Batman: The Animated Series (1998) – Critters, Cult of the Cat, and Animal Act

 

Not sure if the stories and the series are getting tired, but the first entry this week has to be one of the worst episodes of the series.  Critters aired 19 September, 1998, and sees Batman (Kevin Conroy), Batgirl (Tara Strong) and Robin (Matthew Valencia) menaced by Farmer Brown (Peter Breck).

It seems Brown is disgruntled, and had his plans for oversized livestock ruined, and now is planning on taking his revenge on the city of Gotham. I mean, let’s forget the fact that when he first exhibited his creations at an agricultural expo, one of the beasts got loose and mucked things up.

He releases all manner of creatures on the city, including a swarm of giant-sized praying mantis, giant cows, and strange flying animals.

This one ends up being bizarre without actually being very good. The creature designs are odd, without being well-designed, even as monsters, and it’s hard to believe something like this could even happen. Did Brown not have anyone in his business or government who would tell him no (I mean besides the judge at the beginning of the ep)?

Batman zips around town using his new jet-pack glider while Batgirl and Robin use the Batmobile, as the Boy Wonder makes every suitable animal joke he can.

Sigh.

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Cult of the Cat, happily, ends up being a stronger story. Airing on 18 September, 1998 this one sees Catwoman (Adrienne Barbeau) pursued by a fanatical cult.

Selina starts it all by stealing a statuette from the cult, who then pursue her violently and eagerly, ordered on the hunt by their leader Thomas Blake (Scott Cleverdon). As she makes a run for it, she decides the best place to hide out is in the Batmobile, until Bats arrives. She comes to him for help, but before a complete explanation, the two are caught up in the action as the cult continues its pursuit.

He agrees to help her as they broker a deal, but Catwoman can’t be trusted, even when her life is on the line, can she?

Selina seeks out the cult, while Batman does some hunting of his own. She believes she can trick the cult, and rob them, but things don’t go as planned..

Batman is captured, and Selina is left with a choice, to settle into her assumed role in the cult, or will she help him?

Definitely a tighter and faster moving plot, and it’s always fun to see Batman and Catwoman share the spotlight (I just wish her redesign wasn’t as horrible as it is).

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The final episode this week is Animal Act (there seems to be a theme going here doesn’t there?), which aired 26 September, 1998.

Dick Grayson’s (Loren Lester) past is coming back in a strange way… the animals from the circus he worked in have begun inexplicably committing crimes, and now, as Nightwing, he needs to figure out what is really going on.

I love that there is static between Nightwing and Batman, makes you wonder what happened to cause such a serious falling out between them.

It seems, the Mad Hatter (Roddy McDowall) is up to no good. But there seem to be plenty of other suspects for Batman to worry about first, including the animal trainer, and former friend of Dick’s Miranda Kane (Jane Wiedlin).

Batman and Nightwing struggle to work together, and confront the slew of animal attacks, and seek out who is behind it.

The Mad Hatter is orchestrating all of it, controlling animals this time around, though without an incredibly strong explanation (just the eas of control he has over them)… but hey, at this point do we need them… Batman villain doing bad things, Batman stops him, happy ending.

While not a terrible story, I miss the earlier seasons, and wish that level of storytelling was still here, meshed with the strain between Nightwing and Batman.

Still, it is a satisfying show.

More next week, same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!

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