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Archives for : Deadmen Ink Productions

SMF: The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

The Adventures of sonic the hedgehog

Original Run: 1993 – 1996

1 season

65 episodes

Primary  production Company: DIC

Based On: The Sonic the Hedgehog Game Franchise

 

What is it?

Clearly seeing the success of Nintendo’s super Mario bros. Super show, Sega decides to get into the world of Saturday Morning cartoons. And seeing as they already have a mascot that’s sarcastic, perfect for slapstick, and whose surreal art style lend itself to low budget low risk animation, Sega orders up a whopping 65 episodes of sonic.

 

Opening Theme 

High energy….at times, maybe a bit too high energy….This thing is out of control. It changes every 3 seconds or so and none of it ever makes any sense….but i’ll be damned if i don’t remember it. The music is definitely based on the actual sonic the hedgehog theme song, but they sample in a lot of other weird songs every now and then to fill in the time slot. A weird choice but it’s still pretty catchy and fun to watch if you don’t mind the chaos. If you waking up to this show on a saturday, it’s sure gonna wake you up quick. The theme mostly consists of multiple attempts to catch sonic or stop him from making a logo. Yeah that fiend. What better way to start a show that trying to thwart….self promotion?

 

Art design

background aesthetics are…par…i guess? I mean this style of ambiguous surreal background was often used in super mario bros super show, but all kinds of shows lucky enough to be cast in fantasy environments used these as a cost saving measure. That said still, I can’t say they don’t push that a bit much at times as often the line between Surrealism and buildings made out of scribble can get uncomfortably thin.

 

Character design

Character design fairs quite a bit better.  Sonic and his various side characters, consisting mostly of character defining colors that pop out and are easy to identify helps make the transition to animation a good one. As a sonic show should also, the show looks best when it moves fast. And that’s not just because the backgrounds blur out when sonic runs, but the slapstick, action and pace of the show are at it’s best when it’s kinetic and moving from one thing to the next. Robotnik is really the only character complicated enough to need even small changes from the games, but the changes are small at that. When close up, Robotnik’s iconic mustache is more prominent and his overweight egg shape is definitely more clear and frequently used in the slapstick itself.  The same can be said for the designs of Scratch and Grounder. While this series definitely does not hide it’s looney tunes influences, rather than the typical cartoon stretch and contort that injured tons do, these characters both being robots means they can sustain substantial physical damage, bust into a pile of bolts, or contort into ridiculous shapes as they try and put each other back together.

 

Story

 

Sonic the hedgehog is a resident and sometimes planetary defender of the alien planet mobius. The evil Scientist Dr. Robotnik has hired bounty hunters from all over the galaxy to track Sonic down so he can finally achieve world domination. Also helping in his schemes is the botched results of a ultimate killing machine experiment, a robot chicken named scratch and a talking tank like swiss army mech named grounder.  Together, we follow Sonic and Tails adventures chasing bad guys, solving problems of the people, and maybe catching some one liners and chili dogs along the way.

 

Characters

On the character side however, things start to pick up quite a bit of momentum. Sonic is voiced for the first time by Family Matters’ Jaleel White and despite how gimmicky that sounds at first, it’s become for many the definitive/favorite version of talking sonic. He’s witty, full of himself, and one step shy of annoying asshole.  It helps his character a lot that he does show a legitimate interest in helping people, even if he is a bit more begrudgingly when helping is inconvenient for him.

 

Tales is typical kid sidekick fair all the way down to the whiny attitude and cringe worthy voice. It’s not as bad as most shows by along shot, but it’s the character archetype we’re working with.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with tails, but he’s a bit one dimensional. Not that sonic characters are known for their depth, but at times, rather than being the moral compass to Sonic’s rebellious attitude, he can come off a bit like a buzz kill.

 

Speaking of Cringe Worthy Voices….Oh my god….Scratch and Grounder…by far the two most divisive character in this show, this duo is nails on a chalkboard, loud in your face, and absurdly annoying….And I love them.  Despite the annoying voices being a step too far for some people, and i don’t blame you one bit, the chemistry they share is actually really good and  the writers have a lot more fun with them than most generic henchmen. They may be abrasive, but they are memorable, unique, and often get the best jokes and plotlines in the series.

 

Robotnik himself steers more towards typical sneering evil, but the comedic differences between his evil controlled mannerisms and his flabbergasted by sonic slapstick ones keep him entertaining. He carries himself almost exclusively on how badass he thinks he is. Every sentence out of his mouth is congratulating himself on being himself. It’s almost endearing how much toxic self confidence he has in himself. And it’s that same overabundance of self pride that makes it that much funnier when it all comes crashing down in a blaze of blue spiny glory.

 

The remainder of the characters talk in your typical wacky cartoony  borderline annoying fashion. Not to scratch and grounder levels, but traditional talent is not the words i’d use. To be honest though, if this style of over the top cartoon acting was a deal breaker for you, you might be in the wrong book.

 

Music and sound design

Music for the show is definitely a major positive, in particular, Character themes. Sonic already had one from the games, but the theme they gave Robotnik is a great earworm. Just serious enough to be intimidating, but goofy enough to fit the tone of the show. The show itself has good music overall, but like many of these shows, a lot of tracks are reused several times. It’s not something you’re going to notice unless you watch a lot, but if you’re already watching that many episodes, you likely don’t care.

 

anything else of note?:

Sonic the hedgehog is far from a groundbreaking show. In fact, when you look carefully, it borrows heavily from quite a few cartoons. Lucky for it, it borrows from some really good ones. Right off the bat, sonic being a super fast character, they realize that working of a coyote and Roadrunner aesthetic works really well for them, especially because Robotic is already an inventor.  on top of that, Sonic’s frequent use of Funny voice and random costume gags, although used in all sorts of shows, feels closest to that of Bugs Bunny. Even Sonics obsession with chilli dogs, while to their credit, ended up becoming a staple in the later game series, seemed like it was in direct response to the abundant pasta puns in the above mentioned mario Sat AM cartoon.

 

I’d also be remiss if i didn’t at least discuss the Sonic Says segments. While this was far from the only show to have these kind of closers, Sonic’s were famous/infamous for just how bizarre some of them got. Most of them were standard stuff like washing your hands, what to do in a fire, listen to your parents, but some got plain goofy like moss grows north, which isn’t true, you can always trust a sloth…..OK…..but also sometimes they were misleading. Thier don’t call 911 episode was incredibly misleading as it almost accidentally says not to call the police if you get mugged. On top of that, as i’m sure their heart was in the right place, their meme inducing  episode on sexual Stranger danger may not have been the right venue to discuss that topic.

 

The Good:

Great character design

Clever interpretation of source material

Interesting week to week plotlines

Great slapstick and character interactions

music and sound design

 

The Bad:

Set design and non character animation quality

Reused audio tracks

No consistent supporting cast

Scratch and Grounder will be too much for some viewers

Possibly lays on the Loony tunes homage a little thick

 

Final Verdict

The adventures of Sonic is a very mixed bag, but a show that I happen to enjoy. I’m not denying your result may very, but it’s a show that good and bad balances about 50/50. In many ways, it’s one of the very best in a format of cheap cartoons that are often very bad.  The lucky part for you is that although most people are content only watching one episode, most episodes are of the same approximate quality, so while the pilot is actually really good, feel free to jump around to whatever episode premise strikes your fancy. The best thing i can tell you is i’ve tried my best to point out any of the deal breakers to the best of my ability. If nothing bothers you from that, i’d recommend try at least one episode.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

worth a watch.

Guilty pleasure seal of approval*

 

*The Guilty pleasure seal of approval is an acknowledgement that the show in question borders on or is clearly in Guilty pleasure status. This differentiation is made not to dismiss the merits of a show, but rather to allow the rating system to work better with such a wide variety of genres.


TL DR: it’s a reminder that i rate shows on both quality and enjoyability. Interpret that as you may.

 

Should I watch Suicide Squad? (no spoilers)

Even before writing this review, I have been having an epic battle with fellow reviewers and myself about how people Categorize “a good movie”. I mean how do you really evaluate that? Is a movie that is pretty average to good throughout, doesn’t make any huge mistakes, but doesn’t really stretch past its safety net  considered good? How about a movie that has several great, but also some bad elements to it making for a fantastic, but inconsistent experience? Is that considered good? Well my problem lies with a lot of new critique on the shoulders of 2 major points. The insistence of narrowing down an entire critique of a movie to “is it good?” or _ stars out of _. And the second being our obsession with consistent and Consensus opinion in movies.


Nowhere do these two points come to a head then with Suicide Squad. A movie where Critic consensus like Rotten tomatoes sparked tons of news coverage to the point that news sources seen covering the aggregate review number outnumbered sites actually posting reviews of their own. Despite this, audiences who were brave enough to ignore aggregate information and either on their own knowledge or the recommendations of specific critics they trust, have found themselves in a bit of a war against critics as the audience reaction to the film is significantly better, yet admittedly not perfect, in comparison to critic consensus.


On the second point,  Suicide Squad is clearly a what movie that fits into that latter category i mentioned, A movie that sports a true mixed bag of amazing moments, and unfortunate slip ups. A film that excels superbly in some areas, while falling flat in others. So from there, it leaves the idea of an aggregate reading almost impossible. There’s no room on a aggregate number to point out the ups and downs of a film, the circumstances involved, or even any middling ground you might have. With rotten tomatoes particular, It’s literally as binary as it gets. Is it good? Yes or no? That’s not the question i’m here, as a reviewer to answer for you today. My Job is to go over my SPOILER FREE opinions of the film, good and bad, and leave you with the information to decide if this movies right for you. So while I wanna do my best to express my opinions, don’t expect a number or a thumb up or down at the end of this thing.




What’s the good the bad and the ugly?


Well luckily for this film, they nailed the one thing they needed to nail. The suicide squad! And not even just the squad. The casting and acting in the film is absolutely stunning. Some of the best casting in a film i’ve seen in recent memory. Every member of the cast brings in amazing performances in particular, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, WIll Smith, breathing new life into his career as Deadshot, and Margot Robbie, taking on the impossible task of being the first theatrical Harley Quinn in History, and happily passing that test with flying colors. The action of the movie is really fun too. The choreography for the most part is fun, a bit too much of a reliance on the faceless minion trope, but that’s a problem with a lot more movies than this one. Where the film fails however is in the organization of the story.  Due to behind the scenes issues, there was a lot of argument on how this film was going to be edited, and because of that, from a story standpoint, you have about a first 40 minutes of clean, awesome, well made set up, but when the mission starts, the disorganized story editing and lack of locations makes the film difficult to follow, often leaving you asking where they are, where they’re going, and how much longer they have to get there. Because of this, Suicide Squad can feel like an assembly of scenes rather than a combined movie. It can’t be understated the majority of those scenes are entertaining as all hell, but disjointed feeling to be fair.  The villain of the film is a big point of contention as they didn’t really pick the right kind of villain, or use the villain to the best of their abilities, but at the end of the day, it is the characters themselves, their interactions, their fight scenes, and their individual stories that is going to drive you through this movie.


Final Verdict:

from a main story perspective, this film can be really rough, but if your main investment is these characters and their backstories and adventures, the movie has a lot to love. If you go into this movie expecting a fun, and out of control action romp with a bunch of fun characters rather than a sweeping and somber superhero epic, you’re likely to have a good time.

Top 12 IP that should be Saturday Morning Cartoons

Welcome to Saturday Morning Fever Everyone! For our first episode, I wanted to go over something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. Properties that should have Saturday Morning cartoons, but don’t.   These properties span from movies, video games, and even comic books.  I narrowed it down to top 12 because there were just so many good ones to pick. Just a reminder, these are just my opinions and this is also a dream list. I’m perfectly aware that there is little no no chance of any of these actually happening. That being said, Let’s Count Down!

12.

The Matrix

a cartoon certain to make you say "Whoa!"

a cartoon certain to make you say “Whoa!”

This one should be a no brainier shouldn’t it? I mean, considering how big this movie was, I’m surprised it didn’t get one. Not only does the plot of a supernatural world and a real world fit like a glove, but we have a ragtag group of characters to follow as they take down Multiple Mr. smiths and beyond. Part of the implication of the Matrix is that the Matrix can literally be anything it wants to be, but we rarely see that potential. With an animated series, we can explore the ways the Matrix can change and show off multiple kinds of episodes. We could be superheroes in trench coats one week,  Swashbuckling Pirates the next week, and medieval Jousting Knights the next week.  On top of that, considering so many people were…umm…”Dissatisfied” with the ending of the Matrix Trilogy, Perhaps Matrix: the animated series could give us a an ending that would feel a lot more conclusive and less…well, stupid

11.

Jonah Hex

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At the time of this writing, I’m currently writing my Man Who Watched Batman chapter for an episode called “Showdown”, which gives you a sneak peek of what a Jonah Hex animated show could actually  could look like.  After seeing that, I have to say i’m so disappointed this show never got a chance to exist. While there are some wild west saturday morning cartoons, not many take the traditional approach. I mean I love weird western fantasy as much as the next guy, but i’d like to have our representations of the wild west  go farther than Bravestarr and Cow-boys of Moo-Mesa.  Jonah HEx is a darker character than Batman and would definitely appeal to slightly older kids, similar to BTAS. that being said, it’d be interesting to see how Jonah Hex as a show would stand up as a slightly more adult version of the wild west compared to humanoid cows with magical sheriff badges.

 

10.

Birds of Prey

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Now while Birds of Prey was originally an extremely popular comic series made famous by (although not exclusively by) Gail Simone, it’s also the name of one of the most infamously hated superhero shows ever made…..a show which I own on DVD. while I don’t think the show is as bad as people say it is, the premise is fantastic. Following Barbara Gordon’s Oracle as she leads a team of all female super heroines including Black Canary, Huntress (the daughter of Batman and Catwoman), and a rotating cast of DC’s best Female heroes. Taking that format to it’s logical conclusion, it’d be an amazing way to show of fall of the amazing Female heroes and Villains at DC’s disposal. Sort  DC animated all female expendables.

9.

Rush Hour

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It Kills me that so many people forget how good this movie is.

A surprising number of saturday morning cartoons are already somewhat based on the buddy cop concept. On top of that, several shows will take properties and either add or expand upon supernatural elements. One of the more famous of these examples is the popular show: The Jackie Chan Adventures.

jackie_chan_adventures

Best Celebritoon ever made

Imagine that show…but with Chris Tucker. Not only do Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker have amazing chemistry that could make a great celebration, but take Chris’ Fish out of water element to the next level by adding some Big trouble in little china, Supernatural Chinese Folklore stuff. I’d totally watch that.

8.

Final Fantasy/kingdom hearts

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I put these two together because my reasoning for them is the same. Both of these are action packed, extremely popular series…..who sadly have let themselves become extremely convoluted and tangled. That’s not to say they’re not amazing, but in both cases, animation would allow them to show off their high action story-lines in a controlled environment for better execution. On top of that, A chapter like steady format could help organize their plot into pieces that are easier to digest and tell these stories in the best way possible.

7.

Uncharted/Tomb Raider

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Once again, different properties, same reasoning. While I would imagine a tomb raider show would be a bit more on the serious side, but Saturday Morning Cartoons are no strangers to the adventure genre. In both of these series, the main plots usually revolve around examining ancient myths of supernatural origin, only to find that the supernatural elements are less than mythical and are actually real. From a show standpoint, it works well for serialization. A new episode, a new ancient tomb  or temple, and a new monster of the week for them to explore.  On top of that, both of these series contain memorable and interesting protagonists, and in the case of Uncharted, they have an amazing ensemble cast they can draw from.

6.

Dr. Who

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I’ll admit up front, I’m  not the biggest Whovian in the world, but if i know one thing, it’s that this show has an amazing potential. Known for its insanely creative characters, travel all across time and  space, and a tone so uniquely it’s own, Dr. Who the series would give them an almost else-worlds approach to the show where they may get the chance to explore even more wacky and crazy plot lines that they would not be able to accomplish with the traditional story-line.

5.

Rainbow in the Dark

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OK. so this one is going to take a bit of explanation. For those who’ve not heard of it, Rainbow in the dark is a Graphic Novel written by the ever increasingly popular artist/writer team, Comfort and Adam. the series explores an urban fairy tale which  looks at a world plagued with normalcy as an unsuspecting protagonist joins a rock and roll powered resistance as they fight for their freedom. It’s got monsters, fast cars, rainbow explosions, rock and Roll, and some of the best art and characters I’ve ever seen out of an independent comic. It’s like if someone put scott pilgrim, Madoka Magika, and pleasantville in a blender. While Rainbow in the dark starts by following the formula of traditional dystopian “creativity vs. control” narratives, but as the comic goes on, continues to critique, contradict, and even completely transcend the tropes of it’s genre. On top of its incredible characters and writing, Adam and Comfort bring a unique art style to the project that makes it really easy to imagine translation into animation. On top of that, the story told in the novel would not only work for a show arc in it of itself, but is framed in a way where stories could easily be seen taking place before, during, or after the comic’s events. Beyond that, considering that shows like Legend of Korra and Steven universe have definitely shown that the prominent and well handled LGBT themes of the source material  could be clearly represented without compromise.

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4.

Smash Bros.

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The fact that Captain N the Game master is the closest we’ve ever gotten to the Nintendo Crossover show we’ve always wanted haunts me to my being. The format could function as individual backdoor pilots of several different Nintendo characters in their element, but occasionally allowing for unexpected cameos and guest appearances of characters from other shows. Sometimes to help, but obviously they will need to fight each other for one reason or another. Seeming as how Nintendo has literally created several animated interpretations of Smash Bros. during the promotion for their newest entry, we have an almost one to one representation of what a smash bros. Show could look like. The only thing stopping them is Nintendo’s fear of licensing, but one can still dream can’t they?

3.

Overwatch

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  1.  While By far the newest property on this list, there is no doubt that the strength of Over Watch’s popularity is in their characters. While little to nothing is located in game, There is spin off materials telling their stories and backstories ranging from comics, biographical info, and yes, Animated short films. While we know their are far more to these characters than their literal origins, watching an ongoing show that travels between our hero’s multiple perspective through any one of the many war stories and conflicts that are referenced about these characters. These are characters defined not only by their actions themselves, but by their interactions with one another. While the relationship are complicated, there is a clear good side and evil side for a show to grab onto and follow an arc as they fight over whatever mcguffin or conflict is placed in front of them. Also keep in mind several of these characters change significantly from their original forms to who or how they appear in the show so we’d get a chance to see those transformations as well.

2.

Mad Max

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Ok. so i know what your thinking. Your last 2 pics are from R rated franchises. In my defense, Robocop, the Toxic avenger, and mortal Kombat all got Saturday Morning cartoons. So there is a market for making kids version of these kinds of properties. While I would argue that Mad Max does have amazing story potential and its apocalyptic environment gives us great opportunities for new villains, new factions and any number of mad Max Like Drifters he finds along the way, but the show would also be awesome for fulfilling a cartoons other key role: selling toys to children….and adults who collect toys for kids. High action,  great characters to pull from, and lots of creative potential with the creation of vehicles and counterculture of the wasteland, I could easily see following Mad Max, Furiosa, and her crew of liberated ladies as they explore the Wasteland defending further survivors from other tyrannical rulers. What a cartoon. What a lovely Cartoons.

1.

Terminator

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If Robocop got a series, Why can’t  Terminator? The elements are all there. We have a recognizable cast of characters, John Connor is the designated kid character that keeps young ones interested, the Terminator himself is the cool design character that sells all the toys, and on top of that, the format is already built. John Connor, being the same age as Terminator 2, we play an alternate version of that movie’s plot, we follow Sarah, John, and the Terminator as Skynet continues to send terminator’s back to kill John Connor. As we saw hinted in Terminator 4, there was a large group of robots and cyborgs creatures in the future and considering that time travel is always on the table, there are all sorts of possibilities of how Skynet and our heroes can square off. Whether it be new kinds of Terminators being sent back, or Time travel becoming a standard element of the fight between John Connor and Skynet, this could expand the terminator universe in the way that we’ve been begging for since….well, Terminator 2. T2 is one of my favorite movies of all time and rather than go down the future creep ultra pretentious direction that Terminator headed down, rather than over-complicating the timeline, we can take the property into a realm where you can have all the fun with time travel you want without locking yourself down. You can have a weird terminator or a time travel adventure one week, and then use the power of time travel to reset for the next episode.  Nothing would make me happier than sitting down on a couch saturday morning, eating some cereal, and watching what could be my new favorite show….Terminator: the John Connor Chronicles.

Well, That’s my list Ladies and Gentlemen. What Properties do YOU think should have saturday morning cartoons? Let me know in the comments below and you could win a free digital copy of my book The Man who watched Batman Vol. 1

Until next time I hope you tune in next week for more Saturday Morning Fever.

 

In Response to Harley Quinn’s “independent woman” debate

 

A few days ago, I ran into a few good friends of mine who frequent conventions in Harley and Joker cosplays and have been et with a pattern of harassment involving people implying that because of their choice in cosplay, it should represent to the public that their actual relationship is equally as abusive and toxic. while the idea of this being true or how you would get to theat conclusion is Ludacris to me, the idea stuck with me about how much debate has been going around the comic sphere about how Harley’s origin, behavior and specifically relationship with the joker effect her view either as a “Role Model” or as a “Strong female character”  for the record I use air quotes not to demean her but because those terms are so loaded these days, even their meanings are hard to decipher.

I havent covered this as much in my book yet, but considering the subject is here, I’m gonna put my foot down. As a “BTAS Expert” and researcher, I am very knowledgable about the relationship between harley and Joker and I see many people that misunderstand this relationship. By miisunderstand, I do not mean to say the abuse isn’t there because it clearly is, but everyone sees Harley putting up with Joker’s abuse as a sign of weakness, when in reality, it’s built to make a character that’s more reatable. Comic books and superheroes inparticular, are built as cranked to 11 versions of whatever particular ideal, methodology, issue, or charactereristic they are made to represent. while Many women may not want to be in a relatiotionship like harley’s, Id wager a lot f women RELATE to that relationship and for better or for worse, to some hopefully less toxic level, have BEEN in that relationship. and while it can be difficult to see someone in a situation like that and relate to how hard it is to get away from people like that, it makes it all the more impowering when you see her rise above that! Harley barks back at him! Harley stands up for herself! in the new 52, She kicked him to the curb and carries the PTSD he struck her with as a battle scar! Harley quinn means a lot to a lot of peple for a lot of different reasons. to imply that Harley quinn is only valuable to the world of comics as either a sex symbol, or a symbol of Stockholm syndrome, or male domminance or abusive relationships, than you have sadly missed the point.

Some comic characters show us who we are. some show us who we want to be. and in the case of Harley, Some show us Who we’ve been, and how to overcome. there is a value to all three of these, but the third is often overlooked. keep that in mind the next time you evaluate what Harley’s hardship means to her and to her audience.

 

PS.

Harley + Ivy For life!

 

 

If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on Harley, Joker and the gang, you should check out my book series The Man Who Watched batman available on amazon

 

Ken Johnson to Write: The Man who watched the Super Friends

Sure BTAS is great and all, but I decided it’s time to write a book about the REAL best animated show of all time. it is with great pleasure that I’m announcing my newest and greatest project, “The Man Who Watched The Super Friends”. as the title would suggest, I’ll be going through the iconic series episode by episode in order to turly analyze the depths of this silver screen masterpiece. covering a variety of topics from the inner symbolism of Wonder Woman’s Invisible jet, to the romantic undertones of Wendy and Marvin, to Aquaman’s Deep seated Post traumatic stress disorder. This will be the tell all of the century everyone! The book will be launching on Kickstarter for the reasonable goal of $25,000. This humble budget will allow us to pay for not only our wages and printing costs, but for the required therapy of watching this show for such an extended period of time. the campaign begins today, April 1st. Thank you all for your suppport….

THE_SUPERFRIENDS_(1973_-_1974)

and have a happy April fools day!

oh and in case anyone is interested in reading my REAL book,

You can find The Man Who Watched Batman Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 on amazon!

BTAS Vol. 1 wrap up

Season in Retrospect

If I had to sum up this series in one word, I believe it would be “foundation”.  For a serialized show it’s not common to dedicate so much time to world building, but this show makes that a top priority. Villains in this series not only have meaningful motivations, but motivations that get them back to the city of Gotham itself.

Everyone established in this series has interlocking relationships with each other that help make an infinite pool of possibilities for our characters to draw from. In many ways, that is the point of this season.

In order to tell more complicated or emotionally fueled stories, we have to create the foundation for them to stand on. In our journey through 28 episodes, we have been introduced to almost every member of Batman’s rogue gallery, Bruce’s circle of friends, and a few special new characters that might stop on by to say hello.

As we begin the Journey into season 2, we build upon season 1’s origins and experiment with what kind of new colors we can create by mixing this character with this environment, or see what happens when Batman meets up with more powerful or more intelligent adversaries than he’s ever fought. We see what happens when both Batman and the super villains find allies. Batman will be challenged in ways he’s never been before, and I can’t wait to see where season 2 takes us. Until then, thank you for joining me on this journey and I hope to see you back next time. Same Bat time, Same Bat channel.

 

If you would like to know more about this or any other project by Ken Johnson, you can see more at:

Facebook.com/Deadmenink

facebook.com/TheManWhoWatchedBatman

 

Feedback or comments about the book?

Questions for the author?

Please send them to


Deadmenink@gmail.com

BTAS #28 Dreams in Darkness

The Following is an Expert from the Book, “The Man who Watched Batman Vol. 1 An In depth Analysis of Batman: The animated series”.  If you’d like to purchase the book in it’s entirety, Click here to get a paperback on amazon or click here to get a digital copy on Drive thru comics!

BTAS #28

Dreams in Darkness

 

Directed by Dick Sebast

Written by Judith & Garfield Reeves – Stevens

 

Season finales are always fun for me. Whether it be, “Aw crap we’re getting cancelled, let’s pull out all the stops”, or “Congratulations guys! Let’s take everything we’ve learned so far and end with a bang”, season finales are usually the least safe episodes you find. This finale is no exception. Dreams in Darkness is a great finale as it not only branches together the whole season thematically, but the episode experiments with ideas and creative devices that would not fly today no matter how popular a show you were. I don’t know whether or not this series knew they were coming back for a second season, but if this was going to be the last episode of BTAS, they were going to fight like hell till the bitter end.

Our episode begins with the lead psychiatrist at Arkham, Bartholomew (for brevity, we’ll call him Dr. B), examining Batman. For reasons unexplained, Batman is in a strait jacket, and locked in Arkham Asylum. Batman pleads to Dr. B that Commissioner Gordon needs to be warned that Gotham is in grave danger; Dr. B sees it as just part of Batman’s delusions.

For the first time in the series, Batman begins to internally monologue. For a series that so heavily influenced by Noir, it’s curious they have never used Noir style narration up until this point. The monologues also function as a method for Batman to show his mental control and negate the idea that he’s completely lost his mind. Regardless, Batman tries to remember where it all began.

Batman thinks back to a crime taking place at the Health Springs Spa. When Batman goes to investigate, he finds a strange man with a torch attached to his arm trying to torch a device into the water main. When Batman confronts him an unknown source focuses on a camera located at the scene and a mysterious man flips on a countdown clock of 20 seconds.

The man at the spa adjusts the setting of his torch and gives himself a drill arm to attack Batman with. The two of them share a really good fight scene, but ultimately, the device they were trying to install is destroyed in the conflict and both the Man and Batman are hit with a strange red gas.  

Batman examines the man’s technology for clues and finds that the red toxin is a possible variant of Scarecrow’s gas, but there’s not enough evidence to convict or find an antidote. Even aware that the gas can cause illusions, Batman sees Joker sneaking up behind him at the Batcave, but finds Alfred is the one actually there. Batman heads to the hospital to talk to the man from earlier and get some answers. Unfortunately, he’s not given many.

The witness in question is suffering from similar side effects and illusions. Batman confronts one of the doctors he trusts to look at his blood. She reveals that since Batman was not exposed to as much of the gas and because of his strong body, it’s taking more time to affect him, but it will eventually drive him to advanced hallucinations. The doctor claims that the only cure will be to knock him unconscious for two days. Batman refuses to be out of commission that long, but takes the medicine and goes on his way into the night.

Batman drives the Batmobile at full speed toward Arkham Asylum because he thinks Scarecrow is the culprit and he might have the antidote.

Batman shows signs that the gas is taking effect, but Batman tries to shake it off. Without warning, Batman sees Robin in the headlights. Batman screams and slams the brakes. The Batmobile tumbles down the winding road and is found by doctors from Arkham.

Batman rambles about his delusions to the doctors. They have Batman tied to a stretcher and hooked to sedatives. One of them tries to remove his mask, but Dr. B insists that the mask is tied to his identity and removing it could affect his psyche (trust me. I’ve heard much worse excuses over the years).

Dr. B tries to get Batman to open up, but Batman insists that a large plan is at foot. Neither character makes much leeway in convincing the other, but there is a nice nod to ‘89 Batman where Dr. B refers to the Joker by his alias Jack Napier. Batman warns that he believes that Scarecrow is the one responsible, but Dr. B insists he saw Dr. Crane in his room that morning.

Crane reveals himself to have escaped from Arkham as he commands his men to pump the gas into several biohazard trucks. He reveals to his men that the attack on the spa was always a trap to expose Batman to the gas. Scarecrow’s acting in this episode does paint him more calculated and maniacal than previous episodes. He sounds smarter and more confident, which works great to paint him as an intelligent and sophisticated villain.

Batman’s slip to insanity hits full force as he embarks on his first full-blown hallucination. Batman finds the door to his cell opening to a room filled with bright red light. He walks through the door when he comes out the other side, his straight jacket is gone and he finds himself in an orange tinted alley. The buildings appear slightly warped and covered with shadows. The animation dips back into normal colors as Bruce enters the alley. Bruce is stopped in his tracks when he sees his parents standing at the end of the alley. It’s a subtle maneuver, but the scene intentionally breaks a normal cinematic rule called, “crossing the line”. It’s not something the average person would not be able to spot, but most people will catch the idea that something’s not quite right.

Batman sprints towards his parents as they walk towards a suspicious looking tunnel at the end of the alley. The alley behind Batman begins to warp itself longer, preventing him from getting to his parents. The animation on this sequence works quite smoothly thanks to the stylized look of the buildings already feeling so elastic in nature. Since the buildings don’t have clear landmarks of size or shape, they mold and stretch without any feeling of breaking or looking out of character.

Batman’s parents walk into the tunnel as the whole world around them and Batman breaks into the fire and brimstone of Hell. The tunnel bursts from the Hell below to reveal that the tunnel is the barrel of a giant revolver. Magma and mortar pour from the barrel of the gun. Batman screams in agony as the hammer slowly pulls back and the gun fires. Batman awakens from his nightmare curled up on the floor in a hot sweat.

Dr. B visits Batman to confess that Scarecrow has in fact, escaped from Arkham. Batman tries to predict Scarecrow’s next move by asking about where Arkham’s water comes from. After discovering it’s from a cavern underneath the asylum, Batman insists he needs to be set free. Despite Batman being right, Dr. B still refuses to release Batman. Batman tries to escape, but even with his skills, he is unable to take out two large guards without use of his arms.

One of Scarecrow’s lackeys confirms the last of the gas trucks has arrived in the cavern. Scarecrow starts up a countdown clock to what he refers to as the largest psychological experiment in the history of the world. Scarecrow flips a switch confirming the chemicals will enter the water supply in 5 minutes.

Batman manages to find an opening to escape the guards. Dr. B hits the red alert button and guards begin to prepare tranquilizer guns and nightsticks. Batman steals a fire axe off a wall and uses it to escape the straight jacket and kidnaps a guard to get him to the basement.

Batman takes a flashlight to investigate the caverns. Batman finds himself closer to Scarecrow than ever before, but his psychosis continues to worsen. Batman sees a rat on the floor that warps into the Joker’s face.  Batman freaks out, drops, and breaks his flashlight. What follows is by far the greatest dream sequence in the whole season. I’ve said that to a few episodes before, but I mean it. This one is the best.

A large spotlight blinds Batman as an unnerving Joker walks through the spotlight creating a sunburst. Joker laughs maniacally, but his voice is more warped and echo filled than usual. It sounds more unnatural and unique from any other laugh he’s had so far. Bursting from the floor, a 300 foot tall Penguin appears. A slower and darker version of his theme accompanies him as he blocks falling debris with his umbrella. Batman runs out of the way as debris starts falling on him.

Penguin screams a horrible shriek as his face explodes and peels away to reveal Two – Face flipping his coin. Two – Face’s theme has been remixed as a dirty jazz song. Two – Face’s coin morphs into sawblade to throw at Batman. A quick shot of Batman dodging out of the way of the inexistent blade reminds the audience how trapped Batman is in the illusion.

It makes sense to continue to reject the illusion because Batman runs the possibility that he could lose his grip on reality all together. As the episode has gone on, the illusions have not only gotten more direct and part of his reality, they have also become longer in length. This scene in particular, the longest he’s been away from sanity; which sets up his terror as the illusion tempts him to give into the darkness.

Two – Face melts into a putty that reforms to makes Poison Ivy. Batman screams at her that she’s not real, but Poison Ivy stretches her arms into vines to entangle Batman. Robin and Alfred step out from behind Ivy.  Batman begs them to help him, but they prefer to tempt Batman to give into the darkness. Both of them continue to tempt Batman as a chasm has been opened up in front of Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy throws Batman into the chasm. Batman screams and flails the gray walls of the chasm morphs into a bright orange and yellow spiral with blotched patterns similar to the Hell scene earlier. An echoing monologue from Scarecrow taunts him about how the Great Batman has lost his mind. The spiral turns brown, as the center of the vortex becomes a laughing head of Scarecrow that devours Batman. A single bat comes from the shrouded darkness and Batman continues to fall through the orange void once again. The screen fades back to normal day as Batman squirms on the floor screaming. He struggles to catch his breath before following a single bat deeper into the cave.

About 3 minutes remain on the clock as Batman swings into the scene. Scarecrow knows that Batman will fear the henchmen so he assures them that they will take Batman out no problem. Batman sees the Henchmen as green Martian, zombie creatures against the orange and yellow background from before. The style decision for what he fears may seem strange, but considering the clothes they wear do not change, it gives evidence Batman is doing better to maintain control. Going further with that theory, Batman grabs the microphone and whistles loudly. The henchmen grab their ears and Batman’s high pitch endued ear pain helps break the illusion. Batman takes the three of them out while Scarecrow runs away to restart the machine.

Batman tries to jump the ledge after him, but the fear gas make the floor fall farther away from him as Batman falls into vertigo. After composing himself, Batman makes the jump. As he reaches for the turn of switch, the cable he needs to pull turns into a poisonous viper. With only ten seconds left, Batman summons all his strength and pulls the wire from the wall. The whole machine begins to explode and the chemical spreads everywhere.

Scarecrow screams in horror as he is exposed to the gas. This time, rather than seeing a large blue demon, he sees Batman. Only Batman.  Scarecrow begs to be taken away because he can’t take it anymore.

Scarecrow is returned to his room in Arkham and Dr. B scolds his assistants to make sure Scarecrow will not escape again.

Alfred gives Bruce the antidote and Bruce thanks him for making sure he’s safe. The episode and season ends as a lone bat is perched upside down in front of the light. A shadow of the bat’s extended wings casts on Bruce before closing its wings into a modified Batman logo.

It’s a bittersweet feeling reaching the final episode of the season, but I’d be lying if I said the final episode was anything less than awe-inspiring.

Scarecrow has become the stand out star of the series so far. For a villain that had only been featured in an animated form back in the super friends show, this show has proven the true potential of this Villain. As the character has progressed through the series, both the iconic fear chemical and the character himself have evolved and changed to be more compelling, frightening, and interesting. Scarecrow is a character that not only comes up with new schemes, but he learns from his mistakes, improves his methods, and becomes a better villain. This episode is debatably the most effective and horrific scheme any villain has ever attempted. What makes it scarier is how close he comes to getting away with it.

As much as I praised Appointment in Crime Alley for showing Batman’s changing and powerful emotions, this episode is hands down Batman’s most emotional outing. This episode goes beyond seeing Batman as vulnerable. You see Batman grasping on to his sense of control. He’s losing his mind slowly, but surely and there’s nothing he can do about it. When Batman confronts his fears, he runs through his entire history of emotional trauma and you can see from his face, his actions, and his state of being, that it is taking a toll on him like he’s never experienced before.

A large part of this comes from the creativity and effort put into the use of Scarecrow’s poison. In previous episodes, I’ve talked about exactly how each strand of the poison works. This strand, for obvious reasons, is the most powerful and deadly. Even in its early stages, it builds upon effects of the previous poisons.

The illusions Batman sees are formed out of physical objects that replace reality just like in Fear of Victory, but they also morph and contort depending on his mental state, just as they did in Fear of Victory. The difference for this poison comes in how they not only work together, but also work completely against his chances for victory. Similar to Fear of Victory, the poison is activated by his adrenalin. Not only does this make it so that the harder Batman fights against the poison, the stronger it becomes, it makes the ticking clock before he reaches a mental point of no return drastically steeper.

This helps sell the idea that Batman can’t just think his way out of it. The illusions are connected enough to Batman’s brain to run the risk of causing him actual pain. If a person is hypnotized deep enough, the mental perception of pain can cause real pain. If perceived death, one can kill themselves in fear.  Once Batman crosses that threshold, Batman’s chances of mentally rejecting the poison drop to almost nothing. I would likely interpret that threshold cross to be the moment he crashes the Batmobile. It’s the first moment he believes an illusion 100% and it’s quite likely his condition would’ve severely worsened if he had a concussion in the crash. This also explains why he says Joker’s name in the hospital instead of Scarecrow.

The use of other villains in the dream sequence is the only time in the season villains appear together. For a person who was watching this series the first time, this is a big moment and will not disappoint. Between this scene and images of Hell and brimstone in the alley dream, this episode contains the darkest and most morbid imagery featured in the show so far.

Speaking of the alley scene, Appointment in Crime Alley does confirm the origin of Bruce’s parents, but it’s in a small enough place that it’s possible to miss it.  This scene however, is the closest we get to actually seeing what happened. The wording on the previous episode’s newspaper doesn’t send the idea home that Bruce did in fact watch his parents get shot right in front of him. This explains why even though Batman couldn’t run fast enough to stop them, he was forced to watch his parents die in the dream. Bruce’s footing was the only platform left. It makes sense that his mind would force him to view his tragic nightmare the way it happened.

Dr. B would probably be the closest I get to a complaint about this episode. He’s not a bad character by any means, and it’s good to see an antagonist in the gray area, but the possibility of Batman being mentally evaluated is a potential I wish Dr. B had tried harder to explore.

I’ve touched on the music slightly earlier in this review, but it’s worth mentioning again as this is one of Shirley Walker’s finest moments. In order to pull off a psychotic juggling act like this, it requires everyone to be operating at the top of their game, and the music here shines through. Hearing variations on previous themes brings back a sense of ominous nostalgia amongst high-tension moments and quick changes in musical tone help express Batman’s rapidly changing state of mind.

Dream in Darkness is the kind of episode that you use to drive home a point to someone. This is the episode to prove how good this season is to someone. Part of me feels like I could talk for hours just on this one installment.

This episode understands and explores emotional and thematic depth on a level that surpasses almost any other episode in the series. To be fair, it can only be as good as it is because of all that the season before it built as a foundation, but this is an episode where they really got an opportunity to stretch the boundaries of what kind of story could be told, how they were allowed to tell it, and how smart and mature of a story their audience could understand and accept.  People ask me why I Think this series is better than any other animated series, to which I reply, “Episodes like this one”.

BTAS #27 Mad as a Hatter

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BTAS #27 Mad as a Hatter

 

Directed by Frank Paur

Written by Paul Dini

 

To say that several artists of various mediums have interpreted Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland would be the understatement of the century. The characters of the book have taken so many forms; you could make a series of books just about all of the various interpretations. Not surprisingly one of the more popular interpretations are the way the characters are used in Batman. Now the actual meaning of Alice in Wonderland, as a base point to talk about its interpretation, can be difficult to establish. Now I’m not going to go over the meaning of every single character involved in the story as some of them are important to the story and some are just there because they fit. That being said, I recommend if you really want to get the absolute most out of this episode, you at least watch the original animated Disney interpretation as most of the characters used here are portrayed clearly in that version. As far as the story itself, or to some people the lack there of, this is the common ground commonly found between interpretations.

Alice is a young girl who chases a rabbit down a rabbit hole and finds herself transported into a mystical world where the characters are as colorful as can be and the logic of the world is absurd as can be. All the character’s in the story are portrayed to have unique personality quirks or designs that make the behaviors of the characters somewhat consistent between versions, but artists have found room to interpret their own conclusions of why they act that way or what these characters are meant to represent.

As far as the original meanings of these characters are concerned, people often debate not only about what their meaning is or even if there is any meaning. I’m not here to give an answer to that question, but as a critic, I need to evaluate not only how this episode holds up as a Batman episode, but also how it holds up as an interpretation of Lewis Carol’s characters. Keep in mind this episode is not an interpretation of Lewis Carol’s story.

This episode takes the characters of Wonderland and interprets them into a Batman setting in order to tell a story completely their own. That being said, we can get started.

Our episode begins with Jearvis, the Mad Hatter, interpreted as a scientist working for Wayne Corp. studying ways to carry brain waves from one person to another. The result is a band that he wears on his head allowing him to control a group of rats to sit at a miniature table and drink tea like civilized humans.

Into the room walks Alice, who warns him that his boss and Bruce Wayne are on their way in. Jearvis is bashful towards Alice, but panics and hides his research when the others arrive.  His boss, a red headed woman with a wicked temper, scolds him for embarrassing himself in front of Bruce, but Bruce gives him the benefit of the doubt. As his boss leaves, she notices the Alice in Wonderland poster on his wall and make a tongue in cheek joke about, “having his head” if he messes up like that again.

Jearvis talks to Alice at her desk and we learn that although she is very close to Jearvis, she has a boyfriend. Alice comments that she is so glad that she two great men in her life. Jearvis is infuriated at the picture of Alice with her boyfriend on her table, and knocks it over after she leaves. Jearvis does his best to fake a smile in her presence, but Jearvis’ frustration is apparent.

He monologues to himself in his office about what to do about Alice. While he contemplates, his mentally controlled mice grab his tea. He confirms that he has the technology to control a human, but he refuses to use it on Alice, as it would turn Alice into a shell of her former self. This is extremely important to the episode as it confirms that regardless of your feeling towards whether Jearvis’ actions are ethical, it is clear that his feelings for Alice are in fact, genuine.

From the other room he hears the sound of Alice crying, when he eavesdrops, he finds that to his glee, Alice has been dumped by her boyfriend. Jearvis plans to use this as an opportunity to sweep Alice off her feet with a wonderful night on the town, but in a telling moment, Jearvis looks at the Mad Hatter in the poster. Looking at this as a reflection of himself, he sighs thinking there’s no reason she’d see him as desirable. Upon which, he gazes at his mind control cards, already themed with the fraction 10/6, and seems to have a plan.

Jearvis arrives at Alice’s door dressed as the Hatter and insists on taking her out for a night of whimsy to forget her foolish ex. Alice seems a bit overwhelmed but agrees. The two of them take a horse drawn carriage downtown where two muggers come after them. Jearvis insists on handling it and places mind control cards on their person. He plays up a tough guy act and commands them to jump in the river. The two thugs walk away and Alice is awestruck.

Batman patrols the city and has a humorous quip or two with Alfred over the communicator. He is interrupted by a police communication about two men who are going to jump off the Gotham Bridge. After Batman finds them, he uses an ejector seat to get to them as soon as possible. Batman tries to stop them, but they overpower him with some sort of enhanced strength (that gets explained later). Batman uses his glider to save them, but barely can make it to the ground because of their weight. Batman examines the cards from the Hatter that he finds on them.

Jearvis and Alice share a meal at a restaurant of all mind-controlled staff. It’s a brief scene, but if you pay close attention you can see that Alice pulls her hand away when Jearvis grabs it. Despite her misleading nice personality, we have a piece of evidence that Alice is still keeping her guard up.

After taking control of a guard, Jearvis takes Alice to Storybook Land, An amusement park themed after various fairytales. Jearvis takes her to the Wonderland section and sits on the mushroom of the caterpillar. He begins to sing the mock turtle song, and invites Alice to, “join the dance”. Jearvis and Alice begin to dance around the room.

Batman examines the effects of the cards while Alfred points him in the direction of Alice in Wonderland. I know Alfred deduces this just because of the fraction, but I just find it funnier because he’s British.

Jearvis kisses Alice on the hand and drops her off back at the apartment. Jearvis skips away in excitement and Alice comments to herself what a nice man he is. Alice finds her boyfriend waiting for her with open arms and an apology andAlice runs to him.

Jearvis walks into the office the next day with a spring in his step and a bouquet of flowers in his hand. He’s met with rage when he finds the picture of her boyfriend is back on her desk. Alice thanks him for cheering her up last night, but is thrilled to tell him that her boyfriend proposed. In his anger, Jearvis cuts his hand clutching the roses in his fist and a drop of blood falls onto her boyfriend’s picture. Alice asks if he’s ok, but Jearvis retreats to his office.

Jearvis’ boss bursts into his office and tells him that Bruce demands to see him right away. He becomes fed up with her and uses a card to tell her to shut up. Bruce comes to the office looking for him and asks Alice where he is. Alice hasn’t seen him, but she takes a minute to tell Bruce she’s engaged and Bruce congratulates her. Alice receives a shocking phone call from her new fiancé who decides to break up with her for no reason. Normally this would be a tragic, but non-Batman issue, but putting two and two together, Bruce is smart enough to know something is up.

Alice returns to her apartment to find Jearvis waiting for her with a room full of flowers. Jearvis has become louder and more aggressive as he tries to once again sweep Alice off her feet, but Alice notices that she didn’t tell him about the break up.  As Jearvis begins to approach her Alice backs into Batman.  Hatter is prepared for trouble and turns his hat to reveal it is wired into his mind control software.

Crashing through the front door of the apartment door are two men in costume: the Walrus and the Carpenter.  Batman fights off the carpenter despite the large sledgehammer he carries. The walrus proves to be exceptionally tough as the man behind the mask appears to be a behemoth of a man. Jearvis is deeply disappointed in himself for being forced to use a card on Alice, but he has been left with no choice. Jearvis escapes with Alice while Batman takes out the two costumed goons.

Batman follows Mad Hatter to Storybook Land. Usually, I wait until a villain is referred to their villain name to call them by such, but since they never do, I chose this moment because this is when he more or less reaches super villain status.

Batman finds all sorts of other mind-controlled innocents, including Jearvis’ boss, mind controlled and dressed as Wonderland characters. Fittingly, his boss is the Red Queen. Mad Hatter knows Batman won’t hurt the innocent people. All of them stand on a giant black and white chessboard while Mad Hatter stands on a higher platform with Alice, now wearing the outfit from the Storybook Park. Mad Hatter brags to Batman about how the hypnotism increases their physical strength. This matches up cleanly with what people have been told about hypnotism in real life. A person operating hypnotized or an actual zombie bypasses your body’s natural pain threshold. Your brain isn’t telling you to stop in order to prevent hurting yourself. Therefore, Batman is fighting enemies with natural superhuman strength.

Batman uses a smoke grenade to distract one of them long enough to remove the card from his costume. Batman instructs him that they won’t attack him because they’re programmed to follow Batman. With the rest of them distracted by Batman, the cured man, Alice’s fiancé, is able to remove all of the cards.

Seeing his plan is foiled, Mad Hatter flees with Alice into the Wonderland Card Maze. Mad Hatter starts messing with the controls to keep Batman lost, but Batman just climbs on top of the maze and tackles him away from the controls.

Batman tries to confront Mad Hatter about how by turning Alice into a mindless doll, he has destroyed her, but Mad Hatter refuses to accept it. He blames Batman for making him resort to his machine. Mad Hatter and Batman fight back and forth with the Red Queen’s axe, but after a well-planned set of card dominoes, Mad Hatter has Batman pinned between two card walls. As Mad Hatter reaches back for the final swing, Batman throws one last batarang and cuts free the hanging Jabberwocky and Mad Hatter is pinned to the floor between its claws. Batman destroys the mind control device and Alice runs into the arms of her Fiancé. Alice refuses to look at Mad Hatter in dread of what he’s become. The episode ends with Mad Hatter despairingly singing, “Would not could not join the dance”. The final shot is of the statue of the crying Mocking Turtle.

As a person who has seen Alice in Wonderland mythos butchered time and time again, it’s with a head held high I declare this interpretation of the highest quality. BTAS not only pays clever homage to its source material, but also interprets and uses its characters and environments in creative and inventive ways. Outside of that, it meshes so well into the Batman mythos, you’d never even know they were separate.

Starting with the Wonderland influence, the idea of Mad Hatter being in love with Alice is one that several different interpretations have tried, but never, other than here, have I seen it done interestingly. Many interpretations also have decided to give Mad Hatter extended screen time, most likely because of his popularity in the animated film. The foundation for this framing device is set up for them, but it’s what they do with it that makes this episode work.

Alice herself is similarly optimistic and innocent in this version. She may not be the main character of the story, but she is essential to the story’s plot. She is shown to be slightly naïve, but not stupid. Part of this might come from us being unfamiliar with what her age actually is. My guess is probably early 20’s, an obviously necessary change from the original.  She does have a sense of bubbly happiness about her though that makes her desirable. She’s the kind of person that just seems to like people and love life. The kind of person you enjoy being around because they enjoy everything.

Jearvis is a complicated character, but his various quirks and slip into madness, (pun intended) make him a compelling and long lasting villain.  As mentioned before, it’s made very clear that Jearvis’ feelings for Alice are truly founded. Jearvis is extremely eccentric, even to the point of being frightening, but still maintains a sense of charisma. Alice did have to want to be as close as she is to him in the first place. Jearvis also finds himself at the center of a moral predicament. Unlike other villains, he’s actually aware of his villainous hypocrisy. Jearvis clearly acknowledges the problem with mind controlling Alice, but his constant loss of self-control makes it believable.

In fact, it’s part of the reason he begins falling down the villainous path in the first place. A lot of people overuse the phrase, “slips into madness”, but that does do an incredibly good job of explaining this situation. Jearvis starts the episode with a clear set goal and a line he refuses to cross.

Originally, he starts with minor flirtation, then to glee over Alice’s misery of losing her boyfriend, then to mind control on innocents to impress her without intent of hurting people, then to using his powers to manipulate himself into Alice’s life, then to violence as he uses captives to ensure Alice will come with him (this is before he knew Batman was coming mind you), and then finally breaking his one rule by hypnotizing Alice. Jearvis’ trail towards immorality is steady enough that it’s easy to imagine he doesn’t even notice himself changing, but what makes his character interesting is that he does.

He knows he’s contradicting himself. He knows that this isn’t the Alice he wanted and it disgusts him that this is what he’s had to fall to. It creates an interesting dynamic where even before Batman comes to stop him, He’s already lost. He finds himself fighting for a hollow shell of true victory, just as Alice has been reduced to.

The music in this episode is rather subtle, but in a good way. It fulfills its purpose during normal scenes, but it does stand out loud and proud during sequences that include more Wonderland elements; like when Jearvis begins to sing. I do wish the music was more prominent, but the music we do have works for the piece.

So far in the series, Frank Paur and Paul Dini have not worked together, but watching this episode, I see that they should’ve worked together a long time ago. Combining Frank Paur’s old school action directing and vintage aesthetic with Paul Dini’s natural speaking characters and incredible knack for visual script writing, you end up with a sense of surreal whimsy that feels so real and yet so fantastical at the same time.

The tone of the episode the two of them create is based on the idea that none of the fantasy is real. In his head, Mad Hatter’s infatuation for Alice becomes not only for him to be with her, but also for her to become The Alice. The only problem is that it’s all an illusion. The wonderland he’s trying to create is literally an illusion made to attract tourists. Jearvis is a neurotically lonely character that when unable to find an identity for himself that Alice would fall for, found himself slipping into one that was already created. Mentally, he actually becomes the Mad Hatter. As the story goes on, more and more elements of the Wonderland universe become part of his character. The outfit, the cards, the minions, and eventually, his takeover of Fairytale Land. They’re beautiful illusions of Wonderland, but that’s all they are, illusions. Dini and Paur set up Mad Hatter in an environment that perfectly juxtaposes the real world and the fantasy world that Mad Hatter is trying to build for him and Alice.  Paur’s Americana old fashion feel does an incredible job of visually portraying the world of Wonderland as a nostalgic piece of escapism and whimsy, and Dini’s dialogue crafts a villain that wants so badly to escape to that world.

As Mad Hatter is featured prominently as a main villain in this series, it makes sense that I cover Mad Hatter’s place in the Arkham Villain Theory. I believe Mad Hatter is a representation of Batman’s denial. Just as Mad Hatter fights for a fantasy world that he can’t have, Batman Fights and dedicates his life to creating a Gotham city that he knows will probably never exist. Despite this, both of them press on either out of arrogance or out of denial. Where the issue becomes complicated is where they find if it is hurting more than helping for them to live in their delusions.

All in all, Mad as a Hatter is a perfectly crafted episode and shows off its director and writer at the top of their game. Jearvis is one of the most tragic villains yet. Not because of how far he drops, but because his relatability and awareness of his corruption make him work. Brilliant art direction combined with motivated fight choreography and writing help bring Lewis Carol’s characters to life in a way rarely seen.  Not only does this episode hold as an interpretation of Carol’s characters, it works great as a Batman story. The varied characters and environments of Wonderland give Batman a whole new perspective on combat and traversal. Thematically, it draws from lore and mythos the same way as many other Batman villains do. In many ways, it’s a match made in heaven. If you are looking for a refreshing Take on Lewis Carol’s characters or are looking for another great origin episode, look no further than here. Oh. And very merry unbirthday to you.

BTAS # 26 Appointment in Crime Alley

The Following is an Expert from the Book, “The Man who Watched Batman Vol. 1 An In depth Analysis of Batman: The animated series”.  If you’d like to purchase the book in it’s entirety, Click here to get a paperback on amazon or click here to get a digital copy on Drive thru comics!

 

BTAS # 26

Appointment in Crime Alley

 

Directed by Boyd Kirkland

Written by Paul Dini

Can an episode truly succeed where virtually nothing major happens? Can an episode be about an average night for Batman where he only fights for about thirty seconds? Can an episode keep your attention with not only no super villain, but with minor lackeys doing all the villainy for the episode? Can an episode have all those variables, and yet still be subtly heartwarming on an extremely powerful level? Obviously you know the answer is yes, but you get the idea. Let’s get started.

Our episode begins with a sweeping shot through Gotham’s Crime Alley. Returning villain, Dagget, is seen watching a clock tick towards 9:00 pm. When the clock strikes 9 a fiery explosion travels down the alley. We zoom out to reveal that in fact, it’s only a model (Shh!)  Dagget speaks to his hired arsonist Nitro about his plans to blow up a gas line under Crime Ally so that it will destroy the building, but still looks like an accident. Dagget also goes to the trouble of setting up a public banquet that he will be speaking at during the explosion. As will be repeated several times in the episode, the bomb is to go off at 9:00 pm.

A news report that Bruce Wayne is watching tells the story of Crime Alley. What used to be the site of a historical hotel has unfortunately turned into a slum filmed with criminals and low lives. Dagget wishes to tear down the whole street to build more real estate for his company, but the historic hotel is a landmark and there are numerous protests from honest families that live in Crime Alley that would have nowhere to live if it was destroyed. For a man like Dagget however, this is only a minor bump in the way of what he wants.

Bruce and Alfred make friendly banter about an important meeting that Bruce is on his way to.  Batman’s Batmobile clock reveals it is almost 8:00.  Batman sees a young girl jump out in front of the Batmobile screaming for help.  With a look of horror on his face, Batman cranks on the brakes of the Batmobile and stops it just in time. The young girl tells Batman that her mother is being harassed by a gang of thugs upstairs.

Batman sneaks into the upstairs room and takes out a small cell of criminals trying to drive the mother out of her apartment. On one hand, a stylized portrayal of low light helps make this scene really pack a punch and stand out. On the other hand, this is the only one. There are no other fistfights this episode. Not a complaint, but definitely important enough to make another mention.

An old woman at the community center comments that someone she was supposed to meet hasn’t shown up yet and decides to go out looking for him. Another woman tries to warn her, but she insists that, “Parkrow” has nothing that will scare her. Notice she chooses the proper name and not, “Crime Alley”.  It’s a subtle nod to the woman’s optimism. She steps towards the front door of a house she hears suspicious noises from and finds a blasting cap that has fallen on the porch. She walks in to investigate, but after she makes Daggett’s men, they are left with no choice but to capture her.

Batman joins a group of police officers trying to talk a man off of the roof who has captured an employee of Daggett’s company and is holding him hostage on the billboard. We get a quick joke from Batman talking to one of the policeman. Batman’s approach to the situation is quite interesting. Batman talks to the culprit in a strong, firm voice, but hides his actual location. He talks dark enough to freak you out, but that’s only magnetized when you realize you don’t know where he is. On top of that, Batman then draws attention to himself swinging back and forth trying to get the culprit to accidentally waste all his ammo. Unfortunately his final bullet ends up taking out the supports for the scaffolding they’re standing on. They both begin to free fall, but Batman catches them and drop them off on the ground. The police handle it from there. It’s a nice extra touch how both men are taken away from Batman by police, but obviously in different ways.

Batman goes to the apartment of the woman who we now know is Leslie. Her locker reveals she is an M.D and sitting on her desk is a memory book filled with old newspaper clippings.  The articles briefly discuss her relationship to the rise and fall of Parkrow, but the important piece of the puzzle comes when Batman finds the newspaper article about the death of his parents. There is also a charming picture clipping Leslie and Bruce, as a boy, hugging to forget the sorrow that came that day.

Just outside, he hears a homeless man comment to himself that he saw something. Batman interrogates him about a blasting cap that he had on his person. The man confesses that he saw Nitro and one other man tie her up in a building and that they had tons of explosives. He took the one Batman found when they weren’t looking and was going to sell it on the street

Passengers of a trolley train panic as their driver has passed out at the wheel with the accelerator pushed down to the max. Barreling down the street, you can see an orange strobe light coming from outside the trolley car. It almost reminds you slightly of the tunnel from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Batman watches as cars careen themselves out of the way of the trolley. Batman is upset to once again delay his appointment, but people are in danger so he must spring into action.

Batman turns the corner towards the Trolley, with homage to the grappling hook turn maneuver from 89 Batman. Batman tries to board the trolley to hit the brakes, but is met with a look of horror as the door is locked and he doesn’t have time to break in before the trolley hits the townspeople at the end of the track. Batman’s only remaining option is position himself in front of the Trolley and using the Batmobile’s Brakes to stop it himself.

Now I’ve spoken before about the magnitude of awesomeness Batman’s techology and vehicles have, but even that said, this is not an easy feat. The Batmobile’s Brakes slow the trolley down, but with almost no space, it’s not nearly enough. Batman activates turbo reverse thrust, but the immense tension on the Batmobile has popped all four of its tires (once again, not an easy thing to do) and turned the vehicle sideways.  Screeching to a halt, the Batmobile barely touches a single car with a chuckle worthy bump.

Seeing a reporter or two amongst the crowd, Batman installs the Batmobile’s shields as not to be tampered with and grapels away to find Nitro and his accomplice. Upon finding them, he confronts Nitro about breaking his parole and returning to arson. After catching them in the act with a semi- trailer filled with explosives, they confess that Dagget is behind the whole thing. Nitro warns Batman that, “It’s almost 9 pm”, and tells him where Leslie is.  Batman swoops in to save her just in time, but Leslie insists he worry about disarming the bombs at the hotel.

Dagget watches the time as he finishes his banquet speech. When the explosives go off, Dagget is quick to act shocked and sympathetic when the cameras appear, but Batman is on the scene with Nitro and his accomplice ready to confess. Unfortunately, Dagget is quick to dodge their testimonies and escape immediate arrest. Leslie insists that Dagget will be arrested yet. The two of them finally have their appointment and walk the street talking about what Crime Alley used to be; that good people used to live there. Batman leaves two roses at the corner of Park Avenue. The episode ends on a still shot of the picture in the paper of the two of them following Batman’s powerful final line, “good people still do live on Crime Alley.”

Appointment in Crime Alley is an episode that doesn’t scream at you with its big spectacle or its iconic villains, but it gives a rare look at Batman that we don’t usually see. A look at Batman in what a normal night might look like. Sometimes, villains don’t wear colorful costumes or have crazy accents. Sometimes, it’s just normal people doing bad things. You don’t usually see episodes about normal crime or spontaneous tragedies, but that’s because most people think that these stories can’t be interesting. This episode goes out of its way to prove that wrong.

When you actually look at what this episode’s key action is, it’s mostly realistic, non-comic book style events. It’s a woman being harassed by mobsters, a man holding a gun to a man on a billboard, and a run-away trolley train. I believe what makes this approach work is how it shows that no crime is beneath Batman. He has no agenda or standard of which people are considered not worthy or not worth his time. He strives to protect people, no matter who they are.  I think that’s what makes this episode stand out. It’s not an episode about stopping villains; it’s an episode about saving people.

Now one thing I did notice about this episode that they do touch on, and I’m sure it’s intentional, is race. Now although without context, it can seem questionable that an episode about the slums of Gotham also happens to feature more African American and minority characters than any other. That’s not to say these characters aren’t treated with respect, (all pants in this episode maintain waste level and all guns are held in a proper vertical position), but it is abundantly clear they are there. In my opinion, their presence here is not to judge these people for being in this position, but considering Gotham is modeled after a much older society, the remains of class based racism is something that does exist and is placed in this episode in order to purposely make you feel uncomfortable about the state of this community.

The relationship between Leslie and Batman works well for the episode and helps tie together the most important moment so far in the series. It was this episode that officially explains the fate of Batman’s parents. According to the comics, Leslie was a doctor who worked with Bruce’s father, which explains their closeness and why they meet at that alleyway all these years. Park Avenue, as one could predict, was the alley in which Bruce’s parents were killed.

Even further, we can extrapolate the importance of that event to the creation of Crime Alley. Bruce’s parents were one of Gotham’s biggest philanthropists and used their fortunes to turn Gotham into a better place for all. It was that irony written into the comics that they were shot down by one of the desperate vagrants they were trying to save. With the absence of the Wayne’s influence, Parkrow and Gotham itself slip into corruption. The existence of Crime Ally is a constant reminder of what Batman strives for; to continue his parents’ mission and hold up their legacy. The main difference being that Batman obviously has a different approach to holding their legacy.

The recurrence of Dagget as a villain helps point the episode in a direction we’re familiar with, but he really doesn’t act much as a villain for the episode. His alibi plot actually speaks to his intelligence and it allows for a larger plot to be at large without taking away from Batman focusing on saving people rather than fighting a super villain.

Batman’s behavior in these situations also points to his main objective. Over the course of the episode, you see more real emotion out of Batman than you see in any other episode. You see him get scared, mad, and everything in between.  In particular, fear. There is a very large amount of risk for characters in this episode and it speaks a lot to Batman’s character to actually see honest concern for their lives.

The directing for the episode helps this by making the close calls a heck of a lot closer than he normally would be allowed to get away with. Simple things like letting the trolley hit the car or using an elderly woman as a victim, or even letting a non-villain character, a normal citizen, hold a man at gunpoint with the entire police force within seconds of taking him down. All these work towards both lowering an audiences defenses and buying the illusion of danger these characters are put in.

One final advantage this episode finds in having no real villain; they are able to achieve a level of gray morality that they normally wouldn’t be able to get away with. Like I just mentioned, this episode features a man that in the context of the episode, should be considered one of the good guys, holding a man that works for the villain at gunpoint, and Batman and the police see him as one of the bad guys. Daggett’s scheme is meant to improve the city of Gotham by removing one of its most dangerous neighborhoods, but he’s considered to be evil. Even with Batman, he spends the whole episode protecting a neighborhood that not only is considered to be one of the most corrupt in Gotham, but the neighborhood responsible for the death of his own parents. There are no clear good and bad guys. There is only people. Real people that have real reactions to real problems that do not have clear-cut right or wrong answers.

Appointment in Crime Alley is not an episode that should not be overlooked. It’s not one of the best, but it’s one of the most unique. For a person who has been watching episode after episode for months, this episode is a change of pace towards some truly mature subject matter that I find quite welcoming. If you’re looking for an episode a bit out of the ordinary or one that really dives into adult subject matter, you’ve come to the right place.

BTAS # 25 The Clock King

The Following is an Expert from the Book, “The Man who Watched Batman Vol. 1 An In depth Analysis of Batman: The animated series”.  If you’d like to purchase the book in it’s entirety, Click here to get a paperback on amazon or click here to get a digital copy on Drive thru comics!

BTAS # 25

The Clock King

 

Directed by Kevin Altieri

Written by David Wise

 

For a character who’s been around for over 75 years, (the year this book was created marks Batman’s 75th Anniversary.), you would assume that Batman would have more established villains than the 10 to 15 we usually see. That being said, several Batman shows will experiment with adding a villain or two to the usual rogue gallery. These are what are known by many as the “B cast Villains”. Finding the right pick can be quite challenging. When looking through classic Batman villains, they range from, “Wow! How come they don’t use him more often?” to, “Who the hell thought that was a good idea?”  Today, we take a look at a villain that luckily, lands pretty close to the top of that food chain: The Clock King.

 

Our episode begins with our main villain himself Temple Fugate. (The name being a play on the Latin phrase tempus fugit, meaning “time flies”). He is boarding a Gotham subway train and commenting in monotone about its lateness. He takes a seat next to Mayor Hill.  As the two of them begin to make small talk, we get our first look at one of Fugate’s greatest weapons, his watch. From looking at the watch, we see that it in impeccably accurate and can tell time in years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Seeing as how this is a villain based completely on time, it makes sense that his personal timepiece would be top of the line.

When Mayor Hill hears Fugate talking about his upcoming court case, Mayor Hill suggests that the judge will think he’s up to something if he showed up as high strung and neurotic. He advises that a good baby step Fugate could take is that instead of taking his coffee break at his office at 3pm on the dot in his office, he take it at 3:15 somewhere outside the office. Fugate looks on in hilarious horror, but the look on his face implies he’s considering letting it sink in.

Back at his office, Fugate is typing away at his computer. A print boy gets chewed out when Fugate calculates how long the printing of the exact number was and he was several seconds late. This provides further examples of how incredibly well Fugate knows his Chronology; a major key to his plot later on. When his assistant brings him his coffee, she is speechless to find that Fugate has decided to take Mayor Hill’s advice.

Fugate takes his coffee and court files to the park and sits on a bench. Fugate notices two kids playing ball a ways away and smiles. What he doesn’t notice is the brats throwing the ball at him for laughs. The papers blow away and with the help of some canine hijinks, Fugate finds himself and his important court papers drenched from the park fountain statue. The scene seems incredibly straightforward at first, but two things stand out. The first is abundantly clear after asking: “Why would Fugate smile at the kids?” I mean in all practical senses, kids represent disorder and chaos. What it actually is, is that Fugate is paying attention to the sound of the kids passing the ball. The sound of the kids passing the ball mimics the pace and sound of a metronome; a sense of order that Fugate is pleased to hear in the midst of this chaotic new place. The second is the purposeful absence of music in the first half of the scene. I believe that the lack of music is supposed to represent Fugate’s mind, for it is only when the scene breaks into chaos does his tranquility become replaced with disorder and noise.

Fugate is drastically late for his court hearing and his company is fined for 20 million dollars from the case being forfeited. Fugate begs that the ruling will leave him in shambles, but the judge ironically chastises him about learning the importance of appearing on time. Fugate screams in agony.

We flash forward an astonishing 7 years. (And no I am not going to analyze the Gotham timeline. It’d take a whole book).  8:57am and we follow a police escort of Bruce Wayne and Mayor Hill. Alfred makes a few jests about the fundraising event he’s heading to for Mayor Hill, but is struck in a T-bone accident. Alfred and the driver yell at each other briefly before noticing the traffic signals are down. The Taxi driver begins yelling at Mayor Hill as the source of the problem. Bruce Wayne notices a suspicious figure on a rooftop. The figure presses a button and a set of small explosives go off releasing a large poster across the building of Mayor Hill covered with immature graffiti. The crowd begins laughing and Mayor Hill comments this is not the first time this has happened. Bruce Wayne runs into action and in a clever homage to the 40’s Superman serials, Bruce Wayne changes into Batman in silhouette as he climbs the stairs.

Fun fact about that series: never once in that series did Superman ever get changed in a phone booth. In fact, never in the comic books did Superman ever get changed in a phone booth. It’s become an absolute staple of the character for 75 years, and nobody knows where it actually came from. It may have even started as a joke or rumor that expanded into how everyone just assumed he transformed every time. Also, for those who haven’t watched them, watch the Superman animated serials. They’re awesome.

Batman meets Fugate (known in the episode title and the comics as The Clock King) on the roof. They exchange some banter and puns before Clock King Throws an exploding pocket watch at Batman’s escape route.  Batman tries to cut him off, but in an incredibly badass escape, Clock King uses his knowledge of the Gotham transit system to backflip off the building and land on the precisely 6 minutes early train. I might be grasping at straws here, but one might ask why the beginning of this scene is the only one to include a time stamp. Well, by my calculations, Fugate jumps on the train at 9:09. If you subtract that from the time the scene begins, you get 12. Coincidence? Honestly, it could be. It’s a stretch.

Batman breaks into the security room that controlled the traffic lights. When examining the scene, he finds one of Clock King’s exploding watches. He zooms in on the Watch with his special glasses and finds an expensive serial number. Upon examining the police records, he tracks the watch back to Fugate. It also draws Batman’s attention to who would want to use a $6000 Rolex for a bomb.

Batman explores Fugate’s abandoned clock shop. Batman drowns out the sound of the numerous clocks in the background and finds graffiti posters of Hill and several pieces of research on the Gotham Clock Tower. Alfred gets notice of a suspicious one block black out near the center of Gotham. Putting two and two together, Batman and Alfred combine the location in Gotham with Clock King’s time theme to determine he is after the time locked safes at the Gotham Bank.

Batman arrives at the bank to find its patrons unconscious on the floor and gas has been pumped into the room. Batman wears his gas mask as he walks into the open safe in the back of the bank. Batman finds a green box in the center of the room with a tape recorder on it.  He reaches for it, but the giant safe door closes behind him and a fifteen-minute timer starts up on the box. What follows is debatably one of the best-conceived villain schemes in the whole series.

The tape recorder delivers a message to Batman that rather than deal with Batman’s array of gas masks; he’ll simply remove all of the air from the room. He calculates that it would take Batman 75 minutes more than he has to burn through the door with his utility belt torch. He also cannot move or destroy the pump (the green box) because it is hooked to a bomb set on vibration sensors. Batman muscles together his inner MacGyver and devises a pretty clever scheme. Batman carefully removes the tape from the tape recorder and begins to unwind the tape.

Meanwhile, Mayor Hill is attending a grand opening of a new subway station. He declares it to be the first fully automated subway station in the city. A quick shot of the tracks shows that the rails have been definitely tampered with. Mayor Hill looks at his watch and at the right time, commands the first train to arrive. Mayor Hill is embarrassed when the tracks remain empty.

Batman hopes to make his way out of the safe by using the tape to lift the pump on a pulley system and then hopefully use a batarang to set off the bomb and blast open the door. Unfortunately, the lack of oxygen causes him to pass out before he can throw it.

Mayor Hill chastises his assistants about the train, but is interrupted by Clock King taking over the PA system. He makes some political attacks at Mayor Hill’s expense before sending the train careening into the station and injuring several people in the wreckage. (Probably would’ve killed with how big a crash it is, but you know, kids show and all that.)

While that’s going on, Batman regains consciousness and sets the trap; leaving him able to get some fresh air just in the nick of time. Batman evaluates the city as he tries to predict Clock King’s next move. He gazes into the distance at the Gotham Clock Tower.

Clock King has Mayor Hill tied to the hour hand of the clock. Clock King monologues poetically about how at exactly 3:15; Mayor Hill will be smashed to bits. Mayor Hill finally discovers who Clock King is and begins to apologize profusely. Clock King refuses to listen, as he believes Mayor Hill was trying to sabotage him. He reveals it was Mayor Hill’s law firm who was prosecuting him all those years ago. Mayor Hill claims ignorance, but Clock King won’t hear it.

Batman shows up just in time and Batman and Clock King start their epic final fight. I haven’t talked much of Clock King’s attire until now; mainly because it’s not that different from his regular clothes. Exceptions include clock themed lenses pointing to 3:00 on his glasses and a clock hand shaped Sword-cane that he carries with him and currently uses to fight Batman.

Batman is pushed off of the clock face and climbs into the absolutely beautiful interior of the clock. The gears of the clock climb and interlock in any which direction, but Clock King clearly displays his knowledge of the infrastructure in his movements. Batman and Clock King share an incredible fight, but Clock King has a secret weapon. By studying footage of Batman’s technique, he knows it takes exactly 1/20th of a second to throw a punch. (I didn’t do the math, but I’m going go out on a limb and say that’s crazy fast.) Batman tricks him into jamming his sword cane into just the right set of gears.

The Clock stops in time to save Mayor Hill, but the whole clock is coming down from the inside out. Batman goes after Clock King, but in good villain fashion, he makes a mysterious escape while laughing maniacally. Batman quickly climbs the clock and saves Mayor Hill by a hair. Commissioner Gordon debriefs with Batman about how Clock King is most likely still alive and our episode ends on Batman squeezing in one more predictable, but admittedly necessary time pun.

The Clock King is a refreshing episode and is by far my favorite version of the character. Not only does he clearly establish himself as a competent villain, but also his character is the device by which the entire plot, tone, and foundation of this episode is built upon.

Now this far into the series, the idea of using a villain’s theme to define its plot or tone is nothing new, but this one is a little different. We’ve seen characters use plots based on plants, ice, fear, laughter, but we haven’t seen one based on time. Time can be a little bit trickier. To achieve this, several subtle touches from metronomic audio to the placement of clocks throughout the episode constantly keep you in the right mindset.  I also like that the time theme is clear enough to understand, but not so specific to make it boring. He’s not just robbing random clock stores or stuff like that. He uses his theme to perform his crimes, not the other way around.

When interpreting villains into a different medium or version, it can be both important and nigh impossible, especially when you are adding or subtracting superhuman abilities. In the silver age versions of The Clock King, he had a super human ability that was always that he could look at the world exactly four minutes into the future; not far enough to effect the future majorly, but far enough to be able to predict the fight movements and attacks of any opponent. It can seem disappointing to have a villain lose such a unique and powerful power when moving into this show, but Clock King’s chronological control is interpreted as part of his own intelligence. I actually prefer this interpretation. It helps make his specific use of his powers as an expression of his mind and not some inhuman source. It makes his transformation into villain more powerful because it is all from his own volition. He created the Clock King from nothing and turned it into a powerful villain.

Needless to say, the music also gets its time to shine in this episode. The music of this episode is purposely back and forth between clean, sharp, controlled stanzas and flowing, chaotic, bright melodic flurries. As mentioned previously in the article, the music is sometimes used to reflect the mood or tone of The Clock King himself.  They don’t follow this rule on every scene, but it’s a good perspective to use music changes to motivate the episode’s pace.

Speaking of pacing, for an episode about time, the pacing is about as tight as you imagine it would be. A main difference to most origin episodes is that the actual origin story of the episode has far less screen time than the average episode. The sequence doesn’t feel rushed though surprisingly, the scenes are fittingly clean and quick and paced in just the right way as to not waste a second. This gives more time for Clock King’s master scheme to slowly develop over time. The tensions hold strong because although you know Clock King’s target, his actual scheme is not revealed until the very end of the episode. The smaller, but more abundant scenes of the series reveal a larger stretch of time these events are taking place in. This gives a dynamic edge to the show as it sets up the idea that Clock King and Batman have been fighting on several occasions for months, but we are only seeing the highlights of what is otherwise, an ongoing war.

The animation for the episode is handled quite well, but it is the art design that really makes this one stand out. Dark Deco does an incredible job of showing off the finesse and precision these characters and scenes work with. The amount of time something takes, the amount of time left to save someone, even the feeling of impatience and anticipation, are portrayed in the finite detail of devices like the slowly moving clock tower hands, the accurately moving timer on the Safe Bomb, and even the animated speed of the trains throughout the episode.

Direction and fight choreography help this idea of dynamic Chronology by reflecting pacing through shot selection. Often, the angle or closeness of a shot can reflect a sense of peace, panic, or even anticipation.  Even in shots the characters’ faces are not front and center, shots can portray a sense of time. Shots are farther away and less intimate in moments of patience and contemplation. Closer shots reflect a sense of nervous claustrophobia and panic; a sense that time is running out. It’s a subtle, but clever mentality to keep in mind when examining how this episode handles the passage of time.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time already talking about him, but it goes without saying that I love Clock King as a villain. He’s cunning, meticulous, and just the right amount of evil. He’s just so entertaining to watch. I’m glad this is not his final appearance.

All in all, this is one of my favorite episodes to analyze. This episode in particular has quite a bit going on at once and Altieri has proven his talent in the past in handling these complicated episodes. For the first season, I would say this might be Altieri’s best episode. His direction and shot selection are incredible and his unique interpretation of Clock King is one that has stuck with me far after my initial screening. If you want an episode you can really sink your brain into or you want to see a villain a bit out of the ordinary, I’m sure this episode will be perfect for you.