DCAU #51: Blind as a Bat

IN THIS ONE... Batman is blinded, but must still recover a stolen military helicopter from the Penguin.

CREDITS: Written by Mike Underwood (his only other credit is an episode of Night Court) and Len Wein; directed by Dan Riba.

It took me this long to figure out what the Penguin's deal was, and of course, this is his last episode as main antagonist. Ah well. It's not the bird motif of his crimes, or the half-assed "repugnant socialite" trope they've tried to bring forward, it's that he's CRUEL. Cruelty is his thing, and you see it in his wanton (and spectacular) destruction of a bridge, in how he gleefully abuses his henchmen, and in how satisfied he is to realize Batman is hurt. It's not new. Cobblebot relished toying with Batman trapped in his remote-controlled Batmobile in his previous appearance, when he had every chance of crashing the thing early on, and the fate he reserved for the useful soul who brought him the information on Batman's mechanic in the first place... I guess I just didn't see it. I needed a cumulative effect. And still, this is a story that could have fit almost any villain. The lack of real thematic focus for many Penguin stories speaks to his weakness in the writers' minds (and indeed, Batman needs to be impaired for him to offer any challenge at all).

One character that's a little less well-drawn is Bruce Wayne himself. I just don't see him as a weapons manufacturer à la Tony Stark, and what little misgivings he admits to see like scant justification for allowing the story's premise. A line of dialog about swearing WayneTech off such projects in the future at the end would have gone a long way, I think. As is, Bruce is kind of a flake on this subject. And the whole thing with the Daredevil vision, which requires Leslie to be a cyberneticist, is a little ropey too. How does it work anyway? Batman reacts to bright flashes, but it's supposed to be a kind of radar... Anyway, these are minor problems, because overall, it's a well put together episode, with epic set pieces - the bridge, the Batwing-copter dogfight, the foundry setting in which Batman finally stops relying on his failing tech and ADAPTS...

At the very least, this is the one where the Penguin becomes a real threat to Gotham City, and that's worth something.

SOUNDS LIKE: Dr. Lee is played by Huanani Minn, who was Hang on China Beach, and perhaps not coincidentally the spouse of Marc Singer who had previously voiced Man-Bat.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Penguin's redemption in my eyes and those strong action pieces allow me to easily dismiss the script's failings.


LiamKav said...

Mentioning that this is Penguin's last ep as the main villain makes me realise how quick this series has gone. Also, any idea what order you're doing everything in? I need to order some DVDs before you get there, and since some of them will be coming from the US it'll take some time. (Also, tip to any Brits reading this... With the exception of the very first season of BTAS, all the DCAU DVDs appear to be multi region. Or at least, region 2 compatible.)

Siskoid said...

A complicated question. I go by season, in the production order. But the DVDs aren't necessarily structured around those seasons - for BTAS anyway. Probably due to BTAS' first season being more than 60 episodes across three DVD sets, with 2 in set #2 being second season... I think things settled down after Batman though.

So Season 1 will be followed by a year's run of Batman Adventures comics. Then 2 (and Mask of the Phantasm), then comics, then 3, and so on.

After 4 seasons of Batman, 3 seasons of Superman, though SubZero shows up near the end of that 2nd season, and I probably have to alternate the two last seasons with New Batman Adventures.

Then Batman Beyond (3 seasons) with Return of the Joker in there. Then Static Shock, alternating with Zeta Project. Then Justice League (and all the while, doing comics in between each season) and JLU.

Mystery of the Batwoman, Chase Me, Gotham Girls and Lobo all fit chronologically where they would have been released in the schedule.

Or is that too much information?

Andrew said...

Funny story about this episode. It originally aired (if the wikipedia is to be believed) on February 22nd, 1993. On September 16, 1991, the Darkwing Duck episode "Duck Blind" was broadcast. The titular hero gets temporarily blinded by a villain and used technology to work around it--but Darkwing's story had more slapstick.

Not saying anything about where creators get their inspiration, especially since both titles are rather obvious wordplay.

Wriphe said...

The same story (villain has blinded a hero who must use technology to overcome it, blah, blah, blah) was used in BOOSTER GOLD #19/20 (1987). The trope in superhero comics must go back at least to the Golden Age.


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