Tue
Feb 26 2013 2:00pm

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: “Tyger Tyger” & “Moon of the Wolf”

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Tyger Tyger
Story by Michael Reaves and Randy Rogel
Teleplay by Cherie Wilkerson
Directed by Frank Paur
Episode #041
Music Composed by Todd Hayen
Animation Services by Dong Yang Animation Co., LTD.
Original Airdate—October 30th, 1992

Plot: Dr. Emil Dorian kidnaps Catwoman and turns her into a woman-cat. To rescue her, Batman must fight Dorian’s greatest creation, the monstrous Tygrus.

This is not the worst episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

Okay, that’s damning with faint praise, but it’s really not that bad, or even in the bottom ten. It’s not the worst Catwoman episode (see “Cat Scratch Fever”) or even the worst episode where Batman fights a hulking grey-furred man-beast (see below).

The biggest problem with the episode is the thudding literalism of turning Selina Kyle into a cat-woman. And, admittedly, the design of Woman-Cat is not very good. The obvious lines around the pelvis make her look like an action figure, or like she’s wearing a fur bathing suit over fur longjohns. Yellow furred Woman-Cat brings home how weird it is that Catwoman is blonde at all. And it’s another Catwoman episode where she’s knocked out and Batman has to find the antidote in time to save her. None of these are plusses.

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Most of the reviews I’ve read have a problem with the sexual component of Woman-Cat, the part that must have sparked the collective imagination of a generation of pubescent furries. But is Woman-Cat all that weird in the world of Man-Bat (pointedly, Kirk Langstrom has a cameo in this episode)? Not really. It’s just that turning one of the characters into a cat brings home the point that this is a cartoon made for children, or it appeals to a very specific sexual fetish. And is appealing to furries any worse than Selina’s usual dominatrix fetish gear? Or the sexy plant lady? (What is the vegetarian version of a furry? A leafy?)

And as bad as Selina the Woman-Cat is, Tygrus makes an excellent antagonist for Batman, one that elevates this episode from the lower depths. Sure, naming the character and the episode after the William Blake’s poem, then repeating the poem twice within the episode, is overkill, but the Frankenstein-like child of science neatly reflects Blake’s indictment of any god that could create something as gentle as the lamb and as savage as the tiger.

The dual nature of Tygrus comes through. None of Batman’s usual tricks work on Tygrus, who relentlessly pursues Batman with the tenacity of a terminator. And when he speaks, veteran voice actor Jim Cummings has the deep growl of a monster but the halting and uncertain intonation of a teenager having his first crisis of faith. Tygrus becomes a conflicted and compelling character, driven by loyalty, loneliness, honor, and a deep seated need to be a man.

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Tygrus is also the first real romantic rival to Batman. In most episodes, Batman is the unquestioned alpha male, where other men are too old, or too young, or too evil to be a reasonable alternative for whichever woman has Batman’s attention this week. But, after realizing his creator/father Emil Dorian is a bad man, Tygrus proves himself to be brave, noble, and even a little charming. He’s also wild, a real enticement as Selina finds herself chafing against mundane life. Even if, in the end, she chooses to remain human, this episode establishes that Selina is finding a life within the law as constrictive as any cage. That side of Selina will come back to bite Batman in the ass. Thrice.

But if Tygrus brings the episode up, the other villains bring it back down. Dorian (Joseph Maher) is a weak Dr. Moreau homage/rip-off, a mincing idiot who looks like the devil but acts like an abusive schoolmarm. And his right hand ape-man Garth (uncredited, but presumably Cummings again), is an incompetent boob who gets beaten up by Tygrus, then Batman, then Selina, then Tygrus again. Not exactly figures to strike fear into the hearts of men.

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Other than that, what’s good about “Tyger Tyger” is what’s good about the series in general. It’s another well animated, well directed episode. Batman’s “race” against Tygrus is an exciting, dynamic sequence. Todd Hayen’s score subtly delivers some big melodramatic moments. Series regulars Kevin Conroy and Adrienne Barbeau do their usual top-notch recording job. This is a solid episode, one that’s been unfairly panned because of one flaw. It’s not the best, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

 

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Moon of the Wolf
Written by Len Wein
Directed by Dick Sebast
Episode #042
Music composed by Richard Bronskill
Animation Services by Akom Production Co.
Original Airdate—November 11th 1992

Plot: The performance enhancing drug athlete Anthony Romulus uses has a horrible side-effect: it turns him into a werewolf.

This is the worst episode of Batman: the Animated Series.

Look, “The Last Laugh” is boring. Everyone in “Fear of Victory” is an asshole. And “Cat Scratch Fever” features Professor Milo. And this episode has all three flaws.

Most of the problems in the episode are in the second act, where Professor Milo (Treat Williams) explains to Anthony Romulus (Harry Hamlin) how Romulus became a werewolf in super boring detail. According to the flashback, Milo even explained to Romulus which events Romulus won at “the Autumn Games” and which products Romulus endorsed. As if Romulus doesn’t know this story, because he was there the entire time!

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Maybe if the story Milo told were any good, this wouldn’t be such a glaring problem. But Romulus’s origin is a Jerk goes to another Jerk for a performance enchancement, steals and immediately takes an untested drug, becomes rich and famous and later finds out the drug turns you into a wolf. Then, Jerk #1 believes Jerk #2 that the only way to cure a disease is to first get worse (!?), and then Jerk #2 blackmails Jerk #1 into committing crimes before he’ll give up the antidote, if the antidote even exists. That’s boring, nonsensical, and paints both characters as unlikeable idiots.

And these are the protagonists! Batman’s barely in this episode, and when he does appear he’s not very good at his job. He walks right into a trap. He keeps insisting the werewolf is a mugger in a mask (despite having just rescued Catwoman from Man-Beast Island and, you know, Man-Bat. And Killer Croc. And Clayface. And...). And he investigates the connection between a werewolf attacking a zoo security guard (Peter Scorlari!?) and the theft of wolves from the zoo by watching nature documentaries. Batman, in fact, never figures out that Bruce Wayne’s friend Anthony Romulus is a werewolf.

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Part of the problem is that, as Eliot S! Maggin had with “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy,” Len Wein adapts a Batman comic he himself wrote, but does no work at all to update the script for the Animated Series. That explains why Batman’s so out of character, making sub-Spider-Man-esque jokes and ignoring basic police work, but that’s only part of the story since Milo and Romulus are just as unlikeable in the original comic.

Additionally, the animation’s poor, particularly in the extended flashback. Everything’s stiff and awkward. The voice acting is grating. Treat Williams is doing his intentionally annoying voice as Milo, but Harry Hamlin’s a better pseudo-Trump than pseudo-Frank Shorter. He’s growly, but not really threatening. And the electric guitar score is legendarily bad. Like the funk score to “Last Laugh,” it’s so out of tone with the rest of the series that it’s laughable every time it plays.

Like “Cat Scratch Fever,” there are two highlights, one intentional. The first is Harvey Bullock, who shows up Batman at every turn. Not only does he actually investigate the theft of the zoo and see there was no forced entry (that’s kind of obvious, Batman!), he checks the guard’s bank account for unusual deposits and, lo and behold, solves the crime. He even brings back-up to the final fight, so that Wolf-form Romulus is no threat to him, even if Batman is having trouble. His calm refusal to just shoot Romulus and instead watch Batman swing is a moment of triumph. Bullock could end the fight right then and there, but he’s having too much fun watching Batman get his ass kicked.

The other great moment is that Romulus leads Batman into a trap by promising a two and a half million dollar charity donation, if only Batman will come visit him, alone, after midnight. When Batman diligently shows up, Romulus greets him wearing only a bathrobe and a cravat, tells Batman to make himself comfortable, and offers Batman a drink. Batman responds by saying “let’s get this over with” and wondering aloud if it’s getting warm. If this weren’t a trap (and a stupidly obvious one at that), this episode could have moved Batman into a very different, very adult direction.

Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: Tyger Tyger & Moon of the Wolf

Alas, it was not to be.


Steven Padnick is a freelance writer and editor. By day. You can find more of his writing and funny pictures at padnick.tumblr.com.

3 comments
Hedgehog Dan
1. Hedgehog Dan
"This is a solid episode, one that’s been unfairly panned because of one flaw. It’s not the best, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless."

Actually, I really liked Tyger, Tyger, when it came out, and I also do not understand the furry-bashing, when Batman's universe is clearly the most fetishistic one.
Christopher Bennett
2. ChristopherLBennett
The really weird thing about Woman-Cat being yellow-furred is that later stories establish that Selina isn't a natural blonde! In The New Batman Adventures, which was made after the pressure to conform to Burton character designs had faded, Catwoman and Penguin were both redesigned to something closer to their comics appearances, and Selina now had short black hair. An issue of the tie-in comic explained that she'd stopped using hair dye after discovering that the cosmetics company that made it had been conducting animal testing. In light of that, Selina having golden fur rather than her natural black makes no sense here. (Well, not that turning a human into a cat-person makes any more sense, but at least that's consistent with the universe's own rules.)

As for the lines that made it look like she was in a fur bathing suit, the network censors required that because even implied nudity was a no-no.

And yes, Garth was played by Cummings.

As for "Moon of the Wolf," that stilted exposition/flashback scene you mention is a standard trope of comic-book writing. For some reason, generations of comics writers found it acceptable to employ stilted dialogue of a sort that would never be tolerable in any other medium. And Len Wein's dialogue has always tended to fall right into that pattern. I remember that when he took over DC's Star Trek comic for a brief run, we started getting multi-part stories where every issue (except the first) had a whole page early on where a character made a point of recapping the entire story so far in monologue or dialogue. Sometimes it felt relatively organic (such as Kirk explaining the backstory to a Romulan captain who'd only just shown up and needed to be brought up to speed), but sometimes it was more stilted.
Hedgehog Dan
3. Werewolf Fan
Moon of the Wolf is my favorite episode of Batman:TAS.

Guess why!

By pure coincidence, it was the first episode of Batman I ever saw. It also has one of the best werewolf transformations ever put on screen. Of course, the werewolf episode is not even remotely the most important episode of Batman. I totally get that. You are probably right...

But you're wrong. WEREWOLVES! AROOOOOOOooooooo...

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