20 years ago today, EVERYTHING changed.
September 5th, 1992 was one of the most quietly-epic days in the history of not only animation and comics but of the modern-day Geek Culture: the television debut of "Batman: The Animated Series." It was a once-in-a-lifetime confluence of good fortune: Warner Bros. was so eager to get ANY Batman-related toon onto afternoon TV to drive the brand in-between the movies, the production team on this series got an unprecedented level of creative freedom for such an important project... and the results changed not only the animation industry but also comics and even FILM in ways we're still feeling. It is, quite simply, one of the most important popular-culture artifacts of the 20th Century.
"BATMAN: TAS" almost singlehandedly restored "credibility" to the U.S. action cartoon genre, which had been (fairly or not) "ghetto-ized" as strictly the realm of toy merchandise-driven fluff since the 80s. And it struck, to my mind, a perfect balance between a "serious-minded" approach to the Batman mythos and an acknowledgement that Batman and his world still work best when also sharing threads with the more fantastical side of the broader DC Universe - a balance that the actual comics and the ongoing film adaptations are still struggling with. For a generation (maybe two, by now,) THIS version of Batman is seen as the gold-standard of the character.
And think about this: Before "The Avengers" and it's "Cinematic Universe" was even a gleam in a producers' eye, THIS series brought comic-book style continuity into the American mainstream by gradually spawning an unprecedentedly-massive shared-universe of it's own - "Batman: TAS" begat (and frequently crossed-over with) a "Superman" series and an entirely-original DCU-future in "Batman Beyond"... and then all three of those were linked by the two "Justice League" series.
I distinctly remembering seeing it for the first time ("Heart of Ice" was my first episode) after months of buildup, and even as an 11 year-old I knew I was seeing something important. Something game-changing... but I never imagined (how could any of us have imagined?) just how big, long-lived and influential this was. I sincerely hold that without this show and it's success the "Spider-Man" movies, the "X-Men movies," "Batman Begins," "Iron Man," Marvel Studios, "Avengers" and now the impending "Justice League" movie... NONE of that would've happened.