In Defense of ‘Goofy Batman’ – Reviewing Batman: The Brave and the Bold
There’s a war being waged in my apartment between my husband and I. It’s a war that spans many battlegrounds, but one of the most violent and bloody fields of battle has become Batman.
The problem is that my husband loves silly things; things that are so bad they’re good, cheesy stuff, bad jokes, and horrible puns. But me, I love my serious drama. Dark, gritty, full of thought-provoking debates and people dying tragically. While our interests overlap a lot (which probably helps with that being married thing), there are some topics on which we just cannot come to terms. Batman has long been one of these things. My husband rates the 1960s Adam West Batman: The Movie (with its bat shark repellent) as one of his favorite movies, while The Dark Knight is on my top 5 list. We furiously argued after The Dark Knight Rises to the point of where couch-sleeping was threatened.
In an attempt to find something for us, I picked up Batman: The Brave and Bold, the 2008 – 2011 animated Batman series that stepped outside of the Batman: The Animated Series-created DC Animated Universe.
The Brave and the Bold was something I initially skipped over, thinking it was just an animated version of the 60s live-action TV Batman that I absolutely can’t stand. But in truth, The Brave and the Bold is far more of a tongue-in-cheek homage to Silver Age comics – which, thankfully, is one of those areas where my husband and I share a deep-seated love. We recently finished our viewing of all all 3 seasons (65 episodes) of Batman: The Brave and the Bold together and I have to say – if you’re one of those people who’ve been avoiding this show because, like me, you enjoy your Batmans all dark and serious? You should put down your Frank Miller and pick up this show right now.
The Brave and the Bold is a very clever show; it’s rife with references to the history of comic books far more subtle than its many guest appearances by characters like Old Flash (Jay Garrick) or Detective Chimp. Episodes feature scenes literally right from Superdickery covers, references to other versions of Batman and very direct 4th wall destruction whenever Bat-Mite shows up.
While brilliant when it’s trying to be, most of the show is made up of the bread-and-butter episodes revolving around Batman teaming up with another superhero and getting involved in (very) wacky hyjinks. Many of the heroes are obscure or rarely mentioned, such as B’wana Beast or Komandi, the Last Boy on Earth. We also see screentime from famous but less covered heroes not often seen in the animated versions of DC Comics, like Blue Beetle (all 3 of them, throughout the series) or my personal favorite, Captain Marvel (and Mary Marvel AND Captain Marvel Jr.
eeeeeeeeee I love this show BILLY BATSON YAY ahem).
The thing that we discovered about Batman: The Brave and the Bold, is that when this show is good…it just knocks it way out of the park. There were more than a few times episodes had me hitting pause so I wouldn’t miss anything due to how hard I was laughing – especially, of course, every time this show’s FANFUCKINGTASTIC Aquaman does, well, anything. Other episodes brought me to tears; like the wonderfully mercurial series finale.
But oh god, when this show is bad, it’s dreadful. The dreadful episodes go away after the first half of the second season, but by that time I was exposed so much to Gorilla Grodd that I was waiting for people to say “monkey” in casual conversation so that I could reply with a deranged, “MONKEY?! FIIIIIRE THE SONIC CANNON!” Don’t get me wrong, there was only a handful of bad episodes, but they can definitely turn off some one with a low tolerance of nonsense (and I do mean nonsense, these bad plots are filled with holes). Also they write female characters atrociously. ‘Homage’ to the Silver Age or not, their female characters are pretty much terrible until Vixen shows up and puts everybody to shame. This, like the bad episodes, gets a lot better by the second half of the series.
While most often light-hearted, the show does sometimes bounce very drastically in tone – like one of my favorite episodes, ‘Chill of the Night.’ I think the episode that really demonstrates the effort and love they put into this cartoon.
‘Chill of the Night’ is a beautiful episode, a lovingly crafted piece of nostalgia for both older comic fans and my generation who were raised on Batman The Animated Series. This episode centers around The Spectre (Mark Hamill!) and The Phantom Stranger (Kevin Conroy!) placing a wager on Batman’s soul by letting him find out who killed his parents, which involves him having a chance to see them again in a flashback where they’re voiced by Adam West and Julie Newmar. Now to be fair, there are also episodes of The Brave and the Bold in which we have a Scooby-Doo/Weird Al Yankovic crossover, a musical, a non-musical that STILL features “Aquaman’s Rousing Song of Heroism,” and, of course, Bat-Mite, who demolishes the 4th wall on purpose.
The thing about Batman: The Brave and the Bold isn’t that it’s about the goofy singing/dancing Batman versus the The Dark Knight. The Brave and The Bold is about celebrating all of the different versions of Batman there have been over the years, about celebrating all the the many different creative talents (from Bob Kane and Bill Finger to Grant Morrison) that have put their loving spin on The Caped Crusader. It’s about celebrating the fans that have embraced (or debated) The World’s Greatest Detective over his nearly 75 years of existence.
So get over your attachment to the Goddamned Batman and give The Brave and The Bold a try. Bat-Mite sums it up best:
“Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it’s certainly no less valid and true to the character’s roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy.”