The producer makes his picks…
Batman: The Brave and the Bold debuted 10 years ago this week, if you can believe it. To celebrate, we’ve brought in one of the show’s producers, James Tucker, to take us behind the scenes of the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek homage to the Silver and Bronze Ages (with some Golden Age tossed in, to boot).
In Part 1 of this two-part series, we showed off some of James’ early concept designs, as well as his commentary on how the show came together. (Click here. You’ll love it.)
Now, in Part 2, he lists his TOP 13 episodes. But it’s more than a list: James gets into some of the show’s nitty-gritty and reveals some of its coolest little secrets.
Personally, my own list is topped by Batman’s Strangest Cases! – especially the sequence based on Jiro Kuwata’s manga from the ’60s, which adapted the classic Batman #180, starring (Lord) Death Man.
But, hey, this is James’ list, so here we go:
By JAMES TUCKER
The first Batman comic I ever owned was The Brave and the Bold #111, bought when I was 10 years old. The ’66 live-action show and Filmation animated series introduced me to the character, but it was the resulting Batman revival of the ’70s — by O’Neil, Adams, Robbins, Wein, etc., mixed with the Golden and Silver Age reprints found in the glorious 100-Page Super Spectacular comics — that gave me exposure to all eras of Batman (and the rest of DC’s major characters) and inspired me in the creation of the B&B TV series.
The task of narrowing down my favorites to only 13 episodes is nearly impossible for me; there’s something to like about most of them. At least, that was the goal we had when making the episodes!
Oh, and I’ll end this list with the one episode that I like well enough, but apparently not nearly as much as most of you!
Journey to the Center of the Bat! Scripted by Matt Wayne and directed by Michael Chang, this was first episode featuring the Aquaman/Atom team-up that we later mined several times. As voiced by James Cee and John DiMaggio, Ryan Choi’s uptight scientist paired with Aquaman’s sea king, clicked immediately.
The main plot of Batman being poisoned by Chemo and trying to stop the Brain while Aquaman and Atom shrink inside Batman to find a cure, is only window dressing. The real story is the odd couple buddy adventure between Aquaman and Atom. This was Aquaman’s second appearance in the series and you can hear John DiMaggio honing what would be Aquaman’s “voice” throughout the rest of the series (and Scooby-Doo and Batman movie).
Casting John as Aquaman was such a lucky break/blessing for this series and, yes, the character of Aquaman in general, in my opinion! This episode also cemented how wacky we were willing to go when we had Aquaman and Atom ride the blood cell, Platelet, like a sea horse!
Realizing that we could go that far, get that silly, and yet, because we did it earnestly and with a relatively straight face, not alienate our core audience was truly liberating and helped set the tone we would use for the rest of the series.
Favorite line: “Your mind is twisted, Brain!”
Night of the Huntress! This one is a giddy romp that’s wrong for so many reasons. I particularly delight in the fact that Huntress here is styled after the Earth-Two version, who was Batman’s daughter, but here is a horndog for Bats. I enjoyed the fan freak-out about that waaaay too much. The episode is just bonkers, a double-entendre-laden sex comedy mixed with a mock Dick Tracy caper.
Favorite bits: Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. (I’d been wanting to use them in a show since day one! Keep hope alive, kiddies!)… BabyFace, Mrs. ManFace and the gang were fun to create as I’ve always loved Dick Tracy and wanted to have a reason to do my version of some grotesque Dick Tracy-style rogues. Fitting since both Tracy and Batman have a LOT in common.
Favorite line: “The hammers of justice are unisex!” was a line I threw in when we were recording ADR for this episode. A lot of funny lines got into the show that way, after the fact!
The Battle of the Superheroes! My co-producer, Michael Jelenic, was addicted to the blog, Superdickery, which would collect Silver Age Superman covers and show how big a jerk Superman could be written in a more innocent time.
I always loved the original Batman/Superman team-up in World’s Finest from the ’50s, titled The Battle of the Superheroes. In that story, Luthor and Joker team up, but we went a different way by making Superman a super-dick, courtesy of red kryptonite! This episode manages to be an irreverent send-up of the ’50s Superman and a reverential homage to all the Superman tropes we know and love. Oh, and we tossed in the Superman/Batman throwdown from The Dark Knight Returns. It’s a wonder this show didn’t kill us…
Hail the Tornado Tyrant! This one is tonally so different from many of the other episodes, which is something we strived for to keep ourselves challenged, but to also keep people from shoe-boxing us into being one type of show. (They still did, but what the hey).
It’s a poignant story about Red Tornado — ALL stories about Red Tornado are poignant in some way, it seems — and his loneliness. Of course, it’s also a Frankenstein story because he creates a son which, of course, doesn’t end well. Seriously, the ending of this episode is probably one of the bleakest, saddest things I’ve ever worked on. And I love it for that!
Favorite bits: The design for Red Tornado’s “son” was based on RT’s original design… Major Disaster is one of the dumber villains (that’s saying a lot, I know) but I enjoyed how he was used here… The scene when Red Tornado has to make the ultimate call to take out his own son, “Old Yeller”-style…
Last Bat on Earth! Kamandi was my favorite Jack Kirby creation from his time at DC so getting to do a full episode featuring the Last Boy on Earth was a lot of fun. This was a very loose adaptation of a Kamandi story that itself was an homage to King Kong.
John DiMaggio’s Gorilla Grodd was thrown in for good measure and gets off a great line delivery for “Monkeeeeeys!!!?” I particularly enjoyed playing up the Tuftan and Kamandi bromance to an uncomfortable level.
Fun fact: The bit where the Batplane’s wing span beings to spin and fire missiles was a request from the toy company. Normally, I hate pandering to the toy boys, but in this case, the effect was the kind of over-the-top cool that the show liked to specialize in. Of all the series I’ve ever worked on, this one was the most “toyetic”.
Long Arm of the Law! Written by Jim Krieg with inspired (as usual) direction by Ben Jones, this was definitely one of our fastest and funniest episodes. Krieg’s snappy banter (his specialty) in this episode serves a character like Plastic Man well, but beyond that, the story has a lot of heart buried in all the wackiness.
The running gag of Ben Franklin jokes was comedy gold. The scene where everyone, including the henchman, rattles off Franklin’s contributions to science is hilarious and, unintentionally, educational!
This story came about as a request from the toy company to put out a two-pack Plas figure with a big villain. Unfortunately, Plas doesn’t really have a “big” villain. I scoured the internet looking for action-figure worthy villains in Plas’ past, but couldn’t find anything except an obscure villain named “Rubberneck” in one of Plas’s sporadic appearances in the ’80s. So, I whipped up a design and our version of Rubberneck was born (and made a pretty cool action figure too!).
Fun Fact #1: The dialogue-less teaser that featured Plastic Man was actually meant for the beginning of our Music Meister episode, but when that episode went long (making it the only B&B episode without a teaser) we repurposed it for this episode. Also, that meant that we ended up with a teaser featuring a character that’s also in the main story, but oh well.
Fun Fact #2: Ramona, Plastic Man’s common-law wife (though they apparently had a baby! Who says we weren’t edgy?) was named after Ramona Fradon, the artist of the first Plastic Man comic I ever read. And she was drawn as an homage to Brenda Starr, the comic strip that Ramona drew for years after Dale Messick, the creator of Brenda Starr, retired.
A Bat Divided! Another funny episode with a tour de force for Diedrich Bader’s Batman playing three versions of the Caped Crusader. We threw Diedrich’s Batman into every possible ridiculous scenario and he always managed to keep it funny without losing any of the dignity of the character.
This episode featured the debut of the C-Lister bar that reappeared several times through the rest of the series. Truth be told, the only reason it exists is because I wanted an excuse to use all the C-Z List villains that made up the majority of Batman villains during the ’50s and ’60s!
This episode also intros Firestorm, but in this incarnation, the kid is the smart one and the dumb jock is his conscience, which made for a lot of great banter and flipped the “adults know better than the teenager” cliché on it’s head. This also was the episode where Batman infamously shouted, “Batman does not eat Nachos!!”
The Super-Batman of Planet X! Adapting one of my favorite Silver Age stories, the best part of this episode — besides the stellar production values in design by our color team (they all deserved Emmys for this episode!) and fun direction by Michael Goguen — was the pairing up of Diedrich Bader’s Batman with the legendary Kevin Conroy.
I loved that Kevin is voicing this goofy version of Batman and still manages to give it gravitas. Their voices sounded great together. The funky teaser with the Metal Men, and Doc Magnus dressed like a pimp, is the cherry on top of an especially cheesy cake!
The Mask of Matches Malone! The main claim to fame of this episode was the truly filthy “Birds of Prey” song written mainly by Michael Jelenic, with a little prompting from yours truly.
We got the script in and it was kinda short. By this point in the series, the inmates were running the place, so it was nothing for me to say, “I think we need a song here…”
I think I gave Michael the suggestion that one of the lyrics could be something about Flash being too fast, and his eyes lit up and he totally got what was needed. I ended up storyboarding the song as well, because every superhero show needs a musical number every now and then!
Unfortunately, the episode aired overseas before it could here in the States, and the network flew into a tizzy and never aired it even after we changed a few scenes to be less “on the nose.” It’s on the Blu-ray, though, in all its uncut glory.
The Criss Cross Conspiracy! This one is a personal favorite because it features the ’50s era Batwoman, or at least, my version of her, since we weren’t allowed to actually use her name, “Kathy Kane.” Apparently, the kiddies would confuse her with the more recent gay version of the Batwoman character, who some thought was not kid-friendly enough.
Anyway, I dubbed her “Katrina Moldoff” in honor of Shelly Moldoff, the prolific Silver Age Batman artist. The plot concerned gender switching and manages to… ahem… “homage” both the Star Trek episode, Turnabout Intruder, AND the Billy Wilder sex comedy, Some Like It Hot.
Vanessa Marshall did great work as Batwoman, and Diedrich Bader, playing a Batman possessed by Batwoman, dug into the challenge with gusto and nailed every joke.
Cry Freedom Fighters! This episode had Uncle Sam AND a sitting president of the United States in one episode — directed by a Canadian, Ben Jones! Yay, America!
The Freedom Fighters were a favorite Bronze Age superhero group that fought Nazis in a world where they won the war, and I loved the weird collection of heroes that made up the group, like Plastic Man, the Ray, Doll Man and Phantom Lady.
The political satire wasn’t exactly at the level of Dr. Strangelove, but that’s not the point. Batman gets to turn into Captain America in the finale! There’s even a sing-a-long where Plastic Man is the bouncing ball. That’s worth the price of admission right there.
The Malicious Mr. Mind!. Originally titled Meet the Marvels! — a title I loved dearly but understood why it didn’t fly with the powers that be — focused on Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. In hindsight, I’m just thankful we were able to call him Captain Marvel in the first place!
The whole episode is a love letter to the Golden Age Marvel Family, with a plot twist that involved a more recent version of their foe, Mr. Mind. In it, Batman is shot with a ray that turns him into a Bat Baby. One of the joys of B&B, for me, was finding ways to show how badass Batman was even when he was transformed somehow. Seeing Bat Baby still save the day was hilarious and awesome at the same time.
I loved that our version of Mr. Mind, the megalomaniacal worm with a hate on for the Marvels, sounded like George Sanders from All About Eve (and Batman ’66).
Night of the Batmen! This story was adapted from my favorite issue of the comic book based on our show — only fair since our show was based on a comic book!.
Written for the comics by Sholly Fisch, I thought it was a really wacky story that perfectly captured the flavor of the show. What I like about the episode most is that it’s about the fact that Batman’s friends truly care about him despite his loner attitude and grumpiness.
Basically, Batman gets hurt badly (check out one of several homages to the Crisis on Infinite Earths cover that made it into the series!) and his buds, Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, Plastic Man and Aquaman decide to help him out by impersonating him while he heals under Martian Manhunter’s overly aggressive care.
This one is a cameo-fest of Batman rogues, but seeing how the different heroes impersonate Batman with varying degrees of success or failure makes for a lot of fun.
Favorite bits: The Aquaman/Penguin duel of alliterations … Catwoman in her classic early ’70s costume (the first version I saw in the comics as a kid) … Batman in traction but still being a badass … and lastly, Gaggy!
Those are my 13 episodes. Where is Chill of the Night!, you ask? EVERYONE likes that episode, and I’m convinced that’s because it’s an homage of sorts to Batman: The Animated Series and also the episode least like any of the other episodes!
It was based on a retelling of Batman’s origin story from the Bronze Age – The Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, which in turn adapted a couple of Silver and Golden Age stories, where Batman learned that his father dressed as a Batman once and another where Batman finally tracked down his parents’ killer.
I wanted to do it mainly to show that we could do “dark” if we wanted to and also, because Bruce Timm told me that he never wanted to do an episode where Batman caught his parents’ killer! So, yeah, I guess you could say I pushed to do Chill of the Night! out of pure spite!
Everyone involved brought their A-game — from the artists to the actors. We even got Adam West and Julie Newmar to play the Waynes, and Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to play the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre. And Diedrich gives a heart-breaking performance as Batman when he finally confronts Joe Chill.
I get why it’s a special episode to so many and I am proud of it. However, I just dig the sillier episodes a bit more because they’re actually much tougher to do (comedy IS hard!) and they’re the main reason I wanted to do Batman: The Brave and the Bold in the first place!
All Hail Haney (as in Bob)!
— EXCLUSIVE: Dig These Original BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD Designs. Click here.
— James Tucker’s TOP 13 BATMAN ’66 Episodes. Click here.