And we’re back with those wacky cartoon enthusiasts Tom and Jimmy for more of this feature.
This week, they’re covering the Batman the Animated Series episodes “The Man Who Killed Batman,” “Mudslide,” and “Paging the Crime Doctor”.
“The Man Who Killed Batman”
jimmy: This episode seemed awfully familiar.
tomk: Well, you can only fake Batman’s death so many times.
I really liked how this turned out for Sid the Squid. Everyone thinks he killed Batman, and it gives him nothing but grief.
Besides, Harley plays “Amazing Grace” on the kazoo. That’s a bit of comedic brilliance.
jimmy: Lol, that was great I admit.
tomk: Joker’s whole funeral is just funny stuff. Not only does it have the kazoo, but Joker breaks off the grief in an instant to ask who wants Chinese.
jimmy: Haha. True. Joker was pretty depressed over Bats’ death there for awhile.
tomk: I chalk that all up to a Paul Dini script. My only gripe is Harley played lawyer using her real name. Wouldn’t her name be on file and ring a bell for, oh, somebody?
jimmy: I was just going to say the same thing. Shame on Harvey for not picking up on it, even if he was slightly suspicious of her. The “small subpoena ” line was classic too.
tomk: Just enough adult in that joke for the parents.
jimmy: If Batman could die, I can see this being the way he goes out as stupid as it seems. Some rube accidentally doing the unexpected and blowing Bats up or whatever. Batman probably never gets taken down by Joker or similar as Bats is too prepared to face their kind.
tomk: That’s why when DC killed Superman, they made up a new villain to do it. If Lex Luthor could have done it, he would have by then.
jimmy: And Superman and Doomsday died, never to be heard from again.
tomk: He was the Penny Plunderer’s sidekick, right?
jimmy: Yup. Ole Dimes Doomsday they used to call’em.
tomk: You’d think he would have been the leader since his obsession was with a coin of greater value.
Actually, episodes like this really suggest to me that Paul Dini had a real gift for showing what happened when ordinary people cross into Batman’s world. Sid’s a lot like that poor schlub from “Joker’s Favor” in that respect. He’s just in over his head and trying not to get killed in the process.
jimmy: Very true. Very similar characters.
tomk: Similar, but Charlie in “Favor” had no criminal ambitions. He just wanted to stay alive. Sid wanted to be a big shot. Yes, he got his wish in the end, but the Joker got involved and almost got him killed as a result.
jimmy: I don’t know that he wanted to be a big shot, just the rep of one. Maybe there is no distinction there, but I don’t think he wanted to intimidate and work his way to the top.
tomk: Except he isn’t intimidating. It’s hard to say what he wanted.
jimmy: He wanted what he got in the end, for people to look up to him.
tomk: Yeah, Sid doesn’t strike me as a particularly smart guy. He’s clearly a dupe when his “friend” invites him along. I doubt Sid ever thought for a second what being a big shot in the underworld actually meant or how to achieve it.
jimmy: Exactly. I agree.
tomk: Sid’s almost the kind of criminal you feel bad for and maybe even root on. Batman still has to send him to jail, but he doesn’t seem to be personally out to get him like he does Thorne.
jimmy: He even says something along the lines of “well, I still have to send you to jail, but maybe we can both win here”.
tomk: That’s Batman all over: harsh but fair. He always believes in stopping lawbreakers. Aside from, you know, the law he breaks every night by running around and beating up criminals.
jimmy: And there’s probably some laws about putting children in harm’s way that he turns a blind eye to. (Granted, Grayson is older in this incarnation, at least currently.)
tomk: It doesn’t matter how old Dick is now. How old was he when he started?
jimmy: Exactly. And Tim should come along shortly.
tomk: After the redesign.
On another note, Matt Frewer did a good job voicing Sid. The former Max Headroom managed to make Sid the right level of sympathetic and pathetic at the same time.
jimmy: I noticed his name in the credits. I never would have recognized him.
tomk: He’s one of those guys who gets around. He was Moloch in the Watchmen movie.
jimmy: Yes. I see him pop up in lots of stuff.
tomk: And such was the tale of Sid the Squid, who almost killed Batman, got Rupert Thorne busted (again), and made the Joker look silly. Well, sillier. Anything else to add, Jimmy?
jimmy: Nope. Done, done, on to the next one.
tomk: I want to start this one by taking a minute to defend Batman. Friends of mine have blamed him for killing Clayface in this episode. Besides the fact Clayface will come back in both the redesign and even on Justice League, my friends often get upset that Batman turns off the machine that was curing Clayface. Two things on that. 1. Batman doesn’t know the machine is curing Clayface. He even says he’ll let the lab boys figure everything from there. Batman is not all-knowing. 2. The machine was not curing Clayface. At all. His doctor friend said the machine would actually make him more powerful and allow him to take shapes longer, perhaps become Matt Hagen more permanently. But it wasn’t a cure.
jimmy: I agree. I never got the sense that Batman “killed” him.
tomk: I think there was just a general sense Batman shouldn’t have turned the machine off. You know, the machine funded and fueled by theft whose purpose he never stopped to look up.
jimmy: So I guess all the times in this and previous episodes that he offered to help Hagan was all a front.
tomk: Batman was fronting.
Actually, you know who should be upset about this episode? The Penguin. The only one of Batman’s foes to date who gets absolutely no help in terms of reforming.
jimmy: Haha, yeah you mentioned that
tomk: Look, we’ve got episodes coming up where Batman goes to bat (no pun intended) for Two-Face and Harley. Clayface gets it here, and Mr. Freeze is just a guy who really needs help. The only guy who can’t catch a break is the Penguin.
But that was a different episode. You know what struck me about this one? No one seems to be in a hurry. Even when they appear to be running, no one seems to be moving very fast.
jimmy: Like they are stuck in the mud?
tomk: Maybe they are, Jimmy. Maybe they are…
Like, Clayface takes a header off a building to escape Batman. He splats on the ground and starts running. Batman gets down to ground level and easily catches up with Clayface, enough so the two can talk a bit.
It’s a really slow motion sequence. Batman could probably easily try something to stop Hagen before he gets too far.
He could probably stop and get a sandwich at that pace, too.
jimmy: That’s the scene that came to mind when you made your comment. Bats does say that Hagan used to be faster
tomk: Someone else used to be, too. Seriously, no one seems to be in much of a rush here. Odd given the life or death situation Clayface is going through.
jimmy: I wonder if it was intentional or simply needed to drag it out to fill up the episode?
tomk: I think it was just sloppy animation.
jimmy: Well, they couldn’t probably pay the animators at the same level of a show like The Simpsons.
tomk: Well, this show got more vocal appearances from Mark Hamil.
jimmy: Boo Tom! You totally missed my Marcia Wallace segue.
tomk: Who said I did?
You know, since Matt Hagen is, according to fan theory, implied to be gay, maybe that’s what happened to Mrs. Krabappel’s marriage…
jimmy: I know that theory comes from the earlier episode where his “friend” is looking after him. But Marica is credited here as fiancée, so I don’t know that it was something on the creators’ minds.
tomk: Well, she has a small part here as one of the actors in that old movie the doctor woman is watching.
She has maybe three lines of dialogue.
jimmy: But an important 3 lines! (Or I mistakenly thought she voiced the doctor.)
tomk: I’m not sure which of the two women in the old movie she’s voicing, but my guess is its the one who gets rejected by Hagen’s character.
jimmy: I liked the touch that Hagan messed up the voice of the guy he was robbing at the beginning. I always found it odd that shapeshifters could nail voices perfectly as well. I’d assume in this case maybe Hagan hadn’t heard the man speak.
tomk: He only had a painting to go by. He’s probably lucky he did that well.
jimmy: Exactly, that’s what I mean.
tomk: Well, Jimmy, you are truly a wise man, beloved of humanity and moose-kind alike.
jimmy: Well, the latter at least.
tomk: All praise, Jimmy! Hero to Canada!
Jimmy would have found a way to stop Clayface and save him at the same time!
Mooses the world over worship the Jimmy!
Jimmy’s gonna get you, Kramer!
Wait, wrong show…
jimmy: If I was on that show, I would have been the cop at the beginning who went to check the parking lot.
tomk: The Ed Asner looking guy? Well, everyone has to start somewhere. Or, in the case of this guy, stop.
jimmy: Back on topic, this is Clayface’s final appearance before the redesign correct? Does his redesign continue this continuity?
tomk: Yes and no. He appears in a holiday episode first, but if we skip that one, then yes. His next appearance could be a continuation from this one.
jimmy: Geeks do like to exclude the Holiday Special.
tomk: Well, it’s a silly episode…that we will discuss when the time comes. It’s Gotham, though. Every day there is like Halloween. I think Mayor Hill is just Jack Skelington in disguise.
Well, unless you have something to add here, Jimmy, I think it’s time we took a look at the next episode. This one features another lesser known Bat-foe making his animated series debut.
jimmy: No, I think I’ve said all there is to say here. How often we went off on tangents I think speaks to how much we had to say. Not that it was a bad episode, but not very eventful.
tomk: Yes, that is true. We have issues. It might be time to call a doctor…like, say, the Crime Doctor.
“Paging the Crime Doctor”
Rupert Thorne has a heart tumor that needs removing. That means turning to his brother, a disgraced doctor forced to take care of all of Rupert’s medical needs. But surgery would need an assistant, and the only person Matthew Thorne would trust for such an operation is Leslie Thompkins…
jimmy: Skipping right to the end, shouldn’t Alfred be able to tell Bruce about his father? Or Leslie? Seemed like a nice moment for Bruce, but not sure how much sense it made. Matt would have some different stories to tell I suppose.
tomk: That would be my guess. The fact that Bruce had never seen the inscription on the back of the photograph hanging on the wall of Leslie’s clinic suggests there are things he didn’t know. What stories Matthew Thorne had that Leslie or Alfred would be missing I couldn’t say.
Though I did catch a glimpse of a date in that med school yearbook Bruce flips through. It looked like Thorne might have graduated from med school in 1907 or thereabouts.
jimmy: No wonder Leslie didn’t recognize him at first.
tomk: Or its just one of those weird things where we’re meant to wonder when this show is taking place.
jimmy: Good point.
tomk: Though speaking of weird things, actor Joseph Campanella, who voiced Matthew Thorne, is one of those guys who’s been in a ton of different roles but never really had one role he’s really well known for. If you look him up on Wikipedia, the picture they use is him as a doctor.
jimmy: He’s not familiar to me.
tomk: Me neither. Like I said, he’s been in tons of roles, but nothing that makes him anything other than a vaguely familiar name. But there’s that entry and he’s in the doctor’s outfit…
jimmy: Like Reginald VelJohnson playing a cop I suppose.
tomk: Except in that case, I could say Family Matters or Die Hard, the seminal Christmas classic.
Looks Like Campanella mostly did soap operas.
jimmy: My mom would probably know who he is.
tomk: Or maybe your moose.
jimmy: She doesn’t watch TV.
tomk: Your moose has made wise decisions.
The Crime Doctor is a longstanding Bat foe who’s actually been around longer than Rupert Thorne. The original was just a doctor who committed crimes unrelated to the high fees he probably charged.
A later retcon would make him Rupert Thorne’s brother.
jimmy: Seems like he was much more evil in his comic incarnation.
tomk: A more recent incarnation, from before the New 52, had him appearing in the Birds of Prey series. He was one seriously evil dude who wore star-shaped sunglasses and surgical gear. The sunglasses were from his first victim. He was eventually killed for trying to quit the Secret Society of Supervillains and nasty martial arts assassin Lady Shiva took his daughter in as a protege.
This Crime Doctor is just a dupe who let his brother ruin his life.
jimmy: Does Brother Thorne make any further appearances?
tomk: I don’t believe he does. Let’s assume he somehow gets his license back and moves to Metropolis.
On a side note, after episodes featuring shapechanging mudmen, immortal terrorists, and psychotic clown funerals, this episode was a nice change of pace, going for a more realistic style of story, give or take a surgical laser being used as an offensive weapon, or a Batman who could barely keep pace with a slow Clayface suddenly keeping pace with a high speed ambulance. The excessive shadows also gave everything a nice noir feel.
jimmy: That’s one of the great things about Batman, he never seems out of place. Be it a noir thriller or an intergalactic battle versus Darkseid.
tomk: Yeah, we only get upset when some clown like the Clock King, or Nostromos, or the Sewer King, the suckiest suck who ever sucked, last too long.
jimmy: Yeah, good point. I do find that frustrating at times. Bats can beat down Killer Croc but Clock King or whoever holds their own.
tomk: Well, let’s be fair for a second…Sewer King never really tries anything other than siccing alligators on him.
jimmy: Sure. I can’t think of an exact example, but it does happen. Typical sports example of “playing to the levels of your competition”.
tomk: But Batman is that universal sort of character, so he won’t look too out of place when we eventually get to Justice League.
Anything else, Jimmy?
jimmy: I guess not. Good episode.
tomk: Yes. And speaking of the Justice League, maybe we should check in with another member next time.
jimmy: Are we moving up, up and away?
tomk: Ho on, ew era ton.
NEXT TIME: Jimmy and Tom move on with an episode where Batman teams up with a magician ally in “Zatanna,” goes for car repair in “The Mechanic,” and sees two female enemies team up for the first time in “Harley and Ivy”.