So apparently the post office ate that delivery I was awaiting. Or the seller lied to me, but I am perfectly willing to blame the post office. The seller was kind enough to resend one of the items but says the other item is now out of stock... and this particular item is the one that was stalling my Batman watchthrough. So... with the news that I would not be receiving this item from the hoped for means I went back online and remembered why I jumped on this deal to begin with. So pretty much Volume 3 of the man of bat is out of the price range that I am looking for and thus, my watchthrough has stalled. Okay, no, it just means I moved on to Volume 4 which has been sitting here for a while waiting.

Before speaking of Volume 4, I went to shed a tear for not getting to watch through 3 as intended. I wanted my Ra's Al Ghul fix (his being my favorite Batbaddy and all) but no love. The boring and mispronounced Ra's in Batman Begins is a major reason I am not as high on that movie as many other people are. Okay, tear shed. Moving on.

Volume 4 is where the series got a serious overhaul and was lumped with the Superman Animated Series and began to play on Saturday mornings. The animation styling change was made to fit the Superman style and would go on to be pretty much the standard that the next two Timm series would follow (Batman Beyond and Justice League). I am experiencing the animation (and story) shift with a bit of mixed emotions.

The animation style they go with is a far cleaner and polished style; the style that they used for the Superman Animated series. It ends up making for a far more consistent product from their overseas animators. There are far fewer breaks from character models. They also shifted the look to a more vivid color output rather than seriously darkening the image (for which they were called crazy initially) like they originally did. The new look takes away the nod to the Fleischer Superman cartoons that Timm and Radomski originally pulled from. And it is sad. I am usually all for a vivid but dark color scheme, the red skies definitely touch off the image well, but overall it seems to take away from some of the magic of the original look of the series. Just the dirty film look alone had a rather striking look. I am certain these changes made it all much easier to produce however. It also begins to see the shift into some digital work. I am not certain to what extent computers began to be used, but I have seen little touches here and there that were pretty obviously computer handled.

What is perhaps the greatest crime is that Gotham and its technology begins to lose a bit of its neo-40's charm. It is not completely gone, but it is seriously dampened. They also begin to really loosen up on showing color tvs (they wanted to only have black and white tvs to hold on to the vintage look, but they broke that rule many times even before the revamp). A lot of these changes do help them fit the world of Gotham in with the world they crafted for Metropolis, but it is bringing Gotham towards a median, an average, rather than the exception that it was originally.

What is more is the stories take a major shift in focus. The original animated series was very focused on its main character. Robin was hardly in the series and even some episodes he was in, it was the briefest of parts. Many of the episodes he did play a key role in were often some of the poorer ones (as well as the animation quality for some reason (probably they knew it was a bit of a stinker so they gave it to a lesser studio to produce)). But the New Adventures shift increases the profile of Batgirl, introduces the Tim Drake Robin and puts him in just about every episode, and also graduates Dick Grayson on to Nightwing. The Batman stories end up being much more about a team rather than the solo show it was before. It takes away more of the noir lonerness of the original and gives it more of a comic book superhero feel. Not all of these are uniformly terrible. They are just differences. I perhaps prefer a lot of what the original run included, but the second take has its fun and merit.

Oh but then they do the grave injustice of replacing the intro sequence. The original Batman The Animated Series intro is probably my favorite opening sequence for a show, live action or otherwise (and yes I am saving it for a better post). So there's just no way this intro can stand up to it. But even ignoring that it is a fairly boring sequence. I'm sure some college students could edit something better together. The music is decent though. I think it kinda stresses the Superman portion of the title however.

Okay, so hopefully a quick word on some of the redesigns:

Batman: I like the loss of the yellow. I was never a big fan of yellow on the batsuit. However I miss the complete abandoning of the blue. I liked in the original series the play between the black and the blue of the cowl. They also don't seem nearly as inclined to do some of the cool looks with the shadows as they liked to do in the original take. Maybe they lost their good storyboarders... I also am not big on how much they beefed up the bat. They slim him down a bit for Justice League I believe. Overall it is a very Frank Miller design. The more military looking belt is both odd, but I think better again than the yellow.

Robin: Okay, so Tim Drake has become my favorite Robin from my limited exposure and concept of him in the comics. But at the time of this shift I had no idea who he was. The design of the costume and its coloring is immensely better than their original Robin costume. Removing the green and the sleeves and all that junk was huge. Making Robin a little boy again always makes you think that Bats is a seriously deranged man to allow a child to do these things, but if you can remove yourself from reality it is a fun dynamic, especially with Nightwing and Barbara to fill the age gap. The one problem with the new Robin is the voice actor is not great.

Nightwing: Again, I had no concept of the Nightwing identity before this shift in the cartoon. It took a while for me to grasp, but once I did, I liked the dynamic, as well as the relational split from Bruce. The character design is good ignoring the pony tail mullet thing. Now that I know his costumes more it seems like a nod to the original but with the simpler look of the newer. Again, ignoring his hair, I think Nightwing is a good touch. His attitude gets a little tiring, but oh well. One of those times it was a fake attitude anyways.

Batgirl: Well I can't really comment on the costume changes... Volume 3 starts out with the Batgirl story. Obviously I have seen it before, but not recently. I don't think the changes are overly extreme. As for her far more pronounced inclusion into the team... If they are going for a team atmosphere then she needs to be in it. And she is. I like her well enough. The costume is fine. I think the reason they don't make Bats blue is so that she can be the blue one of the bunch.

Gordon: They made him look so much older and weaker. I do not know if it was necessary.

Joker: I can't exactly describe why, but the redesign seems to rob his character of ... well... character. I think they removed a lot of expression out of his face. Admittedly this was a character the animators had a terribly time trying to make uniformal, so I am sure that was part of the redesign, but still. Mark Hamill is still as great as ever though.

Catwoman: This redesign seriously bothers me. They make her look like zombie catwoman (I realize Returns made her a zombie catwoman but that was also a stupid idea) because she apparently puts extraordinarily pale makeup on when she is in costume for some reason. Everyone knows her identity. It isn't like she needs to hide it. Oh and in at least one episode her head looked to weigh more than the rest of her body. It was huge ("like an orange on a toothpick"). I don't know how her tiny little neck could support a head that large. Oh and her character didn't seem to fit with the Selina from the earlier run unless I missed an important episode in Volume 3 that I am forgetting.

Poison Ivy: What's with the white skin again? I don't get it. Not better for the redesign.

Croc: I liked the albino crocodile look better than the green. There was just a creepiness to the albino look. So the redesign isn't terrible, but I prefer the original.

Penguin: This is an odd redesign for me. They went away from the Batman Returns look which they used for the original take (which is good) and went with a more classical comic look (which should be good) but I don't feel like his look fits with everything else. The original look would almost go with the new style better than the redesign did. As for the new take on Penguin being a "legitimate" club owner: that's great stuff. One of the few things that upped the noir quality in the revamp. I wouldn't mind seeing a similar take in the Nolan movie as had been rumored.

Riddler: Heh, okay so he only appeared briefly, but his costume was atrocious. The change in greens, and the tights... terrible. Maybe intentionally so.

Mad Hatter: More stylized. Fits the shift. I like both takes.

Scarecrow: I thought I liked the revamp better, but it appears my mind has changed. He looked a little silly in the original series; certainly not scary. The revamp tried to make him look scary, which it did, but... meh. Not as interesting as I remember. And his mask looks like a Mignola skull, which is not necessarily bad, but the art style is not Mignolaish.

Batmobile: I'm never a big fan of bat vehicles, but this redesign was made with one thing in mind. No more elasto car. The original series had serious trouble with the animators bending the body of the batmobile to make it fit around corners because it was such a long car body. So they shrunk it considerably for the revamp. The original stood out better, the newer one is perhaps a bit more practical, but overall, it is still a Batmobile so a part of me cringes.

Hmm, I may recall some more later... If you care check back.

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