Going Through The DCAU Part Forty-Five

You can’t keep a good pair of Geeks down, and so Jimmy and Tom are back for more cartoon chat.

This time, we’re covering The New Batman Adventures episodes “Mean Seasons,” “Critters,” and “Cult of the Cat”.

“Mean Seasons”

Former supermodel Paige Monroe was deemed too old to keep working! But as Calendar Girl, she’s out for revenge, and only Batman can stop her!

jimmy:  I guess Julian Day was busy.

tomk:  You’ll take your Paige Monroe and you’ll like it!

Or you won’t. We’ve got a couple lackluster episodes in this batch…though I am in a small minority that really likes the next one for how weird it is.

jimmy:  I didn’t mind this episode. Sure it had Batman fighting a T-Rex! What else do you want?

tomk:  Batman fighting two?

jimmy:  Now, let’s not go crazy here.

tomk:  A T-Rex with an assist from a velociraptor? Because then we have Jurassic World.

jimmy:  Well, we did have the concentric circles in the water trick from Jurassic Park, so we’re not far off.

tomk:  OK, so Calendar Girl. Not a bad villain, but not overly memorable either.

jimmy:  Besides the Twilight Zone twist at the end, what did she add that the couldn’t use Calendar Man? Besides these guys…

tomk:  Commentary on aging, particularly for women.

jimmy:  True enough. Pretty adult episode what with the provocative models at the car show and the interrupted casting couch session.

tomk:  It fits the pattern of more overt adult themes we’ve seen with this last batch.

jimmy:  For sure. And also speaks to the world that Paige grew up in and is now fighting against. The objectifying of women and treating them as purely sex symbols.

The fake TV shows spoke to this somewhat as well with their models and vets in bikinis. Though Teen Cop was a different demographic

tomk:  The whole thing, including Teen Cop, was clearly a shot at network programming. But for all Paige was fighting the system, and she may have just been out for personal revenge, she did go pretty far the other way given her choice of henchmen. She clearly went to the Oswald Cobblepot School for Hired Hand Recruitment.

jimmy:  And they weren’t much more capable. Bats dispensed with them pretty easily.

tomk:  Sometimes a little body armor is a good thing.

Though speaking of casting couches, the cast included Tippi Hedren, an actress best known for a pair of Hitchcock movies, particularly The Birds. I think Hitch had something of a reputation for his casting couch. Most of his movies featured young blondes as his female leads.

jimmy:  I hadn’t heard that. A few familiar faces/voices this episode. Sela Ward. Barry Bostwick. Dennis Haysbert.

tomk:
Sela Ward still keeps busy if her IMDB page is anything to go by. She was kinda big when this episode came out.

jimmy:  Was Sisters the show she was on?

tomk:  I believe so. She was Harrison Ford’s murdered wife in The Fugitive.

jimmy:  Been a long time since I’ve seen that, I wouldn’t recall. But Paige mostly works here, outside of stealing Calendar Man’s schtick. I was hoping they wouldn’t unmask her because I didn’t think we needed to see her face, and then Bullock goes to do so and I’m thinking “oh well, so much for that”, but then the fact that her face was perfectly fine actually caught me by surprise.

tomk:  It was a nice surprise.

And for the record, Ward is only in The Fugitive for about two minutes worth of screen time. I think Jane Lynch had more to do as one of Ford’s hospital colleagues.

jimmy:  Speaking of more screen time, Batgirl sure gets a lot more play than Tim does in these new episodes.

tomk:  She’s a better character as portrayed here.

It also ensures the show doesn’t become some kind of sausage fest.

And Tim, thus far, probably has more screen time than Dick.

jimmy:  Back to back sentences using “sausage fest” and “Dick”…it’s a good thing Watson isn’t here. But I was thinking the same about Nightwing as well, but him branching out on his own at least makes him not being around a bit more plausible.

tomk:  True, and after this batch of three we get some more Nightwing-heavy stuff.

jimmy:  Hopefully the first of which is “The One Where Nightwing Gets A Haircut”.

tomk:  Keep hoping on that one.

He does somewhat match the comic book Nightwing from that time. He had longer hair then.

jimmy:  Yeah, they defend it on one of the DVD commentaries with the same argument. Anyway, we can discuss Nightwing’s locks a bit later.

As for this episode, there was one thing I wasn’t clear on. Maybe I was predisposed to think this way because of Calendar Man and things like The Long Halloween, but I thought that each calendar page that Paige left was indicating when her next kidnapping would be. She even says “see you in the fall, Batman” at one point. But the show seems to only span a few days. Highlighted by the set up and cancellation of the retirement party.

tomk:  I get the impression she was just basing her attacks off prominent holidays and tossing off calendar days as clues.

Besides, the retirement party also had Bruce checking himself in the mirror for signs of aging. That was…weird.

jimmy:  There were a few jabs at Bruce’s age. Batgirl picks on him too.

The leaving of the clues is kinda just Riddler-esque dumb.

tomk:  If she were smarter, she would have turned to fashion design and got behind the camera.

Or something.

Tyra Banks is still working by coaching obnoxious stick figures into modeling success on the TV.

jimmy:  Well, she did have that failed sitcom.

Regardless, she obviously wasn’t “all there” like many of Batman’s foes.

tomk:  She didn’t strike me as being particularly memorable. The immobile mask didn’t help.

And your Riddler comment was right on the ball. Like many of the episodes we’ve seen in this last batch, her plot seems somewhat familiar. Like we’ve seen Batman deal with this before. She could be Ivy with her half-assed social commentary, Riddler with her clues, or any number of bad guys with the initial plot being all about revenge. Heck, the mask thing could make her another Two-Face with the twist.

Oh, and an angry show biz type that didn’t age right for the industry seeking violent revenge is sooooooo Baby-Doll.

jimmy:  Paige does it so much better. And less creepy. Well, the immovable mask is creepy…but not Baby-Doll creepy.

tomk:  True. It’s a different kind of creepy. It’s an antique doll staring at you while you sleep creepy, not Watson’s love life creepy.

jimmy:  Lol

I hate those antique dolls.

tomk:  Everybody does except for creepy weirdos like the sort of people deeply invested in Watson’s love life.

I am on a roll.

jimmy:  You go Tom!

tomk:  Someone had to. Someone who doesn’t toss a toupee in the air to celebrate keeping a job.

jimmy:  Haha, well, my mortgage might say differently but I sure hope I’m retired by 65, Wayne regulations or no Wayne regulations.

tomk:  You don’t work for Wayne, so…

jimmy:  That you know of…

tomk:  Well, if you do, you might want to check the R&D budget.

jimmy:  Well, we’ve descended into silliness. Anything else to add about Calendar Girl?

tomk:  I got nothin’.

jimmy:  And off to the next one we go!

tomk:  Okie dokie.

“Critters”

Farmer Brown has genetically engineered giant farm animals to attack Gotham! Seriously, Batman will fight livestock!

 

jimmy:

 

tomk:  “Critters” is, apparently, the most hated episode of Batman that Bruce Timm and Co. managed to produce.

That said, I was chatting with my friend, the woman who pointed out to me the Harley Quinn problem, and we both kinda realized that, despite what most people think…we both really like “Critters”. It’s just so freakin’ weird.

jimmy:  I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “like”, but there are definitely worse episodes. That said, it is probably he weirdest of the bunch. We need to keep Steve Gerber away from Batman.

tomk:  Not much of a problem these days…

Though I am a bit pleasantly surprised, Jimmy. Given your reaction to Baby-Doll, I thought you’d come down pretty hard on Farmer Brown.

jimmy:  He wasn’t a super creepy little kid trying to have sex with a man that looks like a crocodile.

tomk:  Or whatever she did the first time.

Then again, maybe you have a thing for a farmer’s daughter type.

jimmy:  Maybe if she wasn’t pumped full of beef hormones.

tomk:  Yeah, just say “no” to bovine steroids.

And maybe say no to the cow puns.

That bull ran right into a china shop at one point.

The cow bell is a nice touch. You can never have too much cow bell.

jimmy:  Actually, I laughed out loud at that one.

tomk:  Ah.

You know, though…this may be the closest this show ever gets to the old Adam West series.

jimmy:  The rest were boarding on “Holy rusted metal Batman!”

tomk:  And then Robin ran down a very long alley.

But Batman let someone else drive the car. That might be noteworthy. The car was subsequently trashed, so it probably won’t happen again, but someone else drove the car.

jimmy:  Chicks dig the car.

And on the audio commentary Dini said he originally hated the episode, but when he realized that Farmer Brown was like a character from the old Adam West series, it started to grow on him.

tomk:  That’s the only way to look at it.

If the Adam West show had the budget to pull off the worst-looking mutant chickens possible, they would have done this.

Complete with Bullock tossing off every hayseed nickname he could think of.

jimmy:  That said, I hate the Adam West Batman, but didn’t mind this. Not love, but not hate. And damn, those chickens were ugly.

tomk:  They didn’t look like chickens. How anyone outside of Farmer Brown’s pastel-colored hideout knew they were chickens was beyond my ability to understand.

What kinds of chickens have teeth?

jimmy:  Agreed. Even the cow looked off model.

The first one I mean, that did his best King Kong impersonation.

tomk:  It had a cow’s basic coloring, though.

OK, so, we’ve covered the cows and most of the chickens…what about the other animals?

jimmy:  The giant preying mantises?

tomk:  Where Batman held the decaptiated head of one…by its eyeballs!

jimmy:  And it was very convenient there was a pesticide truck where the giant insects attacked.

tomk:  Except…the pesticides did nothing! Nothing!

jimmy:  Like the goggles.

tomk:  But that exterminator, man, he didn’t even try to spray the bugs! He just ran!

jimmy:  Wouldn’t you?

tomk:  If I had some bug spray I might try and spray the bugs if I weren’t too scared.

jimmy:  We’re not Batman.

tomk:  Or Daredevil, the man without fear.

Or Batgirl, the woman without a drivers license from the looks of things.

jimmy:  Haha

tomk:  But I want to add…that freakin’ goat.

jimmy:  Oh right…the talking goat…man, this show was weird.

tomk:  Real goats are creepy enough.

KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Look at those eyes, man!

Now imagine it could carry a pre-recorded voice!

jimmy:  I don’t want to!

tomk:  Too late. I might as well have said, “Don’t think about Watson hanging out with a goat.” And what will you think about? Watson hanging out with a goat.

jimmy:  I see that in his office all the time. His name is Carl.

tomk:  I’ve met Carl. He’s a genial fellow with a good sense of humor. Ask him the one about the milkmaid’s daughter and the traveling salesman.

jimmy:  Heh.

So, where did Farmer Brown get all the money to make underground lairs and missile silo rocket ships?

And who actually made those things? He must have had a huge team of engineers working for years on that stuff.

tomk:  He hired the same guys who delivered the Batcomputer to Wayne Manor. Very discreet bunch.

jimmy:  Ha. Apparently.

tomk:  Where bad guys get their lairs is always one of the odder things to think about. Remember back in the “Worry Men” episode where the Mad Hatter said he was broke but somehow managed to build robotic death traps that looked like various other Batman foes?

jimmy:  He maxed out his credit cards. He’s still paying those off.

tomk:  Yeah, I’m sure the zero dollars an hour he makes as an inmate at Arkham will handle that.

jimmy:  So, here’s the question I think everyone wants an answer to since watching this episode…

Do Farmer Brown, Man Eating Cow, Sitting Bull, Talking Goat and Scary Daughter make any subsequent appearances?

tomk:  The Man Eating Cow got a cameo on The Tick.

The rest? Nope.

jimmy:  I know you liked this one, but I say “phew!”

tomk:  I can agree with “phew”. These aren’t exactly thew sorts of characters we need to see a lot of.

Besides, we only have about ten episodes left.

What’s left? A decent Mad Hatter episode, one on why Nightwing quit, a really fun look at different versions of Batman, a Batgirl/Supergirl team-up, some cameos from other superheroes that aren’t from the planet Krypton, a freaky Poison Ivy episode, and, well, “Mad Love”.

jimmy:  Do any of them resemble rejected Ralph Bakshi Spider-Man episodes?

tomk:  Not to my knowledge.

The three we have in this batch are probably the weakest of this bunch.

jimmy:  Again, I never hated this episode, but it was damn weird. Another good example of the “Batman works in any genre” rule.

tomk:  True, but I do remember the commentary track on this one, and how they keep joking this was the most hated Batman episode.

We haven’t seen the most hated Superman episode yet…

jimmy:  Yay?

tomk:  Maybe?

Shall we move on, or do you have anything else to add?

jimmy:  I’m surprised I added this much. 🙂

tomk:  Besides the fact Bullock called Farmer Brown “Snuffy” at one point, and that reminded me of this character:

jimmy:  I have to say, I was expecting a Sesame Street character, but this makes more sense.

tomk:  Bullock’s old timey comic strip fondness that I just made up occasionally shines through.

But with that in mind, let’s move on and check in on Catwoman one last time.

jimmy:  Sure. There’ll be no talking goats in that one. Probably.

tomk:  I think that’s a safe bet.

“Cult of the Cat”

Catwoman has robbed the wrong people! Can Batman keep her alive when she’s being attacked by a religious group made up of cat-themed ninjas?

jimmy:  You never told me that Wolverine guest starred.

tomk:  He wore the Black Panther’s suit.

But can I just add…with all the talk about “Critters” being the supposedly worst episode of the series, I find this one was actually the weakest of the redesigned run.

Once again, they forgot how to use Catwoman.

jimmy:  I agree it was weak.

tomk:  And while we had no talking goats, there was that giant sabertooth tiger.

jimmy:  Genetics! Maybe the Cult and Farmer Brown had more in common than they’d like to admit.

tomk:  Well, there was a bit of Wolverine, so there’s also a bit of Sabertooth. Maybe someone should check to see if Thomas Blake had some connections to Alkali Flats…

So, Jimmy, you asked when we first went back to Batman if we’d be seeing Batman working with various sidekicks more often. Unless Catwoman counts as a sidekick for this episode, this is the first one without any of Batman’s usual helpers to be seen anywhere.

jimmy:  You’re right. I hadn’t noticed that. Catwoman definitely doesn’t count as a sidekick.

tomk:  In that case, we only have one more episode that doesn’t feature any Robins or Batgirls.

jimmy:  I’m surprised there have been any.

tomk:  You won’t be surprised when you see which one the other one is.

jimmy:  Does Nightwing count as a “Robin”?

tomk:  For that instance, yes.

Besides, I don’t think any of the remaining episodes feature Nightwing but not Robin.

jimmy:  But do they feature Wolverine like this one?

tomk:  Um…no.

No Wolverine, Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Sabertooth, Magneto, Professor X, Angel, Iceman, Deadpool, Maggot, Cecila Reyes, Polaris, Legion, Strong Guy, Sunspot, Cannonball, Cypher, or any of the other cool mutants all the kids can’t stop talking about.

jimmy:  Heh. Seriously though, I know they were supposed to be some kind of “cat cult”, but they had to know everyone would see that and think of Logan.

tomk:  Well, maybe they were hoping the real fans would be distracted by the presence of Thomas Blake.

I mean, normally he looks more like this:

jimmy:  Wait, wait…that Catman?

tomk:  Yup.

jimmy:  I didn’t even recognize him without the get up.

tomk:  Gail Simone hadn’t gotten her hands on him yet and made him a badass when this episode came out. But his real name is Thomas Blake.

jimmy:  Was that in Secret Six?

tomk:  Yes. Started off as a Villains Unlimited mini series before the Infinite Crisis but became the Secret Six.

jimmy:  I read a lot of that stuff. But I guess I never connected the name. And really wouldn’t have any ideas about Catman prior to that.

tomk:  Well, prior to that, he was something of a joke. Brad Meltzer showed him as an overweight loser during a Green Arrow run. He was kidnapped and allegedly eaten by Monsieur Mallah, a talking French gorilla.

jimmy:  Yeah, I definitely am not familiar with those incarnations.

tomk:  He was mostly just a weird Silver Age villain. Making him head of a cat cult is probably the best that could be hoped for. It’s not like he’s Killer Moth.

jimmy:  The moth mention made me think that the cult’s costumes, when not drawing inspiration from Wolverine or Black Panther, reminded me of these guys:

tomk:  Conjoined twins?

jimmy:  Though would have made them more interesting.

And man, Catwoman sure could tame those wild cats with just the sound of her voice. Didn’t even need any treats!

tomk:  I think for the bigger one, Batman was the treat.

jimmy:  That’s true.

tomk:  And somehow, in her final appearance, Catwoman got away to France with a metric ton’s worth of stolen goods. #ThanksBatman

jimmy:  He does have a soft spot for her, that’s for sure.

tomk:  Watson would make some crack about not-so-soft spots. Good thing I’m not Watson.

jimmy:  Good thing we’re all not Watson. Except for Watson. Poor, poor Watson.

So any cool surprises with this one to let me in on besides Catman?

tomk:  Um…no.

jimmy:  Dang.

tomk:  Did you have anything else to add besides “Don’t use a working furnace for an escape route.”

jimmy:  Not really. A disappointing episode overall I thought, and not much of a sendoff to Catwoman. I would assume she’ll make appearances in Justice League or something in the future.

tomk:  She does not. This was her last DCAU appearance.

jimmy:  They really didn’t know how to use her.

tomk:  Well, they didn’t really know what to do with her in the beginning, got somewhere in the middle, and then promptly forgot again in the end. You know, symmetry.

So, really, I think we’re done with this one, Jimmy. They got a lesser Batman enemy into what was ultimately a lesser episode with too many potentially accidental (but probably not) Marvel references. Unless you have anything else to add? I can promise the next three are a better batch of episodes overall.

jimmy: I got nothing. This felt more like a fill-in issue during a classic comic run. Probably most notable for no Robin or Batgirl appearance.

tomk:  Then I think we’re done here.

NEXT TIME:  Yeah, we have some episodes better than these three for the next post.  Be back soon for “Animal Act,” “Old Wounds,” and “The Demon Within”.

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