DCAU #277: Spellbound

IN THIS ONE... A super-illusionist uses high school kids and their parents to commit crimes.

CREDITS: Written by Robert Goodman; directed by Butch Lukic.

REVIEW: The new Spellbinder looks like something out of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, with his spiral face and flying platform that looks like a giant phonograph needle arm. It's a great look, and if you've ever seen the original comics Spellbinder, a solid improvement. The mystery of his identity kind of got by me, though it's of course another manifestation of that old trope whereby it's somehow someone in the hero's surroundings. This time, it's the school counselor, which at least explains why all the crimes have a connection to the kids in Terry's class, including Jered Tate whose family will become more important later, and Chelsea, the blond girl who's been in the show since the first episode, playing the field (is Rick her third boyfriend already?). Annoying trope or not, it's a good use of Terry's extended cast. I just wish the villains had better motivations than "I don't get paid enough for what I do".

But the show certainly has that undercurrent. There are haves and there are have-nots, and Terry certainly seems to go to a school for rich kids. Everyone's parents are well-to-do, and while my thought was that Terry wasn't (riding the subway in Rebirth), but his father did work for Wayne-Powers so it's not clear. He still needs to borrow a tuxedo (Dick's of course, and that motorcycle also puts us in mind of Batman's original ward) when attending the Tate wedding. Now of course, he works for a billionaire, so he becomes a target/lure. Whatever Terry's financial status, to Commissioner Barbara Gordon, he's another troubled teen Bruce Wayne has picked up and most likely the new Batman. Great exchange of looks at the end!

What really makes the episode, though, is Spellbinder's cool illusions and how they're intercut into the "real" action. Chelsea playing at Indiana Jones, slashing her hairbrush at an imaginary jungle. The auctioneer smashing a coffee cup which explodes like a grenade. Mrs. Tate's insect phobia turning absolutely everything into a gross bug, right down to her earrings (when dispelled, she's still afraid of Batman, which is cute). And Terry is taken to such extremes, he rips his suit to shreds, exposing the electronic underskin for the first time, wow. Plus, Bruce playing Wong Fei-hung with the cane fu and leading a "blind" Batman's fists to destination. All very neatly done.

IN THE COMICS: Batman did have a Spellbinder in his rogues' gallery, a painter who used optical illusions, hypnotism, and an ugly piecemeal suit to commit crimes. He was really Delbert (not Ira) Billings, first appearing in Detective Comics #358 (1966). In the 90s, after refusing to take Neron's deal for greater power, his girlfriend shot him in the head and became Lady Spellbinder with her new illusion-casting powers. She was apparently killed during Infinite Crisis.

SOUNDS LIKE: Spellbinder's voice is lent by Jon Cypher who, in addition to having a sweet sci-fi name, was Man-at-Arms in the Masters of the Universe movie. Jared Tate is played by Cuba Gooding Jr.'s younger brother Omar, who sadly has a credit in Ghost Dad. His mom is Vernée Watson-Johnson, who played Will Smith's mother on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, while his new stepdad Jim is Dorian Harewood who was Ron Troupe on the Superman Animated Series (watch out for Jim Tate, he'll become important later). Oh and that's Les Nessman himself, Richard Sanders, as the effete museum curator Mr. Deakins.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Another villain seeking better motivation, but he looks great and allows the production team to have fun with a variety of illusions.

1 comments:

Simon Dyer said...

Spellbinder's motivation feels like it's just missing Bruce digging up some files about how he was a pioneering future psychiatrist who was forced to take a high school counselling job when he was blacklisted for going too far with his new technique.

Also my impression is that Dad had the high paying corporate job and Mum was the lower/middle class one, hence the welcome addition of Terry's job for Mr. Wayne.

 

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