Once more, Jimmy and Tom return to work their way through the DCAU.
This week, we’re covering the Batman the Animated Series episodes “Heart of Steel Parts 1 and 2,” “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” and “Joker’s Wild”.
“Heart of Steel”
When supercomputer H.A.R.D.A.C. decides people are too flawed to actually get things done, he starts replacing prominent people in Gotham with robot duplicates! Can Batman and Barbara Gordon stop it?
tomk: Oh man, there were so many sci-fi references here, it wasn’t even funny. First, the robots are so life-like and then damaged in certain ways the story becomes Batman Vs. The Terminator. H.A.R.D.A.C. at one point says, “Resistance is useless,” so I am inclined to wonder if this episode came out after the Borg first appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And finally, more subtle, was the casting of actor William Sanderson as Karl Rossum. Sanderson mostly plays comedic roles, but he did play a scientist that the Replicants sought for help in Blade Runner, and Rossum actually looks a little like Sanderson, so there’s all that going on.
jimmy: The robots are quite blatantly Terminators. The Borg first appeared in 1989, years before this episode.
tomk: Oh, good. Then the line was intentional. The writers got their sci-fi on.
jimmy: The assistant getting crushed by the elevator seemed straight out of Terminator. As did the numerous times they had their skin peeled off and kept on fighting as you said.
tomk: The whole fight with Robo-Bullock seemed very Terminator-y. The Bat-Signal electrocution could have come right out of that movie.
And speaking of references, some of those non-Replicant robots could have come straight from a 1940s Superman cartoon.
jimmy: I thought they looked very familiar too but couldn’t place them specifically to anything.
tomk: That Superman series had a strong influence on the look of this Batman show. Have you ever seen those old cartoons, Jimmy?
jimmy: Only in passing. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and watched an episode.
tomk: I had them on DVD. Not sure if I still do. Good stuff for their age. Basic plots, but the “retro” look of this Batman was the “futuristic” look of that Superman. H.A.R.D.A.C. would have fit right into that setting just based off his look.
jimmy: Cool. Maybe one day I will check them out. Before we move onto H.A.R.D.A.C., I had one problem with the “Terminators”. So H.A.R.D.A.C. makes a bunch of them that all behave and speak and move like their counterparts…except Gordon who walks around like a robot and just keeps saying “I’m fine”.
tomk: I caught some inflections in the “I’m fine.” I think the point was, the robots might have fooled a lot of people, but they couldn’t fool a close relative like Barbara.
jimmy: Nice intro of Barbara.
tomk: Yeah. I’m not the world’s biggest Batgirl fan, but she actually works as a character here. She’s smart and good under pressure, but she’s also easily nabbed. No one’s trained her yet, but she has the potential to be Batgirl.
jimmy: Yes. It was nice to see she wasn’t Batgirl off the hop and they showed a logical build up for the future.
And as a college student placing her the same age as Dick.
tomk: Probably majoring in Library Science too.
But she’s spunky, but not in an obnoxious sort of way. Casting former Little House on the Prairie child star Melissa Gilbert as Batgirl helps there.
jimmy: Agreed. As for H.A.R.D.A.C., when is Batman going to learn not to mess around with Brother Eye?
tomk: I think this was his first lesson, and he didn’t even build the darn thing.
jimmy: He didn’t build it, but he was pretty giddy about those wetworks chips that got stolen.
Wetworks usually means assassination at close range…as in, you get wet from the blood splashing on you.
Though that term could also be appropriate if the robots used something other than a taser to subdue everybody. They were lucky none of those guys had a heart condition.
jimmy: I thought he called them wetworks chips, but I could be wrong. Either way, Bruce was pretty excited about the AI chips his company were working on.
tomk: Well, it would be an exciting development. But it turns out Rossum was making an Ultron, not a Vision.
jimmy: Definitely a bit of a departure from Bats’ normal villains who are a bit more grounded in reality…well…as grounded as someone like Clayface can be I guess.
tomk: H.A.R.D.A.C. is rather grounded too…to the floor he’s been set on.
jimmy: Har de har hardac.
tomk: He’s not the most mobile of enemies. Even that Terminator 3 prototype voiced by the Police Academy actress could have crawled out of there with her limbs busted better than he could.
jimmy: Yeah. The bots crawling around on all fours was kinda creepy.
tomk: Actually, speaking of the female bot, she had a certain Marilyn Monroe vibe going. That reminded me of a story I heard where Batman creator Bob Kane based Vicki Vale off Monroe, who’d actually met and palled around with before she got really famous. It was only a coloring screw-up made Vicki a redhead instead of a blonde as Kane had intended.
jimmy: Interesting. Yeah, the fembot definitely had the glamorous thing going on and easily caught Bruce’s eye. He had a lot more planned for her than dinner and prying information…
tomk: Well, she walked in a…weird way. Arms out, the universal cartoon step of a woman who our hero can ask out to dinner.
jimmy: And how far away is Wayne Enterprises from Wayne Manor? Seemed a little odd for him to up and leave and make a round trip there for information it seemed Lucious could have told him over the phone.
tomk: Phone calls are less dramatic. Like how Batman is always watching when trouble is down. It’s a big city. He could be anywhere.
jimmy: Bats better hope H.A.R.D.A.C. didn’t save a copy of his hard drives anywhere…what with it discovering so easily he was Bruce Wayne.
tomk: H.A.R.D.A.C. is no Skynet, that’s for damn sure.
jimmy: Good thing too. Because a Batman vs Terminator story would make no sense…
tomk: I think that’s why Terminator Salvation flopped.
jimmy: Among many other reasons.
tomk: Also, not included in a List O’Truth for time travel.
OK, anything else to add here, Jimmy? You know, about H.A.R.D.A.C. or Batgirl or anything?
jimmy: I think I’m done. I liked the introduction of Barbara without the immediate leap to Batgirl. And “embarrassed Gordon” was funny.
tomk: “Embarrassed Gordon” is comedy gold. OK, time to move on.
“If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?”
When a greedy game executive gets rich off a cocky designer’s game, Batman and Robin have to keep the guy alive when the designer returns as the Riddler.
tomk: OK, so, Mad Hatter, presented sympathetically, but creepy in subtext. Riddler actually has something of a legitimate complaint, but comes across as cocky and arrogant, so who cares?
jimmy: Why was Nygma fired? Just cause he was a dick?
tomk: He signed a contract, and it expired after he made the company all that money off a rather cheep looking game.
jimmy: The game looked horrible, even by late 80’s/early 90’s standards.
tomk: Even by cartoons of that time’s standards. Run a maze, guess on a riddle, move on. Listen to Super Mario graphics as you play.
jimmy: I can see how it would work in terms of the amusement park. Minus Nygma’s mods. But did the actual maze has a Hand of Fate?
tomk: Presumably, Riddler built one.
jimmy: I mean, was it part of the maze normally or part of his mods…that he managed to do in like 10 minutes?
tomk: I assumed he spent two years setting that up.
jimmy: For Bats? I’m sure he wasn’t planning to run his old boss through the maze.
tomk: He may have known he’d have to mess with Batman if he took his business to Gotham. Riddler loves to challenge smart people. The game was proof enough of that, and he thinks he’s smarter than everybody.
jimmy: Speaking of smart…why didn’t Bats just go above the maze at the start?
tomk: He was probably looking to get the lay of the land, figure out how things worked before he made any jumps.
But what did you think of the Riddler, Jimmy? I always figured he was the hardest Batfoe to write, because he needs to create riddles that are challenging enough to make people think, but still have a plausible answer for Batman to figure out.
jimmy: I thought he was ok as far as Riddlers go. He was no Jim Carrey…
tomk: Well, he had that in his favor.
He also wasn’t the Marlyn Manson-esque Riddler from The Batman.
jimmy: Not familiar with that. And I get the joke with Nygma’s name, but c’mon, really? That’s his name? But anyway.
tomk: It’s his name, it’s always been his name. He’s hardly the first bad guy with an on-the-nose real name. Or maybe he is, but he certainly wasn’t the last.
jimmy: Did you think the animation from the opening sequence looked like it was from a different show? Maybe that was the point being a flashback, but looked strange.
tomk: I thought the whole show seemed a little off. A bit more cartoony, but the next episode was a bit worse as far as that went.
jimmy: I can see that, but I found the beginning especially bad.
tomk: It was a rather mundane sequence. A guy goes to work and gets fired.
No costumes, no fantastic action sequences, just a guy and his dick (ex) boss.
jimmy: Fired by Errol Flynn.
tomk: Maybe if he were more Flynn and less dick, he wouldn’t have needed Batman’s help to escape.
jimmy: And I know Batman did some research, but he figured out Riddler was Nygma in a domino mask in like two seconds. And yet, no one can figure out Robin is Dick Grayson.
tomk: Most people aren’t as smart as Batman.
I mean, we talked about how hard it was for Gordon and the cops to figure out any fear-based crime was committed by the Scarecrow.
jimmy: I knew that would be your reply. 🙂
And I guess we know how Wayne made his billions…palm top computers.
tomk: I thought he inherited his money from his dad.
Or maybe his mom.
jimmy: So his dad invented palm top computers? Now who’s talking crazy talk.
tomk: He stole them from Steve Jobs. The revenge hit ended up creating Batman. Thanks, Steve Jobs!
jimmy: What were your thoughts on this incarnation of the Riddler?
tomk: He sure comes across as cocky. It makes him less sympathetic, even though he has a more legitimate complaint. And who hasn’t wanted to get back at someone who got a lot off our own blood, sweat, and tears? John Glover (Smallville‘s Lionel Luthor) was a great casting choice, but he’s somewhere between Clock King and Mad Hatter. Like the Clock King, he has a gripe about someone ruining his life, but he’s so arrogant you really want Batman to pop him one. Like the Hatter, he’s set up to be sympathetic even if it doesn’t work out too well.
Unlike either of those guys, Riddler manages to get away at the end of the episode, too.
jimmy: It’s not often they get away and not end up in Arkham.
tomk: Or seem to be dead until their next appearance. Riddler managed.
Batman never even came within five feet of him.
jimmy: The Riddler from the Arkham video games plays out much the same way. Always appearing on screen with riddles and Bats never even getting close to him until the very end.
tomk: That guy probably also deserves a pop in the nose.
jimmy: He is super smug.
tomk: Riddler seems to be one of those guys that modern creators have trouble with. He’s not a killer like Joker, and his gimmick can be tough to handle. Riddler being the “mastermind” of the Hush storyarc seemed to be really off.
Paul Dini wrote a run of Detective Comics where Riddler went straight and tried to be a private detective. The thing was, he wasn’t very good and tried getting hints in Internet chat rooms by posing as a random user, but he didn’t realize Batman and Detective Chimp were also both in the chat room keeping an eye on him.
jimmy: I knew the Internet was full of monkeys using keyboards.
tomk: He’s an ape, not a monkey. If this were a Discworld novel and you said monkey to the orangutan Librarian, he’d try to twist your head off like a corkscrew.
jimmy: I was going to say apes, but monkeys was more fitting. Like Watson.
tomk: Watson wishes he were that evolved…no, that one’s too easy. Sorry, Watson.
jimmy: He’ll never read this. Watson, if you read this, I’ll give you $5. Let’s see if he ever collects.
tomk: Make sure they’re Canadian dollars if you have to pay up.
jimmy: That’s like $1.25 American. Good call
Shall we move onto our friend the Joker? We seemed to be riddled out.
tomk: I would say yes.
A new casino opens in Gotham with a Joker theme. Joker breaks out of Arkham to deal with the billionaire trying to get rich off his reputation. Good thing Bruce Wayne was there for the grand opening.
jimmy: What a fun episode.
tomk: It sure was.
But this seems to be a pasttime in Gotham among the rich: provoke the Arkham crowd.
There must be easier ways to run an insurance scam.
jimmy: At least this plan kinda made sense. Until the lunatic at the center of your plan catches on.
tomk: The big difference here is the guy wanted Joker to catch on.
And it did lead to a great scene where Joker takes over a blackjack table, only to have Bruce Wayne stop to play a hand.
jimmy: I mean, he caught on to being played. Well…more so Bats told him. But lots of great scenes with Joker like the blackjack dealing and the interaction with Ivy at the beginning.
tomk: For a Paul Dini script, there was surprisingly little Harley around.
jimmy: Did you notice Joker deals counter clockwise? Joker rules I guess.
tomk: I noticed Batman cheats.
jimmy: When in Rome…
Their interaction at the table was great too.
tomk: No one can get under that pasty white skin like Batman.
jimmy: And typical Joker “not caring about Batman’s identity” later when he could have unmasked him but didn’t. Except for that whole episode dedicated to him trying to buy the information from Hugo Strange.
tomk: Did Joker know what he was buying when he went to see Strange?
Eh, never mind. Joker changes his mind about who he is every morning when he wakes up.
jimmy: Some “star studded” cameos by Harry Hamlyn and Mr Ghostbuster himself Ernie Hudson.
tomk: Well, about as star studded as many cartoons get. We had a Hamil and a Hamlyn.
jimmy: I think Hamil voiced one of the casino goons as well.
tomk: He probably did. That’s typical to get the one-off lines done by a regular so they don’t have to hire someone else.
jimmy: Anything else stand out to you besides Super Mario driving the truck Joker used to escape?
tomk: I liked the Joker whistling the Looney Toons theme, and that they made him turn Bugs Bunny off at the end of the episode.
Ivy, Hatter, and Scarecrow got to shout at him.
jimmy: Haha, yeah. Not often you’ll see such a blatant crossover as showing Bugs, even if they are both Warner Bros.
tomk: It also emphasizes that Joker is something of a cartoon character…you know, besides the fact he is for the show.
jimmy: With his own theme music.
tomk: He certainly is the character most likely to do a double-take and overreact in a humorous way. Plus, he knows how to make an impossible escape through an unlocked door.
jimmy: Those Arkham guards aren’t the brightest.
tomk: I think that one guard worked for the casino. Didn’t he pop up again in the casino watching the Joker deal cards?
jimmy: Yes…dots connect…now it makes sense. He was the guard or posing as a guard at Arkham and let him escape. Then made some sarcastic comment about how smart the Joker was or something.
tomk: And then he disappeared?
jimmy: He shows up couple times at the casino, if I remember correctly. Once when Bats breaks in and then watching the Joker. Not sure about after that.
tomk: Yeah, I don’t think we see him hauled off to jail or anything.
Clearly an accomplice to Joker’s escape, even if Joker didn’t know it.
jimmy: Ok, I withdraw my comment about the Arkham orderlies…and apply it to their security and hiring practices.
tomk: See, that’s the right conclusion. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the escapes had help from crooked orderlies that got through security.
But since there’s so much sneakiness going on, perhaps we should consider the next block of episodes will include Catwoman, a ninja, and a wolf man.
NEXT TIME: Tom and Jimmy break down “Tyger, Tyger,” “Night of the Wolf,” and “Day of the Samurai”.
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