Batman: the Brave and the Bold and How the Silver Age Was Awesome
The Silver Age Was Awesome
Batman has had one of the more recent a long and awesome existence. From its silly 1960s live-action series, to its grim-and-gritty comic incarnations, and its other cartoon series Batman as a whole has made various incarnations with various tones. Batman: the Brave and the Bold, one of the more recent animated series of the Batman franchise managed to incorporate a majority of the old stories of Batman's Silver Age incarnation, and make the material relevant for a more modern audience. From including modern heroes going on adventures that sound like they could have been written during the Silver Age of comics, to referencing modern comics but with new scenes added in, Batman: the Brave and the Bold was a cartoon that appealed to both old and new comic fans with its diverse cast and characters.
Acknowledging the Old
One unique aspect about Batman: the Brave and the Bold was its heavy use of the stories created during the Silver Age of Comics. This term, used to group comic stories from 1956 - 1970 had its superheroes in weird, and often, very surreal adventures. One story that the cartoon referenced was Batman - The Superman of Planet-X, written in 1958 involves Batman mysteriously arriving on a planet named Zur-En-Arrh and teaming-up with that planet's version of him. What made this story very strange was that Batman had the powers of Superman. Batman: the Brave and the Bold references this story in the episode The Super Batman of Planet X. It basically had Super Batman team-up with Zurr-En-Arrh Batman to defeat Rothul, an alternate universe version of Lex Luthor, which they do. Most modern stories do not have Batman with Superman's abilities, and if they did it never ended well. In Batman: the Brave and the Bold explores the idea of Batman with Superman's abilities and acknowledges both the strengths and weaknesses. Yes Batman gets the basic abilities of Superman like super strength and flight, but also the weakness of certain space rocks.
Respecting All Interpretations
Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots than the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy. These words, spoken by Bat-Mite, one of the more whimsical characters on this show, perfectly explains why Batman: the Brave and the Bold worked as a Batman show despite having predecessors that were far more gloomier in comparison. Batman started out as a character that did not have as much mental issues as he does currently and due to censoring in comics all those years ago most of his adventures had to take a more whimsical, if heavily surreal and odd, tone. And while a majority of its episodes deal with the whimsical origins of Batman, there are episodes that deal with the darker elements as well. In the episode Chill of the Night the viewer finally gets to see an animated version of Batman deal with a major part of his origin, the killer of his parents. In this episode two supernatural beings called The Phantom Stranger and The Spectre observe, help, and determine whether Batman will serve as an agent of justice or vengeance. Unlike earlier episodes Batman in this episode act far less whimsical and more like the gritty interpretations of his character in the 90's. After receiving help from both parties in finding out that the killer of his parents was named Joe Chill, Batman goes to a supervillain auction and confronts him. After revealing his secret identity and having him at his mercy The Phantom Stranger and The Spectre appear and give Batman the choice of what to do to Chill. Ultimately Batman spares Joe Chill, but it is implied by the end of the episode that The Spectre used divine intervention to kill Chill. What makes this episode a particularly fascinating is that one could say that this episode was a competition between two different versions of Batman's characterization. The Phantom Stranger, representing the less grittier incarnations of Batman, tries to keep Batman from becoming too violent when facing the source of his tragic history. The Spectre, representing the more violent and grittier incarnations of Batman, encourages Batman to take his revenge on the killer of his parents.
Old Tales With New Characters
While Batman: the Brave and the Bold was meant to celebrate Batman's Silver Age incarnation there are other characters as well, mostly characters that have been introduced to the DC Universe over the years. In the episode The Malicious Mr. Mind the viewer sees an episode where Batman teams-up with Captain Marvel, another Silver Age DC superhero, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel Jr. This episode also references an old Silver Age story where Batman was turned into an infant, but still fought crime. This change in an old Batman stories is another strength of Batman: the Brave and the Bold where the viewer gets the chance to see older incarnations of other DC characters other than Batman and their mythos. The Malicious Mr. Mind introduces the viewer to a previous version of Captain Marvel, introduces his cast and characters, and allows Batman experience older storylines from his comics with new characters. While older Batman cartoons with Batman as the starring protagonist usually limited Batman's cast of characters to characters from Gotham city, Batman: the Brave and the Bold shows Batman as the starring protagonist, but shows him working on a bigger scale than before.
Celebrating Your Origins
Batman: the Brave and the Bold took all of the weird aspects of the Silver Age and made it both awesome and hilarious. While Batman has become a somewhat darker character in recent interpretations, it is also good to remember that he has a whimsical side to him as well. And while making a character grim-and-gritty helps attract a group of people, appealing to even more people by showing a more surreal interpretation of a character can help new groups of people want to learn about how many interpretations a certain character has had over the years and the resulting adventures.