OK It’s time for another installment of “Cartoons My Mom Should Watch”
Let me start this off by pointing out that I HATE the silver age Batman. It’s the reason I grew up a marvel kid and then embraced independent comics as soon as I discovered comic shops but it was quite a while before I embraced DC. So what does this have to do with Batman: TB&B? It went with the visual style of the silver age Bats and got Dietrich Bader to do the voice and I just went “ok we’re getting the funny Batman and the goofy lets tie him to a giant piano and jump on the keys to try and kill him crap” so I ignored it. And really that is what a lot of the silver age was like, if you remember the Adam West Batman TV show, well it was tame compared to the comics. HOWEVER I was wrong about this cartoon!
Firstly while they had the visual style of that era almost every episode was played dead straight, they didn’t give in to camp or stupidity. The did do the old transforming car thing, the batmobile can turn into a plane and a huge battle robot and it completely changes in a that does make you go “REALLY?” and yes I realize we are talking about a universe where there is an alien whose vast super powers are because the sun is yellow but still. Really the vehicles are the only part where the show comes up short, Catwoman’s car has I huge flexible cat’s tail and Green Arrow drives this stunningly stupid T shaped arrow like car.
They told good comic stories that were true to the character of Batman and to the insane amount of guest stars that appeared in the series. There are heartfelt one two of which include Red Tornado, an android hero who wants to understand humanity, in one RT is trying to create a son and it is very much in the mode of Data and Lal on Star Trek: The Next Generation but more in the super hero vein. The other RT ep. is great because it gives insight to the night the Waynes are killed and why they went to see Zorro and show another even more personal reason for Bruce becoming The Batman. That ep. is amazing for how they handle the origin story in a show that really was aimed at kids and aired on Cartoon Network.
There were running jokes throughout the series, Batman and Green Arrow have a friendly rivalry and whenever they work together they keep a running score of who snagged the most bad guys. Bat Mite, one of the most annoying things ever shows up but is fun for a change. They make him the hardcore fan who complains about the direction and style of this show. And all through it Batman stays Batman, he’s not the straight man if a joke happens, he’s like the breakwater the joke smashes into with no effect at all. There is an episode with the Music Meister (and yes that is the exact kind of thing from the silver age that I loathe!) and his power is his voice can make people perform musical numbers but they do it great! Neil Patrick Harris is MM and kills it, as all the heroes and villains sing and dance while fighting is never with that annoying wink to the viewer. The closest you get is Bats looking at Black Canary and asking “Was all the singing REALLY necessary?” but it’s not with a grin it’s him slightly annoyed at them wasting energy on something that isn’t punching bad guys.
There are many sci-fi episodes where they go into space, ones with time travel and a wonderful two part ep. where Bats goes into a parallel world where are the heroes are evil and they are led by his counterpart “Owlman” who had led the takeover of his world. And they toss in much more street level stories where he helps and befriends beginner heroes who need a mentor. Really no matter the genre of story it played with respect for the characters. The only one I had issues with were when Plastic Man and his buddy Woozy Winks show up but that is probably on me because I have always hated that pair and this time was no different. There are also a couple of lame baddies that nothing could make good like Babyface and Mrs. Manface, yeah it’s exactly what you think.
The format of the show is a short open about two and a half minutes followed by the opening credits. Most of the time this opening has nothing to do with the main story of the episode but it can tie in to a story later in the series. Often it seems to be a showcase to tease you with moments of “you never thought you would see this character in a cartoon did you?’
The hook of The Brave and The bold, in both comic and cartoon form, is a super hero team up every time and the team up can be completely insane but it doesn’t matter because it more a case of “wouldn’t it be awesome to see Batman team up with XXXXXX?” And man do they toss in any and everybody from the DCU: The Blue Beetles, All of the Green Lantern Corps, Jason Blood/The Demon, Mister Miracle and Big Barda, Starro, The Challengers of the Unknown, and even Kamandi! Trust me this is just the tip of the character iceberg.
Dietrich Bader does a great job as Batman and he really does nail The Batman. They continued the tradition of bringing in tons of guest stars to do the voices and it really seems like everybody had fun doing it. It also has a great final episode and it’s treated like the finale for a regular TV show.
They also do the best Aquaman ever, he’s a boisterous, larger than life dude. He would be annoying if he wasn’t so great, if you have ever read Bob Layton’s take on Hercules over at Marvel that is a lot like this version of Aquaman and it’s worth watching just for him.
And best of all the series is up on Netflix instant streaming. HOWEVER in a massive jerk move it seems Netflix is only allowed to have about the first half of the series streaming, and in a an even bigger jerk move the last episode they are allowed to stream it part 1 of a 2 parter.
If you want a sample of good episodes to check out try these:
S1EP5 “Invasion of the Secret Santas!”
S1EP12&13 “Deep Cover for Batman!” and “Game Over for Owlman!”
You could also toss in S1 Ep25 “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” because it’s just fun to see a crazy story played so straight.
And just for fun here is the very end of the series.