Going Through The DCAU Part Forty-One

Superman is all well and good, but we loves us some Batman around here.  So, Jimmy and Tom are going back to the Caped Crusader and the New Batman Adventures.

First up in the redesigned show, we have “Holiday Knights,” “Sins of the Father,” and “Cold Comfort”.

“Holiday Knights”

It’s Christmas in Gotham City! It must be time for a trio of stories involving holiday crimefighting!

jimmy:  Yeah Batman!

tomk:  I know when I think Christmas, I think Batman.

jimmy:  Well, it’s no Die Hard but it’ll do.

tomk:  More of a Batman Returns scenario.

So, you’ve seen a few more redesigned characters, Jimmy. Any thoughts?

jimmy:  I’m half minds. I like Bats and the new Robin. Bruce is clearly a big sexy upgrade (not that I minded old Bruce). Harley was much the same. I was curious why Ivy had such weird skin colouring? Her look was kind of angular and simplified like the Joker’s…who I don’t really like. Babs is basically the same, but Gordon looks sickly to me.

tomk:  Most of the characters are just more streamlined for quicker turnaround in the animation. The big changes are basically Batman/Bruce, Joker, Penguin, and Scarecrow. Ivy is paler for some reason. Dick changed, but he was supposed to since he’s Nightwing now.

And, arguably, a few of them needed it. Penguin, as you will see, is a much better character now.

jimmy:  I watched the show on DVD, and like you, it had the original BTAS opening and closing credits.

tomk:  Huh. I have the DVDs, but if they’re on Prime, I’ll play them instead of having to search for the DVDs and then change the hook-up on my TV.

jimmy:  The Prime versions probably use the DVDs as the source either way.

tomk:  Or something. I don’t think it matters much. They did show different opening credit sequences in the early going, but that’s neither here nor there. Which story jumped out at you the most? Keep in mind the next episode is the “introduce the new Robin” episode, so this one may not fit into any continuity like the others may. Clayface has a nice arc running through his next episode and even into Justice League if you ignore this episode.

jimmy:  Yeah, this one seemed a bit odd. Like it was a test pilot for the redesign or was shown out of order because it debuted around the holidays or something.

I’m not sure that any really stood out. I thought there were a couple of odd aspects to the first two. Like, why did Harley and Ivy need to kidnap Bruce to make him pay for all the stuff, why not just steal it? And why were Montoya and Bullock undercover to catch some shoplifters? Would the police waste valuable resources on such a sting?

tomk:  That’s the comedy to balance out the Joker actually killed three people.

jimmy:  Oh that wacky Joker!

tomk:  I don’t know if any more smiling corpses appear, but that was a little shocking.

Besides, when else would we get a “comedic” Ivy and Harley shopping sequence?

jimmy:  Fair. And the look on Bruce’s face as he reluctantly signed the credit card receipts was priceless.

tomk:  And he only ever signed his first name.

jimmy:  I noticed that. 🙂

When you’re Bruce Wayne in Gotham City, that’s all you need.

tomk:  I suppose. But in a city where the Mad Hatter is known to exist, I would think there should be laws on the books making victims exempt from anything they did while under mind control.

jimmy:  I’m sure Visa will reimburse him.

tomk:  Well, if they aren’t being held as police evidence, he can probably just return the stuff.

Though truthfully, Ivy doesn’t strike me as a binge shopper. Seems like too much like a sexist stereotype for her due to her half-assed feminism.

jimmy:  True. And there didn’t seem to be THAT many boxes that Bruce was carrying.

tomk:  And Bruce was less out of it than the nameless driver.

jimmy:  Well, he is Batman. He was aware of what was happening and fighting it the whole way.

tomk:  Funny they picked the worst possible guy to take over. Then again, for once Bruce spent time with Veronica Vreeland and she wasn’t the one in trouble.

jimmy:  Well, if they didn’t pick Bruce, we wouldn’t have a show. 🙂

tomk:  If they did it at the same party, Batman would have somehow spotted something and followed them. Not as “funny” afterwards. I just thought the shopping montage was kinda lame.

jimmy:  Apparently all the vignettes are taken from this.

So the montage is possibly straight out of there.

tomk:  Coulda used more of this panel:

jimmy:  Watson was totally fired from DC after that issue.

tomk:  Before he was even born. That was impressive. Must have been some Watson ancestor.

jimmy:  Like the Joker, Watson may be immortal.

tomk:  Considering Batman dropped a giant brass bell on him, Joker better hope he’s immortal.

jimmy:  Well, it only landed on his arm, which would easily be recoverable from.

tomk:  If it wasn’t severed, yes.

By the way, quick detail on that last segment: did you notice as Batman and Robin are looking for the Joker in the party crowd that when Batman leaps onto a van’s roof to look around, Robin doesn’t quite make it?

jimmy:  Really? I don’t recall.

tomk:  Yeah, he wasn’t quite a good enough jumper yet. Nice detail since he’s still a rookie junior crimefighter.

jimmy:  Rewatched that part. Haha. Poor Robin.

tomk:  It’s the little details like that that make the show as good as it is.

By the way, the middle segment with Clayface is probably the least consequential, but it does have one noteworthy thing going for it. Though most of the original cast returns for the new episodes, that’s the first appearance for veteran voice actor Tara Strong as Batgirl, a role she still plays from time to time. That was her voice on The Killing Joke.

jimmy:  I guess Melissa Gilbert was busy with Little House: The Next Generation.

tomk:  Or too expensive as a SAG member. Batgirl becomes a very prominent supporting cast member for this run of episodes.

jimmy:  So, voice actors are not part of SAG?

tomk:  Some are. Corey “Brainiac” Burton is/was a SAG member, so whenever he came in, they got him to do as many voices and episodes as they could for the time they had him. It may also be why most of the cast of The Venture Brothers are voiced by the two guys who created the show.

jimmy:  Like Hamill must be. Conroy? I guess it depends if they also do live action work?

tomk:  All I know is Gilbert’s price tag meant Babylon 5 could only afford to have her for one episode while her then-husband was the series lead and what one commentary track said about Burton.

jimmy:  Who’d think Melissa Gilbert would have a price tag worth worrying about.

tomk:  She was SAG president for a period.

Speaking of nothing related to that last bit of conversation, the drunken singers in the diner at the end of the episode were clearly modeled after Bruce Timm and company.

jimmy:  Oh? Ha, I never noticed, but not surprising.

tomk:  Not the first time they’ve done that, and probably not the last.

Well, truth be told, aside from some actual murders committed by the Joker, this episode largely feels inconsequential. Was there anything you wished to add, Jimmy?

jimmy:  I was a little underwhelmed but was very glad to get Batman back. It did seem like they were just getting their feet under them again. Hopefully going forward we’ll see things of a bit more consequence.

tomk:  Well, I think you’ll be pleased by the next one. We need to step back and see how Batman got a new Robin.

jimmy:  Sounds good. This was an odd one to start with. Robin and Clayface with no explanation.

“Sins of the Father”

Street kid Tim Drake ran afoul of Two-Face, only to be rescued by Batman! Can the kid make himself useful in Batman’s ongoing war against crime? 

tomk:  Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: this is Jason Todd’s backstory with Tim Drake’s name.

jimmy:  Well, I never saw him stealing any BatHubcaps, but he did take a decent shot from a crowbar.

tomk:  Except, the comics version of Tim is basically the opposite of Jason. Jason wasn’t well-received by the fans as a very sudden replacement for Dick; whereas, Tim was gradually brought in and developed before he put on a redesigned Robin suit.

jimmy:  He also figured out Batman’s identity instead of just being in the right bat place at the right bat time here. Not having that really takes away from Tim’s intelligence and detective skills, both of which Jason was lacking.

tomk:  My understanding is he also was in poor physical condition to start.

jimmy:  Which jives with what they did here. Stealing donuts from cops and living alone on God knows what.

tomk:  Well, this Tim Drake seems pretty agile to begin with. He certainly isn’t the quiet, thoughtful intellectual kid who first appeared in the comics. This Tim can slow down gangsters without training.

jimmy:  He watched a lot of Home Alone growing up.

But yes, his natural agility is apparent in both the donut run from the police and his escape from the gangsters.

tomk:  He just can’t jump onto the roof of a parked van.

jimmy:  Heh. I thought about that when he was diving around avoiding numerous rounds of bullets.

tomk:  And what Robin costume was that?

It certainly was too small to be Dick’s.

jimmy:  The impression was that it was some incarnation of Dick’s before he retired, but you are right about the size. Seems like something you shouldn’t think too much about.

tomk:  You’d think Alfred would be a little more responsible too.

jimmy:  He usually is. Perhaps he got distracted dusting that gigantic room with just a bed in the middle of it.

tomk:  He let some strange kid get upstairs too while dropping cryptic clues that suggested Dick might be dead. He isn’t, but it sounded like he could have been.

jimmy:  As did the suit in the case.

tomk:  There is an episode in the future where Dick explains why he left.

How do you feel about Batgirl hanging around the cave and manor?

jimmy:  I’m fine with it. I guess she was recruited as the new sidekick when Dick left. As I don’t think she knew Batman’s identity previously, nor vice versa?

tomk:  She certainly knows it now.

jimmy:  Ha, yes.

tomk:  I wasn’t a fan the first time I saw the new episodes. I liked her better as a somewhat unaffiliated ally than an official part of the team, but I have since changed my mind on that. Plus, we see her more often this way and she knows what she’s doing.

jimmy:  This might be my first go round for the redesign episodes, but I didn’t have the same reaction. Batman has always seemed to have a large extended family. Exactly how many Robin’s and Batgirl’s have there been in the comics? And I get the feeling that we won’t be seeing any or at least many solo Batman adventures. We will always have Tim or Barbara or even Dick around to appeal to the younger viewers.

tomk:  I’m trying to think if there are any solo Batman episodes, and I don’t think so. He always has at least one sidekick with him.

jimmy:  Case rested.

They were trending that way at the end of the original episodes with the rebranding to The Adventures of Batman & Robin.

tomk:  Yes, but Nightwing and Batgirl are far more competent sidekicks now.

Bruce is currently in his hardass trainer mode.

jimmy:  The third rule of Bat fight club is that I make the rules.

tomk:  That last rule might be the toughest.

Did you have anything to say about Pukeface, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Ha! I did think he went relatively untouched through the redesign process.

tomk:  Funny thing, for the combined heroes opening credits, they used some Two-Face footage from the original run.

jimmy:  Exactly. He looked no different. Unlike, say, the Joker.

tomk:  Wait until you see the Scarecrow.

But Two-Face was a rather random choice for villain here. Not the most memorable of bad guy plots especially since the real purpose here was to introduce a new Robin.

jimmy:  The Dick Grayson Robin in the comics always seemed to have a connection to Two-Face (he was the villain in Robin: Year One) so it seemed like a good choice to me.

tomk:  I think Two-Face had something to do with Jason early on as well.

jimmy:  Yeah. The two tend to get connected routinely.

tomk:  Still, I can’t say I was all that enamored with Tim here. He comes across as a snotty punk who somehow gets to join Batman’s team.

jimmy:  All the reasons that people hated Jason and eventually voted to crowbar him.

tomk:  All the things Tim was created not to be.

jimmy:  Exactly. So a bit odd they went that route. Quicker to tell his origin maybe?

tomk:  Maybe.

Side note: is “sins of the father ” the most overused title for a superhero story or what? Seems like a really popular choice…

jimmy:  It does get used a lot.

tomk:  Anything else you care to add, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Only other comment I had was that I found the redesign makes the show look more “cartoony” if that makes any sense.

tomk:  A little. Less realistic looking characters, everyone is more angular.

jimmy:  Yes, exactly.

tomk:  Then maybe we should take a look at a horrifying episode featuring Mr. Freeze.

jimmy:  Let’s do it!

“Cold Comfort”

Mr. Freeze returns, looking to spread misery and despair. Will Batman stop him before he goes too far?

jimmy:  I was wondering why you called this episode “horrifying” and then old spider-head showed up. I kinda guessed it just before it happened, but still somewhat disturbing.

So when Batman drops Freeze with the bomb and says “That’s the last we’ll see of Mr. Freeze” and we get the shot to show the head got away…as far as Batman knows has he essentially murdered Freeze at this point? Or just expects that he’s frozen, possibly forever?

tomk:  Freeze is immortal, remember. He could and should survive that deep freeze.

What’s cold to Mr. Freeze, after all?

jimmy:  Is freezing him forever really any different than killing him?

tomk:  Well…there is one more time out with Mr. Freeze on a different DCAU show. That’s all I’ll say about that.

I don’t know that there’s a clear answer here. Freeze by now is more monster than man, both physically and symbolically.

We see him here after Subzero. Nora may be cured, but he decided he couldn’t go back to her because he got worse.

So, if he can’t be happy with the thing he loved, no one can.

jimmy:  Freeze was always portrayed as more tragic than villainous, but this transformation now has him square in the super villain ranks. And you can see how he gets there. He gave everything to bring his wife back, but in the end he lost her and everything else in the process. That could easily break a man.

tomk:  But in reality, Freeze didn’t lose Nora. He gave her up when he didn’t go see her after he became the Amazing Screw-On Head.

jimmy:  If you want to be technical about it.

tomk:  Being technically correct is, I am told, the best way to be correct.

jimmy:  Technically.

tomk:  Well, we never learned what reaction, if any, she had to Victor the Head.

jimmy:  I get the feeling she never saw him that way. I think he simply avoided her when he realized what was happening to him. And I think they said she married her doctor and moved away.

tomk:  That is correct. For such an important character to Mr. Freeze, it’s odd she never spoke a single line that I can remember from any episode.

But quick aside: the original Freeze look was inspired in part by the work of Mike Mignola. I can’t help but wonder if one of Mignola’s other characters inspired part of this episode…

 

jimmy:  I’ve never read that, but there does seem to be a similarity. But I can’t put my finger on what it is.

tomk:  They have the same eyes.

jimmy:  And hairline.

tomk:  Oh, and a swivel head.

jimmy:  When I watch these episodes it is with phone in hand and I take notes along the way. Stuff I like, stuff I didn’t. Plot holes and animation mistakes. Basically anything that stands out or seems like it might be worth us talking about. This might be the first episode I made zero notes on along the way.

tomk:  Just that creepy head…

And you, of course, hyphenated it at the first mention.

jimmy:  Well, of course.

tomk:  I will add two things.

Two of Freeze’s henchwomen were voiced by actresses Lauren Tom and Cree Summer. They’ll have bigger and more prominent roles on Batman Beyond.

And this may be the first appearance of TV reporter Jack Ryder. Keep an eye on him.

jimmy:  That guy gave me the creeps.

Tom’s done a lot of voice work including prominent roles on King of the Hill and Futurama. Summer has an extensive voiceography as well including voicing Mercy Graves in Superman: Doomsday and the iconic Madame Xanadu on Young Justice!

tomk:  Summer was the original voice of Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny. Both have long careers, though Tom may be the voice of STAS TV reporter Angela Chen.

jimmy:  Both their Wikipedia pages are overwhelming.

tomk:  But for our purposes, they hang around the DCAU for a while.

jimmy:  I was thinking the puns by Freeze’s “girl posse” was a jab at Arnold’s Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin, but since both came out in 1997, we’ll have to chalk it up to coincidence.

tomk:  Also an attempt to keep the show kid friendly. The head thing makes it less kid friendly.

jimmy:  Yeah, I can see that freaking out a few 10-12 year olds.

tomk:  Very much so. And younger. Remember: this was paired with the more gentle Superman series.

jimmy:  That said, at this point Superman was turning darker as well with the likes of Darkseid, etc.

tomk:  Darkseid isn’t a bitter disembodied head…

jimmy:  Yet.

tomk:  OK, we seem to be stuck on the spider-head. Memorable image, but still. Anything to add, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Nothing comes to mind. A solid episode. No real highs or lows. Just a reminder that the crew had these things down pat by this point.

tomk:  So, let’s move on. We can check out the Ventriloquist next.

 

NEXT TIME:  Tom and Jimmy are only getting started with these new Batman episodes!  Be back soon for some more returning villains with the episodes “Double Talk,” “You Scratch My Back,” and “Never Fear”.

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