Home > C-plus, Static Shock > Static Shock 024: “The Big Leagues”

Static Shock 024: “The Big Leagues”

[tweetmeme source="jlurevisited"]

Written by Len Uhley
Directed by Dave Chlystek
Originally Aired: January 26, 2002
DVD: Again, go complain to WB.

Summary: Feeling the heat from Batman, Joker bolts for a city with a burgeoning population of super-powered potential-henchmen: Dakota. Static’s on the case, but when the Dynamic Duo show up, the new hero has to prove himself.

Arc Notes: First meeting of Static and Batman.

Background:

According to episode director Dave Chlystek, the suggestion for Static to feature a guest shot by Batman to lead off its second season came from the WB network. They obviously were following the classic practice of a more established character giving ‘the rub’ to a newer character – it’s long been a running joke at Marvel, for example, that their most popular character, Spider-Man guest-stars in the fourth issue of every new title to boost sales. In this case, after a relatively successful first season on the WB, the show had gained a reasonable amount of exposure and WB wanted to solidify its foothold.

The challenge therefore became trying to make Batman work in Static’s world. These episodes, representing the first sighting of the second version of Batman since the Return of the Joker flashback, were a balancing act from the opening minute:

Obviously, Static has a very different look and ‘feel’ from the various Batman series. On Static Shock, we did a lighter, somewhat ‘younger’ show. Also, the Batman episodes were produced, way back when, under rather different circumstances, including a bigger budget…. The fact is, the entire crew put in a lot of extra effort.

Len Uhley, interview with toonzone.net, January 25, 2002

Although the Static Shock team had spun off from the main Timm / Murakami group that at the time was moving on to Justice League, the understanding that this episode had to treat Batman with appropriate reverence came easily, and that Static should also react the same way.

I was formerly a storyboard artist on Batman Beyond and have been a huge fan of BTAS. So we felt that we had an obligation to maintain as faithfully as we could the “feel” of Batman. I as a fan, tried to do a show that I want to see. My main focus with the episode was to treat Static like the audience and how we would react to coming face to face with the Dark Knight.

Dave Chlystek, interview with toonzone.net, January 25, 2002

Amusingly, Batman may not have been the biggest guest-star of Static’s second season, as NBA icon and huge comic book fan Shaquille O’Neal would guest star in another second-season episode.

Thoughts on the Episode:

It’s perhaps a bit too easy to go into this episode with higher expectations because, well, it features guest appearances from not only Batman and Robin, but the signature villain in the DCAU, The Joker. But this is a solid enough outing if you can get past the lighter subject matter and underuse of Mr. J.

However, this episode isn’t so much about telling a good story as it is elevating Static into a fully-fledged DCAU member.  Although it was likely hard to avoid the “BATMAN WILL BE ON STATIC SHOCK THIS WEEK!” marketing that surely accompanied this episode, the plot is set up well in that while you expect Batman to be on Joker’s trail at all times, there’s no hints that Batman’s going to show up until he makes his appearance at the end of the first act. The story is a fairly standard arc of Static having an inferiority complex before proving himself, but it’s an interesting process to go through. The moment at the end, with his casual neutralizing of the joy buzzer, is probably the peak, but there’s plenty of little touches throughout to remind the viewer that Static is a bit more – pardon the pun – grounded than the more obsessive guest stars.

Batman’s reactions to Static’s presence are what you’d expect out of his comic couterpart, actually; in his animated incarnation, he’s never really worked with heroes he didn’t approve of (aside from, say, Booster Gold in JLU), so while his cold reactions to Static’s presence here are fairly unique to the medium, they’re unsurprising. Although the show could have hit his disapproval of Static not being as committed to crimefighting as he is a bit harder, it’s hard to get all that into 22 minutes.

One of the more interesting aspects is the fact that Tim Drake’s portrayed as slightly older than we’ve seen him before – he looks to be about Static’s age, and not the middle-schooler he was in his other appearances – complete with a haircut that makes him look really close to his comic counterpart and an older-sounding voice  (this was Eli Marienthal’s debut as Tim; he’d go on to play him in the Mystery of the Batwoman DTV). Of course, this is a bit odd since Tim looked a lot younger during his ‘last case’ in the flashback scene in Return of the Joker, but that’s a minor nitpick in comparison to the fun of seeing the more self-assured, detective-oriented Tim in this one. It’s a bit surprising that the producers never took the opportunity to pair off the two teenagers without the presence of Batman.

The biggest issue in this episode is that it wastes The Joker. Aside from the amusing shot of Joker dressed up like a fireman, and in spite of the usual great vocal work by Mark Hamill, everything on the villainous side of things is disappointingly generic. This isn’t ever going to be confused with classics like  “Mad Love” or “Joker’s Favor”; Joker is neither menacing – which would admittedly not really fit the tone of the show – or funny – which would – and it really does seem as though he was just slotted into a role that could have plausibly been filled by any of the lesser rogues. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that the joy buzzer gag was the first thing anyone thought of and the rest of the episode was written on autopilot.

While the episode lacks a genuine standout scene (that would keep until the next time around), as a first encounter and a reason for growth on Static’s part, it holds together well enough. Merely having Batman and Static on screen at the same time wouldn’t be enough from this point forward, but luckily they’d have more in store the next time out when Static got to hang out in Gotham.

Grade: C+. While I don’t think it’s fair to grade Static Shock on the same scale as the other DCAU shows, this could have been much better.

Random Thoughts:

  • I know it’s more due to the lower budget and overall younger-skewing nature of Static Shock, but the first version of the Batman: TAS theme sounds like it was ripped straight out of the SNES Adventures of Batman and Robin game that was covered a couple months ago. The up-tempo mix at the end of the episode is pretty catchy, however.
  • Have I mentioned how oddly long the Static Shock credits sequence is? I could understand doing it in later seasons when Lil’ Romeo was providing the music, but it was always a full minute.
  • They used the more classic BTAS Batwing in this one, which apparently is the size of a 747 if the scene of Batman and Robin jumping through the iris door is any indication.

Line of the Episode: “Computer… engage… autopilot… find… Batman and… Robin.” Weird mix of Kirk and Picard with the delivery of that line, but still funny.

Next Justice League: The debut, and sadly the only appearance, of one of the definitive Justice League of America bad guys, Despero, in “Hearts and Minds.”

Next Time: Another Static Shock / Batman episode with “Hard as Nailz.”

Advertisements
Categories: C-plus, Static Shock
  1. January 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Sadly the “brand protection*” excuse that got the Bat family banned from JL/JLU probably kept Tim off Static, i.e. “Can Robin be on the Titans and Static simultaneously?” IIRC at some point the Robin the Robin on TT was going to be Tim and the show was going to be DCAU proper but both fell by the wayside meaning even if the team wanted to use Tim they probably couldn’t.

    *A fantastic mix of rights issues, inter-company politics, and deeming kids too stupid to keep track of two Robins in two different universes.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s