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The last new episode of Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1995, but the show continued to air in reruns on Fox Kids. The production crew dispersed and many moved on to other projects, but the core staff of Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Paul Dini remained together and produced Superman: The Animated Series for Warner Bros.' fledgling Kids' WB! network. The contract with Fox Kids to air BTAS ran out in 1997, though, and the studio brought the series, which continued to garner strong ratings and prestige, over to join Superman at Kids' WB!.

To "freshen" the package, the studio ordered up a new batch of Batman episodes. Timm's visual style had evolved since the early days of the series, however, and on Superman he and his crew had developed a much more streamlined and graphic look. That style fit well with the bright, jet-modern tone of the Superman series and, because it was relatively spare, allowed for bold, fast-paced and powerful action sequences. Timm was not keen to return to the old style, and instead turned his new design theories on Batman, giving the Dark Knight the same bold and angular look as the Man of Steel. For a brief time there were plans launch the new episodes under the title Batman: Gotham Knights; instead, the Batman and Superman shows were were paired up in an hour-long format under the umbrella title The New Batman/Superman Adventures.

The redesign remains controversial. Batman himself was relatively unchanged (though he lost the gold oval around the bat insignia and the gold belt) and several other villains (such as Clayface and Two Face) looked much as they had in their previous incarnation. But the Mad Hatter became scrawnier and more rat-like; Killer Croc became more reptilian; and Poison Ivy and Catwoman acquired a dead-white pallor that many thought unsexy. Most unnerving was the Joker's redesign. His eyes became black pools with white dots at the center, and his red lips vanished. The "look" was apparently supposed to suggest a grinning skull, but to many the new Joker looked like Yakko Warner's evil uncle. It didn't help that his new episodes tended to be more avowedly comedic.

The new episodes were explicitly set a few years later in the continuity of the Bat-mythos. Robin's long-anticipated break with Batman was dramatized (in flashback) in "Old Wounds," but Dick Grayson returned a few times as new superhero Nightwing. The writers merged and played with the comic books' Robin by introducing Tim Drake as an orphaned street urchin who is taken in by Bruce Wayne. And Barbara Gordon joined the Bat-family full-time as Batgirl.

During Superman the producers had changed their writing set-up so as to ensure a steadier flow of high-quality product. During BTAS they had procured a large number of their scripts from freelancers and outside submissions, with results that varied from the adequate to the dire. But staff writers Stan Berkowitz, Robert Goodman, Rich Fogel and Hilary Bader brought a solid, professional touch to such stories as "Never Fear," "Judgement Day" and "Mean Seasons." Other highlights of the new batch included "Legends of the Dark Knight," which adapted the design styles of Dick Sprang and Frank Miller to the animated form, and "Mad Love," adapted by Dini and Timm from their own Eisner-winning graphic novel. The pairing with Superman also led to three crossover stories: "Knight Time," "The Demon Reborn" and the three-part "World's Finest," the latter of which won the show a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

The last new episode premiered in January 1999 (though "The Demon Reborn," which was technically a Superman episode, premiered in September of that year), and the show continued airing on Kids' WB! until the fall of 2000.

Batman Animated
Modern Masters Vol. 3: Bruce Timm
The Big Cartoon Database
Toon Zone
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