Well we’ve reached quite a conundrum, haven’t we? Right now, the superhero cartoon show landscape is barren with DC Nation on hiatus until January, Avengers cancelled, and Ultimate Spider-Man gone to lick its wounds to strike back at me a year from now in a cross-over written by Scott Snyder. As a result, I have no current cartoons to review! So until those shows come back, Boomb Tube will review cancelled cartoons of the past! This week, one of my personal favorites.
Note: While I do have some ideas for cartoons to review in the weeks ahead, feel free to leave comments suggesting which shows I should take a look at. The worse the better.
In the 1980’s, comic books changed. Writers took a look at the spandex-clad paragons and twisted their stories to be darker, edgier, and “more realistic”. Batman, DC’s Dark Knight, fell under the most scrutiny during this era which resulted in some phenomenal books that completely redefined his character. Namely, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, both by Frank Miller with art by David Mazzucchelli on the latter. Ever since the release of those two groundbreaking series, Batman writers and fans alike have clamored to prove that their favorite Caped Crusader is a not silly kid’s icon, but super dark and super serious. Instead of receiving a call from Chief O’Hara to stop Joker’s surf contest, Batman now broke half of The Joker’s bones before screaming while a child stepped on a land mine, covering the Dark Knight in child’s blood (Batman: The Death of Innocents is insane.)
While many talented creators have been able to properly tell a mature story set in Gotham (80’s Frank Miller), other writers have failed and instead created a violent Batman that only a 12 year-old would find a mature character (00’s Frank Miller). The practice of making Batman grimmer even seeped into childrens’ animation in the form of the critically acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990’s. Batman’s reputation as a bad-ass violent vigilante made it all the more shocking when Batman: The Brave and the Bold premiered.
Featuring a Batman with a sillier supporting cast consisting of Kite-Man, Bat-Mite, and many more, Batman: The Brave and the Bold faced that abyss of ridiculous acid-trip Silver-Age comics, stared back at it, and screamed “@#*& YES!” This show followed up the grimmer, grittier tones of its predecessors by giving fans three straight seasons of non-stop ridiculousness. This wasn’t the type of silliness that makes the audience groan either (aside from a few instances… namely the cold open where the Justice League is playing the Legion of Doom in a game of baseball and Batman strikes a home run while Jimmy Olsen offers beautiful color commentary in the form of: “HE TRULY IS… A ‘BAT’-MAN”). Speaking of which, the cold opens, while usually unrelated to the main episode, would give the writers the chance to be completely ridiculous without needing to make a 20 minute plot to fit their insanity. The final episode’s cold opening was Batman going back in time to stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by a steampunk-cyborg assassin named John Wilkes BOOM. Late spoiler alert for the new Daniel Day-Lewis movie, by the way.
And on top of all of that, the show’s creators offer some truly outrageous stories for parents too,namely the Gail Simone penned episode where the Birds of Prey sang about The Flash being “too fast” and Green Arrow not “shooting straight” and Aquaman’s “little fish” and… I’ll stop… The writers also presented the absolute best version of Aquaman in any medium ever. They completely nailed the concept of Aquaman. He didn’t need to rock a flowing beard with a hook for a hand or defend his badassery to a bunch of restaurant patrons by ordering seafood, the John-DiMaggio-voiced king of the sea would just ride into action on a whale and heartily punch everything that dared threaten the ocean or his best buddy, Batman. Aquaman wasn’t exempt from the camp either, in fact he was quite possibly the silliest character on the show, his outrageousness culminating in “The Currys of Atlantis”, a cold open where Aquaman’s family are the stars of a 50’s sitcom. It is a crime that the current Aquaman in the comics doesn’t give his friends a pep-boost by singing them a song while dressed as Black Canary.Continued below
Speaking of other DC characters, Brave and the Bold offered viewers one of the best spotlights on DC’s C, D, and F-Listers. Booster Gold, OMAC, Prez the Teen President, nearly everyone who had a page within 10 degrees of separation from Batman on Wikipedia had an episode focused on them, or at least had a cameo. One entire episode, “Gorillas in our Midst”, is a team-up between Batman and Detective Chimp, a character whose name explains everything you will ever need to know about them. I honestly don’t think my life has ever been the same since being introduced to him.
However, the show’s shining moment was its season finale. Instead of Batman and Friends confronting an ultimate, all-powerful, god-level enemy like most endings to superhero shows, The Brave and the Bold ended with the Caped Crusader fighting network executives. Bat-Mite (in BATB a typical comic fanboy with 5th dimensional powers), decides to destroy The Brave and the Bold and pave the way for a new grittier Batman cartoon by filling it with typical Jumped-The-Shark-TV conventions such as a thinly disguised (not disguised at all, really) version of Scrappy Doo and a toyetic Neon Talking Super Street Bat-Luge. As viewers become disgusted and change the channel, Ambush Bug (voiced by Henry Winkler) comes to the rescue and he (Do you get it?) convinces Batman to stop Bat-Mite’s plot. Unfortunatley, Ambush Bug’s (Henry Winkler played Fonzie and he jumped the shark!) help comes too late and the executives decide to cancel Batman:The Brave and the Bold and replace it with an edgier, CGI Batgirl cartoon.
The final sequence is one of the most heart-tugging sequences I’ve ever seen in a Batman cartoon featuring gorillas with lasers. After seeing a preview for the new Batman show and feeling unsure about the future, Bat-Mite collects all his Brave and the Bold memorabilia in a garbage bag while reminiscing about all the memories the show gave him. He then fades out of existence as the show is finally cancelled. But before the credits roll, the scene cuts to a party Batman and Ambush Bug have thrown in the Bat-Cave for their friends, enemies, and nearly every other character to appear on the show while a stage crew takes away the Bat-Cave’s props. Batman then breaks the fourth wall and turns to the camera saying:
“And until we meet again boys and girls, know that wherever evil lurks in all its myriad forms, I’ll be there with the hammers of justice, to fight for decency and defend the innocent. Goodnight.”
A final shot of all the show’s characters standing behind Batman after his address to the audience closes out one of the finest shows to spin-off of the comic book medium. Batman: The Brave and the Bold was one of the only shows that I could watch and genuinely feel like an 8-year old, except this time I got the dirty jokes too. It’s an absolute must watch for any silver-age or diehard DC fan. But most of all, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is the perfect show for anyone sick of the “edgy seriousness” in comic books and simply wants to watch their heroes have fun.