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Batman – The Brave And The Bold: Season One, Part One

Warner Bros. (2008), Warner Home Video (August 17. 2010), 2 discs, 286 mins plus supplements, 16:9 ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Stereo, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98

Storyboard:

Batman teams up with a steady stream of super-powered allies in a show that is a dream come true for fans of Silver Age comic book adventure.

The Sweatbox Review:

Fans cannot get enough of Batman, and Warner Bros. knows it. For almost twenty years, we have had a nearly continuous line of cartoon shows featuring The Dark Knight. Everyone loves Batman: The Animated Series, which begat Batman Beyond and the revered Justice League programs. Not everyone was thrilled with The Batman, but even that show had a five-year run and did get better with each season. Once that show ended, though, I think a lot of us figured that that would be it for a while, and I think that most of us were okay with that. With so many episodes of various Batman shows out there already, what more could possibly be said?

And then Warner announced yet another new Batman show, and many sighs were heard. It would be a team-up show, however, which sounded interesting enough. And then I saw the designs— blocky, kid-friendly stuff that had many of us fearing this would be overly kid-friendly and dopey. No problem, though. If Warner wanted a Super Friends-like show for 21st Century kids, there was nothing wrong with that. It wouldn’t be my type of thing, perhaps, but I wasn’t really craving another Bat-show anyhow.

And then, in one of many highlights of attending Comic-Con 2008, I went to the Batman – The Brave And The Bold panel. What the heck, right? Producer James Tucker and voice director Andrea Romano would be there, and I had admired what hey had done for previous DC Universe shows. When the panel came onto the stage, I also saw… Diedrich Bader? The goofy Oswald guy from The Drew Carey Show? Oh, man, they’ve really gone off the deep end. Aiming for younger viewers was one thing, but Oswald as Batman? Seriously? And then Andrea asked him to do The Voice. “I’m Batman,” Bader said, almost as deep and gravely as Kevin Conroy. And I was instantly sold on Bader as Batman.

And then, what I really wanted to see: footage from the show. And… oh my gosh. It was then that I knew that this was the great Batman show that I had always wanted to see, but had never known it. It was clear from the production designs and the pop jazz soundtrack that they were planning to give us an inspired amalgamation of the Dick Sprang era Batman from the 1950s, and the Adam West Batman of the 1960s (which, let’s face it, was initially a literal translation of the comics of the recent past). When it was mentioned that Tucker had been behind the Sprang-evoking segment of the Legends Of The Dark Knight episode of Batman: TAS, it all fell into place. This would be a show that celebrated the goofy Silver Age era of comic books, without ever ridiculing it. It would be a how that delighted in crazy plots, but a serious Batman, with lethal villains but still the stories would be peppered with oodles of fun. Best of all, Tucker is a DC fan from way back, and he knows how to make use of DC’s vast library of characters. Batman – The Brave And The Bold was in good hands.

Suffice it to say that once the actual show was on the air, I fell in love with it. Yes, it’s different from Batman: The Animated Series, but thank goodness for that. It was really time for something fresh. The new show is more similar to Filmation’s old school The New Adventures Of Batmanfrom the 1970s (where Batman was actually voiced by Adam West), but with a larger scope. The Brave And The Bold gives us Batman as a superhero, not a brooding vigilante. Here, he is the sci-fi Batman, the swashbuckling Batman, the Batman who is impossibly adept in every environment, all while playing the ultimate straight man to a litany of over-the-top villains and colorful comrades-in-arms. From outer space to the ocean depths, from the jungles of the tropics to the labyrinths of modern metropolises, in this universe and in others, THIS is the Batman that many of us long-time fans love. Those that judge the show by its fun, cartoony look, but haven’t actually watched a few episodes, may be missing the point. There is still plenty of danger and characterization; it’s just not all done in the dark, grim ‘n’ gritty style to which too many insist that all Batman stories ascribe. This is what many of us enjoy about comic books— high adventure, crazy imagination, and ample helpings of pure fun.

For those that say this isn’t true to the character, they maybe haven’t read a comic book older than twenty years old. The Batman of The Brave And The Bold is exactly the Batman of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The title of the show is itself a reference to a long-running Batman team-up comic book which concluded its run in the 1980s. In many ways, this show is a dream come true, a breath of fresh air after too much emphasis on the darker aspects of the character in recent years. Hooray!

Adding to the fun of the show are the opening sequences, which are largely self-contained mini-stories of their own, highlighting other Batman team-ups against even more villains from the DC vault. These animated shorts are each great on their own, but often do figure somewhat into the rest of the episode or even lay groundwork for a later episode, so they’re far from a waste of time.

This DVD set has two discs, containing the first half of the first season. Unlike other recent Warner Bros. animated TV shows which generally lasted thirteen episodes per season, Batman – The Brave And The Bold got a 26-episode order right off the bat (no pun intended). So, while fans may decry that this release is “incomplete,” we’re actually getting just as many episodes as in a season set of Teen Titans or The Batman. Breaking up this season isn’t really a big deal, as it stands alone just fine, and even has a big two-parter for episodes twelve and thirteen that feels just like a season finale anyway. For those that already have the three previous single releases of the show, there is nothing new here, and therefore no big reason to upgrade other than to sell the other discs and save shelf space. But for fans that waited for a bigger package, here it is.

Disc One
Rise Of The Blue Beetle! – A team-up between Batman and Green Arrow against The Clock King is watched on TV by teenager Jamie Reyes, who shares his superheroic dreams with an unsupportive friend. After the friend leaves, Batman appears and enlists Jamie’s help, for Batman knows that the unassuming teen is actually neophyte hero The Blue Beetle! On their way to stop a dangerous asteroid, the two plunge through a wormhole onto a world threatened by the evil intergalactic pirate Kanjar Ro. Jamie must learn to stand on his own, when the inhabitants of that world hero-worship him and hilariously refer to Batman as “The Sidekick.”

Terror On Dinosaur Island! – Gorillas riding on pterodactyls steal a cruise ship, and it’s up to Batman and recently paroled Eel “Plastic Man” O’Brian to stop Gorilla Grodd’s mad scheme to transform the world. Read that sentence over again and tell me how this episode does not contain the ultimate in comic book coolness.

Evil Under The Sea! – Batman helps a jaunty Aquaman against Black Manta and Aquaman’s own brother, Orm.

Invasion Of The Secret Santas! – Batman and the android Red Tornado fight Fun Haus and his army of anti-Christmas toys.

Day Of The Dark Knight! – The opening short with Green Lantern Guy Gardner is a great tease for a later episode, before Batman plunges into the past with Green Arrow to the days of Camelot. And if King Arthur’s around, you know that The Demon may not be far away.

Enter The Outsiders! – Batman’s comic book team gets the spotlight as his old mentor Wildcat helps him to confront Black Lightning, Katanna, and Metamorpho. And, did anyone ever think we’d see B’Wana beast in animation? We do in this episode’s opening scene!

Dawn Of The Dead Man! – My fondest dream comes true, as the murdered circus acrobat Boston Brand comes to “life” in an episode where he aids Batman against The Gentleman Ghost, last seen in the Plastic Man episode’s teaser. Green Arrow and Speedy also appear. My other fondest dream also comes true in this episode’s teaser, which guest-stars Jack Kirby’s Kamandi, the last boy on Earth. Too… much… awesome… to comprehend…! (Tune in for the second part of this season when it comes to DVD, when Kamandi makes a fuller appearance.)

Disc Two
Fall Of The Blue Beetle! has a lot more going for it than just a call-back to the title of the opening episode. It also shows us just what happened to Ted Kord, the earlier Blue Beetle famously designed by Steve Ditko in the 1960s.

Journey To The Center Of The Bat! – This story of The Atom and Aquaman shrinking down and entering Batman’s body to fight a disease is okay; but the true value in this episode is in the teaser with rivals Plastic Man and Elongated Man, here delightfully portrayed as being a somewhat snooty but long-time valued colleague of Batman.

The Eyes Of Despero! – Batman and The Green Lantern Corps against Despero. Hal Jordan is here, along with Guy Gardner, and many others of the Corps, even including G’Nortt, the dim-witted doggie GL! Again, just awesome. Doctor Fate’s in the teaser, too!

Return Of The Fearsome Fangs! – No one really ever wanted to see The Terrible Trio again, but at least we do get to meet The Bronze Tiger. Better yet, Jonah Hex appears in the teaser, in another “usually impossible” team-up.

Deep Cover For Batman! – Batman is called upon by The Red Hood of an alternate Earth to help defeat the evil counterparts of Batman’s Earth’s heroes. Oh, yeah, that’s pretty cool.

Game Over For Owlman! – Batman is back home, but since he was away, his doppelganger from the other Earth, known as Owlman, has terrorized Gotham City, all while wearing the Halloween bat-outfit that Batman’s father once wore (at least, you’ll know that if you’re a DC Comics buff). The Joker offers to help Batman against Owlman, leading to a battle royale between heroes and villains. And if there was any doubt as to the Dick Sprang influence on the show, there is absolutely no mistaking the Sprang Joker!

Is This Thing Loaded?

The first disc has a promo for Lego Harry Potter. That is it. What is Warner home Video coming to, when they can’t even be bothered to make us watch a half-dozen DVD ads? Maybe they’re saving up for the Part Two set.

Case Study:

It’s odd that the cover doesn’t emphasize the team-up aspect of the show at all, even if we get glimpses of Plastic Man and Aquaman on the back cover. Even the cover shot of Batman isn’t all that interesting. A slipcover duplicates the cover of the “eco” style keepcase (with the recycling image cut out of the case), which sports a tray inside to hold one of the discs. No insert is included, but the disc contents are listed on the back cover, at least. The back cover makes the mistake of mentioning that there is a Spanish language track, when there is no such thing on the discs, and it fails to mention that the discs do have French subtitles. The aspect ratio is suspiciously said to be “matted widescreen,” as I believe that the show was actually natively made in the widescreen format, and not matted for it. (Warner commonly makes this mistake on their cartoon packaging.)

Ink And Paint:

Now this is a pleasant surprise. As mentioned just up above, Warner gave the DVD release widescreen transfers, going against what they had been doing for some of their other recent DC cartoon releases. (Shows like Teen Titans and Legion Of Superheroes were reportedly also produced in widescreen, but got 4:3 DVDs.) Batman – The Brave And The Bold looks just about perfect on DVD, with a predominantly stable transfer showing off all the color and action of the show. Rarely do jaggies appear. It looks so good, that even if a Blu-ray release comes out later, an upgrade could only be a slight improvement.

Scratch Tracks:

There is only an English Dolby Surround Stereo track, despite the package’s claim to having a Spanish track. This show would have been a blast to do the sound on, with its bombastic music, plentiful sound effects, and winning vocal performances. 5.1 would naturally be even better, but for TV animation, it gets little better than this.

Final Cut:

This may not be the Batman that everyone loves, but this version, steeped in the tradition of 20-30 years worth of comic books, with a nod to the 1960s live action show (with less camp) is as definitive as anything else I’ve seen. Comic fans in particular will get a kick out of the many nods to DC Comics history and the wide variety of characters presented. The writing is solid, with plots that offer equal parts action and characterization, with humor that comes naturally and does not ridicule the characters in the least. Batman is the perfect foil for hero and villain alike, and it is amazing just how comfortably the character suits such an array of settings. Travelling between continents, galaxies, time, and even other universes, this is the ultimate Batman show, and it was nice of him to invite so many friends along for the ride.

The DVD release, on the other hand, in fairly unremarkable. Video and audio are great, but this only replicates the previous DVD releases with no extra features. I also have to wonder if a future Blu-ray release may include the entire season (mimicking the release plan for Season Four of The Venture Bros.) Aside from those marketing issues, though, any Batman fan is encouraged to pick this up and live the adventure.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?


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SUPPLEMENTS
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OVERALL DVD


 

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