Friday, March 18, 2016

The Great Batman: The Brave and the Bold Rewatch: "Rise of the Blue Beetle"

Welcome, one and all, to this special Matt Signal post. This is special for a couple reasons. Firstly, it's the beginning of what I hope is a new weekly feature, where I'm going to rewatch every episode of the wonderful Batman animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I've been thinking about a rewatch or reread project for a while, and I decided to do this series for a few reasons. First, when this show debuted, I was leery about it's lighter take on Batman and his world, but I was completely blown away by how fun and fast and fresh it was; it's probably second only to Batman: The Animated Series when it comes to animated interpretations of Batman. Second, other Batman properties have gotten this treatment on other sites and blogs, so I figured this was fresher ground. Finally, honestly, things in the world around us are kinda scary right now, and this show is one of those complete joy bombs that makes me laugh and cheer like I as a kid again, and I don't know about anyone else out there, but I could use that right about now. Each episode will be dissected in a few ways, and you'll find some italicized commentary on each section this first post to help explain my thinking. In the future, expect these posts to show up weekly on Wednesday or Thursday.

The second reason this post is special is because this is post 500 here on the Matt Signal. That's a lot of posts. I want to thank Dan Grote for his regular contributions (and don't be surprised if you see him pop up on these Brave and the Bold recaps as time goes on), as well as Brandon Borzelli, Nancy Kindraka, and John Bush for their guest spots. And I want to thank everyone for reading my little blog, for supporting me, and supporting the creators I write about.

And without further ado, the great Batman: The Brave and the Bold rewatch begins...

Season One, Episode One: Rise of the Blue Beetle
Written by Michael Jelenic
Directed by Ben Jones

Plot Synopsis (OK, this part is pretty self explanatory)

Teaser (each episode of Brave and the Bold began with a short teaser before the credits, usually unrelated to the main plot): Batman and Green Arrow escape from an elaborate death trap set by the Clock King involving a giant cuckoo clock before heading off to defeat the villain.

Episode: Teenager Jaime Reyes and his best friend, Paco, sit in Jaime's room, a room adorned with Batman posters and news clippings, discussing classic, fanboy, who would win scenarios. Jaime is an obvious Batman fanboy, saying Batman would always win. As they channel surf, they see the end of the fight begun in the teaser, as Batman and Green Arrow defeat Clock King.

Paco brushes off Jaime's questions about whether Jaime could ever be a hero, and after Paco leaves, Jaime finds Batman waiting outside his window.Batman asks Jaime to help him deal with a meteor on a collision course with a space station, so Jaime armors up, revealing his superheroic identity as Blue Beetle.

The two heroes fly up into space (Batman narrating that he's doing this to see if Jaime has what it takes to be a hero), and when the meteor comes into sight, Jaime's alien armor goes haywire, shooting him toward the meteor. The armor forms a warp that pulls the heroes away and deposits them on an alien world.

The heroes arrive to watch the planet's small, amoeba-like alien residents being attacked by a ship controlled by the alien conqueror Kanjar Ro. The aliens come out of hiding and are overjoyed that the great one has returned to save them, and while Jaime assumes they're talking about Batman, a statue nearby indicates to the shocked Blue Beetle the aliens mean him.

It seems the aliens bodies provide the fuel for Kanjar Ro's ship, and he returns every season to harvest them. The Gibbles (the cute little aliens) are surprised to see the "Blue One" return after his last encounter with Kanjar Ro and his Gamma Gong, but they are excited; Batman deduces the previous owner of Blue Beetle's Scarab, the alien device that grants him his powers, must be the one who helped the Gibbles before.

The Gibbles assume Batman is Blue Beetle's sidekick, to Jaime's dismay, as the Gibbles and Batman bow to him. Batman tells Jaime he should play along to the Gibbles hero worship, as they need someone to believe in. Batman tells Beetle that he has to rally the Gibbles to aid them in defeating Kanjar Ro, and despite being nervous, Jaime makes a good speech, telling the Gibbles to find "the power within," and the Gibbles agree to work with the heroes.

Batman, Blue Beetle, and the Gibbles fly off on a Gibble ship to raid Kanjar Ro's ship and save their fellows. We see Ro draining the Gibbles of their energy, and then the battle begins. Ro recognizes and confronts Blue Beetle.and Beetle does a good job of fending off Ro, even saving Batman from his weapon, and Jaime thinks he's finally getting a feel for how the Scarab works. However, as the Gibbles begin to file back to their ships, it's clear the victory has gotten to Jaime's head, Ro returns from the bowels of his ship with the Gamma Gong. Jaime tells Batman he can handle this, but the Gong weakens the Scarab, leaving Jaime without his armor active. Ro captures Jaime, planning to remove the Scarab for his own use, and send Batman and the Gibbles off into space on probes,

Tied to the probes, Batman and the Gibbles are quickly surrounded by flying space squid monsters, who begin circling, preparing to devour them. Batman is able to free a hand and punch one of the monsters, then takes an electric cable from the probe and plugs it into a Gibble, who stores the charge and when a monster tries to bite it, the monster is shocked and the swarm flies off. The Gibble now knows it has power within.

On his ship, Kanjar Ro is using his Gamma Gong to try to figure out which frequency will remove the Scarab from Jaime so he can wear it himself. Batman and the Gibbles return to the ship, and Batman begins to infiltrate the ship, taking out Ro's crew. Batman enters Ro's chamber, and punches the villain, who flies into the Gamma Gong; that is the frequency that finally makes the Scarab disengage from Jaime. Ro quickly snatches up the Scarab and, placing it on his back as it was on Jaime, the Blue Beetle armor covers him.

Ro and Batman engage in a fight, and Ro's more violent nature seems to allow him to channel the Scarab's destructive powers more easily than Jaime could. Jaime, alone, realizes he had gotten a swelled head before, and begins to think instead of just using his fist. He is able to get free from the table imprisoning him, and picks up the Gamma Gong, which he uses to blast the Scarab off Ro and reclaim it. But before he can don it, Ro pulls a blaster and is about to shoot down Jaime and Batman when a blast knocks his gun aside: the Gibbles have discovered "the power within" and are channeling their energy into blasters, bow able to defend themselves.

The Gibbles thank Blue Beetle for saving them, and teaching them to save themselves, and they thank Batman as well, saying he has proven a worthy sidekick to Blue Beetle. They even erect a statue to him, albeit one considerably smaller then Beetle's. Batman and Beetle head back through the wormhole created by the Scarab and find no time has passed; Batman spouts some techno babble, but his own internal monologue is, "That's weird." Batman happily thinks that he came to see if Jaime had hero potential, and watched instead as the young Blue Beetle became a hero. With a, "Ready, partner?" Batman and Beetle head to stop the meteor.

Who's Who (Brave and the Bold was created to be a team-up series, where Batman met all sorts of new and different characters, so in this section, I'll give comic book and animation background on each of the newly introduced characters from this episode, and links to characters who have already appeared)

Batman (Voiced by Diedrich Bader)
First Comic Book Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode One- Rise of the Blue Beetle

He needs little introduction, but just in case... Batman is one of the greatest and most published super heroes in comic books. After his parents were killed in front of him by a mugger, young Bruce Wayne dedicated his life to making sure it never happened again. Honing his mind and body to the peak of human perfection, Bruce became Batman to protect Gotham City and the world from crime.

Green Arrow (Voiced by James Arnold Taylor)
First Comic Book Appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (Novemeber, 1941)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode One- Rise of the Blue Beetle

Created in the early 40s, Green Arrow was introduced as a blatant Batman ripoff: he had an Arrowcave, an Arrowmobile, and a kid sidekick, Speedy. He was Oliver Queen, a millionaire who was stranded on a desert island for a time, and there learned to become a master archer, only to return to civilization to fight crime. The Green Arrow of Brave and the Bold wears this original costume, and doesn't have the more famous Robin Hood-like costume Green Arrow adopted in the 1970s. At that time, Arrow became a different character, a defender of the downtrodden and the most liberal of superheroes, politically. In recent years, Green Arrow has had a resurgence, thanks to appearances on Smallville (where he took the place of Batman, who was unavailable due to rights issues), and on his own CW drama, Arrow.

Blue Beetle (Voiced by Will Friedle)
First Comic Book Appearance: Infinite Crisis #3 (February, 2006)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode One- Rise of the Blue Beetle

Jaime Reyes was the third hero to go by the name Blue Beetle, making him on of DC's legacy characters. Finding the Scarab once possessed by original Blue Beetle Dan Garett during the crossover event, Infinite Crisis, Jaime became a young superhero when the Scarab bonded to him. With the help of his friends Paco and Brenda, along with a supportive family, Jaime became a hero to El Paso, Texas. Over time, he learned the Scarab was not mystical, as had been assumed for years, but in fact an artifact from a race of alien conquerors known as The Reach, and he was instrumental ins topping a Reach invasion of Earth. He was a Spider-Man type hero, a young man trying to find his way in the world, minus much of the angst, making him a fun character; he had his own series that ran for thirty-six issues. His reboot in the New 52 kept much of this, but made the world around him darker and made his family not know his secret identity, causing additional strife in his life. That series ended quickly, but a new Blue Beetle series is part of DC's upcoming "Rebirth" initiative.

Clock King (Voice by Dee Bradley Baker)
First Comic Book Appearance: World's Finest Comics #111 (August, 1960)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode One- Rise of the Blue Beetle

Clock King is a C-List villain, one William Tockman, who was a thorn in Green Arrow's side during his early appearances. Obsessed with clocks, he had no superpowers. He was intelligent, and built his crimes and his weapons around a clock theme. He made very few appearances in comics, although in the '80s he was a member of the comedic Injustice Gang as part of the light-hearted Justice League series of that era. There are, however, various version of Clock King with different identities, who have appeared in comics, live-action TV, and other animated projects, most notably Batman: The Animated Series, where Clock King was a former efficiency expert named Temple Fugit, and the classic Batman TV show of the 60s. The Tockman verison of the character has appeared on both Arrow and The Flash.

Kanjar Ro (Voice by Marc Worden)
First Comic Book Appearance: Justice League of America #3 (February, 1961)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode One- Rise of the Blue Beetle

Kanjar Ro is one of the oldest nemeses of the Justice League of America, a planetary despot from the world of Dhor. Always seeking more power, Ro's attempts to expand his planetary empire often brought him into conflict with the Justice League, Adam Strange, and Hawkman, After the universe changing Crisis on Infinite Earths, Ro became more of a scheming villain, a political manipulator on the planet Thanagar, but this revised origin and background eventually changed back to the original, and he more often then not now appears as a conqueror and not a bureaucrat.

Continuity, Comic Connections, and Notes (Here's where I dig into how this episode fits into the overall scheme of the series, how the episode connects to Batman comic stories, fun facts about the voice cast, and personal observations)

In the teaser, Batman uses a laser sword from his utility belt, and in the opening scene of the episode, show he has a rocket pack hidden under his cape. These are both original aspects of Brave and the Bold and become trademarks of this series' Batman

Will Friedle, who voice Blue Beetle, is no stranger to Batman animation. He is best known for playing, Terry McGinnis, the young Batman in Batman Beyond.

A poster in Jaime's room shows Batman's holding his hands in front in a fighter's stance with the words, "Hammers of Justice." Batman will address his fists as the Hammers of Justice throughout the series.

I like this as a pilot episode. As a show aimed at younger audiences, having Blue Beetle, a teenage guest star, for the first episode, someone closer to their age, mirrors the use of Robin in the original comics, to give the audience a point of view character they relate to. Jaime is a good kid, not as tough and streetwise as the Outsiders, who we'll be meeting shortly, or as bitter toward Batman as this universe's Robin, and his fanboy nature is easily understood by fans.

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