Legends of the Dark Knight

  Three kids speculate about what Batman is really like.
  Original Airdate: October 10, 1998
  Episode # 19
  Rating: * * * *

Credits Cast

Story by Robert Goodman & Bruce Timm
Written by Robert Goodman
Directed by Dan Riba
Music by Shirley Walker
Animation by Koko/Dong Yang

Kevin Conroy as Batman
Robert Constanzo as Bullock
Mark Rolston as Firefly
Jeremy Edley as Nick
Michael Ironside as 80s Batman
Anndi McAfee as Carrie
Michael McKean as 50s Joker

Ryan O'Donohue as Matt
Gary Owens as 50s Batman
Kevin Richardson as Mutant Leader
Mark Rolston as Don
Brianne Siddall as 50s Robin
Charlie Rocket as Guard
Phillip van Dyke as Joel

Insofar as he can claim to have a metier, words are it for the present author. They are the blooms he cultivates, harvests and arranges in (he hopes) pleasing patterns. Tables and lists, like herbaceous borders, march down or across the sides of web-pages, containing and ordering them into well-behaved (if sometimes overly-luxuriant) beds of prose. As a tender of words the author still has much to learn; the geometrical arrangement of abstractions is probably too neat and lifeless in spots to be more than intellectually striking, and the scent of metaphor overpowers in places. But these local flaws must yield precedence to a global weakness we might call (in the present instance) the Versailles Effect: Too much of one thing in one spot can leave the mind and senses devastated. So with the present jungle of language: Spend too much time here and it all becomes just words, words, words.

Not solely in form does this website concentrate too much on the verbal; its appreciations of BTAS and the related series are pretty well-concentrated on the verbal aspects of the shows, on stories well-told and characters well-constructed, and on the sharp and pungent dialogue these stories and characters are capable of. So too has its praise of the BTAS writers flourished, on Dini and Goodman and Burnett, on Fogel and Berkowitz and Bader, on Reaves and Rogel and Bright and Lansdale. Words, after all, are well-directed when directed at words, and the well-wrought words of these writers was inspirational to this one. But if it is difficult to imagine BTAS flourishing without the stories related in "Heart of Ice," "Growing Pains," "Two Face," "King's Ransom," "Never Fear," "Mean Seasons," "Perchance to Dream" and "Avatar" (to take but a selective list), it is impossible to imagine it succeeding without the artistry of Altieri and Geda and Kirkland and Lukic and Riba—and looming above and behind them, Bruce Timm.

The present episode companion is doubly handicapped when trying to honor these and their work, and that of the designers and artists whose names vanish in the end-credits but whose contributions shine in every frame. First, pictures are not worth a thousand words; words (as one theorist of aesthetics has noted) are simply the wrong currency to exchange for pictures. Hence, even were I to speak with the tongues of angels and of men, nothing I could say would suffice to extoll the visual virtues of the series. But, secondly, I have not the tongue for it anyway; my ignorance of the medium's finer points is such that inarticulate grunts of appreciation must suffice.

Fortunately, a deep and subtle knowledge of animation and comics is one of the Batman crew's great strengths, matching its ability to express its vision in the pictorial medium. Their knowledge and skill are on magnificent display in "Legends of the Dark Knight." Never mind the way it perfectly captures the pop sensibilities of the 50s and apocalyptic sensibilities of the 90s in the stories it tells; the real joy lies in watching the iconic Sprang and Miller creations come to life. On more subtle but very real display is the Timm-led crew's appreciation of what changes must be made to give those images maximum force on the animated screen. On the page, Miller's gritty realism gains force from the intricate detail and granite-like poses; his Gotham is unforgiving precisely because everything in it is too hard and fixed to be pushed out of the way. The simpler designs of "Legends" make possible the movement necessary for animation. Similarly for the Sprang designs, which at their best here achieve an almost abtract purity: the world itself curled and carved into the Joker's loopy logic.

But enough guff. The best way to appreciate the art of BTAS is to contemplate the Timm-produced and -directed images directly. Visit The Bruce Timm Gallery to see many excellent Timm-works.

Related Episodes
   * Torch Song
   * Almost Got 'Im
   * Holiday Knights
   * I've Got Batman in My Basement

What Others Are Saying ...
"Classic premise."Two-Face's Tower of Tranquility and Terror

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