The Batman Review: The Man Who Would Be Bat (S1E04)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: October 30, 2004
Writers: Thomas Pugsley & Greg Klein
Director:
 Seung Eun Kim

Contrary to popular belief, having multiple writers on an episode does not mean it’s less likely to be terrible. Case in point: almost every new episode of Spongebob Squarepants has three writers attached.

And my word, are Pugsley and Klein facing an uphill battle today. You see, this is a Man-Bat episode, and those of you who paid attention to my first review…

LetMeLaughEvenHarder

… will likely recall that I don’t care much for Man-Bat. And I still don’t.

Seriously, he makes Bane look like the gold standard of innovation and interesting plot development. In case any of you are unfamiliar with him, here’s a thumbnail biography from Wikipedia:

Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a scientist specializing in the study of bats (chiropterology), develops an extract intended to give humans a bat’s sonar sense and tests the formula on himself because he is becoming deaf. The extract works, but it has a horrible side effect: it transforms him into a hideous man-sized bat. The serum also takes away his intelligence, so he goes on a mad rampage until Batman can find a way to reverse the effects.

Sound familiar?

Image result for Stan Lee Marvel
“My stealing sense is tingling! Excelsior!”

                                                                         

“Yeah, I’ll just bet it is, Stan.”

Even if you don’t particularly give a crap about Marvel (and to be honest, I don’t), Man-Bat is a pretty lackluster villain, mostly because Kirk Langstrom’s consciousness goes lights-out whenever he turns into the guy (which is almost always by horrible circumstance instead of intent). There’s very little emotional or moral stakes to be had – he’s a villain 100% built for action sequences, and incredibly predictable action sequences at that. I’ve seen Batman hitching a sky-ride on his claw about several dozen times now, and it was pretty boring after the first one.

But that was apparently good enough for him to carve out a niche, and he’s been a semi-recurring member of Batman’s rogues gallery ever since. As previously mentioned, That Other Show used him as their first villain, and the episode in question was almost entirely redeemed by how badass Tokyo Movie Shinsa’s Spectrum’s animation was. That might be written off as a chest-beating display of creative independence on their part (please realize that I spontaneously sprouted a beret, goatee, and Starbucks latte as I typed that), but then they did another one.

At this point, it’s probably for the best if we all admit to what his real appeal is:

ManBatFigures
I have it on good authority that none of these can even *stand* by themselves.

Oh, there’s been a few snippets of more interesting takes – mostly when they tried to play him as a hero who’s in full control of himself as Man-Bat – but those never last long. Let’s see if The Batman can make this bat fly, shall we?

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The Batman Review: Call of the Cobblepot (S1E03)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: September 18, 2004
Writer: Steven Melching
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Poor, poor Oswald Cobblepot.

Fandom’s a fickle thing, innit? One minute you’re the undisputed number-two of Batman’s rogues gallery, with countless comic books and TV shows portraying you as a sneaky, ruthless, yet classy threat who can stand alongside the Joker himself without looking out of place. The next, you’ve become an embarrassment to all things Batman, a symbol of silliness and camp best left forgotten, and fans start treating you like the other number two whenever your name comes up.

Generally, if a Batman fan has anything besides sneering contempt or crushing apathy for the Penguin, it’s because of either his Arkham City or Gotham incarnations, neither of which I particularly care for. I don’t want to sound hipstery-

conceptual image of an alarm clock showing that you are too late

– but the whole idea of the Iceberg Lounge and the mob-boss gig is something I’ve become very ambivalent about. Even at the best of times, it makes the Penguin look like a bargain-bin Lex Luthor, someone who’s not good enough for real supervillainy and thus has to stick to a desk before Calendar Man sends him crying home to mommy (for related reasons, I have a knee-jerk reaction against people insisting that Penguin has to be the token “sane” rogue in Gotham). And more often than not, writers just portray him as a sleazy informant who gets beaten up by Batman (or one of his sidekicks) or gets outsmarted by a newcomer. In short, Iceberg!Penguin is a colorless symbol of the status quo in Gotham, and there’s nothing Gotham likes breaking more than a status quo.

Pictured: a normal night at the Iceberg Lounge.
Pictured: a normal night at the Iceberg Lounge.

I mean, I don’t want to rag on whoever it is that invented the Iceberg Lounge, but…

Oh.
Oh.

I love most of his stuff, guys. I swear.

So, yeah. I like me some openly criminal (and loving it) Penguin, the kind of guy who whips out boxing-glove umbrellas at a second’s notice and thinks nothing of sending poison-beaked hummingbirds after Batman, all while hamhandedly romancing the star of his favorite soap with overpriced chocolates. At knifepoint.

And it seems that I’m in luck. The Batman‘s take on Penguin is renowed for being a black-hearted bumbershoot bandit through and through. Surely this is just what I’m looking for!

Right?

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The Batman Review: Traction (S1E02)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: September 25, 2004
Writer: Adam Beechen
Director:
Sam Liu

Quick show of hands: how many of you know this guy?

Chuck Dixon

No one? Wait, wait… you in the back, you… oh. You were just stretching. Sorry.

So. The gentleman up there is named Chuck Dixon, and he will be popping up a lot over the course of these reviews. Why? Because he is, bar none, my favorite Batman writer of all time. He’s not one of the big names like Frank Miller or Jeph Loeb or even Denny O’Neil, but his accomplishments and legacies (in the DC Universe and elsewhere) are many. A small and select list:

  • Almost singlehandedly raised Tim Drake through the role of Robin, writing the first Robin solo for over a hundred issues.
  • Handled Nightwing’s first ongoing for 70 issues, giving Dick Grayson a second chance after The New Teen Titans went down the tubes.
  • Created the Birds of Prey, introducing a generation to the badassery that was Oracle and Black Canary.
  • Created Stephanie Brown, whom certain sects of the Internet will insist on pain of death is the greatest DC character ever.
  • Wrote some of the best damn Joker, Riddler, and Scarecrow stories I’ve read in my life.

Oh, and he created the villain of today’s episode. Shame or something.

“Would you care to repeat that, Señor?

Meep.

Pleasedontkillme.

Okay – in all honesty, I’ve never liked Bane very much, even though he’s almost certainly Dixon’s most well-known creation and Dixon himself is immensely proud of the fellow. Yes, yes, heretic, Judas, how dare you dismiss the man who broke the Bat, etc., but there’s something disgustingly… safe about him.

A quick history lesson for those who need it: Bane served as the linchpin of the 1993 megacrossover Knightfall, breaking Batman’s back so DC could “experiment” with a new, more X-TREEM Batman. Anyways, Dixon spared no expense in establishing what a grade-A badass this guy was – raised in a hellhole Caribbean prison that severed all sense of morality from him, gifted with a sharp mind that allowed him to learn six different languages when most of the prisoners couldn’t even read, stronger than any mortal man could dream of when armed with the super-steroid Venom, and pretty damn strong even without the stuff.

But there’s no getting around the fact that he was grown in an editorial test-tube, so his character is more rooted in petty oneupsmanship than anything truly unique or engaging. Like the Joker? WELL THIS GUY’S TWICE AS RUTHLESS. Like the Riddler? WELL THIS GUY’S FIVE TIMES SMARTER. Like Killer Croc? WELL THIS GUY CAN MAKE MINCEMEAT OUT OF CROC WITH ONE HAND BEHIND HIS BACK. Like Ra’s al-Ghul? THIS GUY FIGURED OUT BATMAN’S SECRET IDENTITY IN A CAVE WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS WITHOUT ANY FANCY INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL SYNDICATE! As for his motivations…

How utterly fascinating.
How utterly fascinating.

Now, fellow reviewer the Unshaved Mouse has opined this sort of Generic Doomsday Villain can work in certain contexts, but I found Bane to be by far the dullest part of Knightfall. And I say this as someone who thinks that Knightfall – at least, the first third – was the best Batman megacrossover DC’s ever done, and probably the only one that managed to not waste the premise of every Arkham inmate running loose at the same time. Surely it’s not coincidence that most discussions of Bane, no matter how gushing, can’t help but mention that his post-Knightfall career mostly consists of acting like mindless muscle or jobbing to DC’s other heroes?

(Disclaimer: I’ve heard that Gail Simone’s done some amazing things with him in Secret Six, but as that’s not a Batman book, my point about Bane being a rather dull Batman villain still stands.)

Maybe Bane’s whole luchador getup is more fitting than I thought. Much like pro-wrestling, his much-touted victory over Batman was carefully staged from the start for maximum publicity, and he got to be king of the ring for all of five minutes before the higher-ups swept him out like yesterday’s garbage once they’d gotten bored of fucking around with the status quo

get-on-with-it

Yessir. Sorrysir. Won’t happen again, sir.

Let’s see how The Batman handles this most estupendo of evildoers, courtesy of one Adam Beechen. Now, Beechen’s a very divisive name in the DC fandom – long story short, he ruined Cassandra “the best Batgirl (according to Tumblr)” Cain beyond repair, but he also wrote one of the most awesomely terrifying episodes of Teen Titans, so… can we at least call it squaresies?

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The Batman Review: The Bat in the Belfry (S1E01)

(DISCLAIMER: The author of this blog owns none of the properties depicted below. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.)

Original Airdate: September 11, 2004
Writer: Duane Capizzi
Director:
Seung Eun Kim

A short warning before we begin: I’m an extremely pompous geek who loves to show off how much he knows about Batman. So most every review is going to start with me blathering on about the entire history of that episode’s villain, plus any other stories that might’ve served as an inspiration for the episode.

Buuut not this one. It stars the Joker, for Christ’s sake. You should know who he is. If you don’t, you’d better get back to Remedial Batmanology.

Let’s take a look.

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Episode Guide (and Index of Reviews)

The Batman did about average for a cartoon in its day and age – sixty-five episodes to close that sweet syndication deal, plus a better-than-expected DTV movie. Episode reviews (when they go up) may be accessed through this index or via the Prev/Next links in each review.

Season 1 (Or: Yes Father, I Shall Become A Bat)

1. The Bat in the Belfry
2. Traction
3. Call of the Cobblepot
4. The Man Who Would Be Bat
5. The Big Chill
6. The Cat and the Bat
7. The Big Heat
8. Q&A
9. The Big Dummy
10. Topsy Turvy
11. Bird of Prey
12. The Rubberface of Comedy
13. The Clayface of Tragedy

Season 2 (Or: The Strange Secret of Greg Weisman)

1. The Bat, the Cat, and the Very Ugly
2. Riddled
3. JTV
4. Swamped
5. Pets
6. Meltdown
7. The Butler Did It
8. Fire and Ice
9. Ragdolls to Riches
10. Strange Minds
11. Grundy’s Night
12. The Laughing Bat
13. Night and the City

Season 3 (Or: Whose Baby Are You, Batgirl?)

1. Batgirl Begins, Part One
2. Batgirl Begins, Part Two
3. A Dark Knight to Remember
4. A Fistful of Felt
5. RPM
6. Brawn
7. The Laughing Cats
8. Fleurs du Mal
9. Cash for Toys
10. The Apprentice
11. Thunder
12. The Icy Depths
13. Gotham’s Ultimate Criminal Mastermind

Season 4 (Or: And Robin Shall Restore Amends)

1. A Matter of Family
2. Team Penguin
3. Clayfaces
4. The Everywhere Man
5. Strange New World
6. The Breakout
7. Artifacts
8. Two of a Kind
9. Seconds
10. Riddler’s Revenge
11. Rumors
12. The Joining, Part One
13. The Joining, Part Two

Season 5 (Or: Isn’t that Brave and the Bold show ready yet?)

1. The Batman/Superman Story, Part One
2. The Batman/Superman Story, Part Two
3. Vertigo
4. White Heat
5. A Mirror Darkly
6. The Joker Express
7. Ring Toss
8. The Metal Face of Comedy
9. Attack of the Terrible Trio
10. The End of the Batman
11. What Goes Up…
12. Lost Heroes, Part One
13. Lost Heroes, Part Two

Direct-to-Video Movie:

The Batman vs. Dracula