Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 35 - "The Super-Batman of Planet X!"

Written by: Adam Beechen
Directed by: Michael Goguen
Original Airdate: March 26, 2010

Synopsis: Like the rest of the episodes, this one begins with a short teaser. Batman and Dr. Will Magnus are undercover (with Batman as Matches Malone), making an intergalactic weapons deal with Kanjar Ro. Their cover is blown, and Ro and his two goons start firing lasers, when Magnus makes a joke about a planet having moons when it in fact doesn't have any. Magnus throws his briefcase at their opponents, which turns into Iron and Platina who dispatch the goons. Magnus is then saved from laser fire by Lead acting as a pogo stick and Tin serving as a parachute. The battle continues with Lead knocking one goon over as a giant bowling ball, Gold (who served as gold teeth) punching another, and the previous goon slipping and trapped by Mercury. Kanjar Ro holds Magnus at gunpoint, but a well aimed batarang causes his gun to explode. The teaser ends with Magnus asking when they'll do it again, Batman responding with a resigned, "I'll be in touch."

The episode proper begins with Batman and Green Arrow in pursuit of space pirates who have stolen a valuable emerald. After a space battle between the heroes and aliens, the combination of one of the aliens' lasers and the Bat-Rocket's energy shield creates a wormhole. Batman is sucked in and crash lands on another planet with a futuristic city. He hears a scream from nearby, where a family is being robbed by a mugger in an alley. He throws a batarang at the mugger, which fortunately misses as judged by the large hole it creates in the nearby wall. He dodges the laser response by the mugger, but the criminal is stopped by a combination of martial arts and Bat-Radia waves by the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. The two Batmen meet and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh welcomes his counterpart to the city of Gothtropolis. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh receives a transmission from Chancellor Gorzon informing him that is arch-nemesis Rhotul and his robot army are attacking downtown, leading the two Batman to team-up to stop him.

When Batman leaves the futuristic Batmobile with his jetpack, Rhotul summons more robots to keep the Batmen busy. After stopping several robots with cables and batarangs, Batman discovers he has super-speed and super-strength when saving the reporter Vilsi. With his newfound powers, he easily dispatches the rest of the robots and stops the robot escaping with Rhotul with freeze vision. The two Batmen return to the Batcave of Zur-En-Arrh, when they discover through scientific testing that Batman has acquired super-powers do to an element in Zur-En-Arrh's atmosphere not found on Earth, rodon. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh has to leave for his day job, which is (if you haven't guessed) as a reporter for the paper. While he's at the paper, Batman uses his super-powers to foil a bank robbery, punch an incoming asteroid to pieces, and defeat a giant alien monster.

While pacing around his cell, Rhotul deduces that Batman must be from Earth and that he does in fact have a weakness. Using a transmitter hidden on a tooth, he summons one of his robots to break him out. Back at the Batcave of Zur-En-Arrh, the two Batmen are discussing that there are still unknown aspects of Batman's powers when they receive an alert of Rhotul's robots attacking the city. Batman confronts Rhotul, but is sapped of his strength by a combination of rodon and quartz. Batman is about to be crushed, when the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh arrives in his spaceship to fight back. After crashing his spaceship, the two team-up to dismantle the rest of the robots. When Rhotul captures Vilsi, the combination of the batarang and Bat-Radia are enough to finish off the final robot. After the battle, Green Arrow arrives after figuring out how to create another wormhole and he and Batman return to Earth.

Thoughts: As "Batman - The Superman of Planet X!" is one of my all time favorite 1950s Batman stories, I was very excited when this episode was announced. At the same time, I wondered how they would expand upon the original story to translate it to a half-hour cartoon. While the episode does alter the original story, Beechen was able to stay true to it while also having the episode serve a secondary purpose. In the scene with the mugger, the family that is being held up consists of a father, mother, and son, in effect allowing the Batmen to to face a criminal resembling the one who killed their parents and prevent the creation of yet another Batman. The design of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is straight from the comic and a close-up shot on the Bat-Radia recalls a similar panel. The brief appearance of added character Chancellor Gorzon pays tribute to the artist of the original story by having him drawn in the style of Dick Sprang's Commissioner Gordon. Rhotul's robots, at first grey and then red, are also a perfect recreation of the threat in the comic, albeit with the addition of a mad scientist. We get to see more of the Batcave of Zur-En-Arrh, complete with alien parallels to the original's trophies and even a robot Alfred. The bank robbing aliens during the montage of Batman's super-heroics and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh's rocket are taken from the story. In a final nod to Batman, the Caped Crusader is shielded from the equivalent of Zur-En-Arrh kryptonite by a spray from a can, recalling the shark repellent bat-spray from the 1966 Batman movie. As far as the Batman element goes, the original story was done pitch-perfect justice, with a few added touches.

As you could probably tell from the summary, the major change in the adaptation is to make the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh a combination of Batman and Superman without the superpowers. On one hand, the Superman elements could be seen as too on the nose, but they make sense with when the episode was produced. At the time, the show did not have the rights to use Superman, so making the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh also that planet's version of Superman to an extent allowed them to use facsimiles of the Superman characters. It also allowed for them to add a bit to the character of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. While the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is shown to be a little jealous at the attention Batman is receiving, it doesn't lead to anything petty; he keeps a cool head and proves his heroism when it is needed. It also raises questions about the Batman-Superman relationship; if Batman is at times jealous of Superman's powers and the great amount of good they can do. Batman's over-reliance, not corruption, on the powers also highlights how easy it is for someone to get caught up in having super powers and the control Superman has. The Superman angle is given another layer through the casting of voice actors from the DC Animated Universe cartoons. Kevin Conroy, most well known for providing distinct voices for both Bruce Wayne and Batman, plays the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, essentially having him play Batman and Clark Kent. Clancy Brown was Rhotul, a mad scientist in the vein of the Silver Age Lex Luthor in contrast with the businessman Lex Luthor he played in the DCAU. Rhotul adds an entertainingly over the top mad scientist element, giving personality to the robot threat. Dana Delany voiced the Lois Lane counterpart, perhaps the weakest part of the episode not due to Delany's voice acting, but because there was a bit too much emphasis on her as a lovestruck damsel in distress. While the addition of the Superman angle could have been too much, it was on the whole an effective addition to the original story.

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