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Overlooked Bat-Treasures #5 - "THE FEAR"
Monday, October 29, 2007
Mark S. Reinhart

Copyright © 2007 by Mark S. Reinhart

It has been awhile since I have written an “Overlooked Bat Treasures” piece, and a DVD set that was quietly released just this past week made me think it was time to put together a new installment.

On October 23, the short-lived animated television series Super Powers Team: The Galactic Guardians was made available on home video for the first time. Super Powers Team: The Galactic Guardians premiered on ABC in 1985, and was the last version of the long-running Hanna-Barbera animated series SuperFriends ever produced.

I can’t imagine anyone reading this would need this background information, but I’ll pass it along just in case – the “Super Friends” were a team of DC heroes similar to the one found in the DC comic title Justice League of America. The team included Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, as well as a variety of other heroes that appeared as occasional guest stars.

Super Powers Team: The Galactic Guardians was a far more ambitious series than earlier versions of SuperFriends. Its scripts presented stories than thoughtfully adapted some of DC’s most cherished comic book traditions. Nowhere was this ambition more evident than in “The Fear,” a Batman-centered episode that originally aired in October 1985. “The Fear” holds the distinction of being the very first screen work to depict Batman’s origin. The episode was written by Alan Burnett, who would go on to co-produce the landmark animated television series Batman: The Animated Series in the early 1990’s.

In “The Fear,” Batman and Robin battle the Scarecrow on the streets of Gotham City. While chasing the villain, Batman inadvertently runs into the alley known as “Crime Alley” where his parents were murdered. The crimefighter is paralyzed with fright after memories of his parents’ murders come flooding back to him. Batman realizes that in order to defeat the Scarecrow he must overcome his fears surrounding his parents’ deaths -- he does just that, and the Scarecrow is captured at the end of the episode.

When surveying the history of the Batman character’s screen appearances, “The Fear” stands out as kind of a “missing link.” It bridges the gap between the campy, kiddie-oriented screen Batman first made popular via the 1960’s

Batman TV series, and the darker, more emotionally complex screen Batman found in works like the Warner Brothers live-action Batman films and the previously-mentioned Batman: The Animated Series. For the first time, the episode brings to the screen a Batman who is unequivocally depicted as a character scarred by deep personal tragedy.

This is not to say that “The Fear” is a brilliant piece of art, by any means. Its animation is often lackluster, and SuperFriends annoyances like silly science fiction and overdramatic dialogue are very much in evidence. The episode’s voice talent also leaves something to be desired. Batman is voiced by Adam West, the star of the 1960’s Batman TV series, and Robin is voiced by Casey Kasem, who will forever be remembered as the voice of Scooby-Doo’s pal Shaggy. This is not to say that West and Kasem are all that bad in the episode -- they just tend to serve as an unwelcome reminder of the kiddie-oriented camp that “The Fear” is trying to distance itself from.

Still, even with its flaws, “The Fear” stands as the first screen work to attempt to bring some emotional depth to the Batman character. The episode gives us the first glimpse of a screen Batman directly drawn from the work of Batman comic greats like Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Denny O’Neil, and Neal Adams, foreshadowing works like the Warner Brothers live-action Batman films and Batman: The Animated Series. In my opinion, that fact alone is enough to make it required viewing for any avid Batman fan.

Mark S. Reinhart is the author of THE BATMAN FILMOGRAPHY.
Mark's "Overlooked Bat-Treasures" column can be found
"infrequently" -- as he says -- on BATMAN-ON-FILM.COM.

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