Continuing Tom and Jimmy’s rewatch of the DCAU.
This week, we’re covering the Batman: The Animated Series episodes “Joker’s Favor,” “Vendetta,” and “Fear of Victory”.
Some poor schlub gets himself in trouble when he cusses out the Joker for cutting him off in traffic. The Joker simply decides the guy owes him a favor and forces him to deliver during a ceremony meant to honor Commissioner Gordon.
tomk: Poor Charlie, though I gotta say, Harley for all this is her first appearance doesn’t seem to register as much other than a woman in a costume.
jimmy: And I think she is in costume for like one scene. The rest of the time she is dressed as a chauffeur or police woman.
tomk: I think Joker only refers to her by name once. And there is a blonde woman in glasses in police headquarters who I suspect was her.
jimmy: In this episode?
tomk: Yeah, it’s a brief thing when Gordon and Bullock are chatting about the award, and this blonde woman walks past them.
Coulda been Harley.
jimmy: I never noticed. Does she eventually have the “standard” used to be Joker’s psychologist origin?
tomk: Yeah, I think that comes up later. But when I saw the woman in police headquarters, she looked exactly like Harley does in her flashbacks in “Mad Love”.
jimmy: I was disappointed somewhat in her debut; she is just so hyped now, and the role almost seemed like a throw away.
I liked the way they handled the Joker though. Having it be years later, Charlie going into “witness protection” or whatever to protect his family, etc
But the end. Oh man…
tomk: The end makes the episode. I mean, the whole episode, Harley’s underwhelming role notwithstanding, is great, and I chalk that up to Paul Dini’s script. Because, yes, the Joker is obsessed enough and has the means to keep track of a guy for two years and then call in a favor just when the guy (voiced again by Ed Begley Jr.) thinks he’s safe.
I actually wonder what that guy told his family to get them to move.
jimmy: I hated the end. It works great in a playful “Joker’s afraid and calling to Batman for help” kinda way, but if this was a true Joker situation he would have played along at first and worst case scenario he’s handcuffing himself and Charlie to the bomb, or something like that.
tomk: I dunno. I really liked the ending. Charlie gave the Joker a taste of his own medicine and got a bit of his dignity back, something that he was griping about in the beginning of the episode. The Joker being something of a coward in the face of his own death fits the show’s version of him. Heck, it made Batman laugh. I approve.
jimmy: I agree it works from that angle, and if you like that, that’s cool, and maybe it is consistent with their tone for the Joker, I just thought it was out of character. Move this exact scenario to Nolan’s Dark Knight or Azzarello’s Joker or Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke…no way it plays out that way. But again, if consistent with their show bible, that’s cool too.
tomk: True, but those Jokers were designed for a more mature audience. This Joker was designed for a kid audience.
Most of the mature stuff is in the undercurrent, like the nature of Joker’s relationship with Harley, which becomes more apparent in future episodes, so I’m going to hold off on that for now.
jimmy: There is a touch of that here. He really doesn’t treat her very nicely throughout.
tomk: He doesn’t treat her especially poorly either. His henchmen are clearly scared of him, but most of the poor treatment is aimed at Charlie.
jimmy: I know it’s not over the top, but it is obvious that she cares for him and I think of him shoving her out of the way on the desk. Very minor, but very telling of his nature.
tomk: OK, that is true.
Quick note: did you notice that one of the henchmen was reading a Tiny Toons Adventures comic book? I believe both Dini and Timm worked on that show.
jimmy: Haha, I did. Nice touch. I think there was a Tiny Toons reference in a previous show as well, but damned if I could tell you what it was.
And can I just say that the people of Gotham, even the police, are not especially bright. Crazy Clown Catering for Gordon’s big do? People please!
tomk: They’re too used to Batman being the only man in town who can recognize a Joker scheme from 20 feet away.
There was actually a Batman comic I read once where Gordon tried applied for a police job in another city but was turned down because everyone assumed he was an incompetent that let Batman do all the real crime fighting in Gotham.
jimmy: Really? I can see that.
Oh, and how convenient was the room with the giant bat that Charlie knew how to control at exactly the right time???
tomk: See, that was the other thing I liked about the episode: ultimately, it was regular guy Charlie, a chubby guy with a combover, who saved the day. The episode basically was about empowering a guy with no power, and then letting him appreciate how drab his life is. That he got to slug the Joker in the process and scare a guy who’s used to scaring others, that was the appeal for me.
jimmy: I get that. And it has that appeal. But often times things like that bug me. One of the big reasons I hate Forest Gump. But, in this case I can let it go, I just made a note of it. I’m picking on the episode a lot, but I did like it.
tomk: Oh, it’s a good episode, though not a great one. A great one would have shown more of Harley being Harley and not just a girl in a costume with a weird accent.
jimmy: Agreed. Again, it was almost a throwaway role here. Either they didn’t expect to keep her, or more likely, hadn’t really found her “voice” and characterization yet.
tomk: I suspect the latter. She isn’t gone long. Dini famously was inspired by actress Arlene Sorkin wearing a clown outfit on a soap opera she was on. Plus, her voice is clearly modeled after 40s movie actress Judy Holiday, who specialized in dumb blondes.
jimmy: I’m too young and handsome to get that reference.
tomk: So am I, except I’ve seen some really old comedies.
Trust me on this one.
And who knew Ed Begley was the man of a thousand bat voices?
tomk: Well, two.
Here, I found a clip of Judy Holiday in action from one of her best known films. You can see the skeleton of Harley Quinn there when you consider her boyfriend is a mobster.
Batman investigates what looks like a series of disappearances of various criminals in police custody. All evidence points to Harvey Bullock, but it’s all an elaborate set-up by the half-crocodile man Killer Croc.
tomk: One thing about this episode I always wondered…how did Bullock arrest Croc in the first place?
jimmy: It’s typical super villain/police trope. How many times have we seen a super villain battling a super hero that ends either with the villain running off because they hear police sirens coming or, after being defeated by the super hero, just calmly get taken away in cuffs by the police?
tomk: True, but Croc doesn’t come across that way. At least at the end of this episode, he’s clearly unconscious after a bunch of bricks fell on his head. At some point in the past, Bullock managed to subdue him and slap some cuffs on the guy.
jimmy: Probably something you shouldn’t think about. 🙂
tomk: Well, yes.
But anyway…Killer Croc. Interesting character. Relatively recent addition to Batman’s regular enemies, originally he was a smart mobster with an odd skin condition. Over time, he’s gotten dumber, stronger, and more like an actual crocodile.
jimmy: I’m not overly familiar with him, but recent things I’ve read have him as being a massive, basically crocodile version of Marvel’s The Lizard, and not so much bad as willing to kill to protect his own.
tomk: He’s varied. Some comics portray him as some sort of Lizard-like character. Others depict him with a very crafty intelligence of his own.
But almost definitely a bad guy. How much he looks like a crocodile depends on the artist drawing him, too.
I had a question about Bullock too. This is not the first time Thorne has appeared, but this is the first time Bullock gets taken off the case because of his past. Just one of those things (i.e the plot)
Yeah, the latter is what I’m used to seeing.
tomk: Bullock’s level of corruption often depends on the writer too. At the very least, his past shows he may not be much of an angel.
I think he’s usually portrayed as he is on this show: kind of a slob, not much of a fan of Batman.
He plays off well with Montoya, who is his opposite in many ways.
jimmy: Croc from the Batman Arkham games
jimmy: The Montoya/Bullock dichotomy was on full display last episode at Gordon’s award ceremony.
tomk: The two are eating together at a diner for this one. Bullock finishes his meal as the cops pull up. Why a uniformed cop and a plainclothes detective are hanging out together, I have no idea, so I’ll chalk it up to “best not to think about it.”
jimmy: I kinda wondered that too, but you are right. But friends are friends. Regardless of Montoya being a detective yet.
tomk: The show almost makes them look like partners, not friends. Again, not going to think about it.
Croc, meanwhile, is clearly higher on the “intelligent and crafty” scale than he sometimes is here.
Plus, his nearly four legged style of scrambling around on land makes him appear more animalistic.
jimmy: Speaking of appearing animalistic…did Batman really need to go to the zoo to watch the crocodile presentation to figure this all out? Even the preceding set up with Alfred’s “crock pot” was groan inducing.
tomk: Well, it was an odd leap. Batman had never heard of Croc before. I guess the Batcomputer’s internet connection was down so he couldn’t check Wikipedia.
jimmy: Robin was probably chewing up all the bandwidth downloading Game of Thrones.
tomk: I think they were still on dial-up speeds back then. He probably could get the information faster by actually going to the zoo than anything else. Doesn’t he need to check old microfiche to find Croc’s backstory?
jimmy: He does.
tomk: Well, then, the zoo may have been quicker, though I’m still not sure what made Bats think of crocodiles given he’s never even heard of Croc before.
jimmy: And heard of Croc or not, did you find Batman was awfully quick to point the finger at Bullock? Seemed like he was “guilty until proven innocent”, which is generally the reverse of Batman’s M.O.
tomk: Generally, but I think the point was raised by Gordon that Bullock is hard to like. What evidence Batman found did point to Bullock.
jimmy: I know, and I’m sure there is lots of history there we are not privy too, he just seemed to jump to judgement pretty quick.
tomk: He did only have about 22 minutes to crack the case. Croc himself was only being hinted at that point. The home viewer knew Bullock was innocent, but Croc was an unidentified shape. His eyes were on the title card, and there was a glimpse here and there, but until Batman found his lair, Croc himself was never given a good look for the viewer or even a name.
jimmy: You bring up a good point though, some of these episodes almost feel rushed based on that 22 minute timeframe. This might not have had enough to stretch to a two parter, but could have been flushed out more.
tomk: It may not have had much to begin with. They wanted to include Bullock and Croc. One or the other would have made for a fine story, but shoehorning in both caused problems.
jimmy: Speaking of Bullock and Croc…c’mon police…were you really fooled by Croc “in disguise”?
tomk: Hey, Croc had a good Bullock impression.
That probably wouldn’t have worked if Croc had tried to pass for Gordon or Montoya.
So, let me ask you this, Jimmy…is Croc good for anything other than being a big, strong, and generally dumb guy for Batman to beat on?
jimmy: I know in the comics they try to use him as a “protector of the sewer people” or something like that, but generally I’d say no.
tomk: Given the fluctuations of his intelligence, I’d say that may be the reason. Batman doesn’t need a big brute to beat on fairly often. If he ever made it to a Batman movie, and not the supporting role he has in Suicide Squad, he’d probably be muscle for a bigger villain or something.
jimmy: Like Bane in Batman And Robin.
tomk: Something like that. He won’t be the scaly mob boss from the original comics stories.
jimmy: I have a feeling Suicide Squad is going to be a train wreck, but that’s another column.
tomk: I have a feeling its going to be the Joker, Deadshot, and Harley show, regardless of how good it is. But that is indeed another column.
“Fear of Victory”
tomk: OK, Jimmy, I want to say a little something here. I’ve been rewatching the show on Amazon Prime, and it is a complete pot luck which opening credits sequence I get. Sometimes it’s the original. Sometimes it’s the New Batman Superman Adventures opening. And for this one, I got the Batman and Robin Adventures opening.
jimmy: Weird. Because of the Robin appearance, I guess. Do you remember what you got for the “It’s A Wonderful Life” episode?
tomk: I think it was the original opening. This was the first time I saw the and Robin opening.
jimmy: It’s not that way on the DVD. I don’t think it was officially and Robin until season two.
tomk: If I remember, there are a handful of the and Robin openings but not until season three near the end.
jimmy: Strange. Maybe they felt bad for Robin since Batman sent him off to college for 90% of the episodes so that he’d have a bigger share of the royalties.
tomk: I think it was a network directive actually. They wanted more Robin. The longer the series ran, the more often Robin appeared in an episode.
jimmy: More kid friendly
tomk: I wonder about that. I don’t think the series got any more or less kid friendly with Robin. But that’s something we can discuss later. I actually really like this Robin. He’s mature and can actually handle himself for the most part without any problems.
jimmy: And has a great knack for picking out roommates.
tomk: It’s like how Bruce always visits friends at the right moment to find out some cult leader is scamming them.
jimmy: Lol. Good point.
I was going to ask you about Robin, and you mentioned his maturity. What do you think of the choice to make him college age and not a middle teen?
tomk: I actually think it’s a good one. Robin did eventually go off to college, and since Batman is often a solo hero, having that going on makes for a convenient explanation for why Robin isn’t always there. Besides, there’s something unsettling about taking a kid off to face murderers and mobsters.
jimmy: Agreed. And they really mashed up all the comic Robins into one. He is a lot parts Grayson, but the suit is pure Tim Drake. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there’s any Jason Todd in there…
tomk: Not really. All the Jason Todd stuff got used for this show’s version of Tim Drake.
Aside from the costume, though, the character is pure Grayson.
jimmy: I was a little surprised no one noticed anything on the telegrams until Batman pointed it out.
tomk: Yeah, I would have thought the chemicals would have been sticky or stained someone’s fingers before then.
And let’s hear it for the show’s retro design elements again. Telegrams? Leather football helmets? Whatever works, man.
jimmy: The hockey gear was very old school too.
One other thing that was old school, security. Dick just jumps out of the stands and runs onto the field no problem at all.
tomk: He maybe had secret roommate privileges.
jimmy: Double secret roommate privileges.
tomk: Something like that.
Did the Scarecrow’s plot seem beneath him to you?
jimmy: He needed money to fund his experiments, but yeah, it was a bit lame.
And not like he was studying how people reacted or anything. Just needed them to fail so he’d win his bets.
tomk: Which really makes me wonder why they needed Batman to figure out who was behind the whole thing.
jimmy: They’re not the sharpest crayons in the box.
tomk: I can just imagine the police trying to talk this one out.
GORDON: A bunch of athletes are suddenly scared out of their minds. Any suspects?
BULLOCK: Penguin for sure!
MONTOYA: I agree!
GORDON: Go stake him out!
jimmy: Haha. Their intelligence from episode to episode seems to be as consistent as Croc’s.
tomk: Well, Gordon’s usually OK. But then I think its because Gordon just waits for Batman to weigh in.
GORDON: A bunch of athletes are suddenly scared out of their minds. Any suspects?
BATMAN: It can only be that master of fear, the Scarecrow.
GORDON: Your instincts are sharp as always, my friend. I’ll just…hey, where’d he go?
MONTOYA: Commissioner, the Scarecrow just got dumped on our front steps with a note from Batman pinned to his chest.
jimmy: Pretty much about right.
tomk: There has to be legal repercussions there. I remember Greg Rucka did an issue of Gotham Central where it was revealed the Gotham PD had an intern to switch on the Batsignal, because due to a legal loophole, they couldn’t turn it on themselves without endorsing vigilantism.
jimmy: Excellent point. I never thought of it that way. But I guess outside of that story it isn’t thought about much.
tomk: Well, the Gotham PD are generally just seen hanging around waiting for Batman to dump crooks in their laps. That was what made Gotham Central a cool series: it was about the cops and Batman was a supporting character if he showed up at all.
jimmy: I’ve read some, it is good.
So, should we change Bruce’s name to Cat-Man? He sure has a lot of them just kicking around in glass cases.
tomk: That was a little disturbing. He sure has a lot of lab animals. My cat-loving wife would have been really upset.
jimmy: I found it strange that all the Arkham inmates were sitting in their cells with their costumes on.
tomk: I actually like it when they do that. It’s a frequent bit that Arkhamites are sitting around in costume. Small cameos tend to work for me.
jimmy: I saw in the credits that Tim Curry did a voice here…do you know who it was?
tomk: I have no idea. I assumed it was some small role he recorded for before he left the show.
jimmy: Yeah, he was just listed under “Additional Voices”.
tomk: I saw. How bizarre.
jimmy: Could be a different Tim Curry for all we know.
Well, next time, we can tackle the Clock King, the Mad Hatter, and a trip to Crime Alley.
NEXT TIME: Jimmy and Tom cover “The Clock King,” “Appointment in Crime Alley,” and “Mad as a Hatter”.