Creator Q & A with Producer James Tucker
The World's Finest: As always, let's start with the teaser. Batman, President Lincoln, and a crazy robotic John Wilkes Booth. Please, walk us through how this teaser came to be! Any significance to the 'Parallel Universe 5501' mention?
James Tucker: All the credit for this teaser has to go to the show’s co-producer/story editor, Michael Jelenic. He was pitching this idea of Batman teaming up with Lincoln probably as early as the end of season one. It always sounded too over the top for me, particularly at that stage of the show. I felt the audience that we were building just wasn’t ready for something that radical. By the third season, I guess Michael had worn me down and our audience had come to expect the crazy stuff we’d been doing, so I finally said let’s do it. Mind you, when he was describing it to me at first, it wasn’t fully fleshed out. When it was finally pitched to me in its entirety, I loved it. It was cool, poignant and brilliant and was such a nice intro for our series finale.
WF: Moving on to the episode itself, this is...it, isn't it? The final episode. Where did the inspiration for this episode come about? Why bring back Bat-Mite?
JT: At first I was torn with the idea of actually doing a series finale. I think, and still do, that a lot of the well-remembered shows that live on in people’s hearts are shows that were left open ended. So that whatever the show was, it’s just on a continuous loop in the minds of the audiences. But when you actually have a series finale, you’re kind of closing the door on the show. Do people really want to relive a series that has a locked down ending? But given how we ultimately ended the show, that concern seems irrelevant now. Plus, Batman’s forever, pun intended...there is no ending really. Using Bat-Mite as this episode’s 'villain' made sense because in a way, the first episode he appeared in ("Legends of the Dark Mite") was the one that really clued our audience into what this show was all about, the idea that we were celebrating Batman as a pop culture icon, and pulling elements from the entirety of his long history and trying to give nods to every era in his development as one of the most famous heroes ever created. Using Bat-mite as the ultimate Batman fan boy, we were able to literally have him deliver the show’s manifesto in that speech he gives in the scene at comic convention. Once we did that, I think the part of the audience that was nervous about whether they could trust us or not just exhaled and were able to really embrace the show. The haters crawled back under their rocks (Just jokin’…). So it seemed to make sense to have Bat-mite be part of our 'ending' since he was responsible in a way for giving the show life.
WF: One can only assume there were many ideas left on the cutting room floor with Bat-Mite's plans to cancel Batman. Any canned ideas that you can fill us in on? And what about the many, many meta jabs? How far did this episode go with them? Also, Batman...shooting a gun. How did you get that by censors?
JT: By the time we’d gotten to this episode, we had discussed it so much, throwing ideas around, all season long that when the time came to do it, it seemed like it was fairly fully formed. I don’t recall any ideas that had to be discarded. As far as Batman shooting the gun, I have to say Cartoon Network’s standards department has always been good with understanding the context of any given scene in the series that might be questionable. Clearly, this episode was very meta from the first scene, so it was pretty obvious that we weren’t advocating Batman really shooting a gun. I think at the most we may have cut any scenes where Batman’s directly shooting at someone. The few scenes where he’s firing the gun, he’s shooting off screen. I think.
WF: Did you find it approach that Henry Winkler voices Ambush Bug in an episode where Bat-Mite thinks Batman has jumped the shark? Was this intentional casting?
JT: Oh sure, it’s almost mandatory that you have to cast Henry Winkler in an episode that’s about a series ‘jumping the shark’ and we were lucky enough to get Ted McGinley as well. I’m sure the younger viewers won’t get the connection, not that they read who’s in the credits anyway. But of course, we were referring to the infamous Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumps the shark. Both were great sports about it actually and were really cool to work with.
WF: Do you think this episode sums up Batman: The Brave and The Bold? How do you think fans will react to the final moments of this episode? How did you react to it?
JT: As I always say, the mandate we strive for on most of our episodes was to always have heart, humor and heroism. Those three things when you have them in the right proportion leave the audience with a good feeling (we hope). So I knew that even though this was the series finale, we should leave on an upbeat yet poignant note if possible. There are sad parts because, frankly, those of us who made the show were a bit sad that it was ending. I wanted Batman to directly address the audience, and I specifically wanted him to call them "boys and girls" because we always tried to have this show appeal to that inner little boy or girl that first saw Batman, whether it was the comic books, the 1940’s movie serials, the ’66 TV series, Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman, Burton, Schumacher, Nolan, or whatever version. I’d like to think the fans that 'got' us still had that little boy or girl inside of them that went 'wow!' when they first laid eyes on Batman like I did when I was a kid. Also, I literally wanted Batman to address the actual kids for whom this was their first exposure to Batman. I’m hearing some folks get misty eyed when they see the ending and I know I did!
WF: Do you have any final words you'd like to say to those who stuck by this show from beginning to end?
JT: I just want to thank the fans that stuck with the show supported and defended it. It made my job easier because they always had our back on the forums, in the media, and I assume on the playgrounds, water coolers and comic books shops. It was very liberating to know that we were appealing to a fan base that had been shouted down and shamed whenever they wondered why can’t there be a fun superhero show that doesn’t just come from an angle of pessimism and negativity? I think these fans understood that we were making the show for the kids they used to be and for the kids some of them have now and they gave us their unconditional support. That was very cool and gratifying.
WF: And now to our standard final question! Now, we all know fans are going to tune in to check this out, so let's try something a shade different. Can you drop us a tease for one surprise that fans can expect for this final episode (that is, unless 'The Mask of Matches Malone' airs...)?
JT: Are than any real surprises in this age of omnipresent media and YouTube? I guess I can tease that there will be a sneak peek at the series that will be replacing us (in Bat-mite’s universe anyway!). But I can’t imagine anyone who reads these boards doesn’t already know about that. But there ya go!
Did you know that Batman once fought at the side of Abraham Lincoln against a steampunk-ized John Wilkes Booth? Oh, the wonders of parallel universes. From the very introduction of Batman in this teaser there’s a jarring sensation to it as it delves further into throwing any attempt to preserve history out the window. Of course, this seems to have been an entirely intentional course of direction given the reveal of it having only happened in an alternate universe is thrown in at the last second like some sort of token of mercy. I found it difficult to enjoy at first given it seemed as though they had decided to not even attempt keeping temporal continuity, which has been a mild issue in previous episodes. However, it’s simply impossible to not find enjoyment in the sheer absurdity of Abraham Lincoln showing off some exciting fighting skills against his would-be assassin, who’s apparently become more steam-machine than man. The absurdity and alternate universe play simply make this a perfect teaser to be attached to this episode.
Which brings us to the final main story of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Fortunately, unlike many unfortunate shows throughout the history of the small screen, there was enough time for the crew to put together one last appropriate hurrah for the series, and end it on a well deserved and bittersweet note. Incidentally, this creates something of a trilogy story arc within the entire series. Combining “Legends of the Dark-Mite,” “Emperor Joker,” and finally, “Mitefall” gives an arc with each episode taking place in a different season and bringing it to a poetic end as Bat-Mite’s influence chiseled away at the fourth wall until finally sealing the fate for the series.
Written by the God-among-geeks, Paul Dini, the episode brings the series to end with perhaps the most elegant swan song possible for this show: tongue firmly placed within cheek. No doubt years from now we will continue to find something new buried within this episode, but on the surface there are plenty of nods and winks to be had to Batman’s history. Most of this is in contrast to the majority of the show, which has plunged head-first into the deepest depths of Batman’s sillier history through the various ages, by mostly focusing on a more pop culture slant with the Dark Knight. Most notably of which would be the genius riffs on the action feature and neon colored gimmicks that have plagued Batman’s various toy lines. Appropriately even taking it to the level to cleverly depict the utter lunacy and impracticality some of these gimmicks would bring to Batman’s crime-fighting duties brought by mere expectations of everyday life. Such as the luge not exactly doing well with a steep incline.
However, that’s not to say that it settled itself within the modern confines of pop culture. On the contrary, the episode jumps to various subtle homages including various romps through the camp-rish history of Adam West’s tenure as Batman. There may have been several, but it was a joy seeing nods to the frequent walking up the side of the building with characters randomly popping out of windows, and the notorious surfing scene - which really should have involved the Joker. As well, the episode even takes some dramatic steps to throw Batman for a continuity destroying loop, such as the sheer surrealism of him blazing away John Woo-style with dual pistols.
Undoubtedly what has excited many fans about this episode is that, despite being the last episode, they make perfect use of Ambush Bug, a hero that is the definition of obscure and lives within and beyond the fourth wall - to an extent even more profound than Bat-Mite’s own acknowledgement of such boundaries. Many had been clamoring for his debut ever since it was realized that Brave and the Bold wasn’t afraid to walk firmly through meta territory, and there is possibly no character more perfect to use in this position. Most importantly, though, is the brilliant casting of having such a character voiced by Henry Wrinkler, whose own character, The Fonz, of Happy Days fame brought into the existence the very cliché that drives Bat-Mite throughout this episode: “jumping the shark.”
Although it is always something of a depressing event to view the last episode as it carries its characters through their last minutes in original creation, the choice of occasional villainous threat in this episode was a disappointing choice. Gorilla Grodd has been a strange focal point through the run of the series even though he’s hardly ever that interesting. It could be said that such a lackluster villain would be required to truly sell the idea that Brave and the Bold has gotten too run of the mill, as per Bat-Mite’s complaints, as it tries to be over the top and yet falls flat. But, I feel that Ultra Humanite may have been a superior choice in this given the lack of his presence - aside from a brief cameo as a disembodied brain. Ultimately, of course, the entire involvement of any villainy is nothing more than a plot device for Bat-Mite’s tinkering.
Overall, Paul Dini made a brilliant effort to not just make this an episode laden with in-jokes to guarantee a pleasant ending for the fans, but a great episode in its own right. The passion behind this series exudes from every scene that goes by, finally culminating in two endings that will strum at the heart strings. Watching Batman pensively look among a crowd of one-time and recurring characters, both obscure and popular, mingling in a wrap-party as the backdrops of the Batcave are dismantled is an unexpectedly profoundly moving scene. Its uniqueness in having characters simply exist within a moment of time that makes them seem like a community that you’ll never get to visit again brings the series to a genius and somber end. However, the finale quickly one-ups itself as Bat-mite gets his farewell, not simply to the audience but existence altogether, bringing the show to such a perfect final scene.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold was an uncertain trip into the realm of camp and drama that wasn’t for everybody, but through clever writers and imaginative directors, a new angle to the Dark Knight was brought to a healthy fruition. Having grown up within the prime of Batman: The Animated Series’ original run, I, like many fans, yearn for the darker Batman that was served as Bat-Mite’s pursuit throughout this episode and yet this series managed to straddle the line between light-hearted & innocent and dark & broody too well to not appreciate it. Batman: The Brave and the Bold provided a powerful insight into the history of our beloved Dark Knight, and I hope to see this universe and its creators continue to be honored. Obviously its episodic days are done, but there are plenty of other mediums in which Batman: The Brave and the Bold should, and may, continue to thrive. It has been a unique pleasure to watch the series grow into a unique entity that found admiration in even the most skeptical. Highly Recommended!
Well, this is it. Here we arrive at the last episode of this eccentric, eclectic little series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Still reeling from a personally perceived loss of DCAU (yes, three years on), and not entirely taken with subsequent DC Comic cartoons like Legion of Superheroes, I approached this series with a heavy, heavy dose of skepticism.
It (Batman: Brave and the Bold) seemed filled with all kinds of wrong. Batman had been established by Frank Miller before my young life had entered into the world that he was gritty, and dark, and all kinds of tough. Growing up with Batman: The Animated Series, I was first introduced to this crazy, gothic world, and came to love it and the subsequent series set in its universe. I was one of those who did not take too kindly to The Batman when it was released, for all its (on hindsight) inventiveness in presenting characters in an alternate light, and its admittedly stunning visuals. I remember especially curling my lip at the second opening theme with all its 60s, cheesy glory.
‘Cheese’, is a word almost at this point universally feared by Batfans. Maybe. It might be just me, but for the sake of hypothesis, assume that things cheesy, corny, and Schumacher, Batman&Robin like merchandising farce is something that current fans of the Batverse, whether in comics or on screen, try to avoid. This has led to the complete overhaul of Batman’s big screen representation with Chris Nolan’s Batman saga, sinking it into an inescapable realism, as far as an armoured tank ploughing through a populated city in the middle of the night works. What point am I making here? Basically that I was opposed to Batman ever inhabiting the world of cheese ever, ever again, forever and always.
So when I was told that the premise of this show would be one ‘light-hearted’, a swift knee-jerk reaction propelled me as far away from the idea of watching it as I possibly could. #Truefact. When I looked at the designs with their thick outlines and Superfriends era vibes, an eerie feeling of impending doom shot down my spine. Right, okay, maybe an exaggeration, but point is, nothing about it felt right. I was prepared to whine and whinge like the rest of ‘them’ about the state of cartoons pandering to little kiddies and being more or less an unfortunate merchandising platform evil. I was prepared to hate this series.
Boy, was I proven wrong. From the get-go, it was wild, it was funny, and it was fun. It wasn’t even funny in a ‘oh, very nice’ sort of ironic, smart humour, but sought to, and often succeeded, in drawing out full out belly laughs. It was corny, sure, it was cheesy, sure, but then it played those to such an extreme that it worked. Amazingly, it worked. I’m wondering if producers took a gamble even here, to start of on this premise when contemporary fans, new ones from the Nolan saga included, were all weaned on a diet of hardballBatgoddery. But you know what? It paid off. Far from not living up to the standards of previous shows, and missing the mark in its interpretation of Batman, Batman: Brave and the Bold gave a much needed, refreshing take on the character.
I was sold at Green Arrow’s interpretation and twist on the now classic line: “I am Vengeance, I am the Night, I am Batman!.... And these are my HAMMERS OF JUSTICE” (the latter of it being Arrow’s own new creation). Thinking back on it, I guess it was the aspect of homage that caught me. And that homage continued, to eras I did not even know about, way up till the contemporary comics with their own takes on characters like Damian Wayne. The amount of times it referenced BTAS and the DCAU was phenomenal, and sent a little cheer in my geeky heart every time it occurred.
It was not just in shadowy silhouettes as during the Owlman shot, or even the constant bank heist opening of BTAS which was transformed into a trope. They went further than that: if you recall the sequenced fight between Batman and Superman, almost an exact replica of the epic battle between Darkseid and Superman at the end of Justice League Unlimited. I mention these only because as a 90s kid it was what I could at the time recognize more easily. Fans of the older 70s eras would have noticed much more. We even managed to get a shark-repellent reference in there, among other things.
What else? You know this show is gold when it can fit in stories like Legends of the Dark Mite and Chill of the Night in the same continuity and/or universe. The show was already established as impossibly lighthearted, really pushing the use of Batman (and doing it well), when we get something like Chill of the Night. The opening of that was enough to sequence it clearly in the realm of dark and gritty. The palette was unlike any other on the show before, but more reminiscent of the noir art deco that coloured both the comics and BTAS. The guest cast was stunning, itself a nod to two distinct eras of small screen Batman incarnations. Diedrich Bader showcased his range in the delivery of his reveal to Joe Chill, one filled with enough weight to inform you, that yes folks, despite all the chumminess of this show, it still stays true to Batman’s origins in tragedy. And was it incongruous to the rest of the series? No. It fitted in perfectly, since a wave of rompish eclectic was the new style (yeah, and I’m even making up new words to try to describe it).
This brings us back to Legends of the Dark Mite. Overturned formula again. If the show had been self-referential before, this one took it up ten notches. Cameos from Bloodstorm to the Clooney-Batman, to Frank Miller (yes, we had our fill of that peppered throughout the series, didn’t we? Okay, fine. I did. I loved them). Cameos from Comic Cons to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini at Comic Con. Crazy, wacky, fourth wall breaking, fan-boy connecting fun. On top of the cross-overs, the in jokes, the running gags courtesy of Aquaman, Batman and.. uhm, everyone, really, (but Aquaman’s were outrageous and you know it), this self-referencing, self-commentating aspect of BATB was the bit I loved the most. It’s like it knew the fans… was listening to the fans… was… and uh, this brings us to Mitefall.
I’ll have you know that all I wrote above, I wrote before glimpsing Mitefall. So you can imagine #thatawkwardmoment when Bat-mite sounded my thoughts for me almost word for word. I was expecting something immediately fourth wall, y’know, like, no ‘normal’ short. Then it was a normal short. Sure, it was steam-punk, and very weird, but it still felt random, even as far as I had come to expect randomness for this show. Then an opening with Grodd and the now old team up of Batman and Aquaman. I thought, aww, is this like, an all cast sort of thing? When are the other characters appearing? Getting kinda, uhm, formulaic. And formulas are a comfort, right? It’s something to expect.
That’s when Bat-mite stepped in, even more scathing than most fans have been, he being the ultimate fan, and Dini really covering his bases with this one. Well, apart from the fact that they did not know that Matches Malone would not be aired in the US of A, no worries, the other countries had the pleasure. Frankly I should have just realized that expecting the unexpected was something to be remembered regarding this show. I will play into the fact that I am really dumb, but that was an excellent double bluff. The title being obviously Bat-mite-ish… not seeming to pander to those expectations… and yeah, Bat-mite’s rant. Then, what better way to kill a show than to follow the ultimate show-killing formula? Who better to try to stop this than Ambush Bug, the other character way known for his metatheatrical abilities? Low blow though, going against Batman’s ultimate rule as the last thing designed to kill the franchise, low blow, I say! Thoroughly meta at its core and taken to its ultimate logical conclusion.
Such a direct farewell would have seemed over the top in any other show. But here? It warmed my heart. All that curtain closing, cast banded together for one final screenshot, type thing? It seemed fitting. Yeah, I will miss the show. And yeah, it had a good run, no, a great run, as Batman himself said. Sure, it had duds, here and there, littered inside what was otherwise a fantastic body of episodes, but which show doesn’t? At the end of the day, it proved that Batman was versatile enough to inhabit this campy genre, among other things. It proved that Batman could still be heroic on top of it.
Thus we come to the end of the day for this universe’s Batman. In Gaiman’s ‘What Happened to the Caped Crusader’, he alludes to Goodnight Moon with, “Goodnight… Goodbye… Goodnight”. Here, it is pared down, but Batman’s wishing us, “Goodnight” is no less meaningful. It falls in with the fantasy element, the bedtime story safe-zone that this show, for all its breaking of ‘what constitutes a fan pleasing show’ conventions, became. Yeah. And we can take our own time saying, goodnight Giant Penny, goodnight Batcave, goodnight BT:BATB cast and characters, goodnight strange infectious charm that won us over, goodnight Batman. Goodnight.
And I totally want a Neon Talking Super Street Bat-luge.
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