I am a huge fan of this single issue stand alone story for Batman.
I mean whats not to be in awe of, the art is timeless, and we are given an origin story, out right , for the single most enduring and iconic villain in comicdom.
So when DC announced that they were doing an animated version of the story featuring the voice talents of Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, and Mark Hamill I was over the fucking moon.
This was going to be the greatest Batman animation ever made, and the last 45 minutes of it are…. but damn, that opening half hour… It starts with Barbara Gordon’s last case as Batgirl. Which isn’t my issue, it shows her in a strong capable light for some of it, but my issue comes with how they changed her relationship with Batman.
This is a relationship that has been largely paternal in its portrayal, so much so that Batgirl’s usual beau is one of the Robins. But here they have a scene with Batgirl and batman making out and a later scene confirming they knocked boots.
This coming in the prologue reduces the Batgirl character to being stuffed in a refrigerator to propel Batman into his encounter with the Joker. I get that her being paralysed is a turning point for the character and that you needed to do something for a prologue, but you could’ve left out the sex and made it more powerful in my opinion.
Beyond that though this animation is about the most faithful adaptation of any comic material that I have ever seen. The artists have recreated iconic panels from the one shot comic. The brutality of Jim Gordon’s torture and descent to the very edge of madness is disturbing and harrowing in a way that is never seen in animated adaptations of western comics.
Batman looms larger than life and the stoicism and pain in his persona really come through, especially through his detachment from others and hatred of the Joker. And the Joker, my god the Joker… I’m not going to beat around the bush, Mark Hamill is the star of this. He just is. He delivers the dialogue with such ferocity that the Joker was scarier than he has ever been on screen.
The origin tale still makes you feel for the poor shlub that becomes The Clown Prince of Crime in Gotham City, but that sympathy is juxtaposed with the cold sadism of the man who crippled a woman just to torture her father. It was the same in the book but hearing Hamill but emotion and insanity into that dialogue made it all the more chilling to realise that in the end, the Joker actually has a point…
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
It’s scary and it’s harrowing because it’s true.
Watch it, ignore the prologue and just watch the adaptation. It will give you chills if you know the story. It will make you think if you don’t…