“I am vengeance. I am the night. I am also… A PODCAST!”
From there, the familiar Danny Elfman opening theme song ushers in another episode of Batman: The Animated Podcast, but now accompanied by operatic singers who, in song, tell us what the show is about. Quite simply – it’s a podcast about Batman that features people who worked on the classic animated series.
Justin Michael is our host, and although I was not familiar with him, or his other podcast, Before You Were Funny, prior to this podcast, he’s proven to be a rock solid anchor for this show. His love of the animated series shines through with each episode and he’s more than capable of keeping the conversation flowing and funny – not as easy as it sounds. He makes no apologies over the fact that BTAS is his all time favorite show, and for that alone, the show works, fueled by passion.
The podcast recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, but it didn’t take long for it to find its rhythm early on. Each episode kicks things off with Today’s Fan, where Justin talks with a fan of the show about the episode and they go off on a number of tangents about their introduction to the show, their reactions to what events took place in the episode, and anything else that comes to mind. These fans are, more often than not, people working in various capacities in the entertainment industry from writing cartoons to improv performers and everything in between. It’s a great way to get the ball rolling with humorous asides and insights that are reminiscent of the types of conversation you might overhear at your local comic shop or in line for a panel at a convention.
This part though just scratches the surface before we move on to the special guests.
As far as guests go, it’s been a pretty impressive line up so far. Justin’s guest list runs the gamut from writers to directors to actors to even composers from the series. Actors include Jeffrey Combs (Scarecrow), Loren Lestor (Robin, Nightwing), Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn), Diane Pershing (Poison Ivy), and even Batman himself, Kevin Conroy. Plenty of behind the scenes talents also swing by such as famed voice director Andrea Romano, writer/producer Alan Burnett, and Paul Dini, who has become somewhat of a recurring guest to my delight.
Even if we didn’t have talent from behind the show appearing as guests, this would still be a worthy podcast dedicated to BTAS, keeping the conversation going about this one-of-kind superhero cartoon that launched the DCAU as we know it. The guests who worked on the show are truly the icing on the cake, elevating this above your average fan podcast and taking it to the next level. It’s like an extended behind-the-scenes look at the show, providing us with commentary tracks that we never got on the DVD box sets.
While the real meat of the podcast is diving into each episode and dissecting what went into it as well as well as learning some behind-the-scenes facts about what the writing/scoring/acting process was like, the show does advertise itself as an audio variety show for your ears about Batman the Animated Series and it lives up to that claim with semi-regular bits thrown in there.
The most regular bit is the fake commercials, which often tie into the featured episode in one way or another such as The Nightwing insta-mullet – “Be a man, grow a mullet!” or ArkhamSingles.com – a dating service for the absolutely desperate. Those commercials benefit from getting the guest actors involved and in on the fun with Loren in character as Nightwing and Combs reprising the role of Scarecrow, which really elevates them. The very first ad poked fun at the police blimps, which are prominently featured in the show’s opening – “police blimps, the most inefficient way to patrol Gotham’s skies.” While the “sponsored” ads can be hit-or-miss, I still appreciate the effort that goes into them and they beat real ads any day.
The bit that got old for me real fast, however, was the Pod Quest Cast, a serialized story broken up into multiple parts, which utilized characters from the host’s closet such as a “stinky old egg” and a podcast mayor of some sort. It felt like I had somehow wandered into another podcast as this bit had next to nothing to do with Batman and was the part of the show that I found myself fast-forwarding through. I can recognize the creativity behind these segments and the fun I’m sure Justin and his cast mates had in recording them, but for me they added little to the show and I was relieved when it came to an end. The side characters from earlier episodes have mostly been abandoned which is to the show’s benefit. And yes, I realize it’s lame on my part to complain about something I’m listening to for free, but other than that small detail, I’m wholeheartedly recommending this podcast!
The most frequent recurring character is Kevin Conroy-bot, a robot who we are told looks identical to Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, but sounds very much like a robot. Kevin Conroy-bot, (or “KCB,” as he is known to his friends), is actually more often than not amusing and gives the show part of its unique flavor. He makes for a colorful sidekick for our host to bounce off of in between segments while setting up the next guest. It’s very much in the vein of a late night show. I could see this kind of interplay on Conan where Justin plays the straight man and is interrupted by Andy during his monologue.
Justin isn’t so well versed in the Batman comic book lore, admittedly, but he makes up for his lack of knowledge there with his informative approach to examining each episode, and his well-researched interviews where it’s clear that he’s done his homework on each guest. His interviewing style is fairly casual and he manages to keep it conversational while also steering the conversation back to the episode at hand if it veers too off-topic.
His background in comedy and improv also helps make for smooth segues and the occasional well-timed pun, ensuring the interview doesn’t get monotonous or worse, boring. I have been very impressed with his ability to ride the line between geeking out over the show and asking the kinds of questions we all want to ask ourselves, but all the while maintaining a professional approach and not veering into awkward convention Q&A territory.
With a steady flow, good pacing, and great musical interludes that utilize each episode’s score, it’s one of the best produced podcasts I’m currently listening to, regardless of subject matter.
Justin just got done interviewing noted pulp author Joe R. Lansdale (how does he keep scoring these awesome guests?!) about one of my all-time episodes, “Read My Lips”, the introduction to Scarface and the Ventriloquist. Justin had mentioned that Lansdale would be back the following episode to discuss another one that he’d written and my guess was right on the money that they would discuss “Critters”. Because when you have a chance to sit down with Joe Lansdale, why wouldn’t you talk about “Critters”? Lansdale has been one of my favorite guests so far and hearing them talk about his craft was a highlight of the show.
The show updates every other Tuesday with new content. Justin has tackled 26 of the episodes so far and two of the movies (Mask of the Phantasm and Subzero), so at this rate, we’ve got a lot of show to cover, and I hope he keeps it going and eventually covers each episode. Still no sign of either Bruce Timm or Mark Hamill as guests, but Justin did put it out there that he’s gunning for Hamill this year and I would not be surprised if he nabbed him. Hopefully he’s saving a good one for him like “The Joker’s Favor” or better yet, “The Laughing Fish”. My wish list is for him to sit down with Adam West to talk “Beware the Gray Ghost.” One can dream, right?
If you’re a fan of BTAS and you’re not listening in, you’re doing yourself a disservice. This podcast was made for you. Head over to www.btaspodcast.com and get caught up. Every episode is currently up and they’re all worth listening in if you’re like me and grew up with the show or just now discovering it for the first time.