Happy New Year! I’ve been doing a lot of Batman thinking lately, due mostly to the abundance of trade graphic novels I picked up from the library last week. (The more I read of Damian Wayne’s story, the more he’s my favorite Robin. And the more I dread getting to the end. I love this kid and I hope he gets resurrected soon!) And of course because I was due for another animated movie. But before I dove into Batman VS Dracula, I decided to watch an episode or 2 of The Batman, the series it was tied into.
An episode or two turned into a season and a half and thus the watch got pushed off. Anyway, I watched, I enjoyed and here we go.
It was definitely good to watch the show first, not because this version of Gotham needed much exposition, it’s pretty shallow, but because the change in animation style for B:TAS to The Batman is jarring. It’s much more cartoony, and decidedly lighter. It’s a whole lot more fun, and there’s a good deal of focus on the gadgetry (which gets criticism, but the Nolan movies also focus a whole lot on the gadgets.) Also, That Batman makes a few other decisions to change, namely the most important choice that any Batman writer must make, who’s the real guy? Batman or Bruce? Timm and Dini truly believed that Batman was the real guy, but The Batman seems to believe that Bruce is the real guy.
This is an important detail because Batman VS Dracula is the animation debut of Miss Vicki Vale. I’m not a huge fan of Vicki’s, I liked Kim Bassinger in the original Burton Batman, but her comic appearances make her seem vapid and kind of a lightweight when it comes to her romantic competition. But she serves the narrative well here, doing what Vicki does best, taking being stood up by Bruce in stride and being nosy.
The plot is thicker than I expected, even with the Bruce/Vicki action taking a backseat. Basically, The Penguin breaks out of Arkham and chases after a rumored buried treasure in a cematery. Instead of treasure he finds Dracula who because of comics has been moved to Gotham from Transylvania. Penguin accidentally cuts his hand and awakens the Dark Master. He then takes on the toady role, and is almost as much fun in it as Xander Harris. Meanwhile, Batman fights Joker across town, and Joker falls almost to his death. Batman assumes he’s dead and it hits him hard. But not so hard that he can’t go on a date disguised as an interview with Vicki.
As Dracula gains a foothold several Gothamites begin disappearing, and of course witnesses report a bat like figure at the scenes, thus Batman is getting the blame. Bruce begins trying to unravel the mystery of “The Lost Ones” while falling just a little bit for Vicki. When the Penguin tells Dracula that the way into Gotham society is through Bruce Wayne, the vamp shows up to a Wayne Foundation fundraiser using the pseudonym Dr. Alucard (Dracula backwards, but well, come on, I immediately thought of “Dr. Acula,” a joke that will never ever get old.) Eventually, Joker shows up again, gets turned into a vampire. (Vampire joker is awesome) and Bruce winds up under Dracula’s thrall. Then he beats him.
I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. The Batman embraces camp in a way that B:TAS doesn’t, so rather than feeling just a little forced, the way the Mystery of The Batwoman did, it feels a little bit silly but exactly right. Rino Ramano’s Bruce/Batman is very different from any of the others I’ve heard. It (like this style) is a lot lighter, and a good deal younger. Like I said, this version seems to focus on Bruce over Batman which is cool. Alastair Duncan’s Alfred is probably my favorite part of this series. He’s comedicly awesome. And his organizing of the staff during the Wayne Foundation Gala is a masterful bit of characterization. I greatly enjoyed Kevin Michael Richardson’s Joker. It’s not my favorite or even number two (that goes to John Dimaggio in Under The Red Hood) but it’s very good and I love the Joker character design her. Tara Strong is Vicki Vale, and she really is immensely talented. Overall the cast is good and the voice acting excellent. The animation is highly stylized but never clumsy. Overall, it’s a good watch, far more enjoyable than Mystery or and more even (but I don’t love it as much as) SubZero. It isn’t a masterpiece like Phantasm and the action doesn’t match Return of The Joker, but I’ll probably watch it again some time and I absolutely plan on finishing The Batman as a series. (And not only because I know that Dick and Babs are coming, and I haven’t encountered them yet!)
Up next is Superman: Braniac Attacks. I’m really psyched to get past Batman. I don’t know what’s happening to me!
Hope everyone has a happy new year. I’m looking forward to a year full of Man Of Steel: Justice League and Avengers: Age of Ultron news, the return of Agents of Shield, Captain America: Winter Soldier, the final season of Mad Men and a new Doctor. It’s going to be quite a fangirly year!