September 25, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Going Through The DCAU: Required Reading Part One

3504858-6186538201-tumblTom is on vacation this week, so we are taking a break from out DC Animated Universe rewatch.

To fill the void, I thought I would look at several episodes that are based on existing comic book stories.  We touch on this a bit in our write ups, but I thought I’d compile them in one place.

After the break, discover the issues you should be searching through the long boxes of your collection for.

Appointment in Crime Alley (Season One, Episode 26)


This episode is based on the story “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley!”, from Detective Comics #457, written by Dennis O’Neil.

The backbone of the story is the same in the source material as it is on the small screen.  On the anniversary of his parents death, Batman returns to the scene of the crime.  He is joined by Leslie Thompkins, who helped care for him after his parents were murdered.

The specifics wrapped around those events are very different in the comic and on the show.  Tom and I discuss the show during Part Eight of our rewatch.

One of the biggest differences between the two is that the show treats this as an annual event with both Alfred and Leslie completely aware of what Bruce’s visit to Crime Alley means.  In the comic however, neither know exactly what is going on.  Alfred even comes off as a complete moron.  He can never figure out where Bats goes the same night every year.  Ok, fine.  But he also has no idea why.  Come on Alfred, surely you can put two and two together and know it is the anniversary of his parents death.  The comic also has a bit of a strange exchange where Alfred tries to pass along some information about some jewel smugglers and Bats tells him to leave him alone, he’s got stuff to do, stay outta my business.

As for Leslie, the comic version has figured out that Batman comes to Crime Alley on the same date every year…but she can’t figure out why either.  At least she has the excuse of not knowing that Batman is Bruce Wayne.  (Seriously Alfred, you can’t figure all this out?)  You do have to wonder about comic Leslie as well.  When Batman talks about why he comes to Crime Alley and uses words like “memorial” and that it is a “reminder of who I am…of my beginning”…Leslie doesn’t put the pieces together.  She seems oblivious to the fact that the anniversary of the Wayne murders just happens to be the same date Batman always visits.

The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy (Season One, Episode 31)


While this story from Detective Comics #450 by Elliot S. Maggin, has it’s differences from what shows up on the animated small screen, they are much more similar than the “Crime Alley” story.  You can read more discussion about the specifics of this episode in Part Ten of our walk through.

“The Cape and Cowl Death Trap!” features the protagonist Jeremiah Wormwood.  In the show he is played more as a very Riddler-esque type character and is behind a bond heist.  In the comic version, Wormwood is a much darker character and more of a hired killer.  He is suspected of having assassinated a senator.

The basics of the story are the same.  Wormwood meets with an associate who tasks him with getting Batman’s cape and cowl.  Through a series of elaborate traps, he accomplishes his goal.  But after bringing his associate the cape and cowl, he confesses his crime and it turns out the associate was really Batman in disguise, who dawns the cape and cowl to apprehend him.

The comic story is quite a bit shorter and there is only one trap (the wax museum), not a series of traps.  And in the comic Batman never escapes from the wax museum trap.  He hands over his cape and cowl.  He does explain later after he has captured Wormwood how he would have escaped, had he wanted to, and it is similar to the escape used in the show.

The animated version ends with Wormwood in jail, receiving a package from Batman containing his cape and cowl.  As some sort of torturous reminder.  In the comic we only see as far as Wormwood getting arrested, but Batman taunts him similarly by leaving his cape and cowl slung over a chair in the office where their showdown occurred.  Not exactly sure why Batman would do that, and likely leave the scene in his underroos, but I guess it is a cool visual.

The Laughing Fish (Season One, Episode 34)


It has to be difficult to write a character such as the Joker for a half hour kids show.  While he looks the part of someone that should appear on Saturday morning TV, his usual antics are mayhem and murder.  Not exactly what you want your kids watching while eating their Fruit Loops.

It’s with that in mind that this episode is based on not one, but three different comics.  Batman #251, Detective Comics #475 and #476.  The idea being to take these three stories (well, really two stories since the Detective issues are a two-parter) and pull out all the material that wouldn’t get past the censors, and whatever was left, combine into a coherent episode.  It actually works quite well at the end of the day.  Let’s look at what came from where.

The core of this episode is based on the two Detective issues by Steve Englehart.  It features the Joker poisoning fish to give them his distinctive smile.  He then tries to copyright said fish to make a fortune.  (Which all seemed like an odd plot to me to begin with.  When has the Joker ever been about money?)

The threatening and murder of the copyright officials is almost identical.  The binary toxin for the first, the house cat scratching the other disguised as Batman.  The biggest differences in the animated world are the inclusion of Harley Quinn on the Joker’s team (which makes sense since Harley was created for the animated series and wasn’t around in 1978) and that neither men die.  Batman conveniently has an antidote for the toxin to save both men…and the cat.

After the murders, the Detective issues have a very different conclusion, but we’ll come back to that…

For the third act of the story, the writers used the ending of Batman #251 from 1973, written by Dennis O’Neil.  The comic story features Batman trying (and failing) to protect the Joker’s old gang after the Joker once again has escaped and is tying up loose ends.  Batman tracks down the Joker at the old aquarium.

What happens next is much the same in both cases.  Joker has a captive that he is threatening to dunk into the shark tank.  Bats surrenders himself to be dunked instead.  Joker drops Bats in and then surprisingly goes back on his word and pushes the other captive in as well.  Batman literally rides the shark and they manage to escape by breaking the aquarium glass.  The biggest difference between the printed page and the small screen is that the captive is Harvey Bullock in the animated world.

The end of the Batman #251 story involves Batman catching up to the Joker on the beach and laying a beating on him.  Perhaps a little too violent for the censors, so we shift back to Detective Comics #476.  Ok, it is not exactly the same, but does have the same spirit as the conclusion sees the Joker falling into the river and disappearing.

For more on The Laughing Fish episode, see Part Ten of our walk through.  And come back (mostly) each week as Tom and I will continue to watch cartoons and babble on about them give insightful and thought provoking analysis.