The Batman Review: Grundy’s Night (S2E11)

(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: August 27, 2005
Writer: Adam Beechen
Director:
 Sam Liu

Ahh, Halloween.

Really, is there any holiday more fitting for a Batman story? The night instantly justifies masks and gimmickry galore, to say nothing of all the potential to further Batman’s creature-of-the-night image, all the angsty childhood flashbacks he’s sure to get at the mere mention of trick-or-treating, how one of his A-list enemies is literally built around terrifying people…

Or he could just get in a punch-up with a big white zombie. There’s precedent for that, too.

Like Ragdoll, Solomon Grundy was originally a foe for a relatively obscure Golden Age hero – in his case, the Green Lantern Alan Scott. But unlike ol’ Ragsy, Grundy was never truly forgotten by fandom or creators: after his debut, he lumbered around various supervillain teams (one of which eventually catapulted him to minor Internet stardom), fought just about every hero in the DCU at least once, got to be a hero at a few intervals, and eventually ingrained himself in Batman’s rogues gallery deep enough to snag a boss fight in Arkham City.

Grundy’s deal in the comics is pretty convoluted (especially when you factor in the whole “reborn with a different personality each time” thing), and those of you truly curious can find a good, geeky analysis here. For our purposes, it boils down to this: 19th century robber baron turned into a zombie, (usually) your standard-issue dumb muscle, except since he’s not really “alive”, even DC’s most squeaky-clean heroes tend to give zero fucks about killing him. In fact, the first time he fought Batman, this happened.

Batman vs Grundy

Let’s see if the big guy will fare any better here, shall we?

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The Batman Review: Meltdown (S2E06)

(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 25, 2005
Writer: Greg Weisman
Director:
 Seung Eun Kim

And here we arrive at Season 2’s first undisputed 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: JTV (S2E03)

(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: 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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The Batman Review: The Clayface of Tragedy (S1E13)

(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 7, 2005
Writer: Greg Weisman
Director:
 Seung Eun Kim

And now, I suppose, it’s time to talk about these guys.

Despite my fondness for (most of) Batman’s rogues gallery and my obsession with nitpicky little details, the name Clayface has always left me kinda cold. Part of it probably has to do with how I usually don’t like Batman’s villains to be genuinely superpowered, but mostly it’s because the character gives off the feel of that one “meh” movie that just kept on pumping out sequels even when no one was asking for any.

I mean, shit – even I couldn’t bring myself to care any more after the fifth one popped up, and if my ten-second glance at the Wikipedia page is right, twice that many people have now worn the name. If you’re really curious, here’s a quick overview of the first five.*

  • One was Basil Karlo, an old-timey horror actor gone cuckoo and one of the earliest Batman villains. Just a standard knife-wielding maniac until he conned some sweet, sweet shapeshifter blood out of Three and Four. If Clayface pops up in any Batman story published after the ’90s, you can usually bet it’s this guy.
  • Two was Matt Hagen, all-around generic thug and the first one to have actual shapeshifting powers. Lent his name to That Other Show’s Clayface and his powers to Three, but not really remarkable beyond that, unless you want to talk about how he was one of the few villains to get adapted into Jiro Kuwata’s ’60s Bat-manga.
  • Three was Preston Payne, generally thought of as the most (potentially) interesting of the bunch. In a nutshell: genius scientist born with facial disorder, tried to make himself pretty by getting a blood transfusion from Two, it went horribly wrong and turned him into a monster whose touch melts flesh into protoplasmic goo. Kind of a precursor to the modern version of Mr. Freeze, super-strong exoskeleton and all. Also, he had a story written by Alan goddamn Moore, so check that out quick if you haven’t already.
  • Four was Shondra Fuller, who… I don’t really know much about, since I’ve yet to start reading Mike W. Barr’s Outsiders run (though one quote – whose source I can’t place right now – claims that Barr went out of his way to give familiar villain names to totally new characters). Generally has the same power-set as Two, eventually got together with Three.
  • Five was Cassius Payne, the kid of Three and Four (I don’t quite remember how they did it, and I’m not sure I want to revisit it). The most heroic least evil of the bunch (I think) and got experimented on a bunch by the men in black (I think).

Mind you, none of the above is really essential to understanding this Clayface, since most people (including, I reckon, The Batman‘s showrunners) are chiefly familiar with the version from That Other Show. That fellow boasted a dramatic two-part origin featuring some of the most gorgeous animation in the history of Batman, though I don’t really know anyone who considers him That Other Show’s most interesting villain. Or even its most interesting villain whose name ends in “-face”.

TwoFaceFrowning
“Denied second place AGAIN?! Someone will pay for this!”

Still, he was almost certainly the most interesting take on Clayface circa 1992. Now, however, we’re in the wonderful world of 2005 – and I figure it’s time that the younger, upstart challenger got a second look…

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