The Matt Signal – Episode 103: The Demon Within

Plot summary: With a mystical artefact in play, Batman gets an assist from his old friend Jason Blood and his alter-ego, Etrigan the Demon.

Site Banner

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!

Follow The Matt Signal on Twitter!

Notes

Episode Title: ‘The Demon Within’

Original Air Date: May 9th, 1998

Directed: Atsuko Tanaka (2)

Written: Rusti Bjornhöel (1) & Stan Berkowitz (3)

Continuity wise, Etrigan would reappear in the Justice League episode ‘A Knight of Shadows’, while an elderly Bruce Wayne recounts the events of this story in the Batman Beyond episode ‘Revenant’.

Unfortunately, this was the last acting performance of Stephen Wolfe Smith, who portrayed Klarion.

Etrigan smashes the window of Kirby Cake House, named for the character’s creator, the superlative Jack Kirby.

The fictional movie Devastator 3 is a clear parody of The Terminator franchise, even starring a ‘Donald Shaltenpepper’.

Recap

Tim complains about being dragged to an auction by Bruce. He attempts so strike up a conversation with what he assumes is a fellow bored teen, an odd goth child with an aggressive pet cat…

The boy, Klarion, dismisses Tim and places a $100,000 bid on a branding iron that once belonged to Morgaine Le Fey. He immediately finds himself in a bidding war with Jason Blood, but Bruce swoops in at the last moment, buying the artefact for a million dollars.

We learn that Blood is an old friend of Bruce’s, and after Klarion storms off, he thanks Bruce for buying the branding iron for him.

Jason tells Tim of the legend of Etrigan the Demon, a servant of Merlin who shared a body with one of King Arthur’s men. Tim notices a bust of Etrigan bears a striking resemblance to Blood on its reverse…

Klarion’s mean cat (so basically just a cat) attempts to steal the branding iron while the fellas are playing the exposition game, transforming into a humanoid creature and attacking Bruce.

Sure enough, Jason Blood says a little incantation and transforms into Etrigan (much to Tim’s delight) and battles the cat monster. Panicking, it causes a fire, and Etrigan chooses to save Bruce and Tim, letting it get away with the prize.

Klarion thanks ‘Teekl’, who transforms back into a regular cat. The boy uses the brand to cast a spell that separates Jason Blood and Etrigan, who is now bound to do Klarion’s bidding.

That bidding consists of blowing up a movie theatre after Klarion dislikes the film playing, and getting the boy ice cream and cakes. Truly, a menace. Oh, and he derails a train and smashes some derelict buildings because they displease him. But mainly, it’s the cake.

Batman attempts to intimidate Klarion, who uses magic to immediately wreck him. A rapidly ageing Jason casts counter-spells, and the two take turns to do wild things to Bruce’s body. Not in a sex way.

Frustrated, Klarion unleashes Etrigan on the Caped Crusader, who can do nothing but play keep-away… until Klarion sends Etrigan after Jason instead for some reason.

Threatening to die of old age at any moment, Blood erects a magical force field that holds up just long enough for Batman to snatch Le Fey’s branding iron from the boy.

In a wild turn of events, Batman recites a magic spell to undo the separation, saving Blood’s life. He naturally repays this act by helping Bruce defeat Klarion via anime fight, imprisoning him in a crystal ball on Blood’s mantelpiece.

Best Performance

I have no choice but to tip my hat to Stephen Wolfe Smith as essentially an annoying Victorian ghost boy. Klarion is designed to draw audience ire, and Smith breaths so much punchability into him. He’s equal parts bratty and creepy, so regardless of what you think of the brief, he nailed it.

Billy Zane is disappointingly bland in the dual role of Jason Blood/Etrigan, though I give him props for voicing both.

There are basically no more characters; Kevin Conroy is on autopilot, Matthew Valencia just acts awestruck and there’s an auctioneer, I guess.

Ranking

Once again we must confront a severe deviation from the ‘realistic’ tone that Bruce Timm & Paul Dini claim to have strived so hard for in seasons one and two. I continue to find it funny that the creators rejected certain spoopy plot pitches in the past for being too unrealistic, but then went ahead and did things like this and the Egyptian Zombie Queen.

Personal preference will dictate how much you enjoy seeing Batman become a wizard for a hot minute, as he helps a demon battle a witch boy and his pet ‘were-cat’. I’m not opposed to supernatural elements in Batman in general, but as this particular show is played 95% straight, I would prefer they kept it 100… as it were. Even when we had werewolves and mutant tiger men, it was ‘explained’ as science, not fantasy.

That aside, I feel the script suffers from a lack of characters, putting all of the focus on Klarion, Jason Blood and Etrigan. Batman feels like a borderline afterthought, and Robin doesn’t do anything. Heck, Klarion’s cat has a bigger role than Tim. The characters that do get time are reasonably fun, but for me it was far too thin of an episode on top of the aforementioned tonal issues.

Nothing awful by any means, but lacking in… heart? Spirit? Backbone? Some body part or other.

  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
  35. Old Wounds
  36. Growing Pains
  37. Holiday Knights
  38. Second Chance
  39. Mad as a Hatter
  40. Heart of Steel Part II
  41. Appointment In Crime Alley
  42. Two-Face Part II
  43. Pretty Poison
  44. Deep Freeze
  45. Harley’s Holiday
  46. Lock-Up
  47. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  48. Feat of Clay Part I
  49. Cold Comfort
  50. His Silicon Soul
  51. Off Balance
  52. Vendetta
  53. Birds of a Feather
  54. Joker’s Millions
  55. Heart of Steel Part I
  56. Never Fear
  57. On Leather Wings
  58. Love is a Croc
  59. See No Evil
  60. The Clock King
  61. It’s Never Too Late
  62. Make ‘Em Laugh
  63. Joker’s Wild
  64. Eternal Youth
  65. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  66. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  67. Zatanna
  68. Day of the Samurai
  69. Avatar
  70. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  71. The Mechanic
  72. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  73. Terror in the Sky
  74. P.O.V.
  75. Christmas with the Joker
  76. Fear of Victory
  77. Be a Clown
  78. The Worry Men
  79. What is Reality?
  80. The Demon Within (NEW ENTRY)
  81. Animal Act
  82. Night of the Ninja
  83. Fire From Olympus
  84. Mudslide
  85. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  86. Nothing to Fear
  87. The Lion and the Unicorn
  88. Prophecy of Doom
  89. Cult of the Cat
  90. Tyger, Tyger
  91. Blind as a Bat
  92. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  93. Dreams In Darkness
  94. The Last Laugh
  95. Cat Scratch Fever
  96. Moon of the Wolf
  97. Paging the Crime Doctor
  98. Time Out of Joint
  99. Sideshow
  100. The Under-Dwellers
  101. The Forgotten
  102. Showdown
  103. Critters
  104. The Terrible Trio
  105. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

Klarion (Stephen Wolfe Smith) (first appearance)

As mentioned in the voice acting section, Klarion is designed as equal parts creepy little child who knows too much and irritating brat who you want to fail. Leaving his origin/true nature a mystery was probably a good call, and he gets to leave as strangely as he arrived… well, getting trapped in a snow globe is a bit stranger than rocking up to an auction, I suppose.

Beyond the well-written personality and appropriately haunting design, he unleashes a fun array of spells. Plus he has a ‘were-cat’! And temporarily commands Etrigan the Demon, who I toyed with ranking as a villain. Instead, we’ll package him and Teekl up with the boy and let him enjoy his potentially overly-generous ranking.

  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
  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. Klarion (and Teekl!)
  28. Nivens
  29. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  30. Enrique el Gancho
  31. Josiah Wormwood
  32. Talia al Ghul
  33. Sid the Squid
  34. Queen Thoth Khepera
  35. Maxie Zeus
  36. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  37. Tony Zucco
  38. Man-Bat
  39. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  40. Hugo Strange
  41. Red Claw
  42. Arnold Stromwell
  43. Mad Bomber
  44. Tygrus
  45. Kyodai Ken
  46. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  47. Farmer Brown (and Emmylou!)
  48. Grant Walker
  49. Gil Mason
  50. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  51. Cameron Kaiser
  52. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  53. Mad Dog
  54. Ubu
  55. Thomas Blake
  56. Professor Milo
  57. Romulus
  58. Arkady Duvall
  59. Sewer King
  60. Boss Biggis
  61. Montague Kane
  62. 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, concludes coverage of Loki this week with an overall series review.

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week it’s Boyz n the Hood.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s