Author’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on my old site, The Ink and Pixel Club.
Comparing two works based on the same source material can lead to interesting discoveries. Seeing how the same story is handled can reveal the differences in the filmmakers and their approaches to their craft. If can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different media. Or, as with the two works we’re going to look at today, it can reveal a much broader concept, like the positive side of limitations.
Batman is an ideal subject for this kind of comparison. DC’s dark knight has been repeatedly reinterpreted for different media, different audiences, and different times. Yet in nearly every new version, a few key elements remain the same, keeping the result recognizably Batman. The part of the Batman mythos that we’ll be examining today is the death of the Graysons, a key moment in the origin of Batman’s sidekick, Robin.
This weekend I had the opportunity to watch the new Justice League: Gods and Monsters. I actually wasn’t all that interested in seeing it for several reasons, the top two being that DC hasn’t really been hitting it out of the park with their animated releases lately and frankly, I have a list of pet peeves that always seem to pop up whenever something is rebooted as “darker and more gritty.”
Well, thank you DC for only proving me a little right.
SPOILER WARNING: From this point on, there are going to be A LOT of spoilers, so consider yourself warned because here we go.
Overall, Gods and Monsters is not a bad movie. In fact, in a lot of ways, it is really quite good and an improvement on some of DC’s more recent stuff. There was a lot of talk about the return of Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett (writers on the original Batman: The Animated Series) and a familiar art-style from DC’s animation’s glory days, and I will admit that the result was pretty darn interesting. The story did manage to pull me in, regardless of some raised eyebrows in the beginning. But here is the problem, once you take a moment to step back and think about the film more broadly, you start to realize that DC still has some ground to cover when it comes to women.
Bat-Month and its corresponding in-store event Bat-Night have come and gone. The entire thing was a big success and we would like to thank everyone who read our posts, commented on our posts, came to the event, or otherwise participated. It was great to see so many of you at-Bat-Night and with your help, we raised $100 for The One Fund!
The Episodes shown were:
Almost Got ‘im
Over the Edge
And the voted on Fan Favorite: Heart of Ice
We had a lot of fun preparing for Bat-Night, but it was a lot of work too. Here, for example, is one of the highly serious brainstorming sessions we had on Facebook to come up with food options for the event:
Smalerie: How could we have missed Ra’s al Ghul-ash? (Goulash)
The Red Menace: Oh MY.
Cartoon Sara: I…don’t know?
TRM: Perhaps because it isn’t exactly a snack. It is, however, brilliant.
CS: Though neither is a Killer Croc-Pot.
TRM: On the same line, as I sit here making chili I feel like Mr. Freeze could provide an entire meal. Depends on what is IN the Killer Croc-Pot!
S: What was the tag line for Joker’s pie?
TRM: It’s CRAZY delicious!
S: OK. Wanted to make sure I wrote it right.
CS: And the Harlinquinade packs a punch.
S: Commissioner gorditas?
CS: I think that’s all the taglines we had.
TRM: Oh lord, I am laughing all over again. Commissioner Gorditas! Clearly you just needed some time, Smal. GENIUS IDEAS.
S: Also a few drinks
TRM: That can definitely spark the imagination.
S: Goth-ham and cheese
TRM: Someone stop her before she hurts herself, people!
CS: Oswald Cobblepot pie?
TRM: Dudes, I am actually laughing out loud. All alone at home.
CS: Our work is done here.
S: Pot pie! Brilliant!!!! I love this game
TRM: There is a cookie called the langue de chat – cat’s tongue – a little obscure but langues de Catwoman is grossly amusing. Also, how would you work in Bane?
CS: Bane-nana bread? :S
TRM: I had the feeling bananas were the best way to work him in
TRM: Another beverage could be the Deadshot, which would just be some sort of deadly alcoholic beverage.
S: I keep trying to think of one for the Scare Crow. Roast Turkey and Crane-berry sauce?
TRM: Oh man, I wasn’t even thinking about him. Hmm.. Scare-croquettes? Turkey Scarecroquettes with Craneberry Sauce.
TRM: Mad Hatter just gets tea, poor guy. PS: The Open Two Faced sandwich might be my favorite.
CS: Just have to find sufficiently contrasty fillings.
TRM: Two ways of thinking about that. One, you could have two things that work together, but look different, ala PB and J. OR, you have two completely different sandwiches, like PBJ and Chicken salad.
S: So it sounds like we might actually have to make that one
TRM: It just makes me laugh, and could be an actual visual gag.
S: I am willing to make several of these They make me happy I love the idea of contrasting sandwiches One sweet and one savory One hot, one cold<
TRM: Sinners, saints.
I’m really glad that we were able to share this conversation because it just proves how much fun it can be to plan an event like this. We had conversations on-line, in person planning meetings with AMAZING food, and then got to top it all off with a great evening. Not too shabby. Oh, and just a little something for those of you non-local readers to think about – hosting an event like this works great at a home. In fact, easier if you have access to a kitchen and a nice TV. Best of all, you don’t really need an excuse to like a holiday or birthday to go all out. In case you need a little more inspiration, we are going to share even more goodies from our event. So keep reading!
Raffle prizes- As mentioned we did a small raffle…small but mighty as we managed to raise $100 for the One Fund Boston! Prizes were of course Batman themed and had made with extra love by me and Cartoon Sara.
You may recall our previous snowglobe post. Well I put those skills to good use again to create 2 prizes, one Joker themed and one Harley themes. Frankly if our viewing of B:TAS episodes taught us anything it’s that it is best to keep these two separated. So forever locked in their own jars (barring any unforeseen mishaps) they went off to new and different homes.
Our grand prize was a print by our very own Cartoon Sara. As you have likely noticed CS is a very talented artist, who graciously donated one of her prints to cause…framed and everything! This is her second in a series of Batman prints (the first was actually inspired by our fan favorite episode). We especially liked this one because of lady theme, and went to a very good home!
The print was an idea I had kicking around beforehand. Once we started planning Bat-Night, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to debut it. I’m very pleased that it went over so well and that it helped to raised additional money for the One Fund. If anyone’s interested, there are still copies available at Comicazi.
I had another art project keeping me busy. Since my culinary skills are somewhat lacking, I decided to pitch in by making illustrated signs for the various Batman-themed foods we served. The names and descriptions were a group effort. They were all fun to draw, though I think the Arkham Mixed Nuts on is my favorite. I have this mental image of Joker strutting around singing the Chiquita Banana song.
I was so happy to see such a positive response to Bat-Night, both from everyone who attended and from my fellow Ladies, who were on board as soon as the idea was suggested. We’re definitely going to have to do something like this again.
The Red Menace
Like the other Ladies, I was blown away by the response to this event. From the actual posts to the snacks, people were so kind and excited about everything we did.
I was responsible for the Batarang Brownies listed above, and was so pleased with how they came out:
I also made the tea cake and Harlequin-Ade:
Here’s the full spread:
The Ladies would like to thank all of the staff at Comicazi – you were so helpful and fabulous and without you there would literally be no event. Thanks also to all of the folks who voted in the poll and came to watch cartoons with us – it’s more fun with friends. Extra special thanks to Tom Majkut, who saved our skins with replacement audio equipment, Kevin Harrington and Kevin Church (yes, we know a lot of Kevins) for promoting the heck out of this event, and to Bob Howard, for being awesome.
Okay friends, it looks like I am the “closer,” so to speak, for our month of posts about Batman: The Animated Series. It will be sad to see Batman go away for a little while, but don’t forget about our Bat-month Viewing Event on May 10th. More details at the end of this post.
And now we move on to my episode of choice: Mudslide
Warning: Not only am I assuming that you have watched Mudslide, I am also assuming that you have watched the rest of the series.
I chose this episode for several reasons. I not only wanted to choose an episode that I really liked, but also one that would give me a lot to talk about. Mudslide is one of my favorites because it is so well animated, features yet another compelling story about a rather tragic villain, and is lovingly peppered with references to classic Hollywood. How’s that for classy?
First things first: Clayface is a feat of animation. He allows the writers and animators a great deal of creativity in the way he fights, moves, and even dies. This also makes him extremely expensive/time consuming to animate. To be honest, when you think about it, it was amazing that they were able to budget for the first 2-part Clayface episode, let alone bring him back again for such a powerful conclusion to his story. Still, I bet he is a dream to write in that he can do almost anything. Need a blade in a fight? He can turn his arm into one. Need a clever way to escape? Take out the guard, morph into his double, and walk right out. He can be frozen, broken into pieces and put back together again. Oh yeah, and all that happens in this episode.
As many of us may or may not know, Batman:TAS reimagined the origin of Clayface for the series. Or to be more precise, he is a combination of the first two Clayface villains: Basil Karlo, a character actor, and Matt Hagen, a treasure hunter. The animated Clayface has Hagen’s name but Karlo’s profession. He was a successful actor until an accident robbed him of his handsome face. In a desperate attempt to save his career, Hagen began using Renuyu – an experimental and highly addictive face-lift in a can given to him by Roland Daggett. Without spending too much time on backstory, the cream turned Hagen into Clayface – a creature that, while unstable, has the ability to morph into anyone.
By the time we get to the events in Mudslide, Clayface is quite literally falling apart. He is desperate to save himself and get his life back, even if that means resorting to drastic measures to do so. Clayface is a bad guy by necessity and his crimes become worse the more desperate he gets. In fact, he is willing to kill to save his own hide. He has managed to find himself a crazy fangirl doctor to take care of him. She has created a suit to keep his form together when he gets tired and is working on new ways to restore him to the man he once was. The trouble starts when the best cure she has found involves stealing a rare isotope from Wayne BioMedicals. Batman’s got your number now, son!
Batman catches Clayface and his lady in the middle of what could very well be his cure. Batman chooses to stop the treatment just as it is beginning to work. The sad thing here is just how close Clayface was to just being Matt Hagen again. In fact, some could argue that Batman pulls a bit of a dick move. Twice already Batman has offered to help cure Hagen, but if he tries to do it with stolen materials and not HIS WAY, Batman is not going to let anything slide. He instead rips all hope away and fights with Hagen, who is pretty much out for his blood at this point. That being said, it is hard to argue with the B-man’s sense of justice here. Hagen certainly did go about things the wrong way and if things went wrong in the lab, who knows what could have happened.
And yet the writing and characterization are just so stellar that you can’t help but want Hagen to at least have had some chance of being whole again. Even if Hagen is also kinda the self-serving sort who uses horrible lines from his movies to convince his girlfriend that he loves her… Then again, he is voiced by Ron Perlman, so there might be some of us out there who are preconditioned to automatically love someone who has his voice… And who maybe can speak French… And was once a carnival strongman who likes to save orphaned children from mad scientists… *snaps back* But I digress, back to Batman!
I guess my whole point here is that you can still feel sympathy for Clayface. And to be perfectly honest, I was sad to see that even Batman couldn’t save him in the end.
Phew! I hope that I have convinced of the pure awesome-itude of the episode by now, but if not, I have one last argument and that is – Hollywood baby! This episode is dripping in references to the grand world of classic film. When Clayface is wearing his suit, he looks suspiciously like a walking Oscar statue. Alfred does “research” by reading a pile of Hollywood gossip rags. And the animators were even able to sneak in an extra old-school Warner Brothers logo at the end of one of Hagen’s films.
The best of these references comes in the form of Hagen’s devoted if not a little creepy doctor/girlfriend, Stella Bates. With a name like that we not only get the infamous calling out of “STELLA!”, but we also get a totally straight-faced Batman informing us of how Doctor Bates used to own a motel, but was forced to sell it to fund her work with Clayface.
So there you have it – another example of why this show was (and remains) so special. Not only was the animation impressive on its own, but the stories were written with a real love of the material while still keeping the Batman universe accessible for those who were being introduced to it for the first time. Hollywood references could bridge the age-gap, but reaching across all of that was the attention to character development and story. The characters remained with so many of us to this day, and that is truly something to celebrate.
Had enough of our favorite episodes and want to choose your own? Vote in our poll and then join us at Bat-night, May 10th at 7pm at Comicazi in Somerville, MA. We will be watching all the episodes we featured this month, including the winner of our poll. Come, watch, hang out, and eat free Batman-themed snacks. Hope to see you there!