(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. Also: many apologies for the delay; Internet issues made me rewrite this thing twice before it would save properly, and summer classes turned into a last-minute crunch.)
* A Crisis of Infinite Mousetraps tie-in
Original Airdate: July 16, 2005
Writer: Adam Beechen
Director: Seung Eun Kim
For those keeping count at home, today’s new villain marks The Batman‘s third sojourn into “Wait, who?!?” territory, with the added… perk of being stolen from someone else’s rogues gallery. Cluemaster and Spellbinder might’ve been obscure as all hell, true, but they were Batman villains to the core. This guy, on the other hand…
Okay, so my knowledge of the Flash begins and ends at “that guy who keeps resetting the DC Universe because he’s late to lunch or something”, but this fellow seems woefully underequipped to fight any incarnation of The Fastest Man Alive. I mean, yeah, 90% of Flash’s (the Flashes’?) rogues gallery would probably fit that description, but from what I can tell most of them at least try to thematically oppose his powers. Captain Cold makes things all slippery, Mirror Master teleports, etc.
Hell, if you didn’t know any better, you’d almost think Ragsy was a Batman villain from the start. He’s got the creep factor down pat, not to mention a gimmick that owes a ton to the circus sideshows of yore. Besides, I think seeing a super-contortionist go up against a master martial artist would be a lot more fun.
Of course, all this is Classic Ragdoll. I haven’t read his modern appearances in Starman or Secret Six, but c’mon. How different can they be?
Gentlecontinents, please! Mr. Mouse has already made his feelings on your… ah, resignation from his blog quite clear, but if you think you can do better elsewhere…
Anyways – yeah, for all I know, today’s writers have turned Ragsy into a cokehead neo-Nazi that stitches kidnapped children together or something, And while it would be hilarious to see Kids WB try to fit that into a TV-Y7 slot, it’s probably for the best that this version of Ragdoll hews to his classic roots: a thief with a wince-inducing gimmick, no more, no less.
Let’s take a look.
Okay, it’s slightly insulting that Ragdoll doesn’t even get his debut episode to himself, but the episode nevertheless begins on a decent note: Catwoman stealing a cel from an old Warner Bros. cartoon. I’ve never cared much for Selina doing cat-themed heists, but this is certainly more creative swag than those five million Bast statuettes all the other Catwomen have in their closets.
By the way – I’ve checked and no, it’s not from any real WB cartoon, which strikes me as a wasted opportunity. Okay, so maybe having a cel of Sylvester would’ve been too on-the-nose, but surely Golden Age WB had other, more obscure cat characters?
This setup also lets Ragdoll make one hell of an entrance. Observe:
Our conscience-deprived contortionist is voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett, veteran of many a Disney movie…
Oh, Pocahontas II, Lady and the Tramp II, 101 Dalmatians 2, The Jungle Book 2, Mulan II, Brother Bear 2…
Okay, with all due respect to Frank Welker, Bennett may be the go-to “additional voices” guy in Western animation today. Seriously, half his credits on Wikipedia amount to that, and a good deal of them are cheapo DTV cash-ins, to boot. And believe it or not, all those Disney cheapquels aren’t even close to the worst.
But that’s not to say he hasn’t been in some genuinely good stuff, too. You may remember him as Dad from Dexter’s Laboratory, Mr. Boss from Codename: Kids Next Door, Brooklyn and/or Owen from Gargoyles, or – perhaps most pertinent to his role here: Johnny Bravo.
I’ll admit I didn’t really care about Johnny back when he was on Cartoon Network, but there’s something frankly disturbing about a buff loser whose entire shtick was fruitlessly hitting on women (and getting beat up by those same women) now playing a serious (albeit affable) criminal who’s allowed hurt women. Only in G-rated ways, but still…
(You don’t even have to be looking for the Johnny in his voice to spot it, which certainly doesn’t help.)
Anyways, Batman shows up to foil these two dastardly thieves and my God this episode’s loving Ragdoll’s gimmick a little too much. Yes, it makes for some awesomesauce visuals, but do they really have to follow up every contortion with that bone-popping noise?
Long story short, Batman fails to catch either of them, but at least he manages to ruin the cel as Ragdoll gets away with it. Good luck finding a buyer now, chump.
Catwoman, never one to lick her wounds for long, then goes a-hunting for new victims at one of Gotham’s many zillionaires-only events. In true Catwoman tradition, this is where she catches Bruce’s eye, except since this is a kid’s show, they bond over drink orders, of all things.
Okay, so they’re both also charity-funding goodie-goodies, though Beechen seems to be having way too much fun with Bruce’s lines. The “You find wealthy philanthropists such as myself and spend our money” bit is especially sharp.
So our wealthy, animal-themed nutters hit it off, and start heading back to Bruce’s place for some
BDSM and blow dinner. But wait, who’s that mysterious fellow ordering a water and lemon with lots and lots of twists?
To be honest, I’m not sure we really needed to see Ragdoll in his civilian ID, since he doesn’t seem to have any public life or rich inner personality to speak of. All this part really does is establish that Ragdoll also wants to rob Bruce, which you’d think is a given. And of course, the World’s Greatest Detective is too busy telling Alfred how he’s totally scored tonight to pay attention.
So Bruce and Selina have themselves a lovely little dinner, consisting of the very best gourmet that Alfred can cook-
Son of a-
Actually, the script goes out of its way to establish that Bruce and Selina are having this date more for kicks and business interests than because there’s any genuine chemistry between them (Alfred even makes a stinging comment about it), which is certainly… unusual. That Other Show’s equivalent of this subplot, remember, had Bruce genuinely getting a crush on Selina’s civilian ID and going out of his way to woo her, almost like an overgrown high-schooler with millions to burn.
Maybe it’s just a function of how The Batman is intended for a younger audience anyways, but I find it good evidence for how this Bruce is remarkably well-adjusted compared to most of his counterparts. Enough that Selina’s usual role as his one anchor to emotion/sexuality isn’t really needed. Here, she’s just a nicer, less lethal villain/occasional ally.
Speaking of, that description actually fits Ragdoll fairly well too (well, except the last part). I can pretty confidently say that he’s in direct competition with Catwoman as the show’s least lethal supervillain. He might be meaner than Catwoman, but even when he’s invading and robbing Wayne Manor the worst he does is scare Alfred a little and give Bruce a cheesy warning about playing with dolls.
Ragdoll makes a pretty clean getaway, not knowing that he’s now got two trackers planted on his knapsack. And
Lois Selina, thoroughly convinced that her date is every bit of the bumbling twit he looked, takes her leave. Cue ~Symbolic~ suit-up sequence for the Cat and the Bat as they go doll-shopping.
Catwoman acquits herself pretty well when she catches up to Ragdoll, and that whip of hers actually comes in handy (poor Ragsy’s no good in a long-range fight). I could really have done without this shot, though.
To complete the eye for an eye, Catwoman gets away with Ragdoll’s loot, but naturally, there’s no such thing as a draw in the world of thieves. Ragsy swears sweet, sweet vengeance and makes his own escape, while Batman decides that he’s sick of these two running around like they own the city.
Enter the bait, which basically hinges on two professional thieves suddenly acting like first-year Cub Scouts. I’m not really exaggerating, either – Bruce draws them in by going to Exposition TV with a story about
One-Eyed Willie’s an old mobster’s hidden emeralds, and they buy it, no questions asked. To be fair, Romano’s delivery (“Could be we missed a nook…”) is aces, and the real point isn’t the treasure, but its supposed hiding place, which I can only imagine was meant to be a tribute to the greatest Miyazaki movie of all time.
‘course not. I just wish the rest of Miya-sensei’s efforts were a fraction as great as his first.
Phone’s in the kitchen.
So, Cagliostro probably wasn’t the first movie to use a clocktower with unrealistically huge gears as a setting, but it’s certainly the most iconic, and it’s received some of the most flattering homages a Japanese cartoon can receive from its brothers in the West: one from Disney, and one from That Other Show.
And in my totally unbiased opinion, The Batman‘s take on the same cleans both their clocks. I mean, I can’t be the only one who sees something of Lupin and Fujiko in Ragdoll and Catwoman, can I? The stealing, the snipes at each other, the downright cartoonish energy and durability…
And even if you don’t agree on that count, the clocktower is still probably the most impressive setpiece that this show ever produced. The choreography is absolutely amazing, and add in the fact that all three combatants are master acrobats… y’know what, a pic’s worth a thousand words, and a .gif’s worth a thousand pics, so:
There’s at least one notable character moment (Catwoman saving Batman from getting his mask torn off), but more than anything it’s a feast for the eyes, especially when Ragdoll actually finds the emeralds and it turns into one big game of keep-away. Sure, we could quibble about how it’s only possible because none of these three were smart enough to have pockets on their costumes, but that particular thought only pinged with me on the third or fourth viewing or so.
In any case, all good things must come to an end, so Batman takes down Ragdoll by jamming the gears with a well-thrown Batarang. Fortunately, this tower happens to be made of sterner stuff than the one from That Other Show, so it doesn’t fall apart the second this happens.
Catwoman snatches the emeralds, but Batman persuades her to turn them over, or he’ll haunt her with
guitar riffs the Bat-Glare for the rest of her life. Admittedly, Gina Gershon sounds more like a whiny preteen girl than any kind of seductress when she tries to “reason” with Bruce, but the script makes up for that when it’s revealed she’s not really giving up on them; she just figures they’ll be easier to steal when Batman turns them over to the tower’s owner, Bruce Wayne.
This dastardly plan is ruined, however, by one of the most epic moves of Bat-dickery in any medium: Bruce immediately sells the emeralds as soon as Selina’s back is turned, and gives her the “honor” of donating the check to the charity of her choice.
(Just to add insult to injury, Bruce makes her eat another helping of Alfred’s nachos as she learns this.)
This would’ve been a damn funny note to close the episode out on, but Beechen decides he wants to have his cake and eat it too by having Selina donate the money to a pet adoption network to hammer in all that “HMMMM I wonder if there’s something MORE to Ms Kyle…” symbolism. I suppose it’s a contractually required part of any Catwoman story, but if I were in charge, I probably would’ve done even more to emphasize Catwoman’s greed and ego over any hidden heart of gold. Makes the punchline all the funnier that way.
Regardless, this is probably my favorite of the show’s Catwoman episodes, if only on the strength of the clocktower battle and how utterly fun Ragdoll is as an extra-special guest villain. Sure, the episode’s got its share of lame wisecracks and puns, but Bennett’s Devil-may-care delivery fits ’em like a glove without bringing the episode down, and in a way, they make the character’s gimmick that much more grotesque. And to be honest, after so many episodes featuring all of Gotham (or at least a significant number of lives) in jeopardy, it’s nice to see an adventure where there’s nothing more at stake than a few baubles. I wish more Catwoman stories went that way.
… Europe? Asia? Guys?