DCAU #98: Lock-Up

IN THIS ONE... Introducing Lyle Bolton, Lock-Up, an insane security expert who will stop at nothing to imprison Gotham's worst... and best.

CREDITS: Written by Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir and Paul Dini; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: Given how Batman is so often portrayed these days, his problem with Lock-Up seems almost hypocritical at times. Because Lock-Up really does sound like Frank Miller's Goddamn Batman at times, all too ready to do what must be done, like torturing the Ventriloquist's dummy with termites. But we must remember this is a gentler, wiser Batman. Just ignore the fact he stops most of his villains with brutal punches. Maybe they're not that brutal. I dunno. I'm sure the Scarecrow goes down with a light tap. But since Bruce Wayne's Foundation paid for the security expert at Arkham, it's his responsibility to get him fired, which sends Lyle Bolton off the deep end and into Akham-worthy territory himself.

A more mature story would have had Lock-Up capturing criminals on his own terms and Batman interceding for the law. Two vigilantes straddling a gray zone. Instead, Lock-Up is quite mad and jails liberal media type Summer Gleason, ineffectual cop James Gordon, bleeding heart psychiatrist Dr. Bartholomew, and systemic problem Mayor Hill. That squarely puts him on the side of evil, and starts a ring wing/left wing argument the show isn't really prepared to have. That simplified morality, I think, doesn't do the character justice. But on the level of poetic justice, I can appreciate his final fate, happily keeping an eye on Arkham from inside his own cell.

The episode is well balanced between Batman acting cleverly - the hearing where he has to shake the information out of the inmates - playing detective, and exciting action. The finale, on a sinking ship, pulls out all the stops. Hostages in the flooding hold, a fight on the rudder getting Batman all too close to spinning propeller blades, some great stuff.

IN THE COMICS: Lock-Up is an original creation from the DCAU, but turns up in the comics later, specifically Robin #24 (1996). In this and later appearances, he would capture villains and mobsters and put them in his ow personal prison. This Lyle Bolton was a police academy washout, fired from several security jobs (but not Arkham), and turned vigilante. Regardless, Lock-Up's M.O. is basically the Chain Gang's, a group whose series, Chain Gang War, took place near Gotham in 1993-94.

SOUNDS LIKE: Lock-Up is voiced by Bruce Weitz who would go on to play Bruno Manheim in the Superman Animated Series. Previously, he was best known as Sgt. Mick Belker on Hill Street Blues.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A strong new villain is introduced, but the plot isn't as complex as such a character might have warranted.


Anonymous said...

The source of my favorite quote from the series: "Another fine villain brought to you courtesy of a grant by Wayne Enterprises." - Robin on learning Lock-Up's origin.

American Hawkman said...

Lock-Up is also very much like the Locksmith from Spider-Woman at Marvel.

Siskoid said...

And the Master Jailer from Bronze Age Superman stories before that.

American Hawkman said...

I thought of the Master Jailer (and Deathtrap) but they actually never tried this scheme, focusing their energy on proving that they could trap Superman... mostly because Draper's designs were used to contain the villains well after he went mad. I should also note that we got a knockoff named Rumor in the Batman animated that followed JLU.

LiamKav said...

This might actually be Robin at his most effective. Too often the Batman & Robin episodes just have Dick sticking to Batman like glue, so that when the villain throws something at Batman to stop him, it usually takes down the pair of them. Here, Batman sends Robin out to get information on his own, a mission he succeeds at effortlessly. He goes after the hostages whilst Batman deals with Lock-Up. He is never in any danger himself, and he also gets the great line Speedball mentions above.

(Although saying that, exactly how many villains does Wayne Tech/Enterprises/Foundation/whatever have even partial responsibility for in this show? Lock-Up, sure. Mad Hatter, probably. Freeze was actually working for GothCorp, not Wayne. Maybe I'm forgetting the others...)

I think a bit of the issue this episode has is that Bolton isn't actually brutal enough to deserve his pre-Lock Up reputation. Threatening Scarface with termites sounds like the sort of thing Batman might do. Granted, chaining them up and electrocuting their doors is a bit more, but Robin declares him a creep right after meeting him and he hasn't done anything that Batman wouldn't do. It'd probably be better for the story if he was actually electrocuting the inmates, or depriving them of food, or beating them, but that might be a bit much for this show.

One design thing I've noticed with these later BTAS episodes is that Bruce seems to have swapped his ill-fitting brown and mustard suit for a better tailored all-black number, a change that will continue on (and be further refined) in TNBA. I'm of two minds about it. If Bruce is trying to present himself as a bit of a buffoon, then the prior hideous suit helped (and the bulkiness probably helped cover up his build). But if he is presenting himself as a serious business man, then the black suit works better. (And on that, I love how he casually knocks the chair at Bolton in order to trip him up without it being obvious to anyone else what he's doing.)


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