Are you like me? With the new 52 books still not really being to my taste these days, you might be wondering here to turn to in order to get that regular dose of the DC Universe. Luckily for me, there are a couple of sources I can turn to, for brand-new stories (at least for me) that carry all the flavor, epic scope and history of the DC Universe I love. And ironically, neither are found in comic books, but instead on the video screen.
It wasn’t intentional, but due to busy schedules and a misbehaving DVR, I wound up missing the majority of episodes of Cartoon Network’s most recent Batman animated series, THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. The entire series is now available on DVD, and I’ve recently been making my way through all 65 episodes of the series of producers James Tucker and Michael Jelenic, and it is an absolute joy. With a distinctly Silver Age feel, BRAVE AND THE BOLD, teams up Batman in every episode with a different superhero, from the usual suspects like Green Arrow or Aquaman to the more obscure like Detetive Chimp or Kamandi. With a design scheme that owes a lot to classic Batman artist Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff, the temptation is to write the series off as more kid-oriented fare without much to offer the adult viewer. Don’t you believe it. The series has an epic scope, builds long-term character growth and story arcs over entire seasons, and includes tearjerking scenes of sacrifice by heroes who never come back from the dead in cheap resurrections just for a happy ending.
I also had been watching the series for almost a full season before I realized that the producers were clearly suggesting that this was the Batman of the “Adam West” continuity, from the Batpoles in Stately Wayne Manor to the familiar villains like King Tut and Bookworm seen in the backgrounds of Gotham’s prison. As for Batman himself, Diedrich Bader’s performance is outstanding, combining the darkness and gravitas of Kevin Conroy with the earnestness and enthusiasm of Adam West. You can tell that this is a series made by people who love Batman, all type of Batman, with everything from the Whirly-Bat to Bat-Mite, to Ace the Bat-Hound making an appearance, as well more modern concepts like Nightwing and the Justice League International. Highly recommended.
Speaking of modern, if you’re looking for something a bit more contemporary, You should check out the complete first season of YOUNG JUSTICE, also now available on DVD.
The best way I can think to convey how much I like YOUNG JUSTICE is to say this: if the New 52 were this well plotted and thought out, I’d be buying very book. As conceived and produced by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, the series reconceives the DC Universe as we know it, taking familiar characters and plotlines from the many years of the DCU and reshuffling them in such a way as to best focus on the show’s concept, a team-within-the team in the Justice League, made up of the young sidekicks and protégés of the Leaguers. For example, Zatanna is presented here as a teenage peer of Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, with her father Zatara now included as a League member.
The series is as much about the League as it is the younger members, and it has a globetrotting feel that works very well with its “big-picture” style of storytelling. It’s also not afraid to take some risks, such as with its currently airing second season, which takes place five years after its first with no explanation, leaving viewer in the dark and desperately trying to fill in the gaps. Characters dies, long-term secrets are revealed; this series lays for keeps, and it feels more like the authentic DC Universe than anything since Bruce Timm’s JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. Make sure you check it out.
Scott Tipton wishes BRAVE AND THE BOLD would have had more B’Wana Beast. If you’ve got questions about Batman, Young Justice or comics in general, send them here.