Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Great Batman: Brave and the Bold Rewatch: Legends of the Dark Mite!

Season One, Episode Nineteen: Legends of the Dark Mite!
Written by Paul Dini
Directed by Ben Jones

Plot Synopsis

Catman is holding an auction for an endangered tiger when batmn interrupts the auction. He fights off the various people bidding on the tiger, and when Catman frees the jungle cat to attack him, Batman whistles for the aid of Ace the Bat Hound, who defeats tiger, sending it scurrying away, before running Catman up a tree and getting a Bat shaped dog treat.

Episode: A bomb goes off in a Gotham bank, as two mobsters go in to steal the money, only to see Batman's silhouette pop up in the door along with strange narration. The thugs immediately surrender, only to have the narrator sound his disappointment and order the mobsters to attack, and they seemingly do against their volition. They surrender quickly again, when suddenly more thugs appear, now all armed with tommy guns. Batman avoids them, and then they turn into ninjas, attacking again.

Batman demands the narrator show himself, and Batman is quickly teleported outside as Bat-Mite, an imp from the fifth dimension wearing a Batman inspired costume appears, declaring himself Batman's number one fan. Batman tries to swing away on his grapnel, only to find Bat-Mite following him. Bat-Mite explains his powers and purpose: to make Batman the greatest hero ever. He starts by changing his costume (into various ones recognizable from the characters history).

When Batman shakes this off and tells Bat- Mite he does this to fight villains too dangerous for police, Bat-Mite decides to summon the greatest villain of all for Batman to fight so the world can see how great Batman is. Batman dodges various heavy hitter before tricking Bat-Mite into summoning Calendar Man, Batman tells him to "take a dive," and he falls over. Batman tells Bat-Mite he won and Bat-Mite should go home.

But Bat-Mite isn't satisfied and turns Calendar Man into Calendar King, whi can summon holiday icons to aid him. He summons jack o'lantern men, biker Santas, and buff Uncle Sams to fight Batman, and while they are tougher than the mobsters and ninjas were, Batman defeats them, only to have giant mutant Easter bunnies attack him.

Bat-Mite wonders if this is too over the top and freezes things, heading to the Fifth Dimension's comic con to hear what the Batman fanboys have to say about it. On stage are animated versions of the crew of Brave and the Bold, and when a fan says that this version of Batman isn't the grim urban avenger and is, "not my Batman," they reply with a wonderful speech about the history of Batman and how this is a valid version. Appeased, Bat-Mite starts the fight again, before Batman knocks out the bunnies with a gas grenade and Batman decks Calendar King.

As Bat-Mite prepares to summon another villain, Batman convinces him to depart so he can fight real crime (and bribes him with a signed Batarang). Bat-Mite disappears, and Batman reappears in the bank vault with the mobsters from the beginning of the episode, who he makes short work of before returning to the Batcave.

Dropping down into the chair in front of the Batcomputer, Batman begins to talk about his night to Ace, commenting on the "weird little creep" he spent the night dealing with only to see a second Ace walking up to him. The first Ace, Bat-Mite in disguise, furiously teleports Batman to an alien world, where fling saucers and monsters attempt to kill him. A giant Bat-Mite tells Batman that the Dark Knight will be his toy, and he'll play with him until he breaks.

Batman figts his way through the aliens and monsters, stealing a flying saucer and using it for his benefit, untilhe realizes what's going on and Batman calls Bat-Mite's bluff, not fighting anymore, letting the monsters come... but none deliver a killing blow. Batman says he'd rather let himself be destroyed then be the imp's plaything, and then goads Bat-Mite into using his powers to turn himself into Batman.

Bat-Mite, his tiny head on an over-muscled Bat-body, is now in Gotham, with Batman narrating. Bat-Mite heads to the science museum to stop Gorilla Grodd, but is knocked down by Grodd who runs off with a device he stole. Batman tells Bat-Mite he needs to out-think Grodd, and Bat-Mite uses a banana to trip up the great ape, but the device explodes, sending Bat-Mite tumbling into an abyss of darkness, where many of Batman's foes are waiting.

They dogpile on him, and Bat-Mite runs away in fear. Batman appears, telling him to confront his foes and out-think them, but Bat-Mite says his imagination is running away with him and he continues to flee, only to have Kite-Man grab him and drop him from a height. He runs through traps laid out by Polka Dot Man, portals that summon villains, is frozen by Mr. Zero and smashed by the Tweedles, and is trapped by the Riddler.

Bat-Mite calls for Batman's help, who drops down and uses a combination of brains and brawn to begin defeating the villains. Inspired, Bat-Mite breaks out of his cage and defeats the last few. He zaps himself and Batman out of the hallucinatory world he created, feeling sorry for himself, but Batman tells him he should be proud of himself and his powers, and not blindly follow someone else. Bat-Mite thanks Batman, and returns him to the Batcave, where he tests to make sure Ace is really Ace before relaxing.

At a jewelry store, the villainous Copperhead is stealing handfuls of jewels before being knocked out by a boxing glove arrow. Green Arrow steps unto the light, only to hear a voice and turn around to see Bat-Mite, hovering in a Green Arrow costume, telling the archer that he's his number one fan. We fade to black and then pop back up as Bat-Mite breaks through a drum and delivers the classic Warner Bros. sign off, "That's all, folks," ala Porky Pig.

Who's Who

Bat-Mite (Voiced by Paul Reubens)
First Comic Book Appearance: Detective Comics #267 (May, 1959)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Nineteen- Legends of the Dark Mite!

Bat-Mite's origins and motivations are pretty much straight our of this episode: fifth dimensional Batman super-fan. He was introduced in the sci-fi heavy era of Batman stories from the late 50s and early 60s, and would often appear as a nuisance in Batman stories. While he disappeared, he never fully went away, appearing in occasional stories throughout the years, resurrected in Legends of the Dark Knight stories, in Grant Morrison's run on Batman, and in places like Brave and the Bold. If you want to learn more about Bat-Mite, you can check out the post I wrote before his recent mini-series.

Ace the Bat Hound (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
First Comic Book Appearance: Batman #92 (June, 1955)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Nineteen- Legends of the Dark Mite!

Batman's trusty dog, Ace the Bat Hound, has appeared in many different incarnations over the hiostory of Batman. Originally appearing in the '50s, Ace was a German Shepherd who Batman and Robin encountered on a case and took in. He would help them on cases, and would even wear a mask and a cape. Ace would appear throughout the 50s and early 60s, and disappear around the time Julie Schwartz took over editing the Bat titles in the mid-60s; this is the version that inspired the Brave and the Bold take on the character. A new, post-Crisis Ace was introduced in the 90s, a puggle who Batman took in after his owner passed away. This Ace rarely joined in cases and never wore the mask and cape. He also disappeared, this time after "No Man's Land." Currently, Batman has a dog in the comics, one he bought for his son, Damian, a Great Dane named Titus. A version of Ace also appeared in Batman Beyond, who was also a Great Dane, and served as the elder Bruce Wayne's guard dog. The traditional Ace was resurrected as one of the regular supporting castmembers/guest stars in the Krypto the Superdog animated series, where he wore the mask and cape and acted like a canine version of his famous owner, serious, intelligent, and stern.

Catman (Voiced by Thomas F. Wilson)
First Comic Book Appearance: Detective Comics #311 (January, 1963)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Nineteen- Legends of the Dark Mite!

Thomas Blake was a big game hunter who had grown bored with hunting, and decided instead to take up crime to pay off his gambling debts Fashioning a costume from the cloth that had wrapped an ancient idol that was said to grant the nine lives of a cat, Blake became the criminal known as Catman. A minor Batman foe at best, Blake would be defeated regularly by Batman, as well as other heroes and his sometime rival, Catwoman. Blake would eventually retire and become the lowest of the low in the supervillain world. But hitting rock bottom made Blake look up again, and he would return to Africa, train again, and become a decidedly more deadly threat. Recruited as a member of the Secret Six, Catman was now a force to be reckoned with, a deadly hand to hand combatant and tracker. In the New 52 continuity, Blake is again a member of the Secret Six, although much of his backstory as a nemesis of Batman has been erased, with him simply being a mercenary and hunter.

Calendar Man (Voiced by Jim Piddock)
First Comic Book Appearance: Detective Comics #259 (September, 1958)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Nineteen- Legends of the Dark Mite!

Julian Day was a man obsessed with holidays and calendars, and like many villains of the 50s and 60s, used his obsession to create a criminal persona. Calendar Man would commit crimes centered on and around holidays. He would probably have faded into obscurity with the likes of Kite Man if not for the redesign by Tim Sale for his and Jeph Loeb's seminal Batman: The Long Halloween, where he became a far more frightening foe.

Gorilla Grodd (Voice by John DiMaggio)
First Comic Book Appearance: The Flash #106 (May, 1959)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Two- Terror on Dinosaur Island!

First Comic Book Appearance: Brave and the Bold #78 (June, 1968)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Nineteen- Legends of the Dark Mite!

Copperhead was a thief and killer who wore a snake costume and would use it to commit murders and other crimes. His real identity was never revealed. He was a master contortionist with or without his costume, but the costume allowed for greater abilities to pass through tight spaces and to deliver poison through the fangs.

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

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

The title of this episode is shared with Batman:Legends of the Dark Knight #38, a story by Alan Grant and Kevin O'Neill, that resurrected Bat-MIte in Post-Crisis continuity,

This episode is the Brave and the Bold debut of writer Paul Dini, one of the best Batman writers of the past twenty years. starting out on Batman: The Animated Series, before doing long runs on Detective Comics and Batman: Streets of Gotham. He might be best known as the creator of Harley Quinn, and he and B:TAS producer and artist Bruce Timm won an Eisner award for their one-shit Batman: Mad Love, Harley's origin. He recently released a graphic memoir through Vertigo, Dark Night: A True Batman Story, and appeared on last week's Nerdist Podcast, which is well worth a listen.

Batman's line, "A friend of mine in Metropolis told me about menaces like you,"is of course a reference to Superman and his own Fifth Dimensional enemy, Mr. Mxyzptlk.

The costume transformations Bat-Mite puts Batman through include:Vampire Batman from the Batman/Dracula Red Rain trilogy, Bat-Hombre from Batman #56, Adam West's Batman from the classic TV series, the costume from Joel Scumacher's Batman and Robin, Zebra Batman from Detective Comics #275, and Frank Miller's Batman from The Dark Knight Returns.

Before Bat-Mite summons Calendar Man, he summons three other villains: returning foes Solomon Grundy and Gorilla Grodd, and first timer Shaggy Man.

At the comic convention scene, the Brave and the Bold cast and crew on stage include Diedrich Bader, Michael Chang, Michael Jelenic, Ben Jones, Sam Register, Andrea Romano, James Tucker, and Brandon Vietti. In the audience, while most fans are dressed as Batman, two are dressed as Joker and Harley Quinn. Thes two are Bruce Timm (Joker) and Paul Dini (Harley).

As Bat-Mite takes on Batman's identity and enters Gotham, the city has red skies and as bat-Mite lands on a building top and is silhouetted before being brought into the light by lightning, which is a direct lift from the opening of Batman:The Animated Series.

The shot and sequence as Bat-Mite confronts the mob of villains is an homage to "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery," a classic Daffy Duck short where he takes on the roll of Duck Twacy, a Dick Tracy parody. This sequence includes many of Batman's most famous (and infamous) villains, many amking their first Brave and the Bold appearance, and includes the Penguin Catwoman, Killer Moth, Kite-Man, Riddler, Polka-Dot Man, Tiger Shark, Zebra Man, Joker, Catman, Mr. Zero (Mr. Freeze), and Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum. Later in the sequence, the Mad Hatter appears as well.

Bat-Mite's flight from the villains featured two very clear callbacks to two classic Batman covers, one is"The House that Joker Built," from Detective Comics #365, and the Riddler's first appearance cover in Detective Comics #140.

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