“The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy”
Written by Elliot S. Maggin
Directed by Frank Paur
Did you know that “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy” episode of Batman: The Animated Series was based on Detective Comics #450? And that issue 450 was also written by Elliot S. Maggin? I’ve never read issue 450, which is a story called “The Cape and Cowl Death Trap”, but after having re-watched “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy”, I’d like to locate that particular issue. This episode of Batman gets several things right and is also notable for the introduction of The Batsignal. It’s fun in the way that we get a very Batman doing Batman-y things story and it’s entertainingly directed by Frank Paur, a person who’s no stranger to Batman: The Animated Series.
“The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy” revolves around the theft of bonds being used for foreign relief and Batman’s elaborate conspiracy, with help from a con man, to learn where the bonds are being stored. The con man, Jozek, is voiced by John Rhys-Davies and after Batman persuades him to flee to Europe, he takes on his identity to apprehend master interrogator, Josiah Wormwood (Bud Cort). Interestingly, Cort also provided the voice work for Superman: The Animated Series villain, The Toyman.
I’ve always enjoyed the detective aspect of Batman and, after all, he is considered by many to be The World’s Greatest Detective. “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy” shows Batman at his finest, doing what he does best – detective work mixed with theatricality. The running gag through the story, which only presents itself as such near the end, is that Batman has been in disguise as Jozek through the whole episode. Upon first viewing, we don’t know this, along with Wormwood being played unsuspectingly by The Dark Knight. Jozek/Batman makes the request for “the cape and cowl” and promises to tell Wormwood why he wants such a unique item on the promise that he tells him where he’s hidden the diplomatic pouch with bonds.
After an elaborate series of clues (very Riddler like) that Wormwood makes Batman solve in order to lure him into trap after trap, he finally (seemingly) succeeds in getting Batman to give up the cape and cowl. Mind you this only comes after Batman saves a damsel in distress from a holographic train, along with braving a room with a light so hot it melts wax figures. Wormwood visits Jozek to give him the cape and cowl and after finally revealing how he pulled off the theft of financial foreign aid bonds and of where he’s hidden them, Jozek reveals himself to have secretly been Batman all along. A ha! Batman has played into Worwood’s traps knowingly!
“The Cape and Cowl” concludes with Batman defeating Wormwood through an elaborate cape and cowl conspiracy, with help from the real Jozek and Commissioner Gordon. Did we ever have a doubt?
I very much enjoyed “The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy.” While the animation of Wormwood is very pre-Riddler, he works as a one-off villain, if only designed to showcase Batman’s superior skills. We get to see a wonderful interplay between Gordon and Batman, something that we’ll miss from 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, considering that Gordon is supposed to have passed away. However, I would not be surprised that if Ben Affleck’s solo efforts on Batman are supposed to be set pre Batman v. Superman, then we’ll get a Gordon in the DCEU.
Stay tuned for more Batman: The Animated Series. “Robin’s Reckoning Part One” is tomorrow!