When I was a kid, The Brave and the Bold was a long-running DC Comics title that featured Batman teaming up with a different character each month. I always liked it, because it allowed me my Batman fix without having to buy into the dark complexities of the Batman of the 1970s and early 80s. It was fast, fun adventure, and I liked it.
This is why I’ve been enjoying the new animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. First of all, I am not a fan of animated shows. I don’t watch them very often, and when the kids do, I usually have a book going.
Secondly, I am not a fan of the last 20 or so years’ worth of animated Batman shows. Every time I tuned one in, I was usually a little surprised at the maturity level of them. These dark, violent stories are supposed to be for kids? I do like it when animated productions operate on two levels — the Simpsons are particularly good at this, as are the Pixar films — so that kids get one joke and adults get a few others that kids don’t notice. That’s a good way to make anything. But the earlier Batman shows lacked that, and I never felt they were right for young children.
The Brave and the Bold, though, succeeds on that level. It’s a light, fun Batman series that never becomes silly. Batman, wearing an animated version of the Adam West costume, cracks one-liners throughout, and is presented as a leader and mentor of younger heroes and ally of established characters. In the absence of Superman, he is the leading hero of this universe.
And he says things like this:
- Dr. Polaris: “Nobody can stand against my astonishing power to repel!”
- Batman: “Maybe it’s time to switch deodorants.”
I should note, too, that Batman is voiced by Diedrich Bader. He does a smashing job, but that gives you a sense of this show’s tone.
My thoughts on the series are voiced here. Meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the other characters featured on the show:
- Green Arrow: Wearing his classic Robin Hood suit, with red boots and gloves, this Green Arrow still drives the Arrowcar and is Batman’s friendly rival.
- Wildcat: Ted Grant is a grizzled old super-hero, still coaching boxers, and missing most of his teeth, which is a neat touch. He calls Batman “Rookie.”
- Blue Beetle: This is Jaime Reyes, the most modern character on the show; he’s being taught the ropes by Batman. The Beetle legacy is explored in one episode, which shows us the fate of Ted Kord (which is vastly different than the comics).
- Aquaman: My favourite character. This Aquaman wears the classic uniform but has a regal beard. He’s the king of Atlantis, a gigantic blustery blowhard with a massive ego and very little brainpower. The creators of this version have finally given us an Aquaman to enjoy after years of blandness.
- The Joker: I really enjoy this version of the Joker. He’s creepy and menacing but very much the Clown Prince of Crime, with a sarcastic humour. And he’s drawn to look like the very first take on the Joker from the 30s.
There are plenty of other great characters: Plastic Man, Jonah Hex, Guy Gardner, Hawk & Dove, B’Wana Beast (seriously) and more. And the only secret identities ever referenced are Blue Beetle’s — he appears in his civvies fairly often — and Plastic Man, whom Batman repeatedly refers to as “O’Brien.” Just like in the JLA series.
For grownup comics fans, there are some great little touches. One episode is set on Earth 3, with the evil criminal counterparts of our heroes: Owlman, Blue Bowman, Scarlet Scarab, etc. In one episode, we see one of Batman’s old costumes, and it’s the suit he wore before the Second World War, complete with weird ears and purple gloves. In that same show, an old Batmobile sedan comes into play, with 8-track and everything.
I’ve managed to tape roughly half of the show’s 25 episodes, and my kid and I — who are enjoying a rare week together while his big brother and sister are off at camp — are hiding from the oppressive heat and pounding rains by indulging our super-hero geekery. This is a show I can enjoy, and one he can enjoy, and that’s rare. We even went out yesterday and bought a Brave and the Bold Batman for the Batcave.
Life is rough.