Going Through The DCAU Part Forty-Two

We aren’t done yet!  Jimmy and Tom are back to talk more The New Batman Adventures.

This time around, we’re covering the episodes “Double Talk,” “You Scratch My Back,” and “No Fear”.

“Double Talk”

The Ventriloquist has been declared sane and released from Arkham! Why, then, does he keep seeing and hearing Scarface?

jimmy:  I really, really thought this was the one where the reformed criminal was still reformed after trying to live a normal life. And in the end, maybe he was Tom. Maybe he was.

tomk:  He largely was. We’ve seen Scarface destroyed before. This is the first time the Ventriloquist did it himself

And, once again, Bruce Wayne believes in criminals reforming as long as they aren’t the Penguin or the Riddler.

Besides, this was also the last Ventriloquist episode.

jimmy:  Good, since I think it was the same as the last X Ventriloquist episodes.

tomk:  He’s not a bad character, but he doesn’t lend himself to much in the way of variety of plot.

jimmy:  Exactly. And this is not a bad episode, just more of the same.

tomk:  Well, there was Hips McManis.

jimmy:  Did the Ventriloquist live in an apartment complex for little people?

tomk:  No. It was a halfway home for recently released ex-cons with a short landlady. I only bring up Hips because he was voiced by the late Billy Barty, a somewhat famous little person actor.

jimmy:  I wouldn’t have known, but he does look familiar after a quick search.

tomk:  It struck me as a little strange to cast a little person in a role where the actor’s physical appearance doesn’t matter.

jimmy:  Authenticity I suppose.

tomk:  True, but unless you’re a diehard Billy Barty fan (and Bruce Timm isn’t above doing something like this since he’s a Paul Williams fan and look who voices the Penguin), I doubt anyone would notice Hips’ voice as belonging to an actual little person. It’s not like we get to see the actors perform, and Earl Boen, as we’ve discussed, looks nothing like Rhino.

Plus, this was the Joker from The Batman and his voice actor:

jimmy:  Looks similar. Around the eyes.

tomk:  Are you calling Kevin Michael Richardson a victim of the Crazy Eyes Syndrome?

jimmy:  No. And damn that’s an awful Joker design.

tomk:  Worse than the one we have on the show we’re actually watching?

jimmy:  Damn. That’s a good question. I’ll say yes, but you make an excellent point.

tomk:  The Batman, for better or worse, had its own distinct aesthetic. Its Joker fit that aesthetic no matter how weird it looked.

jimmy:  I can appreciate that; doesn’t mean I have to like it.

tomk:  Though at least that Joker’s hair is green.

I don’t like it much either.

It looks like this may be a tough episode to discuss since it mostly goes right, but there are two things to consider: 1) the Ventriloquist really wanted to go straight, and unlike the last couple times this happened, it was his old henchmen causing problems, not him relapsing and 2) he’s cured at the end. None of Batman’s other foes ever get and stay cured.

jimmy:  That just means they couldn’t come up with any good stories for him. 🙂

tomk:  So, nothing to add here, Jimmy?

jimmy:  Not from me. I think we’ve covered it.

tomk:  So, to sum up: the story is the same one we’ve seen many times before except they cast a little person as a little person. We have probably made a new record for shortest episode chat.

Moving on…

“You Scratch My Back”

Nightwing is drifting away from the rest of the Bat-family with his new partner. Too bad that partner is Catwoman!

jimmy:  Hey, it’s Nightwing!

tomk:  And…what did they do to Catwoman?!

jimmy:  Was that Catwoman or the Joker dressed in a cat suit?

tomk:  That was a Catwoman who, if I were to hazard a guess, can now look less like Michelle Pfeiffer and more like the comic book version…outside the catsuit at least. In it, she looks pale and sharp or brittle.

jimmy:  Yeah. I wonder the same thing about Batwoman in the comics as well. When they suit up, do they take the time to apply makeup to change their skin tone, color, etc?

tomk:  The last Batwoman appearance I read showed her as pretty pale all the time.

jimmy:  Perhaps. I haven’t read much Batwoman. But Catwoman here is quite obvious.

tomk:  The rictus grin doesn’t help.

jimmy:  Now, it makes sense from a secret identity point of view…but everyone knows who she is anyway.

tomk:  Are you trying to make sense of this stuff?

jimmy:  Right. Sorry. What was I thinking? Like trying to make sense of why Nightwing is modeled after Billy Ray Cyrus.

tomk:  Someone had to be.

jimmy:  I kid. Nightwing looks great, but that mullet. Damn. That’s some serious business.

tomk:  Nothing says rebellion against an uptight authority figure than that haircut.

jimmy:  This is true.

tomk:  But something I thought…at the end of the episode when Selina tries to get Nightwing as a full time partner, and he says something about the law, did that sound familiar to you? I could have sworn it was almost the same exchange she had with Bruce after her first appearance.

jimmy:  I don’t recall. Perhaps. It’s a common Batman/Catwoman conversation.

tomk:  Oh, it was similar, no question. I was just wondering if it was the same.

jimmy:  I can’t find the answer with a quick Google search, but I did find this: “Though Selina’s new hair color is left unexplained in the series, Batman: Gotham Adventures #4 sets up the “Lost Year” for Catwoman: she was originally black haired, and dyed her hair blonde. After she found out the brand she used was involved in animal testing, she permanently scarred the firm’s owner, Amy Mercedes, and never dyed her hair again.”

tomk:  Amy Mercedes? Damn, that’s a rich fictional villain’s name if ever I saw one.

jimmy:  I know right?

So, how awesome was the scene where Batman let’s the crook get away and tells Nightwing, “He’s all yours”?

tomk:  Very awesome. Batman’s just hanging out, letting Nightwing do his own thing…much better than Batgirl.

jimmy:  I think Bruce is more in the “let him go from the nest, see if he can fly” camp, while Barb is more in the jealous/protective camp.

tomk:  Well, the last time we saw Catwoman, she was trying to corrupt Barbara.

jimmy:  Even more reason for her not to trust her.

tomk:  Ah, but, in the end we learn Dick didn’t trust her either!

jimmy:  Nope. The deception didn’t just work on Catwoman. Caught me by surprise too. Especially since this is really the first establishment of Dick rebelling against Batman and having grown up and moved on from Robin. Though I did note that I didn’t think Batman would fall for the old “tracker on the cat collar” trick, and I guess I was right.

tomk:  Nightwing isn’t stupid and has to know Catwoman does that sort of thing.

Besides, it does show him getting a big smile from Batgirl at the episode’s end.

jimmy:  Of course it does. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more.

tomk:  It’s the classic noir love story: the sexy temptress or the sweet girl-next-door type.

jimmy:  Yes, hard to get more opposite than Catwoman and Batgirl.

tomk:  Supergirl?

jimmy:  I said hard, not impossible. 🙂

tomk:  You’re Impossible.

jimmy:  Ipso facto impossibilis

tomk:  Point is, you’d know best. More so than Mr Hook Hand who got caught on everything.

jimmy:  He almost beat Batman though…until Batman started taking him half seriously. Maybe instead of a hook he should have used a big rock.

tomk:  Or some sort of a ray gun. Trap-Jaw used to switch extensions as needed to battle He-Man.

He-Man…cripes the 80s had some stupid stuff…

jimmy:  Lol

tomk:  Much of which will be seen in Ready Player One!

jimmy:  Especially the car chases!

tomk:  Best chapter in the book!

But there’s no Batman, so how cool can that car chase be?

jimmy:  According to Ernie Cline…maybe there is…

tomk:  What does he know? He keeps rewriting the same book.

So, uh, Mr. Hook Hand wasn’t quite good enough. The crocodile that ate his hand could have told us that.

jimmy:  Obviously not graphic, but was pretty intense to have his hook pulled off and have a huge crate drop on him. I was sure Bats was going to swing him and rescue him, but nope. Now, they did follow up with the requisite shot to show him still alive, but there was a short instant there where I questioned if Bats let him die?

tomk:  He wasn’t happy enough to die, and that’s only if you celebrate New Year’s with the Joker.

jimmy:  And the Joker had a large bell dropped on him in that episode. I’m starting to sense a pattern here…

tomk:  Bad guys keep trying the same schemes?

jimmy:  One of these days they’ll get away with it too.

So what did you think of the Catwoman design? I thought it was ok. Not a horrible departure from norm, but again, making the show feel more cartoon-y as the designs become less realistic (albeit easier to draw).

tomk:  I’m not sure, truth be told. She’s always the one I forget about when thinking about radical character appearance changes.

Though our next episode, when we get to it, has the most radical character change of the whole redesign.

jimmy:  As mentioned, the Nightwing design is pretty solid.

tomk:  Yes, but Catwoman in costume somehow looks even more like a Tim Burton character than she did before. I expect her to tell me Jack Skellington is her brother or something.

jimmy:  Haha. I know. Hence I made the Joker reference. Their faces and coloring are very similar. And you mentioned the smile.

tomk:  So, why do I forget about her so often? Is she somehow less memorable than other villains?

jimmy:  I’m not sure. It is a radical redesign. Moreso than say Two-Face. But it still hits the mental image of Catwoman. Especially the Selina redesign. So maybe because it is not as thought inducing as say Joker or (I think) the Penguin, you just gloss over it.

tomk:  Or maybe her two episodes just remind me what a problematic character she is. The series never seemed to know how to portray her.

I will say this: Selina being up to no good was no surprise even if Nightwing playing her was.

jimmy:  Agreed. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by Nightwing, but they set it up well.

tomk:  They did. But I do want to add…we’ve been covering these Batman episodes a lot faster than we have other stuff lately. Anyone reading this doesn’t know we might spend a couple days per episode, but we’ve gone through the return of Batman fairly quickly. Did you miss the Dark Knight, Jimmy?

jimmy:  I sure did. I like Superman well enough and all, but Batman is probably my second favorite comic character ever. So I’m much more itching to get to the next one. The redesign adds to that as each episode is offering something new. Plus, unlike the predesign, I don’t think I’ve seen these episodes before. As I’ve also mentioned the studio is like a well oiled machine now, so they crank these episodes out and there’s not many that aren’t solid. Cuts down on what we talk about when there are no plot holes, animation mistakes etc. And sometimes, like with the Ventriloquist, there’s just not much needs to be said.

tomk:  True enough. I will say I have seen these before, and there are some great episodes coming up, but not all of them are great, and you’ll probably be disappointed a few times at least. But in the meantime, do you have anything to add for this one?

jimmy:  …checks notes…

The only other thing was a question of if Bruce helped set Nightwing up with his swanky headquarters?

tomk:  You know, I don’t know off-hand. There is an episode coming up that shows why Dick quit being Robin, so it’s possible Dick set himself up. I think the impression is Dick returning at the end of “Sins of the Father” was the first time he’d been in the Batcave in quite some time.

jimmy:  There seemed to be some awkwardness this episode, but no real hard feelings.

tomk:  That’s somewhat accurate. How close Dick and Bruce are may depend on what episode you’re watching.

jimmy:  Hopefully not this close:

tomk:  Well…not that chummy.

That’s for sure.

jimmy:  And hopefully we won’t have to worry about any Joker boners.

tomk:  That was a different episode. Shall we move on?

jimmy:  We shall

tomk:  Then let’s look in on the most drastically changed character with the redesign.

“Never Fear”

The Scarecrow has developed a new gas with potentially lethal results! That can be a problem when Batman himself gets dosed with it!

jimmy:  Wow. They really changed Scarecrow. Not sure it’s for the better.

tomk:  He’s creepier.

I think the original voice actor was sick or something and couldn’t come back, so they recast the role with Jeffrey Combs, probably the actor with the creepiest voice they could find.

Plus, he looks like an emaciated hangman now.

jimmy:  He’s creepier for sure. And Combs is a nice addition.

tomk:  Combs will have a better role on Justice League.

So, ultimately, does the new look work for you?

jimmy:  I’m…not sure. Some work really great. I like the larger bat symbol without the yellow for example. Joker is not horrible, but not great. I don’t really like the Scarecrow design. Catwoman? Ok I guess. It’s mostly a mixed bag. But if it makes it easier for them to make me more Batman episodes then I’m all for it.

tomk:  Well, I meant for the Scarecrow, but point taken. The Scarecrow is like a whole new character.

jimmy:  You know, I get that Dini et al look at the Scarecrow and think he’s not scary. He’s not intimidating to Batman, etc. so they need to up the fright factor. Even if he basically looks nothing like a scarecrow now. But they’re not alone. It seems like the Scarecrow look is always getting revamped for video games, movies, etc.

tomk:  But look what happens when you also recast the voice. The old Scarecrow was a bit of a pompous know-it-all; this one barely seems human.

jimmy:  The voice fits the new design, that’s for sure.

tomk:  It was a better disguise than what Bruce wore to that seminar, I’ll say that much.

jimmy:  That was almost Clark Kent-esque. Sunglasses and a tiny mustache. Certainly no one would recognize him!

tomk:  He didn’t even change his suit!

jimmy:  Haha, nope. And usually Bruce is pretty good at going undercover. They used up all the redesign money on Scarecrow and the like and couldn’t afford to draw Bruce a change of clothes.

tomk:  He’s only one of the most recognizable people in Gotham…

jimmy:  Scarecrow probably doesn’t get out much.

tomk:  Such interest in the goings of mortals is beyond his concern.

jimmy:  It was a different twist though, taking away fear instead of inducing it.

tomk:  And what that means for someone like Batman…

jimmy:  Well, apparently it means he’s not afraid to kill…which I thought seemed odd.

tomk:  He isn’t afraid he’ll cross his one personal line. He is afraid he’ll be as bad as the people he takes down.

jimmy:  I suppose. And maybe it’s just how you look at it. Batman is not afraid to kill; he chooses not to. Is he afraid that maybe he won’t control himself the next time Joker pulls some crazy scheme? Perhaps. While torturing some guy for info? Seemed like a stretch. It did make him scary as hell though. If Bats ever was a killer…well he would be the Red Hood I guess.

tomk:  Or the Punisher.

jimmy:  Yes. Or Fallen.

tomk:  Fallen…nobody is as cool as that guy.

jimmy:  Nope.

But Punisher is more brute force. Military trained precision killer. Red Hood is, almost literally at times, Batman with a gun.

tomk:  Maybe, but the implication is a little fear keeps people in line. Kinda like the episode of the original Star Trek where Captain Kirk was split from his evil side, and “good” Kirk couldn’t make any decisions because, Spock theorized, it is the evil, impulsive side of a person that can actually take risks and decide things.

jimmy:  Or, as I just finished reading Infinity Crusade for the Spider-Man Chronology…the “good” side of Adam Warlock is just as bad as the “evil” side.

tomk:  When you’re master manipulator on a cosmic level like Adam Warlock, that would have to be true.

jimmy:  And speaking of Red Hood (that segue worked better a couple of lines ago), it kinda rubs me the wrong way that Tim is written as Jason Todd. Less so when he is Robin, but definitely in his civilian identity.

tomk:  It’s not as bad after his introduction. Now he’s just some kid hanging around.

Though speaking of Robins, I would say this episode reminded me a little of “Fear of Victory “ when Dick got dosed after the Scarecrow used his fear gas to fix sporting events.

jimmy:  Well, most Scarecrow appearances across all media usually have a similar feel/storyline.

tomk:  True, but the basic problem here was an out-of-control Batman. That’s probably scarier than anything else.

jimmy:  Not so much in this series, by an in control Batman is scary enough at times.

tomk:  So how much worse is an out-of-control Batman? Look how he threatened Robin for leaving him tied up.

Not Nightwing or Batgirl, who are ostensibly adults, but Robin.

jimmy:  That’s kind of along the lines of what I said earlier. Batman at times was acting more aggressive, out of control, “crazy” then having a lack of fear like say the Tarzan guy at the beginning.

tomk:  Yes, but what I see here is Bruce comes across as a moody control freak, but that’s because of what he’s ultimately afraid of: losing control. Isn’t that the main idea of the Killing Joke? That one bad day can make the rest of your life awful if you aren’t strong enough?

jimmy:  Or One More Day can make your comics awful for the rest of your life.

tomk:  Well, that is why I stopped with Spider-Man aside from the occasional trade.

Well, I get the impression that we’re stuck a bit on this one because of the Scarecrow’s new appearance. I probably reached a lot like you did the first time I saw it, but the two episodes he appears in are rather top notch. I just think of him as a brand new character and that generally works. Anything to add, Jimmy?

jimmy:  I did have two further questions.

Are those the alligators that ate the hook guy’s hand last episode?

And if Scarecrow sprayed Daredevil with that gas, would anything happen?

tomk:  They might have been the Sewer King’s gators. He’s still the suckiest suck who ever sucked.

And I do remember an 80s episode of the Superfriends where Batman–voiced by Adam West–was called the man without fear. Scarecrow was the villain and they hinted very strongly at Batman’s origin.

jimmy:  Well, he sure wasn’t without fear this episode. Side note, I really need to watch Superfriends. Or maybe I don’t.

tomk:  Call it a big maybe.

jimmy:  Done. And maybe we should move onto the next episode.

tomk:  Yes, we should forget Batman may have killed at least one crocodile with his bare hands and check in on the Joker again.

 

NEXT TIME:  Tom and Jimmy got themselves some Joker action with “Joker’s Millions,” and then move on to “Growing Pains” and “Love is a Croc”.

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