Batman: The Animated Series

Episode 20 and Episode 21- Feet of Clay part 1 and 2
harkovast at 11:16AM, Jan. 10, 2010
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Pointless Trivia
Since this episode is basically one extended story, I am reviewing both parts together as one episode. Since I am talking about two episodes at once, this review might be a bit longer then usual.

Plot Synopsis
Evil corporate villain Roland Daggett has created a powerful new chemical (called ‘Renuyu’ ) that allows people to ‘reshape’ their faces. It is highly dangerous and addictive, however, and he uses it to force a disfigured actor called Matt Hagen to commit crimes for him. Hagen attempts to to break free by stealing a large amount of the substance. He is caught by Daggett's men, who pour large amounts of Renuyu over Hagen's head, mutating him into a shape shifting monster known as Clayface.
Clayface seeks vengeance on Daggett, but Batman intervenes. In the end Clayface fakes his own death and escapes while Daggett and his minions are brought to justice.

Highlights

Villains

This episode introduces us to Clayface, one of the strangest and potentially most physically powerful of all Batman's enemies! He is a huge, hulking monster made up a living clay, with the ability to change his shape and disguise himself as people temporarily.
Clayface has a interesting and elaborate back story, even by Batman standards!
Clayface begins as actor Matt Hagen, who we see on a TV clipping is nick named “the man of a million faces.” Batman later comments on Hagen's acting skills saying “He's good, but no actor, no make up, is that good!” So clearly he is well renown for his tremendous acting talents.
Unfortunately he suffered a horrendous car accident that left his face disfigured.
At some point after this, he was offered the opportunity to test Roland Daggett's new chemical (which would later be called ‘Renuyu’ ). This clay like substance allowed Hagen to reshape his face to appear normal, but it came with a terrible price. The affects of the substance were only temporary and after 24 hours, Hagen would revert to his true appearance. Worse still, the substance was high addictive, causing agonising pain when Hagen wasn't using it, forcing him to use it in great quantities (when we first see him he is in a panic as he has already used up almost all that Daggett has given him.) Finally, Daggett uses this dependency and addiction to manipulate Hagen and force him to commit crimes for him. With the Renuyu and his acting skills, Hagen pretends to be Bruce Wayne so he can cover up Daggett's insider trading. Realising that this state of affairs cant go on (and he is quite right, as by this time Daggett is planning to do away with him!), Hagen tries to steal a large amount of the substance in one go.
His plan goes wrong and he is doused with a large amount of it over his head by Daggett's minions, in a sadistic bid to kill him. Hagen is given a huge overdose of the substance (swallowing a lot of it as well), but rather then killing him, it mutates him in a monster made of living mud.
In his new form, Clayface can change shape, often doing so as an unconcious reflex (such as changing briefly to look like Batman when the two meet for the first time.) His powers are not limitless, however, as using his powers too much leaves him exhausted (and possibly in pain.)
He describes changing shape as being like keeping a muscle tensed, so he cant do it indefinitely. This means he can appear as anyone, but after a short time will revert to his true monsterous form.
Clayface has a great super power and its used wonderfully throughout the episode, attacking Batman with his arms turned into hammer, claws and all sorts of other imaginative attacks. Some of the effects on his transformations are also top notch and I cant do them justice with words here, I can only advise you to good look at them again to be reminded of how awesome they are!
But Clayface is more then just some cool powers and attacks, there is real depth to the character and a lot of serious themes come up, which I’ll go over in the next section.
He is voiced by the always excellent Ron Pearlman, one of several great celebrity appearances in Batman the Animated Series. Celebrity appearances on Batman:TAS are wonderfully under played. There is no big “Look! It’s a celebrity!” moments (like on the Simpsons), instead they are there to deliver great performances, and Pearlman does not disappoint. He gives the role some real gravitas and drama that enhances an already strong story.

Far more morally absolute is the episodes other villain, Roland Daggett. This guy is REALLY evil! He is voiced by Golden Globe-winner Edward Asner (this show is an all star cast!) Daggett heads Daggett Industries, a massive pharmaceutical company.
In the same way that the Joker is the equal and opposite of Batman, Daggett is the opposite of Bruce Wayne. While Bruce Wayne is presented as a fun loving playboy who does a lot of humanitarian work and runs a principled business, Daggett is stern, cruel and entirely corrupt.
Daggett is constantly motivated to expand his wealth and power, and has absolutely no qualms about what he has to do this.
No plan, no matter how immoral, illegal or under handed is too low for Daggett to stoop too if it will increase his wealth and his business empire.

Daggett doesn’t do his own dirty work of course, and in this episode has put together and team of three callous thugs to carry out his orders.
These three are worth of note because they are not the usual incompetent mooks that villains employ, Daggett has clearly used his wealth to bring in some hardened professionals.
They demonstrate great skill in combat (Batman has a tough fight with the three of them at the start), a good level of cunning (they see through Hagen’s attempts to fool them by pretending to be Bruce Wayne) and most of all, a tremendous cruelty and sadism (pouring the Renuyu over Hagen, Germs smiling to himself as he moves to murder Lucius Fox.)
The first of them is not named and is described as a “hired gun” who doesn’t know the others names or the details of their plans. He demonstrates great skill with his rifle but is captured after the first battle.
The other two are Germs (we don’t learn his real name), who has an English accent and terrified of bacteria and Raymond Bell, a paranoid crook who wears a head set that he uses to pick up police radio.


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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
harkovast at 11:17AM, Jan. 10, 2010
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Bat Crap Crazy!
We never see Hagen in his prime here, before the car accident that disfigures him, leads him into addiction and working for Daggett.
He seems to have only one close friend, Eddie, who knows the secret of his current condition. Eddie is a loyal friend, who genuinely wants to help Hagen. Hagen treats Eddie with contempt and suspicion, accusing him of trying to keep the Renuyu from him, yelling at him and ignoring his advice.
Their relationship seems to imply that Hagen was once a far more pleasant individual, but the constant pain and craving caused by his addiction combined with the trauma and stress of his accident, secrets and criminal activity have made him entirely unpleasant.
He may well have been arrogant or selfish before hand, but his complete focus on his own needs here seems to be the single mindedness of an addict turning his back on friends and family in favour of feeding his all consuming addiction.
It is worth noting that newspaper clippings on Hagen’s mirror all relate to news of his accident, not to the glory days of his career. This shows that Hagen has become engrossed more in self pity and recrimination, which no doubt adds to his already unhealthy mental state.
At the start of the episode he is taking part in a serious crime for Daggett.
Allow me, if I may, to indulge in a little tangent to discuss this initial crime, as it serves to suggest that while Hagen has been warped into a very unpleasant person, he is not yet a complete monster.
It involves Hagen disguising himself as Bruce Wayne to lure top Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox into a trap. The purpose of this trap is to get Lucius to hand over documents that incriminate Daggett for insider trading (as it turns out, the very LEAST of Daggett's wrong doing!) Since the plan goes wrong, we can’t be totally sure what the plan was supposed to be. Hagen implies they intend to kill Fox, but when Fox flees one of the Daggett's men shoots out the ropes holding up a sign so it falls on Fox and knocks him out. Why would the man go for such a fancy shot to disable Fox if they just wanted to kill him anyway? Also, this gun man (who is unnamed, except being described as ‘a hired gun’ ) fires a shot next to Fox just before this trick shot. Clearly if he can shoot out two ropes like that he could easily have hit Fox, so I am pretty certain they wanted him alive. My suspicion is that they wanted to take the papers but let Fox get away. this would leave Fox to tell the police that Bruce Wayne (one of his main rivals) had tried to murder him. This would allow Daggett to remove all firm evidence that he had done anything wrong and make Bruce Wayne appear to be involved in the insider trading (since that would appear to be the only reason he would suddenly want to kill one of his own associates). Killing Fox at this point would only seem to make the plan LESS likely to succeed, as there would be no one to incriminate Bruce and no one would know why Fox had been killed so more investigation would follow which could easily uncover what Fox was looking into before he got shot and put Daggett back to square one. If the guy who is investigating if you did insider trading gets gunned down suddenly, it doesn't exactly put the police off your trail!
Of course, once things go wrong and the police get the brief case, killing Fox becomes a top priority since he knows what the evidence means and what Daggett has been doing. Without the brief case, Fox has no evidence and wouldn’t be a threat, but with it Fox is perfectly positioned to bring Daggett down once he gets out of hospital.
The reason for this tangent is that, based on what we see during the crime, I don't think Hagen actually intended to have Fox killed. It’s possible he meant this, but I'm not convinced. He gives very over top threats before Fox is attacked. If he is being forced into this to get his drugs, he wouldn't be taking so much glee in the murder of someone he doesn't even know. Why would be gloating over a plan in which he is just a pawn being made to do things against his will? These theatrics are, in my view, part of the act to convince Fox that Wayne is a psychopath who tried to have him shot, with the aim that Fox would lose the brief case and then escape to report that Wayne wanted him dead and stole the evidence.
But even taking this into account, Hagen is still framing an innocent man and helping to cover up serious white collar crime. While not murderous, he is clearly willing to stoop to very low depths to keep getting his fix.

Once transformed, Hagen's mental state deteriorates further, but more then this it goes through a radical shift.
He no longer feels an addiction he needs to feed (Daggetts minions threat to give him all of the substance he will ever need proves horrifyingly accurate!), but he has entirely lost his humanity.
Hagen copes with this new reality by actively rejecting his humanity. He states “There is no Hagen! It's only me now…CLAYFACE!” By embracing his new monster persona, Hagen removes himself from the normal moral rules and restraints of society. He is now free to act as violently and aggressively as he desires. He undertakes a mission to murder Hagen and his minions. He even becomes physically violent to Eddie, hurling him across the room with no provocation. This act is very significant as Eddie was the only human connection Hagen really had to his passed life and he has now categorically rejected it.
This self delusion continues to gain strength, as Clayface boasts to Eddie that even Batman can’t stop him and tells Batman “See? I figured out how to manage this thing pretty good!”
However, this attempt to rationalise and empower his new nature comes undone when Batman faces him in a room with numerous televisions, each showing images of Hagen’s passed acting roles.
This shatters Hagen’s confident, aggressive monster persona, showing him how much more he used to be and far he has fallen.
Since his physical form reflects his emotional state, he not only collapses mentally but loses control of his shape shifting power in a wonderfully grotesque transformation sequence as he shifts through his numerous roles and costumes, completely losing control of his own powers.
Clayface eventually puts his arms through two tv monitors, electrocuting himself. Looking at the way its shot, I think this may have been a deliberate move on Clayface’s part, as an attempt to alleviate his suffering. This may have been his agony caused by the uncontrollable transformations, but may well have been because of the deeper realisation of what he has become and what he has lost may have led him to desire to take his own life rather then continue as Clayface.
He appears to have been killed but it is later revealed that electricity could not do him any serious harm (though obviously, could cause him pain and stun him) so he later escaped, leaving an empty shell behind.
This means that, after having recovered from the shock the electricity stunning him, he was once again to ignore the revelation Batman had just offered him and fall back into his persona as the unstoppable, amoral monster.
Ultimately Hagen was doomed by a series of bad choices. His initial mistake was to accept Daggett’s chemical to fix his face. This was an innocent mistake as he was clearly tricked, but from there on in, driven by suffering, fear and addiction his choices becomes increasingly desperate, immoral, foolish and eventually murderous.
Though Hagen was set on this road by the evil actions of Daggett, which turned him into a physical monster, he cannot escape some moral responsibility for the psychological monster he allows himself to become.

Daggett, meanwhile, is quite sane.
He has looked at the situation, come to the conclusion that he does not have enough wealth and power and decided that breaking the law is the best way to correct this perceived problem.
While not mad, Daggett is still an interesting psychological case.
He sees money and power as the ultimate aim of life, believing that these things give him the right to do what ever he wants, beyond normal considerations of right and wrong. It is unlikely that such a man could ever be happy with any amount of wealth or power, he would always seek more. He clearly already has more money and power then almost anyone in Gotham (except for Bruce Wayne) could dream of, so he doesn’t ‘need’ any more in a conventional sense. Ultimately, Daggett is as addicted to the thrill of accumulating wealth, and will go to even greater lengths to feed this addiction then Hagen went to feed his own.
Daggett’s company feels rather more like an organised crime syndicate then a traditional business and seems to associate with some of the very scary characters. Perhaps he used to be some kind of mobster before going ‘legit’?
Daggett is different from Boil in “Heart of Ice”, and much worse. Boil was a selfish, hypocrite and a murderer, but his main crimes were done out of anger. While he was a terrible person (no doubt about that) he didn’t run a corrupt or evil business.
Daggett is far worse because everything Daggett does is planned out. His deliberately undertakes actions that are not just illegal but completely cruel and immoral, purely to expand his already huge business empire. His crimes are entirely cold blooded and they bleed through into every aspect of his business empire and the way it is run.
(Personally, I feel sorry for anyone who uses any products this guys company makes! He probably makes shampoo that causes brain cancer!)

Daggett’s two main minions are also notable for being psychological misfits.
Their level of skill and ruthlessness is such that Daggett is willing to tolerate their strange quirks, but this leaves them open to exploitation by Batman.

Raymond Bell is a notorious paranoid, wearing a set of head phones with which he obsessively listens in to police messages. He even does this while being spoken to by Daggett, such is his fixation.
Batman turns this against him by using fake radio messages to convince Bell that the police are closing in so he flees and gives himself away to Batman.
Bell does show a great deal of resolve, as a VERY extreme interegation from Batman (involving hanging him from the front of a plane!) fails to make him crack and give Batman any useful information. It is a tough cookie that will try to lie to Batman, while hanging by his arm from the front of the Batwing!

Germs suffers from Mysophobia, a pathological fear of germs and infection. He uses a cloth over his hand when opening doors and is afraid of hospitals, which he sees as being filled with illness and disease that might contaminate him.
Daggett pressures him to go and kill Fox in Hospital, and Germs seems to initially over come his fear, as he shows a smile as he advances to kill Fox. When Batman interrupts him he flees, showing more cowardice then the first encounter where he had no hesitation to attack Batman. This time Germs is badly out of his element and so lacks the confidence to do anything other then run.
In his panic from the double threat of facing The Batman combined with being in a hospital in goes into a panic and runs right into a room filled with infectious medical material.
Batman convinces him that a jar of sea water is in fact “scarlet fever”, during a very cool sequence where Batman keeps punching the wall, moving the jar closer to falling) Unsurprisingly, even a hardened professional like Germs caves in under the pressure of this situation and is about to spill the truth, until Clayface interrupts.

Germs and Bell are both extremely sadistic, evil individuals. Germs holds Hagen down while Bell pours Renuyu over his head! There can be no doubt that these two have engaged in murder before, as well as brutal torture and executions.
Evil as they are though, they can’t compare to Daggett in terms of wickedness. Yes they are both monsters (in many ways more morally monstrous then Clayface himself) who carry out the direct acts, but it is Daggett who unleashes them and is fully aware of what types of people they are and the methods they will use. Indeed, it is probably just because of their ruthless natures that he employs them. He requires followers that are as morally bankrupt as he is. Daggett organises and empowers them, so every crime they commit is also his responsibility.
Daggett must be condemned further though because he always has the option of a legit life as a successful businessman. He is already incredibly rich, and so has no need to resort to crime, and yet he always does.
Daggett is in a position where he can really make a change to the world. If Germs and Bell had chosen not to be such an evil pair, they would have had respectable jobs and families, but if Daggett had chosen to be good instead of evil he could have improved the lives of everyone in Gotham, just as Wayne tries to do through his business and charity work. Daggett has the potential for tremendous good but the potential is never realised in anyway.
Along with mobster Rupert Thorn, he must rank as one of the most evil figures in Gotham city.

And, as always, we get demonstrations of Batman's unwavering code against killing or allowing killing, saving both Germs and Daggett. That fact that we would certainly be better off without these two scum bags does not even enter into Batman's thinking.

Continuity Nod
In this episode, ace reporter Summer Gleeson presents her own talk show “Gotham Insider”. She’s turning into a one woman media empire!
I wonder how Clayface running amok and destroying everything affected her ratings?

Holy Shitty Moments, Batman!
A few slight things, nothing serious. The sharp shooting from the hired gun early on to take out Fox is perhaps a bit TOO good! That was a hell of a trick shot!
Also during the first battle, some of the animation looks a little awkward.
Also during the final sequence, when the cops see Clayface changing and comment that he changed to look just like Bruce Wayne, this seemed a bit unnecessary. Bruce Wayne acted wildly out of character and now a shape shifting villain has shown up, I think most juries would have been able to put it together without this extra bit thrown in.
But these are very minor, over all these two part episode is top notch.

Summary
This episode involves a more “super powered” villain then Batman normally takes on, but doesn’t sacrifice the psychological, dramatic aspects of the story, so for me it really works. Clayface’s awesome transformations and powers show off some first class animation. There is tension, drama and tragedy. A great episode all round.

Final Score
4 out of 5
(I would give it 5, but the next one with Clayface is, in my view, even better! That review will be coming up next!)

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EssayBee at 5:27PM, Jan. 10, 2010
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I like this two-parter a lot too. However, my favorite Clayface episode is “Growing Pains” (one of the most heartbreaking episodes and another highlight of the last season).

Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but, as much as I love BtAS and the way they handled the villains, I liked how The Batman handled Clayface better (he was a detective and close friend of Bruce who ends up going bad).

BTW, I really like how in-depth your reviews are. And I whole-heartedly agree on the beautiful animation for Clayface's transformations. Nowadays, computers would be used to handle the morphing, but this is just good, hand-drawn morphing that looks as good as anything a computer would do.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
harkovast at 6:50PM, Jan. 10, 2010
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Essaybee I really want to say what I think about Growing Pains but I better not! It would spoil things a bit since I am planning to go through all the Clayface ones in order and give my opinions (so Mudslide, Holiday Knights and then Growing Pains.)

I have not seen ‘The Batman’ version of Clayfacein action, so I cant really comment on that specifically. However, I will say that I found ‘The Batman’ in general to be a lot dumber then the animated series. Deep, meaningful, tortured characters were replaced with simple 2D villains who had snazzy super powers but no motivations. Their Mr Freeze, for example, was more powerful, but emotionally hollow. It really felt like they just missed the point.

Glad you are liking the in depth reviews, I try to get as much into the characters motivations and psychology as I can, because that is really the heart of why the show is so awesome.

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EssayBee at 7:16AM, Jan. 11, 2010
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I think your assessment of The Batman is pretty much spot on–nowhere near the depth or maturity of BtAS. However, by the end of the first season, I did start enjoying the show. (I think I had to get past the fact that it wasn't BtAS and was a more kid-friendly take on the Dark Knight. And my son ate it up; he gets bored with a lot of BtAS, although he does like DCAU Superman and Justice League.)

As for The Batman, each season was a marked improvement over the previous season, and it was fun, by the end of the 4th season, to see the Justice League taking shape. (Granted, it was still no DCAU Justice League.)

As for Growing Pains, I hope you won't tear the basic premise apart too much, since I don't think it really stands up to scrutiny. I just think that the emotional aspect of the episode was handled very well. But I'll wait for your review before going into a discussion of it!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:17AM
harkovast at 10:01AM, Jan. 11, 2010
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I just noticed that I left out mention of Batman's own psychology.
Fixed it now!

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itsjustaar at 2:58PM, Dec. 3, 2010
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The episode's ending used to bug me out as a kid, especially with the fact he survived at the end. A clever end which set up (at the time) further appearances from Clayface; a tragic hero in the end, fittingly appropriate for the title cards drama masks in the opening.

I think my favorite part of the episode as a whole, as said by the commentary featurette on the first season DVD, was the brilliant and tough animation to make Clayface morph from character to character to character. It's superb, and I think it came out flawless; just, the whole shifting and morphing behind it. I imagine that must have been difficult to make it segue into one another.
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harkovast at 3:21PM, Dec. 4, 2010
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Itsjuststaar if you found the ending frustrating because the bad guy escapes, watch mudslide for some closure!
Then don't watch any Clayface episodes after that, let it end on a high note!

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itsjustaar at 12:01AM, Dec. 5, 2010
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Well, that was back when I was a kid. xD I'm 23 now. :P It doesn't have the same effect. I didn't find it frustrating, I found it creepy; watch it alone in the house in a dimly lit living room. xD Seeing a woman laugh and her eyes glowing yellow with that maniacal laugh does stuff to kids when they're young. I had to have been at least 9 or 10 when it was on.

I still love Batman. Bruce Timm's DCAU is probably the best interpretation of the DC universe yet. Now if only they could do the same to their live-action movies, well… yeah. xD Too many Batman/Superman reboot stories. One too many.
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harkovast at 12:42PM, Dec. 6, 2010
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You have to feel sorry for the Hulk.
He got a new movie to reboot the franchise and it sucked.
So they did another reboot…which sucked less but wasn't great.
Now they are putting him in the new avengers movie (which will such, I called it) where he will be played by yet ANOTHER actor.

Seriously, it feels like every time Bruce Banner gets mad he doesn't turn green and mutate…he just reboots his own franchise!

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itsjustaar at 7:19PM, Dec. 6, 2010
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I liked Edward Norton in that one. D: He's got the meekness that Bruce has got, at least that of the 60's series ('Death to Smoochie' would be a good example of this). I couldn't see too much of a problem with the second one; the first Hulk movie was too emo. Nick Nolte looked awful, and that movie was looong. Like, ‘Titanic’ long. x__x; I remember sleeping about halfway into the movie, only to wake up fully rested and the movie was still 20 minutes away from conclusion.

The battle scenes might have been subpar, but a great step-up from the previous film.

Edward won't be returning into the Avengers film, sadly. :/ Money complications, I suppose. Or Marvel just changed their mind. Shame, because this is the comicbook equivalent of the Expendables. (which, as a fan of all of those characters' action movies, was totally awesome. x3) Bummer. I'd hate to see the Hulk role go to waste. :/

Here's one thing though—

Spider-Man reboot. Again. When it could have been another fine villain battle, we gotta see ‘what made Spidey be Spidey’ one more time. x__X
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