After a long, unnecessary delay called “Tom’s vacation,” Tom and Jimmy are back with more DCAU chat.
This week, we cover Batman meeting an evil ninja, an evil guy giving diseases to stray dogs and cats, and an evil psychiatrist.
A ninja is robbing Wayne Enterprises sites! What does this have to do with Bruce Wayne’s past?
jimmy: Is this the first time we’ve flashbacked to Bruce’s training?
tomk: I think it may be. That we see anything of Bruce’s training is impressive. Most times it’s just assumed he traveled the world, met various martial arts masters, and learned from them. Nolan just had him learning stuff on the streets before the League of Shadows took him in.
jimmy: In comics lore, did Alfred accompany him as it appears he did here?
tomk: Not sure. It depends sometimes. Sometimes he stays behind and takes care of the Manor. I think that’s what was depicted in Miller’s Year One though it’s been a while for me there.
jimmy: It seems like a time period that tends to get overlooked. Even Nolan only touched on it. It’s usually: Bruce’s parents get killed, he heads off to travel the world and learn martial arts, yada yada yada, now he’s Batman.
tomk: How much he travels also depends on the writer. How much time did Bruce spend in Japan? Even this episode only says that he went there, not how long he trained there or where he went afterwards or even if that was his first stop.
Many comics might also say Wildcat trained him, but that probably isn’t true in the New 52. Wildcat trained just about everybody between the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Flashpoint.
jimmy: Do you have any comic recommendations for the training years?
tomk: Not off the top of my head. The 52 mini-series after Infinite Crisis barely touched on Bruce going back to Nanda Parbat for some retraining or something along those lines, but I can’t think of anything definitive.
jimmy: That’s what came to my head as well.
We’ll get Ryan to write a definitive one when he’s done getting famous with Fallen.
tomk: Yes, Fallen, the greatest single street-level vigilante issue story ever written. Everyone should read Fallen right now! Why are you not reading Fallen? Don’t waste your time with conversations between Tom and Jimmy over 20 year old cartoons. Go read Fallen. We’ll wait.
jimmy: Undersold it I think.
tomk: Well, our chats aren’t underwritten by Audible.
How impressive did you find the ninja, Jimmy?
jimmy: He was nothing special. He seemed to exist more as a vehicle to drive the narrative of Batman overcoming his fears.
tomk: Yeah, he didn’t seem all that tough. It looked like Robin was holding his own with the guy after Bruce was tossing Dick left and right during some martial arts practice.
jimmy: And he was only beating Bruce at the end because Bruce was holding back to conceal his identity with Summer watching.
tomk: Yeah, not an impressive ninja.
jimmy: And how could he not figure out Bruce was Bats?
tomk: Doesn’t he when he comes back for the sequel?
jimmy: I would not know…yet. 🙂
tomk: I would say he’s not an overly impressive ninja considering how many security guards hear him at work.
jimmy: Makes you wonder how he beat Bruce so often on the early days. Bruce was young though and obviously continued to improve.
tomk: I was also thinking, “THIS is the guy that scares Bruce Wayne? Batman’s already stealthier than him, and Robin was holding his own. OF COURSE Batman can smack him around.”
jimmy: Yeah. It seemed a bit out of place. Like it should have been one of the first shows.
tomk: Or even just a scarier guy than some dude who can cut a flashlight in half.
jimmy: And I wondered why Batman even has Robin around? In 3 of the last 4 episodes he just tells him to stay home. He does the same thing a lot in the Arkham video games.
tomk: Well, it’s a good thing Robin rarely listens then.
jimmy: Haha, true enough.
tomk: This was a rather uneventful episode. We’ll be covering another ninja episode later, but is there anything you wish to add here, Jimmy? Like how much everyone should read Fallen?
jimmy: Fallen is awesome for sure.
But otherwise we can move on. Ok episode. Nothing eventful.
“Cat Scratch Fever”
Catwoman goes looking for her missing cat Isis. She finds instead a plot by Roland Daggett and Professor Milo to create a plague with stray animals that Daggett’s pharmaceutical company conveniently has a cure for.
tomk : OK, I am starting to wonder if there is a good Catwoman episode outside “Almost Got ‘Im,” and that one is more of a villain showcase she pops up in briefly. This episode is almost like it came from a different show.
jimmy: It is pretty weak and the animation is just awful.
tomk: It’s like an especially juvenile episode. It was just missing some kids to team up with Batman.
And I know Professor Milo may not be the best known Bat-villain from the mad scientist and mob boss era of the 50s…actually, scratch that, he IS the best known Bat-villain from the mad scientist and mob boss era of the 50s, but he doesn’t exactly come across as the most dangerous foe Batman’s ever had. His main idea here seems to be, “Let’s make stray animals mean!” Sure to make every kid as home hate him.
jimmy: And Daggett’s plan is hardly original. “I’ll create a virus and a cure. Then I’ll release the virus and then turn around and play hero and get rich selling the antidote.”
tomk: “And no one will know suspect the truth!”
jimmy: And Catwoman getting infected is totally wasted. She doesn’t go mad like the dog. She just gets woozy. The least she could do would be to lash out at Batman.
tomk: Don’t you know anything about the Rage Virus, Jimmy? It only makes dogs and cats angry. People just get dizzy.
jimmy: Maybe the Rage Virus was just vodka and Red Bull.
tomk: You should see what it does to stray goldfish.
jimmy: The two “thugs” reminded me of something similar I had read or watched lately but can’t put my finger on. Maybe like Gotham or a Batman comic. A duo collecting “strays”, but homeless people instead of animals.
tomk: I’ll bet they were less cartoonishly evil.
jimmy: Yes. Wish I could remember.
tomk: It was probably a particularly sinister Big Bang Theory rerun.
jimmy: I was really shocked by the downturn in animation. Particularly the court scene. The judge was horribly rendered and I don’t remember there ever being painted static backgrounds like the people in the court.
tomk: I thought the thugs looked really bad.
This episode was a step back in many ways, especially since the so-so ninja episode previously is seeming like a downturn.
jimmy: Even some shots of Bats and Selena look bad. Maybe it was an episode they had produced earlier? Or just a bump in the road.
tomk: Or someone was really drunk.
jimmy: All that vodka and Red Bull
tomk: Though as much as many Catwoman episodes aren’t good, since they insist on making her some sort of less effective partner to Batman, it strikes me that there are really no good episodes at all with Moe Howard lookalike Professor Milo.
jimmy: And that is surprising?
tomk: Considering what they did with a lot of lesser Bat foes…yes.
They just didn’t really try with Milo.
jimmy: I suppose. But only so much you can do with him compared to say Mr Freeze.
tomk: True. Milo’s been around since 1957. That was when Batman would have had science fiction adventures and less “mean streets of Gotham” stuff against his more familiar foes. Batman might have blasted off to space at the drop of a hat back then. The Arkham crowd started to come back in the 60s, and dark moody Batman appeared in the 70s. Milo’s in there as a part of Batman’s history.
jimmy: The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh kinda stuff. I’m not familiar with Milo.
tomk: Not much to be familiar with. He was a chemist who turned to crime. Typical all-purpose evil scientist.
He did appear in Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, where he insisted he was sane and wondered why he was locked up with all the lunatics.
jimmy: Great book. Been a LONG time since I read it.
tomk: Point is, Milo does get around. Not much. But he does.
jimmy: Anything else about Catwoman and the Mysterious Rage Virus?
tomk: Nah. The villains looked like refugees from Tiny Toons, but that’s about it.
jimmy: Time to get Strange…
Not that Strange. Sorry, Jenny.
“The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne”
Batman investigates Professor Hugo Strange’s resort, where the “good” doctor’s mind reading machine reveals Bruce is Batman.
jimmy: More Steve Englehart goodness adapted by Trek veterans Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
tomk: And some nice villain cameos.
Hugo Strange…now there’s a tricky villain. He’s a psychiatrist who figured out Bruce is Batman. Most modern stories involve trying to trick him into thinking he’s wrong.
jimmy: He didn’t figure it out here; he had that phenomenal machine.
tomk: Well, he took a short cut.
I have read one really good Hugo Strange story. It’s an Elseworlds (I think) where Matt Wagner wrote and drew a story involving modern retellings of Golden Age Batman classics. The first had Hugo as a short, bowlegged man who felt like society discarded him due to his looks, so he struck back with the title characters in Batman and the Monster Men. Well worth a read, as was the sequel, Batman and the Mad Monk.
jimmy: I’ve read both when I was going through a Batman Year One phase. Both good books.
tomk: But really, Hugo is an oddball that many Bat writers feel the need to take a crack at. More a psychological mad scientist than anything else.
jimmy: I need to read the two issues that this is based on. One of the issues that the Joker Fish story was based on follows shortly after them I think. I mentioned it when we reviewed that episode how Joker was not happy about Hugo Strange selling Bats’ identity. He’s pretty interested here though.
tomk: He is until he thinks he’s been hornswaggled.
Hugo’s lucky Bruce’s fake tape was only what it was. He could have imagined Hugo’s head on Buffalo Bill’s body for that Silence of the Lambs song-and-dance scene.
jimmy: It was a fun episode, but I made a lot of notes. Like, why did the villains pool their money to buy the tape? He was going to sell it to one of them. Not like they needed to get all the money they could find.
tomk: Joker has some odd ideas. Two-Face does what his coin tells him. Penguin’s the real mystery here.
Nice moment when they get off the plane and each one has different music playing in the background.
jimmy: Yes. Joker always has his music anyway.
And I guess the sun blinded them all as they couldn’t read the name on the tape from 10 feet away.
tomk: I was wondering how the three of them were able to board a plane from anywhere without someone seeing them.
jimmy: Good point.
Daggett, though not seen, continues his reign of terror.
tomk: Well, we’ve seen him be accused of crimes by dozens of witnesses plus Batman in front of live television cameras, so he probably did get away with almost wiping out most of Gotham City with a stupid plague plot.
jimmy: Did you buy the whole thing with the judge at the beginning? Even Batman at the end was like “she got nothing to worry about”.
tomk: They needed something to make the judge panic enough to do something dumb but innocent enough not to get her in real trouble.
And then allow “Bruce” to snarl, “Maria Vargas is a friend of mine!” at the end of the episode.
jimmy: It bothered me that the crooks at the beginning dropped the money too. They were in the clear. He ran to the car with the money. How did he end up losing it? Just being nitpicky I know.
tomk: Well, they made good use of Robin, for what little we saw of him.
Having a friend disguise himself as Bruce is an old one, and Superman wasn’t available.
jimmy: True…but man, Dick is some actor. At least they explained the height difference. But that was a fantastic Mission:Impossible mask he had on.
tomk: Dick moonlights as a Scooby Doo villain.
jimmy: He would have gotten away with it too…
tomk: If it weren’t for those meddling…homicidal maniacs with obvious deformities.
jimmy: And it obviously changes once Bruce gets hooked up to the mind reading machine, but it seemed like the show up to that point had the exact same plot as that Ivy episode where Alfred and “friend” go to the resort in Bruce’s place.
tomk: That’s what’s ultimately perhaps disappointing about Dr. Strange (as Alfred refers to him at one point)…he’s little better than a common blackmailer.
jimmy: I noticed the Dr. Strange mention. But you are right. But what else are you going to do with a mind reading machine?
tomk: I’m not sure. But his motivation is pure greed. Ivy was getting revenge for environmental damage.
jimmy: Does Strange appear again?
tomk: He appears in an episode of Justice League but has no lines. Professor Milo also appears in that episode, but Milo ends up getting killed.
I know he was a reoccurring bad guy in The Batman series that came out later on.
jimmy: Could never get into that one.
tomk: It…got better.
They could only get the rights to certain characters at various points, so they had to be creative with what characters they could use.
For example, Robin wasn’t free until Teen Titans ended, so Batman’s first sidekick on that show was Batgirl.
jimmy: Probably the closest to an actual origin that we’ve seen as they keep to their “no origin” rule.
tomk: I would agree there. But they always hint around it.
jimmy: Even Bruce is like ,”Yeah, yeah, everyone knows what happened to my parents”
tomk: Bruce is awfully candid with a psychiatrist he just met.
jimmy: But he has such an inconspicuous and trusting name; how could he not?
tomk: And he doesn’t look at all like he’s building an artificial man out of cadaver parts to bring to life during the next thunderstorm.
tomk: I think the message is: do not get into the strange (no pun intended) machine built by a shifty doctor if you don’t know exactly what it does.
jimmy: Hmmm…maybe I shouldn’t have gotten that mri…
tomk: Was it conducted by Doctor Floyd Unusual? He’s a shifty character.
jimmy: He is indeed.
Anything else strange stand out to you?
tomk: No. I really liked this episode. It’s fun. I’m a sucker for villain cameos, it turns out. And Arkham is nice this time of year.
jimmy: Agreed. Though I found a lot of things to pick on it for, it is a great episode.
tomk: No arguments here. Hugo Strange is not particularly noteworthy as a character, but the episode works just fine.
And say, Jimmy, next up is Batman vs. a computer, and then we get the real Riddler.
jimmy: Nice. Computers are jerks. Should be fun.
NEXT TIME: Jimmy and Tom cover “Heart of Steel Parts 1 and 2,” “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” and “Joker’s Wild.” Meanwhile, please read Fallen. It really is good.