Going Through The DCAU Part Eight

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Continuing Jimmy and Tom’s rewatch of the DCAU.

This week, we cover the Batman the Animated Series episodes “The Clock King,” “Appointment in Crime Alley,” and “Mad as a Hatter”.

“The Clock King”

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Mayor Hill comes to regret giving some advise to uptight efficiency expert Temple Fugate on relaxing and changing his routine when the man comes back years later to harass him as the villainous Clock King.

jimmy:  Well, it was time for a clunker.

tomk:  Really? I quite liked this one.

Clock King may be the single most obscure bad guy they’ve pulled up yet. And yeah, he isn’t Mr. Freeze in terms of reimagining the guy, but this one largely worked for me, even if his initial attacks on Mayor Hill seemed to amount to silly pranks more than anything else.

jimmy:  I just never bought him as a villain. And the fact that Batman had so much trouble with him was a joke.

It’s not Sewer King bad, it just didn’t do much for me.

tomk:  See, here’s what I picked up…

First, he was a little crazy to start as an efficiency expert.

Second, the one thing he prided himself on was ditched for once and it cost him everything.

And the mayor, we were told, worked for a law firm opposing him that day in court. That didn’t get much play, and while I don’t think Hill deliberately set out to cause Fugit to lose the case, I do think it could have made for a greater motivation. The zoom in on his screaming mouth when the judge told him to be on time for a change really worked for me and showed how someone like him could go off the deep end. Besides, he was tightly wound to begin with, which is another clock-related thing we can say about him.

jimmy:  I found the court seem almost like a dream, which may or may not have taken away from it for me.

I get his motivation, I just thought he was lame. And I don’t care how long you study Batman, knowing it takes him a 20th of a second to throw a punch (or whatever it was) is a lot different than actually dodging said punch.

tomk:  True.

I did have a hard time buying he could avoid every punch Batman threw, even after, what? seven years of preparation.

But a guy who had timetables down for train schedules and anything else that works on a regular basis could cause Batman a lot of problems.

Considering the Clock King started as a Green Arrow enemy, there are other things in play here.

jimmy:  I’m not familiar with him.

But not just CK avoiding all his punches; there are times when Batman seems like he’s one of the Keystone Kops. His initial tumble off the clock hands for example.

tomk:  Here’s how I take it: geeks everywhere claim (partly thanks to Frank Miller’s work) that Batman can beat anyone “with preparation”. Clock King is basically doing as well as he does because he prepared for this day over many years of planning.

jimmy:  I could plan for 50 years, I doubt I’m beating Batman. :grinning:

tomk:  Well, you aren’t an evil efficiency expert…I think.

jimmy:  Mwahahahaha!

tomk: I found Clock King a more credible opponent than Lucas the special effects guy in “Prophecy of Doom”.

jimmy:  Haha, fair enough.

Tell me more about the comic version of Clock King. Maybe I will respect him more.

tomk:  He was a guy with a clock obsession that messed with Green Arrow. That’s about it.

jimmy:  So, just as lame.

tomk:  Well, that they made anything of him at all works for me. Keep in mind he’ll be back two more times, once in Justice League as the Suicide Squad’s timekeeper.

jimmy:  Part of my problem with this episode, that I alluded to earlier and will sound completely ridiculous since we are reviewing a superhero cartoon, is that I didn’t find it believable. I had a similar issue with the end of the last Joker episode. But at least it’s not shark repellent or bat-skate-blades.

tomk:  Huh. And I actually liked the ending to the last Joker episode and this one, while despising Nostromos and being lukewarm to that Joker Christmas episode.

jimmy:  That’s why we are mortal enemies only collaborating because of all the monies.

tomk:  Huh. I just chalked it up to cultural differences.

jimmy:  No. Mortal enemies.

Anyway…another thing I didn’t like was Alfred driving Batman around in the middle of the day. In full outfit, Battusi-ing out of the sunroof at each stop.

tomk:  OK, that was a bit much.

Apparently, though, Bruce is the only person in town to notice the traffic lights are all screwed up.

jimmy:  Well, he is Batman.

And then he climbs 40 flights or stairs while changing in 6 seconds.

tomk:  I guess he tapped the Speed Force for a second there.

jimmy:  Haha. I can let that one go. But even like CK’s escape there. Ok, he knows the train is 6 mins early…he can backflip off a building and land upright on it perfectly? I know, I know, don’t think about it.

tomk:  Even Joker didn’t spend as much time keeping track of Charlie in “Joker’s Favor” as Clock King did prepping.

And let me add, I don’t know much about the actor playing Clock King, but I really dug his voice.

jimmy:  I get it was seven years later, but c’mon.

CK’s voice was good. I’ll give him that. And the beginning with the whole “take your break 3:15” stuff (which he didn’t btw, according to the clock in the park, was only like 5 after) was an interesting story.

tomk:  Yeah, I mean, I hear your complaints, but given how much there was to work with the Clock King, I think they did good here. I mean, he’s no Sewer King, the suckiest suck who ever sucked, but he also no Mr. Freeze.

jimmy:  I agree. And it’s not that bad an episode, those things just bugged me.

tomk:  If we didn’t let little things bother us, we wouldn’t be Geeks.

So long as we don’t go to Ryan-esque lengths to discuss the things that bother us, we should be OK.

jimmy:  True and true.

tomk:  I see it this way: Batman has been around since 1939. Just about everyone has this idea in their head of who and what Batman is. Same is true for the Joker and other characters. When various mediums don’t portray Batman in a manner we think is acceptable, we get upset. Batman may be copyrighted to DC and Warner Brothers, but in a sense, he’s a character that belongs to all of us.

And, for whatever reason, some guy who lives by the second hand dodging punches is more than your sense of “right Batman” will take.

jimmy:  Exactly. Same reasons I hated the end of the Joker episode when he didn’t seem “right”.

Another way I looked at this episode, especially with all the classics we’ve watched of late, it was like a fill in issue so that the regular writer and artist could catch up on deadlines.

tomk:  Maybe. I still saw a real attempt to give a very lame bad guy some motivation and a backstory that fit his particular mania.

And besides, I mentioned the casting above. Don’t we just want to pop that guy in the face one, and Batman can’t quite seem to do it?

jimmy:  For sure.

tomk:  Frustration sets in when Batman can’t pop an arrogant jerk in the face.

jimmy:  I think you’re on to something. He came off like even Alfred could beat him yet he’s avoiding Batman like a pastime.

tomk:  And of all of Batman’s foes…don’t you want THIS GUY to get a punch in the face?

We want the bad guy to be proven wrong.

jimmy:  Good point. To some degree, you enjoy watching Joker, Mr. Freeze or Two-Face, even though they are the bad guy. This guy you just want to push in front of those two trains.

tomk:  It reminds me of an issue of Kurt Busiek’s Avengers run where Kang said he always manipulated time to have nothing but sons. Part of me really wanted Kang to be suddenly stuck with a baby girl.

jimmy:  How many sons did he have?

tomk:  He kept having more and more until he got the “perfect” one. Never succeeded. He wanted a dynasty. As far the Avengers knew, there was only one.

 

“Appointment in Crime Alley”

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Batman races the clock when Roland Daggett attempts to blow up the poor neighborhood of Crime Alley to make way for his own development project.

tomk:  Let me start by saying this episode has quite the pedigree. The episode was based off an old comic written by classic Batman scribe Denny O’Neil. The episode itself was written by old comic writer Gerry Conway.

jimmy:   I noticed. Have you read the original story?

tomk: Actually, no.

DC Showcase Presents reprints have only gotten a little into O’Neil’s run.

jimmy:  I’ve read it. It has the same backbone, but is very different. Bats visit Crime Alley on the anniversary of his parents’ deaths, but he doesn’t tell Alfred where he is going (and he does the same thing every year on that day and Alfred can’t connect the dots). He meets up with Leslie Thompkins, who took care of him when his parents were shot, but she doesn’t know he’s Batman and can’t figure out why Batman comes to Crime Alley each year. He gives her the “good people still live in Crime Alley” speech and then goes home and sleeps…with a smile on his face.

tomk:  Huh.

Well, I guess that segue is as good as any to discuss Leslie Thompkins. While Alfred is often used as a father-figure for Bruce growing up after the death of his parents, Leslie is generally shown as something of a substitute mother.

jimmy:  That’s basically the idea of this issue. I have no idea how long she was involved in Bruce’s life (comic or show) post the “you just lost your parents” embrace.

tomk:  I’m not sure about much of anything regarding her. Different creators acknowledge her to different extents. One story I remember revealed she and Alfred were actually in love.

jimmy:  Really? I’ve never seen that angle. You go, Alfred!

tomk:  Like I said, though, much of the depiction of Leslie Thompkins depends on the writer.

jimmy:  On Gotham she’s a lot younger, a lot hotter and the love interest of Jim Gordon.

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tomk:  I thought everyone on Gotham was a lot younger.

Oh, Morena Baccarin. Voiced Black Canary for Justice League.

jimmy:  I guess her age makes sense since Bruce is a kid. Though she’s never met him in the show. (I don’t think.)

tomk:  Most of the characters seem to be younger near as I can make out, except a couple folks like Riddler and Two-Face, so I guess the future Batman of Gotham gets his jollies beating up middle-aged men.

jimmy:  They pretty much do what they want with who they want. Selina Kyle, Jonathan Crane and Pamela Isley are kids. Riddler, Two-Face (well, Harvey Dent), Penguin, Bullock and Gordon are all around the same age.

But enough about Gotham. I thought this episode was great. Conway’s changes to the source material make sense and make it much more enjoyable than Batman being a jerk and telling Alfred to shut up and mind his own business. (To paraphrase, but that happened in the comic. )

tomk:  Alfred not only knows where he’s going, but approves.

jimmy:  In the show, yes.

tomk:  Meanwhile, Leslie Thompkins seems to know who Batman is.

jimmy:  Again, in the show.

tomk:  I will add…I found Thompkins’ scrapbook a little disturbing.

She has her glory days side-by-side with the death of Bruce’s parents. Why would you keep that in your book of memories?

jimmy:  I thought that odd too. The first time I saw that scene, I had to rewind because it almost seemed like it was her parents that had died since it was her scrap book. But the question is the same, why store that in your memory book?

tomk:  For convenience for the audience to know why Batman cares so much for this neighborhood.

jimmy:  And it is the closest we’ve gotten to an origin story.

tomk:  But aside from some really troubling scrapbook memories, this version of Leslie Thompkins works. One time Star Trek The Next Generation actor Diana Muldaur gives her some real heart with an underscore of toughness. Much better than some comic versions who spend a lot of time criticizing Batman for using violence to solve problems.

jimmy:  Agreed. I like Muldaur better here that that one season as the ship’s doctor.

tomk:  Well, she was an unexplained replacement for Dr. Crusher, and her character didn’t really fit in as a result.

jimmy:  One of the things the show has done is keep who knows Bruce is Batman to a minimum. It seems like in movies especially, as more time goes on, more people know. Even the comics are bad these days. I joked in one of our editorial meetings that they might need to reboot the new 52 since it seems almost everyone knows his secret. Especially once Dick Grayson was outed as Nightwing. That’s when Luthor figured it out. But I guess DC doesn’t care much as they just revealed Superman’s identity to the world.

tomk:  I was reading today on Cracked that secret identities are passé anyway. Marvel heroes, at least, go by their real names more often than not these days.

jimmy:  For sure in the movies. The biggest problem with secret identities is that anyone with half a brain can figure most of them out with ease.

tomk:  Which is why I always wondered if the Teen Titans knew who Batman was.

I know certain DC writers used to just say superheroes were on a first name basis with each other, but still kept their identities secret from the rest of the world.

jimmy:  I haven’t read much Titans but it seems like most heroes know each other’s identity.

tomk:  They all know Robin, later Nightwing, is Dick Grayson.

When the Young Justice series started, Robin’s real name was unknown. Impulse actually assumed Batman was his dad.

jimmy:  Well, he did adopt him…

tomk:  He hadn’t yet. At the time, Tim Drake still had his birth dad taking care of him.

But getting back to the episode…there was a great noir feel going on here.

Nitro’s helper was even designed to look like old movie tough guy Robert Mitchum.
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Oh, and he was voiced by Arrested Development cast member Jeffrey Tambor.

jimmy:  Nice. I never noticed that. Mitchum is great.

I saw Tambor in the credits but never noticed his voice.

Does Richard Moll voice the SWAT guy? His name wasn’t in the credits.

tomk:  He might have. Not sure. It could have been one of the other actors doing a different voice, even Conroy.

jimmy:   Perhaps.

tomk:  But I was wondering…why was Daggett driving off after Batman of all people told everyone watching the news that Daggett rigged the whole thing and one of them actually does this, “But Mr. Daggett…!”? Don’t public appearances by Batman count for anything? Especially when half the neighborhood can finger Daggett’s people for various shenanigans?

jimmy:  I know Gordon and Montoya trust him. I remember that rookie cop being in awe of him, but in general I’m sure most don’t trust Batman, notably Bullock. Plus, just his word without any physical evidence doesn’t mean much.

tomk:  True. That’s my take on Batman. Batman does not do public appearances.

“Mad as a Hatter”

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Inventor Jervis Tetch is feeling lonely and lovelorn. Too bad his solution of mind control hats and a passion for Alice in Wonderland just leads Batman to this Mad Hatter’s scheme.

jimmy:  How do those cards even work?

tomk:  Well, this may be the time to say more than ever not to think about it.

Here’s a better question: how bad should we feel for the Mad Hatter?

jimmy:  I feel bad for him. But where to draw the line? There are lots of Jervis Tetches out there that don’t have their stories veer into super villainy.

tomk:  Right, and this “feel bad for the guy that forced a woman into mindless servitude” thing seems like something Paul Dini would do considering his stuff with Harley. I just find that, in more recent years, the news pops up once in a while with some guy who felt women “owed” him love or something and he went and did something awful, and not in the cartoonish way the Hatter does because, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as mind control headwear.

jimmy:  Tell that to Dr Dre.

tomk:  It was something like a year ago some asshole shot up a bunch of people in California for that stated reason.

jimmy:  People are crazy. There’s no doubt about that. And obviously Tetch is one of them. Even his view that “I won’t use my mind control on Alice, I will make her love me legitimately” is warped when he manipulates everyone and everything around her to be perfect on their “date”.

tomk:  I think one of the things that this show went for (as seen in the Clock King episode very well actually) was that having one bad day can push some people over the edge. Alan Moore more or less said that was the Joker’s back story, even if the actual back story might have been in Joker’s imagination, but attempting to torture Commissioner Gordon didn’t do the same because Gordon was mentally and emotionally stronger than Joker had been prior to his accident. Characters like Fugit and Tetch are mentally weak to begin with, tightly wound or frequently bullied and lonely, that when they finally get a little bit of power, they misuse it.

jimmy:  I can see that.

And you always know the day you will be pushed over the edge because your boss Bruce Wayne comes on a surprise visit to your lab.

tomk:  That’s why I am glad I am not a genius inventor or specialist of some kind working for Wayne Enterprises.

jimmy:  Only Lucious seems immune.

tomk:  He’s only an inventor when he’s Morgan Freeman.

jimmy:  What did you think of the animation in this episode?

tomk:  It was decent. Some weak spots here and there. The previous one had some better overall sequences, but this one just had a lot of weird looking people in it.

jimmy:  Agreed. I did think it was weaker than the last few shows, but didn’t know how much of that to chalk up to Tetch’s character design, etc.

tomk:  There was a lot of weird looks running around. The Walrus and the Carpenter were just plain odd.

jimmy: They definitely didn’t go the subtle route with all the Alice In Wonderland stuff. Is it that in your face in the comics?

tomk:  Somewhat. Hatter is a very over the top villain. Often depicted as short and ugly with a penchant for speaking in verse, the current Hatter would have been nastier than the show would allow him to be. There was a different Hatter in the 60s, just a guy with a mustache and a thing for hats. Giving Hatter Roddy McDowell’s smooth voice makes him sound more like a romantic or a gentleman, though.

jimmy:  Yes, definitely more romantic than troll.

tomk:  Oh, I’d say still a troll. Maybe it’s just me watching it now instead of then, but he seemed a whole lot creepier this time around. It’s why I questioned how sympathetic we’re supposed to find him. The last image, showing the Mock Turtle statue crying, seemed a bit off. I can buy that Hatter is ultimately more tragic than half of Batman’s regular foes, but that doesn’t make what he did any less wrong. Clock King is an arrogant jerk we want to see get popped one in the nose. Hatter, with a bigger nose acting as a bigger target, comes across as more sympathetic, but the way he manipulates people might actually make him a lot more evil. Clock King even had a potential motive for the mayor, a possibly legitimate complaint involving Hill’s law firm opposing him in court, whereas Hatter does everything in his imagination. Even his telling Batman that everything is the Dark Knight’s fault comes across as much more of a fantasy than a number of other Bat foes.

jimmy:  I can see that. He lives in his own world. He’s not in Kansas anymore. Wait, wrong reference…

tomk:  I can sympathize that he’s lonely and heartbroken, but he went about everything the wrong way. The minute he thought, “I can use mind control to get myself a girl!” he went wrong. Even if he were doing it harmlessly towards Alice, just his date alone had him stealing a meal and getting two thugs to try and kill themselves.

jimmy:  Things have never worked out for me either when I’ve tried to use mind control to get a girl.

But it has to be tempting of you do have the ability to control minds to use those powers selfishly.

tomk:  I am sure. There’s a reason few superheroes have actual mind control. They’ll call it telepathy or something, but outright control is a villain’s game.

jimmy:  Yeah, someone with the power to mentally roofie someone is probably not up to anything good.

tomk:  I am sure there are some mind control superheroes, but they tend to have strict codes of ethics or other powers besides, i.e. Professor X.

Superheroes, really, are about freedom of choice.

That’s why they don’t tend to topple dictatorships. Sure, the FF could probably dethrone Doom, but they’d prefer the people of Latveria do it instead.

jimmy:  I’m sure the Latveria general election has a lot of options.

tomk:  Not quite what I meant, but I think you know what I did mean.

jimmy:  Perhaps. 🙂

tomk:  Your Canadian wiles confuse me at times. Anything else to say, Mad Jimmy?

jimmy:  I think that’s it for me. Onward and upwards.

tomk:  Or, back to square one…which I believe means another Scarecrow episode.

NEXT TIME:  Tom and Jimmy cover “Dreams in Darkness,” “Eternal Youth,” and “Perchance to Dream.”

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