Home > A-minus, Static Shock > Static Shock 027: “Hard as Nails”

Static Shock 027: “Hard as Nails”

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Written by: Paul Dini
Directed by: No credit listed for this one, oddly.
Originally Aired January 25, 2003
DVD: Haven’t you gotten the hint yet?

Summary: Static pursues a wayward classmate to Gotham City after he finds out she’s been duped into believing a company can cure her of Bang Baby Syndrome. When it turns out the company is a front for Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, Batman shows up to help.

Arc Notes: Static’s presumed first visit to Gotham, where he later re-locates. Static and Batman learn each other’s secret identities.

Debuting Characters: Allie / Nails (… I think….)

Background:

The really interesting thing about Static Shock is that, while the original Milestone comics  weren’t directly tied into the DC Universe, Static Shock was, without question, part of the DC Animated Universe, a curious situation to say the least. Although the situation has since been resolved on the comic side of things (as previously noted, and weirdly hinted at in this episode, Static is a current member of the Teen Titans), Static’s universe was integrated into the DCAU proper almost from moment one. Creator Dwayne McDuffie explains:

For business reasons involving ownership and editorial control, none of the Milestone Universe characters were part of the DC Universe. DC just didn’t do deals like that back then. By the time they were (only a few years later), we were already established, with continuity of our own that contradicted established DC lore.

The Static Shock series didn’t have any of these problems so when somebody (I don’t know if it was my personal writing deity Alan Burnett, or somebody at the network) suggested a cross-over, everyone agreed that it was a lot cleaner to assume they were in the same universe, rather than having to muck around with multiple dimensions, or whatever.

Dwayne McDuffie, interview with toonzone.net, no date given.

The biggest change between the second and third seasons of Static Shock was Static acquiring a new costume. While the change was never explained (due to networks not liking serialised elements in kids’ shows), it was a deliberate effort on the producers’ part to visually represent a new maturity in Static’s character.

I think the new attitude probably led to the costume change, not the other way around… Virgil Hawkins is a year older and that’s allowed us to explore some of the darker places in his world… (t)he costume is a natural outgrowth of all that, as is the new, more naturalistic look of the show.

Dwayne McDuffie, interview with toonzone.net, January 24, 2003

Another major change to the status quo is hinted at in the credits for this episode, but as we’re not actually going to see that until the next Static Shock episode, I’ll skip that for now.

Addendum: A weird continuity point in this episode is a line delivered by Batman, specifically that Robin is away from the Batcave at the moment due to working with the Titans, who he assured Static he’d meet at a later date. This is likely a bit of a flub on Dini’s part, as while Teen Titans shared much of the regular DCAU production crew, it’s not in the same universe. If you really feel compelled to justify the line, just assume that Robin was in fact with the Titans, but the DCAU version and not the version in their own universe. The second half of the line was likely to indicate an intended crossover with the Titans that never materialised.

(And before anyone asks about that particular exercise in mental-hoop-jumping-cum-rationalisation, yes, Speedy has the same costume in both versions.)

Thoughts on the Episode:

That’s more like it.

The first Static Shock / Batman crossover was oddly isolated from the universes of both characters; aside from token appearances by Static’s rogues and Ritchie, it felt as though the story could have taken place pretty much anywhere. This second attempt at the team-up shifts the setting to Gotham, and the change makes all the difference. Well, along with throwing in two of the series’ favourite villains being written by the man who defined (and continues to define in the ongoing-at-the-time-of-this-writing Gotham City Sirens comic) their relationship, Paul Dini.

Once again, however, due to this being a Static episode, Batman’s appearance is held off until the second ad break. But rather than the rote “Joker gathers all the guest hero’s villains against him” plot of the first time around, this episode has a typically humanist Dini approach, via Static pursuing a girl who wants to cure her Bang Baby mutation. By setting Allie – I’m not sure if she was a recurring character or not – up as someone with a healthy dose of ambiguity in her personality, the story develops a character arc beyond Static and Batman’s relationship. Although it’s not explicitly stated, the idea of someone luring kids in over the internet is a lot creepier than kids might pick up on, but

The first time we saw Static team up with Batman, he was somewhat fumbling on the detective side of things, but this episode shows that he’s come a long way on that side of things, tracing Allie’s path to Gotham and confronting her there. He’s also more confident in dealing with Batman, which along with the new costume and slight change in Phil LeMarr’s performance is a welcome sign of his maturity in his role as a super hero.

Harley and Ivy are perfect for the lighter feel of this show, as between Harley’s bad puns and their relatively unthreatening nature they don’t have the feel of being watered down in the transition. However, Dini writes them in a manner that most wouldn’t, drawing on the fact that these are, or at least, were, two very smart women, and shouldn’t have any trouble manipulating a mere high school girl into doing what they want in exchange for a “cure.” It’s an interesting take on the partnership that hadn’t really been raised to this point, and when you can put a new spin on a relationship that was established roughly a decade earlier, it’s a major plus in my book. Their scheme isn’t anything special – it’s actually a close match for the ending of a Batman episode – and the three-girl-group idea had been used before in “Girl’s Night Out”, but for the little screen time they get, they all come off well, aside from the fact that needing Nailz to pull off the fight doesn’t seem logical given what we know Ivy can do.

Continuing with the evolving-relationship theme of this episode, Batman treats Static a lot more as an equal in this episode, first bringing him back to the Batcave for an amusing bit of verbal sparring with Alfred (“Who are you?” “Batman.”), then giving him a bit of helpful advice on secret identity concealment. Static even manages to seemingly convince Batman that he’s handling the situation badly, which is… a first, probably. The takedown at the end of the episode is another good bit, with Harley not realising just how thoroughly Static outguns her until it’s too late, and Static aping Batman’s own discreet exit from a room gimmick. It’s topped with a nice coda, with an always-welcome Bruce Wayne appearance as he gives Virgil enough clues to figure out the big secret.

While this doesn’t feel like Batman guest-starring on Static’s show as much as the reverse, this would have been a good episode of Batman. No need to grade on a curve this time; it’s just a fun half hour.

Grade: A-. Starts off a bit slow, but gets really fun in the second half.

Random Thoughts:

  • Nice easter egg for longtime fans with the use of the rarely-seen cliffside entrance to the Batcave.
  • Nice touch with Ivy being unusually effective against Static due to the relatively nonconductive nature of her powers.
  • I was half expecting Batman to say that he figured out Static’s identity from the fact that he called home from Robin’s cell phone last time they met, but that might be a bit too manipulative.

Line of the Episode: “… what the heck did Robin do to his hair?” I love how Bullock’s so thick that THIS is what struck him as odd about Batman’s teen partner.

Next Justice League: The old girlfriend meeting the new one… never a good time, as John Stewart finds out in “Hearts and Minds.”

Next Time: Static gets to move into the Justice League era, as John Stewart guest stars in “Fallen Hero.”

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Categories: A-minus, Static Shock
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