Did you know that most red wines have a trace amount of lead in them? Not enough to kill you by the glass, but just enough to give you a headache. It’s due to wine companies using cheap lead foil over the bottle neck/cork during the bottling process, seeping into most of red wines bottled before 1980’s. Even before that, lead was used as a sweetener and to help speed up the fermenting process. To this day there are still trace amounts of lead due to grapes picking it up from everyday soil. I know this because I once went on a tour of a winery. Batman knows this because he’s Batman.
Let’s face it, back in the early 1990’s most cartoons were mediocre. The big cartoon boom was in the 80’s, mostly because those cartoons weren’t actually cartoons but 30-minute commercials for toys. Everyday, kids would watch and ask and ask and ASK for that new toy 24/7, literally driving parents insane. It was so bad that the FCC had to get involved, telling these companies (cartoon and toy manufactures) that you couldn’t show a commercial for the same product during that product’s cartoon time slot. Some companies got smart, like Mattel.
Mattel created She-Ra: Princess of Power for two main purposes: 1) to sell toys to an untapped girl demographic and 2) since She-Ra and Masters of the Universe shared the same hour but were two completely different shows, they were able to swap toy commercial airtime. For example, She-Ra toy commercials could be shown during Masters of the Universe and He-Man commercials during the Princess of Power’s time slot. Yeah, it was smart but because most cartoons couldn’t draw that much airtime, most shows (and toy lines) got canceled and we were stuck with positive animated role models such as Hammerman, Captain Planet, and Dink the Little Dinosaur. Then, in 1992. we were saved.
Batman: The Animated Series strayed away from the goofy slapstick of yesteryear. What made this series unique was very simple; it told stories. A lot of the episodes were crime dramas but the really good ones involved origin stories of Batman’s most famous villains. Clayface’s origin is one of the Rube’s favorites. It’s so involved that it took 2 episodes (Feat of Clay) to tell, the sad story of a brilliant character actor that loses it all and comes back as a monster (metaphorically and physically) to seek revenge on all that have crossed him. Every episode was like watching art, with well written dialog and full orchestrated soundtracks that surpassed most current television dramas. Kids loved the show because it was Batman beating up the bad guys, but adults were just sucked in because of… well, just great story-telling.
Batman/Superman: Worlds Finest is another great story that came about after Superman: The Animated Series, an equally as good but more light-hearted show then it’s predecessor. The story opens with the Joker and Harley Quinn robbing a Gotham antiques dealer, stealing 30 year old jade statue called The Laughing Dragon. Turns out, the Chinese sculpture isn’t jade but actually 20 lbs of solid kryptonite, a radioactive substance that is lethal to the Man of Steel. Seeing an opportunity, the clowns of crime head over to Metropolis and meet/kidnap Lex Luthor to offer him a business proposition, essentially they’ll kill Superman in exchange for one billion dollars. Batman, being the kickass detective he is, learns of the Joker’s whereabouts in addition to Lex’s deal and takes off to Metropolis to put a stop his nemesis’ dubious plan.
This is one of my favorite scenes, where Batman meets Superman for the first time. One day, while watching this with one of my buddies (Louis, which is a big Superman fan), we thought it was so cool that 1) Batman doesn’t give a fuck and will take down anyone that gets in his way, including the Man of Steel and 2) Superman was so unprepared to be thrown around the room by a fellow hero. After watching that scene I told him why Batman threw the shard of kryptonite in the glass of red wine, due to the lead content, and as his jaw dropped. Louis then told me that was one of the coolest things that he had ever seen!
As with most of the regular Batman or Superman episodes, the animation far exceeds what you would see on any Saturday morning cartoon show. The voiceover work by Mark Hamill (The Joker) and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) really stands out for this episode and it’s still really neat to see guns blazing, killer robots, and a funny catfight between Harley Quinn and Lex’s chauffeur/bodyguard, Mercy. Originally marketed as a direct-to-video VHS, you can still find this feature as a stand alone DVD (renamed The Batman Superman Movie), included in the 2nd Season DVD boxed set of Superman: The Animated Series or on Xbox 360 (via Zune).