The most faithful, consistent version of the Batman returns, overseen by Animated Series producer and cartoon mastermind Bruce Timm. We refer, of course, to the Batman of those cartoons, as voiced by definitive Bat-chap Kevin Conroy.
No offence to Christian Bale, Michael Keaton (my own personal favourite Bat), Adam West or, um, Ben Affleck, but Timm’s Batman is the screen Batman. Stern, handy with his fists and lantern-jawed, he’s been missed. Since The Animated Series ended, we’ve had many contenders (including the likes of George Clooney and the not-that-bad youngster of The Batman) but none have been as consistently Batman-like as Timm’s vision of the Dark Knight. With its retro noir stylings, menacing villains (lest we forget that it brought us Mark Hamill’s career-best Joker) and fantastic action, The Animated Series was versatile, intelligent and mature. The Brave and the Bold brought the fun back to the Bat, but we can’t help but miss the Batman of 1992-1998.
And now, as part of Bats’ 75th birthday celebrations, Bruce Timm returns to the Batman for Strange Days, a three minute short featuring an even more retro Batman than we’ve ever had before. Longer, more angular ears are the order of the day, accompanied by short gloves and no yellow border around the bat emblem. It’s all in black and white, and Batman barely says two words, but this is Timm’s Batman alright. Just look at that chin.
As the title suggests, Doctor Hugo Strange is the villain of the piece, having kidnapped an imperilled young damsel for his nefarious purposes. There, in the sky, Batman! With a Batwing-mounted machine gun (albeit one which fires tear gas) of all things. It’s a brusquer, more aggressive entrance than we might be accustomed to, given Batman’s much-publicised disdain for guns. But this is old-school Batman, harkening back to the days in which he carried a pistol and frequently fought mad scientists and their massive henchmen. To that end, Strange Days is a great throwback; not only recalling Timm’s version of the character, but the original Bob Kane/Bill Finger vision too. The three minutes of story gets you his machine gun Batwing attack, a brutal fight with Strange’s monstrous thug (riding him face-first into a wall of rock, just like the Titan Infected of Arkham Asylum) and a showdown with the Doctor himself, in which Strange winds up toppling over the edge of a cliff.
It’s short but sweet, gorgeously animated throughout, with some great action. “Is it over?” the recently rescued damsel asks, looking to Batman for reassurance. “For now,” Batman replies, in Conroy’s gruff timbre. A suggestion of more to come? We can but hope.