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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 521/390 Minutes
• Interactive Arkham Asylum: examine the top-secret case files of the Dark Knight’s many foes
• Commentary by animation creators on three episodes
• Menaces of Metropolis: Behind the villains of Superman
• One video and two audio commentaries by animation creators on three episodes
Considering that the Batman theatrical franchise had been run into the ground after Joel Schumacher’s nipple-fest Batman & Robin sodomized its way through rectums nationwide, and before Batman Begins restarted the franchise; and also considering that we’ve been without a theatrical Superman film for nearly two decades now, fans of both comic entities have had to get their fixes by other means. For Supes fans, that meant Lois and Clark in the mid-‘90s and the currently ongoing Smallville. Bats fans currently have the animated Gen-X The Batman. However, the best versions of both were provided starting in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series and in 1996 with Superman: The Animated Series. Volumes 4 and 2 respectively were recently released on the same day so we thought we at CHUD decided to give you a superhero team-up.
Batman: "Dude, is that story of Wonder Woman sunbathing nude on the Hall of Justice when you were flying by true?"
Superman: "I don’t want to talk about it…"
On the scene first was Batman, who premiered with Batman: TAS in the fall of 1992. Different from previous animated incarnations, this version harkened back to the darker elements of The Dark Knight, popularized in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Tim Burton’s Batman. Batman was again a brooding figure that lurked in the shadows and struck fear into the hearts of evildoers. He was fighting crime in an equally dark Gotham City, which was represented by a retro/Gothic look in the buildings and the cars. Batman didn’t go so far as to kill people as in Burton’s films, but he didn’t do the bad guys any favors and he wasn’t hosting the Super Heroes’ charity ball. And there definitely wasn’t any friggin’ Bat-Mite running around. The stories were also more adult than any previous animated incarnations of Batman, which can primarily be accredited to writers/producers Paul Dini (Fat Albert, the Incredible Hulk (1982), He-Man, Transformers), Bruce Timm (designer for G.I. Joe) and others on their fantastic production team.
"How may we serve you, Mr. Oliver?"
On the flipside, Superman: TAS was a brighter depiction of The Man of Steel and was brought to life by many of the same people who gave Batman: TAS its distinctive look, style and ultimately its success. The show premiered with the three-part, Last Son of Krypton, which was a very faithful depiction of the Superman origins on Krypton and his rearing in Smallville. And whereas Bats was the brooding loner who was mistrusted or misunderstood at best by the Gotham populace, Supes stood as a shining symbol and protector of Metropolis. This is best represented by the fact that the Batman episodes took place primarily at night and most of the Superman episodes occurred during the days.
Although fairly stylish, the new bat cowl made out of panty hose just wasn’t as effective…
Huskily-voiced Kevin Conroy, a Juilliard-trained actor, played Bruce Wayne/Batman. He has the distinction of playing the Dark Knight longer than any other actor in any other medium as he’s currently done so in several incarnations of the character since it premiered in 1992. He also, coincidentally, attended school with Christopher Reeve at one time. Hollywood legend Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. voiced Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler and confidant; and actors Loren Lester and Bob Hastings portrayed Dick Grayson/Robin and Commissioner Gordon respectively. Over on the other show, Superman was voiced by Tim Daly, Lois Lane by Dana Delaney, Perry White by George Dzundza and Jimmy Olsen by actor David Kaufman.
"Batman, is it true? I’m really that big of a pussy?"
Both heroes’ rogues gallery of villains are also back, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Batman’s greatest villain, the Joker, was voiced unbelievably by Mark Hamill. This version of Joker could arguably be considered the purest and possibly the best ever. He mixed the zaniness of Cesar Romero’s 1966 television series Joker with the murderous insanity of Jack Nicholson’s 1989 theatrical version. But Hamill gave him a spin all his own with a voice that shocked me as belonging to everybody’s favorite Jedi when I first saw that it was him. Superman’s greatest villain, Lex Luthor, is voiced by the formal immortal ass-kicker Clancy Brown. Unlike Gene Hackman’s Luthor of the theatrical films, this version of Luthor is one of, if not the richest men in the world. He’s a legitimate businessman who specializes in defense contracts and dabbles in big time illicit deals including gun-running. Responsible for essentially building Metropolis, he sees himself as its undisputed king until the big guy in the cape shows up and blows a billion-dollar scheme involving the illegal sale of a powerful battle suit to a foreign power. From there Luthor tells Superman that he controls everything in Metropolis. When Superman tells him that that’s over and that he’ll never control him, that doesn’t sit well with Baldy.
"Merchan’s mine, bitch!"
"Over my dead body, slut! He’s mine!"
Batman’s and Superman’s other villains also return, including Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau), The Penguin (Paul Williams), Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Richard Moll), Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara), and Clayface (Ron Perlman); as well as Parasite (the late, great Brion James), Bizarro (Tim Daly playing dumb), Mxyzptlk (Gilbert Gottfried), Toyman (Bud Cort), Metallo (Malcolm McDowell) and many others. The Superman team also came up with a couple of new villains, including the electrical villain, Livewire (Lori Petty) and Edward Lytener/Luminus (Robert Hays) a genius turned light-based supervillain. They also gave Brainiac a new origin, by adapting him to be the former central computer intelligence on Krypton turned murderous, wandering AI. Several others were redesigned, particularly Toyman, who looked like a giant ventriloquist’s dummy.
When jujitsu or aikido didn’t do the job, a good dose of Bat Swamp Ass was guaranteed to knock evildoers stupid…
Vol. 4 of Batman covers the final period of the show, when it was reintroduced as Batman: Gotham Knights or The New Batman Adventures. The characters were redesigned, in some cases fairly drastically, and they included crossovers with the ongoing Superman show. Among the redesigns were to Batman himself. In the previous incarnation of the show, he was sporting his traditional blue and grey costume with a golden bat symbol on his chest and a golden utility belt. Here, his costume is more old school, being gray and black with a black bat symbol on the chest with a gray utility belt. Also, Robin has grown up to become the independent hero, Nightwing; and a street urchin, Tim Drake has become a new, younger Robin. A redesigned Batgirl, who was just a casual acquaintance of Batman’s on the superhero circuit, is now a full time member of the team, privy to Batman’s secrets, including his true identity. If you’ve seen Batman Beyond, you know how far their relationship eventually went.
When times got a tough, Supes was more than a little embarrassed to have to rent himself out for tractor pulls…
Many of the character redesigns included a tightening up of their forms, with more angular dimensions. Among the more drastic redesigns was Killer Croc, who went from a gray, petrified zombie looking creature to a more traditional green, scaly two legged reptile (with a penchant for chicken). Scarecrow also gets a drastic redesign, looking like Angus Scrimm, dug up ten years after his eventual death (not that I’m hoping for such a thing). Penguin loses a bit of weight, cuts his hair and opens up a nightclub and “retires” from a life of crime. Joker also gets a bit more angular, and Clayface gets even more massive. Mr. Freeze looks a little bit taller and slimmer also.
"That’s right Diana, baby, let’s see those Wonder Cans…"
There were several crossovers during this time, the chief of them being the three-part World’s Finest episode in the Superman set, where Batman and Superman meet for the first time. Hard up for money, Joker steals a statue of a dragon that’s carved out of what appears to be jade. Turns out that it’s actually a kryptonite statue. Joker shows up in Metropolis with it and makes an offer to Luthor to kill Superman for $1 billion, to which Luthor accepts. Investigating Joker’s plot as well as checking on a business deal with Luthor, Batman and Bruce Wayne also show up in Metropolis. Superman learns Batman’s identity on their first encounter using his X-ray vision, but Batman turns the tables on him thanks to a little detective work. Throw in some encounters with some spider robots developed by Luthor and Wayne’s companies, a romance between Wayne and Lois Lane (where she learns his true identity by the way), a hell of a cat fight between Harley Quinn and Luthor’s bodyguard, Mercy, a double double-cross between Luthor and Joker and a shooting spree by Joker involving a giant flying wing on Metropolis, and you have the makings of a pretty interesting crossover.
"Enough of this nice guy shit. It’s time to bust some caps…"
There are a few other crossovers, including one with R’as Al Ghul (Superman episode The Demon Reborn) and even one where Superman has to impersonate Batman when Bruce Wayne disappears thanks to Brainiac (the truly excellent Superman episode Knight Time). Although neither of those episodes is in either one of these sets here, they’re definitely some of the better ones in both series’ runs. One crossover that is covered in Batman: TAS, Vol. 4, however, is the fun episode Girl’s Night Out, where Supergirl and Batgirl have to team up to take on Livewire, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy when both Batman and Superman are unavailable. A non-crossover Batman episode that also stands out is Over the Edge, a great “what if” concept involving the death of Batgirl and the links that Gordon goes to to get revenge on Batman/Bruce Wayne because of it. It involves a stormtrooper-like assault on Wayne Manor and the Batcave and an all out fight between Batman and Bane. Some Superman episodes that also are good are Double Dose, where he has to take on both Livewire and Parasite; Mxyzpixilated, where Mxyzptlk drives The Man of Steel crazy and vice versa, and The Late Mr. Kent, where Superman has to investigate the “death” of Clark Kent.
After the events of the Batman Beyond episode, Out of the Past, Batman needed months of therapy to get this memory out of his head…
Both sets offer many good episodes that fans of both will enjoy seeing again, or seeing for the first time. Batman is kicking ass and solving crimes and Superman is leveling buildings and destroying Metropolis all in the name of justice. I personally am a huge fan of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and the work they and others have done here. If I had to pick between the two, I recognize that Batman was a stronger character as presented by both sets, but I always preferred the stories when he was a loner and not encumbered with a sidekick, which he has two of – sometimes three of – here. And I don’t know about any of you, but was Nightwing just a complete pussy here? Honestly. The earlier volumes are probably better than this version, but I did prefer the redesigns. So I’ll take Batman just barely – only because there are six more episodes than the Superman set. But at $18 more cost than the Supes set, those six episodes seem a little pricey. Whatever. I’m still waiting on some full Justice League sets though….
Batman: 8.7 out of 10
Superman: 8.4 out of 10
It was always a bitch when the Dark Knight forgot his Bat-Preparation H…
Concerning the revamp of the designs on the Batman set though, the look is definitely better than the previous incarnation. The lines are sharper, the animation cleaner, the detail better. Depending on who was animating which episode on the Superman set, the look varied quite bit actually, however. The quality of the animation on World’s Finest seemed to drop out in places, and in others it was great. And well drawn episodes like The Main Man (from Vol. 1) or Legacy (from the as-yet-unreleased Vol. 3) are far superior to the worst drawn episode that comes to mind, Superman’s Pal, where Superman fights Metallo in a junkyard (also from Vol. 3). Generally though, the animation was very distinctive and well done. They’ve upped the quality with the recent Justice League Unlimited though and the difference is noticeable. Although I’m still wondering why they didn’t keep the basic design for Superman. Check out the first Justice League episodes and you’ll see what I mean.
Batman: 8.0 out of 10
Superman: 7.7 out of 10
"Look, I know we’re saving the world here, but I’m just not comfortable seeing this much of you…"
Both sets are in Dolby Digital (French and English) and sound fine. The themes for both shows were composed by Shirley Walker and are distinctive and appropriate. There’s plenty of punches, batarangs and explosions to give your systems workouts. Wanna trip a bit? Listen to Mxyzpixilated in French and hear some French dude try to be more annoying than Gilbert Gottfried.
Batman: 7.2 out of 10
Superman: 7.2 out of 10
Interactive Arkham Asylum: examine the top-secret case files of the Dark Knight’s many foes. This is a great feature where you can flip through case files of Batman’s rogues gallery and see 2 to 3-minute featurettes on them. Chief among the info is that the producers go into the redesigns a bit. The files are even alphabetical.
Commentary by animation creators on three episodes: Over the Edge, Legends of the Dark Knight and Critters by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, art director Glen Murakami and storyboard artist James Tucker. The commentary on Over the Edge is particularly fun, and they even address a question that had been burning in my mind: Who undressed Barbara and put her in the hospital gown after the run in with Scarecrow?
"Hey Lex, sorry to wake you up, but I made a bet with Supes that you’re bald everywhere and I just had to check…"
Menaces of Metropolis: Behind the villains of Superman: This is a feature on the Superman villains like on the Batman disc, but more straightforward in making-of style with the producers commenting on the various villains. I’m thinking they could have made it like Star Labs or Lex Corp files or something to keep it in line with the Batman Arkham Asylum set .
One video and two audio commentaries by animation creators on three episodes: Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, director Dan Riba and moderator Jason Hillhouse give their two cents on three episodes: World’s Finest, Part 1 and Brave New Metropolis and a video commentary on Mxyzpixilated. The video commentary takes place in Dini’s house and when you see these four guys, you’re basically thinking you’re over at your buddy’s house, you know the one with all the comic book and movie crap littering the walls and stuff. They have a good time, provide a few anecdotes and crack each other up.
Batman: 7.5 out of 10
Superman: 7.5 out of 10
Effect of purple kryptonite? Hairy knuckles.
Cool. Very reminiscent of the comic books.
Batman: 7.6 out of 10
Superman: 7.6 out of 10
Batman: 8.2 out of 10
Superman: 7.9 out of 10