DCAU #21: Vendetta

IN THIS ONE... Killer Croc frames Harvey Bullock.

CREDITS: Written by Michael Reaves; directed by Frank Paur.

REVIEW: There isn't as much psychological depth or interest to a character like Killer Croc as there is to most of Batman's other villains. He's a physical threat, and certainly taps into the "urban legend" aspect Batman does, but especially as he's played today (and in this episode), he's little more than a super-strong goon. And whose design doesn't necessarily get my approbation. Pasty gray is just such a dull color, though I understand how it might make more sense for a human being with an unusual skin condition to have hardened skin that shade. He's just a giant callus! But visually, meh.

Bullock being framed, and Batman having to admit that, like the audience, he wrongly thought him to be a crooked cop, is well done, but really, Killer Croc need not have been in it. And that's Vendetta's weakness. In fact, we have time to spend with the city's current kingpin Rupert Thorne. Not that I mind that, but it shows how Croc is just there to provide cool action for the Bat.

But an ordinary story and villain are elevated by some of the best animation we've yet seen! Vendetta has terrific atmosphere, taking its cue from Croc and making everything wet. It's not just dramatic thunder and lightning, but constant rain, droplets on window panes, underwater lairs, boat chases flooding sewer drains. Batman's submarine is really cool. And when it comes to the action, check out the car crash, the manhole cover throw, and the sewer cave-in. A most outstanding sequence of action beats. Maybe it doesn't matter if the plot is a little slim.

IN THE COMICS: Killer Croc is a latter-day member of Batman's rogues' gallery, not appearing until Batman #357 (1983), created by Gerry Conway and Don Newton. Conway is infamous as the Spider-Man writer who killed Gwen Stacy, and so we have a snitch called Spider Conway in this story. (Oh all right, a friend wants me to tell you Conway also created Firestorm, but that's neither here nor there.) When Batman looks through files, we also see one for "Barr, J.", an obvious reference to the Mike Barr/Jim Aparo team who did a lot of Batman and co-created the Outsiders. But back to Croc... In the comics, he's more green than gray, and was responsible for killing Jason Todd's parents. He was initially smarter than what we see here, looking to become Gotham's biggest mob boss, but as time progressed, so did more bestial elements both in mind and body, becoming a more extreme monster than the one depicted here. And so a skin disorder became positively mutagenic. The Batsub should be mentioned as well. This piece of equipment made its first appearance way back in 1949's Detective Comics #147, and though more rarely seen than the boat or plane, still became of staple of Batman's arsenal.

SOUNDS LIKE: Aron Kincaid plays Killer Croc. Though he had some film and TV roles in the 60s, he spent the later part of his life doing voice work, the most notable of which was probably Sky Lynx in Transformers.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The plot is just okay, a Medium, but Vendetta raises the bar in terms of action animation for the series.


LiamKav said...

The amusing thing about Aron Kincaid voicing Sky Lync is that the latter is a very posh, snobbish character who constantly went on about his superb design and how generally tip top spiffing he was. Until you just mentioned it I had no idea that he also did Croc's voice, which does show that he was really quite good at his job.

One note (that might have come up before)... Bullock's toothpicks are a creation of the TV series. I believe the original show bible shows him with the cigars that his comic counterpart smokes. Obviously we can't have that on a kids show, so a hasty substitution was made, as apparently it's important to the character that he always has something in his mouth. I choose to believe that BTAS Bullock had recently quit smoking, and the toothpicks were his "nicotine-patch".

On the animation... this episode was done by Spectrum, who always did excellent work. Apparently their attention to detail was so extremem that they ended up going bankrupt because of it. They were considered good enough to be used for the Mask of the Phantasm movie. Enjoy them, because they're only around for one more episode (and that movie) after this.

Siskoid said...

I will!

American Hawkman said...

Credit where credit is due to DC... there was a clear reason for Croc's degeneration, namely, Batman nerve-gassed the crap out of him in Swamp Thing. Because of his atavistic reversions after that, Croc changes regularly. He also actively pretends to be a dumb brute at times to lull his enemies in, according to his narration of Jason Woodrue's origin in Secret Origins.

American Hawkman said...

The New52 addressed Croc's variability as well by giving him a history of substance abuse issues... He's the one who actually sponsored Roy Harper through NarcAnon when he realized why Roy was trying to commit suicide-by-Croc.

Siskoid said...

Good reminders!

Anonymous said...

Friends don't let friends remind readers that Gerry Conway created Firestorm. I'm just sayin'.

So has Killer Croc shaken off the nerve gas in the nu52, or did it simply not happen? As I was mentioning the other day, of late we've been seeing Killer Croc as a sort of protector of the homeless and especially children, not a particularly nice guy but one who at least sees the needs of (some) others and tries to do right by them. Which I don't mind a bit.

American Hawkman said...

Croc had shaken off most of the nerve gas by that Secret Origins appearance, but it left him vulnerable to periodic shifts from mastermind to feral monster, with stages in-between. His exposure to a mutagenesis virus during Hush worsened the effect. The New52 seems to have eliminated the incident entirely, showing Croc's drug and alcohol problems as his reason for changing at times. Since the nerve gas bit is easily the most horrifying thing Batman has ever done, it's good to see it ashcanned.

LiamKav said...

"His exposure to a mutagenesis virus during Hush worsened the effect."

I think Hush managed to do tha to pretty much everyone in it.

LiamKav said...

This episode is very well timed with regards to Bullock. We've seen him get in Batman's way, and POV showed him in a fairly dodgy light. His overall design also could very easily be "dodgy cop". It's nice that Batman (and us) are proved wrong, and that there are shades of grey to justice. "We may have different ways of enforcing the law, but we both believe in it". Constanzo does a great job in this episode. I love his wry "ancient history...Yeah, right!" line. And I like that him and Bats get mutual respect for each other, with Bruce's grin at Harvey doing his grand "I'm back!" speech.


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