Monday, February 08, 2010

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is the Latest Great Batman Cartoon

Watching Batman: The Brave and the Bold has become a weekly ritual for my son and I, and every episode, I'm surprised and thrilled by the appearance of some obscure old villain or a nod to some weird old Batman story. Ostensibly a team-up show, the writers manage to shoehorn in all kinds of fun elements into the most colorful, poppiest Batman show since that Adam West deal back in the '60's.

This is just the latest in a long string of excellent DC animated projects from Warner Bros. Animation, starting with Batman: The Animated Series and including Justice League Unlimited. What I've enjoyed about these projects, and especially about Brave and the Bold, is the way each show is allowed its own tone, design, and identity. The world of  Brave and the Bold is based on the Batman comics of the 1950's, specifically those drawn by artist Dick Sprang, and it serves as a great gateway into the overall DC universe as well.

As a leading advocate of lame-ass supervillains, I love that the show is packed with cameos by guys like Zebra Man, the Eraser, Killer Moth, Polka-Dot-Man, Planet Master, and a couple of guys even I don't recognize, like the camera guy and the propeller-head guy. But oh, I want to know them now.

Also included: Bat Mite! One especially great episode featured Batman trying to rid himself of the interdimensional pest as he was whisked through a surreal gallery of Sprang-styled villains and monsters:

But is all of this too silly, too demeaning to the image of Batman? As Bat-Mite himself said in "Legends of the Dark Mite!":
"Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy."
Hey, if it's good enough for Bat-Mite, it's  good enough for me.


There's been a great array of guest stars too, with a focus on the obscure corners of the DCU, and so far, most of the characters are ones who haven't appeared in previous animated shows, like Plastic Man, both Blue Beetles, Guy Gardner, Firestorm, and many others.

The show also gives us plenty of something we don't see enough of in modern Batman comics: Bizarre transformations! Batman has been transformed into triplets, a gorilla, a plastic Batman, a Future Batman, a Green Lantern, a ghost, and the Justice Society of America even showed up in a recent episode, where age-altering antics gave us a geriatric Batman!

Upcoming episodes promise the Doom Patrol, the Rainbow Batman, and an all-Bob Khaniger episode, featuring the Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot. Coming next week we'll see an animated Batman of Zur En Arrh in, the "THE SUPER-BATMAN OF PLANET X!"

If you're not watching Batman:Brave and the Bold because it looks too kid-centric, don't be fooled. It is 100% kid-friendly, but there's a lot for fans, too. The Black Casebook has been opened...and it's animated!


Sea-of-Green said...

Slacker Batman in the last episode was the best "Batman" yet. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you! I love the obscure comic villains, but even more fun for me is the tiny cameos from the 1966 TV villains like King Tut and Egghead ... and this past episode featured appearances from "Simon the Pieman" and "Sweet Tooth", two villains from the two Filmation animated Batman shows! What a hoot!

Mego Thor said...

True dat! As awesome as BTAS is, Brave and the Bold is every bit as good, in it's own way. Characters I'd never thought would be animated turn up as a matter of routine. I love how Batman shows up anywhere, in any era, with zero explanation. Deep space? The old west? "How'd he get here?" "I'm Batman." You know when the first episode starts out with a talking gorilla riding a pterodactyl, you've got a winner. Who would have ever guessed that Oswald from the Drew Carey show would give Kevin Conroy a run for his money as Batman?

MetFanMac said...

Obscure villains:

Mr. Camera (Batman #81)
Signal Man
Planet Master
The Spinner (Batman #129)

BTW, what is your opinion of the Teen Titans cartoon?

Brian Hughes said...

I ended up liking the Teen Titans cartoon a lot more than I initially expected to. I remember being unhappy with the heavy Anime look of the show at first, but the finished series won me over with its charm and heart pretty quickly.

MetFanMac said...

Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction too--didn't all expect to be so taken with it :-)

I was glad when they got less anime-influenced as the seasons went by though.

joe bloke said...

I love Brave and the Bold, especially the episodes with the Red Hood/Joker team-ups ( although I DO wish they wouldn't keep bringing Blue Beetle into it ). great show.

and, for the record, I thought Teen Titans was a cracking good series, too.

Phillyradiogeek said...

I've been trying to think of a way to tell everyone I know how much I love this show. Now I can just send them this article. Great job!

Esteban138 said...

I believe Plastic Man had his own show at one point... I've never seen it, but I'm pretty sure there are DVDs available.

I'll admit, I've tried the Brave and the Bold and I have kind of a low tolerance for it. I love all the stories they're drawing from, but... maybe it's because I'm not a father yet, (it does seem like a great way to a child to the DC Universe).

Still, when I first heard they were adapting "The Super-Batman of Planet X," I knew I basically had to watch it.

hobbyfan said...

Diedrich Bader (ex-The Drew Carey Show) isn't just giving Kevin Conroy a run for his money, effendis, he's doing a near-perfect mimic of Conroy, IMPO. Who knew he had that kind of talent?

Depending on what cable system you have, episodes are available On Demand, which is how I catch up. I'm waiting for them to bring in Zatanna, among others.

Mego Thor said...

How many people can put "Jethro Bodine" and "Batman" on their professional resume? Just Diedrich Bader, baby! That said, I don't really hear Kevin Conroy in Bader's performance; and it’s the first time I haven't missed it. While Conroy's gruff no-nonsense Batman was perfect for the recent Arkham Asylum video game, I think it would seem out place during Silver Age Shenanigans (TM).

I hope they continue the Batman/Zatanna romance angle started in BTAS.

Brian Hughes said...


I liked that movie.

I guess Kevin Conroy is gonna be the voice of the Batman of Zur En Arrh, so we'll get to compare the two soon enough!

Anonymous said...

A Fun Show - hopefully before the series sends will see Superman make an apperance.

The comic-book tie-in is alot of fun - DC is collecting them into Trade paperbacks.

Anonymous said...

I loved the homages to the 1966 TV show and the 1950's World's Finest. And the first Bat-Mite episode even parodied that Daffy Duck cartoon "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" (which, in turn, was a spoof of Dick Tracy). It's hard to satirize a satire, but this show pulled it off.

Anonymous said...

There was a Plastic Man TV cartoon in the 1970's. I don't remember much about it except that he had a bumbling sidekick named Hula Hula. PM's costume and powers were basically the same as in the comic books.