“Girls’ Night Out” (season 3, episode 20; originally aired October 17, 1998)
In an interview with Mark Waid last year, the writer talked about the differences between the Marvel and DC universes and why the latter will never be quite as cohesive as the former. The Marvel universe evolved out of the singular vision of a small handful of creators including Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Larry Lieber, organically growing as new creators jumped into the established sandbox. The DC universe was formed by bringing together characters from different companies and creative teams, like the Marvel Family of Fawcett Comics and the heroes of Charlton Comics, which included Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and the Question. DC has tried to strengthen the bonds between these heroes by rewriting their continuity on multiple occasions, with their most recent attempt being Flashpoint and the New 52, while Marvel has been able to maintain the same history by simply readjusting the timeline as the years pass.
The DCAU’s development is more similar to Marvel’s in the way it starts with a strongly defined central setting and gradually expands to reveal more of the world, starting with Batman and Gotham City, then moving on to Superman and Metropolis. Batman: The Animated Series established a visual style and started the universe on a grounded, human level that is reminiscent of the more vulnerable heroes over at Marvel. Superman: The Animated Series allowed Bruce Timm and co. to explore the more fantastic, considerably brighter side of the DC universe, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.
Superman lives in a much different environment than Batman, but it’s very much the same world, and the transition to The New Batman Adventures emphasized this by adjusting the visual style and incorporating some of the lighter elements of Superman. Going in a more kid-friendly direction has resulted in some disappointing episodes like “Torch Song” and “Animal Act,” but for the most part, the writers have still been able to tell the dark, personal stories that made the first two seasons of Batman: The Animated Series so memorable. That said, sometimes you just want to have some fun and a few laughs, and that’s when episodes like “Girls’ Night Out” really scratch an itch.
Batman has appeared on every show in the DCAU, but “Girls’ Night Out” marks the first and only time characters from another series appear in BTAS/TNBA when Livewire and Supergirl arrive in Gotham City. Livewire escapes while being taken to GothCorp to undergo a procedure to remove her electrical power, causing trouble when she teams up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Batman is out of town and leaves Batgirl in charge, calling in reinforcements in the form of Supergirl, who intercepts a message to her cousin from Batman.
The most interesting aspect of this episode is seeing the ways Batman and Superman’s world’s intersect. The score makes use of the different styles of music used on Batman and Superman, and when Metropolis characters are the focus, the music has more of rock energy while the score for the Gothamites makes use of a full orchestra for sound that is moodier and less aggressive. Livewire and Supergirl also operate much differently than the Gotham characters in this episode. The Super-family’s extra abilities make them targets for stronger, more forceful threats, while the Batman rogues’ gallery operates with more finesse and less property damage. (Except for Harley, who thinks every problem can be solved by hitting it with a hammer.)
I had two older sisters growing up, and while they wouldn’t ever join me for my Saturday morning Power Rangers viewing, they had no problem watching the Batman series. The show continues to have a devout female following, and “Girls’ Night Out” shows why. To start, it passes the Bechdel test, with multiple named women discussing topics other than men, whether it’s Harley and Ivy plotting their next crime or Barbara and Kara trying to establish themselves as serious heroes. The villains are femme fatales that know how to use their sexuality to get what they want, while the heroines use their brains to stop their opponents as much as their fists.
In order to defeat their opponents, the two heroes switch foes, pitting Batgirl against Livewire and Supergirl versus Gotham’s Thelma and Louise. Both Barbara and Kara wish they had the opportunity to live the other’s lifestyle, and they briefly step into each other’s shoes by fighting their respective rogues. Livewire has a much higher power level than Batgirl, but Batgirl has the brains, coming to the fight armed with a silicate powder that negates Livewire’s electricity. Supergirl doesn’t have to worry about intellect when facing down her enemies, and it’s Poison Ivy’s careless drainage of a water tower that gives Batgirl the opportunity to take Livewire out of commission.
Sure, there’s some stereotypical female behavior in this episode, with the three rogues hitting the mall to go shopping and the heroes relaxing with two pints of ice cream, but as someone that has lived with women for his entire life, I can confirm that ice cream and shopping are definitely popular. What’s important is that “Girls’ Night Out” offers a superhero story that the young females in the audience can relate to, whether it’s through Harley’s jealousy over Livewire moving in on her best friend or Batgirl and Supergirl fighting for the respect their male counterparts get naturally. It also shows how expanding the DCAU opens up the doors for new storytelling possibilities, bringing new characters into different surroundings without interrupting the flow of the main series.
BatmanSupergirl Beatdown: Harley sneaks up on Kara to shoot her in the back of the head with a boxing glove, which bounces right backs and hits Harley in the face. Gotta love an effortless beatdown.
- Once again, garbage cans prove to be exceptional weaponry when Batgirl uses a trash lid as a shield
- “Well ladies, meet your edge.” Was Livewire eavesdropping from inside the toaster?
- Harley’s hammer gag is absolutely hilarious. “She tries so hard.” “At least she’s consistent.”
- Livewire: “Are you out of your mind?” Harley: “Yeah…”
- “That’s right, I need chainsaws, dump trucks, hedge clippers, and a bottle of aspirin down here, now!” For a great Penguin story, check out John Layman’s current Detective Comics run, which just celebrated 900 issues with an oversized #19.
- “Wanna see my ID?”