Jesus Christ Animated Batman, I’m Just a Kid!

By: Jacob Lewis

I’ve recently been rewatching Batman the Animated series. This was my favorite childhood cartoon and it still holds up really well; mostly due to excellent voice work, great art design, fantastic orchestral music and all around great stories. However, I’ve found that in the middle of what were mostly PG stories, a few episodes stood out as being…well…kinda fucked up to show a 10 year old.  It also isnt just me. I ran several searches on the internet and it appears that my opinion is in line with most people on the creator’s wilful disregard for our juvenile minds. These episodes include the following:

Mad Love: This story centered more on Harley Quinn rather than Batman, and contains flashbacks to how she met and fell in love with the Joker. Originally she was originally Dr. Harleen Quinzel (god dammit DC, really), the Joker’s Psychologist at Arkham Asylum. Over the course of many sessions, we see the Joker manipulate her into believing that he was a gentle soul, misunderstood by everyone except her. She ends of getting reverse Stockholm syndrome (Holmstock Syndrome?) and busting him out of the asylum in a Jester outfit she bought from a costume store. This was shown briefly in the Suicide Squad Movie, accept instead of the above scene I believe it just showed some fat guy squatting over a digital camera and shitting on the lens for 5-minutes. The episode ends with Harley Quinn presenting a beaten Batman as a gift to the Joker. When the Joker sees Batman, he thanks her and…wait, that’s not it….he straight up punches her in the face and tell her he’s furious, because the only one who is allowed to beat batman his him. He then comes to his sense and…wait, no, that’s not right…he then tosses Harley Quinn out of a third story window where she just happens to land in a dumpster. Beaten and near death Harley Quinn finally comes to her senses and realizes that the man she thought she loved was….dammit, that’s not it again, I should really get these notes in order….battered and near death she blames herself for angering the joker, managing to whimper out, “its my fault…I didn’t get the joke.” Yup, you hear that kids of America, women should expect to be thrown out a window if they upset their man’s delicate ego. Role credits…commercial break….”Its Time for Animaniacs, and we’re zany to the max.”

Growing Pains: This was a Robin-centric episode (the younger 12-year old Robin, Tim Drake, not the older Dick Grayson), which would usually be enough to make me change the channel to check and see what Dark Wing Duck was up to on Disney(dammit, Gummy Bears is on, back to Batman). However, if I changed the channel on this particular episode I would have missed delightful display of animated fuckuppery that wouldn’t fly in some current adult programs 20 years later. The episode centers around Robin stumbling across a lost 12-year old girl with amnesia. The girl, Annie, is being chased by an unknown big tough looking man for reasons she can’t remember. She only knows she needs to get away from him. Batman and Commissioner Gordon want to capture the man, who has been accused of committing a bunch of crimes, but aren’t as interested in the lost girl. But, as in any situation where a girl gives a 12-year old boy the time of day, Robin falls in love with Annie and decides to take responsibility for protecting  her. Near the end of the episode we learn that the big man is actually Clayface. For those of you whose childhood was filled with wild parties and social interactions, Clayface was once a man named Clayton Phase (just kidding, but only because DC didn’t think of it first) but was turned into a giant sentient shapeshifting mud creature (His origin story almost made this list – Jesus Christ, it shows gangsters holding a guy down and pouring a vat of skin scream on a guy’s face until it literally turns to clay and melts off). Through flashbacks, we learn that after the last time Batman defeated Clayface, he retreated through a sewage pipe to an abandoned factory. Not knowing where he was, he created a probe of sorts, in the form of a young girl, to break off from him and search the nearby area. However, the girl got lost and after a while, began to develop her own personality, forgot what she was and why she was created in the first place and became Annie. Clayface has been hunting Annie since that time because he wants to reclaim her body (technically his body) and add it back to his collective self. Robin fights Clayface, but just like in any case where 12 year old boy with a stick fight a giant amorphous clay monster, he is quickly defeated. Annie, who doesn’t want Robin to die, charges and tackles Clayface before he can kill him. Unfortunately, the moment they touch he immediately begins to absorb her back into his body. A noble sacrifice? I guess, but the animators were kind enough to show her struggling and the look of fear on her face as she is forcibly absorbed into Clayface’s freakish mass. Robin, mightily pissed off by this, tries to kill Clayface by showering him with the magic deus ex machina chemicals that every single factory in Gotham apparently produces. Batman has to swing in and prevent Robin from killing him (because you can never go back from killing a giant unfeeling clay monster responsible for countless crimes and child murder, its what separates us from the animals). The police arrive and Batman lets Robin know that Clayface will be charged with multiple counts of robbery and breaking and entering. Robin mutters that he should also be convicted of murder and slowly walks home. Role credits…commercial break…”They’re Tiny, They’re Toony. They’re all a little loony.” Holy shit, that was on TV…for kids. Not just child murder, a child sentenced to the void of eternal unbeing. Did that child have a soul? Did it go to heaven? These were the kind of questions that most 10-12 year olds regularly asked themselves Saturday morning in between X-Men and Eek! The Cat. When you see an old episode of a children’s cartoon and can’t decide whether the best director for a live action version would be Cronenberg or Carpenter, the envelope was pushed a little too far.

Fuck You Victor Fries Storyline: The third isn’t really a single episode, but a group of episodes over the course of the series’ run: Heart of Ice, Deep Freeze, Sub Zero and Cold Comfort. If you know the Batman villain Mr. Freeze, you probably remember his campy ice punning character from Adam West’s Batman TV Show, or his campy ice punning in an Austrian accent character from Joel Schumacher’s home movie of him raping a classic character for two hours (George Clooney was in it too). However, Mr. Freeze’s emotionless and single minded character from the animated series was very different. Most importantly, he wasn’t really a villain. He was originally a scientist named Victor Fries, who works as a scientist/engineer of a major Gotham corporation (with a name like that he could have either been a cold based villain or the diabolical Captain French Fries). His wife, Nora, is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and when she is close to death, he decides to start using company money to build a special cryogenic freezing chamber to keep her alive until he can find a cure. When the CEO of the company finds out Victor has been wasting time and company money to save one woman, he has Victor fired and attempts to unplug Nora’s machine. When Victor tries to stop him the CEO kicks him into a vat of more handy Gotham industries produced deus ex machina chemicals, that turn his body as hard as ice, but makes it so he has to be in near freezing temperatures to survive. He uses his cryo-technology and general sciencey know how to build a suit that will allow him move around and sustain his temperature, and builds a freeze gun to take revenge on the CEO and steal money he can use to continue searching for a cure for Nora. Batman stops him and tries to talk reason into him, but Mr. Freeze claims his emotions have been frozen dead. Batman defeats Mr. Freeze, and sends him to Arkham, where he is put in a special cell that keeps the temperature at 0 degrees. The episode ends with Mr. Freeze alone and crying in his cell for his frozen wife, muttering: “I can only beg your forgiveness, and pray you hear me somehow, someplace… someplace where a warm hand waits for mine.”Mr. Freeze appears a few more times throughout the series run, each time doing something in an attempt to save his wife. He does finally manage to cure Nora, but she believes that he died in the process and moves on and marries someone else. Later, while Batman is tracking down some missing scientists, he finds Mr. Freeze is responsible. He discovers that the accident that turned him into Mr. Freeze has been slowly eating away his body and all that is left is a severed head in a glass container, moving around on robotic spider legs (you know, just like in all your collective nightmares). He’s also lost his mind from his sickness and grief over losing Nora and plans to take out his pain on Gotham by freezing the entire city. Batman beats him and Mr. Freeze’s lil’head escapes, and is never found (he pops up later in Batman Beyond, where he gets a small bit of redemption and peace, but I was 16 when that show came out, so, too little too late). Wow. despite the fact that the first of these episodes, Heart of Ice, won an Emmy for outstanding writing in an animated series, this is one dark storyline. The lesson here kids is that you will lose the ones you love unless you destroy yourself and everything that makes you human in order to save them, with the knowledge that once you do they won’t give fuck-all about it and you’ll end up a severed head in a jar. Role Credits… “She’s a small wonder, lovely and bright with soft curls, She’s a small wonder, a child unlike other girls.”

So that’s why I never went outside when I was in middle school. Wait, I forgot what my framing device was for this post? Something about adult content in Batman. Whatever, I don’t care anymore.

THAT’S ALL FOLKS!

If you want to check out these episodes they can be found here for online streaming:


 

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