At some point while I wasn’t looking, the Cartoon Network canceled Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The basic gyst of the show followed the former comic book by that name, the Batman Plus format. Each episode had Batman teaming up with another hero in the DC Universe. The Batman in this show was notably different from other depictions insofar as Batman was, if not as campy as the Alan West version, far from dark and brooding. As someone that prefers darker interpretations of the character, I had no interest in it. But they had an episode featuring Ted Kord as the Blue Beetle, which I had to see. Ted Kord was, for copyright reasons, banned from television until after the character was killed off in the comic books. So it was my only real chance to see a cartoon version of the character. It turned out that the show was really quite enjoyable. Enjoyable enough that I was able to put my biases regarding Bruce Wayne aside.

They’re going to be featuring a new Batman cartoon at some point in the near future, with the more dark interpretation. I, of course, plan on watching it. Their last pre-BTBATB effort, The Batman, was pretty disappointing. It’s hard to measure up to The Animated Series, though. BTBATB managed to do so primarily by being so different.

While I enjoyed the show, and lament its passing, I have mixed feelings about certain aspects of it. It was indicative of a larger problem within the Warner Bros. media empire. Namely, it lacked synergy with the comic books. It seems as though DC and WB has gone out of its way to disassociate the two. When Bruce Wayne is starring in a string of successful movies, they take him out of the costume in the comics. They make a super-successful show about Clark Kent, but make it somewhat irreconcilable with the comic books. They have a Birds of Prey TV show… set in a post-apocalyptic Gotham. I’m not saying that what’s going on in the comic books ought to correspond with what’s going on in the movies and on television, but they should be at least some coordination. The characters in the comic need to be at least somewhat reconcilable and familiar. Otherwise, people watching a movie or a TV show who ventures to pick up a comic book will find themselves reading something entirely different than the product that they enjoyed enough to lead them there in the first place.

Superheroes have never been bigger and yet the comic book market continues to struggle. DC in particular. Some of this is simply due to differences within the companies (DC has a certain progression that Marvel lacks, wherein sidekicks grow up and become heroes and so on). But while Marvel has at least kept its eye on the synergistic ball enough to pitch the comic books in movies, Warner Bros seems to be worried about some sort of anti-trust violation if they so much as mention that a comic book exists. DC did come close to getting it right several years ago with an obvious tie-in to the Batman and Superman animated serials, but didn’t do as good a job getting those comic books in non-direct markets (such as convenience stores and pharmacies) as they could have. Or maybe they did try, but never was it mentioned to people watching the cartoon that they could get further adventures in comic book form.

Anyhow, The Brave and the Bold was indicative of this problem. In one sense, it almost transcended it by introducing viewers to characters that they otherwise would never hear about (Red Tornado, the new the Blue Beetle, etc.). But it did so at the expense of the characters that they would see if they went to the nearest comic book shop and picked up Green Lantern, seeing Hal Jordan instead of Guy Gardner. And it featured a Batman unrecognizable in comic form.

As it stands, DC is sitting on over half of the best-known superheroes in comic books today. And yet their sales are dwarfed by Marvel. Some of this is due to Marvel being more in-tune with die-hard collector preferences (more “mature” storylines, more grit, more cavalier treatment of characters) and some of it with Marvel putting out some pretty impressive movies. For years they put out lackluster movies because, until Marvel proved differently, they didn’t think it was important that they actually be any good. But they caught up. So maybe they’ll figure out the importance of synergy and enhancing the value of their properties rather than simply using them to make a quick buck.


Category: Theater

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7 Responses to No More Bravery and Boldness

  1. web says:

    As far as pharmacies/etc… DC and Marvel both abandoned those markets completely during the “yet another limited series and issue #1 look at me I’m collectible” era of the 80s, sadly. Getting back in now is competing for scant shelf space that they gave up far too readily.

    As for the rest… I’m sorry to see it go. The new series looks like it’ll be an incredibly crappy “done in really cheapass CG” setup.

    That and, part of what I enjoyed most about TBATB was the fact that it spent a decent amount of time paying homage to some of the more classic or even “forgotten” characters of the DC universe. If you want to push the more “modern” ones… well there’s mediocre series such as Young Justice for that. Incidentally, YJ actually features Red Tornado rather prominently.

  2. trumwill says:

    They’ve lost convenience stores, but you can still find them in pharmacies. They didn’t disappear entirely from convenience stores until well after the Batman/Superman Animated Series made its splash, though. Now the game is book stores, where they’re doing okay. The problem persists, though. Whereas on convenience stores they would have Polecat #434, part two in a five part story, they now have a collection of Polecat #433-37 (better) but with subplots running to #442 and a tie-in to something going on in Heracles #46-48.

    I haven’t seen Young Justice. I was a fan of the comic book (which actually brought Red Tornado back from limbo), but apparently they went in a different direction. Covert and colorful costumes don’t mix. It’s also further indicative of the problems I describe above. A mishmash of continuity featuring a character that they killed off in the comics (Superboy/Connor Kent). Not that they should adhere strictly to continuity, but it’s another case of something that is going to cause the comic to be completely unfamiliar to the potential new reader. The DCU really is vast enough that you can feature characters that actually appear in the comics. Really, you can. But they continue to go out of their way not to.

    The decision to go with CG is… interesting. It doesn’t breed confidence. Even if they do it well. The great part about animation, particularly in a surreal universe containing people in tights, is that you can make the designs styled and memorable. With the Teen Titans series, for example, you knew immediately what the series was about just by looking at it. I consider this mostly a positive (even if TT wasn’t for me). It was one of the things that gave DC’s shows a leg up on Marvel’s, which for the longest time tried to look like comic books. Also noteworthy that Marvel tried the CG route and it didn’t take.

  3. Abel says:

    Part of the problem with comic books is that they’re still printed on crushed trees. Need to make them iPad, smart phone, and other device compatible and sell them for 99 cents an issue.

  4. trumwill says:

    They’re working on it. My Android device can download comic books ($2 an issue instead of $1, though) and Marvel struck a deal with the iPad early on (also $2). Even besides the price*, though, they still haven’t exploited it like they should have.

    * – They’ve historically justified the price increases as costs associated with paper and printing. This is belied by the fact that when they get rid of both, suddenly… they’re not much cheaper. Of course, with subscription numbers a shadow of their former selves, it’s understandable that they need higher profit margins to cover the other fixed costs.

  5. Abel says:

    Nice to hear they’re working on it even though they’re being completely stupid by charging $2 for them. I think they’d sell more at the 99 cent level.

  6. Mike Hunt says:

    Since I find comic books boring, I will go OT…

    Do you have a compilation of all of the pictures at the top of your website?

    What is the theme? A scene from your life, with a travel coffee mug in the foreground? Why a travel coffee mug? Is it an allusion to the Hit Coffee name?

  7. trumwill says:

    No compilation yet, but it’s on my to-do list. It’ll probably go up whenever I finally get around to upgrading WordPress.

    The Mug was actually a gift from a former employer. You always see one side of it because the other has the employer’s logo on it. It was my equivalent to Michael Scott’s “World’s Greatest Boss” mug. I hadn’t seen The Office yet, but same sort of concept. The first one (sitting on my office desk) was up for a long time, but when I left my job, I needed something new. So I’ve been swapping it out ever since. It’s usually related to something that’s going on. On a map or in a car when I’m moving, an airport or airplane when I’m traveling, a classroom when I started substituting, and so on. I also have some generic ones (like the one that’s currently up) for when I need to cycle through but don’t have much of anything to add.

    At some point I may actually have a “Hit Coffee” mug made from Cafe Press or something and stop using the one that I got from the old job.

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