The Batman Review: Fire and Ice (S2E08)

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Original Airdate: August 20, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director:
 Sam Liu

Okay, first things first: yes, as far as I can tell, “Joseph Kuhr” is his real name. No word yet on whether he has to support a wife and unborn child on a pitifully small salary, but just in case, he’s legally forbidden from coming within fifty feet of any chemical plant. [Citation needed]

Anyways, I guess there’s a crumb of novelty to this episode’s teamup that’s not completely arbitrary like “Pets” was, but mostly it just makes me disappointed that the episode isn’t about JLI lesbian shenanigans. As for the comics connection, well… apparently James Robinson liked the basic enough idea to give it a double-page spread in “Face the Face”-

-but I’ll leave it to you to decide if getting publicity from the second-worst Batman story of 2006 is anything to be proud of.

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The Batman Review: The Butler Did It (S2E07)

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(FURTHER DISCLAIMER: Three-fourths of the way into this review lies a .gif of severe epilepsy-inducing and/or bandwidth-eating capabilities. Discretion is advised.)

Original Airdate: August 20, 2005
Writer: Alexx Van Dyne
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

You may or may not recall how The Batman‘s first attempt at doing a “Wait, who?!” villain instead of one of the big names crashed and burned horribly. So horribly that any sane showrunner would’ve been entirely justified in making nothing but Joker and Penguin episodes for the rest of the series, never mind giving some other obscure C-lister a shot.

But Alexx Van Dyne does not play by your rules. Alexx Van Dyne does as he likes, and has been doing so since the day the Heavens themselves opened up to declare that from this day forth, only two X’s would do for a writer so mighty that he teamed up Jackie Chan with Santa Claus and managed to make our TVs not spontaneously explode from the sheer awesomeness.

And so, for his first episode of a Batman cartoon, he chose to do… this guy.

Spellbinder Who's Who

Oh, he may look like the guy Killer Moth and Kite-Man pick on for lunch money, his costume may be the most eye-searing abomination the Silver Age ever produced, and his entire m.o. might be a horribly dated product of the ’60s, but make no mistake – he’s a supremely underrated badass, with a rich, untapped history just begging to be-

Aw, who am I kidding? There’s probably only one reason either The Batman‘s producers or its viewers know about him, and that would be this guy.

Spellbinder Beyond

I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the Batman Beyond fandom, but I do know that Spellbinder is the very first villain to pop up in its theme song, and I’d say that’s got to leave a few impressions. And fair’s fair – I don’t care for the concept behind Beyond, but the first Spellbinder episode was pretty amazing for a villain-of-the-week story. Certainly not from a character standpoint, or a plot standpoint, but definitely from a visual one.

(And I just want to kiss whoever came up with that costume redesign. Platonically.)

Despite his entirely forgettable motives, Beyond‘s Spellbinder combined the Scarecrow’s and Mad Hatter’s gimmicks into a seamless stew of mindfuckery, a top-notch entry into the delightful subgenre known as “Batman trips balls”. Well, delightful before Grant Morrison came along and ruined everything. But let us not think of The Scottish One right now, for his very name tends to depress me.

Instead, let’s take a look at whether The Batman can do its mindfucking predecessors proud.

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The Batman Review: Meltdown (S2E06)

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Original Airdate: June 25, 2005
Writer: Greg Weisman
Director:
 Seung Eun Kim

And here we arrive at Season 2’s first indisputable masterpiece, which unfortunately has to stand in the shadow of a certain other Batman episode with the exact same title, not to mention similar themes. But honest to God, I think today’s episode may actually be a contender, if not outright superior, thanks to that fellow whose name comes after the Writer tag up there.

Greg Weisman is back, people, and he’s here to kick ass, take names, and sweep the Emmys. Tell us, Sir – what is your secret?

Greg Weisman
“Uh, I treat the viewership like they’ve got more than one brain cell to rub at any given time?”

Oh, Greg. You and your wacko radical theories. Good thing you’re handling the one villain this show allows a modicum of maturity and nuance, else we’d have to put you in the funbox!

Anyways, this is the first time The Batman‘s taken a stab at a villain reformation episode – something That Other Show absolutely loved, especially during its The Adventures of Batman & Robin season. How will the more simplistic, black-and-white world of The Batman handle the same theme? Let’s find out.

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The Batman Review: Pets (S2E05)

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Original Airdate: June 18, 2005
Writers: Christopher Yost & J.D. Murray
Director:
 Sam Liu

So. Penguin/Man-Bat team-up, yadda yadda yadda, never been done in the comics (best to my knowledge), probably never should. Let’s just get this over with. It’s gonna take all of my inimitable comedic prowess to make this one bearable.

Bag of tricks
Okay, WHO left that out in the open?!

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The Batman Review: The Batman vs. Dracula

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Release Date: October 18, 2005
Writer: Duane Capizzi
Directors: Michael Goguen, Seung Eun Kim, Sam Liu, and Brandon Vietti

(Thank you for being so patient, everyone. Your wait has not been in vain.)

Welp. I’ve done it. Seventeen reviews, and I’m finally ready to rip off Mouse even more than I usually do for my first movie critique. Whoopee!

So… Batman versus Dracula. As a kid I bought it instantly, but as a full-grown geek I have to admit it’s a tougher sell. The purist in me can rarely stand Batman mixing it up with magic & monsters (okay, sure, he was doing just that literally months into his debut, but I like to think there’s a reason the Monk has gotten about three stories in seventy-five-odd years) and this particular monster is such a genre icon that he’s nigh-impossible to fudge into “our” history for the purposes of Like Reality Unless Noted. That’s not an instant dealbreaker, but it does leave a weird taste in my mouth, akin to the time Batman ran into a 120-year-old Sherlock Holmes.

Bee jelly was involved. Seriously.

I mean, yes, there is precedent for Batman fighting Dracula himself, but Red Rain was an Elseworlds for a reason, and I doubt this movie’s designs are going to start lifting from Kelley Jones anytime soon, as awesome as that would be.

(There’s also the fact that where American comics are concerned, the good Count is usually Marvel’s territory, but that’s a minor niggle.)

In the context of The Batman itself, it doesn’t fit terribly well anywhere in the chronology, mainly because our usual status quo markers Bennett and Yin are nowhere to be seen. Hell, even Chief Rojas is MIA, even though he’d fit perfectly into the plot of this movie. Best as I can tell, it takes place after the Joker’s, Penguin’s, and Ventriloquist’s respective intros and some time before Season 2’s finale.

But hey – I guess when you’re direct-to-video, you’re entitled to break some rules. And boy, does this thing go out of its way to break ’em.*

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The Batman Review: Swamped (S2E04)

s(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: June 11, 2005
Writers: Thomas Pugsley & Greg Klein
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Let’s play pretend for a moment, shall we?

Imagine that you’re a seasoned comic book scribe, a man of humble tastes who’s recently left Stan and Friends for the Distinguished Competition. You know your craft well – enough that you’re writing for Batman, one of the company’s biggest cash cows. Even better, Batman and Detective Comics had settled their differences and merged their borders years ago, allowing DC to milk one story for the price of two that much more space to chronicle the Dark Knight’s adventures.

But as late, the management’s decided that things have gotten a little… stale. Shake-ups in the status quo are called for – nothing too drastic, you realize, but enough to draw in new readers while keeping a tight grip on the old dogs. Plans for a new Robin are already coming along nicely, but what’s really needed is a new villain – someone who can shake Gotham up like never before, test the Bat like none ever have.

Well, you’re not man to run from challenges, and you rise to the occasion. This new rogue on the block’s gonna be tougher and stronger and smarter and uglier than all the rest put together. And everyone’s gonna know it, too, ’cause he’ll be taking over all Gotham’s gangs in a multi-issue story, with every one of the Bat’s other villains along for the ride just so everyone will see what chumps they are next to the champ. Yep, even the Joker.

And when all’s said and done, this new guy will break the Bat, or die trying come closer than anyone else has.

What? Bane? Who’s that? I’m talkin’ about this handsome fella:

Killer Croc

(By the way, it seems that I owe That Other Show’s Clayface an apology. Croc – especially in his early days – lifted way more from Ben Grimm, down to the speedos.)

Created by Spider-Man legend Gerry Conway, Killer Croc was more or less the Bane of the ’80s, and his debut arc was Conway’s swan-song on the Batman books. That story as a whole hasn’t aged especially well (save for one part in a zoo that still gave me the chills when I revisited it recently), but it becomes a bit more interesting in the context of what happened to Croc afterward.

See, a lot of these Ultimate Batman Villains™ tend to only have as much staying power as their creators do (anyone remember KGBeast? Bonecrusher? Hell, even Hush has kinda fallen victim to this), and for a few years after Conway’s run, Croc wasn’t looking like an exception. Post-Conway creators pulled him out for a cameo every now and then, but mostly he just sat there, gathering dust while their Ultimate Batman Villains ran amok.

But then… well, I don’t know exactly what happened, but writers started taking an interest in him again.* As early as Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum one-shot in 1989, he was considered an indispensable part of the Arkham crowd. While some stories (including two of the worst Batman Elseworlds to ever see print) followed Morrison’s lead and turned Croc from “ruthless gangboss with anger issues and horrible skin condition” into “savage, unintelligent animal obsessed with eating people”, others portrayed him as a Frankenstein-esque sympathetic monster, and some even tried resurrecting the gangboss angle, including our old friend…

Oh.
“Well, shit, Gerry created the character I’d make my bones on. It was the least I could do.”

Unfortunately, while Dixon’s take (which expertly combined the aspiring mobster with the sympathetic outcast) is probably my favorite Croc, the version that’s stuck around with fandom the most is probably Paul Dini’s. Yes, he did give us one of the most terrifying and/or tedious bits in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but I think we all know what I’m really talking about.

The funniest part is that – spoiler – that’s not actually Croc at the card table, but for better or worse, “Almost Got ‘im” was so lauded that it permanently embedded the idea of Croc the rock-obsessed moron into fandom. It even started influencing Croc’s later appearances on the show, despite the fact that his debut painted him as cunning enough to frame a cop for murder. Bah.

Alright, maybe I’m being a little too bitter about that admittedly delightful bit of comedy. Let’s see how The Batman tackles good ol’ Waylon, shall we?

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The Batman Review: JTV (S2E03)

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Original Airdate: July 9, 2005
Writer: Michael Jelenic
Director:
 Seung Eun Kim
Special Guest Villain Hostage: Adam West as Mayor Grange
Extra Special Guest Villain Hostage: Patrick Warburton as Detective Cash

Y’know, getting hijacked by the Joker is probably a rite of passage for Gotham’s networks.

Good ol’ Mistah J forcing himself onto Gotham’s airwaves is, again, something that literally goes back to his first appearance, and they’ve never really given it a rest since. He’s done it on the Adam West show, he’s done it in both the Burton and Nolan movies, and he’s done it too many times to count in That Other Show and its offspring, all culminating in what’s probably my favorite episode of Justice League.

It makes a lot of sense – the Joker’s a real egotistical bastard, after all, and his whole gimmick works best with an audience – but after seventy-five years of this gag, finding a fresh angle can get really hard. There have been a couple attempts to use it as satiric commentary on the entertainment biz, but those were… underwhelming, to say the least. And in any case, I fear such things are still beyond this show’s scope.

Hell, even this episode’s name isn’t original, owing itself wholly to a story from That Other Show’s tie-in comic.*

JTV

But ah, enough with the doom and gloom and things that go boom. If nothing else, we’ve got two very special guest stars to look forward to, so here we goooooo!

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