We’re back with more cartoon talk from those two guys who have never been in the same room with each other but have still managed to go this far with this project, Tom and Jimmy.
This installment will cover the Batman the Animated Series episodes “Trial,” “Avatar,” and “House and Garden”.
When the new Gotham DA says Batman is responsible for the super criminals he brings in and should be put on trial himself, the Arkham inmates decide to follow through on this idea.
tomk: Let’s start with a trivia note, Jimmy: the DA is voiced by actress Stephanie Zimbalist. Her father Efrem is Alfred…who doesn’t appear in this episode.
jimmy: There can be only one.
tomk: At a time? Apparently.
jimmy: A good episode dealing with the often brought up question of if the existence of these super heroes is actually the cause of the existence of these super villains.
tomk: Yeah, that’s been done before, but given how this show has operated, how many of Batman’s regular foes don’t have some sort of early encounter that connects them in some way? Of the ones in this episode, the only one who didn’t really need Batman to bring him down the first time was Croc.
jimmy: Speaking of Croc, I thought it was a funny throwback when he said to hit Batman with a rock!
tomk: Yes, this time the real Croc wants to use a rock!
Just like in “Sideshow”…huh.
jimmy: He’s anything if not consistent.
tomk: Maybe that Croc disguise Batman used in “Almost Got ‘Im” was better than we thought.
jimmy: Apparently so.
tomk: It fooled his closest friends. You know, if the Arkhamites are friends.
jimmy: Not after Mr. J finked on Harley…
tomk: She got over it fairly quickly.
jimmy: I was waiting for a shot of Ivy rolling her eyes when Harley went on and on about how special he was.
tomk: Ivy has her own issues. That DA could play those nuts like a fiddle.
jimmy: Not like the Joker was listening to anything the DA and Ivy talked about.
tomk: He listened when it got him in dutch with Harley.
jimmy: But otherwise he was reading The Adventures of Jemmy Levitz from DC Comics.
tomk: Was that the title? I thought it might have been Jerry Lewis, which might have actually been a DC Comic at one time.
jimmy: It was the title. I think it was a riff on old Jerry Lewis comics. Plus, it had the cover on the wrong side, so maybe it was an anime Jerry Lewis.
tomk: Maybe that was an ad on the back for a different comic.
jimmy: That is possible as well. He was probably reading The Dark Knight Returns.
tomk: That didn’t end well for him.
jimmy: He’s not up to that issue yet.
tomk: Well, things rarely end well for the Joker. The only thing on his side is that he’s at least amused no matter what happens.
jimmy: If you gotta go, go with a smile.
tomk: Yeah, but then Batman pops him one in the gut and he ain’t smilin’ no more.
jimmy: I really enjoy these villain ensemble episodes though.
tomk: I do too. It shows the bad guys actually work well together. It also means Batman’s ultimate victory looks a lot more impressive.
And another thing…Gordon and the cops were pretty damn competent this time around.
jimmy: About time!
tomk: Which means either Gordon’s a better cop than we’ve seen, Batman’s better at leaving clues than we thought, or Ivy and Harley really suck at vigilante kidnapping.
jimmy: The show has another pretty obvious trope though. When they capture Batman, why don’t they unmask him? Especially glaring when they attempt to unmask him near the end.
tomk: Well, we needed suspense!
jimmy: And the case at the beginning, where it gets thrown out because Batman apprehended Ivy and not a police officer…isn’t that going to be an issue like…all the time?
tomk: Well, it meant Ivy went to Arkham instead of prison, so, yes. Hence the reason the DA hates Batman…at first.
Though, if you remember: Penguin and Catwoman apparently go to regular jail.
jimmy: It just seemed like an odd thing for the judge to say. Especially since Bats seems to capture the majority or the criminals, especially of the super villain variety.
tomk: Hey, plot exposition always has to go in somewhere.
Besides, the judge had to explain the verdict. Clearly Ivy was guilty, but she was also crazy. And Batman caught her and he isn’t a deputized member of the Gotham P.D.
jimmy: The verdict in the case against Batman was a bit surprising given the judge…not that it mattered much.
tomk: Well, it clearly didn’t matter, but the fact that the DA convinced the Arkhamites that they should take more responsibility…something they probably believed anyway if you think about it in most cases.
jimmy: Either way, she won the case…and is never heard from again…?
tomk: Well, it is Gotham. They don’t treat their elected officials well aside from Mayor Hill.
I mean, considering how long ago Harvey Dent had his little accident, how many DAs must they have gone through before they got to this one?
jimmy: I dunno…but I know I wouldn’t want the job. Plus I’m not a lawyer.
tomk: Or an American. We have different legal systems here, It’s not like Canada, where beavers and mooses get elected to parliament.
jimmy: That happens one time and no one will ever let you forget about it!
tomk: Have you seen our Congress? Beavers and mooses might be an improvement.
Well, since we’ve diverged into talking about animals running for government, I get the feeling it is time to move onto our next episode. Unless you have some closing thoughts here.
tomk: No. Just keep Croc away from rocks. He gets some funny ideas.
Ra’s al-Ghul returns seeking the secret of true immortality from an Egyptian tomb. Can Batman stop him before he rouses the wrath of a…wait. A mummy? Seriously? OK, we’ll go with that.
jimmy: I guess we need to start by talking about the elephant in the room. Bruce and Talia’s pants.
tomk: Well, yes.
Or, you know, that freakin’ mummy!
But those jodhpurs were something else.
I think even Ra’s had a pair.
jimmy: Well, she didn’t start out as a mummy.
tomk: I suspect Talia misses her mummy.
Technically, that mummy started out as Lt. Uhuru on Star Trek.
jimmy: lol, true
Has there ever been any talk of Ms al-Ghul?
tomk: I think there must have been somewhere.
Talia isn’t Ra’s only daughter in the comics or on Arrow, but Nyssa never appeared on the animated series…for good reason. She hadn’t been created in the comics yet.
jimmy: I’m not overly familiar with her, but she did show up in the game Arkham Knight. She was…just a little crazy.
tomk: Nyssa is awesome.
I’ve frequently mentioned Greg Rucka’s Batman mini-series “Death and the Maiden” as one where Batman has a vision of his often ignored mother, but the real crux was the introduction of Nyssa and her long history as she gradually comes back and supplants her father in his own empire.
The story ended with a brainwashed Talia completely loyal to Nyssa, Ra’s dead or gone or something, the Ubu tribe (and it was a tribe) pledging itself to Nyssa, and Batman having to concede that the League of Assassins had a new master.
See, I’ve never been a big Talia fan due to her flip flopping between Ra’s and Bruce. Nyssa was living her own life and only came back to do what she did when her father punished her by letting the Nazis put her in a concentration camp. Ra’s even came to visit her there but declined to help her escape. Since she was quasi-immortal herself, she survived and went after her dad when she was finally able to do so.
Then, I am told, shortly thereafter in a regular Batman comic I didn’t read, Nyssa was killed off and that was the end of her.
Nyssa on Arrow, meanwhile, is mostly a lesbian version of Talia. Possibly because the Arrow producers weren’t allowed to use Talia, so they used the lesser known Daughter of the Demon instead.
jimmy: Arrow wasn’t allowed to use Harley either I believe. Looks like it is not just Marvel TV/Films that don’t get along.
tomk: DC has a long history of that. And Arrow found a way to toss Harley in for an episode.
For DC, it mostly amounts to concerns audiences will get “confused” so they don’t often allow the same character to appear in multiple shows. It’s one of the reasons the Teen Titans never appeared on Justice League.
jimmy: Because clearly if you watch cartoons or superhero shows/movies you are a moron that can’t think for themselves.
tomk: You scoff, Jimmy, but that’s the reason. The Teen Titans had a cartoon series that featured Robin. When The Batman cartoon started, Teen Titans was still on the air, so when Batman got his first sidekick, it wasn’t Robin. It was Batgirl. Once Teen Titans went off the air, Robin joined The Batman‘s cast. And there are other examples.
jimmy: Was it the same Robin?
tomk: Yes, both were Dick Grayson. In a nice casting for The Batman, Dick’s father was voiced for the one episode he appeared in by Kevin Conroy, and the mob boss who killed Dick’s parents was Mark Hamill.
jimmy: I guess I mean, were they in the same continuity?
I can give you more examples, but those can wait for Justice League.
jimmy: I guess I can understand that, but to not allow Harley to play a big part on Arrow because they had plans for her in Suicide Squad seems silly when they have gone out of their way to separate the movie and TV universes. Flash anyone?
And I could be wrong about that and have never watched Arrow…
tomk: Well, Harley had a cameo in one episode featuring the Suicide Squad. She is never referred to by name, but a fairly familiar voice pipes in that she used to be a psychiatrist after seeing a blonde woman with two pig tails from the back.
More obvious may be how Arrow killed off their versions of Deadshot and Amanda Waller before that movie comes out.
jimmy: Spoilers Tom! Geez!
tomk: Sorry, Ryan.
Anywho…how did we even end up here? Back to the Mummy…
tomk: Yeah, that may be the last time I mention a preference to Nyssa over Talia.
So, yeah, that mummy.
I mean, a mummy fits in with Batman’s pulp roots, so it isn’t completely nuts, but still…where was a Zatanna with real magic when you need her?
jimmy: Well, I guess going in they never knew she would be needed. And did you think it was Ra’s descending the tunnel in the beginning?
tomk: That thought did occur to me. If it wasn’t, it means they killed a nameless explorer character.
jimmy: And for no real purpose. I didn’t find the intro added much of anything that wasn’t led up to by the main story.
tomk: Well, it was awfully mysterious.
Though I suspect you would end that description at “awful”.
jimmy: Haha, no, it was fine. I’m just not sure how necessary it was. Maybe they needed some filler and couldn’t exactly do an extended couch gag.
tomk: I think that’s it, as well as showing the home viewer there was something really dangerous down there.
But let me ask you this, Jimmy…did that mummy seem like it belonged on this show? I know we’ve had characters like Ra’s, Clayface, and Freeze, but there is a fake scientific explanation even for the immortal Demon’s Head. The mummy defied all that by her very existence.
jimmy: I see your point. I got the feeling though that she wasn’t all that different from Ra’s.
tomk: Well, she was craftier than Ra’s. I don’t seem to recall Ra’s making slime monsters and giant tentacles. Well, maybe in the Japanese version.
jimmy: No, but maybe he needs to be alive another few thousand years to manifest those powers. I’m sure those Lazuras pits aren’t the best for you.
tomk: What? You mean something that brings the recently deceased back from the dead and causes some level of maybe temporary insanity might have some side effects?
jimmy: It could happen.
tomk: I’d have to check my old chemistry text book.
jimmy: Well, it seems to have bothered you like their pants bothered me.
tomk: Look, Jimmy, if you have some sort of anti-jodhpur thing, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Actually, I chalked the pants up to the general series feel of something from the 1930s. You’d see pants like that then.
jimmy: Same with the mummy.
tomk: Yeah, as I acknowledged. That’s about the only way I could figure out how the mummy got on the show when Zatanna was just a stage magician.
jimmy: In either case, I don’t think Ra’s did his research very well on her. He was lucky to have survived.
tomk: Yeah, and he got all his heath back after Batman dropped a statue on that mummy.
We should remember that when some mummy tries to do that to Watson or something.
tomk: Or something.
Anything else to add, Jimmy?
jimmy: No. A nice little run of episodes after my “burnout” to keep me on track.
tomk: In that case, we should bring back Poison Ivy and Robin.
jimmy: Coincidentally I just read a Poison Ivy/Robin story…The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade. Hopefully this ends better for Dick Grayson than it did for Jason Todd.
tomk: Well, it would almost have to from the sounds of that.
“House & Garden”
Someone is robbing rich single men and leaving them poisoned by an unknown plant toxin! All signs point to Poison Ivy, but she seems to have gone straight and settled in the suburbs with a new husband and stepchildren…
jimmy: You know, for someone that would like to see all of the villains rehabilitated, Batman sure doesn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. But…I guess he has a point.
tomk: How out of the loop was he on this one? Gordon knew all about Ivy’s reform well before he did, plus the cops checked on Ivy before Bats even got involved.
jimmy: My first thought was “well, Ivy didn’t last one day in Arkham”, but then they say it has been 6 months since she finished rehabilitation. While they do add the occasional nice touches of continuity, this is a reminder that am the show is very much a Saturday morning cartoon show.
But you make an excellent point. Seems like a scene that should be reversed with Bats telling Gordon the skinny on Ivy.
tomk: Well, Dick was ahead of Bats in this one too, since he had the vital clues about Ivy’s new husband.
jimmy: Maybe Batman needed a nap.
tomk: Hey, being attacked by Swamp Thing types with teeth can set anyone off their game!
jimmy: At least we can say now we know what the babies of Hulk and Swamp Thing would look like.
tomk: With a bit of Wolverine thrown in for those thorny claws.
jimmy: I know it was a whole plant/cactus thing to fit with the Ivy story, but for such a serious, dark episode, the Cactus Man came off a bit too cartoony to me once revealed. He was pretty menacing when kept in shadows and offscreen though.
tomk: I thought he was a fine example of body horror in a kids’ show considering he was the clones stretched out in what looked like a painful matter, and then they melted away.
jimmy: Man, this really was a sci-fi/horror episode. Borrowing from things like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
tomk: Yeah, pretty heady science stuff, since the science they talked about involved DNA. Heck, the doctor was a divorced man. How often does that come up in a kids’ show?
jimmy: The show in general hasn’t had much of a representation of a standard family unit. Bruce and Dick’s parents were murdered. One assumes that Gordon is divorced, but I don’t know that it’s ever been mentioned.
tomk: In the comics, post-Crisis, Gordon was divorced from his first wife after an extra-marital affair. A second wife would be killed by the Joker.
jimmy: I don’t think Barbara’s mom has been mentioned on the show.
tomk: She hasn’t to my knowledge.
To be fair, she’s rarely mentioned in a lot of places.
Back to the horror aspect of this episode…man those babies were disturbing.
tomk: Ivy is a disturbing person if you think about it. Values plants over all, but that also seems to be all she actually eats…
But yeah, a bunch of pea pod clone babies calling for their mommy, that should scare a lot of potential parents out there.
jimmy: Does Ivy’s cloning ability ever come up again? Seems like a pretty powerful tool.
tomk: Sort of.
Another really creepy episode, though this one comes after the redesign and features a Terminator actor better known than Earl Boen.
jimmy: Edward Furlong?
jimmy: I guess we’ll wait and see. This was a great episode though. I’m surprised it is not viewed as more of a classic.
tomk: Well, it is a great episode, but maybe compared to other classics, it isn’t seen as great.
jimmy: High standards, sure.
Maybe people are just too disturbed by…Batman spending so much time in the daylight.
tomk: Besides, Ivy lost what she wanted most. That has to count for something, even if her photo album also had pictures of Harley and that plant family of hers.
And don’t forget, we also got Batman in the suburbs.
jimmy: The photos of Harley in the album were a nice touch.
tomk: The black and white photos of Harley, I am sure you mean. No color photos there.
jimmy: Jimmy thumbs through his notes…guess the only thing I got left is Batman’s cactus proof vest.
tomk: Batman can beat anyone with sufficient preparation.
jimmy: That’s for sure. And proven time and again. Unless their mom’s name is Martha.
tomk: That’s only true for Bruce. Other Marthas end up getting rescued.
jimmy: Good episode. Creepy. Anything else to add here?
tomk: Not really. Though I hope you liked this batch of three, Jimmy. Next up, we have one I barely remember, then a fairly good Harley ep, then the return of a villain you hated.
jimmy: Jeebus…not Zeus?
tomk: Not that one.
jimmy: I guess I will wait and see…
tomk: Yes. Yes, you will.
NEXT TIME: Tom and Jimmy will certainly be back at some point to talk about “The Terrible Trio,” “Harlequinade,” and “Time Out Of Joint”.