cops, caped crusaders, & other male fantasies.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Why So Serious, indeed
I guess I'm way out of the bat-loop, because when the Anonymous Donor and Gray Fox each alerted me within a day of each other that I should check out the premiere episode of the new animated series online, I didn't know what they were talking about. Both friends said the same thing about the show: that it was pretty good, pretty funny, and pretty hot.
Being more of an Old Media sort, I waited to see Batman: The Brave and the Bold on tv (took me a while to figure out that new episodes air every Friday night on the Cartoon Network), and the first episode I caught all the way through was the one guest-starring Plastic Man. Only later did I see the one they'd sent me the link for, which features Blue Beetle. (Each ep also features a surprise cameo, and I'll leave you to discover those for yourself.)
Turns out my pals are right on all counts. After the now-legendary Batman: The Animated Series kiddified itself in its final seasons, only to be followed by the somewhat less interesting Batman Beyond and the MUCH less interesting The Batman, I'd pretty much given up on animated versions of my favorite fictional character, but lo and behold, this one is something completely different. It's not nearly as serious as B:TAS, but neither is it as a child-centric as that show's successors. Gray Fox referred to it as "campy," but that's not quite the word I'd use--"smartass" is more like it. The tone is nothing like the '66 live-action series; it's closer to the recent Teen Titans show (not that I've watched that more than once, mind you) and almost as much a genre spoof as The Venture Brothers, which is why it's a perfect fit for Cartoon Network's patented postmodern blend of kid-friendly action/attitude and parent-friendly nostalgia/parody.
The primary joke in the two episodes I've seen thus far is that Batman's partners are neither brave nor bold, at least not until they learn the sorts of valuable lessons one picks up from an apprenticeship with the master. The Blue Beetle episode--the first of the series--is as self-reflexive as they come, opening (after a prologue and the catchy, stylized theme song) with two teenage Bat-fans watching their hero on tv and engaging in a round of the ever-popular "If Superman and Batman got in a fight, which one would win?" debate. As for that prologue, it's a deathtrap-fetishist's delight, featuring two beltless captives in the clutches of the latest incarnation of the Clock King. Both episodes I've seen so far cut right to the chase, or rather to the kind of cliffhanger scenario that my six-year-old self had to wait 25 minutes to see Adam West and Burt Ward encounter. No more! The pace here is fast, the jokes actually make me laugh out loud, and the artwork evokes the burly, husky Bat of the comics of the late 40s through the early 60s. (There's a higher degree of sci-fi content than I prefer in my bat-stories--lots of flying around in outer space and whatnot--but it works, it works.)
Given how somber the Christopher Nolan-era Batfilms are (and, for that matter, the last two James Bond flicks), I find it intriguing that the Powers That Be at Warner Bros would allow the folks behind the very latest incarnation of the Dark Knight to lighten up so much. I'm all for a balance in tone--I'm no fan of the spoofy/over-the-top approach of the Clooney/Schumacher movie (or Moonraker in Bond-land), but the ultra-seriousness of the Bale/Nolan movies (and even more so Quantum of Solace) doesn't do much more for me, either. What the '66 series did so very well was function on (at least) two levels simultaneously, and The Brave and the Bold shows promising signs of creating its own unique stance in that department. Can't wait to see more.