It’s back! As has been a tradition here on the Rock, October is once again Batman Month!
This year, we’re going to do something a little different. See, each year, I’ve always wanted to do a “Greatest Episodes List” of Batman: the Animated Series, possibly the most influential thing ever made about the Dark Knight. But how do you judge such a show that has so many good episodes, and all good for some many reasons? So, this year, we’re going to talk about the greatest action cartoon ever made, and break down all the best episodes by various categories. There will be spoilers ahead, but it should still be awesome. And to kick this year’s Batman Month off, we’re going to look at the best monster episodes.
Batman’s animated endeavors have had him come face to face with some of the strangest creatures ever, and this is a look at the biggest, scariest monster episodes there are. Grab your Batarangs, it’s going to get creepy.
6. Moon of the Wolf
One night, a security guard at a zoo is attacked by a strange, werewolf-like being, only to be saved by Batman. The Caped Crusader starts to investigate, convinced what he saw was just a costume. We, the audience, learn that the figure was a true werewolf, an Olympian athlete named Anthony Romulus. In order to gain an edge in competition, he allowed Dr. Milo (a recurring minion of recurring crime boss Roland Dagget) to infect him with lycanthropy, and now has to do the doctor’s dirty work in the hopes of receiving a cure. It’s a relatively thin episode, and Batman never truly learns the Werewolf’s identity, but its climatic battle in which a weary and disarmed Batman must outwit a savage animal is thrilling.
5. Growing Pains
This was from the final season, also known as The New Batman Adventures, and features the newest Robin, Tim Drake, as its main character. Robin meets a young girl named Annie, who has no memories and is being chased by an imposing figure. The new Boy Wonder attempts to protect her, only for the two to find out the truth, that she’s actually a castoff scout of Clayface, and he wants to reabsorb her to become whole again. There’s already a creepy factor at work here, with the child-in-danger trope that most cartoons avoid, along with the constant running Robin and Annie do to escape her “father”, but what really makes this memorable is that in the end, Robin does fail to save the girl. She’s reabsorbed in one of the most shocking and frightening animated sequences in the show’s run. Clayface was always responsible for some of the show’s freakiest visuals, but this was the proof that he was an absolute monster.
No, Batman does NOT go to Pandora. In this Indiana Jones-style adventure, Batman teams up with Talia to stop Ra’s Al-Ghul from finding a hidden temple in Egypt that will make him a true immortal. However, when they all get there, Batman must face an undead Egyptian sorceress. From a technical standpoint, the monster-part doesn’t happen until the climax of the episode. But the sorceress is so graphically undead that I’m still shocked that this episode managed to air. Besides, it’s a treat for fans who like Batman and Talia as a couple.
3. Tyger Tyger
When Selina Kyle is kidnapped by Dr. Emile Dorian, a deranged geneticist obsessed with crossing animal and human DNA, Batman heads to his private island to rescue her. However, not only has she been transformed into a true Catwoman, Dorian’s crowning experiment, the human-tiger hybrid Tygrus, is in love with her. Batman must face Tygrus in a hunt through the jungle, and possibly convince the intelligent creature to turn on his “father”. While not as thick with scares as the other episodes on this list, the amount of strange creatures is a plus, and Tygrus is one of the most interesting one-episode characters the series has ever produced.
2. On Leather Wings
This is where the feature image came from, and it’s one of my favorite episodes. In this, the first episode of the animated series, a strange bat-like figure has been robbing chemical companies. With the police now looking for him, Batman investigates and finds strange hairs similar to those of a bat. His search leads him to Dr. Kirk Langstrom, who has found a way to transform himself into a new creature. And in one of the most well-animated transformations in cartoon history, he becomes the Man-Bat and the two have an epic battle through the skies of Gotham. As both the first animated appearance of Man-Bat, as well as the first episode, this showed that the Animated Series wasn’t going to pull punches, and gave one of the best early episodes in the series.
1. House and Garden
Why, oh why, must Poison Ivy episodes be so damn freaky? Her first appearance was bad enough with its massive plant monster, but this episode takes the cake. A strange creature has been stealing from the wealthy and its claws have poisoned whoever tries to stop it. Batman suspects Poison Ivy, but Gordon reveals that she’s reformed, married her doctor Steven Carlyle, and is now a wife and stepmother to his sons, Chris and Kelly. Batman is rather dubious, despite Ivy’s claims that she’s left her life of crime behind her, and asks Dick Grayson to dig into Carlyle, since the man does teach at Dick’s university. Before he can start, Dick is attacked by the creature and kidnapped. Batman, starting to believe Ivy’s innocence, manages to save his ward from the creature. When they compare notes, Dick (now in full Robin gear) reveals that Carlyle doesn’t have custody of his children, and more importantly, Chris and Kelly are girls. When the two heroes head to Ivy’s house, they find Carlyle in the greenhouse, and more importantly, giant plant pods with baby clones in them. Ivy then appears and reveals how she uses the clones to pose as her “family”, and in their final stage as monsters, as her enforcers. And then we get to watch babies horrifyingly age through childhood and adulthood into monsters to fight our heroes. This…this is just frightening. The monster on its own is creepy enough, but when the reveal of just how insane Ivy is in her creation of them… seriously, this is one horrifying episode, both visually and plot-wise, and that’s why it’s the best monster episode.
Check this space again, when next time we talk about the best supporting cast focused episodes!