“I’ve Got Batman In My Basement.”
Written by Sam Graham & Chris Hubbell
Directed by Frank Paur
Remarkably, “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” is the 13th episode produced and the 20th to air. Keep in mind, the episodes for Batman: The Animated Series were shown on weekdays during its original airing. Appearing on the DVD in the order they were produced, it’s impressive that those behind the show were able to hold off on presenting Batman’s rogues gallery immediately from the start. The Penguin makes his debut in “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” and, once again, Batman seems to take a back seat to the rest of the supporting cast.
“The script came in and it was terrible. Normally, I tell the director to do what he can to make it interesting, and nobody could figure out a way to make it interesting. The storyboard artists didn’t care, and it shows”. – Bruce Timm
Keeping in mind what Bruce Timm has said in regards to this episode, I wish I had viewed it considering his words beforehand instead of afterwards. “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” focuses on a group of young children. There is an undeniable cuteness to the episode that does not seem to fit with how the series presents itself. With that said, I enjoyed the episode and felt it serviced the Batman myth in a sincere and relatable way. However, there’s been a great amount written over this episode being one of the first disappointments of the season. It’s easy to see how “I’ve Got Batman…” is so critically derided as the episode does go against the unwritten rules of Batman Animated, and presents the Penguin as a terribly shallow villain.
The personal reason for my enjoyment is that, as a fan, I’m a child at heart. The story of “I’ve Got Batman…” revolves around four youths that essentially have to save Batman. At the start, we’re introduced to Sherman, Roberta, Frank, and Nick. Sherman, a wannabe detective with a poster of the Joker in his basement is friends with Roberta. She’s a spunky tomboy who enjoys comic books. “Do the comics count?” she responds when asked if she reads the paper. They set out to track a South American vulture and it brings them into the Penguin’s hideout. For those that didn’t grow up during the 90’s, hideouts were a major aspect of comic books, cartoons, and some really bad movies. Except RoboCop. But certainly The Hidden 2 counts as a stinker. Batman arrives to rescue them after the Penguin spots them, but is incapacitated by knock out gas. He manages to make it to the Batmobile and then collapses. With help from Sherman and Roberta, they drive the Batmobile back to their house and hide it under several boxes. When Frank and Nick arrive to bully Sherman, they find the Batmobile and that Sherman has Batman in his basement.
The plot surrounding “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” is the weakest story when compared to “The Forgotten”, “The Underdwellers”, and yesterday’s “It’s Never Too Late.” Yet, there’s a sparkle of imagination within the Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell script. For a child watching this after school, especially a bullied one, who wouldn’t want to meet Batman, save him, and then bring him back to the house. I’d argue that I still feel that way! Sherman, Roberta, Frank, and Nick get to live out that fantasy and while it’s preposterous to think someone like the Penguin could be outwitted by a group of kids, we do need to remind ourselves that this is an animated series when all is said and done.
I hold nothing against Bruce Timm for throwing this one into the Batcave or chemical vat. After such fantastically written, directed, and quality episodes, it’s hard not to be let down by “I’ve Got Batman…” Rest assured, “Heart of Ice”, the next episode is very much the polar opposite of this episode. It also makes more clarity that Bruce Timm would go on to direct his first episode after the disappointment with this one. Frank Paur, no stranger to Batman: The Animated Series, does go on to deliver a very Straw Dogs/Home Alone style ending with the kids booby trapping the house and defeating the Penguin and his goons. And, at the end of the day, who doesn’t enjoy a good comeuppance?
While “I’ve Got Batman In My Basement” isn’t the best episode of season one, I cannot say it was the worst. For the debut of the Penguin, he could have been presented as a greater threat as opposed to a villain left trapped in his own cliches. This stands out when considering that Penguin in the animated series was redesigned to stay more in line with Danny Devito’s version in 1992’s Batman Returns.
Stay tuned for more Batman: The Animated Series.