Continuing Tom and Jimmy’s rewatch of the DCAU.
Three cops all tell different stories involving Batman and a bust gone wrong.
tomk: I just wanted to start this one by saying, as much as we suspect that Captain Clown might have been inspired by the Terminator, this episode almost certainly was inspired by my personal favorite movie, Roshomon. Roshomon is a samurai movie directed by the great Akira Kurosawa, in which the movie amounts to an unsolved murder mystery. The reason the mystery is never solved is because each of the four witnesses to the crime–a bandit, the widow, the dead man’s ghost, and a woodcutter–all tell different stories about what happened, each at least a little self-serving, and none of the stories match up at all. While the episode here does show what really happened in the animation, the differences in the story between Bullock, Montoya, and the rookie cop’s versions was at least in the spirit of Roshomon. And Kurosawa is an incredibly influential director whose works have also inspired other movies like The Magnificent Seven and Star Wars.
jimmy: Interesting. I’ll have to check it out. I have seen Seven Samurai.
Though really, the only story that doesn’t match up is Bullock’s, which we know is self-serving as the real story is shown as you said in juxtaposition to his tale. It fits character-wise as well; it is not surprising for him to: one, try to cover his own ass, and two, blame Batman who we know he hates.
tomk: The rookie talks about how Batman has superpowers. His story isn’t any better just because he’s in awe of Batman while Bullocks hates the guy. Montoya gave the only “fair” account.
jimmy: Fair enough. I saw it more as “it was dark and he couldn’t really see”, but you may be right about him romanticizing Batman. His account was still accurate though, as opposed to Bullock’s which was mostly lies.
And what was Montoya’s status at that time in the main DCU? Obviously prior to her becoming The Question. This episode took her from a having a bit part to being a major player.
tomk: The rookie’s account was accurate in that he recounted Batman saving his life, but that was about it.
Montoya was created for the show and would later appear as a detective in various comics. Writer Greg Rucka did some great work with her, developing her relationships with Bullock, Batman, Two-Face, and her family, outing her as a lesbian, watching a partner get gunned down, sliding into alcoholism, and eventually rising up to become the new Question. Rucka’s work with Montoya was just awesome all over.
jimmy: Agreed. I never realized she was created for the animated series. Cool.
tomk: She’s probably second only to Harley for crossover characters who went from this show to the comics and then beyond given she’s apparently a character on Gotham.
jimmy: Slightly off topic, but would you say that Harley is the most successful character ever that started off as an original animated character and then crossed over into comics and now movies? Only other I can think of is Batman Beyond, but his comic success has been average. Might be some non-DC character I’m not thinking of or even realize.
tomk: If you go back further, you’ll find Jimmy Olson and Alfred came from non-comics sources. Jimmy was a character on the Superman radio show in the 40s, while Alfred was added for a Batman movie serial.
jimmy: True enough. Excellent examples.
Back to this episode, I thought the animation was stunning. Besides the quality, it seemed to have a really different feel to it. Much more stylized and noir.
tomk: The suited gangsters helped. That was always one of the series’ strong points, the noir-ish setting. And how many times can you claim to see a gangster attack a vigilante with some kind of drill?
jimmy: I take it from your comment earlier that you don’t watch Gotham?
tomk: I tried. The pilot bored me. I did see Montoya, and I caught bits and pieces while waiting for Sleepy Hollow.
jimmy: It’s good. Her character has a bit of a different twist, as do most of the characters on the show. Her partner is Crispus Allen, but I don’t think The Question or The Spectre will be showing up any time soon.
tomk: That might be asking too much. I suspect the producers only have the rights to Batman-related characters.
jimmy: Batman won’t be showing anytime soon either.
tomk: Speaking of other heroes, though, that driller gangster was voiced by Hellboy actor Ron Perlman, who will later voice Clayface.
And that was the best segue I could think of there.
jimmy: Haha. I noticed his name during the credits, but didn’t really stand out when I watched the episode. He has a distinctive voice that I usually do pick up on.
tomk: I didn’t pick it up either. I thought it might have even been Conroy at one point.
jimmy: And sorry I ruined you potential “gangster with drill” segue earlier. 🙂
tomk: Eh, no worries. We ramble here as it is. I consider it a good conversation if we at least address each other’s points.
jimmy: I don’t really have much more to add. It’s a lot easier to ramble about crappy episodes like the Sewer King. This was just solid from top to bottom and a stepping stone for the upcoming classics with Two-Face, Clayface and “Heart of Ice”.
tomk: I agree. Good intro to Montoya, who had maybe a line or two before this, but really shines in this episode as a cop who believes in Batman and assists him when he needs it.
While going undercover as a homeless guy, Batman gets a conk on the head and loses his memory. He wakes to find himself a prisoner in a work camp way out in the desert.
jimmy: As an aside, prior to watching this episode I watched a short doc on the DVD which made an interesting point about the opening sequence having no titles. Nowhere does it say “Batman” or “Batman:The Animated Series”. They felt it was iconic enough that any viewer of any age in any language could watch the opening and go “oh, this is Batman.”
tomk: It does an excellent job of telling you everything you need to know about Batman before the episode’s title card flashes.
But here we have the old amnesia bit, caused by Batman watching an alley cat for…some reason. And then we meet a guy named Boss Biggis, that I will from here on call Fatman, who was clearly designed to be hated instantly by the kid audience.
jimmy: He was a walking cliche. The episode is surprisingly ok, but walked a fine line.
tomk: Despite the amnesia plot line and some goofiness involving Alfred flying the Batwing, I actually liked this one for some reason. Yeah, the way Batman of all people lets himself get distracted by watching a cat in an alley after smacking around two guys while never taking his hands out of his pockets is a bit lame, and it’s best not to think about how that make-up Bruce puts on apparently doesn’t run when he’s sweating in a hot sun, but sticking Bruce in the desert as opposed to Gotham City was a nice change of pace, the harmonica music gave the episode a nice tone, and unlike the Sewer King, Fatman’s plan actually made sense since he was mining for gold. Now, if his thugs knew better than to jump a guy getting into his car who clearly isn’t homeless and maybe leaving the surprisingly spry hobo alone…
jimmy: You covered a lot of the points I was going to make. I liked Bruce taking out the guys with his hands in his pockets, but him getting clubbed and knocked out was a bit groan inducing.
Even with his memory gone, Bruce’s first instinct is to help the guy that gets sent to “the box”.
And it’s not just his makeup, his hair is white for the duration of the episode and at the end when he is back to being Bruce Wayne, they don’t even bat an eyelash (pun intended) until Alfred summons him.
I liked the character development you alluded to with Bruce’s first undercover detective work and Alfred being given something to do besides bring Master Bruce tea.
tomk: Alfred can apparently sneak into the dump in his tuxedo and no one will notice.
There was a moment when Bruce and Alfred reunited, Bruce gives Alfred a friendly punch in the arm. I really dug that for some reason.
But really, the highlight of the whole episode are a pair of silent dream sequences, where we see what the inside of Bruce’s head looks like. He regains his memory remembering his parents, a grave, some flying bats, etc.
jimmy: Absolutely. I’ve really liked the fact that they continue to allude to his parents and what happened but never come out and say it or have an origin episode.
tomk: I’m hoping that’s for the same reason they don’t do origins for Joker or Penguin…the movies were still fairly recent and people knew his backstory.
jimmy: Joker gets a little cameo in one of those dream sequences as he adds to his minute count of screen time second only to Batman.
tomk: At this point, I think Bullock might have more screen time than Joker, but it’s close.
jimmy: I was hoping the entire episode would play out without Batman. I thought that would have been bold. But alas, he does make an appearance at the end in one of those “if anybody thought about it for two minutes they could figure out his identity but no one does” kind of things that superheroes do constantly. “Spider-Man is in Paris where we’ve never seen him before at the same time Peter Parker is in Paris for work. That’s funny. Anyway, let’s talk about something else.”
tomk: I’m not sure Fatman and his people would connect the escaped prisoner to Batman. Ditto the other guys in the camp who actually see Bruce drive off with Alfred.
jimmy: Perhaps not. Either way, the episode clearly was better than you would expect given some of the foolishness and suspension of belief involved.
tomk: Yeah, like I said, I actually rather liked this one. Not enough to see Fatman come back as a regular character, though. Like Sewer King, he was created for the show and never came back after his one and only appearance.
jimmy: Thank God.
tomk: Have you anything else to add here, Jimmy?
jimmy: Nope. Let’s move on to the requisite Joker episode.
“Be a Clown”
Mayor Hill’s son Jordan feels neglected at his own birthday party, so he sneaks onto the birthday clown’s van. Too bad that clown turned out to be the Joker
tomk: Oh. Wow. Another kid episode.
Plus, we have the Joker striking during a birthday, which isn’t a holiday but is a cause for celebration, and he later falls off a great height again. Only this time, Batman doesn’t catch him.
jimmy: Well, it wasn’t a vat of acid at least.
tomk: He also actually landed this time. No Batman to grab him before he hit.
jimmy: I’m sure he would had had it not been water he was falling into.
tomk: Well, you know, tossing exploding baby dolls at kids may be Batman’s kryptonite.
jimmy: Hey, he’s no Sewer King. Batman reserves a special punishment just for him.
tomk: Yes, because Sewer King deserves it by virtue of being the suckiest suck who ever sucked.
jimmy: Then again, maybe he couldn’t save Joker. For some reason, he had to get Jordan to reach out his hand to him instead of just scooping him up and saving the day.
tomk: Well, yes, that roller coaster was more dangerous than Bullock on Taco Tuesday.
jimmy: Heh. The kid angle was kinda weak, but they played the Joker more sinister than playful this go round.
tomk: I was wondering where Mayor Hill’s wife was…and how old she was since Hill looked old enough to be Jordan’s grandpa.
jimmy: Good for you, Mr Mayor! 🙂
tomk: Unless he’s a widower. Now I feel bad. Mrs. Hill is like the mother of a Disney Princess.
jimmy: That would be my guess. A better guess would be that she was unimportant to the plot.
tomk: Maybe Bruce shoved her aside before he dumped the cake in the pool.
Does no one recognize a Joker face on a giant candle anymore?
jimmy: It’s only the third episode, he’s still building his rep.
tomk: Well, we learned you shouldn’t compare him to Batman. Gotham can’t go a week without an incident. The Mayor should know better.
jimmy: We have given it a hard time so far, but it is a good episode. Not a classic, but enjoyable.
tomk: It wasn’t bad. I’m just not sure it was great or anything. Joker needs Harley around, and we haven’t seen her yet.
jimmy: The only thing I really didn’t like was how punny Batman was throughout.
tomk: See, I know I rag on the kid thing in these early episodes, but these are early episodes. They’re still figuring things out. Stuff like amnesia plots and a slapstick-y Alfred don’t work, but they didn’t know that yet. Even after we get to “Heart of Ice,” there’s still some really terrible episodes after that, like “Prophecy of Doom”.
jimmy: There are growing pains to be expected. Even “Heart of Ice” is almost within the first dozen episodes, so not unexpected that they would still be figuring things out after that.
tomk: Well, I won’t say anything more about “Heart of Ice” until we get to it. Do you have anything more to add for this one, Jimmy?
jimmy: Seems like we haven’t said much, but not really. They seem to go to the Joker well too early too often but understandable for Batman’s most popular villain, coming off the success of the Burton Batman. Our next threesome should start kicking things up a notch with the origin of Two-Face.
tomk: And a small episode where Batman tries to reform a mob boss. Should be worth a chat.
NEXT TIME: As Jimmy and Tom said above, next time we cover the two-parter “Two-Face” and “It’s Never Too Late”. Be sure to be back, same Bat-space, same Bat-site.