Batman The Animated Series: I've Got Batman in My Basement

"Be-fowled by a couple of fledglings!"

'I've Got Batman in My Basement' is notable for two things: being quite bad and for introducing us to the BTAS version of the Penguin.

After the Joker, the Penguin is probably the most famous member of Batman's rogue gallery. Which is likely why the show sidesteps giving him an origin story. Unlike Poison Ivy, Man-Bat or the Scarecrow, you don't really need to explain who the Penguin is. The majority of people watching are already going to know that, especially since there'd just been a movie released (Batman Returns) which told you everything you needed to know about where the character came from (the Tim Burton version, at least). And so the Penguin arrives on the scene fully formed and already established as one of Gotham's most notorious criminals.

There's a lot I like about this take on Oswald Cobblepot and a few things I don't. The design is great and Paul Williams' vocal performance is simply superb. I love how he's portrayed as this wannabe gentleman thief, a overly pretentious snob who sounds like he stays up at night skimming through a thesaurus for words so he can sound smarter than he actually is. But as much as I like how the Penguin looks and acts, I'm not at all fond of his bird fixation. The show goes all in on it, even saddling him with a giant vulture as a sidekick, and it just makes him feel too much like a silly gimmick villain.

Another problem with this Penguin is that almost all his episodes tend to be rather naff. Many of the Penguin's best episodes are ones where he is just hanging out and scheming with Gotham's other costumed criminals. He works far better as a team player than as solo act. I can only think of one Penguin-centric episode that is really good. The rest are, if you'll excuse the obvious bird pun, utterly fowl.

And there is none more fowl than 'I've Got Batman in My Basement'.

This feels like an episode that was forced on the producers by the network. I can easily picture the suits insisting on an episode where Batman gets help from some kids because this is a show for kids and kids will like that sort of thing. Well, I didn't. Okay, I'm assuming I didn't. I don't actually remember if I saw this one as a kid. But if I did I'm almost certain that I would've hated it. I watched this show to see Batman fight bad guys, not take a nap so a bunch of annoying "junior detectives" could run rings around one of his most famous foes.

After five minutes I was rooting for the weirdo with the bird.

Comic Book Connections

The Penguin was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and first appeared in Detective Comics #58 (December 1941).

I know that Voice

The Penguin was voiced by Paul Williams. Although he has a lot of acting credits to his name, Williams is best known for his songwriting, having written music for the likes of Bugsy Malone, The Muppet Movie (including 'Rainbow Connection'), and The Muppet Christmas Carol. Mrs. Grant was voiced by Lindsay Crouse, AKA Professor Maggie Walsh on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rob Paulsen (Jay) is a veteran voice actor who has too many credits to list, but he's best known are Yakko and Pinky on Animaniacs and its spin-off Pinky and the Brain.

Notes and Quotes 

--The newspaper headline refers to Sherman and Roberta as "Pint Sized Pinkertons." The Pinkerton Detective Agency was a private security firm in the United States foundered by Allan Pinkerton in 1850.

--The Penguin's look in this series was heavily influenced by Batman Returns. Bruce Timm even visited the set to sketch Danny DeVito in full costume. He originally wanted the character to look more like he did in the comics, but he was overruled by Warner Bros.

The Penguin: "Ohh, how bourgeois. Tearing this place apart could only improve it!"

The Penguin: "Gentlemen – and I use the term loosely – after you."

One out of four bird puns.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

2 comments:

Chris said...

You're right, the Penguin is one of the weaker main villains in the animated series (maybe even the weakest?). Even though he is a huge departure from his comic book counterpoint, I kind of prefer Danny DeVito's monstrous version.

This episode is pretty lame. There is something inherently cheesy about an unconscious Batman being protected by a bunch of brats, and it really takes away from Penguin's credibility as a villain - could you imagine Two-Face or the Joker being treated like this?

sunbunny said...

Cute. Too cute. Annoying. Speaking for myself, when I was a child, I didn't like seeing myself represented with children. I wanted the fantasy of being an adult watching cartoons like this. Throwing kids in (even Robin) only served to remind me that I was 8 and not a mature 19 year old (because when you're 8, 19 is like ANCIENT)