Mixing the fun of the Batman comics of the 1940s & ‘50s, with the camp era of the ‘60s and the smart writing of the Bat-toons of the ‘90s, Batman: The Brave & The Bold was a curious, yet delightful show which proved that Batman could be just as appealing when presented as a Caped Crusader, than as a Dark Knight. Using the team up format taken from The Brave & The Bold comics, the series presented a less angst-ridden superhero, than had been seen for quite some time.
This Batman served up justice by the bucket load and barely spent time as his alter-ego Bruce Wayne. In fact, stories hardly had time to worry about what Bruce Wayne was up to because it was far too busy placing Batman in an almost imaginable situation each week, which was a heck of a lot more fun to watch than it might sound.
Running from 2008 until 2011, Batman: The Brave & The Bold was a bizarre show which on paper should not have worked. Why? Well, because the series saw Batman team up with some of the silliest superheroes in the DC Universe to fight some of the daftest villains ever conceived. King Tut, Clock King, the Ten-Eyed Man and the Weeper were just some of the obscure villains to appear, but that shouldn’t have come as a surprise for a show which had a musical episode within its first season.
To add to this, Batman: The Brave & The Bold also had no problem with throwing out some rather random storylines, such as the time when Aquaman took his family on vacation or the episode where Batman & Robin teamed up with Scooby Doo! These were not the sort of stories audiences would have expected to witness from a modern day Batman, certainly not in the post Dark Knight Returns era, but strangely they were acceptable, because they were rooted in Batman’s past. Yep, go back to the 1970s and Batman did team up with Scooby Doo in an animated movie!
The most surprising thing about Batman: The Brave & The Bold wasn’t that it worked, but that it worked as well as it did when really it should have fallen at the first hurdle. One minute the series seemed to be about good old fashioned crime fighting, whilst the next it took on a slightly more serious tone, with nods to the darker side of heroics. Yep, this meant characters actually died, demonstrating that the series wasn’t afraid to deal with difficult subject matter, as noted with the passing of B’wana Beast, the Doom Patrol, and the original Blue Beetle, as well as Bruce Wayne’s parents. Yet, amongst all of this was a sense of adventure which kept the series grounded so no matter what the situation, be it a time travelling Batman or a space hopping Batman, each week audiences knew exactly where they stood – Batman was there to save the day!
Comic timing and a playful attitude were a big focus of the series, with many characters being given a chance to shine – chief amongst these was Aquaman, easily the best character in the entire show. Never has the ruler of Atlantis been so damn entertaining than on The Brave & The Bold and the saddest thing about the show’s conclusion was the fact that we perhaps wouldn’t see him this way ever again.
Aquaman’s sense of spirit, his enthusiastic attitude to life and his admiration for Batman all helped to make him one of the most well rounded characters in the series. This admiration for Bats was also shared by his colleagues, giving Batman a super heroic status usually reserved for Superman.
So why did it work? Well, unlike most comic book characters which have remained pretty faithful to their tried and tested formula since their inception, Batman has broken the mould somewhat since he first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Sometimes he’s been presented as a do-gooder action hero, whilst other times he’s been a tormented avenger dispensing vengeance all over Gotham in some very dark stories. Either way, the different takes on the same source material have presented a multifaceted hero, who now appeals to different audiences for different reasons. Whilst some adore the 1960s camp era of Batman, which reached its peak with the Adam West starring TV show, others prefer the gruff Batman of the Michael Keaton or Christian Bale movies.
By funnelling all the different Batmen into one new representation of the character, Tucker and Jelenic presented a hero that could appeal to all. Interestingly, the longer the audience had been a fan of Batman the more they would get out of the show, which made for a programme that could appeal across the generations.
The final episode of Batman: The Brave & The Bold, Mitefall, saw Bat-Mite – an Bat-imp and reoccurring character – decide to cancel the show after becoming bored of the light hearted format. Having Bat-Mite cancel the series was bizarre, yet completely in keeping with the tone of the show and was possibly the only way to bring the series to a satisfactory conclusion.
Aquaman's sense of spirit,
ONLY THE BRAVE:
*Batman: The Brave & The Bold ran for three seasons, with 26 episodes in seasons one and two and 13 episodes for the final year. Each episode began with a pre-credits, cold opening, which largely had nothing to do with the main story that followed.
*An exhaustive list of heroes and villains appeared throughout the 65 episodes, with many characters appearing in their ‘Silver Age’ costumes. Bat-villain Mr Freeze appeared in two different guises; one similar to his look from the 1960s TV show and the other as he first appeared under the name Mr Zero.
*Superman & Wonder Woman have limited appearances in Batman: The Brave & The Bold, with both characters being reserved for roles in Season 3 (in addition to one quick cameo previously). Superman’s full debut was in the episode Battle of the Superheroes, whilst Wonder Woman appeared in the cold opening for Scorn of the Star Sapphire, before returning with Superman for Triumvirate of Terror.
*A number of actors associated with previous DC-related projects appear in Batman: The Brave & The Bold, including Kevin Conroy, Adam West, Julie Newmar, Mark Hamill, Will Friedle and John Wesley Shipp.
*The episode Joker: The Vile and the Villainous was ‘taken over’ by the Joker and even featured its own set of Joker-themed opening credits.
*Each time Wonder Woman appeared on the show the iconic theme tune from the 1970s Wonder Woman series played out in the background.
TO BOLDY GO: Five of the best
*Mayhem of the Music Meister – Who would have ever seen this one coming? Batman: The Musical? Batman & Black Canary team up to take down the Music Meister; a villain with the power to control minds through song!
*Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure – Batman: The Brave & The Bold’s breakout character was given his own episode and what an episode it was! Aquaman attempts to take a vacation but can’t resist taking every opportunity he can to fight crime!
*Chill of the Night – Midway through Season Two Batman deals with his past in an episode involving Joe Chill, the man responsible for the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Richard Moll (from Batman: The Animated Series) provided guest voices in this episode.
*The Battle of the Superheroes – Featuring the first proper appearance of Superman in the series, the Dark Knight found himself up against the Man of Steel in an adventure that captured the spirit of Silver Age Superman comics.