2004’s The Batman – The Show that Time Forgot

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by | Nov 9, 2022 | Film & TV

Why was 2004's The Batman animated series so easily forgotten when it is easily one of the best takes on Batman anywhere on the small screen?

While there have been many Batman TV shows over the years, many more featuring the character in some capacity, it’s easy for some to be forgotten altogether. One in particular is 2004’s The Batman animated TV show, a series that ultimately deserves so much attention and praise than it ever received. For a show that had five whole seasons it’s amazing how easily this show is left on the shelf, why do people not talk about it? Here we discuss why The Batman not only deserves your attention but also why it’s portrayal of the character and his story should not be overlooked.

2004's The Batman


The series focuses on a young Batman in his early days of fighting crime in Gotham. Many of his classic villains he is shown meeting for the first time and his detective skills and fighting prowess are yet to be put into practice. Bruce Wayne is also shown to be just as much a main character as The Batman himself. He has somewhat of a social life which shows in his interactions with the people close to him, this initially being Alfred his trusty butler and his friend in the GCPD Ethan Bennet.

Being a younger crime fighter his inexperience and stubbornness is blatant, he is a Batman that’s vulnerable. Second episode in (spoiler alert) The Batman goes up against Bane and well, loses. His failure so early on in his journey makes him question the very necessity of his mission and he considers giving up the cape and cowl forever.

While some people often think of Batman as this unstoppable hero that can take on any foe despite having no superpowers, those people miss a vital part of The Batmans character. The human part. Bruce Wayne is just a man, with the same weaknesses as all men, not just physical but psychological as well. Guilt, shame, self doubt, fear of failure. It is his ability to overcome these obstacles that make him such an admirable and relatable superhero. It’s an element of the character shown heavily in the show and is an integral part of what makes The Batman so faithful to the source material.


Something the show is often critiqued for is its adaptation of Batmans rogues gallery. While some have only minor changes others have a drastically different look and personality. The most divisive of these characters of course being Joker. As a side note it’s an intention in the show that Joker is never referred to as THE Joker and simply just Joker. Whereas Batman is mostly referred to as THE Batman. A simple play on their comic book counterpart’s names.

2004's The Batman

Joker has a much more barbaric look to him in comparison to other incarnations of the character, with longer hair and crooked teeth with a strange passion of not wearing any footwear and sporting a stylised straight jacket as a costume (though in later seasons this is swapped out for his traditional purple waistcoat).

He is also shown to be the most combat efficient of all on screen Jokers as in his first encounter with The Batman we are shown his acrobatic fighting style that throws off even The Dark Knight himself. It’s rare to see a Joker that can go head to head with Batman in a physical fight, often being shown as the cunning coward who uses henchmen to do his dirty work. While these elements are still part of his character he is also just as deadly in hand to hand combat. These characteristics combine to create a truly unique and memorable Joker that sets itself apart from those that came before (and after).

2004's The Batman


Other notable mentions include The Riddler, whose darker persona and sinister puzzle traps make this iteration of the character more in line with the one we see in Matt Reeves’s The Batman than the typical narcissistic know it all shown in Batman: The Animated Series. His costume design is also greatly different from other interpretations, as is the case with many of the villains in the series.

Mr Freeze is a prime example with his helmet being literally encased in jagged ice rather than the iconic fishbowl head we know and love. The red eyes contrast so naturally through that pale helm that gives the character a far more intimidating presence than one would often associate with Mr Freeze. Rather than a freeze gun he built the freeze technology into his suit, allowing him to shoot ice directly from his hands. If this doesn’t convince you to give this show a watch I don’t know what will.

While these character redesigns are often criticised for their over the top cartoon style and a ploy to increase toy sales, they never felt out of place within the world the show had built for itself. The Gotham City of 2004’s The Batman is full of sharp contrast, dark shadows and edgy 2000’s angst. These characters certainly reflect that and it shows the show writers weren’t afraid to try something new and break away from the status quo.


What was so interesting about the early seasons of the show is its lack of iconic Batman support characters, it brought in characters of its own that the audience still cared about and want to root for. Yet it worked. The finale of season one is genuinely heartbreaking as we see someone Bruce deeply cared about fall victim to one of Joker’s schemes, again harkening back to The Batman still being in his early days and not being able to predict every outcome and save every life put in front of him. He makes mistakes and his mistakes have consequences, just like anyone else.

Not to worry though, by season three of 2004’s The Batman Jim Gordon and Batgirl join the crusade and their presence ups the ante in terms of bringing in a new character perspective in the case of young Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). You could say this is where tonally the viewer is reminded this is still a show targeted at kids, as more teen characters get introduced to coincide with Batgirl’s story, as well as a new theme tune which is less grungy and more rock and roll.

Don’t let this put you off however, the show remains a grounded and faithful portrayal of these characters, especially once Robin shows up heading into season four, completing that early Bat family trio fans know so well. His story of a boy orphan taken in by a man still dealing with his own pain of losing his parents is told beautifully and gets deep into the core differences between Batman and Robin.

2004's The Batman


It is easy to compare any piece of Batman media to the iconic and legendary Batman: The Animated Series and it’s successor Batman Beyond. While they certainly set the bar and are considered the ultimate take on Batman anywhere in fiction, it would be wrong to disavow any potential other shows might bring to the character. Being the first show to come after the iconic animated series, 2004’s The Batman TV show was unjustly overlooked.

Yet now we live in an age where Batman is everywhere in all forms of media, the world cannot get enough of this character and the world in which he resides. There is enough room for shows like The Batman to take risks and try and bring something new and exciting while also keeping that faithfulness to the character’s mythos. While we may never see this series in particular return to screens it shines as a symbol of hope for further DC animated shows that can learn from The Batman’s example. If you’re in the mood for a grounded and modern take on the caped crusader, look no further than 2004’s The Batman. The TV show that time forgot, but us fans never will.

You’ll find more articles on Batman here.



Written by George Cooper

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