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Batman: The Animated Series – “Moon of the Wolf”

Moon_of_the_WolfEpisode Number:  43

Original Air Date:  November 11, 1992

Directed by:  Dick Sebast

Written by:  Len Wein

First Appearance(s):  Anthony Romulus, The Werewolf


Something happened in-between episodes 42 and 43 that feels like a big deal, to me anyway:  we hit the halfway point! The original run of Batman:  The Animated Series consists of 85 episodes and we are now halfway through that batch. I suppose our next milestone will be episode 52 since that will mark one year of posts on the subject, followed by episode 65 which marks the end(!) of the first season. For episode 43 we have a new villain and a returning one. I mentioned it in last week’s write-up, but coming up with an immediate 65 episode order is pretty challenging, and rather than come up with 65 unique, original, stories the staff on Batman sometimes turned to the comics for a story. This week’s episode is one such episode in which comic writer Len Wein was asked to adapt his story about a werewolf from Batman #255 for the show. It’s kind of a weird concept for Batman, but it’s in-line with the Man-Bat villain from episode one in terms of feasibility. It also feels like kind of anti-drug PSA. Government standards require a certain amount of educational content in children’s programming and I’m not sure if this one qualified for it, but we’ll get to that in the write-up.


Not a good night to be walking your dog.

The episode opens on a gentleman (Peter Scolari) walking his dog on a typical Gotham evening. The dog becomes agitated at something offscreen, but it turns out to be just a jogger. Or was it? A massive werewolf (Frank Welker) soon emerges from the brush and attacks! The man is helpless against the beast, but fortunately for him Batman is in the area. He confronts the beast, but their fight is cut short when the gentleman is flung from the park bridge. Batman dives into the water to save him, and as he pulls him from the water the wolf-man flees.

The setting shifts to Gotham PD and Gordon is wrapping up some business for the night. Batman interrupts him to fill him in on what happened in the park. He wants to know if anything could be linked to the werewolf character, but the only thing Gordon can find is some timber wolves were stolen from the zoo recently. The victim of that night’s attack, John Hamner, is a security guard for the zoo and Batman thinks that’s not likely to be a coincidence. As he leaves Gordon’s office, he floats an interesting possibility:  what if that wolf creature wasn’t wearing a mask?


Honey, I’m home!

Of course it’s not a mask, Batman, because where would the fun be in that? The episode is not at all interested in even making that a question as we’re taken to a construction yard and an individual with an unmistakable bowl cut is re-introduced. Professor Milo (Treat Williams), the villain from “Cat Scratch Fever,” is seated at a desk when the werewolf barges in. He’s rather calm in the face of such a frightening creature, but that’s because he knows exactly when this transformation will wear off. The creature becomes a huddled mess on the floor as he turns into an adult male. We don’t know who he is, and he isn’t shown in full frame, but he tells Milo that Hamner got away as he was foiled by Batman. Milo resolves to take care of that nuisance once and for all.


Tony Romulus is an expert long-jumper and track and field star.

Immediately, the show cuts to a skyline shot at day and a news broadcast can be heard. The broadcast refers to Anthony “Tony” Romulus (Harry Hamlin), a local Olympian about to make a large charitable donation. Geez, I wonder who the werewolf could be? Tony is training at a gym with Bruce Wayne, and his plan is discussed: he’ll make a 2 million dollar donation to charity, but only if Batman comes to his home and accepts the check. Wayne tries to figure out what his interest in Batman is, and Tony convincingly plays it off as wanting to meet the only man in Gotham who may be a superior athlete to him.


Anyone with a unibrow and scarf is a bad guy – come on, Batman!

Batman heads to the home of Romulus that night and finds the superstar athlete in his study. He’s dressed in an absurd leisure suit with a scarf, and welcomes Batman in. He offers him a drink, Batman declines, and gets to making out a check as an impatient Batman looks on. We see Romulus flip a switch underneath his desk, and soon Batman notices the room getting hotter. He realizes that he’s being gassed, but before he can retrieve his gas mask from his utility belt he collapses and Milo enters. Romulus removes Batman’s utility belt, while Milo acts threatening.


Milo and Romulus in a flashback when the lycanthropy first started to show.

Batman is then shown at the construction yard from earlier chained and unconscious in what looks to be an unfinished colosseum. Milo and Romulus are in the nearby shack and we get an in-depth look into their relationship. Milo is obviously responsible for Romulus’s condition, and he holds the cure to lycanthropy in a safe. He’s blackmailing Romulus, but don’t feel too bad for him. A flashback details how the two came to be involved. Romulus, seeking an edge, sought out Milo for steroids. Milo gave him a special, undetectable, steroid laced with wolf estrogen and Romulus greedily snatches it and drinks it down. The serum worked, and Romulus had a great fall games which enriched him exponentially. Romulus initially refused to pay Milo for his steroids, but soon the transformations began. They were only partial, and Milo was able to dupe Romulus into taking more of the formula to become a full-blown werewolf. His argument was the hybrid state he was in couldn’t be cured, but lycanthropy could be. We don’t know if he was lying, but it resulted in the Romulus we see now. Detective Bullock will soon confront Hamner at his security job at the zoo, and we’ll find out he’s the source of the timber wolf DNA as Milo paid him to unlock the cage, hence why the werewolf was sent to kill him at the start of the episode.


Ride ’em, cowboy!

Romulus soon transforms, and Milo wants him to kill Batman. He attacks Milo first, and in the scuffle the antidote is dropped and broken (we don’t see why Milo removed it from the safe). He spares Milo, and targets Batman, who has regained consciousness. Finding a pin nearby, Batman picks the locks on his chains to free himself just in time to meet the werewolf. The two scuffle, and Batman quickly realizes he can’t just go toe-to-toe with Romulus. He heads for high ground as the Gotham PD arrive on the scene (some citizens out for a walk saw the commotion and called the police) and surround the place. Bullock lets Batman deal with Romulus, as the two battle on top of the colosseum. Romulus winds up swinging from a crane and gets struck by lightning causing him to fall into a nearby river, ending the confrontation. The police are able to apprehend Milo, who is in need of medical attention, and he taunts Gordon that they’ll never be able to make charges stick (this sounds like the writers setting up for a return of Milo, but this is his last appearance). The episode ends with a pair of individuals touring the home of Tony Romulus. It’s up for sale as Romulus never returned following the fight with Batman. The episode ends on a most predictable note, with the werewolf howling at the moon.

This is a mostly straight-forward episode, and really uneven. It takes a lot of shortcuts, most obviously in how the werewolf is dealt with. There’s no indication that lightning is in the air prior to Romulus being struck, so it feels rather cheap. Maybe they didn’t have the budget for a full-blown thunderstorm. Milo and Romulus are also apparently uninterested in Batman’s secret identity, since they have him at their mercy and they choose to leave his mask on. The episode as no interest in setting up a mystery, basically answering the questions as they come up. There’s a throw-away scene between Batman and Alfred in the Bat Cave where Batman bemoans his lack of progress in figuring out who the werewolf is (this is just before he goes to meet Romulus) that didn’t need to be there. We do get to see Alfred casually working on the Batmobile though which is kind of neat. If the steroid angle was supposed to be an anti-drug message, I’m not sure how effective it could be since most 8 year old boys watching the show probably thought being a werewolf was pretty cool.


The episode ends in perhaps the most predictable fashion possible.

This episode was animated by Akom, and if you recall from the write-up on “Joker’s Wild,” Akom was fired for how poorly that episode came out. Who knows where this episode was at the time of the firing, but it was probably close to completed. It’s better than that episode, but not by a whole lot. The backgrounds feel sparse and boring, at least the external ones, and there’s a weird disconnect between the background and the characters in the early scenes on the bridge. The guard, Hamner, looks almost exactly like the guard from “Tyger Tyger” though he’s voiced by a different actor here so I don’t know if he’s supposed to be the same person. There are a bunch of animation errors though, with Milo’s jacket changing color at times and Batman’s yellow symbol going from yellow to white. The biggest screw-up though is with Batman’s utility belt. It’s removed immediately after he’s drugged, but it’s mysteriously back on when we next see Batman chained up. Since he does not use it at all during his fight with the werewolf, I half to assume it wasn’t supposed to be there. It certainly wouldn’t have made any sense for Milo to return it to him, though it didn’t make sense for Milo to let the werewolf kill him when he could have done it effortlessly once Batman had passed out.

In Akom’s defense, the werewolf looks pretty cool. He’s fearsome looking with saliva dripping from his open mouth. He might be my favorite design of the creature enemies, being more interesting than Man-Bat or Tygrus. Akom doesn’t attempt anything too grand with him, but what he does is interesting enough. Unfortunately, he’s the only interesting part of the episode as the plot and fight sequences are rather droll. This is filler television, further demonstrated by the lack of a re-appearance from either Romulus or Milo in future episodes. I will say I like the music in this episode, the werewolf has a fun theme and I probably do not sing the praises of Shirley Walker enough, who’s work on this series is fantastic and I take it for granted. Akom still has one episode left in the tank, “What is Reality?” and I’m interested in seeing how that one looks in light of their firing, but it’ll be six weeks or so before we get to discuss that one.

Batman: The Animated Series – “Cat Scratch Fever”

Cat_Scratch_Fever_Title_CardEpisode Number:  36

Original Air Date:  November 5, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Sean Catherine Derek, Buzz Dixon

First Appearance(s):  Professor Milo


After watching so many episodes of Batman:  The Animated Series some patterns start to become obvious. A typical episode is split into two main parts: the discovery phase and the climactic confrontation between Batman and the villain of the day. Sometimes the episodes are uneven with one end of the episode not able to hold its own weight. Most of the time they’re both perfectly fine, but sometimes you get an episode where neither half really works, which brings me to “Cat Scratch Fever.” Aside from the fact that the title invokes unpleasant thoughts of Ted Nugent, in a Batman context it certainly brings to mind a certain woman, a cat woman, if you will. After a pretty lengthy layoff, we’re finally going to check-in with Selina Kyle (Adrienne Barbeau) and see what she’s up to while also getting a look at Roland Dagget’s latest scheme. This is also a noteworthy episode because it’s the final one animated by Akom. Akom was a frequent player in television animation. Based out of Korea, they would get a contract for work and often outsource it to other studios of varying quality (they famously did some rather shoddy work on X-Men’s pilot) and as a result they’ve produced some great episodes of animated television and some not so great, this episode being of the not so great variety which lead to their dismissal from the series.


Selina facing the music.

The episode opens with Ms. Kyle at a hearing concerning the events of “The Cat and the Claw.” If you need a refresher, Catwoman and Batman foiled the plans of Red Claw who could have unleashed devastation on Gotham City if not for their intervention. Her heroic deeds did not score her many points with Batman however, as following the defeat of Red Claw Batman still placed her in handcuffs for petty burglary. This was a case of the show trying to have Batman be stoic in his attitude towards the law – it’s not for him to decide if Catwoman should be punished, but the court. It’s hypocritical considering Batman breaks the law all of the time with forced entry and witness intimidation. It’s why he’s a vigilante after all, so he can operate above the law. Thankfully our unnamed judge here (played by Virginia Capers) sees things my way as she gives Selina probation on the condition that she never dawn her Catwoman costume to commit crimes (so I guess she’s free to break the law out of costume?).


A friend to cats everywhere.

An elated Selina returns home to her penthouse apartment and her assistant Maven is still there. We don’t know how much time has passed between appearances, but it seems like this is the first time Selina is home even though I would think she would have been able to post bail. Anyway, Maven informs her that her precious kitty Isis is missing and she supposes the cat went out looking for Selina, so Selina goes out looking for Isis. Deciding against dressing as Catwoman, she’s just plain old Selina. While looking for Isis, she stumbles upon a couple of hoodlums out collecting strays. They’re not with the pound, and Selina suspects the worst of them. Jessy (Denny Dillon) and Paunch (who isn’t voiced) are the two goons and they put up a fight. When things look like they’re going bad for Selina, guess who shows up. With Batman’s help, the two are put away effortlessly (the animation is careful to make sure Batman doesn’t strike the female thug, Jessy), but before Selina can thank him properly, Batman runs off as the police arrive. Finding a recently released individual like Selina Kyle in such a situation naturally prompts the arriving officers to bring her to the precinct, but Selina’s other knight in shining armor is there to bail her out.

Bruce and Alfred pick up Selina, who politely declines the advances of Bruce. She mentions the two thugs were quickly bailed out by Roland Dagget, which is a pretty good lead not just for Batman, but Catwoman as well. She somehow figures out that whatever is going on with the stray cat population is coming from a specific Dagget owned laboratory on the outskirts of Gotham. Inside, we get a peek at Dagget (Ed Asner) himself discussing some plans with a Professor Milo (Treat Williams, who I would have bet money on was Rob Paulsen) who has devised a rather nasty toxin. The toxin is placed into an animal which seems to cause the animal to react as if it’s rabid (he demonstrates on a dog). Their plan is to infect the stray animal population, which will in turn cause the disease to spread to humans, and then Dagget can sell the only cure for a rather tidy profit. We also see Isis is among the captured animals, and she’s Milo’s next specimen.


Bad kitty!

When Catwoman enters the lab she finds it’s dark and quiet. She quickly locates her beloved cat and frees her from her cage. Isis at first seems docile, but she quickly turns on Catwoman and bites her, then flees out an open window. The thugs, Jessy and Paunch return along with Milo and Catwoman is forced to flee. Milo takes note of the bite wound she received and lets his cohorts know they don’t need to pursue aggressively as the toxin will do the work for them. And sure enough, Catwoman is rather woozy and off-balance almost right away. She discards her mask and collapses in the snow as Isis runs off.


Paging Dr. Batman.

Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne has done some sleuthing on his own to figure out what the Dagget connection could be. Lucius Fox (Brock Peters) is able to provide some important info about a new drug Dagget is believed to be developing and no one knows what it’s for (the dialogue in this scene is very similar to another Dagget episode “Appointment in Crime Alley,” so much so that it had to be intentional though it could have also just been lazy writing). Batman heads out to investigate, which is a good thing since he finds Selina collapsed in the snow. He takes her to a nearby shack, of sorts, where she gets him up to speed on what happened before taking a little rest.

While Batman is busy tending to Selina, Dagget is getting impatient with the progress being made. He orders Milo to commence with the operation, while he explains he’s just waiting on Paunch to fetch some of the anti-toxin from another lab in case anything goes wrong. Unfortunately for Paunch, he’s going to run into Batman while he’s out doing Milo’s bidding. Batman was hoping to get some info out of Paunch, but he picked the wrong guy considering he’s mute and all. Still, Selina shared enough information with him to figure out Dagget’s scheme, but just in case he didn’t, Dagget and Jessy show up to confirm his suspicions (Dagget, like many villains, just can’t help himself).


Not the most fearsome trio, but left to right is Milo, Jessy, and Paunch.

Batman is going to be forced to deal with the likes of Paunch and Jessy, who are now armed with machine-guns, as well as the infected dog from earlier. The show is careful to not show Batman being too mean to the dog, he’ll use his cape and wits to subdue him before embarking on a “super fun happy slide” of his own through the snow. Paunch and Jessy confront him on a frozen lake, and their guns are able to cause a huge mess of things. Batman goes through the ice, but of course he isn’t down for good and ends up subduing the brutes. He’s able to utilize the anti-toxin on Selina, as well as our poor canine friend.

The episode ends with Selina back at home. Maven informs her that she’s being hailed a hero once again for her part in stopping Dagget’s plot, and this time it sounds like Dagget won’t escape justice as he’s under investigation for his role in the whole thing. Selina should be happy, but she never found Isis and she’s despondent over her still missing cat. As she sees Maven out, a basket is lowered in the background from the roof of her building containing her precious kitty. It would seem Batman knows how to make a romantic gesture, and best of all, Isis has been cured of the toxin. The episode ends with Selina lovingly hugging the cute little cat.


The episode mostly looks rather subpar, but it has its moments.

Your enjoyment of this episode likely hinges on how big an animal lover you are. I like them as much as most people, I suppose. I’ve had a cat all my life and when this episode aired I even had a little black cat like Isis myself. Even so, the whole poisoning of animals does little for me, and Professor Milo seems kind of cartoonishly evil. Jessy is especially annoying, but I suppose that’s by design. The whole scheme seems small and kind of odd, but I suppose it’s unique. The episode also re-establishes that Selina has a thing for Batman and only Batman, while Bruce lusts after her. By the conclusion, she’s also pushed to the sideline with an uncertain role going forward. She’s not really a villain, but does she have it in her to be some sort of vigilante on equal footing with Batman? The show will do a rather poor job with her from here on out, even the show runners have agreed as much.

What really can’t be denied is how crummy this episode looks. Character models are inconsistent and the facial details, in particular with Selina, look off-model at times. The effects on the infected dog are poor as well, with the foam/drool basically being the same color as the dog’s fur. I do appreciate the sort of rugged appearance of Jessy, though Paunch is so cartoonish he almost looks like he’s not from this series. He kind of reminds me of a Popeye character, or something. If I can give the visuals one compliment, it’s the the snowy scenery looks pretty good and it’s a nice change of pace from the usual visuals.

The only real noteworthy aspect of this episode is it reintroduces Catwoman, and also introduces a villain who will at least make a future appearance in Professor Milo. Milo isn’t exactly an A-list villain, but at least the episode does directly deal with the fall-out of a previous episode where Catwoman is concerned. It’s not one I was particularly excited to revisit, and one I won’t likely watch again anytime soon.

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