Last time on Cartoons Caught on Paper, we went on a Christmas excursion with Batman and the heroes and villains of Gotham. Now, the holiday spirit is gone from the Dark Knight’s city, but there’s still no rest for the wicked. We’re jumping ahead to 1996 for Batman & Robin Adventures #8, featuring a flirty romp with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and… Robin!?
The first thing I noticed about this issue was an uncommon division of roles in the credits. Rick Burchett is on art duties with Linda Medley on colors and Tim Harkins on letters. Now, Batman Adventures mainstay Paul Dini is credited as ‘story’ while Ty Templeton gets a ‘dialogue’ credit. I’ve seen (and been involved in) books where plotters get story credit and the actual writer gets the script credit, so I’m wondering if this was a strange way of saying that or if Paul plotted and panelized this entire issue and then Ty filled in the dialogue.
I realize that next to no one reading this article cares about this kind of thing, but I love the breakdown of process. I’ve said before, credits in the comics industry have always been kind of strange, so it’s been fun to look back and watch when the industry began to give colorists and letterers the credit they deserve. It’s equally interesting to see when credits break from the norm. But anyway, I’ve digressed long enough. You probably want me to get to the part where Robin kisses Poison Ivy and rubs her feet while Harley Quinn’s jealousy ramps up into a frothing rage, right?
The plot is simple and fun. Robin catches Harley Quinn trying to break her pet hyenas out of the zoo. This makes me love Harley because at the age of seven, as a young Lion King fan, I became obsessed with hyenas. Considering they were the villains, few kids shared my passion, so I’m glad to see these laughing beasts get some love here. Needless to say, I’m Team Harley in this issue – and it’s always fun to see her team up with Poison Ivy, who saves her at the last minute by planting a wet one on Robin’s face. This puts Robin under her thrall, and that’s when the fun starts. With Robin as her slave, Ivy leads Harley all over the city, stealing to their heart’s content. Batman intervenes, but Robin fights him off to keep Ivy safe.
This goes awry, though, when Harley starts to feel third wheely. That frothing rage, you guys! In true Harley fashion, she goes very quickly from super on board to sabotaging the plan. Batman and a clever little play from a no-longer-enthralled Robin save the day, though Batman completely loses points for throwing the hyenas through glass walls. I’m much more pro-Batman than I am pro-Robin (this incarnation, anyway) but come on – you can’t do the hyenas like that.
Seriously though, the art here was super fun. I enjoyed the interactions with Harley and Ivy a ton and, even though Batman and Robin have some truly questionable quips (HARLEY: “I get along just fine with rubies and sapphires.” / BATMAN upon entering the scene: “Try getting along with me.”) their action scenes are dynamic and full of energy. Between this and the standout Harley/Ivy short in The Batman Adventures Holiday Special, I would definitely follow a series focusing on just the animated adventures of Harley and Ivy. Along with Batgirl, they stand out for me as the most engaging characters in the comic book version of the cartoon. I continue to gravitate more toward the villains in this version of Batman, where the normal DC Universe Batman spends more time, in the runs I’ve read, making Bruce the most engaging character in every scene. This villain-focus, which I’ve seen in the animated series as well, more than anything shows how incredible Batman’s rogues gallery is – in the world of superhero comics, it’s head and shoulders above the rest.
NEXT TIME: We finish up our Cartoons Caught on Paper journey with Batman: Gotham Adventures #1.