Tag Archives: dc comics

Batman: The Animated Series Wrap-Up

btas redOne-hundred and nine episodes plus three features leading to one-hundred and twelve blog entries have been devoted to the subject of Batman: The Animated Series. It started as a celebration of the show turning 25 and then as a curiosity piece. Since its premiere in 1992, the show had become much celebrated and praised all over. It’s exceptionally rare in this age of social media to see anything basically universally loved, but that was the case for BTAS. I had a lot of good memories of the show myself. I watched it as a kid and when the show received a DVD release I bought it up. And I watched them all. Batman became a show I had experienced and enjoyed both as a kid and as an adult, but some ten years or so removed from when I last watched it in total I still wasn’t sure just how good the show was.

And so I watched it again. And after each episode I made a little blog entry afterwards. Well, at first they were fairly little as I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. Did I want to do an episode review or did I want to do a recap? I started leaning more towards the review side while also inserting a brief summary. Perhaps being influenced by all of the recap style podcasts I listen to, the entries drifted more towards that style. And they grew. Oh, did they grow. This little weekly entry soon routinely ran for thousands of words. I’m not saying that makes them any better or worse, but it certainly transformed my little project from something I could regurgitate via my keyboard rather quickly to something much more demanding.

Even though my vision for this feature grew beyond my initial plans, that doesn’t mean I regret anything about it. Far from it, actually, as I really enjoyed my time with this show once again. I may have even enjoyed it more than ever as I found it much easier to find things I liked about episodes I previously wasn’t very high on. Some of those episodes are still rather poor, but I can at least see what the writers were thinking and for the most part the animation is always quite good. It’s a very entertaining program, and while it’s still primarily a children’s cartoon, there’s enough depth there to captivate an older audience.

2face revealed

The character of Batman drew people in, and villains like Two-Face and Mr. Freeze kept them coming back.

In re-watching the show I found there were certainly things that consistently worked and things that did not. When the show centered on a sympathetic villain it was usually at its best. Batman can be pretty ruthless in his application of justice, but the guy does have a heart. He often makes the right decision, though he’s also not perfect. Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, and Clayface ended up being my favorite villains. And when Harley Quinn was thrust into a sympathetic role she soared. Even Arnold Stromwell was interesting when we saw his softer side. That doesn’t mean everyone needs that to work though. Rupert Thorne was consistently nasty and thus interesting, same for Roland Daggett. The Joker was also often very entertaining and the show never made an attempt at deviating from what he is, which is something filmmakers today could learn from.

There were still a few duds when it came to the villains. Surprisingly, Catwoman was rarely compelling as the show didn’t seem to know what to do with her. For whatever reason, there was a desire to portray her as something other than a villain. Rather than make her an antihero, she more or less just became a victim. There was a bit of a course correction in season two, but only when the show returned as The New Batman Adventures did it feel like the show actually knew what it wanted to do with one of Batman’s most popular foils. Two-Face also tended to flounder after his strong debut. He was able to rebound a bit, but it was a shame to see so much of what his debut built up was seemingly cast aside. The Penguin, another famous Batman villain, was also rarely up to the task when called upon with many of his leading roles serving as the show’s worst. He was usually most entertaining when paired up with other villains to play off of them. The show seemed to acknowledge this by putting him in more of a supporting role later on when he became a club owner.

Mostly, when I consider the legacy of this show I mostly recall what it did for the lesser villains. Going into 1992, the only Batman villains I was really aware of were the ones featured in the Adam West show. The Riddler, Penguin, Joker, and Catwoman were the most famous, but I also recalled Mr. Freeze and, for some reason, King Tutt. This show is how I was introduced to other, lesser, villains such as Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Clay-Face, and others. And for the most part I loved these “new” villains most of all. Sure, there were some duds for me like The Clock King or the one-off werewolf character and Lock-Up, but mostly the new guys were pretty interesting. And you can’t talk about this show without talking about what it did for Mr. Freeze. Previously more gimmick than character, Freeze became one of the most popular Batman villains seemingly overnight thanks to his portrayal in “Heart of Ice.” No, he never had another story as good as that one, but because that episode was so good it made any future appearance appointment television just to see if another Freeze story could match that one.

batncat

Oddly enough, the show seemed to struggle with Catwoman not knowing if it wanted to portray her as something of an antihero or as her more traditional cat burglar persona.

Since this show is primarily a half-hour cartoon intended for kids, it runs into some issues. The format it strived for is a limitation. That inaugural 65 episode first season included several two-part stories, but following that every other story was confined to a single episode. This limitation is only a limitation if the writers allow it to be one, but sometimes it felt like certain episodes were short-changed. It also leads to numerous instances of Batman just turning to his wonder computer to solve a problem. That was definitely my biggest pet peeve with the show this time around as it quickly became a trope of the show. Batman turning to his computer felt like The Simpsons using the living room television to either start or advance a plot. An episode can still be good when that element is present, but it certainly feels cheap.

I also can’t offer a proper conclusion on the show without talking about the move from Fox to the WB and the creation of The New Batman Adventures. The switch did lead to some good things. For one, it advanced characters like Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon and let us see some actual development. Some conflict between Batman and Robin was teased during the Fox years and it was rewarding to see that go somewhere. I think the show could have mined that conflict for more material, but it was mostly handled well. Barbara, on the other hand, was a bit glossed over. Sure, she was now an accepted ally as Batgirl, but we learned very little about her character. Did she have a new outlook on crime fighting? What was her end game? We also never even got to see what came between she and Dick, which was unfortunate.

Aside from that, the move to WB also allowed for less censorship. This didn’t have a huge impact on much unless you’re really turned on by seeing a thin line of blood streaking from a character’s mouth, but it did really open up The Joker. He went from being mostly just a lunatic to being a violent lunatic. He has a few moments to be truly mean during his time on WB giving the character a similar feel to how he was portrayed in Mask of the Phantasm. This did lead to some criticisms I had with the direction of Harley Quinn, but I think I did a good job of highlighting those issues in my posts on the episodes she appears in.

newbatjoker

No matter how many times I see the new-look Joker I just can’t fall in love with it.

What obviously stands out the most though in the change in networks was the new design. While some characters looked unchanged and a few looked better than before, I mostly disliked the new style choice. Less detail and odd choices are mostly to blame, but even the animation came across a bit too cartoony for this show. The whole tone of the show was also thrown off and I think that had to do with the ensemble cast and the simplified portrayal of each of the leads. The writers basically assigned one archetype to each character and mostly stuck with it. This left no room for nuance and it had the most drastic impact on our main lead, Batman himself. In the first two seasons we got to see different sides to the character, but in The New Batman Adventures he’s basically just grim and curt. He’s so boring, and sadly none of the other leads outside of Nightwing really offer much. Robin is mostly just a vehicle for bad puns and Batgirl offers even less.

As a result, I can comfortably say that The New Batman Adventures era is inferior to what came before it. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still quality to be found there. Much to my surprise, a few episodes actually rank quite highly and the worst of the show is still found in those first two seasons. A lot of that third season is just okay or average with few true stinkers. Though that is a post for another day.

harley scream

The show is exciting and fun and gave us some truly memorable characters. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to Batman, if not the best.

Ultimately, I set out to decide for myself if I felt Batman: The Animated Series was overrated or properly rated. It never occurred to me that it could be underrated, and it certainly is not. While the show didn’t deliver a slam dunk each episode, it also totaled 109 episodes and what show has ever hit a home run every episode for such a long time? Even much celebrated shows like Breaking Bad have a lesser episode here and there, and that particular show produced far fewer than 109 episodes (though to be fair, in terms of total minutes it’s probably much closer). And no, I’m not trying to compare this show to Breaking Bad, but making the point that it doesn’t have to “wow” the audience every time out to be a great show. Calling it the greatest television show based on a comic book feels right. It’s certainly the greatest cartoon, and I also came away feeling that it’s totally defensible for this to be someone’s favorite depiction of Batman in any medium. It’s a great show with a lot to offer. It’s primarily an action vehicle, and the wonderful animation allows it to be a pretty great show based on its action alone. What puts it over the top are the stories, the captivating villains, and it’s wonderful sense of style. The music of Shirley Walker, the performances of actors like Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, it’s a production that oozes quality. So yes, Batman: The Animated Series is properly rated and if I am certain of anything it’s that I will watch this series in its entirety again. And again…


Dec. 12 – Teen Titans Go! – “Halloween vs. Christmas”

 

halloween vs christmas

Original air date October 27, 2016.

It’s a battle for the hearts of children around the world! What is the superior holiday:  Halloween or Christmas? Today’s entrant is founded on the premise that Halloween is the only holiday to rival Christmas as far as what children look forward to most. This feels more or less on point as a kid I definitely had strong affection for both, with Thanksgiving serving as the necessary evil standing in between the two of them. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that Christmas was indeed my preferred holiday of the two, but Halloween was not without its charm. As for second best? Yes, I suppose that title went to Halloween though Easter was pretty close. It included candy as well plus I always got a toy from the Easter Bunny to go along with that candy. And as a kid, I much preferred toys to candy. Still, I’d probably go with Halloween because the whole costuming and going out at night was pretty charming. And as I got older it became a chance for mischief when parents no longer supervised the trick and/or treating that took place.

Even though I’m in agreement that Halloween is quite popular, I’d never put it on equal footing with Christmas. Especially not as a kid. As an adult, there are things that come with Halloween that I enjoy more now. And as a parent, dressing my kids up and unleashing them on the neighborhood is its own unique brand of joy. It doesn’t rival Christmas morning though, and I’m big on the whole build-up thing. Yes, Halloween is great, but don’t make me choose between the two because Halloween just can’t win that one.

And that’s partly what makes this episode of Teen Titans Go! so interesting. One would think if Halloween was to be pitted against Christmas the challenge would come from Halloween or a being associated with Halloween. It does not. Rather, this episode comes at things from the opposite perspective, but it creates a character that makes it work

mummy santaThe episode begins on Halloween night. Everyone is getting ready for trick or treating, but a group of individuals dressed as mummies are up to no good. There are four of them, one much larger than the others, and they’re swiping everything Halloween related from town:  candy, decorations, even costumes right off of the children! The Teen Titans happen to be in the area as Robin (Scott Menville) instructs the other Titans that they must secure provisions for the evening’s festivities. As they do so they come to find there’s nothing in town to purchase. Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) tells them to fear not, for he has saved some candy from last year that they can hand out to trick or treaters. He reaches into his pants and pulls out a greasy looking jack-o-lantern bag of treats and the others do not seem repulsed enough by this.

After Beast Boy produces the candy, the mummy group arrives to request it. They offer a “Trick or treat,” when prompted and Beast Boy is ready to hand over the candy, but then they notice something is off with these trick or treaters. One seems too old for the activity, while the others are really small. They wield Christmas stockings instead of Halloween bags or buckets and the big one even has what appears to be a white beard sticking out through his bandages. Robin correctly realizes that this group is really Santa Claus (Robert Morse) and his elves in disguise and he orders the Titans to the car.

The Teen Titans speed off as Santa gives chase in his sleigh. Rudolf leads the way firing lasers from his eyes that eventually pop one of the tires of the escape vehicle. Robin converts it into a nifty hover jet and it flies off into the Titans’ headquarters. Once inside, the Teen Titans regroup and all wonder what’s going on. Robin has it figured out though when he hypothesizes that Santa views Halloween as the only threat to Christmas so he’s seeking to gain control of it by seizing all of the candy and decorations. The other Titans are horrified, and then Santa shows up to basically confirm that Robin is correct.

santa megaphoneSanta hovers outside the armored HQ in his sleigh pulled by three reindeer. He demands they hand over the last bag of candy, but the Titans refuse. He then offers them bribes in the form of gifts, which nearly tempt Starfire (Hynden Walch) into handing over the candy. Robin instructs her to remain strong and the Titans are able to resist. This forces Santa to try a new tactic:  Christmas music! The music is supposed to infect the group with so much Christmas cheer that they cannot resist the demands of Santa. Cyborg (Khary Payton) is the first to crack as he attempts to run and grab a tree, but he’s stopped by his team members. They all confess that it’s too hard to resist the Christmas spirit with even the dour Raven (Tara Strong) affected by it. Robin concedes they must agree to meet Santa and make a deal.

santas crew

That treacherous Santa came armed.

The Titans let down their guard and allow Santa access to their roof where they all meet. Santa isn’t alone for he has two large grunts and three elves with him. Robin is outraged that they brought weapons and demands they lay them down. Santa does as Robin requests, but he asks that his little elves be allowed to keep their candy cane snacks. Robin allows it and the group begins to barter. Robin offers up other holidays in hopes of appeasing Santa, starting with President’s Day. He tosses a bound George Washington at Santa’s feet, but the fat man isn’t having any of it. Robin counters with a tandem of St. Patrick’s Day and a baby that’s either representing Baby New Year or maybe it’s a cupid. Either way, Santa brushes aside the offering of “trash holidays” and demands Halloween. The elves then turn their candy canes on the Titans revealing they’re actually guns forcing the group to retreat back inside their base.

With the negotiations failed, Robin turns to Raven and her dark arts for help. She requests a pumpkin, but Beast Boy offers up a gourd. In a throwback to the candy sack gag from earlier, the gourd comes from his pants. When asked why he would have a gourd in his pants he offers the same reason, suggesting you never know when you’ll need it. I choose to believe he’s using it to enhance his “package” and the little mugging he does for the camera makes me think I’m right.

halloween spirit

Behold! A new icon for Halloween!

With the gourd in her possession, Raven begins an incantation. She summons the Spirt of Halloween (Payton) who strongly resembles Samhain from The Real Ghostbusters, only with a gourd for a head instead of a pumpkin. The spirit is not alone though, as the Titans return to the roof to unleash their new team on Santa’s minions:  Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man! Together with the Titans, they put up quite a fight, but Santa ends up getting his claws on the Halloween Spirit and the Titans are forced to surrender.

santa vs halloweenWith defeat pulling their chins towards the ground, the Titans hand over the last sack of candy rather than see Santa kill the Spirit of Halloween. Santa is delighted to have the candy in his possession, but when he opens the sack he finds it’s full of dynamite. Cyborg detonates it with a remote blasting Santa all the way back to the North Pole where’s shown with his head stuck in the snow. The Titans all celebrate, and in what is a parody of many Christmas specials, the Halloween Spirit uses his magic to bring Halloween to the town. He even creates a sleigh with skeletal reindeer not unlike what Jack Skellington rode in The Nightmare Before Christmas. As Robin wishes everyone a Happy Halloween, the Titans and Halloween Sprit ride off into the night with the full moon serving as the perfect backdrop.

“Halloween vs Christmas” serves as an offbeat Christmas special. Or is it a Halloween special? It features both so I think it counts as both, similar to the previously mentioned The Nightmare Before Christmas. Where that movie leans more towards Christmas, this one definitely leans more towards Halloween, which is fine. It doesn’t really settle the premise implied by the title, but together with the Spirit of Halloween, the Teen Titans are able to preserve Halloween by fending off St. Nick. It features the usual Teen Titans Go! brand of humor. The villainous Santa the episode came up with is pretty amusing. He gets by with a touch of shock humor since it’s a surprise to see Santa behave in such a manner, but American Dad has been running with an adversarial Santa for quite awhile now too. I really like the performance of Robert Morse as Santa and his affinity for referring to the Titans as “garbage children” kept making me chuckle.

happy halloween

Happy Halloween everyone! Or, Merry Christmas?

The look of this show is something you either like or do not like. It’s very flat as it’s a modern 2D animated show, but it’s also colorful and the actual animation is pretty good. There’s an obvious anime influence to the action shots and in how the characters emote. I find it charming, but I also wasn’t a viewer of the more traditional Teen Titans show that came before this. Some fans of that show seem resigned to hating this one for being a comedy show, but that’s their loss, I suppose. I don’t think this show is going to be remembered as one of the best of its era, but it’s fine and it’s not something I mind watching. It knows when to leave a joke behind and the episodes are too short to really get stale, though I do wish Cartoon Network didn’t show massive blocks of this show seemingly every day when it has plenty of other quality shows it could boost.

img_0425

It’s more of a Halloween special, but it still knows to end on a moon shot after a flying sleigh just went by.

This is the second Teen Titans Go! episode to appear in one of the countdowns, the other being “Second Christmas.” Neither is a traditional Christmas episode, which feels appropriate for the brand. I found both entertaining, but the holiday mash-up gimmick utilized here makes me appreciate this one just a bit more. Regardless, Cartoon Network is likely to show both more than once this December so keep an eye out if it’s something you want to check out. You can also buy the episode digitally and may even be able to stream it on Cartoon Network’s app. It should be one of the easier specials to find this year should you choose to seek it out.


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.

klarion with cat

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.

teekl transforms

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.

klarion eerie

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.

jason victorious

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.


The New Batman Adventures – “Cult of the Cat”

cult of the catEpisode Number:  15 (100)

Original Air Date:  September 18, 1998

Directed by:  Butch Lukic

Written by:  Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz

First Appearance:  Thomas Blake

For the one-hundredth episode of Batman:  The Animated Series we’re getting a special team-up. As Batman has spent much of this season working alongside the likes of Batgirl and Robin, this episode will feature neither and at his side will be the seductive rogue, Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau). Catwoman started off as a thief with a heart of gold in the first iteration of this show, but by its conclusion she had returned to her roots as just a thief with a fixation on cat-themed jewels and artwork. In The New Batman Adventures she has held onto that while sporting a new all black costume and matching black hair. In “You Scratch My Back,” she unsuccessfully tried to drive a wedge between Batman and Nightwing, but all that got her was another trip to jail. She’s out, and how she got out is a mystery, and up to her old tricks once again. Only this time she gets in a little over her head.

The episode begins with Catwoman fleeing someone through a hedge maze. She has just stolen a golden cat idol and seems quite pleased with herself, but she’s made a few new enemies in the process. Her pursuers basically resemble ninjas, only their all black attire includes cute little cat ears on top of their masks. They don’t look particularly fearsome, but they make up for that with weaponry. They carry fully-automatic guns and also sport claws that function just like Marvel hero Wolverine’s, they even pop-out with a little “snikt” sound too.

ugly catwoman

Have I mentioned I really hate Catwoman’s redesign?

Catwoman does her best to avoid these individuals, but their affection for cats goes beyond their costumes and artwork as they also employ a big ass panther. Catwoman comes face to face with the big cat in what would normally be an uncomfortable situation, but not for Catwoman. She sweet talks the feline and it soon abandons her to go after one of the cat-ninjas.

cat cult

Catwoman has some Wolverine-like problems in this one.

Catwoman appears to be home free as she’s made it out of the compound and into the city, but gunfire soon drives her from the safety of Gotham’s buildings down to the street where she winds up surrounded. Deciding that living is better than possessing a priceless artifact, Catwoman offers to return the statue, but one of the ninja informs her the statue has been defiled now and only her blood can erase that. He menacingly does a Wolverine pose as Catwoman seems to shrug off the threat and returns to fleeing.

catwoman batmobile

There are worse things one could find hiding in their car.

Elsewhere, Batman is doing his usual thing and has some crooks suspended from a street light ready for Gotham PD to come pick them up. He heads for the Batmobile and opens it up and is surprised to find a lounging Catwoman inside. She is her usual playful self while Batman plays the role of the stiff and drives off with Catwoman riding shotgun. She tells him she needs some help dealing with a problem, but Batman would rather take her to prison to ride out the heat. Some gunfire on the roof of the Batmobile indicates the severity of Catwoman’s predicament. Batman agrees to help her out, but only if she agrees to surrender everything she’s stolen. Catwoman is unwilling to make such a commitment, but Batman coaxes it out of her by slowing down the Batmobile.

The duo escape the cat people and make it to Catwoman’s hideout which appears to be a cat food factory. She’s got a computer set up inside and Batman uses it to show her just who wants her dead. It’s some cat cult which traces its roots back to ancient Egypt. They won’t rest until she’s dead. Catwoman seems unimpressed, but a red dot flashes across her head forcing Batman to pull her to safety. With the cultists descending upon the factory, Catwoman leads Batman to a way out via a furnace which is connected to a smokestack. Batman fires a grappling hook to escape, while Catwoman elects to use her claws to scale the brick wall. As she does so, Batman slowly retracts his rope to stay alongside her – how cute.

batman catwoman smokestack

Maybe next time Catwoman won’t be so chatty when trying to escape.

The cultists break into the factory and rather easily figure out where their prey went, despite Catwoman thinking they’d never guess. One of the cultists orders another to turn on the gas and fire up the furnace. They do so, and Batman is forced to grab Catwoman to speed up their escape. As they emerge from the smokestack, the explosion causes Batman to lose Catwoman. He recovers on the roof and looks down to see the cultists placing an unconscious Catwoman on one of their motorcycles. They take off, save for one, who looks up to see Batman descending upon him which is where the episode cuts to commercial. I cannot recall another episode that cuts to commercial with Batman on the attack like that, usually that’s a play reserved for the villains.

Catwoman wakes up to find herself chained to an altar. Her captor emerges and we meet Thomas Blake (Scott Cleverdon), the leader of this cult. In the comics, Black is the villain known as Catman because every gendered hero and villain needs an opposite. Here he doesn’t appear to go by that name, but since he wears one of those dorky cat ninja suits I suppose the intent is there. Blake seems to admire Catwoman a bit, while a nameless female cultist (Tasia Valenza) clearly does not. She thinks they should dispose of the thief, though that doesn’t phase Catwoman. What does bother her is when the woman refers to her as a common thief which Catwoman corrects. Despite the protests of this woman, Blake thinks Catwoman can be converted to their side given her affection for the feline species and Catwoman is happy to go along with this.

female cultist

I bet you didn’t know X-23’s first appearance was in a DC cartoon.

At the Batcave, the cultist Martin (Jim Piddock) wakes up on a ledge. Batman’s taunting voice booms from some nearby speakers demanding answers. Martin keeps quiet, causing Batman to share his favorite animal with the cat-lover. I’m assuming you can guess what that is. Batman’s deployed bats cause Martin to fall, but a grappling hook snares him by the ankle to prevent certain death. It’s at this point that Martin agrees to cooperate.

Back at the cult, Catwoman is shown to her quarters. It’s a spacious room that’s well-decorated. Blake seems interested in getting some alone time with Catwoman, but she indicates that she needs some rest and he takes his leave. Catwoman then grabs a pillowcase and starts filling it with some of the goods in the room, but she’s interrupted when Batman shows up. Batman wants to get her out of there, but Selina insists she’s got it under control. When he notices she’s casing the room, he starts to reprimand her and Catwoman goes into a dramatic routine where she plays the victim, crying that she needs help so that she’ll stop stealing. She even finishes the routine with a kiss, but Batman just seems irritated and asks if they can go now. And when he turns his back on her, Catwoman wallops him in the back of the head with her pillowcase full of goodies.

thomas blake

Thomas Blake has some Dr. Evil vibes.

Blake then comes storming in with some other cult members. He heard the commotion and is surprised to find an unconscious Batman on his floor. Catwoman explains what happened, and Blake is pleased. Telling her they need blood for their ritual, he orders his men to take Batman downstairs. Catwoman is confused and inquires about her own initiation and Blake says that won’t be necessary now claiming she’s proven her loyalty by supplying Batman. When she asks what will happen to him, Blake is coy and simply remarks that she’ll see.

Batman wakes up in a pit. It’s like a small-scale gladiator arena and the cultists are able to look down on him. Catwoman has swiped the seat of the female cultist who dislikes her, which seems to please Blake. Blake taunts Batman by displaying the caped crusader’s utility belt. He then introduces Batman’s opponent, a rather large genetically engineered saber-toothed cat.

catwoman and sabre

She has a way with cats, big and small.

We’ve seen Batman dispatch of sharks, alligators, and other wildlife before, so this doesn’t seem that bad, but evidently I’m wrong. The cat lays into Batman tearing up his costume while exerting its dominance. It’s enough that Catwoman does the predictable thing and jumps in to help her sometimes foe. Batman is able to get on top of the beast, and with Catwoman’s help, steers it into a column which gets smashed up pretty well. The beast then gets in Catwoman’s face, but just like before, Catwoman is able to seemingly tame the critter and it licks her. At Catwoman’s command, it jumps out of the pit to go after the cultists, forcing them to run. Catwoman asks Batman for help in getting out of the pit, but he’s not in a trusting mood. She insists she’s trustworthy and that once out she’ll help him out and Batman is forced to go along with it. After he gives her a boost out, the camera lingers on Batman just long enough to put doubt into his mind, before a rope comes dangling down.

beat up Batman

This is quite possibly the most beat up we’ve seen Batman get in this series.

With Batman free from the pit, the two make a run for it, but Blake jumps out from behind some cover and slashes at Batman’s back with those Wolverine claws. Batman turns and we can see his costume has been ripped open, but no blood has been spilled. He then engages with Blake while the female cultist emerges with a torch and tries to attack Catwoman. She’s able to deftly parry the cultist causing her to plummet into the pit and fall unconscious. Batman is also able to get the upper hand against Blake, but the big old cat from earlier re-emerges. Batman looks around and can’t find Catwoman, so he instead uses a commanding voice to halt the beast. Whether it worked or not is hard to say, but the cat turns its attention on Blake. The two fall back into the pit with the cat landing on Blake. Batman looks down as the two slip into unconsciousness.

batman gordon cat cult

Another hard night’s work has come to an end.

The police are then shown rounding up the other cult members while Blake is being wheeled around on a stretcher hooked up to a ventilator. Batman is seated in the back of an ambulance all bandaged up as Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) returns his belt. Gordon remarks that the big cat is going to the zoo while the cult members are off to jail. Batman supposes there’s enough stolen goods in the place to convict them, and Gordon agrees but also remarks that there’s less in there than would be expected. Batman reacts subtly to this statement indicating he knows why the haul may be a bit light. We then cut to Paris, and Selina Kyle is shown surrounded by jewels as she presents her beloved cat Isis with a couple of dinner choices. She stretches out on her large bed as she remarks to Isis that being on the side of the virtuous has its perks.

And that is the last we’ll see of Catwoman in this one. She’ll resurface in the short “Chase Me” which is basically just a fun little piece of animation that’s free of dialogue. It’s an interesting exit for Catwoman as she’s one of the rare villains who seemingly got away with one and is leading a happy life of crime far from Gotham. She has a hard to shake compulsion though so it’s safe to assume she’ll one day return to Gotham to mess with Batman and his allies, we just won’t be there to see it. It closes the book on her character though, which went from villain to anti-hero back to villain again. The ending here with her musing about being an ally to the law in a small way I suppose opens the door to assuming she might return to the anti-hero persona, but I think it’s just the playful side of her character coming out. She’s a thief and proud of it and nothing is going to change that. I definitely prefer the playful thief to the directionless Selina we saw for much of BTAS, and if any villain was going to get away, it makes sense for it to be Catwoman.

“Cult of the Cat” is an entertaining team-up between Batman and Catwoman that remains logical throughout. Batman never really allows himself to get duped by Catwoman, though he does make the mistake of turning his back to her in that one scene. Even though he gets her to agree to his terms in order to assist her, I never got the impression he expected her to actually abide by such. Had he been able to keep better track of her during his fight with Blake, I get the impression he would have either just arrested her or tailed her to her hideout where the goods are kept. It could have been interesting seeing Batman deceive Catwoman, but he basically already did that in her last appearance so it may have felt too similar.

As for Blake and the others, we’ll never see them again either. The cat cult was pretty silly, but not offensively so. I’m surprised their claws were made so similar to Wolverine’s as it’s impossible to separate the two, though ultimately it matters little. The female cultist is revealed at the end of the initial chase sequence and when she pulls off her mask I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know who she is. She resembles Red Claw a bit, which made it more confusing, but in the end she’s a nobody. When she’s sporting those claws though she’s a dead-ringer for Marvel’s X-23 character, so much so that I’d have called her a rip-off if she didn’t predate that character’s first appearance by several years.

selina kyle spoils

This is the last we’ll see of Selina in the main series. I think she did all right for herself in the end.

“Cult of the Cat” may be remembered for being Catwoman’s final appearance, but it’s also quietly a contender for best Catwoman episode. Her episodes are not the greatest, so the competition is surprisingly light. I think I prefer “You Scratch My Back” to this one though, and she’s actually pretty fun in “Batgirl Returns.” Obviously, if we consider a Catwoman episode to being any episode in which she makes an appearance then the clear answer is “Almost Got ‘Im,” but I don’t think of that as a Catwoman episode. Given this one is even in the discussion though makes it a worthy exit for the femme fatale. I think the show could have done more with the character which is why I’ll miss her.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is not only the 100th episode of Batman but also post number 600 for this blog. If you actually count all of the published entries you would find it totals less than 600, but that’s because you’re not reading them in the order written. A weekly Batman post plus 25 days of Christmas coming in December means I have to schedule things in advance. And while I initially planned on doing something special to mark the occasion of 600 blog entries part of me felt it made sense for it to be a Batman post given the presence the show has had on this blog for over two years now. And then when I saw it matched up with the 100th episode of the show it became a no-brainer, so thanks to those who have read and continue to read these things. I do it for fun and welcome any who want to take this journey with me.


The New Batman Adventures – “Critters”

batman crittersEpisode Number:  14 (99)

Original Air Date:  September 18, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Joe R. Lansdale, Steve Garber

First Appearance:  Farmer Brown, Emmylou Brown

A few weeks ago we looked at the episode “The Ultimate Thrill,” in which I pointed out a little easter egg of sorts during one of the chase sequences. This is the episode where that bit of foreshadowing pays off, not that it’s anything momentous. That episode contained a truck branded by a Farmer Brown, and this week we shall meet that farmer. It’s a bit odd, as the episode seems to indicate that Farmer Brown has been out of business for awhile so I don’t know why that truck was on the road, but then again, there’s no real timeline in play here so maybe a whole year has passed since that episode for all we know. Anyway, this is a bit of an odd one, so strap yourself in.

The episode opens at yet another expo of some kind. A southern gentleman is pitching his new product to a crowd of onlookers. The man is Farmer Brown (Peter Breck), a mulleted old man with a young daughter named Emmylou (Dina Sherman). He has the aura of a quaint, humble, farmer, but he’s really more of a scientist. And the product he is hawking is a growth hormone for farm animals. To show off his creation he unveils an animal from his farm, some sort of sheep-cow hybrid. It doesn’t look like something I would want to eat, but then again, what animal does?

brown and critter

Ladies and gentlemen, the future of livestock!

The ‘roided up super animal predictably goes on a bit of a rampage. Lucky for the onlookers, Bruce Wayne is at this expo. When the animal approaches him, he’s able to pull a curtain off a window and drape it over the animal’s head. The beast begins to calm, and Brown is able to subdue it further with some nice drugs. He seems to think all is fine now, as Wayne receives congratulations from Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) for his bravery, but he insists he was just trying to climb through the window. We then cut to a courtroom scene, and all is not well for old Farmer Brown. The judge (Dorian Harewood) is not a fan of Brown’s experiments, and he orders them to cease and for all of the mutant animals to be removed from Gotham City. Brown insists this will ruin him as he’s sunk millions into these beasts, but the judge doesn’t care referring to his creations as monsters. As the courtroom clears, Brown remarks to his daughter he’ll show them real monsters.

bruce mantis

Considering how badly his date was going, this probably feels like a win for Bruce.

A time jump of one year follows and naturally it’s time for Farmer Brown to make good on his threat. Wayne is shown seated with a woman he’s on a date with. He apologizes for having to previously reschedule their date, and then calls her by the wrong name. He tries a few other names, but clearly he’s not finding the proper one. Before he can drown further, someone screams about a bug and they’re not talking about your garden variety insect. Bruce turns to see a small army of giant praying mantis descending upon the outdoor patio. Bruce’s date beats a hasty retreat while he tries fending off the bug with a chair. It’s futile, but he is able to slip away.

batman arrives

It’s always good to insert a heroic pose of our star every now and then.

Which is a good thing because this is a job for Batman (the Orkin man was busy)! The bugs are causing all kinds of problems, and it looks like they may even claim a victim, but Batman is able to draw their attention to him. And lo and behold, a tanker truck full of pesticides just happens to be hanging around. Batman tries the stuff on the bugs, but it doesn’t seem to work. As one mantis gets in close, it takes a couple of swipes, but gets its blades stuck in the tanker truck. Batman gives it a good kick in the chest causing its arms to rip off. These things may be more fragile than first thought, but they still have Batman surrounded. That is, until they don’t as they all soon begin to crumble and fall apart.

At the Batcave, Batman is analyzing a piece of one of the bugs he brought back with him as Robin and Batgirl look on. He discovers the bugs were designed to fall apart, and when the others ask what purpose that would serve Batman deduces that these ones were a warning. The main event is still to come.

farmer brown elevator

Getting a real “Andy’s room from Toy Story” vibe here.

Somewhere on an idyllic farm setting, Emmylou is hauling sacks of grain while her father carves wood on the porch. The setting is too perfect, and that’s by design. Farmer Brown instructs his daughter to feed the chickens for the livestock is heading to market. As he stands up to leave a sophisticated mechanical door opens behind him. He exits into a glass tube elevator which takes him out of this apparent underground farm while Emmylou heads for an oversized chicken coop. She feeds the birds, which come out and resemble giant, mutated, crows as opposed to chickens.

It’s not long before Brown’s creatures are set loose on Gotham. A giant cow and bull are having a good time downtown, but Batgirl and Robin soon arrive on the scene in the Batmobile. They take a pretty good shot from the bull indicating their hands are going to be rather full. Meanwhile, Batman is soaring overhead in his fancy jetpack as those weird crows attack a police blimp. They wreck the blimp, but the pilot is able to take it down onto a rooftop leaving Batman to deal with the vermin. As he goes after them, I’m pondering if his no kill policy applies to abominations. It would seem like now would be a good time to make use of any lethal weapons he might posses. And for a moment it looks like that might happen as he fires off a pair of missiles at the birds. They then explode into nets, perhaps confirming the no kill policy applies to all living creatures, abomination or not.

bbq mutant chicken

I hope they don’t let all of that barbecue chicken go to waste.

Batman takes care of the birds without much issue, but Robin and Batgirl have a tougher go of things. Batgirl is able to rope up the cow causing it crash into an area of wet cement, while Robin gets the bull to chase after him. He predictably does the whole matador routine before jumping through a window causing the bull to crash into the wall. His head goes through it trapping him in place. For good measure, Batgirl commandeers a cement mixer and parks it behind the bull to further make sure it’s not going anywhere.

In a darkened Gotham PD, a shadowy individual moves about the desks. Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) is typing up a report when his donut gets snatched by the shadow. In Gordon’s office, Batman is having a chat with the Commissioner about Farmer Brown, as he naturally believes him to be responsible for all of this. While the two talk, the shadowy individual enters the room. It’s a goat! And a weird looking one at that. It approaches Gordon’s desk and then does something unexpected – it talks. The goat wants 50 million bucks in exchange for not unleashing more bugs on Gotham. It gives Gordon instructions on where to make the drop, and insists that there be no involvement from Batman. Bullock then comes barging in about his stolen donut.

batman and goat

Batman has seen a lot of weird shit in his day, but even he must be surprised at this one.

Bullock is next shown driving an armored car as he follows the goat to the docks. He’s not in favor of this plan, but Gordon basically tells him to shut up. Batman, Batgirl, and Robin are in Gordon’s office with him listening to Bullock’s narrations, apparently respecting the wishes of the goat. The goat leads Bullock to a tugboat and he drives the armored car onto it before stepping out. Drawing his gun, he takes a look around and spies the backside of Emmylou up by the steering wheel. He seems to enjoy the view, and she turns her head to give him a little smile before the goat rams him over the side of the boat. As it takes off, Bullock demonstrates he’s a much better swimmer than one would assume given his physique as he swims alongside the boat and grabs a rope hanging over the side.

emmylous strength

I feel like whenever a man has super strength in these shows, they get huge and bulgey. With a woman though, they’re always small and slight.

Bullock is presented to Farmer Brown on his farm. Emmylou is positioned holding him from behind as Farmer Brown looks on unimpressed. Bullock calls him Snuffy Smith, which was apparently a bad move as Brown tells his daughter to feed him to the hogs. Emmylou then demonstrates why Bullock has been restrained so easily when she effortlessly lifts the big man over her head and dumps him into the pigpen. As you probably expected, the pig inside this pen is not your average pig, but a giant, mutated, thing. And he’s hungry.

Farmer Brown inspects the contents of the armored truck and pulls out a stack of green. Literally, that’s all it is as bills after the top one are all fake. Worse for Brown is the Batman tracer he finds inside it. He alerts Emmylou, and basically on cue the Bat-troop arrives. They first rescue Bullock from the piggy, though he gets smashed into the fencing knocking him unconscious. Batgirl then attempts a diving kick on Emmylou, but harmlesly bounces off of the young lady. Boasting she’s taken “big steroids,” Emmylou knocks Batgirl out.

brown vs batman

Batman basically meets his match in Farmer Brown, something I didn’t see coming.

Batman is left to tangle with Brown who arms himself with a pitchfork. He’s pretty good with the thing as he uses it to first fend off Batman and then to jab at him. Robin tries to sneak up behind him, but the old man is a damn ninja and hears him coming swatting him away. Batman can’t get in any offense, but Brown is apparently sick of playing around. His pitchfork then basically turns into King Triton’s trident from The Little Mermaid as he shoots lighting at Batman from it. Batman takes cover behind some bales of hay and pulls out a batarang, but when he pops out to fire it he sees Emmylou has subdued Robin. Having no alternative, Batman surrenders and Farmer Brown wisely takes his belt from him.

The captives are then loaded up into a silo. Brown tells them it’s actually more of a rocket and it’s set to go off in a few moments. It’s then the heroes realize they’ll be riding to Gotham with some of Brown’s bugs as they’ll be unleashed upon the city once the rocket lands (I guess they’re considerably more durable than the other bugs we saw if they’re to survive a rocket crash-landing). Brown shuts the door and he and his daughter escape the farm to their boat.

Inside the rocket, Batman searches for a way out, but the door won’t budge. Interestingly, Batgirl and Robin were allowed to keep their belts indicating to me they’re more of a fashion accessory than a utility belt. Bullock seems to enjoy pointing out what we’re all thinking, that it won’t be the Joker or Two-Face that gets Batman but Jed Clampett and his bugs. One of the cocoons above them hatches, and a giant mantis emerges. This is actually a good thing, as Batman lures the bug towards the door and basically does what he did the first time he encountered one of these things. When the bug gets its blades stuck in the door, it rips the door off trying to get itself free. Everyone is then able to escape and Batman orders them all to leave the farm as he heads for the armored truck. He drives the thing into the rocket silo as it takes off. At the last moment, Batman is able to roll out of the way and seek shelter in a ditch of sorts.

a purdy sight

Only the woman is allowed to smile.

In Gotham Harbor, Farmer Brown and Emmylou watch the silo launch from the safety of their tugboat. As it arcs over the water Brown remarks how “purdy” it looks. The silo then explodes caused by the burning truck Batman deposited into it. As it breaks apart, the debris falls and lands on the boat forcing Brown and his daughter into the water while the good guys look on. The duo is then shown being loaded into a police truck as they were apparently easily found. As the truck takes them away, the camera pans to Brown’s lab which is situated on an island and some monstrous noises can be heard indicating this isn’t over.

This episode is though. And if you’re worried that Gotham PD just left those creatures to their own devices well worry not, because they aren’t coming back. And Brown and Emmylou aren’t either, which likely disappointed no one. It’s always a bit odd to me when an episode of Batman turns to some no-name, odd, made-up villain like we have here. There are so many Batman stories to draw inspiration from if not outright copy, and yet we sometimes end up with episodes like this one. “Critters” isn’t awful, but I can’t say I ever wanted to watch Batman go up against a mad scientist farmer. As Bullock astutely pointed out, it would be ludicrous for such a villain to defeat Batman so there just aren’t any stakes when a cornball villain is in town. Plus we’re forced to endure some terrible Robin puns along the way.

It probably surprises no one that this is not a beloved episode in the series. Surprisingly, it does receive an audio commentary on the DVD and Blu Ray release of the show and director Dan Riba and writer Paul Dini both try to defend the episode, but aren’t particularly convincing. After spending so much time writing and directing a grim and serious hero like Batman I don’t begrudge these guys for doing something lighter. I also don’t have to like it though. There are comedic episodes in this show, despite its reputation, and plenty that are done better than this one.

If you like “Critters” then good for you. Like I said, it isn’t terrible, but it’s definitely towards the back end of this show for me. And at this stage with so few episodes remaining, anytime a villain like Farmer Brown shows up is going to feel like a missed opportunity. Oh well.


The New Batman Adventures – “Mean Seasons”

mean seasonsEpisode Number:  13 (98)

Original Air Date:  May 4, 1998

Directed by:  Hiroyuki Aoyama

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader, Rich Fogel

First Appearance:  Calendar Girl

Episode 13 brings us a sort of made for television villain, but one clearly influenced by a villain from the comics. That villain is Calendar Girl (Sela Ward), an actress turned bad by her profession who likes to sync her crimes with the four seasons. She’s clearly inspired by the villain Calendar Man taken from the comics who was more obsessed with the day of the week as opposed to the time of year. I’m not certain why the show opted to switch the gender, but my guess would be they came up with the motivation for the crime first then retrofit it to a villain’s gimmick. In this case, the character is motivated to strike back at her profession which treats women unfairly by dumping them when they turn 30 declaring that they’re now too old to be marketable. This corresponded with actress Sela Ward’s cause in the real world as she was seeking to expose Hollywood’s bias and shine a light on the unfair treatment of actresses through her documentary The Changing Face of Beauty. If not, then that’s one a hell of a coincidence.

The episode opens at a fashion show. Donna Day (Tippi Hedren) is presenting the spring line of clothing she’ll be unleashing upon the world until Calendar Girl makes her presence known. She shows up in dramatic fashion, quoting Shakespeare (“Beware the Ides of March,”). She’s decked out in a green bodysuit and skirt with jet black hair flowing out from behind a white porcelain mask. She’s also accompanied by a trio of beefy looking dudes that are clearly modeled after Chippendale’s dancers. She attacks the stage with quite possibly the lamest weapon we’ve seen yet:  Easter eggs. The decorative little objects explode into a plume of smoke sending models scattering. Calendar Girl gets what she came for in the end, Ms. Day herself.

calendar girls posse

That’s quite the posse.

Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) is shown heading into police headquarters with a flock of reporters around him. He barks at them to back off and reveals to the press the only evidence collected from the scene was a calendar page for the month of April with the 3rd circled. He also is the one to give this villain the moniker of Calendar Girl.

Bruce Wayne is then shown at his office. Lucius Fox (Mel Winkler) is giving him the rundown on today’s business, but his mind is elsewhere as coverage of Calendar Girl’s crime stares at him from the cover of a newspaper on his desk. Fox reminds him about an auto show taking place that evening, as well as a retirement party coming up for an employee named Bernie Benson. Bruce is surprised to hear that Bernie is retiring and Fox tells him that he’s hit the company’s mandatory retirement age of 65. Bruce remarks that he still looks young, and Fox makes a comment about how they all do their best to try and look young.

Bruce is riding in the car to the auto show with Alfred at the wheel. He’s examing his own face and hairline in a mirror apparently checking for signs of age. He’s interrupted by Alfred’s griping over a van being parked in the passenger drop-off area. As the car pulls up alongside it, Bruce notices one of Calendar Girl’s hunks admiring himself in the mirror behind the wheel of the van and instructs Alfred to drop him off somewhere a bit more secluded.

img_0033

Calendar Girl may be new at this, but she has the theatrics down pat.

Inside the auto show has begun. The MC of the event is one Barkley James (Dennis Haysbert) who is the president of Gotham Motors. He’s there to present their new car for the summer, the Solstice, which is Calendar Girl’s cue to drop in. Now decked out in a marigold jumpsuit with Uncle Sam hat and sash, she and her boys set their sights on James. Fireworks explode from her hat as she tosses it in his direction before jumping down onto the stage. As patrons flee, Calendar Girl grabs the wrist of one of the models. She pleads with the villain not to kill her, claiming she’s too young to die, and Calendar Girl retorts with a “Honey, you’re never too thin and you’re never too young,” remark.

Batman then shows up and Calendar Girl releases her hold on the woman pointing out she has no quarrel with her, she got what she came for. One of the dudes is then shown with James all bound and gagged. He has the man over one shoulder and makes a run for it. Batman swings into action, but one of the other men jumps out from behind a wall with one of those cartoon bombs I love so much. He tosses it at the swinging Batman and the explosion destroys his cable causing him to fall to the floor. There he dispatches with the bomb-tosser, but gets shoulder-tackled by one of the other goons. The goon jumps on a motorcycle, but Batman takes him out. Calendar Girl is forced to step in. Doing her best Jubilee from X-Men impression, she shoots fireworks from her gloves (I swear the sound effect on them is the same as Jubilee’s) and the fireworks provide the cover needed for the gang to escape. Calendar Girl, being another one of Gotham’s criminally insane, can’t help herself and leaves behind another calendar page as a clue. This time for August 7th.

img_0035

The tragic villain pose.

At a dilapidated old nightclub called Faces, the victims of Calendar Girl are shown tied to chairs bargaining for their freedom. The goon apparently in charge of looking at them screams at Donna Day to be quiet (and the lip-syncing is uncharacteristically bad, maybe he was originally supposed to say “Shut up,”) and tells them Calendar Girl needs quiet while she works through things. She’s then shown seated in front of a vanity, mask off. We can’t see her face as she hastily puts the mask back on when one of her men runs in. She yells at him and tosses an exploding egg at him. She’s now wearing an all orange-red jumpsuit with candy corn earrings. She then announces to all that it’s time to proceed with the next phase of her plan.

At the Batcave, Batman has Batgirl hard at work at the computer. She cross-references the two targets with the dates left behind as clues. This leads them to model/actress Page Monroe. Monroe once worked for both targets and was fired. She hasn’t been seen in quite some time despite once being featured regularly in the modeling world. Batman remarks that he remembers her and refers to her as a pretty girl. Batgirl corrects him by pointing out she’s a woman, and tosses in a remark that she is the same age as him.

page monroe

It would appear we have a suspect.

We’re then taken to an apartment. A large, middle-aged man by the name of Irv Kleinman (Barry Bostwick) is preying upon a young woman. He’s an agent, and it’s not explicit, but it seems like he expects a different sort of payment in order to take on this particular client. She seems scared, but lucky for her Batman and Batgirl show up. Batman wants to ask Kleinman some questions, but he reacts angrily to Batman’s presence. He sticks his finger in Batman’s face, which earns him a slamming up against the wall. Batgirl then suggests to the young woman that she run, and she’s eager to heed that advice.

Kleinman then calms down and agrees to cooperate. He used to be the agent for Monroe, and when Batman asks what happened to her he replies matter-of-factly that she turned 30, implying her career was over. The modeling opportunities dried up at that point and Kleinman tried to get her cast in a sitcom, but it went no where as the network wanted someone younger. He then makes a suggestive remark that she had some plastic surgery and the doc may have nipped when he should have tucked. He comes across as a real creep, and Batman apparently heard enough.

calendar fall attire

I think this red-orange look is the one I prefer most, though the yellow did add a nice dash of color to the show.

Our next location is an unveiling party for the fall lineup for the GWB television network. The head of the network, Frederick Fournier (Charlie Rocket), is presenting the new shows this fall and they seem like an obvious jab at the show’s real-life network, The WB, which at the time was targeting a younger prime-time audience with show’s like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek. The parody shows are pretty corny in nature, the best being Teen Cop which features a skateboarding inner-city kid with an enthusiasm for education. In case you hadn’t guessed already, Fournier is Calendar Girls’ next target and she shows up in her Halloween attire to wreck the party. Making yet another theatric entrance, she uses a giant fan to blow autumn leaves into the area followed-up with an exploding pumpkin (Green Goblin might have some issues here).

The Batmobile comes barging in rather recklessly. Swarms of people have to get out of harm’s way as Batman and Batgirl jump out to face-off with Calendar Girl as she and her men make off with Fournier. Her candy corn earrings are explosive, and provide some cover as they retreat to a backlot of the studio. Batman and Batgirl arrive and there’s no sign of the villains. Calendar Girl then rises out of some brush on a crane. A booming noise alerts the pair to trouble, and anyone who has seen Jurassic Park (which was basically everyone at the time) understands what’s happening as some nearby water ripples with the noise. A giant T-Rex appears, or rather a T-Rex like dinosaur, and Calendar Girl makes a quip about how unfair it is that dinosaurs still get parts in movies in spite of their age.

img_0034

This is certainly a different foe from what we’re used to.

Calendar Girl leaves the heroes to deal with this mechanical beast. And for all intents and purposes, fighting this thing is like fighting an actual dinosaur as that’s how it behaves. I suppose it’s even worse since it’s metal inside instead of flesh and bone. Batman tries lassoing the dino, but it breaks out of the restraints rather easily. Batman takes a ride on its snout before getting dumped off. It ends up cornering Batgirl with things looking rather dire. Batman then hits it again with a rope and affixes the other end to a giant piece of scaffolding with lights on it. The dinosaur pulls the structure over and gets crushed under it, sparing Batgirl potential harm. As Batman checks on her, he sees another calendar clipping. This time the date circled is October 27th.

bruce phone

The Bat Phone!

Bruce is then shown at his office once again. Bernie (Bostwick), the outgoing employee, enters the office to present Wayne with his final report. As he accepts it the phone rings. It’s Batgirl with a tip on Calendar Girl connecting her to an old nightclub named Faces. Bruce says he’ll meet her there, and hangs up the phone to address Bernie. He tells him he can’t make it to his party, and when Bernie says he understands that Bruce is a busy man, Bruce corrects him by saying he’s cancelling the party and doing away with the mandatory retirement age. Telling Bernie he can work as long as he wants to, he departs. Now to me, I can’t imagine wanting to still be working past 65, but apparently Bernie does as he tosses his toupee and shouts happily at the news.

calendar scythe

She’s not playing around anymore.

Calendar Girl’s victims are depicted once again, this time gagged. They’re being subjected to a slideshow featuring Page Monroe’s likeness as Calendar Girl’s haunting voice narrates the show. It ends with a scythe cutting through the screen and Calendar Girl presents herself, now all dressed in black declaring her final holiday will be the Day of the Dead. Before she can slice and dice her victims though, Batman and Batgirl crash the party. They tangle with the beefy goons before Batman ends up getting isolated against the scythe-wielding Calendar Girl. She even appears to best him by knocking him over in front of the screen, but the slide projector has become damaged in the fight and is burning up the slides inside of it. Calendar Girl sees her likeness on the screen melting away, and the sight is enough to force her to pause. This gives Batman and opening to strike, knocking away the scythe. He then rises to his feet and ropes the villain bringing this confrontation to a sudden halt.

img_0036

I suppose  theatrical villain deserves a theatrical undoing.

Calendar Girl is then shown in handcuffs as Bullock is on the scene. He tells her she has the right to remain silent, but no right to wear a mask where she’s going. He yanks the mask from her face, revealing a beautiful woman beneath that hardly looks any different from the images we’ve seen of her up until now. She doesn’t share that sentiment though as Monroe collapses to her knees screaming at everyone not to look at her while her face stares back at her reflected in some broken glass on the ground. From above, Batgirl and Batman are watching and Batgirl says what we’re all thinking – that she looks fine. Batman points out that to Monroe all she can see are the flaws and the episode ends in an abrupt fashion.

“Mean Seasons” takes a rather relatable and applicable subject matter as far as the real world is concerned, and presents it in an uneven fashion. Calendar Girl is a hokey villain that would have fit in just fine with the Batman show of the 60s, but one with a solid motivation behind her actions. I like the general looks of the character with that porcelain mask and simple, but colorful, body suit. The exploding eggs and candy corn I could do without. It does help to add drama to the menacing reveal of the scythe-wielding version of the villain at the end, I suppose. It also makes sense that someone with an acting background would be so theatrical in their villainy, so I do appreciate her commitment to the role.

calendar girl revealed

Masks aren’t always hiding something hideous.

The battle with a tyrannosaurus rex was certainly unexpected. The Jurassic Park reveal of the mechanical beast is lame, but this show certainly wasn’t alone in doing such in the 90s, it’s just odd to see it done with a straight-face as opposed to being parody. I guess the writers felt that they needed a higher stakes penultimate fight since Batman couldn’t keep getting bested by a villain armed with candy. Usually, that’s the part where the show will insert a car chase. While I appreciate them changing things up, maybe they could have figured out a misdirection instead as a dinosaur fight felt a bit stupid.

This episode definitely felt pressed for time, all the more reason why the t-rex confrontation feels unnecessary. Batman’s fight with Calendar Girl is over in a flash and it was rather anticlimactic to see her just roped-up and defeated so easily when she had been able to give Batman the slip twice before and appeared to have him on the ropes. The final scene where her mask comes off also ends quickly and I was surprised to see the credits hit when they did. It makes me wish they had found a way to have a more intimate scene between hero and villain at some point during the episode to give us a bit more to chew on. Calendar Girl is an interesting villain, and if given more time I think she could have been really sympathetic as well. Since we learn her story mostly through others though, that sympathy doesn’t really come across and the episode is over before we can even begin to view her differently given the reveal of her face.

calendar girl spring

“Mean Seasons” ended up being Calendar Girl’s only contribution to the show.

This is the fourth episode animated by TMS during this era of the show. My guess is the studio was tasked with bringing this episode to life due to the sequence with the dinosaur (and maybe that’s why the sequence exists as the show wanted to task TMS with something interesting). Beyond that, it’s a pretty by-the-numbers episode that isn’t as interesting visually as the other episodes TMS has worked on. It almost feels like a waste in that regard, but the episode does look great so I suppose that’s all that matters. Calendar Girl’s attires and weaponry gave the studio a chance to inject more bright colors into a show that’s usually rather dark and I enjoyed the change of pace. The one animation flub I pointed out when the henchman shots “Quiet!” probably isn’t the studio’s fault and is the result of the line being changed after animation. TMS will only have one additional contribution to this show, “The Demon Within,” which is production episode number 18, which actually aired right after this one.

This episode is fine, and despite some of my gripes, I enjoyed my time with it. Calendar Girl proved to be a good choice as I find her more interesting than her comic counterpart Calendar Man. He was actually supposed to appear in this series at some point and even had an actor attached to voice, but once Calendar Girl was included the show decided to abandon Calendar Man. This would be her only appearance though which is a bit of a shame as I think there’s more to explore with this character. I suppose it allows viewers to take an optimistic approach to the character and assume she got the help that she needed, though that’s giving Arkham a lot of credit it really hasn’t earned.


The New Batman Adventures – “Holiday Knights”

holiday knightsEpisode Number:  1 (86)

Original Air Date:  September 13, 1997

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Paul Dini

First Appearance:  Robin (Tim Drake), Mo, Lar, Cur

After pausing for a week to discuss the 1998 film Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero we have now finally arrived at The New Batman Adventures era of the show. This is essentially the start of a sequel series, but it’s been retconned over the years (or just simplified) as Season 3 of Batman: The Animated Series. The Blu Ray set released in 2018 simply refers to it as such and the intro for each episode is the Season One intro from the Fox Kids era. The show largely exists thanks to two new developments since the previous series ended in 1995:  the WB network, and Superman.

Warner Bros. and Fox had a nice relationship in the 1990s where WB created several shows that Fox aired as part of its Fox Kids lineup on weekday afternoons and Saturday morning. At some point, the executives at WB decided it would just make more sense for them to start their own network. On January 11, 1995 The WB was launched and alongside it came Kids’ WB. That block of programming would be occupied by cartoons primarily, most of which included characters WB owned. Gradually, as the license agreements with Fox expired the shows WB had created for that network migrated to its network.

TNBA trio

The New Batman Adventures placed greater emphasis on Batman’s supporting cast.

The network’s flagship action cartoon was Superman, or Superman: The Animated Series. It was decided that it would make a lot of sense for Superman to simply be partnered with Batman to form an hour programming block of DC’s hottest heroes. It would make sense for the two to cross paths, and so WB commissioned a new Batman series envisioned as a sequel to BTAS. Like the second season of that show, this one would focus on Batman and a supporting cast of heroes. Dick Grayson would return, but not as Robin but rather Nightwing. In his place was a new, much younger, Robin and Batgirl would be there as well. The show would need to be updated to match the style of Superman and to also make the show cheaper to produce. “Dark Deco” was now out, in its place was a modern Gotham with cell phones and (gasp!) color TV. Oddly, Gotham would also feature a red sky apparently to heighten the darkness of the show vs the much brighter Superman. There is a reduction of shadows as well making everything lighter in appearance. Perhaps something that disappoints only me is the dropping of title cards. I loved the title cards on BTAS and I was so bummed to see they weren’t continued here. It also makes each one of these posts a little less interesting to look at.

TNBA redesigns

A look at the various villains from the show, some old some new.

This new style meant character redesigns. Batman would ditch the blue of his prior costume opting for a strictly black and gray ensemble. His belt was also muted in tone and more utilitarian in appearance. Robin’s costume dropped the green and Batgirl ditched the gray as well. On the villain’s side things were a bit more extreme. We’ll mostly get to them as they show up. To highlight a few; Scarecrow received an entirely new look while Joker featured an aggressive redesign that removed the sclera of his eyes and the red of his lips. Some of these redesigns are quite interesting on their own, while some are just plain inferior to the previous look. The characters had to be simplified to reflect the shrinking budget, but some sacrifices just aren’t worth making.

Most of the creative staff was returned for the new series. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm served as executive producers alongside Alan Burnett. Dini and Timm would both contribute to multiple episodes as writer while Dan Riba returned to direct multiple episodes as well. Also returning was the majority of the voice cast from the prior series, with the only notable change being Tara Strong (then known as Tara Charendoff) as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. A lot of new blood was also brought in, many of which would hang around the DC Animated Universe which was about to expand to include The Justice League and Teen Titans. This is basically the beginning of an expansive television universe by WB and DC which is basically the television equivalent of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m primarily only interested in Batman when it comes to DC, so don’t expect me to do this for the other shows. Hopefully no one is disappointed.

TNBA logo

New show, new logo.

The New Batman Adventures was released on DVD as Volume 4 of Batman: The Animated Series and is included in both the DVD and Blu Ray box set of the series as Season 3. For this feature, I considered simply sticking with the BTAS title, but decided this show was different enough to change it up. I’ll include both the episode number as it relates to this series as well as how it relates to the entire series. We’re also sticking with production order as opposed to air date order. The show was ordered as one season, but aired as two seasons of 13 and 11 episodes respectively concluding in January of 1999. At some point I’ll summarize my thoughts on the whole of Batman: The Animated Series, but since we’re getting started with The New Batman Adventures I’ll say upfront that I find this series to be inferior to its predecessor. It’s less unique looking and not as well written. The new villains introduced aren’t as memorable and we also lose a little bit of Batman by switching to an ensemble format. He’s made to be more grim, apparently to heighten how different he is from his younger companions, and as such loses some of his humanity in the process. He’s overall just less interesting as a character, and the focus on the others doesn’t really make up for that. It feels like a diservice to the excellent Kevin Conroy, who simply has less to work with in regards to Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Anyways, let’s finally start talking about this first episode, shall we? First airing just over 2 years after the conclusion of BTAS, “Holiday Knights” is a pretty bizarre way to kick-off this series. For one, it’s a Christmas/New Years episode that’s presented in anthology format with three separate mini stories starring different heroes and villains. It’s based on the Batman Adventures Holiday Special released in 1995 written by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Oddly, WB chose to air this as the premier as well in September rather than stashing it away until closer to Christmas like Fox did with “Christmas with the Joker,” the second episode from BTAS. Also complicating things, the new Robin (Mathew Valencia) debuts here even though the second episode is the one that details how he met Batman and came to assume this persona. Clayface is also the featured villain of the middle tale, but his actual return from the events of “Mudslide” is recounted in a later episode as well. This episode almost feels non-canon as a result, and it’s just overall a weird and confusing way to bring the series back.

new ivy

Ivy has apparently spent the past few years avoiding the sun.

The episode begins on December 22 and quickly reintroduces us to a pair of villains:  Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing) and Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin). Harley largely looks the same as she did in the previous series, while Ivy has received a fairly dramatic makeover. Her hair is more stylized and her skin bone white. She displays what is basically the new female body-shape on the show:  short, pointed, with an oversized head. It’s a more “toon” presentation and is less realistic compared with BTAS. I personally don’t care for it, but it is what it is.

Harley is bored and not at all excited to be stuck in a slummy motel for the holidays. She bemoans their lack of a Christmas tree, which naturally sets Ivy off as she views them as a form of genocide against trees. Ivy insists she has a plan that will brighten up their holiday and urges her friend to trust in her. We’re then taken to a gathering of the wealthy at the Vreeland estate where we get our first look at the new Bruce Wayne. He dresses all in black now with a white shirt under his suit and red “power” tie. His hair is black as well and slicked back to give him a real douchey look befitting a billionaire playboy. He’s socializing with Veronica Vreeland (Marilu Henner) who has returned to her red-haired look after a brief dabble with being a blonde and seems amused when a gaggle of women swarm Bruce. While Bruce is being pushed around by the ladies, one of them plants a kiss right on his lips. It’s Ivy, and as we learned way back in “Pretty Poison” getting a kiss from her is not something anyone should desire.

bruce ivy harley

Not the women Bruce was hoping to take home.

Bruce leaves the party and as he heads for his car he’s invited into a limo by a pair of women. Bruce finds himself unable to control his own body as he’s subjected to Ivy and Harley’s whims. They then use Bruce and his fabulous wealth to go on a shopping spree. A montage plays which feels fitting for a holiday special and is set to a saxophone rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The women seem to enjoy themselves while Bruce is helpless. As they force him to carry all of their purchases he begins to make some headway in fighting off the effects of the poison. The girls realize too late that he needs another dose, and as they approach to do so Bruce is able to back away falling into an open elevator shaft. The girls are indifferent to Bruce’s plight as they still have his credit cards and continue on with their evening. Meanwhile, the gloved hand of Batman reaches up from the depths of the elevator shaft.

harley ivy shopping

The Ivy and Harley montage is probably the best part of the whole episode.

Harley and Ivy make their escape in their stolen limo being driven by another brainwashed lackey, but soon enough the cloaked outline of Batman flashes behind them. Harley warns Ivy about who’s on their tail and Ivy makes some evasive maneuvers to avoid The Dark Knight which leads them to a toy store – how fitting. Batman enters and encounters all manners of toy-related traps:  wooden soldiers, giant boxing gloves, and Harley’s trusty mallet. The ladies lure Batman through their fun house leading up a tower of toys before they hastily attempt a retreat. As the duo turn to rub salt in his wounds, Batman fires his redesigned grappling hook (it makes a less satisfying hissing sound when fired and features an end that’s just a bladed Batman logo) to hook the base of a massive Christmas tree. He topples it landing right on the thieves putting a damper on their holiday, but returning to the Christmas tree gag with Harley who’s strangely comforted by its presence.

santa bullock

Santa Bullock, ho, ho, ho.

Our second story takes place on Christmas Eve. Barbara is shopping at Mayfield’s Department Store for a gift for her father. As she’s paying for her gift, a crying child gets her attention and the clerk remarks it’s been like that all day. Not far from the checkout station is a department store Santa being played by none other than Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo). Apparently, Bullock isn’t the best Santa and tends to leave the kids who sit on his lap in tears. Serving alongside him as his elf is Officer Renee Montoya (Liane Schirmir) and the two are apparently on a stake-out which is why Bullock isn’t exactly into this whole Santa schtick. Bullock does at least find the Christmas spirit momentarily when a little girl sits on his lap asking to have her dad back for Christmas. Apparently, her dad is a crook Bullock just helped get put away. Not really knowing what else to do, he gives her some money. That should cheer her up.

Barbara is amused by Bullock’s turn as Kris Kringle and makes her way for the exit. Along the way she notices a child who appears to be shoplifting. The daughter of Gotham’s police commissioner can’t stand idly by as someone commits a crime, so she reaches out to grab him only she comes away with a handful of mud instead. Montoya then receives word to be on the lookout for a rabble of child thieves which fellow detectives are chasing through the store. They corner the kids, who then all merge into one being right before their very eyes.

batgirl crowd control

Batgirl showing off her new attire.

It’s Clayface (Ron Perlman), and he’s not the type of bandit to go quietly. He immediately begins trashing the place forcing Barbara to duck out and re-emerge as Batgirl. She takes the fight right to Clayface knocking him through an oversized window and onto a skating rink outside causing him to smash through the ice. Santa and his elf arrive to provide backup, though their guns do little to bother Clayface. Batgirl hollers at them to stop wasting their ammo and to aim for the Santa. Bullock at first confuses her command to mean him, but above Clayface is a giant, lighted, Santa as well as strings of Christmas lights. Bullock and Montoya take aim and blast the Santa down to land on top of Clayface. The frayed wires land in the water around Clayface electrocuting him and putting a stop to his rampage. Montoya then leaves Bullock to handle the clean-up.

new joker

I don’t like this new Joker at all, but at least we still have Mark Hamill doing his voice.

Our final tale takes place on December 31 and involves The Joker (Mark Hamill). He’s sent out one of his famous broadcasts to the people of Gotham revealing his New Year’s resolution to not kill anyone in the new year. This means he needs to make up for it all tonight and send the current year out with a bang! A taping of this broadcast is being viewed by Batman and Robin in Commissioner Gordon’s office. It would seem Gordon stopped heading to the gym following the events of BTAS as he’s a lot smaller and older looking now than he was before. Gordon (Bob Hastings) informs Batman that they have a lead on Joker as a GothCorp scientist was murdered earlier in the day. The scientist specialized in sonics and had been working on a new weapon that could kill with sound. Batman deduces that Joker’s likely target will be The New Year’s Countdown in Gotham Square and it’s likely he’ll have this new weapon in hand.

jokers favors

Joker’s party favors.

Joker is shown at Gotham Square with some of his finest: Mo, Lar, and Cur (all voiced by Ron Perlman and obvious reference to The Three Stooges). They’re rigging the sonic bomb to a massive bell. Apparently at midnight, the bell goes up to ring in the new year and when that happens the bomb will go off. And to make things harder on Batman, Joker has some “party favors” to distribute.

Batman and Robin head for the party and realize finding Joker will be a bit harder than expected. Joker has distributed his Joker masks to all of the party-goers making it hard to find the real Joker. Batman peers through some binoculars and spots a clown in a purple suit at a piano in the middle of the gathering onstage. He’s wearing ear muffs and so are the rather large men flanking him. Figuring that’s his man, Batman and Robin head for the stage and Batman dings Joker’s head with a Batarang knocking off his ear muffs. They then turn their attention to Joker’s goons, but find they’re pretty hard to deal with. Joker ends up grabbing the upper hand by smashing a bucket full of ice and champagne over the back of Batman’s skull.

joker champagne

This will be a short-lived victory for Joker.

Joker grabs the bottle of champagne to celebrate and apparently die with everyone else. As Joker gloats over Batman, The Dark Knight is able to snatch the bottle of champagne and spray it all over the controls to the bell shortening out the killing device. As he does so, Joker tries to stop him and shoots at him and actually hits Batman in the right arm. As Batman lays on the ground, Joker laughs like only he can. As he does so the bell begins to fall, and it just so happens to land right on Joker who offers a well-timed “Ouch,” from beneath it to close out the scene.

bat gordon toast

We’re introduced to an annual tradition for Gordon and The Dark Knight.

With Joker’s plot foiled once again, Commissioner Gordon is shown entering a diner around 2 AM. The owner (Corey Burton) ushers everyone out and tells them he’s closing up as Gordon takes a seat at a booth. The man brings him a mug of coffee as well as a second mug and wonders aloud if Gordon’s buddy is coming. Gordon assures him he is, and Batman soon enters through a rear door. He sits down and the two indicate this is a yearly tradition of theirs. They speak only a few words before Gordon turns to request something from the kitchen to go. When he turns back he finds an empty booth and a couple of bucks left on the table to cover the tab. Remarking he’ll one day beat him to the check, Gordon collects himself and heads out into the night while Batman is seen swinging off into the red sky himself.

As I said, this is an odd way to begin the series. Three fragmented stories which lean heavily into comic relief that contain characters who will require a true introduction (or reintroduction) further down the road. It at least gets a lot of characters on-screen though giving us a peek at this new look. In general, I’m not much of a fan for how this series looks. It uses mostly straight lines in its characters and the women and children have huge heads. I mostly hate the new Joker as his face just lacks personality and is so bland and wooden to look at. The removal of his lips also just makes his mouth flaps look odder as he’s all teeth gnashing together. He looked so great in BTAS so it’s just really disappointing to see him reduced to this. This practically elderly looking Commissioner Gordon is also not a favorite of mine and Bullock looks like he’s gained about 50 pounds.

clayface hk

Clayface doesn’t come across looking so hot. Meanwhile, less censorship apparently extends to Montoya’s attire as well.

Not surprisingly, Clayface isn’t as well animated as he was before. He still contorts his body into weapons and other beings, but not a lot of resources are spent on the transitioning animation. He’s also far more stable looking than he was in “Mudslide” and has almost a rocky appearance compared with his old one. It should also be pointed out he was previosuly immune to elecrocution so either that was a goof by Dini or they intentionally took that immunity away from him. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this is just a less interesting looking show. They wanted it to be in-line with Metropolis from Superman and it wouldn’t make sense to have Gotham look like it was trapped in the 1940s and Metropolis like something from the 90s.

harley and the tree

It’s nice to have a little Christas in June, right? Interestingly, the comic this episode is based on portrayed Harley as Jewish.

There is one advantage this show has over its predecessor and that appears to be with the level of violence on display. It’s blatantly discussed that Joker murdered someone and he has an apparent lust for carnage and mayhem that was more tip-toed around on Fox. Batman is also free to punch people while villains, and the police, are still able to wield realistic looking weapons. Warner must have desired a way to differentiate its network from Fox and upping the violence was apparently one such way.

As an episode, this is a pretty benign, disposable, piece of entertainment. And there is entertainment value for it largely as a comedic vehicle. I wish it had chosen to end on Batman and Gordon sipping coffee together rather than turn to the tired gag of Batman vanishing whenever someone turns their back on him. I think that would have been the way the old series would have ended this one with a somber, but also sweet, ending. I guess this is just one more way for this show to announce it’s here and it’s not the same one we’re used to. Since I am a bit of a Christmas cartoon junkie, I should add that as a Christmas episode this is also just all right. It doesn’t linger much on the holiday, but it also doesn’t beat anyone over the head with Christmas clichés. It’s probably a touch better than “Christmas with the Joker” actually though less memorable. I don’t think either makes a strong case to be included with annual Christmas viewings, but you could certainly do worse.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Second Chance”

second chance cardEpisode Number:  80

Original Air Date:  September 17, 1994

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Gerry Conway

First Appearance(s):  None

 

When Two-Face debuted back in his self-titled two-parter it made a big impact on me as a child. I really had never seen something comparable to a just character getting maimed and falling into a depression. The dual personality and all of the style wrapped in the character was equally fascinating and I felt genuine sympathy for Harvey Dent. It may have even been my first experience of not knowing who to root for:  the hero or the villain.

Two-Face’s introduction was almost done too well. His plight was clear, but it would be hard to sustain; perhaps even impossible. As a result, Harvey’s fiancé, Grace, never resurfaced and that hopeful ending was ignored. When Two-Face would come back to tangle with Batman he was just a conventional villain with a gimmick. It was a shame to see him brought to this, but I suppose the alternative was to either reform him or place him in therapy for the remainder of the series.

surgery prep

Harvey’s getting some work done.

“Second Chance” is the first episode since “Two-Face” to really tackle the villain from the same angle he was originally approached from. Harvey is getting a second chance at being Harvey Dent. When the episode begins he’s being brought, by the police, to a hospital for a procedure to try and repair the damage done to his face in that accident from season one. Batman and Robin are there to watch over the proceedings and to also introduce a flashback to Dent’s accident, in case anyone forgot.

As the procedure begins, a surgeon who reminds me of Leslie Thompkins, but is actually Dr. Nora Crest (Linda Gray), speaks enthusiastically to Harvey as she administers the anesthesia for surgery. Dent (Richard Moll) is lucid and shares the detail that Bruce Wayne is paying for the surgery. He refers to him as Good Old Bruce and shares a story of their earlier days hitting the Half Moon Club before passing out. Batman and Robin watch from a conveniently place skylight as masked thugs break in. They open fire on the surgical team and make it clear they’re here for Dent. One of the thugs remarks he’s not to be roughed up, as the boss wants to handle that task himself, as they haul him out.

Batman tries to fire his grapple-gun through the skylight, but it bounces off the glass harmlessly. He and Robin then head to cut the crooks off before they can escape. They evade Batman and Robin and manage to get Dent out of the hospital. They pile into two vehicles:  a sedan and a truck. The vehicles flee in opposite directions, and Batman and Robin are forced to split up. Robin tails the sedan, while Batman goes after the truck via the Batcycle. Robin tries to stop the sedan, but they give him the shake. Meanwhile, Batman gets nearly flattened by a tanker-truck on his bike, but manages to keep his target in sight. The crooks exit the freeway and nearly lose Batman who misses the turn. Rather than give up, Batman launches his bike off the overpass and crashes down on top of the truck. When he looks inside, he finds only two of the crooks and no Harvey.

two-face kidnapped

Batman and Robin fail once again.

Batman and Robin regroup and Batman theorizes there are two individuals who have a vendetta against Two-Face:  Rupert Thorne and The Penguin. Robin apologizes for losing his target, and really he kind of needs to at this point as he’s been pretty ineffective the last few episodes. Batman says, some-what curtly, “I’m sure you did your best,” and Robin takes offense. He says he’ll check in on Thorne, while Batman apologizes saying this one is personal and hard on him. Robin leaves the Batmobile while Batman presumably heads for The Penguin.

Robin is shown on the roof of Thorne’s home. He watches through a skylight (I seriously can’t stress this enough:  criminals of Gotham, get rid of all of the skylights) and pulls out a glass cutter and goes to work. As he does so a gun is placed between his shoulder blades and he’s ordered to get up by Frankie (Matt Landers), one of Thorne’s men. Robin says nothing and stuffs the glass cutter in his glove as he stands with his arms up. The sentry takes him inside to show him to his boss. Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) seems amused by Robin’s presence as he heats up a fire poker in his fireplace, in case he needs it. Robin is tied to a chair and he tells him that Harvey Dent was kidnapped. Thorne laughs off the thought that he would have done it, while admitting there’s no love lost between the two. He then orders his men to do to Robin what he planned to do to Dent and the two men haul him away.

robin tossed

Robin’s going for a swim.

Thorne’s men take Robin to a bridge. In the trunk of the car, Robin works at cutting his restraints with the glass cutter but doesn’t finish the job. As the two men haul him out, Frankie goes on and on about how he used to fish here, but now can’t, because of the pollution. Ever after they toss Robin off of the bridge he continues sharing his thoughts on the environmental tragedy. As Robin falls, he’s able to break free of the rope on his hands and fires a grapple-gun to the top of the bridge. He then swings in striking our environmentally cautious goon as he was sitting down in the car and the force pushes both men out the driver’s side knocking them unconscious.

penguin and birds

The Penguin seems to be enjoying his incarceration.

At Stonegate Penitentiary, Batman is able to find The Penguin’s (Paul Williams) cell. Inside the stout villain has a pigeon coop and is tending to his flock. Batman stands on a ledge outside the window and questions The Penguin about the events from earlier in the evening. We as viewers know about Thorne and Dent’s relationship, but not of Penguin and Two-Face’s. Apparently Two-Face stole something out from under The Penguin’s nose recently, and while it did anger him, The Penguin insists he would never pull such an act of revenge against a fellow rogue – honor among thieves. He then tosses a bird in Batman’s face and soon all of the pigeons start harassing him causing him to lose his footing. Penguin tries to get the attention of a patrolling guard outside, but by the time a light is shone in his direction Batman is gone.

Batman and Robin then return to the scene of the crime as their only leads proved fruitless. They sport some nifty goggles that make them look like Cyclops from the X-Men as they examine the room in infrared. Batman finds footprints from the assailants and masonry dust within them. This is enough of a lead. He announces he knows who took Dent, but also that he needs to do this alone. As he leaves, Robin gives him a pretty nasty look behind his back like most teenagers would.

kidnapper revealed

The true kidnapper revealed.

Batman then shows up at a demolition site. It’s a rather large building called the Half-Moon Club, the same club from Dent’s story about he and Wayne from earlier, and way up by the top is where he finds the man who kidnapped Harvey Dent:  Two-Face. Dent’s Two-Face persona would never allow the procedure to go through and Batman seems embarrassed he didn’t realize it sooner. Two-Face’s men then capture Batman, and as they chain him to a wrecking ball Two-Face explains that he could never let Dent destroy him and that he needed to teach him some respect. He also explains he has dynamite rigged to the wrecking-ball he just tied Batman to and that Batman’s fate is now tied to his coin. Two-Face flips his signature item and Batman demands he let it hit the ground so he can see the result. Two-Face obliges, but is shocked to see the coin land on its edge. He flips it again and the same phenomena repeats. Two-Face starts to panic, while his men seem to decide on their own this is silly and open fire on Batman. They fail to hit Batman, as they always do, but manage to damage the bomb and electricity starts arcing from it.

Batman gets out of his restraints and swings down to take out the thugs leaving only Two-Face who is chasing his rolling coin around. He ends up out on a steel beam and as the coin rolls off the edge so too does Two-Face. He manages to grab the coin, while Batman gets ahold of him. Batman confesses he switched out Two-Face’s coin with a gimmicked one that will alway land on its edge. He needs Two-Face to drop the coin (apparently that suit has no pockets) and give him his other hand so he can help him up. With Batman distracted, the other thugs prepare to take him out, meanwhile the dynamite is getting ready to blow as the electricity from the detonator gets nearer and nearer to the actual explosives. Robin swings in to take out the thugs before they can shoot Batman from behind and deposits them in an elevator shaft.

frustrated two-face

Two-Face feels betrayed by his coin.

With that danger averted, there’s still the matter of the dynamite and Two-Face’s precarious position. Two-Face reluctantly lets the coin fall, and as he reaches for Batman he pauses and shouts, “Never!” He takes a swing at him instead causing Batman to lose his grip on Two-Face’s other hand. He jumps off the building after him and as he catches up to him he fires his grapple-gun as the dynamite explodes.

We’re then taken to Arkham Asylum. Two-Face, having survived the fall, is being led back into the facility in shackles. As he heads in, Bruce Wayne approaches. Dent looks at him, the shadows hiding his bad side, and remarks how Bruce has never given up on him. Bruce just smiles and places a hand reassuringly on Dent’s shoulder before the police lead him inside. Dick is there too and remarks that Harvey is lucky to have someone looking out for him. Bruce places an arm around Dick and says he’s lucky he’s always got Dick to be there for him.

old friends

A sweet ending to go out on.

“Second Chance” adds to the tragedy that is Harvey Dent and Two-Face. It’s perhaps melodramatic, but it is satisfying and the ending is rather sweet. As a viewer, it’s frustrating to see Dent blow his second chance, but his condition is something that can’t be cured so easily. The status quo is maintained by the episode’s end, but it was still a compelling ride getting there. It also fooled me when I first saw it, as I didn’t figure out who was behind the kidnapping and when it was revealed I was actually quite sad. I do wonder if it would have done the same had I been older. Harvey telling his story about the Half Moon Club before going under on the operating table certainly feels like foreshadowing as this show never mentions such a detail without it meaning something. Plus it’s called the Half Moon Club which fits the Two-Face gimmick. This is also another episode where a rift between Batman and Robin is teased. That will pay-off in the sequel series, though it’s mostly brushed aside by the end of this episode.

“Second Chance” is just a really good episode. I don’t even have any criticisms to offer other than the usual which is to say the villains can’t shoot. There’s some especially bad shooting in this one, though at least with the scene in the hospital it’s plausible the kidnappers didn’t want to kill any doctors. The Penguin is shoe-horned into this one, but it’s not something I mind. It’s nice to hear from him since he’s been missing in action throughout season two. This was actually, quietly, the last appearance of the Danny DeVito-like design for the villain. Next time we see him he’ll have his classic appearance restored. This is also the final appearance of Rupert Thorne. He won’t show up in The New Batman Adventures, but he gets an encore of sorts in Mystery of the Batwoman. Given the role he played in this series, it’s surprising that this is it for him.

Where does Two-Face go from here? It would seem back to being an everyday villain. He’ll show up again, so this isn’t the last we’ll see of him, but it is the last in the original series. His redesign will actually be one of the least extreme, which is a good thing since his look for this show is pretty damn great. He’s been one of the show’s best villains though, and this is the follow-up to his debut the character deserved. It may have taken longer than expected, but the show delivered like it almost always does.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Riddler’s Reform”

riddlers reform cardEpisode Number:  79

Original Air Date:  September 24, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Randy Rogel

First Appearance(s):  None

 

We’re coming to the end of Batman: The Animated Series so just about every episode from here on out will feature a final appearance of a specific rogue. In today’s case, there’s even more finality than there will be for others. The Riddler (John Glover) is considered a notoriously difficult character to write. His “super power” is he’s really, really, smart and also quite clever. It’s not easy to just come up with riddles or puzzles to fill an episode worthy of The Riddler. As a result, his appearances have been few despite his popularity as a villain largely owing to the 1960s series and the performance of the late Frank Gorshin. Nonetheless, three starring episodes isn’t too bad, but the real sense of finality comes from this essentially being it for The Riddler. Most of the villains featured in this show will return in The New Batman Adventures with new schemes, new motivations, and new costumes. The Riddler will return, and with a new costume too, but he won’t receive an episode to call his own as he’s basically reduced to a cameo and brief, supporting, role.

Give that this episode is, more or less, his encore hopefully it’s a good one. It has an interesting premise right in the title as The Riddler looks to establish a life for himself outside of crime. We’ve seen both Catwoman and The Penguin attempt the same and eventually slip-up and fall back into their old villainous ways. Is there any reason to think The Riddler will be any different? Probably not. Last we saw him he was antagonizing Commissioner Gordon and Batman with a virtual reality device. At the episode’s conclusion he became trapped inside the VR world with Batman offering an ominous commentary on the situation that would lead the audience to believe he may be trapped there forever. If you were hoping to find out what happened, well you’ll be disappointed. Similar to how The Joker appeared to die in “The Laughing Fish” only to resurface later as fine as can be, we don’t know how Riddler got here. Maybe Batman was just wrong and they unplugged the console and he was fine. Or maybe he found his own way out. Your guess is as good as mine.

baxter and riddler

Riddler and his new buddy Baxter who owns a toy company.

This one opens at a nondescript warehouse. Before we get to the action, we get a shot of some newspapers being unloaded featuring a cover story about the release of The Riddler from Arkham. We’re then taken to the warehouse where some typical looking goon-types are carrying a large red box emblazoned with a purple question mark. They’re taking directions from The Riddler on where to place it. After setting it down, they get paid a visit by Batman and Robin who come swooping in to kick ass and ask questions later – literally. Riddler takes a seat on the box and seems amused by their presence. He’s evasive when Batman asks him what’s inside the box and when it looks like he’s about to get punchy they’re interrupted by a nicely dressed old man.

His name is Charles Baxter (Peter Mark Richman) and his name is either a direct call-back to the Baxter Box puzzle from an earlier Riddler appearance or a coincidence. He’s not a puzzle-creator, as we’ll learn, so if it’s a reference it would seem it’s merely for fun. Baxter demands to know what’s going on, and after Robin fills him in on who The Riddler is, he tells him he’s well aware. The Riddler is his new business partner. He purchased the rights to the character’s likeness and intends to use him to market Nygma’s toys. The box then springs open unveiling a toy display kiosk and Riddler even tosses one to Robin referring to him as a kid, which you know he takes well. Baxter orders them to leave, and the two head into the building leaving Batman and Robin to tuck their tails between their legs.

At Wayne Manor, Dick is having a tough time with the puzzle Riddler gave him while Bruce is reading the paper. The television is on in the background and a story about The Penguin is running before leading to another story about a robbery. Some ancient relics were stolen, and this gets Bruce’s attention. When Riddler explained to them the night before his desire to be on the straight and narrow he made references to ancient history and Batman thinks he was referring to the items stolen. A commercial featuring The Riddler then comes on hawking the new toys. He ends the commercial by displaying a number on a chalkboard and then flips it around to reveal a map. It’s a part of some contest, but Bruce isn’t buying it. He pulls out a map and uses the number as a coordinate which leads him to the First National Bank.

riddlers ladies

Riddler enjoying the perks of being a celebrity.

Batman and Robin stake-out the bank that night, but nothing is doing. Robin begins to wonder if maybe he is reformed, but Batman remembers Riddler flipping the chalkboard over in the commercial, thus flipping the number. He looks at the number which he wrote down on a scrap of paper and turns it around. Before it read “31753701” but when reversed it looks like “10 LESLIE” which Batman determines is an address. They head there to find a large building with a jewelry store in it and sure enough there are crooks inside. They infiltrate the store and take on the bad dudes, but when a large cabinet falls over on Robin the crooks escape. Robin urges Batman to go on without him as his ankle or knee appears injured thus ending his contribution to the episode.

boing

The woman who really seems to get Nygma’s attention.

In a nearby high-rise, Riddler is getting ready for a party. He shows off a nifty little two-way radio that will be going to market soon and begins schmoozing with Baxter and the party-goers. Baxter is having a dreadful time with Nygma’s toy puzzle, but Nygma demonstrates it’s easy if you’re a genius. This earns him lots of laughter and even the attention of a fetching brunette in a blue dress (Patricia Alice Albrecht). When Riddler first lays eyes on her a cartoonish “boing” sound like a spring is heard. Yeah, the universal sound for a boner in a comedy setting. Riddler just popped a boner. Another female joins her and he’s very much enjoying their attention until a butler comes by to inform him he has a phone call. Riddler takes it in another room, but not before admiring himself in mirror. No one is on the line, but Batman is in the room. He mocks him a bit for his vanity, but Riddler quickly gains the upper hand in their conversation. He also activates his two-way radio, which one of them women had asked him to demonstrate. Since she’s holding the other one, all of the party-goers then overhear Batman threatening The Riddler. He doesn’t mind though, and opens the wall with a switch to introduce his guests to the one and only Batman. Batman, to his credit, doesn’t seem flustered by the display and tells Riddler he’ll get him eventually before taking his leave.

riddler batman

Look who crashed the party.

While Batman’s confidence remains intact, Riddler’s is not. He’s now convinced that Batman will indeed catch him. He has no desire to return to Arkham, so there’s really only one solution:  he must kill Batman.

riddler depressed

Sad Riddler is losing confidence in himself.

In order to set a trap, Riddler relies on yet another commercial to get Batman’s attention. This time the clues lead Batman to the Gotham Toy Fair. Batman heads for the local convention center and finds a rather large Riddler Box. The sides fall away, nearly crushing Batman, to reveal an equally large television inside. Riddler comes onto it, and he tells Batman farewell. It would seem the games are over, and rather than present Batman with a riddle, metal shades are dropped over all of the exits while Riddler reveals a bomb is about to go off that will kill Batman. Batman frantically searches for a way out, but the bomb detonates as Riddler said it would.

inflatable riddler

At some point Riddler had inflatable versions of himself made that could fire guns. Neat.

Back at his penthouse, Edward Nygma is burning his Riddler outfit. With Batman out-of-the-way, he has no need for it. No one to play with, and he vows now is the time to really reform his act. He doesn’t get to enjoy the satisfaction of victory for very long as Batman appears inside the room with him. Nygma is shocked to see Batman and absolutely perplexed at the thought of him escaping. He wants to know so bad that he’s willing to cut a deal. In exchange for the knowledge of how Batman escaped he’ll tell him where all of the stolen goods are hidden. Batman agrees, and Nygma explains his crime. Batman then produces Nygma’s own two-way radio and speaks into it “You get everything?” Commissioner Gordon is then heard on the other end confirming that he did. As Nygma is taken away he’s screaming at Batman to tell him how he escaped his trap, but Batman just smiles.

riddlers inmates

A couple of quick cameos of two famous rogues.

At Wayne Manor the next morning, Bruce and Dick are seated at the table and Dick asks just how he did escape. Bruce explains he couldn’t, but there was a safe on display and he climbed into it. It was strong enough to protect him from the explosion, though Bruce doesn’t say how he got out of it. Maybe it had a safety release on the inside. Dick says he never would have thought of that, and Bruce suggests The Riddler would not have either. We then cut to Arkham where several familiar faces are shown in their cells covering their ears as Nygma can be heard screaming from his own cell demanding to know how Batman escaped. It’s not going to be fun being locked-up with him for the foreseeable future.

raging nygma

Poor Eddie. It’s unlikely Batman will ever take pity on him enough to tell him how he escaped his death trap.

“Riddler’s Reform” is a fun little episode for The Riddler. It’s not particularly clever, but it’s interesting to see how Riddler’s mind operates. He literally can’t help himself when it comes to Batman and is compelled to commit crimes and leave behind clues just to see if Batman is smart enough to figure them out. There’s some situational humor, and seeing Batman with egg on his face to start things is an interesting look for our hero. It’s rare that he’s wrong. Of course, he wasn’t wrong in his hunch that Nygma was up to no good, it just took him a little while to prove it. The erection joke was a surprise, and it’s a greater surprise that it made it into the episode. It’s a low brow joke so it’s not really funny on its own, but amusing given the setting. The ending is perhaps a bit embellished I would think a man of Nygma’s intellect would figure out how Batman did it as he seems like the type who would have a near photographic memory. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit thought.

This is yet another episode animated by Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD. and it looks rather good. There’s some rainy sequences that look great and also some fun, shadowy shots of Batman. Riddler is animated in an amusing fashion as well as he’s quite expressive in costume when receiving female attention and I am just plain fond of his costume in this series. It’s too bad this is the last we’ll see of it as he’ll have a more classic look next we see him with a green unitard.

This is a good episode for Riddler to go out on. It was, after all, the rubber match or tie-breaker for these two. In Riddler’s first appearance he escaped capture while Batman emerged victorious in the second. With Batman foiling him here, and basically driving him even more insane, he earns a convincing win over the cerebral villain. I wish we got another starring episode out of the character, but I’m happy the writers never did a bad Riddler episode for the sake of doing another.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Time Out of Joint”

Time_Out_of_Joint_Title_CardEpisode Number:  73

Original Air Date:  October 8, 1994

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Alan Burnett, Steve Perry

First Appearance(s):  None

No one’s favorite villain, The Clock King (Alan Rachins) is back once again to resume his quest for vengeance against Mayor Hamilton Hill (Lloyd Bochner) who had the audacity to make him late long ago. The Clock King, real name Temple Fugate, hasn’t been heard from in quite some time. He was thought dead after his first appearance, but Batman had a premonition he’d return like so many others. When last we saw him, Fugate was little more than a man of extreme punctuality which was his only defense against Batman. It was quite the mismatch though Batman has a way of scaling down to his adversaries to make things seem more equitable. This time, Fugate has wisely shown up armed with a new device that can manipulate time. It’s pretty fantastic and makes for some fun visual flair though it does open up some plot holes here and there. The creative staff, perhaps wisely, chose to ignore the questions such a device raises and just try to have fun with it. In other words, shut your brain off for this one.

The episode opens with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson attending a charity auction. Dick is acting like a child and is bored out of his skull while Bruce reminds him they’re doing this for a good cause. An antique clock goes up for sale and that attracts the attention of The Clock King. He comes strolling in but soon starts blinking in and out and moving at an impossible speed. He befuddles anyone he comes across and startles one woman (Tress MacNeille) while inquiring with her if the Louis XVI clock went on the block yet. When she tells him it did, he blinks out of sight.

happy clock king

Back in black.

In the galley, Bruce places a sizable bid on the clock while Dick remarks he wouldn’t even use it for a doorstop (he really has become spoiled). Dick then catches a glimpse of The Clock King as he vanishes and reappears all over the room. He alerts Bruce (apparently Dick read up on him in the Batcave because he’s never tangled with The Clock King) and as the auction ends the clock disappears. In an alley outside, The Clock King looks over his new prize. Remarking he has one already, he tosses it on top of a pile of trash which at least should reduce his crime from theft to something more along the lines of criminal mischief.

At Commissioner Gordon’s office, Batman and Robin replay security footage of the clock theft. They’re able to make out a hand reaching for the clock as it vanishes when slowing the tape down. Given what Dick saw just before the theft, Batman believes it’s the work of Fugate and advises Gordon to warn Fugate’s old nemesis, the mayor.

wakati and harold

Dr. Wakati and “Harold”

At a rather lavish looking mansion, an old scientist by the name of Wakati (Roscoe Lee Browne) is working on an experiment. He’s created a small, infinity shaped, device that can slow or advance time. His butler Harold strolls in with his breakfast, right on time, and we see it’s Fugate. Wakati apparently doesn’t know him by his real name and likely is ignorant of Fugate’s criminal past. Fugate marvels at the device while Wakati tells him about all of the wonderful things it could accomplish for mankind like speeding up the deterioration of radioactive material or placing terminal patients into a stasis until a cure is found for what ails them. Fugate rather aggressively snatches a device to take a closer look, but Wakati does not object to the intrusion as he turns to his breakfast. Fugate pockets the device, and leaves while making bad time puns.

Mayor Hill is shown on the phone at his residence. Whomever he’s speaking with is being told how little Hill fears Fugate thanks to his beefed up security. Batman and Robin are lurking on the roof keeping an eye out expecting Fugate’s arrival at any moment. And lo and behold he does show up, but with the time device he “freezes” everything around him and simply strolls in. We’re shown that time isn’t actually frozen when he passes by a small fan which is spinning ever so slowly. Realizing he can’t use the elevator, he’s forced to take the stairs and makes a remark as he passes by a woman who’s about to take a rather bad fall. When he arrives at Hill’s office he knocks several times, and to Robin this sounds like machine-gun fire over his ear piece.

fugate vs the cops

With the ability to freeze time the Gotham police force is somehow even less effective than before.

Fugate strolls into Hill’s office, who is quite surprised to see he slipped past security. Fugate begins taunting him, and when Hill reaches for some alarm device Fugate uses his time-slip powers to snatch it away. Hill races for the window, but Fugate intercepts him. As he bares down on Hill, Batman and Robin swing through the open window after activating a light trap which momentarily blinds Fugate. Batman tries casually walking up behind Fugate, but gets swatted away by Fugate’s clock hand cane. He uses a Tazmanian Devil-like spin move to avoid Robin, and then again when Batman lassos him. He uses the time device to tie up Batman before stumbling down the stairs. The woman he passed by earlier has now fallen, and Fugate doesn’t see her and trips over her knocking him out of his stasis field and partially breaking the device. Confronted by the woman, Fugate is forced to run as she wails on him for essentially being a jerk. The security guard offers no resistance, apparently not realizing what just happened in his boss’s office.

Outside, Fugate is surrounded by the police as his vision returns. He’s able to get the time device functioning once again and gives them the slip by swiping a police car, but not before he audibly notes the presence of the Batmobile. Upstairs, Robin frees Batman, but Fugate is long gone. Gordon assures the mayor that they’ll find him since all of their cruisers are equipped with a tracking device. Back at the mansion of Wakati, the old scientists is alarmed when he can’t find his trusty Harold, but Fugate soon returns. He’s angered to see Wakati snooping around his room, and Wakati is further startled to see his time device affixed to Fugate’s person. Fugate leans in threateningly as the scene fades out.

frozen batmobile

Robin doesn’t respond well to the possibility of being a part of an atomic explosion.

The police have found the car Fugate used to escape in a canal. Batman and Robin are there as well and Batman takes note of the nearby train tracks. He recalls Fugate’s knowledge of train schedules from their last encounter and discerns that he likely utilized a passing train to escape. The only train to come by in the last six hours would have been heading towards the mountains, and Batman knows the only thing out there is Wakati’s mansion. As the two head out, the camera pans to show us that Fugate planted a time device underneath the Batmobile. As Batman is driving, the device switches on putting the Batmobile into a stasis field. From inside, cars are flying past as streaks of light as the outside world moves in what appears like incredible time to Batman and Robin. Batman also notes that if a car should strike them it could trigger an atomic explosion. He’s soon able to locate the device, and by firing his grapple gun through the floor, it smashes and the field is ended. The Batmobile rockets out of stasis, but there’s literally no other cars in sight. Batman is able to fishtail the car into a light post to bring it to a stop.

Batman and Robin arrive at Wakati’s residence via motorcycle and find the doctor trapped in a stasis field. They deactivate it and have a little conversation about Wakati’s servant. Fugate’s little trap with the Batmobile resuled in Batman and Robin being tied up for 48 hours real-time, and Hill is set to dedicate a new courthouse momentarily. They figure out, based on another bad pun Fugate left with Wakati, that he plans to strike at Hill during the ceremony, but it starts in two minutes and Wakati has no phone to alert the police (though given what has already transpired, they should be expecting this anyway). Their only chance is to use Wakati’s device to reach the ceremony in time.

runaway bomb

A bit different from the more famous Batman bomb scene.

For Fugate, he’s had two Batman-free days to plan for this, so how did he spend those two days? He made a bomb, and apparently not much else. With time frozen around him, he’s able to walk to the podium Hill will be giving a speech from and plant the bomb on the underside of it. He then heads into the crowd to watch apparently secure in thinking that no one will notice his understated super villain attire. Meanwhile, Batman and Robin are streaking towards the city on their bikes, and Robin just has to make a crack about being faster than a speeding bullet. Thankfully for them, Fugate wants to savor the moment of Hill’s demise and is watching the events unfold in slow-motion. Hill lifts a rather large gavel to strike the podium in a ceremonial fashion, which apparently will trigger the bomb (even though it looks like a time bomb). Batman and Robin arrive just as Hill strikes it forcing Batman to attach another time device to the bomb itself and run for the bay. As Batman appears to run at a tremendous speed, the bomb is detonating at an impossibly slow rate. It looks like an expanding ball of light and Batman is able to heave it into the river.

From the podium, Hill and the crowd are startled by the explosion off in the distance as The Clock King attempts to escape. Given that Robin is there with his own time manipulating device, Fugate has no edge and is apprehended easily. Batman and Robin are then shown back at Wakati’s residence where the scientist has decided to keep his invention a secret concluding that mankind isn’t ready for it. Batman is a bit dismayed at the thought, while Robin just makes a joke about Fugate likely wishing he could speed up time where he’s going. We’re then shown Fugate being stuffed into a paddy-wagon. As it takes off, the camera pans to a clock tower which reads three o’clock, the same hand position that appears on Fugate’s Clock King glasses.

clock king undone

So long, Fugate.

“Time Out of Joint” returns a lame villain, but it at least reduces the villain’s lameness with a new toy. As I noted in the intro, you do need to shut your brain off a bit for this one. For one, how far does Fugate’s device reach? It creates a bubble, one can see from its smaller applications, but it must have an end? And the whole thing with the Batmobile, while neat, begs further questions. To the outside world, the Batmobile would have appeared frozen. And since they sat there for two days, one would think a crowd or something would have formed around it. Fugate also could have made sure, in those two days, that his trap indeed proved fatal, but apparently he opted not to. And since he failed at basically everything, The Clock King sure comes up looking rather foolish for not making better use of his technological advantage. He even stole that clock at the beginning of the episode for no reason, which ended up tipping off Batman that he was back in town. Really, he might be the dumbest villain thus far.

All that said, I do like this episode better than the prior one featuring The Clock King. It plays with a new toy, and I suppose no one is better suited for it, thematically anyway, than The Clock King. Though I do wonder what Joker would be like with this device, or maybe Riddler. No matter, this episode is fine and it’s also thankfully the last we’ll see of the old Clock King which feels like a cause for celebration.


%d bloggers like this: