The Matt Signal – Episode 21: Feat of Clay Part II

Plot summary: Matt Hagen, now calling himself Clayface after his horrific transformation, seeks revenge on Roland Daggett.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Feat of Clay: Part II’

Original Air Date: September 9th, 1992

Directed: Kevin Altieri (7)

Written: Marv Wolfman (2) & Michael Reaves (3)

Bruce Timm and Paul Dini made a point of not using Mr. Freeze for a long time after ‘Heart of Ice’, and did the same with Clayface after this episode, feeling it would leave a stronger impression.

The animation studio who worked on this episode, Tokyo Movie Shinsha, went a little rogue and came up with their own colour palette. Luckily for them Bruce Timm was blown away.

Remember back in ‘The Cat and the Claw’ I mentioned it was so rare for different people to direct a two-parter and that it would only happen one more time? This is that time, and weirdly enough it’s the same pair of directors!!!

Recap

After a quick recap of Part I we get rolling with Bruce’s mugshots. Wild. He’s released on bail (because billionaire), refusing to speak with the press and getting back out onto the streets as Batman as soon as Alfred has driven him far enough away.

Germs promises Daggett that Bell hasn’t told the police anything yet, so they press ahead with their plot to take over Wayne Enterprises. Germs is mortified by the prospect of having to silence Lucius in hospital. Because of all the sick people. And he hates germs… Never mind. Daggett snarls and he complies.

Clayface and Teddy the stand-in (remember him?) pack up his trailer as Hagen believes he can never return to his old life now that he’s an amorphous blob monster. He reflects on his time in hospital after the original accident, with Daggett bringing him the miracle cream. Thanks for the exposition!

Teddy says how it can’t have been that bad because he had his biggest hits after the accident (in a dramatic changing of his tune from Part I.) Matt realises after looking at a row of his old movie posters that he’s now able to change his appearance at will, complete with clothes and accessories… except he can’t hold it for long so he smashes up his trailer in a rage and weeps at his misfortune.

Vowing revenge, Clayface heads to the hospital, correctly predicting one of Daggett’s men will arrive to finish Lucius off. Not in a sex way.

The hospital proves to be the hottest ticket in town though, as Germs’ attempt to smother Fox with a pillow is interrupted by a Batarang. Despite holding his own against Batman in Part I, Germs flees for his life at the sight of the Caped Crusader… right into a secure room full of virus and bacteria samples!

Cornering him, Batman demands the name of the Bruce Wayne impersonator, spicing things up by placing a jar of “Crimson Fever” on a shelf above Germs’ head and punching the wall every so often to make it wobble. Germs gives up Hagen but before he can fully explain a cop with a familiar voice arrives to claim the arrest…

Batman protests (while also revealing the jar only contained seawater), but Clayface takes him out and then stuffs a glob of himself in Germs’ mouth. Not in a sex way.

Bruce pursues them to the roof and narrowly prevents Clayface from tossing Germs off the roof. Given his plan was to kidnap a henchman and then impersonate him to get close to Daggett, executing him in public seemed a bad move anyway.

Clayface continues kicking Bat-butt, turning is hands into bludgeoning and stabbing weapons. Making matters worse, when Bruce does land a blow he gets stuck inside him. Not in a sex way.

Fatigued by the effort of changing, Clayface leaps off the roof, with Batman unable to get his grapple hook to attach, splattering on the pavement below and sinisterly slithering off down a vent. Batman leaves Germs to cry on the roof.

Summer Gleeson (remember her?) plugs her upcoming interview with Daggett to promote Renuyu (renew… you… get it?). Once again the TV is in black and white to keep the show’s setting feeling nebulous. Neat!

Batman recovers a jar of the cream from Matt’s trailer, while Alfred brings him a fat stack of Hagen films. Now is not the time for a movie marathon, Bruce.

He sneaks into the TV studio during the interview, wearing a janitor’s outfit and baseball cap over his full costume, mask and all. This is a wild decision on his part, as even if Bruce Wayne is famous (and currently under investigation for attempted murder), he’s surely less conspicuous than a bat-themed superhero.

Daggett talks up Renuyu’s ability to smooth away wrinkles and such, with Summer calling him “Rolly”. I don’t buy that he would be okay with that. A melodramatic woman in the audience grills Daggett about the dangerous, addictive properties of the cream, taking the stage and revealing herself as Clayface!

The audience flees but Rolly has no such luck as Clayface takes out his guards. Batman steps in (but makes sure to incapacitate Daggett first) and tries to reason with Hagen. No such luck though, and he’s only able to evade him so long before he’s pinned to a wall.

Fortunately this was all part of Bruce’s plan, as he lured him into an AV room where still upon still from Matt’s film roles appear on the wall of monitors.

Initially this distracts and calms Clayface, but he soon begins to involuntarily change rapidly between them, and INCREDIBLY helpfully Bruce Wayne as well in full view of the police, before accidentally electrocuting himself and passing out.

Summer reports on the charges against Bruce being dropped, but Batman is far more concerned with conducting tests on a little blob of Clayface’s body. You’d think this was maybe so he could try and find a way to change him back or something, but instead, he proves that electricity has no effect on it, and thus concludes Hagen must have faked his death!

He’s quite correct of course, as we see a Clayface husk crumble into dust in the morgue, and a random lady’s eyes turn yellow and cackle to herself. Fun!

Best Performance

Ron Perlman sounds a lot more like himself this time, and gets a great deal more to do as a result of not having to compete for screen time with Daggett and his crew. The reduced competition and increased opportunity to capital-a Act makes this a much easier pick than in part one.

While I don’t condone toxic masculinity, Perlman is extremely good at losing his cool and flying into a rage, and Matt Hagen’s propensity to give up all hope at the first sign of difficulty is a consistent character beat.

He also gets to lean into the cocky intimidating side of his persona once Clayface begins to embrace the combat advantages of his condition. In the end though, his anger subsides as he poignantly accepts defeat and apparent death.

Ed Begley Jr. is MUCH better this time around too.

Ranking

Much like ‘Two-Face’ and to a lesser extent ‘The Cat and the Claw’, I think these two episodes are stronger as a collective than individually, which perhaps exposes a flaw in my ranking process. Many outlets give both parts of the multi episodes identical ratings, and that may be why they tend to have them higher than me. But I’ve made my choices, and will continue to review each episode as its own entity.

With that in mind, I think I preferred Part II because it was better paced, featured an incredibly strong showing from an iconic Batman villain and just generally one-upped part 1 in most areas:

Part I was a good looking episode with excellent background design. Part II is gorgeous, with the standout scene being an incidental moment where Daggett and Germs stand over some vats of glowing green goo. The use of shadow is exemplary and makes it look like a far more expensive/modern show. The effects on Clayface are a total delight, and subtle touches like Bruce being bathed in shadow as he suits up in the car at the start to give him an otherworldly quality are tremendous.

Part I gave a spotlight to Raymond Bell, who Batman went to great extremes to interrogate. Part II focuses on the far more entertaining Germs, who gets some wonderful character beats, and while Batman tortures him too, it’s in a cleverer manner that leaves you smiling when you realise he was bluffing, rather than wondering how they managed to get the episode past the censors like in Part I.

Part I blended some fun action scenes with a mystery for Batman to solve. Part II swaps out Batman vs mob goons for Clayface creatively mopping the floor with Bruce, and his formulation of a plan to take the villain down is classic Batman.

Overall I’m a huge fan of this, with only ‘Two-Face Part I’ and ‘Heart of Ice’ leaving a stronger impression on me so far.

  1. Heart of Ice
  2. Two-Face Part I
  3. Feat of Clay Part II
  4. Beware the Gray Ghost
  5. Feat of Clay Part I
  6. On Leather Wings
  7. Pretty Poison
  8. Two-Face Part II
  9. It’s Never Too Late
  10. See No Evil
  11. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  12. P.O.V.
  13. Christmas with the Joker
  14. Be a Clown
  15. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  16. Nothing to Fear
  17. Prophecy of Doom
  18. The Last Laugh
  19. The Under-Dwellers
  20. The Forgotten
  21. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Clayface (Ron Perlman) (second appearance)

Last week I said Matt Hagen was good but not a patch on Harvey Dent, but that I held out hope for Part II boosting him up the rankings. That hope was rewarded in a major way, as Bruce really hasn’t faced a villain like Clayface before. Man-Bat comes the closest, but he was a much easier collar.

Clayface’s ability to perfectly impersonate people made for some fun moments, particularly the pair of gender swaps near the end. He also gave Batman no end of difficulty, as offensively potent as Mr. Freeze and as difficult to hit as Lloyd Ventrix, the two villains who have had the most success in direct confrontations with the hero. Giving him a character arc so close to Two-Face’s doesn’t hurt either.

But for as much as I’d love to reward such a refreshing physical challenge, and for as good a job as Ron Perlman does imbuing the character with emotional weight, he falls a touch short of Two-Face when it comes to the latter. Top 5 is still good though!

Roland Daggett (Ed Asner) (second appearance)

Daggett took much more of a backseat to Clayface this time, but he was still plenty of fun, with his menacing look in the factory standing out. I also enjoyed him trying so hard to shill his product on TV, only to be embarrassed and then taken out by Clayface and Batman.

As I’m packaging his henchmen in with him, Germs’ strong showing definitely prevents any movement in the rankings. His utter horror at the prospect of having to go into a hospital is splendid and leads to the juicy bluffed torture scene.

  1. Mr. Freeze
  2. Joker
  3. Two-Face
  4. Clayface
  5. Poison Ivy
  6. Catwoman
  7. Rupert Thorne
  8. Lloyd Ventrix
  9. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  10. Scarecrow
  11. Red Claw
  12. Arnold Stromwell
  13. Mad Bomber
  14. Man-Bat
  15. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  16. Penguin
  17. Sewer King
  18. Boss Biggis

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

Speaking of my podcasts, There Will Be Movies continues on Monday with Whiplash.

Kevin Ford’s Flooping the Pig, our Adventure Time podcast, uploads new episodes every Thursday.

Jerome & Brian’s Pantheon Plus continues its run of road trip movies with The Goofy Movie!

Speaking of Jerome, he will be bringing you his 100 favourite movies of all time, posting between 3 and 4 per week.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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