The Batman Review: The Laughing Cats (S3E07)

(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.)

(Again – sorry for the delay, folks. Wisdom teeth extraction isn’t terribly conductive to productivity, a half-gallon of tranquilizers even less so.)

Original Airdate: November 19, 2005
Writer: Joseph Kuhr
Director:
 Christopher Berkeley

I recently came across a review of The Batman by one of my older e-buddies, in which he cited pacing as one of the show’s two biggest problems. My first instinct was to disagree, then mail him a hive of killer bees (only I get to criticize The Batman, donchaknow). Then I remembered today’s episode is the last time Catwoman gets anything resembling a spotlight, and she’s considered one of the less-wasted villains.

I don’t even like Catwoman that much, but after the bum deal That Other Show gave her, she definitely deserved better from this one. Instead, she gets a permanent demotion two seasons before the finish line, and her going-away party gets hijacked by Batgirl and the Joker, to boot.

But wait, maybe our special guest gatecrashers will do more good than harm! Let’s see what history has to say.

Catwoman and Batgirl got off to a fairly rocky start, since the latter was introduced in the ’60s and DC’s cure for writer’s block back then often boiled down to “rip off whatever Archie’s up to”. The Superman books got the worst of it, no doubt, but Gotham’s women were far from spared.

detective369-19

Fortunately, this angle was dropped after a story or two, and as Catwoman moved into grey hat territory, Batgirl became another upstanding Debbie Do-Gooder who could be teased and teamed up with – though never seduced, like Batman might be. Instead, Catwoman-Batgirl stories tend to be unapologetic girl-power affairs, with “Batgirl Returns” from That Other Show undoubtedly the most famous of the lot.*

(Of course, the two of them are nowhere near contemporaries in this show, so we’ll see how that shakes out.)

Catwoman and the Joker, meanwhile, have a much longer, twistier history. From a certain perspective, they’re almost siblings – not only were they both introduced in Batman #1, but they’d cross paths in the very next issue, in the first-ever meeting between two big-name rogues. And just like siblings, they could rarely stand to be in the same room for five seconds; team-ups were rare, and when they did happen the results were seldom pretty.

Pictured: one of Cesar and Eartha’s happier outtakes.

As the years went on, this animosity got worse. Modern writers love emphasizing Catwoman’s (relative) sanity almost as much as they love playing up how screw-loose the Joker is, and ever since Frank Miller introduced “Batman. Darling.” into Joker’s personality, well… the Bat-Cat-Bat love triangle might be dead, but the Bat-Cat-Clown one is still kicking.

Miller (and other writers like Mike W. Barr) would use that dynamic to turn out some of the most disturbing moments in the Joker’s history, but I seriously doubt this episode’s going to be anything like that. Still, one never knows…

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The Batman Review: Ragdolls to Riches (S2E09)*

(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…

Ragdoll Who's Who

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?

“Yeah, I mean, it’s not like this is an iron law of comics today. Heavens, no.”

                                                                              

“Keep it down, dawg. Ya wanna go back to jackin’ car radios an’ sleepin’ at the mission?”

                                                               

“I told you guys leaving Mouse was a bad idea. Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?”

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…

“NO! I mean, Mouse? Never heard of him. It. You’re our boss, boss.”

Hrm.

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.

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The Batman Review: The Bat, the Cat, and the Very Ugly (S2E01)

(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: May 14, 2005
Writers: Thomas Pugsley & Greg Klein
Director:
 Brandon Vietti

Welcome back, everyone. Didja miss me?

Okey, those of you who are still here, your wait has not been in vain. It’s time to tackle Season 2 of The Batman, a distinct improvement over Season 1 in most every way. Though admittedly, that might not be very apparent with this premiere episode, scripted by the same folks who brought us “The Man Who Would Be Bat”.

More than that, this is the show’s first bona-fide supervillain teamup, a formula that many superhero fans tend to approach with caution. In the movies, it often carries a whiff of executive interference, of number-crunchers who want to attract the widest audience possible by tossing together as many big-name characters as possible. And in the TV shows – at least in my opinion – it often signifies that the writers have run out of interesting things to say about or do with the villains in themselves, and have resorted to throwing them at each other in hopes that the script will write itself.

As for the history of this particular teamup… well, most of Batman’s big-name villains have been around long enough that everyone has met everyone else at least once, but Penguin/Catwoman tends to be one of the thornier pairings, since…

CatsEatBirds

Nevertheless, their mutual big-name status has ensured that they’ve teamed up not once, but twice on the big-screen. One a flawed but still very enjoyable and idiosyncratic picture, the other quite possibly the greatest Batman movie ever made, if “greatest” is taken to mean “fulfilled all potential that it promised, and no more”.

Which is which? I’ll leave that for you to decide. But I will say one thing: the writers probably had Returns more in mind when they made this episode.

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The Batman Review: The Cat and the Bat (S1E06)

(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 2, 2004
Writer: Adam Beechen
Director:
 Sam Liu

Ah, Catwoman. One of the truly old hands of Batman’s rogues gallery, surpassed by only the Joker (and maybe Hugo Strange if you want to get more obscure) in terms of longevity.

It’s a lot harder for me to sum up Catwoman’s history than for most of the other villains, because her origins and character have been all over the damn place since 1940 and from what I can tell, every one of her eras has its supporters and detractors. She began as a somewhat virtuous jewel thief (in her first appearance, Batman saw fit to “accidentally” let her escape; by her second, she was willing to give her loot to the Joker if he’d spare Robin’s life), and since then she’s ran the gamut from Julie Newmar’s beautiful-but-pure-evil supervillainess:

66Catwoman
The funny part is that this is STILL better than the time she tried to lobotomize Batman so she could keep him as a sex slave.*

To an almost no-strings-attached heroine in the Bronze Age:

DetectiveCatwoman
“Hold it, old chum… The year is 1986, and”Score” rhymes with “whore”… add in the”mill” and… OF COURSE!

To everything in-between. As of this writing, she’s held down two ongoing comics that each lasted more than eighty issues, and that’s only a small fraction of all the appearances she’s made over the last seventy-five years.

So – sorry to say, but I’ve got sizable gaps in my knowledge of Catwoman, so I probably won’t be able to make as many comparisons to the comics and other media as in my previous reviews. Still, if I remember correctly, Beechen didn’t really get too imaginative with Selina’s debut on The Batman.

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