Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This works in Gotham Adventures, but would've fallen flat in Gotham Central. Weird.
If this plot hit the regular DCU, figure at least a four-figure bodycount.
In Batman: The Animated Series, there were several episodes that were adaptations of stories from the comics, like "The Laughing Fish" or "Cape and Cowl Conspiracy." The comic version that followed was set in the Animated continuity, but to the best of my knowledge was all original tales, no adaptations or kiddie-friendly watered-down versions. (There were numerous elements taken from the comics, of course; but the DC Animated books always seemed to avoid the remake-of-a-cartoon feel the Marvel cartoon adaptations had.) Which is why for a number of years, it was the best Batman title on the racks.

But I mention all this because I picked up the trade for Batman: Gotham Adventures at a yard sale last weekend, and the first story struck me as one that works great in the Animated Continuity, yet I can't imagine setting it in the standard DC Universe: "With a Price on His Head!" Written by Ty Templeton, pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Terry Beatty. We, and the camera crews, join the Batman crew's roundup of the Joker, already in progress. As Batman and the Joker punch it out in front of a Times Square-style giant television, a press conference from pharmaceutical tycoon G. Douglas Reid runs. During his current crime spree, the Joker had killed Reid's son, for splashing mud on his new khaki shorts. Reid had planned a reward for his capture, but instead offers a fifty-million dollar reward, to whoever kills the Joker.

I really, really thought there was no way this would end without the Joker shot in the face. Or maybe that's hoped. That kid with the fists is either insanely optimistic, or superbad. No telling. This mob should be at Arkham Asylum every time the Joker's captured, since the odds of getting killed/maimed/stuffed full of Joker Fish by Mister J. is probably like 1 in 5 in Gotham. I've wanted the Joker dead, written out of the comics since the Killing Joke, since A Death in the Family, since No Man's Land: all perfectly good points for the last Joker story, but he keeps coming back.
Hell, with good enough lawyers, he might not even have to pay out the money. Read the fine print!
Not trusting Gotham's populace, or police, to not kill the Joker, Batman has little choice but to...handcuff him to a rail in the Batcave. Because the Animated Batman is too nice to punch the Joker in the kidneys and leave him stuffed in the trunk of the Batmobile, that's why. In a clever touch, Robin (the younger Tim Drake) stops Alfred from coming down to the cave, to remove the chance of the Joker seeing and possibly recognizing him. As the Bat-signal is lit, Batgirl is left to watch the Joker, while Batman and Robin are sent on a Riddler case, and Nightwing patrols solo.

From here there's a few plates spinning: the Riddler tries to extort Batman and Robin into giving up the Joker, revenge for an earlier attempt on his life. A bounty hunter tries to turn in the Joker, and is in turn attacked by other bounty hunters, who discover it's really Clayface trying to make a quick buck, and Nightwing has to take him out. And the Joker, unsurprisingly, escapes; by stealing from Who Framed Roger Rabbit:
Even for someone who launched bodies out of coffins at a funeral, that's low.
Luckily, Alfred is there to bash the Joker's skull with a serving tray and duct tape him up, putting him yet another point over Jarvis in the butler standings.

Later, after mocking Batman for solving a riddle with a computer, and feeling ignored, the Joker tells Batman why he's never killed him: he's been letting him win. 'Yeah, and every time you beat me up? I was FAKING!' 'That's a lie! I hate you!' Looking at it again, it seems like the reverse of Batman's taunt from Mad Love, where he tells "Puddin'" that Harley came closer to killing him than the Joker ever did. It doesn't hold a lot of weight as an insult, since the Joker usually shoots himself in the foot before getting to the finish line, but it does have to sting at least a little.

In the end, Batman kidnaps Reid and brings him to the Batcave, leaving the Joker's fate in his hands:If you want something done right, Mr. Reid... Since the Animated continuity is ostensibly for kids, Mr. Reid makes the 'right' decision to let the Joker live, and puts the money into a charity fund in his late son's name. I just can't see that happening in the regular books. Templeton has a great plot going here, but I still wonder how another Batman writer like Ed Brubaker or Alan Grant would've done it for a book like Detective Comics, even if DC wouldn't let them kill the golden goose either.

Out of the six issues in this trade, I had bought two of them individually: one because it had a fun cover, and the other because it had one of DC's B-list characters that I love. But, later for that one.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

In the midst of all the gloom and doom and death, it is nice to have a little bit of fun for a change.