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

legends of the dark knightEpisode Number:  19 (104)

Original Air Date:  October 10, 1998

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Robert Goodman, Bruce Timm

First Appearance:  Carrie

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

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

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

the three kids

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

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

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

50s joker

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

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

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

piano trap

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

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

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

old chums

Old chums, now and forever.

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

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

carrie robin

Carrie takes some obvious creative liberties with her story.

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

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

batman tank

The interior of Batman’s tank is quite red.

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

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Batman’s foe: Old Pointy Nips.

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

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Batman is not one to cower in a tank.

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

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The real villain of the episode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

snap

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

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

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


The New Batman Adventures – “Torch Song”

torch songEpisode Number:  10 (95)

Original Air Date:  June 13, 1998

Directed by:  Curt Geda

Written by:  Rich Fogel

First Appearance:  Firefly

One of the advantages in moving Batman from Fox to The WB was a lessening on restrictions placed on the character. It’s a bit funny since Fox was often the butt of many jokes, usually by shows it was airing, for being willing to put crass and outlandish content on its airwaves when compared with other networks. Maybe it’s just a simple case of escalation, but when The WB Network was launched it proved to be even less restrictive. When Batman was a part of Fox Kids, he had some rules he needed to follow. He couldn’t bleed and for some reason he couldn’t break glass. He often had to deal with his enemies indirectly, though at times he landed some solid blows (unlike Spider-Man who came later who wasn’t allowed to be seen punching a bad guy). Batman did enjoy a major concession by the network in that his foes could use realistic weaponry, so it’s not like it was all bad.

Something Fox was apparently loathe to include was fire. During production on Batman, the writers wanted to include the villain Firefly, a lesser villain but one who had been around for a long time in the comics. Firefly, as the name implies, likes to use fire as his main method of attack and that was apparently a no-no. It’s interesting because the same year Batman premiered, X-Men would as well and it was able to include the villain Pyro in its first season. Whatever. With the move to the new network though, former villains once shot down were now in-play, so here is the apparently long overdue episode introducing Firefly.

shannon

Bruce Wayne, always with a new girl.

“Torch Song” begins with Bruce Wayne taking a new girl to a concert. Her name is Shannon (Jane Wiedlin) and the episode seems to imply she’s a lot younger than Bruce. There’s either a generational gap here, or Bruce could just be really out of touch with pop music. He doesn’t seem too thrilled to be dragged here, but Shannon is quite eager to see tonight’s performer, Cassidy (Karla DeVito), and from some choice seats. As they head in to the venue, they pass Barbara who is apparently there solo. Her seats are much worse. She seems to be amused at the sight of Bruce literally being dragged into the show and into a situation he seemingly has no control over.

Backstage, Cassidy is getting ready to hit the stage. Cassidy is a short, curvy, blonde with a low voice. She’s played up to be rather sexy, but the visual style for this show makes all of the women just look weird to me. She’s in the midst of an exchange with someone who works backstage. He’s a large fellow by the name of Garfield Lynns (Mark Rolston) and he’s more than a little creepy. It would seem the two used to be an item, but now they’re not, and old Garfield isn’t too happy about that. Worse, he’s apparently in charge of the pyrotechnics and we’re about to find out they’re a pretty big part of the show. Cassidy is sick of the conversation and wants the guy fired, but apparently doesn’t see the danger in having a just-fired ex-boyfriend controlling the pyro for the show that’s about to begin.

cassidy stage

Even Iron Maiden would be impressed.

Cassidy takes to the stage. She’s on a podium surrounded by flames. Her voice actress, Karla DeVito, is a professional singer herself so Cassidy both looks and sounds the part of a singer. As she gets into the song, the fire rages around her. It soon reaches unsafe levels, but the crowd is in awe. Eventually, Cassidy can’t continue the performance because it’s too hot as she drops to her knees. The fire then rages out of control and people start to flee. Backstage, Cassidy’s manager tries to stop Lynns from making things worse, but he shoves him aside. Soon he realizes this thing it out of control, and bails.

Bruce doesn’t budge, despite the protests of Shannon. He stands there and is apparently scanning for any way he can get to the woman and save her, but nothing is opening up. Suddenly, Batgirl swings in and makes the save, letting Cassidy know she’s a big fan before taking off. Bruce is apparently not concerned about blowing their identities as he approaches Batgirl to praise her for the rescue. She reminds him sometimes it pays to get the cheap seats.

Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo) is shown storming an apartment with a host of police officers in tow. It’s the home of Lynns and it’s basically a shrine to Cassidy. Lynns is no where to be found though, so Bullock helps himself to the contents of the guys’ refrigerator. Now feels like an appropriate time to note that Bullock’s character model has put on quite a few pounds between series. Lynns is then shown at work in a different building, vowing revenge.

cassidy shrine

Probably not the mark of a man in good mental health.

Cassidy is then shown at her apartment having a chat with her agent, Frank (David Paymer). She’s unconcerned with the apparent attempt on her life, and remains so even after opening a threatening letter that burns in her hands after she reads it. The letter contained a picture of her and the message “The star that burns brightest burns fastest.” She’s not going to let this threat prevent her from her next appearance at a new club calls Rock City that night, which is where Firefly chooses to make his entrance.

firefly

The villain of the day:  Firefly.

Firefly comes onto the scene dressed in what I think is an all metal suit. That would probably get really hot really fast, but I guess he’s not bothered by it. He has oversized lenses on his eyes giving him a bug-like appearance which the wings also add to. He has a gun and a tank on his bank making him visually resemble a Bizarro Mr. Freeze since his gun shoots fire instead of ice. His fire-bombing of the venue sends people fleeing, which attracts the attention of Batman and Batgirl who had been enjoying a drama-free evening up until now. They’re able to swoop in as Firefly confronts Cassidy amongst the flames.

fire sword

He’s got a sword made of fire. Better add that one to the notes, Batman.

Firefly demonstrates his wings aren’t just for show, as he blasts off out of there following a wicked right hook from Batman. Batman isn’t willing to let him go, as he uses one of his many ropes to grab onto Firefly. He’s then taken for a ride through the skies of Gotham, but his trip is cut short, literally, when Firefly produces a freaking flame-sword. He slashes the rope binding his ankles sending Batman plummeting pretty violently to the ground where Batgirl and Cassidy are waiting to check on him.

cassidy

Cassidy seems quite happy to see Batman.

Sometime later, Batman drops in on Cassidy for a little intel. She seems happy to see the caped crusader and immediately puts on a flirtatious act as she cozies up to the Batman. She tells Batman about Lynns and her past relationship with him. Interestingly, from her perspective they were never really an item, just a pair of people who had dinner a few times and he couldn’t take the hint that things weren’t going to progress any further. She then makes a play for Batman to be her personal bodyguard, but Batman pulls his disappearing trick to get out of that one.

Batman and Batgirl head out to an old warehouse connected to Lynns. Sure enough, it appears to be his hideout as it’s loaded with lots of pyrotechnic equipment. No Lynns though, and as Batman looks around Batgirl is ever chatty. This appears to be a theme for this show where Batman’s sidekick of the moment keeps yapping away while Batman remains stoic, only for the yapper to screw things up. In this case, Batgirl apparently wanted to shine some light on the area and throws a switch as Batman shouts at her not to. Too late, and the building explodes.

firefly kidnapping

Not the hero she was looking for.

As we’re left to ponder the fate of Batman and Batgirl, Cassidy is shown rehearsing in a studio. Things seem rather normal, until smoke starts to fill the studio. As people flee, Cassidy stumbles through the smoke in search of a helping hand. She finds one in Frank, and the two escape. Only, she though it was Frank, but it turns out to be Firefly who now has what he’s apparently sought for some time.

Back at that warehouse, the explosion apparently wasn’t as bad as the cut made it seem. Oh there is tons of fire, but Batman and Batgirl appear to be no worse for ware. The fire is too much for them to handle though, and they’re forced to flee out a window. Some debris falls on Batgirl and she lets out an awful scream. Batman finds her unconscious beneath a pile of rubble.

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It’s always Batgirl that seems to get hurt.

We immediately cut to the Batcave where Alfred is tending to Batgirl. This is apparently now a solo mission as Batman ponders how to deal with this new villain. The police have no leads on Cassidy’s kidnapping, but a matchbook Batman found has an address on it and he seems to think that’s where he should look next. Alfred then ends up being the one to suggest he dawn something more durable, which likely excited the marketing department at Warner since Batman will get a new outfit to turn into an action figure.

The matchbook Batman found was from the Mephisto Paint Company, and lo and behold, that’s where Firefly has taken Cassidy. She’s bound and doing the usual thing of trying to reason with her captor. He’s beyond reason though, and instead chooses to do the old villain routine of demonstrating how his fabulous and destructive scheme will go down. It would seem Lynns is a pretty smart guy when it comes to combustion, and he’s invented a gel that is highly flammable. As he demonstrates it for Cassidy, he explains he’s going to fill the Gotham sewer system with the stuff then set it ablaze. As the city burns, the two of them will make their escape out of Gotham and to a new life in parts unknown.

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There’s a Batman under there.

Before Firefly can set his plan in motion, Batman arrives. He really does have wonderful timing. Sporting an all black heat-resistant suit similar to Firefly’s, Batman goes after him demonstrating that it will take more than a few fireballs to take him out. Firefly turns to his trusty flame-sword to turn the tables on Batman, slicing up some piping and causing it to fall on him. He then sets his plan on motion by starting the gel feed, then turns his attention back to Batman. The flame-sword may have been a handy equalizer, but it’s also a useful tool for Batman to screw up Firefly’s plan. He kicks it out his hand, and it lands in the gel, igniting it. Since it didn’t have time to spread into the sewer, only the plant they’re in goes up in flames. That’s not an issue for two guys in fireproof suits, but poor Cassidy sure has a problem with it. Firefly runs off to apparently try and correct this error, while Batman goes after Cassidy. He’s able to get her to safety, and it must be his lucky day because Firefly stumbles out of the burning building and collapses due to exhaustion, or maybe heat stroke, who knows?

As an epilogue to the events of the episode, Cassidy is shown dining at a restaurant with Frank. She seems to have returned to her defiant and headstrong personality in spite of all that has happened to her as she brushes aside Frank’s concerns about her wellbeing. And Frank couldn’t be happier as all of the publicity created by Firefly has made her more popular than ever. As Frank goes on about incorporating a fire theme into her persona, Cassidy’s gaze goes to a dessert at nearby table which is ignited with flame. She flinches, and Frank takes notice by asking her what’s wrong. As the camera tightens on her face, a look of horror fills her eyes as the episode ends.

bat fire suit

It’s not often an episode gives us a new look for Batman.

Batman: The Animated Series had a lot of success in adapting B-tier villains and boosting their image. Sure, not every one of them was successful, but many were and they became favored villains for viewers of the show and even readers of the comics. Firefly sort of settles in the middle. He’s got a solid gimmick and he’s certainly creepy given the whole stalker aspect of his persona, but I never really bought into him as a high stakes villain. Batman suggests he is by going with this new suit, but it doesn’t really feel earned. Not that I mind the new duds which just strike me as practical. If you’re going to fight a guy who shoots fire, it’s probably a good idea to go with something flame-retardant.

The Cassidy character is fine. I like that they hired someone in Karla DeVito who could both handle the speaking role and do the singing to add some authenticity to her. I can’t decide if we’re supposed to think of her as just a very strong and self-confident individual or if we should view her as foolish for not taking Firefly’s threat seriously. I suppose it’s a little of both, though I admire her bravery. It makes the ending, which seems to implicate she’s going to be traumatized by the events of this episode for years to come, feel a bit mean. It’s similar to how the villain of Riddler’s debut episode turned out who was shown living in fear of The Riddler coming to get him. Cassidy didn’t earn that, and I can’t tell if the episode wants us to think she deserves this. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and presume we’re just getting a glimpse at the lasting impacts one of these supervillains can have. Even though his scheme ultimately failed, Firefly still left a mark that’s pretty significant. It’s not something we’re shown often.

Visually, this episode is pretty neat given all of the fire on display. I feel hot just watching it, though maybe that’s because I’m writing this during a brutal heat wave. Firefly is a bit silly looking, but at least his suit appears functional. The look of it would have fit I quite well with the previous iteration of this show as it has a retro design. Batman’s fire suit is a little more bland by comparison as it’s just an all black suit with no mouth opening or cape. It’s easy to animate at least, and like Firefly’s suit, it certainly looks functional which is probably what Batman would prioritize over style. It’s just not something I’d be clamoring for an action figure of.

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Poor Cassidy is going to have some stuff to work through.

Firefly will not be a one and done villain as he has one other appearance yet to come. As I said earlier, he’s fine and so is this episode. It’s nice to get some new blood into the mix and not every villain needs a sympathy angle. As for Cassidy, this is it for her so we’ll never learn what lasting damage Firefly inflicted upon her. Maybe she would have been brought back had this show received a second order of episodes, but that was not to be. I actually would have liked to have caught up with her again. Since the show declined to follow-up on her, I’ll take the road of the optimist and assume she got the help she needed and was able to live a well-adjusted life going forward. It feels cruel to assume otherwise.

 


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