We’ve come, at last, to the last step in the first part of the epic discussion/journey of Jimmy and Tom with the last thoughts on the original run of Batman the Animated Series.
We’re finishing up with “Make ‘Em Laugh,” “Deep Freeze,” and “Batgirl Returns”.
“Make ‘Em Laugh”
The celebrity judges of the annual Gotham Comedy Festival are turning into pathetic supervillains! Can Batman and Robin figure out what’s going on?
jimmy: This was a genuinely funny episode. The reveal of the Condiment King made me laugh out loud. As did Batman’s line, “Mustard Man, or whatever you call yourself…”
tomk: Batman has no time for pathetic villains with a ketchup gun.
jimmy: Understandable. I was surprised the patrons eventually did.
tomk: Those were some pretty high pressure weapons if they were knocking people over.
jimmy: Yeah, but still, they were ketchup and mustard. You’d think someone in the restaurant would have stepped up and hit the guy with a pickle mask over the head with a fire extinguisher or something.
tomk: If people were that smart, they wouldn’t need Batman.
And besides, he also had those hot sauce packets for sassy patrons.
jimmy: lol, yes, the dreaded hot sauce packet!
tomk: Now, here’s the thing…the comedians were all based off real people. Mighty Mom (identified as Rolling Pin in the closing credits) was clearly Roseanne. Packrat appeared to be Jerry Lewis. But Condiment King is a bit of a mystery unless the facial structure is meant to remind us of Bob Hope.
jimmy: Yeah, I definitely picked up on the Rosanne reference. Should have on Jerry Lewis, but didn’t. No idea about CK.
tomk: His face looks like a lot of Bob Hope caricatures, but that’s the best guess I have. Packrat just has a similar name.
jimmy: You’re right; the name does give it away as well. Rosanne was the most obvious to me, but probably a generational thing.
tomk: She was also voiced by Canadian comedic actress Andrea Martin.
jimmy: You don’t get much more opposite of Roseanne than that.
tomk: Well, it was maybe a little unfair to depict the overweight comedian stuffing her face and lured in with a pizza when the Joker got her.
jimmy: One thing about that scene too was that they hid the Joker’s face in shadow. I get what they were going for, but come on, we all knew who it was.
tomk: They wanted you to still maybe be fooled about the Hatter’s involvement.
jimmy: Well, it didn’t work. But I’m glad that I had the first thought that Batman did when the mind control was revealed and they went to check on Tetch.
tomk: Well, it was an easy guess. You know how these things work.
GORDON: We have comedians acting funny, like mind control!
BULLOCK: That sounds like something Mr. Freeze would do!
GORDON: Bring him in!
GORDON: We have comedians acting funny, like mind control!
BATMAN: Mind control? That sounds like the work of the Mad Hatter.
GORDON: Bring him in!
MONTOYA: Commissioner, Batman stopped by with a note saying the Hatter’s innocent. He’s pursuing the comedian angle.
jimmy: Speaking of Gordon…what was up with the headline saying “Rally For Gordon” on the front page of the newspaper Robin was reading?
tomk: Maybe this episode takes place between the two part Batgirl introduction?
jimmy: Perhaps. It just seemed like such a specific headline that was never referenced in the show.
There is some speculation online that this episode does indeed overlap with “Shadow of the Bat”, but they are so far removed from each other I wonder why they would even bother with something like that.
tomk: Maybe Bruce is so busy he only just got around to that newspaper.
jimmy: I thought about that too, but doesn’t the paper have the ad for the comedy show or something. Anyway, it just seemed strange.
tomk: As I rewatch The Simpsons, I find weird headlines all over the place. One I watched recently had Homer ignore a headline announcing “war” in favor of whatever silly thing he was looking into.
jimmy: Fair enough, but this is not The Simpsons and seems to make reference to another episode. Could be an in-joke or some attempt at continuity, who knows. It just stood out to me.
tomk: Or it could just be a headline, and we’re overthinking it.
jimmy: But overthinking things is what we do best!
tomk: Well, sure, you and me. Watson tends to underthink. Ryan thinks on levels that have more to do with the impulse zone than anything else. And Jenny thinks of things she thinks are worth thinking about.
And right there is the line we use to see if those three reads this column.
jimmy: Heh. Nice.
So, Harvey has the absolute worst luck when driving around in cars…
tomk: Well, at least he doesn’t have the absolute worst luck when shooting his gun.
jimmy: And how about Batman’s mad Photoshop skillz!
tomk: He’s probably lucky it really was the Joker as Shecky Rimshot. Otherwise, that would have led to some real problems.
jimmy: You can’t read anything into anything the Joker does because he is absolutely insane, but every now and then, like in this case, he seems to show a shred of humanity.
tomk: Well, if by humanity, you mean “murderous jealousy,” then yes, you are correct there Other Mistah J.
jimmy: Heh. But it seemed to be of importance to him to be number one and win that competition. Even if his methods in the end are “murderous jealousy”.
tomk: Well, I think that falls into the range of acceptable Joker behavior, even the part about there being times he doesn’t want people laughing at him, i.e. being arrested without pants.
jimmy: A classic Joker moment.
tomk: Well, that seems to be par for the course, Jimmy. When we first saw the Joker, it was a Robin episode without Harley and his scheme seemed more silly than dangerous, ending with Batman getting a pie to the face. Here, we see the Joker is out in his last appearance before the redesign, before they knew there would even be more episodes, and he’s in a Robin episode without Harley that ends with him getting arrested with no pants. I think Batman won that one in the long run.
jimmy: You make a good point though. It almost seems like if they thought “ok, this is it”, they’d have given him a stronger send off. Not to say this is bad, I quite liked it, but as you said, the joke was surely on the Joker in the end.
tomk: And that, despite the overall quality, is more like a typical Joker story than a true send off.
jimmy: Any more to add or shall we bid adieu to the Joker…until Phantasm?
tomk: Well, wherever Phantasm fits into the time line of events for the show, but for us…well, yes.
But it’s the Joker. Of all of Batman’s foes, he’s the one most likely to mess with other heroes for obvious reasons.
However, if you mean for us, then yes. We should move on from the Joker. Let’s check in on Mr. Freeze. We haven’t heard a peep from him in ages.
jimmy: Ice ages?
tomk: Ugh. Stay off the Joker Venom, Jimmy.
Mr. Freeze is kidnapped by wealthy Grant Walker! Can Batman and Ronin find out why a theme park mogul would be so interested in Gotham’s coldest criminal?
jimmy: Batman and Ronin, now there is a crossover I’d like to see!
tomk: Yeah, well, this was one odd episode.
The Superman series had an episode featuring Mr. Mxyzptlk, which was great and funny and one of the highlights of Superman’s show. But if you listen to the commentary, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm talk about how they brought Mxyzptlk back for a second episode and realized they shouldn’t have. Whatever magic and fun was in the first appearance is absent from the sequel. Now, “Heart of Ice” is probably the highlight of Batman’s run, so any return of Mr. Freeze has high expectations, and I am not sure they met them here.
jimmy: Hard to believe this was only the second episode he appeared in.
tomk: True, but in retrospect, this episode sets up the Subzero movie very well, and that sets up Freeze’s future appearances. He doesn’t appear often, but he has a definite story arc. This episode is probably the weakest of the bunch.
jimmy: They really went strong with the continuity here, bringing Rossum back as well.
tomk: Rossum is their go-to guy for robotics. Besides, it was the only way they could use Bat-Mite.
jimmy: I was a little concerned about Bat-Mite playing a major part in the episode. But as a cameo it was cute. I think he had Krypto there as well.
tomk: Krypto, yes. Also Streaky the Super-Cat and, in the back, Mxyzptlk.
jimmy: Not familiar with Streaky and missed Mxyzptlk. Where was Ace?!?
tomk: I only spotted so many. And Streaky was Supergirl’s cat way back when. Orange cat with a lightning bolt patch on his side with a cape.
jimmy: Looking at it again, Mxyzptlk is very obvious. Surprised I missed him.
tomk: Mxyzptlk is another one of Paul Dini’s favorites.
jimmy: The robot that captured Freeze looked incredibly familiar to me as well.
tomk: Like that maybe?
jimmy: Maybe. 🙂
tomk: But here’s a question for you, Jimmy: did Batman seem all that necessary for this episode?
jimmy: Someone had to save Robin…again.
tomk: Batman has one warm cape on him.
jimmy: Well, he was just swimming around the Atlantic Ocean.
tomk: I’m talking about the end, when Batman drapes his cape over Robin and when we see him driving away, the ice is melting hard and fast under the cape.
jimmy: I know; my point was that the clothing they had on was warm enough to swim in the Atlantic near an iceberg.
tomk: Oh, well…what was wrong with Robin’s cape then? Was it some sort of electric blanket set up and the controls got frozen?
jimmy: I don’t know, but that would have been awesome. Robin just standing there, laughed my at Freeze as this ice just immediately melts off him.
tomk: That’s much funnier than realizing Grant Walker is a Walt Disney stand-in.
jimmy: Well, there was all that talk of Disney being cryogenically frozen.
tomk: And he built theme parks, while being known as a control freak with suspected fascist tendencies.
jimmy: Exactly. But getting back to your other point, you didn’t think Batman was needed?
tomk: Well, it was a weird episode. What did Batman do, ultimately, besides suggest Nora wouldn’t like the world Victor was making?
I see your point. It was an important moment though.
tomk: It was, but that was about all Batman or Robin ultimately contributed to the story. Otherwise, they seem to be just there padding things out to fit the 22 minute run time.
jimmy: Well, the oddest thing I found was that Walker could rescue Nora, replicate Freeze’s suit, lab and gun exactly, but couldn’t replicate the accident that made Victor into Freeze?
tomk: Rossum probably built the basics.
jimmy: Perhaps. It just seemed to me that if he could figure all that out, you’d think he’d be able to finish it. But then we’d have no story.
tomk: Well, yes. And besides, Walker was a guy who was used to having other people do all the real work and then taking all the credit for meeting work standards he personally could not…just like Walt Disney.
jimmy: Yeah, it was a very thinly-veiled illusion.
tomk: Well, the more you know about Disney, the more obvious it is.
Particularly, the urban legends about Disney.
jimmy: Plus if you switch around the letters in his name you get Walt Granker. So obvious.
tomk: Oh that Walt Granker!
But in all seriousness, this episode ending with Freeze and Nora in an iceberg headed north sets up Subzero nicely. Continuity on this show is hit or miss, but it was rather good for villains who don’t appear as often like Freeze and Clayface.
jimmy: Cool. I have never seen Subzero so looking forward to it. I wonder if it was in the works when this was produced or if they just took the seeds and ran with it?
tomk: It might have been. I’m not sure. I know it got a lot of critical acclaim in its own right, and it makes for a better Freeze story than this episode did.
jimmy: Apparently Walker shows up in the comics that are based on the show as a Mr. Freeze 2 type character. I’ve never read any of those.
tomk: Interesting. I didn’t know that. I know there was a point before this show made Freeze awesome that the Joker killed Freeze off and he stayed dead for a while.
Well, was there anything else you wanted to add, Jimmy?
jimmy: Hmmm…I guess not. This is making me look forward to Subzero though which I’ve never seen. I always had a feeling it was a forgettable straight to video discount bin type of movie, but it appears to have some acclaim. Will find out shortly what I’ve missed out on.
tomk: Well, I remember Siskel and Ebert both really enjoyed Subzero, believe it or not.
But let’s finish up the original run by checking in one last time with Batgirl.
jimmy: Hard to believe we are almost done. Let’s put Phase One to bed…
Batgirl swings back into action when an ancient cat statuette is stolen from the museum! Catwoman says she’s innocent…can Batgirl figure out what really happened, or is she in over her head?
jimmy: When we were segueing into this episode from “Deep Freeze,” I was going to make a Batgirl/Killing Joke movie comment but refrained. Given Barbara’s dream, it would have been more on the nose than I could have ever guessed.
tomk: Here’s the thing: Bruce Timm did not make up a Barbara/Batman relationship for that movie.
jimmy: Apparently not.
tomk: But here it’s just a dream sequence…
I mean, I can understand it on Barbara’s end. Why go for Robin when Batman’s there?
jimmy: And she’s in college so he’s not THAT much older than her, but still feels weird.
tomk: Yeah, and technically, she doesn’t really know he’s old enough to be her father if he’s old enough to be Dick Grayson’s father.
jimmy: Speaking of the Bat-guy, this was a good episode, but it seemed kind of strange that the last episode of Batman: The Animated Series…didn’t have Batman in it.
tomk: I’ll tell you what was weirder…having a last episode where some of the last lines are Batgirl saying there will be another time.
jimmy: Almost like the backdoor pilot for Jonah Hex all over again. But at the very least I have to check if this was the last episode that aired, or simply the last produced…
tomk: Hard to say.
I will add, though, it is an especially ironic line coming from Batgirl. While Batgirl appears a lot more often in the redesign, she’s no longer voiced by actress Melissa Gilbert, making her one of the few who didn’t return for new episodes.
jimmy: Looks like it was “The Lion and the Unicorn”.
Haha, that is ironic about Gilbert.
tomk: I suspect Gilbert may have been too expensive, believe it or not.
And not by Gilbert’s choice.
jimmy: The episode seemed to be almost trying to set up a Catwoman/Batgirl partnership aka Ivy and Harley.
tomk: Yes, well, I think mostly it shows how much better at crimefighting Barbara is now than she was before.
But I mean it about Gilbert. I’ve mentioned in the past being a Babylon 5 fan, and Bruce Boxlighter was the series lead for most of the show. Gilbert at the time was his wife, and she did exactly one episode. But, when you listen to the commentary for it on DVD, it is explained that she was, at the time, president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, so they literally could only afford to have her on one episode.
Bruce Timm said something similar about the guy who voiced Brainiac for Superman. Since he was in the SAG or some similar actor’s union, he had to be paid union rates, so they made sure whenever he came out they got the most of it by giving him as much to voice as possible.
jimmy: One cannot live on Little House on the Prairie royalties alone.
tomk: No, but not every actor belongs to the union either.
jimmy: Well, Batgirl might have shown her increased crime fighting prowess, but Robin needed to be rescued…again.
tomk: Robin sucks more than Batgirl. No wonder she prefers Batman.
jimmy: This was probably the catalyst for the “disagreement” that leads to Dick becoming Nightwing.
tomk: Well, you’ll see about that. There’s an episode on that subject in the redesign.
jimmy: There was also a scene that reminded me of this:
tomk: Yes, I get that a lot. Shake harder, Robin!
jimmy: With Barbara’s appearance this episode and that somewhat confusing newspaper headline previously, it seems like it’s been awhile since Gordon has actually appeared.
tomk: Well, I’m sure he’ll be in the next…oh yeah.
I assume Gordon appears in the redesign?
I can’t think of a major character who doesn’t.
Do you know the timeline/circumstances for the redesign? Was the show cancelled and brought back at a later date?
tomk: The show was canceled, and then after Superman started a couple years later, the WB Saturday morning line-up ordered up more Batman. The redesigned Batman (and Joker and a few others) appear for the first time in a Superman three parter called, appropriately, “World’s Finest”.
jimmy: Ah. And good reaction there lead to new Bats episodes?
tomk: I think they were planning Bats’ new adventures anyway, and just used the team-up to trot out the new looks.
tomk: If anything, the new looks are sleeker and possibly easier to animate quickly, and very few of the characters got particularly radical new looks. The only one I would argue is really bad is the Joker’s.
jimmy: We can discuss that when we get there, but from what I’ve seen of it, Joker does look really odd/angular/cartoon-y.
tomk: We shall say more later.
But this episode was a good Batgirl episode and pretty good Catwoman episode.
Now, if only Robin knew what he was doing…
jimmy: True. And I guess Selena has completely abandoned the court imposed “don’t be Catwoman” anymore. Not surprising.
tomk: She has also abandoned even pretending to be one of the good guys for very long.
She wanted Dagget dead.
jimmy: Yes, that too.
tomk: Oh, and she wanted that statue too.
jimmy: The Dagget story seemed a little weak. I get it, steal the statue, Catwoman takes the blame, sell it for millions(?) to start over after losing everything. It just seemed more a plot convenience than a plan someone in Dagget’s position would come up with.
tomk: Well, he must have had some leftover acid if he was broke. How was he paying his henchmen?
jimmy: Good point
tomk: Too bad they didn’t just call up a lesser known Batman-foe, the Corrosive Man!
jimmy: You just made that up.
tomk: Nope. I’ve even seen a comic or two with the guy. A man with acidic skin or something.
jimmy: Maybe he works pro bono behind the scenes.
tomk: Maybe. But he’s not the lamest Batman foe I’ve read actual comics about. That honor might go to the Ten-Eyed Man.
jimmy: You just made that up.
tomk: I wish!
Not everything Denny O’Neil added to the Batman mythos was worth remembering.
jimmy: You just drew, inked, lettered and colored those.
tomk: Well, yes, clearly I am that quick and talented.
jimmy: Well, you singlehandedly run this website, so I believe you are. 🙂
tomk: I thank you, but we need the others to do the fashion report (Jenny), the incredibly enthusiastic entertainment endorsements (Ryan), the occasional Netflix announcement (Greg), be an all around charming fellow adored by women and mooses for miles around (you), and to be that one disgusting perv that thinks the correct answer to any trivia question is “the herp” (Watson).
And there’s the other line we use to see if anyone reads this column.
jimmy: That’s my other talent, setting things up.
So Tom, any final words on this episode or the end of BTAS in general?
tomk: Well, as much as we’d done a lot here and had some good chats on a great animated show…we’ve only just begun.
Any thoughts of your own, James?
jimmy: The series had a few valleys but mostly peaks. I will miss these character designs and that epic intro and theme song. I’m looking forward to seeing if Superman and Beyond can measure up to the standard that has been produced here.
That said, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves…I believe we have a couple of movies to talk about…
tomk: Yes…two to be precise…
NEXT TIME: Tom and Jimmy may be done with the regular episodes of Batman the Animated Series, but they aren’t done yet by a longshot! Be back soon when they discuss the two Batman animated movies Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: Subzero.