The Matt Signal – Episode 88: Cold Comfort

Plot summary: Mr. Freeze has developed a unique medical condition and decides to take it out on the people of 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: ‘Cold Comfort’

Original Air Date: October 11th, 1997

Directed: Dan Riba (12)

Written: Hilary J. Bader (1)

This episode aired before Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero, which was delayed repeatedly due to the negative response to Batman & Robin, and thus spoils the outcome of the movie.

At Bruce Timm’s request, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola drew Mr. Freeze’s original BTAS design, and Freeze becoming a disembodied head in a jar is another clear nod to his work. They clearly had no intention to go this route in the first place though, as Timm did not want Freeze to return after ‘Heart of Ice’ in order to make the episode more impactful.

This is technically the debut of ‘The Creeper’, albeit in his Jack Ryder persona.

The story of Nora Fries’ remarriage and Victor’s continued feelings for her is a recurring one in the comics Gotham Adventures and Batman Adventures Vol. 2.

Recap

Jack Ryder attempts to interview a palaeontologist about a recently assembled dinosaur skeleton, when Mr. Freeze (and his trio of ‘Ice Maidens’) rocks up and destroys it for no apparent reason.

Later at Gotham’s Tricentennial, Freeze strikes again, destroying a priceless painting. Batman attacks, but Freeze remains his physical superior. Victor opts to spare his life for some reason and escapes, leaving one of his followers behind. Typical.

While going over their files on Freeze, Batgirl comments on the fact that Victor never visited the revived Nora Fries, who eventually gave up on waiting and married her doctor.

Elsewhere, Freeze keeps a team of doctors hostage for unknown reasons. He declares Bruce Wayne his next target, because he lives a life of safety and security, which irritates him, I guess?

When they arrive to kidnap the billionaire, he’s too busy getting absolutely owned by Tim Drake in a debate about due process stemming from his civics homework. Victor begins to put Alfred on ice, but Batgirl interrupts and chases him off.

Luckily, Babs was able to plant a tracking device on their getaway vehicle. Bruce leaves Tim behind to look after Alfred (who relishes the reversed servant dynamic), and he and Barbara head off to find the villain.

Discovering Freeze’s hideout beneath an abandoned warehouse (again, please buy all the abandoned buildings and occupy them, Bruce), the New Dynamic Duo find what seems to be a spare Cryo-Suit and the captured doctors.

It turns out Mr. Freeze’s body had been slowly deteriorating to the point he is essentially a head in a jar, mounted to a little spider robot that docks with his Cryo-Suit. Naturally, he felt Nora wouldn’t want to see him anymore, hence his distance.

Victor departs in a helicopter carrying an enormous bomb capable of freezing the entire city, with Batman managing to climb aboard while Babs takes on the Ice Maidens.

Bruce affixes Freeze to his own bomb and drops it ‘harmlessly’ into the ocean. He tells Barbara that his old foe is probably dead… but our final shot of course reveals otherwise.

Best Performance

This is probably Michael Ansara’s weakest outing as Mr. Freeze… but he still gives the best performance in the episode. We’re firmly back in the ‘play him as emotionally dead’ camp, which makes sense given his radical physical change, and Ansara makes that work, but in a decreasingly compelling manner.

His trio of ‘Ice Maidens’ are voiced by the delightful Tress MacNeille, Cree Summer and Lauren Tom, and make for nice comic relief.

Tara Strong’s work as Barbara was much better than in her brief debut in ‘Holiday Knights’ (having more than 2 lines helps), while Mathew Valencia remains strong as the wise-cracking Tim Drake.

Finally, Kevin Conroy may be using essentially the same voice for Batman and Bruce these days, but boy is he good at making his civilian identity seem like a dumb-dumb. Love that for him.

Ranking

I really enjoy the ensemble dynamic New Batman Adventures has established, and the quality of writing and animation has been pretty high so far compared to the average BTAS episode. It feels like a more confident show, which would make sense given the immense success they’d enjoyed, allowing them to launch Superman: The Animated Series and Static Shock.

But for this episode specifically, a lot of your enjoyment will come down to how you feel about Mr. Freeze’s big reveal. Personally I’m not a fan, as it feels like unnecessary meddling with an already rock solid character. I’m not necessarily against a little spider-bot villain, but would have preferred the gimmick were attached to a new creation.

Also, Freeze’s motivations are all over the place. He starts out destroying a palaeontologist and artist’s lives’ work while harping on about robbing them of hope. Then he targets Bruce Wayne for feeling safe, which he wants to punish by killing Alfred. But in the end he’s content to just freeze the whole city. Pick a lane, guys!

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Almost Got ‘im
  4. Heart of Ice
  5. Harlequinade
  6. The Trial
  7. Riddler’s Reform
  8. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  9. I Am the Night
  10. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. Sins of the Father
  13. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
  14. The Man Who Killed Batman
  15. Perchance to Dream
  16. Two-Face Part I
  17. Bane
  18. Batgirl Returns
  19. A Bullet For Bullock
  20. Joker’s Favor
  21. Read My Lips
  22. Feat of Clay Part II
  23. Catwalk
  24. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  25. Harley and Ivy
  26. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  27. House & Garden
  28. Beware the Gray Ghost
  29. Holiday Knights
  30. Second Chance
  31. Mad as a Hatter
  32. Heart of Steel Part II
  33. Appointment In Crime Alley
  34. Two-Face Part II
  35. Pretty Poison
  36. Deep Freeze
  37. Harley’s Holiday
  38. Lock-Up
  39. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  40. Feat of Clay Part I
  41. Cold Comfort (New Entry)
  42. His Silicon Soul
  43. Off Balance
  44. Vendetta
  45. Birds of a Feather
  46. Heart of Steel Part I
  47. On Leather Wings
  48. See No Evil
  49. The Clock King
  50. It’s Never Too Late
  51. Make ‘Em Laugh
  52. Joker’s Wild
  53. Eternal Youth
  54. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  55. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  56. Zatanna
  57. Day of the Samurai
  58. Avatar
  59. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  60. The Mechanic
  61. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  62. Terror in the Sky
  63. P.O.V.
  64. Christmas with the Joker
  65. Fear of Victory
  66. Be a Clown
  67. The Worry Men
  68. What is Reality?
  69. Fire From Olympus
  70. Night of the Ninja
  71. Mudslide
  72. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  73. Nothing to Fear
  74. The Lion and the Unicorn
  75. Prophecy of Doom
  76. Tyger, Tyger
  77. Blind as a Bat
  78. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  79. Dreams In Darkness
  80. The Last Laugh
  81. Cat Scratch Fever
  82. Moon of the Wolf
  83. Paging the Crime Doctor
  84. Time Out of Joint
  85. Sideshow
  86. The Under-Dwellers
  87. The Forgotten
  88. Showdown
  89. The Terrible Trio
  90. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Mr. Freeze (Michael Ansara) (fourth appearance)

I covered the radical design change for Freeze and his inconsistent motivations in the episode ranking, but will add that I miss the iconic red goggles. It seems like they didn’t really know what to do with him in a world where Nora is alive and well. The answer to that is simple: don’t do anything with him. Every single one of his appearances has concluded with a perfect opportunity for it to be his last (including this one), but they clearly felt the pressure to have him appear, perhaps to capitalise on his two recent movie appearances.

The Ice Maidens are a huge step down from his polar bears, even if they’re well-voiced, and are kind of emblematic of the entire problem with this episode. They just don’t really fit his character. He had henchmen in his first appearance, but I really dug the idea he was growing more and more detached from humanity, going as far as to live in the North Pole with animals for company (and his Inuit friend). This feels like a major rollback of that characterisation, though I guess you can argue the movie warms his heart a little. But towards this? Meh.

I do like that he continues to be a physical monster, easily able to overpower Batman, while also enjoying a tech advantage thanks to his borderline unstoppable cold gun, but as I said, his character took a major hit. He’s staying where he is, but if Ivy or Two-Face have a strong showing, they’re overtaking him.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. Two-Face
  6. The Ventriloquist
  7. Catwoman
  8. The Riddler
  9. The Phantasm
  10. Baby-Doll
  11. Bane
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Penguin
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Clayface
  16. Ra’s al Ghul
  17. Lock-Up
  18. Lloyd Ventrix
  19. Killer Croc
  20. Rupert Thorne
  21. Count Vertigo
  22. Clock King
  23. Nivens
  24. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  25. Josiah Wormwood
  26. Scarecrow
  27. Talia al Ghul
  28. Sid the Squid
  29. Queen Thoth Khepera
  30. Maxie Zeus
  31. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  32. Tony Zucco
  33. Man-Bat
  34. Hugo Strange
  35. Red Claw
  36. Arnold Stromwell
  37. Mad Bomber
  38. Tygrus
  39. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  40. Kyodai Ken
  41. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  42. Grant Walker
  43. Gil Mason
  44. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  45. Cameron Kaiser
  46. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  47. Mad Dog
  48. Ubu
  49. Professor Milo
  50. Romulus
  51. Arkady Duvall
  52. Sewer King
  53. Boss Biggis
  54. Montague Kane
  55. The Terrible Trio

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.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, will wrap coverage of WandaVision this week, clearing the runway for Loki.

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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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