“Beware the Batman” offers new take on the Dark Knight

With a popular, long-running character such as Batman, it’s always possible to reinvent and reinterpret him in various ways — from a campy crusader to a grim protector; from a straight-up hero to a conflicted, nuanced avenger; and everything in between. Several of these variations seem to have been combined in the new animated series Beware the Batman, premiering July 13 on Cartoon Network as part of its Saturday morning “DC Nation” block.

Given its time slot and apparent aim toward a more youthful audience, Beware the Batman does not get overly bleak and scary, at least from what I’ve seen, but it also doesn’t shy away from the dark world that the Dark Knight often inhabits. Much of the action takes place at night, when Batman (voiced here by Anthony Ruivivar) does his work, and there are certainly violent threats and fights. In this interpretation of Batman, Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (voiced by JB Blanc) is an ex-secret agent who aids his boss. Batman also gets help from a lethal swordswoman named Katana (voiced by Sumalee Montano).

Along with these heroes — or sides of heroes — that may be new to some fans, Beware the Batman also pits Batman against a rogues gallery of new villains rarely, if ever, seen before in animated form. In the screener I watched, for example, Batman battled Professor Pyg (voice of Brian George) and Mr. Toad (voice of Udo Kier), who aren’t likely to headline any big-screen Batman film anytime soon, but work just fine for a kid-oriented cartoon series. A press release says that other villains in the series will include Anarky (voiced by Wallace Langham), Magpie (voice of Grey DeLisle) and the more familiar Ra’s al Ghul (voiced by Lance Reddick). Most are pretty obscure, to be sure, but that’s kind of refreshing. You can’t rely on biggies like the Joker all the time.

But the characters aren’t necessarily the biggest change Bat-fans will experience in Beware the Batman. The animation style used in the series features CGI visuals, giving a new look to the Dark Knight and his Gotham surroundings that do take a little getting used to, especially if one is accustomed to all the previous animated versions of Batman done in a more traditional form. The CGI does enhance certain of the nighttime scenes effectively, and it shouldn’t be anything that would ultimately distract too much from the show as long as the storytelling is there, especially for fans who are used to similarly animated series such as Clone Wars.

Batman has been in popular culture for nearly 75 years, so it may be hard to keep reinventing him. Beware the Batman, from what I’ve seen, is a valiant effort at combining several of the Caped Crusader’s most familiar and beloved attributes and trying to present them in a new way, to a newer audience. The appearance of the final package may not sit well with a few grown-up fanboys (from some of what I’ve read online), but they ultimately may not be the audience here. Batman belongs to everyone, and by now there are adaptations and versions of him for every taste. If you want a down-and-dirty, gritty version, they are out there in comics and movies. If you want a silly, campy version, the same. If you want a combo of those and other versions, packaged in a new animation form, Beware the Batman may be for you.

Beware the Batman airs Saturdays at 10am ET/PT on Cartoon Network beginning July 13.

BEWARE THE BATMAN: © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. BATMAN and all related characters and elements are trademark of and © DC Comics