The Joker In Animation: A Retrospective

Stu

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Our retrospective takes a curious turn, as I was perplexed to hear the next DC DTV feature was to be a team up between Batman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I anticipate that nobody could have predicted that this would’ve been one of the DC DVDs due to the presumable legal nightmare of getting DC and Nickelodeon characters in the same feature. The Ninja Turtles and Batman previously teamed up in a well received comic book series and the Ninja Turtles somehow appeared in the Injustice 2 video game as downloaded characters. However I did not personally see how the two would be able to legally coincide for the sake of a direct to video feature, given how long requested crossovers between DC and Marvel characters has been met with a strict "Nope" for 20+ years. I can only assume that Jim Harvey himself has some kind of stroke at Warner Bros and Nickelodeon to make this team or happen. This is a joke people, do not ask Jim to commission of another series of Batman The Animated Series, he cannot do it, I have already asked.

Bamboozling as the announcement was, I was curious to check this film out despite the fact I haven’t watched anything to do with the Turtles since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III way back in the mid 90s. All of the recent Ninja Turtle cartoons have completely passed me by, and my knowledge is limited to a handful of memories of the original film series and animated series none of which I believe would’ve fit well in Batman‘s world.

I did originally have concerns that this would simply be another toy inspired feature, given the characters involved and how heavily influenced action figure sales have been upon all Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises in recent decades.



I confess my curiosity got the better of me and I did indeed watch is this one on opening day (my Brother bought it and I invited myself over to watch it with him, much to his delight). Beyond a handful of images and news that Troy Baker would indeed voice both Batman and The Joker I knew little about the feature, so essentially sat down and watched it with an open mind and must admit I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.

The feature does not take place in any known continuity so it’s completely fresh which I believe was required for this piece. Had this been a simple continuation of a prior existing Ninja Turtles Series or even Batman series, I believe it would’ve put the mainstream audience off, and limited its audience to those familiar with either the Turtles or that particular incarnation. In hindsight it might have fit in well in the Batman: The Brave And The Bold world, but overall I think setting this as its own individual piece was indeed the correct decision.

My original concerns them is maybe a kiddie orientated piece we quickly put out to past as the film early on shows that it is not afraid of a little blood, or in this case quite a lot of blood and even murder. Murder is usually tuned out of a film aimed at the younger audiences regardless of how integral it is to the plot. I am not sure how adult orientated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise is, but this one seems to skew slightly older, than I would expect the traditional Turtles franchise to.

The designs are very well done, quite unlike any of the other DC movies I have seen previously, they animate well and managed to make a classic feel of the majority of modern designs with the exception of Batman himself who bares his classic grey and blue suit, which is always appreciated by this old school Batman fan boy. Robin and Batgirl are adorned in their current quite book costumes, which I admit I like less than the classic Tim Drake and 80s Batgirl suits, but given how these films work I understand it why they chose to use the more modern suits. The turtles themselves look very classic and their models fits in with the look of the film. Thankfully they are not like the recent live-action Turtles from producer Michael Bay which looked hideous and grotesque and completely put me off seeing them. I have no desire to watch Michael Bay ruin another childhood franchise (looking at you Transformers.)



The plot has a large amount of characters from both Batman and the Turtles, but even someone who has not seen much of the Turtles in past 30 years I recognised the majority of them. Many Batman villains appear, even if only briefly, and in a cool twist they are muted by the Ooze that turned our 4 normal turtles into the teenage mutant ninja variety. I don’t know enough about The Turtles to confirm if anybody was truly missing beyond Master Splinter and April O’Neil. Splinters ommision can be explained that the Turtles travelled from New York to Gotham to chase Shredder and bringing him along to the fight probably would’ve meant another character that needed included in the fight scenes and therefore creating a lot more work for the production team. I imagine this is also why Casey Jones did not feature. That’s for O' Neil? One could simply say that she is not a Gotham journalist. Job done.

I did appreciate seeing the various Arkham rouges as Batman does indeed have the greatest DC rogues gallery without question. It must be said that some of them are little more than villains for the heroes to fight, it does make sense in this incarnation given that they have been muted by the Ooze. The missing villains I would traditionally expected to see are Catwoman and The Riddler. Riddler omission makes sense as there is nothing for him to transform into that would’ve played into the feature, and Catwoman and I assume is simply an admission due to time. The film is paced very well, has a few genuinely decent twists and never feel slow, plodding, or rushed. It gets from beginning to middle to end nicely, which is a very impressive feat considering the number of characters that must be developed. Even Alfred gets a few moments to shine in a 80 minute picture and film does well in establishing chemistry between the Bat family and the Ninja Turtles. Having known little about The Turtles before watching the feature, by the time it was done I managed to get off something of a handle on each of their characters, which again is a credit to the writing given the sheer number of characters involved and the fact that my knowledge of the turtles could probably be pinned down as knowing their names and their weapons. Any significant character develop i knew probably came from the awesome theme tune to the 80 cartoon. "Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cruel but crude, Michelangelo is a party dude." Never underestimate the power of an awesome theme tune!

The plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan travel to Gotham City to steal various pieces of scientific equipment and ultimately leads them to Arkham Asylum to release The Joker in order to gain the secret is Joker Venom which is a final, vital piece of the chemical formula they require. In exchange for his release The Joker is given the Ooze that allows the transformations. His ultimate goal is to take over Gotham and transform Batman into a freak like him. The mutated rouges made for some spectacular fight scenes with the Turtles and the Gotham Knights, which I believe was needed as essential they were fighting seven highly trained crime fighters and it upped the ante.



As previously mentioned, the designs are well done and animated excellently throughout. Casting was done from top to bottom. I will spare you my usual rant about Tara Strong and her irritating Harley Quinn on this occasion, I feel you as readers have suffered enough! The curious piece of casting is that Troy Baker voices both Batman and The Joker having previously betrayed both roles in previous projects. I admit to prefer his Batman to his Joker and I feel he actually does a very good job as Batman where is his joker is a bit… too overdone. It’s again feels like he’s trying to hard to be Mark Hamill and comes across as more of a pale imitation rather than something he has made his own.

This has turned out to be something of a general review of the piece rather than focusing solely on The Joker hasn’t it? I did enjoy Joker here and felt he added to the story even with the large amount of villains and the main villains of the film actually turn out to be Ra's Al Guhl and Shredder. Out of all the Direct to Blu Ray features in recent years, I feel this is one of the stronger entries into the DCDVD collection and would not hesitate to recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good animated Batman film. I even purchased it myself instead of borrowing my Brother's copy when I wished to see it again.

Sadly a sequel is yet to be announced despite a very good stinger setting up a follow up. I do not know if sales were lower than anticipated, if the contract was simply for one animated film between Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon, or if the crew involved decided the story was essentially completed and they had no wish to do another (but why do the stinger if this is the case?) Where a sequel to be released I would have nohesitation in parting with my coin to purchase the same. Action figures of the film were released and actually looked really cool, I have no idea if they sold well enough to consider a second film, but I certainly do hope to see another one. This is a franchise I would happily invest in.

Next: It’s time to play a game.
 

Stu

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With the ongoing success of DC's Direct To Video features heavily involved in adapting classic storylines from the actual comic books it seems inevitable that one day we would see Hush adapted. Rather than the original approach of simply adapting different classic story after story in 2013, Warner Bros. came up with the savvy idea to create a DC animated feature film universe under the supervision of James Tucker. This would allow an ongoing story to be told with the various members of Justice league and even some non-Justice League members. In theory it would allow for models, backgrounds and casts to be reused and potentially shorten the production time of each feature as there is less pre-production work to be done.

Changes were made on occasion, particular with the cast, and the majority of the stories chosen to be adapted tended to be more modern stories rather than the classics of the 70s, 80s and 90s. This started with the unfortunately tame Justice league: War carried on with the poor Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and as far as Batman went, we essentially we got a decent Damian Wayne trilogy. One feels that the stories chosen to be adapted were based on some of the bigger name writers stories.

The quality of these features was very hit and miss ranging from excellent to poor, But one must advise they got better and better as time went on, and I greatly look forward to each feature from here on. Other features were created outside of this continuity usually Elseword type stories such as Superman: Red Son Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Justice League vs The Fatal Five. I won’t go into these much further as I realise many of my posts have wandered off topic into a general review instead of focusing an on our star of of this piece, who bizarrely really featured in any of these took adverse features until Hush. I don't moderate here anymore and worry Yojimbo might have to step in with some bold orange text like Bird Boy and I had to back in the day!



Back to Hush. This was originally a 12 part story line that ran in Batman way back in 2003 which was hyped as one of the biggest story lines ever due to the superstar creative team of writer Jeph Lob and artist Jim Lee. Loeb has course written the classic Batman stories The Long Halloween and Dark Victory in collaboration with the sensational Tim Sale. Lee was best known for his massively successful X-Men revamp in the early 1990s which was a basis for the incredibly popular X-Men animated series of the 90's which in the eyes of many is still the best adaptation of the X-Men on either the big or small screen.

At the time Hush was a massive deal. It seems to shoot Batman straight to the top of the sales chart and people were genuinely excited to see Lee’s take on The Dark Knight and his supporting characters. What is less fondly remembered is how well the story is written. At one point Loeb could’ve claimed to be comics best ongoing writer, however at this point in his career he was at the beginning of a downward spiral which would frankly turn him into something of an embarrassment. Quite how somebody of Loeb's talents manage to drop so low remains a mystery, but pretty much everything that Loeb was written following this has been a irredeemable mess, with the exception of Captain America: White which makes one wonder if Tim Sale was not helping on the script side of things as well as the artwork.

One thing that cannot be denied; Hush is damn nice to look at, and Jim Lee draws an incredible Batman. The cynic in me questions whether or not having a new villain appear each month was simply a reason to create a massive line of action figures as fans would surely rush to buy figures based on Lee’s excellent pencil, which they did in droves. I also imagine having Lee draw the characters what somehow boost their stock with an audience who perhaps wasn’t reading Batman each month before Lee took over the pencils. It is hard to turn away from Lee's work, it is simply a shame that he is normally paired with a writer not on his A game - Loeb, Miller, Johns, etc.

Adapting 12 issues into a single 70 minute film would not be feasible for reasons explained in the previous posts. Pacing is always an issue with these massive storylines and I personally do not feel that extending this film into two films as they did with The Dark Knight Returns was necessary. There was a lot of clutter and essentially a unneeded scenes in the comic book, which can be cut and would not be missed from the feature film. The film opens up the opportunity to fix the problems with the original comic book while hopefully keeping within the spirit of the book itself and naturally introducing Hush into this animated universe.



Ernie Altbackr was the writer of the film and he clearly had his work cut out for him into making this is an entertaining and flowing piece from an uneven comic book. I imagine the additional pressure of adapting this famous storyline was probably not helped as again it is one of DC's very favourites and Jim Lee still has stroke at DC Comics.

Visually, as with the comic book, I feel the film looks magnificent. Phil Bourassa is once again the model designer as he has been in the Tuckervese since the series began. His designs seem to get better and better as the movies go on but this may be a personal preference, as I am not a fan of the Jim Lee new 52 revamps models (the whole thing to me, simply seemed to be an excuse to get the main characters to stop wearing their underpants over their costume and create weird collars for the characters) . I consider his X-Men redesign to be much, much better. Batman‘s model is changed to be more akin to the original Jim Lee look, following his injury from the fall and Alfred updating Batman's suit to offer more protection to his head. I must say I think this is the nicest Batman model in decades. The grey and blue suit looks simply fantastic. Easily Phil Bourassa finest model ever for me.

The film follows the storyline of the book fairly closely up until till the third act. Many of the main plot threads from the book are in there with the exception of the Jason Todd fake out, which has no place in the film and was probably simply written as a shock factor in the book. I deduced it was Clayface pretending to be Todd soon as he returned,but it is worth mentioning that this was long The Under The Red Hood comic was released, and took place and at a time when bringing Jason Todd back from the dead was a strict no go, as Batman editor the late, great Denny O’Neill even swore that as long as he was in charge of the Batman line of books, Jason would not return. As the longtime editor of the Batman series of comic books and O’Neil's standing with fans, he was taken at his word for a great many years, and was trusted and by my knowledge was well liked by Batman fans. He was one of the good ones and is greatly missed. He never seem to receive the hate or dislike that Paul Levitz or Dan DiDio received, but in all fariness, Levitz and DiDio always seem to have a bit of two-faced corporate toadiness to them, whereas Denny was first and foremost, a big Batman fan who became one of the all-time great Batman writers.

The twist of the film is of course that course that Hush is not Tommy Elliott, which I think is forgivable as well… If you read the book you will know the outcome of the film, and films are at the best when they are unpredictable not slavishly following something you have already read. This seemed to upset many of the fans and the film has not been well received in some circles and generally is considered a mixed bag. I however, deeply enjoyed the film and have watched it many times following its release in 2019. This is again personal preference but I can only call as I see it and there is a lot of like about film. I enjoyed it much more than any of the Damian Wayne trilogy films.



As far as the film goes, the plot sees Batman injured by a mystery assailant who seems to have a personal vendetta against him, severely injuring his skull from a fall. This calls on Alfred to turn to Bruce's childhood friend and world renowned surgeon, Thomas Elliot. This is further complicated by the return of Selena Kyle, who has returned to her thieving ways as Catwoman as she under the mind control of one Poison Ivy. Bruce and Selina's reunion is interrupted by news of Bane (taking Killer Croc’s place from the comic book) kidnapping a child and is followed up by Catwoman stealing Bane's ransom for Poison Ivy. Their investigations take them to Metropolis, so the classic Batman versus Superman fight from the Hush comic book storyline can take place in the film. Unfortunately this includes the stupid line of "Deep down he's a good person and deep down I'm not." which goes against the very core of Batman to me and something Loeb probably scripted to try and make him sound like a bad ass but totally fails. I remind you again that by the time that Hush took place, the bloom was falling off the rose for Loeb's writing career.

The core of the film is actually the remose between Bruce and Selena following his reveal that he is indeed Batman and her desire to continue on as Catwoman, but join Batman but also enjoy their lives together without the cakes, cowls and catsuits. As with the comic book various villains are included in essentially extended cameos including Clayface, Harley Quinn, Bane and Scarecrow.

Which finally brings us to the point of our piece, The Joker. He doesn’t do a great deal here, and to be honest, could probably be removed from the film entirely without too much ramification. In the book The Joker issues essentially was intended as a flashback to the various evils The Joker has committed against Batman and his extended supporting cast, which doesn’t really have a place here as this is the first time The Jokers has appeared in the Tuckerverse and Babs is still Batgirl, so we have no reason to believe he crippled her and Jason hasn’t been introduced as Robin so Joker clearly hasn't killed him. Essentially in the first of two Joker scenes it is simply Batman beating the living tar our of him and Joker professing his innocence to the murder of Tommy Elliott, to set up the twist Elliot might be Hush. In the other Joker scene he provides commentary of Batman fighting Clayface in Arkham, with Joker voicing his disgust that Batman is essentially cheating on him by battling over villains.



The Joker model is here he’s obviously based upon an animation friendly version of Jim Lee’s Joker. Lee’s Joker is nothing exceptional, Lee’s work is best when he is drawing buff super heroes who look like a professional wrestler from the 80's when steroid abuse was common practice. His skinny Joker isn’t terrible but isn’t one of Lee strongest looking characters. The film design is very nice, and animates well, especially as the model is bloodied to Hell by the time Batman has concluded in beating the crap out of The Joker.

Jason Spisak voices The Joker here. He doesn’t really have a great many lines, but does a decent with what he has. He obviously has range as I couldn’t tell that this was Kid Flash from Young Justice or The Scorpion from Spider-Man for the PS4 until I saw him name in the credits, which accounts for something. If these Tuckerverse films hadn’t concluded already, I would have been happy to hear him again in the role.

The true highlight of the film for me is the warehouse fight between Batman and Hush who is of course revealed to be The Riddler under a new identity. He wishes to use the Hush identity is a means to kill Batman and outsmart and manipulate the other rogues gallery who mocked him for his ridiculous Riddler gimmick for years. As with the book, Riddler is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and heals himself by bathing in the Lazarus Pit. While the pit drives most sane men temporaily mad, it showed the already insane Riddler a sense of clarity and revealed to him that Bruce Wayne is Batman. I thought this was a ludicrous stretch in the book at the time and unfortunately it has not aged well with the film. Had Nygma genuinely deduced Batman‘s identity via his own intellect I believe it would’ve done much to get him to an A-level Batman villain in comic books having been treated as a joke for many, many years, sadly, following the whole storyline DC comics went down the tired route of a year long coma, and when he woke up he had no knowledge of Bruce being Batman... which makes you wonder what the bloody point in allowing him to learn his identity in the first place.

The true highlight of the film is Batman taunting Riddler in the final fight, out psyching him and denying him a legitimate victory of his long time foe.



“HUSH: Tonight, I’ll show them all by doing what none of them could; killing The Batman! Can you feel it Bruce? Can you feel it all slipping away? What do you think of me now?!

BATMAN: You talk too much.

HUSH: I repeat! What do you think of me now?!

BATMAN: That you’re the same insecure C lister you were before you went into the Lazarus pit.

HUSH: Big talk from a dead man!

BATMAN: You tell Riddles a fifth grader could solve and call yourself The Riddler. The sheer lack of imagination is staggering.

HUSH: You take that back!

BATMAN: A one gimmick hack. The joke of the underworld.

HUSH: Damn you! Shut up!

Batman: You think you’ve got the best of Ivy, Joker and Bane? Once they found out Hush was The Riddler? They’ll hunt you down like a dog. It won’t be pretty. The effects of the pit don’t last forever... I’m betting even now you can feel it... all that strength and genius slipping away, just when you need it most.

Riddle me this? Whose his own worst enemy?


Overall, I enjoyed Batman: Hush. I enjoyed the twist that Riddler actually was Hush this time around, and felt it was a better story than the book. This was the last solo Batman film in the Tuckerverse, which seems a tragic shame... they had just perfected his costume. But after Justice League Dark: Apocalypse War, I feel the universe ended when it needed to, as dark, shocking and occasionally horrifying as that film was. The conclusion of Apocalypse War reached the point of no return. You can't argue with a film that goes out with a bang like Apocalypse War did.

Next: Don't call me puddin'
 

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I was kind of surprised by how well Jason Spisak was able to jump from a Lego Joker to a more standard Joker in an adult animation setting. I mean, he really didn't get a lot to do, and like a lot in Hush Joker felt kind of undercooked, but I feel like he had some really good lines :).
 

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Justice league Action was a show that I missed entirely. I seem to recall believing in its existence was simply a rumour, a myth, a legend... until it’s actually aired and I viewed clips online. I had long since given up on network animated television shows by the time it premiered as mentioned earlier, I find most modern animated shows to be doodle-based, cheaply designed crap, done is inexpensively as possible, targeted solely to a very young audience with the single intention of buying action figures and other licensed merchandise based from the show. This was my original response to Batman: The Brave And The Bold too, so I’ve been proven very wrong before, of course. Some of this is probably just me being an old man yelling at clouds, but looking at the state of the animation industry, I genuinely think the animation industry is in the dumps at the moment.

I was surprised that a Justice League show to tie into the live action Justice League film did indeed skew so low in its demographic audience as there is nothing, nothing in the live-action Justice League film that I believed children would enjoy. (I also didn’t think there was much in the live-action Justice League film the adults would enjoy to me, but it has its fans.) Enough of them to essentially create a cult big enough to bully Warner Brothers into releasing the original Zack Synder cut of Justice League, but I’ve said my piece on the live action DC extended universe earlier and I’ve nothing much further to add as it'll take us too far off topic.

As the Justice league Action show snuck up me by surprise, I am not really aware of its full pre production story. As I said… one day I heard about the show and the next it just seem to be on air and just as quickly, it finished. I didn’t even know it had aired on Cartoon Network over here in England, having long since cancelled my subscription to the network and accepting that my DC animation fix comes from the DC Animated movies (my Marvel animation fix has gone full cold turkey, to be blunt, I can't be arsed watching sub par cartoons anymore). I intended to purchase Justice League Action as soon as it was released on Blu-ray, however such a set is yet to be released.



For the sake of completion this for this piece, I managed to view The Joker episodes of the show. The show itself is essentially the various members of the Justice league team up, while keeping the number small, it does seem like random adventures of the characters meeting the various villains of the DC Universe. There doesn’t appear to be any underlying story arc just essentially short 11 minute episodes that get to the point very quickly as they have little time to brief with their short run time. The show only managed to last one season, for reasons I do not know. I seem to recall seeing a fair bit of merchandise for the sure whether or not this sold well enough to continue its support for a second season (further proof that the toy line theory does not work as a business model.) I do not know why it ended, however the show seem to come and go quicker than a flash. Despite being called Justice League Action, the show is clearly a comedy rather than a traditional action superhero show. This one is intended to amuse a younger audience, rightly or wrongly, however I can only view this as a man in my 30s and I call them as I see them.

Looking at the show, the designs are very juvenile, clearly designed to animate as cheaply as possible. They do have shading, which is a vast improvement on most current animated shows. They animate well but one cannot deny there is an element of Fisher-Priceness to these models which may have put off older viewers, although clearly older viewers were not considered part of the shows demographic. It does not go to toddler stage demographic grabbing stuff, and the show does seem to have a fairly strong following online... it doesn't seem to be tainted with the same negative stigma of the recent Marvel cartoons.

All the episodes I watched for this piece were fairly entertaining but could not be considered deep. If you are looking for Justice League Unlimited part two, you are simply looking in the wrong place. This is more akin to an updated version of the Superfriends, but that it looks a lot nicer and with stronger writing. It does amuse me however on the various Batman: The Animated Series DVD/Blu Ray retrospectives how Warner Bros. take credit for bringing animation out of the dark ages of the 70s and 80s with Batman: The Animated Series (which is very true), and then produce the likes of Thundercats Roar! Trying to reach the 8 to 11-year-old and teen demographic of the original Batman and X-Men shows of the 90s is sadly thing of the past. It must be said however, I am about three decades removed from the shows demographic and any attempts to skew higher by the creative team would have surely resulted in network interference and would not have made it onto air. Networks simple do not care about anything past the core demographic. In fairness, Warner Bros. Animation realised this and have released dozens of animated DC movies to cater to the older audience. My eternal credit to them, especially as they utilise the dying Direct to Video market.

Getting to the actual point of this retrospective at long last, The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime appears a handful of episodes and naturally, is not the murdererous psychopath of the comic books, but more along the lines of a jovial prankster combated against the Justice league. He makes his debut in Galaxy Jest after he is transported to War World by Mongal in an attempt to make his audience laugh. The problem, of course, is that Joker has planted a bomb in Gotham to which only he knows the location to and the Justice League must find his alien kidnappers in order to interrogate The Joker as to the whereabouts of his bomb. The stakes do not seem very high, but again this is designed as a show to make children laugh which it probably did.



I’m much prefer The Joker's second appearance in which The Joker is given a boom tube teleporter and decides to make a proper nuisance of himself by freeing Lex Luthor from jail ,who had been incarcerated for creating a gigantic bomb which could destroy the planet, the twist of the episode is of course Joker wants the bomb to use himself, rather than to spend time with his wacky buddy Lex. James Woods seems an odd choice to voice Luthor, but it totally works.

This would be a good time to compliment the cast of the show. Wes Gleason is back as the voice director and manages to cast many familiar names including Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker. As mentioned before, this is peak casting for me and any opportunity to hear Conroy and Hamill as Batman and The Joker should be celebrated. It does also help that as always Hamill is naturally hilarious in the role and pulls off the jokes tremendously. From what little I have heard of the rest of the cast, it does indeed appear to be very well cast with bigger names than one mate think for this kind of show. I will never get tired of hearing Hamill's Joker. Perhaps this will be his final time portraying the role? Having said that, I thought that in 1995, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2011 and 2015... you get the idea.

My favourite episodes of the few Justice League Action I watched, which I confess are only The Joker episodes is E Nigma, Consulting Detective in which the Riddler agrees to help Wonder Woman and Green Lantern stop The Joker who has kidnapped Batman. Riddler is furious that Joker is leaving riddles at his crimes for the Justice League to solve as this is clearly gimmick infringement. It was actually a very nice twist as Riddler did appear to be going straight rather than having a traditional heel turn as most hero/villains team up resulting in. It reminded me of the awesome "Detective" comic book arc from Detective Comics from Paul Dini many years ago, in which The Riddler turned straight and opened his own detective agency.

I must admit, of the four episodes I watched, I did enjoy them. I probably would pick up a complete series Blu Ray should Warner Bros. ever get around to releasing one. But ultimately? This one came and went for me...
 

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Joker in this show was fun the few times we saw him. I don't necessarily think the show NEEDED to have Conroy and Hamill reprise their roles, but they worked fine here. I definitely recommend the rest of the series, especially the YouTube shorts if you don't have much time for it. They honestly work better for the comedic timing, but I don't know if you can watch them from your region.

The way this show was treated is a good reminder that, even when DC cartoons try to fit their largely comedic, 11-min. episode requirements, they will get mistreated by Cartoon Network. I sometimes wonder how Steven Universe or Infinity Train managed to air there.
 

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Justice League Action, to me, was a show that felt like it should've had so much more longevity than it did when you see CN renew other vaguely similar shows but end up cancelling JLA after one season. I mean, a stylish, action-packed, fun series spotlighting the entire DC Universe of characters and you cancel it after one season? Where's the sense in that :confused:?

I did find it amusing that the show went out of its way to avoid a typical "Batman vs. Joker" fight by pairing Joker with other heroes or even villains. Batman never actually caught Joker within the actual show :p.

Harley also never had any actual scenes or overt connection drawn to Joker, so that was noteworthy too :).

And of course, there was the pure awesomness that was this:

 

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The announcement of the Harley Quinn cartoon did not come as a surprise. Given how popular the character has become in recent years and her well received turn in the Suicide Squad movie from actress extraordinaire Margot Robbie, an animated series did not seen massively implausible. The show was announced to stream exclusively on the then unnamed DC Universe app, alongside new live action Titans and Doom Patrol shows and (finally!) a third season of Young Justice. The hype for the show seemed fairly reserved, I imagine because the show was still being put together as it was hyped and well... the hype seemed to be focused on the app itself, rather than it's content.

I initially thought the new app simply did not have enough new content to justify its existence. A total of four new shows with one new episode airing a week did not seem like something which could sustain itself for too long to me, especially since they were charging more than Netflix and kept taking away and reintroducing its classic content for seemingly random reasons. I personally thought a new Batman or Justice League animated series would have helped tremendously into reaching a wider audience, but alas, these four shows were deemed strong enough to launch the app (along with, I am informed, a very large selection of free comics).



The service immediately received much criticism for its poor availability internationally. I speak from my own personal frustration for waiting 6 years for the third season of Young Justice only to be told that they were not making it viewable in international markets so, despite vigilante attempts to avoid spoilers, I knew far more about the shows storylines long before I managed to import the Outsiders Blu Ray. I say import, because naturally, Warner Archive does not ship overseas, so I had to pay over the odds for said Blu Ray via ebay. Remember this when they advise that the show was originally cancelled as it did not receive enough support financially – I’ve still yet to see an action figure of the show in person either. It's difficult to swallow Warner's foul cries of Young Justice not being profitable when you make it increasingly difficult to pay for the product. Most fans could've pirated the show and not had it spoiled for them, I simply had to close my eyes on Twitter a lot until the Blu Ray arrived at my house. Anyway, enough of that rant!

As another aside, Titans eventually streamed on Netflix for UK audiences and I watched the first season, and could seldom believe that their highlighted shows first season ended on such a cop out – it was quite clear that the opening episode of season two was left over from season one to create an unnecessary cliffhanger, Titans simply stopped. If I were paying for the streaming service, I would be pissed at the sheer disregard for its audience here. I didn't even bother watching season two... I wonder if I was alone in my bemusement of how the show played out?



Getting back on topic, I did eventually managed to see season one of Harley Quinn, as E4 purchased the rights to air the show here in the UK. E4 are quite notorious for hyping that they’ve bought the rights to various American shows and either stop airing new seasons, or take an age to air new episodes/seasons when compared to Sky One (as fans of Brooklyn Nine Nine will attest.) I must advise this post will only comment on the first season, as I have not seen season two at time of writing. Plans for a Blu Ray release were announced but quickly retracted, I imagine I will see season two on Blu Ray before it airs. E4 for you,

The show sees Harley Quinn, in an attempt to prove herself to her ex-boyfriend The Joker, attempt to join The Legion of Doom to earn her place among the elite supervillains. Along the way she joins with her best friend Poison Ivy and eventually runs her own crew, including dramatic thespian Clayface, a King Shark who cannot stand the sight of blood, her cyborg landlord Sy Borgman, Ivy’s mouthy, hilarious houseplant Frank the Plant and disgraced former Legion of Doom member Dr Pyscho, who, in perhaps my favourite running joke from the show, was ex commutated from the Legion of Doom for his sexist comments towards Wonder Woman. Terrorism, murder and theft are fair game, but sexist language? A bridge too far for the Legion of Doom. I especially loved the press conference from Legion of Doom leader Lex Luthor announcing that they are an equal opportunities supervillain group, and strictly condemn Pyscho dropping a C Bomb during his fight with Wonder Woman (bonus points for casting my favorite Wonder Woman, Vanessa Marshall once again!)

The Joker serves as the main antagonist of the series. As a high ranking member of the Legion of Doom, he cannot be seen to have been dumped by Harley and thus undermines her at every opportunity, so the dysfunctional relationship continues despite the characters no longer being in a relationship. He appears as the villain in the majority of the episodes, usually alongside other members of the Legion of Doom/Batman's rouges gallery.



The show is an adult comedy more than a traditional action show, but there is more than enough action featured. The action itself is over the top violence and there is no shortage of blood and bone breaking (no broadcast standards and practises here) and the characters have utterly filthy language, this one is clearly intended for a much older audience and is not short of genuine laughs.

The Joker’s design is based upon his more modern comic book look, with a classic purple suit and tie and his short haircut. The show is very strong visually with wonderful, colourful designs, strong staging and excellent animation. It’s clear this show has a healthy budget, both on its animation quality and the strength/name value of its cast. Older audiences are not accustomed to weak animation (South Park aside, but that’s clearly intentional given how up to date the show is) and it must be said the show is very nice to look at. It must be said, it is nice to look at something which is not designed with action figures in mind. The show has a strong crew of directors, and an excellent supervising director in Jennifer Coyle, fondly remembered for her time as a director on The Spectacular Spider-Man by myself.

Moving onto the cast, Alan Tudyk does an amazing job of voicing The Joker here, and makes the role his own. He is not attempting to be a Mark Hamill soundalike, or going too far over the top, but hilariously displays his ongoing frustrations with Quinn. His classic delivery of “Harley, what the f-ck did you think you’re doing?!” when Harley attempts to gain supervillain cred by killing Robin is my favourite line from the show. Tudyk also hilariously portrays Clayface with Shakespeare like pose, he clearly has a blast recording this show. Having mainly known him as Green Arrow from Young Justice, on paper, this seemed like odd casting but upon hearing him? He fit perfectly.

The rest of the show is expertly cast, including Kayley Cuoco as the lead in Harley Quinn (pitch perfect casting, it must be said), Lake Bell as the 'forever tired of this BS' Poison Ivy and a welcome return for the always amazing Diedrich Bader as Batman. Batman is adorned in his then current (lousy) comic book costume, but seems to be influenced by The Dark Knight Returns to my eye. Bader’s deadpan Batman is a perfect straight foil to Cuoco’s crazy Quinn. Plus... it's always great to see/hear from Bader. He never disappoints!



The season one finale, The Final Joke sees Joker finally win and declared king of Gotham City, ultimately finding it unfulfilling. Having finally defeated and captured Batman, he is aghast when Scarecrow unmasks him and reveals Batman to be Bruce Wayne, instantly killing Scarecrow in response (shout out to Scarecrow voice actor Rahul Kohli, who appeared to be having the time of his life voicing a DC villain!). With Harley’s crew captured and tortured (with a tied up Dr Pyscho being forced to watch pro-feminist propaganda videos as one of the biggest laughs of the episode), he eventually realises he cannot be happy without Harley by his side.

Harley eventually makes it towards Joker’s “sick ass tower” and Joker issues her an ultimatum – put on her original Harley costume and be his sidekick again, or he’ll kill her crew. Deciding to don her original suit again, Joker reveals his true feelings;

JOKER: Harley, I’ve got the city by the balls! The cops are mine, Batman is tied up and gagged, I have everything a man could want…but I’m not happy. And do you know why?

HARLEY: Because you’re a textbook, sociopathic narcissist with a chemical imbalance in your para sympathetic nervous system?!

JOKER: Hey, that’s what Batman said! Hey Batman! She said the thing you said! Anyway…no. The reason I wasn’t happy was because we weren’t together! It wasn’t until I got everything that it means nothing without you by my side.

HARLEY: Really?

JOKER: Harley, you’re the missing piece to my happiness. I knew you’d be back.

HARLEY: I guess I could never stay away from my pudding…


Which of course, is a diversion as they both reach in close for a kiss and stab each other... its so perfect for Joker and Harley. This show gets their relationship far better than the pathetic Suicide Squad movie did. The show also does such a better job than of showcasing a post Joker relationship Harley than the Birds of Prey movie did. It's still weird to think that this high profile flop will be the highest grossing movie of 2020.

The ending of the show sets up an intriguing second series premise with Gotham basically blown to a No Man’s Land style mess and Joker’s trip in the acid setting him up for life as a… normal person? While I am looking forward to seeing season two, it was recently announced that a third season will stream exclusively on HBO Max, with the DC Streaming app finally being killed off as a failed experiment.

No spoilers please for future episodes please , because as soon as that overpriced Blu Ray is released I will be picking it up day one!

Next: Death In The Family
 
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Neo Ultra Mike

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The Joker serves as the main antagonist of the series. As a high ranking member of the Legion of Doom, he cannot be seen to have been dumped by Harley and thus undermines her at every opportunity,

Well more like his EGO won't let him be seen dumped by Harley. He could easily have just let it go but he's such a self obsessed psycho that he couldn't even just life down the idea of her even in a small way getting one over on him thus constantly block demaning or even trying to use her throughout the season. That's an important point to bring up due to how it ties to the first season and Harley's own development of not needing his approval or thoughts of her and learning to let go of that. And the Joker's own ego being his undoing; he had multiple chances just to kill Harley but due to the fact he wanted to turn her back to Harleen to get rid of this persona of hers that was bothering him in his own mind he wound up losing which yeah feels like a pretty classic Joker story; The Joker ultimately undone not because his plan was bad but because he was stuck on one particular aspect or idea related naturally to himself he just couldn't see past.

The show also does such a better job than of showcasing a post Joker relationship Harley than the Birds of Prey movie did. It's still weird to think that this high profile flop will be the highest grossing movie of 2020.

The BOP movie did make 200 million world wide so with an almost 100 million dollar budget that does mean it broke even. Also it's not the biggest grossing movie of 2020; it's still one of them but other stuff like Sonic the Hedgehog and of all things Dolittle did outgross it. Heck Tenet is now the biggest grossing WB film of the year. I guess DC film or super hero wise it's the biggest but even that will likely be out eclipsed by Wonder Woman 1984 when it drops. Granted that will have some 2021 figures in it but that still usually counts to the film the year it came out even if it's run expands into two years.
 

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I feel like Tudyk's Joker works well for the kind of sitcom-esque nemesis nature of this Joker, without sacrificing any of his viciousness or sadistic nature, and I always felt like he would be a good fit for the role.

At the same time I feel like he stands out more as Clayface :p.
 

Neo Ultra Mike

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That's because Clayface is not only a much more exaggerated and dynamic kind of character who due to being in the supporting cast instead of the more only appearing half the time villain is given more of a chance to shine and interact off of others. But yeah I really dig Tudyk's take on the character. Not going to spoil anything in season 2 for Stu but what also really works about Joker so well in season one is allowing to really dive into detail on this kind of story between the two in a way we haven't seen before. In the DCAU Harley never really broke off with the Joker (unless we're supposed to count Batman and Halrey in the DCAU but that doesn't make any sense when Return of the Joker established they never saw Harley again after what happened with Tim Drake and she was still with the Joker then before his death so that doesn't make sense) and other series either never really addressed how toxic that relationship is or didn't play it up. And yeah the live action movies fumbled the idea as well with Suicide Squad and BOP having two totally different takes on the relationship that don't gel well and make the universe really make sense. Granted the comics have but even then I don't then it was just building the idea of Harley becoming more an anti hero while season one is all about her wanting to prove herself as a proper villain and having to realize what's really important to her. Thus the Joker offers a unique kind of challenge and connection then we'd see if the focus was just on him and Batman. So yeah that dynamic isn't really used but clearly we've seen a lot of that dynamic so focusing on another one is totally fine. And yeah Tudyk though still plain the Joker as this total terrible whole does get into more of the general quipping and more low key issues that make him a fit for the rest of the characters in this universe. The asking for Wi Fi password being "me d*ckhead" is honestly not the kind of humor you'd traditionally get from any Joker but it works well here and there's enough that still fits the character and allows him to go in very unique directions.

Guess Stu's focusing on the new DTV before he had time to get the set for season 2 but hope he likes it as much as I and everyone else did.
 

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That's because Clayface is not only a much more exaggerated and dynamic kind of character who due to being in the supporting cast instead of the more only appearing half the time villain is given more of a chance to shine and interact off of others. But yeah I really dig Tudyk's take on the character. Not going to spoil anything in season 2 for Stu but what also really works about Joker so well in season one is allowing to really dive into detail on this kind of story between the two in a way we haven't seen before. In the DCAU Harley never really broke off with the Joker (unless we're supposed to count Batman and Halrey in the DCAU but that doesn't make any sense when Return of the Joker established they never saw Harley again after what happened with Tim Drake and she was still with the Joker then before his death so that doesn't make sense) and other series either never really addressed how toxic that relationship is or didn't play it up. And yeah the live action movies fumbled the idea as well with Suicide Squad and BOP having two totally different takes on the relationship that don't gel well and make the universe really make sense. Granted the comics have but even then I don't then it was just building the idea of Harley becoming more an anti hero while season one is all about her wanting to prove herself as a proper villain and having to realize what's really important to her. Thus the Joker offers a unique kind of challenge and connection then we'd see if the focus was just on him and Batman. So yeah that dynamic isn't really used but clearly we've seen a lot of that dynamic so focusing on another one is totally fine. And yeah Tudyk though still plain the Joker as this total terrible whole does get into more of the general quipping and more low key issues that make him a fit for the rest of the characters in this universe. The asking for Wi Fi password being "me d*ckhead" is honestly not the kind of humor you'd traditionally get from any Joker but it works well here and there's enough that still fits the character and allows him to go in very unique directions.

Guess Stu's focusing on the new DTV before he had time to get the set for season 2 but hope he likes it as much as I and everyone else did.
I wouldn't say adaptions don't play up the toxicity, the DCAU eventually made it clear how abusive it was and how little Joker cared about her even if Harley was too obsessed with him for it to ever sink in and even The Batman set up that dynamic where Joker leaves Harley to take the fall but one small gift is enough for her to forgive him.

I'd say the main difference is in Harley Quinn we have a more assertive and at least in some sense self-aware Harley who takes back her narrative from just being a supporting character for Joker, but in that regard it makes that version of Harley fairly different from other Harlies. So much so that the show makes it seem like she probably would have become a villain and criminal even without Joker.

Heck, even Joker admits that in some twisted way he loved Harley, which is a change from most other interpretations and I guess foreshadowed some of his development in season 2.
 

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I think pre-Burton animation deserved being mentioned here.

I like this retrospective, but I feel the need to defend the Batman cause that was actually a very interesting choice for show and character designs. I don't like that Joker is barefeet or his hairstyle for the most part, but that version is my favorite take on the character, and Kevin Michael Richardson is hilarious as him.

As for Rino Romano being a lousy Spider-Man, I think I'll quote Dracula from the first dub of Symphony of the Night: "WHAT? IT CANNOT BE. NOOOOOOOO."
He's one of the best actors for that role, but as Bruce Wayne he was pretty serviceable, a shame he wasn't as convincing as Batman.

Speaking of Dracula; I don't know if you made comments about it and I missed it or not, but Joker appeared in the Batman vs Dracula, and he's the funny part in an underrated movie tied in to an underrated show.
 
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