The Matt Signal – Episode 98: Mean Seasons

Plot summary: Seeking revenge on an industry that turned their back on her once she reached 30, Calendar Girl strikes at key points throughout the year.

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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: ‘Mean Seasons’

Original Air Date: April 25th, 1998

Directed: Hiroyuki Aoyama (1)

Written: Rich Fogel (3) (story) and Hilary J. Bader (4)

Calendar Girl is a gender-bent version of Calendar Man, with the swap presumably another part of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s attempt to add more female villains to the show.

Sela Ward, Calendar Girl’s voice actress, was embroiled in a campaign against Hollywood’s ageism at the time this episode was made.

Superman: The Animated Series also featured a fight between its hero and a mechanical T-Rex. Get some new ideas, guys.

Recap

In April, Calendar Girl and her Chippendale henchmen ruin a Donna Day fashion show with Easter Egg smoke bombs, kidnapping the fashion mogul and easily fending off security during their escape.

They strike again in July at an auto show, this time with Independence Day themed weapons. Batman tries to save the host of the event from being kidnapped as well, but the combination of three beefcakes and some fireworks prove too much for him.

Bruce and Barbara research links between Donna Day Fashions and Gotham Motors, uncovering a model named Page Monroe, who was callously dropped at the height of her success once she turned 30.

The duo confront a sleazy agent that used to represent Monroe. He attempts to justify the events and makes a veiled comment about a plastic surgeon botching a procedure on her.

Monroe leads her merry men on their next crusade, this time against the GWB Network, who unveil their Autumn line-up of awful youth programming. Monroe kidnaps the network’s president.

Batman & Batgirl give chase only to be confronted by… a giant mechanical tyrannosaurus! Our heroes are eventually able to take it down by knocking an enormous lighting rig onto it, but it’s a close call!

Barbara tracks Monroe to an abandoned nightclub, where the villain tells the hostages her sad story before endeavouring to kill them in celebration of the Day of the Dead. Batman of course steps in, and after an intense battle, Monroe catches sight of a picture of her being destroyed and surrenders instantly.

Harvey Bullock forcibly unmasks Monroe once she’s in custody, despite her pleading that nobody look at her. Batgirl comments on how beautiful she is, but Batman points out she’s no longer capable of recognising that.

Best Performance

Giving Sela Ward a platform to espouse her own criticisms against Hollywood leads to a naturalistic performance as she chides the agents that covet youth and sasses the models that they victimise. Her delivery of “Honey, you’re never too thin and you’re never too young” is excellent. She’s also pretty good at the emotional outbursts that accompany her being seen unmasked, but her best work is all the jabs. There are a litany of talented actors who could have played this part, but it’s incredibly cool that they let it be her.

Kevin Conroy and Tara Strong are as good as ever, and there are a whole bunch of fun little parts, including the sleazy hostages, but there’s no way it’s not Ward.

Ranking

Perhaps no episode of this show has aged better. It’s pretty shocking to see a children’s cartoon doing such a good job of underlining gross business practices when it comes to fetishizing young women. From Calendar Girl being dropped once she turned 30, to the excessive use of bikini babes, to Barbara correcting Bruce’s use of the word girl rather than woman. There’s even a freakin’ casting couch scene!!! I don’t want to oversell it, but if you told me the show would be taking a stab at this kind of subject matter, I couldn’t have imagined it being this good.

They even managed to weave in a subplot about Bruce contemplating his own mortality, shocked that one of his employees has reached retirement age and quietly obsessing over his own ageing. It has a nice little resolution, too, with Bruce making retirement optional at Wayne Industries.

However, a couple of things hold it back from being one of the best in show. Firstly, the T-Rex, which is simply too much. Some might feel the very presence of a robotic dinosaur in any episode is tonally inappropriate, but for me it’s more that it comes completely out of left-field and doesn’t fit with the villain or premise. If she had been a disgruntled animatronics expert or something like that I’d be cool with, but it felt like an unnecessary tack-on. I would have rather seen the time that scene took re-distributed to the two main stories.

Secondly, it’s a little suspect that Batman would fail to rescue a hostage for NINE months. Unavoidable given Calendar Girl’s crimes are seasonal, but it still bothered me, and I wonder if there could have been another way to allow the villain to strike throughout the year. Less of a problem, but it does smack of first draft scripting.

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

Villain Watch

Calendar Girl (Sela Ward) (first appearance)

Listen, Calendar Man is an intrinsic part of some iconic Batman stories, but in a vacuum, this is clearly a far superior take on the character. From an aesthetic standpoint alone, she absolutely rules, with creative seasonal costume changes and weaponry. Easter Egg smoke bombs in April, over-aggressive fireworks in July, explosive Pumpkins in October and a scythe in November. Honestly, respect for resisting the easy out of Christmas!

But she’s much more than her appearance, fitting given the character’s tragic origins. Giving her a sympathetic backstory is par for the course, but few members of the Rogues Gallery can match hers for poignancy. It’s depressing that it’s still so relevant 30 years on, and crucially, she’s absolutely right.

I love the touch that we’re led to believe Monroe is hideously disfigured beneath her mask, with the scene of one of her hunks walking in while she’s not wearing it, causing her to flip out. The ultimate reveal that it’s actually all in her head evokes Doctor Doom’s tiny scar, but given the full context, I actually think this is more effective.

Bonus points for the hunks… who she quickly drops for the unnecessary T-Rex.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. Bane
  9. The Riddler
  10. The Phantasm
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Clayface
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Ra’s al Ghul
  16. Calendar Girl (NEW ENTRY)
  17. Roxy Rocket
  18. Killer Croc
  19. Firefly
  20. Penguin
  21. Scarecrow
  22. Lock-Up
  23. Lloyd Ventrix
  24. Rupert Thorne
  25. Count Vertigo
  26. Clock King
  27. Nivens
  28. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  29. Enrique el Gancho
  30. Josiah Wormwood
  31. Talia al Ghul
  32. Sid the Squid
  33. Queen Thoth Khepera
  34. Maxie Zeus
  35. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  36. Tony Zucco
  37. Man-Bat
  38. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  39. Hugo Strange
  40. Red Claw
  41. Arnold Stromwell
  42. Mad Bomber
  43. Tygrus
  44. Kyodai Ken
  45. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  46. Grant Walker
  47. Gil Mason
  48. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  49. Cameron Kaiser
  50. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  51. Mad Dog
  52. Ubu
  53. Professor Milo
  54. Romulus
  55. Arkady Duvall
  56. Sewer King
  57. Boss Biggis
  58. Montague Kane
  59. 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 for a third volume starting this Wednesday with Ben & Matt taking a look back at the 90s, starting with Goodfellas.

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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