Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Great Batman: Brave and the Bold Rewatch: Trials of the Demon!

Season One, Episode Fifteen: Trials of the Demon!
Written by Todd Casey
Directed by Michael Chang

Plot Synopsis

The Scarecrow is concocting fear gas inside a Halloween haunted house when Batman and the original Flash, Jay Garrick, arrive to stop him. He strikes Batman and Flash with a pumpkin, reveals he has modified the entire crop of pumpkins to emit fear gas when heated, but Flash creates a vortex to disperse the gas. Batman fights Scarecrow, while Flash, dodging Scream Queen, Scarecrow's super powered assistant, gathers all the pumpkins to dispose of them, leaving a safer, but annoyed by the lack of jack o'lanterns, Gotham

Episode: The episode opens in Victorian London, where a gentleman offers a carriage ride to a woman. Nearby, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson discuss the possible perpetrator of a crime as a scream rings out. They rush to find the woman we saw enter the carriage, seemingly drained of life, ancient but alive, but entranced. Holmes mentions that this is only the most recent in a string of such crimes, and the locals start saying they think it's, "that creepy Jason Blood," which Holmes disregards, but the mob heads to take Blood.

In Blood's home, he sees the mob coming and begins to enact an arcane ritual. As the mob breaks through the door, he begins his transformation to Etrigan the Demon but is interrupted, leaving him in a half demonic form, leaving him vulnerable to cold iron, the weakness of demons. Holmes and Watson barge in, and while the mob makes off with Blood, Holmes deduces Blood was trying to solve the same case he was, and completes the ritual Blood began.

In the present, Batman knocks out Crazy Quilt just as the portal created by the ritual summons him back in time. Holmes immediately deduces Batman is a hero, , and many other details about him, and is slightly put off that Batman so easily identifies him. Batman rushes outside to save Blood, who is about to be burned at the stake, and Batman quickly pulls him from the stake and escapes, meeting Holmes and Watson. Batman asks Holmes what ha can tell him about the crimes, and Holmes rattles off a series of deductions, ending with the idea that the perpetrator's taunting note leads to Mignola Chapel. Batman contradicts him, pointing out that the "granite demon" in the note is an anagram for "demon Etrigan" and other aspects of the note Holmes did not get, including that there will be ten victims. Before Holmes can counter, a scream is heard Blood transforms to Etrigan, and he and Batman rush off to find the source, assuming it is victim nine.

Etrigan reaches the carriage of the man responsible, and the sorcerer conjures a giant serpent to fight Etrigan. Batman arrives, vaulting the serpent, and reaches the carriage just to see the man siphon the life force of his most recent victim into a horn. The man turns to Batman and reveals himself to be Gentleman Jim Craddock, the highwayman who in Batman's present is the supernatural Gentleman Ghost, but in this London is very much alive. Caught off guard, Batman doesn't have the time to stop Craddock from blasting him, turning his cape into a flying Bat monster, and making his escape.

In mid air, Batman uses his grapnel to stop his ascent and pull himself and his monster cape down into a nearby alley. Etrigan is able to use his demon flame to finally destroy the snake and the Bat cloak, and uses his own magic to recreate Batman's now tattered costume into something more period suited, a darker, Victorian Batman uniform. Etrigan transforms back to Blood as Holmes and Watson arrive. Batman tells Watson to alert the police to Craddock and tell everyone to travel in pairs before he and Blood run off to research what Craddock's plan might be, and Holmes wanders off alone to solve the case before Batman can.

In an abandoned windmill, Craddock speaks into a mirror, talking of his progress, and a pair of demonic eyes appears, telling Craddock to be careful, as he is not immortal yet. In Blood's residence, Blood and Batman determine that the horn is connected to the demon Asteroth, an old enemy of Etrigan and Merlin. They determine that if Craddock gives Asteroth ten souls, Asteroth can escape Hell and he will grant Craddock immortality. Watson arrives to tell Batman that Holmes has found Craddock's windmill lair and is on his way to apprehend him.

At the windmill, Holmes and Craddock duel, and just as Craddock gains the upper hand and is about to drain Holmes of his soul, Batman and Etrigan arrives. Craddock uses an arcane ring to call up a demon to hold them off. Batman is able to pull the ring from the monsters nose to send it back to the underworld, but too late to save Holmes, who is now catatonic and drained, as Craddock heads to the underworld with Holmes as the tenth soul. with Batman and Etrigan in hot pursuit.

In the underworld, Batman combats Craddock while Etrigan battles Asteroth. Craddock is infuriated when Batman tells him that he knows Craddock as a ghost. Batman tries to warn Craddock he is going to be betrayed, but Craddock ignores him, and as both of the heroes are knocked aside, Asteroth asks for the souls, which Craddock will only hand over after Asteroth has done his part. Asteroth grants Craddocks wish, saying his soul will never part from the mortal realm, but before Craddock can hand over the souls, Etrigan jumps from a lake of fire and knocks him from Asteroth.

Craddock  uses the iron head of his cane to drive Etrigan back, but the Demon quickly disarms him and grabs the horn of souls. Asteroth grabs Etrigan, and the two demons begin to fight, with Asteroth gaining the upper hand. Batman enters the fray and distracts Asteroth enough for Etrigan to get a second wind and knock down the massive demon. Batman throws Craddock's iron headed cane to Etrigan, who uses it to defeat Asteroth.

Back in London, we return to Blood's home, where he is preparing the ritual to send Batman home, along with Dr. Watson and the restored Holmes. Holmes asks Batman how he really deduced his identity when they met, and Batman replies everyone knows Sherlock Holmes, "You're the world's greatest detective." Holmes is satisfied, and when Blood asks what will become of Craddock, Holmes is confident that the jury will see to him. Finally, we pan to a graveyard, and the Craddock's grave, where the Gentleman Ghost rises from his grave, and swears revenge on Batman.

Who's Who

Sherlock Holmes (Voiced by Ian Buchanan)
First Comic Book Appearance: A Study in Scarlet (1887)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Fifteen- Trials of the Demon!

Batman might be the greatest detective in the modern DC Universe, but the greatest detective in the history of fiction is Sherlock Holmes. A master of deductive reasoning, Holmes appeared in fifty six short stories and four novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British physician and novelist. Along with his loyal companion and friend Doctor Watson, Holmes solved numerous crimes and cases. A difficult man at the best of times, Holmes is the most popular literary character in all of fiction, with more appearances in pastiche literature and movies than any other, and a legion of fans as devoted to him today as they were when he was created in the late 19th century.

Etrigan the Demon (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
First Comic Book Appearance:  The Demon #1 (August, 1972)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Five- Day of the Dark Knight!

Gentleman Ghost (Voiced by Jonny Rees)
First Comic Book Appearance: Flash Comics #88 (October, 1947)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Two- Terror on Dinosaur Island!

Asteroth (Voiced by Tony Todd)
First Comic Book Appearance: Demon Vol.2 #1 (January, 1987)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Fifteen- Trials of the Demon!

Asteroth is a demon lord who has crossed paths with Etrigan a few times, but is a minor threat who has appeared very few times in comics.

Flash [Jay Garrick] (Voiced by Andy Miller)
First Comic Book Appearance: Flash Comics #1 (January, 1940)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Fifteen- Trials of the Demon!

The original Flash, Jay Garrick was a  young scientist experimenting with heavy water when he inhaled the vapors that granted him super powers (it would later be established that this was just the trigger that allowed him to channel the Speed Force). Jay went on to fight crime in Keystone City, as well as alongside the Justice Society of America. Jay retired in the 1950s, but would come out of retirement on occasion after that, often working with his successor, Barry Allen. Jay returned to full time superheroing in his golden years, working with Wally West, Barry's successor, and the extended family of speedsters, and then to train the next generation of heroes with the Justice Society. If Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, was a stern father figure, and Wildcat was the tough but fair father and trainer, Jay was the heart and soul of the older generation to the new, giving them sage advice and a kind shoulder. Jay has the standard super speed powers, and although he has slowed down compared to his youth, he is still one of the fastest men alive.

Scarecrow  (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
First Comic Book Appearance: World's Finest Comics #3 (Fall, 1941)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Fifteen- Trials of the Demon!

Jonathan Crane was a frail, bookish child who was bullied by his fellow kids. He grew fascinated with fear and how it effected people and creatures, often frightening birds in the fields near his house. Crane grew older, studied, and became a professor of psychology at Gotham University. But as Crane's experiments in fear grew more extreme, he was fired for experimenting on students. Crane adopted the identity of the Scarecrow to exact revenge on either the bullies who tormented him as a child or the board of regents who fired him, depending on the version of his origin you read. Crane would become one of Batman's most popular recurring foes, who's use of fear is often compared to Batman's similar methods on criminals. Scarecrow is not a major physical threat, although he does know some martial arts, but it is his high intelligence, psychological insight, and the Fear Gas that he makes that causes his victims to have visions of their worst fears or certain pre-determined nightmares that makes him a deadly foe,

Crazy Quilt
First Comic Book Appearance: Boy Commandos #15 (June, 1946)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Fifteen- Trials of the Demon!

A crime lord and painter, Crazy Quilt was known for art related crimes. As his eyesight began to fail, he made numerous attempts to restore his sight, and when it finally nearly happened, he was inadvertently blinded by Robin. This gave him a hatred for the Boy Wonder exceeding his hatred for Batman. A minor villain, Crazy Quilt has only a handful of appearances, and is at best a C-List Batman villain. Crazy Quilt is a tech-based villain, who uses a helmet that has various abilities, all based on light; he can hypnotize victims with flashing lights, fire laser blasts, and eventually function as artificial eyes, feeding visual data directly to his brain after his eyes were damaged beyond repair.

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

The costume that Etrigan conjures for Batman in Victorian London is inspired by the costume worn by Batman in the legendary proto-Elseworld story, Gotham by Gaslight, which sets Batman's origins in a Victorian era Gotham city. The artist on that story, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, is name-checked in this episode with the Mignola Chapel.

This is not the first time Batman and Sherlock Holmes have met. Batman met an aged, and considerably less surly,  Holmes in Detective Comics #572, one of my favorite comics of all time. Read about it, and the rest of Mike W. Barr's run on Detective Comics, here.

Scream Queen, Scarecrow's sidekick in this episode, is an original creation who never appears again. I just thought she had a cool design and liked her banshee like sonic scream. Wish someone would pick that character up and use her again.

This is hands down one of my five favorite episodes of Brave and the Bold. It's smart, it's creepy, it's exciting, and Batman meets Sherlock Holmes. And they don't sugar coat Holmes. He's a total know-it-all jerk much of the time, which is well within Holmes's character.

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