Warner Archive has just released its first Blu-ray animation package, and it’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season One. I’m thrilled, since this gave me a wonderful excuse to rewatch my favorite superhero cartoon.
The set has all 26 episodes of the first season on two Blu-ray discs. KC’s already reviewed the show, when it was released on DVD in two sets — here’s Season One, Part One and Season One, Part Two — so I’m just going to sum up why it’s a great series.
1. It’s fun. Batman (and friends, about which more later) fight bad guys and save the day, but in non-grim-and-gritty ways, making it a pleasant change from most of DC’s output. Heck, some of the episodes even display a sense of humor! And look, Batman even sometimes smiles!
2. It uses a wide range of the DC universe, with tons of guest stars, emphasizing the strength involved in having so many different superheroes. Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Aquaman (who’s hilarious in his bluster), Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, Black Canary, and the Atom appear, among others, but it’s not just about the well-known heroes. The structure (see next) allows for the lesser-known corners of the DCU to feature as well, with such guests as B’wana Beast, Fire, Kamandi, Wildcat, and Jonah Hex.
3. It doubles up. Each episode begins with a short segment guest-starring one hero before we get the main story with another (often better-known) hero, allowing for more different characters to be featured.
4. It takes well-known ideas and does neat things with them. An excellent example of this is the two-parter that ends the first disc. “Deep Cover for Batman!” and “Game Over for Owlman!” play with the idea of an alternate universe. The bad version of Batman, Owlman, comes to Batman’s earth, and to stop his Injustice Syndicate, Batman winds up taking Owlman’s place on his earth. It’s a standard enough superhero story, but where it excels is in how it keeps teaming Batman up with the Joker due to the different definitions of who’s a hero and who’s a villain. The episodes provide a nice take on how the Joker could have been a different person, in different circumstances.
5. The sound is great. Diedrich Bader makes an excellent Batman, solid but not too stodgy, and the voice casting is exceptional for all the guests.
6. It has two of the best Batman cartoons. The first is “Legends of the Dark Mite!”, in which Bat-Mite interferes with Batman in order to demonstrate how he’s the hero’s biggest fan. The Mite’s magic results in a number of visual references to other Batman versions, amusing callbacks to those who know the history but funny nonetheless to those who don’t, thanks to Bat-Mite’s commentary. Later, they go to a fanboy convention, where the reaction is unfavorable as they argue about what “my Batman” should be, and Bat-Mite tries to become a hero on his own in an impressively created land of the imagination.
The second is the musical “Mayhem of the Music Meister!”, guest-starring Neil Patrick Harris as the title villain. Green Arrow, Aquaman, Black Canary, and various villains wind up singing their encounters in an outstanding episode.
As a Warner Archive release, there are no extras on this set, just the ability to play all episodes or select one at a time. The chapter stops make sense, happening just before the credits, so it’s easy to watch a bunch of episodes at once without too much repetition, although the jazzy theme song, by Andy Sturmer, is worth listening to more than once. (The studio provided a review copy.)