Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Season One, Part One (Warner Brothers Home Video-2010)
Very few fictional characters have had the long and constant run that Batman has. Ever since his creation in 1939 by comic artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, the caped crusader has been the subject of comic books, movies, serials, live-action and animated television series, graphic novels, actual literary novels, short stories, songs, spoofs, plays, radio dramas, video games and even an aborted Broadway musical.
In animated television series alone the character has had a near constant ride since the late 1960s: The Batman/Superman Hour (1968-1969), Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder (1969), Super Friends (1973-1986),The New Adventures of Batman (1977), The Batman/Tarzan Hour (1977-1978), Batman and the Super 7 (1980-1981), Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999), Batman Beyond (1999-2001) and Justice League (2001-2004). He even did guest appearances in The New Scooby Doo Movies (1972-1973).
The latest attempt to animate the hero started in 2008, with this kind of redundantly subtitled new animated series (did anyone mention to the series’ creators that brave and bold mean the same thing?) trying to bring the whole thing into modern, post-NickToons animation – adding snarky asides, sci-fi storylines and bratty teens to the mix.
On the plus side, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is the first time that a Batman show has been allowed to actually have fun since the character was deified in the somber Dark Knight mode. Brave and the Bold has more than its share of overly somber moments, however they are also willing to mix in little snippets of Adam West-style goofiness. Granted, it’s Batman’s co-heroes and the villains who are normally allowed the best lines – even here Batman is sort of a do-good square.
How seriously you take this series probably depends on how seriously you can take a Caped Crusader voiced by goofy comedian Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show, the upcoming series Outsourced). While he downplays the goofy cadences of his voice and goes into dramatic hero mode, I still can’t help but picture Drew Carey’s drunk and stupid old buddy every time Batman opens his mouth.
However, even if I don’t quite buy into the voice casting, on the primal good guys vs. bad animation level, Batman: The Bold and the Brave isn’t bad. Not great either, but not bad…
The gimmick of this new series has the man in black (Batman, not Johnny Cash) hooking up with a rotating slate of fellow superheroes to fight off crime in Gotham City (and the bottom of the sea, and on an alternate planet, and medieval Britain, and… well, you get the idea.)
The idea of Batman teaming with other heroes to fight crime is nothing new – though oddly, Robin the Boy Wonder does not make the cut except for one awkward episode. However, Batman has also done tons of other team-ups over the years, in fact the Justice League of America stories have always been the DC Comics equivalent of an All-Star team (though would any All-Star team include The Wonder Twins and a talking dog, like in the old Super Friends series?)
The fellow heroes that are along to give Bats a hand (for some reason in this series, both good guys and bad call Batman by the familiar nickname Bats) include biggish names (Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow) to more obscure heroes (Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, Wildcat, Fire, Red Tornado, Deadman). As often happens in modern animation, the flaws of the good guys are on full display. Nicely put, to a certain extent each of these cohorts are prima donnas or assholes. Aquaman is self-centered and just a bit gullible. Green Arrow is vain and overly competitive. Blue Beetle is both in way over his head and way too impressed with himself on the rare occasions that he is successful at what he does. Plastic Man is greedy and always likely turn his back on you if there is even a little chance that he can profit. Wildcat is old and crotchety and just the kind of superhero that will not give you back your baseball if you hit it over his fence.
They take on a series of also pretty obscure bad guys – including the actually very interesting Gentleman Ghost, Funhouse who is just a very pale imitation of The Joker, the kinda clichéd The Slug, Gorilla Grodd and Black Manta. Oh yeah, and of course there is one of the most used clichés in modern fantasy – the scene where the bad sorceress turns herself into a huge dragon.
It’s all quite cheesy and dumbly violent, and yet it is usually pretty fun. Batman: The Bold and the Brave takes an iconic character who has had all the fun bled out of him and actually allows him to loosen up a bit. It’s not exactly essential viewing, but it can be quite entertaining.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 19, 2010.