Latest animated Batman series taps humor, music

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

BURBANK, Calif. — For the fifth time, Grey Delisle, Nika Futterman, Vanessa Marshall and Tara Strong get their cue to sing the line. It's only a few words but the directors behind the recording studio glass still aren't happy with the musical effort.

They try the line one more time.

"No one does it better. No ONE does it better than the birds of Prey."

The performance, on the Warner Bros. lot, is for the Cartoon Network animated series "Batman: The Brave and the Bold." The singers all voice characters in the series.

Caped crimefighter Batman has been the subject of many animated efforts, going as far back as "The Batman/Superman Hour" in 1968. This latest animated series distinguishes itself through humor, offbeat musical episodes and by using the entire catalog of DC Comics characters.

"Basically, anytime you are doing 'Batman' it seems like you are reacting against whatever the last guy did. So the last guy was Bruce Timm, and he did a very, serious, dark, honest, very realistic, gritty take on Batman," says James Tucker, "The Brave and Bold" supervising producer and lead character designer. "The Batman I came into the world knowing was Adam West, and so it was a different Batman, a lighter, more accessible Batman.

"When you are a kid, watching Adam West, you don't think of all of the comedy and all of the goofy stuff. You really believe in it. So I wanted to play that version of the character, honest and straight, but yet have something in it for the adults: humor, inside jokes, just excitement. But also something all of the family can watch."

The first thing he did was hire comedian Deidrich Bader to voice Batman. The actor, best known for his work on "The Drew Carey Show," was shocked when he was called in to audition.

He saw it as a sign this Batman was going to change the whole perspective on the way animation has treated the character.

The recording session for the musical episode takes hours longer than a normal. The voice actors don't complain — after all they're doing something original.

Vanessa Marshall, voice of Poison Ivy, says that voice talents always try to bring something new to each job and this musical number certainly helps them achieve that.

Last year's musical episode, "Mayhem of the Music Meister," that featured the singing talents of Neil Patrick Harris, was nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score) category. It lost to "24."

That meant their TV peers liked the work. The fans agreed.

"They loved it. They ate it up like pudding," says Tucker. "We were shocked, actually. We didn't really know what we had until we showed it to the Comic-Con audience. I think it was the first time any panel I've been on — I've been at Comic-Con for 10 years — where it was a standing ovation. So they totally got it. I knew I had made it well when I saw people walking around as the Music Meister."

The fans have also responded to the way the animated series has showcased so many DC characters. There's been the usual suspects of Aquaman, Robin and Flash. The musical episode includes Two Face (James Remar), Black Canary (Delisle), Catwoman (Futterman). Poison Ivy (Marshall) and Huntress (Strong).

Tucker has also pushed beyond the popular characters and featured such DC heroes as Plastic Man, Adam Strange, B'wana Beast, Deadman and the Metal Men.

It's all part of Tucker's plan to get away from the dark and brooding Batman that's become the norm in recent feature films and animated shows. He wants Batman to feel more accessible.

"I always imagined the show would be a family viewing kind of experience, which you don't really have that much these days, except for maybe 'American Idol' and a couple sitcoms," Tucker says. "A lot of 'Batman,' even 'Batman: The Animated Series,' there are a lot of people I know who wouldn't let their kids watch it at a certain age.

"I said, 'Well, I don't want that.' Everyone needs 'Batman,' even the newborns. So I wanted to make something that even they could watch and Mom is not going, 'Oh, don't look at that.'"



7 p.m. ET Fridays

Cartoon Network





Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.