Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E20 – The Canine Mutiny

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Well here’s a strange episode. I remember really liking this one as a kid, and while there’s still some incredibly solid jokes in it that I loved, it hasn’t aged well for me. So let’s learn about how Bart steals a blind man’s only companion!

The episode starts off with the silly gag of Santa’s Little Helper smashing full steam into the front door because he’s so excited the mail is there, just to hammer in the idea of what a spazzy dog he is. So the family starts sorting through the mail, the most exciting part of the day, and they all get something. Marge gets a sample of gasoline, Lisa gets a German verb-wheel, and Homer gets some weird magazine. But there’s nothing for Bart, and since Marge feels oddly bad about that, she lets him have all the junk mail. And in after all the weird termite fliers, he comes across one of those shady credit card applications with terrible interest rates. And since Bart is a goddamn ten-year old, he just goes for it, and applies for a credit card. He claims that he’s a butt doctor whose income comprises of “What I finds, I keeps,” and says his name is Santa’s Little Helper.

And shockingly, that application goes through. A couple of weeks later he gets a brand new credit card in the name of Santos L Halper, and immediately plans his shopping spree. He heads to the Android’s Dungeon to start buying up every comic that hit the rack that week, but runs into some issue when Comic Book Guy points out he knows his name is Bart Simpson, not Santos L Halper, and knows it’s a fake card. Bart hadn’t anticipated this little wrinkle, and gets bummed out that his scam won’t work. That is until he comes across a catalog for a bunch of weird mail-order crap, that he can order over the phone, removing the danger of being found out. So Bart gets shopping!

I suppose to throw the scent off with the family, he lavishes them with presents at first. He gives Marge some salmon and a frying pan with a build in radio, Maggie gets a toy, Homer gets a golf shirt with his logo on it, and Lisa gets some Trucker’s Choice pep-pills. And once his family is happy, Bart starts pimping out his room, making it awesome. Lisa of course starts to get a little suspicious, but Bart just blames that on her pill addiction, and she gives up investigating. But apparently Bart doesn’t have enough crap, and starts flipping through the catalog to find something else to get. And what he finds is a specially trained dog you can buy that’s pretty much the perfect dog. And at only $12,000 it’s a steal! So Bart orders up a new dog, since you can apparently get a living creature mailed to your house.

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So a couple days later Bart wakes up and heads outside with Santa’s Little Helper to find a giant crate on their doorstep. And inside is a wonderful Collie that’s named Laddie, who immediately starts proving that he’s the most magnificent dog ever. Bart and the family start swooning over Laddie almost immediately, and start ignoring Santa’s Little Helper. The family marvels at Laddie’s intelligence, and his ability to apparently print and bring them little notes that tell them what he needs. He even helps Bart ignore a threatening call from the credit card company, who are starting to wonder when they’re getting their money. Bart and Laddie head out to the woods to bury the credit card, while ignoring poor Santa’s Little Helper, who was apparently sitting outside all night, happily wanting inside the house in what was probably the most heartbreaking scene of the episode.

But since the credit card is buried in the woods, that’s certainly the end of Bart’s financial woes right? Nope! Because when he gets home he’s shocked to find some repo guys taking back all of the crap that Bart bought. And when it comes time for them to take the dog he ordered, Bart does one of the shittiest things he’s ever done, and tells them that they can take Santa’s Little Helper. The family continues to lavish on Laddie, Homer even goes so far as to wear a tie to impress him, but Lisa finally notices that Santa’s Little Helper has been missing, which Bart explains away by saying he put him in a kennel until Laddie gets acclimated. But Bart finally starts to feel bad about the horrible thing he did when they take Laddie to the dog park, where we learn Laddie was apparently in Skull and Bones, and where Milhouse starts ragging on Santa’s Little Helper. Although we do learn that Santa’s Little Helper apparently ate Milhouse’s goldfish, and Bart tried to cover it up by telling Milhouse he never had a goldfish. “Then why’d I have the bowl Bart? Why did I have the bowl?!”

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And Bart’s longing for Santa’s Little Helper amps up when out of nowhere the family starts to not care about Laddie anymore and honestly kind of resent him. But Bart fixes that when he’s out walking Laddie, only for the dog to end up saving baby Gerald from a fire. And during a ceremony to give Laddie a medal for heroism, Bart ends up giving Laddie to Chief Wiggum to be a police dog. So now they have no dogs, which the family notices pretty quick. And when they call Bart on it, he starts breaking down, despondent that he lost the family both of their dogs. But Homer gives him a rousing speech about finding the dog instead of crying there eating dog food, and Bart decides to heroically go save Santa’s Little Helper. Even though Homer’s ulterior motive was to get Bart to eat dog food.

Bart then starts sleuthing, trying to find the beloved dog he gave away. He makes it to the repo store, where the guy working there tells him they sold Santa’s Little Helper to a “guy in a dress.” So after briefly stopping by to check with Patty and Selma, Bart ends up with Groundskeeper Willie, who it turns out did buy the dog, but gave him to the church because he’s kind of a horrible dog. So Bart heads to the church, only to find that they too got rid of Santa’s Little Helper, since he unholied the holy water, and gave him to a blind parishioner. So Bart heads off to try and convince this blind guy that he wants his dog back.

So Bart gets to the blind man’s house, preparing his best fake crying. But when he starts talking to the man, who considers “Sprinkles,” his only companion since his bird died. Bart can’t bring himself to asking for Santa’s Little Helper back, and instead decides that the better idea is to head back that night and steal him. That night Bart gets back to the house, and breaks into the backyard, only to find Santa’s Little Helper is now inside the house. So he gets in through a doggy-door, and has a pretty sweet reunion with Santa’s Little Helper, who unfortunately ruins things when he starts barking. The blind guy comes downstairs, thinking there’s a burglar in the house, and he manages to chase Bart into a closet before calling the cops. Bart admits everything he did to the blind guy, and the two start arguing about who should get Santa’s Little Helper. So they decide to let Santa’s Little Helper decide who he wants to be with, and after chasing his tail a bit, he chooses Bart. The two celebrate as the police burst into the house to get the burglar. The blind guy explains the situation, and as he’s talking Laddie comes in, and starts loving on him. Or at least that’s what it looks like, turns out he’s actually finding a baggie of weed in the guys pocket. So Bart and Santa’s Little Helper awkwardly head home while the rest of the cops in the city show up to smoke week with the blind guy while the episode ends with some Bob Marley.

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This is a really weird episode. There are some great jokes in here, like Santos L Halper and how quickly the family turns on Laddie. But really, it just came off as a really mean episode to me now. I’ve really realized in this go-through of the series that I’m having a similar reaction to Bart as I’ve had with the Joker. I really liked him as a kid, and kind of don’t anymore. There are still some great Bart episodes that I loved as a kid, and love now, but a lot of Bart’s antics seemed hilarious as a kid, and now come off as just shitty. He got rid of his dog! A dog that he’s lost several times before in the series already?! How many times is Bart going to learn the same damn lesson that he should appreciate Santa’s Little Helper? Yeah, he’s not a great dog, he’s dumb and misbehaves, but he’s still your damn dog. I’ve had a lot of bad and/or stupid dogs in my life, and I would never in a million years think about getting rid of the poor thing. They’re your family! Yeah, Bart learns the same damn lesson he’s learned several times before by the end of the episode, but I feel like he didn’t learn it enough. Things work out great for him, and he deprives a blind guy from having a companion, all because he was shitty and selfish. I don’t know, this one didn’t do it for me guys.

Take Away: Love your pets! And don’t rack up credit card debt.

 

“The Canine Mutiny” was written by Ron Hauge and directed by Dominic Polcino, 1997.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E19 – Grade School Confidential

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Well after yesterday’s silly little Prohibition episode, we’re back with one that tackles a pretty serious issue. Although I will say that I was shocked that this episode happened so late into the series. I really thought Skinner and Krabappel had been together for much longer than this, season 8 seems way too late to me.

This episode starts off by really pounding it in that Skinner is the most boring man on Earth, as he rambles on in a monotone during some interminable morning announcements that leave all the kids asleep. And after Mrs. Krabappel wakes them up with some fireworks, Martin moves the plot along by inviting all the kids to his birthday party, which should be a much sadder affair. I wasn’t as aggressively lame as Martin as a kid, but I was probably held in a similar esteem by the other kids, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste my time inviting anyone to a party. And when the birthday comes up Bart and Milhouse decide to head over, since they have nothing better to do, and were just hanging out with Homer while he drove a riding mower around pretending to be an astronaut. Which really made me laugh, because it seemed to be 100% Homer’s idea.

So they get to Martin’s party, which is surprisingly full of kids who apparently had nothing better to do. Bart then wanders around, marveling at how lame the party is, and having awkward chit chat with Edna, where neither really have anything to say to the other. And when Bart just leaves Edna to go stand by himself, she decides to go hang out with the only other adult at the party, Skinner. They also awkwardly talk and find that they’re both immensely lonely people, which gets worse when we find out Skinner apparently lives next door to Martin. And as the two are talking, Agnes pops her head over the fence, and claims that she’s going to come over and ruin Skinner’s fun, so he and Edna go hide in Martin’s weird playhouse. Unfortunately right on time all the kids at the party start vomiting, since Martin’s parents thought it was a good idea to serve oysters instead of cake. So all the kids are taken out of the parents by ambulances, leaving Bart the only kid there. And as he wanders the remnants of the party, he finds Edna and Skinner in the playhouse, who are drinking tea together, and kissing.

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The next day at school Edna and Seymour are flirting in the lunchroom, when they hear Bart start to tell all the kids about the horrible thing he saw at the party after they all left. So Skinner calls him into his office, and the two lovebirds awkwardly try to get Bart not to tell anyone. Bart really isn’t up for sweeping their relationship under the rug, that is until they offer to switch his permanent record with Milhouse’s, which sweetens the deal enough to get him to go with it. And with that taken care of, the two actually start a relationship, having a sad little date in Edna’s apartment before making out all night while her Charlie Brown candle melts.

And now that they’re both happy and having a good time, both Skinner and Edna are acting like better, more well adjusted people. So everybody’s happy! Except Bart, who becomes their weird go-between. Skinner and Edna both make Bart carry little love-letter between each other, flirting all day long while Bart apparently misses a lot of class. They even drag Bart out to a late-night movie when Superintendent Chalmers shows up and almost figures out they’re on a date. Because having one kid on a field trip to a movie in the middle of the night is less sketchy than them dating. Although it does lead to the wonderful gag when Chalmers and Bart have to sit next to each other during the movie:

Chalmers: “Do you actually think they filmed this in Atlanta?”

Bart: “I don’t know, I don’t think it’s important.”

Chalmers: “yeah, yeah you’re right.”

So great. And the abuse just keeps going when Skinner makes Bart hang out with Agnes all afternoon looking at pictures of cakes she’s clipped from magazines. But the final straw is when Skinner makes Bart tell Edna that he “loves her,” as a weird proxy for Skinner. This causes all the kids to start mocking Bart, and when Skinner and Edna sneak out to make out for a bit, Bart brings the whole class with him to catch them in the act, exposing their affair.

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And things start to really fall apart when all the kids who sneaked a peak at their making out go home to tell their parents all their outlandish interpretations of what they saw. And because kids are dumb, the rumor starts spreading around town that Skinner and Edna weren’t making out in the closet, they were having sex. And when the news reaches Superintendent Chalmers, he races down to the school to give Skinner and ultimatum. The two have to either split up, or be fired. And when the pair decides they’d rather be together, they agree to be fired. But as Skinner is getting ready to leave the building, Bart starts trash-talking him, and gets him to make a bold decision. They’re not going to quit! They’re going to barricade themselves in the school and hold it hostage until Chalmers changes his mind!

Unfortunately when they barricade themselves the only other person in the school is Willie, and he doesn’t care. So Bart uses his skills at prankery, and calls Kent Brockman, telling him about an octopus attack at the school. A media circus then embroils the school, and when they find out that there isn’t an octopus, and just some unfair treatment, they still decide to cover it. A crowd appears and they start talking with Skinner and Krabappel, trying to figure out what they want. Skinner, Krabappel, and Bart end up spending the whole night in the school while the police try to get them out with reverse psychology, blaring music, and spotlights, which just results in Edna and Seymour having a nice dance party. But in the end they decide to come out and give their demands to Chalmers. They announce that they love each other, and shouldn’t be punished for that. But then this amazing scene happens:

Maude: “Excuse me, Edna. I don’t think we’re talking about love here. We’re talking about S-E-X in front of the C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N!”

Krusty: “Sex cauldron?! I thought they closed that place down!”

Skinner and Edna then realize that the whole town thought they were having sex in school, and they change their mind when Skinner awkwardly admits that he’s a 44 year old virgin. And that shocking display of honesty is enough for the crowd to buy that, and they no longer have any problem with the relationship. Chalmers even gives his blessing as he leaves. But at the end of the episode they tell Bart that they’re going to split up, but then make it clear they aren’t when he leaves, because I guess they like the secrecy.

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This is a pretty fun episode. We’ve learned before, numerous times, how Skinner and Edna are immensely lonely people, and it was honestly just great to see them be happy for once. Their relationship really worked for me, although I think they end up splitting up around the time I stopped watching the series, so I guess I have a bummer waiting for me in a few months. The efforts the two go to keep their relationship secret are pretty ridiculous, and honestly that’s the only issue I have with the episode, because man they take advantage of Bart, to the point where it’s not surprising that he blows up and exposes them. But they fight for their love against the weird prudes in the town, and end up together in the end! Which is a pretty good love story, especially for this show where Homer and Marge are really the only functioning relationship in town.

Take Away: Let people be in love, you don’t need to judge it or ruin it.

 

“Grade School Confidential” was written by Rachel Pulido and directed by Susie Dietter, 1997.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E18 – Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

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So this is kind of a heavy week for Lifetime of Simpsons. We get a lot of weird episodes with some heavy topics and morals being discussed. And after yesterday’s weird ugliness and muddled characterization, we get this insane little palette cleanser of an episode that just steers into the zaniness of the Simpsons, and becomes one of my favorite silly episodes they ever made.

We start things off by showing Bart entering the Elementary School as the only kid not wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day, which of course means he gets ganged by other kids who start pinching him. Which was always such a stupid tradition, and when I forget to wear green on that day I just tell people I get a mulligan since my name is Patrick, and that’s festive enough. But the school was only there for that scene, so we cut over to Moe’s, where all the horrible drunks are waiting outside for it to open at 9 am so they can get drunk. And the revelry starts right off the bat, because we next see the whole down ready for a St. Paddy’s Day parade, where Marge and the kids are also, because I guess Marge took the kids out of school for this? But still made them go in the morning? I don’t know, doesn’t matter. The whole reason for Bart to be down at the parade was so he could buy a big plastic horn to yell at people with, and be stumbling around the parade when a giant Duff truck shows up, firing beer out of a fire hose. And all the beer fires right down Bart’s horn, and into his mouth, getting him super drunk, in front of the whole town and the news.

And it doesn’t go well. Bart’s drunkenness narrowly avoids a giant orgy in the streets of Springfield, and everyone gets ashamed of alcohol. Which keeps going when Kent Brockman does a report on Bart where he derides Springfield’s love of alcohol, and in passing mentions the idea of Prohibition. And, of course, that idea spurs on the religious crazies in town (Helen and Maude) who head to Town Hall to protest at Mayor Quimby. And while they’re debating the idea of Prohibition, a little mysterious clerk that happened to be in the office reading old town laws finds that technically Springfield has Prohibition, and has had for 200 years, and that the punishment for drinking alcohol is catapult, the best punishment possible. And since we don’t want to follow the fact that they also have a law saying ducks have to wear long pants, we go with the Prohibition thing.

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Springfield is then declared a dry city, and all of the Duff from the brewery is buried in a landfill at the dump, while Duff quickly goes out of business trying to sell alcohol-free beer, because they apparently only sell beer in Springfield. But with legal alcohol kicked out of town, that only means it’s time for speakeasies! So Moe quickly transforms his bar into a “Pet Shop” which is selling booze and jazz music almost immediately. Fat Tony start bringing alcohol in from Shellbyville, and the town essentially becomes the Roaring 20’s, with everyone gladly going to the speakeasy to drink, giving Moe better business than he’s had in years. But the shit hits the fan when the Temperance freaks show up at Moe’s, and get pissed when they find Chief Wiggum there, drunk.

The Temperance women make a fuss, and Wiggum ends up getting fired as police chief as Quimby hires a guy named Rex Banner, a tough no-nonsense cop who is basically Elliot Ness. And Banner quickly turns Springfield into the Untouchables, getting rid of the mob, and cleaning up all the alcohol in town through the power of Tommy guns. And with Fat Tony taken care of, Moe and his speakeasy are out of alcohol. So Homer and Bart start brainstorming, and Homer ends up coming up with a pretty good idea. So he and Bart head out, hilariously telling Marge “If we don’t come back, avenge our deaths!” And the two numbskulls head to the dump, with a U-Haul, where they dig up all the buried beer, and load it up. They briefly get in a car chase with Banner through a cemetery, but they escape, and start their smuggling operation.

Homer and Bart then bring the beer down to the basement, which they ban Marge from entering, and start their complicated operation. Their plan is to take the beer, pour it into bowling balls, bring the balls to the Bowlarama, then intentionally throw gutter balls so that the balls go down a secret chute that takes them straight to Moe’s. And they’re doing quite well with it. Homer’s making a lot of money, and Moe’s is slinging a lot of suds. Everybody’s happy! Except Rex Banner, who is starting to get really fixated on this mysterious Beer Baron whose supplying Springfield with booze. And when he runs into an obviously drunk Barney he starts yelling old-timey insults at Barney, getting him to squeal, setting up the downfall of Homer and the Beer Baron.

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But Banner isn’t the first person to figure things out, because Marge discovers the plot, and is shockingly okay with it, since it’s the cleverest thing Homer’s ever done, and it’s only violating a stupid 200 year old law. And we see that Marge is a better detective than Banner, because he finally finds Moe’s, but is tricked when Moe claims that it’s not a speakeasy, and just the “best damned pet shop in town.” And in the end, it wasn’t Banner who starts to ruin Moe’s business, it’s the supply, because the beer Homer dug up from the dump is officially gone, leaving Homer with only one option. He’s gotta start making his own alcohol!

Homer and Bart then go buy a bunch of bathtubs, and set up a crazy distillery in their basement, brewing and distilling all kinds of alcohol. Marge finally starts to have a problem with the plan, even though the money is still rolling in, and Homer’s weird bathtub liquor is a huge success. But problems start arising when his liquor stills start exploding, which Homer cleverly covers up by saying he’s just farting. Although when he goes to check on them and ends up lighting on fire, he agrees that things have gone too far, and decides to stop being the Beer Baron. But how?

He doesn’t want to just turn himself in, and decides instead to help good old Wiggum, who is now wandering the town, asking people if he can arrest them. So Homer and Wiggum team up and figure out a plan that can get Homer out of the Beer Baron business, and get Wiggum back on top. They have Wiggum publically announce that he caught Homer, giving him full credit for the collar. Unfortunately that means Homer’s going to have to be catapulted. The whole town shows up for his punishment, even making sure it works by testing it on a cat. But Marge tries to come to the day, and gives an impassioned speech about how Prohibition is stupid, and that they shouldn’t catapult Homer. But Banner rebuts with his own speech, which is cut short when he wanders onto the catapult and Wiggum sends him soaring out of town. And right as Homer is about to follow him, that weird clerk from earlier reads the rest of the parchment he found earlier, and finds that even though Springfield prohibited alcohol 200 years ago, they repealed the law 199 years ago, so the entire episode was pointless! The town celebrates, Fat Tony floods it with alcohol, and they have a big party while Homer says the classic summation: “To alcohol. The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

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What a fun, stupid episode. I love it so much. This is exactly the type of silly Simpsons that I love. It has all my favorite hallmarks of a goofy episode. Something weird happens in the town that drastically changes it, Homer apparently quits his job and starts playing a major role in this new paradigm, Homer is shockingly good at that role, Homer gets caught, the town stops caring and everything goes back to exactly how it was before the episode began. Episodes that follow that structure are often super stupid, but also super enjoyable, and man was this one great. I love everything about it. Seeing Springfield, a town full of horrible drunks, having to deal with Prohibition was hilarious, especially because of the wonderful decision to have everything revert back to the 20’s. They even had a damn narrator in certain parts of the episode like it was a radio drama! Rex Banner is a hilarious character, and it’s so funny seeing how competent he is, but is somehow unable to catch Homer, who is ridiculous obvious in his Beer Barony. And then, a catapult later, everything returns to normal, just like any good zany episode.

Take Away: Prohibition doesn’t work; it just makes people want it more and willing to go to ridiculous extremes to get it. And catapults are a shockingly bad deterrent to crime.

 

“Homer vs the Eighteenth Amendment” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Bob Anderson, 1997.

 

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Back Issues, Reel Talk

Metallo Could Have Helped Batman v Superman

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Art by Alex Ross

 

I’m going to get this taken care of right off the bat, this is the stupidest article I’ve ever written on this site. And I pretty much exclusively run in stupidity. I generally try to stay away from stuff like this, coming up with alternate stories that movies, books, or comics should have done. It’s just kind of fruitless, and a waste of time. I love coming up with stories. I do it constantly in my head. And while I usually spend my efforts trying to come up with original ideas for projects that I could actually do, occasionally I waste my time thinking up stories that I could never do. Yeah, of course I’ve thought up pitches for entire trilogies of superhero movies, I feel like that’s not completely crazy. But I’ve spent way too much time thinking about movies that have already been made, trying to come up with ways that I would have made it better. Which is fruitless, and pretty much just throwing my time and brain energy right in the garbage. So, inevitably, since I wrote a goddamned 5,000 word rant about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, rambling at length about how shitty it was, and how many things were wrong, both structurally and narrativly, with it, I started to think about things that could have been done better with it. Which wasn’t hard. Pretty much everything could have been done better with this flaming garbage heap of a movie. The tone’s a big problem, as is the violence and cynicism, which would require a pretty huge script overhaul to fix, but there’s one big aspect that could have been changed for the better. One giant symbol for everything wrong with the movie.

Doomsday. The inclusion of that character in this movie was baffling, led to the Death of Superman in only his second movie, and served as the baffling and ineffective culmination of whatever the hell Lex Luthor was doing. Luthor’s motivation in this movie made absolutely no sense, but I think his endgame was to discredit Superman and have the world turn against him. Why? No idea. He was just evil in this movie for no reason. But, for the purposes of this fix I would hammer in that Lex is trying to destroy Superman because of jealousy. He doesn’t like that this alien has all this immense power and didn’t work for it, and people in theory love him for it. We see Lex in this movie donating money to charity, trying to help the world for his own selfish reasons, so that people see him as a hero. So the logical way to have handled Lex in this movie would be for him to try and beat Superman at his own game, not create an uncontrollable rage monster that will destroy the city that Lex has helped with his company in the hopes that it may kill Superman…and then continue destroying the world because there’s nothing to stop it. And how would you beat Superman at his own game? Creating a better hero. Which wouldn’t be hard, since the Superman in this movie is such a jerk and appears to do very little heroing. And actually getting his hands dirty isn’t really Lex’s style, so it makes sense that he would try to make a hero, while secretly designing the hero to be able to kill Superman. And there’s one character in the comics and the movie that would have worked great for that.

In the movie we actually got, Scoot McNairy played a character named Wallace Keefe whose legs were destroyed in the Superman/Zod attack from Man of Steel, and who becomes a crazy bitter man who hates Superman and the people who think he’s a hero. In the movie Luthor finds Keefe, and offers to help him with his vendetta against Superman. And in the movie we got, Lex’s plan to help him comprised of turning Keefe into a suicide bomber during a Congressional hearing about Superman. Which in some way turned the public against Superman? In America we don’t often root for the causes that suicide bombers believe in. It was a really weird part of the movie that felt like a huge misstep, and the turning point where this movie could have gone a very different way, and been a more logical and interesting movie. And that would have been to turn Scoot McNairy into Metallo.

Now, in the comics Metallo has been several different people, and has had several different origins. But superhero movies have taken liberties with more obscure villains in the past. The villain in Iron Man 2 is an amalgam of two different villains that most people don’t really care about, and while that movie didn’t really make the villain work at all, it’s still an example of how you can change around a villain. But the basic premise of Metallo is that he’s a cyborg who runs on Kryptonite. And the plot I came up with lends heavily from Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics when the New 52 started off. Basically what I feel like would have made sense would have been to have Lex approach Keefe, and tell him he could give him the power to take down Superman. Lex could then create some sort of suit of armor, which runs of Kryptonite, and that would give Keefe back his legs, and give him abilities. The suit would turn Keefe into a hero whose power came from human ingenuity, and not alien powers. He would be this new shining knight who would be an example of what a hero should really be. All while secretly having weapons and a power source that can kill Superman. Luthor would have known this all along, and have planned it out, but no one else would. Maybe Batman. Batman would still be on the trail of the Kryptonite, trying to get it for his own purposes. And having Lex create a supposed hero would vastly change the rest of the movie.

How about have Lex secretly be creating disasters and crimes that Metallo can save people in. He would have the leg up, getting to disasters before Superman, and showing the world that he’s a better hero than Superman. And then something goes wrong. Maybe have an actual emergency happen in Gotham, not something that Lex planned, where Superman and Metallo show up at the same time. Metallo would then snap, and attack Superman, causing the disaster to get worse. Superman would then know that Metallo was up to no good, and could then theoretically go to Batman for help. But Batman would be mad, thinking that Superman was responsible for the fight and the disaster. Batman would then fight Superman, who would spend the entire time trying to explain the situation and get Batman to stop. We would cut the stupid Martha thing, and have Superman finally get it through to Batman that Lex has been playing everyone. The two would then stop fighting, and go after Luthor and Metallo. Maybe have Superman go after Lex while Batman and Wonder Woman go after Metallo, since they’re immune to the Kryptonite. I would have Wonder Woman working more with Batman through the movie, so that by the time Batman needs to take down Metallo he knows he has someone who he can count on. The two could fight Metallo while Superman deals with Lex, maybe fighting that weird secret army he has who could now be equipped with Kryptonite weapons. But in the end, heroism wins. Metallo could be stopped and brought to justice, while Lex somehow gets out from it, with no evidence showing that he was involved. That is until Clark Kent manages to write an article exposing Luthor’s plan, taking down the titan without the use of vigilante justice, and showing that punching isn’t the only way to get things done. Then end the movie with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman being pals, promising to help each other out next time something horrible happens.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a stupid idea. It sure doesn’t fit with the world Zach Snyder was trying to build, but to me it would have been better. And let me reiterate, this was a stupid article. It’s pointless to complain about a movie that’s already been made and released. This was a hypothetical bit of rambling about something I have no control over, and will influence no one. But it’s been running through my head like crazy since I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (They gave it this stupid name, so I’m going to refer to it by it) and I felt like rambling about it on my blog was the only way to exorcise it from my brain. So enjoy I guess?

 

 

Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E17 – My Sister, My Sitter

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Well let’s start off this week with a really weird episode. It was always one that I kind of skipped by as a kid, because it just didn’t work for me, and I’ve actually seen a lot of hate for it online. People tend to think it’s too dark, and Bart is out of character. I don’t know if I totally agree with that, but let’s check it out!

And the episode starts off with one of my favorite types of openings, Eye on Springfield! We get to see Kent Brockman tease us with a two-story outhouse, a nurse that’s trying to use humor to disastrous results, and finally that the city is getting ready to revitalize their old waterfront district. Springfield apparently used to have a booming squid industry, but that’s dried up, and they’ve decided to make a fancy outdoor mall out of the old Squidport. And they’re also having a black tie gala to celebrate the opening, which Marge super wants to go to.

But that’s not going to be the main story, so we head upstairs to see Lisa and Janey sitting around talking about these insane novels called the Babysitter Twins, and how they totally want to be babysitters, even though they’re only 8. Which is weird, since to be honest, babysitting kind of sucks, especially kids that aren’t related to you. Anyway, Lisa actually decides to go through with this plan, and even starts advertising at the Church, hoping to drum up some business. And she finally gets her first gig when Ned comes over, desperate for the Simpsons to babysit Rod and Todd, because he has to go to Capitol City to fill out some paperwork since Maude and her mother apparently got arrested in the Holy Land. Homer blows him off, claiming he’s busy getting Marge freed from the Holy Land, but Lisa ends up picking up the slack and babysitting the weird ass Flanders kids. And boy are they weird. They aren’t allowed to use dice and are scared of moths. But Lisa did a great job, and Ned is super impressed, promising to recommend her to everyone.

And apparently a recommendation from Ned Flanders is really important, because Lisa starts raking it in. She babysits for the Hibberts, and the Wiggums, which must be super weird since Ralph and Lisa are the same age…and dated? Whatever, we finally get some conflict when Bart starts to get jealous that she’s making money. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from the Simpsons, it’s that a jealous sibling is a terrible thing. And things escalate further when that fancy gala arrives, and Homer and Marge prepare to head out while dressed in fancy clothes. But before they leave they drop the bomb that Lisa is going to be in charge, and babysitting Bart, which is a terrible plan. It’s also wonderful that Bart knows he’s exactly “two years and thirty eight days” older than Lisa, which is one of the most sibling things they’ve ever done. But Marge and Homer head out, and Lisa gets ready for the most difficult night of her life.

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Homer and Marge head to the Squidport, and decide to park right in the middle of the boardwalk before exploring all the trendy and oddly specialized stores that have opened. There’s also a hilarious part where Moe has a storefront in the Squidport that is just a long tunnel that leads all the way back to his real bar, which is hilarious. But the Squidport stuff isn’t that interesting, let’s get back to the disaster on Evergreen Terrace. Things start right away when Bart gives Lisa shit about their dinner, and yells about wanting to just eat ice cream. And all of his fussing ends up getting Maggie upset, who starts crying. And in the first example of Bart’s evil genius, he decides to calm Maggie down by feeding her coffee ice cream, which immediately gets her buzzing. But Bart has a lot more damage to do.

While Lisa is trying to put Maggie down for the night, to little success, Bart is busy making all sorts of insane calls, ordering up some pranks for Lisa. And after Lisa tries to drag Bart up to his bed for sleep, since he’s using non-violent protest, the deliveries start showing up. We get a giant submarine sandwich that’s “swimming” in vinegar, Krusty whose there for a bachelor party, paramedics who are there for an emergency sisterectomy, some Government guys who are going to drug Lisa because she saw a UFO, and a chauffeur for the ambassador from Ghana. Which all boils up to an explosive outburst by Lisa, who kicks everyone out, and starts yelling at Bart to go to bed. He then does the stupidest thing of the episode, where he starts eating bread, claiming that he can’t tell the difference between bread and bed. And his shittiness reaches its apex when he goes upstairs and starts jumping on Homer and Marge’s bed, claiming he’s not going to sleep. Lisa finally snaps and starts chasing him around, until he falls down the stairs, dislocating his elbow.

Lisa and Maggie go down to help Bart, who isn’t even close to being done being as asshole. He decides he’s going to keep his dislocated elbow, and make his forehead bump larger to use as proof of Lisa’s negligence. So he runs up to his room and starts bashing his head against the wall, until he ends up passing out. Lisa decides to call 911 and get an ambulance, but they refuse to come since Bart called them for the sisterectomy, a leprechaun bite, and a severe case of butt-rot. So she starts flipping through the yellow pages, thinking about calling Dr. Hibbert, until she starts worrying that he’ll lose faith in her and stop using her as a babysitter. So instead she finds an ad for Dr. Nick, and decides that’s a much better call. She drags Bart down into a wheelbarrow to get him to Dr. Nick, and ends up sticking Maggie in a cat-carrier to keep her calm. And the siblings head out into the night!

They get through the bad part of town and end up at Dr. Nick’s which is unfortunately packed. She tries to get Mr. Smithers to let them cut in line, but I think they’re implying he has something in his butt, and he refuses. They also learn that there was a separate wheelbarrow line that they cut, and don’t have time to wait for Comic Book Guy, and his cheeseburger induced coma. So the wheelbarrow train heads off to the hospital. Unfortunately they get stopped by Chief Wiggum, who just wants to chat about wheelbarrows with Lisa. And by the time he finally leaves, Lisa comes back and finds that Bart has fallen out of the wheelbarrow, and slid down a giant hill into a big mud-pit. Lisa heads down to save him, only to find that the mud-pit he landed in is right next to the Squidport. Right as Mayor Quimby is giving a speech. So the entire town turns around to see Lisa, and everyone freaks out. Everyone is ashamed of Lisa, and Dr. Hibbert even says Bart was hurt because of bad babysitting. Which surly has destroyed her job. But we cut to a couple days later, where Bart actually apologizes for being a monster, and Lisa resigns herself to a life without babysitting. That is until everyone starts calling again, because no one cares about Lisa being negligent to Bart.

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This was a strange episode. The central premise is completely ridiculous, which isn’t a bad thing for Simpsons, I mean they literally had an episode where Homer worked for a Bond villain. I think it’s because there’s a level of realism to this episode that ones that get cartoony don’t have. This is a grounded episode, besides the ludicrous idea that parents would let a younger sibling be in charge of an older one, not realizing that that could lead to disastrous results. There’s also the fact that Bart is completely out of character and being completely horrible in this episode. We’re used to Bart being a shit in this show, but he takes it to a whole new level in this episode. He’s awful to Lisa in this one, for way less of a reason. But honestly, I think my biggest problem with this episode is that it’s a similar idea that’s been done better. The central conflict in this episode is basically the same as “Summer of 4 ft 2,” where Lisa starts doing something out of character, Bart gets jealous, Bart does something horrible to her, she gets upset, Bart apologizes. It’s the same basic structure, but Bart comes off way worse, and in the end you almost kind of agree with him. Lisa is way too young to be babysitting anyone, let alone her older brother, and she does mess up and makes the worst possible decisions when she does. Lisa was way over her head in this story. Not that I agree with Bart in this, he’s awful, but I also don’t agree with Lisa in this one. There’s really no one to root for in this episode, because everyone is acting out of character. Bart isn’t this awful and Lisa isn’t this irresponsible.

Take Away: Don’t let and eight year old be a babysitter. And “Cheeseburgers and loneliness are a dangerous mix.”

 

“My Sister, My Sitter” was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Jim Reardon, 1997.

 

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Back Issues

The Cartoony Noir of Blacksad

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I talk about comics a lot on this side, but I’ve definitely been focusing too much on superheroes. While the two largest companies putting out comics exclusively stick with the superhero genre, there are countless other types of amazing comics being put out by the smaller companies. Which is strange. That would be like if 80% of the movies Hollywood put out were Westerns of something. There’s a serious genre disparity in comics that really doesn’t make sense, and often makes it so people don’t even realize there are non-superhero comics out there. I’m certainly a superhero fan, but my second favorite genre of comic book is probably noir. Now, I’ve talked about noir a lot, because it’s one of my favorite genres of media in general. I love noir movies and novels to no end, so of course I love comics that tackle the genre. Now, there are some great noir comics out there that follow the genre more straightly, like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s amazing Hollywood murder mystery the Fade Out, but a lot of the noir comics that come out throw in some tweak that makes it a little weirder than you normally see it. And while I want to talk about the Fade Out or really any book that Brubaker and Phillips have worked on (like Fatale, their weird noir/Lovecraftian horror mash-up) but today I’m taking some time to tell you about a spectacular comic I just heard about that really blew me away.

 

Blacksad is a Spanish comic created by writer Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido that follows the life of John Blacksad, a hardboiled detective making his way through a large city (never specifically called New York, but we can assume) in the late 1950’s. Along the way he takes on some traditional noir cases, deals with institutional racism in the police department, the abuse of wealth and power, and the Red Scare. Oh, and he’s a cat. Blacksad is a comic that creates some wonderfully classic noir trappings, but takes place in a world full of anthropomorphic animals. There are all different kinds of animals, making their lives in the big city, getting through the tumultuous 50’s while trying to stay alive and sane. And I will say, anthropomorphic animals can sometimes be super creepy, and come off as weird ‘furry’ porn, but that is definitely not a problem here, because the art is spectacular. The artist Juanjo Guarnido used to work at Disney, and brings that training to this book, creating a world full of animals that we’ve been trained to think should break out into song at any moment, and are instead murdering each other and dealing with incredibly real issues.

 

The first three volumes, which were combined and released in America as simply Blacksad, has three different cases that John has to tackle as we explore this beautifully crafted world. His first case, “Somewhere Within the Shadows” follows John investigating the murder of a famous actress that he used to bodyguard, and then date. It takes John all around the town, following up leads through the sketchy underbelly of the show business in the City. He meets seedy producers and the richest man in town trying to figure out who killed his former lover, all while establishing a relationship with Smirvnov, the police commissioner. Next up, in “Arctic Nation,” things get way darker than I had assumed a comic about a crime solving cat was going to be, as John starts investigating the disappearance of a child from the poor part of town, while getting embroiled in a White Power movement sweeping the city, and a potentially pedophilic police chief whose covering the disappearance up. This story was probably the highlight of the whole collection, and really became a fascinating noir tale unlike many I’ve ever read before. Having John gets stuck between the racist Arctic Front, comprised of white animals, and the Black Claws, who are essentially the Black Panthers. And the final story, “Red Soul,” follows John trying to help an old teacher and mentor of his, Otto Liebber, a nuclear physicist owl who never stopped believing in him. Otto is a Communist, and part of an influential Communist organization called the Twelve Disciples, who are really just minding their own business when the Red Scare kicks up, throwing all of their lives into chaos. One of the disciples ends up dead, and it’s clear that the hit was meant for Otto, causing John to dive in deep, investigating the anti-Communist factions in the city that ends up getting him into some weird Nazi stuff.

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I just read these three volumes, and there are two more waiting for me, which I’m extremely excited to check out. This collection is fantastic. John Blacksad instantly becomes a great noir detective, oozing with danger and charisma while doing his best to deal with all the weird shit that’s bubbling under the surface of America in the 50s, which we like to falsely remember as a quaint, happy little time. John runs into a lot of the standard trappings of the genre, like corruption, greed, lust, and political intrigue, while also handling things like racism and the Red Scare, which I feel were underserved topics for the noir genre. They were three extremely well written, exciting, and just all around perfect noir stories, all while being acted out by wonderfully cartoony animals.

 

I can’t praise the artwork in this collection highly enough. Guarnido knocks the art out of the park in this book, making a suitably dirty and grimy city, populated by some genuinely loveable, disgusting, and horrifying animals. But one of the things I loved most about it was the fact that there were still bright and vibrant moments too. The coloring in the book is wonderful too, and while I do love a noir comic that sticks to a grayscale color palette, this book expertly flows between dingy, gritty colors and the bright optimism of the day where we see the happy promise of the 50s trying to get through. There’s this fascinating nostalgia that comes up with the book, similar to what Who Framed Roger Rabbit did, by having such dark, depraved noir happen with characters that so similarly resemble Disney characters. He does an amazing job at having you instantly recognize which characters are our heroes, and which are our sleazeballs, probably best personified by a pal that John makes in “Arctic Nation” and comes back in “Red Soul,” a little weasel reporter called Weekly, who instantly becomes a loveable character. The reporter friend of a detective is a pretty tried and true trope, but man does it work great with Blacksad, especially by having Weekly be the eternal optimist to John’s grumpiness, where Weekly’s bubbly personality eventually wears down John’s gruff exterior.

 

And while I’ve been ranting and raving about Guarnido’s art, that’s night to slight Canales’ writing, which is excellent. He expertly weaves the overly complicated mysteries that we’ve come to expect from the noir genre, while finding new and fresh angles to tackle it with. Honestly, the fact that their animals doesn’t come up that much, and other than references to being “a cold-blooded” or something like that, you could probably take his script and make the exact same story with humans with little to no changes. But they find a way to make the animals work beautifully with the story, especially the “Arctic Nation” story where we see the white animals and their hatred and mistrust of the colored animals. In the first story there was some antagonism between mammals and reptiles, which I assumed was going to be the big dividing line between races, but apparently there are a whole lot of different races wandering around the City. Canales successfully shows all the tension and hatred that’s barely below the surface of 1950’s America, and does it beautifully while John Blacksad gets to wander around and just see the deepest, darkest pits of the city, perfectly aware that the 50s were no shining paradise, something we tend to forget.

 

Check out these comics. They’re spectacular.

 

Blacksad is written by Juan Diaz Canales and drawn by Juanjo Guarnido.

 

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Bat Signal

Issue 219 – “Gotham City’s Strangest Race”

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Well after my ridiculously long and angry screed against Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice yesterday, how about we wash the bitter taste in our mouths out with some silly, Golden Age Batman comics? And boy do we have a weird one here. It’s become pretty standard here on Bat Signal to take the covers of these older Golden Age comics with a grain of salt, since more often than not they promise something wonderful that the inside of the book can’t hope to match. And this one actually does deliver on it’s promise of having Batman and Robin participating in the Wacky Racers. So let’s jump into a goofy comic where we get  to learn about turn of the century cars, and Batman’s weird contempt of them.

The story starts off with Batman and Robin just driving around Gotham at night, no one really seeming that concerned about the Batmobile just out for a drive. It doesn’t seem like Batman and Robin are really doing anything, just out for a late-night drive I guess, but their curiosity is piqued when they notice some low-level hood that they’ve run in a couple of time driving around town in a turn of the century car, which this comic confusedly keeps referring to as “ancient.” They think it’s a little weird that some random gangster is driving around in a Model T, so they decide to follow him, assuming he’s up to no good. It turns out there’s some sort of big “Ancient Car Convention” going on in a suburb of Gotham that weekend, and a couple Gotham gangsters have gotten their hands on old-timey cars to participate in the convention. Batman assumes that they’re up to something, and haven’t just gotten a new interest in classic cars, so he and Robin decide they need to go under cover and infiltrate the festival. So Bruce Wayne ponies up the cash to buy a car from 1909 to drive around, while also buying one from 1905 that they modify to become an old-timey Batmobile, just in case they need it. So with the two cars, they head out to the suburbs, since apparently it’s a slow weekend for crime.

But just as soon as they get to the suburbs, and hide the Batmobile in a “potato bin,” they hear someone stealing Bruce Wayne’s car. The two race out only to see some of those Gotham gangster escaping with the car. So Batman and Robin suit up, hop in their Batmobile, and race off after the thieves. Unfortunately since there’s a classic car convention going on, they run into a car that looks exactly like Bruce’s, and end up basically carjacking some poor guy who had no idea what was going on. Once they figure out what’s going on, they apologize to the guy, and I guess deputize him and force him to drive around with them all night trying to find Bruce’s car. They split up, and while Batman is driving around aimlessly, Robin and the guy they met, whose name is Tallant, run into the gangster stripping Bruce’s car for parts. Robin attacks them, but is foiled by the roof of the car, and the guys get away.

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Batman catches up with them, but the thieves are long gone. So they put Wayne’s car back together and Tallant heads off to get some sleep, since there’s a bunch of big contests and races the next day. Batman and Robin head back to the barn they rented too, and the next day show up at the convention as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. They wander around the pavilion, and get ready for the contests. After a parade the cars all line up at a big hill to race up it, seeing if any of the cars can even climb a hill. And while Bruce’s car does pretty terrible in the race, they see that Tallant’s near-identical one is doing great, and wins the race. But as he crosses the finish line Bruce notices that one of the cars being driven by the gangsters is barreling down at Tallant, heading for a collision. Bruce swerves in front of the out-of-control car, destroying his own, but saving Tallant, since it seems pretty clear that the gangsters are trying to do something to him.

So that night the two put on their costumes, and start investigating again. Batman figures that once night falls again the thugs are going to try and steal Tallant’s car again, so it’s up to them to stop them. But that night there’s a big fireworks display scheduled, and Batman almost immediately recognizes that someone has tampered with the display in a way that would send the fireworks straight for the “oil-storage yard” next to the pavilion, which would cause a giant fire, and a pretty good diversion. But, shockingly, Batman and Robin are able to save the day and fire the fireworks into the river, avoiding a fire. And with the diversion ruined, they head into the big garage where Tallant’s car is being held, only to find Tallant knocked unconscious, and the thugs running away. Batman fights on of them atop a giant display of a motor, but the guy refuses to talk, and just gets arrested. So Batman has no leads, but when he starts investigating Tallant’s car, he finds that the thugs had wrenches that could only have been used to remove Tallant’s gas tank, which explains everything perfectly for Batman, and not at all for us. And the only way to catch the criminals in whatever plot they have is pretty ridiculous. Batman and Robin offer to be the marshals of the big race the next day, even though Batman is a little quiet.

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The 40 mile race then begins, with Batman and Robin serving as the arbiters of the rules, while the cars start puttering off. But when the race begins we see that the gangsters aren’t that patient, and run Tallant and his car off the road seemingly right after the starting line. Robin ensures Tallant that everything will be alright, and that a tow-truck will be along shortly to help him. And sure enough, a tow-truck shows up, and starts dragging Tallant’s car out into the middle of the woods, instead of the town. Turns out the gangsters stole the tow-truck too, and are using it to get Tallant’s car out of prying eyes so they can do their thing. But luck isn’t on their side, because that wasn’t actually Tallant driving, it was Batman! I guess they made a Batman dummy to put in the Batmobile with Robin so Batman would get this deception to work. And once he’s revealed his identity, Batman decides to finally let us in on what the hell’s going on. Apparently forty years ago some thug stole a whole bunch of platinum, and was caught trying to escape town. When the cops searched the car, they couldn’t find the platinum, and it was never found. Turns out he melted it down and turned the platinum into the gas tank of his car. The guy never told anyone, except one of his cell-mates in jail, who happens to be on of the thugs that was in this story. Apparently after the platinum thief got arrested, the car was sold at auction, to Tallant. So this whole thing was to steal the gas tank off Tallant’s car, because it was made of precious metal. Jeez Batman, you went through a lot of effort to foil such a stupid robbery.

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What a goofy issue. It reminded me a lot of that issue “the Box.” It was a fun little mystery, and Batman and Robin do well solving it, but the solution ends up being super lame. It was all about a platinum gas tank! Batman spent days of his life, spent who knows how much money to buy not one, but two antique cars to make it work, and it was all over a platinum gas-tank. Was that really worth it Batman? I guess that’s not for us to know. But while the solution ended up being pretty stupid, the rest of the issue was pretty fun. We got to see Batman and Robin actually do some investigation, even though it was a type of mystery I don’t really like. I’m not a fan of mysteries that we couldn’t possibly solve on our own. Unless the platinum gas-tank is canon in Detective Comics, and something that’s come up before, it just comes completely out of nowhere, so we have to wait for Batman to give us the necessary backstory to even understand what the hell’s going on. But oh well, you run into stuff like that sometimes in these old comics, and it was nice to see Batman acting like a detective and not branding criminals.

“Gotham City’s Strangest Race” was written by Bill Finger (I think? It’s another one of those that don’t have any credits) and drawn by Sheldon Moldoff, 1955.

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