Justice League: “The Brave And The Bold”
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Justice League: “The Brave And The Bold”

“The Brave And The Bold” (season 1, episodes 14-15; originally aired 3/10/ 2002 and 3/17/2002)

“The Brave And The Bold” is one of Justice League’s goofiest episodes, a Lethal Weapon-meets-Planet Of The Apes buddy comedy that follows Flash and Green Lantern as they stop a mind-controlling gorilla from destroying a secret city of hyper-intelligent apes. Writers Paul Dini and Dwayne McDuffie make their Justice League debuts this week, as Dini teams with Rich Fogel on the story while McDuffie covers the teleplay, and their contributions can be seen in the episode’s humor, starting with the very first scene.

When an archaeologist discovers a fossil bridging the gap between ape and man, her companion says, “This could be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind.” Then a bunch of apes on hoverbikes fly out from behind a force field surrounding a futuristic city, yell “Humans!” and disappear again. The female archaeologist gets up from the pit and asks, “What was that?” and the scene cuts to the credits. The writers understand how silly the concept of Gorilla City is, and by embracing that absurdity, they turn in one of the series’ first memorable stories.  

The action shifts to Flash in a Central City diner trying to pick up girls by bragging about being the fastest man alive when a truck crashes into the diner window.  Flash chases down a truck full of radioactive isotopes from a nearby lab, but for a man that can run around the globe in a few minutes, he sure does have a lot of trouble catching up to a moving vehicle. With powers that are easier to show in the static images of a comic book page than in moving animation, the writers have difficulty finding legitimate threats for Flash. Like Superman, he ends up de-powered to make stories easier to write, and while the writers eventually figure out how to tap into Flash’s full potential later in the series, these early episodes have him moving at a slower pace than normal.

Flash’s electric guitar score gives him a distinctly different sound than his fellow superheroes. The music has a stronger force behind it, and the electric guitar allows for a rapid tempo that keeps the energy up. It’s also electric, and Flash has those lightning bolts all over his costume, so it’s a perfect fit. There’s a great musical cue when Green Lantern first appears, as Flash’s rock theme switches into the John Williams-inspired Green Lantern music, and the difference in the scores shows the contrasting characteristics of the two superheroes.

Flash is cocky and impulsive while Green Lantern is humble and cautious, so naturally they make an entertaining, although ineffective team. Flash doesn’t think before he acts, so he constantly runs into trouble without all the details. If Flash waits another minute for Solivar (David Ogden Stiers) to give him a psychic-blocking headband, Gorilla Grodd (Powers Boothe) wouldn’t be able to use him to bring his evil plan to fruition. Flash never waits, and he ends up getting Central City stuck behind an impenetrable force field because of it.

When Flash gets shot by Dr. Corwin’s (Virginia Madsen) energy gun, he falls into a trippy hallucination where he transforms into a number of iconic Flash covers: fat Flash,  puppet Flash, and big-head Flash. The hallucination feels like a Dini idea, cleverly using classic comic book imagery to symbolize the action off-screen. The hallucination is a device that allows a lot of information to be conveyed quickly without needing a coherent story, and we get a glimpse into Flash’s origin as well as his flaws and fears during the sequence. Fat Flash represents Wally’s fear of being immobilized while big-head Flash is Wally’s arrogance, growing at such an accelerated rate that his brain explodes.   

Powers Boothe is great casting for Grodd, and the deep timbre of his voice makes it sounds like there’s a constant roar under the surface of Grodd’s dialogue, balancing the eloquent with the primal. It also gives us the opportunity to hear Deadwood’s Cy Tolivar say, “I hate bananas,” which makes me laugh every single time. DCAU veteran Virginia Madsen turns in a strong performance as Dr. Corwin, the scientist that falls for Gorilla Grodd when they started exchanging e-mails. Their bizarre relationship sets up a great punchline from Flash, who comments, “Internet romances, huh? Go figure.” Michael Rosenbaum is adept at playing the clown, and McDuffie’s teleplay gives Flash a steady stream of jokes to highlight Rosenbaum’s comedic skills. I wish that Green Lantern got a few one-liners because Phil Lamarr has the talent, but Green Lantern is the straight man so he just has to be stoic and follow energy trails and stuff.

When Grodd makes Central City disappear, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, and J’onn begin an investigation that takes them to Gorilla City, where they are captured and held as spies. Batman is the first to break out of his shackles, and the first person he frees is Wonder Woman. When Wonder Woman stops the last of Grodd’s missiles but is crushed in the process, Batman frantically tries to clear the rubble until J’onn and Hawkgirl make him stop. Yes, it’s the start of Batman and Wonder Woman’s romance, one of my favorite developments in the DCAU.

Bruce Wayne’s girlfriends have a tendency to be evil, but Diana is so fully compassionate and pure of heart that Bruce is drawn to her. She probably reminds him a bit of his mother, except bullets can’t hurt her. Martha Wayne’s fragile pearl necklace is replaced by Diana’s bullet-deflecting bracelets, and when Batman thinks that he’s lost her, he starts to relive the memory that has driven his entire life. The moment when Wonder Woman notices Batman’s dirty, worn gloves is one of those rare times the Dark Knight is adorable, as he tries to literally hide his affection before Diana can see it on his hands.

Stray observations:

  • Best known for appearing on M*A*S*H and voicing Cogsworth in Disney’s Beauty And The Beast, David Ogden Stiers also played the Martian Manhunter in a failed, live-action Justice League Of America TV pilot. So horrible.
  • I love that the writers have kept Wally’s hyper-accelerated metabolism and always use it as comic relief.
  • Flash takes his coffee with cream and 37 sugars.
  • It’s depressing to watch Green Lantern try to catch mind-controlled Flash with his ring bubbles. Just make a net or wall or something!
  • “And you didn’t want to give him our phone number.”
  • “Stop him! My insurance doesn’t cover a second driver.”
  • “Get your stinking paws off me, you filthy human!”
  • “Hey, we’ve both got a Martian’s number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.”
  • “Humans are slow, ugly, immoral, and have an unpleasant body odor.”
  • “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re… naked!”
  • “Flash, don’t heckle the supervillain!”

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