Original Airdate - November 4th, 2011
A variety of Batman stories featuring Adam Strange, Flash, and 'Mazing Man!
Directed by Ben Jones
Reviews by Andrew, klammed
Media by The World's Finest
Creator Q & A with Producer James TuckerThe World's Finest: "Four-Star Spectacular" has a completely unique format for the series. The episode goes for four short stories instead of the standard teaser/main format. Can you elaborate on why you chose this format and how it works for the episode? Was this difficult to do given how different this is from a regular episode? Was this an episode done to just break with the regular format?
James Tucker: When I decided that I wanted to have every episode start with teaser that was unrelated to the rest of the episode, the inspiration came mainly from the old superhero cartoon shows of the late 1960s and 1970s that usually consisted of several short segments featuring different characters in each. For Batman: The Brave and The Bold, I always wanted to do at least one episode that was made up of completely stand-alone segments featuring different heroes. So when we realized this would be our final season, we pushed ahead with the idea. The concept is a difficult one to spring on viewers, but we figured that by now, our fans had come to expect the unexpected.
WF: Director Ben Jones states that this episode went into production without a script, hence the ‘written by’ credits replaced by ‘storyboards by.’ How challenging was this for you? How different is it to work on an episode without a script? Did this affect voiceover sessions and the standard animation process for the episode (ie: no voice acting to sync up the mouth movements, etc.)?
JT: For this episode we let storyboard artists board each segment without a script and just tell the story they wanted to tell using the characters they wanted. Ultimately, we needed to go back and create a recording script in order to record the voices and get the final animation done, so Michael Jelenic and Ben Jones had to do some script work. In hindsight, I think I may have underestimated how hard it is to actually board without a script and so there was a lot of work on the back end of the process that we didn’t account for. I think all four segments turned out to be a lot of fun. It would have been nice to do more episodes along the lines of "Four Star Spectacular" because I think it is a great way to showcase heroes and ideas that wouldn’t normally fit into the format of even our usual episode.
WF: A reoccurring theme for the third seasons seems to be the shortened production schedule. Were you pressed for time with these final 13 episodes? Was this season more challenging to do than the first two?
JT: In animation there never seems to be enough time but I didn’t notice any drop in quality because of a shorter schedule. The fact is, both Michael Jelenic and I were being pulled into development on other projects while we were completing our third season. Luckily our crew was a well-oiled machine thanks to Amy McKenna, our line producer, so we managed to make it all happen, even with the shorter season.
WF: Back to the episode, care to fill us in on what exactly inspired "Four-Star Spectacular," including the choice of guest-stars? Flash, Creature Commandos, Adam Strange – even ‘Mazing Man! Why these characters in particular? And I’m pretty sure this is the first animated appearance of ‘Mazing Man...
JT: It’s called "Four Star Spectacular" after a DC comic book of the same name from the 1970s that featured reprints of four stories with different heroes in each. The story board artists we recruited were Matt Youngberg who chose Adam Strange, Ben Jones chose The Flash, Adam Van Wyk chose Creature Commandoes and Stephen DeStephano chose, appropriately enough, his own character, ‘Mazing Man to bring to animation. I was on the fence about ‘Mazing Man because even among old school fanboys, it was an obscure choice, but in the end, it’s the segment a lot of folks responded to. I think the character has a lot of heart and humor that could be expanded on in a series. And Creature Commandoes definitely is worthy of a full episode or even a series. We already featured Flash and Adam Strange in their own episodes, but these two were unknowns to even a lot of comicbook fans.
WF: Batman takes a backseat in this episode, with a dramatically reduced role. Do you think that if the show continued, you would’ve toyed with the format of perhaps less Batman and focusing on other DC Heroes? Maybe just plain ol’ The Brave and The Bold?
JT: To me Batman is pretty synonymous with the The Brave and the Bold brand but probably that’s because it was the first Batman comic I ever read, so I’m biased even though I know the book existed before Batman was featured in it regularly. I think for general audiences you need either Batman or Superman as an entry point to get them to sample the lesser known characters. We, as comic fans, know the merits of these lesser known characters, but it’s the general audiences watching that make it possible for the studio to be willing to spend the money to make those kind of shows. I don’t foresee a time where you wouldn’t need at least one of the big gun characters as a co-host of sorts. Having said that, there’s all kinds of ways to structure a story where Batman’s in it, but doesn’t dominate the story. I think we managed to do that fairly well on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, so I know it’s possible. I’d love to do a Superman team-up show in the same vein ala the DC Presents comic book Superman was featured in, though that would be a tougher problem because Superman doesn’t really need to team up with anyone if we’re basing it strictly on powers.
WF: Do you have a particular favorite short among the four?
JT: For me it’s a tie between ‘Mazing Man and Creature Commandoes. For the oddball factor alone, the ‘Mazing Man segment was so different, even for our show, that I enjoy it a lot. Doing that type of comedy is an artform and it’s very different and more difficult than what we do in a superhero themed show, even one that has a good deal of humor like Batman: The Brave and The Bold. Creature Commandoes was just a blast to watch and would have made a great full episode because we had to cut out half the board that Adam Van Wyk turned in. He boarded almost enough for a full episode!
WF: Finally, as always, why should fans tune in to check out this episode tonight?
JT: It’s only a few more episodes before the end of the road. Do I have to still tell you how awesome this show is?
Skipping the typical teaser for this penultimate episode of Brave and the Bold, the show starts directly at the opening credits and goes into the first of four quick stories or, in Denis Leary terms, “mini-sodes.” The first of which starts off with Adam Strange, a hero who is a perfect fit for the show but has strangely been absent, save for a couple of episodes. On the contrary, the villain, Kanjar Ro, is a common face for the show and is something of a fitting to get one last appearance before the show’s wrap given that he was the show’s debut villain. Actually, I would even say this is his most worthwhile appearance on the show since he didn’t really seem to fit very well when matched with heroes such as Blue Beetle. Adam Strange just seemed a more natural fit given his campy space theme. This micro-adventure also works best for Strange since, despite the short runtime, it actually shows him in a more action role than even his full debut in “Mystery in Space!” was capable of, mostly because that episode heavily focused on Aquaman. The only qualms I really have with this mini-sode are more quirky than anything else. Adam Strange saving his planet by sending the bomb to, well, anywhere is a little peculiar given that it easily could have ended up back in Gotham. Furthermore, it’s a little concerning that he uses the little puppy that was whisked away from (presumably a city on Earth) by a rogue zeta beam, to give as a gift to his wife but it has a collar complete with tag. As heroes, it might be advisable they search for the actual owner. But, perhaps, that’s another adventure.
Following on the heels is the quicker quartern of our quadruple quests, starring the Flash. The Flash, despite being considerably higher on the fandom chart than Adam Strange, has oddly been featured just as rarely with the show giving more focus to Jay Garrick, the first in the line of the polite flashers. This mini-sode, similar to Adam Strange’s story, actually manages to be an even better highlight for the Flash than his own episode did, although it makes sense just like Strange’s episode; focusing on the solo hero simply allows for more for him to do. In this case it shows off probably the only time I’ve considered the Mirror Master to be a decent villain and Flash’s solution to his duplication gimmick is pretty clever. The side banter with the 64th century magician, Abra Kadabra (really? It took 6300+ years for there to be a villain by that name?), isn’t bad but it’s pretty obvious he’s simply there to hasten the process in which Flash discovers Mirror Master’s flaw. It may have worked better to let Flash discover it without the help of a secondary villain cameo, but the resulting prank on Abra is worth his feature. It is strange, though, that the Flash’s costume falls onto its front side but its mirror counterpart has the costume facing upward (as the logo is present in the picture). But, I suppose mirror shenanigans can explain it away.
In a drastic contrast to the previous two stories, the third mini-sode features the runt hero, ‘Mazing Man. No ‘A,’ apparently. This odd little character is a vastly unheard of hero and feels as though he should have his origins from the Golden Age of comics, but is actually from the late 80’s. Although it is nice to have Brave and the Bold feature such unique characters that are at risk of being forgotten to the waste bin of time, I feel as though this was something of a mis-step. The brief romp with the few-ounces-short-of-a-pint-sized hero has its decent moments but it took multiple viewings to begin to notice them, the first viewing was more obnoxious than anything. An actual origin story for the character may have been a better direction to go in rather than dropping in a random story that ultimately feels like it goes on for too long even in the few minutes allotted to it. Without the context of an origin, it just feels like the episode randomly stumbled into a Robot Chicken sketch.
Finally, the last of the four mini-sides features the WW2-era team of monsters-yet-heroes, the Creature Commandos. It’s worth noting that almost the entire original team is present except for the artificial humanoid known as G.I. Robot, who was actually featured in a previous teaser in “Plague of the Prototypes!” with also WW2-era hero Sergeant Rock. Whether coincidental or intentional, it’s some nice continuity to fan-remembered characters that were otherwise only isolated to a single teaser. Although similar to ‘Mazing Man in that an origin story would have been preferred, they still work great without any proper introduction and the Creature Commandos make for a great watch as they battle their way through Isla Sorna (well it wouldn’t be Isla Nublar, aka “Jurassic Park,” given that there’s more than one T-Rex!) against a horde of dinosaurs controlled by the Ultra Humanite. Though, unlike all other animated versions of Ultra Humanite, this is the first time in which he’s not been presented as an albino Gorilla. Instead, this short depicts him as simply a brain in a jar with spider legs (I had no idea he was a monk of the B’Omarr Order) that managed to implant itself in a T-Rex. While very, very strange it’s a great separation considering Brave and the Bold has featured Grodd fairly prominently as well as a brief run-in with Monsieur Mallah, and given that this will be Humanite’s only appearance on the show, it’s the best way to keep people from potentially becoming confused among the talking gorillas; certainly a far more worthwhile usage of Ultra Humanite than Young Justice’s recent depiction of him as a mere mercenary.
Overall, this quadruple helping of mini-sides managed to be very decent with mostly using its time for each short wisely, as well as offering up a decent diversity of heroes featured. It was also interesting how elements of this episode harkens back to the first two episodes of the series with Kanjar Ro (“Rise of the Blue Beetle!”) and Dinosaur Island (“Terror on Dinosaur Island!”), making for a fitting end before the final episode. Though, you have to feel bad for the dinosaurs being mind-controlled by two different Gorilla characters. Those dang, dirty not-Apes! But, I digress. The only problems I really had throughout these four stories were minor nitpicks aside from the jarring introduction to the meek hero, ‘Mazing Man. The only things I really would have changed would have been to make ‘Mazing Man’s feature an origin story to ensure people become familiar with the character rather than potentially annoyed. And, in interest of upholding the obscurity and diversity, I would have chosen someone other than an iconic Justice Leaguer to focus on as was done with the Flash, but it was nice to see him get the spotlight regardless. This episode is definitely Recommended!
If you turned on your television on the dot only to see the show’s opening title sequence, you might be forgiven for your slight panic that you may have missed the teaser that usually accompanies Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes. We get instead a very nice title card in the 60s/70s cartoon styles that the show is famed for hearkening to, introducing Adam Strange, about to embark on intergalactic travel to find his date. Things don’t go as planned however, as these episodes tend to go.
The visual gags here were standard stock: the focus of the beams first on water tanks, then the dog, and the car-which-ran-over-the-present being hoisted away in the background. Stock gags, great effect. Very little is seen of Batman, perhaps strange (hah!) for a show which bears his name, but I found the focus on Adam as the hero of the story refreshing. More gags with Kanjar Ro’s attempts to locate Raan, passing through Gotham where Batman does appear to deliver one of the best, most appropriate puns I’ve seen in this series. The creativity seen here, with each change of environment, though only lasting moments, is something applause worthy. Especially since they came to life with the animation instead of just being backdrop changes as they well could have been. The Highland terrier was adorable (had to be said).
For the Flash story, what immediately struck me was how pronounced they chose to make the regional origins of the villains: Boomerang clearly from the Outback, Mirror Master the Evan McCulloch version with an admittedly odd, but passable Scottish accent, and even Abra Kadabra. Save Mirror Master, we’ve heard them all once before, but having them placed one after the other made them seem that much more distinctly varied. Jeff Bennett’s performance was wonderfully neurotic here, and deserves added praise. From this short it shoots to the eccentric, and visually rather different, ‘Mazing Man episode. I have to say, I knew nothing about ‘Mazing Man prior to this, but this ‘Kitty Catastrophe’ segment was both hilarious and oddly endearing. Major Props to Tom Kenny. Between these three segments, we’ve already shot from sci-fi, to ‘regular’ comic book adventure, to cartoon satire. Naturally, then, what’s left to turn to but gritty war pulp with a dash of monster horror to complete the genre collection?
The aesthetic mirrors the World War II wackiness of the original comics, and the animation here with the dinosaurs was excellent, especially in the extended action sequence with Dr. Myrra Rhode’s Medusa hair achieved acrobatics. Ultra-Humanite was unexpected, and his appearance here as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, albeit an albino one, was ingenious and funny. His form as a brain perhaps hints at the many transplants the recent version of the character has undergone, and also hints at The Brain who does regular inhabit such a form. The spindly insectoid legs of the capsule transplant seemed really sinister in a TNBA Mr. Freeze like manner as well. Again, as with all the other segments, Batman plays a limited role through this, a strange thought considering it’s the second last episode of this entire 65 episode run. With one more episode to go, this episode remains a strong example of the amount of creative energy which this series has demonstrated over and over and over again in their updating of their original source material for a whole new generation. Definitely recommended.
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