Every year, Americans flock to Batman cartoons (and toys and comic books and …) to celebrate Batman Day.
And, for kids of the 1970s and 1980s, having two Batman Days sounds pretty darn good, honestly.
Especially if we get to watch Batman cartoons all day both days.
Batman cartoons are some of the most iconic bits of animation to emerge since television took hold in the American culture during the 1950s.
Spurred on by the success of the live-action Batman series starting Adam West in the 1960s, the DC classic first hit airwaves in animated form in 1968 and hasn’t looked back since then.
To celebrate all that “Holy Crap” goodness, here is a rundown of Batman cartoons, organized roughly by series air dates.
The Batman/Superman Hour
Batman first showed up on our Saturday mornings as part of the “shorts” lineup during the Superman Hour on CBS in 1968.
It didn’t take long before the Caped Crusader was sharing top billing with his DC stablemate, and there was no stopping the darkness — and crime fighting — that followed.
What’s the most iconic Saturday morning cartoon of all-time?
You could certainly make a strong case for long string of Bugs Bunny/Road Runner/Looney Tunes entries.
And, maybe the Smurfs or other early 80s fare can squeeze into the conversation.
But, man, if Super Friends is not on your short list, you just weren’t paying attention all those mornings, so long ago now.
This show had all the great superheroes from the DC universe, and that included healthy doses of Batman and his gadgetry.
This may not have been the dedicated Dark Knight fare that Bat-fans craved, but it was a classic, nevertheless, and a must-see during its 1973-1986 run.
The New Adventures of Batman
This was the first truly standalone Batman entry to our cartoon lineup, and it featured our hero, along with sidekick Robin, as they fought the standard “rogues gallery” from Batman canon.
Running during the spring of 1977, this series also included appearances from a gimmicky, tiny helper named Bat-Mite, summoned from a faraway dimension called Ergo.
Definite shades of Gazoo and The Flintstones here.
Tarzan and the Super 7
OK, so maybe this doesn’t really look like a Batman title.
But this was a package show that ran from 1978 through 1980 and included Tarzan (duh), plus episodes of six other shows:
- The New Adventures of Batman
- The Freedom Force
- Jason of Star Command
- Manta and Moray
- Superstretch and Microwoman
- Web Woman
So, yes, the same Batman entry as above, but this package eventually became Batman and the Super 7 (during 1980-81).
And this baby also came with a shiny new(ish) intro.
Batman: The Animated Series
We went a long, long time without Batman cartoons between the end of Super Friends and the debut of Batman: The Animated Series in September 1992 (it ran through 1995).
As it turns out, the wait was worth it.
By many (most?) accounts, this is the best of the lot when it comes to Batman cartoons, owing to its dark, stylistic visuals and deep and sprawling story lines that helped redefine the entire Batman mythos.
Many even call this the best superhero television show ever produced, and you might have trouble arguing against that sentiment.
A lead-pipe classic.
The New Batman Adventures
This series debuted on the heels of Batman: The Animated Series and served as a logical sequel to that classic cartoon, as well. This one ran from 1997 through 1999.
The New Batman Adventures tended to focus on supporting characters like Robin and Batgirl, with less emphasis on the main man himself. The revamped story lines also introduced an extensive lineup of “guest stars,” such as Supergirl and The Creeper.
Animation was a little rounder and not quite as dark, and reviews tend to be mixed — some folks love the follow-on to The Animated Series, and some think it fell flat.
What do you think?
Batman Beyond changed the game from the standard Batman storyline — it featured a teenage Batman learning his trade under the guidance of an aging Bruce Wayne.
It may sound like a disjointed bastardization of the franchise, and, indeed, the idea took a while to catch on.
Before long, though, Batman Beyond was drawing some critical raves and developed a strong core fan base.
Exploring darker elements of the Batman story and injecting a healthy dose of human emotion, Beyond ran from 1999 through 2002 and gives you a different view of the Caped Crusader than many of the entries on this list.
This was sort of a reprisal of the old Super Friends show, with a cast of DC superheroes carrying out their own brand of crime-fighting and, well, justice.
Most of the characters maintained longstanding backstories culled from classic comic books, but Wonder Woman was presented as a “rookie.”
The Batman arc in particular held a special treat for fans, as the series brought back the popular Kevin Conroy to voice the Dark Knight, the same match-up that helped make The Animated Series a hit.
Justice League ran from 2001 through 2004.
Justice League Unlimited
Originally, the end of the Justice League was supposed to be the end of the Justice League … and the overall DC animated universe, but then Cartoon Network decided they wanted more.
Justice League Unlimited fired up right away (summer of 2004) with a vastly expanded lineup of superheroes, including more than fifty (50!) in the first episode alone. Perhaps the most surprising and controversial of all the newcomers was the always-exasperated C’mon Man (look it up).
Anyway, Batman was there, too, even if his screen time was reduced by the presence of all the young blood. Whippersnappers!
Unlimited wrapped up in 2006.
The Batman was a bit of a mixed bag. Created by Warner Bros. Animation, it bounced around between Kids’ WB and The Cartoon Network during its five-year run (2004-2008), though WB was its home for four of those.
The series took bits and pieces of former Batman adaptions, ranging from the original comic books to The Animated Series. And, though The Batman did pick up a handful (plus) of Emmy awards during its run, not everyone was enamored.
One frequent criticism was that the animation was rounded off and aimed specifically at children (although, you know, cartoon), with characters and story lines that lent themselves well to toy spinoffs.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Batman: The Brave and the Bold plays on the concept of an existing DC vehicle called simply, The Brave and the Bold. In that series, two or more superheroes would team up in each episode to fight crime and rain fun down on viewing audiences.
Accordingly, in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman teamed up with another good-doer to take down the criminal du jour.
The series ran from 2008 through 2011 and spun off a comic book adaptation in 2009.
Beware the Batman
Tabbed to replace Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the computer-animated Beware the Batman lasted just one season, first on Cartoon Network in 2013, then finishing up on Adult Swim in 2014.
This series has a “lost years” feel, as it focuses on Bruce Wayne’s early days as Batman, just after he started battling the various nasties that seem to always plague Gotham City.
Viewers did get to see a new core character, though, in the form of Tatsu Yamashiro, Alfred’s goddaughter who was a swordmaster … and new bodyguard/partner for Bruce/Batman.
Justice League Action
Like the other Justice League entries on this list, Justice League Action brought Batman into consort with Superman, Wonder Woman, and the usual cast of good guys (and gals) as they took on bad dudes (and dudettes) who would wreak havoc on the earth.
This one debuted on Cartoon Network UK in November 2016, then hit the American Cartoon Network the next month. It ran through early June 2018.
Although Young Justice debuted waaayyyy back in 2010, it occupies the last spot on our list because it was still chugging along as of the spring of 2020.
A full decade!
There are some technicalities, though.
First, there are only three seasons in the books, with a fourth planned. This puppy is … very … … spaced … …. … out.
And second, Batman only plays tangentially here, as he served as a mentor and coordinator for the real stars of the show — a group of teenage and young adult superheroes just getting started on their righteousnous.
No matter, though, because it’s a Batman cartoon series thing, at least a little, so it fits right here.