The Matt Signal – Episode 43: Moon of the Wolf

Plot summary: There’s a werewolf loose in Gotham, but Batman is too busy aggressively collecting a charitable donation from a millionaire Olympian.

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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: ‘Moon of the Wolf’

Original Air Date: November 10th, 1992

Directed: Dick Sebast (8)              

Written: Len Wein (1)

Episode writer Len Wein, best known for creating Wolverine and Swamp Thing, adapted his own comic story of the same name from 1974.

Milo hides out in a building labelled Sebast Construction, named for director Dick Sebast.

This episode is riddled with production errors, including items of clothing changing colours and a number of typos such as leopards misspelled as ‘lepords’ and markings as ‘markines’ etc.

Recap

A zoo security guard who looks suspiciously like the one from the previous episode is walking his dog in the park when he is attacked by a full-on werewolf! It (safely) tosses the dog aside and then knocks the guard down.

Batman intervenes and the two fight on a narrow bridge as the Caped Crusader tries to deliver one-liners. He abandons the fight after the monster hurls the guard into the river below. Bats rescues the guard but the werewolf bolts.

Bruce tells Jim Gordon about “a mugger in a werewolf mask.” Jim notes that two timberwolves were recently stolen from the zoo, putting Bullock on the case. On his way out, Batman spots hair fibres on his gloves.

Over at the under-construction Gotham Coliseum, Professor Milo (remember him?) doesn’t bat an eyelid when the werewolf tries to attack him, watching calmly as it turns back into a man. Milo is furious to learn Batman interfered in the attack on the guard.

News gets around that former Olympian Anthony… Romulus… will give two and a half million dollars to charity if Batman collects the cheque from him in person. Romulus confirms as much to Bruce while the two work out together in a swanky gym. Apparently Bruce gets tired of his private one sometimes.

Later that evening Batman prepares to head over to collect the pledge, finishing up a documentary on timberwolves and confirming to Alfred the hairs from his gloves were genuine wolf fur before he leaves.

Letting himself into Romulus’ house through an open window, Batman doesn’t notice him pressing a secret button under his desk. He feels his temperature rising rapidly, deducing a little too late that he’s been gassed…

Milo chains Batman up in the middle of the coliseum rather than ya know, unmasking or murdering him. He and Romulus bicker with the latter demanding the antidote for his condition.

Milo lords it over him and delivers exposition about how the formula allowed Romulus to win his medals (as steroids are too easy to detect, apparently), set to a montage of him dominating events and enjoying fame.

Romulus of course refused to pay up when Milo came calling and began turning into a werewolf on the next full moon. Milo then began extorting him to do his bidding, bringing us to the present. Yeesh that is some lazy writing.

Harvey Bullock shakes down the guard from before, pointing out there were no signs of forced entry when the wolves went missing and payments were found in the guard’s account. He tries to explain but Bullock elects to arrest him.

Romulus transforms again but refuses to listen to Milo, and is so filled with murderous rage he smashes the antidote trying to kill Milo.

With a thunderstorm in the sky above and some hammy electric guitars soundtracking it, Batman fights Romulus across the coliseum, using every bit of construction equipment he can get his hands on to even the odds.

The GCPD surround the site and Harvey actually prevents one of his fellow officers from shooting, insisting they let Batman handle it. And handle it Batman does, swinging a wrecking ball into Romulus just as lightning strikes, zapping him and sending him hurtling into the water below.

Milo mocks Jim Gordon, confident he won’t be convicted. Harvey reports there was no sign of the werewolf for miles around… but they’d find out for sure in four weeks at the next full moon.

An undetermined time later, some folks get a tour of Romulus’ house, with the realtor claiming nobody knows where he went. The episode ends with a wolf howling at the moon in the midst of a thunderstorm.

Best Performance

This might be the first time I wasn’t impressed by anybody in the cast. Kevin Conroy’s dialogue is minimal and aside from some awkward one-liners, feels like material from the cutting room floor of another episode.

Treat Williams still has a unique voice for a Batman villain, but the level of clunk to the dialogue he has to read disqualifies him. Harry Hamlin was a good fake Donald Trump, but isn’t good at all as Romulus.

Let’s go with Robert Costanzo. Bullock shaking people down is always fun, and that’s particularly true when he demands answers from the zoo guard. He also gets a nice character turn, finally trusting Batman to bring in the bad guy and protecting him from harm after being saved repeatedly. Costanzo is perfectly able to capture the spirit of a rough around the edges cop with his heart in the right place.

Ranking

This was an extremely rough time. In my review of ‘Tyger, Tyger’ I said that I don’t mind big supernatural monsters in my Batman, so long as the writing is good. The writing in that was middling, the writing in this was dire. It quite honestly felt like bad fan fiction or the work of a first-time writer. Not first time on this show, first time writing anything. Which is hilarious given how iconic Len Wein is.

This was most emblematic in Milo and Romulus explaining their shared backstory to each other in an unnatural fashion. That kind of thing happens here and there and you learn to live with it, but it went on for far too long here.

But it’s not like it was one isolated bad scene; there was nothing really worthy of praise. Milo pays off a guard to steal some wolves, uses them to dose Romulus with his formula, then extorts him, sends him after the guard to keep him quiet, and then decides Batman needs to get his too. It just feels like an awfully long walk to nowhere.

The werewolf also lacks the character work and interesting fight style of Tygrus, so not even the Batman vs Monster aspect is fulfilling. Producing these episodes back to back only makes that more pronounced.

If not for my pure contempt for the holy trinity of bad episodes, this would find its way straight to the bottom. Instead it brings up the rear to Milo’s previous episode.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Heart of Ice
  3. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  4. Perchance to Dream
  5. Two-Face Part I
  6. Joker’s Favor
  7. Feat of Clay Part II
  8. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  9. Beware the Gray Ghost
  10. Mad as a Hatter
  11. Heart of Steel Part II
  12. Vendetta
  13. Appointment In Crime Alley
  14. Two-Face Part II
  15. Heart of Steel Part I
  16. On Leather Wings
  17. Pretty Poison
  18. Feat of Clay Part I
  19. It’s Never Too Late
  20. See No Evil
  21. The Clock King
  22. Joker’s Wild
  23. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  24. Eternal Youth
  25. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  26. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  27. P.O.V.
  28. Christmas with the Joker
  29. Fear of Victory
  30. Be a Clown
  31. Night of the Ninja
  32. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  33. Nothing to Fear
  34. Prophecy of Doom
  35. Tyger, Tyger
  36. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  37. Dreams In Darkness
  38. The Last Laugh
  39. Cat Scratch Fever
  40. Moon of the Wolf
  41. The Under-Dwellers
  42. The Forgotten
  43. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Professor Milo (Treat Williams) (second appearance)

Some villains have a bad first outing but get better down the line. Some are so bad they don’t get to come back. Milo somehow ended up getting a second chance after his completely nondescript debut, but it doesn’t do him much good. Sure, he gets to establish a sense of individuality after being one of three goons working for Daggett, but I’m not sure we learned anything about him here that we didn’t already know. He’s a scientist, he’s an expert in animal DNA, he’s slimy and he likes money.

It’s still a good character design and Treat Williams breaths some semblance of life into him, but those things can only go so far when the writing isn’t pulling its weight. Much like the episode itself, he’s only saved from the bottom of the pile by how much I hate Boss Biggis and the Sewer King… and…

Anthony Romulus (Harry Hamlin) (first appearance)

I barely have the energy to discuss how nothing Romulus is, but when you have multiple fight scenes with Batman and a whole episode is themed around you, you have to get ranked on the list.

As a monster, he’s a generic werewolf who does nothing new or interesting. As a human he’s a dick who cheated his way to Olympic medal, wealth and fame. Sure he wants out, but it’s not like we see much in the way of a good man before the transformation. Nor is he in any way complicated. It’s just nothing.

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Two-Face
  4. Clayface
  5. Mad Hatter
  6. Poison Ivy
  7. Catwoman
  8. The Riddler
  9. Clock King
  10. HARDAC (and Ronda Duane)
  11. Killer Croc
  12. Rupert Thorne
  13. Lloyd Ventrix
  14. Josiah Wormwood
  15. Scarecrow
  16. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  17. Tony Zucco
  18. Harley Quinn
  19. Hugo Strange
  20. Red Claw
  21. Arnold Stromwell
  22. Mad Bomber
  23. Tygrus
  24. Man-Bat
  25. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  26. Cameron Kaiser
  27. Kyodai Ken
  28. Penguin
  29. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  30. Professor Milo
  31. Romulus
  32. Sewer King
  33. 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.

Star Wars week starts December 14th. Stay tuned for podcasts, listicles and reviews.

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

Kevin & Jerome’s Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul podcast, Reel Bad, will be dropping its final episode (for now) before the end of the month.

Speaking of Jerome (twice), now that he has at last completed his 100 favourite movies of all time, all that remains is to rank them. Stay tuned…

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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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