It’s time once again for another thrilling (?) installment of Jimmy and Tom’s trip through the DCAU.
This entry is covering the Batman the Animated Series episodes “Catwalk,” “Bane,” and “Baby-Doll”.
Miffed at Veronica Vreeland being Veronica Vreeland, Selina Kyle enters a partnership with Scarface and the Ventriloquist to get back at Vreeland. But the whole thing was a set up for Catwoman to take the fall for Scarface’s own schemes!
jimmy: Ok, we touched on this with his last appearance but how do the mechanics between Scarface and Ventriloquist work? When Scarface is on the phone with Penguin, how can Ventriloquist hear what he is saying to answer? How does Scarface’s mouth move when Ventriloquist is using both his hands to move Scarface’s arms? Which stands out even more when they make a point to show that when separated, Scarface can talk, but his mouth doesn’t move.
tomk: Maybe the Ventriloquist is that good a puppeteer? I was wondering how Scarface has working fingers.
jimmy: Probably best we not think about it. Or maybe there is some supernatural element when the two are together.
Actually, what impressed me was…this may be the best Catwoman episode. She isn’t saddled with a lame co-villain, she isn’t secretly on the right side, and there are no half-assed cat mutations or silly plots involving viruses injected into stray animals.
jimmy: Yes. Good point. Just good old Selina flipping sides at will. Or, more precisely probably, always on her own side.
tomk: Yes, exactly. About the worst you could say of this episode was her feud with Veronica Vreeland was a bit weak as motivations go.
jimmy: Yes. And do you think Bats would care that much about saving a “priceless” stuffed animal? That said, he knows where she lives, even if Catwoman gets away.
tomk: Well, yes, and I think Batman does care about legacies and things. The dollar value of the stuffed animal may not matter, but the academic and educational values do.
For that reason, he’d save the last one.
jimmy: Fair enough.
tomk: And we can say he would do it at least to let Catwoman get away.
jimmy: He does know where to find her…
tomk: For now. She’s well off and could move if she wanted to.
At least we finally know she isn’t one of the good guys. She’s at the very least a cunning liar.
jimmy: Like her suit, she has always fallen in a very grey area.
tomk: She’s no Joker.
But the show has struggled with the not-really-crazy bad guys when you consider people like her and the Penguin.
jimmy: She is one of the few characters Bats shows emotions with as well. He smiles when she flirts with him and has one of the saddest Batman moments when she runs away that you’ll likely see.
tomk: Well, yes. I’ve mentioned the whole “dark reflection” angle the show uses for its different villains, but is there a better dark reflection than Catwoman? Similar color coding, names aren’t too far off, both well off financially to start with. Heck, when we first met her, she even had an Alfred of her own. You get the impression she could oh-so-easily be an ally instead of an enemy, but she keeps pulling away from that.
jimmy: Agreed. And all true to the character established in the comics…even if her origin is a bit of a roller coaster when you think about pre/post Crisis, etc.
tomk: Well, let’s be honest with ourselves. Until the 70s, most Batman villains were just weirdos with gimmicks who robbed banks and stuff. They didn’t have motivations beyond being silly and evil.
Catwoman’s probably gotten more revamped than any of them when all is said and done from straight villain, to tempting villain, to anti-hero.
jimmy: I think recently she was a straight up crime boss.
tomk: Well, if she was still the protagonist in her own book, that more or less still makes her an anti-hero.
jimmy: And let’s not forgot that Hush took her heart out. On second thought…maybe we should forget about that.
tomk: I had until ten seconds ago. Thanks, Jimmy.
Though that story and this episode were both written by Paul Dini.
jimmy: He does like to write the females.
tomk: Whether he does so in a way the really empowers them or not is a debatable subject.
jimmy: Maybe he needs to take some lessons from Greg Rucka.
tomk: Well, I know wouldn’t mind taking lessons from that man.
jimmy: Me too. Speaking of men that should teach lessons…it was rather impressive that Bullock could eat an entire sub sandwich in one bite.
tomk: Well, he’s downed whole donuts, so clearly he’s angling for the big leagues of competitive cartoon eating.
On a side note, I’m watching the DVD versions of these and this one switched back to the old opening theme and obviously no Robin. Perhaps it was in the works/can before that particular objective was handed down.
tomk: Well, Robin wasn’t in this episode. I remember my DVDs of the series, and the late episodes that don’t feature Robin don’t use the “and Robin” credits.
jimmy: Just found it peculiar that it switched back and forth based on Robin appearing or not.
tomk: Well, I don’t know if these shows even ran in the order we’re watching them.
Though I am fairly confident Robin appears in at least one of the next two if not both.
jimmy: I think we’re watching them in production order. So maybe in the order they aired they made the Robin switch and stuck with it. Not a big deal, just something I noticed.
tomk: Yeah, pretty much. But you know who’s next, Jimmy?
jimmy: A character I’m surprised was on the show and makes me feel old?
tomk: Well, yes. Time for a bit of Bane.
jimmy: I’ve been looking forward to this one.
Rupert Thorne hires master assassin Bane to take care of Batman once and for all! Can Batman survive an attack by the chemically-enhanced bruiser?
jimmy: I WILL BREAK YOU!
tomk: Well, he could try. There was only so much the censors would let him get away with, but considering he nearly exploded at the end of the episode…
jimmy: Yeah, and his Jenny impression was just awful.
tomk: Well, he came from a prison. Maybe we should ask Bane about Bitch Planet.
jimmy: It was a pretty faithful representation though. Far better than this…
tomk: And this one:
jimmy: Yikes. What is that from?
tomk: The Batman.
jimmy: That was my guess. Crazy.
tomk: That show had some very…interesting takes on various villains.
jimmy: That the one with the crazy giant Joker with the anime triangle hair?
tomk: Well, see for yourself, and that is actually a decent action sequence for that show.
jimmy: Yeah I think that’s the one I’m thinking of.
Interesting that in most cases Bane’s biggest strength (Venom) is also his biggest weakness.
tomk: Well, that’s always been the way of it. My recollection is Venom was introduced long before Bane, and there was a storyline where Batman used it, but it made him go out of control, so he didn’t stick with it.
Bane came along in 1993. This episode aired maybe two years later.
That actually impressed me at the time it first aired. I never expected Bane on the show.
jimmy: Yes. “Batman: Venom” was an early Legends of the Dark Knight arc.
Agreed. Similar to the adaptation of “Bullet for Bullock”. Very quick turnaround.
tomk: I was reading Batman comics at the time. Early stories, before Bane met Bats, included Bane putting a bad hurt on Killer Croc and even capturing Robin.
Though that was a different Robin, and he escaped on his own.
jimmy: Which they touched on a lot in this episode, as well as Knightfall. All to a lesser “it’s a 22 minute kids show” degree.
tomk: Yes, and here’s something else…this may be the last time we see Rupert Thorne, but it is definitely the last time we see his assistant Candace. Who, for some reason, decides to wrestle a shirtless Robin underwater. Actually, I think I understand that motivation when I phrase it that way.
jimmy: Well, I guess after she made no headway flirting with Bane, Dick would have to do.
tomk: Phrasing, Jimmy, phrasing!
jimmy: What? I’m just talking about Dick. Or Schweaty Balls. Or something. What were we saying? Oh yeah, showing Bane’s face was pretty weak.
tomk: Actually, given his Mexican wrestler look, while the shot itself is weak, it was symbolic. Mexican wrestlers are unmasked when they’re beaten.
jimmy: Oh? Well, nicely done then!
tomk: By the by, Bane was voiced by actor Henry Silva. His best known role was as one of the crooks in the original Ocean’s 11. He also played a lot of tough guys and gangsters.
jimmy: Yes. I looked him up but surprisingly didn’t really recognize him.
tomk: Well, he’ll still be Bane after the redesign. I think Bane actually improves as a character when he comes back. This episode captured Bane well as a physical threat, but the character is also a master strategist and thinker, which doesn’t come across so well as the episode progresses.
jimmy: It tries at first with him studying Batman, but doesn’t do much with it. That was the beauty of Knightfall and to a lesser extent The Dark Knight Rises. I think of the scene in Knightfall where Batman is doing rooftop surveillance and falls asleep.
tomk: Yes, Knightfall had a lot of other things going on. Batman was suffering from exhaustion. Bane released the Arkham inmates to weaken Batman before the fight. Heck, Bane had a trio of associates Batman had to take down first.
jimmy: In some ways it “weakens” Bane from a hand to hand combat standpoint since me or you could have taken out Batman by that point. But it really showed the strategy involved. And to pull it off against a master strategist like Batman was even more impressive. And made for a much richer storyline then “yeah Doomsday showed up and was unstoppable until Supes died taking him down”.
tomk: Yeah, pretty much.
Interesting to note, too, that while Bane got an early appearance in the Batman series, Doomsday never shows up in the Superman show. Doomsday does appear twice on Justice League, but never on Superman’s solo show.
Perhaps Bane was just a better villain than Doomsday as far as Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were concerned.
jimmy: Maybe they had to wait until then to do Doomsday justice.
tomk: Or maybe they needed more from Doomsday. Admittedly, Doomsday’s first appearance was awesome, but he was a bit different from his comic book incarnation. For one thing, the cartoon Doomsday could talk.
jimmy: C’mon! That was a grade A pun up there!
From what I’ve read the BTAS producers were originally reluctant to use Bane as being too gimmicky, but eventually consented.
tomk: They weren’t completely wrong. As much as Bane had a plan, originally he was basically just a guy there to break Batman.
But Bane was treated better as a character than, say, another bad guy flash in the pan like Hush. Bane lends himself to more stories. Gail Simone used him to great effect in her Secret Six series.
jimmy: I’m surprised Hush stuck around at all after his arc.
tomk: Yeah, well, he was the villain in a popular storyline. That didn’t mean he needed to come back.
jimmy: So can we assume that Thorne had Candace “taken care of”?
tomk: I think we can.
Speaking of Candace…ever notice how cartoon characters always seem to have only one change of clothes? When Candace went home and took off her blazer, it sure did look like she had an identical one hanging in her closet.
jimmy: I never noticed. I can’t think of any cartoon characters that wear the same thing episode after episode, year after year.
tomk: Yeah, like them!
That’s a much more cheerful topic than considering Batman set Candace up to be killed by Thorne.
We had surprisingly a lot to say for an episode featuring a villain that was basically a one-off. They didn’t know at the time there’d be more episodes in the future with the redesign. Any other thoughts, Jimmy?
jimmy: No I don’t think so. I was thinking the same thing about it being a good but rather straight forward episode.
tomk: Well, maybe we should move on to things of a different troubling nature…
Mary Louise “Baby” Dahl, a former child star unable to age, misses the limelight and kidnaps her old co-stars to recreate their old show! Can Batman and Robin save them before Baby’s reunion turns into an explosive birthday party?
tomk: Yeah. So, what shocked you more? The Gilligan and Skipper henchmen? The fetishizing of a young woman dressed like a 50s teenage girl since somebody changed her clothes and Paul Dini wrote the script? That she didn’t mean to?
jimmy: All of the above? Holy crap that was horrible. Remember when we discussed “Time Out Of Joint” I commented on the show being more juvenile with the switch to The Adventures of Batman and Robin? If this doesn’t clinch that, I don’t know what will.
tomk: See, I don’t know about that. The last scene, where she sees herself as an adult she’ll never be, that’s some deep stuff right there.
I mean, yes, there’s some pretty deliberately juvenile stuff going on for this episode, but that there said something a little deeper than anything that had gone before it.
jimmy: That may be, but the whole thing played like a bad Saturday morning cartoon…instead of an awesome Saturday morning cartoon. I can see your point about the deep dark undertones but I was so flabbergasted by the rest of it it hardly mattered.
tomk: I suppose now would be a bad time to mention Baby-Doll comes back after the redesign in an even screwier episode I will say nothing more about until the time comes.
jimmy: Dear God.
And after the recent Scarface episodes I found it hard to think of her as a real person.
tomk: Well, I actually liked Baby-Doll as silly as the plot was. If you look at her as a metaphor for how hard it is for child actors to stay relevant, the dangers of typecasting, and the need for the limelight along with being forever stunted into a small child’s body, then you have something much deeper and darker than what was on the surface.
jimmy: I can get that if you dig into it, but the surface layer was dreadful.
tomk: She does look like a refugee from Tiny Toons, doesn’t she?
jimmy: Given the creators, probably intentional.
tomk: Her maybe?
jimmy: Very similar.
I mean, she’s got the Cindy Brady curls going, and “Cousin Spunky” could very well have been “Cousin Oliver”.
The actor who played Baby’s father was voiced by Alan Young, though he was the original Scrooge McDuck, he was also Wilbur on Mr. Ed.
jimmy: You lost me there if you are talking about The Brady Bunch since I don’t know that I’ve seen an episode.
tomk: And I’d be willing to bet you could play with the other actors’ names and get old sitcom stars.
Cindy Brady, original Brady Bunch.
Cousin Oliver, added to the show in the final season, possibly because the younger kids weren’t small and cute anymore.
jimmy: Apparently Cousin Oliver did the voice of the older brother who is kidnapped at the beginning. So all this was obviously very intentional.
tomk: That I didn’t notice. But yes, there is a lot of stuff going on in this episode that is fairly common with TV sitcoms, especially the older ones. Adding a new, younger character is as old as the hills, and actors who can’t get out of typecasting often need to keep doing the one thing they were “good” at. That’s what Baby-Doll realized. Granted, most don’t go all homicidal about it…
jimmy: Reminded me of this too:
tomk: Look, no one in their right mind is going to suggest Baby-Doll is a dangerous character. That Kung Fu redhead she hired was the only one capable of putting up a decent fight from the looks of things, and when Robin compliments here on it, she hits him with a Flintstones kind of line, “It’s a living.” Really, the episode works much better if you consider the satirical implications.
Besides, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini will revisit a similar concept when they get to the Toyman in Superman the Animated Series.
jimmy: Thinking of it that way does dull the pain of thinking about it as straight ahead awful.
tomk: Look, Jimmy, we’ve seen the show struggle to create new villains. Harley was a hit, but the others have been at best dull and at worst terrible.
jimmy: They can’t all be gems, I get that, which makes the weak ones stand out even more.
tomk: Well, sadly, looking over the last batch of episodes, we have a couple more stinkers left. I think the next episode features…Red Claw.
Trying to think if there was anything in this episode I liked…only thing in can think of is that after the fact you look back and see that Grayson is a decent guitar player.
tomk: He can also toss a stick of dynamite with his teeth.
tomk: Well, Jimmy, it seems this episode made you a wee bit upset. Did you have anything else to say or shall we leave it at that?
jimmy: I’m really hoping that this is not a sign of things to come with the “more Robin” mandate.
tomk: Well, off the top of my head, I think this episode is the silliest. We only have about nine episodes left of the original series, and in those nine we get Red Claw (ugh), a pretty good Harley episode without the Joker, another Joker, Two-Face, the return of Mr. Freeze, the return of Batgirl, and a fantastic Ra’s al-Ghul episode that doesn’t feature much of Batman or Robin.
So, any last thoughts, Jimmy?
jimmy: Let’s move on and put Baby Doll behind us.
tomk: In that case…on to…aw, crap. Red Claw.
NETX TIME: Tom and Jimmy will return because they have learned NOTHING! Be back soon for discussions of “The Lion and the Unicorn,” “Showdown,” and “Riddler’s Reform”.