DCAU #348: A Little Thing

IN THIS ONE... The Batman Family cheer Robin up by wearing funny supervillain costumes.

CREDITS: Written by Scott Peterson; art by Tim Levins and Terry Beatty.

REVIEW: After Robin gets a little too violent, the rest of the team is forced to address his blues. He's heard of the good old days when villains were just costumed cooks and not right psychos or gun-toting gangbangers. Of course, the odd Condiment King aside, the show's mostly been gangsters and psychos, so what is he talking about? This is meta-commentary more than anything. A yearning for Batman '66 and possible comment on the grimmer, darker Batman being published at this time. And on that level, it works. Giving Tim Drake this feeling of nostalgia gives it some credibility as well, because he doesn't really know. It's the stories he's heard.

Nightwing and Batgirl resolve to cheer him up by giving him exactly what he's pining for - silly thematic villains to fight. The twist on the Silver Age ploy is that Tim's too smart not to see right through their disguises. Prairie Girl and Lion Man don't get to do very much. Robin recognizes their way of moving and of course, they don't allow any time to pass between his wish and their arrival. It's kind of fun, however, to see Nightwing fight thugs in partial Lion Man costume over the rest of the issue. And though thematic villains don't really show up, we do get a riotous gang that all wear hubcaps around their necks. I mean, it's not Calendar Man, but it's something.

Robin gets his groove back thanks to a very lame supervillain called ChloroPhil, a teenage dweeb who's about to knock over a flower shop to prove something to a girl when he's caught. It's Robin as guidance counselor and a rather good moment for him. I think later indicating that Phil was Alfred in convincing disguise is a step too far, taking away from the achievement of turning a kid's life around for the sake of a punch line. The joke just isn't that funny.
REREADABILITY: Medium-High - A fun light-hearted idea that pushes its luck one time too many, but good for the first 21 pages.


Unknown said...

I like the story fine as is but to make it more than just -good- the cave scene really should have (and I instinctively cringe when people posit what a work "should" do but in my defence this ties into the thrust of the story, so!) have ended in Alfred revealing "Phil's" identity to Tim. Not just because morality but because then the deception naturally disarms itself.
Which it already does by the implication that Tim will continue reaching out but, well, as you point out it's basically a placebo. Alfred "should" have pointed out that Tim can keep doing this -when he can- because anyone he sees hesitating in a shop doorway could be a Phil. It's not that it doesn't suck that Gotham is all psychos and gangsters, it's that if you want to make it better pining for the old days you heard about won't do anything. Reaching out to the real Phil's of the world though...

And if nothing else, Tim's at least surrounded by people who care enough to try and cheer him up. That sure is something!

And for Tim's good ol' days, I've never given a hoot how cannon the Lost Years were or not but given Tim was a major Bat fan who really dug that he hung out with Robin maybe he thinks of the show's earlier more pulpy period as a good time because from his, what, ten. eleven year old perspective it really looked like it.


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