The Batman Season 4

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  4
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

I very much enjoyed Season 4 of The Batman. Season 4 brings Robin (Dick Grayson) on to the show. It also continues to use the new theme tune brought in during season 3. I don’t like the theme tune at all, and I found myself fast-forwarding through it for most of the episodes I watched. However, that is the only negative, really, about Season 4. The first episode of the season introduces Dick Grayson who quickly becomes Robin. The bare bones of the story are there but it changed slightly, so that Dick is even more involved in the death of his parents. He is actually on the platform for their acrobatics act, but is unable to catch his mother when the rigging fails.

Some new villains are introduced in one-off episodes in Season 4, but they are interesting and different, which kept the show interesting. In the episode, “Artifacts”, a future archaeological team is investigating the Batcave, hoping to find a solution to defeat Mr. Freeze, who is destroying Gotham with a new city-wide freezing weapon. The team discovers the cray computer memory is destroyed and cannot be recovered. However, Batman – anticipating such a possibility had embossed or etched all the information he had in his computer memory banks on the walls of the cave, including how to defeat Freeze if he ever woke up from his cryogenic sleep. The code was also in binary – meaning a future computer could translate the data. Once the team does that, they get a video message from Batman and other information to defeat Freeze – it was an excellent story.

“Two of a Kind” introduces Harley Quinn. But rather than having her as a hangers-on to Joker, it’s almost the other way around. “Doctor” Harleen Quinzel is the host of an advice to the love lorn phone in telephone show. Her so-called “doctorate” is from an on-line degree program, and it probably had no practical experience, and was not accredited. Additionally, she offers flip advice, and insults her guests (such as Bruce Wayne) and customers who call in for advice. She’s also bubbly and gives the false impression she’s a total airhead. Joker, meanwhile, has become “addicted” to her call-in show, and even schedules his crimes in such a way as to be “home” in time to watch it. Joker calls in to the show, using the name “Mr. J.”. When Harley is fired after she insults the head of the television network that airs her show – Joker decides that it is unfair. Before long, Joker and Harley Quinn are on a crime spree together, Bonnie and Clyde style. What I liked about this version of Harley was that even though she was a really terrible therapist, a reason was given for that (she had a paper degree and no real training), and she has agency – it was her decision to join Joker, her decision to accept Joker’s offer to become Harley Quinn, and her decision to engage in criminal activities. None of these things are good or lawful, mind you, but at least it was her decision. Other versions of Harley, such as in the otherwise wonderful Batman: The Animated Series (and even there the dis-functional relationship is the point) I’ve seen she reminds me of a abused woman – she’s fallen hard for Joker, and even though he treats her terribly she keeps coming back. Even worse, Joker, as a true psychopath, is incapable of ever loving Harley, so he abuses her, but she continues to love Joker anyway. In “Two of a Kind” it’s Joker who is attracted to Harley and wants a partner in crime, who can take care of herself, though he is still incapable of love.

Finally, the two part season finale, “The Joining”, is awesome. Just awesome. Bruce introduces Dick to Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises, pointing out that Fox knows Bruce is the Batman – and that Fox helped to build the Batcave, and builds Batman’s special arsenal and toys. Batman meets Detective John Jones, who he quickly discovers is Martian Manhunter. John bit by bit shows all his powers – mind-reading, shape-shifting, flight, telekinesis, invisibility – and his weakness, an aversion to fire. But Martian Manhunter is also there to get Batman’s help – an alien race called The Joining is about to invade and destroy the planet. They are a robotic but networked race that uses materials from the planet they plan to conquer to do it – in this instance, metals from Wayne Industries. They operate by absorbing all information from a world then destroying it suspiciously like Brainiac from Superman. “The Joining” was written by Jane Espenson, known for her work on Once Upon a Time (and it’s universe), the new Battlestar Galactica (and it’s universe), and Joss Wheldon properties such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse.

Batman, Martian Manhunter, Batgirl, Robin, Lucuis Fox, and Alfred work together and eventually destroy the alien invaders, saving Earth. At the end, Martian Manhunter takes Batman to the Hall of Justice in Space (or maybe the Watchtower) and invites him to join the Justice League! I loved that and actually clapped.

Season 4 of the Batman was much better written, and more consistent than previous seasons. The tone of the episodes was more serious and darker, but having Robin there throughout the season also lightened things so the show didn’t get too dark. Batgirl was present some, and I enjoyed seeing Lucius who has always been a favorite of mine. And since Martian Manhunter was one of my favorite characters in late Silver Age/early Modern Age DC Comics – it was awesome to see him.

Recommended!

The Flash (1990) DVD Review

  • Series Title: The Flash
  • Season: The Complete Series (Season 1)
  • Episodes:  22
  • Discs:  6
  • Network: CBS (Warner Brothers Television)
  • Cast:  John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays, Alex Désert, Richard Belzer, Vito D’Ambrosio, Biff Manard, Mike Genovese
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This is the original The Flash television series from 1990, based on the DC Comics Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. I remember watching the series in 1990, and liking it because it was very over-the-top and funny.  Unfortunately, re-watching the series, it does not live up to even that sense of nostalgia, and there’s no other way to say it – it’s just pretty bad.

One of the problems with the program is the utter lack of women and minorities (I’ll get to Dr. Christina McGee and Julio Mendez in a moment). The Central City police department doesn’t appear to employ a single female officer. Not one. They also don’t appear to employ any minorities at all. The two street cops, Bellows and Murphy, have the bumbling quality that brings to mind early 1960s comedy cop shows such as Car 54, Where Are You? Murphy, in addition, is the stereotypical Irish Cop – at least he doesn’t speak with a phony leprechaun accent, which would have taken it from a bad stereotype to an offensive one.

Dr. Christina (Tina) McGee, played by Amanda Pays, whom I normally like (she was also in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future) tries so hard in The Flash, but her part is nothing more than the token Strong Woman ™. She’s a scientist, and we know this because every time we see her she’s in a white lab coat and normally Barry sees her at Star Labs. This is one case where I would have liked to have seen a bit of romance between Barry and Tina, because at least that would have given Tina something to do. Tina spends all her time worrying about Barry, especially his health, and occasionally helping him on cases by running lab results (something Barry, as a forensic scientist, should be able to do himself), breaking into computer systems, or, occasionally getting captured. It’s sad, and a thankless role.

Julio Mendez, is Barry’s friend and colleague at the Central City police department. Though I liked seeing an African American as an intelligent, educated character who works for the police department, unfortunately, he’s even more of a token role than Tina. We rarely see Julio actually doing anything at Barry’s lab. His only role seems to be setting Barry up on blind dates. And he has no idea that Barry is The Flash.

Even with the art deco set and location design (although the Pac-Man font that appears occasionally definitely doesn’t fit with Art Deco) the show is definitely set contemporously, that is, in 1990, so the lack of real women and real minorities just glares.

The early half of the series, also, makes the mistake of trying to make the Flash simply a supercop. And having Barry use his speed to catch everyday criminals simply doesn’t work. In addition, the pilot introduces Barry’s family – Nora Allen – his mother, his father, and his brother Jay, who is also a cop. Jay’s killed in the pilot, which becomes Barry’s motivation for becoming a crime-fighter. But Barry’s father is a real jerk. Mr. Allen constantly compares Barry to Jay and comes up wanting. He also insults Barry for being a scientist and not a real cop (in his father’s view). It’s painful and sad to watch. The pilot also introduces Iris, an arty type, who disappears to study painting in Paris and we never see again. You’d think that getting rid of Iris would free Barry for a relationship with Tina – but no. This Flash is a solo man with no girlfriend.

The second half of the series, which introduces super-villains to challenge the Flash is an improvement. Yes, the series still as problems, but introducing characters like The Ghost, Nightshade (a friendly hero who helps the Flash), Mirror Master, Captain Cold, and of course, The Trickster, at least makes it slightly more watchable – and on occasion almost getting to the level of “pretty good” despite the glaring issues.

Mark Hamill is way, way over the top in the episode, “The Trickster”, but in the final episode of the series, “The Trial of the Trickster” he returns, dials it back a bit, and becomes wonderful. The series final episode is it’s best by far – which is the saddest thing about this show – it had potential, and was definitely starting to find it’s own feet when it was cancelled. “The Trial of the Trickster” also introduces Prank, a women who is heir to a toy store fortune and completely obsessed with the Trickster. She becomes his partner in crime and frees him from jail before his trial. She’s also the driving force of much of his rampage in his encore performance, providing weapons, materials, semi-deadly pranks and jokes, getaway vehicles, etc. Although in the first episode, “The Trickster”, Prank was a figment of James Jesse’s imagination – and his obsession with having an assistant caused him to kidnap and turn private detective Megan Lockhart into his “Prank”; in “The Trial of the Trickster”, Prank is a real character, though with very little background. And she’s completely obsessed with and possibly in love with the Trickster – despite his treating her terribly and not caring about her. If you’re familiar with the DC Animated Universe, you can see where this is going – the Trickster-Prank relationship seems to me to have inspired both the character of Harley Quinn and her relationship with the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. (and Hamill played The Joker throughout Batman: The Animated Series and many subsequent Warner Brothers Animated DC films.) If all of the 1990 The Flash series had been up to the quality of it’s final episode, the series might have lasted a bit longer.

Another episode I’d like to discuss is number 15, “Fast Forward”. In the episode, Pike, the violent biker from the pilot is released from prison on a technicality. During the Flash’s conflict with Pike, he fires a heat-seeking missile at the Flash. In attempting to out-run the missile, Flash travels 10 years into the future. There, Central City has become a cesspool of violence, crime, sex, gambling, and it’s also the personal playground of “Mayor Pike” who runs the city as his own, personal fiefdom. Yes, it’s very reminiscent of Back to the Future Part II (with Biff running Marty’s hometown). But what I found interesting about it was I couldn’t help but think of the modern day The Flash (2014) episode where Barry slips into the future and prevents a tidal wave from destroying Central City but is completely unaware that Wells “kills” Cisco. In the 1990 The Flash episode, Julio is killed in the future, and we’re pretty sure Tina is as well but her experiment completely negates that future by returning Barry back in time a few minutes earlier – so he can prevent Pike from firing the missile. The 1990 The Flash episode was typical for the show, but it made me a bit disappointed in the new 2014 series that they’d actually updated an episode from the original series. Don’t get me wrong, the modern episode is awesome, and when I saw it, I thought it was one of the best of the 2014 The Flash episodes, but it now disappoints me to find out that story wasn’t as original as it seemed.

Overall, The Flash (1990) is a disappointment. It’s full of melodramatic dialogue and acting, and the subtle but impossible to ignore lack of women and minorities is disturbing and upsetting. The best episode is definitely it’s last. If you can find the episodes “The Trickster” and “The Trial of the Trickster”, especially the second one, on-line somewhere they are worth watching, but the series is not really worth buying.

Batman The Brave and the Bold – Season 2

  • Series Title:  Batman the Brave and the Bold
  • Season:  2
  • Episodes:  25
  • Discs:  2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast:  Diedrich Bader
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The second season of Batman:  The Brave and the Bold was extremely uneven. There were some very high points and some very low points, and some episodes could have been great but they just fell flat. Again, the series is a team-up show, however, rather than having the shorts, followed by the main story – several of the shorts in the first half of the season feature Starro – the psychic starfish from outer space. Starro also gets his own 2-part story at mid-season. The Starro story did work, though it wasn’t quite as effective or as psychologically scary as the character’s appearances in Justice League Unlimited or Young Justice (as Starro-Tech). I kept wondering where Superman was – because there’s nothing scarier that Supes being controlled by an outside force of evil. Still, considering how much lighter in general Batman:  The Brave and the Bold is as a series, the two-part story did work, and the League’s eventual win against Starro did come at a cost.

“Chill of the Night” was not only my favorite story for this season, but, so far, for all of BtBatB. It was just awesome. First (other than the short) it felt like a Batman: The Animated Series episode – not only does it show That Fateful Night (which, yes, we’ve seen before) and had red skies and dark background, like B:TAS – but Phantom Stranger and Spectre – the spirits of Justice and Vengeance (respectively) were played by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. These two spirits were fighting over Batman’s soul (it was very, um, is existential the right word?). AND to top it off, in the flashbacks Thomas Wayne was voiced by Adam West and Martha Wayne by Julie Newmar. Yeah. Nothing like three generations of Batman in one. Color me impressed.

“A Bat Divided” felt very much like a similar episode of Farscape, where Moya (the living ship), was split three ways – each having it’s own effects on the crew. The episode featured Firestorm, and Batman is split in to three Batmen – Action/Battle Batman, Scientist Batman, and Loafing/relaxing Batman.  I liked it.

“The Super-Batman of Planet X” has Batman sucked through a wormhole in space to a planet where he has Superman-like powers. To Batman’s credit, it doesn’t go to his head, and he helps that planet’s version of Batman, until he can find a way home. The only problem with the episode, is it highlights one major problem of BtBatB which is Batman is completely alone – no Alfred and seldom any Robin/Nightwing. Guy Gardner has to rescue Batman, after putting him in danger in the first place.

“The Knights of Tomorrow” I also liked. Told from the point-of-view of an unseen narrator, who turns out to be Alfred (in only one of two appearances – the other is “Chill of the Night”), and shows the Mantle of the Bat being passed from generation to generation. Bruce Wayne eventually retires from being Batman and marries Selina Kyle. He turns the cape and cowl over to Dick Greyson. Meanwhile, Bruce and Selina have a son, Damien, whom they train in self-defense and fighting. When Bruce and Selina are killed – Damien joins Dick as Robin, and eventually grows up to be Batman, with his own Robin. This does play a bit with established continuity, for example, in the universe where Bruce and Selina retired and married – they had a daughter, Helena (who become Huntress) not a son. Damien Wayne, is the son of Bruce and Talia Al-Ghul. And the story skips Jason and Tim altogether, as well as cutting out one of my favorite characters – Terry McGinnis (truly, watch Batman Beyond, it’s awesome!) Terry’s a lot like Dick – whom I’ve always liked. The one bit I found almost frightening was Alfred repeating Amanda Waller’s line, “There must always be a Batman.”

“The Masks of Matches Malone” is the story which features the Birds of Prey singing, “No One Does It Better (Than the Birds of Prey)” which is simply marvelous. The story itself is a bit weak – Batman goes undercover as Matches Malone, and gets hit on the head and thinks he really is Matches Malone – a gangster and thief. The Birds of Prey are left to stop crime in Gotham, and to try to get Batman back to his own self. It’s fun, and the video is definitely awesome. You can watch the music number here.

On the negative side – two more Batmite storys (ugg), “Cry Freedom Fighters” which was just dreadful, and just several so-so, not terrible, but not bad stories.

Batman the Brave and the Bold: Season 1

  • Series Title:  Batman the Brave and the Bold
  • Season:  1
  • Episodes:  26
  • Discs:  2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast:  Diedrich Bader
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

I originally dismissed The Brave and the Bold when I saw an episode here and there on Cartoon Network. The production design reminded me very much of the 1960s Batman (starring Adam West) and the attitude of the show seemed extremely campy and silly, and I’m just not a fan of silly Batman.

However, I have a friend who basically nagged me to give this show a chance, so I finally purchased Season 1, and on Blu-Ray no less. It a way, it is nuts – very campy, and funny, but it’s to the point of such ridiculousness at times that it actually becomes very enjoyable to watch. If modern animated or even live-action Batmans are too much for you, give this series a try. The series is pretty much set in DC’s Silver Age (thus the campy style of Batman) but occasionally features heroes from the Golden Age (Jay Garrick’s Flash) and the Modern Age (Jaime Reyes’ Blue Beetle). Most of the episodes consist of two stories, a short piece with Batman and another hero teaming up against a villain, followed by a different unconnected story of Batman and a different hero teaming-up against a different villain.  Because the focus is on team-ups, we get to see several different characters from DC’s Silver Age, which one seldom sees in a TV Series or film.

Some notable episodes:

In “Invasion of the Secret Santas”, Batman and Red Tornado go up against Fun Haus, who’s brought flying saucers from a B Movie to life, as well as evil Santas, and other oddities. The story is very silly, which makes it fun.

in “Day of the Dark Knight!” Batman and Green Arrow, who are revealed to be competitive rivals, are brought back in time to Camelot by Merlin. One of them must take Excalibur from the Stone to defeat Morgaine, who has the demon, Etrigan under her power. Yes – this is as fun as you might expect. The opening sequence has Batman and Guy Gardner (Green Lantern) on Oa on jail duty.

“Dawn of the Dead Man” proper starts with Batman being buried alive by Gentleman Ghost. He astro projects himself to London, where he meets a ghost who will become the hero, Dead Man. Dead Man works with Green Arrow and Speedy to rescue the Caped Crusader. I loved this story, from a nearly dying Batman seeing his parents in a tunnel of light, to the whole tracing of Dead Man’s story (which also has a connection to Haly’s Circus), it’s actually just a great story.

In “Fall of the Blue Beetle”, there isn’t the standard stand-alone opening, rather the opening with Batman and Silver Age Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) proves to be a prelude to an adventure between Batman and Modern Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes) who wishes to learn more about how he became a superhero and where his scarab came from – Jaime journeys to Science Island, Ted Kord’s secret base and meets “Ted Kord” – yet it isn’t Ted, it’s his evil brother Jarvis, who had caused the explosion that killed Ted. This is a brilliant back story piece, and the animation is actually very good.

In “Trials of the Demon” Batman is transported back in time to 19th century London, where he meets Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as well as Jason Blood (Etrigan the Demon), who’s been unjustly accused of murdering a series of women. The world’s two greatest detectives work together to clear Jason Blood, and discover the real culprit:  Jim Craddock. This serves as an excellent back story piece for the Gentleman Ghost. Batman is also upset that he can’t change history.  This story also features in the opening bit Batman and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick, taking on Scarecrow and Scream Queen.

“Mayhem of the Music Meister!” has no opening story – instead the Music Meister has a dastardly plot to turn the whole world into a Broadway Musical – both villains (Black Manta, Gorilla Grodd, Clock King) and heroes (Batman, Aquaman, Black Canary, Green Arrow). So yes, and all-singing, all-dancing episode of Batman the Brave and the Bold is just as much fun as you might think. Music Meister is voiced (and sung) by Neil Patrick Harris, who even gets a “special guest villain” credit.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed Batman the Brave and the Bold, and I’ve ordered Season 2. The show is fun, and light, and at times it’s so out-there it’s basically crack-fic. And, though I must say, I still prefer more serious versions of Batman, this series, obviously in it’s own pocket universe of silliness, is fun and enjoyable to watch – and I don’t regret purchasing the Blu-Rays. By the way, when I bought the series from Amazon, the Blu-Rays were a better deal than the DVDs.

Justice League The New Frontier

  • Title: Justice League The New Frontier
  • Director: David Bullock
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2008
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Drama
  • Cast: David Boreanaz, Neil Patrick Harris, Kyle MacLachlan, Lucy Lawless, Phil Morris, Kyra Sedgwick, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto, Miguel Ferrer, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color Animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“It was Korea — it changed everything.”— Hal
“Wars have a tendency to do that.”— Ace

“We’ve got to know what these Martians want from us. And since we can’t find them here on Earth, we’re going to Mars.”— Col. Flagg
“Outstanding.”— Hal

“I thought I could make a life for myself here among you humans. I thought I didn’t have a choice. But there is one now. There’s just too much hatred here, too much ignorance, too much mindless conformity, I’m leaving.”— Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz, John Jones)
“Have a nice trip, some of us don’t have that luxury.”— Batman

Set in 1952 – 1954, the Korean War has just ended, and McCarthyism is in full swing. And Super Heroes are at the top of McCarthy’s persecute list. Superman and Wonder Woman sign loyalty oaths, but after witnessing a brutal attack on the women of a Korean village towards the end of the war, Wonder Woman quits and returns to Paradise Island.

Meanwhile, Hal Jordan is on the journey to becoming an hero.  Justice League – The New Frontier briefly gives us Hal Jordan’s Silver Age Origin story. It also gives us Martian Manhunter’s origin story and weakness (fire). But, Wonder Woman leaves, Barry Allen publicly gives up being the Flash, though he doesn’t reveal his secret identity, Batman’s a fugitive, and Superman’s a government tool.

Meanwhile, a new villain called the Center rears it’s ugly head. Eventually the Justice League heroes will have to work together to defeat the menace (the living creature once known as Dinosaur Island), and with this defeat, they are able to form the Justice League. It other words, this is a origin story for the League too.

I really enjoyed this story — the characterizations were perfect Silver Age DC Heroes: Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter. Even Robin briefly appears. Sufficient time was spent on each hero, telling us precisely who they were and who they care about – as well as their methodology.

That the villain is called, “The Center” (or possibly the Centre), seems weird these days with such polarization pushing the political spectrum to radical thinking, especially on the right. But I couldn’t help but think of a line by Yeats, “the Center cannot hold”. I Googled it, and here’s the first stanza of the poem:

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

Man, was Yeats depressed. Anyway, in New Frontier, the center is a giant blobby thing, a living island, with dinosaurs on it that it consumes for food. During it’s attacks on Cape Carnival the dinosaurs become very handy weapons. But it’s the heroes of the Justice League, including new hero, Green Lantern, and The Flash, working together that unite to defeat the villain.

Overall, I really liked it. Great cast (though Lucy Lawless has a really bad American accent as Wonder Woman when she fights one of her Amazon sisters on Paradise Island). Superman seems rather taken with Wonder Woman by the way, though he is also close to Lois Lane – who knows who he is.

I bought the two disc special edition, and there are some excellent documentaries on the DVD. The history of the Justice League (aka Justice League America, or simply, JLA) from the Golden Age to the Modern Day was pretty much priceless – I always love learning comics history. The villains history could have been a bit better documented and flushed out. But at least there was some nice documentaries on the discs.

Recommendation: See it! A must for DC fans.
Rating: 4 of 5