Today marks the end of a great era in Batman history – Batman: The Brave and the Bold leaves the air today… the last new episode in the now cancelled series airs tonight in the United States.
I have a very unpopular opinion about this show: I think it is the best Batman cartoon ever made. Yes, that means I think it is superior to the much beloved Batman: The Animated Series.
Why, you ask, as you sharpen your pitchforks and light your torches? Well, let me see if I can quickly explain my reasoning for this…
The Brave and the Bold contained more intelligence, humor, DC comics history and glorious fan-service easter eggs than pretty much any superhero cartoon ever made, let alone BTAS. How’s that for starters? The reason so many people rallied against this show is primarily due to the fact that it “looked kiddie” – yes, people are so concerned with asserting their maturity that they tend to reject certain aesthetics out of hand, simply because they offend their delicate sensibilities. I believe that to be a supremely absurd position to take in life, but that’s a topic for another time. In a broad sense, I can empathize with this sort of outlook; we all have our tastes and there is nothing wrong with not giving something a chance because you’re not intrigued by the aesthetic (I’m looking at you “The Batman”).
Yet in a more specific context I’m not sure it comes down to simply the style of the animation here… what I think it comes down to is the odd perception people have of Batman. The character is one of the most fiercely imposed upon in all of comics history it seems… within the past few decades the majority of the fan base has become vitriolic in their response to anything that doesn’t represent the character as “dark”, “gritty” and “realistic”… again, let’s keep in mind that this is a man who dresses in a bat costume and makes gadgets that look like little bats to help him beat up brainwashing gorillas and steroid enhanced luchadors. Yeah, it’s pretty silly when you look at it objectively.
One of the reasons that I think Grant Morrison has written what amount to the greatest Batman stories ever told is because he understood the inherent silliness of the character. He knows the history; the majority of Batman representations contain absolutely ridiculous elements – and he loves it. He loves and reveres it and he managed to supplant those into a modern vernacular, he doesn’t reject the goofy Silver age zaniness, he embraces it wholly and mightily re-incorporates it into the mythos. In short – he respects the history of the character; he doesn’t shun it and pretend it didn’t exist. Of course, he only gets away with this because he’s such a good writer. I’ve always thought that if Grant Morrison were to create an all-ages Batman cartoon, it would be exactly like BTBATB was. It was smart, laden with meta references and it was never afraid to not take itself deadly serious.
This was a show that paid respectful and loving homage to, pretty much, every conceivable iteration of Batman – spanning across all media; comics, movies, television, etc. The whole show was basically a love letter to die-hard Batman fans.
This was a show that embraced the unbridled insanity that is the DC universe, relished the absurdity of the long history full of campy and dramatic heroes and villains – and this was a show that did it all with a surrealist’s humor and a wry tongue-in-cheek intelligence. Best yet, it managed this without talking down to kids, it managed to pack each episode with enough content to please parents and children at the same time; this is the Pixar of animated Batman shows. Plus, far before Geoff Johns rebooted him, any frequent viewer of this show already new Aquaman was cool as hell. Any show that has the voice of Bender playing the most hated and ridiculed superhero, pretty much ever, has won me as a viewer before I ever watch a single frame. Actually – when one gets right down to it, I think it may even be safe to say it has the most impressive voice cast of any superhero cartoon ever = Holy shit that’s a lot of amazing people.
Enough blather though, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.
Take a short stroll down memory lane with me and have a look at what I consider to be the pinnacle of Batman on television with my list of the
Top Ten Episodes of
Batman: The Brave And The Bold
(It was VERY difficult for me to limit the list to just ten episodes, I started out with 25 that I thought just had to be on here – this show rarely had a sub-par episode)