The Matt Signal – Episode 94: Love is a Croc

Plot summary: Baby-Doll falls for fellow ‘freak’ Killer Croc, leading to a surprisingly effective crime wave that Batman struggles to thwart.

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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: ‘Love is a Croc’

Original Air Date: July 11th, 1998

Directed: Butch Lukic (2)

Written: Steve Gerber (1)

This is comic book icon Steve Gerber’s first time writing for the show. He’s best known for co-creating Howard the Duck and a definitive run on Man-Thing, but spent most of the 90s working in animation including Transformers, G.I. Joe and Dungeons & Dragons.

There is a reference to Bruce Timm in one of Croc’s newspapers, as well as a reference to the events of Superman: The Animated Series.

One of Baby-Doll’s stuffed animals is obviously Yogi Bear.

Recap

Mary Dahl tries to live an honest life as a hotel receptionist, but some horrifically obnoxious guests push the envelope and earn a small assault… no pun intended. She slinks off to her room, understandably depressed about how others treat her.

Turning on the TV to watch the trial of Killer Croc, Dahl finds a kindred spirit in the giant lizard man, who claims he too is the victim of discrimination because of his unusual medical condition.

Croc goes on a rampage after the judge offends him, taking out several guards, but ultimately falls to Batman outside the courthouse, bringing a tear to Dahl’s eye.

Thus the former child star visits Croc in Arkham and tosses him some chickens to build trust, and then causes his prison transport truck to crash before he can be taken to old sing sing. Hurling herself into his arms, Dahl declares they’ll be together forever.

Some time later, Croc and Dahl have made themselves a cosy little home in the sewers and relish the newspaper headlines that make them out to be Bonny & Clyde after a series of robberies.

Their next job targets a riverboat casino, but Batman & Batgirl finally catch them in the act. Croc manages to overpower the pair while Dahl uses her various deadly gadgets to cover their escape.

Croc grows irritable and walks out on Dahl to pick up a couple of babes at a bar, bragging about how he’s going to ditch his partner once they secure enough swag, unaware a heartbroken Dahl followed him.

Not letting on she knows, Dahl leads Croc to a nuclear power plant, overloading its reactor before revealing her plan for them to die together!

Bruce and Barbara arrive on the scene (after discovering a child-like sketch of the plan in the couple’s hideout) and the men brawl while Barbara neutralises the reactor.

Dahl flees but her former beau catches up to her and almost murders her! Bruce of course saves her at the last second and she repays him by helping take Croc down for good. Or more accurately, Croc takes himself down by ripping open a high-pressure steam pipe.

Best Performance

Trying to replace Alison La Placa’s incredible work as Baby Doll was always going to be a tall order and while Laraine Newman made an admirable attempt, she just can’t match her predecessor’s one of a kind vocals. It’s not just the hyper-specific baby voice, she’s not as effective when she goes for the Sad Adult moments. Still, in an episode light on characters, she’s still the stand out.

Likewise, Aron Kincaid leant so much believable size to Killer Croc and while Brooks Gardner does make him sound a bit like an 80s wrestler, he just isn’t quite as menacing.

Kevin Conroy & Tara Strong have a fun little back and forth while hunting the villains down, maximising the effectiveness of their minimal dialogue. If only they had a little more, I’d give them co-honours.

Ranking

MUCH to unpack here with the odd couple relationship. Dahl IS an adult, emotionally and legally, so in theory I support them… but her leaning all the way into the baby shtick gives it a layer of ick. But then again, if two consenting adults have an unconventional kink who am I to judge? As a crime partnership they’re irrefutably awesome, with the tiny Dahl able to create distractions and supplement Croc’s massive brute force with her various explosives and other weapons.

Their ill-fated partnership is the crux of the episode, with our heroes playing more of a supporting role while we watch the pair’s relationship blossom on the foundation of their mutual persecution by society for how they look. And then their bond disintegrates because Croc is fundamentally an asshole, shattering Dahl’s already fragile emotional stability to the point she wants to kill everyone and herself, which might be a first for the show. Even Mr. Freeze seemed to want to survive his own schemes despite his nihilism.

Despite presenting itself as a tragic villain spotlight, it’s a surprisingly funny episode, in particular when Batman arrives on the scene in the climax and Croc seems to be trying to warn him that Dahl is the real threat and he wants no quarrel, but Bruce starts kicking his ass before he can finish. Their trio of brawls are all well done, but they definitely lose some points for Croc basically taking himself down at the end.

In the end there are a lot of elements to like but also some complicated things that are going to rub some people the wrong way and an unsatisfying conclusion, resulting in a middling-to-good episode.

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

Villain Watch

Baby-Doll (Laraine Newman) (second appearance)

For the life of me I’m not sure why they changed Baby-Doll’s design given she’d only made one previous appearance and was a show-original. The original look is so evocative of a certain era of animation, while this version is… not.

Dahl is a well of infinite sadness, as the opening scene illustrates with her just trying to get by in the face of all too realistic cruelty from strangers. In a more nuanced medium, an utterly heart-breaking tale could be told along these same lines, especially as her psyche is eroded over the course of the episode, culminating in a genuine desire to Romeo & Juliet herself and take Gotham with her.

The trope of creepy children with a lust for murder is a timeless one, and Dahl plays nicely into that too, hence her formidable team-up with Croc. My gut instinct was to knock her down a spot or two, but I’ve talked myself into leaving her where she is now.

Killer Croc (Brooks Gardner) (sixth appearance)

I have always hated the original grey BTAS design, so was looking forward to Croc getting a makeover… but this isn’t all that much better. Making him green and slightly scalier is a step in the right direction, but there’s still just something a little off about the shape of his head in my opinion.

They also didn’t do a great job of portraying Croc like the legitimate physical force he should be in BTAS outside of his debut, and this episode did some good work to course correct. Among Croc’s highlights: chewing up a Batarang and spitting it back out, a destruction derby at the court house, defeating Batman & Batgirl in a 2-on-1 and nearly decapitating Bats near the end.

He’s also got more personality, even if that personality is a womanising sleazeball who likes to put on a hat and coat and go and get loaded. I’ll take it though, as it’s not a lane they typically play in with their villains, and his betrayal of Dahl evokes sympathy. Up he goes again!

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

There Will Be Movies returns soon with Ben & Matt taking a look back at the 90s. If you can’t wait, why not check out the brand new honourable mentions episodes for the first two volumes?

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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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