I don’t know how I’m dividing the instructions on the villains just yet, but for the heroes this and next week we’ll check out the Batcave while the following week the Gotham City Police Department. This should keep the info overload down. The show bible for Batman: The Animated Series is very detailed, especially the main cast members and double especially Batman. Bruce Wayne (Batman’s alter ego) has his own section apart from the Batman identity. Robin/Dick Grayson doesn’t have that but that still tells you how much information is packed into this booklet. I was going to put Batman, Robin, and Alfred together in one article, but there’s so much written on just Batman/Bruce alone that the word count was getting up there.
I don’t think they approached this show as some kids thing. They seem to want to treat this as a good show first, with as much respect to the characters from DC as much as their own creations. I wish Gotham could say the same but I remind you this is a Batman show whose showrunner hates Batman. So how is the Dark Knight treated by someone who likes both comic books and Batman?
The Batman will be portrayed as Gotham City’s grim avenger of evil. Appearing only at night, he will use his sophisticated gadgetry, shrewd detective skills and frightening image to combat Gotham’s criminals. He will speak only when necessary, and then only in short, terse sentences.
That last sentence kind of makes Batman sound like Samurai Jack. It’s also something they seem to have dropped. While Batman isn’t a chatterbox or anything he was still willing to talk to people without losing the air of shadowy authority he was going for. You get the impression that he was always thinking–about his next move, about the case he’s investigating, about his opponent’s next move–like the wheels were always turning, even as Bruce. They really wanted to play up the detective angle of Batman. Let me jump ahead a paragraph:
Our version of Batman will rely less on gadgets and more on his own deductive powers and fighting skills. Staying true to The Batman’s original conception as “the world’s greatest detective, we want to stress his mental abilities, whether he be assembling clues in a case or using his vast scientific knowledge in the Bat cave’s laboratory. He is a crime-fighter who is skilled in many languages and is also a consummate master of disguise. In addition to Bruce Wayne, the Batman has other alter egos, including “Slugger Sprang”, a small-time hood with an ear to the criminal grapevine of Gotham’s seedy docks.
I don’t remember Slugger Sprang. I wonder if they renamed him to Matches Malone at some point? He also studied various mental disciplines that sometimes seemed as odd as the 60s show but not as goofy. Now to jump back to the paragraph I missed.
Although mistakenly viewed as a vigilante, The Batman is bound by a code which forbid killing. He may terrorize a criminal by hanging his over the ledge of a building, but he’ll never lower himself to a criminal’s level and murder.
Technically he’s still a vigilante. Merriam-Webster describes a vigilante as “a person who is not a police officer but who tries to catch and punish criminals”, and since Batman isn’t deputized in this version and isn’t officially recognized as even a police consultant (think Castle from the ABC detective show of the same name or Sherlock from CBS’ Elementary, or the guy from The Mentalist) he’s still a vigilante. For real world examples look at the Guardian Angels group or even neighborhood watch if you wanted to get really technical. Even some members of the “Real Life Superheroes” are vigilantes and none of them kill criminals. They may just chase them off or call the police on their cell phones.
I also wonder how the “torture criminals” part works in today’s world, where we freak out over waterboarding terrorists, easily worse than mobsters and thieves?
So back to Batman’s skills. The bible goes over just what he knows.
This mental agility also applies to The Batman in action. When faced with a dangerous situation, he won’t always be able to produce the right tool to remove himself from harm’s way. More often than not, it’s razor-sharp wits that spring him from a trap, not a utility belt.
There’s nothing wrong with him having “the right tool”. It’s the reason he has a utility belt. There should be limits, though. Producing a giant shield, for example, is a bit silly. Also silly? That hand-held grappling hook launcher that should still be too big for the pouches on his belt. I remember an episode where he pulled that out of a pouch on his belt and even I, master of suspending disbelief for the sake of the story, wondered how he fit that thing in there. The other two “weapons” I remember him using a lot were various gas pellets (no, I’m not thinking of Darkwing Duck’s gas gun) and the Batarangs. He also had a pad hidden in his belt buckle that summoned one of his many vehicles.
I could see defining exactly all of his tools (much like we did with the old “mind games” where every weapon and ability our characters had needed to be on display or listed on the drawing of our character). Then he has to find an alternate use for his tools to get him out of a scrape (for example: using a diamond tipped drill to cut a hole in the water tank instead of a villain’s safe) or later coming up with a new tool in case that every happens again. As long as we don’t go the James Bond route, where Q just happens to give James the right gadget for whatever mission he’s on and they all get used or having him come up with a Bat-Sonic Screwdriver of some kind.
His fighting skills combine elements of judo, jujitsu, karate, and old-fashioned street fighting. Although skilled in martial arts, The Batman’s distinct fighting style is not expressly oriental.
We never get to see Batman’s training (although we meet the occasional instructor) but going by Dick’s training later in the franchise to become Nightwing and assuming Dick followed a similar path to Bruce’s that sound right. Although they seemed to take issue with ninjitsu, which you would expect to be something Batman trained in. I assumed the Invisibles was something unique to Nightwing’s training. (We’ll get to that in the tie-in reviews if you don’t know what I’m talking about. There was a “lost years” miniseries that was made canon to the show.)
Fear is one of the Dark Knight’s most powerful weapons and through his mysterious persona he is able to cultivate an almost superhuman image of himself. Through sheer physical speed, a bat-shaped hang-glider and sophisticated weapons such as the Batarang and smoke grenades, he perpetrates the image of an invincible foe–a mysterious figure seemingly impervious to bullets, able to fly and capable of appearing out of nowhere.
Again, like a ninja. Or Superman. I also don’t remember a hang glider, but I guess the idea that he used a cape to glide (although I’ve seen it as far back as that Flash Gordon book), which I admit I don’t remember seeing prior to playing Batman: Vengeance as far as Batman tools, hadn’t come about yet. They also list other weapons in the next paragraph, like the Batline, the Batwing, the Batboat, tracking devices, skeleton keys, handcuffs, and a radio transmitter. Then we get into Batman’s interaction with the GCPD.
In our series, Batman is in the early phases of his crime-fighting career, often at odds with the police, many of whom regard him as a vigilante and menace to the city. Few besides Commissioner Gordon realize the powerful guardian Gotham has in Batman.
I actually do believe this works best for Batman, at least at the start. Over time at best the police (not counting Gordon, who fully accepts Batman) should begrudgingly accept Batman’s help against the trickier foes or areas where they’re stumped. What they shouldn’t do (and I’m glad they dropped the Batphone and only introduced the Batsignal as the show went on) was call Batman to practically tie their shoes. Look at the 60s show, where just mentioning some costumed crook was enough to turn Chief O’Hara into a whimpering mess. The Police should be competent (the ones not on the take anyway) but still need Batman against the likes of the Joker or Two-Face.
And now we get to Bruce Wayne. As I said, “Bruce” has his own section as to how he should be portrayed versus his Batman persona. One thing I really like about Kevin Conroy’s performance is how “Bruce” and “Batman” have distinct voices, which is also how Superman should be done correctly with Clark Kent. From what I recall, it was Kids WB that forced Conroy to drop that for whatever reason, which makes me wonder if Tim Daly, who portrayed Superman in that cartoon, would have given “Clark” a different voice where he allowed to. I trust Andrea Romano enough to think he’d at least try.
One thing which we will stress and will make our series markedly different, is the fact that Bruce Wayne is the disguise and Batman his true persona.
For anybody thinking that’s where this started, go watch any version of Batman prior to this; the serials, the 60s show, the Filmation cartoons–none of them really used Bruce except as part of Batman’s war on crime/Japanese spies or to have Bruce and Dick hanging out before the Batsignal flashed in the sky or the blinking red phone went off. At most “Bruce” was a tool of Batman’s. If anything we get more of Bruce Wayne doing stuff here than we ever do in any of the other animated shows or even the 60s show. The comics had Bruce doing more things but even then it was always Batman first and Bruce second. It’s part of his obsession with stopping as many crimes as he can or more recently becoming a symbol for the good people of Gotham to rally behind and fight back on their own. It’s a good idea but hardly “markedly different”.
In the eyes of Gotham City’s populace, Bruce Wayne is the last person to ever be associated with the crime-fighting Batman. His public image is that of a jaded, jet-setting playboy. To the public at large he is a man whose wealthy parents were murdered when he was a child, and who spends all of his time frivolously squandering the Wayne fortune.
One of my favorite episodes (the one where the famous “I am vengeance, I am the night” line came from) explored that portrayal of how people see Bruce, making him wonder if he is letting his parents down. That said, I like that Bruce is at least trying to help Gotham, if only to boost the police (so they won’t be drawn into being corrupted by the mob) or helping orphans. Bruce should be mostly detached but I like seeing what benefits Bruce has besides Batman’s bankroll. At least part of that is addressed.
To make sure he isn’t thought of as a rich “do-gooder” Wayne maintains his snobbish, indifferent facade by hiding his sizable charity contributions behind dummy corporations. This self-centered image clears him of any suspicion and allows him to finance his crime fighting operations through the inexhaustible Wayne family fortune. When Bruce Wayne is out of the public eye his personality immediately returns to that of The Batman.
Except police galas and the orphan’s fund. Again, Conroy’s portrayal did as much to make that work, without Bruce coming off as a jerk (just a commitmentphobe with little interest in darker affairs) as the writing.
Although the public persona of Bruce Wayne often causes him to be labeled as a selfish elitist, this is the price Wayne is willing to pay for being Batman. He is not a man haunted by the on-going trauma of losing his parents. He has exorcised those ghosts by becoming Batman. Bruce Wayne has sacrifices his “public life” for a private life of crime fighting. Ultimately, he is more comfortable as the Batman, and that is who our series is about.
On the other hand, I do like that Bruce wasn’t completely ignored, or the issues that face his double life and what he gives up to become Batman. One of my favorite episodes is (no spoilers for those who haven’t seen it) the one where Bruce wakes up to find his parents alive and Selina his non-criminal fiancé. There’s also a story in the tie-in comics where the Phantom Stranger shows Bruce what life would have been like for the other Bat-crew if he never became Batman that I want to get to in the DC tie-in reviews. “Bruce” the persona versus “Batman” the persona is an interesting story. To me “Bruce” is what Batman wishes he could have been but less caring of the world around him.
See what I mean about Batman’s profile taking up so much room? Next week we’ll check out Robin and Alfred and how they’re listed in the Animated Bible versus what we got as the show went along.