Lego Liveblogs The Batman Adventures, part 1 (of hopefully 36)
That’s right, kids! Because nooooo one demanded it, I’ll be recapping every issue of BTAS’ tie-in comic The Batman Adventures as well. I think I’ve read about half of them before, so there should be fewer surprises around for me this time.
Now, The Batman Adventures was almost purely Kelley Puckett’s show, and from what I remember, it was awesome. Which is weird, since nothing Puckett’s written for the mainstream DCU continuity (save for maybe his work with Cassandra Cain) has really worked for me. About-Faces has noticed before how Puckett’s really big on laconic stories with only a handful of dialogue in-between - something he gracefully described as “superhero haiku” - and while I can respect that, it also makes it a gigantic chore to remember who’s who, especially if the story has a bland plot and/or a poor artist.
Fortunately, this comic has neither. The designs from BTAS are instantly recognizable, and the art from the great Ty Templeton (now a kickass Batman writer in his own right) can buoy even the weakest story along. Plus, since Puckett doesn’t exactly have S&P breathing down his neck (remember, a comic will always reach less impressionable little kiddies than a TV series), he’s free to sharpen up the dialogue and insert elements that would’ve been way too adult for the show.
Ah, well - enough ranting from me. Let’s start with the book’s maiden voyage, “Penguin’s Big Score”. A far more fitting intro to the Bird of Banditry than I’ve Got Batman in My Basement, I think you’ll all agree.
* We begin with one of Penguin’s goons watching a Batman cartoon in Penguin’s hideout, which immediately establishes that he’s got more personality than 90% of the henchmen we see on the show.
* Ah, Penguin’s little word-of-the-day session. I’ve heard that Puckett drew this from Penguin’s characterization in the original BTAS Bible, and I like it a lot. Together with the ostentatious dining table (in the middle of a cold, bare warehouse), it really establishes Oswald as a desperate social climber.
* For the record, arteriosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries, most often stemming from overconsumption of fat & cholesterol (hint, hint). Five bucks says that Clarence intentionally picked the biggest word he could find out of the dictionary just to spite Ozzie. Of course, Ozzie’s reaction to his goons calling him out is priceless.
* Also, note that Ozzie’s allowed to have his cigarette lit in the comic - on the show, S&P would only let him keep it if it was unlit, presumably banking on the fact that most kids at home wouldn’t be able to tell what the cigarette holder was.
* Anyways, Ozzie and the gang get a present. Said present turns out to be a two-way TV… thing that lets them communicate with a Mysterious Shadowy Figure who will surely pull the plot along for the next dozen or so issues while only slowly giving hints to his identity…
* Okay, it’s the Joker. Who immediately takes advantage of his freedom from S&P to brutally off the henchman that gave away his identity.
* Joker & Ozzie immediately start scheming like old chums, planting the seeds that we’ll eventually see in The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne, Almost Got ‘im, and beyond.
* “C’est la blanc.” It’s probably a given that Ozzie’s mangled his French here, but does anyone know what he’s trying to say?
* Aaaaand now we’ve gone straight into the over-beaten path of “Penguin goes straight”. It’s not as hilariously abrupt as it was in John Ostrander’s Penguin Triumphant (sorry, Hefner), but it’s still pretty odd that no one seems to be questioning where Penguin’s recent wealth is coming from. I know, I know, money equals lawyers, but would high society be that keen to let him in?
* “Veronica Vapid”? Well, no one can sue the show for false advertising…
* And can I just say how much I love Templeton’s art here? Only a handful of panels, and he portrays the Penguin as charming, genial, sophisticated, contemplative… and in that last moment, straight-up spoiling for a fight.
* Alfred, you classist prick.
* Another thing I like: Puckett establishes that without his dramatic flair and need to telegraph his involvement in every crime, Penguin would run circles around Batman. Bruce knows he’s being all the recent bank robberies, but he can’t prove it or even catch Penguin in the middle of it.
* But eventually, Bruce figures out Ozzie’s big plan: he’s specifically targeting Gotham’s top philanthropists so he can make donations in their place (with their money, natch) and make himself look good. That right there is the perfect Penguin scheme, with just the right mix of ordinary greed and longing for high society. There’s even a bird motif if you want to stretch it a little - cuckoos, anybody?
* … is it just me, or does no one in this comic call Penguin by his real name? Even “reformed”, everyone from Veronica Vapid to Jim Gordon keeps calling him “The Penguin”.
* Anyways, Penguin’s ready to soak up another philanthropist award with his unprecedented donation to the GCPD (yeah, that’ll make you lots of friends in Stonegate, pal…), but Bruce pulls a dick move worthy of Silver Age Superman, and donates twice as much as Ozzie at the very last minute. This, of course, immediately sets Ozzie off. Which is what Bruce wanted all along.
* Ozzie and his pals go off to rob the Wayne Financial Building. I probably don’t even have to tell you that the only way they could’ve handed a bigger advantage to Batman is trying to invade Wayne Manor.
* It’s modern art, Ozzie. You just don’t understaaaaaand, man.
* So Batman cuts the lights as soon as Ozzie and friends make it into the basement. Ozzie makes the boneheaded move of telling his men to split up, and Bruce predictably makes mincemeat out of all of them.
* Ozzie’s motive rant really is a thing of beauty - he’s not really sympathetic as a person, but by God, who among us hasn’t gotten sick of all that “kindness” and “mercy” that rich folks literally buy their way into? But since we have literally one page left to wrap this story up, Bruce reveals that he connected the building’s security cameras to the local news network (or something), so Penguin’s confession went out in public, and the bird’s put behind bars once again. The end.
* Or is it? After all, Ozzie did run a little errand for the Joker earlier…
It gets a little rushed near the end, but make no mistake - this is the best DCAU Penguin appearance I’ve seen so far. If every issue after this one lives up to that kind of potential… my God, I’m starting to see why everyone says that the DCAU tie-in comics were the best Batman comics of the nineties.
Next time: Catwoman unsheathes her claws! Stay tuned.