Batman Noir . . . for your ears only

Imagine, in your mind, a Gotham City of cold, concrete skyscrapers, and abandoned buildings along the polluted river shoreline, and dented cars from the 1930s to the 1970s, and men on the streets wearing wide-brimmed hats, and women in long, old-fashioned dresses.

This is the Gotham of Tim Burton’s original Batman film from 1989. It’s timeless, caught somewhere between the thirties and the seventies. It’s Batman noir.

And it’s the Gotham City, ostensibly, of Batman: The Audio Adventures, now streaming on HBO Max.

This is a podcast, and it’s almost all audio. (The screen you see above, minus the logo, is present during the podcast, and occasionally something in it will change along with events in the audio story.) It’s almost a return to radio dramas of the ’40s and ’50s—but it’s decidedly different.

First, the cast is top notch, all from tv and movies, and a surprising number come from the halls of SNL at 30 Rockefeller Center. So does the podcast’s creator and producer, Dennis McNicholas, who populates his Gotham City with the voices of Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright as the Batman, Rosario Dawson, John Leguiziamo, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Parnell, Melissa Villaseñor as Robin, Seth Meyers, Brent Spiner as the Joker, Paula Pell, Ike Barinholtz, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson, Alan Tudyk, Heidi Gardner, Brooke Shields, Paul Scheer, Tim Meadows, Fred Armisen, and Twin Peaks‘ Ray Wise.

Second, it sounds a little like the classic Adam West/Burt Ward show from the ’60s, but it’s a lot darker, and much closer to today’s comic books. So don’t go into it expecting high camp and hijinks. Maybe a laugh here and there—Bent Spiner’s Joker is wonderful—but the show straddles some extraordinary middle ground, and reminds me in tone of the best tv Batman, Batman: The Animated Series from the ’90s. Here’s the first podcast episode, free on YouTube:

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