Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was released one year ago today this weekend. The film received universal acclaim from comic and non-comic fans, even earning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
Long-time Spider-man fans considered it the most accurate version of Spider-man created, whereas fans unfamiliar with the mythos fell for the heartwarming and beautifully animated tale of Miles Morales coming into his own under the mask.
But animation in general gets pigeon-holed as being “just for kids”. Even though there have been many animated productions that aren’t automatically targeted at children, the art form still carries that stigma. Into the Spider-Verse was one of the ones that broke through, touching the hearts of even the most cynical film goer.
I bring that up because there’s another animated production of a famous comic-book hero that gets overlooked because it is animated. That production is 1993’s “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”.
Phantasm is the story of how Bruce Wayne decided to become Batman. Whereas Miles is driven by necessity, Bruce is driven by anger, and BOTH aren’t very good at it in the beginning.
Phantasm explores Bruce Wayne as a person and Batman as a figure just like Spider-verse explores Miles as a person and Spider-Man and a figure. Miles becomes Spider-man just like Bruce becomes Batman: through fear, doubt, courage and acceptance.
This version of the animated Batman began in 1992 with a very successful show titled “Batman: the Animated Series”. It was quite popular and highly sophisticated, winning 4 Emmy awards. The movie expanded on the show, giving us the deepest, most cinematically accurate version of his character and everyone else that existed within his universe. It also gave us Mark Hamil’s iconic turn as the Joker and introduced Harley Quinn into the world.
Animated Batman is so well-regarded, so *true* to the concept of Batman, that themes from Mask of the Phantasm were borrowed by Christopher Nolan for his Dark Knight trilogy as have many other Batman productions since.
So don’t reduce a film because it’s “a cartoon”. Animation is just another tool to tell a story, and if you automatically disregard it, you’ll be missing out on other fantastic animated fare like Persepolis and Isle of Dogs.
If nothing in this article even mildly intrigues you to watch the most honest version of Batman ever put on film, then fine. I accept that. But if you take a leap of faith, like Miles Morales and Peter B. Parker do, you just might enjoy the movie.
Rent Batman: Mask of the Phantasm on YouTube or Amazon!
Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production and has been published both online and in print for Los Angeles City College’s award-winning Collegian newspaper. He’s on Twitter and Instagram, and is also currently writing his first short novel.