Another New Blog!

Check out my new film review blog, Watching Films and Writing About Them! I’ve moved the Batman v Superman, Hardcore Henry and Captain America reviews over there, and added a couple of more film reviews: The Nice Guys and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Also a look back on Batman’s live action films. Also be sure to check out The Weird Writings of Gareth Barsby, for my poetry and short stories!

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New Blog!

I’ve started a new blog, where I post my poetry and writings, along with illustrations! Meet the Lemon Possum, dance with Maisy the Happy Fairy, and hear some nightmarish nursery rhymes. Check it out:

https://myweirdwriting.wordpress.com/

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FINAL ToTT REVIEW: The New Adventures of Batman – The Zarbor Saga

Yep, you read the title right. This will be the final article for The Terror of Tiny Toon blog. I’ll probably write a retrospective post as well, but this is going to be the final cartoon review I write for this blog. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop reviewing, or even stop reviewing cartoons, but this blog wasn’t really meant to be a long-term thing or a serious project, and I’ve gotten a bit tired of it and would rather focus on writing stories. Besides, there are some posts on this blog I’m not all that proud of, and I think I should expand my horizons beyond kiddie shows (I have been considering making another review blog with a larger focus on “real movies”, or even a blog for short stories).

Still, I think we should end things on a bang, so I will look at one last cartoon episode. Okay, I lied, we’ll be looking at three cartoon episodes, all of them from a show I haven’t looked at in a while, Filmation’s The New Adventures of Batman.

We all know Batman as a dark avenger of the night from the Nolan movies and Arkham games blah blah, but we also all know that there was a period when his stories were more light-hearted and silly. In fact, he’s still pretty damn silly today – he still fights a blue man with a freeze gun and a man made out of clay. There’s nothing wrong with silliness, however; a recent Batman cartoon, The Brave and the Bold was based off of the Silver Age comics and was one of the more entertaining Batman-related products of recent times. The New Adventures of Batman is utterly terrible and badly-animated, but it’s still entertaining in its surreality.

After the famous live-action Batman TV show with Adam West ended, Filmation made a Batman cartoon in 1968, featuring character actor Olan Soule as Batman and Casey Kasem (best known for voicing Scooby Doo’s Shaggy) as Robin. The show was pretty standard superhero cartoon fare, nothing really memorable except for a villain named Simon the Pieman. In 1977, however, there came another Batman cartoon, this time with Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles as Batman and Robin. It was also much more surreal, much more bizarre, much more memorable.

The series was crap, but still managed to be amusing by utilising the same insane logic and storytelling that make the Silver Age comics still a hoot to read in this day and age. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops though: this series also featured “Bat-Mite”, a little imp who bugged Batman and the audience to the point where you just wished Batman would sing this at him.

And guess what? Bat-Mite’s a big part in the show’s final episodes! Yay! There’s a two-parter and a follow-up episode that revolves around a villain from Bat-Mite’s homeworld, and Bat-Mite, of course, helps stop him. So without further ado, let’s take a look at “Have an Evil Day” parts 1 and 2, and “This Looks Like A Job For Bat-Mite!” (That last title gives you high hopes, doesn’t it?)

The intro for this show is the ultimate in cartoon corniness, where Batman, in a powder blue costume, pulls a Bob Hope and speaks to the audience, welcoming them to his show. ‘Get set…for thrills and action!’ he says. Guess what two things this show will be lacking.

Right off the bat we can tell this is Silver Age fare, as this is a Batman story without any other superheroes, but begins with a UFO headed for Earth. Granted, we’ll be seeing a Batman vs Superman movie in the future, but when most people these days think Batman, they don’t think him fighting aliens as opposed to regular gangsters and street-level criminals. What’s even more Silver Age is who’s piloting the UFO. “Zarbor” is not only a little green big-headed spaceman, but he has a moustache and buck-teeth that give him a sort of Fu Manchu appearance. If there’s one thing Silver Age comics are known for, it’s racism. He also sounds like he’s inhaled a shitton of helium, yet his voice is still less annoying than Bat-Mite’s.

Zarbor goes into a cave and uses his powers to create a laboratory within. Why he would need a laboratory when he’s apparently omnipotent I don’t know, but let’s roll with it. With the computer he created from thin air, Zarbor tries to find the “four vilest villains the Planet Earth has to offer”. The four the computer comes up with? Well, if these are the four vilest villains on Earth, than Earth must be a bloody idyll.

Two of them are Penguin and Joker, and we’ve covered the show’s versions of them before. Let’s just say this Joker isn’t exactly Heath Ledger. The other two villains Zarbor finds are Clayface and Catwoman. Quick comic lesson: Clayface has actually been the moniker of several Batman villains in the comics, with the first simply being a movie actor mad at a remake of his most famous film while all the others are shapeshifting monsters made out of clay. There’s only one Clayface in this show – Matt Hagen – and in his first episode, he got his Clayface powers from a potion and the effects were temporary (that’s from the early comics too) but in later episodes, he appears to be permanently stuck as a big grey shapeshifting blob.

This show’s Catwoman is another sign this show is inspired by the Silver Age. Most know Catwoman as a thief with a heart of gold who is also Batman’s most prominent love interest, but she used to be a more traditional villain with a cat motif. In this show, she’s a straight-up super villain with robot cats and a cat-shaped car, and no apparent romantic interest in Batman.

Zarbor wants these villains to work for him so he can get rid of Batman, and he teleports them to his lair. He can create a laboratory out of thin air and can teleport people to him. He could just teleport Batman over to his lair and create an anvil to fall on Batman, but no, let’s get a bunch of less powerful losers to do the job for him. Dr. Evil wouldn’t be this short-sighted. Also, when Zarbor teleports the villains over, they all look like they’re sleeping, except for Penguin, who has his eyes open and a smirk on his face. Is he such a smug prick that he even smiles when sleeping?

Zarbor disappears, the villains talk to themselves among where they are, and I cannot get over Joker’s voice. It does not fit this Joker, or any version of the Joker at all, sounding like a game show host crossed with a donkey. Then Zarbor appears, only now he’s taken on the form of a sumo wrestler for some reason. If it’s to make him look more intimidating, it doesn’t work if he still has that high-pitched voice. It would be like if the Terminator had the voice of Elmo, you know you should find him scary, but you can’t bring yourself to do so with a voice like that.

Sheesh, Buddha, what happened to you?

Sheesh, Buddha, what happened to you?

After Zarbor says he will make the villains rich and powerful if they deal with Batman and Robin, Catwoman asks Zarbor to show his true form. How does she know he has a true form? The first she saw of Zarbor was him as a sumo wrestler. Maybe even she noticed that voice doesn’t go with that form. You’d think with all the power Zarbor has that he could change his voice to something other than “Eric Cartman with a duck in his throat”. Zarbor, again, tells the crew that he wants them to deal with Batman, and really, why can’t he do it himself? The similarly-powered Mr. Mxyzptlk keeps Superman alive so he can toy with him, but Zarbor seems to have no desire to do that. He could kill Batman and catch up on Better Call Saul at the same time with his powers. It’s nitpicking, but nitpicking this series is part of the fun.

We then cut to Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson playing basketball, as in by themselves. When Bruce is doing something like this in more modern adaptations, it’s usually in front of the public so they’ll think Bruce is a lazy layabout and thus can’t be Batman. I love how this show has Bruce and Dick, well, dicking about before the Batsignal shows up, it makes being Batman like some zero-hour contract job rather than a curse that came with his parents’ grave. I’m also kinda glad Bruce finds time to have fun; kinda makes me think of Batman Begins when Alfred is saying that if Bruce pretends to have fun, he might have fun by accident.

Bat-Mite screws up the game as he is wont to do, and then the Batsignal shows up and off Batman and Robin go. As per usual for Batman stories, Gordon tells Batman what’s up and Batman goes to investigate. After that, we cut to Zarbor telling the villains that Batman is headed to Joker’s hideout, and he did it without even looking at his computer. So he is a god. A very bloody lazy god. Get off your ass and kill Batman yourself.

Clayface says ‘I WILL. NOT FAIL’ as if he were some kind of robot, then it cuts to Catwoman and it kinda looks like Clayface is checking her out. This Catwoman may have a hideous orange costume, yes, but I guess she’s still pretty fit. Zarbor teleports the villains to the Joker’s home and then tells the audience his plan. ‘With Batman and Robin out of the way, there is no danger of my identity being discovered.’ What? What “identity”? Are you really the caretaker in disguise? He’s also going to steal nuclear plants, it seems. Bully for him.

"My eyes are up here, Clayface!"

“My eyes are up here, Clayface!”

In most incarnations of Batman, the Joker hides out in an abandoned theme park or an abandoned comedy club or one of the zillion abandoned places in Gotham (I’m pretty sure every damn building in Gotham is abandoned), but here he gets a rather nice-looking mansion, guess from the royalties of The Dark Knight. We then get a scene that’s been seen in every single “villains team up” story since time began: they argue about who’s going to be the boss.

Joker is made boss because it’s his house, plus, you know, he’s the villain the general public give the most shits about. Now, given that the Joker is Batman’s most twisted and insane enemy, you’d expect a brilliant yet terrifying plan, something that would bring Batman a fate worse than death, something to make him question his self and heroism…

Joker is going to make Batman and Robin fall down a trap door.

He demonstrates this by making Penguin and Clayface fall down trap doors themselves. I don’t think falling down a trap door will inconvenience Clayface, given he could turn into a bird and fly out. Catwoman then makes Joker fall down a trap door himself and says ‘Now Caped Crusaders, I await your arrival.’ It seems like this is going to set up a story where Catwoman betrays her teammates, but nope, this doesn’t really lead to anything.

Batman and Robin drive up to the Joker’s house and use ejector seats to get themselves on the roof, complete with slide whistle sound effects. That’s way better than using a grappling hook or whatever they do in the Nolan films. Bat-Mite appears in the Batmobile and takes a nap. Good to see him and his planet are such a big part in this story!

We then see Zarbor stealing a nuclear power plant by zapping it and shrinking it, and then putting it in a suitcase that has his name on it. There. That’s what I love about the Silver Age comics and cartoons like them, right there. Over the top ridiculous moments like that. You can keep your gritty, realistic comics.

Back at stately Joker Manor, Joker, Penguin and Clayface have gotten out of the trap doors. Okay, Clayface could as I have said before, but I doubt he’d want to help Joker and Penguin out. If Joker and Penguin could get out so easily, they should be worried Batman and Robin could get out too, given that they have utility belts and everything. Also, when Joker presses a button on his computer to see where Batman and Robin are, you can see his arm is flesh-coloured. So, does this Joker wear make-up as opposed to falling into chemicals…wait, animation error, never mind.

Batman and Robin are in the Joker’s “joke room”, which is full of trap doors. First thing we see of the room, it has furniture in it. Then when the Joker pulls the trap doors open, the furniture disappears. Then the floor turns out to be one big trap door, and the furniture is still gone, which is a shame because you’d think the Joker would want cabinets and stuff falling on Batman. Joker and friends come in to gloat at Batman, and none of them try to kill him or anything. Zarbor didn’t say he wanted Batman alive. Penguin could shoot Batman with his umbrella gun or Clayface could turn into a monster and eat Batman. Then again, this is a problem with darker Batman stories too. Joker tells Batman ‘so stick around, why doncha?’ and sounds exactly like Yogi Bear (!) when doing so.

Joker and co drive off…somewhere, and wake up Bat-Mite. Meanwhile, guess what? Batman and Robin are trapped, find the situation hopeless and admit de…just kidding, Robin pulls out a deus ex machina from his utility belt and they tunnel out. Bat-Mite sees them tunnelling out and gets scared because he thinks Robin’s a giant gopher. Why do they keep him around again?

Batman learns about the nuclear plants disappearing and he goes to an offshore plant remaining. How? By having the Batmobile become Chitty Chitty Bat Bat and grow skis. Meanwhile, Zarbor is gloating to himself over stealing all the plants when he gets a transmission from Joker, who blabbers in CB radio slang, which is something admittedly very Joker of him to do. When Zarbor speaks, however, Joker is left with his mouth hanging open as if he had a lobotomy. I mean, at one point, Penguin tells off Joker and there, Joker’s mouth is closed, but in the very next frame, his mouth is dopily hanging open again.

DUUUUUUH

DUUUUUUH

Zarbor teleports the villains back to his base. I hope the Joker remembered where he parked. Why did they even leave anyway? Wouldn’t it make more sense to watch over Batman and Robin to make sure they didn’t try anything funny? Oh right, the James Bond villains did it, so they must do it.

Zarbor goes to the offshore plant and shrinks it. We clearly saw people on the plant, so are there going to be a bunch of tiny people in Zarbor’s suitcase screaming and begging for help? If so, Zarbor’s more evil than I thought. Batman sees this, and guess what? We get some continuity! Batman thinks this must be Electro, who appeared in an earlier episode. Oh, that was a brilliantly absurd episode, that was.

Bat-Mite deduces it must be Zarbor, as his dimension is having an energy shortage. Bat-Mite has unlimited power, Zarbor has unlimited power, so it’s safe to assume everyone in Bat-Mite’s dimension has so too. Why would they have to worry about an energy shortage? Robin then sees Zarbor picking up the shrunken power plant with a fishing net (!) and they decide to dive after Zarbor when Zarbor’s submarine submerges. Why is Zarbor travelling in a submarine when he can bloody well teleport everywhere?

Zarbor sees Batman and Robin are free and decides to have a go at the villains for screwing up. Before he does, Joker says ‘I’d stake my reputation on [Batman and Robin being trapped]’ and Penguin replies, ‘Your reputation’s not a steak, Joker, it’s a hamburger!’ Wow, where did that come from, Penguin? You’re awfully impolite for a ruthless villain. Zarbor does what he could have done ages ago, and brings Batman and Robin to his lair, frozen in place. He decides to leave Batman and Robin for the villains to do with what they will and takes the power plants back to his home planet of Ergo. Part one ends with Zarbor yelling ‘Have an eeeeevil day!’ (place Peter Griffin ‘He said it’ video here) and teleporting back to his planet, even though he used a spaceship to get to Earth in the first place.

So, you think that now Joker, Penguin et al have Batman in their power, without Batman being able to do anything about it, that this is curtains for the Dark Knight. He’s going to be tortured, tormented, teased, and we’re going to find his body at the bottom of the ocean.

Well…

The second part opens on the villains trying to follow Zarbor back to Ergo and leaving Batman and Robin alone. Talk about wasting an opportunity. I know they feel upset that they feel cheated, as Zarbor left without rewarding them, but you’d think they’d kill Batman first then go to Ergo, just to make sure they could get revenge without anyone stopping them.

When Zarbor went back to Ergo, he left the laboratory he created as it was. You’d think he’d turn it back into a regular cave now that his work on Earth is done; if he needed to go back to Earth, he could easily create another lab. Nonetheless, the villains use the machines to get to Ergo themselves to get back at Zarbor. Robin says, ‘I’d like to get my hands on those four clowns.’ Only one of them’s a clown though, get your facts straight, Robin.

The machine goes haywire right as Bat-Mite decides to check on his buddies. Bat-Mite tries to turn off the machine but ends up sending Batman and Robin to Ergo. Ergo is pretty nice-looking, has this nice surreal sci-fi feel to it, with tentacle trees and everything. Like what HP Lovecraft would see if he took acid. Batman and Robin have a run-in with Audrey II then go to Generic Sci-Fi City where they’re sure to find Zarbor, along with, as Robin says, ‘Penguin and the others’. Why give special attention to Penguin? He barely did anything. Joker’s the one who did that trap door thing.

Zarbor is in the city, and, oh boy. He has a robot sidekick, this whiny little nuisance named Chugg. Zarbor tells Chugg to put one of the power plants on top of a building, and Chugg moans that he’s tired. So I guess they just put him in to make Bat-Mite tolerable.

A racial stereotype and a flying handheld vacuum? Ergo is DOOMED.

A racial stereotype and a flying handheld vacuum? Ergo is DOOMED.

Using his magical wizzy powers, Zarbor regrows the power plant and gives the city power…if the twat could make a laboratory appear out of thin air, surely he could do the same with a power plant. The villains go after Zarbor, and Batman and Robin do so as well. Batman suggests getting a ride to Zarbor’s and Robin says ‘Alright!’ in the most forced way possible. He even frowns while saying it. It’s like he’s trying to humour Batman.

Batman and Robin get in a tram and Chugg gets a lot of energy and zooms about the sky like a bee on crack. Zarbor then tells the city they’ll only get the power if they make him their king, and shuts off the power. Bat-Mite said Zarbor was the most powerful person on his planet, so he really should have taken over years ago if that were the case.

After Zarbor traps the four villains (also Penguin’s umbrella can make magic beams bounce back apparently), Bat-Mite figures out that Batman and Zarbor are in Ergo. How? He sees a label on Zarbor’s machine that says ‘Made in Ergo’. No, Zarbor conjured the machine himself, on Earth. And isn’t that like having ‘Made on Earth’ on toys rather than ‘Made in China’ or even ‘Made in the Solar System’, given that Bat-Mite sometimes talks about Ergo like it’s the name of the whole dimension?

Bat-Mite arrives at Ergo and sees a power plant grow. But didn’t Zarbor say that he would only give them the power back (which involves making the power plants bigger) if they made him King?  So I guess Ergo’s fucked then. Sorry, Bat-Mite, pack it in. Robin sees Chugg flying about and throws a magnet on a rope at him, so now when Chugg flies, he takes Robin with him. Is Chugg really strong enough to do that? Seems like Robin should be pulling him down. Batman chases after him, but then some alien policeman try to arrest Batman. Batman runs away – hey, Batman, you’re supposed to be a superhero and a rolemodel for the kiddies, you shouldn’t resist arrest, naughty naughty – but the police aliens freeze him with their powers. So the other people in this dimension have magic powers like Bat-Mite and Zarbor, and they don’t use them to solve the energy crisis, why? Also, Zarbor captures Robin and does what the four villains probably should have done and steals Robin’s utility belt.

The police think Batman is working for Zarbor, but Bat-Mite appears and tells them that Batman is, as Electro said in a previous episode, the goody-goody Batman. Batman also finds Zarbor’s location, for when Robin’s belt was removed, it set off an alarm. Now that must be annoying when Batman and Robin are getting dressed. ‘Alright, time to hit the h-‘ BEEP BEEP BEEP ‘Oh for the love of.’

Chugg sees the police and Batman headed towards Zarbor, and Robin bellows triumphantly, ‘Tough cookies, Zarbor!’ I just had to laugh at that. Zarbor then uses the power plants to activate an army of robots, and then Chugg demands some more power, because he’s got to have that power, man. Zarbor tells Chugg to go fuck himself (however robots do that), and Chugg cries. Oh dearie me. The whiny robot didn’t get his power. Zarbor is such a meanie.

Zarbor sends out his robots, and it seems he’s been binge-watching The Prisoner, as the robots shoot out bubbles. Bat-Mite gets trapped in one of these bubbles – yay, I mean, oh noes – and Chugg, pissed that he didn’t get his fix – releases the villains from their prison. Zarbor could easily zap another cage around them, but instead, he chooses to vamoose. Chugg then gives the villains an escape vehicle, and because the Big Book of Superhero Cartoons says “all villain team ups must have the villains argue like three year olds”, the villains argue over who gets to drive.

Batman gets into Zarbor’s lair and turns off the robots, and also frees Robin because that little asshole Chugg couldn’t be bothered to free him. Then Batman, Robin, Bat-Mite and the alien police are headed for Astroland, the deserted…so in the Batman universe, even alien planets have abandoned theme parks? Doesn’t surprise me.

The villains go into the theme park and Zarbor captures them with a giant robot clown. A giant robot human clown. Since this is Ergo, shouldn’t it be an Ergoian? Well, the Ergoians acknowledge the existence of humans, so hooray for representation, I guess. Batman saves the villains from being crushed by the clown and of course, goes to fight Zarbor. Now this should be a battle of epic proportions, Batman against a godlike being…it’s gonna be over quickly, isn’t it?

Is that you, Pennywise? Or is it Toy Master?

Is that you, Pennywise? Or is it Toy Master?

Yup, Batman just gets Zarbor to zap beams at him and Robin ties up Zarbor’s arms while Zarbor is distracted, and then they slap on cuffs that rob him of his powers. Also, it seems Zarbor did a good deed after all, as Ergo scientists have been able to duplicate the power plants Zarbor stole. Good boy, Zarbor, you get a cookie.

You think it’s over? Well, here’s what’s more or less Part 3 of this story, and the show’s final episode, “This Looks Like A Job For Bat-Mite”.

Now, when Zarbor was arrested, they put on cuffs that robbed him of his powers. Given that those powers are what made Zarbor so dangerous, you’d think they’d keep those cuffs on. Well, no. Zarbor is in an Ergo prison, and he’s so easily able to escape, it’s ridiculous. A guy comes into the cell with food – you’d think they’d have a slot on the door or something- and Zarbor makes himself invisible so the guy will think he’s escape and react in shock, giving Zarbor enough time to flee through the open door. Andy Dufresne’s got nothing on this guy. Given the powers of this species, you’d think they’d have better security measures, but no. Zarbor teleported from Earth to Ergo in the two-parter, but here he gets to Earth by hijacklng a rocket.

We then go to Wayne Manor, and see Robin wailing on an Zarbor punch clown, with punch clowns with the likenesses of Joker, Penguin etc. in the background. Where can you get one of those, did they have them custom made? Or is there some shop in Gotham who hates the criminals so much they sell punch clowns of them? Robin punches an inflatable Zarbor, and as Batman and Robin respond to a distress call, they joke about Zarbor being behind bars. You had to pick tonight, didn’t you?

It ain't about how hard you hit...

It ain’t about how hard you hit…

Zarbor’s first malevolent deed on Earth is to take city hall and flip it upside down. It isn’t very successful an evil act because, in true kiddie show fashion, Barbara Gordon tells Batman ‘luckily no-one was hurt’. It’s hilarious how the show says Zarbor is so EVIL and POWERFUL yet he makes Ten-Eyed Man look like a credible threat. Then again, the darker comics have that problem too; sometimes Batman comics will have a new villain who the writers say is THE MOST EVIL VILLAIN BATMAN HAS EVER FACED HE IS COOL BEANS and yet he turns out to be lame (*cough*Hush*cough*).

Zarbor does have some competence as he is able to make away with Robin, but not before he gets some water splashed on his head. Batman goes off to ask his Bat-Computer (his sentient talking Bat-Computer, if you remember previous episodes) what’s up, and then we see Zarbor has taken Robin to the ship he stole. What about that laboratory in that underwater cave? Is that still there? Zarbor says as soon as he gets Batman, he will brainwash both Batman and Robin into being evil. Zarbor could easily teleport Batman to his “mind machine” but no, he decides to dick around some more.

Batman asks his Bat-Computer where Zarbor is, and BC replies, ‘NEG-A-TIVE! ZARBOR COULD BE ANYWHERE! HE HAS AMAZING POWERS.’ I love this guy. Bat-Mite acts like an annoying little prat again, Batman is called into action again and BC has a jolly good laugh at Bat-Mite’s expense. As I said, I love this guy.

What is Zarbor’s latest evil ploy? Making a building float. Now when a villain says something like this, he usually makes a pun about it. Guess what Zarbor says when Batman comes onto the scene? For making a building float, you’d expect something like, ‘Looks like I’m on top of the world,’ or ‘I’m reaching new heights’. What he says is even worse. Wanna know what Zarbor’s one-liner is? Get ready…

‘Pardon me for being so up-pity.’

Bat-Mite says the joke is bad but it’s so bad it’s utterly brilliant. Before that Commissioner Gordon had ‘Half of Gotham City is up and I’m fed up,’ which isn’t bad a line, but doesn’t have the charm of ‘up-pity’. Zarbor threatens to drop the building, and Barbara Gordon, who happens to be on the scene, slinks off, and re-appears from behind a fire engine dressed as Batgirl. So she got changed right in the open behind a fire engine, not even in a toilet or phone booth or anything? Where was she even keeping her costume? Hope no-one was watching. Anyway, she distracts Zarbor by calling him though her changing out in the open should have been enough to distract him.

The floating building is brought gently down by some rocket thingies from the Batmobile, and Batman grabs Zarbor, only for Zarbor to disappear. Well, duh. What were you hoping grabbing Zarbor would accomplish? That he’d come along quietly, saying ‘I’m sorry for being so mean’? Hey, Zarbor wanted to capture Batman, why didn’t he just capture him there and then?

Bat-Mite finally acknowledges his purpose in life as Batman’s pet and decides to track Zarbor down with his nose. Seems Zarbor’s also been watching North by Northwest as he is currently hiding in Mount Rushmore. He finally does what he should have done ages ago, and takes Batman to his rocket. Bat-Mite could easily teleport in himself and save Batman, but he just bangs on the rocket until it takes off, and Zarbor activates his brainwashing machine.

Wow, this series certainly has a lot of variety. One episode had Batman and Robin brainwashed by Electro, they pretended to be brainwashed by Penguin and now they’re brainwashed by Zarbor. Such originality.

Now that Batman and Robin are evil, they, along with Zarbor, interrupt a meeting the President (yep) is having and Zarbor makes everyone at the meeting float. Well, I’d rather have Zarbor as a leader then Nigel Farage (Farage wouldn’t like Zarbor though because Zarbor’s not from here). Bat-Mite decides ‘This looks like a job for me’ and has a ride in the Bat-Boat. He fucks that up and then runs into Batgirl, who he has a boner for, let me remind you. Just hope he didn’t see Batgirl changing earlier.

Then we get one of the creakiest clichés of all time which I bet was even creaky back then; Gordon calls up Batgirl (‘Hey, Batgirl, why is your phone number the same as my daughter’s?’ to use a joke from Brickman) and tells her to turn on the TV she has with her motorbike, and as soon as she turns it on, Zarbor is on, just beginning his speech. He shows off his powers by making the Empire State Building float and the Washington Monument spin around. Could this be seen as iffy to anyone post-9/11? I dunno. Bat-Mite says Washington is four hours away, because it’s not like he can teleport there or anything. Is this also a hint for where Gotham is located in America? Apparently Pennsylvania’s four hours from Washington, so is that where Gotham is? Batgirl’s bike can warp space and time, as her ‘jet boosters’ will get her and the Mite to Washington in ten minutes.

Zarbor then asks Batman and Robin to rob banks for him. Why the hell an omnipotent alien would want money doesn’t matter to me, as West and Ward are hilarious to listen to when they’re robbing the banks.

BANK DUDE: Why are you doing this, Batman?
BATMAN: Two reasons: wealth…and power. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA

zarbor7

Then we see Batgirl zooming to the rescue with Bat-Mite lovingly grabbing onto her ass, and Bat-Mite sees Batman and Robin robbing from the 2nd National Bank. Dude, that’s Two-Face’s territory. Batgirl chases Batman, but Batman deploys a smokescreen. Wow, that was as thrilling as the car chase in The Dark Knight, let me tell ya. Bat-Mite teleports into the Batmobile and tries to talk some sense into the Caped Crusaders, but Robin insists they be called ‘THE CRIME CRUSADERS’ and Ward’s read is absolutely hilarious. Batman then does what you’d think he’d do more often and ejects Bat-Mite from the Batmobile.

Bat-Mite’s been reading the Book of Superhero Cartoon Clichés as much as the villains have, and sees that the only way to break the mind control is to remind Batman of his past capers. All Bat-Mite has to do is just show Batman pictures of his villains, and the brainwashing is undone. That’s a solution that’s actually dumber than reversing the polarity.

Bat-Mite says the only weakness Zarbor has is a steel box, and the Green Lantern sighs in relief knowing someone has a stupider weakness than he does. So off they go to try and trap Zarbor, who is sitting in the White House surrounded by bags with dollar signs on them and a nameplate reading “Zarbor Ruler of Earth”. You couldn’t look more cartoonishly evil if you wore a top hat and monocle. In comes Batman and Robin, pretending that they’re still evil and that they captured Batgirl. Zarbor seems strangely eager when they announce Batgirl’s capture. His expression is a ‘She’d be the perfect host for my eggs’ expression. They also state they’ve captured Bat-Mite, and invite Zarbor to look inside a steel box. Bat-Mite tries to push Zarbor inside and given the writing quality I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked, but it doesn’t.

Then Zarbor steals the Batmobile. Why would he want it if he can teleport? Maybe because ‘chicks dig the car’, I dunno. How do Batman and co give chase? Why, by throwing hooks at the Batmobile and roadskiing without skis! And what is the grand finale for their final episode? Remote controlling the Batmobile to throw Zarbor in a rubbish truck. Thrilling. This makes “Felina” look like shit. No, actually the final scene is Bat-Mite begging Batman to teach him how to drive the Batmobile.

So what’s the verdict on these three episodes? They’re terrible, but a good kind of terrible. West and Ward as criminals is just so amusing to listen to, Zarbor is such a corny villain he’s hilarious, and you keep watching to see how insane it can get. The stuff that’s meant to be funny is groanworthy and what’s not meant to be funny is absolutely hysterical.

And you can’t really hate it. When you watch it, you just imagine the kids who did so on the Saturday mornings of yesteryear, marvelling at the adventures of Batman while munching on sugary cereal. We were all like that when we were kids. Maybe that’s why I’ve grown tired of this blog; a lot of the stuff I’ve slammed are loved or have been loved by kids and thus I’ve been a bit harsh on some of these cartoons. The New Adventures of Batman is still hilariously stupid, though.

So, this is the last one of these things I’ll be doing. See ya.

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The Dumbest Zenpencils Comics

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You know, most webcomics are independent projects, and are thus more unrestricted in what they can do and what stories they can tell, and yet so many of them just end up being namby-pamby. Thus we have Zenpencils, one of the most infamously bad webcomics of recent times. Basically, the idea is to take quotes from famous people and punctuate that quote with a comic story. These comic stories are mostly twee feel-good bullshit that would make Mickey Mouse vomit from the saccharine, but some of them are just so insane, where the creator goes overboard in making his message. The result is something too cartoony to take seriously yet too patronising to be entertaining or funny.

Well, that’s not entirely true. A lot of the comics found on this website are unintentionally hilarious, like Jack Chick’s Christian comics before them, and here are just a few of my “favourites”:

MARK TWAIN – An Educational Journey

Look, I know old people are racist (all I know about old people I’ve learned from Monster’s Ball), but really. If you want to make a story about someone learning to be less bigoted, fine, but was it necessary to have the main character of this comic start off with framed pictures of Hitler on his desk, wearing a Klan outfit and with a big nasty scowl on his face?

So this white supremacist is given an air ticket by some woman, presumably his daughter, and then he goes around the world and then decides, hey, maybe racism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So yeah, if you have a racist relative, spend a shitton on money on a plane ticket he probably wouldn’t even use. ‘No way I’m going near them darkies,’ he’d more than likely say.

The portrait of different cultures is like a postcard, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The countries he visits are simplified and rose-coloured, so of course he’s going to renounce his racism at the end. In fact, a lot of people in these comics reform pretty quickly. Another comic has a man reconsider his life because some bum yelled at him. At least when Scrooge reformed overnight, it was due to supernatural phenomena.

KEVIN SMITH – It costs nothing to encourage an artist

Yeah, art school costs nothing.

Anyway, I agree you should encourage someone’s artistic talents, but that message could have been told better. A little girl shows her dad a picture she drew of some dinosaur characters, (groan) The Dinomites. Sliding Doors style, we are shown two alternate realities. In one, the dad likes the drawing, and thus the girl goes on to work at Disney and make a Dinomites movie, which is a massive success. In another reality, the dad hates the drawing, yells at the girl and the movie never gets made. I actually prefer the “bad reality” here because it means the world is spared another terrible Katy Perry song. They show a big montage of the movie’s impact, but they didn’t show all the terrible direct-to-DVD sequels, disgusting fan art, and kids driving their parents up the wall with constant playing of the songs from the film.

Seriously, The Dinomites? That sounds like something on par with The Nut Job, not an earth-shattering classic bigger than White Heat and Casablanca combined. Once again, it’s too over the top and big. Had we seen the girl publish a Dinomites children’s book or something, that would still be corny but at least somewhat believable. And really, the girl had literally no other ideas between childhood and adulthood? She drew dinosaurs that her dad put up on the fridge, and she dedicated her entire life to that idea and solely that idea?

I almost want to say that this could be a companion piece to this comic, where the big meanies mock the artist’s talents and don’t UNDERSTAND HIS GENIUS, MAN. With that comic in mind, this comic just feels like it’s saying FUCK YOU DAD IF ONLY YOU UNDERSTOOOOD ME I COULD BE WORKING FOR DISNEY NOW.

TIM MINCHIN – Be Hard on Your Opinions

Tim Minchin isn’t really the type of person you’d expect to see on this website, but here is one of his quotes, meant to compliment this…thing. Sappy stories about rich businessmen giving money to the poor are commonplace, but there are very little of them that involve that businessman’s heart being taken out of his body and having his icky nasty stuff removed. It’s like an inferior version of this video.

The businessman goes to a hospital, sees a poor beggar, and brushes the beggar away. Once his bad stuff is removed, the businessman gives the beggar money. Thing is, if the businessman had this operation willingly, it was probably because he thought ‘Hey, you know I am being a bit of an asshole, maybe I should have that checked.’ So really, he didn’t really have that much reason to shun the beggar before entering the hospital. And isn’t the quote saying that reconsidering your opinions is something that you should do yourself and it’s something that requires great thought and consideration, not just something that can be done instantly with a magic operation?

Also, the quote uses ‘arseholes’, and this makes me wonder who the hell these comics are meant to be for. There’s a lot of comics that use swears, and these quotes come from people kids won’t know or care about, and yet the comics are too cartoony, patronising and simplistic for adults.

I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard of the next two, but I’m going to do them anyway.

CHARLES BUKOWSKI – Roll the Dice

The quote used here is about going all the way to do something you’re passionate about. There’s a million different ways the artist could have gone about this. Hell, he could have used it for the Dinomites girl making her movie. No, this is about a man who decides to cosplay as a character from Game of Thrones 24/7, actually pretend to be that character, his wife even leaves because of it, and we’re supposed to cheer him on.

Like, what does he have to gain from this? He won’t inspire anyone, he won’t make any money; best case scenario, he’ll end up on Youtube where people will laugh at him at how obsessed he is. He won’t even cash in on that because apparently he’s off to live in the woods to fight dragons (read: he’s going to poke at rabbit corpses with his sword until the men in white coats come).

Do I need to say anymore? This is a better version of the comic.

And then there’s The Artist-Troll War. Ye gods. You’ve probably seen this before so I could probably just leave it there and say nothing more, but I just can’t get over it. The message of it is never criticise anything or give artists criticism, or a giant monster will destroy everything. Yes, really.  Never mind that that Minchin comic he made more or less promotes criticism, never mind that the old white supremacist was being criticised, never mind that the Dinomites girl had to have gotten criticism in art school, criticism is baaaaaaaaaad.

It comes off as really childish and ignorant. SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT MY ART MAKES ME FEEL BAD and stuff like that. It’s like one of those shitty children’s shows about how teasing people makes them feel sad only more so. Still, you can’t get angry at it, you can only laugh at the inanity.

So did Zenpencils do any good for the world? Why yes, actually. Drilpencils improves the comics by replacing the quotes with Dril tweets, though has moved on to do other comics as well. Check that out.

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Avenger Penguins – Surprise Fate

So joint Valentine’s Day/Friday the 13th special away!

I did an article about an episode of Cosgrove Hall cartoon Avenger Penguins last Christmas, and now I’m going to do another article based on an episode of that show. For those that need a refresher about the show, it featured around a trio of penguins who were motorcycle enthusiasts, and they had to stop the evil machinations of gothic lardbucket Caractacus P Doom and his sidekick Harry Slime.

You know, I do think the series has held up pretty well, but not as well as some other shows, if that makes sense. It’s still entertaining, but there’s a feeling of something missing. For example, like all kiddy shows worth their salt, Avenger Penguins makes references to more mature movies as a nod to the parents watching. The aforementioned Caractacus P Doom is a parody of Orson Welles, and his sidekick (based on Peter Lorre) is named after Welles’ character in The Third Man. The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, however, is also a Welles parody and a much more thorough one; one of that show’s episodes was a full-fledged spoof on The Third Man, after all.

Most of the parodies Avenger Penguins did were pretty routine for a kid’s show: Batman parody, James Bond parody, Star Trek parody with a joke about how the redshirts always die. In the episode we’ll be looking at today, there’s a villain called “Annabelle the Animal”, who spoofs both Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Those are more impressive subjects for the show to spoof than the three others I mentioned, considering those are less kid-friendly, but are pretty common spoof subjects. Still, a kids show with an ersatz Hannibal should have some novelty to it, so let’s do this shit.

We begin with the penguins riding down the road, Marlon, Rocky and Bluey. Avenger Penguins was meant to be a parody on Ninja Turtles and shows like it, and the penguins could more or less be described like the Turtles were. Marlon leads and is cool but rude. Bluey does machines, and talks weird on top of that. Rocky is a party dude, sort of I guess, but he’s more the ‘duuuh moron’ of the group.

Anyway, Marlon tells his teammates he’s going to tell Bella how he feels ie. he wants to fuck her brains out. Bella is a female penguin who works at the penguins’ favourite ice cream joint; if Marlon’s going to tell anyone he loves them, it’s good that it’s a fellow penguin given other episodes had Marlon and the others pull a Brian Griffin and lust over human women. As per tradition, he gets all twitchy when he tries to tell Bella his feelings, but not before a weird fantasy sequence where he kisses the froglike Harry Slime. Yup, that happened.

Speaking of Slime, we cut to him in the DARK and EVUL Doom Tower watching the eponymous show-within-a-show Surprise Fate, which is a spoof on Blind Date. Also one of the dates in the show is a two-headed monster, which, as Doom then says, has ‘more spots than a measles epidemic in a dominos factory’. Then there’s a newsflash about the escape of the notorious Annabelle the Animal, a psychopath who gorges on anything that is black and white. I’m sure you can see where this is going. If not, you probably need psychiatric help more than Will Graham did.

"Oh, and Senator, just one more thing. Love your suit."

“Oh, and Senator, just one more thing. Love your suit.”

Yes, Doom has freed Annabelle, and sure enough, she’s tied to a gurney and speaking like a female Anthony Hopkins might. Spoofs on Hopkins’ Lecter are pretty common (even the Hannibal TV series did it with Eddie Izzard’s character) but I kinda like Annabelle. Her design makes her look like an even crazier Cruella DeVille (why doesn’t she try to eat her hair) and she does come across as pretty creepy and unhinged.

So with her free, it seems the Penguins are pretty damn boned. We’ve established in the “Christmas Carol” episode that Doom knows where the Penguins live, so all he has to do is send Annie-poo over there to have ‘an old friend for dinner’, and they’re dead.

Well, no, actually. Doom’s plan is to put the Penguins and Annabelle on Surprise Fate. Why? I mean, you want the Penguins dead, you have someone who is willing to eat the Penguins, and if this plan works, Annabelle will only eat one of the Penguins. Doom even sees a flaw in his plan; Marlon shows up to the show in a gold tuxedo that makes him look like “a cut-price Elvis impersonator”. I dunno, he’s still pretty black and white, considering his black feathers are showing and his shirt is white. If Annabelle eats things that are only black and white and no other colour, then she probably wouldn’t eat the Penguins anyway, considering their clothes are different colours. Even if she does catch them naked, their beaks and feet are still orange. So either Annabelle would eat Marlon (just noticed how that sounds in a “date” context) regardless of what he was wearing, or she wouldn’t eat the Penguins at all. I love overthinking cartoons, don’t you?

Also she goes on the show in a black and white dress. Shouldn’t she be trying to eat that?

Marlon says he’s ‘a black and white guy’, so Annabelle chooses him. Doom, watching Surprise Fate on TV, is outraged and demands she pick either Rocky and Bluey even though their clothes look more colourful than Marlon’s. I do kind of like the line, ‘I know you can’t hear me, but listen anyway!’

Annabelle picks Marlon and Bluey and Rocky bugger off just as their leader and the crazy lady go off on their date. Bluey and Rocky stumble into a news studio where they’re doing a report on Annabelle, and they recognise her as the woman Marlon drove off with. Wow, Doom didn’t even bother giving Annabelle a disguise, and no-one in the entire studio recognised her. Doom should be glad everyone in Big City is as stupid as he is. Also, it turns out Annabelle became the way she is because her Grandma fed her nothing but mint humbugs. Well, I’ve heard worse villain origin stories. At least she got one, which is more than can be said for Doom.

"Something wrong, Mr. Ventura?" "Of course not. This is a lovely room of death."

“Something wrong, Mr. Ventura?”
“Of course not. This is a lovely room of death.”

Now the episode starts picking up, as Marlon and Annabelle are driven to a Bates-esque motel that looks pretty neat. Slime is in disguise as a bellhop (he gets a disguise but Annie doesn’t?) and Doom is also there spying on Marlon. He has video cameras set up around the motel, and his plan is to record Marlon being devoured by Annabelle so he can watch it over and over again later. Jesus. And when I say that, I mean it in a good way. I just like seeing a cartoon villain have such a twisted, fucked-up plan, and when Doom announces it, every syllable he speaks drips with sadistic glee. This show does have some stupid moments but it also has such wonderful moments like these.

Oh, look at how much fun he's having! Isn't it adorable?

Oh, look at how much fun he’s having! Isn’t it adorable?

Doom sees Marlon in the shower, and since Marlon’s out of his tuxedo, Doom tries to get Annabelle in the bathroom. Now, given that Doom sprung Annabelle, Annabelle should trust him, so all Doom has to do is go up to her and go, ‘Hey, there’s a tasty black and white thing in the bathroom’, she should be all ‘K’ and boom, Marlon kebab for dinner. No, instead Doom pretends to be the voice of Annabelle’s “Granny Humbug” over an intercom. Hmm, creepy motel, shower, voice of parent figure talking to a looney. Don’t know what the hell they’re referencing! If you want to reference Hitchcock, why not have the Penguins attack Tippi Hedren?

Annabelle is convinced to go to the bathroom though, but just as Doom is about record his future masturbation aid, the lightning shorts out the TV, and he gets Slime to go fix it. Then we have the whole Psycho stuff where Marlon is taking a shower but then there comes a scary shadow, but instead of Anthony Perkins with a knife, it’s Rocky with a newspaper! Ho-de-ho.  Rocky tries to convince Marlon that Annie is a looney, but just as she does, Annie herself barges in and tries to eat them. The lights go out, and Rocky thinks Marlon is holding him, but it’s really Annabelle. Is that a reference to The Haunting, or am I giving them too much credit?

Slime is up on the roof trying to fix the feed as Marlon and co are running away from Annabelle. I kinda like when they’re trying to find a door to go through, find what looks like a normal room, but is only a picture which is torn away by Annabelle on a pendulum. Soon they end up in a room where Doom and Annie are, and just as Doom is about to feed the Penguins to Annie, Slime falls down the chimney, covering everyone in soot. He wipes some off Doom’s face, and then Annie tries to eat Doom. Doom’s face doesn’t look that white to me, more bluish-grey. Besides, since he’s always wearing a black cloak, shouldn’t Annie have tried to eat him the moment she saw him?

Complaints aside, this episode was actually pretty good fun. The horror movie spoofs worked well without being too sanitised, and I can’t help but love Mike McShane as Doom. He’s having such fun with the role, and actually managed to make him seem threatening even when there were pretty big flaws in his plan.

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Quick Review – Better Call Saul

What can be said about Breaking Bad that hasn’t been said already? The story of a chemistry teacher’s downward spiral as he makes meth to support his family proved time and time again to be captivating, canny and creative. It brought forth hours of entertainment, some of the most iconic scenes and quotes in television history and a wild and wonderful cast. It ended on a perfect note, and yet, when it finished, it left a hole in our hearts that couldn’t quite be filled. The world of Breaking Bad didn’t go away for very long, however, as today, the first episode of its spin-off Better Call Saul hit Netflix. While it may be too soon to say whether or not it’s as good as its predecessor, its first episode is still an enjoyable experience, and leaves the audience wanting more.

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman were two of the most compelling main characters to star in a series, but their supporting cast were just as intriguing (with the possible exception of the breakfast-loving Walt Jr., with many fans saying his baby sister Holly and Hank’s mineral collection were more interesting characters than he was). One of the most memorable and funniest characters they encountered was the criminal lawyer (and criminal lawyer) Saul Goodman and Better Call Saul details how he ended up as Walter White’s cohort.

The first episode may open with an epilogue of sorts for Breaking Bad, the majority of the first episode “Uno” takes place six years before that series, and from its first scene, it exhibits the dark humour and spirit of that series without feeling too much of a rehash. Saul, named Jimmy McGill back then (Bob Odenkirk), is defending a trio of boys in court, saying, come on, we all did stupid stuff when we were nineteen. Then he sees what those boys actually did, and it’s classic.

Better Call Saul has many of the best elements of Breaking Bad; like that show it makes 50 minutes fly by and its ending leaves you dying to know what happens next. Some familiar faces show up, and elements of the show will easily be recognised but the spirit of the original is kept without it feeling too much like re-treading old ground.

Odenkirk shone in the original series as Saul Goodman and here he shines again, getting several nice little moments like talking to himself in the bathroom before going to the courtroom and pretending to be his own secretary while on the phone. The other characters, including Saul’s mentally ill brother and a pair of skaters, are also endearing, and a certain character from Breaking Bad makes a special appearance at the end. Thankfully, the episode isn’t dominated by references to the previous show, and thus, the first episode of Better Call Saul is more entertaining than the first episode of Gotham.

A spinoff for a show as brilliant as Breaking Bad has a high bar to cross, but Better Call Saul reminds viewers of why they loved Breaking Bad so much while being entertaining in its own right. I have high hopes for future installments.

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Road to the North Pole vs. The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas

Let's get ready to RUUUUUUMBLE!

Let’s get ready to RUUUUUUMBLE!

OK, fuckers, Christmas Day may have been and gone but I want to put out at least one Christmas-themed article/review/whatever before Twelfth Night. In fact, I want to revisit a cartoon I took a look at two Christmasses ago.

The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas. Kid and Sandman visit Santa Claus only to find his workshop’s been taken over by an evil clown who isn’t evil. Kid stops clown by deleting items off other kids’ wish lists so they only get one present. It wasn’t very good. You want to tell a story about how being greedy at Christmas is bad and that you might not get everything you want, fine. There are better ways to go about it then making some kid deprive other kids of most of their presents.

In the original review, I also said it reminded me of the Family Guy holiday special “Road to the North Pole”. Like Boy, “Road” had two characters go to visit Santa Claus only to find his workshop in shambles. They also save the day by making everyone in the world get only one present at Christmas. It also wasn’t very good, but I’m still going to compare the two, just to see which is the lesser evil. And yes, I shall take into account that one was made for an older audience than the other, even if Family Guy isn’t exactly what you’d call mature, and making a show for adults about how wanting lots of stuff for Christmas is bad is a little condescending.

Before I start, let me say that I don’t hate Family Guy or Seth McFarlane as much as some people. I like American Dad, I liked Ted, and Family Guy has entertained me more often than not. Still, a lot of the time, Family Guy just seems to be there to make newer episodes of The Simpsons better by comparison (people didn’t like Homer apparently getting raped by a panda? Let’s have Peter Griffin get raped by a bull and make it more disturbing and explicit). And yes, there’s lots of filler and the chicken fights are dumb and “Road to the North Pole” isn’t exactly a shining example of quality and showcases a lot of the show’s main flaws.

Both shows have a live-action opening; “Road” has narration from Seth McFarlane’s dad and Boy has the titular boy, Peter Fletcher, in live-action form, excited for Christmas. I’m not really sure about “Road”’s narration but it sure as hell beats the crap out of the monotonous acting of what Boy has.

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 0

Then both are followed by the characters saying what they want for Christmas, and in both, we are supposed to be tut-tutting them for being greedy. Boy, still in live-action, has Peter look over his Christmas list, which includes a bike, a spaceship toy and a stereo. So yeah, the special is inoffensive at this point. We all wanted lots of stuff over Christmas when we were kids, but this does seem like a bit much, so we do kinda want him to learn a lesson about greed.

Family Guy, however, goes into cartoon at this point, and has a big musical number where several characters sing about what they want for Christmas, while Brian sardonically looks on in disapproval. The song is somewhat catchy, but still frustrating because it highlights one of the most annoying elements of Family Guy: Brian being a smug douche who’s right when everyone else is wrong. It’s even been made fun of in the series proper, most prominently when Quagmire makes a big speech about Brian’s flaws to Brian’s face. In the special, Quagmire gets another go at Brian in a rather forced scene, but in the end, Brian’s moral superiority is what saves Christmas.

And you don’t really feel any urge to tut-tut the Quahoggers as they sing about what they want. Some want arbitrary presents, sure, but poor Meg Griffin wants ‘a dad who doesn’t drink’ and ‘softer voices in [her] head’. And why shouldn’t she?

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 1

So Boy is half an hour long, while “Road” is three quarters of an hour long, so for “Road” it takes longer for Stewie and Brian to get to Santa’s workshop then it takes for Peter to do the same with Nilus the Sandman. Nilus is voiced by Long John Baldry.

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 2

Peter Fletcher is turned into a cartoon by Nilus the Sandman in a dream, Peter asks Nilus to take him to meet Santa, they’re there. Stewie doesn’t get to see a mall Santa because the line was too long, and asks Brian to take him to the North Pole so he can kill Santa. I’d give Family Guy a point because I think going to the North Pole to kill Santa is potentially more interesting than just going there to say Hi to him, but it seems to take forever for Stewie and Brian to get to Santa’s workshop, packed with unfunny jokes like one about Canadian hospitality and a poor man’s Who’s On First.

Family Guy: 1
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 3

Now for the meat of both specials: Santa can’t keep up with the world’s demands for presents so his workshop’s gone to pot. Well, it’s really only gone to pot in Family Guy. In Boy, the workshop is a little dusty and plain, but Santa, his elves and his reindeer all look quite healthy, though a little sad. Plus, there’s another workshop beneath Santa’s: one quite modern and festive, and run by the supposedly evil Toymaster.

In Boy, the ever-growing demand for gifts made Santa build the Toymaster to help out with the workload, but the Toymaster took over and made a modern factory beneath Santa’s old workshop. The Toymaster may look and sound like Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but he’s pretty much solved the problem Santa has. Santa was worried he couldn’t keep up with the growing population and their want for more gifts, and the Toymaster’s factory can create millions of toys that will more than satisfy the demands of the kids of the world. None of his toys seem defective, and had his plan succeeded, everyone would have gotten what they wanted. The only thing that’s really “evil” about it is that…gasp…the elves working there look slightly tired. Because I bet they were never tired before, making toys for every kid in the world.

In Family Guy, Santa also has a problem keeping up with kids’ demands, but it has actually taken his toll on him, his helpers and his workshop. He now works in a hellish factory that resembles Charles Dickens meets Guy Ritchie, and in order to get more elves to make more toys, he’s been forced to inbreed, creating a whole lot of deformed, miserable goblins who know nothing but work. It’s not really funny but I’m not sure it was supposed to be really. It certainly is memorable, which is more than can be said for most of Family Guy’s output.

In both shows, Santa gets a song about how good the old days were and how horrible everything’s gotten. In Boy, it’s too wistful and schlocky to really remember. Family Guy’s answer is probably the best song the show has ever done, one that I actually like to listen to a lot, one that belongs in a better show. It combines pathos, anger and nightmares into a whole, with frantic and fierce imagery and though I don’t really approve of what the show is trying to do here, you at least feel something should be done about Santa’s predicament. In Boy, you just want to say ‘Look how happy the Toymaster is! Let him have his fun!’ Family Guy’s Santa would welcome the Toymaster with open arms and a ticker tape parade.

Family Guy: 2
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 3

I can’t praise Family Guy for very long though. In “Road”, Santa is deathly ill from all the pollution so Brian and Stewie decide to try and deliver the presents themselves. What follows is an awkward scene where they try to deliver presents to a house, but are spotted by the owner, so they kill the guy, then kill his wife, and then tie up a now-orphaned girl. I love dark humour, but dark humour has to be, you know, humour.  There’s no real jokes in the scene, just a poor attempt to shock.

Family Guy: 2
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 4

In both specials, the main character decides the solution to the problem  is for Santa to only give out one present at Christmas. Never mind that delivering one present to every kid in the world is still a big fucking task, it still comes off as preachy and ham-handed in both specials.

I guess it’s slightly better in Family Guy, because there Brian goes on TV and asks everyone to only want one present at Christmas. It’s pretty silly that everyone agrees to it, even Quagmire does and he hates Brian’s guts, but at least Brian asked. In Boy, Peter Fletcher, without asking anyone, deletes items off of kids’ wishlists willy-nilly and even destroys the Toymaster’s factory in the process. There wasn’t really any need for him to; from what we saw the Toymaster was doing a bang-up job and if he succeeded, kids would be happy. Now that Peter Fletcher’s done what he’s done, a whole lotta kids are going to be disappointed. ‘I got my train set…but no cure for my cancer.’

Family Guy: 3
Boy Who Dreamed Christmas: 4

In both, Santa’s workshop is restored to normalcy strangely quickly. Peter blows up the Toymaster’s factory just as soon as he was about to deliver the presents, and next thing we know, Santa’s workshop is happy again and he somehow has the toys he needs to deliver. In Family Guy, everyone agrees to one present and next year, no more moody factory or deformed elves. But I thought the elves came about because of Santa inbreeding; did everyone not being greedy make them magically non-inbred? It’s way too tickety-boo for a special that had the main characters kill two people and just bugger off. So neither special gets a point there.

Wow, so The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas is the lesser evil here. Still, I recommend neither special. There are countless superior Christmas specials for kids, and adults certainly could do better when it comes to cynical Christmas comedy. Santa’s Slay, Scrooged, the Royle Family specials, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the list goes on. So, Merry sorta Christmas, folks.

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