Jimmy and Tom–intrepid superhero cartoon chatters–are back with more episodes of Batman the Animated Series.
Namely, the episodes “The Worry Men,” “Sideshow,” and “A Bullet for Bullock”.
“The Worry Men”
A number of Gotham’s richest have stolen from their own companies! Can this have any connection to Veronica Vreeland’s latest discovery from Central America?
jimmy: Another weak-ish episode, but still better than Zeus.
tomk: The Hatter can be a problematic character, depending on how much they want the audience to sympathize with him. This time? Not so much.
jimmy: Not that I was a big fan of the Mayan angle, but once they mixed the Mad Hatter in there, it just seemed like an odd combination.
tomk: I think it speaks something of the general cluelessness of Veronica Vreeland that she buys up a local custom of some sort in an unnamed Central American country that is sold to her by an Englishman.
By the by, I told you she’d be back.
jimmy: What was he doing in Central America? Was it just a coincidence or did he go there as part of an elaborate scheme?
tomk: He said he followed her there as part of an elaborate scheme when he was out of money, using the last of whatever he had for this caper.
jimmy: Ah, I must have dozed off during that part.
tomk: Somehow, for a broke criminal, he had the money to make his mind control chips, travel to Central America, follow a rich idiot heiress, frame LaVar Burton, and build an elaborate series of traps that looked like Bat villains.
tomk: Because he needed the money.
tomk: He’s crazy. He doesn’t have to make that much sense. He could have just used his chips to make Veronica marry him, but that would look too suspicious.
jimmy: Well, he is called the Mad Hatter.
tomk: Yeah, very on the nose that name.
jimmy: This show has a lot of Star Trek connections. It was nice to see LeVar Burton getting work. Though, TNG was still on the air at this point I believe.
tomk: Burton actually moved behind the camera a lot. And he does a fair share of voice work. He was among the many TGN actors to have a part on Gargoyles.
jimmy: I’ll have to take your word for it. I have never watched Gargoyles.
We neglected to mention that Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens wrote that horrible Zeus episode. They became major Trek players over the years as well.
tomk: There’s a lot of Trek out there when you know where to look.
And if you like deep superhero cartoons, you’d probably like Gargoyles for what it is worth.
jimmy: Sure Tom, like I don’t have enough to do. 🙂
tomk: Add it to The List. You’re not Steve Rogers making up for fifty lost years of pop culture.
jimmy: In 50 years time I’ll still be trying to finish Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
tomk: You, Jimmy, have a good deal of catching up to do.
jimmy: Did this episode remind you at all of this:
tomk: A little, yeah. But I have found through our rewatch that Mad Hatter episodes don’t age well. His first appearance tried to make us sympathize with a character that could have been a rapist between scenes for all we knew.
jimmy: As you’ve said before, it is an interesting rogues gallery. I don’t think we are often made to sympathize for the Scorpion or Lex Luthor, etc.
tomk: No, I can’t think of other DCAU villains we’re asked to sympathize with. Many of Batman’s foes have moments where we see them as flawed human beings we’re asked to feel for. Their actions are more tragic than evil. And the Hatter initially is presented that way, but he doesn’t pass the smell test that, say, a Freeze or a Clayface or even a Harley do. And that’s not getting into Harley-as-a-battered-woman-played-for-laughs.
jimmy: Yeah, it’s interesting. Like so many of Spider-Man’s villains are just straight up criminals/evil. You get the occasional character in the Batman vein like possibly Sandman, but not many. And the majority of Superman’s villains are super powered nasties.
tomk: And before I forget…Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum implied Hatter might have been a pedophile.
jimmy: Oh that wacky Grant Morrison. I really need to reread that. I can see the connection with the whole “Alice In Wonderland” theme he has going on.
tomk: Heck, this show touched a little on Hatter’s sexual interests in his first episode when he had Alice wear the little girl’s dress.
And you know what these Hatter episodes and the problematic Harley stuff all have in common? Paul Dini wrote ’em.
Dini has a rep for writing female characters. Maybe there is more here than meets the eye. He wrote that Catwoman story where Hush removed her heart too. Hmm…
tomk: Yeah, I mean, there are far worse, but Dini may write great stories, but they haven’t aged well in some cases.
jimmy: I haven’t exactly held up over the years either so I won’t give Dini a hard time.
tomk: Not quite what I meant, but something of a point…
jimmy: Anything else come to mind for this one?
tomk: Not really. I thought it was fine but generally unremarkable; you thought it was a bit of meh.
jimmy: I think either description applies.
tomk: Fine. Let’s check in on Killer Croc.
Killer Croc has escaped from police custody and gone hiding in the deep forest with some retired circus freaks. Can Batman bring him in when he has the others convinced he’s a mistreated soul like themselves?
jimmy: Ok, even shackled, it seemed like a dumb idea to have Croc on that train with other people.
tomk: I tend to doubt a crocodile could really bite through steel while we’re at it.
jimmy: And aren’t crocodiles green? Why is Croc some shade of gray?
tomk: I think crocodiles come in a variety of colors, but the jaw thing seems to be some side effect of writers never sure if Croc is half-reptile or just some big guy with a weird skin condition.
jimmy: And according to the interwebs: Gators have a bite strength of 2125 pounds per square inch – enough to bite through steel. The alligator bite pales in comparison to that of its crocodile cousin, however. The saltwater crocodile can slam its jaws shut with a force of 3,700 PSI.
tomk: I sit corrected because I am not standing.
Well, two things really stood out to me here. The first, the extremely long time the show went without dialogue during Croc’s escape.
tomk: Parts of that made me think Croc’s traps landed on some coyote looking for a poultry dinner.
jimmy: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
tomk: Well, it doesn’t take a super-genius to link cartoon universes sometimes.
jimmy: Oh, haha.
Yeah. Just needed Bats running on air without falling and then holding up a little sign.
tomk: Considering how far off from the original comic book story this episode was, that would not have looked too out of place.
jimmy: This was based on a comic?
tomk: Yeah, I was surprised too.
Denny O’Neil wrote a single issue mystery. Croc hadn’t been created yet, so Batman was looking for a regular murderer amongst a circus freak community in the middle of nowhere. Then he had to solve the murder of one of the freaks while he was there. Flipper kid was there, but he was mute.
jimmy: I’ll have to track it down.
tomk: Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend it off-hand. It was odd.
Oh, yeah. Goliath the strongman was the murderer Batman brings down in the original story.
jimmy: I never trusted that Brad Garrett.
tomk: Well, he comes back for Superman.
I was always wary of JoBeth Williams. She played way too many mothers in the 80s.
Kenneth Mars as the hunchbacked ringmaster, him I have always trusted since he’s played so many authority figures (not really).
The other thing I noted, while he’s no genius, this really shows how out of character “Croc’s” behavior was in “Almost Got’Im”.
tomk: Yeah, he’s not dumb. He’s no genius, but he’s crafty.
He took complete advantage of those circus folks.
jimmy: Oh yeah, he played them for fools without breaking a sweat.
tomk: Huh. Do you think Croc can sweat?
jimmy: Hmmm. Good point.
tomk: I was actually struck by how out of his element Batman was, but he seemed to bounce back. How many episodes do you think have Batman in the forest?
tomk: Um, yeah.
He’s spent more time in the desert thanks to Ra’s.
jimmy: His joke about “and they say the city is dangerous”, almost breaking the 4th wall was cute, but part of me wishes they had continued with the established lack of dialogue from earlier.
tomk: Batman had some good tracking abilities. Not that Croc was in his element either, but those tranqs sure took their time kicking in.
jimmy: Though they never did immobilize him. Just some blurred vision. There is one shot that is great where Croc’s eyes are rolling around in their sockets.
tomk: Yeah, that would have worked with that coyote too!
Overall though, I thought it was a good episode. And the cops even learned a lesson by Hannibal Lector-ing him at the end.
tomk: And maybe flying him there suspended from a helicopter. He’s not leaping down from there.
jimmy: Yeah, the train was just a bad decision all around.
tomk: Though Bruce could pull a Clark Kent with a mild mannered reporter disguise.
jimmy: All you need is some glasses.
tomk: Or a fake mustache.
jimmy: Or one of those fake glasses with the nose and mustache attached.
tomk: In Grant Morrison’s version of Earth-2, Ultraman wore a fake mustache instead of glasses when he was Clark Kent.
So, really, Bruce may have been evil here!
jimmy: No, he didn’t have a goatee. If Star Trek has taught us anything it is that your evil version always has a goatee.
tomk: Oh yeah.
Well, anything else to add, Jimmy?
jimmy: No. I think that covered my thoughts.
tomk: Well, in that case, how about a comic book adaptation that is much more faithful to the original story?
jimmy: Sounds good.
“A Bullet for Bullock”
Someone is trying to kill Harvey Bullock! Can he and Batman put aside their mutual distaste to find the killer before its too late?
jimmy: I was surprised when I looked up the issue this was based on. Most of the adaptations have been from comics from the 70’s, but Detective Comics #651 came out in 1992, only two years before this episode aired.
tomk: Yeah, that was a shock to me when I watched this episode for the first time and realized it was based off a comic I had actually read.
jimmy: And I’m guessing Bullock wasn’t around long in the comic, in that version Batman didn’t really seem to know him. Not like the long history they have in the Animated Series.
tomk: No, Bullock’s been around for years. He cameoed in the Crisis at some point, I’m sure. Just about everybody else did. Alan Moore used him in Swamp Thing during the Gotham City arc.
jimmy: Maybe Bats was just giving him the gears.
tomk: Batman mostly works with Gordon.
jimmy: I haven’t read the issue that “Sideshow” was based on yet, but I read this one and they are as close as you are probably going to get from an adaptation. Even the script is often line for line from the comic.
tomk: Yeah, I know. I haven’t read the issue in years, but the basic story structure is the same. About the only difference I remember was Bullock narrating and saying he slept with his gun out and ready just in case.
Contrast that with “Sideshow”, where the similarities is two of the freaks are in the original story with different personalities and Batman tracks a murderer to their farm.
jimmy: Yes, a lot of the narration was changed in the show to dialogue between characters. Now that you mention it, they could have straight up used the narration as well. They do a really great job with the music to add that old time detective/noir feel, that would have only been enhanced by a Bullock voiceover.
tomk: I agree.
jimmy: It was a good episode, though I felt the conclusion in both the show and the comic, since they are the same, was pretty lame.
tomk: Actually, I thought the conclusion made the episode. Bullock is such a jackass he drives perfectly respectable landlords to want him dead.
jimmy: I see your point, it just seemed like a huge leap for me.
tomk: It was a true detective story. The clue was there early on when Bullock mentions the rent control, meaning the landlord can’t raise the rent until he moves out.
jimmy: Did he mention it in the cartoon? I definitely remember it in the comic.
tomk: He mentions the rent control the first time he confronts his landlord.
He doesn’t really explain what it is.
jimmy: This episode was ok, but do you feel in general that the show is running out of steam a bit?
tomk: Not really. I mean, it may be we’ve seen all the best episodes, or maybe now that all the major bad guys have been introduced, the fantastic origin episodes are gone, but there’s still a general high sense of quality. Plus, no more team-ups with children. Maybe the ones running out of steam are…us!
Think of it this way: this is probably the best Bullock episode, though there isn’t much competition there. How many times have we discussed Bullock? I don’t want to abandon this project because its been a lot of fun, but the more familiar these characters become, the harder it may be to find fresh things to discuss about them.
I do know there’s a really, really good Ra’s episode near the end of the original run that barely features Batman. But of the remaining episodes, I am hard pressed to say there’s anything here on par with “Heart of Ice” or “Almost Got ‘Im!”
Besides, since my initial viewings of these episodes, I have read more of the classic comics they’re based on, and I appreciate the show more. The only story I recognized immediately the first time I watched this show back in the 90s was this one.
jimmy: I can agree with that. There are only so many things you can say about a given character. And the show’s production quality has steadily improved for the most part, so there aren’t even things like that to comment much on. I’m not suggesting we abandon this, I’m still in it for the long haul. Looking forward to moving onto Supes and Batman Beyond, etc.
I think the other part of what you are saying is true that maybe we’ve finished with the classic episodes. And maybe it is just a dry spell with the likes of Zeus in there. The Croc and Bullock episodes haven’t been bad, just not the cream of the crop.
Even the redesign will give us stuff to discuss.
tomk: True enough.
jimmy: It was also amusing with these episodes being adaptations, particularly of one so recent, that maybe the producers themselves were wondering what to do next.
tomk: Or maybe they thought the issue would make a good episode. Even the last Bullock episode was also the first appearance of Croc. No Arkham types to be seen here.
jimmy: Fair enough. And to their credit, I think the episode flows better than the comic.
tomk: The soundtrack helps.
tomk: But looking ahead, I see our next episode is a really, really good one, so we should maybe stop here.
jimmy: All right. Let’s see what that one holds for us.
NEXT TIME: Tom and Jimmy see about what happens when Batman is put on “Trial,” a case involving an “Avatar” that doesn’t involve blue cat people, and Poison Ivy tries to set up a nice “Home and Garden”. Be back for that!