling, cinematic, and evocative of Batman’s noir roots, while diving deeper into the psychology of these iconic characters.”

So far, Caped Crusader sounds a bit like a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series, down to the “noir roots” it wants to evoke. To complement the statement, Warner Bros. also released the first promo image for the new series, which itself evokes a classic image from Batman: TAS, down to the familiar font:

Batman: Caped Crusader

Timm’s art direction and writing for the ’90s series was heavily influenced by the pulp novels that inspired the character, such as the adventures of The Shadow, The Phantom, and Dick Tracy. And the world he designed for his animated Caped Crusader was meant to look like the crime-infested cities where these crime fighters operated. It’s an art style that was meant to make the setting feel timeless, both clearly in the past but also set in the time period of the kids watching the series at the time.

But the poster also depicts a slightly different Batsuit, with much longer ears adorning the cowl, suggesting this won’t be a 1:1 recreation of The Animated Series, but something new that will also harken back to the earlier cartoon. The poster is also clearly meant to evoke the cover of Detective Comics #31, a classic Batman story from the late ’30s, which hopefully means we’ll get a version of the Dark Knight vs. Nocturna vampire episode that never got made for The Animated Series.

For now, the creators are describing Caped Crusader as a “new world,” which makes sense considering Reeves’ involvement. The director has already been tapped to create a new path for the Dark Knight on the big screen, introducing new versions of classic villains like the Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman as well as a new Bruce Wayne in Robert Pattinson. Reeves is likely helping to do the same for Caped Crusader.

We’ll bring you more on Batman: Caped Crusader as we learn it.

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