The New Batman Adventures is like fine wine; it gets better with age but gets you drunk whenever it is consumed (I actually know nothing about wine). The series takes place a couple of years after the end of the third season of Batman: The Animated Series. The first three seasons of B:TAS held a large adult audience, while The New Adventures was changed slightly to appeal more to children than adults. Changes such as new designs for characters and a small change in animation style were implemented. Seemingly everyone I have talked to has preferred the style of the original three seasons and I am often inclined to agree, though not always.
The seventh episode of The New Adventures is titled “The Joker’s Millions” and is based off of the 50’s comic of the same name. The Joker inherits over two hundred million dollars from Edward “King” Barlowe, a former enemy of his. Later on it is revealed that Barlowe duped him; he only left him ten million dollars. The IRS informs Mr. J that he owes them over one hundred thirty million dollars in taxes, so he is faced with a dilemma. He could tell the government that he was tricked, thereby becoming a laughing stock, or he would go to jail. He decides, of course, to steal money to avoid going to jail, and of course Batman goes after him. On the surface this sounds like a straightforward episode, and it is, but it is the lightheartedness of the episode that makes it really stand out.
This is an example of a great episode that works well due to the changes that were made for the fourth season. The original comic was made during a time when Batman comics were comical and the Joker was a harmless clown. Clearly that seems more child-friendly than the homicidal maniac version of the character, so Bruce Timm and his coworkers realized that the story would work well for them, and boy did it work. “The Joker’s Millions” is one of the series’ funniest episodes.
Every scene in the episode has a joke that works well. From a large man trying out for the role of the new Harley Quinn to a psychologist claiming that he was not bribed by the Joker into falsifying his psychological assessment of him, before driving away in his fancy new car, the episode is filled with many jokes.
The character’s design changes help lighten the mood of the episode, specifically the Joker’s change from a creepy clown to Mickey Mouse. The latter is comical while the original design would, at least on some level, appear creepy while playing with a pile of money. It’s not that B:TAS was never comical (cue “I threw a rock at him!”), quite the contrary, it is simply that the animation for this particular episode fits very well with the tone. Also, if I might add, the animation for The New Adventures in general is very nice and is very smooth, while the original series’ animation was occasionally too blocky when characters moved.
The episode works extremely well even as an adaptation, successfully adapting the 50’s comic by working characters that did not exist in the original comic into the story. Like the comic, the episode is consistently funny and entertaining, with great art and storytelling that works well. Normally I would mention the episode’s flaws and go into details on how they impacted the show, though I cannot now. For me this is a perfect Batman episode. It may not be the noir Batman that I love but it is something just as good.
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