It probably won’t surprise anyone to find out that lately, I’ve been re-watching “Batman: The Animated Series” on DVD, and while I remember the high points of most of the stories, I’d almost forgotten how great the title cards were. Aesthetically, they were one of the defining elements of the show’s art deco / noir-inspired look, mimicking the title cards and trailers of classic films. Check out my personal top 10 favorites below.
Be A Clown: Given how dark the show was — and by that i mean actually dark; it was drawn on black paper — it’s a given that it often boasted a great use of shadows. The distinctive silhouette of the Joker leading a child away to a Ferris wheel is every bit as creepy as it should be.
Mad As a Hatter: This is one of the few title cards that wasn’t done in the distinctive Bruce Timm style, and the classic storybook look of it works very well for the episode.
Nothing to Fear: Another great use of shadows, the soft edges of the Scarecrow’s silhouette does a great job evoking the fear gas that he uses in the episode.
Joker’s Favor: I know I’ve mentioned how good the use of shadows on this show was. But this one’s just perfect, and it’s a testament to how good the character designs were that even the Joker’s shadow can be this menacing when it falls across a poor guy who had the bad luck to cross his path.
One of the most beloved episodes of the series, “Harley’s Holiday” is also the only title card that didn’t use black as its primary color, instead going with something that reflects both the lighthearted nature of the episode — well, as lighthearted as you can be in a story of an abused woman being thrown back in an asylum after failing to acclimate to the outside world, anyway — and echoing classic romantic comedies. Also, it’s worth noting that of all the variations on Harley’s costume I’ve seen on cosplayers (and I’ve done my research on this one, I assure you), I’ve never seen anyone sporting her out-on-the-town dress and hat combo. It’s fantastic, and makes for one of the best images from the show.
Riddler’s Reform: “Batman: The Animated Series” was the last place I would’ve expected to see an homage to a classic Spider-Man story, but there’s no getting around the fact that this is clearly evocative of Peter Parker’s decision to quit in “Spider-Man No More”
The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne: A great title, a great episode, and a great card. I think this is one of the only times the series was allowed to show an explicit reference to death in the haunting skull in a sweating Bruce Wayne’s eye.
The Terrible Trio: You can’t tell from the screenshot, but in the episode, the words ‘The Terrible Trio” are actually animated in the style of an old horror trailer. A neat effect for an episode about three guys in fright masks.
I’ll admit right up front that this might just be me, but I love this one. The combination of the insanely over-the-top title being rendered in a note-perfect nod to classic thrillers, the stylized shadowy figure of the Crime Doctor and the menacingly huge syringe between his fingers, it’s all just beautifully stylish and sharply rendered.
The Man Who Killed Batman: With all the praise the show gets for being an almost-perfect realization of Batman’s darker, more serious side, it’s easy to forget that the show was also frequently pretty hilarious. The image of Sid the Squid and his gigantic cartoon eyes would’ve been equally at home on the title card to a Looney Tunes short. If, you know, he didn’t have the word “KILLED” in gigantic sans-serif letters hanging over him. Thats why I have to give this one the top spot.