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Monday, December 08, 2008

Brave and The Bold: "Evil Under The Sea!"

As all of you know, last Friday Aquaman made his debut on Cartoon Network's new Brave and the Bold cartoon series, in an episode titled "Evil Under The Sea!"

Like all the episodes of the show so far, it opens up with a short, pre-title sequence featuring Batman and another hero, this time The Atom, squaring off against Felix Faust. I really like these little segments, and its a fun way to work in even more characters from the DCU.

But the episode proper starts with Batman heading towards Atlantis (in his Bat-Sub, something I'm sure we'll see on toy shelves by Xmas 2009), to meet up with his old friend Aquaman. When we first meet Aquaman (voiced by actor John Di Maggio, Bender from Futurama), he is relating one of his fabulous exploits:

When they meet up, Aquaman gives Batman a big bear hug, and we can see this is a different interpretation of the character than we've ever seen before.

sg(In fact, with his barrel chest, manly beard, and booming, confident voice, this Aquaman reminded me a lot of Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon, probably my favorite character from that movie.)

Anyway, we find that Batman has been tracking some unusual undersea tremors, and he thinks that Aquaman's n'er-do-well brother Orm might be involved.

Aquaman is having none of it, admitting that Orm has had some troubles, leading back to the day his younger brother was made King of Atlantis.

But we see that Orm is in fact causing trouble, and a lot more than that--he's in cahoots with Aquaman's #1 foe, Black Manta!:
Manta is voiced by actor Kevin Michael Richardson (who played The Joker on the previous Batman series) with the help of what sounds like the exact same super-badass reverb effect used on Challenge of the Super Friends.

One of the things I really like about the show is its combo of new, manga-ish character designs and staging with some old school-looking backgrounds, like this one of Atlantis:
...that looks like its right out of a 1960s Filmation Aquaman cartoon.

Also, during fight scenes, the action stops for a few seconds and we get still shots like this one, that look like comic book panels coming off the screen:
During this fight scene with some Manta-controlled sea creatures, we see that this Aquaman seemingly has the same hard-water powers Mera had in the comics. If I wanted to be cynical, I could say that's so the Aquaman action figure can come with some accessories, like a hard-water sword. Whatever the reason, the change didn't bother me.

Speaking of Mera, she makes an appearance in this show, too, when Aquaman is speaking to his subjects:
Batman thinks Orm is trying to poison Aquaman, and embarrasses himself by hitting him with a Batarang. He's asked to leave, and is escorted out by some sharks.

Later, we see that Batman was right, and Orm was just waiting for the right moment to reveal his plan, and his new identity as Ocean Master:
This costume is a bit different than the one in the comics, and it didn't do much for me, what with the claws an all, but what the hey.

Batman's shark escorts, under the control of Manta, turn on him, but he manages to escape. We learn that Manta has a machine underneath a ridge near Atlantis, which is causing the sea quakes, with the plan of sinking the city.

Ocean Master is displeased to learn that Manta has turned on him, and after a well-placed zap he finds himself chained up alongside his brother.

Aquaman calls on some lock-picking mollusks, and he gets free. He calls his finny friends, in a scene that gave me goosebumps:
...for a few seconds, I was seven years old again. They even added the classic "doop-doop-doop" sound effect to when Aquaman was using his mental telepathy.

Aquaman and Orm team-up and destroy Manta's machine, saving Atlantis, and Batman gets to take out Manta personally.

There are times when this show genuinely made me laugh out loud, like this part, when Aquaman congratulates Orm for smashing Manta's machine with his bare hands. Orm then impolitely shares that every time he smashed it, he was thinking of his brother's face:
...um, er, okay there, Orm!

The episode wraps up with Orm in an Atlantean jail cell, and Batman ruminates that, if Aquaman wanted to, he could have Orm exiled. But Aquaman is committed to his brother--he is family, after all--and wants to try and rehabilitate him.

But not without forcing him to listen to some rambling stories of Aquaman's past:
And as we see Orm cover his ears, we have reached...the end.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. Yeah, there's a lot of changes made to the basic Aquaman concept--the addition of the hard-water powers, how Aquaman became King of Atlantis, the fact that Orm has the same powers as Aquaman, not to mention Aquaman's wholesale personality change.

But none of that stuff bothered me, because after so. many. years. of Aquaman being a miserably mopey and/or angry guy, I enjoyed seeing him here as an upbeat, happy superhero, looking for adventure but also sensitive enough to still try and care for his brother.

And in the larger sense, I think this Aquaman is much more appealing a character to kids--the show's target audience, of course--because he is fun and upbeat and, well, cool. This guys rules the oceans, and enjoys the job!

I'm sure the show's creators have a lot of other characters to introduce first (can't wait to see how they work in Kamandi, of all people, seen briefly in the opening credits), but I eagerly await the return of this Aquaman to Brave and the Bold.

This item has been added to the Shrine's Aquaman Timeline! From now on, any time you see the above graphic, it means another we've reached another Big Moment in Aquaman History. Yay!


Anonymous said...

I have to say I didn't like this episode nearly as much as you did. To me, Aquaman came off as a big, stupid jerk whose sole purpose was to make Batman look good. I did like the look of the character, though....except for those big black eyebrows! Why aren't they blonde like the rest of his hair?

Wings1295 said...

I liked the episode overall, even though Aquaman was a bit over-the-top. But I think that is how this show works, as you said, it is geared to kids. A dour, moody Aquaman would damper the spirit.

A fun, light-hearted approach to the character is sort of a breath of fresh air.

And hey, if he picks up some new little fans who will be geeking out over him in 30 years or so, more the better!

Anonymous said...

I liked this one, and I appreciate the return to a lighter Aquaman, but it didn't gel as well as the previous Plastic Man episode. I can see Aquaman's interpretation rubbing some fans wrong, but over all I think it's a valid interpretation of the Silver Age Aquaman. That Aquaman at that point in his life hasn't been explored a lot to give him more of a distinct personality like Barry Allen and Hal Jordan have in flashbacks. Let's face it, the DC heroes all had the same personality and voice in the 60s. Taking the SA Aquaman from scratch and going in this direction works for me.

Oh, and other media just loves Aquaman's water powers. He used the water balls (ala Filmation) on here and on Smallville too.


Anonymous said...

Rob, I liked "Evil Under the Sea" as well. To me the Brave and Bold cartoon is like an Elseworlds version of the DCU. (Maybe it's Earth-43 or something.) This Aquaman was not the "real" anymore than the Brave and Bold Batman is the "real" one. After all, in the first B&B episode (if I remember it correctly), the one with Blue Beetle, Batman was patrolling Gotham City, and at a moment's notice, his suit became a jet-powered spacesuit, and he was able to leave Earth's gravity in about 10 seconds and fly to black hole or whatever. That doesn't exactly jibe with the latest issue of Detective Comis.

At any rate, I just accepted the cartoon character as an alternate-earth Aquaman and enjoyed the ride. (Sort of like Spongebob and Patrick going camping...if you worry too much about how they can have a campfire on the bottom of the ocean, you're probably not going to enjoy the show.)

P.S. You could do a Shrine entry for Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy sometime, just for fun.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this episode as much as I have with the previous two. The comparison of Aquaman to Prince Vultan is a good one. His persona also reminded me of Marvel's Hercules.

Yes, this version of Aquaman is vainglorious, no doubt about it. But other than some bragging, if you watch the episode again, he really shows that he is a confident and capable hero.

When Orm says to Aquaman in surprise, "You saved me", he responds, "I'm the King, it's what I do", he sounds more humbled.

Also, the hard-water based abilities didn't bother me at all. I just thought of it as an extension of the water spheres he was able to create in the 60's Filmation series. I thought it was quite awesome, actually.

As for his next appearance, it looks like it is indeed a possibility that Aquaman will return and it may be confirmed here...

Even when it came time to narrow in the selection, Jelenic (who also scripted the Blue Beetle-starring pilot) knew that picking names and personalities would only take the show's writers so far in the creative process. "We really weren't sure what the character dynamic would be 13 episodes down the line, but as we were establishing the personalities of the heroes, we started mixing and matching them, which brought out even more sides to their personalities,” he explained. “Like, we have Aquaman and Batman first, but a couple of episodes later, we team Aquaman with Atom which brings out an entirely different side of Aquaman's personality."


Anonymous said...

Also, from the same article mentioned in my comment above...

With the Story Editor's job focusing on keeping the series writers (who include a wealth of animation and comics veterans) matching the stated intent of the series, it became hard for Jelenic to pick a favorite episode of the bunch, so he picked a few. "There's more than a few that I'm excited about,” he said. “Off the top of my head, I think we tell a really good Green Lantern Corps story which I'm excited to see. We use Guy Gardner in that story, and his character against Batman comes off great. The Aquaman stories I'm pretty fond of. I think he will be the breakout character of our series. Everything about him is fun, and each of his adventures are big. He works, and he's an easy character to write.

Anonymous said...

I felt like this episode was something of an improvement, but the series still has a ways to go before I'll be all the way onboard (although, if they do more episodes with Aquaman, I'll be sure to tune in).

Aquaman LOOKED great, most of the time. It was a huge treat to see Aquaman animated in (mostly) classic fashion. As a matter of fact, I even like the beard. I think that it looks quite regal, quite distinguished. Without the mullet (I blame so much on you PAD) the beard actually works. He moved decently well, but that animation style didn't do a great job of capturing his speed and grace under water. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't stellar.

I really like the IDEA of their portrayal of Aquaman as a fun-loving adventurer who enjoys the thrill of the heroic lifestyle, but like everything else with this show, it lacked subtlety. Aquaman comes off as a little stupid (the whole "The time I wore an eyepatch while infiltrating a band of pirates!" part made me shake my head. Come ON!) and a bit too full of himself. I think they could have gotten across the fun-loving bit without the 'dumb jock' aspect. I also really enjoyed the small amount of depth that we got with Aquaman and Orm's relationship providing something approaching a motivation. Don't take this the wrong way, I liked his portrayal over all, it's just that I felt it could have been done better. In fact, I agree with what some of you have said, that this is a good direction for the character (and it is also, happily, the ORIGINAL direction for the character), although I strongly disagree with those who say that Aquaman should be played tongue and cheek, because that will somehow make him more acceptable. He has enough image problems (not the least of which is with the editors of DC themselves) without creating another Super Friends type stigma to follow him for the NEXT 40 years. Between Smallville, the cancelled pilot, and JLU, Aquaman is actually getting some (non-satiric) attention from the public at large for the first time in decades. The last thing we need is to take a step back.

Power wise, it was great to see Aquaman portrayed as super strong and super tough, but the hard water powers thing sorta' irked me. I sorta' like the idea of him being able to create mini hard water "bombs" by rapid motion, like in Smallville, but it was like they just decided to give him Mera's powers for no good reason. It was cool for him to sword fight Narwhals, (how can you NOT like something like that?) but I think they should have stuck with his actual powers. I feel this way mostly because of Mera. It sorta' makes her seem useless, because the thing that she could do...well, now Aquaman can do it too. I know that's silly, as we'll probably NEVER see Mera do anything interesting on this show or any other, but I would really love to see her join in the adventures one day........with Aqualad.....and Tula...hey, if you're going to dream, you may as well go all out, hmm? They did a pretty good job with his telepathy (yay for the sound effect!) and they actually managed to walk the line between poor interpretations perfectly! In some early stories Aquaman just commands fish, but doesn't have any real bond with them, while PAD (once again, CURSE YOU!) took away his command, forcing him to "ask" fish to help, but he DID have a close bond with sealife. Here we see Aquaman beloved of ocean creatures but still commanding and being obeyed. This is what I was trying to parse last time we talked about the telepathy thing, Rob. He's King of the Sea, darn right! Speaking of which, I LOVED the part where Orm says, "You saved me?" To which Aquaman replies, "I'm the King...it's what I do." I didn't enjoy them screwing with Aquaman's origin story, although I was glad they included a nod to the classic story at the end: "my earliest memories are of a lighthouse." I understand why they did it, though, as Orm's story would be REALLY hard to explain in limited time, and I'm not particularly fond of his origin anyway.

Black Manta was awesome, deadly, and menacing, which is a definite plus (although Devil Ray was also awesome in JLU, at least we got Manta by his real name). I'm a little annoyed that they let Batman beat Manta, instead of Aquaman, but that is a very minor gripe at best. I would love to see another episode where Aquaman gets to go more head to head with his greatest foe. Orm was also cool, although I would rather they show his sorcerous powers and not attribute to him telepathic abilities which he shouldn't have, but once again, minor gripe. That part where he costumed up was pretty awesome, even if the costume itself wasn't the greatest ever.

The plot was pretty decent, and I think the dialog was a bit better than it's predecessors, with Bader grating on me a little less. I actually laughed at the bit in the whale, despite seeing it coming. All in all, I give it a B+, an improvement and a version of Aquaman that I'd like to see more of...a lot more...as a matter of fact, let's cancel B&B and make this the Aquaman show. Ha, seriously though, they need to just wipe the slate clean with Aquaman and give us this kind of "happy" hero back. It is time.

Ohh, almost forgot, Aquaman's voice actor...not so great. He wasn't BAD, but he wasn't particularly good. At times he was alright, but at times he sounded like he belonged on Spongebob or Fairy Odd Parents, something like that. Aquaman needs just a touch more gravitas.

Anonymous said...

"Ohh, almost forgot, Aquaman's voice actor...not so great. He wasn't BAD, but he wasn't particularly good. At times he was alright, but at times he sounded like he belonged on Spongebob or Fairy Odd Parents, something like that. Aquaman needs just a touch more gravitas."

The voice actor for Aquaman is the same gentleman who provides the voice of "Bender" on Futurama.

rob! said...


that quote about Aquaman being the break-out character is exciting.

and an Aquaman/Atom team-up? i'm confused--will there be non-Batman episodes of B&B, or will this is be a team-up x3?


all of your criticisms make sense, and i agree on a few points.

overall, as i watched the show, there wasn't anything that jumped out at me as "Whoa! What's that about?!?" and i didn't feel like the show dragged at all.

yeah, Aquaman's a bit of a blowhard, but i figure its mostly an act to appear bigger than life...he is king, after all.

looking forward to future episodes of the show...esp the Aquaman ones!

Anonymous said...

"and an Aquaman/Atom team-up? i'm confused--will there be non-Batman episodes of B&B, or will this is be a team-up x3?"

Probably a team-up x3. For instance there will be an upcoming episode "Day of the Dark Knight" which features Batman & Green Arrow in the main story, but both will also meet Etrigan the Demon.

I also found this about Aquaman and other recurring characters...

“With ‘Brave & The Bold’ we’re just starting from scratch. There’s no connection to any of those earlier shows,” Tucker confirmed. “The show itself is simple. I equate it to a ‘60s ‘Space Ghost’ show where there wasn’t any continuity from episode to episode. You didn’t have to see anything else to enjoy the episode you were watching. It was more episodic that way. But, we do have a group of characters that we do repeat. So Blue Beetle reappears, and every time he reappears, we learn more about him and his relationship with Batman. The same with Aquaman and The Outsiders and Green Arrow — they’re kind of our core group of characters that reappear, but between them we have these one off characters and fan favorites. There are certain characters that don’t require more than one or two appearances.”


Anonymous said...

Aquaman as the breakout character! Awesome! Maybe we WILL see an Aquaman show one of these days...;) Yeah Rob, I had the same question regarding the Atom/Aqua team.

I had heard that Aquaman's voice actor was the fellow who voiced Bender, and upon reflection I can definitely hear the similarity. I loved him as Bender, but I'm not quite so fond of his as Aquaman.

Anonymous said...

Also, here's the official Batman: The Brave and the Bold website which has some great features, including posable, talking "inter-action figures" (Batman, Blue Beetle, Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Bronze Tiger, and Aquaman), and Aquaman is a playable character in Level 3 of the site's free video game, "Terror of the Time Traps!"


Adama said...

Dude, I LOVED that episode, even the goofy "the adventure when I wore an eyepatch" comment. Sure, Aquaman was a little bit of a blowhard, but he's the king, people expect that of him. His love for his borther, despite his faults, and his obvious devition to his kingdom proved that it was a bot of an act, in my mind.

Anywho, loving the show!

Anonymous said...

Another B&B Aquaman tid-bit:

DC Comics' Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic book will follow the format of Cartoon Network's animated series.

Each issue of the monthly series will feature a two-page "teaser" story that has Batman wrapping up an adventure with a cameo guest.

The first issue's teaser has Batman teaming up with Aquaman against Carapax. The issue's main story features Batman and Power Girl.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 features a cover by show producer James Tucker and will be in stores on Jan. 28. The issue is written by Matt Wayne, with art by Andy Suriano and Dan Davis.


Luke said...

"...and that's how I found the stolen statue. I called that 'The Adventure of the Stolen Statue!'"

GREAT fun! I don't know why but the broad take on Aquaman worked really well for me. He reminds me of Hercules or Maciste or whomever in every Italian peplum (sword and sandal movie) ever made. A boisterous, adventurous, loveable kind of lout. And it really, really worked in this episode.

And was it me was this an absolutely perfect take on Black Manta?

Anonymous said...

Most of the good points have been made already so I'll keeo it brief ...

Things I liked:

Black Manta!

Mera cameo!

The telepathic concentric circles and sound effect!

Things I didn't care for:

The hard water "boxing gloves" and weaponry.

The water balls. They were a cool nod to the old Filmation series but they were ill-used at the end of the episode. Aquaman throws a couple of water balls at Manta's machine while Orm smashes it with his bare hands?!?!? It just made Orm seem so much tougher than Aquaman.

Orm's "Adams Family" design.

Aquaman's the voice. The gravelly voice coupled with the beard skewed this Aquaman a bit older than I would have liked.

And, most of all, Aquaman's larger-than-life personality. He comes off as a buffoon for a good portion of the episode.