Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Great Batman: The Brave and the Bold Rewatch: Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

Season One, Episode Eleven: Return of the Fearsome Fangs!
Written by Todd Casey
Directed by Brandon Vietti

Plot Synopsis

In the Old West, the bounty hunter Jonah Hex is tied to four hoses on train tracks, about to be pulled apart by the Royal Flush Gang of the era. At noon, the station whistle will startle the horses and they will pull Hex apart. As the whistle blows, a Batarang severs the ropes, and Batman pulls off a poncho and stands to fight the Gang. The Royal Flush Gang take off on horseback, but Batman and Hex chase them down. Hex asks Batman if he wants a share of the bounty, which Batman refuses, but Hex throws him a gold coin and tells him to get a proper cowboy hat, because Hex can't partner with someone in that ridiculous Bat outfit

Episode: An old man walks out of a temple at the top of a mountain, only to be fired upon by archers, but he deftly destroys the dozens of arrows with his cane. Ninjas fall upon him, but he just as easily stops them. He calls out to the ninjas' leaders, Fox, Shark, and Vulture, the Terrible Trio, asking when they will give up. Fox, their leader, says only when they have the totem. Shark and Vulture attack, but the old man bests them, mentioning he was their former master. But while the man is distracted, Fox shoots a poison dart at him, and he falls. As the sun rises, the ninjas disappear, and the Trio disappear as well, leaving the poisoned man, who Fox says will be dead by nightfall.

Batman captures The Top, who is robbing a bank, but is then pulled into a psychic realm at the voice of the old man, who he calls Master Wong Fei. Wong Fei pokes fun at Batman's form and his costume, but tells him that Batman's old classmates and their Shadow Clan are coming to take the Wudang totem, which will grant them limitless power, and Batman must come to the Wudang Temple to stop them before sunset. Batman says he will bring Bronze Tiger as well, but Wong Fei scoffs, saying Tiger is too proud to come to the school's aid. When Batman says he will see Wong Fei before nightfall, the old master says he will not, that his journey is done, and then fades away.

In the Batplane, Batman flashes back to his time as a young man in the Wudang Temple. There we see a young Batman, wearing the mask of the Bat, along with the Terrible Trio and Bronze Tiger. Wong Fei begins his training in the ways of the spirit animal he has chosen, teaching Batman how to fight blind. He fends off the Trio, but Bronze Tiger connects, and with Batman stunned, Fox begins to kick him while he's down, Wong Fei calls for a stop, but Fox continues, and Bronze Tiger knocks him down. Wong Fei chastises all three, saying Bat was terrible, Fox must not seek enjoyment in battle, and Tiger must let Bat fight his own battles. Bat does thanks Bronze Tiger, who walks off in a huff.

In a jungle, Batman finds Bronze Tiger fighting a cage match, and sees he is the undefeated champ. When Tiger sees Batman, he calls him up to fight with him. Batman doesn't want to fight, and that the Wudang Temple needs them, but Tiger refuses to help, saying he only defends this village now. Batman jumps into the ring and challenges Tiger, saying if Batman wins, Tiger must join him and fight by his side. They fight, and Tiger has the upper hand until Batman tells him the lesson Wong Fei taught after Tiger left the school: When all else fails, cheat. Batman trips Tiger with marbles and then gets him in an arm lock until Tiger taps out.

They arrive at Wudang Temple, and Batman explains about the Shadow Clan,which only exisst at night, and the Wudang totem, and how the totem will grant the Shadow Clan immeasurable power. Tiger scoffs at the magic of it all in frustration, moving into another flashback. All the students are challenged to attack Wong Fei, and Fox wonders if eh kills Wong Fei if he can jkeep the temple for himself. Wong Fei  bats Vulture and Shark aside one handed. He sidesteps Fox and knocks him aside as well, making it clear he heard Fox's snide remarks.Bat attacks, and though it takes a little more effort, Wong Fei beats him as well. Tiger, though, puts up a real fight, breaking Wong Fei's staff before he is beaten. But Wong Fei offers no compliment, again tossing insults at Tiger, who takes off his mask and walks away.

In the temple in the present, Batman and Bronze Tiger walk into the totem's room just as the Terrible Trio and the Shadow Clan arrive to take it. Fox directs his underlings to kill the heroes, and Batman fights Shark and Vulture as Tiger goes after Fox, still full of anger at him for being dismissive years ago and too proud to think he can be beaten, only to be overpowered by a mass of ninjas. With Batman and Tiger held by the ninjas, the Trio walk forward and pick up the totem together, and are transformed into animal/human hybrids of their totem animals. Tiger again goes for Fox, and when Batman goes to his aid is intercepted by Vulture, who flies him into the air and drops him off the mountain,

Seeing Batman fall, Tiger is distracted and Fox is able to grab him, and though Tiger breaks the hold, Fox defeats him, telling him that Fox will let him live just so he can see that he has failed to defeat the Trio, and the destruction of Hing Kong and his village at their hands. Tiger is left alone as the Batplane appears, and Batplane orders him to get in.

In Hong Kong, bulked up Shadow Clan ninjas and the transformed Trio are menacing the populace. The Batplane flies over and the heroes see ships sailing in filled with magically mutated Shadow Clan ninjas. Vulture flies up and disables the plane, but Batman and Tiger bail in time, only to be faced by the Trio and all their ninjas. Batman prepares for a fight, but Tiger offers his surrender if Fox swears to spare his village. Fox agrees, but only if Tiger bows before him, and Tiger agrees, saying his pride has gotten the best of him too many times, but reminds Batman of Wong Fei's greatest lesson: when outmatched, cheat.Tiger knocks the totem from Fox's hands, and Batman and Tiger grabbing it, transforming into animal hybrids themselves.

Their power now equal, Tiger defeats Shark handily, then begins defeating ninjas. Batman embraces Wong Fei's teaching, letting his other senses take over, and he is able to defeat Vulture's sneak attack from behind, and takes to the air himself on his bat wings to defeat him. As Tiger battles Fox for the totem, Batman destroys the oncoming ships. Tiger finally defeats Fox, and he and Batman take the totem back to the temple. Tiger decides to stay at the temple, bringing his people with him to restart the school and defend the totem, With a smile, Tiger challenges Batman to a rematch, and the two leap at each other as the episode ends.

Who's Who

Bronze Tiger (Voiced by Gary Anthony Sturgis)
First Comic Book Appearance: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #1 (April-May, 1975)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Eleven- Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

Ben Turner was a young man who travelled to Asia to learn martial arts, and mastered many of the arts along with his fellow student, Richard Dragon. Turner, taking the name Bronze Tiger, and Dragon began working for covert intelligent agencies under spymaster King Faraday and infiltrated the League of Assassins, where Tiger was taken and brainwashed to join the League. Faraday eventually discovered this and sent his agents Rick Flag and Nightshade to retrieve him and they were able to break his brainwashing. Filled with guilt at all the deaths he caused while under League control, Tiger became one of the regular members of the Suicide Squad for quite some time, until he eventually felt he had done enough and became a martial arts teacher and mentor. In the current, post-Flashpoint continuity, he is once again a member of the League of Assassins. Bronze Tiger is one of the most proficient martial artists in the world; he has bested Batman and is seen on par with Lady Shiva.

Terrible Trio 
First Comic Book Appearance: Detective Comics #253 (March, 1958)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Eleven- Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

The earliest version of the Terrible Trio were inventors who donned the masks of animals, built inventions around those themes, and became criminals. Over the years they have popped up occasionally, usually fighting Batman, although they once became heads of industry and fought the modern age Dr. Mid-Nite. A second group took up the name in Gotham during a hiatus the original group took, but only appeared the once. While they have only appeared a handful of times in the comics, they have appeared in all three of the longer lasting animated Batman animated series: Batman: The Animated Series, The Batman, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The Terrible Trio do not have any powers, but usually are presented as criminal masterminds with highly developed intelligence.

The Top
First Comic Book Appearance: Flash #122 (August, 1961)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Eleven- Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

The Top is Roscoe Dillon, an early foe of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. Like most of the Silver Age Flash foes, he had something that was a lifelong obsession, in his case tops, and   developed a power set based around that. Somehow, this also allows him to develop powerful psychic powers that allow him to jump from body to body. He was a regular member of the Rogues early on, and the sometimes boyfriend of Lisa "Golden Glider" Snart, sister of the Rogues' leader, Captain Cold. He and Cold would often compete for leadership of the Rogues, and Top's final death was at the hands of Cold. Along with Mirror Master, he remains one of the two major Rogues yet to appear on the current Flash TV series. Top's initial power set allowed him to spin at high speeds, and carried trick tops with various gimmicks. The spinning somehow gave him heightened intelligence, and eventually telepathic and telekinetic abilities.

Jonah Hex (Voiced by Phil Morris)
First Comic Book Appearance: All-Star Western #10 (February-March, 1972)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Eleven- Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

I've written extensively about Jonah Hex before, but the short version is this: A former confederate soldier, Jonah Hex was scarred after a fight with his Apache foster brother. Now with no one to call family and nowhere to go, Hex became the wild west's deadliest and most accomplished bounty hunter. He's a cold-blooded killer and has no compunction about bringing a bounty in dead rather than alive. Hex does have a strong personal code of ethics, though, and has a habit of helping those he feels are being oppressed, usually in a lethal manner. Hex is a master tracker and gunman, and an excellent hand to hand combatant.

The Royal Flush Gang
First Comic Book Appearance: Justice League of America #43 (March, 1966)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Eleven- Return of the Fearsome Fangs!

There have been half a dozen different incarnations of the Royal Flush Gang in their fifty years in the comics. They have been the gang of arch villain Amos Fortune, the gang of Hector Hammond, and a nation-wide criminal organization with different suits all over the world. The most famous version of the gang is quite possibly the one from Batman Beyond, where they are a legacy of criminals, with titles passing down through the family for generations.

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

Wong Fei is not a character from DC Comics, but is instead an actual Chinese folk hero. The subjust of many legends that have become books, tv series, and movies, Wong Fei-hung was a physician and martial artist.

As with most episodes of this series, Batman's face remains hidden even in the flashbacks; the series does its best to focus on Batman and not Bruce Wayne, so he only appears unmasked on rare occasions.

The Bat mask that Batman wears in the flashbacks is very similar to the mask he wears in the comic event "Knight's End" as he trains with Lady Shiva. While that might be a coincidence, or the mask might be based in a traditional design I haven't found, parts of that series were drawn by Mike Manley, who worked as a character designer for Brave and the Bold, so it might be intentional.

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