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Batman: The Brave and the Bold Volume 1 DVD

By Mark Clapham on 22 April 2010

The latest animated incarnation of Batman has been running in the States for a while and is, I believe, shown in the UK at an hour in the morning that I refuse to acknowledge the existence of. Thankfully, it’s being very slowly released on DVD, four episodes at a time.

With ‘The Dark Knight’ providing a (relatively) realistic, bleak approach to Batman that’s an entirely unsuitable template for a kids cartoon, ‘The Brave and the Bold’ positions itself at the opposite end of the spectrum, with a brightly coloured, humourous take on the caped crusader that embraces all the aspects of the character you can’t imagine Christian Bale ever engaging with.

From Diedrich Bader’s avuncular performance as Batman to the knowingly absurd adoption of silver age tropes (the first episode begins with Batman and Green Arrow tied to an absurdly elaborate trap by the Clock King), ‘The Brave and the Bold’ channels the knowing absurdity of the Adam West TV show in a smart and modern way, never collapsing into empty camp like Joel Schumacher’s ‘Batman and Robin’.

With it’s bright colours and easy humour, ‘BatB’ (because I have to start abbreviating it, for my own sanity) is the most child-friendly version of Batman we’ve seen in a long while, but that doesn’t mean it lacks anything for the hardcore fan.

Far from it, because of the team-up nature of the show (each episode features Batman teamed with another DC hero against an existing villain, and just for good measure has an entirely separate team-up in the pre-title sequence), ‘BatB’ is something of an animated gazeteer to the backwaters of the DC Universe, and lets some of those superheroes who have never had their own show or film share a spotlight with Bats.

These first four episodes showcase the breadth of the show’s ambition and approach, playing some new characters fairly straight while giving some old ones a modern makeover.

‘The Rise of the Beetle!’ sets out the stall nicely, moving quickly from a pre-title sequence that’s pure Silver Age silliness – the Clock King has Batman and a beardless Green Arrow in a ludicrous trap – to a main story that takes Batman into space with a very new character, the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle. The main plotline – which can only be about 15 minutes long – packs in a surprising number of plot twists.

It’s a coming of age story for Jaime with the learning curve you’d expect, but also a chance to send Batman out into space, underlining how far this show is moving away from heavily Gotham-based, street-level takes on the character.

‘Terror on Dinosaur Island!’ is just great. There’s really no further elaboration needed.

Oh, OK then, how about this – Batman and Plastic Man fight Gorilla Grodd’s ape army on Dinosaur Island. There you go. Now there’s really no further elaboration needed, except perhaps to add that Plastic Man’s gawping expression at the madness of it all, and Batman’s straight-faced acceptance of the situation, are perfectly pitched.

Oh yeah, and another final thing: The Gentleman Ghost is in it.

You want me to cover the other two episodes? Even after the Gentleman Ghost thing? Fine:

‘Evil Under The Sea’ starts with a pre-title sequence that introduces the magical side of the DCU, while the rest of the episode is dedicated to one of the series’ best re-inventions of an existing character: Aquaman, here presented as an arrogant, self-aggrandising charmer, conceited but nonetheless adorable. It’s a great spin on the King of the Seas, and fantastic fun. Great gags, and a compact re-telling of the usual Arthur/Orm feuding.

The last episode on the DVD, ‘Invasion of the Secret Santas!’, has possibly the least promising premise imaginable: Batman and the Red Tornado (a robot, if you didn’t know) learn the true meaning of Christmas. Shockingly, it may be the best episode here: the show’s interpretation of Red Tornado, with his high-pitched voice and tiny eyes, perfectly expresses the character’s limitations and child-like desire to learn, making him a surprisingly appealing figure. The gags are funny, the flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s childhood surprisingly poignant, and the villainous Funhouse shockingly creepy for a throwaway villain. The plot works brilliantly, and the episode as a whole may be the best one here.

(Although not the most fun: gorillas, dinosaurs, The Gentleman Ghost? Remember? Never mind.)

The Batman: Brave and the Bold Volume 1 DVD is well worth the time of anyone who likes Batman, great animation, or just fun. Witty, fast-paced and action-packed, it’s a special treat for long time DC fans, but accessible to all.

Very good stuff.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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