Monday, January 30, 2012

Batman TAS S01E04: The Last Laugh

Alright, we took a week off, and almost missed this one as well because we're lazy, but we're here, and we're ready to launch into episode four: The Last Laugh.

The episode opens on a bundle of newspapers being dropped off at a local stand. The headline: Happy April Fool's day Gotham! I'm sure that most major metropolitan cities reserve the front page headline for the announcement of minor holidays. Particularly those which have comedy-themed genocidal maniacs running around. It's just generally a good idea to casually make reference to the modus operandi of your local supervillain. That always ends well.

We pan up to a garbage barge being skippered by a clown. Like we said, a great idea. The garbage barge's fumes are bright green, but I can't really tell if they're supposed to be visible to people within the show, or if the cloud is only visible for the viewer's benefit. Whatever the reason, contact with it forces people into fits of hysterical laughter. Everyone knows this is a Joker episode at this point, but how much do you want to bet that the show will still do a “big reveal” when he first appears on screen.

Back in Wayne manor, Batman cuts himself shaving. Alfred enters, and we really wish he would comment “Maybe you would have better luck with a baterang. You always seem to do perfectly with those.” Alfred immediately makes up for disappointing us with a god damned epic bat-troll. He tells Batman that he's drawn a bath, then produces this:

Batman turns on the radio whilst showering, only to immediately hear the report of the laughing citizens. He quickly deduces that it is the Joker. Because he's the world's greatest detective. At least we were wrong about there being a big reveal.

With the city in a fit of laughter, Joker and his crew steer their garbage barge to land where they disembark pushing shopping carts and wearing gas masks. The show then cuts to a bunch of unconcerned citizens, who seem far too placid, considering the news reports of a horrible city-wide laughing gas outbreak. I guess Gothamites must simply be used to this shit by now. If you lock yourself in your house every time a Supervillain attacks, you won't get jack shit done. Bosses probably don't even accept it as an excuse not to come in to work.

These laugh-attacks seem to happen in Gotham a lot. Maybe Batman ought to share some of that laughing gas antidote he's no doubt developed. Then again, given his demeanor, perhaps the reason he's refrained from making more freely available is because it has immunized him against all forms of joy. Which is why he's such a dick.

(Morrie says that if we don't call Batman a dick now and then, nobody will know she's still here.)

We can't help but notice that the store Joker robs first is called “Jewels 'R' Us.” I get that they were attempting to appeal to their younger audience, but we can't tell if this is actually an improvement over the more common naming practice in Gotham, where shop owners simply name their establishments after whatever type of establishment they are. Banks are all named “Bank,” restaurants are all named “Restaurant,” and most other Jewelry stores are simply named “Jewlery.”

Back in the Batcave, the Batman has used his Bat-weather balloon to determine that the gas which is spreading through the city will cause permanent insanity after prolonged exposure. Also, he's welding something for some reason, which as far as I remember never comes up again. Alfred starts going crazy as the gas reaches Wayne manor, and starts breaking a bunch of shit. Nobody else we've seen in the episode so far has reacted to the laughing gas by becoming destructive. Most of them are just holding their sides, or even dancing around in circles. Maybe Alfred secretly resents the fact that he's essentially a servant to his surrogate son. (Alternate ending to this sentence: resents the fact that Bruce is a dick.)

Batman heads out in the bat-boat to figure out where the Joker is, and through a series of completely unexplained events does just that. There's a fight with joker's goons, and Batman continues to be lucky in that he rarely encounters mobsters who actually carry guns. Unfortunately, he continues his unlucky trend of running into escaped mental patients who can afford robots. “Captain Clown” defeats Batman handily, and shoves him into some type of sealed metal container, which joker pokes some air/water holes into, then throws into the water.

Batman escapes just in time through judicious application of bat boat, and follows the Joker to the Ace Waste Disposal Plant. Fun Bat-Fact: the Ace Chemical Factory is where Joker acquired his unique skin, lip, and hair coloring, when he fell into an open vat of chemicals. Apparently part of his legal settlement from that accident is that the Ace corporation must provide Joker with a certain number of hideouts and/or laughing-based chemical weapons.

Batman once again easily neutralizes Jokers two goons, but finds himself again outmatched in round two with Captain Clown. The two play cat and mouse through the junk yard, and Batman's cape once again gets him in trouble when the Captain takes hold of it. Fortunately they're in a junk yard, which means it's an easy matter for Batman to trip the robot into the car smashing device which always seems to show up in cartoon junk yards.

The Joker, being without his cronies, flees into a large chamber filled with lava, giant cogwheels, pits of fire (in addition to the lava), and lots and lots of slides for the two to travel around on. The whole chase culminates in Joker once again falling over the edge of a railing to his own certain demise, only to be rescued by Batman. Where is the Christian Bale style “I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you!” batman when you need it?

And worst of all, we're treated to this un-batman-like pose:

In the closing scene, Alfred is cleaning up the mess he made of Wayne manor whilst in the grips of dementia. Bruce asks him why he appears so somber, and Alfred replies that he's depressed about destroying the “priceless Ming vase.” As he says this, he throws the vase in the garbage.

Um...he seems to know that it's priceless, so why in the world is he throwing it out? Even pottery fragments from the Ming dynasty are items of important historical value! You can't just throw it out like it's garbage!


Fuck the rich.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Batman TAS S01E03 "Nothing to Fear"

NOTE: Morrie and I are trying out a few different posting formats, so we'd like to apologize for the inconsistency. We started out here thinking we would write neutrally about the episode, then do commentary when we encountered something funny, but that felt really choppy and didn't seem to be working. As the post goes on, we switch mostly to just coming to a consensus on what is funny enough to mention. Thanks for bearing with us while we work the kinks out.

The episode opens on Gotham city at dusk, a helicopter darts between the buildings. We cut inside the helicopter to see that it is filled with hoodlums and their guns.

LS: It seems like villains have really easy access to helicopters in Gotham.

Morrie: It's like there's some place where villains rent them. And they all know how to fly one.

The scene cuts to a banner which reads “Save the University, Charity Book Signing.” People milling about beneath the banner have expository conversations with one another. Apparently the University has been suffering from vandalism and robberies, and is in danger of going broke. The woman who was tied up in Christmas with the Joker approaches an old man with a titanic mustache. She introduces herself as Summer Gleason, so apparently I was wrong about her being Vicki Vale.

The two discuss how dire the University's situation is, and end up in an elevator with Bruce Wayne. The episode then briefly cuts to a shot of the helicopter hoodlums loading their Tommy guns.

Morrie: All criminals all the time use Tommy Guns.

LS: Well, it is based on the 1940s.

Morrie: Menemenemeh >.>

Back in the elevator, Massive Mustache Man lets Bruce Wayne know just how disappointed his father would be to know that Bruce has dragged the Wayne name through the mud.

Morrie: God damn, Batman looks really sad.

LS: Mustache went way too fucking far, too. I mean, “Your father would have died of shame?” Who fucking says that?

Morrie: That's like telling Caroline Kennedy that she didn't live up to her father's expectations.

LS: Yeah. God damned heartless. I bet he's the kind of professor students know not to take classes from.

Batman hits the “L” button on the elevator, and stands there brooding for a moment. But then he sees a helicopter flying by outside of the building, and gets really suspicious.

LS: Why in the world would seeing a helicopter get him all excited like that?

Morrie: Because villains always rent helicopters. Haven't you been paying attention?

The scene cuts to the lobby, where a security guard is reading a Tiny Toons comic, which is a nice reference to Bruce Timm's earlier work. His merriment is interrupted when the villains blow a hole in the ceiling, and climb down via a rope ladder.

Morrie: I like how explosions always cause perfectly sized holes.

LS: I want to know why they decided the easiest way into the building was to blow a hole in the ceiling when there's a window RIGHT THERE.

LS: This is the first good look we get at the Scarecrow, so it's as good a time as any to ask: what the FUCK is up with his head? It's like a balloon attached to his shoulders.

Morrie: Honestly his entire frame is way too skinny to be healthy.

LS: Maybe the scarecrow is Anorexic. How can we blame him, trying to live up to the example set by the mad scientists on the covers of Scientific American.

Scarecrow's fear toxin is introduced as he incapacitates the guard. The guard begins to freak out as he hallucinates that red four legged spiders are crawling all over his body. The scarecrow and his goons then head off to loot the “university vault.”

Morrie: I don't think Universities have vaults.

LS: It even has the huge circular vault door and everything, right out of a bank.

Scarecrow and one of his goons grab a bunch of the money, and start spreading around gasoline to burn up the rest. They're interrupted when the other henchman, standing guard outside, shouts “Help, boss! It's the batman! He's got me! Hrgmph!”

Morrie: Smooth, Batman. That's some sneaky-sneaky right there.

Scarecrow has his remaining goon climb up on top of the safety deposit boxes in perpetration for an ambush. He then throws a smoke bomb filled with fear toxin at the doorway. Batman, never to be outdone in preparedness, is already wearing a gas mask. He asks Scarecrow who he is, and Scarecrow melodramatically replies “I am fear incarnate! I am the terror of Gotham! I am THE SCARECROW!” A little later in the episode, Batman makes a melodramatic self-proclamation of his own, shouting “I am vengeance! I am the night! I am BATMAN!” I wish they had moved that line here. I like to think that's just how everybody in Gotham introduces themselves.

Scarecrow starts threatening Batman with a roadside flare. His goon jumps out, and provides just enough distraction for Scarecrow to shoot batman right in the back of the head with a dart gun.

LS: ...why not a real gun? With a bullet. One that would, ya know, kill batman.

Morrie: Because Batman would dodge a bullet. Darts are his one weakness.

Batman, weakened by the dart's toxin, stumbles forward apparently with the intent of knocking the flare out of Scarcrow's hand, lighting the gasoline, and setting the vault aflame. Scarecrow and his two goons easily flee, but not before Batman manages to tear a bit of cloth from scarecrow's cowl. Batman then suffers a terrifying hallucination of his father, telling him just how ashamed he is of Bruce. The show then cuts to commercial, with the cliffhanger of Batman being unconscious in a burning building.

As we return from commercials, the sprinklers come on, and save Batman from any harm. The cops show up, and Detective Bullock mocks Batman for failing to stop the burglary.

LS: Well that was anti climactic. Saved by building codes.

Morrie: I hate this scene. Batman should never be this chummy with the cops. He's supposed to be mysterious, and somewhat supernatural. Him standing in a room full of cops with a headache just makes him seem like a crazy guy in a bat suit.

LS: Speaking of, where does Bullock get off blaming Batman? At least he was there, unlike the the Gotham City PD. Besides, doesn't he know that Batman ALWAYS loses his very first encounter with the Scarecrow? Otherwise the fear toxin wouldn't get any play time in the episode.

Back at Scarecrow's HQ, with the helicopter parked out front, the villain explains to his cronies just why he hates the university so much. He worked there once, as a psychology professor specializing in phobias. He essentially describes how he's been a psychopath his entire life. He was eventually kicked out of the university for locking people in rooms filled with spiders and snakes. Which seems pretty reasonable to me.

LS: I'm pretty sure “phobia specialty” isn't a real thing.

With the exposition out of the way, the show cuts to the Batcave, where the camera inexplicably focuses on a television commercial which shouts “You'll feel like a million dollars. I've watched this episode a few times now, and I honestly have no idea how this fits into the rest of the show. Unless it's just supposed to be a joke about how Batman is feeling sad right now.

Batman puts the scarecrow's mask into the bat computer's omni-scanner, and it lets him know that it will “scan and cross reference.” Which normally takes no time at all, but in this episode seems to require a few hours. Batman then ponders aloud, wondering why Scarecrow would hate the University.

Morrie: I know! How about we look up people who have been fired from the university. That seems like a pretty simple place to start. Come on, world's greatest detective. HINT HINT!

LS: I love Alferd's line here. “Imagine that, sir! Someone dressed up in a frightening costume, running around scaring people. What will they think of next?” I think that Alfred honestly thinks Bruce is fucking crazy, but is just too prim and proper to express it as anything other than passive aggressive slights.

Batman begins to whine to Alfred about how hard it is to have dead parents, and how he thinks his dad would be ashamed. But Alfred tells him to suck it up. Then leads him off to go to bed. The show cuts to the University, which is holding another fundraiser, which is again crashed by Scarecrow, who begins flooding the place with his fear toxin. His goons grab Professor Massive Mustache, and there's a good 1-2 seconds of Scarecrow's still-frame shit-eating grin before Batman shows up and throws a grapple around his leg.

LS: Wait, I thought Batman went to bed. We established that like...half a fucking minute ago!

So everyone, under the effects of the fear toxin, sees Batman as a horrible bat creature. But instead of fleeing from him, the entire charity auction decides to attack him. Apparently fear toxin can make you experience your worst fears, or make you aggressive, depending on whatever works best for Scarecrow at the time.

Batman escapes from the gassed up mob, and chases Scarecrow to the roof just in time to grab the last trailing bits of tubing from Scarecrow's dirigible.

LS: Okay, I get that there's a helicopter rental for super villains, but where the fuck did he get THAT?

Morrie: I'm convinced that there's a supplier of these things, and Batman could stop half the crime in the city by just shutting them down. But he doesn't, because he likes to fight crime.

As Batman climbs inexorably upwards, Scarecrow is within the dirigible’s cabin, excitedly announcing that not only has he ruined the University, but that Batman has been annihilated.

LS: Wait, what? What makes Scarecrow think that? Last time he saw Batman, he was surrounded by scared donors, sure. But I don't think seeing a superhero get hit in the head with a woman's purse justifies jumping to the conclusion that he's dead. He must have been a pretty awful research scientist if he jumps to conclusions so easily.

So Batman shows up, Scarecrow shouts “IMPOSSIBLE!” and sends his goons out to stop the Batman. Which leads to an exciting fight atop the dirigible, ending only when the dirigible crashes into a building, no doubt killing a few people. Batman manages to avoid falling through the use of his grapple gun, but fails to catch Scarecrow's goon, and the man falls, presumably to his death. But we're shown a brief cut of the guy landing on a restaurant awning, letting us know he didn't perish.

Morrie: They talk about this in the commentary for Justice League. It's called the “Still Alive Rule.” They couldn't leave characters in situations which suggest that they might have died. They need to have a “Stillalive Cut,” or a “Stillalive Groan,” to let the audience know that nobody is dead. It shows up all the time.

LS: It's really too bad. I understand that it's not the producer's fault, it's the fault of overprotective parents. But honestly, when I was a kid, and watching this show, I was annoyed with cuts like this. I'm talking about when I was 6 or 7 years old. Young enough that I was one of the kids supposedly being “protected” from violence, but it just broke my suspension of disbelief. Which is pretty bad, because at 6 or 7, kids believe just about anything.

So anyway, Batman grapples back up to the dirigible, and is barely hanging on to it when he's hit by another toxin-induced fear attack. His father repeats the line about being ashamed of Bruce, but Batman decides he's had enough of this shit, and banishes the specter with the greatest line in the entire series.

Newly emboldened, Batman swings into the dirigible's cabin, and throws one of Scarecow's goons against the control board, causing the airship to crash into another building, again killing several. Scarecrow pulls a gun on Batman, and Batman notices just in time to position the goon in the line of fire. Unfortunately for Batman's code of conduct, Scarecrow has learned from his previous encounter with Batman, and this time it is are real gun. The goon falls over dead.

...No, not really. The goon starts hallucinating about being in prison. He leaps out the window, falling to what would be his death, but we're treated to another “stillalive cut” of the fellow landing on a handily placed tree. Scarecrow escapes an an ultralight, and Batman leaps free with Professor Massive Mustache, just in time to avoid a massive flaming dirigible crash into the side of a skyscraper, doubtless killing dozens, or even hundreds of occupants. Not to mention those unfortunates on the street below, who must suffer a rain of flaming wreckage.

But at least Professor Massive Mustache is okay.

Back in the bat mobile, the bat computer has conveniently finished its analysis of Scarecrow's mask's material. Apparently it's pretty special, because only a few labs in town manufacture it. Batman asks the computer to cross reference with former employees of Gotham State University, which he really ought to have simply done from the get go. One is found who just happens to specialize in “Fear and Phobias,” which just sounds more ridiculous every time I hear it.

Batman somehow arrives at Scarecrow's chemical company before he does, and opens the valve on some fear toxin containers, causing the Scarecrow to see him as a giant bat demon, as Batman grabs him and hauls him off to jail. The episode wraps up with Bruce visiting the graves of his parents, putting a nice endcap on the guilt which has plagued him throughout this episode.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Batman TAS: S01E02 "Christmas with the Joker"

Here we go, episode two, "Christmas With the Joker," written by Eddie Gorodetsky. I remember this as being the absolute worst episode of anything Bruce Timm ever produced. I don't even know why this episode was made. Who does a holiday episode before the characters and setting have had some time to establish themselves?* For that matter, who introduces characters as important as Robin or the fucking JOKER in a holiday episode?

The episode starts off fantastically with this title card. What the fuck is that supposed to be? It's like some kind of malformed cow fetus with joker's face and eyes superimposed over it.

The episode opens on Arkham Asylum, where the inmates are singing Jingle Bells. The Joker starts singing the classic Batman version, "Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg. The batmobile lost a wheel and the Joker got away!" I wonder if this is where that song came from, because I remember hearing it as a kid, but since this episode originally aired when I was five or six years old, it's completely possible that my peers just pulled it from this show.

I find it hilarious that The Joker is allowed into the general population, and even more hilarious that he's allowed to hold an obviously sharp tree ornament. I realize the show is pretty G rated, but The Joker is still a psychopath with dozens or hundreds of murders on his hands. He's a threat to the other inmates.

And by the way, what the fuck is that tree topper? I realize that an angel might be seen as overly religious, but why not a star instead of that bizarre circle and blade thing? That seems to be overtly weapon-like for the guards to allow into an asylum for the criminally insane.

So anyway, Joker jumps onto the tree, it turns into a rocket, and he flies away to freedom. And that basically sets the tone for this episode. Part of The Joker's character is that he's amazingly resourceful, but this episode simply takes it too far. It reaches Adam West levels of ridiculousness. And, all due respect to Mr. West and his fans, I fucking hate the 1960s batman.

Cut to the Batcave. Batman and robin are on their way to the Batmobile. Which further decreases this episode's value in my eyes. Robin is a terrible character, and weighs down any episode he's in. So anyway, Robin wants to stay home and enjoy Christmas eve rather than going out on patrol. Batman, rather sensibly, reminds him that the fucking JOKER just broke out of Arkham. What kind of crime fighter would he be if he simply ignored a genocidal supervillain on the loose?

God damn it, Robin. Think things through.

Anyway, Robin makes Batman a deal: They'll go on patrol for a few hours, and if they don't find anything, they'll come home, and watch It's A Wonderful Life, which prompts Batman to utter my favorite line in the entire episode.

"I've never seen that. Could never get past the title."

There are two ways in which batman can be fucking hysterical. The first is when he's put in a silly situation, because he's the ultimate straight-man. that's why the Joker is such a great villain for him. The second is when he goes out of his way to remind everyone how hard his life has been. He does it numerous times throughout his appearances in the Timmverse, and I'll be pointing out every one.

So Batman and Robin go out on patrol. Robin is being a whiny bitch, and repeatedly asks Batman if he's ready to admit nothing bad ever happens on Christmas. Batman's only response is to throw his grapple batterang and swing away. Because Batman is an asshole, and I love him for that.

I know that, eventually, batman switches to only using his mechanically launching grapple. I wonder when that happens, since at this point he seems to be switching back and forth between them still.

Eventually the two end up back at Wayne Manor, where Dick (Robin) goes to turn on Bruce Wayne's huge-ass TV, so the two can watch It's a Wonderful Life, which Bruce is none too enthused about. Fortunately for him, the Joker has taken over every television station somehow, and is broadcasting a shitty Christmas variety program, made slightly more interesting by the presence of three hostages: Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and a woman who I believe is Vicki Vale, but I'm not sure, because this is her first appearance in the series and her name is never mentioned.

The three are being "gagged" with candy canes stuck in their mouths. Not gags shaped like candy canes, mind you. Normal, run-of-the-mill candy canes, which are somehow impossible for them to spit out. You might imagine that they are somehow affixed to the hostages, yet Joker repeatedly pops them in and out of his victim's mouths with no trouble. Yet another example of the campiness of this episode.

One thing I will give this episode is the cardboard audience Joker has set up. Not only is it amusing in the classic Joker style, but it doesn't seem completely preposterous that he was able to set it up. Unlike escaping from a maximum security asylum and having control of every TV station mere hours later.

We cut to Batman and Robin in the batmobile, as they follow the "power surges" to Joker's hideout, all whilst watching Joker's program on a television screen mounted on the dashboard. What, are you stupid, are you retarded or something, that's god damned dangerous, Batman!

Turns out it's fortunate they were watching, though, because Joker has some of his thugs blow up trestle, with a train speeding towards it! Batman and Robin must spend a few minutes of screen time chasing down the train, and saving the people on board from death. The whole scene feels like padding, to me. I get that Joker likes to put people in danger just to watch Batman struggle to save them, but normally it serves some purpose within the story. Here it simply delays Batman from falling into the trap Joker has set for him.

Finally, Batman and Robin arrive at the Observatory atop Mount Gotham (because everything is named Gotham. I'll bet there's also a Gotham River), where they've deduced the Joker is staying, based on the "power surges." They find a giant Christmas present waiting for them, and Batman puts his arm out to stop Robin from approaching.

"Careful Robin," he says "I'm sure there's more to this than meets the eye."

While watching it, I couldn't help but add "Old chum!" to the line. It's as though they made the dark and gritty pilot episode, then thought "Now lets base an episode off Adam West's Batman, and see if we like that better!"

The present turns out to be a giant Joker-In-The-Box, which announces that Bat-Brain has wandered into a trap. The most ridiculous, stupid-ass trap I've ever seen in my entire fucking life:

The observatory lens is now a cannon with an automated batman-tracking system. There is no way to respond to something that stupid with anything but a blank stare. Who thought this was a good idea?

Robin runs off to try and deactivate the nonsensical cannon, while Batman draws its fire. After accidentally causing the cannon to rain destruction on Gotham city (doubtless killing at least a few hapless civilians) Batman says into a radio "Robin! Operation CAUSE, and EFFECT!" which apparently means "Do the god damned thing I already told you to do, you useless twat!" because Robin's response is to throw some kind of device at the observatory cannon's gears, causing it to shut down.

Back in the Bat mobile, the duo turn on the hazardous dashboard television to see if there's a clue about where to look next. The Joker obliges them by showing off a Betty Blooper doll. Batman just happens to know that those dolls were discontinued 14 years ago, and exactly where they were manufactured, because Batman knows everything. Which I'm fine with.

So the two head off to the factory, which is now completely devoid of any sets or broadcasting equipment. Joker skulks around in the shadows, spinning dials and pulling levers, activating some giant toy robots. Because this episode is done with any pretense that it's not going for Adam West levels of campiness.

And if that's not bad enough, once the robots are down, the duo are attacked by toy planes with Joker faces painted on the pilots.

And if THAT'S not bad enough, Batman grabs a baseball bat to fight them with.

And if THAT'S not bad enough, there's this:

Once the goofy fight scene against the aggressive toys is over, Robin makes a painfully obvious "BAT man" pun. This entire episode would have been worth it if Batman's only response was to punch Robin in the head here, but no such luck.

Two of Joker's goons run out onto a catwalk, and begin firing their machine guns indiscriminately down into the warehouse. Batman shouts "Snipers!" and runs for cover, which makes me think he may not be aware of what that word means.

For some reason, the gunners give up the high ground and climb down into the warehouse, just as Batman climbs up to another section of catwalk. Batman then disposes of them with a bear which first magically floats, then grows thirty times larger as it falls on top of the pair of gunmen:

The episode wraps up with Joker holding his hostages over a giant vat of bubbling red fluid. Is that supposed to be molten lava or something? Maybe molten plastic, since it's a toy factory? Why does Gotham have so many large open vats?

Joker gives Batman a Christmas present, which turns out to be a pie in the face. I honestly don't see why Batman would open a gift from The Joker in the first place, but it's honestly pretty funny. Like I said above, Batman's the ultimate straight man. Even lame physical comedy like a pie in the face works pretty well on him.

So Joker cuts the rope, Batman leaps up and grabs all three hostages at once, then manages to grab joker, who gets away, slips on a roller skate, and almost falls into the vat, but is grabbed by Batman just in time. The episode ends with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson finally watching It's A Wonderful Life, and Joker singing Christmas Carols in a padded room. I can't tell you how glad I am that we were able to get this episode out of the way so early.

It's worthy to note that years later, in justice league, they revisit the concept of The Joker taking over a television station. It's a really great episode, and one of the few times that a Batman villain gets a chance to take on the overwhelmingly super powered Justice League. I kinda feel as though that episode is an apology for this one. Or at least a throwback reference to an episode I can only imagine they're ashamed of.

*I am aware that the pilot episode of
The Simpsons is a Christmas episode. They pull it off somewhat, but it honestly isn't a great episode.

Wow, what a horrible way to introduce the Joker and what a horrible episode. This episode is the kind that it’s funny because it is so damn stupid. First off, WHY THE FUCK IS THERE A ROCKET?! What idiot at Arkham Asylum thought it would be a good idea to let Joker out into the common room of the prison and then thought it would be a good idea to let him put the pointy metal star on top of the tree. Any rational person would think, “Surely! This will end with the Joker stabbing someone!” Nope! Rather the tree is a rocket and joker jumps aboard and flies to freedom. How the fuck did nobody notice that and who set it up? I’m convinced that there are actually no guards at Arkham and prisoners are on the honor system but goddamn, Joker just loves elaborate escapes.

Batman: “I’ve never seen a ‘Wonderful Life,’ I can never get passed the title”


Where does joker get all this shit?! Apparently for Joker it is possible to...

  • Set up a rocket secretly and fly away on it.
  • Find a broadcasting studio and gain full control over all the TV channels.
  • Coordinate with bad guys to blow up a bridge and provide them with the explosives.
  • Kidnap three people, one being Commissioner Gordon.
  • Turn an observatory lens into a cannon with automatic tracking and infinite ammo.
  • Make a bunch of robots of himself less than a day. I think there is a real reason to be scared of the Joker!

I dunno what to say about this episode. It’s bad even for a Christmas episode.

Batman TAS: S01E01 "On Leather Wings"

Alright, here we go. DVD box 1, disc 1, episode 1: “On Leather Wings,” written by Mitch Brian. Since this is the first episode, it seems as good a time as any to mention the opening. I doubt anyone from my generation, fan or not, is not familiar with it. Unfortunately, every one of the dozen uploads of it on youtube has embedding disabled, so you'll have to follow the link to watch it. But be sure to come right back!

I love the contrast between light and dark, and the use of silhouettes throughout. This is really some very sophisticated visual work for a kid's show. It's stylistically different from the way the show actually looks, but it exemplifies the show's general style. Both in it's darkness, and in its celebration of 1930s styles. Everything from the sharp lines on the criminal's hats, to the designs of the buildings, to the cop uniforms, and of course, my beloved dirigibles. Plus that is some fantastic scoring. I'm not good at noticing music, so I probably won't talk about it in these posts anywhere near as often as I should. But the music in this show is fantastic.

But enough of the general stuff. Lets dive in to the episode itself.

We open on a dirigible, which I've already mentioned my feelings on. One of the cops patrolling in this graceful sultan of the skies notice a blip on the radar, then sees a bat-creature fly by. The other is skeptical, but they investigate. Nothing is found. But we the viewer know better!

We follow the bat creature, seen only by its shadow, to a building labeled Phoenix Labs. Where for some reason, a security guard is pretending that he's making an advertisement for a school for radio broadcasting. Not pretending he's a radio broadcaster, mind you. Pretending he's advertising a school FOR radio broadcasters. Dude seems to have some seriously low expectations for himself.

Bat monster steals some chemicals, attacks the guard, throws him out the window, yadda-yadda. I'm not quite sure why they're still only showing the creature's shadow on the wall, since it's pretty clear at this point that some manner of bat-man creature is on the loose.

OH, i c wut they did ther.

We already have a pretty good idea that there's a bat monster, so I'm not sure why they're trying to hide it.

Harvey Dent is introduced here as the District Attorney. I really like that the show's creators decided not to start his character as Two-Face. It allows for the kind of character development, and progressive storytelling one does not often see in the status-quo world of children's programming.

And, finally, we have batman:

Alfred is pretty god-damned uppity in this episode. His first reaction to seeing the newspaper headline is “Been reading how to make friends and influence people, sir?” And when Batman indicates it wasn't him, and Alfred asks “So it wasn't you throwing people out of windows last night?” Batman's response is “I only throw butlers out of windows.” That's some seriously catty banter for Batman. I like it.
So the world's greatest detective is on the case. He heads off to investigate, and show off some of his gadgets. First he grapples to the building. Where he does a little “Peeping Bat”

Hmmm, hey baby, lets make the kisses with our mouths:


So Batman sneaks into the crime scene, knocking out a police officer with a gas pellet in the process. I like that he's at odds with the police here. Too often Batman is portrayed as having way more support amongst the police, and way more trust in them, than I think he should.

Once at the crime scene, batman pulls out his spray paint and tags it with his logo. Apparently he's less of a crusader for justice, and more of a “preposterously over-equipped street punk.”

Actually the spray seems to work in conjunction with some kind of electronic visor he apparently got from the X-Men surplus store. Now evidence is slightly more obvious to him, or something. He finds some footprints, the audio tape the guard was playing with, and a follicle of hair.

So the cops arrive, and the SWAT team literally shouts “Hup hup hup hup hup hup hup!” as they disembark from their van. The storm the building, and batman evades them in a very well staged set of stealthiness and gadget use.

Hush now...

One of the SWAT fellows throws a tear gas grenade into a pile of flamable liquids, and Batman leaps out of the building's window with a demolition-sized explosion in his wake. It is a rule of all media that explosion size is determined by cinematic effect, rather than any correlation to how explosive something is.

Batman then throws a batterang with a rope attached, and swings off. Apparently he carries both a mechanically launched grappling hook, and a manual grappling hook at this point in the show, and switches between them inexplicably.

Evidence now in hand, Bruce Wayne heads to the Zoo, where some scientists surrounded by the obligatory overly complicated chemistry equipment. There are three of them, a young couple who are polite and genial, and a cranky old man who appears to be the woman's dad. The old bastard spouting standard comic book science. What the fuck does he mean when he says "Humans won't survive the next evolutionary cataclysm, but bats will!" Also, is it just me, or are women scientists in shows like this always part of ubiquitous "scientists families." I don't think those occur half as often as television writers seem to think.

So anyway, Batman hands his evidence--both the hair follicle, and the recording the guard made (which includes some monster sounds--to the bat scientists, hoping they can find something he didn't. He says he the recording is of sounds he found in his chimney, but when played it sounds like the roar of some kind of mythical monster. Real subtle, batman.


He then returns to the bat cave, and gets all trussed up in his bat costume just in time to receive a callback. There's something about Batman answering the phone in Bruce Wayne's voice which leaves me giggling like a ninny. The elder scientist is on the line, and tells batman some obvious lie about how there's nothing he needs to worry about. Clearly, this old fella has something to do with the shenanigans batman is investigating. Or, as Batman puts it, "He's LYING, and I'm going to find out WHY!"

So Batman breaks into the zoo and is immediately confronted by the younger male scientist. They trade words, Batman accuses the elder man of being a lunatic, then the younger man reveals that his father in law's utter dickishness was just a red herring. Demonstrated by his immediate transformation into a giant creepy bat creature. Then his wife walks in, and the bat creature looks like he was just caught with his hand in his pants. He flees out the window in shame, and Batman grapples onto his leg, again using the mechanically firing grapple, rather than the thrown grapple.

The show cuts to the two cops from the opening, again in their dirigible. They're bickering over whether the sensor blip is anything they need to pay attention to, when batman smacks into their window.

What follows is actually a beautifully animated action sequence where Batman attempts to survive being hauled through the sky. Eventually, Batman manages to get onto manbat's back, and the cops are able to get a good look at the two of them together, apparently proving batman's innocence because the manhunt for batman is never mentioned after this point. Batman then covers manbat's eyes, which for some reason causes him to fly into a wall. For a show which, ostensibly, should know a little something about how bats work, one would think they wouldn't fuck up something as basic as echolocation.

Impressively, the show manages to even show a bit of blood in this scene, which is a rare enough sight to be noteworthy.

The cops show up, and Batman flees with the unconscious manbat. We then cut to the batcave, where Batman is attempting to reverse the mutation. Alfred appears with his typical dry humor, asking if he should set two places for dinner tonight. Batman ignores him, and stares at a computer screen for a few seconds, until a perfect cure for manbat's mutation occurs to him. God damn, if only cancer or AIDs turned people into giant monsters, am I right?

First episode of the Batman Animated Series and I guess it wasn’t that bad. I actually thought the animation was better than I remember. It’s very detailed and expressive but still very unattractive. I don’t really have the skills to point out all the specifics but I think what gets me is the contrasting coloring such as things like batman’s black cap with blue streaks and characters seem to have this glossy glow which makes them stand out from the generally darkened background. The last season of batman, while the animation was simpler, it was stylized and colors where more consistent and appealing and Batman had a fucking solid black cap, goddamn.

This episode quickly sets up Batman’s relationship with the police which seems to be a pretty distrusting relationship. One guy sees a bat-something and, regardless of all the other crazy monsters who run around Gotham, a security guard’s statement gets the whole police force on Batman’s tail. The quick response to capture him sets up well that there is a lot unknown to Gotham about Batman and that’s enough to be fearful. Though honestly I would be more fearful of the police who can’t read a sign that says fucking flammable before throwing in a tear-gas grenade.

The story moves on to establishing the character of Bruce Wayne which this Wayne is definitely different from last season Wayne. Earlier Wayne seems to be a boastful rich boy, the kind you just know bought his way through college and slept with your girlfriend. Later Wayne is more a respectable and responsible businessman, the kind that’s actually not a dick.

But whatever, they’re all faces of Wayne I suppose. When the story introduces Wayne it also introduces comic book science. The crazy old man studying bats promptly informs Wayne that bats are the only creatures who will survive the next evolutionary cataclysm. What the fuck is evolutionary cataclysm? Do you mean cataclysmic events that changed the courses in evolution? Is that a hint that you know something cataclysmic is coming? ...Are you going to cause it? QUICK BATMAN! GRAPPLE! He has certainly jumped on lesser hints than that.

But the only thing in this episode which makes it good is Alfred and his constant comments that establish him as an impudent dick.

Alfred: “Ah very good sir, shall I cancel Wayne’s date with...Bambi was it?”
Batman: *sigh*