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12 Things We Want To See In Amazon's Batman: Caped Crusader

In 2021 a new animated series for HBO Max was revealed to be in the works, titled "Batman: Caped Crusader." It was being developed by renowned producer, writer, and animator, Bruce Timm, creator of "Batman: The Animated Series," in his return to episodic Batman stories. But things hit a snag in 2022 when HBO Max abruptly shut down, a victim of corporate cost-cutting. Thankfully, in 2023, it's been announced that streaming network Amazon Prime Video has picked up the series and given it a two-season order, and it's set to take the world by storm.

With Timm at the helm, one of the biggest challenges faced by "Caped Crusader" will be living up to the lofty standards of his most iconic former series. The seminal 1992 classic, "The Animated Series" was a game-changer in the world of comic book adaptations, while setting new standards for what was possible in a kid's cartoon. Fans of the original show will surely have enormous expectations for the new series and the creators will need to work hard to meet them, while also delivering something fresh and new.

With a talented team of creators behind it — including blockbuster directors J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves — "Caped Crusader" has the potential to be just as beloved as the legendary series that preceded it. But there are a few things we'd like to see that we believe will be crucial to its success.

Neo noir for the 21st century

If there's one thing we want to see in "Caped Crusader," it's an animated series brimming with neo-noir. Thankfully, that's practically a guarantee considering Timm is in charge. But it's still worth discussing because in the few decades that have elapsed since Timm's iconic "The Animated Series," nearly every Batman cartoon has gone for a more friendly, bombastic aesthetic. That includes follow-ups like "The Batman" in 2004 with its more kid-friendly vibe, "Batman: Brave & The Bold" which paired the Dark Knight with other superheroes, and "Batman Unlimited" in 2015.

Even "Beware the Batman," another show that focused on Bruce Wayne's early days as a costumed crimefighter, had a decidedly cheery feel. Probably owing to being aimed at a younger audience in combination with its CGI animation, it never felt quite as dark as it may have been intended to be. So, for "Caped Crusader" to succeed for us, it should recapture a noir feel, but with a modern flare, even if the temptation might be to go the other direction. 

Neo-noir is back in vogue these days too, with the likes of "John Wick" being perhaps the best example up on the big screen. But while we're not suggesting anything adult or violent, a "Batman" series that evokes the classic detective stories of the 1940s, brought forward into the 21st century — with a stylish color palette and gritty adventures that push the envelope for a kid's cartoon — are a must. 

A voice cast worthy of Conroy and Hamill

When "Caped Crusader" was first being developed for HBO Max in 2021, it seemed like it might be a return to the world of "The Animated Series," if not in continuity than in style, with Timm guiding it. As a result, many fans wondered if the iconic voice actors from the 1992 series might return, including Kevin Conroy as Batman and Bruce Wayne and Mark Hamill as the Joker. Though no voice cast was announced, it was the source of much discussion in the wake of its announcement.

Sadly, with the death of Kevin Conroy in 2022, that won't be possible. Likewise, Hamill recently announced that with Conroy's passing, he has vowed never to return as the Clown Prince of Crime, meaning "Caped Crusader" will need to recast its biggest stars, and that's where we have more than a few concerns. Because more than any animated direct-to-video movie or new Batman show for kids, "Caped Crusader" will be an ongoing adventure likely aimed at a more mature audience who still regard Conroy and Hamill as the gold standard.

To satisfy, producers will need to find actors that can live up to them, and deliver the kinds of powerful performances they were able to capture in the early '90s. Though nobody will ever be able to replace them, a new cast that will stand on their shoulders will need to be good enough to do justice to their towering legacies.

Leave Robin out of it

For many, Batman is as intrinsically linked to Robin the Boy Wonder as Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise – you can't have one without the other. But the truth is, even though they're world-famous together as a superhero pair, appearing side-by-side in classic TV series in both live-action and animation, Batman often works best when he's fighting solo. A dark, brooding, loner at heart, Batman often becomes drastically different when paired with the more colorful, lively young hero Robin. So we're hoping that "Caped Crusader" will be a back-to-basics approach that will return the hero to his roots as a solo crime fighter.

It's wouldn't be an unprecedented decision, either. Heck, the original "The Animated Series" started out sans Robin, with Batman contending with villains on the streets of Gotham City by himself. But eventually, even that series fell back on the temptation to give Batman his best friend, sidekick, and ward Dick Grayson, even rebranding the series "The Adventures of Batman and Robin" later in its run.

But while some all-time classic episodes of that show involved the dynamic duo, it completely altered the tenor of the series. And while many fans may clamor for Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, or even Carrie Kelley, we think the neo-noir adventures we're likely to get in "Caped Crusader" will work far better without any of them. 

Stories for the whole family

We've already touched on our desire to see "Caped Crusader" evoke a neo-noir feel, something that's all but confirmed. In fact, the initial announcement described the series as "thrilling, cinematic and evocative of Batman's noir roots." But while a noir look and feel may be on the table, we don't want the series to go too dark, even if we don't want it to be designed for kids. That's because, like Timm's former masterpiece, we want it to be able to be created with all ages in mind.

Looking back, one of the signature elements of Timm's 1992 outing was its ability to tell stories that could be watched by all ages in equal measure. The stories never spoke down to the kids, and rarely made adults feel like they were watching any ordinary children's cartoon. In short, the stories had narrative weight and yet were still child-friendly, and we want to see that as a core element in "Caped Crusader."

With Timm back in the saddle, we're confident it will deliver on that front. We just hope he won't be too tempted by the lack of limitations on a streaming service, which will allow him to lean into more violence and adult subject matter. Because at the end of the day, we want the series to give adults something they can both enjoy with their kids.

A proto-Batman

Little was revealed about what kind of series "Caped Crusader" might be when it was first announced. No mention was made of when in Bruce Wayne's life it might be set; whether we'd see a veteran Batman, a younger, more fresh-faced Dark Knight, or even a proto-Batman that has yet to don his iconic cape and cowl. But if we had our way, the series would go back to the beginning, much like Reeves' 2022 film, "The Batman," who, as we noted, is serving as a producer on the project.

But while "The Batman" explored a hero who had been fighting crime for a little more than a year, we'd love to see "Caped Crusader" tackle the days even earlier. Maybe he's just put on the costume for the first time, having only recently returned to Gotham, and only now building alliances with the likes of Lt. Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent. While "The Animated Series" did give us a few flashbacks to stories set broadly in that time frame, a series focusing solely on his first missions as the Dark Knight, at least early on, is what we want to see. 

We also wouldn't mind fleshing out Bruce's backstory and exploring his days abroad training. Though we got brief glimpses in "The Animated Series" episodes like "Night of the Ninja" and "Zatanna," stories of a pre-Batman Bruce learning his skills feel perfect for a neo-noir reinvention that could explore the reasons why he became a hero.

A world without superheroes

Audiences these days have become so accustomed to seeing sprawling, interconnected worlds like the MCU and the Arrowverse, where a variety of heroes inhabit the same world and frequently cross over with one another. Both Marvel and DC have gone further recently with multiverses allowing past versions of fan-favorite characters to return and team up with their modern counterparts. But while this can indeed lead to plenty of thrilling stories — and there's no denying the excitement of seeing different, disparate heroes interact — we'd like to see Amazon's "Caped Crusader" return to a world where Batman is the only costumed hero that exists.

Harkening back to the earliest days of "The Animated Series," such a hero-less universe would allow Batman to stand alone, a unique figure in an otherwise realistic world much like our own. Rather than just one in a pantheon of mythical, larger-than-life heroes, he'd be seen by the citizens of Gotham City as a strange, almost alien figure. He'd be a bold and daring vigilante out to protect the people from its worst criminals. For all the joy that can be had from an endless interconnected universe of heroes, perhaps it's time that Batman takes us back to a simpler kind of storytelling. 

A mix of original stories and adaptations

Nowadays, it seems germane — and perhaps even downright necessary — for a TV series based on a comic book to pull from the pages of its greatest stories. Today's superhero adaptations have incorporated some of the biggest and most beloved stories into hit TV shows and blockbuster movies, but decades before, during the days of "The Animated Series," that wasn't usually the case. Most episodes of that series were actually original adventures, with a few notable adaptations slipped in. 

These days, fans are treated to animated adaptations as a matter of course, with iconic stories like "The Killing Joke" and "Hush," and even more obscure comics like "The Doom that came to Gotham" getting the screen treatment. But we'd like to see "Caped Crusader" go back to the formula that worked so well for "The Animated Series" — a mix of original stories and adaptations. But you might wonder: What iconic stories are left to adapt with so many having already been translated into direct-to-DVD features?

As it happens, rarely did Timm adapt the most famous, cataclysmic story arcs on his old show, opting for smaller stories like "A Bullet for Bullock" and "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" that pulled from relatively obscure comics. If Timm, Abrams, and Reeves want to truly evoke that noir feel, there'd be no better way than digging out some classic issues from the '60s and '70s and turning them into episodes of their series.

All new characters

There may be those fans who only want a new Batman animated series to bring the best comic book storylines to life. There are still others who would want to limit a new series to telling tales involving just the best existing characters. After all, if the comics have proven the success of Batman, his supporting cast, and his rogues gallery, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. But if we look at a new series with such a narrow view, we rob ourselves of the potential for something special. Because in the history of Batman in animation, some of his most iconic characters were invented for the screen.

This of course includes Harley Quinn, created by none other than Timm and Paul Dini, producers on the original "The Animated Series." An instant fan-favorite, Quinn would eventually make her way to the comics, then to the big screen in live-action — portrayed by Margot Robbie in the DCEU, and Lady Gaga in the upcoming "Joker: Folie Á Deux." But Quinn certainly isn't the only one, with fellow villains like Phantasm, Roxy Rocket, Baby Doll, and actor Robert Pattinson's personal favorite, Condiment King, all created for "The Animated Series." Can Timm and his team work their magic again, and craft new characters that can become a part of Batman's most famous supporting cast? We'll only know if they try.

Deeply complex, emotional stories

An integral part of what made "The Animated Series" so impressive was its deeply complex characters. From the conflicted hero to even some of his most dastardly villains like the Riddler and the Penguin, the series was unafraid to go beneath the surface of its characters and explore them in ways that no other kid's cartoon ever had. Most famously, Mr. Freeze was fleshed out from a one-note baddie into a tragic figure who'd lost his wife and was looking for his own twisted brand of justice. For Amazon's "Caped Crusader" to live up to its potential, it must similarly explore the psychology of its characters, and more.

Imagine if you will, a version of Timm's original 1992 series, but unrestrained by weekday afternoon network broadcast standards, able to go to somewhat more complex places emotionally, no longer required to pull its punches or appease advertisers. It could ask tough questions about justice, and morality, and examine the soul of its hero — and its villains — in ways even its forebears never did.

While classic "The Animated Series" episodes like "I Am the Night," which saw Bruce Wayne questioning his role as a costumed crime fighter, or "Appointment in Crime Alley" which explored the effects of street violence, "Caped Crusader" must go even further. And that might be just what we will have in store, as Timm once described the upcoming show as "more 'Batman: The Animated Series' than 'Batman: The Animated Series'" (per CBR.com).

Caped Crusader must chart its own path

If you've read this far, you can tell that even we are tempted to make Amazon's "Caped Crusader" more than just a spiritual successor to "The Animated Series." Much of what we're looking to see it do will indeed involve taking cues from the previous series, but that doesn't mean we want to see a mere copy. While we do want to see nods to the past, and influences taken from Batman at his animated best, it's crucial that "Caped Crusader" also forge its own unique identity. 

That will mean doing some things differently — perhaps even radically so — both stylistically and with its story. What form or expression that will ultimately take could certainly vary. This could mean making subtle changes to Batman's origin and history, or simply creating a new and different atmosphere than what's come before. But it also might mean altering the relationships that Batman has with his allies and even his villains, departing from the comics and previous animated shows to craft new lore. Putting an unexpected twist on an old formula might ruffle a few feathers, but if anyone has earned the benefit of the doubt, it's Timm.

A relevant Batman

Let's face it, no matter whether you like politics in your Batman stories or not, they've always been there. The story of a costumed crime fighter battling injustices to protect the less fortunate — who in his private life is often shown to be a social activist — is inherently political. The best Batman stories never shied away from that fact, least of Timm's version of the character. In "The Animated Series," we saw a multitude of stories that put social issues front and center, whether you realized it or not, with stories about the homeless, police brutality, and environmentalism.

More recently, however, Batman himself has come under increased scrutiny, with some criticizing the portrayal of a billionaire whose villains are usually among the lower class. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it's a criticism that may need to be addressed in today's political climate, and one way to do that is for "Caped Crusader" to tackle it head-on. 

Besides, there's no better hero to address issues of wealth inequality, mental health, racial injustice, and government corruption than Batman. By doing so, the series can push back on Batman's biggest critics, while making him a more socially conscious version of DC's beloved vigilante. We're definitely not suggesting that the series make declarative political statements, but touching on some of today's most troubling topics — particularly when Batman himself is so firmly steeped in them — may be required.

Old school animation

In the three decades since "The Animated Series" was dazzling kids on weekday afternoons, the world of animation has changed considerably. From the days of hand-drawn cel animation — where tens of thousands of meticulously illustrated images were created for every half-hour installment — to today's cutting-edge CGI animation, there are now more ways than ever for a cartoon to be created. If we have one serious concern over Amazon's "Caped Crusader" though, it's what kind of animation they plan to use to bring it to life. Because while it's probably unreasonable to expect the series to be created by hand, especially when there are so many simpler and cost-effective alternatives, we're still hoping the show looks old school.

The biggest reason this remains a concern of course is due to a quote provided in the show's initial announcement. According to the press release, the series will be "utilizing state-of-the-art animation techniques and technologies available." Whether this means the series will be CGI-animated, we're not sure. But to get our stamp of approval, "Caped Crusader" will have to eschew the slicker, 3D animation, in favor of a retro look, which we believe is key to capturing the pulpy roots of the character. So as long as their plan is to use today's best computer technology to quickly and efficiently create something evocative and faithful to classic animation, we're all for it.