- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

Alan Burnett has had quite an extended relationship with Batman.

As a chronicler of the Dark Knight’s adventures for the past 20 years, Mr. Burnett has molded and overseen Batman’s numerous animated incarnations as both a writer and producer of many of his most popular shows.

So when Warner Bros. Animation again approached him to help bring the Caped Crusader back to television in the “The Batman,” (airing today at 10:30 a.m. on the Kids WB), he couldn’t resist.

“The powers that be felt the time was right to give a whole new generation of children, and especially the 6- to 11-year-olds, a Batman, and I was thrilled to be a part of the process,” Mr. Burnett says from his Sherman Oaks office at Warner Bros. Animation studios.

Mr. Burnett’s interest in the Caped Crusader began when he was a 10-year-old in Cleveland; he turned from fandom to employment with his work on the last two seasons of “Super Friends” at Hanna Barbera Studios in the mid-1980s.

After a shelved attempt at a solo Batman cartoon during a Saturday-morning-cartoon climate in which even the sight of Popeye shaking a fist could bring down the ire of censors, he had to wait until the 1990s to work on the groundbreaking “Batman: The Animated Series.” That’s when he came to truly appreciate Bob Kane’s mysterious hero.

That series defined the current character’s persona, which remains today and has become very popular with fans.

“He is the hero of our times. He is an angry superhero, and he is vengeance, but he can hone his vengeance to do good. There is a darkness in him that appeals to people. He has problems of his own but has willed himself to be a superhero,” Mr. Burnett says.

For “The Batman,” Mr. Burnett took on the role of a consultant, credited as a supervising producer and offering script guidance while producers Jeff Matsuda (who also acts as art director) and Michael Goguen (who directs) and writing supervisor Duane Capizzi took on the majority of the show’s development.

This time out of the Batcave, the story finds billionaire Bruce Wayne in his third year of operation as Batman in Gotham City, and it takes place in the present day. He battles such familiar foes as the Joker, Killer Croc and the Penguin.

Much like Batman of “The Animated Series” fame, the hero is an amalgamation of many Batmen from over the years, but he stays true to what made him great.

“He is a victim of crime; he has grown up with a sense of vengeance. He has channeled it to do good. He has the mansion; he has the cape. On the other hand, we are also trying to redefine nuances to the basics,” Mr. Burnett says.

These include a Batcave that is more vertical in design than the old, spacious horizontal digs and Batman’s use of a remote-controlled digital system — called the Batwave — that links every computer, gadget and vehicle he owns.

Familiar actors also take part in the series. Most familiar among them are a pair of television veterans who helped make the old live-action “Batman” series a hit. Adam West, who once wore the cowl, voices the role of Mayor Grange. Former Riddler Frank Gorshin lends his maniacal voice to Hugo Strange.

“We are fans of the 1960s series. They have great voices and are great actors, and I actually used Adam in the 1980s during ‘Super Friends’ to voice Batman. Every time he walks into the studio, smiles break out, and he is just the nicest fellow,” Mr. Burnett says.

Overall, Mr. Burnett has high hopes for the latest Bat-toon.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. The villains are really outsized and dynamic-looking this time, and stories offer more action, more music and more superhero business with less of a psychological angle,” he says.

Mr. Burnett’s next assignment has his hands much deeper into the creative process as writer and producer of Cartoon Network’s “Krypto,” a cartoon aimed at preschoolers that’s slated to begin airing early next year.

It stars Superman’s powerful pooch and also will feature the likes of Bat Hound, Streaky the Cat and the Dog Stars — the equivalent of a canine Justice League.

Mr. Burnett believes it will put smiles on a lot of children’s faces.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszad [email protected] or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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