COMICS PORTAL: Why Beware the Batman May Be Done

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Recently, site head honcho Stephen Schleicher reported that Cartoon Network’s Beware the Batman was no longer on the air. He noted that some rumors have been circulating that the animated show might return in January.

Sound familiar to anyone?

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

It was almost exactly a year ago that the cable channel pulled the plug on both Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice. Both shows returned in January, but that was to run out the rest of the previously unaired episodes before fading into oblivion. I enjoyed both shows a lot. I remember the uproar that followed, forcing Cartoon Network to let fans know that the shows would be returning at the beginning of 2013.

I haven’t seen nearly the screaming this time around, though, although there has been some. Those of us who watched the show may not get to see the unaired episodes until they inevitably appear on DVD or iTunes.

Unlike Mr. Schleicher, I’ve actually seen Beware the Batman toys. The DC Comics Batman Unlimited collection of action figures actually has one of the main character (see the illustration below). Also, McDonalds during September had several Beware the Batman toys, including a replica of the Batmobile from the series. Being a long-time fan of that famous vehicle, I went after it at local restaurants. Most of them were willing to sell what I wanted to me outright and did not make me buy the Happy Meals.

Also, DC just released their very first Beware the Batman comic. Will they publish any more?

I’ve seen in several articles on the Internet that Beware the Batman hadn’t performed ratings-wise as well as recent other cartoons with the Dark Knight, including Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I haven’t seen any reports of exactly what those ratings have been, much like with GL: TAS and YJ’s situation last year.

WHY THE SHOW MIGHT NOT HAVE DONE AS WELL AS OTHERS

Anyone who has read my columns and listened to my podcasts knows I am a big Batman fan. Just a reminder – the very first thing I ever read was a Batman comic. So, as always, I watched this new show.

Batman, Beware the Batman, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, Disney XD, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Young JusticeI liked it well enough, but it had the feel of a video game to me, with Batman spending a lot of time running. The stories were much more straight-forward, unlike Batman: The Animated Series, for example. I can still watch those older episodes again and again. However, with the new show, one viewing was pretty much enough for me. I did enjoy that they had ongoing storylines, though.

What I didn’t care for included Katana. She had what I called “Black Knight” syndrome. Over in Marvel Comics, the Black Knight couldn’t actually use his sword to cut anyone without dire consequences. For Katana, she was always having to bonk people with her sword or cut other things besides people. This is largely a children-centric network, after all, and chopping people with a sword, even a green one, I’m sure was nixed by the channel. So she was always having to restrain using the weapon she was supposed to use. That got old quickly to me.

Also, what was touted as a strength may have been a weakness. In comments to Mr. Schleicher’s report, fans of the show called it a “fresh take” on the character. But I grew concerned that using villains and other characters that were largely unknown to the public may have hurt the show.

I was glad to see Anarky, Magpie, Professor Pyg and Mr. Toad, as well as Metamorpho getting some exposure, but they were largely familiar to those of us who have read the comics and not to the rest of the viewing audience. During the last episode, R’as Al Ghul made an appearance and would likely have been seen a lot more as the story developed, but that was quite a long time to get to someone seen in the Batman Begins film and in the comics recently.

I also had to disagree with one of the tenets of Batman’s character the series relied on. Batman was training Katana to rely on “instinct” instead of observation and analysis, which is what I always felt the Dark Knight used. Instinct can be wrong; following the facts most of the time will not be, as any detective with tell you. Batman never had a “bat-sense” that he could rely on.

This was also promoted as the first totally “CGI” Batman cartoon ever. As much I enjoy good CGI, I still don’t think that process captures human expression and movement as well as it could. Pixar is doing much better these days with those, but I didn’t feel Beware the Batman actually was up to that level. Don’t get me wrong – it did well, but there were a lot of times I found myself out of the story and thinking to myself, “Well, the CGI wasn’t so hot in that sequence.” If I get yanked out of the show to notice the CGI, that’s a detriment to the episode. Kids might not have the attention span to adjust to this in order to get back into the story.

It seems that the Cartoon Network is not as interested in older audiences as they once were. Teen Titans Go is aimed at a much younger demographic, and it’s doing very well for them. I notice that the Green Lantern show, Young Justice and Beware the Batman were made for more adults than kids, and they have met the same fate. It may even have been that this latest Bat-show did well among adults, but since it didn’t attract as many kids, the channel didn’t want to continue with it.

MOVING FORWARD, NOW WHAT?

If Cartoon Network is so willing to quickly cancel shows featuring characters from its parent company, I would abolish DC Nation and stick to individual shows aimed at kids for that channel. I also noticed that several CN properties are no longer with DC Comics. Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls are back, but coming from IDW instead.

Batman, Beware the Batman, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, Disney XD, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Young JusticeI previously suggested that The Hub network might be a place for superhero cartoons, but even they have largely shifted to a much younger audience, with Pound Puppies and the like ruling.

What concerns me is that I hear Ultimate Spider-Man is one of the highest-rated (if not the top) show on Disney XD. (It is aimed at a younger audience, by the way.) I wish the same were true of DC’s shows on Cartoon Network.

Might it be time for a Superhero Channel? It could run animated shows at appropriate times, then air reruns of past programs like Batman, The Flash, Spider-Man, Superman and others at night until they get enough capital together to make new content. And they could also air superheroic movies like Daredevil, the Nolan Batman trilogy and others. Heck, I’d even pay to get that one!

Or Warner Bros. could make their own channel airing their products. Disney has their own channel just like that!

If I were DC, I’d be a lot more gun shy about getting more “adult” (in a good way) content on Cartoon Network. With the abundance of cable channels now available, I’d shop around for another place to sell my wares to. If I were more familiar with the multitude of those networks, I’d suggest them. But Warner Bros. should be able to find someone hungry for programming they can provide.

Until then, I’ll patiently await January or, if necessary, the release of the unaired episodes of Beware the Batman on iTunes or DVD. I’d still like the chance to see them.

For now, though, the future isn’t promising for DC characters in anything other than direct-to-DVD video. And I’m sorry to see that happen.