The Matt Signal – Episode 63: Fire From Olympus

Plot summary: Shipping magnate Maxie Zeus believes himself to be the Greek god of his namesake, planning to reign lighting down on Gotham.

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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!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Fire From Olympus’

Original Air Date: May 24th, 1993

Directed: Dan Riba (4)

Written: Judith Reeves-Stevens (3) & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (3)

Maxie Zeus’ line “look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” is from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias, a name you will either recognise as the most critically acclaimed episode of Breaking Bad or a character from Watchmen. Or neither if you have a life.

Also Shelley was married to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. So. There you go.

Recap

Jim Gordon awaits a meet-up with a man named Stavros, who is chased down by two burly men and cornered in a nearby alley. Stavros pleads for mercy, but a shadowy figure steps out of a car babbling about the mortal plain and the depths of Tartarus, threatening Stavros with a huge lightning bolt-shaped staff.

Gordon discovers a barely-alive Stavros moments later and takes him to Gotham General. The doctor states that he was struck by lightning, and had it not been for some nearby tires he would have been killed!

Batman and Gordon swap information on Stavros, an employee of Maximillian Shipping who had been selling information to hijackers until he made a deal with Jim in exchange for immunity.

Gordon shows footage of the ‘Electron Discharge Canon’, a devastating weapon recently stolen during shipping. Batman grows curious about Stavros’ employer.

Speaking of which, over at a ludicrous building with Ancient Grecian architectural stylings, a businesswoman named Clio pleads with Maxie Zeus to take the allegations against his company seriously.

Zeus, dressed in a toga, finds her tales of mortal disputes dull. She kindly fills us in that because of his past business successes (legitimate and otherwise), he became so arrogant he literally believes himself a god. Oh and they were formerly lovers.

The Batwing arrives, and Zeus declares the Caped Crusader to be his brother… Hades! Dope. He offers Batman nectar and dismisses Clio as mortals are not fit for godly words. They both watch her walk away. Creeps.

Zeus refutes the idea he’d have interest in the EDC weapon as he can generate lightning with ease. He then threatens Batman, who leaves without a fuss. Aaaand as soon as he leaves, Zeus unveils the stolen cannon to his cronies.

Clio goes home for a good cry while cradling a picture of her and Zeus. Misery loves company though, as Batman appears from nowhere asking for her help. She explains the pressure of working with the mob caused Maxie to have a psychotic break and that Batman can probably relate. Queen shit.

She sneaks Batman back into the building, where Zeus fires the EDC at a police blimp!!! Clio pleads with him and momentarily gets through, but he returns to his cosplaying and has her taken away.

Batman is almost immediately discovered and dropped into a chamber containing twelve labours. The first? A hydra… Or rather one real snake wrapped around a statue of two more, giving the impression of a three-headed creature. It seemingly triples in size and nearly kills Batman, but he sprays it with knockout gas.

Next is the Erymanthian Boar… Or rather a regular boar that successfully tackles Batman out of the damn window and almost to his death. Can you imagine if that had been how Bruce went out?

Maxie straps Clio to the EDC and prepares to fire it again, believing the Fires of Olympus will cleanse her so she can rule at his side. Luckily Batman intervenes, taking out his security guns (harpies) and then Zeus himself so he can disarm the weapon.

Zeus attacks with his electro-staff (which I guess is a miniaturised version of the EDC?), sending Batman careening over the edge for the second time in two minutes…

…and he once again calmly climbs back up, gets ahold of the staff and hurls it at the EDC, disabling it once and for all. Zeus leaps to rescue his beloved staff and is promptly electrocuted.

Locked up in Arkham, Zeus believes Poison Ivy is Demeter, Two-Face is Janus and Joker is Hermes (who is a trickster as well as a speedster!), believing he is at last home.

Best Performance

This episode lives and dies by Steve Susskind’s ability to turn the camp up to 11. He mostly succeeds in that regard, doing his best to embody a giant man who believes himself to be the king of the Greek pantheon. Lots of big booming declaratives and references to mythology. You can feel the hulking size of the character, which is no small task. Ideally it would have been Brian Blessed, but you take what you can get, I guess.

I actually liked Bess Armstrong quite a lot as Clio, and Nicholas Savalas in the duel-role of Stavros and one of Maxie’s heavies. Good of them to get two Greek actors!

Ranking

The Reeves-Stevens’ owe me ten more labours of Heracles. I’m not saying I actually want a feature length episode where Batman runs a gauntlet of trials loosely modelled after the twelve, but that strikes me as the most compelling thing they could do with a delusional man obsessed with ancient Greece. (Straight to video, obviously.)

I think the character was fun, but the episode failed to harness that fun in an effective manner. Stavros raises more questions than he answers. Batman visits Zeus, leaves, sneaks back in, immediately gets captured, gets thrown out a window, climbs back up, gets thrown off the building, climbs back up and wins. Clio gets taken away, INSTANTLY strolls to freedom and then gets captured again. These are the little things that completely unstitch episodes in my opinion.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Almost Got ‘Im
  3. Heart of Ice
  4. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  5. I Am the Night
  6. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  7. The Man Who Killed Batman
  8. Perchance to Dream
  9. Two-Face Part I
  10. Joker’s Favor
  11. Feat of Clay Part II
  12. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  13. Harley and Ivy
  14. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  15. Beware the Gray Ghost
  16. Mad as a Hatter
  17. Heart of Steel Part II
  18. Appointment In Crime Alley
  19. Two-Face Part II
  20. Pretty Poison
  21. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  22. Feat of Clay Part I
  23. His Silicon Soul
  24. Off Balance
  25. Vendetta
  26. Birds of a Feather
  27. Heart of Steel Part I
  28. On Leather Wings
  29. See No Evil
  30. The Clock King
  31. It’s Never Too Late
  32. Joker’s Wild
  33. Eternal Youth
  34. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  35. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  36. Zatanna
  37. Day of the Samurai
  38. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  39. The Mechanic
  40. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  41. Terror in the Sky
  42. P.O.V.
  43. Christmas with the Joker
  44. Fear of Victory
  45. Be a Clown
  46. What is Reality?
  47. Fire From Olympus
  48. Night of the Ninja
  49. Mudslide
  50. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  51. Nothing to Fear
  52. Prophecy of Doom
  53. Tyger, Tyger
  54. Blind as a Bat
  55. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  56. Dreams In Darkness
  57. The Last Laugh
  58. Cat Scratch Fever
  59. Moon of the Wolf
  60. Paging the Crime Doctor
  61. The Under-Dwellers
  62. The Forgotten
  63. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Maxie Zeus (Steve Susskind) (first appearance)

Despite being an insane, outlandishly dressed criminal who terrorises the city, many don’t consider Zeus to be a ‘proper’ Batman villain. I think that’s ludicrous. Maxie’s disconnect from reality is a great deal of fun, with his henchmen mostly just shrugging and not wanting any problems, which only heightens the effect. Heck, even Batman just deadpans him for the most part. It’s good stuff!

I also enjoyed the final scene with him casting the Rogues Gallery as gods. But I can’t place him too high as he somehow comes across as a bit of a lame duck despite being an enormous man wielding a lightning staff. Furthermore, despite being as mentally ill as any Batman villain could ever be, with a supporting character longing to get him help, but that emotional plot completely fails to land. Just a lot of wasted potential.

  1. The Joker
  2. Mr. Freeze
  3. Poison Ivy
  4. Harley Quinn
  5. Two-Face
  6. Mad Hatter
  7. Penguin
  8. Catwoman
  9. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  10. Clayface
  11. Ra’s al Ghul
  12. The Riddler
  13. Clock King
  14. Killer Croc
  15. Lloyd Ventrix
  16. Count Vertigo
  17. Josiah Wormwood
  18. Scarecrow
  19. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Sid the Squid
  22. Maxie Zeus
  23. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  24. Tony Zucco
  25. Man-Bat
  26. Hugo Strange
  27. Red Claw
  28. Arnold Stromwell
  29. Mad Bomber
  30. Tygrus (and Dr. Dorian)
  31. Kyodai Ken
  32. Gil Mason
  33. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  34. Cameron Kaiser
  35. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  36. Talia al Ghul
  37. Mad Dog
  38. Ubu
  39. Professor Milo
  40. Romulus
  41. Sewer King
  42. Boss Biggis
  43. Montague Kane

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.

Published by

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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