THE BATMAN VS. DRACULA
The Batman (2004-8) was an attempt to reboot the Batman Animated franchise. Several of the production team behind the Bruce Timm Universe were present, including Alan Burnett and Glenn Murakami in various producing roles, although the series was largely driven by Michael Goguen and Duane Capizzi, who had previously produced the animated Jackie Chan Adventures (2000-5). However, while it traversed the same territory as Batman Animated, The Batman was highly disappointing. The dark brooding art deco look of Batman Animated had been replaced by day glo colours indeed, while Batman Animated was inspired by the Tim Burton films, The Batman gave the impression of trying to replicate the look of Joel Schumachers Batman Forever (1995) disaster in animation. All the dark psychological drive of Batman Animated was gone, replaced by flashy editing gimmicks, while the villains of the show were redesigned in ways that no fans of the comic-books would recognise as seen here, for instance, The Joker becomes a crazy with red eyes and green dreadlocks. Bruce Wayne was drawn with vast Cro-Magnon brow and weak chin, which made him look all of about 16 years old. Other redesigns of familiar characters like Catwoman and Man-Bat were disastrous and I gave up on watching the show after less than half-a-dozen episodes.
Batman Animated had successfully spun off a number of video/dvd-released animated films beginning with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) and The Batman vs. Dracula was the first film spinoff from The Batman. The title holds the promise of an attention-grabbingly gimmicky fight match. Certainly, there are comic-book precedents for this and Dracula has served as a villain in the DC Batman universe before. Most notable was the trilogy of graphic novels Batman and Dracula: Red Rain (1991), Batman: Bloodstorm (1994) and Batman: Crimson Mist (1998) as part of DCs Elseworlds series, which offered up radical alternate world interpretations of familiar DC superheroes Dracula, for instance, infects Batman with his bite making him a literal Bat-man. The stories also featured vampiric versions of The Joker, Catwoman (who is a were-cat) and with Commissioner Gordon and Alfred forming a team of vampire hunters.
The Batman vs. Dracula certainly has a better budget than The Batman, allowing a much more colourful and stylised version of Gotham City, for instance. The introduction of Dracula as a villain allows the script to make some interesting analogies between he and Batman. At one point, Dracula turns up at a ball at Wayne Manor and pertinent analogy is made between he who is a bat who hides as a man and Batman who is a man who disguises himself as a bat and how both hide behind masks of who they truly are. Rather amusingly, when it comes to them fighting on the roof in silhouette, the animators have to draw Dracula with a ragged cape to differentiate between the two figures.
It also feels that the script has had to twist the existing comic-book characters out of shape to make the story work The Penguin is turned into Draculas hypnotised loyal servant; The Joker is vampirised; while Vicki Vale is turned into Draculas object of affection and abducted as the intended vessel for the reincarnation of Draculas bride. (Incidentally, Camilla Karnstein is namedropped as Draculas bride, the first known case (I think) when the two founding of characters of vampirism have been brought together on screen). Not to mention that the basic set-up requires Dracula to have to improbably be buried in a Gotham City graveyard. It feels more like a case of the comic-book canon having been twisted out of shape in order to make it work as a vampire story. The title team-up intrigues one, but you cannot help but think how much more depth and character could have been invested into the effort if The Batman vs. Dracula had been made as part of the Bruce Timm universe.