Episode Title: “Dawn of the Dead Man!”
Original Air Date: January 16, 2009
This series has been on a roll offering us sharp juxtaposition of settings within the DC comics universe, and this episode continues that trend by starting with a post apocalyptic world, and then taking us to a ghost story set in London. Sometimes this technique makes for a rich, intriguing experience, and sometimes it feels disjointed. I fear that this episode is closer to the latter than the former.
The teaser for this episode finds Batman in the post apacolyptic future inhabited by Kamandi the last boy on Earth. Our heroes are being pursued by evil rat men while Bats is attempting to bring a cure for a dangerous virus from the future to present day Gotham. Batman wants to stay and help fight of the pursuers, but Dr. Cannus (an anthropomorphic dog with a striking resemblance to McGruff the crime dog) demands Batman escape while he can. As a thank you, Bats leaves a weaponized time capsule to help his allies out of this bind.
The story proper opens in a grave yard with a tombstone that reads “here lies Batman” while the Dark Knight’s ghost appears to rise from the Earth. We find out that though he is buried there, he is not yet dead and owes this out of body experience to a Tibetan meditation technique. Our titular hero has been buried alive by Gentleman Ghost who is plotting to raise an undead army with which to conquer the world. Batman quickly encounters a wandering spirit that is none other than DC’s heroic ghost, Deadman. Deadman demonstrates to Batman the art of possessing the bodies of the living, and they quickly recruit Green Arrow and Speedy who happen to be on assignment in London. As Green Arrow and Speedy are exhuming Batman’s booby trapped body, his soul is under attack by spirits controlled by Gentleman Ghost and in peril of being lost forever. Thanks to some Nth metal weapons, the trio of supporting heroes defeat Gentleman Ghost and his accomplice apparitions and reunite Bats’ souls with it’s mortal form. In the epilogue set 3 months later, we see Batman being held captive by some Asian pirates, when Deadman possesses the body of their leader to help the Caped Crusader escape.
This is the second time we have seen Jim Craddock, A.K.A Gentleman Ghost, in the series with the first being in the teaser of episode 2. The idea for the teasers has always been to test characters for the possibility of featuring them in future episodes, and I suppose he tested well though I am not sure why. A ghost who is able to exist simultaneously in the spiritual and physical realms seems like a tricky concept to work effectively in a series with the tone this one establishes. Even more challenging is incorporating Boston Brand/ Deadman, a character with a purely ephemeral existence. Though I have always found the concept of a circus acrobat turned ghostly superhero intriguing, his stories have rarely worked for me when he is tied into stories with other, more traditional heroes. In my opinion Deadman is one of those characters who not only works best, but only works competently at all, in stand alone stories.
The Dystopian future of the teaser probably worked better for me than the story proper, but once again, I didn’t feel Batman fit in that story. Any interest I have in further exploring the the story of Kamandi would be in stories sans Batman, in the spirit of Thundar the Barbarian (another character designed by Jack Kirby).
Overall, I felt that this episode fell flat, though it did have a quantum of redemption with the epilogue. I suppose the whole affair had a hint of Scooby Doo to it, and though Scooby Doo is a fine show, it is not what I expect when watching this one.
Featured Characters: Kamandi (Kirby, 1972), Gentleman Ghost (Kanigher & Kubert, 1947), Deadman (Drake & Infantino, 1967), Green Arrow (Weisinger & Papp, 1941), Speedy (Weisinger & Papp, 1941)
To learn more about Kamandi listen to Heroes & Villains Ep. 86