Archive for the ‘Special Reports’ Category

May 1st, 2015  Posted at   Special Reports

A comment on a recent episode of Wahoo! A Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos Podcast got me thinking about Nazis.

On Wahoo!, hosts Brian and Dion discuss Sgt. Fury stories taking place during World War II, but published in the 1960s, long after the end of the war. But comics had been popular for decades before then, with Superman’s debut, generally considered the beginning of the comics industry as we know it today, coming in 1938.

So as the war in Europe began heating up, what was comic books’ response? Judging by the covers, DC Comics and Marvel Comics took very different approaches to the war.

Marvel came out swinging as early as MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #4 (cover date February 1940), which featured one of their top heroes at the time, the Sub-Mariner, plowing through a trio of Nazi seamen.

Marvel Mystery Comics #4

The Submariner and Marvel’s other headlining hero, the Human Torch, continued to occasionally chop down Nazi forces on covers every few months for the next year. Then in 1941, Marvel debuted their big gun as Captain America hit the scene like a sock to Hitler’s jaw — literally (or at least visually!) on the cover to CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (cover date March 1941).

Captain America Comics #1

And with the Star-Spangled Avenger leading the way, the proverbial floodgates were opened. Until the end of the war, to not see one of Marvel’s super-heroes taking on Nazi, SS or Axis troops on a cover seems to be the rarity.

But over at DC Comics, it was a very different story.

There certainly was no shortage of pro-America covers and those promoting the purchase of war bonds and stamps. A smattering of books even featured Superman or other heroes fighting back generic and non-descript armies. But it wasn’t until more than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that the specific enemy in that war was shown with ACTION COMICS #58 (cover date March 1943) and the infamous and unfortunate “slap a Jap” cover.

Action Comics #58

The next month, things spread a bit farther across the line with four covers (WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #9, STAR SPANGLED COMICS #19, BOY COMMANDOS #2 AND ACTION COMICS #59) directly addressing the Axis threat.

But afterward, things again quieted down. Through Japan’s formal surrender in the fall of 1945, covers occasionally addressed the war effort, encouraged purchasing war bonds and even featured heroes taking on Axis forces. But, such covers were mainly found on issues of titles featuring Superman (SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS) or Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’s Commandos (STAR SPANGLED COMICS and their own self-titled book).

And such covers never came with the frequency or gusto of Marvel. The majority of DC’s war-themed covered focused on supporting the troops and being pro-America, rather than taking down the Nazis and other Axis members.

And that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with either approach, and an in-depth look at the insides of books from both companies might tell yet two more stories. But I find the difference on their covers, at the very least, interesting. And I’m curious why such a difference exists, though we will likely never know.

But if you were a member of the Axis, would you want this coming at you?

Superman #23

Me, neither.

(Special thanks to Mike’s Amazing World for help with this post.)

March 16th, 2012  Posted at   Special Reports

Today we conclude our look at Superman and related characters in the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” cartoon and its comic book counterparts. In part one, part two and part three, we looked at Superman references from the first two seasons, the premiere of season three and comic books released during that time. Today we continue on with the rest of season three and the final issues of the comic book, plus examine a few other appearances from throughout the show and comics’ runs of interest to Superman fans.

Despite the almost exhaustive list of Superman-related references to this point, particularly in “Battle of the Superheroes!,” the season three premiere, they were not yet done. More followed in the episodes and comics to come starting just a few episodes later with “Night of the Batmen!” which was written by Paul Giacoppo and directed by Ben Jones.

In the episode, Martian Manhunter mentions an unchronicled adventure when he infiltrated the Legion of Doom and specifically names Luthor as being among their ranks.

The episode also features a sly Superman movie reference when Captain Marvel, disguised as Batman, punches Killer Croc down the street. Blockbuster and Bane stare confused, thinking he actually is Batman. In reply, Captain Marvel says, “Been… uh… working out,” while making a “pumping iron” gesture with his arms similar to Clark Kent in the diner at the end of “Superman II.”

The teaser portion of the episode also contains a brief glimpse at a pair of street signs for Weisinger and Meskin Sts., in reference to Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin.

While Weisinger was editor of the Superman family titles for more than 20 years during the Silver Age, the signs were in reference to his and Meskin’s creation of the Vigilante, who was the teaser’s guest star, rather than Weisinger’s Superman work. The Vigilante was a co-feature with Superman, however, in the pages of ACTION COMICS for 13 years, beginning with issue #42 in 1941.

Superman — in a fashion — made another return in “Shadows and Light,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis, from ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7. The teaser portion of the story saw the entire Justice League, Superman included, transformed into infants.

This, of course, echoes not only the Super Jrs. and the infamous Superbaby stories, but similar events from comics past where Superman was transformed into a baby, such as “The Babe of Steel!” from ACTION COMICS #284 and “The Five Legion Orphans!” from ADVENTURE COMICS #356, as well as “Uncle Mxyzptlk,” an episode of “Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show.”

The one responsible for the League’s transformation was the Time Trapper, a second vague Legion of Super-Heroes reference. The Legion is not mentioned, of course, but the Time Trapper is historically considered among their most formidable adversaries.

While not responsible for any of echoed transformations of Superman, the Time Trapper did cause a similar plague to befall the several members of the Legion of Super-Heroes in “The Menace of the Sinister Super-Babies!” from ADVENTURE COMICS #338. Superboy was not affected in that story, however.

ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD presented “3:10 to Thanagar,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis. The story featured the first and only appearance in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon of Supergirl.

Her appearance is only a one-page cameo. So, unfortunately, we are given no information as to her relationship with Superman. However, she appears to be wearing a costume like that of the original post-Crisis Supergirl (Matrix) .

The following issue, ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #10, was “Help Wanted,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis. It was the sad story of man named Joe: henchman for hire. Thrown under the bus by a tanking economy, Joe scoured Metropolis for work with no luck, leaving him no option but to go to work as a henchman for the Toyman.

The character is still only called “Toyman” in the issue and, unfortunately, in this, his third appearance, the visual model for the character is different yet again. The character appears on the cover as well, with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis, bringing us a fourth model for the character.

Though to be fair, the cover and interior line art is pretty similar. The biggest difference is the hair color.

Thankfully, Superman, who also makes another appearance this issue (back to his adult age, thankfully), looks as close to the animated series counterpart as we have seen.

Though, again, he appears to be missing the S-shield on his cape, strangely.

In addition to Metropolis, Superman and Toyman, Green Kryptonite is once again used in the story.

The story’s dialogue and art also demonstrate that kryptonite radiation be blocked by lead, which was shown but not explicitly stated in “Battle of the Superheroes!”

While certainly not the last Superman-related reference (or even appearance) on the show or in the comic, the last epic hoorah came in the eighth episode of season three, and the 60th episode overall, with “Triumvirate of Terror!,” written by Paul Giacoppo and directed by Michael Goguen.

It began in the teaser portion, which found the Justice League, including Superman, squaring off against the Legion of Doom, including Lex Luthor, in a game of good ol’-fashioned American baseball! It was a throwback to classic tales like “The Great Super-Star Game” from DC SUPER STARS #10 as well as the covers to WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #3 by Fred Ray and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #15 by Jack Burnley.

Roger Rose and Kevin Michael Richardson reprised their roles as Superman and Lex Luthor, respectively. Luthor’s suit in the teaser tips its hat to the legendary “Super Friends” series (not to mention similar outfits worn in other continuities), adding yet another “era” of Luthor to the list of homages, with more to come.

Jimmy Olsen made a return appearance in the teaser, as well, again voiced by Alex Polinsky.

Dialogue in the teaser also gave tips-of-the-hat to former Superman (and Batman) editor Julius Schwartz as well as Frank Miller.

The main portion of the episode brought even more references as the story revolved around Lex Luthor, the Joker and the Cheetah teaming up to take on the “Big Three” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Like in the teaser, Roger Rose and Kevin Michael Richardson reprised their roles as Superman and Lex Luthor, respectively. This marks the first pairing of DC’s Trinity in the animated show, though all had appeared in the main story from ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #4.

While he again donned the “Super Friends”-esque gear from the teaser for a portion of it, for the majority of the episode, paying homage to yet another era of the character’s history, Luthor was clad in a suit of battle armor.

The suit was powered by a “perpetual energy source,” giving Luthor enough strength and protection to “counter any degree of power.” The suit, rather than being of Luthor’s own invention, was ostensibly stolen from S.T.A.R. Laboratories. (For more on S.T.A.R. Labs’ use in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” see the Lest We Forget addendum at the article’s end.

Green Kryptonite also made another appearance, as Luthor attempted to use it against Superman.

This time, unlike in “Battle of the Superheroes!,” it was specifically shown and stated that lead could block its effects.

Superman took a trip back to the Fortress this episode, as well, giving us another look at Superman’s arctic hideaway — as well as the first actual use of the giant key seen in other appearances as Superman used it to access the Fortress.

Inside the Fortress, we again see the Bottle City of Kandor — though, oddly, again, it is not called as such. Superman refers to it simply as “Kandor City,” saying it is “filled with Kryptonian artifacts.”

On the tour through the Fortress we also saw a new feature not seen in previous visits: towering statues of Superman’s Kryptonian birth parents holding up what is, presumably, a model of Krypton.

Neither of Superman’s Kryptonian parents are named or even referenced in the show’s dialogue — nor are the statues even referred to as being of his parents. But, they look very much like the Silver Age incarnations of Jor-El and Lara.

The episode also included Superman making reference to “his Smallville days” and the first mention and use of his vulnerability to magic. Clark Kent also performed the classic shirt rip, before ducking into a nearby telephone booth to finish the change before taking flight as Superman.

Other staples of the Superman mythology that were previously seen in “Battle of the Superheroes!” received brief cameo appearances, including the Daily Planet building and non-speaking appearances by Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White.

An epilogue also gave us a look at our heroes 50 years into the future. Unlike “The Knights of Tomorrow!” which was merely a “possible” future tale as written by Alfred Pennyworth, this epilogue scene is one of the only — if not the only — scene in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon giving a look at their real future. Certainly, it is the only one giving us a look at the future of Superman himself.

The visual depiction of the three seems to be a clear homage to the epilogue of KINGDOM COME, written by Mark Waid with art by Alex Ross. The greying hair of both Clark and Diana and Diana’s outfit are clearly similar to that classic storyline. Moreover, Bruce’s steel-frame supports are like those seen there, and his wheelchair later morphed into Bat-themed armor nearly identical to that worn by Bruce in KINGDOM COME.

The 62nd episode of the series and 10th of season three was “Powerless!,” written by Greg Weisman, Todd Casey and Kevin Hopps and directed by Michael Goguen. It presented a music number by Aquaman (again, don’t ask) titled “Aquaman’s Rousing Song of Heroism!” that referenced Superman — or “a superman,” as it were — in the refrain.

Who are you?
Just a man or a superman?
The man we turn to for the plan
Who are you?
Just a man or a superman?
The man we need to take a stand

The animation from during the song also gave direct nods to Superman, including showing Aquaman in a Superman costume soaring over the city.

The montage also showed Aquaman “dressed” as other heroes including Plastic Man, the Atom and Black Canary (yes, Black Canary). Aside from a line about “super-breath” (“Super-breath can come in fire, frost or just plain bad”), however, didn’t contain any further references to the Man of Steel.

In “Trick or Treat,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Ethen Beavers, from ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #12, Batman made a trip to Metropolis to encounter once more the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Mxy, perhaps surprisingly at this point, given the variances we’ve seen in the models for characters in the comics compared to the television version, looks pretty much the same as his appearance in “Battle of the Superheroes!” An editor’s footnote gives us a slightly different take on the pronunciation of his name, however.

A silhouetted Daily Planet globe in the background and a name-check of Superman are also featured in the story. With a snap of his fingers, Mxy sent Batman back to Gotham and disappeared soon after.

Superman was mentioned once more in “Crisis: 22,300 Miles Above Earth!,” the 11th episode of season three, and the 63rd episode overall, by Starman. In the offhand reference, the Golden Age hero merely mentioned he was looking forward to meeting the Man of Steel.

The 12th episode of season three, and the 64th overall, was “Four Star Spectacular!” It was a bit of a different episode in that it was divided into four short segments. Each focused on different character, with Batman only making a minor appearance or cameo.

The fourth segment, “The Creature Commandos in ‘The War That Time Forgot!,'” storyboarded by Adam Van Wyk and directed by Ben Jones, featured the Ultra-Humanite — but a significantly different take on the character than seen in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1, or in any comic book or multimedia appearance to date, for that matter.

Voiced by Jeff Bennett, the Ultra-Humanite here is seen as a sentient brain within a jar with robotic legs. As part of a bid to expand the Axis Powers’ bid for dominance during World War II, the Ultra-Humanite mind-controlled the dinosaurs of Dinosaur Island before being thwarted by Batman and the Creature Commandos. At the end of the episode, we was seen being backed into a corner by the dinosaurs he once controlled. No indication was given if this was intended to be the same character previously seen in the comic or not.

The television incarnation of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” ended its run with “Mitefall!” Written by Paul Dini and directed by Ben Jones, it was the 13th episode of season three, and the 65th episode overall. The episode ended with a “cast party” held in Batman’s honor, with many of the characters who had appeared in episodes over the three seasons in attendance. Included in these non-speaking cameo appearances were Superman, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Krypto, Metallo and Lex Luthor.

And with that apt ending, the animated version of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” wrapped, as did Superman’s involvement in it. The comics weren’t quite finished with the Man of Steel, however.

BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Vol. 2) #14 — renamed from ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, but retaining its numbering — featured a holiday tale, “Small Miracles,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis. In it, Superman was given one last tip-of-the hat as he was mentioned by Ragman as being an example of a “real superhero.”

The final issue of the series, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Vol. 2) #16. In “Love at First Mite,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis, gave another nod to comic book covers past as Batgirl, with a little help from Bat-Mite, briefly became “Lex Luthor’s gun moll!”

The scene is a recreation of an inset panel from the cover to SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #68 by Kurt Schaffenberger. (That comic reprinted a story, “Lois Lane, Gun-Moll!,” originally from SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #28.)

Later, Bat-Mite went digging into his comic book collection and retrieved what appears to be a copy of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #37.

There are slight differences, but the the cover to Bat-Mite’s comic seems to pay clear homage to that issue’s cover by Kurt Schaffenberger.

Also making a cameo this issue, and his first appearance in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon, was the Reptile of Steel himself, Super-Turtle!

No information is given about him, other than that Bat-Mite would like to see a team-up between Super-Turtle and Batman (which, I’ve got to agree, would be pretty awesome sauce).

An early scene in this issue also paid homage to a splash page from BATMAN #1 which, while it didn’t feature Superman, did display an early Batman title logo clearly based on the Superman title logo that had been used since Superman’s first appearance in ACTION COMICS #1. (On Legends of the Batman, we have “lovingly” dubbed this the Superbat logo.)

And, with that, the comic book incarnation of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” also came to close, as did any involvement of Superman and his cast of characters.

Lest We Forget

While a majority of characters featured in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” episodes and issues were adapted from comic books, they did introduce a handful of original characters. One original character introduced seems to be a clear nod to the Superman universe.

“Invasion of the Secret Santas!,” written by Adam Beechen and directed by Brandon Vietti, the fifth episode of the show, though only the fourth to air, introduced the villain known as Fun Haus, voiced by Gary Anthony Williams.

In the episode, Fun Haus attacked the city with toy spaceships and, later, infiltrated homes with Presto Playpal action figures that soon turned on their owners. He also used a variety of toy-themed bombs and weaponry, much like the Toyman.

The character’s visual appearance, motif and gimmick seem clearly inspired by the multiple incarnations of the Toyman, particularly the Bronze Age Jack Nimball version who first appeared in ACTION COMICS #432 and the Winslow Schott Jr. version from “Superman: The Animated Series.”

Show-runners seemingly made no comments to indicate whether it was an intentional homage or mere coincidence, however. And, as mentioned earlier, both the Winslow Schott and Hiro Okamura versions of the Toyman made appearances in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” stories (though Fun Haus’s first appearance preceded any Toyman appearance).

Fun Haus later had a non-speaking, cameo appearances in “Night of the Huntress!,” “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” and “Night of the Batmen!” He also appeared as a hologram in “Sidekicks Assemble!” He never appeared in the comics in any capacity.

The Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories, or S.T.A.R. Labs, is a research facility first introduced in “Danger — Monster at Work” by Len Wein from SUPERMAN #246. While it initially appeared in a Superman story, use of the facility, particularly in post-Crisis on Infinite Earths facilities, have made it so use of it can hardly be seen as an explicit Superman reference.

However, because of its roots in the Superman comics, it is only fitting that appearances and use of S.T.A.R. Labs in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” be chronicled here, as well.

The facility was first referenced in “Invasion of the Secret Santas” when hazmat employees were seen loading remnants of the Red Tornado into a S.T.A.R. Labs truck.

The location of the facility of origin of the truck is not specified. However, the scene took place in Gotham.

The 18th episode of the cartoon, “The Color of Revenge!,” written by Todd Casey and directed by Michael Chang, introduced S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Blüdhaven.

A S.T.A.R. Labs facility was also seen in “Sidekicks Assemble!”

The location of this facility was not specified. However, it appears to have been the same one seen in Blüdhaven. However, this might not have necessarily been the case, as seen later.

The S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Star City was introduced in “The Siege of Starro! Part One.” This episode, the 13th of season two and the 39th overall, was written by Joseph Kuhr and directed by Ben Jones

Batman and associated used the facility to study remnants of Starro the Star Conqueror.

The S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Hub City was seen in “Menace of the Madnicks!,” written by Jim Krieg and directed by Michael Goguen.

Note the oddity that the Hub City facility looks identical to the one in Blüdhaven and the one of the unspecified location. The buildings in the background are identical, as well, despite at least two different locations being shown.

The S.T.A.R. Labs facility in Gotham was finally seen in “Joker: The Vile and the Villainous!,” 53rd episode overall and the first episode of season three, but the second to air.

The episode was written by Jim Krieg and directed by Ben Jones.

A S.T.A.R. Labs truck was also seen in the teaser portion of “Darkseid Descending!,” the 24th episode of season two and the 54th episode overall, as officials took Killer Frost into custody.

The episode, which was written by Paul Giacoppo and directed by Michael Goguen, did not specify the truck’s facility of origin or the city in which the scene took place.

And finally, as mentioned earlier, the Metropolis S.T.A.R. Labs facility appeared in “Triumvirate of Terror!”

This marks the first and only appearance of the Metropolis S.T.A.R. Labs in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon.

From the mind of Jerry Siegel

While only peripherally related to Superman by way of their shared parentage, three other characters with a connection to Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel also made their way into the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” universe.

The Spectre, voiced by Mark Hamill, first appeared in “Chill of the Night!,” written by Paul Dini and directed by Michael Chang.

In the episode, the Spectre tries to tempt Batman into seeking vengeance against the man who killed his parents. Unsuccessful, the Spectre ultimately orchestrates events himself so the killer dies.

Again voiced by Mark Hammill, the Spectre then appeared in the teaser portion of “Gorillas in Our Midst!” The episode, written by Todd Casey and directed by Michael Goguen, found the Spectre teaming with Batman to defeat Professor Milo.

The Spectre had cameo appearances in issues of the comic book incarnation in “The Bride and the Bold” from ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #4 and “Trick or Treat” from ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #12. He also had non-speaking appearances in “Crisis: 22,300 Miles Above Earth!” and “Mitefall!”

Unfortunately, none of the appearances give indication as to who is host of the Spectre, though his visual appearance most closely resembles that of the original Spectre, Jim Corrigan, who was created by Jerry Siegel with artist Bernard Bailey.

Like Superman, the Spectre was also given a nod in montage during “Aquaman’s Rousing Song of Heroism!” in the episode “Powerless!,” with Aquaman appearing “dressed” as him. The lyrics do not specifically reference the Spectre or any of his abilities, however.

The Spectre also received a figure as part of the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” McDonalds Happy Meal toy line. Neither Superman or any other Superman-related characters were released as part of the line.

Oddly, while the character’s gloves and boots were factored into the toy’s mold, they were not painted as his cloak and trunks were. The figure was part of the eighth and final set from the line, and came with a Gentleman Ghost figure and Haunted Coach vehicle. It does not have any moving parts or special actions.

Also worth mentioning is Stargirl who, voiced by Hope Levy, appears in the teaser portion of “Cry Freedom Fighters!,” written by Thomas Pugsley and Steven Melching and directed by Ben Jones.

While the character of Stargirl was not created by Jerry Siegel or Joe Shuster, in then-current DC Universe continuity, she is Courtney Whitmore. She originally went by the name Star-Spangled Kid and bore the mantle of the original Star-Spangled Kid, Sylvester Pemberton. She is also the step-daughter of the original Kid’s adult sidekick, Pat Dugan, a.k.a. Stripesy. Both the original Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, Pemberton and Dugan, were created by Jerry Siegel and artist Hal Sherman.

In the episode, she teams with the Blue Beetle to combat Mantis. She is called Stargirl in the credits, though not in the episode itself. Neither Pemberton or Dugan are mentioned or even alluded to in the episode, unfortunately.

And finally, there is Doctor Occult who, like Superman, was co-created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. He appeared in teaser portion of “The Tale of the Catman!,” written by Landry Walker with art by Eric Jones, from BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #9, where he and Batman team up, along with Doctor Fate, Sargon the Sorcerer, Mento and Zatanna, to battle the Void.

The character is not named in the text, but is seen wearing a trenchcoat and fedora and wielding the Symbol of Seven.

Doctor Occult is one of the first published creations from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, having appeared along with Henri Duval in NEW FUN #6 in 1935. While as of this writing Doctor Occult has yet to be seen in the “New 52” continuity titles, prior to the relaunch (and at the time of the comic’s publication), he was the oldest character still in use in DC’s shared universe. This makes his inclusion, along with the multiple references to Superman and his family of characters, a fitting tribute not only to Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and Superman — but to DC Comics history as a whole.

“Batman: The Brave and the Bold” may always be remembered as Batman’s show, and rightly so. However, it should not be forgotten that no small part in the show was played by comics’ foremost hero himself, Superman, and the wellspring of characters and concepts that came from his stories and creators.

February 24th, 2012  Posted at   Special Reports

In part one and part two of this series, we looked at Superman-related appearances and references in seasons one and two of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” the 22 issues of the BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD comic and first four issues of ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. In this installment, we begin our look at season three of the show.

Season three started off in high form with Superman’s most epic appearance throughout all of the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon with “Battle of the Superheroes!” The episode, the fifth of season three and the 57th overall, but the first to air as the episodes were aired out of production order, was written by Steven Melching and directed by Ben Jones. And it featured, finally, the first full animated appearance of Superman!

A full Superman appearance in the cartoon had been a long time coming, and the episode’s creators pulled out all the stops to create a tour-de-force with an almost non-stop string of eye candy. Treats for Superman fans covered a wide range, including character appearances, both in full supporting roles and cameos; homages to classic stories and covers from the a wide range of eras; and send-ups to classic Superman tropes.

The Man of Steel, is, obviously, front-and-center in the episode. Voiced by Roger Rose, the character evokes equal parts the models used in the Fleischer and Famous Studios Superman shorts and “Superman: The Animated Series,” with hints of George Reeves’ and Christopher Reeve’s portrayals thrown in for good measure.

Like his cameo in “Sidekicks Assemble!,” but unlike his appearances in the comic books, Superman’s cape does sport a yellow S-shield. The episode sees Superman exhibiting a full range of classic Superman abilities, including strength, speed, flight, invulnerability, super-breath, X-ray vision, heat vision and super-ventriloquism.

Yes, even super-ventriloquism.

The “big three” of Superman’s supporting cast, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and Perry White, all played prominent roles in the episode. And, with exception to the possible appearance of Lois in “The Knights of Tomorrow!,” it marked the first official appearance for all three in any “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” story. All three characters were portrayed at their most classic and iconic Silver Age bests.

Jimmy Olsen, voiced by Alex Polinsky, is clad for most of the episode in his trademark green suit and red bow tie. Many times throughout the episode, he is seen wielding his camera, taking photos in his role as photographer for the Daily Planet. During the episode, Jimmy is also in possession of not one but two different signal-watches.

The original watch is activated by spinning the dial on the outside frame of the watch, causing it to emit a high-pitched chirping sound, alerting Superman. No information is given in the episode as to how the second watch works.

Lois Lane is voiced by Sirena Irwin and works as a reporter for the Daily Planet. In a throwback to her classic Silver Age portrayal, at one point Superman makes a comment about “all the love schemes” Lois has pulled in order to try and trick him into marrying her.

Perry White is voiced by Richard McGonagle. Portrayed as the sometimes affable and sometimes gruff and blustery editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet, during the episode Perry utters the classic Perry White-isms of, “Don’t call me chief!” and “Great Caesar’s ghost!”

The Daily Planet’s signature rooftop globe first received a cameo appearance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2. However, here, we see the globe in full.

Two issues of the Daily Planet are also seen in the episode, giving us a look at the paper’s nameplate (or masthead).

The second issue also gives us another tribute, paying homage to the book that featured Superman and Batman team-up stories for the majority of its run from 1941 to 1986 and is a term that, even today, is used to refer to the pairing of the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight: World’s Finest.

Speaking of Daily Planet employees, though, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent also has a brief appearance, marking his first appearance in the series, outside of the cameo in the possible future from “The Knights of Tomorrow!”

Like his alter ego, Clark is voiced by Roger Rose. Rose softens his voice somewhat for the role, but doesn’t seem to go out of his way to distinguish between Clark and Superman. Clark’s time in the episode amounts to only one scene, unfortunately, so we don’t get much with which to gauge his personality or relationship with Lois, Jimmy or Perry beyond that Clark is portrayed as somewhat clumsy.

Krypto the Super-Dog also had a bit part in the story, complete with cape.

He looks rather unfriendly here, but the episode showed him being (Super)man’s best friend, and we even got a small sampling of Krypto’s powers as he and Superman engaged in a short game of fetch, sending Krypto in to outer space. During the episode’s climactic battle, Krypto also got a chance to shine, hitting his opponent with a blast of heat vision.

Superman’s friends weren’t the only ones to make appearances in the episode, though, as cameos were made by an entire line of Superman villains, ranging from the well-known to the obscure.

First up was Lex Luthor, voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson. Richardson had previously held other Superman-related voice acting roles, including that of Darkseid in the “Superman: Shadow of Apokolips” video game.

Luthor is considerably different, both visually and in characterization, in his appearance here compared to his previous comic book appearance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1. In fact, the Luthor presented here is much closer to Rohtul from “The Super-Batman of Planet X!” Though, while it may not have been intentional, it is interesting that the comic book appearance pays tribute to Luthor’s Golden Age incarnation, while the appearance here pays tribute to both his Silver Age and post-Crisis incarnations, given that in the episode, Luthor is seen wearing gray prison togs as well as a business suit.

Also here, Luthor sports a piece of jewelry very much associated with this post-Crisis incarnation: a ring studded with Green Kryptonite.

This episode marks the first actual appearance in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon, after previously being mentioned in the show in “The Rise of Blue Beetle!” as well as in the comics in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2. Green Kryptonite seems to cause immediate weakness and pain in Superman and, according to Luthor himself, eventual death.

Red Kryptonite, making its first appearance and the first and only form of kryptonite other than green to be seen in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon, also plays a role in the episode, being used by Luthor against the Man of Steel.

According to Batman, Red Kryptonite has unpredictable effects on Superman, lasting approximately 24 hours before wearing off on their own. In this particular instance, the Red Kryptonite caused Superman’s personality to change, making him, as Jimmy Olsen put it, a “rude, selfish, sadistic creep.”

Luthor’s hideout also holds another treat for those familiar with the Silver Age of Superman, in that it is located within an astronomical observatory on the outskirts of Metropolis. (The city of Metropolis also makes its first appearance true appearance in this episode, though its skyline was seen in the distance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2. The majority of the episode is set in the city, so much of its architecture and people are seen throughout.)

Luthor had many hideaways pre-Crisis, with this one, often designated “Luthor’s Lair II,” introduced in SUPERMAN #167. Inside, we see statues of Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun as part of Luthor’s twisted “Hall of Heroes,” another nod with roots in the Silver Age.

Other statues pre-Crisis included Nero, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, Captain Kidd and Al Capone, though these are not seen in the episode. Traditionally, the statues were life-size and in full color. Here, though, while they are not full color, they appear to be at least twice life-size.

One final tool in Luthor’s arsenal that seemed to be an Easter egg is that of the aircraft he used at the episode’s beginning in order to stage an attack of the Hall of Minerals in Metropolis.

With a change in paint, the ship is identical to the Supermobile, complete with fist-shaped battering rams. The firsts are made from titanium, according to Lex Luthor. No word in the episode on how much, if any, of the ship is comprised of Supermanium, sadly.

The Toyman, complete with armies of toy soldiers and lethal toy tanks, also makes an appearance in the episode. He is voiced by John DiMaggio, who had previously voiced the character — though a much different take on him — in “Superman: Doomsday,” the direct-to-video feature that very loosely adapted the death and return of Superman storylines.

Toyman looked somewhat different than in his previous appearance in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2, though that likely owes to the different artists and that the model sheets for the animated version were not available when the comic book was produced. Like with his comic book counterpart, he is only called Toyman, but he resembles the Winslow Schott version. No mention is made of the other Toyman that appeared in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #17.

Other villains making appearances, though only in the form of cameos, included Metallo, who was first seen as an action figure, again complete with Green Kryptonite “heart.”

The character is not named in the episode and has no dialogue (and thus no actor portraying him), He seems to draw visual inspiration from the Bronze Age Roger Corben version as well as the post Crisis (circa 1990s to early 2000s) John Corben version.

Also not named, but making a non-speaking cameo appearance, was a character who seemed to be El Gar-Kur, perhaps the most obscure reference of the episode.

First appearing in “The War Between Jimmy Olsen and Superman!” from ACTION COMICS #253, El Gar-Kur was a criminal from the Bottle City of Kandor who is able to free himself from the city and sets about in an attempt to conquer Earth, only to be ultimately thwarted by Superman. If he looks a bit familiar, it’s because El Gar-Kur was, amazingly, a perfect look-alike for Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen. El Gar-Kur wore an outfit similar to the one seen in the episode in his original ACTION COMICS appearance, though with a different color scheme.

Speaking of Kandor, this episode also featured a cameo appearance by the villainous Brainiac and his alien pet Koko (though both were unnamed in the episode).

Richard McGonagle, also the voice of Perry White, voiced the character, who threatened to subject Metropolis to the “shrinking process,” causing Superman and Batman to go into action once more.

First alluded to in “Legends of the Dark Mite!,” Mr. Mxyzptlk (pronounced by Superman as mix-yiz-pit-lick) makes his first appearance here.

Mxyzptlk was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, also the voice of Lex Luthor, and plagues Metropolis, not only by bringing the Daily Planet globe to life in his own image, but by triggering a series of transformations in Jimmy Olsen, including turning Jimmy into…

…the shape of a human balloon with ears and teeth like a mule (a reference to “Jimmy Olsen, Freak!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #59):

…a human octopus (a reference to “The Human Octopus!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #41)

…a gorilla’s groom (a reference to “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #98; including an homage to that issue’s cover by Curt Swan and George Klein)

…a genie (a reference to “Jimmy the Genie” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #42)

…a wolf-man (a reference to “The Wolf-Man of Metropolis!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #44 and “Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #52)

…a Bizarro (a reference to “Jimmy Olsen, the Bizarro Boy!” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #80 as well as the Bizarro Jimmy Olsen that first appeared in “Jimmy Olsen’s Kookie Scoops!” from ADVENTURE COMICS #287) and constituting the only Bizarro reference in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” canon)

…a giant-head version of himself (a reference to “The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #22)

…and a human porcupine (a reference to “The Human Porcupine” from SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #65).

These direct references to stories and homages to covers from the comics were not isolated incidents in the episode, as many other classic covers and scenes were paid homage to throughout the duration of the episode via flashbacks or in-story happenings.

A scene early in the episode paid homage to the cover of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #121 by Curt Swan and Neal Adams. And, yes, the scene involved the exact scenario presented on the cover (Jimmy trying to trick Superman into revealing his secret identity).

A brief dream-sequence brought an homage to the cover of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #23 by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye. Note the attention to detail in Lois’ wardrobe, the placement of objects on the blanket as well as the rocks in the foreground.

A flashback scene gave us a look an homage to the classic cover of SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #53 by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, which itself was inspired by the cover of the July 1940 cover-dated issue of “Thrilling Wonder Stories” (Mort Weisinger had a hand in both books). The dialogue on the comic’s cover was also used verbatim in the episode.

Another classic cover, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN #30 by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, also got a send-up.

The cover of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE #26 by Curt Swan and John Forte was also paid homage to in a scene that, unlike its original comic book counterpart, was not an “imaginary story.” Again, note the attention to detail.

This scene also marks the first an only appearance of Lana Lang in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” continuity (aside from a possible cameo in “The Knights of Tomorrow!”). She is not named in the episode, but is clearly meant to be Lana, as it was on the original. She had no dialogue in the scene, and thus no voice actress portraying her.

And finally, the cover to ACTION COMICS #311 by Curt Swan and Sheldon Moldoff was recreated. Unlike the Turtle Man cover, the dialogue was not verbatim in the episode, but similar dialogue was.

Though these are all Silver Age covers penciled by Curt Swan, another distinctly different story was paid homage: BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT by Frank Miller. In the climactic final battle between Batman and Superman, Batman dawns a suit of armor nearly identical to the one worn in the final issue of that series, and two of the show’s recognizable “freeze frame” scenes paid direct homage to iconic panels in the issue, when Batman punches Superman and later kicks him in the face.

Just because they moved on to more-recent stories, however, they weren’t done with Curt Swan. The legendary Superman penciler was also payed tribute to in the name and likeness of the mayor of Metropolis.

While not an exact likeness, the mayor does very closely resemble Swan in his latter days. Many creators were paid tribute to throughout the series by having streets or buildings named in their honor. However, to my knowledge, Curt Swan is the only comic book creator to get a nod like this on the show — something not even done for Bill Finger or Bob Kane, the creators of Batman. Quite an honor!

Superman’s arctic getaway, the Fortress of Solitude, was seen very briefly in ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #1. It makes a return appearance here, with its door looking slightly different. However, we also got a look at the famous giant key! Superman is not seeing using the key in the episode, though. As well, there is seemingly a way to access the Fortess without using it, as Batman was able to enter the Fortress on his own.

By stitching together several frames from the episode, we get an extended look at the arctic landscape surrounding the Fortress.

The interior of the Fortress also brought more treats, including another look at the Bottle City of Kandor (though, in the episode, it is oddly only referred to as “the shrunken city of Kandor”).

We actually get two shots of it, with the bottle looking slightly different each time. And both are somewhat different than in its earlier appearance in the comics. But, again, models sheets were likely not available for the comic book’s artists. Note the detail that in the second shot the bottle’s artificial sun is visible — and further note that is is indeed a red sun, as traditionally was found on Krypton.

Other mementos in the Fortress also provided nods to two other classic takes on the Man of Steel.

The giant robot over Batman’s right shoulder is nearly identical to the ones unleashed by the unnamed scientist in the second Fleischer Studios Superman short, “The Mechanical Monsters.” Over Batman’s left shoulder are the imprisonment, rings as first seen in the Krypton scenes from “Superman: The Movie,” as well as what might be the Phantom Zone prison itself.

While she was not seen, Ma Kent was also spoken of by Batman near the episode’s conclusion.

Other Superman references in the show included classic Superman phrases, such as, “Up, up and away!” (said by Superman while leaping out of a window).

A crowd of people, seeing Superman soar overhead, echoed the classic opening to the radio serial and “Adventures of Superman” television show with “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” And Lois, reporting on Superman, stated that he “has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.” And shortly later, Superman claimed he is “faster than a speeding bullet,” “more powerful than a locomotive” and “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” [sic].

Further references to “Superman: The Movie” and Superman II” came when Superman told the citizens of Metropolis to “Kneel before… King Superman” (a take off on “Kneel before Zod”) and later referred to Luthor as a “diseased maniac.”

And finally, as almost no take on Superman is complete without it, we got a great scene of Clark performing the classic shirt rip as he ducked into a nearby storeroom, before taking flight as Superman.

All in all, it was an episode chock-full of Superman references and tips-of-the hat to almost every era of the Man of Steel both in comics and other media. No other character on the show (save for Batman himself) received such numerous and wide-ranging tributes, despite many characters making multiple appearances over the three seasons. Clearly, the show’s creators had a deep love for the character of Superman and really wanted to give him his due.

We will finish up this series Friday, March 16, with a look at the rest of season three and comic books released during that time, as well as a brief look at some other appearances of interest. Don’t miss it!

February 17th, 2012  Posted at   Special Reports

We continue today with our look at Superman and related characters as seen and referenced in both the television and comic book incarnations of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” In part one of the series, we looked at appearances and cameos in both mediums ranging from the well-known to the obscure. Today, we begin with season two of the television show, which kicked off with the return of a villain first seen in season one.

Mongul, again voiced by Gary Anthony Williams, made a second appearance in “Death Race to Oblivion!,” written by Greg Weisman and directed by Michael Goguen. It was the first-aired episode for season two, but the third in the season’s production order, and the 29th episode overall.

The plot of the story involves Mongul abducting Batman and a half-dozen other heroes and villains and forcing them into a “death race,” with the Earth in the balance. Neither Mongal or Warworld are mentioned this time around, though Mongul is in control of a smaller, more mobile, battle fortress he called Warmoon.

The next Superman-related reference came in “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!,” written by Steven Melching and directed by Ben Jones. In this, the fourth episode of season two and the 30th episode overall, Smallville, Granville and Metropolis are all seen on a map during a cross-country road trip taken by Aquaman and his family, Mera and Arthur Jr.

Granville is a Kansas city that neighbors Smallville and was first mentioned in the “Smallville” television series. It was also later referenced in an issue of SUPERMAN/BATMAN, written by Jeph Loeb.

Several excerpts of the map are shown throughout the episode but, unfortunately, not enough are shown to gauge a relationship of the locations of Smallville and Granville in relation to Metropolis, beyond that Smallville and Granville are seemingly located to the west of it. However, in regular DC Universe continuity, both Middleton and Cosmos are traditionally located in Denver, which would put Smallville and Granville in Kansas, presumably. (The scale of the map is difficult to judge, but comparing it to the scale in these caps alone, and by piecing it together with the others shown throughout the episode, it is safe to assume that the distance between the cities would put Smallville and Granville across the state line into Kansas, which would align with the traditional modern-day location of Smallville.)

By piecing together many of the map excerpts shown in the episode, we are able to get a broader look at the geography of the Eastern seaboard and pinpoint a more precise location of Metropolis in relation to Gotham (and several other cities that will no-doubt be familiar to readers of the regular DC Universe).

Overlaying this on a map of the real-world United States and assuming that, like their regular DC Universe continuity counterparts, New Carthage and Ivy Town are both in New York; Radiance, Civic City and Calvin City are all in Pennsylvania; Happy Harbor is in Rhode Island; and Codsville is in Maine, this places Metropolis in northwest Pennysylvania and Gotham in the area of Jersey City, New Jersey or New York, New York.

After references to Superman both obvious and subtle, as well as appearances from several related heroes, villains and places, the teaser portion of “Sidekicks Assemble!,” written by Marsha F. Griffin and directed by Michael Chang, the eighth episode of season two, though only the sixth aired, and the 34th episode overall, brought something even better. In this episode, the Man of Steel himself, at long last, made his first actual appearance in the animated form of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

Unfortunately, due to the rights issues, it was only a cameo appearance from behind and we were not privy to even get a clear view of his face. The character also had no dialogue, and thus no actor portraying him. But still, finally, more than two full years after being mentioned in the show’s debut, Superman finally made his way into the animated form of the franchise.

While it did not contain an appearances of Superman or even mention him by name, “The Super-Batman of Planet X,” written by Adam Beechen and directed by Michael Goguen, the ninth episode of season two and the 35th episode overall, brought many treats and references for Superman fans. Here, Batman is drawn through a wormhole in space and lands on the planet of Zurr-En-Arrh, where he meets the Batman of that world.

The episode’s story is loosely based on “Batman — the Superman of Planet X!,” written by France Ed Herron with art by Dick Sprang and Charles Paris, originally published in BATMAN #113. It involves Batman developing Superman-like abilities including strength, flight and invulnerability, after being exposed to elements native to Zurr-En-Arhh. These elements were unspecified in the original story, but designated “rodon” in the episode.

Unlike the original story, the episode does not specifically name-check Superman. However, by expanding on story, the episode incorporates a great number of Superman-related references both through story elements and the episode’s casting choices.

Batman of Zurr-En-Arhh’s arch-nemesis is none other than the nefarious Rohtul — a name clearly formed by spelling Luthor backward. The character was voiced by Clancy Brown, who previously voiced Lex Luthor in “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” as well as in other animated projects, such as “The Batman,” “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies” and the video game, “Superman: Shadow of Apokolips.”

Rohtul is a character taken from another story in Superman’s history, but also one with a connection to Batman. In WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #91, published about three months prior to BATMAN #113, readers were introduced to the 30th-century descendent of Luthor: a ruthless villain named Rohtul. “The Three Super-Sleepers,” written by Edmond Hamilton with art by Dick Sprang and Stan Kaye, found Superman, Batman and Robin in the year 2957 working to thwart Rohtul’s plan to terrorize Earth with his newly built “destruction-ray projector.”

A fleet of remote-controlled robots used by Rohtul also resemble the robots used by him in his original comic book appearance.

The episode also introduces Visli Vaylar, who’s appearance, personality and name are clearly meant to evoke equal parts Lois Lane and Vicki Vale. She is voiced by Dana Delaney, who had previously voiced Lois Lane in “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” as well as in the direct-to-video movie, “Superman: Brainiac Attacks” and, like Clancy Brown, reprised her role in “The Batman” and “Superman: Shadow of Apokolips.”

Interestingly, in “The Batman Nobody Remembered,” written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger with art by Jim Mooney, from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #136, Batman crash-lands on a parallel Earth where Vicki Vale looks identical to his Earth’s Lois Lane. It is unknown if this story had influence on the episode, however. But, while Vaylar has no obvious roots as a previously established character from the comics like Rohtul, she did serve as a reporter for the Solar Cycle Globe.

We get few details about The Globe in the episode, but it seems to be something more akin to a television news program, rather than a newspaper. But, still, comparisons to the Daily Planet — and its iconic building — are obvious.

Among Vaylar’s co-workers at The Globe are Tlano, aka Zurr-En-Arhh’s Batman hidden behind a very familiar disguise. Tlano was mentioned in the original BATMAN story as his alternate identity, but that story never showed the character.

Batman-alum Kevin Conroy lends his voice to Zurr-En-Arhh’s Batman, as well as Tlano. In the fashion of many Superman actors from throughout the years, Conroy raises his voice an octave when voicing the secret identity. The character is also portrayed as a much meeker and milder personality than his super-hero counterpart, not to mention awkward and clumsy, in classic Clark Kent style.

Other Superman-related references are sprinkled throughout the episode. Zurr-En-Arhh Batman’s home city is Gothtropolis, a portmanteau of Gotham and Metropolis. And the city’s architecture, as well as the fashions of her residents, are very reminiscent of those of Krypton as depicted in the Silver Age.

While Earth’s Batman found himself gaining abilities after being exposed to rodon, he also found his super-powered self greatly weakened by exposure to quartz which, on Zurr-En-Arhh, seems to possess a strange green hue and had an effect on the super-powered Earth Batman similar to effect Green Kryptonite has on Superman.

According to Rohtul, “quartz interacts with rodon to become poisonous to Earthmen’s physiognomy.” Zurr-En-Arhh’s Batman was in possession of a spray-on polymer compound that shielded Earth’s Batman from rodon, thus negating it’s effects, as well as those of quartz.

Much of the show’s dialogue likewise had references to Superman. When Earth’s Batman first starts experiencing the effects of his powers, he is hit with a blast from one of Rohtul’s robots. Upon Vaylar asking if he is okay, he replies, “It tickled,” a nod back to the cover of SUPERMAN #32, by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, as well as other similar situations throughout the years.

After the Batmen stop Rohtul, thus marking Earth’s Batman’s public debut on Zurr-En-Arhh, Vavlar asks for his story. In subtle homage to “Superman: The Movie,” Earth Batman replies, “Just a friend… visiting from out of town,” before flying off.

As Earth’s Batman is flying and testing his abilities, we get a riff on the familiar Superman opening as a group of passers-by proclaim, “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a zeta bird! It’s an aircar! No! It’s Batman!

And still later, Earth’s Batman comments that he never thought he would be fighting for “truth, justice and Zurr-En-Arhh way,” as we get a majestic shot of Batman standing akimbo in front of a fluttering Zurr-En-Arhh flag (which, in many ways, looks to be a combination of the American flag and the flag of Krypton as first seen in “Krypton on Earth!,” illustrated by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, from ACTION COMICS #246).

This episode also opens with Batman and Green Arrow chasing a group of a space pirates who have stolen that Emerald Eye of Ekron, marking one of the only Legion of Super-Heroes-related references on the show, even if only a vague one. The Eye is not actually seen in the episode and, as the scene is set in present day, the Legion is not seen or mentioned, either.

Batman of Zurr-En-Arhh later had minor, non-speaking, cameo appearances during season three in “Night of the Batmen!” and “Mitefall!” Rohtul later had a similar appearance in “Triumvirate of Terror!”

BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #17, written by Sholly Fisch with art by Robert W. Pope and Scott McRae, then brought the return of a Superman villain and the introduction of two more in “A Batman’s Work is Never Done.”

First up was a brief return of Mongul, as Batman, along with some assistance from the Green Lantern Corps, tracked the warlord “across three galaxies and twenty-seven light years” in order to place him under arrest.

Interestingly, in this, his third appearance overall but first in the comic book, his costume is more similar to that traditionally worn by Mongul the Elder in regular DC Universe continuity, particularly in its somewhat muted color scheme. Whether this was actually intended to be Mongul the Elder or a reappearance of Mongul the Lesser, just with an altered costume, is not clear in the text.

After the appearance of what was presumably the Winslow Schott Toyman in issue #2, this issue also featured the first appearance of what looks to be Hiro Okamura, the third character to use the name of Toyman.

Like with the previous, he is only called Toyman in the text, before being defeated by the heroes. However, his visual appearance and comments from Batman that he “went straight” indicate a similarity to the then-regular DC Universe version of Okamura.

The third Superman villain that appeared in this story is, perhaps, the oddest Superman-related cameo of all. And that is the monster Doomsday.

Doomsday. The mindless raging beast who, in regular DC universe continuity, anyway, trashed the Justice League on more than one occasion, incapacitated Darkseid with one blow and gave Superman as much as he could handle in almost every meeting, even killing him in their first encounter. Doomsday. Bound in chains and hanging from a street lamp.

It’s odd and may stretch the credibility of even the Batman presented in the show, who was punched in the face by Mongul. On the other hand, as we saw a few panels later, it seems Batman might have had a little help from a certain Man of Steel, making another comic book cameo, even if only in silhouette.

Speaking of Doomsday, however, a guy who, in regular DC Universe continuity, knows a little bit about him appeared two issues later in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #19. “Emerald Knight,” written by Adam Schlagman with art by Carlo Barberi and Terry Beatty, saw the debut of Hank Henshaw, a.k.a Cyborg-Superman.

Interestingly, he appeared looking identical to how he looked in his debut during the “Reign of the Supermen” story arc, rather than his more modern look, or even, despite the Green Lantern ties in the comic, the Sinestro Corps outfit he wore for a time. But, while he had an appearance he had not sported in regular DC Universe continuity for more than 15 years at the time of publication, this was, perhaps, the most prominent Superman-related appearance to date in the comics, as the Cyborg is the first to appear large and in-charge on the cover of the book, with art by Carlo Barberi.

Cyborg-Superman may be more often considered a Green Lantern villain these days, but he is a character with more than just a few roots firmly planted in the Superman universe. He first appeared at the tail end of one of the largest storylines in the early post-Crisis era and came to prominence in what is, hands down, the biggest Superman storyline of the last two-and-a-half decades.

The issue recaps the character’s origin. While it glosses over the finer points of his back-story, the brief recap holds very faithful to his regular DC Universe counterpart, though it avoids mentioning any direct connection to Superman himself. His depiction throughout the rest of the issue is also faithful, the aforementioned visual appearance aside.

Another Superman villain was given a cameo of sorts in “The Siege of Starro! Part Two,”
written by Joseph Kuhr and directed by Michael Goguen. It was the 15th episode of season two and the 41st episode overall. In the episode, aboard the Faceless Hunter’s ship are seen trophies from and statues of various aliens, including a parademon from Apokolips, a Thanagarian hawkman and what looks to be Brainiac.

No further information is given in the episode about the figure.

A Superman story seemed to be used as a point of inspiration in “Emperor Joker!,” written by Steven Melching and directed by Ben Jones, the 19th episode of season two and the 45th episode overall. In the episode, Bat-Mite inadvertently imbues the Joker with his powers, similar to what Mr. Mxyzptlk had done in the similarly named storyline that ran through the Superman titles in 2000.

Aside from the Joker killing Batman, then bringing him back to life only to kill him again, there are very few overt similarities between the two stories, however, beyond the basic premise. And the episode contains no references at all to Superman or related characters. Bat-Mite does say at the end of the episode, however, that he is going to the Fifth Dimension. The Fifth Dimension is the home of Mr. Mxyzptlk in regular DC Universe continuity.

The BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD comic was canceled following issue #22 and relaunched the next month with a new #1 issue and a new title: ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. An announcement from DC Comics promised “to surround the Caped Crusader with an A-list cast of co-stars and surprise guests” and they started off with a bang in the first issue with the first full-story appearance of Superman.

“Bottle of the Planets,” written by Sholly Fisch with art and cover by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis, has Superman looking quite a bit more streamlined than in his earlier appearances but still not quite on model to what we would see in his full appearance on the animated version. Also notable is the S-shield on Superman’s cape is missing here, where it was seen in his appearance in “Sidekicks Assemble!”

The story involves Superman and Batman shrinking down and descending into the Bottle City of Kandor in order to unravel the mystery behind a rash of mysterious thefts.

No indication is given of how Kandor was shrunk. Though, oddly, from Superman’s dialogue, it could inferred that it was either a willing choice or something created by Kryptonians, given that he calls it a “highly advanced Kryptonian society shrunk down in a bottle.” This conclusion ultimately poses a lot of other questions not addressed in the text. What isn’t in doubt, though, is that the Bottle City is kept in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

No giant key is seen… but where there is a giant door with a giant lock, there must be a giant key, right?

Once in Kandor, the story introduces four Kryptonians residing in the city: Maryam Cha-Na, Professor Et-Rog, General Lek-Var (all three members of Kandor’s ruling council) and scientist Nah-Um.

The text indicates Maryam Cha-Na, Professor Et-Rog and General Lek-Var are leaders of Kandor’s various societal guilds (Military, Artists and Science, respectively). While their fashions are much more similar to one another, the idea of a Kryptonian society being broken into various guilds mirrored what was happening in then-regular DC Universe continuity.

No characters with those names appeared in previous Superman stories that I am aware. However, a fifth Kryptonian, a character who has been a part of previous Superman continuities both in comics and other media, is introduced via flashback in the form of the villainous Jax-Ur.

Both his visual appearance and back-story given are like those of his pre-Crisis (specifically, Bronze Age) counterpart. In short, Jax-Ur destroyed one of Krypton’s moons (designated Wegthor pre-Crisis) with an experimental missile. The destruction caused Jax-Ur to be sentenced to eternity in the Phantom Zone.

This telling of Jax-Ur and his back-story marks the first mention of the other-dimensional Phantom Zone or the Phantom Zone projector in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold canon. Both would factor in to this story’s climax.

And, finally, the story also found Superman proclaiming, “Rao!,” as he did so often in the Bronze Age. While initially simply an alien-sounding exclamation used to replace “Great Krypton!” in the Bronze Age, in regular DC Universe continuity, it was later revealed that Rao is a Kryptonian deity — often seen as the personification of their sun or the chief god in their polytheistic beliefs.

The 23rd episode of season two and 49th episode overall, “The Knights of Tomorrow!,” written by Todd Casey and Jake Black and directed by Michael Chang, gave us a look at a possible future. As envisioned by Alfred Pennyworth, this future gave cameos of none other than Clark Kent, marking his first appearance on the show or in the comic, at the wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.

Clark then had a second appearance at their funeral.

It is not clear who the woman with Clark was intended to be. An obvious guess would be that she is Lois Lane or, given the auburn hair, possibly Lana Lang (she actually closely resembles Lana as depicted in “Superman: The Animated Series”). However, she does not match the visual depiction of Lois or Lana as they would appear later in “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.” As these are brief cameos, neither Clark or the woman have any dialogue, and thus no actors in the roles.

Note that Clark at the funeral scene does not look much older than at the wedding in comparison to the other characters. While this is only a possible future as envisioned by Alfred, it does give us a hint at what the show creators might have had in mind for the character of Superman and his longevity (though a later “in-continuity” glance at the future seems to contradict that).

The final Superman reference in season two came in episode 24, the 50th episode overall. In “Darkseid Descending!,” written by Paul Giacoppo and directed by Michael Goguen, Martian Manhunter tells of a time when “Big Blue,” a common nickname for Superman, challenged him to an arm-wrestling competition. He begins to tell how he was victorious using physics, opposed to brute force, but his story is cut off by Aquaman.

In January 2011, Superman was given an action figure as part of the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” Total Armor line.

The three-pack set included Batman, Superman and Metallo (complete with Green Kryptonite heart). At the time of release, Metallo had not appeared in either the animated show or the comic book, though he would make his debut in season three. Interestingly, the figures could be used to vaguely replicate the scene from the episode where Metallo makes his official debut.

Later, Superman received another figure, this time in a solo pack.

The figure appears to have been made from the same basic mold as the original figure, with an adjustment to the shoulders. The darker paint scheme is a bit of an oddity, as it correlates to nothing Superman had worn in the animated or comic book versions at the time of release, or would wear later.

These were the only three Superman-related figures released in the line.

Superman had one final comic book appearance before the official start of season three of the show in ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #4. “The Bride and the Bold,” written by Sholly Fisch with art by Rick Burchett and Dan Davis, featured a tuxedo-clad Superman serving as best man at the wedding of Batman and Wonder Woman. (Don’t ask.)

But, one shirt rip later (and the first shirt rip, mind you)…

…and costumed Superman flew into action. Once again, Superman is slightly off-model from what we would see on in the animated version, but a bit closer than the previous appearance and much closer than his first. Also, like the last comic book appearance, Superman’s cape does not sport an S-shield.

And with that, the first two years of the cartoon and a little more than two years of comics came to a close. But season three was right around the corner — as was Superman’s biggest moment yet.

Come back Friday, February 24, for part three of this series, which will cover Superman’s first full-episode appearance on the show in “Battle of the Superheroes!”

February 10th, 2012  Posted at   Special Reports

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!