Batman: The Animated Series – “Blind as a Bat”

Blind_as_a_Bat-Title_CardEpisode Number:  59

Original Air Date:  February 22, 1993

Directed by:  Dan Riba

Written by:  Len Wein and Mike Underwood

First Appearance(s):  None

I think there’s some kind of law in art that if you have a bat-related protagonist you must make use of the phrase “blind as a bat” at some point, which brings us to today’s episode. This is another Len Wein written episode and we’ve seen a few of these in the second half of the production run on season one. It makes sense that the first chunk of the season would be left to those who created the show, with the second half drawing more directly from the artists who worked with Batman previously. This episode contains no real “firsts” for the show, but it does contain some “lasts,” which we’ll get to. It’s another Penguin episode, and interestingly, with his last appearance somewhat mirroring the events of Batman Returns this one brings to mind some events from Batman ’89.

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Wayne Tech’s new murder machine.

The episode opens at an airfield demonstration for a new helicopter being unveiled. The Raven X1-11 is a specialty stealth helicopter developed by Wayne Tech as a device best equipped for reconnaissance and rescue missions due to its quiet operation and stealth capabilities. It’s not solely designed for that though as it also features impressive offensive capabilities as well. Bruce Wayne is onhand for the demonstration as Wayne Tech is presumably looking to sell the device to the US government and various military personnel are onhand as well. Dr. Lee (Haunani Minn) is leading the demonstration as a flight crew circles the area in response. Everyone seems rather impressed, though Bruce remarks he has some misgivings about creating a weapon.

The Raven is a remarkable success at everything it demonstrates. Naturally, a weapon this fine is going to attract the attention of Gotham’s less dignified individuals, and indeed it already has. The Raven starts to fire on the crowd forcing everyone to scatter. When a group of officers check in the hangar from where the Raven presumably launched from they find the crew have been tied up and left behind. A voice soon booms from the Raven and it identifies itself as The Penguin (Paul Williams). Penguin has not only hi-jacked the Raven, he’s also apparently stolen Snoopy’s World War I flying ace costume as well. Penguin and his crew, led once again by Falcone (Walter Olkewicz), fire upon the crowd once more. Dr. Lee is directly in harm’s way forcing Bruce into action. As he knocks her out of the way he emerges to hide behind a vehicle which immediately gets lit-up by the Raven and explodes. Bruce howls in pain and is sent flying to the ground. Alfred soon approaches in the limo and ushers him inside as Bruce orders him home. When Alfred questions why they aren’t heading for a hospital, Bruce explains it’s because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t see.

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A disheveled Bruce realizing he can’t see.

At Wayne Manor, Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur) administers to Bruce. She thinks the blindness is temporary, caused by a flash-burn to the retina of both eyes, and orders Bruce to keep his eyes covered for at least 36 hours. Bruce is adamant that he can’t be out of commission that long insisting that Batman needs to track down the Penguin. He tries to stand up and demonstrate his fitness with his head wrapped in bandages and promptly tips over a coffee table. Making matters worse, loyal butler Alfred lets him know the Bat Signal is calling for him. Man, sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut, Al.

Commissioner Gordon is puzzled when Batman fails to show, but he can’t dwell on it much longer. He’s due for a meeting with Detective Bullock and Mayor Hill, and as the three sit around discussing their next move, the Penguin contacts them. He tells them they can have their chopper back, but it will cost them $100 million. Hill is aghast at the sum, but they’re not making much progress on their own. To show he means business, Penguin takes the Raven on a joy-ride. Some teens out doing the same notice the Raven as they cruise over a suspension bridge. The Raven opens fire and takes out the cables of the bridge causing it to collapse. The teens made it off though; we can’t have any fatalities, of course.

blind bruce

Bruce is not really in any condition to do Bat stuff.

With Penguin showing no signs of slowing down, Batman is forced into action. Somehow, he convinces Leslie to craft a special device for him that will allow him to see. Using the same technology that Wayne Tech built into the Raven, she solders him a helmet with the device implants. Once Bruce puts it on, it gives him the ability to see, but only in red and black. It’s basically Virtual Boy. He demonstrates its effectiveness in the Batcave and deems it satisfactory. There’s catch to the device though; it’s a battery hog. Batman needs to keep it connected to his the battery in his belt or else it will run out quickly. It has advantages too though, like giving Batman glowing red eyes when he puts his cowl back on. He hops into the Batwing, because that’s the best vehicle for a legally blind man to go with, and hooks the device up to the console in that and takes off.

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Hey Penguin, Snoopy called, he wants his costume back!

Batman first drops in on the Mayor who is still meeting with Gordon and Bullock. When they ask this badass, red-eyed Batman what they should do he tells them to do exactly what Penguin wants. Hill then takes over Gotham’s television airwaves to tell Penguin they’ve agreed to his deal. Penguin receives and notes it could be a trap, but has full confidence that the radar capabilities of the Raven will let them know of that before anyone can get the drop on them. They head for the ransom location and Penguin and Falcone retrieve a briefcase in the spot they requested. It only contains a taunting note though and soon the Batwing appears in the sky. Interestingly, Penguin makes the connection that the Batwing must possess similar technology to the Raven for them to not detect it, but he fails to take it one step further and determine that the Batwing must come from Wayne Tech.

Penguin and Falcone flee in the Raven but Batman is right on top of them. He quickly takes out the Raven knocking it from the sky as Penguin and Falcone dangle from it via a rope ladder. Somehow, they survive the crash landing without any apparent injury and so does the rest of the crew. They flee to the immobile, but not defenseless, Raven. Falcone climbs into the laser canon and takes aim at a charging Batwing. Penguin is there to basically shake his fist at Batman and this is the part that reminds be of Batman ’89 as it’s very similar to Batman’s approach with The Joker. Falcone nails the Batwing, and it’s sent careening through the sky as Penguin unleashes his trademarked laughter first popularized by Burgess Meredith.

not good

That’s not good.

With the Batwing out of control, Batman is forced into a crash landing of his own outside some kind of metal refinery. As he jumps out of the Batwing before it explodes, he forgets to unplug his helmet from the console and the jack is ripped off. Batman escapes the exploding Batwing, but apparently without a spare cord. Without being able to plug his helmet into the battery on his belt, he’ll soon run out of power and lose his sight once again.

Batman stumbles into the refinery as Penguin insists that he and Falcone give chase. As they catch up to him they note how he’s not moving properly and they assume he must be injured. Inside the refinery, Batman stumbles around as his sight goes in and out and finds himself on some stairs as he’s forced to dodge Penguin’s umbrella gunfire. If Penguin just carried a more traditional weapon I bet he’d have better aim. Batman stumbles onto a conveyor belt and gets his foot lodged into it. Helpless, he gets lucky when Penguin runs out of ammo and apparently he failed to bring a reload. Falcone declares that he’ll take care of Batman and, armed with a chain, he hops onto the conveyor belt and starts swinging. Batman is able to finally extricate himself from the conveyor belt, but tumbles off the side. He’s now dangling a few stories up as Falcone stomps on his fingers. Batman is able to switch to the other side, and as Falcone bends down to try to figure out where he went, Batman is able to see his head and executes a flawless head-scissors takedown.

about to drop in

Blind, but not helpless.

Falcone crashes to the ground far below, though he rises momentarily to apparently demonstrate that the fall did not kill him. Penguin is irritated, but that last bit of juice in Batman’s device has apparently run out. He stumbles off the conveyor belt and Penguin takes note of his erratic movements. He starts making noises and watches as Batman tries to hit the origins of the sounds with bat-a-rangs. It’s enough to let Penguin know that Batman is indeed blind as a bat, and begins to taunt him. Batman proves to be blind, but not helpless, as he kicks a few barrels into Penguin. He’s able to flee down a walkway, but it ends abruptly with nothing but molten metal below. Batman fires his grapple gun into the ceiling to escape Penguin, but he’s left dangling above with no where to go. As Penguin taunts him, he notices some water dripping down onto his head. Assuming there’s a water pipe above him, Batman searches for the valve with his hands, and finding it, opens it up to drop a ton of water onto the metal below. A huge amount of steam goes up which sets the Penguin to coughing giving Batman an aural target which is all he needs to take him out.

Sadly, we’re not shown how Batman got out of that mess after he subdued Penguin. He likely would have needed some assistance getting home and presumably Alfred helped him, but how they got in touch we do not know. The next scene is simply Bruce at home with Alfred and Leslie. She’s removing the bandages she had put in place while remarking that she wishes Bruce had followed her advice which is supposed to make us a bit fearful that his eyesight is permanently damaged. When the bandages fall, Bruce flashes concern on his face which causes Alfred to recoil in fear and drop the newspaper he was holding. Bruce deftly snatches it before it can hit the floor, and lets his old friend know that his eyes are just fine. He opens the paper to see coverage of Penguin’s capture and remarks he’s never seen anything prettier.

Interestingly, “Blind as a Bat” deals with Batman losing his sight in a similar manner to another Len Wein episode, “Off-Balance.” In case you forgot, in that episode a vertigo device made it difficult for Batman to navigate a room full of traps forcing him to close his eyes. I was kind of annoyed with how well Batman was able to then dodge all of the traps without his vision, but I’m happy to say this episode doesn’t make Batman do anything particularly super human when he’s blinded. Penguin is a terrible shot, which definitely helped him survive, and the various aircraft crashes definitely go beyond the realm of plausibility. It’s also pretty ridiculous for Batman to attempt this sort of thing alone. Where’s Robin? He really doesn’t trust the Gotham PD to do anything right, apparently, for him to go out blind. This is definitely an easy episode to nit-pick, but on the whole it’s still pretty entertaining. Not really one of the best, but far from the worst.

As for those “lasts” I mentioned, this will probably surprise you, but this is the final episode in which The Penguin is a main villain. He’s going to be reduced to a few cameos for the rest of this series, but he’ll come back in a more meaningful way with The New Batman Adventures. Still voiced by Paul Williams, he’ll undergo a major redesign that sees him resemble his classic comic self. He’ll also be “reformed” in that he no longer spearheads his own criminal operations, but he’s still rather clued-in on the Gotham Underworld. Batman will drop in on him as he operates his own club to try to shake him down for information, though I’d hardly describe him as an ally to the caped crusader.

leslie helmet

This is Leslie’s final appearance in a meaningful capacity, and she even demonstrates some new skills.

This episode is also the final appearance of Batman confidant and sometimes doctor Leslie Thompkins. She’s played a pretty nice role as a link between Bruce and his parents. As one of the few people that know about Bruce’s alter-ego, she’s played a pretty important role in this show. I don’t know why they chose to not feature her in season 2. She has one, lone, cameo in The New Batman Adventures, but that’s it. She also gets a mention in the Batman Beyond film The Return of the Joker. Whatever the reason for her absence after this episode, I will say I miss the character and I enjoyed her when she showed up.

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Boss Fight Studio Corsair Canard Dead-Eye Duck

img_2906It’s been awhile since we’ve had some new Bucky O’Hare stuff to talk about from Boss Fight Studio, but the wait is over and BFS is setting us up for a nice exit to 2018. Up first, is the variant Corsair Canard Dead-Eye Duck. This action figure is a re-paint of the Series 2 Dead-Eye released earlier this year, but with some added touches to make him more than just a simple re-paint.

If you have not been following along with the releases put out by BFS, then let me fill you in with one word:  fantastic. Boss Fight Studio has released three original sculpts so far and they’ve been among the best action figures released in the past year and Dead-Eye is arguably the best. The four-armed duck is a really fun character to bring to plastic. He’s a wise-cracking gunslinger and his personality shines through in the sculpt by BFS. I absolutely loved that first release, but this one is even better. His joints are all tight, but easy to work with. His interchangeable bills are easy to swap in and out and so are his hands (which are the same as the ones included in the first version). That was my one complaint with the first Dead-Eye, stubborn hands, but with this version they’re easy to pull out and re-insert. He also comes with more than double the firearms as before. It’s the same set of four, but doubled with two additional Bucky-styled guns included for good measure. Do we need all of these guns? No, but I’m happy to have them.

img_2904Structurally, this version of Dead-Eye is superior to the first one, at least when comparing the two figures I have. Maybe my original Dead-Eye was a bit harder to work with than most, and maybe by variant is better. What determines which version you prefer though will likely come down to the color scheme. I am partial to the original, as I pretty much always have been when it comes to variants and costume changes. That doesn’t mean I don’t like what BFS did with this one. This version of Dead-Eye is supposed to represent his appearance before the comic and animated series timeline began when he was a pirate with the Corsair Canards. It’s a part of the character’s life that has never been examined. Had the comic or series been more successful then maybe it would have been, but for this figure it’s essentially “made up. It’s my understanding that creator Larry Hama had input on this color scheme, so I suppose it’s canon, if that’s important to you. Since this is the same figure, the actual costume is the same, just colored differently. Instead of an orange and red scheme, he has a purple and neon green color scheme. It’s definitely loud and outlandish, but has such a 90s vibe to it that I can’t help but be charmed by it.

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The figure comes packed in an easily removable blister that fits snug inside the lunch box. I miss the card stock, but this is pretty slick.

Making this variant a little more special than the variants we’ve seen before is the packaging. For this one, Boss Fight Studio decided to package the character in a tin lunchbox with Bucky O’Hare artwork all around. It’s basically stock promotional artwork that you’ve probably seen before, most notably on the cover of the NES video game. It’s bright and detailed and looks great. There are no dents or imperfections anywhere on my set, which I acquired through Big Bad Toy Store which had an exclusive pre-order window for the item (you can now buy it there and direct from Boss Fight). A nice touch on the lunch box that I enjoy are the character portraits that wrap around it. Most look like they were probably the portraits that were going to be used on the cards for the Wave 2 Hasbro figures that were cancelled before release. Will these characters get a second chance at life through Boss Fight? Only time will tell.

Because of the special packaging, this version of Dead-Eye will cost a few more bucks than a regular release figure. Big Bad Toy Store sells him for $42.99 where he’s currently in stock and BFS sells him for the same. I think he’s a superb figure, but I understand if some people aren’t interested in a lunch box or neon variant. If you’re holding out for a truly new figure, well then I have good news as the Toad Storm Trooper is nearing release. No word on when that figure will start shipping, but I think it’s reasonable to expect him to make it out before the end of the year. And when that figure does arrive, you can expect a review here. For now, I will busy myself with my radical pirate duck figure.


Batman: The Animated Series Blu-ray Collection

img_2915Batman: The Animated Series premiered back in 1992 when home media wasn’t really that big of a business for television properties. Sure, a handful of episodes would make it to VHS and some shows that had a small episode count would have a full season available (like X-Men and the first season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), but that was basically it. It was such an after-thought that some shows have been lost since studios didn’t see a reason to even preserve them, especially some one-off broadcasts. That all changed though with DVD. The new medium could store way more information than a VHS tape could and it was even cheaper to manufacture and distribute. Suddenly, collecting movies became far more mainstream because acquiring them was so easy and watching them had become far more convenient. Naturally, this lead to television shows getting the full season treatment and Batman was no exception.

Released first in 2004, the first volume of Batman was followed in 2005 by three additional volumes to complete the show’s entire Fox run plus The New Batman Adventures. These volumes contained what fans wanted:  all of the episodes in production order at an affordable price. And for a long time, fans were happy. Then came the HD era and suddenly studios were re-releasing all of their movies and shows on high-definition Blu-ray (and for a short time, HD DVD). A lot of people were willing to re-purchase their favorite movies and TV shows if it meant having them in HD, though it definitely seemed like the appetite on the TV side was a touch weaker. Many studios did not bother re-releasing their shows, but some did. As technology has advanced, many people are now moving away from physical media. With almost every movie and show available on some streaming service, there’s less appetite for physical things that can break and take up space.

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A lot of stuff.

Because of this seismic shift in media consumption, I never expected Batman to get a Blu-ray update. Mask of the Phantasm was some-what quietly reissued on Blu-ray last year and I thought that might be it. Of course, in my mind I was hoping Warner Bros. would reconsider and during the show’s 25th anniversary panel at last year’s New York Comic Con just over a year ago it was announced that the entire series would be coming to Blu-ray in 2018. Originally, it was supposed to be here in time for the 26th anniversary, but it got pushed back until October 30th, a rather minimal inconvenience considering this has been something fans have wanted for about a decade now.

You may be looking at the time-stamp on this post and wondering why I’m getting to it now and not during the release week. Well, for one I’m not a professional reviewer so I have to pay for my media and I don’t get advanced copies for review. You probably could have guessed that, though. Really though, I would have had a review up earlier if it weren’t for Amazon. Amazon was the lone place to pre-order this Blu-ray set and the online retailer had 69,048 to distribute. A regular retail version is coming, but this version had some special packaging including individually numbering each set, additional artwork, and three mini Funko Pop figures of Batman, Harley Quinn, and The Joker. It retailed for $110 to start, but gradually dropped down to about $87. It also sold-out, and Amazon upped the order to accommodate more purchases.

Now, if you’re Amazon and you secure the right to sell a so-called Deluxe Limited Edition of something and market it as a collectible, don’t you think you would take care to protect that investment? My package arrived on Tuesday the 30th, street date, in a simple padded envelope. It was beat to Hell with every corner dented and the top flap crushed to form a point in the middle of it. I’m not a stickler for packaging, but if I’m paying for a special edition of something that cost close to 100 bucks I want that thing to look nice. Why wouldn’t Amazon package this in a box with some protection? I went online and found out I wasn’t alone as many people complained of the same. I immediately requested an exchange that night, and the next morning I spoke with a rep via their live chat about my concerns with the packaging and was told my feedback was valued and passed onto the department handling my exchange, and so on.

That replacement arrived on Thursday packaged exactly the same way. This time the envelope was even partially opened, and while the contents were less damaged than before, every corner was still badly dented. The outside box is rather thin cardstock, like a DVD/Blu-ray slip cast, so it really doesn’t take much to damage or crease it. Rather than request the exchange through conventional means, I decided to speak with someone so that they could input the exchange and hopefully do something about the packaging. Again, in checking fan communities I was not alone as others received replacements that day in the same fashion. I first spoke to someone via the live chat again, and they actually referred me this time to the US phone number so I called that and spoke with another rep. She requested the exchange with a note about the packaging while also starting the return process for the second unit (I actually still have to send them back, at a cost to Amazon, though I did need to provide my own box for each one as it was recommended trying to send both in one would cause Amazon to lose track and thus bill me for an unreturned item) with the item set to arrive on Saturday. And it came, this time in a box, but with no additional packaging to protect it. One corner still got crunched pretty well, but Amazon successfully exhausted me into submission, so version 3 didn’t go back, but it’s hardly pristine.

img_2909The whole fiasco with Amazon has really been unfortunate because it’s marred what is otherwise a pretty nice release. The discs are housed in a nice book and the notes and artwork all look great. I don’t much care about the mini figures, but I suppose they’re nice. There’s a new featurette, though most of the bonus content is carried over from the DVD releases. There are a total of 12 commentaries which are also from the DVD releases so it’s disappointing new ones weren’t done. As a bonus though, both films from the original series are included: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze – SubZero. For the sake of completion, I wish they had included Mystery of The Batwoman, but it’s not a great loss.

Bells and whistles are great and really help to make a release feel special and important, but ultimately this set is to be judged on its transfer. I was a bit let-down with the transfer on Mask of the Phantasm last year, so I was a bit guarded as the release of this approached. I have spent, as you probably have noticed, a lot of time with this show over the past year so I perhaps more than most was ready for a new transfer. Those DVDs are fine, but there is a grainy texture to a lot of the episodes. Some may find that charming, and a little grain does help to enhance that noir feel the show is going for, but a lot of it also just looks like something broadcast in standard definition being marred when converted to digital. It’s less a grain, and more a fog that’s present. I’m happy to say though that these new transfers really impress. They’re rich in color and it looks like the finished animation cel is being place right on the screen. The impact is the most dramatic with the first two seasons of the show, the Fox Kids run, as that image was more complex. There was more texture to the backgrounds and stronger lighting effects that makes this set feel like a whole new show.

img_2914There are at least two drawbacks I’ve noticed when watching this set. I obviously haven’t had time to watch the whole thing, though I do intend to, but I picked out select episodes from each season to get a feel for the set. The first episode I watched was “Beware the Gray Ghost.” It felt rather appropriate given the episode’s subject matter in relation to myself. That episode looks really awesome in HD given all of the explosions and dynamic actions of the characters and vehicles. The one thing that did standout as a negative though is the mouth flaps. The animation for them was never a strong suit for the show, with less attention paid to actually making it look like the characters were mouthing the words they were supposed to be speaking. It’s really apparent with The Joker, who almost always has those yellow teeth exposed smashing together with every sentence. This shortcoming is just more noticeable in HD, and in this episode in particular it was really distracting with the video store clerk who has a straw in his mouth for much of his scenes. There’s also the more vibrant coloring of the blue accents on Batman’s costume. They’re quite bright now, similar to how Batman looks in promo materials for this show, and it might be a touch too much, but it’s not killer or anything.

img_2912Aside from that though, I have little to complain about regarding the look of the series. The episodes are presented as seasons of the show, with the The New Batman Adventures now just referred to as season 3 of the show. For those episodes the intro has been removed and replaced with the season one intro. I never cared for the intro for that show so it doesn’t bother me they swapped it out, but that might irritate some out there. That third season also looks good in HD, it’s just not as dramatic an improvement compared with the first two seasons. The character designs were simpler and the lighting effects toned down. It’s mostly a series of flat colors so everything just looks richer and smoother. I have not watched it, but I assume the disc for Mask of the Phantasm is identical to the stand-alone release. The SubZero disc is new, and it includes all three episodes featuring Mr. Freeze as a bonus feature, plus the episode from Batman Beyond featuring the character, so you’re getting an extra episode. I did watch SubZero and can say the transfer looks better than the Mask of the Phantasm one, though the included episodes are presented in standard definition, so no preview of what Batman Beyond would look like in HD. The new feature on the series is on its own disc and it’s a brief retrospective on the series. It didn’t need its own disc, but it was probably easier to do than tacking it onto the end of another disc. There’s also a little feature on the creation of Harley Quinn included, which is well done.

img_2913I do have one other nit to pick and it’s in regards to the packaging. The book that houses all of the discs looks great. It has artwork featuring the main villains and Batman throughout it, though one page has what looks like Joker from The New Adventures but colored to resemble the season one and two Joker, which is kind of ugly. Not a big deal though. What is more concerning is the stubborn nature of the sleeves that house the discs. Getting them out is nearly impossible without forcibly gripping the disc between a thumb and forefinger to yank it out. Some are more stubborn than others. I fear this is a set that if watched frequently would gradually damage the discs, so while the packing looks pretty great, it’s not quite so functional. There is a digital copy of the entire set included, so I suppose those concerned about damaging the discs could opt to watch it digitally instead, preserving the hard copies as a backup. I have not downloaded the files though so I don’t know how they work precisely. If they can be integrated with something like Amazon Prime that would make them available on multiple devices that would obviously be a plus.

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The first page.

Frustrations aside with acquiring a decent version of the item, I would say this is a pretty worthwhile set to own for fans of the series. If you already own the DVDs, as I do, it’s still worth the investment since the transfer is handled so well. In a world where physical media is dying, it’s also a plus that it looks nice on a shelf so if you have to have it at least it looks good. Naturally, if you’re a fan of the show, but never owned it before, then this makes it an even easier decision. If you’re opposed to physical media then you can hold out for a streaming option, but in the interim you’d be missing out. The inclusion of the two movies helps to push this one over the top for me, and I’m glad it’s a near complete release of every animation project associated with the franchise. I suppose those who were really invested in the Kids WB era will wish it included the cross-over episodes with Superman and Mystery of The Batwoman, but I didn’t need those. I do wonder what this means for the Superman cartoon as well as Batman Beyond. I never got into Superman, but I own all of Batman Beyond on DVD. Given how well The New Batman Adventures held up on transfer to DVD, I probably won’t be that interested in a Batman Beyond Blu-ray, but I reserve the right to change my mind down the road. For now, this is pretty much exactly what I wanted and I’m happy to have what is probably the greatest action cartoon ever created in high-definition.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Shadow of the Bat – Part II”

Shadow-Of-The-Bat-2Episode Number:  58

Original Air Date:  September 14, 1993

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Brynne Stephens

First Appearance(s):  None

 

Last episode, the Batman-viewing audience was introduced to a new crime fighter:  Batgirl. I think most viewers saw this one coming from a mile away, but it’s always exciting when a new character is officially introduced. In trying to remember this show as a kid, I do wonder if there was Batgirl artwork and promotional material ahead of her debut. Usually action figure companies have a way of spoiling things like this so it wouldn’t surprise me if Batgirl’s arrival was well-telegraphed. They even saved it for the September period when a lot of new programming is unveiled. Then again, Batgirl didn’t have a great reputation in 1993 since the audience mostly knew her from the 1960s show which DC was trying to distance itself from as much as possible. In the comics, she had already been paralyzed by Joker in the famous Alan Moore story “The Killing Joke” so her star had faded. Still, this was a nice way to bring her back into the spotlight and after seeing what motivated her to dawn the cape and cowl we now get to see how she is at this crime-fighting stuff, while also tackling a number of other loose ends.

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With Batman off playing dress-up, it’s up to Robin and Alfred to figure out their next move.

The episode opens with Batgirl (Melissa Gilbert) staking out the home of Gil Mason (Tim Matheson). Robin (Loren Lester) drops in on her, and not knowing who is behind her, she takes a swing at him. He drops her with a leg sweep and pounces on her rather suggestively and it’s obvious we’re going to be playing some games with Robin and Batgirl. The two are a little combative with each other, but they turn their attention to Mason when he takes a call on his patio. Robin is able to fire a similar device to what Batman used in the previous episode to communicate with Gordon onto Mason’s patio. He’s able to eavesdrop on Mason’s call this way, and shuts Batgirl out. She produces a pair of ordinary binoculars and eavesdrops the more traditional way. Lucky for Robin, Mason repeats aloud the address he’s supposed to head to, and lucky for Batgirl he also writes it down where she can see it. More playful banter ensues as Robin basically tells her to go home, not realizing she was able to spy the address. She, to his surprise, agrees while using a mock child’s voice that is just dripping with sarcasm. Robin doesn’t pick up on it, while Batgirl notes that he’s not the brightest bulb.

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Easy there, Boy Wonder!

The two crime fighters head for an old subway station that has seen better days. Batgirl is shown to be a little clumsy as she traverses Gotham, but it’s understandable since she’s new at this. She arrives and finds Robin is already there. While he stealthily takes out some lookouts, Batgirl slips in and finds Mason with a group of men. It’s Two-Face (Richard Moll) and his goons and they want Mason to have a look at our buddy Matches Malone. It would seem Two-Face was only half-genuine in his death threat to Malone as he’s still alive. Mason doesn’t recognize him, and he’s pretty irritated about being dragged down to have a look considering it would seem this Batgirl is onto him. Two-Face lets him know he has nothing to fear, as he’s moving up the timeline and going for Gordon. As Batgirl sneaks in for a closer look, one of the guys Robin tied up is able to trip her and she stumbles into the Boy Wonder. This rouses the gang before Two-Face can finish revealing their full plan, and Malone shouts out a warning to Robin as they open fire.

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She may be new to this, but Batgirl already knows how to cast an imposing image.

As Batgirl and Robin try to avoid getting lit up, Malone rolls onto the subway tracks and underneath the platform. Two-Face, having heard the warning to Robin, correctly guesses that Malone is actually Batman in disguise and unloads his tommy gun on the shadows. Mason implores him to run, and Two-Face apparently agrees as they take off and head for the surface. Mason is understandably worried about Batman uncovering their scheme, but Two-Face is less concerned as he orders his man to bomb the place. Mad Dog, the rat-faced guy from before, deposits a pair of grenades down the stairs which seals off the exit. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Two-Face also activates some additional explosives with a remote device in his possession.

embarrassed batgirl

Batman pulling a power move.

Underground, Batman and Robin are in no mood to deal with Batgirl. She’s happy to see Robin produce Batman’s costume, as he curtly asks her “Do you mind?” as he begins to get changed. Following that, he basically gives her the tough love speech and orders her to stay out of their way. Batgirl is understandably hurt, but considering she did foul things up she doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. As Robin and Batman search the tunnels for a way out, a noise Robin initially mistakes for a train turns out to be rushing water. The tunnel quickly fills and Batman is able to jump back onto the platform while Robin gets swept away. A well placed lasso from Batgirl finds its mark, and she and Batman are able to pull Robin to safety, thereby at least partially redeeming her in the process.

batgirl lectured

Batman’s first instinct is to treat Batgirl like a child. It’s what he does.

They’re not out of the woods yet though, as the water quickly overtakes everything and pushes them into a new cavern. Batman affixes some plastic explosive to his grapple gun and blasts a hole in the tunnel’s roof. Robin whips out his gun and is able to grapple onto the street above. They send Batgirl up first with instructions on how to send the receiver back down to them. She does as she’s told, but before Batman or Robin can escape the water comes rushing in leaving Batgirl with nothing but the grapple gun in her possession.

flood

That’s going to be a problem.

Back at police headquarters, Jim Gordon is stewing in his cell complaining about the food while Bullock awkwardly devours a particularly gooey slice of pizza from the other side of the bars. As the two discuss the merits of prison food, a bundle of dynamite appears on Gordon’s windowsill. The two try to duck for cover as the bomb goes off. Two hooded men enter Gordon’s cell and grab him, saying aloud that “Rupert Thorne never forgets who his friends are,” to cover their tracks. Bullock is left to watch helplessly from the hall demanding someone get some keys down there. It also falls to Bullock to deal with the media in the aftermath, a task he’s not well-suited for. As he angrily storms into the jail a cop is handling the phones. He can’t understand what the woman on the other end is saying, suspecting the phone lines have been damaged, but tells her if she wants the story on Gordon’s escape to come down to HQ. On the other end, it’s Batgirl who’s horrified to find out that Two-Face has Gordon.

In the subway, Batman and Robin take shelter in an old subway car as they try to find a way out. Batman decides to disengage the breaks on the old car and let the water take them wherever it wishes. This proves to be a sound plan as it smashes through the wall leading them to relative safety. As the subway car dangles from the newly created hole, Batman is forced to use a handle from the car as makeshift grappling hook since both he and Robin are without their grapple guns. It’s enough to get them to ground level and the two head for the wharf assuming Two-Face has already abducted Gordon.

gil mason set to kill

Gil has some evil intentions.

Batgirl gets there first and finds Mason, Two-Face, and his men have Gordon in their possession. Mason is preparing to execute Gordon, but first he has to lay it on thick and even mentions making sure Barbara is taken care of. Proving she’s a quick study, Batgirl tosses a couple of Batarangs Robin had given her to disarm some of the men. She then tosses some tear gas their way and is able to extricate Gordon. “Batgirl, I presume,” he says as they duck for cover under heavy fire. As the bad guys bare down, Batman and Robin swoop in to offer their assistance. Robin even slips in a playful “Miss me?” upon seeing she and Gordon. As they deal with Two-Face, Mason is able to slip away via a motorboat and Batgirl gives chase. As for Two-Face, he heads for a marina dubbed the Silver Dollar which has a gigantic version of his coin on the facade. Batman is able to knock it down and on top of Two-Face to incapacitate him, his face almost cartoonishly squashes as it lands on him.

Left alone to deal with Mason, Batgirl pulls herself into the speeding boat as Mason takes aim. His shot misses, but does hit the fuel tank causing a fire to break out. Batgirl climbs aboard and kicks Mason’s gun away. The two wrestle and Mason is able to yank her mask off and is shocked to find the face of Barbara Gordon beneath it. He backs off slightly, allowing Barbara an opening to take him out. She jumps off the boat with Mason’s unconscious body as it smashes into Gotham’s version of the Statue of Liberty.

Batman_vs_Two-Face

Batman and Two-Face are left to duel, I just wish the 60s theme played during this scene.

The scene shifts to a press conference outside Gotham PD HQ the next day. Summer Gleeson (Mari Devon) is there to ask Gordon how it feels to be a free man, while he notes that Mason is in a coma, but has been indicted for his crimes. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are on the steps behind Gordon for some reason, along with Barbara. Gleeson asks Gordon what he thinks of the mysterious Batgirl and he says she’s as welcomed in Gotham as Batman and Robin. Dick asks Bruce a similar question about if he thinks they’ll see her again. He seems to look Barbara’s way as he playfully says there’s always room for one more and suggests they’ll probably see her again. This prompts Barbara to not so coyly say “I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”

batgirl vs gil

Batgirl doesn’t need a gun, a well-placed kick will do.

“Shadow of the Bat” is a wrap and it’s a satisfying way to conclude the story begun in Part I. An obviously new to crime-fighting Batgirl demonstrates some growing pains, but also gets to play a role in taking Mason down and exonerating her father. Batman and Robin are understandably hostile towards the presence of a rookie in their midst, especially when she messes things up for them and nearly gets them killed, but they certainly come around rather quickly. Robin is also quite playful throughout and it seems they’re teasing a potential romance for he and Batgirl. They are college students, after all. I also like the ambiguous end. While the setup of all three being in the same place is a bit odd (why would Gordon invite Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson to the press conference?), it’s understandably necessary to send the message it wants which is to basically let the audience know that Bruce and Dick aren’t so stupid as to not know who Batgirl is. Well, at least Bruce might not be as we’ll find out later that Dick is still in the dark (Batgirl did note he’s not too bright). What it doesn’t address is if Jim Gordon is in the dark or not. It’s hard to believe a simple mask would cause him to not recognize his own daughter, but perhaps it’s even harder to believe he would publicly give his blessing for Batgirl to operate in Gotham essentially putting his daughter in harm’s way. That’s all stuff for future episodes to deal with, though.

Dong Yang handled the animated for Part II, which is surprising because it’s very uniform with Part I. There’s even a shadowy Batgirl shot that looks similar to one from the first part. Had I not looked at the credits I would have assumed the same animation house did both episodes. It looks quite good though, and I like that Batgirl is differentiated from Batman even further by having a lighter shade of blue for her costume. And I don’t know if it was a deliberate choice, but I also like that Batgirl got ahold of a grapple gun so she should be able to freely use the handy gadget when she reappears eventually. And she will reappear. They also conveniently put Mason into a coma, so for now, Barbara’s identity is safe. His condition will never be followed-up, maybe he has memory loss or something.

batgirl unmasked

Mason makes an important discovery during his scuffle with Batgirl, but it has no repercussions so apparently it wasn’t very important.

As far as this being a vehicle for Two-Face, I suppose that’s the only spot where it comes up short. They must have wanted a marquee villain for Batgirl’s debut, and Two-Face does fit the bill. It also allowed them to use the Thorne red-herring, and it further makes sense that Two-Face would want to frame him. I suppose they could have just used Thorne, or really anyone, but it does add a little spice to go with one of the show’s standout villains. Unfortunately, his character just doesn’t have any growth and he’s even dispatched rather easily.

Even though I very much enjoyed these two episodes, I still maintain that my preference is for Batman to remain a solo act. As such, it does not disappoint me at all that this is Batgirl’s only appearance in season one. She will return for one episode in season two, but that’s all as far as the original series goes. She, like Robin, will be more of a featured player in The New Batman Adventures, but it may have disappointed some when she didn’t immediately become a more common sight. At least in the case of Batgirl, she brings quality over quantity.


Samhain – The Ultimate Song Ranking

samhain headerIt had to happen, no? After ranking all of the songs puts out by the Glenn Danzig-fronted Misfits last Halloween to ranking every song put out by Danzig in celebration of the band’s 30th anniversary, only Samhain remained. The middle child of Glenn Danzig’s bands, Samhain has always been the most overlooked and least appreciated. This is largely due to the band only really existing for about 3 years, barely giving it time to develop its own sound. Predictably, the band sounds like a mash-up of The Misfits and early Danzig as this was basically Glenn Danzig going solo.

As a result of Samhain existing for such a brief period, the volume of songs with the Samhain branding total far fewer than the other two bands. The band had 36 recordings including instrumentals and oddities like “Initium.” Since it’s such a low total relative to the other bands I am forgoing any sort of rules with this ranking. All songs are being ranked individually. The only recordings not considered are the live versions from Samhain’s lone live album. This means I am including covers (most of which are Glenn Danzig covering himself anyway), and there’s even two versions of one song. All of the Samhain releases are long out of print, but I’m sure there are other means of hearing these songs if you don’t want to pay after-market rates. So let’s get down to it and celebrate the festival of Samhain by ranking the works of Samhain:

36. Misery Tomb (Unholy Passion) – Let’s start with the dubious one, the worst Samhain track. This one comes with an asterisk as it’s not really a song and more a collection of noises. Not on the original release of Unholy Passion, “Misery Tomb” is just the vocal wails and effects from that EP’s closing track “I Am Misery” isolated all by itself. It would have made more sense as a CD hidden track which is usually the realm for oddities such as this, but instead it was stuck among the regular songs.

35. Unbridled (November-Coming-Fire) – Given what I said about the first entry, “Unbridled” can be considered my true pick for worst Samhain song. Most of that is due to the terrible production on the track. The vocals are buried in the mix and the sound is so low it sounds way out of place among the better mastered tracks. The music accompanying it does have a playful malevolence to it that is kind of interesting, but the limitations of the band keep it from progressing into anything worthwhile making this track feel incomplete.

initium

Initium was the band’s debut album, and some would say its best.

34. Initium (Initium) – Most of what I said about “Misery Tomb” applies to “Initium.” The only difference is this one is an intro to the band’s first album, and judged on that merit, it’s effective. As a piece of music, it’s just some wind effects with Glenn speaking over it. The lyrics are pretty campy, but it’s fine for what it is.

33. Birthright (November-Coming-Fire) – “Birthright” is the misstep of side 1 on Samhain III. While the other tracks prioritize melody over intensity, this one mostly forgoes that. Like “Unbridled” the production on the vocals also leaves something to be desired. Perhaps if it had a hook in its chorus it would have worked out better.

32. Night Chill (Final Descent) – The instrumental intro for Samhain’s posthumous LP, Final Descent, feels a bit weak compared with the intro on the prior album, but by itself it’s suitable. As its name implies, it’s more a chilling piece of music and it possesses a spooky vibe, for lack of a better term. In short, it accomplishes what it needs to.

31. Macabre (Initium) – This is a track that is distinct for its lack of melody. The beat is rather mischievous, with that malevolent Samhain guitar tone, but the vocals feel isolated. It’s just Glenn screaming nonsense. The imagery is violent, and the song basically has no hooks, but one gets the impression that it’s not supposed to. Raw and intense, you probably either like that about it or you don’t.

30. Lords of the Left Hand (Final Descent) – This one sounds more like a Danzig song. It’s a slow tempo number with an apocalyptic vibe. It could have been snuck onto the first Danzig record without feeling too out of place. This is the original version, and it’s a song I’ve never had particularly strong feelings for. If Final Descent were a true full-length LP this would have been fine as filler, but when forced to stand out it feels a bit lacking.

samhain band

There’s not a lot of Samhain band shots out there, since the band existed for such a short time.

29. Kiss of Steel (November-Coming-Fire) – Bizarre given the subject matter, “Kiss of Steel” is that old school up-tempo punk song with the Samhain bells and whistles. It’s a song about car wrecks, so it’s violent and fits in with the rest of the album given that aspect, though it still seems like a mundane subject for Samhain. It’s brief and relentless though and does possess plenty of hooks.

28. Trouble (Final Descent) – Glenn Danzig and the band’s first attempt at an Elvis cover, this one was originally released on the version of Final Descent included with the Samhain Box Set. It’s similar to what the band Danzig would record, but with less polish. The vocal track sounds like it was done in one take which gives it a raw authenticity. There’s swagger here, perhaps more so than the Danzig version. It’s pretty cool to hear, and even though it lacks some of that Samhain goth vibe, it mostly sounds like what you would expect given what the Danzig version turned out like.

27. Moribund (Unholy Passion) – If you missed the goth texture on the previous song, then you’ll be pleased to know it’s captured here. “Moribund” is sort of Samhain by the numbers. It’s got a bit of a punk thing going on, there’s some added keyboard effects, and it’s fairly catchy. It’s just a little boring compared to the better songs that follow this mold and it’s probably harmed by the fact that its chorus is just the song’s title repeated over and over.

26. Lords of the Left Hand (2nd Version) (Final Descent) – Released with the Samhain Box Set, this version of “Lords of the Left Hand” is much faster. While the original is more methodical, this one is relentless and I think it suits the song’s subject matter better as a result. As a song not deemed worthy of release initially, there is an unfinished vibe to it, but the rawness of the recording is kind of charming as well.

final descent

Final Descent was the 1990 posthumous album from Samhain. It was the only Samhain album to not receive a vinyl release.

25. The Birthing (Final Descent) – Kind of a paradox, as a song called “The Birthing” is essentially all about “The End.” This one has a fun and unique song structure that makes it stand out. Glenn gives a great vocal performance, proving that he’s learned a thing or two since disbanding Samhain, making this one sound a bit more like a Danzig song as opposed to a Samhain one.

24. Death…In Its Arms (Final Descent) – A slow tempo jam kind-of song. It’s another Final Descent track that sounds more like an idea than a realized song. It also sounds halfway between Samhain and Danzig. What is here though is fine, and there’s a groove to this one that helps it stand out. There’s a vocal melody utilized by Glenn here that’s also unique to this song. In short, it doesn’t sound like anything that came before it, or since.

23. Human Pony Girl (November-Coming-Fire) – According to former bassist Eerie Von, when Glenn embarked on writing for Samhain he deliberately wanted to bring in more sexual themes to his lyrics. He had some growing pains and some of the stuff sounds forced or corny, but come Samhain III he seemed more confident. “Human Pony Girl” is one such song and if you like songs about Glenn bare-backing some woman then this one is for you. It’s kind of menacing, and Glenn’s delivery hints at violence without overtly stating anything truly violent. It’s a bit odd as a closer for the album, but I’ve met some female fans who really dig this one.

samhain metallica

The boys of Metallica were fans of the band. James Hetfield would end up singing on the Danzig version of “Possession.”

22. Possession (Final Descent) – Another early version of a song that would appear on the first Danzig record, “Possession” is a rough, slightly faster, version of what ended up being released. It’s not unlike “Twist of Cain” in that regard, which is still to come on our list. The lo-fi recording gives the song a gritty quality that I think suits it rather well though I still prefer the Danzig version.

21. He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named (Initium) – Like “Moribund,” this is another Samhain by the numbers kind of track. It adds this “whoa” track that would probably sound rather funny if isolated from the song, but works with it and gives the song its own flair. It’s a catchy track and Glenn’s vocal delivery rises in intensity throughout the song giving it a satisfying climax. While “Moribund” felt like perfectly fine filler, this one is elevated above that rank.

20. Halloween II (November-Coming-Fire) – Our first Samhain version of a Misfits song. Samhain was actually pretty adept at taking what was old and making it better. “Halloween II” from The Misfits was a moody kind of track, more of a gimmick than true song, but Samhain adds more guitar and a new groove that really pulls everything together. Glenn went for more of a chant quality with the original recording, but here there’s a distinct vocal melody and he practically shouts the verse at the listener. It gives the song a new dimension, a new intensity, and ultimately makes this my preferred version of the song.

19. Diabolos ’88 (November-Coming-Fire) – Samhain’s best instrumental song, “Diablos ’88” is the lead-off track to Samhain III and it’s really punky and fun. It has a lot of Samhain’s trademarked added texture effects with chimes and chants. It’s very up-tempo and probably could have worked as a song with lyrics if Glenn had so desired, but even as an instrumental, it’s pretty damn great.

18. Twist of Cain (Final Descent) – The other soon-to-be Danzig track included on the Final Descent re-issue, “Twist of Cain” has the impossible task of living up to one of Danzig’s most classic tunes. Naturally, it can’t match that band’s rendition, but it is pretty cool to hear in this unrefined, raw, form. Glenn practically growls the chorus and sounds more menacing here than he will with Danzig. All these years later, it would be kind of cool to see if the band could pull-off a similar live version of this song after years of playing it the Danzig way as I think this version would work really well in that setting.

17. The Shift (Initium) – “The Shift” is a slow, brooding, track that’s over before it can really get going, but what it does accomplish in its brief run time is pretty cool. Like a lot of the songs from this album “The Shift” feels like a horror film made song. It’s overshadowed a bit by the songs that follow it on Initium, but shouldn’t be overlooked because of that.

unholy passion

The Unholy Passion EP was the band’s second release. Start to finish, it might be the band’s tightest release.

16. The Hungry End (Unholy Passion) – This one kicks off with an unsettling, frantic, yet simple, guitar riff. As Glenn comes into the picture he’s screaming about a baby in a meat slicer, his voice straining above the piercing sounds of the guitar. There’s a rawness to the vocal delivery, as if it was done in a single take, and the song relents when it gets to a fairly melodious and tastefully delivered chorus. It’s a really neat, and unique, song amongst the Samhain catalog and it really drives home how, even though the band wasn’t really much more talented than The Misfits, Glenn was better at utilizing what this band could do to craft its songs.

15. Black Dream (Initium) – “Black Dream” is a fairly no-frills punk track, an early example of Glenn Danzig trying to incorporate some sex into his lyrics. It doesn’t quite reach the mark in that regard, but what is here is a very catchy punk song that could have come from The Misfits had Glenn chosen to do so. The only thing that makes it sound like a Samhain song is the minimal use of keys to accentuate some of the bass during the chorus.

14. November’s Fire (November-Coming-Fire) – Raise your hand if you sometimes forget this song is called “November’s Fire” and not “November-Coming-Fire” like the album and chorus would lead you to believe. I know I do. It’s obviously not important, and I think it’s still safe to consider this the title track of Samhain III despite the slight difference in naming. This one follows “Halloween II” on the album and logically seems to be about the festival of Samhain as it references fires and the month of November. It’s catchy, with a fun guitar hook. The chorus has a gallop quality to it in the drumming which is pretty unique for Glenn Danzig songs. It can safely be considered one of the band’s signature songs.

13. Horror Biz (Initium) – A new take on The Misfits classic “Horror Business.” This one emphasizes the drumming of Steve Zing and utilizes a more deliberate vocal melody while somewhat downplaying the guitar in comparison with the original. The slightly improved production makes Glenn’s lyrics easier to decipher, including the final line of the song which is mostly unintelligible in the Misfits version. It’s also slightly slower, sacrificing some of that speed and intensity for a more refined groove. Unlike “Halloween II,” I don’t prefer this version to the original, but I do appreciate it. There’s room for two and that chorus will never not be fun to sing along to.

samhain iii

I’ve encountered many fans who consider Samhain’s third release, and last while together, the band’s best.

12. Mother of Mercy (November-Coming-Fire) – This one is perhaps the most famous Samhain song due to its inclusion in the Metallica version of Guitar Hero. It’s obviously a favorite of Hetfield’s and with good reason. It seems to be about giving one’s self up to an older dominatrix, or at least submitting to an older woman. It almost doesn’t matter, as like any good Misfits/Samhain song it really leans into some nice, catchy, hooks that render the song’s subject matter practically moot. This one was apparently also a favorite of Glenn’s as Danzig would keep it in its set list for a few years after Samhain’s demise. It’s not a particularly fast or slow song, but there’s something undeniably fun about that chorus, “We all want our time in Hell.”

11. All Murder, All Guts, All Fun (Initium) – This is another Samhain song that could have easily been a Misfits recording. It’s very punk in nature, uptempo, catchy, and the lyrics are deliberately offensive in order to garner attention (presumably). It’s also graphic, like a lot of Misfits stuff. To make it feel like Samhain has moved beyond The Misfits though there’s a bridge that would be atypical for a Misfits cut. And even though the song slows down for that bridge it still manages to remain catchy, in particular the “Do-you-do-you ree-ah-lize…” conjuring visions of the 50s in some respect. It’s a fun, juvenile, song though that’s rightfully played at every Samhain show.

10. I Am Misery (Unholy Passion) – Perhaps Samhain’s most ambitious song, this one gives up some of the catchy aspects of Samhain’s best, but incorporates perhaps Glenn’s best lyrics. The voice of the song is misery personified, and it’s rather effectual. It moves between being uptempo and mid and there’s plenty of layering and textures added. A great way to kick off Samhain’s Top 10.

9. Samhain (Initium) – The band’s title track, and the only Glenn Danzig band to have such a thing. It’s a great way to introduce the listener to what Samhain is all about. The lyrics are clearly inspired by the actual holiday. It’s very brief, but it works so well. It’s got enough attitude and atmosphere to make it sounds kind of dangerous. It feels minimalist, but it’s so catchy. And when it ends it leaves you wanting more which is the mark of a good song. ‘Tis the night to laugh at Death, indeed.

8. All Hell (Unholy Passion) – The last of The Misfits covers, “All Hell” is a new version of “All Hell Breaks Loose” and it basically kicks ass. Gun to my head, I probably would take this over The Misfits version, but I love both. Like “Horror Biz,” the drums are really emphasized here and the vocal melody is altered for a more deliberate delivery. The way the song is structured really suits this style and adds to the rising intensity the song tries to build up to. The better production also doesn’t hurt in separating it from its predecessor.

final descent CD

Early versions of Final Descent contained the Unholy Passion EP tacked-on the round things out. It wasn’t until the E-Magine reissue that the early Danzig demos were added.

7. Unholy Passion (Unholy Passion) – If someone asks me what Samhain sounds like relative to Glenn Danzig’s more popular bands, this is a song I would point them towards. It’s a mid-tempo track that starts off with a simple bass line and then gradually layers upon that before breaking into the full song. It has all of the atmosphere it needs which is why the EP from which its taken doesn’t need an instrumental lead-in, this accomplishes that task while also delivering a full-fledged and terrific song. There’s a distance in the vocals that adds a haunting quality to the song, and also covers up some goofy lyrics. And as the song states repeatedly; it’s unholy.

6. To Walk the Night (November-Coming-Fire) – This might be Samhain’s slowest song. I’ve never actually measured it, but it’s the closest to a traditional ballad the band recorded. It possesses a somber tone with an understated, but effective, vocal performance from Glenn Danzig. It’s easy listening, which makes it stand out. It’s a personal favorite of mine.

5. Descent (Final Descent) – Final Descent was basically an encore for Samhain. It’s not a bad release either, though I do rank it behind the other three Samhain releases. The songs are worth hearing, but the only one that ever struck me as special is “Descent.” It likely benefits from being recorded essentially by the band Danzig and it contains the best production of any Samhain track. Danzig’s vocals are awesome and intense, and I wish this song received more love from the band during the various reunions that have taken place over the years.

4. The Howl (Initium) – Another moody little horror cut, “The Howl” is a fan-favorite song. I love Glenn’s vocal performance, and the slow gallop of the drums thumps along driving the tempo. It’s a fun horror story, that probably predictable given the song’s title, turns into a series of howls to close it out. Seeing the band perform this one live covered in blood is about as “Samhain” as it gets.

3. In My Grip (November-Coming-Fire) – A power fantasy made song, Glenn Danzig has always had the ability to take what looks corny on paper and turn into something convincing in song. The nature of this song makes for an easy comparison to the Danzig song “Left Hand Black” since it contains similar themes. I love the uneasiness the verse’s guitar creates which leads to the explosive chorus. A great way to kick-off what many feel is the band’s best album.

danzig blood

Glenn Danzig’s affection for Samhain has led to multiple reunions over the years where he once again covers himself in blood to perform.

2. Let the Day Being (November-Coming-Fire) – The companion track to “To Walk the Night,” which leads into this one on the album. “Let the Day Begin” is the polar opposite – uptempo, catchy, and a whole lot of fun. A reckoning is falling upon the world ushering in a new age with fire and fury that will spare no one. It’s uncompromising in its lyrics, which if perhaps given a higher profile would prove controversial, but since this is Samhain it gets to fly under the radar. The song is anchored by its chorus which is perhaps the catchiest one produced by Samhain. Just go and try to get it out of your head.

And the winner is…

Archangel (Initium) – The signature Samhain song, the best of the best. I wrestled with what should be number one since I primarily consider Samhain a punk band and punk bands tend to write fast songs. “Archangel” is not fast, and it’s the band’s longest song at that. Nothing else in the band’s catalogue really sounds like it, but it’s arguably the band’s most complete song. It’s a song that could not have been recorded by The Misfits, and likely wouldn’t sound like this if Danzig had recorded it too. It’s distinctly Samhain. It has an extra bass track that would necessitate Glenn to pick-up an axe himself for live performances, something he rarely ever does. The production is just lo-fi enough to give it a haunting quality and Glenn deftly maneuvers his voice through the song knowing when to croon and when to howl. The song is paced well and the outro it possesses is just another way it separates itself from the rest of the band’s catalogue. It’s a natural show closer, and ultimately my pick for Samhain’s best song.

 

There you have it, all of the Samhain songs ranked. It wasn’t the endeavor that ranking the Danzig songs was, but it was a lot of fun revisiting these songs I’ve listened to so many times during the course of my life. I hope your Happy Halloween has led into a Scintillating Samhain. And just because the holiday has passed doesn’t mean you can’t still listen to Samhain. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always in season.


Ranking the Games of the PlayStation Classic

psx classic gamesWhen the PlayStation Classic was announced a few months ago it was only revealed what 5 of the included 20 games were going to be. It was odd, but considering most places pre-sold out I suppose it didn’t matter. When Nintendo had success with the NES Classic Edition, it meant we were in for more of these devices. Myself and many others tried to predict what would be included on a potential SNES Classic and most people probably came pretty close to nailing the final line-up. Nintendo is heavy with first-party titles and its brand is forever connected with the likes of Mario and Link. With Sony, that first-party recognition isn’t there. During the height of the original PlayStation, Crash Bandicoot was positioned as the company’s mascot, but he wasn’t even owned by Sony. His games were just published by Sony, but the character would eventually come to be owned by Activision. Still, it seemed inconceivable that Sony would pass over Crash, and yet they did! He will not be appearing on the PlayStation Classic as Sony has finally unveiled the remaining 15. I knew predicting the line-up would be more difficult than doing so with the SNES Classic, but apparently I didn’t realize just how hard it would be as I went a putrid 1 for 15 with my predictions.

I suppose if I wanted to give myself bonus points I could dampen that showing by saying I at least hit on two additional franchises. And two of my requested titles (Intelligent Qube and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo) actually made it, even though I thought it would be a long shot to see them included. There’s no hiding from it though, I whiffed big time and I’ll own that. The actual line-up has likely surprised many and it has some nice surprises and some not-so-nice surprises. It’s a weird line-up, and since the PSX era did have some weird games I suppose that’s appropriate. There are three puzzle games among the 20, no 2D fighters, and only one title each from Konami, and Square-Enix. That means no Mega Man, Lara Croft, or Alucard. Were publishers not willing to “play ball” with Sony and its machine? Or was Sony just not willing to pay more for bigger titles? The Japanese version does have some different titles, including Parasite Eve and SaGa Frontier, but the Japanese market is a lot smaller than the North American one so maybe Sony is trying to maximize profits outside of Japan and is less concerned about the home country.

alucard

There are a lot of contenders for biggest snub, but Alucard might be the biggest.

This is not an optimal line-up of games, but does that make it bad? Lets suss it out and rank these titles starting with the least appetizing:

20. Battle Arena Toshinden – A decent looking launch title, it was quickly overwhelmed by Namco’s Tekken franchise. Most people forget about this franchise, and with good reason. It’s not a good game, and it’s odd to use this one instead of the better sequel, but even that game isn’t great.

destruction derby

Excited to revisit this one?

19. Destruction Derby – This game was a one-trick pony when it was released in the launch window of the PlayStation. It was cool to see cars explode and get smashed-up and it was sort-of perversely fun inflicting damage on other vehicles, but it was all empty calories. No one should be playing this game in 2018.

18. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six – This was one of the most heavily marketed games of its era. I probably saw more commercials for Rainbow Six than I did Final Fantasy VII. It’s okay, but the PSX port was pretty abysmal. Anyone playing Rainbow Six in 1998 probably shouldn’t have been playing it on PSX. Electronic Gaming Monthly even awarded it a dubious 3.8/10.

17. Jumping Flash! – We knew this one was included, and I even argued it had a place given it was a launch title and was just so very “of the era.” That doesn’t mean it’s particularly good and by today’s standards it’s quite ugly. Unlike the games listed before it though, it has a certain curiosity factor going for it that will make it worth a look when the PS Classic drops, but it might not be a game you actually stick with.

16. Cool Boarders 2 – If you like snowboarding and “extreme” sports games, then you’ll probably have this one ranked higher. It’s all right, but most people will probably wonder why it’s here and not Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (it’s the licensing, folks).

twisted metal 1

I probably logged over 100 hours with this game, but I’ve never wanted to replay it after Twisted Metal 2 came out.

15. Twisted Metal – I loved this franchise on PlayStation, well the first two games at least. The first one though has not aged well at all, and even in the moment, I knew I was playing a junky game, but it had a certain fun factor. The sequel though is way better and actually still playable. I considered it the most obvious lock for the mini console even ahead of Metal Gear Solid so the fact that this game is included but the sequel is not blows my mind.

14. Oddworld:  Abe’s Odyssey – I said the PS Classic has three puzzle games, but you could make the case Oddworld is more of a puzzle game than a true platformer. This game was hyped a bunch as being a game that gave the player numerous ways to solve a problem, but it didn’t really play out that way. It was interesting, but hardly great. It’s graphical approach should hold up well enough though.

13. Wild Arms – One of the previously announced titles, I gave my speech on it already. It’s serviceable, and its simple JRPG mechanics mean it will always remain playable. It’s just a bit crazy to think that this machine has only three RPGs when the PSX was an RPG behemoth, and Wild Arms is one of the three.

12. Grand Theft Auto – GTA was a surprise hit for the PC when it was released, and it was somewhat surprising to see it get a PSX port. It was also the first title I was denied an ability to purchase at a GameStop. Like modern GTA titles, it was arguably at its best when it was just played like a sand box causing mayhem. Unlike modern GTA titles, the actual missions and story isn’t that rewarding and the game was really difficult. It was at least a little easier to handle on the PSX than with a keyboard. It should still be fun to screw around with, but might not have much legs with the PS Classic.

Intelligent-Qube

The inclusion of Intelligent Qube is a bit of a surprise. Is it a system-seller? Probably not, but it’s worth a look if you end up getting a PS Classic.

11. Intelligent Qube – This was a surprise inclusion, but a worthwhile one. It’s an interesting puzzle game that’s at least not another brick-falling puzzler. I don’t know how well it’s held up because it’s been many years, but it should be playable and may be a dark horse contender for many folks’ most played title on the Classic.

10. Resident Evil (Director’s Cut) – There’s no denying this title was huge for the PSX, and the Director’s Cut version was superior to the original. It is possibly the worst in the franchise on the PSX though and its controls are not something I look forward to returning to. It took many hours to get a handle on them in 1996 and I’m not sure I still have such skills. Maybe it’s like riding a bike?

9. Syphon Filter – This was basically Sony’s attempt at a first party MGS or Rainbow Six. It was fine for what it was, though I’d prefer a dual shock to play it. It’s going to look ugly, and even Gabe Logan’s running animation looked horrendous in ’99. It might surprise though, and the only reason why I didn’t include it in my prediction was because I didn’t think Sony would release it without dual shock support.

8. Ridge Racer Type 4 – A totally competent racer, but let’s face it, this isn’t the racing game you want. Gran Turismo was the first-party behemoth, but I’m guessing licensing issues made it impossible to include. WipeOut was an alternative racer, but one I’d consider more fun than Ridge Racer. I would have taken Crash Team Racing over this one, honestly, and I’m not sure if I’d even play this more than once on the PS Classic. The racing genre is one that basically improves a lot with better technology, so going back isn’t always fun unless it’s more of an off-beat title. I suspect this still plays well enough though, which is why I’m ranking it this high.

persona

I’m happy to see the original Persona included in this collection, but it’s also not a hard to find game so I wish something like Valkyrie Profile was included instead.

7. Revelations:  Persona – The first game in what is now known simply as the Persona series is the biggest surprise inclusion on the PS Classic. This was not a popular game when it was released, and Persona still has more of a cult franchise vibe than a mainstream one. The first game is not as good as more recent entries with the series really blossoming with Persona 3. It is still playable though, and it’s more strategy-oriented battle system differentiates it from Wild Arms and FFVII. This one is a nice surprise and unlike the original Final Fantasy on the NES Classic, fans who are only familiar with the newer entries might actually enjoy playing the first in the series as opposed to just checking it out for the sake of curiosity.

6. Mr. Driller – The nice thing about puzzle games is that they age well. Mr. Driller is another surprise inclusion. It was well-received in its day, but not really a system mover or anything. It’s fun and charming though and if you like puzzle games with a slight Tetris vibe then you’ll get some mileage out of this one.

5. RaymanRayman was all over the place in the mid-90s. He was so omnipresent that I kind of wrote him off for this system as I never associated him with PlayStation. His game is pretty good though, and its 2D approach should hold up just fine. I never loved Rayman, but I never hated his games either.

4. Metal Gear Solid – I’m not crazy about this list of games, if you haven’t noticed, but I do think it’s pretty top-heavy. The last four are mostly interchangeable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Metal Gear Solid tops many lists such as this one. My reasoning for placing it 4th is because I think we’re missing out on some of the bells and whistles with this version by not having the dual shock support and a memory card full of Konami games. I also think the game hasn’t aged too well and recent entries in the series really helped to smooth out the gameplay experience. It’s still a fantastic game, it’s just not as fantastic as it could be on the PS Classic.

puzzle fiighter

This is a great choice for inclusion. I have nothing bad to say about Puzzle Fighter.

3. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo – This is probably my favorite puzzle game. It’s incredibly addicting and the rare puzzler that might be more fun in two-player mode than single-player. It’s got a lot of charm and personality and its sprites should hold up very well. I’m a bit surprised at its inclusion, especially given the omissions of traditional Capcom fighters, but also delighted.

2. Final Fantasy VII – We’ve all probably played it. And even though there’s been backlash towards this title over the years because it’s the most recognizable from the long-running series, that doesn’t mean it’s still not in the conversation for best Final Fantasy game. It’s readily available on other platforms so its inclusion isn’t sexy, but it’s also necessary. If you’ve got about 40 hours, you should give this one some time.

tekken 3 jin

The visuals may not wow you like they did in 98, but Tekken 3 is still a blast to play.

1. Tekken 3 – And the best game of the PS Classic is Tekken 3. A late era title, it actually holds up quite well in the visuals department and the game is simply one of the best 3D fighters ever made. It has a huge roster of characters, some fun additional modes and characters, and there should be something for everyone in terms of fighting styles. If you don’t like 3D fighters then maybe this won’t win you over, but I spent many hours with this one and I’d actually be excited to run through it again and try to unlock all of the additional characters and modes. Well, maybe not Tekken Force Mode.

 

So that’s it; the PlayStation Classic and its 20 games. Are you going to get one? Did you already pre-order one and are reconsidering that decision? I’m over-all not impressed with these 20 games, the majority of which I don’t need to revisit. Even some of the games that I think are fine I still don’t want to really play in 2018. Why play Twisted Metal when you can easily play Twisted Metal Black? Why play Rayman over the easily acquired (and cheap) Rayman Legends? I wasn’t that excited over this console to begin with, as the nostalgia factor just isn’t quite there for me with the PSX era. If the list had turned out to be something closer to what I predicted I might have been tempted. With this list, though? I’m looking at spending 100 bucks to play Persona, Intelligent Qube, and Mr. Driller as the other games I really enjoy I still own for PlayStation and can play them right now if I want. I have a first-gen PS3 hooked up to my TV right now so nothing is stopping me from popping in Tekken 3 if I wish to play it. I’m not everyone though, so for those who loved the PSX and maybe sold all of their old games I can at least see some appeal, but I still feel like this roster is one big missed opportunity.


Batman: The Animated Series – “Shadow of the Bat – Part I”

Shadow_of_the_Bat_Part_IEpisode Number:  57

Original Air Date:  September 13, 1993

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Brynne Stephens

First Appearance(s):  Batgirl, Gil Mason

 

This show has really been killing it of late and today’s episode is no different. After introducing Barbara Gordon back in “Heart of Steel” we’ve now arrived at the moment we all knew was coming. At least, those of us who were even remotely familiar with Batman lore. Barbara has an important role to play, and “Shadow of the Bat” is where she starts to take on that role. Like many two-parters that are introducing a character, it’s in Part II where we’ll really see Gotham’s new heroine in action. This episode also marks the return of Two-Face as a proper villain. After his debut, he’s largely been a secondary character showing up only in ensemble episodes alongside other villains. His introductory episodes were almost too good in terms of portraying him as a sympathetic villain, so the writers found it hard to utilize him as just another villain going forward. His episodes need a bit more weight behind them, and these next two episodes at least do a good job of referencing his first appearance, even though he’s still largely portrayed as just another adversary. And if you’re following along with the DVD release of the show (or soon to be released Blu Ray), then this is also a noteworthy episode since it’s the first one of the Volume 3 set. Two volumes down, two to go.

gotham pd

Gordon and Gotham’s finest are on the scene to start this one.

The episode opens on some dark warehouse where a couple of crooks are up to no good. They’re not too happy about the working conditions, but their boss Rupert Thorne (John Vernon) pops in unannounced to give them a good jolt. Soon the cops show up and surround the place. Thorne declares he can’t be seen there and heads for the roof while his two lackeys create a diversion. The police unveil a sleek new battering ram of an armored truck that plows into the warehouse and there’s not much the two can do with that. They’re apprehended rather quickly, but Thorne was able to ascend a ladder and to the roof. The problem for him though, is that’s exactly where bats like to roam and he soon encounters the Dark Knight. Thorne demonstrates how terrible a shot he is when he misses Batman at what could be considered point-blank range. The police, Gordon, Montoya, Bullock and a new face named Gil Mason (Tim Matheson), arrive on the roof. Gordon makes it a point to offer a word of caution to this new guy, Mason, who starts ordering Thorne to show himself. A sarcastic quip from the darkness confirms what we already suspected – Batman has subdued the crime boss and left him strung-up.

gil mason

Meet Gil Mason, Gotham’s new hot-shot deputy commissioner.

At Wayne Manor, Bruce is watching the coverage of Thorne’s capture. A lot of the credit is given to Gotham’s new deputy commissioner, Gil Mason, who issues a warning to all of the other scum in Gotham. Alfred delivers Bruce a tall, frosty, glass of milk (he’s a role model, kids), but notices Bruce doesn’t seem to be delighting in the coverage like he should. Credit is also given to a shadow informant, and Bruce would love to know who that is.

Gordon_arrested

Gordon? Arrested?! What is this, Bizarro World?

At the Gordon household, we see young Barbara practicing her gymnastics routine. She’s quite adept on the balance beam and it’s pretty important for the show to reveal her skill at this point. Commissioner Gordon is there as well, and the two start talking about Mason. Gordon considers him a godsend, and even suggests to Barbara he’s single which she needles him about. A knock at the door interrupts their conversation, and they’re shocked to see it’s none other than Gil Mason flanked by a couple of officers. They’re here to arrest Jim Gordon for accepting bribes, and both of the Gordons are furious as Jim is led away in handcuffs. Someone else is also furious, Wayne, when he sees the coverage in the paper the next morning.

barbara and janet

Another new face is Harvey Dent’s replacement as DA, Janet Van Dorn. She’ll play a bigger role in a later episode.

At the jailhouse, Barbara is seen pleading with the district attorney Janet Van Dorn (Lynette Mettey) to reconsider the decision to deny bail to her father. The kids watching the program get a nice lesson in what a flight risk is, while also learning the details of Gordon’s crime. They found evidence of laundered deposits being sent into Gordon’s accounts and even some offshore ones. Barbara is aghast, but Van Dorn won’t budge on her decision and suggests maybe she doesn’t know her father as well as she thought. As Van Dorn walks away, Bullock pops in to reassure Barbara that the entire force is on her side. He lets her know they even planned a rally for the commissioner, and who organized it? None other than Gil Mason. He assures Barbara he was just doing his job the night before, but he also supports her dad. Barbara is elated at the thought of a rally, but she does suggest it needs a star attraction to really drive the point home.

Meanwhile, Batman is snooping through the police evidence room. A patrolling officer pops in forcing Batman to sneak out through the ventilation, but not before he got a look at the evidence against Gordon. He heads to the jail and fires a little bat-shaped device into Gordon’s cell. It’s a transmitter, and he’s able to communicate with Gordon through it. He lets him know he took a look at the evidence and thinks it’s a quality forgery. He rules out the work of Thorne, but mentions he’s heard word about a new syndicate moving into Gotham. Gordon is understandably more concerned about the well-being of his daughter, and asks Batman to check on her and he agrees. True to his word, Batman drops in on Barbara, but all she wants to talk about is the rally for her dad. She begs Batman to attend, but he tells her he has more important things to worry about. He advises her to stay out of it, but that only angers Barbara. As he swings away, Barbara vows rather ominously that Batman will appear at her father’s rally.

At a rundown old building, a shadowy figure reads a newspaper. A rat-faced hoodlum (Greg Burson) enters the room to see what his boss wants. A throaty, unmistakable, voice gives him his orders, and the rat-faced man takes his leave.

matches

Bruce Wayne’s most famous alter-ego:  Matches Malone.

At the Batcave, Bruce is getting into his latest disguise – Matches Malone. Robin is there to beg to be brought along or for Bruce to at least wear a wire, but Bruce denies him. He does ask if Robin is up for making a public appearance though, which leads us to the rally for Gordon. Robin looks on as Mason delivers a speech to a raucous crowd outside police headquarters. Before Robin can swoop in and make his appearance known, Batman drops in! Robin is shocked to see the figure of Batman swing down and make a brief demonstration on a nearby building before running off. At street level, Bullock is also less than amused declaring him a show-off.

imposter batman

Batman’s got some sleek new curves.

“Batman” disappears into an alley and it soon becomes obvious that this isn’t Batman, but rather Barbara in a store-bought costume. The animation takes some liberties in hiding her identity, but does make it a point to show Barbara removing some padding and height extensions after the fact. Before she can slip away though a car comes speeding into the crowd. On the stage, Mason drops down and ducks behind the podium just before the car opens fire. They don’t appear to hit anyone aside from the search lights. Barbara, apparently feeling emboldened by the costume, goes into her gymnastics routine after the car. She leaps up to grab a banner that has been strung up. She seems surprised when it gives-away leading me to think she intended to use it as leverage, but the banner comes down over the car’s windshield causing it to crash. Robin swoops in and sees the imposter Batman and calls to her, but she takes off running. For some reason, Robin decides to give chase and ignore the gun-toting hoodlums in the car. He manages to grab the back of Barbara’s cowl causing a section to rip off exposing her hair. Robin stops in his tracks to marvel at the girl Batman, while a nearby Summer Gleeson (Mari Devon) snatches a camera and films the runaway Batgirl.

barbara revealed

Batgirl revealed.

By now, the criminals have emerged from their wreck and have taken note of this Batgirl. They open fire on her, but like most of the criminals of Gotham, they too are terrible shots as Barbara is able to vault and flip her way through the gunfire unscathed. They manage to hit the only searchlight they didn’t destroy before, causing Barbara to fall on her face. Before they can take advantage of her predicament, Robin pops in with some well placed Batarangs disarming the thugs. They take off while Robin checks on Barbara. He asks if she’s crazy, while she demonstrates she’s only interested in catching those guys. She urges him to come with her and the two take off in different directions after the pair of thugs. Barbara catches up with hers and takes him out by tossing a garbage can lid at the back of his legs. She pounces on him and removes the hood he’s wearing revealing the rat-faced goon from earlier. He tosses her aside into some garbage and gets away. Robin, apparently unsuccessful in apprehending his man, returns to the alley and finds Barbara gone leaving him to wonder where this Batgirl came from.

At Wayne Manor, Dick is watching the coverage which is being reported as an assassination attempt on the deputy commissioner’s life. A lot of the coverage is also focused on Batgirl and where she could have come from. Dick, apparently possessing DVR technology in 1993, rewinds the coverage when he sees something odd. Mason, on the stage during the attack, ducks behind the podium before seeing the guns. Dick and Alfred both find this suspicious.

MadDog

Rat Face. Despite his resemblance to the vermin, the credits tell me his name is actually Mad Dog.

The next morning, Bullock is aghast at the appearance of yet another masked vigilante, wondering when we’ll see Weasel Woman. He tosses the paper aside and then sees Barbara, which for some reason seems to embarrass him while Officer Montoya just smiles. The two leave Barbara just sitting there. It’s a rather awkward scene as we don’t know why she’s there and it’s rather odd that the officers didn’t ask. Anyway, there’s a collection of mug shots in a binder left behind and Barbara thumbs through it. Conveniently enough, she finds the rat-faced thug almost right away. We then shift locations to the home of Gil Mason. He answers his door and finds an excited Barbara who is about to tell him she knows who tried to kill him when she’s shocked to see he has company. The same rat-faced thug is in Mason’s parlor, and he excuses himself telling Mason he’ll see him at the “business meeting.” Mason then asks Barbara what she wanted to tell him, and she’s forced to improvise and says she just wanted to see how he was doing. He tries to offer her a drink, but she declines claiming she’s off to see her dad leaving Mason alone and confused.

barbara surprised

“Surprise” is not a great look for Barbara.

At a bar called The Stacked Deck, Matches Malone plays pool while rat-face talks on the phone. He’s in a phone booth and assures his boss that he can’t be heard. The camera zooms in on his lips and the narrowed eyes of Malone basically letting us know that Batman can read lips. What can’t he do? Rat-face tells his boss his on his way and he ducks out of the bar with Malone right behind him.

barbara and cowl

A character thoughtfully looking at a mask. Where could this lead, I wonder?

At her home, Barbara converses with her precious teddy bear Woobie wondering who she can turn to for help. With Mason apparently in on the job, she has no one to turn to since Batman is too busy for her. She takes notice of her discarded Batman costume and picks it up. Remarking it could use a little work, she smiles.

Malone has tracked the hoodlum to his hideout. A curious building looms before him. Half of it is well put-together and in over-all good shape, while the other half is dilapidated and ruinous. Malone fires a grapple gun and pulls himself onto a window sill. A shot inside the building lets us know the place is armed, and when Malone lifts the window open he’s electrocuted and collapses into the building. A shadowy figure looms.

Malone awakens to find himself face to face with none other than Two-Face (Richard Moll). It was pretty obvious who this was, but it doesn’t hurt to try to make the reveal feel dramatic. Malone tries to cover his tracks, insisting he’s just there to get in on whatever is going down. Two-Face lets him know he doesn’t like him, but since this is Two-Face, we’re going to let the coin decide Malone’s fate. Good heads and Malone gets a job, bad heads and he no longer gets to live. The coin does not go Malone’s way, and the rat-faced crook introduces Bruce’s face to the stock of his gun.

At police headquarters, a shadowy figure rummages through the armory. It’s Barbara, and talking to herself declares there’s only one person she can turn to now:  Batgirl!

batgirl begins

The only logical shot the episode could end on.

And with that, we’re left on a bit of a cliff-hanger. As an introduction for Batgirl, I’d say this one basically nails it. I’m on record as not being a fan of the whole Bat-family thing, I prefer my Batman solo, but if we’re going to have a Batgirl then you would be hard-pressed to come up with a better origin story than this one. Framed by the police, Commissioner Gordon finds himself jailed without bail and his daughter sets out to save him. While she perhaps gives up on the duo of Batman and Robin a bit too easily, it’s within her character (as established in previous episodes) for her to want to make sure her father goes free and that she would welcome that responsibility herself. She knows Mason is involved somehow, and she doesn’t know how deep it goes so she can’t naively go to Bullock or Montoya about her findings. She could possibly contact Batman, but as we saw with his little foray into the underworld, that wouldn’t have been fruitful anyway.

The story seems straight-forward. Two-Face has partnered with Mason to frame Gordon and thereby weaken the police force, but there are still questions. I suppose chiefly is what will happen to Batman? Considering he’s the star of the show, I don’t feel too concerned for his well-being. There’s also what action will Robin take since he’s onto Mason as well? Will his investigation force him to cross paths with Batgirl? And furthermore, is Rupert Thorne part of this in any way? It would seem strange to open the episode with him, but given his connection to Two-Face he may yet have a role to play.

All of this will have to wait until next week when we dive into Part II of “Shadow of the Bat.” Like every two-parter so far, the first chapter has left me excited and interested in where this is going. Hopefully the second chapter pays off. The episode is well-executed and looks really sharp thanks to the work of Spectrum Animation Studio. There are lots of rich blacks, likely due to the fact that this episode contains a number of “shadowy figures.” The sequence of Barbara in her Batman costume running away from the rally is quite a bit of fun to watch in slow-motion. There are stills where it’s obvious the studio “cheated” and just drew Batman, but there’s also some cool shadowy shots of an obvious Batgirl in there as well. The costume Barbara unveils at the end is also a solid design. reminiscent of Catwoman’s look, it keeps things simple with an all-gray look. A loose hanging yellow belt and chest insignia differentiate it slightly from Batman’s looks, and she also kept the exposed hair flowing out of the back of the cowl. I suppose logically it would not be hard to figure out her identity, so in some respects it causes me to appreciate the Batgirl of the 60s TV show who wore a wig when in costume. Overall, I like the look though and this was a nice debut for Gotham’s featured heroine.