Your Childhood is Batman


Chris: Hurry! Run to your collections of Batman: The Animated Series right now! Good, grab the first DVD and stick it into your DVD player! Did it still work? Oh thank God, I was so certain by the reaction people had to last week’s debate that I had somehow erased that series forever. Phew, close one there.

See, I get the reaction that people have to the 1987 Ninja Turtles cartoon winning the debate of “best” comic-based cartoon against Batman. Both are well-loved, but only one has the GD Batman in it and too many people find it impossible to look beyond that (though yes, some of you did look to Batman Beyond, which didn’t technically come from the comics so it wouldn’t have counted anyway).

I’m supposed to go into arguments that Kyle should have made for Batman and against TMNT, but I don’t want to, because again, I get it. I said I liked a thing that isn’t the same thing you liked and as a result, I must be either a. An idiot, b. An asshole, c. Forgetful, or d. All of the above. There are some hard truths that people just don’t seem to fathom because their gut reactions get in the way of obvious thinking, so let me go through the usual motions and explain myself a bit better.

Yes, I am a fan of Batman: The Animated Series. Yes, I do in fact think it is the best made comic-based cartoon both at the time and again on every rewatch. No, it’s not my favorite. No, Kyle and I couldn’t both pick the same side in a debate. Some viewers get that. Some viewers don’t understand how a debate works.

Let’s go back to high school now (or jump ahead to high school if you’re some of our younger viewers). I took some Speech and Debate classes and over the course of three years or so, I got a chance to engage in a lot of debates about very clearly one-sided arguments. When you walk to the front of the class and your teacher tells you you’ll be arguing for why same-sex marriage should be banned and your opponent immediately says that it shouldn’t be, the only thing that goes through your head is, “Shit.” You are now the bad guy, regardless of how well you come up with arguments that support your case.

We decided to do the best comic-based cartoon and Kyle got Batman. “Shit.”

Honestly, I didn’t expect to win this debate unless I did exactly what you’re supposed to do in debates: Change the parameters to fit the argument you can best use. The quality of the two shows aren’t able to compete as Batman is better for so many reasons, so deciding that “best” meant “most competently made” would be a bad choice to argue from. However, define “best” as “biggest cultural impact and propagation of the brand” easily swings the debate into my favor. Is that cheating? No, that’s debating correctly. Kyle could have stopped me and said, “Hey, best doesn’t mean what you think it does,” but he seemed to agree with my redefinition and allowed it to proceed. That’s how debate works, and if your opponent doesn’t see what you’re doing, then that means you’re doing it right.

At the end of the episode we mentioned that Kyle, Dan, and myself argued for what seemed to be another episode’s worth of debates and I wasn’t kidding there. We took the most time of any previous episode to stop and look this over as Dan really couldn’t pick a definite or obvious winner. He knew what everyone wanted him to say (Batman), but he couldn’t just brush it aside as the assumption is that Batman always wins and that’s not fair to just say that any debate with Batman must always end with him being the victor. We talked for another 15 minutes before Dan put his foot down and stated that TMNT won the debate based on how I had shifted it. This wasn’t just something we decided upon because “Whatever, let’s mess with people.” I’m sure Dan has the full explanation in his part (“Chris is just a sexy beast sometimes”).

But I’m not done debating just yet. A few people in the comments brought up how Batman has won more awards, which is utterly meaningless for “best” status. You know that Chris Brown just won some Grammys, right? Does that make him better than Dragonforce? Also, The King’s Speech won the Oscar for Best Picture. Is that movie better than The Avengers? Awards don’t mean a thing. I think Batman: The Animated Series is a great show, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still my favorite. Am I wrong for thinking that?

Shh, don’t answer that.


Kyle: While many folks made the argument that Chris made a huge error in argument (in regards to a cartoon revitalizing a franchise being equal to being the better show), I’d say the argument held water.

However, Chris did refrain from taking some big shots at me. To start, the turtles were capable of self-deprecations and self-referencing. For instance, the Neutrinos and the featured episodes with the Battle Toads and Usagi Yojimbo.

Here we have a show that knows damn well how silly it is, and is willing to have fun with its batshit premise by giving us a barrage of mutant animals or stereotype teenagers.

Also, while Batman: TAS had a great thing going with time setting (clothing style and vehicles suggested the forties or fifties, technology suggested 2005 or so, and the show was made in late ’80s and early ’90s), TMNT had a very concrete spot in time (time travel notwithstanding).

So not only is it easier to compartmentalize the timeframe, it sets the series up for a bigger nostalgia factor.

And for those of you who argue that TMNT holds no real appeal for adults, never underestimate that nostalgia. We haven’t had a big TMNT event since that third flick, so the show holds more magic because of it. Meanwhile, Batman has had a big, successful decade in movies and comics. So the good juju for the animated series loses power when submerged in all that win. Sorry, but that’s the price of good comic movies.

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Dan: Much like Lucy after Ricky came home to find five Asian prostitutes dead on the floor of her apartment, I have a lot of ‘splaning to do. What, you never saw that episode? It’s there, trust me.

Never have so many fans doubted my judging skills on a episode as with this one. With this week’s upcoming episode being our one year anniversary (I know, I thought we’d be dead by now too), it’s impressive that I have caused the biggest controversy only now. Rest assured, reasons existed for the turtles pulling out a win, and Chris laid it out pretty well earlier in this article. The debate was best comic book-based cartoon, not simply best cartoon. Since all arguments had to be viewed using that extra filter, I hope you will find my choice more understandable.

First point went to Kyle for the strong argument right out of the gate that Batman: TAS was so great that we are still seeing Batman media today that was partially influenced by the show. Know why the voice acting in Arkham Asylum and City were so great? It’s because those voice actors had seasons to practice from the cartoon series. It’s very important to remember that.

Oh, and before I go on, yes I got the numerical rule of everything being porn on the internet wrong. Honestly I don’t feel like a bad person for not knowing that by heart. In fact, I think I’m pretty proud of it.

Ok, back to points. Chris nabbed the next point with something that I think eventually won him the argument. Without the original ninja turtles cartoon, no one but a select few would even know they existed. That one cartoon launched a million bazillion dollar toy franchise, spawned several remake series, a CG movie with A-list voice talent, and had a theme song that children exit the womb knowing the lyrics to. Keeping in mind we are judging the best comic book-based cartoon, I think the sheer legs that this cartoon has given that cult hit comic book are much longer than the Batman: TAS legs, even if the Batman legs were more shapely. Other anthropomorphized characters have tried to recreate the formula, with no results to speak of.

Kyle pulled ahead with the observation that Batman: TAS was a perfect melding of the child-friendly Adam West and the child-murdering Frank Miller. Fair enough, it’s hard to imagine another way to bridge those two together, especially with modern batman trying to explain away some of the earlier zany storylines with drug use. In fact, as I type this Family Guy is in the background, and Adam West himself just yelled at his own hand for being a slut. That’s the G#$ Damn Batman right there.

Chris comes back with another really strong point that many may dismiss as silly, but for being improvisational it really is quite a deep thought. He mentions the Tim Burton movies and the Adam West series, but boiling it down he basically said Batman: TAS is not the main reason Batman is popular today. Especially if comparing to the fact that the turtles cartoon is totally the reason we know of them now. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel is part of the human vernacular. Everyone knows it not only as fans of the Bat, but as fans of classic TV. As much as everyone is yelling at us how great the animated series is, I can’t think of a single quote that someone who doesn’t even like Batman would know. If the turtles only had the 2003 cartoon, or just the comic book and the live action movies going for it, I don’t think anyone would know what Italian food turtles love best.

I know, I know, more points for Chris? I gave him this point because in all honesty, I didn’t know that the turtles started as a comic book until Chris told me. I thought the cartoon was their birth place. So that is the power of this cartoon for the world, a power that no amount of Emmys will get for Batman: TAS.

Usually I don’t award points so close to each other due to not wanting to give two tallies for the same argument, but Chris saying that most of us consider the cartoon to be the main source of canon for the turtles more so than any other cartoon, movie or comic is different enough that it deserved honoring. Again, we are comparing comic book-based cartoons, and while Batman: TAS is used as source material for the two new Batman video games, they are basically Batman: TAS : the video game. Nolan’s Batman movies are still working off classic storylines from the comics, whereas the turtles reboot by Bay-splotion is being booed because it strays too far from the cartoon series. No one is bringing up the comic books because no one remembers them, and the live-action movies had time travel and Vanilla Ice in them, so there’s really nothing left to spoil there.

Kyle finally got a word in edgewise, and a good one at that. Basically making the same point Chris made, Kyle brought up the fact that even really good Batman series are still in the shadow of the original Batman series. Batman Beyond is often polarizing yet ultimately understood as pretty kick-ass, and Justice League: Anything is always great when Batman shows up. Yet they all still get compared to the series with the art deco vibe and the Luke Skywalker Joker.

Kyle then tied it up with his final go by making the argument that a lot of the comments seemed to echo, that Batman: TAS had a much broader target audience than the turtles. Yes, this was the point where we considered the still worth watching nature of the Batman episodes, as well as the awards they garnered. Turtles were one-dimensional, sure, we get it. Didn’t stop you from spending all the moneys on their toys now, did it?

And finally, Chris comes back with a point that honestly was more of a half point by stating that the theme song of the turtles cartoon can be sung by anyone born in the 80s. This argument was funny and true, yet ultimately it stood as a placeholder for the 15 to 20 minute discussion we had once the camera was shut off on who won. Remember, we have to choose who won while we are still filming, so we can film the reaction to said victory. As much as we all agreed that Batman: TAS was the better cartoon, work of art, and all around entertainment media, the fact that the turtles cartoon was the “Bottom brick” of the turtle universe couldn’t be ignored. Remove Batman: TAS and Batman still stands; Remove the turtles cartoon and, well, you have that cartoon where sharks fought someone. See, I can’t even remember the title.

I hope everyone realizes that every debate we have is self-contained, and if we did it again the result might have come out differently. Using the arguments that were made, and keeping in mind that being a cartoon based on a comic book was always a filter that had to be looked through, this is where the chips fell. See you next week for our one year episode. I’m going to watch the first few seasons of Batman: TAS now, because it is more entertaining to watch.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.