Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Great Batman: The Brave and the Bold Rewatch: "Invasion of the Secret Santas!"

Season One, Episode Four: Invasion of the Secret Santas!
Written by Adam Beechen
Directed by Brandon Vietti

Plot Synopsis

Teaser: At the Professional Bowling League's Christmas Tournament, Sportmaster and his goons arrive to tell the League that bowling isn't a real sport and to steal the prize money, although he says not steal but win. He encases the tournament players in giant bowling pins and prepares to bowl them down with an exploding bowling ball, only to be thwarted by Batman and Blue Beetle. Beetle is still learning to use his Scarab properly, now addressing it as Goober, and is able to stop Sporstmaster's thugs while Batman defeats Sportsmaster. Beetle asks Batman to come over for Christmas dinner, but Batman declines, saying crime never takes a holiday.

Episode: On a lovely, snowy Christmas Eve, Red Tornado, in his civilian identity of Professor John Ulthoon, is teaching an Archaeology class, but has to duck out of class to save two children from being struck by a runaway truck. The thankful father tells Tornado that his heroics have filled the family with Christmas spirit, but Tornado is unsure of what this means, and the family laughs at him because he's a robot and of course he doesn't get it.

That night, after reading a book on Christmas, Tornado goes about trying to experience Christmas spirit by decorating his house and dressing in an ugly sweater, but still without result. Caroling loudly  and off key at the home of family he saved doesn't help either. He continues to contemplate when a news report tells him aliens are invading downtown, demanding Santa Claus so he can be brought to Neptune to give the children of that world presents.with only Batman to defend the city; so Tornado takes off to aid the Dark Knight.

Batman is fighting the flying saucers, destroying them one at a time when Red Tornado arrives to help. Tornado observes Neptune is uninhabited, and Batman points Tornado to an old movie, where the "transmission" was taken from. The two heroes make short work of the remaining saucers, and Batman realizes the flying saucers were plastic, made by the villain Fun Haus, who appears on a saucer. After making a threat about the fun just beginning, Fun Haus throws a kewpie doll at Batman and flies off; the doll is, unsurprisingly, a bomb. Batman tosses the doll in the air and Tornado pushes it higher into the air to keep it from harming people.

Batman and Tornado talk about the need to stop Fun Haus, and Tornado insists they musts top him from ruining Christmas. Tornado explains he is lacking Christmas spirit, and he wants to know it, and Batman grumps about it being over-rated. Tornado gives Batman a present to hopefully give them both some Christmas spirit; it's a World's Greatest Detective mug. This causes Batman to flashback to when he was a boy, remembering a Christmas with his parents and Alfred
. Batman thanks Tornado, who still does not feel the tingling he expects, and they set out to find Fun Haus.

The town is putting itself back together after the alien invasion, and a couple kids ask a Santa sitting in his sleigh if he has any Presto Playpal Action Figures left.  The Santa just chuckles oddly. While flying over the city, Tornado asks Batman why he dislikes Christmas, Batman gives his the terse response of, "I don't dislike Christmas. I dislike crime," and then jets down to confront a Santa who is pushing his way along the sidewalk. The Santa hits both the heroes, and Batman realizes the Santa is one of Fun Haus's robots. Batman destroys the one, only for Tornado and him to be attacked by an army of them.

While Batman and Tornado defeat the robots, the one who was talking to the children earlier starts his sleigh and charges through the streets with the kids in the sleigh. Batman gives chase as the Santa menaces the children, riding a reindeer. Batman destroys the robot Santa, but the sleigh is heading over a cliff. Only the timely intervention of Red Tornado keeps the sled from crashing to the ground, and the kids assume it's a Christmas miracle

Back in town, Batman and Tornado find a dad  and his crying son. The son is crying because he can't get a Playpal action figure, the most popular toy of the year, and Batman returns to his memories of the Christmas with his parents, where he received a Nutcracker toy instead of the action figure he wanted, and stormed off in a childlike tantrum after breaking the toy, which had been his father's as a child.

Batman and Red Tornado get a video message from Fun Haus, saying that the villain has planted a bomb, only for the bomb to turn out to be a red herring. As the sun rises on Christmas day, Batman remember hos his parents took him to a movie to make up for not receiving the toy he wanted, and he was still angry with them as they walked down an alley, where, unseen by the viewer, they were confronted by a mugger. All the viewer sees are two muzzle flashes and Bruce crying out for his parents.

Batman observes that sometimes the one thing you wish for is the thing you can never have, and then notices the post for the Playpal action figure has Fun Haus's logo on it. Cut to houses all over town, as kids open the action figures and the toys begin to rob them, bringing the toys to Fun Haus. Batman and Tornado arrive at the truck where Fun Haus is waiting for all his ill gotten gains, and when they confront him, Fun Haus has the little action figures merge into a giant one that he controls from inside.

Fun Haus decides to ruin Christmas and take out as many bystanders as he can. While Batman rescues the innocents, Tornado focuses on stopping Fun Haus's giant toy. Tornado is able to defeat the robot and Fun Haus, but it has caused too much stress in his body, and after feeling a strange tingling sensation that he thinks might be Christmas spirit, his body explodes. His head lands by Batman's feet, and with the help of S.T.A.R. Labs, Batman promises Tornado he'll be back together in no time.

Batman ends the episode getting into the Batmobile, where a present is waiting. He opens it and finds the nutcracker from all those years ago, repaired. He smiles, wishing Alfred a merry Christmas to himself, before a crime alert beeps, and Batman takes off to once more fight crime.

Who's Who

Red Tornado (Voiced by Corey Burton)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Justice League of America #64 (August, 1968)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

As with many characters with fifty plus years of continuity in their history, Red Tornado's backstory is something of a mess. He has been, at times, just an android, the robotic body host of an alien villain, an alien hero, and a wind elemental. He has been a member of the Justice Society of America, the Justice League of America, and the mentor to Young Justice. The most basic version of the origin is that he was an android created by T.O. Morrow, the mad scientist, to destroy the Justice League, and turned on Morrow to become an ally of the League, and has over the years struggled with understanding humanity. The original Red Tornado has not appeared since the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe, although a female Red Tornado inhabited by Lois Lane's consciousness was a part of Earth 2. He has appeared as a regular cast member of the Young Justice animated series, where he shared his comic counterpart's role as team mentor, and recently appeared on an episode of Supergirl. An android, Red Tornado can project whirlwinds for offense and defense, and fly by channeling wind.

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

Alfred Pennyworth 
First Comic Book Appearance:  Batman #16 (April, 1943)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

Batman's loyal butler, Alfred helped to raise Bruce Wayne after the death of his parents.A former soldier and actor, Alfred would train Bruce in many of the talents he would use in his crusade against crime. But most important, Alfred is a father figure to Batman, and a dry wit who keeps reminding Batman that he is still human.

Thomas and Martha Wayne (Thomas: Corey Burton. Martha does not speak this episode)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

The parents of Batman, the Waynes are most significant for having died. While over time they have been given more personality, they still remain mostly ciphers who serve as part if Batman's origin. They will appear again in the series in the episode "Chill of the Night," there voiced by Adam West and Julie Newmar.

Fun Haus (Voice by Gary Anthony Williams)
First Comic Book Appearance: None
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

Fun Haus is a character created for Batman: The Brave ad the Bold. He is visually similar to certain versions of the Superman villain known as Toyman, specifically the one from the Super Friends cartoon. Due the rights issues, Superman and his cast couldn't appear in early episodes of this series, so Fun Haus seems to be specifically created to take Toyman's place.

Sportsmaster (Voice by Thomas F. Wilson)
First Comic Book Appearance: All-American Comics #85 (May, 1947)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

There have been numerous villains who have gone by the name Sportsmaster, but the most famous, and the one who inspired the version in Brave and the Bold, was the original. A villain from the Golden Age, he was a nemesis to the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, and Wildcat. A minor villain, often a member of the Injustice Society, modern readers and viewers know Sportsmaster mostly from his appearances in the Young Justice animated series, where he was the father of team member Artemis. Sportsmaster was a talented athlete, and used sports themed weapons.

S.T.A.R. Labs 
First Comic Book Appearance: Superman #246 (December, 1971)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Four- Invasion of the Secret Santas!

S.T.A.R. Labs is one of the principal corporations of the DC Universe. Appearing most often in Superman comics, S.T.A.R. Labs often supports superheroes with scientific problems. It has appeared in The Flash TV series as the headquarters of Barry Allen and his allies.

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

An interesting episode, most notable for being on of the few occasions in this series where Batman appears without a cowl, in this case as a small child. Batman: The Brave and the Bold chose to focus on Batman rather than Bruce Wayne, and so appearances on characters like Alfred are few and far between. I will say I'm not a fan of any version of the origin that puts Bruce even slightly at fault for  his parents' death, in this case because they went out to try to cheer him up. It adds an aspect of personal guilt that I feel does the character a disservice.

"Holiday for Neptunians," the film Faun Haus uses to make his broadcast early in the episode, is clearly a nod to the legendary B-movie, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," know to be one of the worst movies ever,

The scene of Bruce having a tantrum about receiving a toy he didn't want is reminiscent of a similar scene involving a toy train in "To Kill a Legend," a story from Detective Comics #500. Written by Alan Brennert and drawn by Dick Giordano, the story has Batman being given the opportunity by the Phantom Stranger to go to another Earth where time doesn't sync with Earth One, where Bruce Wayne's parents will be killed that night, and to stop the crime from happening. The Bruce of that world is something of a brat, but seeing his parents nearly killed sets him on the right path, the path that will lead him to still become Batman. It was included in the original Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told trade paperback.

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