"Legends of the Dark Knight" is the nineteenth episode of The New Batman Adventures. A fan favorite episode, it delves into the legacy of the Dark Knight.
It's late in Gotham City. Three kids read the Gotham Gazette's latest report on a mysterious arsonist. When Matt, one of them, thinks he can make out Batman in a photograph, Carrie needs to double-check it before she believes it, but, she assures her friends, the "arson boy" is history once Batman is on the case. Enthusiastically, the third kid, Nick, begins to tell his friends of how he perceives the Batman.
- He is like a giant pterodactyl beast, with big fangs and talons. And when he sees a bad guy, he swoops down from the sky and carries him off. Skree, Skree!
Carrie is less than impressed and drags Nick back into reality. Matt then tells that his uncle actually knows Batman—and that he's really nice and funny. Carrie dismisses this version as well, but allows Matt to explain himself.
- Matt's uncle, a guard at the Walker Music Center, sits back on what seems a quiet night, until his radio signal is cut short and replaced with maniacal laughter. Joker boasts of his plans of thievery, and exclaims: "The comedy is finished!". Frightened, the guard says he's "better stay on [his] toes".
Nick cuts short Matt's story, deriding the humorous statement "better stay on my toes". Matt dismisses it as the way his uncle tells the story, and continues with his story.
- The guard checks all locks and doors in the music center, when a jack-in-the-box is thrown in through a window. A joker face pops out, and gasses the guard. Desperate for fresh air, he unlocks a door—upon which the Joker and two henchmen enter. The Joker heads straight for the ukulele, pings a note, and expects his henchmen to applaud. He then walks to the guard and steals his keys, joking that strings never were his section, and he was much better on the keys.
- But instead of unlocking a display case with a key, he just smashes it with a priceless ukulele. As he is about to pick up the valuable manuscript in the case, a shadow looms over him. Batman and Robin enter, and explain how they figured out his clue, "The comedy is finished". It's a line from the famous opera "Pagliacci", and Joker was about to steal the original score. Joker orders his goons to fire at the Dynamic Duo, and Batman and Robin take them on. Running from the fight, Joker climbs up a ladder to throw a sousaphone around Robin. As Batman sees his young friend in need, he is distracted. A henchman hits Batman on the head with a giant tuning fork. Joker is very pleased, and orders his men to tie them up.
- The guard wakes up to see that the Joker forces Batman and Robin on the snares of a giant piano. The Clown Prince of crime gloats about how long he's been wanting to kill the Batman, and prances down the keys of the piano. As Batman sees the hammers closing in, he tells Robin to roll. While out-rolling the hammers, Batman whips a saw out of his belt and cuts the cords. At that moment, however, a hammer falls down on them.
- Joker sees victory, and laughs at his luck. At that moment, however, his two henchmen are struck out by batarangs, and Batman and Robin are shown to have survived. They crush the Joker under the keyboard lid, and go after the goons. Batman and Robin find a way to stop them: By using a giant violin and its bow as a bow and arrow. The goons are pinned to the wall right next to the guard.
- The Joker gets away, but Batman gives chase. He jumps on a large saxophone that's on a wheeled tray, and closes in on the Joker. He traps him in the horn of the sax, and at that moment he blows it. The Joker is deafened by the loud sound. When the sax crashes into a "humongous flute", Joker is catapulted into a harp, and is trapped in the snares. Batman then tells the guard to call the police, and shakes Robin's hand. He concludes: "Well done, old chum".
Nick and Carrie are struck by disbelief, and dismiss the story because Matt's uncle was unconscious most of the time. Matt still defends it, but the others have moved on. They walk past a thrift store, where another kid, Joel overhears them. He's excited about the Caped Crusader—all the muscles and the tight rubber armor, and a car that he thinks can drive up walls. Nick laughs at the thought. Matt then sees that one of their hangouts, The Kozy Korner, is burned down. Joel informs him that the mysterious arsonist is to blame. Carrie and Nick rush in to look for clues, with Matt reluctantly following. He suggests they'd leave, but Carrie counters that Batman wouldn't leave either. Nick asks her how she knows—which leads he to tell her tale.
- A girl Robin hides behind a corner, eyeing the mutants on the other side. One of them captures her, and the other asks her where the Bat is. Right at that moment, two large arms grab him and pull him through a wall. The other one pulls a gun on Robin, and threatens to kill her. Before he can do anything, Batman descends from the ceiling directly above the mutant, crushing him to a lower floor. There, he violently interrogates the frightened mutant into revealing his leader's whereabouts.
- At a dump, the leader preaches the fate of the mutants to his gang. He dismisses the opinion of the general population—that they're just noisy kids—and exclaims that they are the future and the law. The crowd goes wild, and two of them, Rob and Don, praise their leader. The leader tells them he himself will kill the Batman, but at that moment, the torch he holds explodes. From the distance, an ominous rumble rises from a cloud of dust. The mutants fire their weapons at the tank that inches closer, but their bullets fail to cause damage. Batman returns fire with rubber bullets, which prove much more effective as he takes out the majority of the mutants. Robin leaves the tank and continues to fight the mutants on her own, armed with a slingshot.
- The Mutant Leader steps in front of the tank and calls out Batman. The two fight, and after a couple of blows end up in a pit of mud. The Mutant Leader gains the upper hand and attempts to drown Batman...
- The Mutant Leader pushes Batman further in the mud, waiting for the air bubbles to stop. Robin fires several pellets at him with her slingshot, distracting the giant enough to allow Batman the chance to get up. Now, Batman is stronger, and as Rob and Don note, their Leader is losing. Batman pulls the leader out of the mud and breaks his back.
Nick and Matt are in awe, and Carrie is pleased that her story is the best. Matt picks up his flashlight—of which he had made a custom Bat-signal with a paper cutout—and tells them that they'd head home—it's late. On their way out, they see a shadow flying through the air, one similar to the one on the photo they saw in the Gazette earlier. They follow it to an abandoned movie theatre, believing it to be the secret headquarters of Batman. But instead of Batman, they find the arsonist—Firefly. Carrie recognizes him, and they decide to warn Batman with Matt's flashlight. After a few seconds, however, the battery goes dead, and Firefly catches them. He ignites the firebombs he planted in the cinema and prepares to make his getaway when the real Batman arrives. Though Matt at first thinks he alerted the Dark Knight, Batman tells Firefly that his bosses quite easily gave away where he'd be.
Firefly engages Batman, who quickly disposes him of his fire thrower and flame saber. Firefly's escape is stopped by a bola around his feet. At that moment, more explosions erupt and the kids find themselves trapped. Batman throws an explosive batarang at the wall to allow the kids with a means of escape, while Batman leaves with the bound Firefly over his shoulder.
Moments later, firemen and police have arrived. Detective Bullock arrives, and the first thing he sees is Firefly left dangling. The kids, the ones who had alerted the police, walk off with each claiming that the experience "proved" his/her Batman story true.
Home video releases
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Four (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman: Gotham Knight (2DVD, Blu-ray only)
- Best of Batman (DVD)
- Best of Warner Bros. 25 Cartoon Collection: DC Comics (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- One shot of an explosion that was first used in "Where There's Smoke" is used at several points in the episode. It's first used when the Mutant Leader's torch is blown up, then as Robin destroys a grenade launcher, when Batman punches the Mutant Leader, as one of the first explosions in the cinema and finally when Batman throws an explosive batarang to provide the children with an escape route.
- Atop the piano, Batman is standing to the Joker's left, and Robin to his right. The goon throws Robin onto the strings almost parallel to the keys, beyond the point where Batman had stood. However, as they land on the strings, Batman is still on the left.
- Joker jumps on the giant piano's white keys, but many sharp and flat notes (the black keys) are heard.
- This episode is sprawling with nods and homages to various incarnations of Batman's history:
- The concept of the story was first used in Batman #250 (cover date July 1973) by Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano. However, Bruce Timm had no knowledge of the story when he submitted the idea, and was nagged endlessly about it by the rest of the crew. In the story, three city kids are taken on a camping trip by Bruce Wayne and relate their personal experiences with the Caped Crusader. A similar, but more true to the original, adaptation of this story was "Have I Got a Story for You", the first chapter of Batman: Gotham Knight.
- The first story comes from that issue; though the concept of Batman being presumed a metahuman is also touched upon in most post-Zero Hour retellings of Superman's first contact with Batman.
- The second story is drawn by James Tucker in the style of Dick Sprang (though not based on any particular story itself). The use of bright colors, no shadows, expositional speech and large props comes straight from the Golden Age of comic books in the 1940s and 50s, the latter being a favorite motif of the early major writer for Batman, Bill Finger.
- At the end of the second story, Batman and Robin shake hands and Batman refers to Robin as "old chum", which are both references to the 1966 television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The handshake was part of the animated title sequence.
- Between the second and third story, the kids meet Joel, who stands in front of a thrift store called "Shoemaker". He thinks of a Batman with "tight rubber armor" and a Batmobile that can "drive up walls". The boy and his opinion on Batman are a not-so-subtle nod to Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, movies criticized for their flamboyant overtones.
- The third story is an all-out adaptation of the first arc of Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, storyboarded by Darwyn Cooke. The first part is lifted verbatim from a kidnapping that Batman stopped (though the baby is replaced by Robin), whereas the second part is a word-for-word retelling of the finale of the Mutant-arc.
- The producers considered a third tribute segment focusing on the early 1970s stories by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams which restored Batman's dark overtones. However, they decided that emulating Adams' naturalistic art style would be too difficult for animation.
- The title, "Legends of the Dark Knight", was used for a series that ran from 1989 to 1993 (and had a second run as Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight until 2007).
- Both Dick Sprang and Frank Miller were given a tape before the episode was aired. Both liked the handling of their work.
- The design of 50s Joker was brought back into animated form in 2008 with Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Storyboard artist James Tucker is responsible for many of the character designs of that show.
- The Walker Music Center was named after composer Shirley Walker.
- Joker's plot in the second story is to steal the original score of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, a 1892 opera that often shows up in Batman media. Penguin and Veronica Vreeland attended the opera in "Birds of a Feather".
- The boy Matt is voiced by Ryan O'Donohue, who would later voice another boy named Matt—Matt McGinnis—in Batman Beyond.
- Kevin Michael Richardson was a fan of The Dark Knight Returns, and was very excited about playing the Mutant Leader.
50s Henchman (uncredited)
|Robert Costanzo||Harvey Bullock|
50s Henchman (uncredited)
|Gary Owens||50s Batman|
|Michael Ironside||80s Batman|
|Michael McKean||50s Joker|
|Brianne Siddall||50s Robin|
80s Robin (uncredited)
|Kevin Michael Richardson||Mutant Leader|
|Charles Rocket||Security Guard|
|Phillip Van Dyke||Joel|
80s Batman: They don't even wait for an order. Kids these days. No respect.
80s Batman: [Shooting Mutants with his Batmobile's weaponry] Rubber bullets. Honest.
80s Batman: You don't get it, son. This isn't a trash heap. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon.