Monday, September 13, 2004

Bring on The Batman

Saturday saw the debut of the new WB! cartoon for kids, The Batman.

If I were a kid, that cartoon would have had me hopping about madly, tossing anything resembling a batarang around the house for hours. Not being a kid, there was substantially less hopping, but it pretty much had the same effect.

Here's the weird part... that isn't so much really Batman as I've known him for 27-28 years. This is formative Batman, chronologically 3 years into being Batman, a few months from meeting Dick Grayson (Robin 1) Batman. But this Batman doesn't reside in stately Wayne Manor. Instead, this Batman lives in a sweet loft/ warehouse-thing in the middle of Gotham (and on top of a cave?).

Logistically, I guess this makes more sense. And at one point in the late 70's or early 80's, Batman lived in a penthouse overlooking Gotham. So I guess you can say they borrowed that idea, or else decided Batman doesn't need no stinking commute.

The supporting cast is the strangest part. Sure, Alfred is still there. But Bullock, Gordon, Montoya, Cris are all MIA. Instead, we have sort of analogs to those characters with different names. I have no idea why they bothered to do that, or why they cut out Gordon altogether.

The animation is nice, with quick, well-choreographed action. The voice casting is done well, even if I miss Kevin Conroy as Batman (he's been the voice of Batman since about 1992). The voice of The Joker is well-done as well, but it's so close to Mark Hamill's depiction, I kind of wondered why they hired a new guy.

Apparently the show will have embedded signals in it which will activate your Bat-Wave ready Batman toys, or, possibly, shut down Uncle Fester's pace maker. Either way, it should liven up the cartoon hour. (Something about the TV turning on devices in my home creeps the hell out of me).

All that said, I loved this week's JLU episode with 80's DC superstar Booster Gold.

The team putting together JLU has walked away from the two-part Grant Morrison-wannabe epics, added more characters than Gardner Fox would have wanted to deal with, and taken the tone up a few notches in levity. I think the results are impressive (except for Hawk and Dove, which was kind of lame). Sure, each episode is focusing on introducing us to a new DC hero, but prior episodes were just introducing us to new DCU villains, so I'll take this format any day.

JLU is not going to be for the folks who want every super hero to be a dark and brooding Batman or Wolverine clone. That isn't, and never has been, the DC way. DC agrees that it takes a certain kind of weirdo to dress up in tights and fight crime, just not necessarily a depressing weirdo. Sometimes these weirdoes are people from the future trying to make a quick buck in the past, such as Booster Gold.

I encourage you to catch the episode if you haven't already. It also has appearances by Elongated Man (Ralph Dibney), Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., The Shining Knight, Huntress, and a few others. It was a lot of fun.

Oh, and I also heartily recommend the new cartoon "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends". It's by the same guy who created the Power Puff girls.

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