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The New Batman Adventures – “Cold Comfort”

coldcomfortEpisode Number:  3 (88)

Original Air Date:  October 11, 1997

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Hilary J. Bader

First Appearance:  Jack Ryder

“Cold Comfort” (which shares a name with the Iceman episode of X-Men) is the unofficial completion of the Mr. Freeze trilogy in Batman: The Animated Series. It’s interesting to me now in doing these how fast and furious it feels like Mr. Freeze has come at me with the trio of “Deep Freeze,” SubZero, and now this episode following the amount of time that passed between the debut “Heart of Ice” and Freeze’s return. Of course, in real-time “Deep Freeze” aired in 1994 with SubZero seeing release in 1998. This episode actually aired before SubZero was widely available so this episode some-what spoils the ending to that feature.

This episode also isn’t the reintroduction of Mr. Freeze that we were supposed to have. The Batman Adventures Holiday Special, which “Holiday Knights” was partly adapted from, also featured a Mr. Freeze tale called “White Christmas.” That segment was supposed to be featured either as part of “Holiday Knights” or as its own episode. Following SubZero though, that story didn’t make sense as it required Nora Fries to be dead so those plans were scrapped and we somehow ended up here. This episode is interesting to me because it’s written by someone not named Bruce Timm or Paul Dini. Of course, neither worked on SubZero (which is what initially led to the confusion with “White Christmas”) so their hold on Freeze had already been lessened. Handling writing duties for this one is Hilary Bader in her first contribution to Batman. She wrote several episodes for Superman (and actually first wrote for the character of Superman on the show Lois & Clark) and will make additional contributions to this series. She’ll also handle the final Mr. Freeze episode in this continuity, the Batman Beyond episode “Meltdown.”

freeze why not

Mr. Freeze is back in black looking to spread some misery.

After somewhat flirting with heroism, “Cold Comfort” returns Mr. Freeze to the world of villainy. At the end of SubZero, Victor Fries is shown witnessing a news report of his wife, Nora’s, revival and curing. With tears running down his cheeks, he leaves the scene to walk off with his two polar bear companions into the arctic. We don’t know what he’s planning next, but we obviously know he’s happy to see his wife is okay and will get another shot at this whole life thing. He’s not sporting his handy cold suit, so for all we know it’s been destroyed and he’s trapped in the cold confines of the arctic. Will he return to be at his wife’s side or is he resigned to let her be? He’s obviously found his emotions and is no longer the cold, dead, man he was when we first met him. I’m pretty sure by the end of that movie most of the audience is rooting both Victor and Nora, but no villain seems to ever truly give up their life of crime so I doubt anyone was holding their breath.

The episode opens with a long, lingering, shot on a dinosaur skeleton at a museum. Dr. Margaret Madsen (Tress MacNeille) is exhibiting some new bones discovered at the Gotham Museum and it’s being covered by the local news, hosted by Jack Ryder (Jeff Glen Bennett). It’s a pretty standard piece for the local news, until Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara) crashes the party. He’s got a new look going on with a mostly all black suit with some light blue accents wisely trading in those purple gloves and boots. His head is still in a fishbowl and his voice is modulated. The shape of his head is much longer now and it basically looks like a cross between a skull and a potato. His goggles have also been replaced as he just naturally has red eyes now with a liberal amount of black surrounding them. If his head weren’t so oddly shaped I’d probably prefer this look to his past one.

ice maidens

Working for Mr. Freeze apparently includes a dress code now.

Freeze is accompanied by some new henchwomen this time. Basically taking a cue from the old 1960s television show, they’re all wearing purple parkas and sunglasses and are very campy looking. In the credits they’re referred to as Ice Maidens and are voiced by Tress MacNeille, Cree Summer, and Lauren Tom.

Mr. Freeze turns his attention to the dinosaur while one of the women restrains Dr. Madsen. When she points out that no one would buy a stolen dinosaur Freeze corrects her – he doesn’t wish to steal this priceless artifact, but destroy it. He uses his freeze ray to coat the once great beast in ice and watches it shatter. Madsen is reduced to tears calling out “Why?” over and over as Freeze leaves with a simple “Why not?”

freeze painting

So destructive.

Sometime later, Gotham is shown celebrating its tricentennial with a gala. Mayor Hamilton Hill (Lloyd Bochner) is shown for the first time in this series looking very similar to his previous version, but with more white in his hair. Bruce Wayne is in attendance and is shown complaining to Commissioner Gordon about seeing Mr. Freeze on his television. He comes across as a spoiled, entitled, citizen who wants more from the police which is a pretty solid cover and different from the usual playboy persona he exhibits. Gordon, for his part, listens to Wayne’s complaints without offering much in return likely looking for a way out of the conversation.

All attention is then turned towards Hill who unveils a new work of art to commemorate the city’s birth. Artist Guiseppe Bianci (Ian Patrick Williams) is poised to speak about the mural he painted when Mr. Freeze once again shows up. He offers some praise towards Bianci’s for the work he did while pondering how long it must have taken him to perfect his technique. He then takes aim at it while Bianci begs him not to destroy it for he’s old and couldn’t possibly complete another in his lifetime. Freeze is unmoved and destroys the mural. Wayne, upon seeing his old foe, radios to Alfred who is outside in the limo that he’ll need to change. Expecting Alfred to unveil a fancy contraption housing Bruce’s Batman attire, I was letdown when he simply opens the glove box to fetch the outfit.

look out dog

He seems like the type who would dislike little, yippy, dogs.

With the mural destroyed, Mr. Freeze sets his sights on the wealthy attendees of this gala. He offers them a warning, “Search your hearts for the thing you value most, then despair, for I have come to take it from you.” His gaze lingers on a small dog whose owner tries to shield. As Freeze takes aim, Batman shows up and is able to strike Freeze’s gun with a batarang causing him to misfire. Freeze hardly seems alarmed at the sight of his adversary, and his three maidens start firing at Batman. They’re armed with their own freeze rays, but Batman is able to avoid their fire and take the fight directly to Freeze on stage. Freeze, powered by his new suit, tosses Batman aside with tremendous force yet little effort. This causes one of the girls to think she’s got him dead to rights, but Batman is able to reflect her ice blast back at her freezing her leg. Batman then finds himself staring down Mr. Freeze’s gun, but interestingly, Freeze explains he has no desire to destroy Batman at this time and merely freezes his cape to the ground. As Batman struggles to free himself, Freeze departs leaving his partially frozen henchwoman behind in an homage to “Heart of Ice.” By the time Batman is able to tear his cape from the ground, Freeze is gone.

Batman returns to the Batcave and Robin and Batgirl are there as well. He’s at his computer brushing up on his Mr. Freeze knowledge and giving the audience a refresher. They recall the accident that created him, as well as his wife Nora and her curing. Following that, Nora waited for her husband to return to her, but he never did. Eventually she remarried and left Gotham. Now Freeze is back and apparently out to make everyone simply feel terrible.

freeze doctors

Mr. Freeze is apparently not in the best of health these days.

Elsewhere, in a very cold room a doctor clad in a warm parka reviews some data on a string of paper (it looks like a modern-day CVS receipt). He remarks that his patient’s brain waves look good, and the camera pans to show Freeze on a gurney being examined by a team of doctors. Freeze thanks the doctor for his work, who reminds Freeze that a more appropriate way to say “Thanks” would be to let them go. He walks over to the door, but in come Freeze’s two remaining Ice Maidens. Freeze tells the doctors they do not have his permission to leave, as he rises from the gurney and places his dome back on. Freeze exits the room and heads towards a giant computer (where did he get this stuff?) and explains he needs to strike at someone who feels safe. On the screen, a video of Bruce Wayne making a charitable donation is shown with Bruce saying that those with the most should give the most. Freeze then notes that those with the most also have the most to lose.

Batgirl is shown getting in a pretty rigorous workout at the Batcave. She’s jumping all over various handlebars and such and ends up on a circular device that randomly pops up laser-firing pillars that she has to strike in order to subdue. She’s doing quite well for herself, but eventually she takes a couple of shots before the training session is ended. Wayne approaches and Batgirl remarks she did pretty well. A score is tabulated and she’s delighted to see it’s a new high score, whether that’s a new high for her or in general is not elaborated upon. As Robin found out in the last episode, seeking praise from Wayne often doesn’t end well and Bruce reminds her that she ended the session “dead.” She seems uninterested in arguing the point and instead suggests they call it a night. Bruce agrees, for himself. He remarks she still needs more practice and he restarts the program at a higher difficulty and leaves Batgirl to it as he heads upstairs.

bruce and tim

Bruce and Tim have to deal with an uninvited guest.

Once in the manor, Bruce confronts Tim while he’s doing homework. Apparently he failed a recent civics test and Tim remarks he doesn’t need to know what a district attorney does. When Bruce tells him that he knows nothing about the justice system, Tim retorts that he knows it’s bogus. When Bruce questions how he got such a notion into his head he says from watching Bruce. It’s a humorous exchange given Batman’s flippant attitude toward law and order. When Tim goes on to remark that Batman doesn’t care one bit about due process, Bruce changes the subject to math.

A knock at the door gets Alfred’s attention, and to his surprise it’s Mr. Freeze and his two lackeys. Freeze freezes the giant stairs leading down into the living room as he casually slides in to confront Bruce. Bruce goes into his whole “I can help you,” routine, but Freeze doesn’t care. He tells him it’s far too late for all of that before turning his attention towards Tim. He remarks that Bruce has been trying to create a new family for himself over the years to make up for the one he lost as a boy. Now Freeze intends to take that which he holds most dear referring to Tim as his surrogate son. Bruce positions himself between Freeze and the boy, but Freeze was just misleading. Deciding that Bruce would be more pained by losing his surrogate father, he turns and fires at Alfred freezing the old butler up to his neck.

freezing alfred

Well, that’s the last time he’ll be able to wear that tux.

Batgirl, having been alerted by a simple push of a button from Bruce’s watch, shows up and attacks Freeze. As he turns his attention to her, Bruce rather coolly approaches one of the Ice Maidens who does not look thrilled to be face-to-face with an unhappy Bruce. The camera cuts away though as we’re not going to show Bruce assaulting a woman. Nor is the show going to do so with Tim, as he’s behind a couch on top of the other maiden who eventually boots him off and into view. They tangle some with Tim being allowed to be shown sweeping her leg. Bruce gets to Alfred, who’s expectedly shivering. Batgirl is able to knock Freeze’s gun out of his hand, and she turns it on him freezing him to the wall. His suit is quite powerful though, and he breaks free as one of the maidens strikes Batgirl from behind. The villains then take their leave, but not before Batgirl is able to fire a homing device at their escape vehicle.

Down in the Batcave, Batman and Batgirl are preparing to go after Freeze while Alfred is shown enjoying a nice chemical bath. Apparently Batman has improved his tech as no longer do frozen subjects need to be completely submerged in a tube. Tim is informed that he gets to stay behind and tend to Alfred, who will apparently enjoy being served for a change. Batman and Batgirl then leave in the Batmobile and the tracking device leads them to an old meat-packing plant that has apparently been abandoned. As they enter, most of the music cuts out and the various meat hooks in the background give off a rather eerie vibe. They find no trace of Mr. Freeze, but then Batman finds a manhole leading to an underground area. There it’s rather quiet as well, but Batgirl is momentarily startled when she stumbles upon Freeze’s suit. The two are forced to deduce it’s a spare because Batman notes it’s not cold enough in there for Freeze to be walking around without his suit.

spider freeze

Now there’s a surprise.

Some yelling from behind a door catches the attention of our heroes and Batman blasts the door in to find the captive medical team. They explain their situation to Batman, and as they prepare to leave they’re stopped by the two Ice Maidens. Held at gunpoint, the two call for their boss who enters into the hallway to unveil his secret. Strolling into the hall comes just the head of Mr. Freeze with four spider-like robotic legs carrying him. When Batman questions what happened, Freeze tells him the accident that created him also caused his body to deteriorate. By the time the medical team assembled before them got to him all that could be salvaged was his head. It’s why he never returned to his beloved Nora, and feeling that he lost everything, he explains he wants the whole world to experience the same sense of loss that he had to endure.

robo freeze

It’s like a docking station for his head. This must be where Nintendo got the idea for the Switch.

In a surprising act of gratitude, Mr. Freeze allows the doctors to leave as he climbs back into his suit, which is apparently entirely robotic at this point. Freeze wants Batman to experience his loss and the only thing Batman adores above all else is his beloved city. Freeze unveils what he calls a reverse fusion bomb which once detonated will coat everything in a ten-mile radius in ice. It’s loaded onto an odd-looking helicopter and Freeze intends to drop it on Gotham while Batman watches helpless from ground level. He departs in the helicopter and leaves Batman and Batgirl in the incapable hands of his hoodlums. When one orders Batgirl to put her hands up, she does, but is able to fire off what looks like her tracker gun and hits the maiden in the face. Batman takes out the other one while Batgirl places a full nelson hold on her girl and tells him to go after Freeze.

batgirl ice gunpoint

Yeah, I doubt she can contain Batgirl.

Batman fires his grapple gun at the helicopter and is able to get aboard it just before the doors on the hangar close. Inside, he approaches Freeze quietly from behind, who does a 180 with his head to spot Batman before he can strike. The two fight, with Freeze smashing Batman into the windshield of the helicopter drawing blood from Batman’s lip and nose. Freeze informs Batman he has no qualms about changing his plans and simply killing Batman there before dropping his bomb, but as he approaches Batman is able to fire his grapple gun at the bomb itself latching onto it (this seems really dangerous given that Batman’s new grapple gun just stabs into things as opposed to hooking on). He then hooks the other end to Freeze and presses the retract button which causes Freeze to get pulled towards the bomb allowing Batman to drop it over the ocean with Freeze attached to it. It detonates under water creating a massive tower of ice. Batman begins piloting the helicopter back to land and informs Batgirl over the radio that they’ve seen the last of Mr. Freeze. The camera then pans to the ice tower to reveal Freeze’s frozen body encased within it, but his head is missing.

Mr. Freeze had been softened enough to the point that it was a bit challenging to bring him back as a true villain. Having him once more turn to his feeling of loss as a prime motivator was a logical path for the villain, though his indifference to the plight of others is basically lost as a result. While he still operates in a cold manner, and Michael Ansara still voices him in a monotone fashion, he’s essentially enjoying the suffering of others just without an obvious reaction to it. He also needed a reason to not have returned to Nora. While it could have been a noble choice, it did make more sense for the character to feel like Nora was taken from him once again. The only issue is that the deteriorating body thing basically goes against what we knew previously about Mr. Freeze. Back in “Deep Freeze” it was thought his condition was the complete opposite and that he was effectively immortal. It does give the episode a little something extra to have that reveal in the final act, though “Spider Freeze” is pretty damn hokey.

batman bleeding

It’s not exactly a crimson mask, but it’s always a little exciting when Batman bleeds.

The episode is also not at all concerned with explaining how Freeze ended up in this situation. Presumably, he noticed his body was failing and was able to abduct a bunch of medical professionals before succumbing to his condition, but he sure did end up with a lot of high-tech stuff, not to mention that reverse fusion bomb. How did he get all of that stuff? Did he just buy it? Steal it? Create it himself? He did mention possessing a lot of gold in SubZero, so I suppose he used that to finance his criminal operation, but it is worth acknowledging that the episode takes a lot of liberties with its villain. The Ice Maidens are also atypical for this series. While it appears like we can expect a bit more personality from those who serve the main villains, the matching attire of these women is so camp. It’s not the tone I want this show to strive for.

frozen suit

It’s not the last we’ll see of Mr. Freeze, and yet it also is.

Even though the ending is an ominous one, this is Mr. Freeze’s only appearance in The New Batman Adventures. He will be allowed the distinction of being one of the few villains who gets to return in Batman Beyond and that’s the next time we’ll see him. After a stunning debut in “Heart of Ice,” Mr. Freeze has certainly struggled a bit to maintain the aura he had in that episode. “Deep Freeze” was a real letdown, while SubZero was able to put a worthwhile bookend on things. This episode is largely unnecessary for the character, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s not at all surprising that this show wanted to feature Mr. Freeze, and this portrayal is fine. Things do get a bit rushed though and this is a case where maybe a two-part format would have worked out better. I could do without the whole robot thing, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly better than “Deep Freeze,” but I’m not heartbroken that Mr. Freeze won’t show up again either.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Dreams in Darkness”

Dreams_in_Darkness-Title_CardEpisode Number:  28

Original Air Date:  November 3, 1992

Directed by:  Dick Sebast

Written by:  Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

First Appearance(s):  None

Episode 28 of Batman:  The Animated Series is one noteworthy and packed episode. This episode is both based on a story from the comics and also the inspiration for an even bigger story. It features, once again, The Scarecrow who is making his third appearance in this cartoon as a featured villain. This is pretty remarkable as prior to this series The Scarecrow wasn’t exactly a household name. He had appeared in some versions of The Super Friends television shows, but he was hardly popular. More prominent villains like Catwoman and The Penguin, fresh off starring in Batman Returns, have only been featured in 3 episodes total, and one was a two-parter. In the case of The Penguin, he was featured in the sort of throw-away goofy “I’ve Got Batman in my Basement” episode which is not exactly a prominent spot considering he’s foiled by kids for most of that one. Another classic and fan-favorite villain The Riddler hasn’t even been featured in one yet! It’s pretty cool that the show is able to elevate a villain like The Scarecrow, as his episodes have generally been pretty solid and this one is no different. This episode will go on to inspire much of Batman Begins as both feature The Scarecrow trying to poison Gotham’s water supply via Arkham Asylum’s basement. Presumably, Scarecrow was included in that film because he hadn’t been used in prior feature films starring Batman and if you’re going to look for Scarecrow stories you could do worse than looking at Batman:  The Animated Series. The main notable difference between the two is the inclusion of Ra’s Al Ghul in the film’s version of the plot as the mastermind behind everything.

hqdefault-33

Not the way we’re used to seeing our hero.

“Dreams in Darkness,” not to be confused with the upcoming “Perchance to Dream,” also draws inspiration from the tale “Batman:  The Last Arkham” as both feature Batman as an inmate in Arkham Asylum. It’s also been a part of Batman’s character that some citizens of Gotham view him similarly to the weird, costumed villains he fights against. Batman walks a fine line between righteousness and obsession, which can teeter on the edge of sanity. This show won’t dive too deep into those themes, but it is a part of his character that I do find interesting. For this episode, he becomes an inmate of Arkham by being exposed to Scarecrow’s fear toxin. It makes him hallucinate and act a bit crazy. He has an antidote this time, but a doctor tells him he’ll need to rest a couple of days after taking it and he just doesn’t have that kind of time. All of Gotham is in danger, and Batman needs to convince the doctors at Arkham that he needs to be set free so he can stop The Scarecrow from infecting all of Gotham with his hallucinogenic drug.

What adds a nice twist to the episode is it’s largely a flashback. The episode opens from the perspective of a doctor and some orderlies at Arkham discussing their latest inmate, which is revealed to be Batman. Batman then narrates us on how he ended up in this state, before the story catches up to the present and Batman is forced to get creative to free himself. In some ways, the real antagonist of the episode is Dr. Batholomew (Richard Dysart) who doesn’t believe Batman’s tale of imminent danger, or that The Scarecrow could be behind it because he’s safely imprisoned at Arkham. The Scarecrow himself appears only really for the climax of the episode.

btas-dreamsindarkness15

Despite spending a good portion of the episode cowering in fear, Batman still finds time to look like a bad ass.

Most of the episode is devoted to Batman’s narrated flashback. He gets poisoned when stopping an attempt by one of Scarecrow’s goons to poison the water supply at a spa. The goon in this case has a missing right hand and in its place is an attachment that features a welding torch and a drill, the latter of which is used to create a tense little moment where it looks like Batman is going to have his heart exhumed. Batman stops him, but during the confrontation the crook accidentally smashes his machinery causing a red gas to seep out. At the time, Batman is unaware it has anything to do with The Scarecrow which is why he seeks medical advice after experiencing hallucinations such as seeing The Joker in the Batcave or nearly running over an illusion of Robin with the Batmobile. It’s when he visits the crook he took out at the hospital that he learns he’s been diagnosed with fear hallucinations, which is all Batman really needs to hear to know The Scarecrow is behind it.

Batman is able to put two and two together; the crook he stopped was trying to poison a water a supply for a spa and Scarecrow is not likely to stop there. He’s just now in Arkham and needs to get out. Dr. Bartholomew won’t even entertain Batman’s story, until someone finally bothers to check on Dr. Crane and finds out that he has, once again, escaped. Batman will soon do the same, and he’s able to extricate himself by taking an axe which was mounted on a hallway wall beneath a fire extinguisher. I’m no doctor, but having an axe in an easily accessible area of a mental hospital seems like a bad idea.

did22

Beware of Joker rat!

Since Batman is rigged up in a strait jacket for most of the episode, the writers have to find a way to explain why no one takes Batman’s mask off. Dr. Bartholomew offers some goofy medical reason why they should not, which I suppose is good enough. Of interest though, is when Dr. Bartholomew starts name-dropping other inmates of Arkham he uses their real names, including Jack Napier who is canonically established as Joker in this series. I suppose that makes sense given how heavily inspired it is by the Burton films. There’s also a really interesting dream sequence for Batman where he’s in a mostly red environment trying to chase after his parents. They disappear into a tunnel which morphs into the barrel of a gun dripping blood that blows Batman away. It’s pretty chilling and a good example of how hard it would be for Batman to simply push aside the hallucinations brought on by the drug.

dreamsindarkness7

Things get pretty weird underneath Arkham.

Eventually, Batman will reach the bowels of Arkham Asylum and find The Scarecrow trying to infect the river that runs underneath Arkham. Like the other Scarecrow episodes, Batman is forced to battle his own hallucinations more so than The Scarecrow. A series of timers rigged to Scarecrow’s gas is the source of the tension, but it just makes me wonder why Scarecrow doesn’t just eliminate the timer and shoot the stuff off. Batman’s hallucinations allow the artists to bring in other villains when a rat morphs into The Joker, Penguin rises from the ground, Two-Face emerges from Penguin and then melts into Poison Ivy. Robin and Alfred pop in to admonish Bruce for living in the darkness too long which is basically the only time the episode really dips its toe into the waters of “Bruce really belongs in Arkham” plot point. It’s some great animation, maybe not as great as the Clayface stuff but a similar effect is in play here. The only drawback is Batman uttering a hack kind of line, “No! You’re not real!” More embarrassing, is when Batman is being confronted by some of Scarecrow’s henchman he’s paralyzed with fear and resorts to whistling into a microphone which in turn paralyzes the henchmen. This is, by far, the dumbest thing we’ve seen Batman do in this cartoon thus far.

Batman does indeed stop The Scarecrow’s scheme, with only one second to spare. Scarecrow will have the ignominy of being exposed to his own gas and reduced to a raving lunatic at the episode’s end, at which point Dr. Bartholomew laughably suggests the orderlies keep him locked up this time. The guy has escaped twice in the past five episodes, so I’m not betting on Arkham this time. With Scarecrow taken care of, Batman is able to rest in the Batcave and have Alfred administer the antidote which will take him out of action for two days so hopefully the criminals of Gotham behave. It’s sort of sweet that Bruce chooses to rest up in the Batcave as opposed to Wayne Manor, likely feeling more at home there and more secure.

Dreams_in_Darkness_Own_Medicine

So long, Scarecrow, we’re going to miss you.

With this being episode 28 this also marks the final episode of the Batman:  The Animated Series Volume One DVD release. Amazon refers to it as season one, which is a bit of a lie as we’re actually not even halfway through season one yet, but it does feel like the first milestone for this little project. “Dreams in Darkness” is a great concept for an episode that I don’t think is fully realized here. It’s still a perfectly fine episode for the show with some great animation and a few trippy moments as well. It’s not my favorite of The Scarecrow episodes, that distinction still belongs to “Nothing to Fear,” but it maintains his consistently solid track record thus far. This is actually Scarecrow’s final turn as a featured villain in the show, which seems weird after seeing him so much over the course of the first 28 episodes. He’ll pop up in a lesser role though down the line before getting a redesign in The New Batman Adventures that many folks prefer to this one. He can be proud of the mark he made on this series though, which is more than some other villains can say.


Batman: The Animated Series – “The Clock King”

The_Clock_King-Title_CardEpisode Number:  25

Original Air Date:  September 21, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  David Wise

First Appearance(s):  The Clock King

Batman:  The Animated Series largely tries to emulate the Tim Burton films from the same era in terms of setting and mood. Naturally, this being a children’s show first and foremost, it’s noticeably lighter in touch when dealing with the uglier side of Gotham City, but at no point does it strive to match the camp of Batman’s other television series, the Batman show from the 1960’s. At least that is, until now. What we have here is a villain, The Clock King, who could have easily existed in that program. Actually, he did for two episodes although that Clock King (played by Walter Slezak) did not resemble this one very much, but he sure did like time puns.

Clock_King

The Clock King as played by Walter Slezak

The Clock King of Batman:  The Animated Series is played by Alan Rachins and is a former effciency expert for his own company. Real name Temple Fugate, a play on the Latin phrase tempus fugit which translates to “time flies,” he encounters Hamilton Hill one day on the train looking rather tense. Being a stickler for time, he’s basically always this way, but Hill remarks he should loosen up and change his routine around to keep from going mad. Fugate does so, moving his coffee break by 15 minutes and outside, but it ends up being a catalyst for a really bad day that results in him losing a court case concerning a business he runs ruining him in the process. Seven years later, Hill is mayor of Gotham and Fugate is out for revenge as The Clock King.

Fugate first starts by trying to humiliate the mayor by hacking the traffic lights of Gotham and draping a silly banner over City Hall cartoonishly depicting the mayor in an unfavorable light. It’s pretty benign, but it does draw the attention of Batman who has a surprising amount of difficulty in taking The Clock King down. Batman seems to have a way of playing down to the competition, and Clock King has also armed himself with explosive pocket watches (yes, you read that correctly) and a full complement of time puns. Batman will even join in on the word play threatening to clean his clock. This stuff practically writes itself.

Do I really need to go into much detail on this one? Batman will be able to trace the crimes back to the ruined Fugate, not that it really matters much. Fugate will also move beyond trying to humiliate Hill to straight out attempting to murder him by strapping him to the hour hand of a giant, Big Ben-like clock in Gotham. The idea is when the clock strikes 3:15, which is when Fugate took his coffee break seven years ago as Hill suggested, he’ll be crushed by the minute hand or at least horribly maimed. The Clock King will try to sell us on his acumen as a super villain by boasting that he’s studied Batman’s every move from news reels and such and thus is fully prepared to take him on, even though he’s a pretty normal looking middle-aged man. Well, normal looking for a guy with eyeglasses that resemble clocks. After displaying rather impeccable timing in everything he does, he’ll accidentally mangle the clock guts and foil his own plan.

Fugate_Clock_King

Get a load of this asshole.

“The Clock King” really is like a Batman episode from 1966. While that show is charming and entertaining in its own right, this episode is not. This show can’t have it both ways and expect us to take this villain seriously. He’s horribly lame, and one of the dumbest villains the show will boast. Making Batman look like a chump when confronting The Clock King doesn’t work in making us believe The Clock King is somehow good at being a villain. The numerous puns, stupid weapons, and ludicrous escapes at no point come across as believable or even really entertaining. I knew I did not like this episode and was not looking forward to re-watching it for this feature, but I tried to have an open mind, really I did. I tried to view it as an off-beat episode that utilizes the absurd for comedy. The origin of The Clock King, which opens the episode, almost pulls it off. Watching some uptight jerk’s life fall apart because he ceased to be uptight for 15 minutes has some entertainment value, but the resulting 18 minutes or whatever of the episode aren’t worthy payoff.

The_Clock_King

Yeah, I bet this will work. Go away, Clock King, no one likes you.

Sadly, I wish I could say this is the last we’ll see of The Clock King. He’ll actually return in season 2 in perhaps an even dumber episode, though as of this writing I haven’t re-watched it so I reserve the right to change my mind. Perhaps surprisingly, the villain did not originate with the Batman show of the 60’s and did come from the comics where he was more of a Green Arrow villain than a Batman one, though he would eventually end up with the Suicide Squad. His character was much more interesting there as he was actually motivated to help his invalid sister out financially before he succumbed to a terminal illness. I’m not sure why they decided to change his origins to what was presented here, but maybe they thought it would be too similar to the new backstory given to Mr. Freeze. Or maybe they did just want to make an homage to Batman. If that really was the motivation then mission failed.


Batman: The Animated Series – “The Cat and the Claw – Part I”

Cat_and_Claw-Title_CardEpisode Number:  15

Original Air Date:  September 5, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Sean Catherine Derek and Laren Bright

First Appearance(s):  Catwoman, Red Claw

This may be episode number 15, but it’s actually the very first episode of Batman: The Animated Series by air date. Airing as a special prime time sneak peak, “The Cat and the Claw – Part One” featured the debut of a very popular Batman foil – the not so villainous Catwoman. Like The Penguin, Catwoman was fresh off of starring in Batman Returns where she was played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Also like The Penguin, Catwoman was a regular on the Batman television series from the 1960s and was a featured villain in Batman: The Movie. In terms of Batman adversaries, few were as well known to audiences as Catwoman.

Catwoman_BTASUnlike The Penguin and Joker, Catwoman was not made an existing villain in this series. This episode marks her debut to both the television audience and to this version of Batman as well. They have never crossed paths before their meeting here, though one gets the impression that Catwoman has been up to this sort of thing for quite some time. She’s quite good at getting around and breaking and entering and even has little cat-shaped caltrops to make use of. Her outfit is very similar to Batman’s and I suppose that’s intentional. She even has a yellow-gold belt. Really, the only difference is she lacks a cape. This version of Catwoman is less an adversary and more another aspect of how Batman could operate. While he may be a vigilante out to do what’s right while largely adhering to the law of the land, Catwoman plays more fast and loose with the law and is willing to break it, going as far as thievery, if the ends are justified by the means. Batman’s ultimate goal is also to help the good people of Gotham by reducing crime, where as Catwoman is basically an animal rights activist who may or not prefer animals (in particular, cats) to people.

The episode opens with Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) out on the prowl. She’s after something and we get a look at how she operates. At her side is her trusty cat Isis whom has been trained to infiltrate locations and even deactivate traps. Catwoman is after a diamond necklace, but she attracts the attention of our hero. She and Batman have a playful little chase and it’s impressed upon us almost immediately that the Batman ignites something within Catwoman. Catwoman is able to elude Batman, in part because he stopped to save her precious cat from becoming roadkill. He seems willing to let her off and try another time.

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Attaboy Bruce!

The Batman/Catwoman dynamic isn’t anything new, and it’s not surprising to see them go this route. Also not surprising, is that Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, Catwoman’s real life persona, are destined to meet. Wayne is attending a charity auction where a date with Gotham’s most eligible bachelors is what’s up for bid. Kyle grossly outbids the other ladies for the services of Bruce and he’s immediately smitten with the blond bombshell. Kyle is disinterest though, as she was only doing it for the charity which is an animal charity. We’re given insight into Catwoman’s motivations for her thievery. Rather than enriching herself, it would seem her aim is a bit like Robin Hood (in her mind), though instead of giving to the poor she’s donating to animal rights groups.

Before Bruce and Selina can formalize plans for their date, that Bruce insists upon having, gunfire is heard and Batman is forced to spring into action (this seems to happen a lot to poor Bruce). Batman has to deal with some terrorists, and upon doing so is informed by Commissioner Gordon that a terrorist known as Red Claw is believed to be operating in Gotham.

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They would make for a nice looking couple.

The next day, Bruce shows up for his date just as Selina is informed by her lawyer that a proposed sanctuary for large cats is being acquired by a corporation that intends to bulldoze the preserve and put up a resort. Selina is irate, but Bruce happens to know the CEO of the corporation, Multigon International, and arranges a face-to-face between he and Selena. It’s fruitless, and Selina storms out angry alongside Bruce. As they leave, Red Claw appears to inform the CEO of Multigon, Stern, to keep an eye on Ms. Kyle. Red Claw is somewhat shadowed but we see Red Claw (Kate Mulgrew) is actually a woman and a pretty tough looking one at that.

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Sort of forgotten in the debut of Catwoman is the real villain of the episode – Red Claw.

Selina and Bruce agree to end their date prematurely, since she’s not much in the mood following their meeting with Stern, and agree to try again tomorrow. That night, Catwoman returns to Multigon to do some sleuthing. She’s able to get in, but not undetected. Soon she’s swarmed by guards and manages to reach the rooftop only to find herself in a precarious situation on the edge of the building. Naturally, Batman is there to make the save. They have another playful exchange, though Batman gets serious with her and demands she unmask. Catwoman feigns being hurt by Batman’s rejection, which causes Batman to react sympathetically giving Catwoman an opening to flip him over her shoulder and escape.

Back at her apartment, Selina boasts to her assistant Maven that the night was a success, but we’re soon shown an individual affiliated with Red Claw has traced her back to her apartment. He utters an ominous warning for us, the viewers, before the episode ends.

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Isis is a bit of a scene-stealer.

The first part of “The Cat and the Claw” successfully introduces us to this version of Catwoman and the role she’ll play in Batman’s rogues gallery. Her intentions are mostly good, but her means are unlawful. You could argue Batman’s are as well since he routinely sneaks into places he’s not welcome and performs search and seizures outside of the law, but Catwoman’s willingness to steal is apparently the line for Batman. The little we see of Red Claw, a villain created for this show, depicts her as a pretty ruthless terrorist and we’ll have to wait for Part Two to see just how far she can be pushed. This show seems to clearly love having sympathetic villains, so this turn for Catwoman isn’t too surprising. She bares no real resemblance to the character we had just seen in Batman Returns, aside from the general look of her costume and whip accessory. I am left wanting to see more of the Selina character. I’d like to know more about what brought her to where she is, but we’re never really going to get that from this show unfortunately. I also do like the dynamic at play with Batman where Catwoman clearly has the hots for the caped crusader while Batman knows he needs to keep his distance. That’s in contrast to Bruce Wayne’s obvious interest in Selina Kyle, while she seems completely uninterested in Bruce as a potential partner. It’s not a unique setup, but it is effective at creating some drama. It’s also easy to see why this was picked as the premiere, because in addition to the familiar villain, the episode also looks great. Lots of sharp blacks and great animation, especially with Catwoman’s adorable little cat Isis. We’ll have to wait for Part Two to see how this all plays out.


Dec. 23 – Teen Titans Go!: Second Christmas

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Original air date December 4, 2013

The Teen Titans are a super hero group consisting of all of the heroes no one cares about:  Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy. They got a chance to shine in their own series, which was eventually spun-off into a satirical comedy series called Teen Titans Go! This series is basically a flash animated cartoon in which the team does little actual super hero stuff and mostly just confronts every day mundane activities in an overly dramatic way. It’s not a show I’m very familiar with, having only watched an episode here and there just because it seems to always be on Cartoon Network. My once infant son seemed to like the theme song and all of the colors, so I’d on occasion use the program to distract him for a few minutes. I’ve had people tell me it’s a really funny show, and others tell me it’s one of the worst things DC has ever done with its brand. I’m guessing if you have no affection for the comics then this show is mostly just dumb humor that’s not entirely annoying, but if you actually enjoy the Teen Titans as a super hero group then you probably have a negative opinion of this thing.

“Second Christmas” aired during the show’s first season in 2013. I may not be familiar with this show, but i am familiar with the post-Christmas blues. December 26th is often cited by me as the saddest day of the year – 364 days until next Christmas, 365 if it’s one of those wretched leap years. Boxing Day just doesn’t do it for me, and the premise of this episode is immediately appealing to me because the characters are dealing with that very same thing, and to combat it, they come up with Second Christmas.

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Who doesn’t enjoy a good Christmas sweater?

The episode opens on Christmas morning. We get some shots of the Titans’ HQ, a giant building shaped like the letter T, and it’s all decorated for Christmas with numerous DC references. The stockings are hung by the fireplace loaded with toys and goodies, implying Santa has come and gone. I very much like that Cyborg’s stocking is a giant steel boot. The camera zooms in on a Batman alarm clock which immediately goes off at 8:00 AM. What?! You mean in a building occupied solely by kids the inhabitants stay in bed until 8 on Christmas morning? Hell, I rarely let the sun beat me to Christmas morning. When the alarm goes off, the Titans come running out from their rooms. They observe the cookies have been consumed, the milk has been drunk, and they tare through their wonderful new gifts. The gifts are supposed to be kind of funny, I take it, but the only one I like is Starfire’s Dr. Seuss inspired thing that I couldn’t possibly spell.

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I feel like Beast Boy should really be a reindeer here and not a dog.

The Titans move onto ugly Christmas sweaters and food. The day, as it often does, goes by like a whirlwind and suddenly it’s the 26th. Everyone is feeling down except Robin, who channels my mom in this scene by gleefully pulling down all of the Christmas decorations. He’s the most straight-laced of the group and wants to get back to training and doing super hero stuff while the others just need to wallow. Starfire is less upset as she apparently has a Christmas-like holiday to attend on her home planet, or wherever she’s from. There some kind of purple dinosaur that isn’t Barney replaces Santa amid chaos and flames. Seems interesting. The others are a bit jealous that she gets to run off for more holiday shenanigans so Beast Boy comes up with the idea of telling her about Second Christmas. Raven and Cyborg play along, and they soon have Starfire convinced that Second Christmas is a real holiday complete with its own Santa, obviously named Second Santa. He’s tall, skinny, and wears a green track suit and flys around with a jet pack.

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Robin is pretty willing to move on from Christmas while the others are reluctant to do so.

Robin walks in on them and immediately tries to put this Second Christmas nonsense to bed, but Beast Boy informs Starfire that Robin is the Grouch of Second Christmas and she shouldn’t listen to him and instead punch him in the face – so she does. Second Christmas suddenly becomes a thing that occurs at the expense of Starfire as the others leave it to her to re-decorate the place, cook a new Christmas dinner (consisting of junk food like pizza and burritos), and handle all of the presents and such. Somehow a Second Christmas kite becomes thing, and Starfire is very much interested in meeting Second Santa. A Dr. Seuss-like narrator also pops in to add a little magic to Second Christmas. Starfire is happy to go along with everything as she’s promised a Second Christmas miracle by Beast Boy should everything go well.

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All decorated for Second Christmas.

A montage, very much a re-hash of the opening one that covered Christmas, takes place showing the Titans in celebration. Robin remains a grouch, but doesn’t continue to protest. He still gets punched in the face though for making a sour face during Second Christmas Carols. He finally voices concern when Starfire activates the many, many lights she’s strung up all over the building, drawing attention to the huge waste of money powering them all is. He notes that their generator can’t handle this much stress and tries reasoning with Starfire. He tries being sympathetic to her and explain that the others are playing a trick on her, then gets angry when that doesn’t work, only earning him yet another punch in the face. Starfire won’t be fooled by the Second Christmas Grouch, the narrator informs us as we get a look at the swelling generator.

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All seem quite pleased with how Second Christmas turned out, except Robin.

Inside, Beast Boy remarks how he’s beat from all of this Second Christmas celebrating and Raven and Cyborg are quick to point out how great it was. They all decide to head to bed, but not Starfire who did not miss her people’s most important holiday to not witness a Second Christmas miracle. Suddenly, the others show a bit of remorse, but they only tease copping to her about the whole thing. When they say “There’s something we should tell you,” it just leads to them bidding her good night after unsuccessfully trying to get her to go to bed herself. Robin can only look on with disappointment.

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Starfire is pissed.

Starfire takes to the roof to fly her Second Christmas kite in hopes of spotting Second Christmas Santa. She tries to convince herself to believe, assuming that’s what will lead to a miracle, but nothing happens. The narrator comes in to recount all of the things she has done throughout the day to ensure Second Christmas was perfect. Just then, a flash of light bathes her in a warm glow! Second Santa? Nope, it’s just the elevator to the roof containing her teammates with Robin ordering them to tell her she’s been had. They finally come clean and hang their heads in shame, apologizing, but Starfire isn’t too accepting. She missed the most important day of the year for her home world for Second Christmas and she goes ballistic throwing nuclear snowballs at her “friends.” Even Robin isn’t spared as she still calls him the Grouch and punches him in the face. I’ve always thought Robin was pretty lame, but damn does he get abused in this episode.

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He is real! He’s really real!

After all of the Titans are trapped in the snow, a bright light appears. Even Robin and the others wonder if this is the coming of Second Santa, while Starfire turns to the light with renewed Second Christmas Spirit. Turns out it’s just the generator overloading and soon the whole thing explodes. We fade to white and find the Titans all waking up in hospital beds. Turns out the explosion put them all into comas and they’re just now all waking up simultaneously 363 days later – it’s Christmas Eve! A Second Christmas Miracle! The creation of their fake holiday has had the intended result as the Titans were not forced to wait for next Christmas, it came! They reflect on the miraculous event, as the camera leaves the confines of the hospital room to reveal the identity of the episode’s narrator as none other than Second Santa himself. He takes to the sky in his jet pack, just as Starfire approaches a window to witness him. He gives her a wink, and writes Happy 2nd X-Mas in the sky before flying off.

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I guess I should have run this on the 26th, but there’s no way I’m doing a 26th blog entry on Christmas this month!

“Second Christmas” is a pretty silly and, at times, mean-spirited little Christmas special. It’s also strangely relatable as who likes waiting a whole year for Christmas? I mean sure we all get sick of the songs at times and there’s always a few really annoying commercials each year, but Christmas is such a wonderful time of year it sometimes gets a little sad knowing it’s just one day out of the whole year. Of course, that one day has been stretched into two as Christmas Eve is basically a holiday at this point, and the entire Christmas season is eerily undefined. At retail it basically begins the week of Halloween while many at least push it off until after Thanksgiving. And then it kind of lingers through the new year before vanishing completely as kids return to school and adults back to work. As a concept, I love this episode and I like the little flourishes that give it a holiday special vibe such as the narrator or visual gags like a snowman coming to life when Cyborg places hie head upon it. As something that’s funny or entertaining, it’s less successful as there’s really no laugh-out-loud moments, but a short running time (about 11 minutes with opening and closing credits) keeps it from over-staying its welcome. As a result, I’m pretty lukewarm on the whole thing which pretty much matches my attitude toward the series as a whole.

Teen Titans Go! is run all of the time on Cartoon Network, it’s basically that channel’s SpongeBob, so I expect this episode to air numerous times during this holiday season. If the network is smart, it’ll be shown on the 26th to really capture the mood of the episode. As of this post, it’s scheduled to air on Christmas Eve at 1 PM. The show is also available on DVD and Blu Ray and streaming in various places on the web.


Dec. 2 – The Tick Loves Santa!

1.Tick on Santas lap

The Tick Loves Santa! (1995)

The Tick arrived on the Fox Network’s Saturday morning programming block in 1994 after a wave of successful super hero cartoons. With the success of Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man it meant the timing was right for a parody hero like The Tick to get a shot at finding an audience. Often the last cartoon aired on Saturday, The Tick was like a fun palette cleanser following some of the more dram-laden shows and put a nice a bow on the whole thing. Reuniting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles voice actors Townsend Coleman and Rob Paulson as the duo of The Tick and Arthur, the show flourished with its impeccable voice cast, bright animation, and outlandish stories. The Tick was the hero we all needed at 11:30 AM on a Saturday.

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The Tick and Arthur out doing some holiday shopping.

“The Tick Loves Santa!” is the show’s Christmas episode and it arrived in season 2 first airing on November 25th, 1995. The episode opens during the holiday season where a sickly looking Santa Claus is ringing a bell looking for some spare change. Meanwhile, the local police are chasing a robber who happens upon this Santa-clad individual and steals his outfit hoping to thwart justice. His ruse doesn’t work and the police continue their chase. Meanwhile, The Tick and Arthur are walking down main street with their arms full of Christmas gifts trying to deduce what a sugar plum is. The Tick is happily counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds remaining until Christmas while Arthur worries about getting their apartment ready to host a Christmas party. The imposter Santa soon appears and runs right into the mighty chest of The Tick, nearly knocking himself unconscious. The Tick is beside himself with giddiness upon seeing Santa, while Arthur tries to tell him that’s not Santa. The crook comes to, snaps at the pair, and takes off with his sack of cash as the police show up.

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The criminal who will soon become Multiple Santa.

The Tick is horrified to see the boys in blue are pursuing Santa. Assuming there must be some mistake, The Tick jumps into action to help Santa. They end up on the rooftops where a police helicopter tracks fake Santa who’s growing increasingly frustrated. The Tick intervenes and a cop shouts down to tell him it’s not what he thinks in an almost bored tone as if the police anticipated that The Tick would cause problems for them given they’re chasing a guy dressed as Santa. The robber Santa tries to make a desperate leap and crashes into a neon department store sign and is electrocuted. He falls to his demise as the sack of cash goes up in flames. The cops, seeing that the money is no good, are done while The Tick falls to his knees in sadness at the apparent death of Santa Claus.

Back at their apartment, The Tick and Arthur host their friends for a Christmas gathering:  American Maid, Sewer Urchin, Die Fledermaus, Feral Boy, and Four Legged Man. Tick is miserable and despondent over the death of Santa while the other party-goers try and cheer him up. Arthur apparently decides enough is enough and tries to tell Tick that Santa isn’t real, which only makes Tick mad. Meanwhile, the crooked Santa thief wakes up in the alley he plunged into while duplicates of himself start popping out of the snow. It seems that the electric sign gave him duplicates and the villainous Multiple Santa is born! Naturally, he uses his duplicates (which are all incapable of speech except to say “Ho”) to go on a crime spree knocking off department stores and whatever else he wishes.

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The Tick trying to keep the peace. 

The Tick and his buddies decide to go do some caroling, but it does little to brighten Tick’s mood. Soon they encounter the gang of Santas and a fight breaks out. The Tick though is unable to fight back, for he can’t punch the face of Santa, even if it’s not the real Santa (who could take such a risk?) and is practically paralyzed with fear. The rest of the team is managing okay, until American Maid sends Multiple Santa into an electric box which only serves to create more Santas! They get trounced and everyone complains to The Tick later at the local diner about his inability to pitch-in. Sewer Urchin, in a voice that’s borrowed from Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man, lets Tick know he did a lot of ball-dropping. Definitely.

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That ain’t right.

Multiple Santa, now realizing the role electricity plays in creating more Santas, decides at his hide-out that he needs to head for the city dam for more power, and more duplicates. Meanwhile, The Tick and Arthur arrive back at their apartment to find it overrun with elves! And not just any elves, Santa’s Secret Service, who are sweeping the place to make sure it’s safe for the big man himself to enter. He soon does and The Tick is happy to meet his idol while Arthur can scarcely believe it (which doesn’t make much sense considering all of the other weird stuff they encounter every day), but soon becomes a kid in front of Santa. Santa tells The Tick he needs his help to stop Multiple Santa and takes a stern tone with him. Tick sits on Santa’s lap until Santa can’t take it anymore, and naturally agrees to do everything in his power to help Santa out.

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The Tick features some of the tallest elves I can recall.

The two strike out and Santa calls to tell them to go to the dam, since he sees everything. As Tick and Arthur approach they’re greeted by a tidal wave of Santas (a “Yuletide” as Tick puts it) and are forced to battle upstream, like a mighty blue salmon, with Tick narrating the whole way. See, Multiple Santa had arrived at the dam first and cut loose on the power there thus creating countless Santas to flood the whole city. When Tick and Arthur finally reach him, Tick still finds he can’t bring himself to punch Santa. Instead he opts for a noogie, and wouldn’t you know, the static electricity created by Tick’s knuckles causes the duplicate Santas to vanish. Striking down Multiple Santa himself, by tossing one of his clones at him, causes a chain reaction that makes all of the copies vanish thus saving the city and saving Christmas. The Tick puts a bow on everything, in the only way he can, and soon sugar plums are dancing around Tick’s head and Arthur’s too, since he’s now a believer.

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Just a little rub on the head will do.

“The Tick Loves Santa!” is a great episode of The Tick and a great Christmas special as well. It’s funny, charming, is well animated and well acted and it’s pretty unique for a Christmas special. The Tick’s constant struggle to find a way to fight a villain that looks like Santa was a constant source of humor for me and I enjoyed how dismissive Multiple Santa was of Tick, especially early on in the episode. The supporting cast got a chance to get some lines in as well, though the episode largely focused on Tick and Arthur, which it should have since it was a very Tick-centric plot. I enjoy how jaded and cynical basically everyone in the show is except for The Tick and Arthur, and the cops not really giving a shit that a person was electrocuted and fried was pretty dark for a kid’s show, even if the character would be shown to have survived a few minutes later. Working the real Santa into the episode in such an obvious way felt a little forced. Maybe the network wouldn’t go for a cartoon that says Santa isn’t real, but including a real Santa also feels like the right move anyway since Tick’s childlike exuberance needs to be justified. Maybe they could have incorporated Santa in a more subtle way, but subtlety isn’t really something this show tries. It’s got the charms though and enough Christmas spirit to justify its inclusion in this year’s Christmas celebration.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Two-Face: Part II”

Two-Face_Part_IIEpisode Number:  11

Original Air Date:  September 28, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  Randy Rogel

First Appearance(s):  None

“Two-Face Part II” cruelly aired originally on a Monday, meaning we had a whole weekend to get through to find out what became of Harvey Dent. I suppose if you’re as glued to these recaps as I was to the show then the wait for you was even worse since it’s been a week since we discussed part one. Part II picks up an unspecified amount of time after part one, but enough time has passed for Dent to assume his Two-Face persona and put together a little gang and a hideout. He’s been passing his time knocking off businesses owned by Rupert Thorne as its clear that revenge is the only thing fueling him now. He’s decked out in a half white, half black suit and uses a coin to judge the outcomes of any given situation. When one of his guys wants to rob a woman who just happens to be at the business they’re hitting, Two-Face makes him flip for it. Heads she keeps her purse, tails he gets to take it. Though there actually isn’t a true “tails” to his coin as it’s a two-sided heads coin, one side just happens to be scratched and marked.

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Harvey’s got a new look.

Batman hasn’t given up on Dent and he’s been following Two-Face’s crimes. If he’s engaged with him at all we don’t know, but it seems safe to assume that he has not. After all, Batman knows these locations Two-Face is hitting are fronts for Thorne’s criminal activity so he isn’t exactly eager to help the crime boss, though he’s also not going to let Dent just keep getting away with it. Likewise, Harvey’s fiance Grace, hasn’t given up on him either and we see Two-Face hasn’t forgotten about her as well. His boys notice he’s heart-stricken over her and they push him to finally see her. Naturally, he had to flip for it.

Thorne is also pretty ticked that Two-Face keeps nailing him. His assistant Candace is the one who comes up the idea to use Grace to get to Two-Face and she’s able to trick Grace into thinking she means to help Harvey. Grace is instructed to contact her should Harvey reach out, and when he does she obliges. Harvey and Grace have a bittersweet reunion where she pleads with him to put a stop to his criminal activity. When Thorne shows up to spoil the reunion things get a little ugly. Two-Face feels betrayed, but not enough to put Grace in danger. He had stolen some incriminating files from Thorne and he hands them over to spare Grace. Thorne probably would have killed the two of them anyway, but Batman shows up.

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Harvey is reluctant to show Grace his scarred visage at first.

With Batman’s help, Dent and his henchmen are able to overpower Thorne. Batman comes out a little worse for ware, and when Two-Face is fixing to blow Thorne’s brains out, Batman is helpless. Still, Two-Face has to flip for the privilege of shooting Thorne and rather than risk an undesirable outcome, Batman is able to grab a drawer full of coins left sitting on a table and send them scattering all over the floor. Two-Face, unable to find his coin, panics, but Grace is able to calm him down. She gets him to surrender to the Gotham PD, who soon show up to clean up the mess. The two walk off in tears as Batman looks on, vowing to never give up on his friend.

“Two-Face:  Part II” has to follow the excellent first half and deliver a meaningful payoff, which it does and it doesn’t. The Two-Face character is portrayed well, and voice actor Richard Moll is stellar as the titular character. He uses his gravely Big, Bad, Harv voice, but injects nuance where needed. Murphy Cross is incredible as Grace and really comes across as a woman burdened by circumstance, torn about what’s right for her and what’s right for Harvey. And as always, Kevin Conroy’s Batman is the glue that holds everything together.

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The great equalizer.

Where the episode stumbles is in the conclusion. What happened to Harvey Dent cannot simply be undone, and seeing him surrender kind of gives us a happy ending. It’s an ending that will be undone by Two-Face’s future appearances, which do not really address the conclusion of this episode at all. He’s just another villain in Batman’s way from here on out (though he does have at least one more memorable turn) which is disappointing for a villain who began so promisingly. It also cheapens this episode, which should have probably just had Dent bid Grace a tearful goodbye and ran rather than fake like he was going to do what was necessary to continue his life with her before the accident.

Short-sighted ending aside, this is probably the best two-parter the show will tackle and I don’t say that lightly as we still have the excellent “Feat of Clay” and “Robin’s Reckoning” to look forward to. And even without the backstory, Two-Face the villain is still a lot of fun both visually and conceptually with his little morality coin. He was a bit obscure before this series began, but episodes like this are probably the reason why he was a big part of Batman Forever, which even had Batman use the same coin trick pulled off in this episode. It’s a great spot for the character and it’s good to see him recognized as one of Batman’s greatest foes.


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