Batman: The Brave and the Bold made its Cartoon Network debut on Friday, November 14, with an episode guest-starring the new Blue Beetle and featuring Green Arrow. The series harkens back to when The Brave and the Bold comic book was pretty much a Batman title with the Caped Crusader teaming up with one or more other heroes in each issue. I use the phrase "Caped Crusader" with intent; the Batman of this show isn't the grim warrior who, these days, is often portrayed as bordering on insane and sometimes even crossing that border.
Written by Michael Jelenic, "Rise of the Blue Beetle!" opened with Batman and Green Arrow in a death trap devised by the Clock King. The cartoon went back to the pre-Neal Adams Green Arrow and, much to my surprise, I really like that look for the Archer. Thanks to lots of bad writing in recent decades, the current Green Arrow has this "creepy old lech" vibe around him. I wouldn't mind seen Ollie Queen shipped off to the old perverts home and replaced with a new and fresher model. Roy Harper definitely need not apply for the job.
Jelenic has been a writer, story editor, and producer for a bunch of good shows: Ben 10, Jackie Chan Adventures, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and The Batman. His script is aimed at younger viewers, but it has some wacky Silver Age imagination going for it and a touch of Bronze Age character development. His Batman is a sort of super-scoutmaster training the young Beetle. Though there are real perils to be faced as the heroes try to protect a race of aliens from Kanjar Ro, there is also a refreshing lightness to the adventure and a reasonable moral - being a hero is as much about using your brain as anything else - to impart to its viewers. I still think the new Blue Beetle costume is as ugly as a bug after it's been stepped on, but I can't blame the show for that.
The debut of Batman: The Brave and the Bold earns four out of five Tonys. Kudos to all hands.
Since writing the above, I've seen every episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold - save for "Enter the Outsiders" - and enjoyed almost all of them. My favorites to date have been the two-episode story with the parallel universe versions of Batman and the Joker, "Terror on Dinosaur Island," my pal Adam Beechen's "Invasion of the Secret Santas," and "Dawn of the Dead Man." On the other end of the scale, my least favorites were "Day of the Dark Knight" and "Return of the Fearsome Fangs." The former was undone by the petty competition between Batman and Green Arrow while the latter was an uninteresting story with an uninteresting guest hero. In fairness, though, the Bronze Tiger has never been a hit with me in the comic books either.
I especially love the show's takes on Aquaman and Plastic Man. The Aquaman of the cartoons bears little resemblance to any of the comic book versions, but he's fun to watch and I imagine even more fun to write. As for Plastic Man, I love watching him fighting his larcenous instincts in truly amusing fashion. He'd be lots of fun to write as well.
Which brings us to a snarky anonymous question from (I assume) a reader of this column. It's not a frequently asked question, but this seems like a good place to answer it.
Mister Courage wrote:
You're always talking about how you're able and willing to write Black Lightning at any time. Would you be willing to write the teenage version from Batman: The Brave and the Bold? Or does everything have to be your way?
Let me first answer the question he didn't asked.
Knowing Black Lightning's background had been changed in other DC comics, I would have still eagerly written Black Lightning: Year One had I been offered the opportunity. Yes, I assume it would've been a challenge to reconcile some of those events with my own vision of the character, but I like challenges...especially if it means saving the readers from yet another retcon of one of their favorite characters.
I haven't seen the Outsiders episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But, since the series itself clearly takes place in a different DC Universe than the one in the current comic books, I would do my best to tell an interesting story with the character as he appeared in that cartoon episode. I'm confident I could bring something of my vision of Black Lightning to such a story.
Realistically, such questions are moot as long as DC Comics is determined to never again let me write Black Lightning as long the company still owns the character. However, now you know my answers if this "blackball" is ever lifted.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: