Sunday, June 24, 2012

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

This past Tuesday saw the release of "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" Season 3, the final nail in the coffin of this amazing series.  Initially, fans balked at a lighter Batman cartoon, one not starring Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight.  But those that gave it a fair shake were delighted to find a high quality series that paid homage to nearly every interpretation of the Caped Crusader throughout his long history.
Named after the long-running comic book that featured Batman teaming up with various other DC stars, the show mimicked that format by pairing Batman with a seemingly random cast of characters... not just one per episode, but usually two, via the introductory bumpers at the beginning of each episode.  But due to licensing, the producers focused on a small group of recurring characters, Aquaman, The Atom, Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Plastic Man and Red Tornado. 
 Aquaman, in particular, broke out as a fan favorite and headlined his own episode "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure" as well as other segments.  This interpretation was more, ahem, enthusiastic about his adventuring than his stoic comic book source.  His supporting cast included his wife Mera and their mopey teenage son Arthur Jr.
Perhaps the most fondly remembered episode is "Mayhem of the Music Meister" starring Neil Patrick Harris as the titular villain, featuring several musical numbers.  The episode was so popular, the soundtrack was released on iTunes.
Speaking of musical numbers, this last boxed set includes the episode "The Mask of Matches Malone" which has never aired or been released in the US due to a racy song and dance by Black Canary, Catwoman and Huntress, where they poke fun at the various male heroes' sexual potency.  In fact, the version included on the DVD is doctored.  When Huntress refers to Aquaman's "little fish" in the original, she makes a gesture with her finger.  On the DVD, the camera pans over to an aquarium!  Are we that prudish, WB?  Check out the original below:
Initially, the producers chose to focus on lesser known heroes... plus, they couldn't get permission to use Superman or Wonder Wonder Woman (although they appeared with their backs to the camera in a Justice League group shot).  Superman kinda made an appearance in "The Super Batman of Planet X" where Batman encountered an extraterrestrial version of himself that bore more than a passing resemblance to the Man of Steel.  Finally, the other big two popped up in Season 3.  Wonder Woman debuted in an opening bumper, rescuing Batman and Steve Trevor from the Baroness Paula Von Gunther... to the original Wonder Woman theme song from the 70s!  Superman appears next, in the full-length "Battle of the Super Heroes."  Both heroes appear in "Triumvirate of Terror" facing off against their arch enemies, The Joker, Lex Luthor and The Cheetah.
But as I said, the thing the writers and producers prided themselves on was pairing Batman with the most off-the-wall DC characters they could think of, from B'Wanna Beast to Wild West cowboy Jonah Hex to future-dwelling Kamandi to the Haunted Tank to Detective Chimp and beyond.  By the final season, however, it seems all bets were off, with Batman joining forces with Space Ghost, Scooby Doo, Wierd Al Yankovick, Jeffrey Ross and even Abraham Lincoln!
Not only were the character selections wild at times, but so were some of the concepts the creators chose to adapt.  They adapted the famous Mad Magazine parody "Bat Boy and Rubin" and Jiro Kuwata's Batman Manga from Japan (in which the Dark Knight battled Lord Death Man).

The final episode is a meta look back, with Bat-Mite (voiced by Paul Rubens) trying to get "The Brave and the Bold" cancelled in favor of a darker Batman series.  It's actually quite clever and the final gathering in the Bat Cave of all of the show's guest stars (including B'Wanna Beast, somehow alive again after dying in "The Seige of Starro") was a lovely send off.

This series broke the moldon what a Batman show had to be.  It didn't have to be dark or dramatic.  It could be lighter and funny and still be Batman.  There is a new Batman show coming up, but I doubt any upcoming super hero series reaches the goofy but glorious heights of this show.

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