Batman in alley buildings behind him with yellow sky from batman: the animated series


‘Batman’ fans baffled as HBO Max cancels ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ follow-up from Bruce Timm and J.J. Abrams

'Batman: Caped Crusader' seemed like a surefire hit—but it's one of many new projects shelved by HBO Max.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 23, 2022

Fallout from the Warner/Discovery merger is still going strong, with HBO Max canceling even more animated projects—including spinoffs from the A-list Warner Bros. franchises Batman and Looney Tunes. This is attracting even more backlash toward the studio, as DC Comics fans and animation insiders criticize CEO David Zaslav for the recent spate of surprise cancellations.

The biggest name on the chopping block is Batman: Caped Crusader, a “spiritual prequel” to the acclaimed 1990s Batman: The Animated Series. This project is helmed by Matt Reeves (The Batman), J.J. Abrams, and DC animation legend Bruce Timm, but was apparently deemed undesirable for HBO Max’s new direction. The show will now be shopped to other platforms.

Under Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, HBO Max is moving away from children’s programming, which obviously includes a lot of animation. Since this decision was marked by the abrupt removal of various animated shows from the platform (along with 200 episodes of Sesame Street), HBO Max and Warners have lost a ton of goodwill over the past few weeks.

Animation industry insiders are now publicly speaking out against Zaslav and HBO Max on social media, along with fans of certain canceled shows—which now includes Batman, one of Warner’s biggest franchises. There’s a lot of confusion and disbelief around this specific cancellation because Batman: TAS is probably the most revered superhero cartoon ever made. A follow-up from this creative team is a guaranteed hit.

As Warner Bros. Discovery continues to cancel projects and lay off staff, there’s speculation that Zaslav’s leadership is specifically targeting projects led by people of color. Batgirl is the most high-profile example, along with the TV show Gordita Chronicles.

However, this idea also came up in conjunction with Batman: Caped Crusader, because even though it’s a show about a white guy, created by three white guys, co-creator Bruce Timm mentioned that it would be more “inclusive” than the 1990s series. This innocuous statement angered conservative DC fans who oppose the idea of racially diverse programming. To make matters worse, this community already hates co-producer J.J. Abrams because he relaunched Star Wars with a diverse, female-led cast. So when this corner of fandom heard that HBO Max canceled Caped Crusader, some celebrated it as the demise of “woke Batman.”

(To be clear, there’s no evidence that this is actually why HBO Max dropped the show. Right now the platform is just canceling animated projects left and right, often with no obvious explanation.)

In the weeks since Batgirl‘s cancellation, David Zaslav has gone from being an anonymous studio executive to a widely-loathed figure across the fandoms for DC Comics and TV animation, tying into ongoing culture wars about inclusive storytelling—and labor conflicts over the treatment of animation professionals. People were already baffled and frustrated by the surprise removal of shows like Infinity Train, but the cancellation of a high-profile Batman spinoff is proof that truly nothing is safe.

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*First Published: Aug 23, 2022, 11:39 am CDT