This is a guest post by Quinn Rollins, a man who loves all things geek but especially Muppets and LEGO. You can find him on twitter @jedikermit.
My first time meeting Batman was alongside most of the other members of the Justice League from DC Comics, in the 1970s cartoon “Super Friends”. Because yeah, I’m super-damn old. Whether it was the small original roster of Superman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman and Wonder Woman, or the expanded roster of “Challenge of the Super Friends,” I loved that show. I loved sidekicks (even more sidekick than Robin, which is hard to do) Marvin and Wendy, and especially the Wonder Twins. I still do, despite the clunky animation and the repetitive storylines. I’m not supposed to. I’m supposed to like my Dark Knight Extra Dark, with a Side of Bone-Shattering Violence. But my Bat-love is rooted in those cartoons. Batman and Robin were a part of nearly every episode, and they were always together as Batman-and-Robin, the Dynamic Duo, the Caped Crusaders.
This Hanna-Barbera series started its run in 1973, and ran for over a decade in different incarnations. My favorite is probably “Challenge of the Super Friends,” which had an eleven-member Justice League going up against the thirteen-member Legion of Doom. This Legion of Doom included two members of Batman’s rogues gallery, Scarecrow and Riddler. They were both kind of silly and ineffectual, but heavy-hitters Joker and Penguin were off-limits to Hanna-Barbera during the two seasons that Challenge was in production.
The “Super Friends”Batman still had everything that made him Batman, and cemented certain things about the character for me. All of his gadgets: the Batmobile, his Batjet, Batcopter, sometimes even a Batrocket. Gotham City and his Batcave were referenced in several episodes, although rarely seen. Like the other Super Friends, he treated the Hall of Justice in Metropolis as him home base, and the Batcopter and other vehicles would launch from that iconic headquarters. Batman played a leadership role on the team. He was still a detective, albeit in a kind of watered-down way. Instead of fighting his own rogues gallery, he was usually up against international and interplanetary threats.
Batman was just badass enough for me to see him as a true superhero, even without true superpowers. One of my favorite episodes had the Justice League all frozen into a capsule and launched onto the surface of another planet; it wasn’t Superman or Green Lantern that saved them…it was a tiny laser from Batman’s utility belt. That was Batman’s primary tool on the series, but also his main weakness. Batman and Robin held their own with the other heroes, but all it would take is depriving them of their utility belts to take away their "powers."
A little-known fact is that the “Super Friends” cartoon (in one of its later iterations, “Galactic Guardians”) is the first time that Batman’s tragic origin was seen on screen. In the episode “The Fear”, Scarecrow poisons him with fear toxin, forcing Batman to relive the murder of his parents in Crime Alley. This season of Super Friends also had Batman voiced by Adam West, which made the episode both more poignant and, surprisingly, well-acted.
Most bizarre for 21st Century Bat-fans, the “Super Friends” Batman smiled. He made jokes. He was friendly. Batman was always teamed with Robin, but was also a primary mentor for the other teen sidekicks. When the Wonder Twins had a problem, it was usually Batman who would give them the advice they needed. That fatherly (maybe avuncular) role also helped me connect to Batman as a pup; he was someone I could trust. There's still something of that Batman in my mental image of what Batman "should be." He was a powerful man, but someone kind enough to approach with your fears. As an adult, I certainly don’t think that every Batman should be like that, but there are pieces of that personality that surface in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” and it was refreshing. Over the last 75 years, there have been dozens of Bat-men. This one is special to me. He was my first Batman. I'll never get over that. And I don’t want to.