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Thanks to this show, Saturday mornings have become fun again. I fondly recall my youth in which I’d spend hours in front of the TV on weekend morns, watching He-Man, Thundercats and all the assorted goodness the box had to offer. The last 2 decades have seen my obsession move to comics as I’ve matured, but thankfully both artforms have often collided.
I, and I’m sure many other fanboys around the globe, originally had doubts about this show though. Taking its title from an ongoing series in the ’70s and ’80s in which Batman would team up with a different DC Comics character each issue, this toon was off to a good start, but when I saw the designs (Golden Age Green Arrow, but Modern Age Blue Beetle?!) and kiddie approach, I was disheartened. Then I saw the show and happy memories of colourful weekend distractions came flooding back. With some of the same writers and directors that have worked on previous DC animated films and series, such as Teen Titans and Justice League, the awareness of DC history flows lovingly onto these episodes.
With a more faithful approach than the last Batman show before this one, simply called The Batman, which ran for 5 seasons until 2008, Brave and the Bold is a daring interpretation to be sure, but never an irreverent one. Long-time DC readers, as well as newbies, will feel right at home, and that’s what makes this a wise move on the part of DC and Warner Bros, as this is the perfect gateway for curious comic readers.
Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) as Batman, Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants) as Plastic Man and John Dimaggio (Futurama’s Bender) as Aquaman are all great voice actors, with the latter bringing a great bravado and amusing derring do to the Atlantean king. The first episode sees Batman fighting a German with a clock for a face (Clock King), while others show Aquaman riding a platelet in Batman’s body and Gorilla Grodd and his hairy soldiers riding pterodactyls. It’s all zany and unapologetic, with a tongue in cheek attitude that even the most cynical fanboy can’t help but be entertained by. The beauty of Batman is that he’s such a versatile character and can fit into all these genres with ease without diluting who he is. As much as we serious fans like to dismiss the ridiculous Batman stories of the ’50s and ’60s, the fact is they do exist and Brave and the Bold isn’t frightened of taking that same approach. It’s evident from the jazz inspired score to the light hearted episodes and colourful visuals that this has family fun stamped on every frame, and I must say, I was suprised at how often I laughed.
There are 13 episodes on 2 discs, from the this initial season from 2008, with hopefully more complete collections to come. Season 2 has finished and a 3rd is on the way. Within these 13 eps, there’s a bunch of guest stars. Each show begins with a short pre-credits team-up, while the bulk of the show that follows features a different crime fighting partner. We’re spoilt with choice from The Atom (the new Ryan Choi version), to Red Tornado, Deadman, Wildcat, the current Blue Beetle, the Green Lantern Corps and The Outsiders (yay!). Those names may not mean a lot to the non-comic aficionado, but thankfully we are often treated to quick origin stories, which never seem awkward. There’s also an eclectic cast of villains of course, including Gentleman Ghost, Ocean Master, Despero, Felix Faust and more. The last episodes on this collection are the boldest in terms of storytelling, with a two-parter incorporating the alternate universe approach from Grant Morrison’s Earth 2 OGN, as well as the Tower of Babel arc from the JLA comics.
With surprisingly effective character designs that pick and choose from DC’s rich past, we’re given great new looks, such as a Batmobile inspired from the ’60s live action TV series and The Joker, as well as an evil Batman, who closely resemble their original Bob Kane designs from 1939.
Any new Batman cartoon will always have a lot to live up to, after the fondly recalled animated series from the ’90s, but The Brave and The Bold is a refreshing and daring approach that works and reminds us of the magic of comics, and cartoons.