The second episode produced for ‘BtAS‘ was planned as the big introduction for two major characters to the animated universe: The Joker and Dick Grayson/Robin. The episode would also the first starring role for supporting cast member Summer Gleason, the ‘BtAS‘ equivalent of journalist Vicki Vale from the comics and ‘Batman‘ 1989.
‘Christmas with the Joker‘ first aired on 13th November 1992 as the series 38th episode putting slightly closer to Christmas than the shows September debut on US screens.
The story sees Joker escape Arkham Asylum on Christmas Eve and he has a special Christmas planned for Batman and Robin. Kidnapping Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleeson, and Harvey Bullock, he threatens to kill them at midnight. Of course, things are never easy with the Joker and he sets a few disasters in motion to keep Batman and Robin busy that Christmas night.
In stark contrast to ‘On Leather Wings‘ (reviewed here) this episode is much lighter in tone and successfully shows a lighter side to the ‘BtAS‘ world. Any fan of comics is aware of The Joker and what he stands for and also aware that it wouldn’t be appropriate to depict his true character in animated form so instead what we get is a brilliant construct of manic and clown. His actions can cause laughs from the audience but at the same time he remains a threat.
Robin’s character does feel a little shoehorned in to this episode but mainly due to the last of a proper introduction, something with the show then rectifies during the brilliant ‘Robin’s Reckoning‘ two-part episode later in the season. After only one episode he appears as though he has always been there only which is just a bit jarring.
Voiced by Loren Lester Dick/Robin has the right mix of youthful energy and angst to fit in well with Kevin Conroy’s iconic Batman without resulting on becoming an annoying Scrappy Doo type character.
The character design for Robin also fits in well with the rest of the series design. His colour scheme stands out more against the dark backdrops but less so than an animated representation of Burt Ward would.
The animation continues to be top-notch for a show of it’s era with the episode taking the Dynamic Duo out of Gotham in to the hills following the train giving the animators chance to contrast the dark deco city with a more snowy countryside appearance… still at night of course.
Much like Robin does the Joker brings more vibrancy to the show. We’re not yet fully introduced to his purple suit due to the Christmas jumper he wears to celebrate the holidays but still his nature is colourful in visual and metaphoric terms.
Musically this episode follows the Elfman-inspired feel of ‘On Leather Wings‘. Shirley Walker has done a brilliant job working on DC/Warner properties over the years and the recent soundtrack album releases only serve to prove this more.
The Joker theme…..
This episode could have been used as the first in the series, playing on the familiar villain and using Robin to identify more with the young audience but it plays well where ever you might watch it in ‘BtAS‘ rewatch.