For those whom were living under a rock during the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series was to cartoons what sound was to talkies. You have to take into account that most American cartoons up until that point were nothing more than glorified toy commercials. BTAS as its come to be known squatted on that and left it in an alley to die. The premise was simple: it was to be a weekly serial pitting the Batman up against both the usual suspects people were familiar with from the movies and television series as well as lesser known cohorts from the comics such as the Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and Two-Face.
Mask Of The Phantasm debuted in theaters on Christmas of ’93. It flopped. In all fairness it would have made a much stronger Summer movie with a propper toyline and a bevy promotional tie-ins. As it stands the film itself is, much the Animated Series as a whole, very much akin to the film noir pieces of the late 30s and early 40s. Long shadows. A dark hero. A sinister villain. A doomed romance. And a viscous femme fetale. It doesn’t hurt that the whole world BTAS takes place in looks like the art deco era never ended. Everything from the cars to the buildings has that streamlined look you’d expect to see in movies like Metropolis.
Lastly Phantasm gives us the Bruce Wayne and Batman we’ve all been wanting to see on screen. The origin story is told through well-placed flashbacks. We don’t know exactly what happened to Bruce’s folks other than they are dead by circumstance, and because of that circumstance he made a vow to fight crime. But somewhere in his struggle to strike fear into the heart of Gotham’s underbelly he becomes involved with, and eventually engaged to, a young woman: Andrea Beaumont. However, when she suddenly breaks off their engagement Bruce realizes there is no life for him outside of his vow and his resolve is stronger than ever. Fast forward some ten years later and Batman is a household name that criminals now fear. Meanwhile someone is picking off the laundry list of mobsters that did business with Andrea’s father under the guise of The Phantasm. Batman faces off against his daring new foe only to learn the horrific truth of the Phantasm’s true identity.