- Batman: The Animated Series has introduced many memorable characters and expanded Batman’s mythology, with some, like Harley Quinn, even making it into the comics and movies.
- Some notable characters from the animated series, like Man-Bat, The Ventriloquist and Scarface, and Baby-Doll, have yet to be adapted in live-action films.
- Characters like Harvey Bullock, Roland Dagget, The Mad Hatter, The Gray Ghost, The Phantasm, Batgirl, and Nightwing have made significant appearances in the animated series but have not been given the same treatment in movies.
Batman: The Animated Series has always done an amazing job bringing to life The Dark Knight’s allies and villains, something the live-action films have sometimes struggled with. Batman has one of the most expansive and well-known cast of related characters in all of DC Comics, giving his films and T.V. shows plenty to work with. In many cases, the critically adored animated series has made its own additions to Batman’s mythology as well, some of them, like Harley Quinn, even being popular enough to make it into the comics and movies.
That being said, even with as many films as Batman has under his utility belt, not every recognizable face associated with The Caped Crusader has been lucky enough to make it on the silver screen. There’s only so much screen time to go around, and the benefit of Batman: The Animated Series‘ nature as a serialized show was its ability to take the time to include nearly every significant foe and member of the Bat-Family from the comics. As a result, the beloved cartoon of the 90s has become some of the best media representations of many Batman characters outside the source material, not to mention their own unique original additions that have yet to be adapted by anyone else.
10 Man-Bat (Voiced By Marc Singer)
Something of a lifetime filler villain, Man-Bat has had the unfortunate fate as something of a filler villain in many of his appearances in Batman media. In the comics, Dr. Kirk Langstrom has even been kidnapped by Talia al Ghul, forced to produce legions of jobbing Man-Bat soldiers. Batman: The Animated Series did the character justice, however, leaning into the horrific nature of his transformation with uncanny, painful-looking sequences straight out of a John Carpenter film.
Man-Bat was a great starter villain for Bruce Wayne to cut his teeth on, appearing as the villain of the show’s very first episode, “On Leather Wings”. Batman: The Animated Series did a great job using the character to show off Batman’s sensitive side, ultimately helping Dr. Langstrom to help find a cure for his bestial, transformative curse. Man-Bat was considered for live-action in early drafts of a few unmade scripts, including the Joel Schumaker’s canceled Batman Unchained. Unfortunately, Gotham’s leathery winged menace has yet to terrorize audiences in theaters as of writing.
9 The Ventriloquist And Scarface (Voiced By George Dzundza)
The best Batman villains have a mix of goofiness and sympathy, running along a razor’s edge of sheer danger. Few of Batman’s foes balance all three as well as The Ventriloquist and Scarface, a duo consisting of a nervous wreck of a puppeteer and his dummy. Arnold Wesker suffered from trauma at an early age that broke him, causing him to develop schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder manifesting in the form of his persona, Scarface. Wesker channeled his alter ego’s actions through a ventriloquist dummy with the appearance of a stereotypical prohibition-era gangster.
Modern views on mental health have made The Ventriloquist and Scarface age somewhat poorly as characters, but there’s no denying that the duo was a memorable opponent for Batman to face down. George Dzundza expertly managed to portray two distinct voices, bickering among each other as Scarface ordered the hapless Ventriloquist around. The pair have yet to be considered as a film villain, despite their potential as a jarring antagonist that would be sure to rattle the senses of fans with the inherent creep factor of ventriloquism mixed with Scarface’s unstable fits of rage.
8 Baby-Doll (Voiced By Allison LaPlaca)
Despite only having a single appearance in the entire show, Baby-Doll has stood the test of time as a memorable antagonist in her titular episode, which stands out as one of the best installments of Batman: The Animated Series. Born with a rare disease that kept her body from aging, Marion Dahl was once the star of a successful in-universe sitcom, playing the character of Baby Doll. Twenty years later, and Dahl’s career has stagnated along with her body’s growth, trapping a 40-year-old woman in the frame of a little girl, leading to a psychotic break. Baby-Doll kidnaps her former co-stars, on the verge of killing them.
Of course, Batman is able to stop her, but is also able to show his humanity by comforting Baby-Doll as she cries, hallucinating a fully-grown version of herself following her dramatic confrontation with Batman in a fun house mirror maze. An original creation of Batman: The Animated Series, Baby-Doll has yet to make another appearance in any other piece of Batman media, let alone a feature film. Still, there’s no denying the potential for this tragic story has to be adapted in other forms, though the difficulties of casting a live-action Baby-Doll are obvious.
7 Harvey Bullock (Voiced By Robert Costanzo)
Not quite a villain, but certainly no ally, Detective Harvey Bullock occupies a unique space within Batman’s roster of background characters. The foil to Commissioner Gordon’s belief in Batman’s ability to do good, Bullock is a hard-boiled cop with no love for The Caped Crusader’s vigilante antics, a firm believer in traditional law and justice. His own ability to carry out that justice varies, however, the animated series strikes a strange balance between using Harvey as a bumbling, incompetent comic relief character and showing off his genuine skills as a law enforcement officer.
With a grating personality, Harvey has found himself no shortage of enemies, earning the ire of Gotham’s inhabitants such as Killer Croc and even his own landlord. Though he’s frequently captured and befuddled by Gotham’s villains, Harvey Bullock’s commitment to his job and eventual respect for Batman, even if admitted through clenched teeth, make him a surprisingly dynamic character. Harvey Bullock has yet to appear in a film, but Donal Logue’s portrayal of him on Fox’s Gotham series proves the character can work in live-action.
6 Roland Dagget (Voiced By Ed Asner)
The Lex Luthor to Batman’s Superman, Roland Dagget stands out among Bruce Wayne’s normal list of enemies, a cold, calculating business executive rather than an eccentric criminal. The head of rival to Wayne Enterprises, Dagget Industries, Roland is a ruthless capitalist, willing to do whatever it takes to get his thriving company a leg up on the competition. Even if he isn’t an overt criminal, no mistake should be made regarding Dagget’s ability to wreak havoc on Gotham City.
Roland Dagget’s schemes are typically more underhanded, abusing his position of power to subject Gotham’s citizens to all kinds of danger in the name of profit margins. This provides a unique challenge to Batman and Bruce Wayne, as Dagget’s status shields him from Batman’s normal M.O. of swinging in on a grappling hook and punching his villians in the face. A compelling antagonist, Roland Dagget hasn’t technically made an official appearance in a Batman movie, though similarly named business rival John Dagget does appear as a minor villain in The Dark Knight Rises, enacting a scheme that falls in line with his namesake’s underhanded tactics.
5 The Mad Hatter (Voiced By Roddy McDowall)
A twisted if not physically-imposing evildoer among Batman’s cabinet of enemies, Jervis Tetch, a.k.a. The Mad Hatter has a level of depravity to him that nearly matches The Joker’s. Originally a scientist working under Wayne Enterprises, Tetch’s twisted mind is rivaled only by his intellect, perfecting the art of mind control via his experiments. One of the creepiest characters to ever be featured in Batman: The Animated Series, the object of The Mad Hatter’s obsession is, fittingly enough, his blonde co-worker, Alice. After rejecting his unnerving advances, Tetch fulfills his own fantasies using his dangerous technology.
The Mad Hatter may have toed the line of what the superhero cartoon could get away with closer than any other character, his powerful delusion and unhealthy focus on romantic rejection being chillingly true to life. That’s not to mention the fact that The Mad Hatter gave Batman some serious trouble, utilizing his dangerously compact control chips to nearly get away with murder and theft. Though appearing in T.V. shows like Gotham, Batwoman, and even 1966’s Batman alongside Adam West, The Mad Hatter has never made it to film, despite how good of a Batman villain he makes.
4 The Gray Ghost (Voiced By Adam West)
Another original creation of Batman: The Animated Series to only have a single appearance, The Gray Ghost nevertheless makes a big impression. Being a role model to so many both in and out of his own universe, it’s rare that Batman is seen directly looking up to someone else, let alone having his own hero. But the animated series gave audiences just that with the introduction of The Gray Ghost, played by none other than Adam West himself, the original live-action Batman.
Though The Gray Ghost is a fictional character in-universe, Batman’s admiration for him was strong enough to actually willingly reveal his identity to the masked hero’s actor, Simon Trent. The episode’s unification of two of Batman’s most iconic portrayals with the union of Adam West and Kevin Conroy working alongside one another is a powerful passing of the torch, made all the more poignant by Adam West’s passing in 2017. Such a pairing would’ve been even more powerful in a big-budget movie, and while this would sadly never come to pass, fans Matt Landsman and J.L. Topkis have honored the character’s legacy with their own short fan film, THE GRAY GHOST: The Lost Reel.
3 The Phantasm (Voiced By Dana Delany and Stacy Keach)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was the first feature film to take place within the universe of Batman: The Animated Series, setting a high bar for all those to come after it with the introduction of its titular character, The Phantasm. A fellow masked vigilante, Batman becomes embroiled with ascertaining the cloaked killer’s true identity after The Phantasm implicates him in a series of murders against Gotham’s mob bosses. The Phantasm holds a dark mirror up to Batman, showing him the path his self-assured justice can lead down should he lose sight of his morals.
The conflict between The Phantasm and Batman is made all the more tense by the reveal of the killer’s true identity as Bruce Wayne’s former love interest, Andrea Beaumont. With her tragic backstory, striking costume and scythe-claw, The Phantasm has made a lasting impression as being the star of one of Batman’s best films, let alone within the scope of animation. Though the character has never returned, it’s not a stretch to imagine that a live-action version of the film could be just as successful.
2 Batgirl (Voiced by Tara Strong, Mary Kay Bergman and Melissa Gilbert)
Not as widely recognized as Batman’s sidekick compared to her male counterpart, Robin, Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl is still an incredibly integral aspect of the Bat-Family mythos. The tenacious teenager Barbara Gordon offered fans a more down-to-earth hero, taking advantage of her keen sense of intuition to keep her hapless father, Commissioner Gordon, out of trouble when it arises. Her struggle to strike a clean balance between her time as Batgirl and her studies at Gotham University later on in the series also provides a relatable struggle for many viewers.
Batgirl also has the distinction of being the focus of one of Batman’s greatest animated episodes, The New Batman Adventures’ 11th episode, “Over The Edge“, taking place within the same canon as the original animated series. For such an important character within Gotham City, it’s amazing how much the films have danced around Barbara Gordon, her closest brush with live-action movies being Aflred’s niece, Barbara Wilson, appearing as Batgirl in 1997’s Batman & Robin. The recently-canceled Batgirl movie that was to be aired on HBO only makes her cinematic absence all the more painful.
1 Nightwing (Voiced By Loren Lester)
Despite being most fans’ favorite version of Robin, the eventual transformation of Dick Grayson into Nightwing is an inevitable component of any Batman story. Batman: The Animated Series is no exception, with Robin evolving into his own, more independent crime fighter by the end of the first series, appearing occasionally to help out as Nightwing in The New Batman Adventures. This re-branding was the result of a falling out Dick Grayson had with Batman, breaking off as his own hero upon some self-reflection and training.
Nightwing’s appearances in The New Batman Adventures were always a highlight of the season, helping foster the Bat-Family and acting as a secondary mentor to his replacement as Robin, Tim Drake. Despite Nightwing’s objectively cooler outfit, unique fighting style and increased independence, the films have somehow never featured him, always preferring Dick Grayson to be Batman’s sidekick rather than his own man. With Nightwing’s own entry into the DCEU dead in the water, the universe of Batman: The Animated Series stands alone with its excellent version of the character.