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Batman Animated

Batman, Bruce Timm, and animation fans finally have the glossy coffee table book they've always wanted of the caped crusader. Aaron Severson takes a look.

This much-anticipated volume, co-authored by producer and series co-creator Paul Dini, chronicles the development of the highly popular Batman animated television series from its conception in 1990 to its premiere in 1992, and beyond to its recent make over, and the creation of two feature-length spinoffs, Mask of the Phantasm and Sub-Zero. Paul Dini may be the book's co-author, but artist Bruce Timm's striking visual designs for Batman and his world are the stars. The book is lavishly illustrated with Timm's character designs, as well as model artwork, backgrounds, and storyboards from Warner Bros.' archives. Some choice artwork is included. For example, Eric Radomski's lovely background studies and the designs for the "Legends of the Dark Knight" episode based on the styles of Batman artists Dick Sprang and Frank Miller are particular treats. Surprisingly, however, there are almost no stills. It's too bad: while the finished animation of many cartoons often fails to match the sophistication of the storyboards, Batman is a rare exception. It would have been interesting to see the storyboard art side-by-side with images from the finished episodes. Also curious is the inclusion of many dramatically lit photos of action figures and other merchandise. While attractively shot by photographer Geoff Spear, they seem out of place, especially since Spear and co-author Chip Kidd recently authored another book, Batman Collected (Bullfinch Press, 1996), devoted entirely to Batman collectibles. Dini and Kidd make an effort to acknowledge the considerable talents of production artists like Eric Radomski and Ted Blackman (who both designed the film noir landscape of Gotham City), Shayne Poindexter (who designed many of the vehicles), and Ronaldo Del Carmen (one of the principal storyboard artists). Board artists, background painters, and other creative staff tend to be unsung heroes in high-profile cartoons while the producers, character designers, and voice actors get the spotlight; it's nice to see them get their due. The production values of Batman Animated are very high, but the layout, designed by Kidd, while striking, is unnecessarily cluttered. The predominantly white-on-black text is sometimes difficult to read and, overall, the book seems designed to be browsed rather than read. Readers hoping for more minutiae on storylines and characters, or for a more detailed episode guide rather than the short capsules provided, may be disappointed, although the complete list of voice credits is a nice touch. Also, there is only a very brief mention of the new series, Batman Beyond, which is set to debuted in January `99. In summary, this is a nicely packaged coffee table book that will delight animation lovers and fans of Bruce Timm's artwork. Dedicated followers of the series, however, may wish for a little more substance. Batman Animated by Paul Dini and Chip Kidd. New York City, New York: HarperEntertainment (HarperCollins Publishers), 1998. 144 pages. ISBN: 0-0675-7531-5 (hbk.), 0-0610-7327-X (pbk.) (U.S. $50 hardcover, $25 paperback) Batman Animated may be purchased in the Animation World Store. Aaron Severson is a comic book historian and animation professional who has worked on animated series including Extreme Dinosaurs, Pocket Dragon Adventures, and Roswell Conspiracies. He lives in Los Angeles.