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Batman: The Animated Series – Almost Got ‘Im

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. Given that we looked at Batman: Gotham Knight earlier today, I thought we might take a look at another series of vignettes related to the Batman – this time from the perspective of his bad guys.

Greetings, Batman! You have taken the bait, as I knew you would. Now, prepare to meet your end, within my Aviary of Doom

Aviary of WHAT?

Yeesh, Pengers! How corny can you get?

Fah! Just because you mundane miscreants have no drama in your souls! Anyway, there he was in my av… uh, big birdhouse…

– The Penguin, Poison Ivy and the Joker discuss the state of theatricality amongst modern supervillains

Batman: The Animated Series perhaps represents the best adaptation of the Batman mythos in any medium outside of comics. No other iteration of the character has successfully managed to take in virtually all facets of the Caped Crusader without breaking a sweat – the show can do drama, action, gothic thriller and even comedy. Almost Got ‘Im is a fun little episode which centres around a bunch of supervillains trading stories about that one time that they almost killed the Batman. It’s mostly entertaining just to watch Batman’s eclectic selection of bad guys sitting around and playing cards while talking about business and “you know who”, but each of the schemes is a wacky and crazy death trap straight out of a hokier comic (from a giant dollar coin to exploding pumpkins to laughter-powered electric chair). The episode works because it treats all of this like it’s a regular occurence in Gotham, and these ridiculous plots are just what the villains get up to when there’s nothing better going on.

Card-carrying villains...

Even today, Batman’s iconic selection of villains stands out amongst other comic book characters. Only Spider-Man can really challenge the Dark Knight when it comes to depth and variety of foes. I reckon if you asked a random person to name ten Batman bad guys, they could probably do it without breaking sweat. Part of that is undoubtedly due to pop culture exposure, but I reckon at least some of that can be tracked back to the fact that they’re just a remarkably well put together selection of adversaries, each with a clear (and yet compelling) hook. They can be used time and time again with little need for a back story, reintroduction or exposition, but they can also serve as vehicles for more in-depth stories as required.

As such, Batman’s gallery of villains is interesting in a way that Superman’s or Green Lantern’s simply isn’t. They’re all colourful characters – and it’s always fun to think of colourful characters, even if they aren’t doing anything especially interesting. An episode about the Joker paying his bills would be interesting. And so, this, a story about five of Batman’s foes sitting around shooting the breeze and playing poker while trading war stories, is a fun and interesting diversion.

Catwoman has her own "almost got 'im" story...

It helps that the script is incredibly witty – you’ll note, for example, that Two-Face takes “half-and-half” in his coffee. As an Irish person, I don’t even know what half-and-half is, but that’s hilarious. The script is packed with interesting observations. For example, Two-Face has own crazy theory on Batman. “I don’t think it is one guy,” he explains to the Joker, like a fanboy outlining his own particular theory. “The way I figure it, Gordon’s got a bunch of them stashed someplace, like a S.W.A.T. team.” Given the recent comic book developments, in Grant Morrison’s Batman and Batman Incorporated (which deal with the idea of duplicating Batman), it seems Two-Face might have been more than a decade ahead of his time.

At the same time, the bad guys seem to have their own understanding of their foe, which possibly runs far deeper than they expect. While the group is casually throwing around theories, the Penguin hits the nail on the head. “It’s obvious our caped friend suffered some crime-related trauma when he was younger,” he guesses. “Perhaps an over-anxious mugger blew off a piece of his face.” That’s got to earn the character at least partial credit. And then of course, there’s Croc’s proposal. “Not the robot theory again,” the Joker moans.

Batman's adversaries give no quarter...

Anybody else want to go?

ME! There I was, holed up in this quarry, when Batman came nosing around. He was getting closer… Closer…

And…?

I threw a rock at him!

(silence)

So, Harvey, what became of the giant penny?

It was a big rock…

– Croc’s story doesn’t quite measure up

 The story itself is essentially a series of vignettes from the point of view of the villians, as each recounts the story of how they “almost got” Batman. There’s a sense of showmanship about all this – it isn’t enough to have pointed a gun at the Dark Knight and to have pulled the trigger – you need to have earned that story. Tie him to a giant penny and flip it! Cover him in nectar and release the poisonous birds! Tie him to an electric chair and make the audience laugh him to death! One senses that the Riddler isn’t invited to these little get-togethers because he simply has too many of these stories – he could go on all night.

By all accounts, this sort of wacky portrayal should seem tired and outdated. Any one of these schemes wouldn’t look out-of-place in Adam West’s Batman! And yet, they work. Perhaps it’s because of the banter between the characters, or the way that Batman (who barely speaks in each of these little flashbacks) seems like an eternal straight man. There’s no dancing the Batusi here. I could understand that the producers might have been a little scared of veering too far into camp, but the episode manages to get the balance right each time.

There's bound to be trouble...

Almost Got ‘Im is a wonderfully entertaining piece of animation that just feels like a great bit of fun. It’s nice spend some time with the bad guys, and to get a sense of what they’re doing when they aren’t being foiled by Batman (although they spend most of their time still talking about him). It’s proof that Batman doesn’t always need to take itself too serious and that, if handled properly, there is room for comedy.

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3 Responses

  1. I adored the animated series..I still do…I must admit though that I was so taken by the dark atmosphere, the music and the animation that, as a child, I wasn’t as aware of the humour that ran through it. There’s nothing quite like the old series – It had quite the impact on youngling sundryandco! The intro music used to have me gripped every time.

    • Just the way that the opening credits narrate a little story about Batman so effectively while being utterly badass, silent and summing up the character perfectly. I love those credits.

      • Opening credits that give a synopsis of what you are about to watch are the best – Captain Planet, James Bond Jr, Sliders, Xena, Seaquest, even Alex Mack. They don’t make them like that anymore. All these newfangled 21st century shows!
        There was TV show I used to watch that had hidden messages in the closing credits, like in Hot Shots, I think it may have been Xena actually…Although, I’m not quite sure. I’m starting to forget these bits of information in my old age.

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