Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm introduced the Caped Crusader to one of his most personal foes yet, but who is the movie's titular vigilante? The portrayal of Batman seen in the 1960s TV series starring Adam West came to define the character in pop culture in the years that followed. This is one reason it took so long for a dark, gritty adaptation to happen, which eventually arrived in the form of 1989's Batman, starring Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton (Spider-Man: Homecoming).
Batman was a watershed moment for the comic book movie genre so it was only natural Warner Bros wanted a sequel ASAP. Tim Burton (Dumbo) would return for 1992's Batman Returns, with Batman: The Animated Series debuting in the same year. While the show was suitable for kids, it was still a surprisingly dark take on the character. The show was acclaimed for its voice acting, especially Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Mark Hamill (Child's Play) as the Joker, it's animation and mature writing. The show ran for four seasons and led to various spinoffs, including the futuristic Batman Beyond.
The animated series was such a hit that Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, which was supposed to be a straight to video spinoff, received a theatrical release. The movie is now regarded as one of the best Batman movies ever made, but despite receiving good reviews upon release in 1993, the movie failed at the box-office. The story finds Batman facing off against a mysterious vigilante dubbed the Phantasm, who is killing off crime figures in Gotham City. It turns out the killer has a very personal motive - and a link to Bruce Wayne himself.
The basic premise of Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm is pulled from comic series Batman: Year Two, where Batman faces off with Gotham's original vigilante the Reaper; Batman has to team up with his parent's killer Joe Chill to take him down. The Phantasm is presented as a hooded grim reaper of sorts, with a skull mask, distorted voice, body armor and scythe blade on the right hand. The Phantasm's theatrical methods lead to Batman being wrongfully accused of the vigilante's crimes.
It's finally revealed the Phastasm is actually Andrea Beaumont, Bruce Wayne's former love. In contrast to Batman - who chose to fight crime when his parents were murdered - Andrea opted to become a killer to seek vengeance against those responsible for her father's murder. They both masked vigilantes but their methods are totally different, and while Andrea survives the finale after taking down the Joker, she ends up leaving Gotham alone and dejected despite achieving her revenge.
The Phantasm has reappeared a couple of times over the years, most notably in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue," where she rejects an offer to kill Terry McGinnis' parents in order to create a new Batman. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm still stands as one of the character's best movies, with the title villain being one of his most personal foes.