BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: “INVASION OF THE SECRET SANTAS!”
Original Air Date: December 12, 2008
Batman learns the true meaning of Christmas, also there are robots.
When faced with the words “Batman” and “cartoon”, most fans will point you towards the excellent, gritty Bruce Timm animated series which starred Kevin Conroy as the caped crusader from 1992 to 1995. In 2008, however, a completely different Batman cartoon burst onto the scene, aiming for a more kid-friendly viewing experience than the earlier, darker incarnation. From 2008 to 2011, kids were treated to Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Named after an old DC ‘team-up’ comic book series
Many hardcore Batfans dismissed the series initially, seeing it as simply pandering to kids and toy-lines. “How ridiculous,” the nerds cried, “that a cartoon about a colorful superhero world should appeal to a younger audience!” As it continued, however, it became apparent that this was a different Batman entirely – this was a fun Batman, not seen since the Adam West days of the 1960s.
This is you, complaining about media not catering to your needs. Jerk.
The premise was relatively simple: each week, Batman would team up with a different superhero to fight a common foe. A few recurring heroes would make several appearances in the series, such as a cocky Green Arrow, a young, naïve Blue Beetle or an adventuring, boisterous Aquaman (excellently played for laughs by John DiMaggio). What was impressive, though, was the depths of obscure DC heroes the show would dive into. Brave and the Bold was the only way for long time comic fans to see heroes such as Detective Chimp, DOOM Patrol or Etrigan the Demon appear on screen.
While the show gently mocked the ridiculous source material, it was clearly done with a lot of love and fan service, making it a nice palette cleanser between Christopher Nolan Batman films. Three fun seasons were made, and the series was cancelled in 2011, when in the show interdimensional prankster/fan Bat-mite decided he was tired of the show’s formula.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold had a Christmas-themed episode relatively early on in it’s run, titled “The Invasion of the Secret Santas!” Don’t worry, Batman hasn’t decided to take part in some stupid anonymous present sharing scheme with the rest of the Justice League. What would you even get Green Lantern? That dude can conjure up whatever he wants!
Sadly, his imagination doesn’t seem to get better than “a bigger fist”
The cold open to the fourth episode of the first season features Sportsmaster interrupting a Christmas bowling tournament and generally causing mischief. I’m not entirely sure what his motive is here, but he has exploding bowling balls, so I’m not sure his general life goals are all too thought out.
“We jocks have gone unnoticed for TOO LONG!”
Just then, Batman and Blue Beetle show up, pummeling Sportsmaster and his crew not only with their fists, but also quips such as “Figures I’d find you in the gutters!” and “It’s a good thing crime-fighting is a team sport!” Oh Batman, you’re so dreamy. They scuffle and the villains are taken down with bowling pins.
Once the battle is won, Blue Beetle, who sees Batman as his idol, invites Bats over for Christmas dinner, as Batman “knows his mom is a great cook.” The relationship between Blue Beetle’s mom and Batman is sadly not expanded upon and Batman politely declines, stating that “crime doesn’t take a holiday…and neither do I.” Batman, it seems like you have some things to learn about the Christmas spirit, preferably in around 20 minutes or so.
“Well at least give her a call sometime, willya?”
After the opening credits, we are introduced to a peaceful Gotham City around Christmas time. People seem to be full of cheer, carrying presents and playing in the snow.
That kid is headed straight into that wall
At a nearby college, Professor Ulthoon lectures his class about archaeology, and pierces souls with his blue eyes.
Outside, a truck skids in the snow, headed for certain doom. Professor Ulthoon excuses himself and leaves his class, only to reveal that OH SHIT HE’S A ROBOT.
He doesn’t even check around before removing his human mask. What an amateur.
This is where the hardcore DC fandom comes in – this is Red Tornado, a DC hero first seen in 1968. His appearance highlights the level of fan service in Brave and the Bold, as there is no way you’re going to see a Red Tornado show up in any movies any time soon. In Brave and the Bold, he is characterized as a warm, lovable, but ultimately distant robot, unable to connect intimately with basic human concepts. You know, concepts like Christmas. Anyway, Red Tornado saves some children from the truck’s path and delivers them to a man who may or may not be their father.
“I guess Christmas has come early for me!”
The kids explain Christmas spirit to Red Tornado, who doesn’t understand. “Of course not, silly!” the girl replies. “You’re just a robot!”
What. A. BITCH!
“Urge to kill…rising…”
In an attempt to understand the warm, tingly feeling of Christmas, Ulthoon reads a book by “Stuart Martha” (do you see what they did there?), decorates his house, wears a typically garish sweater and fills his living room. But something is still missing.
“I am going to keep this equation on my noticeboard in case I forget.”
This is followed by possibly the funniest moment of the entire episode:
“Do you want to know the secret of Christmas spirit, Billy?”
“Yes. Yes. Elaborate please.”
Sadly the broadcast is interrupted by a news bulletin – Neptunians are invading downtown, and they are demanding to be given Santa Claus! Oh no! Batman is already on the scene and Red Tornado joins him.
Batman’s first appearance since the cold open and he is RIDING a SPACESHIP because that is AWESOME
Batman and Red Tornado take out a few of the saucers terrorizing the neighborhood. They deduce that they can’t be from Neptune, as Neptune is uninhabited, and that they are in fact toys, made by none other than Fun Haus, also known as the creepiest character design on the show.
Not even Darkseid is this threatening
The crime-fighting duo take a break from hunting down Fun Haus to discuss the Christmas spirit, which Batman believes is ‘overrated.’ Red Tornado gives Batman a gift in an attempt to get into the spirit, which Batman opens on the spot because they both appear to have momentarily forgotten that a psychopathic criminal is going around the city blowing stuff up.
Sherlock Holmes is gonna be pissed
Batman is reminded of happier Christmas times as a boy with his parents, and we all know how that turned out (spoiler: they died.) Red Tornado still detects no Christmas spirit, partially because it is not a measurable thing. Still he searches for ‘that tingling feeling.’ While perhaps a little unoriginal, this is the heart of the episode: How these characters manage to get into the Christmas spirit, one for the first time, the other for the first in a long time.
Exploring this from a cold, robotic start point not only highlights how human and emotional Christmas is, but also serves to show how cold Batman has become in his quest for justice. It may not be a Christmas Carol, but it is at it’s core a kid’s show, and a nice light way to approach the subject for what is traditionally quite a dark character.
Elsewhere in the city, some children encounter a Santa on the street. But this is no ordinary Santa. This is a cold, dead Santa.
Red Tornado inquires further regarding Batman’s dislike of Christmas, but Batman dismisses him. They confront the frantic Santa, who in turn punches them in the face. The heroes are taken aback until they realize OH SHIT SANTA’S A ROBOT TOO. They fight.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
The pair fight an army of robotic Santas and, of course, win. Batman is reminded of how ungrateful he was as a child during Christmas time, as a spoiled rich kid who was never happy with what he had, while his parents looked on disapprovingly. Modern day Batman seems ashamed of his past. Soon we learn that young Bruce Wayne was taken to see The Mask of Zorro on Christmas morning. We see his parents enter a dark alley, where they are shot and killed. It’s a story Batman fans know well, but is an uncharacteristically dark sequence for the lighthearted show. Suddenly it makes sense why Batman is so bitter regarding the holiday season.
The pair hunt down Fun Haus, and thwart his plan to release a bunch of thieving toys across the city. Did you really expect otherwise? The crime fighting caper in this episode is just a shell to explore the dynamic between these two main characters and their relationship with Christmas. Well, that and an excuse for some punching.
Not a punch, put the point remains
In their final fight with a giant robot, Red Tornado throws everything he has at the enemy, overloading his circuits to save those around him. As he begins to heat up and glow, he expresses that he has a strange tingly feeling…before exploding.
Batman promises Red Tornado’s disembodied head that they’ll be able to rebuild him, and Red Tornado seems to finally understand the Christmas spirit via his strange tingly feeling. In sacrificing himself to save others he felt warmth and satisfaction, and the implication is that doing good for others is the Christmas spirit. Surprisingly for a kid’s show, it doesn’t spell this out though. Batman wishes Red Tornado a merry Christmas and returns to the Batmobile to find a gift from Alfred.
A rare case of Batman cracking a smile is the closest we see to him getting in the spirit
Meanwhile, Batman’s parents still DIED ON CHRISTMAS DAY AND THAT WOULD CAUSE MAJOR FUCKING TRAUMA. It seems that maybe Batman hasn’t really learned much about the Christmas spirit after all, because why would Batman need to learn a lesson? He’s the goddamn Batman.
None! It’s seems intentionally non-religious here, as if approaching the subject of religion is too risky for a modern kid’s show.
Santa is right there in the title, but all the Santas that appear in the show are robots who get destroyed. Batman comments on how these aren’t the real Santa, which at least implies the ‘real’ one is out there somewhere.
Surprisingly lower than I remembered. Experiencing the search for Christmas warmth through a protagonist that isn’t Batman is interesting, but ultimately our titular character doesn’t find any real spirit in the episode, choosing instead to spend his Christmas fighting crime. It could be argued that Batman choosing to help others in their time of need is somewhat Christmassy, in which case Batman has the Christmas spirit 365 days a year.
The real heart of the episode is found through Red Tornado, who learns that Christmas is about doing things for others, but has to explode to figure this out. Please, don’t teach any valuable lessons through explosions this Christmas. Maybe not a Christmas classic for the ages, but a fun enough adventure without hitting too heavily on any potentially cheesy themes.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us!)
Season one of Batman: The Brave and the Bold is broken up into two DVD set: Part One contains “Attack of the Secret Santas!” and Part Two is just more good, Batman fun. We also highly recommend The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray, recently released for your holiday gift-giving/receiving pleasure. It may not be a cartoon, but it’s totally Christmassy. People (er, the GCPD and Batman) coming together to… fight terrorists. IN THE SNOW! If that doesn’t scream Christmas spirit we don’t know what does.
MORE MIGHTY XMAS SPECIALS!
YESTERDAY’S XMAS SPECIAL
THE YEAR WITHOUT SANTA CLAUS
LAST YEAR’S DEC. 3ND XMAS SPECIAL
BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD DO CHRISTMAS
2010’s DEC. 3RD XMAS SPECIAL
2009’S DEC. 3RD XMAS SPECIAL
A WISH FOR WINGS THAT WORKED