Ask anyone of a certain age to rank the best cartoons ever, and Batman: The Animated Series will land high on the list, if not sit right on top. The cyberpunk sequel Batman Beyond won’t be far behind. If you’re nostalgic for either, and haven’t managed to add them to your collection, they’ll be streaming on HBO Max in January.
Originally airing in 1992 and continuing in fits and starts until 1999, Batman: The Animated Series was groundbreaking in American cartoons for its focus on dark storytelling, innovative animation, and top-notch voice talent. For many it’s the definitive interpretation of Batman, with voice actors like Kevin Conroy and a spine-tingling Mark Hamill being standouts. The series’ trademark gothic look is achieved with backgrounds drawn on black paper.
Batman Beyond is an interesting diversion, staring a geriatric Bruce Wayne (given a deep connection to the original series with Conroy reprising) training a brash youngster to take on the mantle in a futuristic Gotham City. While not as popular as the original, Batman Beyond‘s storytelling is even darker and more disturbing, with sci-fi plots and recurring villains given more freedom with a bit more separation from the comic book source material.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, a full-length movie that functions as a great finale for the series, will also be on HBO Max in January. It’s joined by a few of DC’s animated features that have been made in the years since the “DCAU” series of cartoons closed, like Batman: Bad Blood, Death in the Family, and Hush, Justice League Dark: Apokalips War, Superman: Doomsday, and Superman: Man of Tomorrow.
Oddly, other DCAU series Superman TAS, Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and Static Shock, along with older movies like Mask of the Phantasm, are not on the service yet, though they are on Warner Bros. other streaming service, DC Universe. With that shutting down later in 2021 (still available as a comics-only subscription), presumably more of the old cartoons will make their way to HBO Max. Hopefully they’ll be getting some facelifts, too: Warner’s press release doesn’t say anything about 4K resolution, so presumably both Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond will be present in their 1080p Blu-ray forms.
Source: Warner Media