Sure, The Dark Knight is a widely acclaimed film that mesmerizes with its portrayal of darkness and obsession, but isn't there more to Batman than grimness? The creators of the new Cartoon Network show Batman: The Brave and The Bold think so. They've created the goofiest, most kid-friendly Batman since the 1970s, as you can see from this new trailer. They explained their reasons for swinging back to a more innocent Bat-time, in their panel at Comic-Con.
Just as Batman has gotten darker in the comics since Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, his animated portrayals have also been more brooding and less kapow! since the start of 1992's edgy Batman: The Animated Series. But why not showcase a different side of Bats, asked producer James Tucker at the Comic-Con panel. "Everyone knows Batman is a dark, tortured, anguished character, and that's why we decided...not to do any of that! We decided to go left of that, and back to Batman's roots. It's the Batman you knew from when you were a kid," said Tucker, before adding, "Unless you were born in 1982."
"James is obsessed with [classic Batman artist] Dick Sprang," added executive producer Sam Register, "and that clean, pop look is one that hasn't been associated with the character in a while. We really went from that, and one of the first ideas for a framework we came up with, which was, 'What if we took the Adam West title sequence, and gave it some balls?'"
"A lot of the time you see Batman as an object," elaborated Tucker, "something that's very still, crouched on a building with the cape lying in folds. But in Sprang, his Batman is very energetic, very kinetic. Always in motion, always punching. For me, it's the same kind of energy that Jack Kirby brought to comics."
You can see what they're talking about in that new trailer, with Batman and an array of guest-stars (Green Arrow, the new Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle, Plastic Man) bouncing about and fighting colorful villains far from Batman's usual Rogue's Gallery: Gorilla Grodd, Gentlemen Ghost, and the one and only Kite-Man. Jazzy, up-tempo music, a rough cut of the actual theme for the show, highlighted the classic Pop influences being brought to the show — less Bruce Timm and more Darwyn Cooke, if you will.
Which isn't to say that Animated Series co-creator Timm disapproves of this new approach. "I had a very long lunch with Bruce Timm way back at the beginning of all this, when we were trying to figure out where to go. And he really felt that everything that he and the The Animated Series team brought had been explored. The one thing that he felt we should try is making Batman lighter, going somewhere different. So the King of Animated Batman gave us the okay on this project."
"We're not relying on the same characters or the same environment," said story editor Michael Jelenic. "There's no Alfred, no Commissioner Gordon. Batman's not in Gotham. He's not in the Batcave sitting in front of the bat-computer. Batman is everywhere but Gotham, and he's meeting all these different heroes, each of whom will highlight a different aspect of Batman's character. We really went back to the old Brave & The Bold comics, where every issue Batman was in a new location, teaming up with a new hero."
"That is paramount to the series," added Register. "These different relationships, and the different facets to Batman they illuminate." To these comic geek ears, Batman: The Brave and the The Bold sounds not unlike Mark Waid's critically acclaimed revival of The Brave & The Bold comic with a dash of Grant Morrison's "no continuity is forbidden; everything is permitted" approach to Batman currently seen in his main comics title (although the cartoon will probably feature fewer magical hobos and less weaponized heroin). With luck, Batman: The Brave and the The Bold, when it premieres on the Cartoon Network this Fall, will manage to make fun seem cool again, and show a side to the Dark Knight that's been hidden in the darkness for too long.