Plot summary: When a pair of criminals go missing all signs point to Harvey Bullock, but Batman suspects something stranger is afoot.
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!
Episode Title: ‘Vendetta’
Original Air Date: October 5th, 1992
Directed: Frank Paur (5)
Written: Michael Reaves (4)
This was originally written as a Killer Croc origin episode, and a far different origin than Batman fans are used to as he would have been an animal trader bitten by a lizard and mutated, leading to him creating an army of reptiles in the Gotham sewers. This likely led to The Sewer King character. Shudder.
Spider Conway is named for Killer Croc’s creator, Gerry Conway.
One of the police files before Bullock’s belongs to an N. Bates. Another is for J. Barr, but creating “The Crow” gets you less recognition than being fiction’s most famous psychopath, I guess.
A criminal named ‘Spider Conway’ is being transported by boat so he can testify against Rupert Thorne in exchange for a reduced sentence. Conway is visibly terrified, and his fears prove to be well founded as a mysterious hand reaches out of the water, plants a bomb on the side of the boat and then grabs him shortly before it blows.
Batman was just watching this whole thing go down at a distance and is basically just lucky that the police escort abandoned ship before it exploded. He, Gordon and Bullock all begin their investigations.
Harvey is removed from the case by Gordon, citing “ancient history” with Thorne that Internal Affairs may start looking at Bullock over.
Batman’s curiosity is piqued and he breaks into the police records room and steals Harvey’s file… moments before Bullock himself comes looking for it.
Bruce and Alfred discuss the possibility that Bullock may be behind the bombing as he was suspected of taking bribes from Thorne around the time that Conway was arrested, but there wasn’t enough evidence against him to convict. Furthermore Bruce found a toothpick at the dock where the boat left from… (Harvey frequently has a toothpick in his mouth). There’s circumstantial evidence and then there’s this.
Conway comes to in a cavern and screams in terror as something emerges from the water and casts a looming shadow over him.
Rupert Thorne is innocently tending to his plants when Batman breaks in and demands information. A trio of Thorne’s men rush to his aid, but Batman uses Thorne as a human shield and then leaps out the window and grapple hooks them to safety.
Thorne insists he doesn’t care about Conway and welcomes him to sing like a canary as he has nothing on him. Satisfied, Batman leaves him dangling off the side of a building.
At the waterfront Renee Montoya informs Gordon that there’s still no sign of Conway. Batman approaches him and they go for a romantic evening stroll on the beach to discuss Bullock. Jim insists that despite his abrasive attitude Harvey is a good cop.
A dripping wet Bullock demands to see a recently arrested criminal despite not having authorisation. It’s also clearly not Bullock as he’s much larger, his face is concealed, his voice slightly off… and he grabs the junior officer with a hand that matches the one that planted the bomb.
‘Harvey’ approaches Joey “The Snail” Martin’s cell and reveals his face (though we only see this in silhouette), terrifying him and then knocks him out and drags him away. There’s a weird animation error here where his hands look normal.
Bullock is arrested, naturally, but Bruce no longer believes he’s guilty, having examined a “scale” he found in the wreckage of the transport boat. It has a mostly human cellular structure but a reptilian appearance. When Alfred brings him soup in a “microwavable crock…” Batman has an epiphany, calls him beautiful and sprints off.
After a brief trip to the zoo to learn about crocodiles, Bruce searches the bay for an underwater cave and eventually finds one.
Swimming inside he finds both Conway and “The Snail” tied up. They warn him about their abductor who emerges from the water right on cue. It’s Killer Croc!
A brief scuffle does NOT go Batman’s way at all as he’s wrestled to the ground, tossed into the water and held down with ease thanks to Croc’s immense strength.
He’s able to recover and hogties (crocties?) him as the two criminals make a break for it. Determining they’re the priority, Batman gives chase and recaptures them, with Croc arriving too late to stop any of them.
Back at the Batcave, Bruce researches Croc’s past as a Florida sideshow attraction turned pro wrestler turned Gotham petty criminal. A newspaper article states Bullock arrested him based on testimony from Conway and Joey “The Snail”. Seems awfully unlikely none of that would be in Harvey’s police file!
Croc approaches Bullock who has either been exonerated following Conway and Joey’s recapturing, or is out on bail. Revealing he escaped prison via the sewers, Croc confirms he was framing Harvey. Having heard enough, Batman emerges from the back seat and grabs Croc and the two jostle until Bullock crashes the car.
Croc heads for the sewers, tossing a manhole cover at Batman, Captain America style, which the Caped Crusader is only barely able to avoid. It’s dope.
One sewer chase later and the pair engage in round three, with Batman blinding Croc with a flare and then tying him to an overhead pipe.
In an effort to free himself, Croc triggers a cave-in which Batman has to rescue him from. Dragging him all the way back to the surface in what may be his most physically impressive feat to date, Batman dumps him at Harvey’s feet.
Bruce apologises without apologising for suspecting Bullock, confirming they’re both enforcers of the law and then vanishing. Summer Gleeson (remember her?) later asks Harvey how it feels to be cleared of all charges and he responds in typical Bullock fashion, eliciting a smile from Bruce.
This is a real ensemble of an episode with absolutely everybody pulling their weight. Kevin Conroy is on top form and Bob Hastings gets more to do than usual as Jim Gordon is torn between his loyalties to Batman and Bullock. It’s even a great Alfred episode!
But I think I have to reward Robert Costanzo for the second time as this is chiefly a Harvey Bullock episode and he is putting in his best work to date. The character has to be gruff, aggressive and unlikeable, but also sympathetic, vulnerable and even contemplative at the end when he asks Batman why he’d go to so much trouble to help him given their history, which is a tall order.
I enjoyed Aron Kincaid’s work as Killer Croc with his hammy pro wrestler voice, but there’s just a little less range there, even if Kincaid also did Spider Conway.
I’m not sure if Costanzo changes his voice up a little when Croc is impersonating Bullock, or if it’s Kincaid trying to sound like Costanzo, but it was so effective that I actually assumed Costanzo performed both roles until I checked the credits.
There’s a lot to like here as a heavy emphasis is on detective work while still delivering some really fun action scenes. It’s only the third time Batman has fought someone significantly larger than him, and all three fights have risen to the challenge of being scripted differently to the usual fare.
It’s also one of the better looking episodes, with an enormous amount of the shots utilising water, whether that be Batman creeping about in the rain (more great shadow work here) or he and Croc going for a swim. It gave the entire episode a very distinct visual identity and probably made for a nice change of pace for the animators. Batman and Croc each get to emerge dramatically from the water and both times it looks fantastic.
Much like the other Harvey in the Two-Face episodes, they utilised the continuity they’d established with a supporting character in previous episodes and turned the spotlight on him. Bullock has been antagonistic towards Batman throughout the series, and he has been shown as formerly dirty in other media, so not only is it believable that he’d be the primary suspect for the bombing and kidnappings, it makes for an interesting exploration of his character.
All of this and a strong villain showing compels me to place it reasonably high, but it’s not quite top 5 for me. So how about 6?
- Heart of Ice
- Two-Face Part 1
- Joker’s Favor
- Feat of Clay Part 2
- Beware the Gray Ghost
- Feat of Clay Part 1
- On Leather Wings
- Pretty Poison
- Two-Face Part 2
- It’s Never Too Late
- See No Evil
- The Cat and the Claw Part 1
- Christmas with the Joker
- Be a Clown
- The Cat and the Claw Part 2
- Nothing to Fear
- Prophecy of Doom
- The Last Laugh
- The Under-Dwellers
- The Forgotten
- I’ve Got Batman in My Basement
Killer Croc (Aron Kincaid) (first appearance)
I like to reward success in this segment, and Croc does manage to frame Harvey to the point that even Batman is seriously looking into him, going so far as to impersonate Bullock to gain access to Joey “The Snail”. He also gives Batman a couple of beat-downs, with the hero only able to overcome him by leaning on his gadgets, as he’s obviously no match for him in a straight-up fight.
There’s also something to be said for this outing granting Croc a level of forward-thinking intelligence when he’s usually portrayed as a bit of a hulking moron. I like when villains are both a mental and physical challenge rather than being strictly one or the other. Ya know, like Bane.
I think all of that easily propels him over the one-and-done villains, and several of the recurring ones as well. Where he can’t compete is on a human-interest level, so he falls short of the tragic trio of Mr. Freeze, Two-Face and Clayface, and the fun and flirty Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and yes, The Joker.
Heck of a first outing for what’s not generally considered a top-tier member of the Rogue’s Gallery, though!
- Mr. Freeze
- Poison Ivy
- Killer Croc
- Rupert Thorne
- Lloyd Ventrix
- Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
- Red Claw
- Arnold Stromwell
- Mad Bomber
- Nostromos (and Lucas!)
- Harley Quinn
- Sewer King
- Boss Biggis
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 Creed.
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.