I don’t know about you, but I do love a good anthology. The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror and Futurama’s Anthology of Interest episodes are the standouts from an animation perspective. But this opening episode of the second nineties Batman animated series breaks from it’s own mould and is a trio of tales set around festive period. This episode surprisingly aired on September 13th 1997. Not complaining, but you know, weird.
The New Batman Adventures S01 E01: Holiday Knights
The three tales of tinsel-time are divided by the dates they are set: December 22nd, Christmas Eve and, of course, New Year’s Eve. On the third day before Christmas Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, cooped up hiding in crappy digs, fancy some fun and fortune over Christmas. Their master plan is revealed as, while disguised among a group of well-to-do ladies on the arm of billionaire Bruce Wayne, a single chemical-laden kiss from Ivy means he is under her physical control. The subservient body of Bruce quickly becomes Harley and Ivy’s Christmas shopping spree wallet.
“May we give you a ride, Mr Wayne?” – Poison Ivy
“No thanks, I have my own car” – Bruce Wayne
“Oh, but we insist.” – Harley Quinn
Of course the villains get carried away with the use of a blank cheque Bruce Wayne. And as helpless as he is originally, and aware of his actions and state of mind, the chemical effects naturally dissolve which give Bruce the moment he needs to engineer an escape. The climax with the caped crusader also has a very different use for a Christmas Tree.
Tale number two is on Christmas Eve, with Barbara Gordon doing some late Christmas shopping. When she notices a small kid shoplifting, and attempts to stop him, the kid’s hand dissolves in hers. Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya are posing as Santa and his elf at the mall, aware of several robberies, supposedly by children. When confronted however they merge to form Clayface.
A simple yet fun tale, which features legend Tara Strong in her first credit for voicing Batgirl, replacing Melissa Gilbert from Batman: TAS. Harvey Bullock as a shopping mall Santa Claus is a definite highlight.
And finally there’s New Years Eve. Batman, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon discover that The Joker is planning to wreak havoc at Gotham’s countdown celebration. Enter the new Dynamic Duo: Batman and the new Robin, Tim Drake. Their search for The Joker leads them to room full of Jokers – all celebration participants are wearing Joker masks. This quick caper is brought to an end as Batman, although wounded, drops a giant bell on the Clown Prince of Crime just as the new year rings in. Great stuff. The episode ends with a denouement, following the Joker-centric event, as we learn that Commissioner Gordon meets with Batman every new year’s night. Also, amusingly, Batman manages to sneak away while paying for the coffee each and every time.
“Hi-ho couch potatoes. I’m interrupting the Toilet Bowl to bring you my very special New Year’s resolution: ahem, starting tonight at midnight, I, your loving uncle Joker, do solemnly vow not to kill anyone for a whole year. Which means I’m going to have to work extra fast to bump off a few more of you today.”. – The Joker
As a season opener, Holiday Knights works as a form of light entertainment, easing viewers back into the swing of things. The fact that it wasn’t aired closer to Christmas instead is a little strange in terms of placement, but it also serves well as a taster of the design changes of the new Batman season. Although a continuation of Batman: TAS, The New Batman Adventures is visually quite different. It looks more like a kids show, coinciding with its move in the US from the Fox network to WBKids at the time. But creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini have spoken previously about having more freedom following the move, and it is clear that the show’s integrity was preserved as a result. I still have issues with The Joker’s look, though. Nevertheless, a nice little collection of Christmas tales from the one of the best superhero shows ever produced.