Batman has died again. This week saw the release of BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Vol. 2) #16, the final issue of the comic book series that tied in with the similarly named cartoon series which began in 2008 and aired its final episode in the United States in November.
All together, the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” universe comprised 65 cartoons and 39 comic books (two comic book series that ran 22 issues and 16 issues, respectively, plus a six-page story in a 2011 Free Comic Book Day issue from DC Comics). There was also other related merchandise including toys, video games and a music album.
While the show was primarily a Batman vehicle, the “team-up” premise of the series provided near-endless opportunities for characters other than Batman and his group of heroes and villains to make appearances. As a result, many Superman-related characters made appearances (or had their presence felt through cameos, Easter eggs or references) in episodes of the show or in the pages of the comic book throughout their respective runs.
This is the first of a four-part retrospective of the series, looking at the appearances of and references to the Superman family throughout the runs of the television show and its comic book counterpart and examining the incarnations of those characters as seen through the lens of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”
The Superman love began in the very first episode, “The Rise of Blue Beetle!,” written by Michael Jelenic and directed by Ben Jones, when Superman was mentioned by Jaime Reyes, a.k.a. the Blue Beetle, in a discussion with his friend Paco about a hypothetical battle between the Man of Steel and Batman. Jaime proposes a scenario where Poison Ivy uses her “mind-control spores” to take control of Superman, causing the two to do battle (possibly a verbal homage to BATMAN #611-612, parts three and four of Jeph Loeb’s “Hush” story). In the conversation, the boys also mention kryptonite as a possible means by which Superman could be defeated.
Later in the same episode, Paco is switching television channels and passes a commercial for “Plastino’s Cat Snacks.” Not only is this a reference to longtime Superman-family artist and Supergirl co-creator Al Plastino, but the cat mascot seen in the commercial is clearly a nod to Supergirl’s pet, Streaky the Supercat.
These were followed in episode two, “Terror on Dinosaur Island!,” written by Steven Melching and directed by Brandon Vietti, in which Superman is mentioned by Plastic Man who, after being caught in a rather unpleasant situation, rhetorically asks why things like that never happen to Superman.
Also notable is that this episode contains the show’s first reference to the Justice League, which did not have its first full appearance on the show until season two. Appearances of Justice League-related characters will not be covered in this article, but it is noteworthy that references to such major DC Comics staples began very early in the series, even if they were technically not allowed to use the “big guns,” such as Superman and Wonder Woman, in an official capacity in the animated version until much later.
The comic books, too, got in early on the act, beginning with BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1. In “The Panic of the Composite Creature,” a story written by Matt Wayne with art by Andy Suriano and Dan Davis, we get the first and only appearance in the franchise of Power Girl.
While no familial connection to Superman is specified, she is described in a “Secret Bat-Files” page as “a survivor of the destruction of Krypton in a parallel universe (with) the same Kryptonian physique as Superman, and the same amazing abilities.” Superman is also specifically referenced in the dialogue of the story.
We also get a brief appearance by Power Girl’s alter-ego, Karen Starr, a computer programmer working to develop software which would detect instabilities in the Earth’s core that could lead to a tragedy that happened on Krypton from befalling Earth.
In the story, Batman and Power Girl team up to take on the challenge of none other than Lex Luthor. (He is only referred to as “Luthor” in the story itself; the “Secret Bat-Files” page names him Lex Luthor.)
Here, Luthor is presented as very much the “mad scientist.” His depiction is much campier and over-the-top than we would get in later appearances on the show. The visual model for the character is also distinctly different, though that likely owes to the fact that either his appearance on the show was a very long way off and the look of the character had not yet been established or, that the book’s artist did not have character model sheets from the show’s producers.
Originally, the show’s creators were not allowed to use Superman or any related characters in a significant capacity due to rights issues. However, those same issues did not prevent those characters from appearing in the comic book incarnation. This allowed Superman himself to make his first full appearance not in the show, but in the teaser portion of “The Attack of the Virtual Villains,” written by Matt Wayne and illustrated by Phil Moy, from BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2.
These pages also mark the first appearance of the Toyman. This is presumably Winslow Schott, as he resembles Schott from the then-current regular DC universe continuity, however, he is only called Toyman in the text. Like with Luthor, the visual model for both Superman and the Toyman differ from what we would appear in later appearances.
These pages also contain the first appearance of the Daily Planet globe (or any reference to the Daily Planet at all), what looks to be the LexCorp tower, as well as the first reference to Clark Kent and another reference to kryptonite.
Note that Superman says here that he and Batman pull the “identity switch” trick to fool the Toyman into thinking Batman was dead. They would use a similar stunt in Superman’s first full-episode appearance on the cartoon.
The 13th episode, “Game Over For Owlman!,” written by Joseph Kuhr and directed by Ben Jones, brought an appearance by, or at least an homage to, what appears to be the “Batman of 800,000 A.D.,” as originally seen in “The Infinite Evolutions of Batman and Superman!” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #151.
The character had no dialogue, and thus no actor portraying him. He later had another minor, non-speaking, cameo appearance during season three in “Night of the Batmen!”
The Superman references continued, albeit in a less direct manner, in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #3. “President Batman!,” written by Matt Wayne with art by Andy Suriano and Dan Davis, saw Batman and Green Arrow teaming up against the Ultra-Humanite.
By the story’s end, he had transferred his mind into the body of a giant white gorilla named Topango. But, for the duration of this story, the Ultra-Humanite was a typical, bald mad scientist, much like he was in his first six ACTION COMICS appearances, written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.
In the story, he transferred his mind into the body of a gorilla, it seems, to escape being brought to justice by the heroes. But the “Secret Bat-Files” page at the end of the book revealed a different reason.
An amusing meta-reference, given the similarities between the Golden Age incarnations of both characters, and that an artist’s confusion between the two is often cited for the reason Luthor became bald, after his initial appearances showed him with a full head of hair.
Superman was referenced again, though not my name, in episode 19, “Legends of the Dark Mite!,” written by Paul Dini and directed by Ben Jones. Batman is confronted for the first time by Bat-Mite, who explains he is a being from the Fifth Dimension. Batman replies, “A friend of mine in Metropolis told me about menaces like you.” No doubt a reference to Superman and Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Later in the episode, Bat-Mite zaps Batman to a dimension full of strange-looking creatures. The occupants of this dimension include cameos from several bizarre creatures who were featured in Superman/Batman team-up tales originally published in WORLD’S FINEST COMICS from mid-1959 to late 1960, including:
A race of aliens of unknown origin (one named Khalex originally appeared in “The Alien Superman” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #105)
The time-creature (originally appeared in “The Secret of the Time-Creature” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #107)
Star creatures (originally appeared in “The Star Creatures” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #108)
I am unaware of a direct reference for the green dragon-like monster, though its source of inspiration could have come from any number of Silver Age tales where similar monsters appeared, including one encountered by Batman and Robin in “The Bewitched Batman” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #109.
Other creatures who appeared include:
The “alien who doomed Robin,” seen here in the upper right from the waist down only (originally appeared in “The Alien Who Doomed Robin” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #110)
Mxyzptlk’s creature (originally appeared in “Bat-Mite meets Mr. Mxyzptlk” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #113), Gleek (originally appeared in “The Menace of Superman’s Pet” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #112 and not to be confused with the blue “space monkey” character who first appeared in “The All-New Super Friends Hour”) and Anthkar (originally appeared in “Captives of the Space Globes” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #114)
The crime robot, seen here on the right (originally appeared in “Bat-Mite meets Mr. Mxyzptlk” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #113)
The rainbow creature, who was originally seen in “The Rainbow Creature” from BATMAN #134, is seen on the left. Superman had no connection to the BATMAN story, however.
In the episode, none of the creatures had any dialogue beyond grunts and growls. All were merely cameo appearances and may have, in fact, been creations of Bat-Mite’s magic.
The parade of Superman-centric villains continued with episode 21, “Duel of the Double Crossers!,” written by Todd Casey and directed by Michael Chang. In that episode, we meet the brutal warlord Mongul, voiced by Gary Anthony Williams.
While only called Mongul in the show, visually, he resembles Mongul the Lesser from the regular DC Universe continuity, rather than the original Mongul (a.k.a. Mongul the Elder). There is no specific reference to Mongul the Elder in the episode, though Mongul says “(his) family created Warworld” which could indicate he is, in fact, the second Mongul, as in the comics.
Adding to this is that, in the episode, we all meet Mongul’s sister, also voiced by Gary Anthony Williams. Oddly, she is not named in the show’s dialogue, though the end-of-episode credits give her the name Mongal, like her regular DC Universe continuity counterpart.
The plot of the episode involves Jonah Hex hunting down and forcefully gathering recruits, including Batman, to participate in gladiatorial games being run by Mongul and Mongal on Warworld. The majority of the episode is set on Warworld itself, so we are treated to many views of the it — not just the planet as an establishing shot, but also the landscape, arenas, prisons and containment units throughout the course of the story.
One of the oddest things about the episode is that, in the final fight, Batman was able to take a punch from Mongul and not be killed as one might expect.
Maybe Mongul pulled his punch? Maybe Batman is really strong? The episode offered no explanation.
“Duel of the Double Crossers!” was the final Superman-related appearance in either season one of the show or in the first year of the comic book. But, the both the cartoon and the comic book continued, as did the Superman references.
Be sure to come back Friday, February 17, for part two of this series, which will cover the show’s second season and comic books released during that time!