DCAU #24: Appointment in Crime Alley

IN THIS ONE... Roland Daggett wants to blow up Crime Alley, even over Leslie Thompson's dead body.

CREDITS: Written by Gerry Conway (real comic book writer, killer of Gwen Stacy, creator for Firestorm); directed by Boyd Kirkland.

REVIEW: On the anniversary of his parents' death, Batman tries to reach Crime Alley and pay his respects, but things get in the way - mooks strong-arming families to move out of the neighborhood, sabotaged trams going out of control, and a bombing scheme that could cost many lives - and STILL they resist the urge to show us Batman's origin. We all know it. It would be a waste of time. And yet... It would have looked gorgeous, so I sort of miss it. The animation in this episode is so strong, it's very much a pity that particular studio (Don Yang Animation) didn't get a crack at it. Beautiful use of shadows, a graceful acrobatic Batman, exciting choreography, small details like the guys who want autographs, outstanding explosions (even if it was juts a model), palpable emotion... Just gorgeous. And the music! A lovely theme that's got the driving beats required of an action show, but also a melancholy feeling.

Bad things happen to good people in Crime Alley, and Batman knows because it happened to him. And despite the name, there are still a lot of good people who live there, some that have no choice, and some like Leslie who do and choose to make a positive difference. Her good works predate Park Row turning into Crime Alley, and as a friend of the Wayne family, she was there for young Bruce, just as she's there for the impoverished community today. And she knows who Batman is, clearly. But the episode never condescends to its audience. We're not overtly told this. There are many largely silent sequences. We see newspaper clippings that reveal their connection. She's obviously there for him emotionally when he must visit the site of his parents' deaths. But nothing needs to be verbalized or explained. And it's one of the most adult episodes we've yet gotten because of it.

Evil businessman Roland Daggett makes a return appearance, but mostly acts through underlings, more of a great Satan smiling as the city burns. The show continues to give us distinctive henchmen too. The sniveling bomb expert Nitro and the old-fashioned mobster Crocker, who cares if Leslie is comfortable while he puts her in a death trap, are fine creations. After this story, I really, really want Daggett to get his comeuppance.

IN THE COMICS: Loosely based on Dennis O'Neil's "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley" (Detective Comics #457, 1976), which likewise introduces Bruce Wayne's surrogate mother, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, though the story doesn't feature Daggett's bombing scheme. Originally, Leslie didn't know why Batman came to check on her every year, but she eventually became a Batman Family insider, which is how the episode chooses to picture her.

SOUNDS LIKE: Leslie Thompkins is recognizably played by Diana Muldaur (another famous fictional doctor, Katherine Pulaski on Star Trek TNG). Crocker is also quite recognizable; he's voiced by Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development, Transparent). Nitro is played by David Lander, that's right, Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley.

REWATCHABILITY: High
- The highest standard of animation and an intimate personal story that somehow manages to be action-packed.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

IF you really want to see the Waynes' murder in animated form, allow me to direct you to "The Fear," a 1985 episode of Superfriends (okay, technically it's The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, but that's even less of a change than going from The Andy Griffith Show to Mayberry R.F.D.)

Siskoid said...

I'm curious.

Of course there's also a Year One animated film.

LiamKav said...

I'm mainly shocked that Daggett wears white socks with brown shoes.

Also, a non evil doctor! My wife will be pleased. And hey, she apparently lives next door to Bruce Timm judging by the apartment buzzers.

As an adult with a fairly good knowledge of Batman lore, I know all about Crime Alley. But when I watched this episode as a 12 year old, I had no idea. And the episode itself doesn't make a big deal about it either. We're too distracted by Bruce trying to rescue Leslie to wonder what the "appointment" is. And when we are told, it's through Bruce looking at a photo album. Very understated. (Compare that to Arkham City's "Press A to pay your respects", which is still hilarious.)

I do love the whole "a night in the life of..." feel with this episode. Batman goes from place to place stopping various crimes, one of which occurs whilst he's waiting at a red light (which is amazing. The Batmobile sat at a traffic signal is just not something you expect to see). I wonder if this is what an average day is like for Superman. And hey, he does the "grapple to swing around a lamp post thing" that he did in the '89 movie.

Batman as a character exists in that awkward manner of all iconic comic characters where he can never develop too much, otherwise you lose the core of what's great about him. He can never get over his parents' death because that would ruin the character. However, there's a nice scene between Bruce and Damien in the first issue of the New 52 "Batman and Robin" series: where hs says that he's going to start honouring how they lived, rather than how they died:

"I'm tired of marking the night I watched my father bleed out from his sucking chest wound and my mother from a hole in her throat. It's not how they died that should be remembered, it's how they lived. That's why, from here on out, I'll be honoring their wedding anniversary and not their final night on this planet."

Oh, and as a cute reference, the truck Batman is stood on when he confronts the two hoods is labeleld "J. Olsen and Sons - Photographic equip. discount prices".

 

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