A mere 25 years ago this week, a ground breaking television hit the airwaves: Batman: The Animated Series. Developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, Batman: The Animated Series made its television debut on September 5th, 1992 on Fox Kids. Later renamed The Adventures of Batman and Robin, then given a slight re-boot and called The New Batman Adventures, the series all told would run from September 92 to January 99.
Not only did the Animated Series spawn a theatrical movie, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, but created what would be known as the “Timmverse;” a number of subsequent animated series based on BTAS in style and tone. Shows like Superman, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited all followed the ground work set by Batman: The Animated Series.
Which brings us to the reason I gathered you here today: the toys. Produced by Kenner Toys, the first wave of action figures (featuring Batman, Robin, Riddler and the Penguin) were released in time with the show’s debut. The Kenner’s line of figures would go on to spawn 4 waves then be followed up by a multiple of variations, mostly re-tools and re-paints. When The New Batman Adventures premiered in September 1997, Hasbro was there with figures based on the series’ updated, more stylized look.
DC Collectibles would debut a new line of figures based on the Animated Series in 2014. Batman (from The New Batman Adventures) and Catwoman (from Batman: The Animated Series) hit store pegs in November 2014. The new line was more than an update to the old Kenner figures. DC Collectibles figures measured 6 inches in height and featured multiple points of articulation, accessories and even a figure stand.
And what better way to celebrate 25 years of Batman: The Animated Series, then looking at ya boy’s favorite collectibles from the line. From Kenner, to Hasbro to DC Collectibles, we’ll cover all the lines and all the series here, starting with:
Kenner Batman: The Animated Series Man-Bat
From Series 2 of Kenner’s Batman: The Animated Series, Man-Bat debuted in 1993. The 5-inch figure featured articulated flapping wings and came with a tow rope. What makes Man-Bat so great? Only everything about him. With his wings extended, it was the biggest figure of the then line. Want to flap those wings? Press the button on his back and give Batman the fright of his life.
DC Collectibles Tales of the Dark Knight 3-pack
Take what could be the greatest Batman stories ever told, throw it into the Timm-verse blender and you get four plus minutes of pure Nirvana. Bruce Timm and crew take an excerpt from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and build an episode around it. On October 10, 1998 the episode “Legends of the Dark Knight” debuted on television featuring Frank Miller’s versions of Batman and Robin done up in the Animated style.
In early in 2017, DC Collectibles released a 3-pack based on The Dark Knight Returns portion of the episode. Batman, Carrie Kelley as Robin, and the Mutant Leader all come together for this DC Collectibles’ ode to Frank Miller’s seminal work.
Kenner Batman: The Animated Series Robin
From the initial wave of figures, comes Robin the Boy Wonder. Kenner’s figure included a “turbo” glider with “droppable” missiles (seems a bit out of character for Bruce Wayne’s young ward dropping missiles on bad guys. But, who am I to judge?).
What made this figure cool, wasn’t the turbo glider, though. It was the fact that Robin’s costume (FINALLY) got updated. Inspired by Tim Drake’s new Robin costume from DC Comics, the Animated Series Robin wore pants (no more briefs for Dick Grayson), black boots and a black cape (with the yellow on the inside). Kenner’s new Robin figure reflected all those changes, including Dick’s updated, spiffy haircut.
Kenner Batman: The Animated Series Combat Belt Batman
What kind of Batman: The Animated Series list of toys would we have, if it didn’t include the Batman? Not much, I’d say. Thus, we have the man the whole thing is based on. Combat Belt Batman included a belt (duh) that clipped on to the figure’s torso. It came with handcuffs and a spring-loaded launcher that fired the attached grappling hook or included Batarang.
While the accessories were nice in this case (and yes, they were really meant for kids), this figure by itself is the cat’s pajamas. Of all the subsequent waves and lines, Combat Belt Batman is the figure that most resembles the Dark Knight from the series. And, quite frankly, one of the best of the line.
Kenner/Hasbro The New Batman Adventures 12-inch Joker
With the slightly rebooted series, The New Batman Adventures, hitting TV screens in 1997, Hasbro was quick to release figures based on the updated show. Amongst the 5-inch figures was a new line of 12 inch figures (not dolls, btw). Released in 1998, the line consisted of 6 characters: Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, Harley Quinn and the Joker.
While the figures (not dolls) were adequate enough, the Joker was the real star of the line. Based on the Joker’s updated look, the figure (not doll) sported a velvet purple suit and came with a suitcase full of money (not real money), a Joker card and a spring loaded, firing gun.
DC Collectibles The New Batman Adventures Batman
Debuting at Toy Fair 2014, DC Collectibles had prototypes of two figures from it’s upcoming line of Batman: The Animated Series inspired figures: Catwoman and Batman. With the new line, DC Collectibles took what was fun about the old Kenner toys, and made it even better. Starting with jacking the figures up from Kenner’s 5 inch scale to the more modern 6 inch scale. Tossing in features like multiple points of articulation (crammed with ball-joints, double hinged joints and the like) and a ton of accessories, the figures were more fun then is probably allowed in the state of Tennessee. And, maybe even Arkansas.
While it was a little odd that DC Collectibles kicked off a line of figures based on the Animated series with the Batman from the show’s predecessor, they got no complaints from me. Beings that the designs from The New Batman Adventures were far superior to the original.
DC Collectibles’ Batman came with all the fore-mentioned goodies, along with two capes, several sets of hands (in various states of openness), assorted weapons and a fancy figure stand (which helped keep the somewhat top heavy figures upright).
DC Collectibles Batman: The Animated Series Jim Gordon
Hard to believe, but Kenner never released a Commissioner Jim Gordon figure. In 2016, DC Collectibles righted a wrong from long ago, by giving Gordon his due and releasing him as a figure. In his brown overcoat, brown slacks and brown shoes (man, that cat wore a lot of brown), Jim Gordon featured the show’s trendy upswept white hair and mustache. The figure came with a bull horn, revolver and two additional sets of hands (in various states of openness).
While not the most dynamic or colorful of characters, a line of Animated figures without Jim Gordon is like a BLT without the tomato. Sure you can live without it, but it’s better when it’s there.
Kenner/Hasbro The New Batman Adventures Crime Solver Nightwing
Do you know how long we waited for a Nightwing figure, let alone one in his updated costume? A long time (and that Kenner Legends of the Batman Nightwing figure with his yellow “necklace” doesn’t count). Hasbro finally released the long hoped for figure in 1998. Based on Dick Grayson’s new look from DC Comics 1995 revamp, Nightwing (much like all the characters in the updated The New Batman Adventures animated series) was a simple figure: All in black with the exception of Nightwing’s blue bird across the torso.
The figure also came with accessories. Doesn’t really matter what they were. Neither did the fact that Nightwing only had 5 points of articulation and didn’t stand well. We finally got a black-suited, blue-birded Nightwing!
Kenner Batman: The Animated Series Clayface
Talk about a simple figure. A measly two points of articulation! That’s it! Still, Clayface is my favorite figure of the Kenner line. You gotta love the molded lumps of clay that make up the figure. And just look at the expression on his face. Yellow eyes. Crooked yellow teeth…it’s great! Right out of the Animated Series.
Suresuresure, Clayface can’t change into any other characters like in the show (which is a lil disappointing), but if you lift up his left arm and squeeze his torso the included spiked ball flies out of his arm! Which, is almost as good as being able to change into other characters.
DC Collectibles Batman: The Animates Series Batman Expressions Pack
Early in 2017, DC Collectibles introduced what could be the ultimate Batman: The Animated Series figure: Batman Expressions Pack. Based on Batman’s look from the original series, the figure featured a yellow and black bat emblem, grey suit with yellow belt, black cowl, cape, gloves and boots. In addition, the figure also included 6 heads (all with different Batman expressions including an unmasked Bruce Wayne head), three capes, several hands (in various states of openness) and all sorts of weaponry. Everything you could possibly need to make the perfect Animated Series Batman.
DC Collectibles Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile
Yes. The greatest incarnation of the Batmobile done justice by DC Collectibles. Revealed at Toy Fair 2015, Batman’s ride would be released late in 2015. And, believe you me, it was worth the wait. Measuring 24 inches long, the BTAS Batmobile had working headlights, break lights and engine. Not to mention real, rolling wheels and a canopy that could slide open to reveal a cockpit big enough to fit two DC Collectibles figures.
It. Was. Glorious. (and still is).
The Batmobile was so impressive, ya boy even did a show about it (how bout that for a plug!??!). If you really want to know how great the DC Collectibles Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile is, you should watch it. I’ll even include the link for ya: