A new short film called Batman: Strange Days has been released by Bruce Timm in honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary. This short film, clocking in at just under 3 minutes, shows off what Batman was like back at the start of his comic book career – back in 1939. The moody look of the piece coupled with the sepia tones and the choice of villain make this to my mind at least – an instant pulp classic.
Doctor Strange isn’t used much nowadays as a villain. That’s too bad, because I think he was one of the more intriguing villains in the Batman mythology. While the Joker has certainly hogged the spotlight of Batman’s rogues gallery, and while Catwoman likes to walk the line between hero and antihero, Doctor Hugo Strange has been consigned to the long forgotten past.
Here’s the video of producer Bruce Timm discussing the creation of “Strange Days.”
Looking at this cartoon, I’m reminded very much of the 1940s-era Superman cartoons put together by Max Fleischer. These cartoons were probably among the first to introduce Superman to the wider audience beyond just the comic books, and they had a wonderful airbrushed style which really hasn’t been replicated since. While some of the early Max Fleischer Superman cartoons were more kid oriented, the latter ones were definitely in keeping with pulp themes and ideas, such as finding a lost city, dealing with foreign saboteurs, and even engaging in wartime operations against the Japanese.
Batman: Strange Days evokes this wonderful feeling of the classic Universal horror movies such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy crossed with this sense of what Batman must have been like in pulp adventures. Doctor Hugo Strange is portrayed as the archetypal mad scientist who is interested in sacrificing a beautiful young woman for the sake of his “experiments,” while our hero is definitely portrayed as the technological man of mystery, being a cross between Doc Savage and the Shadow. The scene where Batman challenges Strange out of the mist is so atmospheric, and so “Batman” that it sent chills up my spine.
Take a few minutes out of your day and check out Batman: Strange Days. If you are Batman fan, you’ll be happy you did. If you’re a pulp fan, you’ll be even happier.