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Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman

mystery of the batwomanOriginal Release Date:  October 21, 2003

Directed by:  Curt Geda, Jennifer Graves (Sequences), Tim Maltby (Sequences)

Written by: Alan Burnett, Michael Reaves, Paul Dini (Chase Me)

Animation:  DR Movie Ltd., Warner Bros. Animation (Chase Me)

Running Time:  75 minutes

The final episode of The New Batman Adventures aired on January 16, 1999. “Mad Love” was the chosen finale and it came more than two months after the preceding episode (Beware the Creeper). It was a bit of an inauspicious end to Batman: The Animated Series, not because the episode wasn’t great (it most certainly was), but that it was never written to be the finale. The staff for the show assumed another episode order was bound to happen, but it never did. Instead, Warner Bros. wanted to try something different. Seeing rival comic company Marvel having success with its younger characters and perhaps fearing Batman’s aura was damaged by the flop Batman & Robin, Warner had the braintrust on the series come up with a new, younger, Batman. That became Batman Beyond which premiered the same month The New Batman Adventures came to an end.

Batman Beyond would produce 52 episodes and a single film coming to a close in 2001. That obviously wasn’t the end for DC Animated productions as team-focused shows would follow. For some reason, Warner decided to revisit Batman: The Animated Series in 2003 with the direct-to-video Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. From an artistic perspective, there’s never a bad reason to do a Batman film, especially one set in this much beloved universe. From a business end, it’s a bit unclear why this film exists. Following the show’s conclusion, there were a few video games produced including one in 2003, Rise of Sin Tzu, but I can’t see Warner commissioning a new film to promote a video game. My best guess is this was just a little something to keep Batman in the minds of fans as the company was preparing to bring the Caped Crusader back to theaters in 2005 with Batman Begins. It also allowed those who worked on the show to explore a period in time not touched on previously, namely the gap in time between the end of The New Batman Adventures and the death of Joker as explored in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

batwoman wave

Batwoman is the latest vigilante to wind-up in Gotham

Whatever the reason may be, it’s certainly not a bad thing to have more Batman set in this universe. Mystery of the Batwoman, as the title implies, is a mystery tale with the subject being a new vigilante in Gotham, Batwoman. If that sounds too similar to Mask of the Phantasm well then let me point out right away that Batwoman is not a homicidal vigilante getting Batman in trouble. The plots are different enough and the mystery is sound. It’s also preceded on most releases with an animated short titled Chase Me. It’s pretty interesting to see a short subject set in this universe as one had never been done before, even though it would have made a lot of sense to pair the theatrically released Mask of the Phantasm with one. It’s a cute little piece of animation though done in-house at Warner in which Batman chases Catwoman through Gotham. It contains no voice acting and is mostly just a visual treat. It’s been included on basically every release of this film and is worth checking out.

Chase Me runs about five minutes long and its title says it all. When Bruce is shown out of his element at a ball being held at Wayne Enterprises, he slips away from his many suitors and retreats to his office only to find Catwoman robbing him. He gives chase as Batman as the two traverse the city of Gotham winding up at a zoo. Along the way there’s a cameo from Bullock and Batman does battle with some big cats. It ends with Catwoman cornered and she makes her usual play of appealing to Batman in only a way she can. At first he rebuffs her, but then moves in for a long, lingering, kiss as the police arrive. He then gives her a smile and leaves with the sack of money she swiped. She thinks he’s letting her go, but she soon realizes he handcuffed her to a gate. It then returns to the shot it began on with Bruce staring forlornly at the city from the ball implying it was all a fantasy as a blond woman taps him on the shoulder to lead him back to the party.

chase me end

Chase Me is brief, but fun.

Chase Me contains no dialogue and is set to an original piece of music. It’s uncharacteristic in nature for the series as it contains elements of jazz and has an obvious Latin flavor to it. It works for the romantic and seductive parts, but not so much for the action bits. The designs for the characters are taken from The New Batman Adventures, which is a bit of a shame as I don’t care for this take on Catwoman. Otherwise though it’s pretty entertaining and provides a little window into Bruce’s mind and what really gets him going.

The actual film, Mystery of the Batwoman, is a procedural mystery. It quickly tasks Batman (Kevin Conroy) with uncovering who Batwoman (Kyra Sedgwick) is, even by having her simply tell him to figure it out when the two first meet. It’s a mostly Batman affair, with a dash of Robin who is slightly older (and now voiced by Eli Marienthal) from when we last saw him. Barbara pops in only briefly to phone Bruce about this new person in Gotham stealing her gimmick and Nightwing is never mentioned.

batman robin batwoman

Batman and Robin will cross paths with Batwoman, but if you were hoping to hear from Batgirl and Nightwing then you’ll be disappointed.

Batwoman is targeting a weapons ring organized by The Penguin (David Ogden Stiers) and Rupert Thorne (John Vernon, making his first appearance since Season Two of BTAS). They’ve hired Carlton Duquesne (Kevin Michael Richardson) to provide security for their operation and when Batwoman proves to be too much for him they bring on Bane (Hector Elizondo). Batman, for his part, is mostly concerned with Batwoman and what her motives are.

kathy duquesne

Kathy Duquesne is suspect number 1. She’ll also have a bit of a romantic fling with Bruce Wayne.

These sort of mysteries are often undone because the list of suspects is often small and limited to whoever is new. Mystery of the Batwoman is prepared for that by introducing three candidates for the role of Batwoman. And to make it harder, they all have different voice actresses including Batwoman herself. The first introduced is the daughter of Carlton, Kathy Duquesne (Kimberly Brooks) who carries a grudge against her father and his choice of work as it was his profession that got her mother killed years before the events of the film. She also has the added wrinkle of being named Kathy Duquesne, with her last name pronounced as “Do Kane,” making her name very similar to Kathy Kane, the name of Batwoman in the comics.

rocky and tim

Rocky works for Bruce, but seems to form more of a connection with Tim than her boss.

The second suspect is an employee of Wayne Tech by the name of Rocky Ballantine (Kelly Ripa). She’s invented a metal that can be programmed to take whatever shape she wants it to, which is pitched to the board of Wayne Enterprises and then utilized by Batwoman in an attack on The Penguin later. She also has the added motivation of wanting get back at Penguin for he framed her fiancé sending him to jail for 9 years.

bullock sonia

Bullock has a new partner in Sonia leaving Montoya out in the cold.

The third is Bullock’s new assistance, Sonia Alcana (Elisa Gabrielli), who is a dead-ringer for Elektra from the Cowboy Bebop movie. She may be a cop now, but she lost her home and her parents’ business to a fire started by Rupert Thorne. Batman saved her, but she and her family lost everything and to make it worse, Thorne escaped prosecution.

All three women will cross paths with either Bruce Wayne or Batman, with Kathy serving as a romantic interest as well. It’s engaging to watch Batman search for clues and even run into apparent dead ends as he focuses on one girl, then is forced to consider another. The film actually reveals who Batwoman is by the end of the second act leaving the third to contain mostly action as Batman is forced to basically save the villains from Batwoman while also facing off with Bane. There’s a bit of a twist to the mystery, but it works and I mostly enjoyed what the film gave me.

rupert thorne tnba

Rupert Thorne makes his first appearance since the second season of the show. He has some new card gimmick for some reason in which he’s always fidgeting with playing cards.

Continuity wise, this film tries to address some of the things opened up by Batman Beyond, but commits to very little. When Barbara calls Bruce from college, it’s clear she harbors a romantic interest in him that he is uncomfortable dealing with. Such was implied by Barbara in Batman Beyond, and it’s odd to see Bruce basically ghosting before the term was invented. I would have liked to see more of this subplot, but it basically amounts to a tease. The end of the film provides a plausible explanation for what happened to Penguin and Thorne, though there’s little there that’s definitive. It’s a bit of a spoiler, but the ending for Bane makes it appear as if he perished, which is somewhat odd considering he’s one of the few villains from this era to show up in Batman Beyond. I suppose it’s possible this is meant to be his final encounter with Batman.

The animation for this feature was handled by DR Movie Co., LTD. in what is its first opportunity to work on this series. The company did do work for The Zeta Project and would go on to do work for Justice League Unlimited. It adheres to the visual look of The New Batman Adventures with little embellishment. One welcomed return is the use of the Dark Deco look for certain exterior shots of Gotham which hadn’t been seen since the first two seasons of BTAS. The level of violence in the show is possibly less than what was present at times in The New Batman Adventures and there doesn’t appear to be any increase in budget for the feature over a traditional episode. The animation itself is good in places, and poor in others. When Kathy is introduced, for example, she’s supposed to have a sexy sway to her as she walks, but the character looks bendy instead. There’s also spots where the camera zooms in on an image that really isn’t detailed enough for the look. And since this was released in 2003, it’s formatted for a 4:3 picture as HD television sets had yet to really take over even though it was created in 1.78:1.

batwomans gilider

Batwoman gets to have fun zooming around on a glider like she’s some Spider-Man villain.

The character designs are basically all the same as what we saw in The New Batman Adventures. The only new character is Batwoman and her costume looks like a silver version of the Batman Beyond costume, but with a cape and different colored boots and gloves. She rides around on a giant glider that looks like the oversized glider Hobgoblin utilized in the Spider-Man animated series, only Batwoman chooses to kneel on it rather than stand. It’s also reminiscent of the glider utilized by Nausicaä from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and it would not surprise me if that was an inspiration for the device.

batwoman penguin

A lot of people have an issue with Penguin in this one, including me as I don’t like his new voice.

Andrea Romano is back to handle the voice casting duties and she was able to return most of the voices we’re familiar with. In addition to Kevin Conroy as Batman, Bob Hastings returns to voice Commissioner Gordon and Robert Costanzo is at his side as Detective Bullock. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. is also back to give voice to Bruce’s trusty butler, Alfred and he gets to be as cheeky as always. Eli Marienthal takes over as Robin and this is the only time he voices the character while Hector Elizondo takes over for Henry Silva as Bane. I’m not sure why Silva did not reprise the role of Bane, but Elizondo does fine. In what is a bit of a controversial move, Paul Williams was replaced by David Ogden Stiers as the voice of The Penguin. I do not mean this as an insult to the memory of Mr. Stiers, but my reaction to his Penguin is not favorable. Stiers uses his Cogsworth voice from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and I do not understand the motivation behind the change. Bruce Timm has stated that writer/producer Alan Burnett felt the character needed more of a “mob boss” type of voice, but I don’t understand how this voice is superior to Williams’ performance given that direction. Timm has been too polite to say what most fans probably felt, but I think he agrees with the sentiment that Williams should have returned.

cherie

The musician Cherie gets to have a cameo in the Iceberg Lounge.

Lolita Ritmanis handled the score for the film. It makes use of Shirley Walker’s Batman theme while also going off and doing it’s own thing. There’s liberal use of a saxophone in the opening segment almost giving this film a Lupin feel at times. Once it gets going, the score largely blends in with the rest of the BTAS feel, though it’s certainly distinctive on its own. The only exception being the use of the licensed track “Betcha Neva” by Cherie, which was taken from her debut album. The song is played during a part that takes place inside Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge with Cherie essentially voicing the performer who is singing the song, even though it’s just her track that’s played. The sequence feels a bit odd for the film, but it does feature some of the best animation in the film in a brief shot of patrons dancing. The song is returned for the closing credits. It gives the film more of a feature feel to it, but in that inauthentic sort of way a lot of features are guilty of when bringing something from television to the big screen.

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman is ultimately an entertaining ride. The 75 minutes runtime is appropriate for the story, and while it could have held onto the mystery a touch longer, it handles that aspect of the plot well. There’s some solid action pieces, but the presentation is very much in line with what the show produced making it a little disappointing in that regard. And while it seemed to promise a willingness to address some of the things left unexplained in between The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond, it ultimately revealed very little making the whole thing feel very inconsequential. It’s less a grand finale for the show as it apparently just wanted to give fans a chance to live in this world one final time. And if that is all it was going for then it turned out fine. It’s not at all comparable to Mask of the Phantasm, but it’s comparable in quality to SubZero.

bane carlton

This film may or not may not depict Batman’s final confrontation with Bane.

Unfortunately, Mystery of the Batwoman was basically the lone holdout when Batman: The Animated Series was released as a Blu Ray set in 2018. The entire television series plus the other two films were included, but this one was strangely left out. It’s even odder because the film was already available on Blu Ray so it’s not as if it needed a new transfer. Perhaps there were licensing issues due to the Cherie song as it’s odd to leave this, and Chase Me, out of that set. Nonetheless, if you wish to view it yourself you have options. The film was released on both DVD and Blu Ray and it’s also available for paid streaming. The DVD, which I have, is old enough that it came in a snapback case and contains satisfactory visuals. There are some odd scanlines on parts of the image and I’m curious if that is corrected on the HD release. Neither is particularly expensive, so if you wish to own it (and if you already own the entire series you might as well) I’d say go for the Blu Ray as it’s likely a little better to look at and is probably presented in the proper aspect ratio.

This essentially wraps up our look at the complete Batman: The Animated Series. This blog is about to switch over to The Christmas Spot so it’s also the last Batman content for a little while. I will be back in the new year to share my thoughts on the series as a whole before moving onto one of my favorite exercises – ranking! Yes, after viewing all 109 episodes we need to decide which is the best the series produced. And following that, I’m not sure where this blog will take me. Batman Beyond is out there and certainly in play, but after 112 weeks of Batman coverage I may need to take a little break from the guy for a bit.

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Judgement Day”

judgement dayEpisode Number:  24 (109)

Original Air Date:  October 31, 1998

Directed by:  Curt Geda

Written by:  Rich Fogel, Alan Burnett

First Appearance:  The Judge

We have arrived at the final episode of The New Batman Adventures and what is essentially the final episode of Batman: The Animated Series. This third season seemed to go by fast, and while that’s certainly partly attributed to the fact that it was 23 episodes versus the 85 that totaled the first two seasons, that’s still more than six months of weekly blog posts. And this final episode certainly has an ominous title to it, doesn’t it? “Judgement Day” is the final produced episode of the show, though it was never envisioned as a series finale since most assumed the show would continue into a fourth season. It did not, as DC and Warner elected to instead create a sequel series in the form of Batman Beyond depriving us of what would be a true series finale.

Even though this wasn’t necessarily intended to be farewell, some aspects of this episode work as a series finale. For one, this is a Batman solo adventure. He’s going to do everything on his own in this one and even look to Alfred for a little help along the way giving this one a very season one feel to it. It’s also going to bring back a few villains we haven’t heard from much during the events of this third season. It also introduces a new one in the form of The Judge, who bares a rather strong resemblance to The Phantasm from the film Mask of the Phantasm. And like that persona, this one has its identity unveiled at the end so if you’ve never watched this one on your own, maybe do that before reading any further. It’s a fun and worthwhile reveal that I’d rather not spoil.

bartering

Just The Penguin taking care of some business.

The episode opens during some negotiations between rogues. The Penguin (Paul Williams) is haggling with Killer Croc (Brooks Gardner) over a diamond he’s brought him. Penguin is a tough negotiator and it’s getting under Croc’s skin. Penguin appears to think little of Croc, and even flaunts it when another rogue saunters in:  Two-Face (Richard Moll). Penguin is open about how he’s willing to pay someone of Two-Face’s stature more money than he would Croc and the two quickly complete a business transaction. Croc, grumbling, reluctantly takes what Penguin is offering and he has his two female associates, Lark and Raven, escort the men out.

judge strikes

The rogues of Gotham have a new problem, and he carries a big sword.

As he deposits his newly acquired goods in a safe, Penguin remarks to himself essentially how fun it is ripping off Croc. Unfortunately for him, he’s not alone. A hollow, yet booming, voice (Malachi Throne) causes Penguin to turn around. Before him is a large man dressed in a long black robe. His face is completely black and surrounded by an old-fashioned white judge’s wig. He admonishes Penguin for possessing no honor among thieves and brandishes a sword declaring he must pay for his many crimes. Penguin, for his part, appears unfazed and is ready to go toe-to-toe with this apparent vigilante, but his umbrella is no match for The Judge’s sword. He runs and calls for his associates, but he stumbles upon them tied up and hanging from the ceiling. As The Judge chases him, he hacks at a large penguin statue on wheels which rolls over and lands on the “legitimate businessman.” The result leaves him unconscious and looking rather worse for ware.

A news broadcast the next day is covering the attack and reveals that Penguin is in critical condition. Killer Croc is shown watching the report smugly while Bruce Wayne reacts somewhat angrily as he watches from his limo. When it’s revealed that a vigilante was responsible for the attack, Alfred asks Bruce if it’s a friend of his, but gets a growl in response. Two-Face also sees the story, but isn’t happy, unlike Croc. The news then pivots to another new face in Gotham, councilman J. Carroll Corcoran (Steven Weber). Corcoran remarks that everyone knows Penguin is not on the up-and-up, but no one was brave enough to take him on. He thanks the vigilante for his brand of justice and for doing what Gotham’s police and D.A. would not.

A couple of security guards are loading an armored car along one of Gotham’s suspension bridges. They apparently are collecting the haul from the tolls and making small talk, but we all know the only reason for an armored car to be in this show is for it to be robbed. And sure enough, lurking beneath the vehicle is Croc. He emerges from a manhole to grab onto the underside of the car as it pulls away. Once on the bridge, Croc demonstrates his claws are quite sharp by ripping through the underside of the vehicle and climbing inside. He quickly gets rid of the guards, but someone is on the vehicle’s roof and unwilling to let Croc get away.

croc and judge

If it works in Donkey Kong it will work on you, Croc.

That someone is The Judge. This time he’s armed with a giant hammer and he causes Croc to lose control and flip the vehicle. Once he climbs out he confronts the new vigilante who has come prepared with numerous trial-related puns. He’s so generous with the puns that he comes across like a menacing version of a 1960s villain. Croc appears to be in no mood to fight with this guy, and makes his escape. He apparently forgot that he’s part crocodile, because rather than dive into the waters below he instead climbs up the cables of the bridge. When he gets to the top, he finds out that The Judge is just as capable as Batman in scaling great vertical distances without notice as he’s there waiting for him. He clocks Croc with the mallet knocking him from his perch.

Fortunately for Croc, Batman was watching from a nearby rooftop. He makes the save before Croc can go splat on the pavement. When Batman looks up following the rescue The Judge is gone. How does it feel, Batman?!

corcoran

This guy Corcoran is basically a piece of shit and the episode isn’t interested in hiding that.

Councilman Corcoran is shown tossing some floppy disks across his desk. He says the data on them would prove invaluable for someone trying to track down Gotham’s most notorious villains. There to receive the data is The Judge. It would seem Corcoran’s endorsement of Gotham’s latest vigilante has been good for him in the polls, which is good news since there’s a primary on the horizon. He reasons that if Gordon can have his pet bat, why can’t he have The Judge? Really, everything he’s saying makes total sense given the reality of this world, but the delivery of his lines is done in such a way that it’s obvious this dude is a villain and there’s more to this story. The Judge, for his part, is fine with this arrangement and the two shake hands indicating they’ll be a force going forward.

riddler judgement day

The New Batman Adventures sure did The Riddler dirty.

We’re then shown another news report. This time it’s The Judge putting a stop to a crime being committed by The Riddler (John Glover). There’s footage of The Judge in action as Riddler is given just one brief line in which he’s not even allowed to deliver a riddle. Such an inauspicious way for his character to go out. Corcoran is again interviewed by the crew and heaps praise on The Judge. He confirms that the two are in communication and even issues a warning for Two-Face that he’s next on the list.

The image explodes as Corcoran issues his threat and it’s revealed we were watching this through a television in a bar. The bartender is initially pissed when his TV explodes, but he turns to see the responsible party and promptly shuts up. Apparently he forgot that Two-Face and his associates had sauntered into the bar, and since he didn’t like the program, he turned it off in his own special way. Two-Face then leaves and as he does another individual leaves as well. That individual is Wayne in disguise who quickly throws on his Batman attire and begins following Two-Face’s ride.

batman twoface gas

Don’t light a match.

Batman follows Two-Face to his hideout which is the same one from “Shadow of the Bat.” Two-Face is alone and soon Batman barges in. Two-Face is rather angry to see Batman on top of him, but Batman insists it’s for his own good as he’s trying to protect him from The Judge. Two-Face does not seem to want Batman’s help, but before the two can sort things out Two-Face’s security mechanisms take effect. Metal shutters cover the windows and doors turning the lounge into a panic room. A television then flips on and it’s The Judge. He delivers his judge-speak and sentences Two-Face to death by asphyxiation for his crimes. Gas then starts pouring into the room. With the doors and windows sealed, Batman demands to know where the secret exit is as he knows Two-Face would have one. He shoves Batman aside and then removes a trap door from the floor. He finds it’s been sealed with metal bars and then panic sets in. Two-Face claims no one knew that exit was there, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Batman then tosses Two-Face over the bar and tells him to stay down. Ducking behind a wall, he pulls out an explosive Batarang and nails the source of the gas which results in a large explosion.

With the gas no longer a threat, Two-Face emerges from behind the bar. He finds Batman down on the floor and gives him a nasty kick. He then thanks him for saving his life and walks on by. This seemingly makes the two even.

Corcoran is shown on the phone having a conversation with The Judge. The Judge is angry with Batman for preventing The Judge from delivering justice to both Killer Croc and now Two-Face. He is seeking permission to deal with Batman from Corcoran, but he doesn’t think that would be a good look for anyone. The Judge hangs up in response and Batman soon appears. He wants info on who The Judge is, but Corcoran tells him he doesn’t know. He then goes off telling Batman that The Judge is good for Gotham and the people don’t mind if he kills the bad guys, as long as it gets them off the streets. Batman does his disappearing act, per usual, and Corcoran is actually happy by this development as he assumes it means Batman was in agreement.

two-face interrogates

Brought to a courtroom? This seems like something a judge would do…

Corcoran then heads for his car, his work done, when he’s confronted by Two-Face. Corcoran’s happy mood changes quickly and as he backs away he’s knocked out by Two-Face’s men. He is then taken to a courtroom and bound to a chair. Two-Face wants info on The Judge, but Corcoran swears he has nothing. The Judge always seeks him out, not the other way around. Two-Face consults with his men, who are seated where the jury normally would be, to see if they believe Corcoran’s story. Manny (Peter Jason) and Mo (Loren Lester) both say they believe him, but that doesn’t mean Corcoran is free to go. Two-Face consults his coin, and the results are not good for Corcoran. He tells the boys to do their thing, and they spring up armed with a knife. Corcoran is terrified as they approach, but the knife is just used to cut his restraints. As they lead him away, Corcoran begs with Two-Face. He reveals he has 100 grand in cash he can pay him with, all kick backs and bribe money he’s been taking. Two-Face says he wishes he knew that before he flipped the coin, but it’s too late now.

At the Batcave, Batman is examining the mallet The Judge wielded in his attack on Killer Croc. Alfred is there to monitor and wonders what Batman could be looking for since the police already checked it for prints. Batman is more interested in some holes in the mallet itself. He assumes there used to a plaque affixed to it and he turns to his omniscient computer for awards resembling mallets. He finds one, which is an award given out to lawyers and judges. He then pulls up a list of past winners and we’re not allowed to see the list of names. He asks Alfred if any look familiar, and he just gives us an “Oh my God!” in response. I think that’s a yes.

img_0382

This has been fun, but it’s time for these two to go one on one.

We now return to Corcoran who has been bound and blindfolded at the base of a giant Lady Justice statue. Manny and Mo appear ready to execute him and once more Corcoran tries to barter his way out. The two are amused that Corcoran would propose they two-time Two-Face and raise their guns to off the councilman. Suddenly, metal shackles snap onto their wrists. They’re apparently magnetized as not only do their wrists end up bound together, but they also end up pointing their guns at each other. The Judge then emerges once again armed with his sword. He knocks the men down and traps them with a wooden adornment. He then turns to Corcoran who is delighted that The Judge has come to rescue him.

Or not. It would seem The Judge was listening in on Corcoran’s attempts to bribe his way out of this predicament and he’s especially angry with Corcoran about the bribes he’s been taking. He takes aim with his sword, but a Batarang knocks his sword away. Batman informs Corcoran he’s not going to like what he’s about to reveal, but he’s unable to reach The Judge’s mask. Instead, The Judge flings the shackles he used on Manny and Mo at Batman binding his hands together. He then has to dodge The Judge’s sword strikes and use his body to knock him down. The Judge then uses another pair of shackles this time striking Batman’s ankles and binding them together. Realizing he can’t possibly fight like this, Batman uses a grapple gun on the ceiling and attempts to get away. The Judge won’t allow it though and jumps on Batman’s back. As the two rock towards the ceiling, Batman is able to swing himself into the statue of Lady Justice and knock The Judge from his back.

judge revealed

The Judge revealed. Is it surprising? Eh, close enough.

Batman returns to the ground where the judge lays unconscious, one of the scales having fallen on him. He takes the keys from The Judge to free himself from the shackles, then rather proudly informs Corcoran his life is about to get worse. He pulls the mask off of The Judge to reveal his identity:  Two-Face. Corcoran is shocked and soon the police and some reporters come storming in. They’re surprised to see Two-Face as well and Batman leaves Corcoran to explain this mess.

Bruce Wayne is shown reading the newspaper which contains a story about Corcoran being indicted and losing his primary. Alfred shows up to express how surprised he was to learn that Two-Face was The Judge all along, allowing Bruce to explain to the audience what happened. Two-Face essentially created a third persona, unknown to him, which is how The Judge knew about Two-Face’s hidden exit to his apartment. Alfred expresses pity for the man formerly known as Harvey Dent, which takes us to Arkham. The voice of The Judge can be heard demanding to know how Two-Face pleads when confronted with his crimes. Two-Face is shown in a strait jacket with his head hung low as he just repeats the word “Guilty” over and over, his face rising to reveal a haggard expression.

guilty

“Guilty…guilty…guilty…”

And that is how The New Batman Adventures comes to an end. One of the best villains the show produced is returned in yet another new role to disburse justice across Gotham. It’s a fitting sister episode to “Second Chance,” for in that episode it was Harvey’s bad side that took control to make sure an operation that would repair his face never took place. In this one, it was the side of him that is Harvey Dent, District Attorney, who found a way to manifest itself in the form of The Judge. The reveal is protected rather well, with the only tip-off being that The Judge was clearly either a judge or lawyer when not in costume. The only other clue was the throw-away line from Two-Face about his secret exit, but it’s not as if the exit was hidden well. It was plausible that if The Judge could gain entry to the apartment for long enough to hack the security system and plant the gas bombs that he also could have found the hidden exit. It works well as a clue though and helps to make sure the episode didn’t do anything unfair in hiding the real identity of the vigilante.

For Batman, he only has to do some simple detective work to figure this one out. And as we saw in “Second Chance,” Harvey is a tough villain for him to confront given his failure to protect him back when he was disfigured by Rupert Thorne. It makes sense for this to be a solo mission given that fact, and truthfully there wasn’t much room for anyone else given how this one moves along. It might have been nice to see Robin confront Two-Face again, but it wasn’t exactly needed either.

Corcoran is the only real weakness for this episode. His portrayal is so slimy in nature that the reveal that he’s a crooked politician was expected as opposed to surprising. If he had been played different or made to seem a little less self-serving it might have made that reveal a bit more shocking and effective, rather than just being ho-hum. The writers felt that Corcoran needed to be a villain, and since Gordon endorses a vigilante all of the time they had to make him different to further illustrate the difference between Batman and The Judge.

batman soars

It feels appropriate that the show ends like it started with a Batman solo tale.

For Harvey Dent, this is a sad end for him. He will not appear in any of the series that follow and clearly he’s no closer to regaining his sanity at the end of this one than he was at any time before. He feels like a lost cause, and even Bruce shows him no sympathy in the end which is in contrast to his appearance in “Second Chance.” They could have given him a line about how The Judge’s presence indicates that there’s still some of Harvey Dent locked inside of there somewhere, but alas they chose not to. I’m not complaining as I’m fine with the story of Two-Face essentially having a sad ending even considering it is the final episode of the series. And not to be forgotten, but this is also the final appearance of Paul Williams as The Penguin. The Penguin character will return in Mystery of the Batwoman, but Williams did not reprise his role. A lot of praise is heaped on Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for being the definitive take on their respective characters, but I can never read a line of dialogue from The Penguin and not hear Paul Williams in my head.

And that is the inescapable reality of this one. The end of Batman: The Animated Series, possibly the greatest action cartoon of all time. I started this project as a celebration of the show’s 25th anniversary more than two years ago. I also wanted to do it as a chance to revisit the show with a critical eye and determine for myself if it’s still worthy of much of the praise heaped upon it. And while it is true that not every episode is great, the vast majority are more than entertaining and it leads me to believe that the show has a well-earned reputation. It’s not just nostalgia talking. I will return to this show again to do a proper wrap-up, but it will have to wait until possibly the new year. I could not have timed this better when I started for next week will be a review of the show’s feature length finale, Mystery of the Batwoman. After that comes December which means Christmas, so there won’t be room for Batman for awhile. If you have been reading this weekly since the start, or just popped in now, thanks for doing so. I know it’s not as fun to read about Batman as it is to watch it, but hopefully this has been an acceptable use of time for anyone choosing to spend that which is so precious on my humble little blog.

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Beware the Creeper”

beware the creeperEpisode Number:  23 (108)

Original Air Date:  November 7, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Rich Fogel

First Appearance:  The Creeper

As we rapidly approach the end of The New Batman Adventures I find myself having some expectations of how the final episodes will go. I, of course, have watched all of these before, but I’m certainly thinking about them differently as I engage with them this time around. Last week’s episode, “Chemistry,” gathered a bunch of old faces from the first two seasons of Batman: The Animated Series for one giant cameo. That’s the sort of thing I would expect a show to do near its end. Next week’s finale is going to reexamine a villain who is very much associated with the program. That also seems like a thing to do. What does not is introducing a new face to the mix, but that’s exactly what this week’s episode, “Beware the Creeper,” is aiming to do.

There is a bit of a long game at play here. It’s not an obvious one though, but if you’ve been paying attention during the show’s run you may have noticed that Jack Ryder has essentially replaced Summer Gleason as Gotham’s go-to news anchor person. He’s appeared in multiple episodes, though he’s never played much of a role in any. He’s just been there. A long game designed around him doesn’t feel like it was in play, but today’s episode some-what rewards viewers for noticing him as he’s going to assume this new persona of The Creeper. And tied into it all is Joker, making his final appearance on the show.

The episode opens at a familiar location:  Ace Chemical Plant. This is where I remind you that the lore of this television show has largely been adapted from Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989. At least as it relates to Joker, anyway. Unlike in the comics where Joker’s origin is non-committal, in this series he was indeed born at this chemical plant. He was a mob hitman, as outlined in the film Mask of the Phantasm, who went by the name of Jack Napier. He encountered Batman one fateful night at this plant, and the resulting fight caused him to fall into a vat of chemicals and become disfigured leading to his current persona as The Joker.

joker gang

Joker and his gang are here to supervise the television special and make sure it’s accurate.

Jack Ryder (Jeff Bennett) is hosting a special on the Joker titled “The Madness Behind the Laughter” from this location. It feels like one of those docu-series programs or an episode of Dateline, with the peculiar distinction that it’s being broadcast live. As Ryder walks across the scaffolding above the chemicals, he takes the viewer through Joker’s creation complete with dramatization. Interestingly, we find out this all happened a mere seven years ago, though Batman is depicted in his 1940s costume in the re-telling. Bruce Wayne is watching rather intently from home and Tim gives him some grief for being interested in hearing about how Joker was created.

reenactment

The reenactment of when Joker met Batman.

As Ryder goes about his business, high above in the rafters lurks Joker himself. The camera catches him in frame, and Wayne notices him right away as he and Tim race out of there. Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) is with Joker (Mark Hamill) and asks him if he thinks Batman saw him. Joker responds in the affirmative (and quotes Tweety Bird in the process) as Batman is his biggest fan – there’s no way he’d miss this! Also with Joker today are his henchmen Mo, Lar, and Cur (Billy West) whom we haven’t seen since the first episode. It’s nice to see they’ve been doing well.

joker and ryder

Joker and Ryder just having some laughs.

Joker was going to wait for Batman, but he’s a bit bored. To make sure he’s noticed, he bombs Ryder and his crew with gas-filled rubber chickens. The crew starts laughing as Ryder barks at them that they’re on live TV. When Joker hops down he starts shouting for the viewers that this isn’t part of the show, but soon the gas gets him as well and he begins laughing uncontrollably. Joker then gives him a shove and he flips over the railing and into the same vat of chemicals that created Joker.

The Batmobile comes barreling in and Batman and Robin emerge. Harley and the boys hop down to take them on as she blows a whistle signaling the beginning of the fight. As Batman and Robin tangle with the big men, Ryder tries to climb out of the chemicals. He’s looking no worse for ware, but still laughing and Joker promptly kicks him back in. He again emerges and this time Joker shoves a cigar in his mouth. It’s a gag cigar that soon explodes. The image shifts to reveal a sign that says No Smoking and warns of explosive chemicals. Director Dan Riba apparently didn’t trust viewers to see the sign so the camera even zooms in on it to make sure.

ryder emerges

I think Ryder is going to be okay…

As the place starts to go up in flames, Batman is finally able to confront The Joker. Unfortunately, Joker has opened a valve on the chemical tub which is ejecting all of the chemicals into the ocean, including Ryder. Joker points this fact out to Batman and he’s forced to go after Ryder as opposed to Joker, completely forgetting he has a partner in Robin who could have probably tended to the reporter. When the two head to where the chemicals are being ejected, they see Ryder’s shirt which is on fire floating in the chemicals, but no Ryder. Assuming he’s dead, the two climb back into the Batmobile to presumably try and catch the Joker or alert the police of what transpired. As the Batmobile races away, a manhole cover opens and Ryder emerges. He’s still got a serious case of the giggles and a crazed grin to go along with it. His hair is green like Joker’s and his skin slightly yellowed. He basically mugs for the camera before running off.

Ryder then bounces around the streets of Gotham laughing to himself. It’s apparent these chemicals have really heightened his agility and strength as he effortlessly leaps from street level to the top of a street light. He tries to slow down and encourages himself to think logically about the situation. The sound of a coocoo clock going off is played and Ryder grimaces as if he has a headache. He jumps to a nearby ledge as he sees a woman inside. She is frightened and runs off and Ryder gets even more cartoonish by quoting Mindy from Animaniacs (“Okay-I-love-you-Buh-Bye!”) and bounds into a clothing store named Ditko’s, an obvious nod to Steve Ditko who created the character of The Creeper. Inside there he scares all of the patrons away, but a clearly bored store associate (E.G. Daily) just hangs around and even gives him fashion tips. She suggests green and hands him a little pair of green and black undies that he puts on along with some fashionable red gloves and boots. To complete the ensemble a large red boa is draped over his shoulders.

harley pie

She puts so much effort into her relationship with Joker and what does she get in return?

Batman and Robin are driving around in the Batmobile when they receive a call from Alfred. It would seem Ryder actually paid for his new threads with his own credit card, and Alfred is relaying the tip. Meanwhile, Joker is heading back to his hideout in a bit of a rage as word on the street is someone is stealing his act. When he enters the hideout he finds a surprise waiting for him. Harley emerges from a giant cream pie. She’s covered head to toe in whipped cream, but the presence of her headdress seems to suggest she’s not nude underneath it all, but I suppose she could be. Joker is rather stunned and Harley kicks an oversized cherry his way. It would seem she wants to celebrate the anniversary of Joker’s creation and beckons her puddin’ to come play with her. She playfully informs him that he’ll enjoy her “pie” and probably want seconds. It’s yet another risqué joke the show somehow managed to get past standards and practices.

As was the case in “Mad Love,” Joker is in no mood for play. Once again, Harley is shown being thrown out on her ass and comes crashing down between her beloved hyenas who start licking the cream off of her. Joker tastes some of the filling stuck to his coat and recoils with dissatisfaction remarking she’s a good kid but a not so good cook. He also orders her to find the plagiarist stealing his act.

stacked deck

He’s not here to play pool.

We return now to another location we haven’t seen in awhile, the Stacked Deck club on Gotham’s waterfront. Mo, Lar, and Cur are inside playing pool when Ryder comes busting in. They refer to him as a creep, which Ryder likes and uses to create a new name from himself:  The Creeper! He then tangles with the trio, and Billy West voices Lar with his Stimpy voice which is both weird and funny. A mopey Harley then walks by and is nearly hit with a flying pool table. Above, the shadows of Batman and Robin are seen arriving as well.

Inside the club, Creeper mostly has things under control. He’s been made much stronger than a normal person, but he still has the same “appetites” as normal men. When Harley enters he’s immediately taken by the pale-skinned woman. The camera lingers on her sexualizing her in a very obvious manner, much as it did when she was covered in pie. He starts hitting on her, and Harley soon realizes he’s the one Mr. J is after. As the two stand and talk, Batman tries walking up behind Creeper who casually uppercuts him without taking his eyes off of Harley. Batman crashes into a pool table and soon Mo opens fire on he and Robin as Harley and Creeper take things outside.

creeper and harley

The Creeper has found himself a new target and Harley is not having any of it.

Creeper keeps advancing on Harley like, well, a creep while she shows no interest. She soon realizes she can use this attraction to her advantage though and beckons Creeper to come forward. As he does, she releases the restraints on some cargo dangling precariously over Creeper’s head which drops on him. Satisfied, she flips away as Batman and Robin race over. Batman tells Robin to help him check on Creeper and Robin suggests they get a mop. They tare down the walls of the battered crate and find a huge statue was inside. The head then breaks off and inside is Creeper. He jumps out and when Batman asks who he is he informs him that he is “…Yellow-skinned Wacky Man! But I prefer The Creeper!”

Creeper is not at all interested in chatting with the Dynamic Duo. He seems to desire revenge on Joker and Harley’s affection, possibly in that order, and he bounds away. Batman and Robin follow and they come across him sniffing around an alley like a dog. It’s at this point it dawns on the two that this guys is Jack Ryder, and Batman reasons that the combination of Joker’s laughing gas with the chemicals in the plant are what caused this odd mutation.

joker meets creeper

Joker coming face to face with his latest creation.

Creeper apparently locks on Harley’s scent and runs off causing Batman and Robin to lose him. Harley went running back to Joker’s hideout and she busts in on him while he’s refilling his boutonniere which nearly causes an explosion. She frantically tells Joker someone is after her, when Creeper busts in. He approaches and quickly lives up to his name by grabbing Harley and licking her face. She tells Joker he’s the guy stealing his act and swears she didn’t lead him on. He believes her, remarking he knows she’s a one man loon. He then asks Creeper if he’d like to head on a one-way trip to Metropolis and waves a vial threateningly.

Batman and Robin are perched on a clocktower searching for Creeper. An explosion lets them know where he is and the two race to find Joker’s hideout. The explosion did little to discourage Creeper and Joker and Harley flee via a large parade float. Creeper races after them and hops into Joker’s convertible forcing Batman to grab onto the bumper. Robin hits it with a grapple gun and ends up on a dolly being pulled behind it.

creeper crash

He just can’t stop from acting like a creep at all times.

Joker leads the Creeper on a chase through the streets of Gotham and onto the freeway. Creeper is close behind the uncharacteristically fast parade float with Batman hanging onto the bumper and Robin being pulled behind. The parade float has a giant castle on it with a massive glove above which Joker knocks off. It crashes into Creeper’s car and smashes into pieces. Creeper starts fiddling with the various devices in the car and inadvertently fires off a bunch of rockets which nearly roast Batman and Robin and likely kill some unfortunate motorists offscreen. He then finds the rocket ejector seat which launches him onto the parade float.

Creeper crashes into Joker which knocks the both of them into Harley, who is trying to drive. This sends them careening off the overpass and into a waste disposal plant also conveniently owned by Ace. As they fly through the air, Creeper continues being a creep by gleefully chewing on one of Harley’s tassels from her costume. The car Creeper was once driving goes flying off the overpass as well and Batman is able to grab Robin and keep the two of them relatively safe. High above them, the other three have come to rest atop a giant heap of garbage. Creeper has Joker in a reverse chin-lock and eventually tosses him down to Batman. Joker, bleeding and on his knees, pleads with Batman to save him from the lunatic and Batman responds by slapping some bat-cuffs on him.

creeper assault

I do not like where this is going at all!

On the garbage heap, Creeper is continuing to live up to his name as he moves in on Harley. He shoves her down and basically looks like he’s about to commit a rather serious crime. Batman then shows up and prevents the rape by injecting Creeper with a sedative. He remarks he’s getting sleepy and then collapses on Harley his head coming to rest right in between her breasts.

Batman, Robin, and Ryder are then shown at Ryder’s apartment. He’s mostly removed his costume, save for those fashionable green undies, and is a tad distraught that his career is over. Batman informs him no one knows he was The Creeper, and informs him a patch he’s placed on his shoulder should keep him as Jack Ryder. He tells him he’ll supply him with more as he and Robin take their leave. Ryder watches them go from his balcony and seems to act derisively towards the patch, referring to it as “a little piece of cotton.” He then peels it off and walks back into his apartment. The camera stays on the balcony as he vanishes with his laughter soon filling the night air.

ryder bandage

Ryder is not a fan of the patch.

It was surprising to see a new face like The Creeper introduced so late in the game. Apparently, there had been a desire to include him going all the way back to the Fox days but it just never came to pass. Paul Dini has also mentioned they thought another season would be ordered so introducing him at this stage probably wasn’t frowned upon since he was clearly being setup to return in a future episode. Eventually, he would be added to the Justice League, but obviously there was no second appearance for the character in a dedicated Batman show. This episode also marks the final appearance of Robin in the show. Mathew Valencia would not return to voice the character in Mystery of the Batwoman, but he did return for the Batman Beyond film Return of the Joker.

For Joker and Harley, this is a rather inauspicious conclusion to their time on the show. A lot of their screen time is a bit derivative of “Mad Love,” in particular Harley trying to woo Joker and failing. It was a bit cute in “Mad Love” to see Harley try and be sexy for her Mr. J, but here it feels more indulgent than anything. It feels like the writers are just horny for Harley at this point, and that’s further driven home when Creeper is given an unhealthy attraction to the woman. It apparently wasn’t enough for Harley to be constantly abused by Joker, now we need to have her be sexually assaulted by another lunatic. Creeper’s licking and groping of Harley is gross and again it feels like we’re supposed to laugh at her constant abuse. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I didn’t find it funny and instead I was left feeling sorry for Harley once again.

creeper uppercut

There may be some comedic potential in a Batman/Creeper pairing, but this being his only appearance in the show means it was never meant to be, I suppose.

Aside from the fact that Creeper is a downright creep, it was a bit interesting to see Joker targeted by another maniac. His constant giggling and chattiness reminds me of Freakazoid, though less charming. His look is rather goofy, but I suppose it befits the character and was true to his comic book counterpart. I would have preferred to see him remain focused on getting back at Joker than turning into some horn-ball for Harley. I think a better avenue for the episode would have been Creeper trying to use Harley to get at Joker, only to come to find Joker doesn’t actually value Harley thus ruining his plan. That would put Harley in the victim role again, but at least it would force her to again confront that Joker doesn’t care about her and she needs to remove him from her life, which would be a good place to leave the character as it would at least give her some hope.

“Beware the Creeper” is an entertaining episode, though one that perhaps reveals a bit too much about the men working on the show. It’s hard to watch this and not feel slightly dirty with how Harley is portrayed since the camera practically humps her in several scenes. It was fun seeing Joker’s origin reenacted once again, and the show made it a point to reveal that his old alias of Jack Napier was just that, an alias, which is a bit of a departure from Batman. I like an ambiguous origin for Joker and seeing the show maintain some of that ambiguity was nice. Had the show continued, I don’t know that I would have needed to see Creeper again. It would have been interesting to see if he returned with a Joker plot, or if he would have come back in another capacity. He has some sense of justice to him, so it’s possible he would have just returned as a vigilante that Batman encountered and probably would rather not work beside. An odd couple paring for the two has some comedic potential, but it was apparently never meant to be.


The New Batman Adventures – “Chemistry”

chemistryEpisode Number:  22 (107)

Original Air Date:  October 24, 1998

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  None

This week’s episode brings back another classic villain with a fairly familiar scheme, as it relates to this series. It’s also going to retread some of the themes of Mask of the Phantasm, but in a much more simplified and truncated manner given the runtime of an episode of television. “Chemistry” essentially posits what Bruce Wayne would do about Batman were he to fall in love. I don’t know that the answer is particularly surprising or satisfying, but it leads to at least one dramatic moment. That money shot, as it were, happens basically before the midway point of the episode so it’s interesting to see if the rest of the story can matter following Wayne’s declaration. This episode is a bit of a mystery, with the reveal of the villain saved for the penultimate act, so in the interest of not spoiling things I am going to recommend ahead of time that you view this one yourself before reading my reaction. However, it’s not the sort of thing that would prevent you from enjoying the episode if you knew about it beforehand. Nevertheless, on with the show!

susan and bruce

In this episode, Bruce meets a new woman and becomes instantly taken by her.

The episode opens at the estate of one Veronica Vreeland (Marilu Henner), or perhaps her father. It’s the site of a wedding as Veronica has decided to tie the knot to a mysterious man with piercing green eyes by the name of Michael (Tim Matheson). He seems familiar, but he’s not, he just reminds me of the villain from “See No Evil.” Veronica tosses her bouquet and a green-eyed blond by the name of Susan (Linda Hamilton) is the one who ends up with it. A photographer then asks if she’d mind posing with the gentleman who caught the garter and she’s more than happy to do so. That gentleman happens to be Bruce Wayne and as the two pose for a picture Bruce confesses he hates these sort of things. When Susan responds with a joke, it goes over Bruce’s head, but the two seem to have a mutual understanding. Veronica and Michael soon approach the two and Veronica mentions that Susan is a friend of Michael’s. She also reveals the two only dated about two weeks before deciding to tie the knot.

Elsewhere, Tim and Barbara are attendants as well. Tim I suppose was brought along by Bruce, as for Barbara I have no idea what her connection to Veronica or her husband would be for her to be in attendance. Tim is not having a particularly good time, but at least there’s cake. When a horn sounds it’s Alfred there to retrieve Tim and Bruce. Tim is eager to get out of there, but Bruce is lagging behind for he’s dancing with Susan. Alfred and Tim take notice and the camera lingers on Bruce’s contented face.

dopey batman

The look of love.

The scene transitions from Bruce’s face to Batman’s as he’s wearing a really dopey smile, a rare occurrence for him. Robin then gets in his ear as the two are apparently on a stake out of some kind. Four biker-looking dudes just hit a shop and Robin is ready to go. Batman snaps at him a bit to let him know he’s ready and the two head down to the street. Inside, they smack around the bikers. Batman then lets his guard down after taking out the third guy only for Robin to nail the fourth with a Batarang. He then reprimands Batman for forgetting that he told them there were four, and Batman apparently realizing his mistake has no response.

At the Batcave, Robin is sharing the events of the night with Alfred. As he does, Alfred begins removing Robin’s cape to hang up. Does he undress Robin every time he returns from a night out? If so, these rich boys are more helpless than I thought. Anyway, Robin remarks that Batman’s head isn’t in the game and Alfred seems to pay it no mind. We then see that Batman is still out on the town and being quite the creep too as he’s using binoculars to spy on Susan as she struts around her apartment.

susan says yes

I think that’s a “Yes.”

We’re then taken to a rather luxurious looking yacht. Bruce has invited Susan out and she’s happy he called, though she admits she thought he wouldn’t. He’s a bit taken aback by that, but she points out she assumed that based on what he had told her about being too busy for relationships. Bruce confesses he’s been thinking about her a lot and he gives her a box of white roses. She’s pleased, and seemingly prepared for the next gift:  a diamond ring. She says nothing when Bruce springs it on her and the two kiss.

At the Batcave, Bruce has summoned Tim, Barbara, and Dick to tell them something. As he paces in front of them he explains that the pain he feels over the murder of his parents isn’t gone, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. He explains these past few weeks with Susan have made him feel something he has never felt before. When Tim chimes in with “happiness” he gets a frown in response. Bruce then tells them he’s asked Susan to marry him, and when Dick gestures to the Batman costume and asks what he’s going to tell her, Bruce lets them know he has no intention of being Batman anymore (enter dramatic music).

The wedding is held at Wayne Manor and the guests at the wedding present the opportunity for some fun cameos. I won’t list them out, but feel free to watch this scene a few times to try and spot them all. Lucius Fox (Mel Winkler) makes a toast to the bride and groom while Dick grumbles to Barbara that it will never last. Barbara mistakes him for suggesting the marriage won’t last, but Dick corrects her and says there’s no way Bruce is done playing super hero. Barbara is more optimistic and suggests it could happen to Dick some day, but he rebukes her and suggests she’s hoping that’s the case. Barbara is quick to deny that was her aim.

michael gash

Veronica’s new husband shares some traits with T-1000, which is interesting because Linda Hamilton has a guest role in this episode.

Bruce is soon lured away from his wedding by a phone call. He’s reluctant to take it, but Alfred informs him it’s an emergency and Veronica is the one on the other end. He excuses himself and takes the call and finds a near hysterical Veronica on the line. She tries to tell him that something is up with her new husband, but before she can explain they’re disconnected. Michael is shown emerging from the bathroom and Veronica tells him to stay away. They appear to be in her bedroom. As Michael approaches her he tries diffusing the situation, but Veronica retreats to a panic room that’s protected by laser bars. She tells him he’d die if he tried to get in, and he simply sports a wicked smile and forces himself in. The lasers cut through his skin and he holds his head in position so that one beam is going right through it like one of those gag headbands with an arrow sticking out. Veronica is terrified, and as Michael pushes through his body is left a greenish brown where the lasers burned him. The wounds close, and he’s able to move in.

bruce through flames

Bruce to the rescue.

Bruce informs Susan that something is up with Veronica and she’s supportive of him checking on her. He races over to her house and finds the doors locked. When he barges in an explosion goes off knocking him back. With the house fully engulfed in flames, Bruce throws his jacket over his head and runs in. He races upstairs to find Veronica unconscious in her panic room with no sign of Michael anywhere. Bruce is able to get her out using a tri-panel mirror to deflect the lasers and to a hospital. It’s then that Michael shows up. He claims he had been at a business meeting. Bruce doesn’t pry, but informs him they’ll know what’s going on when Veronica wakes up. Until then, Bruce has hired security to watch over her as the police suspect arson. Bruce then takes his leave and once outside the hospital he whips out an old flip phone and instructs Robin and Batgirl to keep an eye on their boy Michael, for he has a boat to catch.

Michael, likely knowing he’s screwed when Veronica wakes up, quickly flees the hospital and heads for some sort of botanical garden. Batgirl and Robin follow and soon they see who’s really behind all of this:  Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing). Ivy is not happy to see Michael, but he explains that he’s in trouble since he tried to kill Veronica and failed. She admonishes him for doing it so soon as he was supposed to wait for the cruise. When she asks why he did it, he removes his shirt to say she saw “this.” “This” refers to some leaves apparently sprouting from his chest. Ivy realizes there’s a flaw in her plan as she thought she had more time. She then grabs Michael’s face and rips it off, along with the skin of his arms and torso. Robin practically retches when she does so. Underneath, Michael is a plant monster and he more resembles Killer Croc than the plant monsters we saw last season in “House & Garden.”

Ivy and her plant minion take off as they have a boat to catch allowing Batgirl and Robin to inspect the area. They realize this probably relates to Bruce and his new bride somehow, but before they can get out of there Ivy’s defense mechanisms kick in. Vines start grabbing them and they’re forced to use some chemicals Ivy left laying around to kill them. This appears to give them a solution for how to combat Ivy’s monsters.

plant susan

Susan’s secret revealed.

Aboard a luxury cruise liner, Bruce is chatting about his new bride with a pair of wealthy newlyweds. They boast about how agreeable and perfect their green-eyed brides are. The green eyes serves as a tip-off for Bruce and he soon returns to his cabin. There he finds Susan and confronts her. She’s defensive, though who wouldn’t be if their spouse came barging in and started demanding answers about their past? They apparently never discussed such details, and Susan plays coy. Bruce then grabs her, making this situation a bit uncomfortable to watch. Susan begins to sweat, and as she does her true appearance reveals itself as green streaks appear on her forehead. Bruce has dealt with Poison Ivy enough in the past to know this is her work. Susan doesn’t hide it, and starts using her vines to whip Bruce around the cabin. He eventually breaks free and gets out, pinning the door shut behind him with a ladder.

ivy and michael

Ivy arrives with her Killer Croc knock-off.

Aboard the deck, the other patrons are shocked when the boat comes to a screeching halt. It seems living seaweed is the culprit, and before long Poison Ivy is boarding the ship with Michael in tow. It’s there she reveals her scheme to her wealthy victims. Her pheromone-laced plant people were able to seduce the rich, marry them, and now Poison Ivy intends to drown them. Only the plant spouse will survive to inherit the riches, which Ivy can claim for her own. As she explains her plan, Bruce watches from a distance. Soon, the Batwing arrives and Robin pops out armed with a tank of weed killer and knapsack containing Bruce’s preferred attire. He sarcastically asks how the honeymoon is going and Bruce just winces in response.

melting michael

Robin seems to be enjoying himself as he melts a sentient being.

Batgirl apparently remains behind in the cockpit of the Batwing as Batman and Robin attack. Some of the rich decide to fight back as well, but they’re no match for the plant people. When Michael appears ready to dump a pair over the railing, Robin blasts him with his gun full of weed killer causing him to melt into a hideous puddle. Poison Ivy grabs him, and Batman moves in to help as Ivy dumps Robin over the railing where he lands harmless on a pipe. She hits Batman with a cloud of something which knocks him to his knees. As she goes in for a potentially lethal kiss, Robin alerts her that he’s not done with her. As she turns to looks at him, he smacks her across the face with the barrel of his gun which has to be one of the most visceral pieces of violence we’ve seen on this show. It’s certainly the most direct violence we’ve seen perpetrated by a male character against a female.

robin goo

You kind of deserve that for taking enjoyment in killing these plant people, Robin.

The vines below the water’s surface start to break the ship apart, and the battle soon turns into a rescue mission. Batman and Robin ferry everyone to the boat Ivy arrived on which Robin pilots. Batman though has to stay back when Poison Ivy attacks him once again, but he orders Robin to disengage from the sinking vessel. The ship breaking apart separates Ivy and Batman. Batman is able to grab a rope ladder dangling from the Batwing, and as he swings past Poison Ivy she calls out for help. He reaches for her, but they don’t connect and she disappears under a wave. As the Batwing flies away, Batman looks and sees Susan staring at him from the porthole to their cabin. With a look of horror on her face, the vessel submerges taking her with it. Batman then holds up his wedding band and flicks it into the ocean.

drowning susan

The last we’ll see of Susan. That’s probably a better fate than melting, at least.

“Chemistry” is a bit familiar, but also fun. It’s yet another Poison Ivy story that pits her against not just Batman, but Bruce Wayne. Almost all of her schemes put her in contact with rich folk, so it makes sense she would target Bruce Wayne multiple times. It’s a bit funny that she has yet to figure out who’s under Batman’s mask, as a result. It’s nice to see her get a solo story though, as she was previously used in the anthology premiere “Holiday Knights” and then as part of an ensemble in “Girl’s Night Out.” Her reveal is concealed rather well with the only clue really being the episode’s title, which is certainly less blatant than past Poison Ivy episodes. The green of Susan and Michael’s eyes stand out and is a bit of a clue as well, though since the clones in “House & Garden” did not possess such eyes it isn’t exactly a big give-away.

The episode is fairly entertaining, though it does fall apart when one begins to think scrutinize it in greater detail. Bruce apparently knows nothing of Susan even after their marriage. I can see how him being under a pheromone induced spell could dull his senses, but there’s no way Bruce is capable of planning a wedding by himself. Someone, most likely Alfred, probably handled that and you would think he’d raise an eyebrow at Susan not inviting any family to the event. This also probably happened at every wedding orchestrated by Poison Ivy, and if Michael had that leaf problem then surely others did too. These folks are all newlyweds, so they’re probably seeing a lot of each other naked meaning there’s little chance to hide such a detail. I also feel like I should point out that seemingly only the rich people on that cruise ship were saved. A cruise ship populated by only the wealthy would probably have a huge cast of servers and cooks who were apparently all left for dead.

batman ring

Of course, the episode needs a dramatic shot of Batman discarding his wedding band.

This being one of the last episodes in the series, it features many final appearances for a lot of characters. Many cameos at Bruce and Susan’s wedding are obviously the last time we’ll see some of those faces. Many of those characters had not been seen in a long time, so it was good to see them return albeit briefly. This is the final appearance of Loren Lester as Dick Grayson. We had already passed Nightwing’s final mission, and this is the last we’ll see of Dick. Lester would not return to voice the character in future series. This is also Batgirl’s last appearance which is a shame as we never explored what happened between she and Dick. Unlike with Lester, Tara Strong would continue to voice Batgirl in other shows and has become more or less synonymous with the character. It’s also the last we’ll see of Veronica Vreeland. While she had a tendency to show up in bad episodes, she was an entertaining character and a fun foil for Bruce. And this is also the last of Poison Ivy. She’s not dead, despite how the episode ended, as she would return in both Gotham Girls, Static Shock and Justice League. She was perhaps the best female villain on the show not named Harley Quinn, and I can honestly says she never had a true dud of an episode and often made things better just by being there.

ivy bash

If you slow this sequence down, there’s a flash of light just as Robin’s gun strikes Ivy. It’s no less impactful though, especially at normal speed.

This episode has holes, but I ultimately found it to be a fun experience. The drama of Bruce giving up his Batman persona doesn’t really work as I doubt anyone would buy into it, but I appreciate them repurposing part of the score from Mask of the Phantasm since that film dealt with the same issue. Of course, in that film it was handled far better. Maybe if this one had been a multi-part episode it would have worked better, especially if it were the final episode of the show. I still have my doubts though, so I don’t consider this a missed opportunity. Even though the plot is executed in a corny and soapish manner, it’s supported with some really mature moments and somewhat shocking moments of violence. I mentioned how Robin striking Ivy really caught me off guard, but also Michael being exterminated via melting was pretty surprising. As he’s turned into a puddle of green goo his eyeballs pop out to land atop the smoldering heap before being absorbed. It’s a nice, albeit gross, piece of animation. There’s also the scene of Veronica calling Bruce where it appears like she and her spouse were in the midst of some marital relations given their state of dress. And even Dick is shown with a big mug of beer at the wedding reception.

All in all, a fine episode if a bit shallow. It at least accomplishes the goal of giving several characters a curtain call of sorts before the show’s conclusion, which is appreciated. It’s also never boring, and at the end of the day that’s probably what we desire most from our television programs.

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Mad Love”

mad love titleEpisode Number:  21 (106)

Original Air Date:  January 16, 1999

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Paul Dini, Bruce Timm

First Appearance:  None

During the development of The New Batman Adventures, Paul Dini always assumed there would be another season. There could have been some thought that Batman had peaked by then given the bomb that was Batman & Robin, but it’s hard to imagine someone thinking Batman wasn’t still a bankable character. To the surprise of probably not just Dini, Warner Brothers decided to go in a different direction with Batman leading to the creation of Batman Beyond. It seems like an unceremonious end for what started as Batman: The Animated Series, but when it came time to select a series finale the network did at least do the show right.

mad love comic

Like “Holiday Knights,” this story originated in the pages of Batman Adventures, the comic tie-in to BTAS.

“Mad Love” was the episode chosen to usher Batman out of the spotlight and into semi-retirement. Of course, Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne would return in Batman Beyond and then eventually move onto Justice League, but he still deserved a good send-off of his own. “Mad Love” is a story that originated in a comic by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm that was done back in 1993. It centered on series break-out star Harley Quinn as it revealed her origin and explored her complicated relationship with the villainous Joker essentially filling in the gaps left unexplained by BTAS and taking advantage of Harley’s popularity. Somewhat surprisingly, it was not adapted for the second season of BTAS and maybe that’s because Dini and Timm felt the censors at Fox wouldn’t allow them to do the story justice. When the series was resurrected on Kids’ WB it made the adaptation realistic and was a pretty easy way to fill an episode order.

“Mad Love” the comic was also hugely successful. It won an Eisner Award for best single issue and Timm was nominated for an additional award for his artwork on the book. Even though the book takes place in the Animated Universe of Batman, it’s essentially been adopted as part of Batman canon for the regular line of comics and was even sourced for the Arkham series of Batman video games. At this point, it’s surprising the story hasn’t been adapted for film. This episode may only be 22 minutes or so, but it actually would not be all that difficult to pad it out into a feature length. Normally for classic stories DC commissions animated features, but the company probably feels that’s not necessary since this episode exists and it’s done really well.

joker dentist

Finally, a legitimate reason to avoid going to the dentist.

The episode opens with Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) grumbling about a dentist appointment. As he heads into the office the dentist’s back is facing him and he’s directed to sit down. As Gordon yammers away it becomes quite clear to the viewer that this is not Gordon’s regular dentist, but the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker (Mark Hamill)! And he’s not alone, as dental assistant Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) is here as well to administer the laughing gas. Joker is ready to get started with a power drill as Gordon is restrained, but Gordon’s knight in dark and grim armor arrives in the form of Batman. He crashes through the window and tosses some chattering teeth on the ground. He reprimands Joker for getting sloppy and predictable, but Harley chimes in that the teeth were her idea as she blasts Batman with some gas. She makes a pun about it being a gas, which enrages Joker as he’s the one who’s supposed to deliver the jokes. Off his game, Joker then decides to run, but he leaves behind a parting gift – a grenade. As he tosses it, the script has some fun with Hamill by having Joker deliver the line “May the floss be with you!” Batman knocks the grenade away and sets to freeing Gordon who gets to deliver his own pun about always hating this appointment.

harley revs

Possibly the most “adult” reference from this show.

At the Funnibones Warehouse, an obviously unnerved Joker is working on some new blueprints for his next crime. He’s very intent on coming up with something much to the chagrin of Harely who comes strutting in wearing some lingerie as she tries desperately to get her man’s attention. In one of the more risqué gags, she even climbs onto the table Joker is working on to beckon him to “Rev up his Harley,” as she pantomimes riding a motorcycle. Joker swats her off the table and goes into a rant about how Batman is right and he is getting stale. He wants to correct this by doing the unthinkable – killing Batman! He expresses frustration at coming up with a way to do it and Harley suggests he just shoot him. This irritates Joker further who explains that the death of Batman needs to be something big as it will be his magnum opus. He then notices some old plans for a piranha tank trap he had planned for Batman. He wanted the fish to gobble him up while sporting Joker smiles, but he could never get his toxin to work properly on the miserable little fish.

img_0318

Joker inflicts much violence on Harley in this one. Some of it has a slapstick quality to it, but a lot of it is also painfully honest.

Joker then slumps in his chair assuming a defeated posture. Harley sees this as an opening to resume her romantic advances. The camera cuts to the alley outside and Harley comes flying into the picture. Apparently, there’s no room for love tonight. She then starts to walk away defeated with her babies, the hyenas Bud an Lou, in tow. As she does so she monologues about where her life went wrong. She blames Batman for messing things up between she and Mr. J and as she slumps against a brick wall she begins to let us in on how this all got started.

harley meets joker

Harley’s first encounter with The Joker.

Harleen Quinzel was a new hire at Arkham Asylum. On her first day she entered her office to find a single rose and a note from a “J” beckoning her to come see him some time. She confronts Joker in his cell and demands to know how this note made it into her office. He replies that he put it there, and when she suggests the guards would like to know this he responds that if she were going to tell them she would have done it already. He explains his interest in her is largely stemming from her name, Harley Quinzel, which sounds like harlequin when you drop the suffix. She remarks she’s heard it before, but as she walks away Joker calls out to her that he’s looking for someone to spill his secrets to which puts a smile on her face.

harleen and joker

This episode provides a good look at just how manipulative Joker can be.

It took three months, but eventually Harley was given the clearance to host Joker for some therapy sessions. As he lay on a sofa, Harley listened to his tales. He describes to her an abusive father and tells a story about his dad taking him to the circus to see the clowns. When he describes how he tried to recreate a gag from the show using his father’s pants as a prop, he’s able to make Harley laugh hard enough to produce tears setting her up for the real punchline which is that his dad broke his nose following the stunt. Harley narrates how Joker gained her trust and her sympathy and as she does we see flashbacks of Joker’s creation at the chemical plant and some battles with Batman (all new animation) as she puts the blame for his psychotic nature on his upbringing and the continued involvement of Batman. She admits her love for Joker and we see the tables have turned and it’s now Joker listening to her confessions. When Joker eventually escapes, he is brought back to Arkham in a sorry state by Batman and Harley is there to weep at his side. This was the final straw as we see her leave Arkham and head to a joke shop. She grabs a costume and even her prop gun she’s now known for and returns to Arkham. After clocking the security guard with a brick-stuffed rubber chicken, she blows open Joker’s cell and the two escape laughing all the way.

img_0320

The black and white television returns as Harley makes a plea for Batman’s help.

Harley is shown once again in the alley. With resolve in her voice, she once again pins blame for all of her life’s misfortunes since then on Batman. The scene cuts to the Bat Signal high in the sky over Gotham. Inside the police station, Gordon, Bullock, and Batman are viewing a tape from Harley in which she claims Joker has gone too far and is planning something horrific. She claims she needs their help, and to add gravitas to her words she removes her mask as she does so.

harley syringe

This is easily the most menacing Harley has ever looked in this show.

Harley is then shown, no mask and in a trench coat, at a dock. Batman spots her from a rooftop and as Harley paces with some blueprints for Joker’s crime Batman appears behind her. She hands over the plans and Batman looks at them eagerly. He says he wants Gordon to see them, but before they can discuss it further Joker shows up on a boat. He shouts about Harley being a stool pigeon and opens fire. Batman pulls Harley to the ground and hits Joker with a Batarang that takes his head off revealing it was a dummy. As Batman looks on with some confusion he winces in pain. As he falls Harley is standing behind him with a syringe.

harley traps batman

Batman is in a bit of a pinch, but he’s always so resourceful.

We’re then taken to a place called Aquacade which sounds like an aquarium crossed with an arcade which would be a rather interesting concept. The inside of the place makes it look more like a traditional aquarium, though there are bar stools. Batman is bound by chains and suspended over a tank of water swarming with piranhas. Harley is there in full costume adding more water. She explains she’s going to win Joker over by killing Batman using one of his plans that she tweaked a bit. She explains that with Batman hanging upside down, the piranhas will appear to be smiling from his perspective as they devour him. Before she lowers Batman further into the tank, she expresses some remorse as she explains she did kind of enjoy their encounters. She needs to do this for her beloved puddin’ though and when she suggests this will set everything right Batman does something a bit unexpected:  he laughs.

harley tears

Harley is full-blown crazy during these events as she’ll stop at nothing to win Joker’s affection.

Harley spins around clearly unnerved by Batman’s laughter. Batman goes on to explain that Joker couldn’t possibly love her because he only loves himself. When she tells him he’s wrong she justifies her convictions by citing how Joker opened up to her at Arkham. Batman, appearing amused, then starts citing all of the stories Joker has told others looking to gain their trust over the years. They align with what he told her, only with slight variations like his dad taking him to an ice show instead of the circus. Harley, clearly upset, decides to just ignore Batman’s words and sets out to finish the job, but Batman points out to her that the piranhas won’t leave much of him behind and that without a body Joker will never believe her. This causes worry to flash across Harley’s face.

harley's fall

Harley’s night ends in tragedy, though amazingly she survives this fall.

Joker is then shown pacing around his hideout clearly still trying to dream up the perfect way to kill Batman when the phone rings. It’s Harley, and when Joker finds out she’s got Batman trapped he races out of there in his purple convertible. Harley then approaches Batman smugly to tell him Joker is on his way. He apparently drove exceptionally fast because he then bursts through the doors. He immediately heads for Harley who is expecting praise, but instead gets a backhand. It’s delivered offscreen so we just here the “smack!” and then see Harley come flying into frame. She sets to calming him down by explaining how she changed the trap so the piranhas appear to be smiling which only irritates Joker further. It’s not a joke if you have to explain it, and as she backs away from him she ends up in front of a window. Joker, in a scene reminiscent of Catwoman’s creation in Batman Returns, shoves her through the window. We see her fall from his perspective and it happens in slow-motion. Harley crashes to the ground amidst boxes and trash. As she lays there broken with blood trickling from her mouth she pathetically blames herself for making Joker mad.

Harley didnt get the joke

“It’s my fault. I didn’t get the joke.”

Joker looks down on her and declares he never liked her pet name, puddin’, that she used for him. He then turns his attention towards Batman and essentially apologizes for the whole thing. He says he thinks they should just forget about all of this before heading for the door. He then stops and reconsiders his plan and returns to Batman. He pulls out a gun and is seemingly prepared to do what Harley suggested earlier and just shoot the guy, but Batman kicks him causing him to shoot the tank instead freeing the piranhas. As Joker fends off the fish, Batman hops around in the chains and grabs his utility belt with his teeth. While Joker makes a run for it, Batman picks the lock on his chains to free himself before giving chase.

joker smokestack

At least he got what was coming to him.

Joker reaches the roof of the aquarium and decides to make a jump. He crosses the huge gap which takes him over some train tracks and grabs onto a railing on another building. The railing breaks, and Joker cries out as he falls. Batman reaches the edge and looks over and finds a laughing Joker (“Made ya look!”) riding on top of a passing train. Joker enjoys himself for a moment and then turns to see Batman has jumped on the train as well. Batman then informs Joker that Harley came closer to killing him than he ever did. If it weren’t for Joker’s massive ego, she probably would have got the job done. He ends his explanation by dropping a “puddin'” on Joker and this infuriates him into attacking Batman. Joker gets in some shots, but he’s really no match in a one-on-one fight with the Dark Knight. Batman nails him with an uppercut, and Joker flies off of the train and plummets into a smoke stack.

damaged harley

The consequences of Joker’s violence towards Harley is shown.

A news program on an Arkham television is utilized to inform us that Joker’s whereabouts are unknown following his confrontation with Batman. The camera pans and we see a brief flash of inmates (one of which I swear is intended to look like Conrad Veidt from The Man Who Laughs, often cited as a real world inspiration for The Joker) and Harley in the background getting wheeled down the hall. She’s covered in bandages and her arm is in a sling. She then narrates for us how she finally sees Joker for what he is vowing that from now on things are going to change. As she’s placed in bed in her cell she lists off a bunch of negative adjectives that describe Joker. She then looks to her left to see a single rose on her nightstand with a note that says “Feel better soon. – J” and a smile crosses her face as she finishes her list of labels out loud describing Joker, the last word being “Angel.”

harley smiles

The final shot of the episode. She may be smiling, but it’s painfully sad.

Lets just get it out of the way and declare this one of the best episodes in the series. “Mad Love” encapsulates everything I love about Batman, Joker and Harley all in one episode. Batman is resourceful, and perhaps even a bit naïve in trusting Harley, but she and him have had a close moment in the past so his decision isn’t completely without merit. Joker is psychotic and truly evil. He’s entertaining, and even funny, but also unlikable and terrifying which is how the character should be. He’s not someone deserving of sympathy, and he doesn’t get it from the viewer. He does get it from Harley, who is truly a tragic figure. She’s grown over the course of this series, and in some respects her character here doesn’t reflect that. I chalk that up to this story being an old one relative to when this episode was adapted. Some of the plot points were reused for “Harley & Ivy,” mostly Harley trying to figure out where things went wrong, but it’s done well here so I don’t mind. Her sequence in the alley is what is utilized as reference for basically any video on the character, and her hopeless devotion to her beloved Mr. J is truly sad. Seeing her lying there in the rubble blaming herself for the violence inflicted upon her by her partner is almost too real as many abuse victims can attest. This might be the rare episode that’s actually too troubling for some people to watch. The ending, with her smiling and apparently forgiving Joker, is the only place I find it easy to criticize. It almost feels like it’s supposed to be funny, when really it’s tragic. I think the episode was fine to end this way, but the score could have been better utilized to make it absolutely clear that this is a sad ending for Harley.

Production wise, this is also a high point for the series. Maybe not visually, as there are a few gaffes here and there, but the voice acting across the board is stellar. Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and Mark Hamill all turn in possibly their best work on the series. Maybe not so much for Conroy, but that’s only because he didn’t have as much to work with here as he has in the past. Even so, his delivery of Batman’s lines are biting. He’s remorseless in exploiting Harley and Joker’s mental state giving him a touch of viciousness we’re not used to. Part of me wishes he was worked into the end so we could see a showing of sympathy on his part towards Harley. His laugh is also well done. It sounds genuine and it’s even a touch unsettling, which is good because it helps us react to it in the same way Harley did. Sorkin has always been wonderful as Harley, but here she is able to inject both comedy and tragedy into her performance. It’s painful to see her expecting praise from Joker like a dog expecting a pat from its owner only to have pain inflicted upon her instead. And Hamill, what more can be said about his Joker? I may not like what this show did to Joker visually, but the loosening of the censors has been a boon for the character. It’s allowed Hamill to approach Joker in a more menacing manner giving the villain the chill he needs. He’s no longer just a punchline, but a dangerous psychopath.

mad love two-pack

In case you were wondering, you can indeed get an action figure two-pack based on this episode. And better yet, it features the season one version of Joker.

I am slightly disappointed that this episode isn’t the last we’ll see of Joker and Harley. It really is a great way for the show to end, but we’re going by production order which means the pair have one more appearance to make. This episode is the final appearance of Commissioner Gordon though in this series. He’ll return for the film based on this series, but he won’t be seen in any of the final episodes. The same is true for Detective Bullock, who was seen, but not heard in this episode. It feels weird to say goodbye to these characters after so long, but there’s more of that coming with only three episodes remaining so I guess I should get used to it.

“Mad Love” is on the short list for best episode in the series, and by series I mean Batman as a whole as this is considered season three for Batman: The Animated Series. If you just want a great Joker and Harley story then this is it. No other tale about the two has really come close and given the critical failure of Suicide Squad it surprises me that DC and Warner have yet to turn to this as a remedy. That’s a movie I’d be excited to see, but by no means is such a thing needed to legitimize this story or anything. Whether it’s experienced as a comic or television show, “Mad Love” is excellent as is. I’m partial to this episode as being the definitive take because the voice acting performances are so well done, but both are stories that should not be ignored.

 


The New Batman Adventures – “Legends of the Dark Knight”

legends of the dark knightEpisode Number:  19 (104)

Original Air Date:  October 10, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Robert Goodman, Bruce Timm

First Appearance:  Carrie

Over the years there has been a lot of Batman and a lot of Batmen. It might seem odd on the surface as to why there would be numerous versions of Batman, but one only needs to think about it briefly to realize why. Batman is a cultural touchstone, a character owned by DC and Warner Bros. but one that essentially belongs to all. Anyone who is tasked with writing and drawing an official Batman story inherits quite a responsibility, and since this character is so popular and so special they’re also limited in some capacity. Batman, for instance, is far too profitable to ever die. Sure, it can be teased here and there and made to even seem happen, but it’s not something that will ever stick. The same is basically true of any popular comic book character and is why characters like Superman and Captain America never stay dead. You don’t kill the golden goose.

As a way to work around those limitations, many writers over the years have done stories outside the normal Batman continuity. This very show is basically one such version. Sure these characters bare many similarities to what came before, but they also exist in their own bubble. Had Bruce Timm and Paul Dini wished to end the series with the death of Batman and a passing of the torch, they might have been allowed to do so (spoiler alert, that’s not the direction they’ll go). The movies basically all exist on their own, which is why Christopher Nolan was able to end his Batman movie trilogy with what is essentially Batman’s retirement.

Of all the stories in the comic books though to essentially feature an alternate universe Batman, by far the most popular is The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. That Batman was one of the main influences for Tim Burton’s take on the character and was hugely popular in the 1980s. He was a violent, no compromises, sort of take on the character who after decades of doing things mostly by the book has had enough. It wouldn’t make sense for that sort of character to appear in this show, but “Legends of the Dark Knight” is going to try.

the three kids

Meet our story tellers for today’s episode: Nick, Carrie, and Matt.

This episode is essentially a love letter to Batman in all of his forms. It’s basically an anthology episode with the framing device being children sharing tales about their perception of Batman. And since Batman is a mysterious individual, their takes are going to exaggerate the character which is how we’ll get a taste of other versions of Batman from throughout history. It’s a fun concept for an episode, but what of the execution?

The episode begins on a newspaper kiosk. It seems there’s an arsonist on the loose in Gotham, which can only mean one suspect. Three kids approach the kiosk and take note that Batman is barely visible in the image on the front page shooting across the sky. This excites them as Batman isn’t as photogenic as Spider-Man. They appear to be a trio of Bat-enthusiasts, which I guess explains why they’re out and about at night which doesn’t seem like the safest of activities for kids their age. Nick (Jeremy Foley) is thrilled by the image and starts fantasizing about what Batman is really like, hypothesizing he’s more beast than man. The perhaps leader of this trio, Carrie (Anndi McAfee), sees Batman as just a really tough guy. Our third kid, Matt (Ryan O’Donohue), claims to have a secondhand account of what Batman is really like.

50s joker

Michael McKean gets to provide his take on a golden age Joker and knocks it out of the park.

Matt’s story takes us to the 1950s when his uncle was a security guard at some music exhibit for really large instruments. The guard (Charles Rocket) is seated at his desk when a voice comes over a loudspeaker which belongs to the Joker (Michael McKean in a brilliant piece of casting). The art design, dialogue, and even delivery of the lines are all very 1950s. The blue of the guard’s suit is especially reminiscent of the shade found in old comics and pulp magazines. Nick and Carrie even call Matt out on the corny dialogue he attributes to the characters, but he just claims that’s how his uncle tells the story.

A Joker-in-the-box is soon deposited at the feet of the guard which explodes with knock-out gas. The Joker then saunters in with two henchman and he looks like a spot-on interpretation of Dick Sprang’s version of the character. He makes corny jokes as he walks around the exhibit, pausing to glare at his henchmen when they don’t react favorably to his jokes forcing them to laugh and clap. Before long, Batman (Gary Owens) and Robin (Brianne Siddall) arrive and they too look ripped from a 1950s comic, or even the opening title of Batman the TV show. Batman is barrel-chested and sporting his blue, gray, and yellow ensemble while Robin has his classic threads on as well. They have that halted, dramatic, delivery to their lines like they did on old episodes of Superfriends and they immediately go after the Joker’s henchmen.

piano trap

A dastardly trap is laid, how will the Dynamic Duo escape this time?!

As the Dynamic Duo tangle with Joker’s lackeys, Robin is especially prone to puns which really is not all that different from the show’s regular depiction of Robin and Nightwing. As the bad guys get beat up, Joker cowers in relative safety reacting physically to the pain being inflicted upon his men. Eventually, Robin is undone by his own hubris as Joker is able to drop an oversized French horn on him. Batman goes to help him, but gets walloped from behind by Joker’s goon with a massive tuning fork. This sets up Joker to address the camera directly with another pun, a nice way to head to commercial.

When we return, Batman and Robin are bound to the chords of a giant grand piano. This is also quite in-line with comics of the era as these oversized contraptions were a popular gimmick of Batman co-creator Bill Finger, who along with Sprang and Frank Miller received an acknowledgement in the opening credits for the episode. With Batman and Robin tied down, this allows Joker to jump on the keys causing the giant hammers inside to strike a chord. Once he hits the right key, Batman and Robin will receive one hell of a headache. As Joker takes his sweet time playing a happy tune, Batman works on his restraints with what looks like a tiny chainsaw. Eventually, Joker finishes his melody and an off sounding note seems to herald the end of Batman and Robin. He takes a bow, but the unmistakable sound of skull on Batarang causes him to turn around in shock as his lackeys flee. Batman and Robin stand triumphantly from atop the piano, fists on hips. After another well-placed pun, they jump from above knocking the key-cover on top of Joker.

old chums

Old chums, now and forever.

The heroes are able to corral the fleeing lackeys when Robin hops onto a giant violin bow that Batman fires like an arrow. Why Robin decided to ride it, I don’t know, as it strikes and pins the goons to the wall. Joker uses this time to run, but Batman gives chase. Utilizing a giant saxophone, he captures Joker and then blows on the instrument to send the clown crashing into a giant harp in which he becomes entangled in the strings. Batman informs the security guard he can call the proper authorities for a pick-up and then turning to Robin he congratulates him on a job well done while mixing in an “old chum,” for good measure.

Nick and Carrie find this depiction of Batman by their friend Matt preposterous. They refuse to believe he’d speak in such a fashion or would come across like such a stiff. This prompts Carrie to tell her own story. While she doesn’t have a first or secondhand account to reference, this does allow her some dramatic license weave her own tale. And if you’re familiar with The Dark Knight Returns, then you’ve likely noticed that Carrie is the only one of our three kids modeled after an existing character from the comics which is a dead giveaway how her story will go.

carrie robin

Carrie takes some obvious creative liberties with her story.

For starters, Carrie informs her friends that Batman is actually much older than they perceive, in his 50s she assumes. Robin is also not a Boy Wonder, but a girl, and in her story Robin is clearly her in disguise (though I don’t think this is to be construed as her trying to claim she’s Robin to her friends). The art style once again changes as we go to a very dark place. The sky is an even brighter shade of red than we’re accustomed to seeing, and almost all of the setting and characters are done in black. Robin is after some mutants, and Batman drops in to help. He’s now voiced by Michael Ironside, another delightful bit of casting, and is depicted as much bigger than before. He’s a dead-ringer for Frank Miller’s take on the character, and he wants information from the guy he just pounced on.

The setting shifts to the wastelands where the leader of the mutants (Kevin Michael Richardson) is riling up his followers. The mutants cheering him on are all black save for the red goggles they wear. Two mutants providing some comic relief have their names in white on their shirt, Rob (Charles Rocket) and Don (Mark Rolston, doing a Tommy Chong impression by the sound of it) and those two will provide some occasional commentary. The mutant leader seems to think only Batman can prevent him from taking over Gotham, or what’s left of it, and he’s eager for a showdown.

batman tank

The interior of Batman’s tank is quite red.

Not one to disappoint, Batman arrives in style. He’s more than prepared for an army of mutants as he rolls in with a tank. Robin is with him, and as he rolls along he opens fire on the mutants. They drop like flies, and if you think this level of violence is inappropriate for such a cartoon then apparently you’re in agreement with the censors at The WB. Batman remarks to Robin that they’re rubber bullets, but he then odds an, “Honestly,” which sounds a bit sarcastic leaving his words open to interpretation, a nice little way to skirt around the censors. Robin leaves the confines of the tank to adorably go after the mutants herself armed with a slingshot. It’s a rather ridiculous course of action, but she’s also the one telling the story.

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Batman’s foe: Old Pointy Nips.

Batman eventually leaves the safety of the tank himself when challenged by the mutant leader. Batman is so damn huge that he’s the size of this mutated being he’s standing across from. The two grapple, and the mutant leader eventually gains the upper hand as they stumble into a pit of mud. The leader gets Batman under the mud and appears to suffocate him. Robin, seeing her mentor in trouble, fires off some ball-bearings from her slingshot which agitate the mutant leader. He turns to identify the source of the projectiles, which allows Batman to rise from the mud like he’s the Undertaker. He soon gains the upper hand on his foe, and delivers this little gem, “This isn’t a trash heap. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon!” The camera pans to the sky briefly so we can hear the snapping of bones, before returning to a satisfied Robin.

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Batman is not one to cower in a tank.

Carrie’s friends are pretty captivated by her story and she has a look of smug satisfaction on her face. They then see something streak across the sky. It looks like Batman, but the being was clearly flying. They chase after it and wind up in a dilapidated looking theater. There they see a figure on the stage setting up something and it’s pretty clear this isn’t Batman. He steps into the light and the kids recognize him as the villain Firefly (Rolston). He’s clearly setting up for another arson job and the kids try to summon Batman with Matt’s store-bought Bat Signal flashlight. There’s a sizable hole on the roof of this building for such a tactic, but unfortunately for the kids the batteries die almost immediately. Worse, their chatter alerts Firefly to their presence and he tosses a flash grenade in their general direction for confirmation.

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The real villain of the episode.

Firefly clearly doesn’t feel threatened by kids and simply remarks “Tough break,” as he sets off the explosives he’s planted around the place. As the building goes up in flame, he flies out of the hole in the roof. This is when Batman makes his entrance as he knocks Firefly to the stage below. He then starts monologuing, explaining Firefly’s plan to him and seemingly for the benefit of his audience. Firefly is obviously agitated, and the two begin their dance. Wanting to hasten things along, Firefly pulls out his flame-saber, but Batman extinguishes it with a little can that’s basically just a fire extinguisher. He quickly takes the clown out, and then notices the kids. As they try to flee, fire blocks their way so Batman tosses an explosive Batarang at the wall to create a new exit. He orders the kids out, and they do as they’re told, with only Nick pausing to watch as Batman scoops up Firefly and leaves via the ceiling.

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Not one of Batman’s most exciting gadgets, but effective nonetheless.

Outside the burning building, the Gotham Police arrive and Detective Bullock takes note of the “present” Batman left behind – a dangling Firefly. He ponders who phoned in the 911, but apparently doesn’t care enough to turn around and see three kids standing beside a pay phone. As the trio walk off, they discuss with excitement what they just witnessed. Basically, all three are convinced what they just saw confirms their own belief of what Batman is with Matt seeing the gadgets as confirmation for his uncle’s account, Carrie focusing on the way he took out Firefly as proof of hers, and Nick thinks he simply flew away thus confirming he’s not human. The camera pans to the sky as their chattering continues to usher in the credits.

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So what if the place is burning, it’s not every day you get to see Batman in action. Sometimes the risks are worth taking.

This is a clever way to celebrate different aspects of Batman from the ages. It’s so good that I wish it had been a one-off television special so it could have been a little longer as it feels like it’s one act short. Supposedly, the showrunners wanted to include an homage to the 70s Batman popularized by Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil, but it just couldn’t happen. Settling on the 50s Batman popularized by Dick Sprang and Bill Finger was a wise move. And while I liked Gary Owens in the role as Batman for that segment, I do wish they could have brought Adam West back. The closing with the two shaking hands is an obvious tribute to the opening title sequence of the 66 television show. Mark Hamill will likely always be my favorite Joker, but bringing in Michael McKean to do a different take was a most excellent choice. His laugh is a perfect depiction of Joker from this era. The segment could be described as parody, but it’s so earnest in its portrayal of these golden age characters that it works on a celebratory level as opposed to a mocking one.

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The kids get to walk away from this one satisfied, a sentiment I can s

The Dark Knight Returns portion is also equally amusing. There’s some dry humor on display via Batman as this version is capable of puns as well and it’s interesting to see that the kids all seem to universally expect Batman to possess at least some form of a sense of humor. Right from the start, Carrie was clearly a dead-ringer for the Robin from that tale so it was no surprise to see where her story went. And even though this is essentially a kid’s show, the writers and artists did a really admirable job of adapting Miller’s work for this format, right down to the mutant leader’s pointy nipples.

Throughout the episode, there are also numerous Easter eggs further adding to the celebratory nature of the episode. In between stories, a kid named Joel (Phillip Van Dyke) pops in briefly to claim Batman wears a rubber suit and drives up walls. He’s standing outside a shoe store called Shoemaker, an obvious nod to Joel Schumacher and his version of Batman from Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Is this reference mocking? Perhaps, though it feels like it’s in good fun. The music exhibit Joker hits in the 50s segment is named The Walker Music Center which is clearly named after series composer Shirley Walker. And the framing for this story is also quite similar to Batman #250 where Bruce Wayne takes some kids camping who all share stories about their perception of Batman (Bruce Timm claims this was coincidence though). Even Kevin Michael Richardson, brought on to voice the mutant leader, was a huge fan of The Dark Knight Returns and it’s no surprise the show would seek out fans of Batman for such an episode.

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The animators really nail the visual styles they were seeking to emulate.

Visually, this is one of the most interesting and fun episodes of the series to watch. It’s a Dong Yang production, and the studio should be commended for adapting the different art styles for each segment. It couldn’t have been easy, and further credit should go to James Tucker who handled the story boards for the episode. The 50s segment in particular is done so well that one could likely show a still from it to someone and convince them it’s from a different show.

“Legends of the Dark Knight” ends up being one of the more fun episodes of The New Batman Adventures and even Batman: The Animated Series. As a more kid-focused episode, it’s much better than the more juvenile “I’ve Got Batman in my Basement” from season one. It’s a clever way to explore the character of Batman, enough so that it was basically done before and has been done since. It’s a strong enough concept that it could easily be adapted for film as DC’s version of Into the Spider-Verse for Batman. I don’t think such a thing is likely, but it’s worth exploring. Especially because so many other versions of Batman are worth exploring. Even if such a production never does take place, at least we’ll always have this one.


The New Batman Adventures – “The Demon Within”

the demon withinEpisode Number:  18 (103)

Original Air Date:  May 9, 1998

Directed by:  Atsuko Tanaka

Written by:  Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  Etrigan the Demon, Jason Blood, Klarion

Don’t get too excited by that title, this isn’t the reintroduction of Ras al Ghul you may be anticipating (and if you are, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment). The demon in this title actually refers to the character Etrigan the Demon who was created by famed comic artist Jack Kirby in the 1970s. He’s been a semi-popular character in the books for his frequent team-ups with Batman as he canonically lived in Gotham City for much of his fictional existence. I assume he’s included because there’s enough support for the character from the comic fanbase, because if he’s included as a tribute to Kirby then it’s an odd choice. Kirby created the character for DC basically because the publisher insisted. He wasn’t really into it and reportedly he was annoyed when the character was well received because it meant he had to do a series of books based around Etrigan.

As someone who largely consumes Batman media outside of comics, Etrigan was not known to me when I first saw this episode. What I know of him is what is presented here and on various wiki sites out there. This episode is somewhat notable because it was moved up to air as part of broadcast season one, despite being 18th in production order. That was probably easy to do because it was one of the handful done by TMS Entertainment, which may have delivered the episode early. It’s the last TMS episode we’re going to have the pleasure of covering for this series, so even if you’re not particularly thrilled by Etrigan’s presence, at least enjoy this one for the visuals.

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Klarion, who would appreciate it if you ignored his ridiculous horned hair.

The episode opens with Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake visiting an auction house. On the docket – a branding iron once owned by the apparently not fictional Morgan Le Fay. It doesn’t seem too interesting, but appearances can be deceiving. Tim runs into a young boy carrying a cat in a rather sinister manner. The boy is named Klarion (Stephen Wolfe Smith) and the cat (let’s be honest, you’re more interested in the cat) is Teekl. The kid’s hair is pointed like devil horns and the cat takes a swipe, so obviously this odd child is a villain. When the auction begins, Klarion makes a big for one-hundred grand, but he’s soon topped by another man. His name is Jason Blood (Billy Zane) and he has interesting hair of his own – black and red with a white lightning bolt down the middle.

Bruce Wayne can’t sit by and let a bidding war pass without him having his say. Despite only being there to keep Tim away from video games for one night, Bruce ends up winning the iron with a bid of one million dollars, far surpassing the bids of Klarion and Blood. After the item is won and paid for, Tim asks Bruce what interest he has in that thing and Bruce remarks it’s for a friend. Klarion then approaches to issue a warning to Bruce, but is soon interrupted by “uncle” Jason. He’s not surprised to see Klarion’s interest in the item, and Klarion departs by suggesting they’ll meet again soon and next time it will be on purpose. It’s then revealed that Bruce and Jason are friends, and he won the item to help out Jason. Jason also tells them that Klarion isn’t really related to him and refers to him as a witch boy. He also tosses in the fact that he turned his own parents into mice in case we weren’t weirded out by the kid enough.

jason blood auction

Jason Blood, who has some weird hair of his own.

Jason invites Time and Bruce to his apartment which is full of occult-like objects. He there tells Bruce he can pay him back for the iron, though it will take some time. Bruce basically tells him that won’t be necessary, rubbing his richness in our faces once again. Tim then takes note of a freaky looking bust that Jason informs him is of a demon once owned by Merlin himself. Tim turns the bust around to regard the other side which depicts a man who looks exactly like Jason. Jason acts flattered when Tim points out the likeness, but before the ruse can continue they’re interrupted by the cat, Teekl.

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The kitty has a surprise in store for Bruce.

Teekl was able to enter the apartment via an open window and quickly grabbed the branding iron between its jaws. As it tried to leave, the iron knocked over an object on Blood’s desk and the three spring into action to try and prevent the cat from making off with the million dollar item. The cat then displays why TMS was likely handed this episode as it transforms into a human-cat hybrid. Teekl’s new form is reminiscent of Catwoman’s from the episode “Tiger Tiger.” She’s quite formidable and Bruce basically gets his clock cleaned by the beast. This forces Jason into action as he quickly transforms into Etrigan the Demon. He engages with Teekl and forces the cat to lose her grip on the iron. Bruce reaches out and grabs it, but Teekl turns her attention to him. She quickly retrieves it and is able to set the apartment on fire around Bruce and Tim. Etrigan issues her a warning that a reckoning will be coming, as he turns his attention towards his friends allowing Teekl to escape with the iron.

Klarion is shown seated in a darkened room as Teekl approaches. She gifts him the branding iron and returns to her cat form. A delighted Klarion begins an incantation that will likely have dire consequences. At Jason’s apartment, Tim is seated in a chair and Jason is tending to some minor cuts or burns he sustained in the scuffle. He uses magic to heal Tim, but soon is felled by Klarion’s spell. He displays an anguished face as Etrigan is forcefully removed from his body. The demon at first appears ghost-like, but then takes on a solid state. He leaves the apartment informing the onlookers it has a new master now. When Bruce tries to stop him he’s tossed aside and the demon leaves.

demon removed

Apparently, having a demon ripped out of your body after 1,500 years hurts quite a bit.

Etrigan returns to Klarion, and Klarion seems to delight in the fact that the demon hates him but is powerless to resist him. As was probably assumed by this point, the branding iron gives Klarion control of the demon and while in control the demon has an “M” brand on its forehead. He orders the demon to open his door for him as they’re heading out for some fun. In perhaps a small act of defiance, Etrigan doesn’t open the door conventionally, but instead smashes it down.

At Jason’s apartment, Blood informs Bruce and Tim what happened. He also drops the detail that with Etrigan and he split apart he will soon begin rapidly aging to make up for the 1,500 years or so he’s gone without aging. He’s also lost the red stripe in his hair – a pity. Bruce volunteers to go after Klarion and Tim wants to go too, but Bruce wants him to stay with Jason. Tim argues he should go with since he’s a kid and it might take a kid to find Klarion. Jason informs him that probably won’t be necessary as he has a suspicion Klarion will be quite easy to find.

klarion in control

Klarion is looking to have some fun with his new demon buddy.

Klarion is then shown exiting a movie with Etrigan as the other patrons run away screaming. The film appears to be a Terminator parody called Devastator 3 starring Donald Shaltenpepper. Klarion declares he hates sequels and has Etrigan set fire to the theater’s marque with some impressive laser eyes. Klarion is then alerted to the sounds of the rare ice cream patrolling the streets in the dead of night. Etrigan stops the truck forcefully and dumps the ice cream at its master’s feet, but is dismayed to inform Klarion that no strawberry remain. Declaring that nothing is better than strawberry, Klarion then turns his attention to a cake shop. Kirby Cake Company, an obvious nod to Etrigan’s creator, is smashed in by Etrigan and Klarion gleefully scoops up handfuls of cake to devour. He’s then irritated by the noise of a passing train, so he has Etrigan knock it off its rails. He then declares an abandoned building to be ugly, so Etrigan knocks it down. It would seem Jason was right about Klarion being easy to find.

Batman finally shows up to put a stop to this destructive and childish rampage. He begins by talking down to Klarion, apparently forgetting this kid is some kind of witch with a powerful demon and cat monster under his control. Klarion doesn’t even need Etrigan or Teekl’s help when Batman is just standing in front of him demanding he cease his devilish ways, he simply uses his own magic to make thorns burst out of Batman’s body. Jason and Tim watch from the apartment via a crystal ball and when Tim declares they have to do something Jason calmly begins a spell. The thorns soon vanish, somewhat alarming both Klarion and Batman, and Klarion turns to yet another spell that turns Batman into a tree-like being. He has a good laugh at Batman’s expense, until he gets swatted by Batman’s branch-arm. Jason, now looking considerably older, undoes this spell and Klarion then calls in Etrigan.

many batmen

When one Batman isn’t enough…

Batman is really no match for the demon in a one on one fight, so Jason conjures up many Batmen to aid him. The dummy Batmen make it hard for Etrigan to target the proper one, and the Batmen start circling Etrigan. This is apparently all a feint as the real Batman is off to the side. Klarion notices him as he takes off and orders Etrigan after him, but the illusion Batmen get in his way. Batman winds up ducking into an alley that appears to be a dead end. By now Jason’s body is failing him, but he has enough magic left to make Batman turn invisible and he blends in with the brick wall.

Thinking Batman has escaped, Klarion decides it would be best to remove his uncle’s influence over the fight. He orders Etrigan to kill Jason and sends the beast away. Jason, looking withered and near death, orders Tim to spread a blue powder around them in a circle. The stupid kid wastes time expressing a disbelief in such a tactic, but ends up doing as he’s told. The circle, along with some help from Jason, creates a forcefield around the two as Etrigan comes barging in. The demon can’t get through it, but Klarion apparently seeing through Etrigan’s eyes, orders his demon to not be discouraged. Etrigan starts blasting the field with its laser eyes while Jason tries to remain focused inside. He soon slumps over, succumbing to the rapid onset of age, as Etrigan breaks through.

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Klarion doesn’t necessarily need a demon to win a fight.

With Jason apparently nearing his end, Klarion allows himself to savor the moment despite the protests of Teekl. Batman closes in and knocks the kid down retrieving the branding iron in the process. Teekl takes on her human form and goes after the Dark Knight, but Batman is able to stamp her head with the branding iron gaining control over her. He uses his dominance over the beast to return her to her less fearsome feline form. Klarion then apparently forgets he’s a witch boy as he just runs at Batman and tries to retrieve the iron, but he’s much too short. Batman utters some spell that makes Etrigan and Jason whole once again, and not a moment too soon as the demon was about to finish the job.

With his plan foiled, Klarion apparently remembers he’s pretty damn powerful on his own. He starts blasting Batman with green, glowing, orbs that Batman really has no answer for. If he was counting on Etrigan to save him then he placed his faith in the right person…demon, as Etrigan shows up, alongside Robin, to make the save. He blasts Klarion into some nearby crates, then utters an incantation of his own. When Batman asks what the spell will do, Etrigan replies that he’s sending Klarion to his room.

With the crisis averted, Etrigan takes his leave. Robin is then left to ask Batman just what went down tonight, but Batman rebukes him with a “Don’t ask.” Klarion is then shown from behind seated in a chair with his shoulders slumped. The camera pans back to reveal he’s been imprisoned in Jason Blood’s crystal ball and placed on a shelf in Blood’s apartment. He apparently poses little threat there, as Jason is shown nearby casually reading a newspaper.

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Jason appears to lead a rather mundane life when Klarion isn’t on the loose.

“The Demon Within” is obviously an atypical episode of Batman as it deals with a lot of mysticism and magic mumbo jumbo. I like fantasy as much as the next person, maybe even more so, but I’ve never liked it when it crosses paths with Batman. It’s why I’m not that into the Ras al Ghul stuff and I like it even less here. This episode feels like a backdoor pilot for an Etrigan series, and if that was the aim well then it failed as no series came to pass. The demon would make a future appearance in an episode of Justice League, but that’s all.

teekl

We can probably thank Teekl and Etrigan’s transformation powers for the presence of TMS on this one.

The animation and vibrant colors of this episode can certainly be appreciated by anyone, even in spite of the silly plot material. The transformation animations are likely why TMS was chosen to handle this one, and while they’re neat, they don’t come close to matching what the studio did with Clayface. Etrigan himself has never appealed to me though from a visual standpoint. He’s big, and kind of menacing to behold, but he wears a rather conventional super hero costume of red spandex and blue cape. He looks like a bulgy Under Dog, and his fingers are shaped like rectangles with rectangular claws in several shots. He also has this weird thing going on with his feet where he apparently has a large middle toe or his shoes just have extra material that makes them look like elf stockings. Basically everything below his neck is rather dumb looking.

What it comes down to is this is an episode you’ll probably enjoy if you’re a fan of the Etrigan character from the comics. I would imagine seeing him would have been exciting for such a fan, just like the Jonah Hex episode from the last season. If you don’t care about Etrigan though, or if you don’t like him, then unlike the Hex episode this one probably won’t do anything for you. Klarion is a bit amusing in a bratty kid who gets his comeuppance always is kind of way, but beyond that there isn’t much happening here. Even the great TMS can’t really make this one a must see episode strictly from a visual standpoint. And with so few episodes remaining, this one just feels like a waste of precious space.


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