PG Cooper: Batman The Animated Series: A Retrospective, Volume Two

Posted: October 6, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Retrospectives

029-Eternal Youth

Written by Beth Bornstein. Directed by Kevin Altieri.

The first episode to focus on Poison Ivy since “Pretty Poison” and it’s pretty good. After a teaser involving Poison Ivy chasing down a victim, we see Bruce Wayne chewing out an employee on the phone for an operation that destroyed a rain forest. He then gets a tape in the mail (classic VHS) offering him a free weekend at a resort, the Eternal Youth Spa. Bruce refuses for being too busy, but insists Alfred go with his friend Maggie, not knowing the resort is secretly run by Poison Ivy. There’s a lot of great moments with Alfred being Alfred which is always fun, but the real strength comes from Ivy. Ivy’s plan essentially boils down to luring rich executives who, in her eyes, committed crimes against nature, and turning them into trees. I know the idea of people turning into trees just sounds silly, but the episode handles it in a way that’s very dark. Poison Ivy herself is pretty awesome and seeing Alfred in danger really ups the ante. But the episode has some problems. First, and this might be a nitpick, but there’s no way the cops wouldn’t have caught on to Ivy’s scheme. There’s a scene where they search a victims apartment and don’t bother investigating the Eternal Youth Spa despite finding a tape for the resort in the apartment. Also, while the Maggie character isn’t bad, this episode is her only appearance. The episode would have had more weight if Alfred have gone with an established character like Leslie Thompkins. Finally, I find the episodes big action climax kind of awkward. Still, this is a fun episode and overall superior to Ivy’s first appearance.

030-Perchance to Dream

Story by Laren Bright and Michael Reaves. Teleplay by Joe R. Lansdale. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.

One of the most interesting and unique episodes of the series. The premise is simple, Bruce Wayne wakes into a life where he is not, and never been, Batman. His parents are still alive and he’s engaged to Selina Kyle (who is not and has never been Catwoman). While this is everything Bruce has ever wanted, he realizes something isn’t right. It’s an intriguing concept, and it keeps you guessing. I also like the obvious music cue that fans of the show will likely pick up, but non fans will miss. The episode serves as a great study of Batman and how strong his resolve is, as well as also being an intriguing mystery. Kevin Conroy delivers one of his best performances as Batman, especially during the climax. “Perchance to Dream” is a fantastic episode, but it does have one flaw. Mainly that it’s the same concept as Alan Moore’s classic Superman story, “For The Man Who Has Everything”, which was later turned into a Justice League Unlimited episode. I wouldn’t call the episode a rip off of Moore’s comic, but it’s clearly influenced by it, and that does bother me a bit. I can’t complain too much though. This episode really is amazing and always stands out when I think of the show.

031-The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy

Written by Elliot S. Maggin. Directed by Frank Paur.

I don’t hate this episode, but it’s pretty lame. So basically it revolves around a villain putting Batman in death traps with the goal of Batman removing his cape and cowl. The villain just feels like a joke and comes off like an annoying Riddler rip off. In fact, I spent most of the time wishing they used the Riddler instead (but he hadn’t been introduced yet). It isn’t completely horrible, and has some entertaining spots, but if you haven’t seen it, you aren’t missing anything.

032 and 033-Robin’s Reckoning Parts I and II

Written by Randy Rogel. Directed by Dick Sebast.

This is why I’ve always defended Robin. The episode follows Robin’s origins. From the murder of his parents to him being adopted by Bruce Wayne. I really love this episode for a variety of reasons. It’s the first episode that suggested a more complicated relationship between Batman and Robin. It shows Robin’s tragic beginnings which is very engaging. It shows a darker side to Robin. It shows Batman using Tony Zucco (the killer of Robin’s parents) as a surrogate for the murderer who killed Batman’s parents (or at least that’s the impression I got). It has some great performances from series regulars like Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Batman, Robin, and Alfred respectively. It also has a great performance from newcomer Joey Shimmrin as the young Dick Grayson. The episode is also full of so many memorable moments. The death of Robin’s parents, Bruce and Dick discussing the loss of their parents, and the final scene between Batman and Robin to name a few. This episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour), and deservedly so. One of my favourites.

034-The Laughing Fish

Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Bruce W. Timm

Maybe my favourite Joker episode of the series. The Joker’s plan revolves around poisoning fish so they have the “Joker grin” and then copyrighting them so he can make money of them. When he’s told he can’t copyright fish, he promises to torment the employee who was working at the copyright office. I love the episode because it’s such a great Joker scheme. You get the impression that he doesn’t really care about making money of his fish, he just wants an excuse to attack innocent people. It’s got a tense feel and the music is especially awesome throughout. There’s also a lot of great Joker moments, and the whole episode is just tremendously fun. It isn’t very deep, it isn’t very tragic, but it’s full of atmosphere and great storytelling. Another favourite.

035-Night of the Ninja

Written by Steve Perry. Directed by Kevin Altieri.

Wayne Enterprises buildings are being attacked by a ninja known as Kyodai Ken, an old enemy from Bruce’s training in Japan. Kyodai consistently beat Bruce years ago and Bruce fears he still won’t be able to beat him. I do enjoy the episode, but for an episode that focuses mostly on martial arts, the fight scenes aren’t very good. I’m also a bit disappointed about how the writing handles Kyodai. I wish they made him a more honourable fighter and someone who Batman could still respect instead of just making him a thief. This would have made him more interesting and help him stand out from Batman’s villains. I still enjoy this episode, and flash backs to Bruce’s past are always great, but it could have been better.

036-Cat Scratch Fever

Written by Sean Catherine Derek. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.

This episode sees the return of Catwoman. The plot is pretty basic. Selina Kyle gets mixed up with Roland Daggett, Daggett poisons her, Batman’s gotta save her, as well as stopping Daggett’s criminal plan. I don’t know about this one. There isn’t anything overly bad about it (except Daggett’s henchwoman who pissed me off) but nothing really special either. I still really like Adrienne Barbeau as Catwoman, and Conroy is great as always, but overall this episode is very unmemorable.

037-The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne

Written by David Wise. Directed by Frank Paur.

Hugo Strange is a scientist using a machine that can read minds to extract information from Gotham’s wealthy and use it to blackmail them. That is until he uses it on Bruce Wayne and discovers he is the Dark Knight. Instead of blackmailing Wayne, he chooses to auction Wayne’s secret to the villains. I like the concept and the episode is pretty fun. This episode was the first time we got to see several of the villains mingle. It’s fun to watch Joker, Two-Face, and Penguin interact with each other and that’s really the highlight of the episode. Hugo Strange comes off a bit like a joke, but it works fine for the episode. I also think the way Batman beats Strange is pretty cool. The episode falls apart at the end when all the villains are caught in a pretty lame way. Still, it’s cool to see all the villains together and the episode is constantly entertaining.

038 and 039-Heart of Steel Parts I and II

Written by Brynne Stephens. Directed by Kevin Altieri.

Plot description for the episode: robots attack! I don’t need to so much more do I. Robot duplicates are causing trouble and Batman has to stop them. The robots are controlled by an ultimate A.I called H.A.R.D.A.C, created by Karl Rossum. The robots have an old school design to them that I really like, and the action scenes with the robots are awesome. The producers have gone on record saying they loved having robots so they could really cut loose on the violence. One of my favourite things is the Rossum character. It’s clear in the episode that what drove Rossum to create H.A.R.D.A.C was the death of Rossum’s daughter. This also explains H.A.R.D.A.C’s cynical view of human beings. It’s got a tragic edge to it, but the episode never spends too much time on it. On a sad note, the actor doing the voice for Rossum is William Sanderson, famous among film and sci-fi geeks for playing J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner. Rossum is even based on J.F. Sebastian and I really love that. The episode is also notable for having the first appearance of Barbara Gordon. I like that they introduce here and let her character develop before making her Batgirl. It may not be particularly deep, but “Heart of Steel” is a lot of fun.

040-If You’re So Smart,Why Aren’t You Rich?

Written by David Wise. Directed by Eric Radomski.

This episode sees the introduction of the Riddler, as he kidnaps a corporate executive who screwed him over in the past. I’m sort of torn on this episode. I love the depiction of Riddler and I think John Glover’s voice is perfect, and I also think the episode is a lot of fun. But it also has some really silly and over the top moments, especially when Batman and Robin are running through the maze. Still, the positives do outweigh the negatives. Riddler is great in the episode, and I like that his motivation is more based on the fact that he was outsmarted than the fact that he was screwed out of a fortune. The episode is also very fast paced and I have fond memories of watching this episode as a kid. What really stood out though going back to it is the ending. While Batman and Robin do save Mockridge (the corporate executive who Riddler was tormenting) Riddler still wins. By episodes end, he’s escaped and no one knows where he is, and he’s also broke down Mockridge. The last scene shows Mockridge checking his apartment with a shotgun before reluctantly sitting in bed and nervously shaking. Flawed episode, but a lot of fun and a great ending.

041-Joker’s Wild

The Joker discovers a casino has been built in his image. Enraged that someone else has cashed in on his image, Joker decides to blow up the casino for revenge. My opinions on this episode are pretty much the same as “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” Which is to say it’s silly and over the top, but also fun. There’s some fun scenes, my favourite being when Bruce cheats at black jack to beat the Joker. There’s also a fun little nod to continuity when Joker is seen humming a song he hummed in “The Laughing Fish”. I don’t know, I like the action and there’s a lot of great Jokerism’s throughout, but the episode is just too silly to really get behind.

042-Tyger Tyger

A scientist named Emile Dorian has been creating genetic abominations based around animals, usually cats, on his private island. These include an ape man, and even more impressive, Tygrus, a cat-human type hybrid who Dorian deems his masterpiece. For his next experiment, Dorian decides Catwoman would be perfect and chooses to mutate her. This episode is another hidden gem of the series. Sure, the idea of Catwoman into an actual cat-human monster isn’t very original, but the episode stands out for other reasons. The first is the performance from Kevin Conroy. Conroy is always great, but in this episode you get to see him really pushed, which is interesting. The second is the episode seems to be inspired by the classic story “The Most Dangerous Game”, where a hunter decides to hunt human beings on his island. I say this because in the episode, Batman ends up being hunted through the island by Tygrus. It’s pretty tense, though I admit they could have done more with this idea. What really makes the episode special though, for me, is the Tygrus character. This confused genetic freak who doesn’t really know what his purpose is. He’s loyal to his “father” Dorian, but even that comes into question. I find his last line in the episode especially interesting and tragic. Selina tells asks Tygrus to come to Gotham, saying there’s nothing for Tygrus on Dorian’s island. Tygrus responds with, “There’s nothing for me anywhere.” It’s a great ending, and leaves you wondering what happened to Tygrus later on. It’s not a perfect episode, but I really like it.

043-Moon of the Wolf

Written by Len Wein. Directed by Dick Sebast.

Batman fights a werewolf!!! There is more to the story than that, but the episode just boils down to another creature feature. While I really enjoyed some of the others (“On Leather Wings”, “Tyger Tyger”) this one is pretty weak. The character himself is very uninteresting and the action scenes are pretty poor. Overall, it’s a very weak episode.

044-Day of the Samurai

Written by Steve Perry. Directed by Bruce W. Timm.

Kyodai Ken is back. This episode takes place in Japan, where Kyodai has kidnapped a martial arts student of Bruce’s former master. Bruce goes to Japan to get her back and has another confrontation with Kyodai. While I do miss the flash back scenes from “Night of the Ninja”, this is a better episode overall. I really like the Japan setting and it’s really cool to see Batman in a different city. I also think the fight scenes in this episode are far better than those from “Night of the Ninja”. I particularly enjoy the final climax where Batman and Kyodai fight without masks. It’s a very enjoyable episode and a fine send off for Kyodai.

045-Terror in the Sky

Written by Steve Perry and Mark Saraceni. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.

After forty-four episodes, the series went back to square one with a follow up episode to “On Leather Wings”. That episode still holds up as one of my favourites. This episode…not so much. First off, the animation is really weak. Which is especially disappointing considering how good the animation was in “On Leather Wings”. Second, the episode has some massive holes that don’t make any sense. Like, why could Kirk see what the Man-Bat was doing when he wasn’t actually the Man-Bat (I won’t spoil who is…like anyone cares). Second creature feature in a row to fail.

046-Almost Got ‘Im

Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Eric Radomski.

Now we’re talking. “Almost Got ‘Im” has a simple premise. The Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc are playing cards and telling stories about how they almost killed Batman. It’s a great episode. All the stories are a lot of fun, my favourite is probably Two-Face’s. But the real reason this episode stands out is from just watching the villains interact. They aren’t planning anything villainous, they’re just telling stories and trying to one up each other. It’s a bit campier than most episodes and has a good sense of humour. There’s also a fun little twist at the end, and a great sort of epilogue scene. It’s not a deep or tragic episode, but it is a lot of fun.

047-Birds of a Feather

Written by Chuck Menville. Directed by Frank Paur.

This is the first Penguin centered episode that’s actually good. After being released from prison, the Penguin decides to turn over a new leaf. Meanwhile, billionaire Veronica Vreeland decides to act interested in the Penguin in order to get attention. But Penguin starts to really fall for her. It’s an entertaining episode, and also quite tragic. There comes a point where you genuinely want Penguin to reform. And it seems like he might too. He actually does start to fall in love with Veronica. It’s a great episode, but it has a weak climax. It feels like the episode tried too hard to have an action-packed climax and it really wasn’t needed. Still, this is a very good episode and MUCH better than the Penguin’s debut.

047-What Is Reality?

Written by Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir. Directed by Dick Sebast.

The Riddler’s debut was pretty strong. This episode is…not. The biggest problem is that it’s way to techno based. Virtual reality programming, and robots? I didn’t mind robots when it was from a massive company, but when they’re made by the Riddler, that just doesn’t work for me. You’d think at least the virtual reality stuff would have some creative scenes and cool animation, but it doesn’t really. It’s a weak episode, but I know a strong Riddler episode is coming eventually.

048-I Am The Night

Written by Michael Reaves. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.

Alright, I love this episode, and I’m about to spoil the s*** out of it. In the episode, Batman is doubting if he’s making a difference. “I’ve put out a few fires yes, won a few battles. But the war goes on Alfred, on and on.” To make matters worse, Jim Gordon is shot and Batman is partially responsible. I love watching Batman really question if what he’s doing has any purpose. Conroy is at his best here. Whether he’s angry and loud or somber and quiet, Conroy really does a great job. The episode is bursting with atmosphere. It feels dark and to some extent hopeless, yet still has a very cathartic ending. The episode is also full of great moments. The scene where Gordon is shown down after being shot still gives me chills. The ending is also pretty cool, where Batman sees the effect he’s had on a punk kid. I never saw this episode when I was young, the first time I saw it was after I picked up the DVDs a few years ago. To be honest, I’m glad I didn’t see it as a kid, I don’t know if I would have appreciated it. Seeing it now, it’s clear that it’s one of the best.

“Gotta stop fighting, never stop. What I try to live by. Maybe if I had been younger, coulda been like you. Always wanted to be a hero.”

“You are a hero Jim.”

050-Off Balance

Written by Len Wein. Directed by Kevin Altieri.

The episode sees a group known as “The Society of Shadows” trying to steal an advanced weapon. They are led by Count Vertigo, a super villain who uses an eye patch device to cause vertigo in his enemies. In his quest to stop him, Batman teams up with new character Talia. The most memorable thing about the episode is how it introduces Ra’s Al Ghul without focusing on him. He only makes a physical appearance at the very end. Count Vertigo serves as the main villain. While he makes for an interesting threat, Vertigo himself is pretty damn lame. His costume feels lazy and he just isn’t very interesting. I admit I do get a kick out of Michael York (Basil Expedition from Austin Powers) voicing Vertigo. On the plus side, I really like Talia and I think the action scenes are pretty good in this. And it is really cool to see Ra’s. Overall, this episode is okay.

051-The Man Who Killed Batman

Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Bruce W. Timm.

A dorky gangster accidentally kills Batman and has to live with the consequences. It’s a fun concept, and the episode makes good use of it. Batman isn’t actually in the episode much, we spend most of our time with the unlikely killer of Batman, Sid the Squid. Matt Frewer (who had a role as Mitch in this year’s 50/50) voices Sid and he’s great. Sid is bumbling and incompetent, and it’s fun just to listen to him speak. The best moments of the episode are the ones where Sid is paying the price for killing Batman. Early on, he’s in bar and ends up sparking a brawl with everyone trying to beat the man who killed Batman. The scene also has a random yet in my opinion hilarious gag involving a random bartender. The highlight of the episode is when Sid meets up with the Joker. The Joker doesn’t believe Batman is really dead, so he decides to pull a heist. When Batman doesn’t show up though, Joker falls into a sort of depression. It’s pretty funny, but also kinda scary. There’s a great scene where the Joker gives Batman a funeral. It’s a funny scene, but there’s a dark edge to it, particularly in a brief Joker line (“The time for sorrow is passed, it’s time to look a head to a future filled with smiles. And I’ll be smiling again…”). “The Man Who Killed Batman” is one of my favourite episodes. It’s really funny and it’s full of memorable moments. Great stuff.

052-Mudslide

Written by Alan Burnett. Directed by Eric Radomski.

Clayface returns, but his body is breaking down, but he may have found the remedy he needed. The introduction to Clayface was awesome, and this episode is pretty good too. The animation is fantastic on Clayface and it’s interesting to watch a villain so close to death’s door, something we hadn’t really seen in the show. There’s some awesome fight scenes between Clayface and Batman, and Ron Perlman is great as Clayface. There’s just one problem. The ending makes Batman come off like a villain. Clayface is basically getting chemicals put into him that will allow him to become normal. He’ll be able to become Matt Hagen again. That is until Batman turns off the machine, the two fight, and Clayface falls off a cliff and seemingly dies. I know Clayface is a villain, but I’d like to think Batman would have more sympathy for the guy. It’s a very good episode, but what Batman does at the end makes me very uncomfortable.

053-Paging The Crime Doctor

Written by Mike W. Barr and Laren Bright. Directed by Frank Paur.

Rupert Thorne needs surgery so he goes to his brother Matthew, AKA the crime doctor. Matthew can’t do it alone though, so Dr. Leslie Thompkins is kidnapped to help with the procedure. Meanwhile, Batman is dealing with a concussion. I consider this episode similar to “It’s Never Too Late”, a hidden gem of the series. I really like Leslie so it’s always nice to see her pop up. Her relationship with Batman I’ve always found interesting, but that’s not really the focus here. The episode centers mostly on Matthew Thorne. I really liked his character. I especially liked a scene early on where he and his brother argue. Brief as the scene is, it got me really interested in the dynamics of the Thorne family. The link Matthew has to Bruce’s past is also interesting, even if it’s exploited somewhat randomly at the end. I also think it’s interesting watching Batman have to cope with an injury. And while I mentioned the pointless exploitation at the end, it does come through in a very memorable scene. It’s low-scale and doesn’t appeal to kids, but that’s exactly why I like it.

054-Zatanna

Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Dick Sebast and Dan Riba.

Of all the writers who worked on B:TAS, none receive as much praise as Paul Dini. It’s easy to see why. He created Harley Quinn, reinvented Mr. Freeze with “Heart of Ice”, and would go on to write comics, as well as the award winning game “Batman Arkham Asylum” (and it’s coming sequel!). All that praise to say…I’m not crazy about this episode. It’s not horrible, but I can’t think of a weaker B:TAS episode that he wrote. I like the insight into Bruce’s past, but that’s about it. Zatanna comes off as annoying and the central plot is really lame. Once again, I get a kick out of seeing Basil play a villain, but still, a pretty weak episode from the usually great Paul Dini.

055-The Mechanic

(Strangely the best pic I could get)
Written by Steve Perry and Laren Bright. Directed by Kevin Altieri.

Taking inspiration from Batman Returns, the episode revolves around the Penguin sabotaging the Batmobile. I like how they actually give a back story to the Batmobile instead of just being the car. I also find, Earl, the mechanic, a really likable character. He’s an honest guy who wants to do the right thing, but he also has personality. The way he tips Batman and Robin off to Penguin is pretty cool, and how they escape is also pretty clever. I also have to mention this episode has one of the strangest gags of the series, when Penguin sends a character down through a whirlpool. It’s bizarre and random, but I find it hilarious. Maybe it’s because I have fond memories of laughing at it with my brother, but either way, I’ve always loved that scene.

056-Harley and Ivy

Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.

Dini returns to form. After Joker kicks Harley out of the gang, she teams up with Poison Ivy and the two begin wrecking havoc. On paper, the idea of Harley and Ivy being a team seems stupid. Yet the two work quite well together, and are still associated with each other. The Joker is also given a lot to do here, and the episode has a lot of fun moments. On top of that, the animation is fantastic. There’s some big action scenes, but also a lot of well-animated small gestures such as Poison Ivy flipping her hair back. The only problem with the episode is there is no subtlety with the feminist themes. It’s all so overly stated. And the set up at the end (“No man can catch us”) was really stupid. But there is a lot of awesome moments and it also offers the first look inside the relationship between Harley and the Joker. Fun episode, though flawed.

Strongest Episodes (One Per Disc): Robin’s Reckoning, Tyger Tyger, I Am The Night, The Man Who Killed Batman

Weakest Episodes (One Per Disc): The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy, Cat Scratch Fever, Moon of the Wolf, Zatanna

Comments
  1. I haven’t watched this series in so long that I’m unfamiliar now with the episodes. Its unfortunate, just reading your blurbs about them made me remember how freaking awesome they were.

    Mark Hammill is going to be at NY Comic-Con next weekend, I wish I had the balls to ask him to do the Joker voice for me. LOL.

    Have you ever heard anything about these coming to Blu Ray?

    I personally feel the DC Animated U under Paul Dini and co. Peaked with the JLU… ended with a bang so to speak… but every series they put out was awesome. I was a huge fan of STAS too.

    TOTALLY worthy of retrospective treatment, I just wish I was better versed

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      You get to meet Hamill! I’m very envious right now.

      I’m not sure about the Blu Rays. I know the first two seasons of Justice League and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker were released on Blu Ray, but outside of that, I have no idea what plans are.

      As much as I love JLU, BTAS will always be the masterpiece of the DCAU for me. Hugely addicting series.

      • Great series, yeah. No debate from me! Its all a question of favorites amongst hall of fame cartoons… pure gravy!

        Anyways, as to whether or not I’ll get to meet Mark Hamill? I dont know yet, we’ll see. He’s going to be there, thats for sure. I’ve heard he’ll be doing signings too, but that doesnt always work out…

  2. Lina Wieting says:

    batman is one of my favourite comic book,because he is the smartest one !he is the brain of the JLA ,and he always finds way to kick his enemy’s ass no matter what …even the darkseid as well …this character is freakin awesome man !

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