DCAU #67: Mudslide

IN THIS ONE... Clayface returns, but is losing integrity.

CREDITS: Written by Steve Perry and Alan Burnett; directed by Eric Radomski.

REVIEW: Clayface is back from the dead and there's not real reference to his fate from his last appearance. Batman takes his return in stride. Perhaps he's just used to the trope by now. Speaking of tropes, Mudslide is yet another "tragic monster" story, and introduces yet another "crazy fan" female character, of which only Harley Quinn has any depth and worth. This brilliant doctor has a possible cure of Clayface's ongoing deterioration, and seems to be acting purely out of a fannish obsession with actor Hatt Hagen. That's not very interesting, though the metal suit she makes Hagen wear to keep his form between treatments looks like an Oscar, so there's that. And is their lair built atop HADRAC's old cliff by the sea? Sure looks like it. (Note, too, that Alfred seems to be Batman's pre-IMDB resource for film trivia; is he a big fan of Matt Hagen, or was he asked to watch all his movies in Clayface returned and information was needed?)

I'm not sure this is Batman's best solution to a tragic monster dilemma. Where he's been proactive in restoring Kirk "Man-Bat" Langstrom to normal, here he's in possession of tech that could save Hagen's life, but won't let him have it. Nor does the monster and his Stelllllaaaaaaaaaa (another movie reference) simply ASK WayneTech. And okay, yes, this wouldn't have cured Hagen of his clay form, but stabilized it and made him more powerful. If he were to continue his criminal ways, yes, that would be a problem. But since his crimes were committed to cure himself, wouldn't a little cooperation have gone a long way here? In the end, we get the closest thing to a death on the series, with Hagen dissolving in sea water, in what looks to be (but surely isn't) permanent. And though Batman reaches for him, it still seems like his intransigence resulted in that less-than-optimal finish.

But then this is quite the violent episode. The things you can do with a mud monster! The animation is brilliant (and apparently costly, which is why we don't see Clayface more often), with its gooey transformations, Batman fighting from inside the monster, and Clayface's head bursting open by a bat-grapple fired from within. And that's almost enough to recommend its simple plot.

SOUNDS LIKE: Pat Musick, who plays Stella, has done a lot of voice work, perhaps most notably that of Tony in the American Tail movies, and Janine in The Real Ghostbusters.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Some cool, high caliber animation, but the story is about as thin as Clayface in the rain.


American Hawkman said...

The Oscar bit was cute, but I kinda wish they'd used Preston Payne's containment suit.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

...And this was it. This was my introduction, as a little kid, to the character and concept of Batman. And not even the whole episode; just the last 5 minutes.

So basically, I spent most of my childhood hating Batman.

As far as I could tell, he was little better than the Punisher; through a combination of unthinking, unheeding violence (stopping the restorative process) and ineptitude or negligence (taking things outside in a rain), he was a violent psychopath who (apparently) murdered a tragic mutant figure that was just trying to become human again. Thanks to this first impression of Batman from any medium, it was YEARS before I gave any incarnation of Batman a second chance, and years beyond that before I could reconcile the notion that this was just an aberration, and he was *not* meant to be a killer in other forms of media.

So, yeah- this one is not one of my favorites. And even having watched it last year and seeing Batman's actions as at least understandable, as Clayface is no angel either... it still comes across as one where Batman screws up badly, too eager to swing his fists to stop and think about the consequences of his actions. Not one of the better portrayals or plots.

Siskoid said...

You may want to steer clear of Batman v Superman then.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Ha! :-D Believe me, I plan to. But watching the train-wreck of reviews is a fun occupation.

LiamKav said...

I don't quite agree with the "Batman is way out of line" angle here. At the end of Clayface's last appearence and at the beginning of this one, he offers to help Clayface. This is despite the fact that last time Hagen was attempting to murder someone (Roland Daggett, granted, but he's still trying to kill him) and this time he attempts to murder Batman when he's caught committing a robbery. I wonder, does Hagen WANT to be cured? Or does he just want to have complete mastery of his transformation powers? Hagen is certainly a nasty piece of work, as both last episode and this one play him very much as "abusive partner", in both cases hurling abuse at someone who cares and loves them whilst breaking out into sudden bursts of violence before half heartedly saying "sorry".

Eric Radomski is often the forgotten forth member of the BTAS trio (with Timm and Dini being the other two), and he deserves much more credit. The directing in this episode is amazing. The whole sequence where Clayface sucks Batman inside him and Bruce struggles for a really long time before grapple-gunning his way out is breathtaking (no pun intended).

It was handy of Stella to wear her white coat in the car, so that Bruce and Alfred could determine that she was a doctor. INTERESTING FACT (maybe?): Medical doctors in the UK never wear white coats. They're considered a barrier to patient communication (putting themselves on a higher pedestal), they carry infection (almost all doctors follow a "bare below the elbows" policy"), they're hot and they are a pain if you're charging down a hospital ward. Now, if Stella had been running around in a pair of scrubs...

Finally, I sometimes wonder if Alfred makes stuff for Bruce for his own entertainment. He cooks a massivegoose despite the fact that there was a good chance Bruce wasn't going to be home in time to eat it hot, and he pours him tea that he doesn't want. Maybe he operates on the same policy we did when I used to work in Pizza Hut... if the customer doesn't want it, the staff get to eat it.


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