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The World's Finest Presents

Animato Magazine
Presented below are excerpts from Animato issues #26 and #27, copied down by Toon Zone Forum member king zrz.

I SEE NO EVIL *** 2/24/93 (#15)

Story and teleplay by Martin Pasko. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Spectrum/Dong Yang.

Lloyd Ventris, a petty thief, visits the daughter he's separated from by using a costume made of invisible material he stole. He learns that his ex-wife is planning to leave town, and starts on a crime spree to get enough money to steal his little girl. Batman tries to stop the crime spree and the kidnapping. A scary episode with an ever more psychotic daddy pretending he's his daughter's invisible friend.

Noted Timm, "An invisible man works really well in animation, even better than it does in live action. We have total control over the scene. We can do things that would take zillions of dollars to do in live action."

Timm recalled that the script by Martin Pasko was toned down by BS&P. "We were never allowed to put the little girl in any jeopardy. Originally, the climax was supposed to be at a lighthouse and the suit, instead of being just poisonous, was going to explode from repeated use. Ventris was going to be hiding in this lighthouse with his daughter. Batman would have had to race against time to get them. But we were not allowed to do that. That's why she escapes immediately.' Originally this production number was assigned to an episode entitled 'The Count and the Countess.' Producer Timm sent it to a Japanese studio for complete preproduction work as an experiment. He thought it would free up the in-house staff's time for better shows. The overseas studio took months to produce even character designs and a partial storyboard, and those were drawn in a style too off-model to be useable. Production on the first season was nearing an end and with a troubled script and unacceptable preproduction work, the episode was killed. When "See No Evil" was completed (the 57th or 58th show finished), it was assigned the lower production number left empty.

I'VE GOT BATMAN IN MY BASEMENT *** 9/30/92 (#12)
Story and teleplay by Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Dong Yang.

A nice kid's show in whch a boy and girl discover the Penguin's hideout, and end up having to keep a drugged, unconscious Batman away from the villain, hiding the Caped Crusader at home in the basement. The final battle between Batman, armed only with a screwdriver, and the Penguin, armed with a blade from his sword-umbrella, is silly.

"I think that if we hadn't gotten Alan Burnett to come over, we would have had a lot more shows like this one," noted director Frank Paur of the producer who stepped in to take control of the show's script process first season. Paur also disliked arming Batman with a screwdriver, but had his hands full wrestling with an as yet unsatisfying storyboard crew. "I had to get rid of most of these boards and start from scratch," he said. "It was very time-consuming. Our schedule was so tight, that small things got by." Noted producer Bruce Timm, "I can't even watch that show. It's the epitome of what we don't want to do with Batman. Strangely enough kids like it. The script came in and it was terrible. Normally, I tell the director to do what he can to make it interesting, and nobody could figure out a way to make it interesting. The storyboard artists didn't care, and it shows."

THE CAPE & COWL CONSPIRACY * 10/14/92 (#31)
Story and teleplay by Elliot S. Maggin. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Wormwood, a professional procurer of illegal goods, is operating in Gotham, and has been hired by the Baron to acquire Batman's cape and cowl. Though based on a cool comic story, this doesn't translate to animation. It becomes a gimmick show and not a very good one. Wormwood is lackluster and there is no real motivation for Batman to play mind games with him. Though the animation from Dong Yang is fine, it doesn't save a faltering episode. "I tried to kill this show, but they didn't let me," said director Frank Paur. "We had a lot of storyboard artists who wanted to rebel on this one. The best metaphor is kicking a dead horse. It arrived dead and no matter how hard you kick it, it ain't going to give you a ride."

THE UNDER-DWELLERS ** 10/21/92 (#6)
Story by Tom Ruegger. Teleplay by Jules Dennis and Richard Mueller. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Junio.  

Street kids are being captured and dominated by the Sewer-King, who incidentally has an army of alligators, grown from pets flushed down the toilets of Gotham. A silly show with great direction by Frank Paur that keeps the action moving as Batman investigates the gang of young thieves.  

"It was my first episode as director, and there are still things in it that I cringe at," said director Frank Paur. Usually when we get an episode, we get to use a lot of discretion and change things. I wish I had been able to spend more time on that script. Another problem at the time, was that we had storyboard people who made things difficult. I found myself going back two or three times to fix scenes.  

They didn't quite understand we were shooting for a higher standard. So there was always a constant drain on my time. “That whole opening sequence of the kids playing chicken with the train should have been cut. That was what we had to contend with at the beginning of the season. We had these little public service announcements worked into the scripts, a concept we nixed real quick."  

The animation is also subpar. "It's Junio's weakest episode," said producer Bruce Timm. "We almost didn't use them after that. It was the first one that came back that really looked totally unlike our show. It was very Japanese. But I'm glad we did use them again, they've done great work.  

"BS&P took a lot out of this show," continued Timm. "Originally, the kids were to be victimized by the Sewer-King, but he was not allowed to be mean or tortorous to any of them. The impact is watered down. If we were doing it today, we probably would have decided not to do the show."  

MOON OF THE WOLF * 11/12/92 (#42)
Story and teleplay by Len Wein. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by AKOM.

A werewolf is terrorizing Gotham and the evil Dr. Milo is the cause. His experimental steroid' formula changes athlete Tony Romulus into the creature of the night. Nothing but a slugfest between Batman and a werewolf, intercut with transformation scenes, and a warning for kids to stay away from steroids.  

Noted producer Bruce Timm, "This is what I call a good Tuesday episode. It's not what you want to open a week on or end a week on, but it passes the time agreeably."  

To jazz up the show, Timm suggested a guitar score to composer Richard Bronskill. "My first thought was that a really weird electric guitar solo like Eric Clapton's might give it a weird edge," said Timm. "I don't know if it made the show any better, but it's different."  

LOCK-UP *1/2 11/19/94 (#82)
Story by Paul Dini. Teleplay by Marty Isenberg and Robert W. Skih. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

Bruce Wayne fires Arkham employee Lyle Bolton for his extreme methods in dealing with the inmates. Bolton turns on those he thinks is responsible for Gotham's crime wave... the media, the justice department... and becomes Lock-Up, using advanced security technology to capture Summer Gleeson, Commissioner Gordon, Arkham's Dr. Bartholomew, and Mayor Hill.  

Robin's few funny one-liners do little to salvage an awful script. Moments, like Bruce's obvious change to Batman (was nobody looking when smoke came out of his briefcase?) and the final scene where the audience does not get to see how Batman escapes, are the crowning bloopers of a story filled with slow and aimless scenes. Dong Yang does its best to animate a storyboard without a single excellent visual moment. There is little good to say about the episode.

JOKER'S FAVOR **** 9/11/92 (#22)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

Charlie Collins curses out a fellow motorist on the expressway who unfortunately turns out to be the Joker. The villain spares Charlie's life in return for an unspecified favor. Years later, Charlie is brought in on a plot to kill Commissioner Gordon during a memorial dinner.  

A mythic story seemingly right out of a Joseph W. Campbell treatise, Charlie Collins is an average man who encounters the deadly insane world of the Joker and through an act of uncommon courage sets himself free. A scene in the woods where a backlit Joker appears to cut his deal with Charlie is particularly chilling.  

In the dinner sequence, Harley Quinn gasses the banquet members dressed in a very tight police woman's outfit. At one point, she uncrosses her legs in what the producers termed an unintentional Sharon Stone scene. "We didn't ask for it," said Timm, " but it showed up. We just hoped the BS&P lady wouldn't notice." BASIC INSTINCT has nothing to worry about.  

PROPHECY OF DOOM ** 10/6/92 (#19)
Story by Dennis Marks. Teleplay by Sean Catherine Derek. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by AKOM.  

A con man posing as a clairvoyant is suckering rich millionaires by predicting disasters and then making them come true. Batman tracks Nostromos down, and the show ends with a climactic battle in an observatory full of ten foot tall models of planets carooming around each other.  

This is an astoundingly average show, that only works if you can buy the fact that these millionaires are so incredibly gullible. It seems only Bruce Wayne has the common sense to run a security check on Nostromos. None of the others bothered to find out he was an ex-con.  

The most disappointing thing in the show is the animation. The scene in the observatory falls flat. "If that whole end sequence with the spinning worlds in the observatory had gone to Junio or any other studio, it might have come off, but it went to AKOM," said Bruce Timm. "They just weren't able to pull off that level of animation."  

"That broke my heart," said director Frank Paur. "I designed those planets using a circle template. How hard is it to animate circles? It was done by hand, and if we had done it now, it would have been done on computer and would have looked spectacular. When I knew the show was going to AKOM, a studio I'd had a long history with, I knew they weren't going to be able to pull it off. Admittedly, it was a tough sequence, but they should have been able to do it."  

MAD AS A HATTER ****1/2 10/12/92 (#27)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by AKOM.  

The Mad Hatter origin: Jervis Tetch, a scientist at Wayne Enterprises, creates a mind control device and attempts first to woo his young receptionist Alice and then to totally dominate her. Batman and the Mad Hatter have a deadly confrontation in an Alice in Wonderland amusement park filled with costumed mind-controlled slaves.  

This is one of the most touching shows of the series. You sympathize with the love-sick Jervis Tetch, and almost feel sad for him when his dreams of Wonderland don't come true. The emotional impact of the story is helped immeasurably by AKOM's surprisingly good animation of subtle facial expressions and body language. And Roddy McDowall's performance as the Hatter helps sell the story completely. "Paul Dini really excels at those doomed love stories," noted producer Bruce Timm.  

"It's one of my favorite scripts," said director Frank Paur. "Paul Dini does some wonderful stuff with characters. I started getting my regular storyboard crew together on this one: Rondaldo Del Carmen, Butch Lukic, and Lorenzo Martinez. Ronnie does these wonderful, fully expressive drawings, he's very good with the acting- 'A *beep* genius,' said Bruce Timm- Butch is really able to do a lot staging the action sequences. Lorenzo has a Disney background and his boards are lovely to look at, full of mood and character. While it's AKOM's best show, we still had close to a hundred retakes on it."  

JOKER'S WILD *** 11/19/92 (#40)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by AKOM.  

While watching television in Arkham, the Joker learns that Cameron Kaiser has opened a casino called Joker's Wild that's based on the villain's look. Enraged, he breaks out of Arkham. Batman can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to risk his casino in such a manner and investigates Kaiser's records discovering the casino is massively in debt, and the insurance policies are paid in full. Kaiser is betting the Joker will arrive and destroy the casino. When he does, Batman lets the villain know he's been played for a patsy and the Joker goes after Kaiser. A cool little episode with plot twist after plot twist marred only by the Joker's simple escape from Arkham, where doors don't lock. "It's the kind of thing I wish I had caught at the storyboard stage," said producer Bruce Timm. "You can't have them reanimate the scene just because it's dumb."  

Director Boyd Kirkland made special note of Phil Norwood's boards of Bruce Wayne meeting the Joker at the blackjack table. "Wayne is goading him and the Joker is doing all of these elaborate card tricks." At the end, as Kaiser escapes in a helicopter, he turns to the pilot only to discover it's the Joker, pointing a .45 automatic directly at him, something you don't see anywhere else in the series. "By the time, we had had gotten to that show, the network was letting us do that sort of thing," said Kirkland. "The first episode I did we couldn't even show a handgun. We probably got away with it because of that stupid Joker face on the end."  

CHRISTMAS WITH THE JOKER *** 11/13/92 (#2)
Story and teleplay by Eddie Gorodetsky. Directed by Kent Butterworth.
Animation by AKOM.  

It's Christmas, and the Joker has broken out of Arkham Asylum to put on a murderous holiday television marathon endangering Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and Summer Gleeson. His explanation? He didn't have a family of his own to share Christmas with, so he decided to steal one.  

Noted producer Bruce Timm, "It's one of our weirdest shows. The original director Kent Butterworth quit and went to Universal in the middle of production. Eric Radomski pretty much redirected it through the layout stage, making it tighter."  

BS&P refused to approve the original script. "It started out as a much nastier, really funny script, written by a friend of Paul Dini, Eddie Gorodetsky," said Timm. "When Joker says 'I didn't have a family of my own, so I decided to steal one,' it's a regular family he's stolen, making it more intense and scary.  

"I like the fact that Fox always runs it on Christmas, every year," said Timm. "It's really different than a typical, sappy Christmas episode on other series. It's dark, bitter and weird."  

WHAT IS REALITY? *** 11/24/92 (#48)
Story and teleplay by Marty Isenberg ad Robert N. Skir. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by AKOM.  

The Riddler is "hacking" his way through Gotham's automated teller system and the stock exchange, "deleting" his former personality, E. Nygma from all computerized records. To get revenge on Batman, he lures Commissioner Gordon into a deadly virtual reality program with no exit and Batman must battle the Riddler inside the virtual reality landscape to save his friend.  

Batman's first cyberpunk adventure and despite a rather hackneyed plot with a tremendously contrived "funny" escape solution, it's surprisingly entertaining with some good-looking animation.  

Producer Bruce Timm was not a fan of the episode. "Virtual reality is too science fictiony for our show," he said. "While it may be conceivable that it will work in four or five years, Batman transforming himself into a black knight and flying around on a chessboard is unfathomable to me. Strangely enough, it's one of AKOM's better shows. They pulled off all the special effects really well."  

THE LAUGHING FISH ***1/2 1/10/93 (#33)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Bruce W. Timm.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

The Joker has contaminated all the fish in Gotham with a chemical that makes them smile like his own face. In a typically insane twist, he goes down to the patent office and demands a patent on the fish so he may get royalties from every Joker-fish sold. When he's refused, the Joker proceeds to dispose of patent officers until Batman tracks him to his hideout at the city's Aquarium. A nice adaptation of two Joker comic book stories ("The Joker's Three-Way Revenge" by Adams and O'Neil ["The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" pointed out by Alec Ersnatch -JW] and "The Laughing Fish" by Englehart and Rogers).

Director/producer Bruce Timm played special attention to this episode. "I wanted the Joker to be very scary in this show and scripter Paul Dini came through," said Timm. "The Joker is actually threatening. Obviously, we couldn't kill people, but his victims might as well be dead. We put them into comas with this horrible grin on their face. It's one of Paul's best scripts," Timm not only influenced the story, he also shaped the episode on the boards, storyboarding the entire third act himself and most of the rest. Timm also pushed the scariness of the episode during the scoring by Shirley Walker. "When we were spotting the show, I told Shirley I didn't want the Joker theme in it. I wanted it to sound like a horror movie. Not like an over-the-top melodramatic Universal horror movie, because most of our scores are already over-the-top, but I wanted it to sound like ALIEN. She didn't think a cartoon could support that type of score, but I convinced her that we had room to experiment in 65 episodes. It's the weirdest score of any of the shows, with this strange dissident music behind the Joker that builds a weird tension you're not consciously aware of. The first two acts have only this very straight demonic music and I think it helps the show immeasurably. Without it, it would just have been another show."  

THE MECHANIC *** 1/24/93 (#55)
Story by Steve Perry and Laren Bright. Teleplay by Randy Rogel. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by AKOM.  

Batman's car is wrecked and he takes it to his secret mechanic, Earl Cooper. Penguin discovers Cooper and forces him to sabotage the Batmobile in order to protect his daughter's life, leaving Batman and Robin at the mercy of the Penguin. A long take on something that didn't work that well in BATMAN RETURNS. If it wasn't for director Kevin Altieri's staging of the action sequences, this would have been a bore.  

"This was one of those stories in development hell for a long time," said producer Bruce Timm. "We needed scripts. I think it's a stinker, but it has some of AKOM's better animation in it."  

Noted director Kevin Altieri, "It was the first show that AKOM laid out itself. It's not as good as their 'The Last Laugh,' but had far fewer retakes (almost 80% of 'The Last Laugh' needed retakes.) I think they were threatened that they might lose the work, so they put their A-Team on it.  

"It actually is a script that is similar to the '60s series," said Altieri. "But when you do do something like this comedy, you must remember that even thought the script may be goofy, you have to show that the characters are living it. When Earl drops the tires on Penguin's henchmen, he thinks Batman's dead and he's crying."  

NOTHING TO FEAR *** 9/15/92 (#3)
Story and teleplay by Henry Gilroy & Sean Catherine Derek. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

The Scarecrow is trying to destroy Gotham's University, because they stopped him from continuing his fear experiments there while he was a professor. Batman exposed to his fear gas begins to have hallucinations of his father reprimanding him as a disappointment.  

Too episodic for its own good, this show features the origin of the Master of Fear, The Scarecrow. While there is an absolutely stunning battle aboard a flaming dirigible that makes up for most of the bad pacing, the ending is predictable, with the Scarecrow foiled by his own fear gas. A silent epilogue with Bruce putting roses on his parents' grave is beautifully animated and a wonderful touch to an otherwise mediocre script.  

"It was written by Henry Gilroy, who had never written cartoons before," said producer Bruce Timm. "He was a film editor here and always wanted to get into writing. At the time we didn't have a story editor, so we gave it a go. When he turned in his first draft, which wasn't bad, we had hired our first story editor, Sean Derek. We immediately came to loggerheads over this show. Some of the dialogue she changed wasn't changed for the better."  

This was the test show for Dong Yang, one of the series most reliable overseas animation studios. They pulled it off beautifully with only one glitch, the studio changed the look of the main villain. "On the model sheets, the original design looked really great," said Timm. "We drew him as if his body was all busted up, giving him this really weird scarecrow posture all very bent and twisted. However, when Dong Yang animated him they straightened his posture. We changed him for subsequent episodes."  

An oddity in this show is the fact that while BS&P's cardinal rule is that no one can be killed in the series, they allowed a flaming zeppelin to crash in downtown Gotham City, never commenting on the surrounding buildings or the people in the street it must have landed on.  

TWO FACE (PART 1) ***** 9/25/92 (#10)
Story by Alan Burnett. Teleplay by Randy Rogel. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by TMS.  

Under the strain of running for re-election, D.A. Harvey Dent begins to get excessively violent. Under fire by Boss Thorne's men and some bad press because of his temper, Dent begins to crack. A fall into a chemical vat disfigures his face. In the final scene, he runs out on his fiancee Grace and into the stormy night.  

A magnificent show, featuring the dynamite animation of TMS. The characters come alive in a story by producer Alan Burnett, delivering on the promise of having adult situations and real emotions, the beginning of a strong upswing in quality for the series.  

"It was better than anything the comics had ever done on that character," said director Kevin Altieri of Burnett's story. "I'm pretty notorious for changing scripts, which I don't do with malice, but for a love of the medium. But that script didn't need to be changed very much. There were embellishments I gave to it, like adding the rainstorms to the staging of the psychiatrist's office."  

TWO FACE (PART 2) **** 9/28/92 (#17)
Story and teleplay by Randy Rogel. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

Two-Face is finally tipped over the edge into madness by the loss of his face, his life as Dent, and his fiancee Grace. He decides to destroy Boss Thorne's operations in Gotham City by violent means. Thorne kidnaps Grace and she leads Two-Face into a trap.  

"This is such an adult show that I bet kids don't like it," said producer Timm. "There's not a whole lot of action and Batman's hardly in it. It's a lot of talking heads. But it works on such a powerful emotional level that I'm sure that anyone over the age of six is going to get sucked right into it. It's absolutely compelling. They always talk about the BATMAN films as being oh, so psychological. Bull. This episode is a compelling psychological drama."  

The show's animation by Dong Yang isn't up to the standards of TMS on Part 1, but director Kevin Altieri defended the studio. "It looks just like the layouts," said Altieri. "In part one; really great animators took some liberties from the layouts we provided."

TYGER, TYGER ** 10/30/92 (#41)
Story by Michael Reaves and Randy Rogel. Teleplay by Cherie Wilkerson. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Spectrum/Dong Yang.  

Dr. Emile Dorian, a mad scientist, captures Catwoman to experiment on her in hopes of creating the ultimate animal. Batman travels to the doctor's island hideout to save Catwoman and must battle Dorian's other deadly mutations including Tygrus, a giant catman. One of the series' weakest shows with cliché piled upon cliché,including swipes from THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU as well as THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Producer Bruce Timm was pleased with the show's jungle chase sequence. "Batman is out there, and there's no music," said Timm. "The atmosphere is created entirely by sound effects, weird mutated animal screeches. It's spooky and well staged."  

HIS SILICON SOUL ** 11/20/92/ (#60)
Story and teleplay by Marty Isenberg and Robert Skir. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Spectrum/Dong Yang.  

HARDAC's secret Batman robot activates and breaks out of storage. He tries to replace Batman and the hero has to battle his doppelganger, in order to save himself and the world. A very unnecessary sequel to "Heart of Steel." While Boyd Kirkland storyboards a great moody beginning and directs some fine poignant moments with the robot realizing he is just a duplicate of Batman, he can't save a weak, uninteresting script. The narrative hook depends on the overworn cliché of the artificial man who wants to be human achieving humanity by sacrificing himself. "For me it was making it work on the level of the mood I was trying to create, and also create a little empathy for the robot character," said Kirkland. "You need to care about the guy who makes the sacrifice at the end of the show. I thought it was kind of cool to see Batman fighting Batman."  

TRIAL ****1/2 5/16/94 (#68)
Written by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

On the trail of kidnapped District Attorney (and Bat-hater) Janet Van Dorn, Batman is captured and brought to Arkham Asylum. There he is put on a twisted trial in a kangaroo court for the crime of creating the villains he fights. Van Dorn is forced to defend the client she disapproves of, in front of a court where Two-Face is the prosecuting attorney, the Ventriloquist is the bailiff, and the Dishonorable Judge Joker presides. A marvelous episode, especially for devotees of the series who will understand its references back to earlier episodes such as "Pretty Poison," "Harley and Ivy," "Almost Got 'I’m," and even the comic book "Mad Love" based on the show. The animation by Dong Yang is good, at times superb.  

Indeed, there's not much bad to say about the show, except that it should have been a two-parter. The rush to fit all the action into twenty minutes caused the writers to skimp on characterization. This is understandable, considering the episode contained most of Batman's best villains, and it's hard not to concentrate on just a few of the best. The producers were, in fact, planning to make it longer... it was the story they originally wanted for their feature-length film. But "we figured we could do all the cool bits we wanted to do in a half hour," says Paul Dini.  

FEAT OF CLAY (PART 1) *** 9/8/92 (#20)
Story by Marv Wolfman and Michael Reaves. Teleplay by Marv Wolfman. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by AKOM.  

The origin of Clayface. After an accident, actor Matt Hagen is offered an experimental restorative skin cream to save his face by manufacturer Roland Daggett. Unfortunately, the effect is only temporary, and Hagen is forced to do dirty work for Daggett in order to keep getting his "fix," impersonating Bruce Wayne so Daggett can take over Wayne Enterprises. A massive dose of the restorative cream over his entire body turns Hagen into Clayface. While the story moves along fine, most of the people in it are very unsympathetic, even Batman. He interrogates a criminal by terrorizing him. He smashes up the guy's car in midair using the Batwing, and then drags him through the Gotham River at high speed. Batman fully lives up to co-author and story editor Michael Reaves' vision of the dark avenger: "He's not the same Batman who makes that sanctimonious speech at the end of 'The Underdwellers,'"said Reaves. The animation is only average. "This was the first episode done by AKOM's C-Team of animators, and it really bummed us out when if first came in," said producer Timm. "That show probably had more retakes than any other, nearly completely redone two or three times before we could actually air it without cringing."  

FEAT OF CLAY (PART 2) ***** 9/9/92 (#21)
Story by Marv Wolfman and Michael Reaves. Teleplay by Michael Reaves. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by TMS.  

After Matt Hagen discovers he has been turned into Clayface, he goes after Daggett's men. He runs afoul of Batman who stops him from carrying out his vengeance. Then he decides to go after Daggett himself, when the corporate bad guy is doing a talk show. TMS did the best animation of the series for this episode. The second part had maybe six retakes on the whole show, which is incredible," said producer Bruce Timm. "The first time we saw it in the editing room, we couldn't believe how beautiful it was. It has all those transformation effects that only TMS could do. It was after these two episodes that we decided that any two-parters we did would have to be done at the same studio." Timm had a theory why TMS did such a good job, which he felt resulted from Warner Bros' demand that they redo the opening sequence for the series.

Noted Timm, "I think when we shipped them 'Clayface,' they said to themselves: They think they know everything, but we'll show them how do do this show. We'll change Batman's colors. We'll do special color key treatments on the villains when they're walking over the green vat. We'll blow them away.' If that's their revenge, thank you for proving us wrong. I was so happy with that episode." "The sequence where Daggett and Germs are walking over that green vat, those characters look like they're three-dimensional. They look like they're rotoscoped. When Daggett slowly turns toward the camera, the shadows really wrap around his face. It's as if they're real! They did all those colors themselves. We couldn't even ask for those colors if we wanted to. They aren't even in our palette. They had to specially mix those colors." Shirley Walker, supervising music composer for the series, found the task of scoring this episode quite a challenge. "It was demanding story-wise," said Walker. "There was so much going on. I was so proud of it that I submitted it for Emmy consideration, and that's the one that I got a nomination for."  

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE *** 9/10/92 (#11)
Story by Tom Ruegger. Teleplay by Garin Wolf. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Spectrum.

Boss Thorne is engaged in a gang war with Arnie Stromwell and Stromwell's son has disappeared. Thinking that Thorne has kidnapped his son, Stromwell arranges a meeting with the crime boss. But he ends up spending the night with Batman, who shows him his son has not been kidnapped but is in a drug detox center recovering from drugs his organization imported. The gangster realizes his life is falling apart. Angry and in danger from Thorne's men, his only hope is his brother and Batman. Homage to gangster movies with references to everything from THE GODFATHER movies to TRUE CONFESSIONS. "It's a real witty script and Boyd Kirkland did a great job directing it," said producer Bruce Timm. "His storyboards were staged brilliantly. There's this one great shot on the storyboard. You're looking at a church and the camera pans to where a restaurant is. I found that it was the first time I actually thought of Gotham as a real place. It's easy for the city to be just a backdrop, but here it felt like it had geography."

Noted director Boyd Kirkland, "I like shows that get into human dilemmas where you see into characters' minds. This is one of my favorite shows. Another reason I like this so much, is that Batman is not driving around playing catch-up. He knows what's going on and is behind-the-scenes manipulating the situation to serve his ends. To me, this is the epitome of how Batman should be portrayed."  

VENDETTA *** 10/5/92 (#23)
Story and teleplay by Michael Reaves. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Spectrum.

A series of crimes are being committed in Gotham and the prime suspect is Detective Harvey Bullock. Commissioner Gordon believes he's innocent and when Batman digs deeper, he discovers Killer Croc is trying to settle an old score by framing Bullock.

"This show has a lot of stupid stuff in it like Batman finds a toothpick and figures it's Bullock," said producer Bruce Timm. "Duh! But it's one of those shows that works purely on a visceral level. It's well-staged and the animation is good. It's really moody. It's raining throughout the entire episode, which is really cool." Director Frank Paur praised Spectrum's animation. "We wanted to keep the show heavy on the mist, the rain. I wanted reflections, mist, gentle rain to play up the whole motif. I was really worried at first that it would go to a bad studio."

Story editor Michael Reaves' script was edited by Martin Pasko. Paur redid the last act himself. "The original ending had a fight in the sewer between Batman and Killer Croc," said Paur. "Killer Croc escapes to a Seaworld park where he gets knocked into a pool of electric eels."

THE FORGOTTEN ***1/2 10/8/92 (#8)
Story by Sean Catherine Derek and Gary Greenfield. Teleplay by Jules Dennis, Richard Mueller and Sean Catherine Derek. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Batman goes undercover to find out who's kidnapping homeless men. Captured himself, he's brought to a mine in a desert location and temporarily loses his memory. After defending one of his fellow prisoners he's thrown into the "box." The heat brings on hallucinations that reveal who he is and he escapes. In the meantime, Alfred has been searching for him, eventually bringing the Batwing and the Batman costume. One by one, Batman picks off the guards in a great action sequence set in a a mine. Alfred's detective work, Wayne's hallucinations in the box, and the final tunnel battles (lit in stark black and white, a suggestion by producer Eric Radomski), are handled with enough innovation and wit to keep the story moving rapidly.

This is another message show put forth by the original story editors. "I didn't want to do this show from the very beginning," said producer Bruce Timm. "Sean Derek was big on doing shows with social messages. And my big problem with message shows, is that you can't solve the world's problems in a half hour cartoon. If you raise the issue of homelessness, what can you do? It makes the episode look very exploitive, because you're just using the problem as an exotic background. You can't discuss the problem on any meaningful level in a 22-minute action cartoon. So I put in the dream sequence with Bruce in the barracks where these multitudes of people are looking to Bruce for a handout, and he doesn't have enough money for them all, and they're surrounding him and suffocating him. It's not enough for him to put a band-aid on the problem at the end, by offering the two guys a job. It just doesn't work." BS&P undercut the script's essential message, as director Boyd Kirkland explained: "There was a sequence at the beginning where Batman is wandering around the city, trying to find out why people were disappearing. It was staged with homeless people hanging around on sidewalks: families, mothers and kids. They made us take all that out of the boards. They said it was too much for kids to see that maybe a woman or a family can be out on the streets. They specifically asked that we only show men as homeless."  

THE DEMON'S QUEST (PART 1) ***** 5/3/93 (#59)
Story and teleplay by Dennis O'Neill. Director Kevin Altieri.
Animation by TMS/ Dong Yang.

Robin is kidnapped and Bruce Wayne receives a note that reads "Batman. Come save Robin." ["Batman- save him if you can!" -JW] Batman then meets up with Ra's Al Ghul, whose daughter Talia ("Off Balance") has also been kidnapped, apparently by the same people. Ra's Al Ghul proposes they join forces, and the world-wide hunt begins. After Batman frees Robin from his captors and turns down the offer of Talia as a bride, Ra's Al Ghul is revealed to be a 600-year-old man who needs to be revived by in the waters of the Lazarus Pit.

This is a faithful adaptation of Dennis O'Neil's and Neal Adams' now-famous series of Batman stories from the mid-seventies, and is the best comic adaptation to appear in the TV series which Altieri had lobbied to do almost from the start. O'Neil wrote the script for Part 1 and an outline for Part 2. The results are spectacular. The change of venue from Gotham City to the streets and jungles of the outside world doesn't diminish Batman's character but serves to strengthen it and Altieri's staging of the action is superb.  

THE DEMON'S QUEST (PART 2) **** 5/4/93 (#63)
Story by Dennis O'Neil and Len Wein. Teleplay by Len Wein. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by TMS/Dong Yang.

Batman and Robin barely escape certain death after falling into the Lazarus Pit. [Almost: they don't actually fall in, if they did they'd be toast. -JW] They return to Gotham from the Himalayas [they go to Wayne Enterprises Nepal, not Gotham. -JW] and discover Ra's has a satellite in orbit. Batman follows Ra's to his desert stronghold and when he again refuses to marry Talia, Ra's tells him of his plan to create a paradise on Earth by wiping out two-thirds of the world's population.

Director Kevin Altieri boarded much of the show himself. His climactic sabre duel between Batman and Ra's is a particular standout. "I love sword fights and there are rare opportunities in animation to do them," said Altieri. "The imagery from the Neal Adams comic always struck me: Batman stripped to the waist with that saber, wearing only the mask and the tights, not the cape or anything else. I think it is the single greatest image Adams ever contributed to the character."  

PRETTY POISON *** 9/14/92 (#5)
Story by Paul Dini and Michael Reaves. Teleplay by Tom Ruegger. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Sunrise.

Poison Ivy attempts to murder Bruce Wayne's best friend, District Attorney Harvey Dent with a long, deadly poisoned kiss (the length of which was cut by BS&P.) While Dent is hospitalized, Batman battles Ivy in her greenhouse. Ivy's persona is that of the standard femme-fatale. The show is rife with overt and subtle sexual imagery. "It wasn't intentional, but the Venus Fly-trap creature looks like a vagina with teeth," said producer Bruce Timm. "Originally, it looked like Audrey II, and I said, 'Naww, let's not do that, what other kind of plant can we do? What if it's like a big snow-peapod?' I started sketching it out, and stopped when I realized what it looked like, but it worked. In a way, it's a very good visual metaphor for what she is, a man-killer." For the scene where Poison Ivy slinks out of a restaurant, and all the men turn to watch her go, the Sunrise animators could not animate her derriere to look as seductive as the producers wanted. The task finally fell to storyboard artist Chen-Yi Chang, who animated the sequence at Warner Bros with cels shipped overseas for Sunrise to film.  

APPOINTMENT IN CRIME ALLEY ***** 9/17/92 (#26)
Story and teleplay by Gerry Conway. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Roland Daggett can't convince the city to condemn Crime Alley, when he wants to build a development there, so he plans to blow up the street and make it look like an exploding gas main. His demolition men capture the woman who raised Bruce Wayne after his parents were killed, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, [there is no evidence on the show that Leslie raised Bruce- it seems more likely that Alfred did. -JW] and when she misses her annual appointment at the crime site with Batman, the Caped Crusader Batman goes looking to find her.

"It's the one show that makes me cry at the end," said producer Bruce Timm. "It's very understated." Noted story editor Michael Reaves, "Originally this story was written to satisfy a request by the network. They wanted a day in the life of Batman. We tried to make that work, and realized we couldn't, because you need an engine to drive the story. There had to be some reason for us to keep watching." Features an incredible sequence in which Batman attempts to stop a runaway trolley by blocking it with the Batmobile.  

ETERNAL YOUTH *** 9/23/92 (#29)
Story and teleplay by Beth Bornstein. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Sunrise.

Poison Ivy is luring polluting industrialists to her spa, Eternal Youth. Once there she begins a process that will turn them all into trees. When she can't get Bruce Wayne, she does her dirty work on Alfred and his lady friend Maggie.

Director Kevin Altieri's staging saves a weak script, especially his idea for the giant tree that destroys Eternal Youth, which grows out of control after Batman spills growth formula on it. The resulting mile-high tree where the building used to be is something that only animation can do. "There are things in scripts that are too mundane and you just have to restructure it to work for animation," said Altieri. "There are things that animation does really well. If the script doesn't have recognition of that fact, any show I'm doing will, by the time it gets on the air. I think I'm pretty good at that. In this episode, the giant tree was added by Brad Rader and myself." A minor problem is that Poison Ivy is off-model throughout the show. "Storyboard artist Mike Goguen gave us these really sexy drawings of Poison Ivy," said Altieri. "And the animator overseas redrew her to be his idealized version of a woman. She's supposed to be petite and girlish, with a deep sexy voice. He drew her like a long-limbed woman."  

FEAR OF VICTORY *** 9/29/92 (#24)
Story and teleplay by Samuel Warren Joseph. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by TMS.  

Scarecrow is instilling fear in Gotham's great athletes and then betting against their team to win money for chemicals. While Robin and Batman are on their way to interrogate the Scarecrow at Arkham, they see a robbery in progress. [This is wrong... when they see the robbery in progress Robin is first affected by the fear gas, which leads Batman to suspect the Scarecrow and visit him at Arkham- JW] In their attempt to stop the robbery high atop a skyscraper, Robin is petrified with fear in a nice VERTIGO inspired sequence.

The Scarecrow has paid off a guard to escape but the Dynamic Duo foil his plan to fix a Gotham Knights football game, and Robin in spite of his fear rescues the crowd from The Scarecrow's fear chemical. Excellent direction and beautiful backgrounds let you ignore the sometimes great, sometimes awful animation in this episode. One charming scene involves Batman falling through the apartment window of a woman dressed only in a bathrobe, and her predictable but well-done reaction, accomplished with only her sigh prompting a smile and a wave good-bye from Batman. "Great TMS animation for a really stupid story," said producer Bruce Timm. "A favorite sequence in that episode is where Scarecrow is going to that closed down arena, followed by the thug. There's some really nice staging there, really creepy and spooky."  

DAY OF THE SAMURAI **** 2/23/93 (#43)
Story and teleplay by Steve Perry. Directed by Bruce Timm.
Animation by Blue Pencil, SI (La Paz Azul).

Bruce Wayne gets called to Japan by the sensei who taught him martial arts. Kyodai Ken is holding a prize pupil ransom for the secret of the Death Touch. Once he learns the secret, Batman and the ninja must battle to the death while a volcano explodes around them. One of the best episodes in the series. The score is a perfect mood setter. The direction and staging of the action are well done, with a highly ambitious use of subtitles in major segments of the show. The larger than life characters play against a mythic backdrop, with very real and dangerous heroics.

Director/producer Bruce Timm was reluctant to stage the final act as described in the script. It called for Batman to face off against Kyodai Ken unmasked. "I really have a thing about showing Batman in costume with his mask pulled down," said Timm. "I've always hated that in the comics. I don't mind knowing it's Bruce Wayne as Batman. But to see him half-and-half like that just makes him a guy in a suit. With the mask on he has this mythic quality. (Story editor) Michael Reaves figured out a way that he absolutely had to have his mask pulled down during the final fight. It just bugged me that I was that guy who had to direct that show! Not only that, I had to board that sequence."

La Paz Azul Animation went broke in the middle of production. "You can see the scene where it happens," said Timm. "They're in the volcano and bang: 'Oh my g d, they ran out of money! This is garbage.' I couldn't bear to watch it, my heart was broken." Jade Animation was hired to do retakes, which saved the show. Timm also credited the authentic Japanese score by Carlos Rodriguez.

Noted Timm with some pride, "We kill the villain. Michael Reaves and I were very careful about setting it up from the script to the boards. We had to give him a getaway, just to get it past BS&P. There's a rock behind him, he could have jumped to. But he's not going to run away. He's committing seppuku."

THE CAT AND THE CLAW (PART 1) *** 9/5/92 (#13)
Story by Sean Catherine Derek and Laren Bright. Teleplay by Jules Dennis. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Sunrise.

Catwoman takes on an evil corporation and a terrorist organization to save a mountain lion preserve. Batman gets involved, because the terrorists have hijacked a biological warfare weapon and are holding Gotham ransom. Wonderful action sequences, especially a rooftop meeting between Catwoman and Batman storyboarded by director Kevin Altieri. "I use that as a example of how to board, when we hire people." said Altieri. "It has all my tricks in it. Lame animation, but the board's good."  

Altieri called for an almost impossible bit of animation, a great scene where the Red Claw is briefing her men with a slide show staged so she moves in front of the projected images during the briefing. "In cartoons if you want lines to bend over characters, it's not a trick, it's real animation," said Altieri. "You shouldn't do it. The chances of it working are astronomical, but I went for it anyway, and they did it! They blew so many other simpler things, and this they pulled off."  

THE CAT AND THE CLAW (PART 2) * 9/12/92 (#16)
Story by Sean Catherine Derek and Laren Bright. Teleplay by Jules Dennis. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by AKOM.

Catwoman and Batman both go after corporate villains who threaten Gotham. The pair are strapped to a stolen container of germs, with acid dropped on the outer casing. Catwoman gets free, and Batman sets up an explosion to destroy the facility and the deadly germ warfare canister, while Red Claw and Catwoman battle outside. However, the terrorist escapes. Plot holes render this almost incomprehensible. Batman's solution to destroy an airborne virus is to blow it up and hope the flames kill it. And Red Claw, a typically stupid villain, decides to duke it out with Catwoman, instead of leaving the scene of the crime unscathed.

The animation by AKOM is abysmal. "The whole end sequence was geared around the explosions, and they were some of the worst you'll ever see," said producer Bruce Timm. "We retook all of them two or three times. They were still awful, but we ran out of time and had to air them."  

BEWARE THE GRAY GHOST ***** 11/4/92 (#18)
Story by Dennis O'Flaherty and Tom Ruegger. Teleplay by Garin Wolf and Tom Ruegger. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dust.  

Someone is bombing Gotham's municipal buildings using the same M.O. as a villain in the old Gray Ghost TV show. Batman goes to the actor that played his childhood hero for help and is disappointed when Simon Trent wants nothing more to do with the role that ruined his career. Finally, the actor dons his old costume to help Batman catch the Mad Bomber. The Gray Ghost resembles the old pulp heroes of the '30s like the Shadow, the Spider, or the original Green Hornet: fedora, suit, and twin automatics. The show is the only episode done by the studio, Dust, because the characters were terribly off-model. "This was a lot of fun," said Producer Radomski. "When we had first gotten the script on that, we all went: 'This would be perfect for Adam West, but do you think he'd be offended because of the content.' But he was more than happy to do it. It was great to have this aging hero play this aging hero." It was also fun because producer Timm played the Mad Bomber; "It was interesting to see him in there," said Radomski, chuckling. "We gave him hell."

Timm described a few of the show's in-jokers. "The Gray Ghost is Batman's boyhood hero, and The Shadow was Bob Kane's inspiration for Batman. That's doubled by the fact that Adam West was my childhood hero and my inspiration for getting into Batman." Other in-jokes include a People magazine cover with the Gray Ghost is casting Batman's shadow, and the violator reads: "Matt Hagen: Man of a Million Faces." In a Batcave shrine to the Gray Ghost,the poster on the wall has the Gray Ghost in the same pose as Batman is in the series logo.  

PAGING THE CRIME DOCTOR *** 9/17/93 (#53)
Story by Mike Barr and Laren Bright. Teleplay by Randy Rogel and Martin Pasko. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Boss Thorne has a heart attack [it's a brain tumor -JW], and his brother, the Crime Doctor of the title, is forced to kidnap Dr. Leslie Thompkins in order to do the surgery. Batman becomes involved and shuts down the operation. Features an opening with the most illogical car heist in history, straining even the most diehard fan's credulity.

The sentimental ending where Bruce Wayne offers the man help in exchange for stories about his father actually is far more touching than it should be. "Everybody calls it 'The Geezer Show,'" said director Frank Paur. "I had a problem with the part where these old people are leaping across the rooftops. Now, in the model sheets, Leslie looks like Granny in the Tweety Bird cartoons, and we have the script calling for all of these physical things. So, I went in to Bruce (Timm) and asked if we couldn't redesign the character to make her a little more sturdy. But Bruce believes that once you establish a character, this is the character you have to go with. So what I did was have one of our guys go through all the action poses with Leslie so she'd be a little more sturdy. At least I got that much past him."

Paur believes that a change of title might have changed people's expectations so they wouldn't have been so disappointed. "The images that the title conjures up is that there is this really, evil, nasty guy who's doing all these weird experiments. When you see this nice, portly old gentleman, who's coerced into a life of crime by his brother, it's not quite what you're expecting, and the show goes off in a direction that's opposite to the title's connotations. It's really one of the sentimental shows that the ending makes fit together."  

HARLEQUINADE **** 5/23/94 (#72)
Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Dong Yang.

The Joker steals an A-Bomb, and Batman has absolutely no idea what to do with it. So he promises Harley Quinn, the Joker's enamored assistant, that he'll get her out of Arkham if she helps him find the clown. What follows is a study of the weird and twisted relationship between the Joker and Harley, with more than a few good laughs along the way. One of the series' funniest episodes, classic Joker and Harley. One terrific moment is in an illegal club, where Harley draws attention from Batman and Robin by singing a hilarious torch song with lyrics like "I didn't think that we were finished... till you tried to disfigure my face." But the episode isn't all laughs. The end is very suspenseful, as Harley is caught in conflicting feelings after she realizes the Joker may not care so much about her after all. The characterization is fantastically on the mark (with the exception of Robin, who seems like just an accesory and doesn't really have any good lines.)

The only real problem with this episode is the animation, which is below average for Dong Yang, who has done some terrific episodes like "House and Garden." The characters are really off-model at times, especially in the Batmobile scene, where Harley's smile covers her nose and Batman's chin is about twelve inches tall. The animation, on the whole, is about average for the series... not as good as the best episodes and not as bad as the worst.  

HARLEY'S HOLIDAY ***1/2 10/15/94 (#81)
Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Harley Quinn is out of Arkham, and determined to go straight and lead a normal life. But is she really ready to reenter society? A fiasco starting with a security tag on a dress and climaxing with a four-car-and- a-tank chase in Gotham's Times Square shows that Harley can still make trouble, even when she wants to be good.

Dini deserves special kudos for keeping this episode so tightly in continuity. Veronica Vreeland appeared in "Birds of a Feather," and here, again, she is the victim of a villain who wanted to go straight. Even the random mobster whose club Harley broke up in "Harlequinade" appears here, and makes references to that excellent episode. Also like "Harlequinade," this whole show is a barrel of laughs, and proves that Harley can hold her own-- be it with Batman or in a script-- without the Joker.

Only a few things detract from the episode. The animation on Harley is beautiful, but Batman and Robin have a more cartoonlike look to them. This is off-model and atypical of Dong Yang's usual graceful treatment of the pair. Also, though the show is meant to be light, General Vreeland and his mad tank chase make the third act no less than downright silly. Other than these few things, the episode is a joy and a nice balance to the series' darker shows.  

SHADOW OF THE BAT (PART 1) **** 9/13/93 (#57)
Story and teleplay by Brynne Stephens. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Dong Yang.

A hotshot new Assistant Police Commissioner is putting the grab on lots of criminals and newspaper headlines. At first, Commissioner Gordon finds the situation wonderful until the young man uncovers evidence that Gordon himself has been taking bribes from Boss Thorne. When the commissioner ends up in jail, Batman goes undercover, despite Barbara Gordon's plea that he appear at a public rally of support for her father. Barbara finally decides to impersonate Batman at the rally. When gunmen attack the platform, Batgirl and Robin find themselves in the middle of a firefight, just when Batman discovers who from his Rogue's Gallery is behind it all. A great show with a dark, moody opening, and intricate, surprising plot twists. As Batgirl's origin story, Barbara Gordon's motivation for becoming Batgirl is much stronger than any other previous version, and her visual styling and characterization are wonderful. Director Frank Paur called this his favorite episode.  

SHADOW OF THE BAT (PART 2) *** 9/14/93 (#61)
Story and teleplay by Brynne Stephens. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Batman, Robin and Batgirl are trapped in an abandoned subway station by Two-Face. He blows the tunnel and the Gotham River comes flooding in. Batgirl is the only one able to escape in time. She goes off to stop Two-Face from murdering her dad as Batman and Robin fight the torrent and seek safety in a derelict subway car. Eventually they use the car to crash their way to freedom. There's a final confrontation at the docks of Gotham. Great action sequences in a script that fails to match the quality of Part 1. The dark atmosphere of the first episode is lacking.

Noted director Frank Paur, "I think action-wise we were able to pull it off, but reality-wise, I don't think so. It just wasn't real plausible. There was a lot of stuff that we didn't really like very much and knew there were going to be problems. But we worked with what we had and made it as entertaining as we could. The chase on the docks and the beginning are fine. "The whole second episode comes along and it didn't live up to the first one. I would have preferred less of things blowing up and more skullduggery going on. A lot of our sequels don't live up to part one. I don't know why that is. If anything they should be better, and this is actually one of our better ones. The animation by Dong Yang, the music and everything just elevates the show up above a lot of the others."  

HOUSE & GARDEN ***1/2 5/2/94 (#70)
Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Someone is robbing wealthy bachelors and poisoning them with plant toxins. Batman suspects Poison Ivy, but Gordon says that not only did she complete her rehabilitation and get released from Arkham, but got married! The two visit Pamela Isley at her home and meet her husband, Stephen Carlisle, a professor at Gotham State University, and his two sons from his former wife, Chris and Kelly. Dick Grayson checks up on Carlisle (after being kidnapped by a huge green monster) while Batman follows Pam around and begins to believe that she really has recovered and is happy. But when Dick reveals that Carlisle's ex-wife has custody of Chris and Kelly... who are girls... Batman and Robin return to Pam's house and discover a secret lab where Ivy has been duplicating plant-children using Stephen's DNA. Not a bad start to the second season, with some nice animation including excellent cape action. Although too much information was crammed in during the last act, this had some interesting plot twists. It was nice to see a segment in Dick's college life, and how his night job interferes with it (although it was so caricatured that it didn't feel very real.) Ivy's characterization was believable. Said producer Bruce Timm, "Ivy had a motivation that is not uncommon for a lot of women who make a choice with their life about family.

It's not a standard thing a villain goes after. The fact that she does gives her resonance. When you can do that with a major villain, and create that resonance, it lets you round out what are fairly stock characters." A bit that got past BS&P is that Pam talks to Batman and Gordon about being sterile as a result of being immune to all contamination. Writer Paul Dini was afraid that BS&P would force them to scratch the episode because of that, but he thinks it got by because of Ivy's excellent motivation in the episode.  

BANE ** 9/10/94. (#75)
Written by Mitch Brian. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Dong Yang.

Rupert Thorne hires a huge masked mystery man to take down Batman, who's on the trail of Killer Croc. When Batman and Robin bust in on Croc's latest heist, the man knocks out Croc and ruins the Batmobile. After visiting Croc in traction and in prison, Batman deduces from his description of the man who he is. He is Bane, victim of a South American drug experiment gone wrong, using massive steroids to gain incredible strength. Candace, assistant to Thorne and with a crush on Bane, lets Batman know that Bane has studied him and knows him better than Batman knows himself. Meanwhile, Bane and Batman duke it out on the deck of a ship while Robin narrowly escapes being drowned. The climax of the fight is reminiscent of the now-infamous scene from KNIGHTFALL, but lucky for us, it doesn't end the same way.

Though the episode has some good moments, none of them are really spectacular, and they are poorly strung together. A thin plot and sloppy dialogue make it important for the episode to have some killer action sequences... good action is what saved episodes like "Sideshow." However, though the animation is not terrible, it's not wonderful, and none of the scenes are visually stunning. Just-average action sequences fail to make the episode any more than average.  

I AM THE NIGHT ***** 11/10/92 (#49)
Story and teleplay by Michael Reaves. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Sunrise.  

A weary Batman makes his annual visit to his parent's murder sight, and stops two criminals from beating up a con man. Late for a rendezvous on a police stakeout, Commissioner Gordon is shot in a firefight with the Jazzman as a result. The show climaxes in Gordon's hospital room. Story editor Michael Reaves' antidote for the "sanctimonious overgrown boy scout" image he felt pervaded the first few episodes of the series. "I wanted Batman to be this grim, silent, driven avenger. I wanted to do a real stark, '50s-style crime drama, like NAKED CITY, an adult story. And I didn't want one of the Rogue's Gallery to take the limelight away from Batman. "Initially, we wanted to have Robin shot and that makes Batman question his whole purpose, but BS&P said no, I was surprised they said we could shoot Gordon. We couldn't show him getting shot, but that made it more dramatic." Director Boyd Kirkland embraced the show's storyline, giving him a chance to do something he wanted to do with Batman. "I like to get inside the characters and see what makes them tick. Here we show Batman's self doubts, which bring him to a point where everybody can relate to him. I like that." He liked it so much that he took extra time to work with Reaves, revising several sequences in the storyboard stage.

The show-stopper is a slow-motion sequence where Batman stops Jazzman's assassination attempt with a quick batarang throw. The scene is helped immeasurably by sound effects, stilled just at the moment of the throw. "It's really dreamlike at that moment," noted producer Bruce Timm. "It's just the type of weird thing you don't see in other cartoons."  

HEART OF ICE ***** 9/7/92 (#14)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Bruce Timm.
Animation by Spectrum.

Batman tries to foil Mr. Freeze in his attempts to create a powerful freeze gun and discovers how corporate executive Mr. Boyle is responsible for dooming Freeze to a life in a sub-zero world. In an entirely new twist on the villain, Freeze goes mad, believing all emotion has been frozen out of him.

Batman tries to stop Freeze from assassinating Boyle, who was responsible for the death of Freeze's wife. The new take on this old comic book villain came out of early development talks between producers Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Timm came up with the idea that Freeze barely escaped dying in a cryogenic experiment gone wrong, and considers himself dead. As a result, he doesn't fear death and has no emotions.

Timm not only had to act as producer on the show but also as director because they were so far behind schedule. Recalled Timm, "I didn't have a storyboard team so I got Doug Murphy, Phil Norwood, Joe Denton, Mark Wallace, Curt Geda and Lorenzo Martinez. I took anyone who had two days available, using people from other crews that had down time. They did a very good job and I didn't have to change a whole lot." Timm noted he had difficulty getting voice actor Michael Ansara to play it "flat" for the role of Freeze/Dr. Fries. He was acting too much," said Timm. "It was really frustrating for him. He had never done cartoons before and an actor's first natural instinct is to act. He kept giving these line readings with all this inflection in them. I kept telling them that it had to be less, a lot less- like a robot. He kept saying it sounded so flat.

Everybody else was looking at me too, and was asking me if I was sure. To them it sounded flat. I think it really sells it. I wanted his voice to sound like the Ebonites in that old OUTER LIMITS episode: 'Nightmare.' They sound real metallic and hollow. I even played that for him at the recording session, and explained that was what I wanted it to sound like. It drove the sound guys crazy doing it."

ROBIN'S RECKONING (PART 1) ***** 2/7/93 (#32)
Story and teleplay by Randy Rogel. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by Spectrum.

While foiling saboteurs at a construction site, Batman learns that the man who killed Robin's parents, Tony Zucco, is back in town. He goes off to track him down and tells Robin to stay at home. Robin tries to discover why Batman is being so mysterious, and finds out who his guardian is hunting. Angry at Batman for keeping him out of the chase, Robin rides off into the night. This Emmy award-winning episode is magnificent, with a fresh and emotionally charged retelling of Robin's origin with the young hero's dialogue being extremely well-written by Randy Rogel. The animation by Spectrum is beautifully done, with a weight and depth seldom seen on television.

Particularly strong is the action as Batman infiltrates a mobster's estate, silently taking out guards and cutting through alarms. Noted producer Bruce Timm, "It's a stunning sequence, made all the more effective by the fact that it is done without any music, only sound effects. That's the first time we did an action sequence without any music behind it. We were spotting the episode with (musical director) Shirley Walker, and she said 'This stuff is so strong you don't need music.' I said 'You're kidding!' It was all her idea, and she was right. For some reason, it makes it seem very real. It gave it an extra dimension that we don't usually have." Timm noted how the emotions in the episode made people cry.

"Dan Riba, who was a storyboard artist at the time, was crying in the editing room when Robin says goodbye to his circus friends and the elephant after his parents' deaths. I cried when I heard the score added to the scene by Carlos Rodriguez. The combination of the music and the visuals was just so moving, I started weeping."  

ROBIN'S RECKONING (PART 2) ***1/2 2/14/93
Story and teleplay by Randy Rogel. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by Dong Yang/Spectrum.

Batman finds Zucco in a building near an abandoned amusement park. Zucco is so paranoid that he's actually alert enough to wing Batman, chasing him through the park. Flashbacks show young Dick Grayson's chase of Tony Zucco in the past that leads Bruce Wayne to adopt the boy and train him as Robin. Dong Yang's animation is flat and cartoon-like from Spectrum's layouts.

"When the second episode came in it was a crushing blow," said producer Bruce Timm. "I always knew it was going to be a problem because of the overly-complicated merry-go-round sequence, but it was more than just that one sequence. It could have been great. It should have been better, because the boards were better. Spectrum fell down on this one, because they did the layouts for the show." Though flashbacks give us a great background on Wayne and Grayson, and allows us a cool look at Batman's first costume, the story adds little to the emotional impact of the first episode. "The story wasn't quite as compelling as the first part," said Timm. "It just spends its time tying up loose ends."  

BIRDS OF A FEATHER *** 2/8/93 (#47)
Story by Chuck Menville. Teleplay by Brynne Stephens. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by Dong Yang.

The Penguin is in love, but not for long. Veronica Vreeland wants a super villain as the attraction at her next party so she invites the Penguin. He jumps at this chance to enter high society, and flattered by Vreeland's attention, he falls for her. At the party the Penguin discovers Vreeland's motives and kidnaps her. Until this episode, the Penguin has been shown as a belligerent, self-centered, arrogant,pompous ass. Here we see what all that has gotten him in life. When he leaves the jail, no-one comes to meet him. He must ride a bus home. When he gets there, Batman has already broken in, and warns the Penguin to stay on the straight and narrow path. Noted director Frank Paur, "Batman comes out as a putz in this show with his actions proving to be as much the problem as the solution."

Producer Bruce Timm credited storyboard artist Ronnie Del Carmen with the show's affecting characterizations. "He is the star of the show," said Timm. "Ronnie put a lot of time and effort into acting out the storyboard poses. He's the one that made that episode special. All the acting bits that the Penguin does throughout are due to Ronnie. He thought all of that out."  

CAT SCRATCH FEVER **1/2 11/5/92 (#35)
Story by Sean Catherine Derek. Teleplay by Buzz Dixon and Sean Catherine Derek. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by AKOM.

Roland Daggett and Dr. Milo are injecting a virus into the cats of Gotham, so that later Daggett Industries could provide the antidote, be the hero, and make millions. They make one mistake. They kidnap Catwoman's cat, Isis. Just out of jail she tries to stop the pair and is infected with the toxin when her cat bites her. Batman not only has to fight Daggett and company but a feverish, hallucinating Catwoman.

Dr. Milo proves once again that he is a lame excuse for a mad scientist. The only redeeming quality of the show is the interplay between Batman and Catwoman and the staging by Kirkland. "We retook that show considerably just to make it watchable," said Timm. "It was a mess, we had AKOM reanimate that one from scratch. That was the show that broke our back with AKOM and we decided we weren't going to use them any longer. After we fired them, they still had a couple of shows in production and those shows were a lot better. I guess they had never been fired from a series before." When Director Boyd Kirkland was handed the script, he was not fond of the story. "It was not an episode that I was excited about initially. Part of what we were struggling with on the writing level, whether we were going to have stories that were politically correct with social messages hidden in them, like this one against cruelty to animals. But half the fun is to take the challenge to make it exciting, and actually, the show came out okay, a lot of the sequences are pretty fun."

TERROR IN THE SKY *** 11/9/92 (#45)
Story by Steve Perry and Mark Saraceni. Teleplay by Mark Saraceni. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.

A giant bat creature is once again flying through Gotham, and Batman confronts Kirk Langstrom, who was the Man-Bat. Kirk protests his innocence and we discover that it is actually his wife Francine, who accidentally received a dose of the Man-Bat formula from one of her father's experiments.

Batman's pursuit of She-Bat is stunning, and really makes this a must-see show. "It's one of the most amazing set pieces in the entire series," said Producer Timm. "The board artist for that sequence was Phil Norwood who does a lot of live-actions storyboards (TERMINATOR 2, etc.) He's really great,and he knows the limits of animation." Another memorable sequence is the ending where She-Bat breaks out of a commercial airliner and Batman chases her down to the top of one of Gotham's bridges in the Batwing. "The last act was boarded by a guy named Yi-Chi Chen," said Timm. "He has really dynamic sensibilities as far as camera direction, and his staging is really good." The sequence was added to because the show came out short and director Boyd Kirkland had to add a scene where a stewardess is sucked out of the plane.

"Sidney Iwanter, the show's liaison with Fox, turned down an earlier script as 'too dark and ugly for a cartoon,'" noted Timm. "Kirk and Francine were on the verge of divorce because of what he did as the Man-Bat. She couldn't live with him any more. In the end they are all in the Batcave, and she bites Kirk injecting him with the mutagen. He becomes the Man-Bat again. The two end up fighting each other and fall into the abyss, killing each other."  

BATGIRL RETURNS **** 11/13/94. (#85)
Written by Michael Reaves and Brynne Stephens. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Dong Yang.  

Batgirl investigates the robbery of a statue at Gotham University and runs into Catwoman. The two pair up to catch the thief, while Robin tags along to keep Batgirl out of trouble. But can Catwoman be trusted? She throws the crime fighters more curves than they-- or the viewers-- expect. From the very first second, this episode is nothing less than visually stunning. Dong Yang does an excellent job of creating dark, flowing scenes and exciting action. Reaves' and Stephens' script has plenty of unexpected bits (particularly the very end, which surprised this reviewer) to make up for a few moments where the story drags. The characterization of the three heroes is also good enough to distract from the absence of the Batman himself from most of the script.

Fans of the series will be delighted at references to earlier episodes (some will even recognize the officer from "P.O.V") but be disappointed at the change in Batgirl's affections. Both the previous Batgirl episode and in the "Batman Adventures" comics have established chemistry between Batgirl and Robin. But the dream sequence in the first act shows that she is crazy about Batman-- something never even hinted at in the show's continuity.  

Story by David Wise. Teleplay by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by AKOM.

A Gotham judge is being blackmailed by Dr. Hugo Strange. Bruce Wayne goes undercover to Strange's retreat and is forced to reveal his secret identity. While Strange holds Batman and Alfred prisoner, he offers to auction off Batman's secret identity to the Joker, Two-Face and Penguin. The opening on Gotham Bridge has some of the best animation in the series but the last two acts are mediocre, with silly dialogue after the supervillains were introduced. "I have a problem with the villain team-ups," said producer Bruce Timm. "I think it diminishes them. When you put Penguin, Joker and Two-face all in one scene, suddenly they're all about one-third as interesting as they would be by themselves. And unfortunately this show proves my point.  

DREAMS IN DARKNESS ****1/2 11/3/92 (#28)
Story and teleplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by Junio.

The show opens with Batman in a straitjacket in Arkham Asylum. We come to learn that he has been exposed to the Scarecrow's fear gas and is hallucinating wildly, but must stop the villain from pouring a fear-inducing solution into Gotham City's water supply. Not only must he escape the Asylum, but battle the Scarecrow's men while hallucinating wildly.

This is a great plot. Batman is up to his neck in trouble and must overcome obstacle after obstacle. The episode features some top animation by Junio. And Dick Sebast pulls off the best of the Scarecrow shows. There are great touches like the Scarecrow's Grim Reaper watch, the slow-motion crack up of the Batmobile, and the show-stopping nightmare with the symbolic death of Wayne's parents with a giant revolver rising out of the city's rubble.

"One of my absolutely favorite shows, it works like gangbusters," said producer Bruce Timm. "There's never a dull moment. There's always something witty happening, either visually, or in the dialogue."

"The nightmare sequence is a killer," said Timm. "The gun is dripping blood! How did that ever get past BS&P? It wasn't intended to be blood; it was intended to be wreckage from the street. But they painted it red, and it looks like this big old gun dripping blood. My G d! -At the mixing stage, I had to fight with the music editor, Tom Milano, who's really good, about the way the music had been cued. It ran all the way up to firing of this large gun. Then it stops. I felt it wasn't working, because the music was fighting this great effect of those big huge cylinders cocking into place on the gun that the sound effects guys had come up with. I thought we had to stop the music before the cylinders cocked and told Tom I really wanted to try it this way. Eric agreed, so we set it up. Now the music stops just two beats sooner. And the sound of that gun is like the Crack of Doom right before it fires. It really sells it."  

READ MY LIPS ***** 5/10/93 (#64)
Story by Alan Burnett and Michael Reaves. Teleplay by Joe Lansdale. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by TMS/Dong Yang.

A new mob had come to Gotham City and is robbing it blind, run by Scarface, a ventriloquist's dummy, who insists that he's alive and that the ventriloquist who's operating him is just a nobody. Batman follows the one criminal he can identify, Rhino, to the gang's hideout. Playing on the villain's psychosis, Batman tricks Scarface to turn on the ventriloquist.

Great direction by Boyd Kirkland combined with Lansdale's solid script and good animation by TMS/Dong Yang makes this one of the darkest and most interesting shows of the series. Batman's mind game with the ventriloquist's multiple personalities is genuinely disturbing, and is yet another example of story editor Michael Reaves' vision of Batman as a do-anything-to-stop-the-bad-guy vigilante. His choice of Joe Lansdale as scripter enhanced that vision, as Lansdale is known as a writer in the Jim Thompson school of mysteries and suspense.

Noted director Boyd Kirkland, about the shooting "death" of Scarface, "It really has an impact. You have almost come to think of this thing as alive. It was one of these sneaky ways of getting away with something BS&P would normally never let you get away with, because it was just a dummy. It was very effective and creepy."  

MUDSLIDE ***** 9/15/93 (#52)
Story by Alan Burnett. Teleplay by Steve Perry. Directed by Eric Radomski.
Animation by Junio.

Clayface's body is decomposing and he is stealing materials from laboratories to supply a doctor who is trying to help. The doctor was a fan of Matt Hagen when he was a film star [I believe she was one of his medical advisers on his films. -JW] and risks all to save her film heartthrob. Batman tracks him down and in a climactic battle above tall cliffs; Clayface falls into the water and disintegrates.

What is it about Clayface that makes the guys on this show do their best work? This is another triumph for Eric Radomski who has turned out to be one of the series' best directors. There's a scene where Clayface takes Batman into his body to suffocate him. We see Batman struggling to get out of Clayface's mammoth frame. As he struggles futilely inside, Clayface starts to count off Batman's heartbeats as his heart slowly begins to stop. The effect is terrifying. You find yourself holding your breath, and Batman's escape is an awesome release. It's the epitome of what animation can do magnificently. It just couldn't be done in live-action. The ending is equally chilling and Clayface literally slips through Batman's fingers to fall to the water below and slowly gets dissolved in the waves. It's something that story editor Michael Reaves thought they wouldn't be able get away with. "Since Warner Brothers was paying for the series, Fox could give suggestions, but we didn't have to take them," he said. "The only people we had to listen to was Broadcast Standards and Practices and their only flat-out taboo was that we couldn't kill anybody, and we even got around that a couple of times. In this episode Clayface went off that cliff and melted. He's dead."  

P.O.V. ***1/2 9/18/92 (#7)
Story by Sean Catherine Derek, Laren Bright and Mitch Brian. Teleplay by Derek and Bright. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Spectrum.

An Homage to RASHOMAN. Cops Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya, and rookie Wilkes are being questioned about a botched arrest and the subsequent torching of a warehouse involving Batman. The three tell their stories, and the internal affairs officer, Lt. Hackle, demands their badges. The flashbacks showing the officer's stories are almost without dialogue, leaving the story to be told solely by the action on the screen, a masterful job of direction by Kevin Altieri with stunning animation by Spectrum.

Altieri recalled the script was much more complex when he received it: "We cut out flashbacks to Montoya's youth when she was called a liar. And flashbacks to Bullock's youth when he was playing high-school football when his dad yells at him because he was using teamwork: 'Don't be a team player, be a star. Being a team player is for losers. Go out for Number One, Pal." The cuts necessitated the addition of an action fight scene at the end as Montoya tracks the criminals to a warehouse by the docks. "BS&P had a fit because there was so much violence," said Timm. "I had to dance around it by explaining the difficulties created when we took out all those flashbacks.

They had us make a number of changes. Originally, the scene where the driller is going after Montoya with the drill went on a lot longer. The guy chased her on top of a big pile of crates and he was ramming the drill into the crates. We got into a lot of trouble with that. (BS&P's) Avery Coburn said it was the most horrible rape fantasy sequence she'd ever seen. We agreed immediately to take that whole sequence out, but because it upset her so much, she really went to town on that whole episode."  

THE LAST LAUGH *** 9/22/92 (#4)
Story and teleplay by Carl Swenson. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by AKOM.

It's April Fools Day and the Joker is steering a garbage barge down the river while pumping a deadly laughing gas throughout Gotham. The city is helpless with laughter, and the Joker's robbing it blind. Batman gets dumped in the middle of Gotham harbor by the Joker's robot henchman Captain Clown. Director Kevin Altieri plussed the script with more exciting action, devised with storyboard artists Brad Rader and Tony Salmons. "Other than dialogue, what you see on screen doesn't really resemble the script at all," said Altieri. "In the original, Batman kept getting garbage dumped on him." Altieri also came up with a new weapon for the Joker, to stave off Batman on a catwalk. Noted Altieri, "While I was storyboarding that sequence I wondered what would the Joker do? Throw a knife? No. I thought of the old poker trick with the card up the sleeve, and it would be a stainless-steel card. Zwock!" The producers learned a valuable lesson about Broadcast Standards and Practices in Batman's fight with the robot henchman Captain Clown. "We found out that we could beat the crap out of him, because he's a robot," said producer Bruce Timm. "It was great. We didn't know if we could get away with that, but we took a chance. We had Batman pick up a pipe and bash him in the head, and there was no objection." "That was the first Joker show that Shirley Walker scored," said Timm. "Her Joker theme was hip-hop. It was so far away from the Danny Elfman sound, I was stunned. But then I thought; "Man, this is really cool."  

OFF BALANCE *** 11/2/92 (#50)
Story and teleplay by Len Wein. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Sunrise.

An informant tells Batman that the Society of Shadows is planning to steal a top-secret sonic weapon. Later, Count Vertigo and members of the Society use a vertigo-inducing device to take the weapon from armed guards. Batman attempts to recover it and meets up with Talia, a mysterious woman trying to get the self-same weapon for her father, Count Vertigo's previous employer. The two battle their way through Vertigo's booby-trapped fortress outside of Gotham City. Of course, as befits the villain's name, he final confrontation takes place in a bell tower a la Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO. The show's final sequence introduces Ra's Al Ghul.

A setup for the two-parter "The Demon's Quest." This episode explains how Talia falls in love with Batman and learns his secret identity. Luckily, it is more than that, with a solid storyline and fast-paced action. Watch for Twitch, the snitch at the beginning of the show who gets thrown off Gotham's Statue of Liberty [I believe it's the statue of Equality, can anyone confirm that? -JW] for revealing the society's plan to Batman. If you look closely, you'll notice a passing resemblance to Tim Burton, passing because the character was animated off-model.

Three different versions of the episode aired, as the show got repeated in the rotation. "The distortion vertigo sequences weren't disorienting enough so we did retakes," said producer Bruce Timm of Sunrise's animation. "While we were waiting for them, we did effects in video with a computer that were real wobbly and quite nauseating. It worked great, but, we did that to just get the show on the air. When we got the retakes back, the film editors cut them into the episode, but dropped the video distortion effects on the whole sequence and that ran. We told them to put the effects back in, which is the version now airing.

ON LEATHER WINGS **** 9/6/92 (#1)
Story and teleplay by Mitch Brian. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Spectrum.

A batlike figure attacks a security guard and Batman is blamed.

Detective Harvey Bullock is given a Bat-task force by the Mayor and District Attorney to capture Batman. We follow Batman's step-by-step investigation, his battle with police, and the discovery of the Jekyll and Hyde-like character of Dr. Kirk Langstrom, a.k.a. Man-Bat, a giant half-man, half-bat creature. All in all a great introduction to the series. Harvey Bullock, District Attorney Harvey Dent, Police Commissioner Gordon, and Mayor Hill are introduced in nicely moody scenes. This episode clearly establishes that Gordon is not going to be a sit-by-the-sideline milquetoast like the old live-action series. The light and fun version of Bruce Wayne is clearly counter pointed with his dark brooding Batman persona.

And after the mystery is solved, the show climaxes with an incredible aerial battle, dramatically designed by director Kevin Altieri and superbly rendered by Spectrum Animation. "To me, this is almost the quintessential episode of the show," said producer Bruce Timm. "It's got almost everything in it that you want, the mood, the mystery, and Batman's really cool. It's got this great villain, and it's scary, exciting, and funny."  

ZATANNA *** 2/2/93 (#54)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Dick Sebast.
Animation by Spectrum/ Dong Yang.

A fun script drives this story about Zatanna, a magician who gets framed for robbing the Gotham mint during her stage act. Batman had met her years earlier, while training to be the world's best crime fighter. At the time, he was using a false identity to study under the greatest stage magician and escape artist of all time, Zatara. His cute young daughter, Zatanna, had a crush on "Joe Smith" ["John Smith" -JW] and then he disappeared from her life. Director Dick Sebast's last show. Sebast quit in the middle of it and it was finished by uncredited Dan Riba.

This wonderful little episode is designed to delight DC comics fans by tying Batman's training to one of DC's Golden-Age heroes. But even if you don't know the history of the characters, the show comes off as a nice, light romp. Noted scripter Paul Dini, "Bruce had to learn to be an escape artist from someone, and I thought wouldn't it be great if he learned from Zatara, DC's old Golden Age hero, who at the time had a cute little sixteen-year old daughter. I pitched it to Paul Levitz, president of DC Comics, who said, 'That's wonderful. That's better than anything we've ever done with Zatanna!' And it was logical that if he learned from her father, he would have had a little thing going with Zatanna." Dini wrote the part with voice actress Julie Brown in mind.

AVATAR *** 5/9/94 (#69)
Written by Michael Reaves. Directed by Kevin Altieri.
Animation by Junio.

Ubu and Ra's al Ghul steal an ancient Egyptian manuscript from a collection Bruce Wayne was about to donate to the Gotham Museum, and the Batman goes to Gibraltar to ask Talia about it. She is shocked that her father is still alive, and says that the papyrus was half of a map to the tomb of Toth-Khephera, someone Ra's has been obsessed with finding. They track him down and he explains that Toth-Khephera was a sorceress with the ultimate power of life and death. Talia agrees to help stop her father, to her dismay. They follow Ra's to the tomb, where he discovers Toth-Khephera. When she kisses him, it drains life out of him, and she sends green slime creatures after Batman, Talia, and the rest. They escape and Batman says he will take Ra's and his henchmen to the authorities, but Talia (as she tends to do at the end of the episode) pulls a gun and leaves Batman stranded in the middle of the desert, taking her father to safety.

Unfortunately, this seems to be what we all feared when the Fox execs said they were looking for a "more larger-than-life" second season. The animation by Junio is not very good, and only starts to improve in the third act when the story starts falling apart. The priestess who turns into a skeleton after she kisses Ra's, and her sludge monsters, are not even remotely hinted at "wielding science so far advanced it feels like sorcery," as Cinefantastique stated in their preview. They are just plain supernatural, and out of place even for a Ra's Al Ghul story. And Batman, strong as he is, can not possibly kick a statue ten times his size while wedged to a wall. The best parts of the episode, naturally, are Batman and Talia's exchanges.  

MAKE 'EM LAUGH **1/2 11/5/94. (#83)
Written by Paul Dini and Randy Rogel. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.

The Joker insists he is the funniest man in Gotham, and will go to any lengths to prove it. This time, he wants to win the trophy and the title at a comedy competition, even if it means stealing mind-control devices from his co-psycho the Mad Hatter and sending a bunch of comedians on crazy crime sprees.

At best, this script could have been a punch back at the Tick, which so frequently and so successfully spoofs Batman. The ridiculous villains, opening with the Condiment King wielding a ketchup gun, are too silly for the series but not silly enough to make a decent spoof. The script lies somewhere in that limbo between a funny, light parody and the usual stylized, dark shows, and despite Mark Hamill's fantastic performance as the Joker, he can't save the weakness in the script.  

BE A CLOWN **** 9/16/92 (#9)
Story and teleplay by Ted Petersen and Steve Hayes. Directed by Frank Paur.
Animation by AKOM.

The Joker crashes the Mayor's son's birthday party as Jecko the Clown, and plants a bomb at the Mayor's mansion. The mayor's estranged son runs away from home and hops on the Joker's getaway truck that takes them both to an abandoned amusement park. The boy gets taken under the Joker's wing and when Batman appears, the boy is confronted with the danger he's been in all the time, as the Joker reveals Batman in a deathtrap.

During the climactic rollercoaster chase, the Joker's lapel flower originally squirted acid, making the scene much more dangerous, but BS&P said that was too threatening and it was changed to the flower squirting gas. Noted producer Bruce Timm, who came up with the idea for the show, "I started with this image of Batman and this kid who is in some kind of peril. At the time I thought of a burning building. The kid is deathly afraid of Batman, because he is so scary. And Batman is not used to dealing with kids, because he's just a dark avenger of the night. Batman yells at the kid to give him his hand and the kid backs away. So in the midst of all this flaming debris, Batman consciously has to calm down and try to be nice. There's supposed to be this touching moment where the kid breaks down and takes Batman's hand."

Timm credited storyboard artist Phil Norwood for the brilliant bit of the Joker tapping his cane along a fence, and for staging the rollercoaster finale in an exciting but economical fashion. "We knew immediately that we didn't have the budget that Disney's ROLLER COASTER RABBIT did," said Timm. "We had to figure out a way of doing all that really neat fast action on a roller coaster without having to animate perspective. Norwood figured out a lot of interesting little cheats, and fortunately AKOM pulled it off, which they don't normally do."

Noted director Frank Paur, "I still had the same storyboard crew I had on 'The Underdwellers' and I was still having problems with them. A freelancer jumped ship on me and Bruce Timm shut himself off in his room and did a wonderful job storyboarding the second act."

SECOND CHANCE ***** 9/17/94. #80.
Story by Paul Dini and Michael Reaves. Teleplay by Gerry Conway. Directed by Boyd Kirkland.
Animation by Dong Yang.

As Harvey Dent is about to undergo reconstructive surgery to restore himself to physical and emotional wellness, he is kidnapped from the operating room. Batman and Robin try to solve the mystery, looking up people such as Thorne and the Penguin, who might be nursing a grudge against Dent. Finally, Batman realizes something that should have been obvious from the start, and catches the kidnapper, the person who wants the most to destroy Harvey Dent.

Nothing is missing from this episode. The action just keeps getting better and better, from a high-speed freeway chase to a breathtaking sequence where Robin narrowly avoids becoming fish food. The climax is a stunning psychological finale, with Two-Face forced to choose between his life and his psychosis. The show explores the relationship between Bruce/Batman and two of his closest companions, Harvey and Dick.

Thorne and the Penguin have fun segments. The solution to the mystery had this reviewer in suspense for a while, and though it may be obvious from the beginning to some, it's beautiful, and the episode couldn't have ended any other way.  

BABY-DOLL *** 10/1/94. #76.
Written by Paul Dini. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Junio.

Mary Dahl had been a sitcom star for years, playing a child's role even at age twenty because of Systematic Hypoplasia, which kept her from aging. But the world of show business refused to take her seriously as an adult actress, and now she's out to recapture the happiness of her childhood, even if it means kidnapping the cast members of her old show to do it.

Producer Bruce Timm calls Baby-Doll "Our attempt to create a classic new character," and while she may not reach the status of the show's now-famous Harley Quinn, Baby-Doll is a fine character. Her distress is believable, making her something of a sympathetic villain like Two-Face or Mr. Freeze. The show itself is a good mystery, with nice-looking dark images even in the third act's amusement park setting. A highlight is a much-deserved scene with Summer Gleeson, one of the show's underused original characters.

TIME OUT OF JOINT **1/2 10/8/94. #73.
Story by Alan Burnett. Teleplay by Steve Perry. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Dong Yang.

The Clock King steals devices which can accelerate objects in time, making the rest of the world move very slowly in comparison. With this device, he can move around unseen, steal a precious antique timepiece, and plant a bomb on the podium during Mayor Hill's speech, enjoying his archenemy's destruction in slow motion. The only way Batman and Robin can stop him is by using the device themselves. In his first appearance, the Clock King was a funny villain, in a well-animated show that made his time obsession amusing and believable. In this show, he is given a new black outfit to make him more sinister.

The character's new direction doesn't succeed-- not only does the Clock King fail to become threatening, but he also loses much of his appeal as what Bruce Timm calls "the most anal retentive person on the planet," knowing everything about time from train schedules to how fast Batman can throw a punch. This clever use of time and manic obsessiveness is what made the first episode truly entertaining, and it is sadly lacking in this one.

The script is based on scientific advances that require great suspension of disbelief, and sometimes not even Batman can explain away the plot holes that appear in its flimsy structure: for example, why the Batmobile didn't detect that it was booby trapped by a time device. The script's real appeal is in its potential for stunning visual effects when time speeds up and slows down. A good studio like Dong Yang should have been able to pull some real stunners, and in some places it does, with effects that, like the first Clock King episode, are inspired by Japanese animation. However, the animation and use of color is really not as dynamic as it has been in other episodes, and this is a disappointment. The show does have its moments, including veiled references to Lloyd Ventris, the invisible man of "See No Evil"; the Shadow; and, of course, Superman.  

BLIND AS A BAT *** 2/22/93 (#58)
Story by Mike Underwood and Len Wein. Teleplay by Len Wein. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Junio.

The Penguin steals Wayne Enterprises' latest invention, a deadly assault helicopter with a special optical system for perfect targeting day or night. During the theft, Bruce Wayne is temporarily blinded. Feeling responsible for the havoc the Penguin wreaks with the copter, Batman takes a daring chance and has a helmet version of the new optical system connected directly to his optic nerves.

The Penguin takes on a certain menace in this episode, mainly because the interplay back and forth between the hero and the villain finally seems equal. With the helicopter at his disposal, he actually has something that puts him on somewhat equal fighting terms with Batman, as opposed to 'Birds of A Feather' or 'I Have Batman in My Basement' ['I've Got Batman in My Basement'-JW] where the Fowl Fiend seems totally outclassed by Batman.

This is the first episode totally directed by Dan Riba (who had been a director at DIC.) He spent a lot of time going over the layouts and it shows. The action is well timed and smooth, moving the episode along at a good pace. "Everybody was worried about the mechanics of the third act and how to make it work and we kind of lost track of what the characters' motivations were, myself included. Suddenly, I realized we had turned Wayne into an arms merchant, which he shouldn't be. He doesn't like guns. He would never manufacture guns.

"There was a line in the script where he gloats about how much money he would make on the sale of this copter. We altered that to him expressing his reservations about the sale. At the ADR (looping) session, (producer) Alan Burnett wrote a new line for a voice over expressing his regret at building the thing in the first place. We implied that not only had be been blind physically, but he had been blind to what his company was doing."

In the script the copter was supposed to have been for police riot control. After the LA riots, it was changed quickly to the military.  

FIRE FROM OLYMPUS ** 5/24/93 (#62)
Story by Paul Dini. Teleplay by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. Directed by Dan Riba.
Animation by Spectrum/Dong Yang.

A giant electronic cannon is stolen from the army, and the culprit is Maxie Zeus, a man who dresses and behaves as if he truly is his namesake, the Greek god Zeus. With wealth acquired through smuggling, he has built himself an Olympus (actually a penthouse) over Gotham. Batman must stop him from destroying Gotham City in his madness.

"We were trying to play Maxie Zeus as a Looney," noted director Dan Riba. "With all our other villains you follow their slow descent into madness, but when we come to Maxie, he's just nuts. It's the episode most like the old '60s show, and basically Maxie functions as our King Tut. The real story centers on the people around him coming to the realization of just how crazy he is." This is a weak episode which Riba at least makes interesting by cleverly staging the death traps set by Zeus. In a neat sequence at the end, Maxie is dollied through the corridors of Arkham Asylum, and recognizes his fellow gods in its confines: Hermes, the trickster god (The Joker), Janus the two-faced god (Two-Face), and Demeter, the goddess of plants (Poison Ivy). Riba found it to be an interesting twist: "It gives it a mythological sort of importance. Sort of 'Campbellizes' the whole thing."

ALMOST GOT 'IM ***** 11/11/92 (#46)
Story and teleplay by Paul Dini. Directed by Eric Radomski. Animation by Spectrum/Dong Yang.

The Rogue's Gallery has gathered for a poker game, and to tell tales of how they almost killed Batman. Tales by Poison Ivy, Two-face, Penguin and Joker end with Batman trying to save Catwoman from Harley Quinn's cat-food meat grinder.

A perfect homage to all those great super villain death traps prevalent in the early Batman comics and the '60s TV show. Beautiful animation by Spectrum/Dong Yang and the staging by director Eric Radomski are magnificent.

Author Paul Dini loved working with director Radomski. "He did a terrific job on changing the sequence of the villains' stories from my script so the action would build, with each story more elaborate than the other until the Joker's segment, which nothing can top. It's great and allows the wrap-up with Harley Quinn and Catwoman to be this nice funny release.

"It was a blessed episode, easy for me to write and fun to do, You need some sort of laughs and humor in a series like this, to offset the grimness of the show. You want to play the grim moments as grim and the sad moments as sad. Those occasional funny moments are a release."

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