I fucking love Batman.
Yeah, that should be pretty obvious from one look at my Deviantart and Youtube pages. Hell, it should be obvious from the fact that I have a DA page at all. But yeah, Batman is awesome, I know it, you know it. So, really, Batman is a character who needs no introduction. Ever since he first appeared in Detective Comics No.27 in the 1939, the Dark Knight/Caped Crusader has graced comic books, television screens and unimaginative webcomics for years.
Yes, what I like most about Batman is that he has so many adaptations and stories, and just about each one has its own ‘flavour’. He’s a surprisingly diverse character, able to fit into almost any setting. Can he fit into a noir gangster story? Yep, just watch the 1989 movie and the 90’s animated series. An eerie gothic fable? Batman Returns. A compelling modern crime thriller? Well, I’m sure you’ve all seen The Dark Knight.
And if you want something hilariously crap with Batman in it, there’s no shortage of stuff like that.
Superheroes can have all the ‘gritty’, ‘realistic’ stories they want, but there’ll always be something silly about adult men wearing technicolour pyjamas fighting mean men with ray guns. The 60’s Batman series with Adam West realised this, and because of this, it was funny. Superfriends, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to how silly their stories were, and because of this, it was hilarious. And would you believe there exists something that could be best described as a fusion of those two shows?
The New Adventures of Batman, created by Filmation and airing in 1977, was like the 60’s Batman series in that it took the craziest elements from the Silver Age comics, and even had Adam West and Burt Ward back in the roles that made them famous. And like Superfriends, it had atrocious animation, wretched writing and sinsipid sidekicks. I speak of course, of Bat-mite.
Yes, Batman actually once had a magical elf sidekick called Bat-mite. Perceived as Batman’s equivalent of the Superman villain Mxyzptlk, Bat-mite was a being from another dimension with near-limitless magic that hindered more than helped. He was a big fan of Batman, but sadly, would screw up any and all cases he would get himself involved in. He’s enjoyed something of a revival recently, having played a part in Grant Morrison’s insane stories, and having appeared in the recent Brave and the Bold cartoon voiced by Pee-Wee Herman (well, Bat-mite is a wanker! Eh? Eh?) but he’s really something that should have stayed in the Silver Age.
Still, we’re going to look at an episode of The New Adventures of Batman! Which one shall I choose? The one with a Russian Mr. Freeze saying he’s gonna give Batman a ‘snow job’? The one where the Joker becomes the Riddler because Hanna-Barbera had the rights to the Riddler at the time?
No, I’m going to pick ‘Birds Of A Feather Fool Around Together’. It’s an episode with the Penguin.
Remember when I said Bat-mite was a character that should have stayed in the Silver Age? There are some who’d say the same about the Penguin. With such villains as the Joker, Bane and Ra’s Al Ghul, a fat little man in a top hat is going to look a little out of place in Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Yet, I can’t help but like the Penguin. He’s actually had some good moments, in and out of the funny pages. His issue of Joker’s Asylum showed him using his resources to ruin a man’s life until that man committed suicide, and his Cockney equivalent in the Arkham City video game nicked Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun to attack Batman with and displayed dead bodies in his museum. He can be threatening when portrayed right, but needless to say, he isn’t here.
Geez, look at this intro. It takes two of the most iconic heroes of all time and basically turns them into Scratchy and Co, having them personally introduce themselves and their show for the kiddies. And come on, Robin, was it really necessary to introduce yourself as ‘Robin, the Boy Wonder’? Just say ‘Robin’. How narcissistic can you get?
Also check out the pink Riddler who doesn’t appear in any episodes.
We open with the most 70’s music imaginable and the most stereotypical gangster imaginable. Yeah, he says ‘youse’ and ‘shaddup’ and everything. Also, he’s announcing a ‘Yearly Underworld Convention’…or sorry ‘Yearly Underwoirld Convention’. And it abbreviates to YUC. Wow, you’re not even trying. Yuck normally has a K in it, you know. Why not ‘Yearly Underworld Criminal Konvention’? Or ‘Criminals, Robbers And Perps’?
Anyway, they’re electing the president of the convention, and the two nominees are the Penguin and the Joker. These two were always seen together in the old Batman stories, but I don’t think they are seen as partners as much in the modern comics. To tell the truth, I think their modern equivalents play off each other pretty well – one is insane and wishes to sow the seeds of chaos, while the other is sane and only wishes for profit. Sadly, in the old stories, they’re pretty much the same character, only one likes clowns and one likes birds.
Case in point, Penguin boasts that he can turn Batman and Robin into criminals. In latter day stories, trying to turn Batman to the dark side is more the Joker’s forte. It was the whole point of The Dark Knight after all.
Speaking of The Dark Knight, this Joker is not Heath Ledger. His voice is just awkward. It goes from sounding like some sort of game show host to a more high-pitched chipmunk tone. The guy who’s voicing the Joker – the late Lennie Weinrib, who also voiced Scrappy-Doo – is also voicing the Penguin, as well as Gordon and all the other male villains. That said, his Penguin voice is pretty much perfect, though it was apparently his normal speaking voice (!) as well. Still, the Meredith-type laughs and the ‘r’ rolling does give the impression of an evil old rich man.
Anyway, Penguin is going to turn Batman and Robin evil, and if he does, the Joker will let him win by default. How is he going to pull off this feat?
Why, with a magic potion called ‘Crime Slime’.
This is pretty much the embodiment of Silver Age kiddy Batman, isn’t it? No Two-Face, Batman wears a blue costume with eyebrows and we have magic potions that turn people evil.
You know, I wonder what this would be like if it had a darker Ledger type Joker in it instead of the Silver Age one. Okay, the Ledger Joker wants to turn Batman evil, and tries to do that with speeches and murders rather than any doohickeys or concoctions. If the Joker did have the Crime Slime, he’d probably throw it in the bin because that would take some of the challenge away. He doesn’t want to kill Batman because he’s ‘too much fun’, and an easy solution to his problems would be less enjoyable than succeeding through his intellect. The Penguin on the other hand, is an aristocrat and a businessman and would rather do things efficiently and quickly. Penguin would be trying to utilise his Crime Slime in order to make his job easier, while Joker would be taunting him for being a coward…
No, no. Crime Slime is another thing that should be left in the Silver Age. (I’m still going to write Dr. Grouch: Year One though).
So Penguin reveals his Crime Slime to his henchwoman GG (GG is more or less a precursor to Harley Quinn, even has a similar accent), and tests it on a mouse being chased by a catREALLY? Did you suddenly forget what cartoon you were making? I know I said Batman was flexible, but it’s a little disconcerting when you go from a superhero cartoon to Pixie and Dixie. If I’m watching an X-Men movie, I’m going to be taken out of it if an anvil fell on Wolverine’s head. Hell, there’s enough in those movies that takes me out of them already!
The Crime Slime works, as evidenced by the mouse turning evil, as well as some bank guys Penguin sprays. One of those guys even says ‘Keep up the bad work!’
‘Why so serious?’ ‘You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.’ ‘Keep up the bad work!’ Batman gives us such magnificent quotes.
Now to Wayne Man…I’m sorry, Stately Wayne Manor, where Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are…bowling. Yeah, not out on patrol or anything stupid like that, having a good old bowl because they’re millionaires. Or perhaps it’s some weird form of training, given that the pins are made to look like his enemies. Then the Batsignal appears, and get this, it flashes on and off and beeps like if it were an alarm clock. Figures, if this is any indication, this version of Batman spends his spare time goofing off until there’s work to be done. What was once a personal mission to protect Gotham has now become a nine-to-five. Next thing we know we’ll be seeing Batman guzzle coffee and use the Batcomputer to look for porn.
Bruce and Dick get suited up as Batman and Robin and go to the Gotham PD(along with the Mite, of course) to speak with Gordon, Gordon having the exact same voice as the Joker. People, get your facts straight:
The Penguin has sent Batman and Robin a video message telling them to meet him at Old Sutter’s Mill. Also, he calls himself a harlequin. No, that’s the other guy, you idiot.
Now, here’s where the whole thing gets a bit dull. Batman and Robin go to the land outside Old Sutter’s Mill, and does the Penguin leap out and spray them with his Crime Slime? No, GG is in a tree and the Penguin’s car (which is quite nifty to be honest) drives away. Robin saves GG while Batman chases the Penguin’s car…but Penguin wanted Batman and Robin to be evil. Why would he want to split them up?
Even more bafflingly, Penguin is waiting by the tree to capture Robin, and the car is being remote controlled. When he captures Robin, he doesn’t spray him right away, he instead hangs around and waits for Batman to come. I mean, why not leave GG out of the plan, drive away and then spray Batman and Robin when they caught you? Or better yet, do this plan, only spray Robin as soon as you capture him and once he becomes evil, have him spray Batman. That’s Joker levels of evil right there.
It’s a classic rule of writing superhero comics and cartoons: ‘Making the hero succeed over the villain using their wits is too hard, so make the villain a moron.’
With Robin being held captive in the Penguin’s mansion, Batman now has to go after him. And of course, Bat-mite appears to be annoying, or maybe to make the Penguin seem smarter in comparison. Speaking of the Penguin, he’s getting ready to spray Batman and Robin. GG notes that when he does, ‘Batman and Robin will be…Badman and Robber!’ Wow, they actually thought up a pun for ‘Robin’. Most of the time when Batman villains are teasing Robin, they use a pun on his ‘Boy Wonder’ nickname like ‘Boy Blunder’ or ‘Wonder Brat’. Never a Robin pun, like ‘Slobbin’ or something. Well played, GG.
Bat-mite tries to prove he’s not completely useless by driving the Batmobile to the Penguin’s lair to distract the Penguin, while Batman ejects himself onto the roof. Oh yeah, did I mention, whenever someone rises and falls in this cartoon, a slide whistle plays. What, did the Joker also invade the SFX department?
Batman captures the Penguin and then Bat-mite drops in and accidentally lands on the Crime Slime spraying himself and the Penguin. Oh, so Bat-mite is going to become evil and the Penguin is going to become good, and Batman will have to team up with the Penguin to stop Bat-mite’s reign…no, actually, it makes Bat-mite and the Penguin switch bodies.
Maybe this is like Gremlins, and the writers thought Bat-mite was too cute to become evil or something…
Anyway, now that Penguin is in a body with limitless magic, you’ll think he’d just zap Batman and Robin and make them evil, but no, he just opens up trap doors that Batman and Robin and Batmite in Penguin’s body just happened to be standing on (maybe he made them appear with Bat-mite’s magic). He also calls himself ‘The Diabolical Dude of Dastardly Deeds’. Now that’s a way better name than just ‘The Penguin’, don’t you think? Penguins are just fluffy little animals that Internet people think are funny. ‘Diabolical Dude’ shows you mean business.
With Batman and Robin trapped in his basement, Penguin tells them that they will become ‘even nastier than [him]’. ‘No-one could be nastier than you, Penguin,’ retorts Batman. Well, there’s Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein…and in the DC Universe there’s Darkseid, Ra’s Al Ghul…
Oh yeah, and Bat-mite, in Penguin’s body, teleports away. So, in Penguin’s body, Bat-mite still has his powers. But Penguin in Bat-Mite’s body could float. So do both bodies have powers now? No, actually, Penguin in Bat-mite’s body (who I’m gonna call Pengmite from now on) stays grounded for the rest of the show. So…what was really the point of having them switch bodies then? There’s so much potential for an omnipotent Penguin. He could make the whole of America fat like him…oh wait, that’s happened already. He could get back at Nolan for slamming him. He could fix his faulty lungs.
Pengmite sprays Batman and Robin with Crime Slime FINALLY. It seems to have worked…and boy, oh boy, West and Ward are a riot to listen to as criminals. Ward is trying to do an impersonation of that generic gangster from earlier, saying stuff like ‘We got places to rob and crimes to commit’ and ‘Make sure it’s against the law; we might as well have some fun doing it!’
Pengmite lets them out by turning the trap door into stairs, not even with his Bat-mite powers but with a remote (?). Batman and Robin are then sent to steal a meteorite made of gold, and do some acrobatics beforehand for no reason other than to have clock for dinner.
Batman and Robin deliver the meteorite to YUC and Joker is shocked because he’s the corny Silver Age Joker. He’s not going to say something like ‘Come on, dude, not even one speech about how society is corrupt?’ Turns out, though, that Batman and Robin were just pretending to be evil; they were wearing gas masks when Penguin sprayed them and were in contact with Gordon. Thing is, there was no need for them to do that. Pengmite apparently has no real powers so Batman and Robin could have beaten him up easily, and YUC was being held in an abandoned warehouse and the police should be investigating them nightly. The only way this could make sense is if Batman is a troll. No, actually that explanation makes a lot of sense. Penguin just got punk’d.
Pengmite tries to escape with the meteorite, but Miteguin appears and fights him. Oh yeah, and the meteorite somehow puts them back in their own bodies. Once again, there was absolutely no point in having them switch bodies. No Freaky Friday type crap where Penguin tries doing Bat-mite’s job and vice versa. If you want to see a DC cartoon do this type of plot right, there’s the Justice League Unlimited episode ‘The Great Brain Robbery’, where Luthor and the Flash switch bodies. It’s the obligatory ‘comedy episode’ every nerd show is required to have, but gave us this immortal scene:
Penguin is captured, and then we get a ‘Bat-message’. Yes, this is supposed to like those ‘Sonic Sez’ deals where Batman gives a moral to his young viewers. All that happens here though, is that Bat-mite fucks shit up. Well, ‘don’t be Bat-mite’ is a good moral, I guess.
This cartoon was stupid, but I can’t stay mad at it. Joker may have been crap and Bat-mite may have been annoying, but Batman, Robin and Penguin were voiced rather well. Adam West can pull off a more ‘serious’ Batman, as seen in The Super Powers Team which showed Batman’s origin outside the comics for the first time, and The New Adventures of Batman is worth watching just to hear him. Aside from Bat-mite, the stupidity in this cartoon is more ‘funny stupid’ than ‘infuriating stupid’. Still, the writing and animation is still utterly terrible so I can’t fully recommend this to anyone other than Batman completists and people who like making fun of Superfriends.
I do plan on looking at more episodes though.