Batman: The Animated Series

Episode one- On Leather Wings
harkovast at 6:35AM, June 11, 2009
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Pointless trivia
The first episode of the cartoon series produced was actually the second ever aired.
But I'm going to go through the episodes in the order the appear on the DVD set, as I'm going to assume that is the order the creators originally intended.

Plot Synopsis
A scientist mutates himself into a giant bat monster (Man-bat) which starts trying to steal the chemicals to complete the transformation.
The police suspect Batman of being behind the crimes and so go after him with swat teams and helicopters.
Batman eventually captures the monster, proving to the police that he is innocent, and returns the scientist to normal.

Highlights-

Batcrap crazy

The main lunatic in this episode is Dr March, a scientist who rants about Bat's being a superior species, destined to survive the next evolutionary cataclysm. Batman presumably subscribes to this guys news letter.
Interestingly, he is isn't actually up to no good, he is just bonkers. He does, however, do a good job of throwing us all off the sent about what is really going on.

Villians
Interestingly for the opening episode, there really aren't any villains in this one. Dr Langstrom is driven by the chemicals he has taken and is unable to control himself, and ultimately needs Batman to help him.
The creature itself looks awesome, a weird, out of proportion brute, with a small head, big ears and huge wide shoulders.
It also shows a nice bit of angst, when Francine Langstrom (Dr Langstrom's wife) comes in, the creature hides its face and then flees. This adds a nice bit of pathos to the creatures plight.
People turning into animals crops up a couple of times in Batman, and even more in Batman Beyond. I don't know if the producers are all secret furrys, but it does make you wonder…
The Gotham PD cause Batman almost as much trouble as the transformed Langstrom, which does a good job of establishing that the cities police department are not utterly useless. Considering the fact that they are going to spend a lot of time on this show getting their butts handed to them by super villains, I like that this sets them up as competent, if not almost super human like Batman.
Detective Bullock makes his first appearance, where he and Commissioner Gordon are shown to disagree strongly, with Gordon suggesting he would fire Bullock if he had the chance. Perhaps Gordon is just speaking out of anger, as we Mayor Hill mentioned Bullock getting results and later episodes show Bullock becoming very loyal to Gordon. Then again, it is also implied later that Bullock does not always work by the book, so Gordon may have been referring to the detectives shady methods.

Continuity Nod
Possibly one of the best continuity nods of any episode, during a scene where Bullock, Gordon and the Mayor discuss strategy, a shadowy figure is shown flipping a coin.
This is later revealed to be the district attorney.
His name is never spoken, but fans will know that this is Harvey Dent, the man destined to become Two Face.
I love the fact that here we see Harvey introduced as a good guy before seeing his decent into madness.
Compare this to the inferior Batman movie- Batman Forever. In that we are simply told at the start “Oh by the way, he was district attorney and Batman's best friend.” Here the writers had the good sense to establish who this guy is many episodes BEFORE he goes evil!
He made a brief cameo in the first Batman film, but he was played by a black guy (?) and when he later shows up as Tommy Lee Jones in the third film, it is a little hard to connect the two in your mind!
Even The Dark Knight (excellent movie, mind you) only introduces Harvey Dent at the start of that film, rather then adding him in during Batman Begins to build tension.
Batman:TAS gets it spot on. Harvey only needs this small cameo and that sinister coin flip to wet our appetites for what is to come.

GAS!
On this series, gas gets a lot of use! Knocking people out with the stuff is Gotham's favourite sport!
This is obviously a result of network censorship rules. It allows people on the show to be incapacitated in a (relatively) non violent way.
Batman makes use of gas twice in this episode, knocking out a guard and some of the SWAT team using cool black balls that spray the stuff very dramatically.
The SWAT team attempts to retaliate with tear gas but inadvertently causes an explosion instead.

Police Blimps
Using a blimp worked for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so why not for the Gotham PD?
I love the police air ships in this series, because they are so wonderfully dated. This is a mode of transportation that fell out of favour after the Hindenburg, but as Batman exists in a world seemingly forever in the past, here they are widely used.
Impractical? Absolutely!
Unbelievably cool? Most certainly!


BAT BLOOD!
One of very few occasions when we see Batman bleed occurs after he takes do the Man-Bat. A small trickle of blood can be seen running from his mouth.
I cant think of many western cartoons where any blood gets spilled at all!
You have to admire the shows creators dedication to getting crap under the radar like that.

Summary
This is a great episode. It has a simple, snappy premise, lots of action, cool character interactions that tell us a lot about the people involved and A BIG GIANT BAT MONSTER!
The tension builds really well as it is not until the final confrontation that we actually get a look at the monster (and he is worth the wait.)
It also sets up the idea that Batman is not some friendly guy everyone cheers for (I am having painful flash backs to the auction scene in Batman and Robin….argh!), he is seen as a threat and a lot of people want to see him arrested as a dangerous (and insane) vigilante.
However, the episode lacks a lot of the psychological or emotional weight of other episodes, being more of a straight forward detective/action story.
Rather pleasingly the episodes ending hints that the terror may return (which is does, in the even better follow up to this episode ‘Terror in the Skys’, later in the series.)

Final Bat Score

3 out of 5

I should probably point out that my scoring system is judging this show against it's own standard. 3 out of 5 means average by the standards of this show, which is to say ‘incredibly awesome’. I am reserving 4 and 5 stars for some of the truly stellar episodes that will come later.

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
zaymac at 6:46AM, June 11, 2009
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LOL! You are actually serious about reviewing all of these. That's cool though. I've seen every episode so I"ll try and chime in on your reviews.

I actually didn't like Man-Bat. I never really cared for him as a character, and not on this show either.

I do remember being surprised at seeing Batman bleed though. That was cool. I agree with your assessment of this episode though, it was average for me too. Mainly because I really just don't care for Man-Bat all the much. He's sort of like The Lizard from Spider Man, I really don't like him either.

It's a Grizzly Bear battling Zombies. Do you need to know more?
DOLLAR STORE HAIRCUTA daily webcomic of unfunny.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 7:06AM, June 11, 2009
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posts: 5,197
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Man-Bat works for the two episodes he is in.
Had they used him any more then that, he would have become very lame very quickly.
Once he is in monster form he really cant contribute much in terms of thinking or character development, being basically just a giant beast.

Also, I can see why some might object to him as being a bit overly sci-fi compared to the rest of the show, though one could say the same about Clay Face I suppose.

Unfortunately, while Man-Bat spawns the rather excellent Terror in the Skies, his turning into an animal gimic could also be seen as laying the foundations for the decidedly not excellent Tiger Tiger, which is little more then Batman meets the island of Doctor Munroe (very lame!)

And yes, I am deadly serious about reviewing and discussing every single episode.

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
Phillby at 4:29PM, Sept. 30, 2009
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This episode has the hillarious scene where Batman goes to the trouble of using his super computer to establish that the blood-curdling screetch he's recorded isn't, as Dr. Langstrom sugests, the sound of two types of swallow squarking at once.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 4:58PM, Sept. 30, 2009
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I guess he just had to be 100% sure that it wasn't a freaky sound effect cause by echos.
And since he already spent so much cash on the computer, he might as well get his moneys worth and double check stuff!

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
Phillby at 5:29PM, Sept. 30, 2009
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posts: 195
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harkovast
I guess he just had to be 100% sure that it wasn't a freaky sound effect cause by echos.
And since he already spent so much cash on the computer, he might as well get his moneys worth and double check stuff!
I love how Batman is renowned as The Greatest Detective That Ever Lived when he does the lions share of his work by stuffing random bits of evidence into the many draws and compartments of his giant deduction computer.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM
harkovast at 5:37PM, Sept. 30, 2009
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posts: 5,197
joined: 10-12-2008
Yeah, but in fairness I think he built the computer (or at least paid for it!)

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last edited on July 18, 2011 10:16AM

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