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New animated series takes a lighter approach to the ‘Batman' saga

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD - 7:30 p.m. EST Nov. 14 - Cartoon Network

On the new Cartoon Network series "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," Deidrich Bader is Batman. At home, he's the butler.

"That's the way it is with my 3-year-old daughter. She is the action hero. I am Alfred. My daughter has a cowl and cape she wears all the time," Bader says during a telephone interview to talk about being cast as the voice of the caped crusader.

In case you're not up on your comic-book lore, Alfred is Bruce Wayne's butler. And Bruce Wayne is the secret identity of Batman.

It's not the entire Bader household that thinks the former "Drew Carey Show" star is best suited to be a servant.

"I think my son is going to spontaneously combust at any moment because his dad is Batman," Bader says.

Away from home, Bader gets to use his deep voice on the new animated series "Batman: The Brave and The Bold." It launches Friday night. Comic book fans will recognize this franchise as the one where Batman has been teamed with a wide variety of crime-fighting partners. In the new TV series, look for the likes of the Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Red Tornado and Plastic Man to help with the law enforcement duties.

Don't look for this series to have as much gloom and doom as the feature films or even the 1992 "Batman" animated series. This version will have a little more humor, a plus for Bader when it came to casting.

"I think what they hired me for was that not only did I have the pipes but I also had the sense of humor that was in line with this show," Bader says. "It is slightly broader, dry and ironic. This is Batman, not the Dark Knight. It is something that my 5-year-old can watch, but I can also watch. I think this show will really appeal to a broad demographic."

Moments of humor have been rare in the other "Batman" manifestations. Only the 1966 television series brought a campy element to the superhero story.

Bader laments that while the new animated series has more humor, it is the generally no-nonsense Batman who delivers the more serious dialogue. Most of the humor comes from the weekly guest-star costumed hero.

Bader, an Alexandria, Va., native, read Batman comics when he was young. But he had to do all his reading during summer camp.

"Dad refused to have comic books in the house. So camp was just six weeks of fantastic reading because everyone had a ton of comic books," Bader says.

As to why his father, William Bader - who was former chief of staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - did not allow comics in the house, Bader offers, "I am the only kid in the family without a Ph.D. and so I kind of grew up in an academic environment."

Bader opted to take a less academic approach to his career path. He has been a working actor for more than two decades, appearing on television shows such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Cheers." His film credits include "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Meet the Spartans."

But a large chunk of his work has been in the world of animation. He's helped voice such projects as "Ice Age," "Baby Blues," "Grim & Evil," "Kim Possible," "Surf's Up" and the upcoming "Bolt."

Bader prefers working on animated projects because they take less time than a live-action television show or movie. That allows him to spend more time with his children.

"I don't actually want to work that much. I was extremely lucky to have worked for nine years as a series regular. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't have to work. So I can chose projects I want to do and many of those projects are based on wanting to entertain my children in different ways. And 'Batman' is one of them."

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