Batman Rewatch: On Leather Wings

Batman: The Animated Series is, for my money, the best animated show ever made. Hands down. End of story. It was a staple of my weekday afternoons in the mid-90s. My daughter just discovered it. She’s watching it for the first time. And I’m just along for the ride. We’re watching it again, for the first time.

  • Season 1, episode 1
  • Writer: Mitch Brian
  • Director: Kevin Altieri

Right off the bat, we get a taste of what’s to come. Darkness. Art-deco Gotham. And police blimp. Awesome.

Man-Bat is a bit of an out-of-left-field choice for the pilot episode villain, but it’s particularly fitting for the mood of this show. Zoey wasn’t too familiar with the character going in. Apparently, Bruce Timm specifically wanted to go with Man-Bat for precisely this reason. So, mission accomplished. As flies through the shadows before his full reveal (Man-Bat, not Bruce Timm), I hear from Zoey, “I can tell this is going to be a mean bad guy.”

But then we cut to the mayor’s office for a spat between Gordon and Bullock and…..Harvey Dent flipping a coin? Nice foreshadowing there (Two-Face doesn’t show up for another 9 episodes), which wasn’t lost on Zoey. “Harvey Dent? Maybe this is about Two-Face.”

Cut to our first glimpse of the Batcave with a 1980s supercomputer and Batman reading the newspaper…in costume. That got a good laugh out of Zoey.

“Batman has a cool Batmobile here. The top closes. He has a really cool hideout. The bridge goes up and down so nobody knows it’s there.” She’s a very astute 5-year-old.

Phoenix Labs: Where the lab techs make out with each other in the hallways after hours. In a children’s show. This is also where we realize that Bullock should never be put in command. He sends in some cops to flush out Batman. Zoey wants to know why they’re trying to catch Batman.  I have to explain a bit about Bullock.

Gordon’s now yelling that Batman is across town. *rat-a-tata-tata* machine gun shooting sounds inside. (I love that the Gotham City PD uses machine guns.) Bullock: “Well, someone’s in there, Commissioner.” Um, yeah. Good police work, there. Then his cops make the brilliant decision to toss a grenade in a room filled with gasoline. Why is there a room filled with unsecured gasoline inside the building? Don’t ask. It goes boom.

Bruce Wayne makes a trip to the Gotham Zoo, where they have an exhibit called “Adventures in Chiroptera.” This is one happening place. But Bruce is introduced to Kirk Langstrom. So…plot advancement.

Zoey: “How come he’s called Batman, but he’s worried about bat problems?” Quick explanation of what a “cover story” is.

Back in the Batcave, Batman tells Alfred that he’s checked the fiber he found against “every animal species known to man.” That’s some serious computing power for his talking computer with the Apple II greenscreen graphics.

Batman finally takes down Man-Bat during a sweet mid-air battle. Then somehow turns him back into Langstrom for good…well, “for now.”

Verdict? “It was OK. I would’ve liked it better if it had Joker or Robin. Why didn’t they put Robin in each and every show?” Sigh.

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