Recap / Batman: The Animated Series E51 "The Man Who Killed Batman"

We open with a terrified man running through the rainy streets of Gotham, as if being chased by someone. An issue of the Gotham Times floats by reading "BATMAN SLAIN? Mysterious Crime Fighter Missing." The man, Sidney Debris, a small, bespectacled scaredy-cat, eventually arrives at Rupert Thorne's mansion and requests to see him. Thorne agrees and despite Sidney's nervousness, Thorne greets him warmly. We then see the reason for such warmth:

Thorne: I've heard you've made quite a name for yourself on the streets, Sidney. What is it they're calling you? Oh yes... "The Man Who Killed Batman."

Sidney only stammers nervously at that statement, and halfway denies that it is true, before explaining that he is in big trouble. He then starts telling his story.

Some hours earlier, Sidney is just a nobody mob underling wanting to move up in the ranks. His "friend" Eddie G. informs him of a drug shipment they're picking up and Sidney asks to get in on it. Eddie lets the bumbling Sidney come in the hopes that he will serve as bait for Batman while the others get away. Eddie sweet-talks Sidney, claiming that this will get him a cool mob name like "Sid the Squid" (which Eddie gets from looking at a calamari billboard). Eddie then sends Sidney to the roof, ostensibly to keep watch. Predictably, Batman shows up at the roof and engages Sidney. Sid fumbles around, which casts a bunch of shadows that make it look like he is actually fighting Batman to the onlookers below. Eventually Sid accidentally falls off the roof and Batman pulls him up... but ends up falling himself, right on top of a leaking propane tank that explodes, leaving Sid holding on to Batman's cape and cowl. The rest of the mobsters arrive and notice the burning tank, Sid clutching the cowl and babbling incoherently. Believing that No One Could Survive That!, they conclude that "Sid the Squid just offed the Batman."

Sid, who all his life dreamed of being a "big shot," has apparently had his dream come true, and is being cheered by his fellow criminals in a bar celebration, with Batman's cape and cowl hanging by his chair. Unfortunately, the joy is short-lived, since the minute someone calls him "the toughest guy in Gotham," some muscled thug comes along wanting to take out Sid in order to take that "title." A fight breaks out, followed by the cops showing up and arresting everyone present, including Sid. While locking up the prisoners, Montoya gets the news from Bullock that Batman was killed by "some mastermind called 'the Squid'." Bullock starts demanding the prisoners give info on this "Squid," zeroing in on a terrified Sid until a woman enters claiming to be Sid's attorney... Harleen Quinzel. Sid's bail has been paid and Harleen is requesting he be released. Bullock asks Quinzel if they've met before, but she simply retorts with, "I served you a subpoena once. It was a small subpoena."

As Harleen and Sidney are being driven around, Sid wonders who could've bailed him out (and who would want to) in the first place—Sid and his mother don't talk to each other anymore and Sid's parole officer is still in jail, so neither of them could've been the one to have put up bail. After Said complains about Harleen's makeup choking up the air, she turns around, revealing a familiar hat and black and white face paint...

Harley: My boss likes me to wear a smile to work!
Sidney: Hey, I've seen you! You work for... [gasp] The Joker!

At the Clown Prince of Crime's hideout, the man himself welcomes Sid and requests to shake the hand of "the man who did the impossible: The Man Who Killed Batman" (though he's visibly disgusted at uttering the latter). Sidney notices a tack on said hand, which Mr. J excuses as "force of habit." Anyway, Joker's a smart guy and the fact that no body was found is bothering him, therefore they're pulling a job tonight to make sure Bats is really dead. Joker, Harley, their goons, and Sid then leave to rob the Gotham Diamond Exchange. "And if Batman hasn't really gone to his final reward, we'll see that he gets there!" quips Joker.

While the cops amass outside the Exchange, Batman fails to show. Joker swings between nervousness, anger at Sid, and finally sadness, over the fact that Batman is apparently really gone. He orders that Harley put back all the loot and utters the immortal line:

After escaping the police via a laughing gas bomb, Joker and the gang hold a little "memorial" for Batman at the Ace Chemical Plant. Batman's cape and cowl is placed inside a coffin on a conveyor belt to a vat of acid, to which Joker adds a "Kick Me" sign ("You put the fun in funeral," says Harley). The Clown Prince of Crime proceeds to give his eulogy:

Joker: Dear friends... Today is the day that the Clown cried. And he cries not for the passing of one man, but for the death of a dream. The dream that he would someday taste the ultimate victory over his hated enemy. For it was the Batman who made me the happy soul I am today. How I agonized over the perfect way to thank him for that. Perhaps with a cyanide pie in the face. Or an exploding whoopie-cushion playfully planted in the Batmobile. [with growing anger] But those dreams were dashed by the weaselly little gunsel sitting there in our midst. [everyone starts moving away from Sid] The cowardly insignificant gonif who probably got lucky when Batman slipped on the slime trail this loser left behind him. This mound of diseased hyena filth who's not fit to lick the dirt from my spats! ... [regains composure] But I digress. The time for sorrow has passed. Its time to look to a future filled with smiles. [threateningly] And I'll be smiling again, just as soon as we take that man THERE... [points to Sid] ...and slap him in that box THERE... [points to Batman's coffin] ...and roll him into that vat of acid THERE! [points to said vat of acid]

Joker's goons then proceed to lock Sid, who repeatedly and desperately screams that he is sorry for what he did, in the coffin and it's rolled into the vat of acid... as Harley plays "Amazing Grace" on the kazoo. A tearful Joker watches as the coffin slowly sinks into the acid...

Joker: *sigh* ...[cheerfully] Well, that was fun! Who's for Chinese?

As the acid starts dissolving the coffin, things look grim for Sid until suddenly the lid opens and he finds himself on the Gotham River bank, which he attributes to the coffin being sucked down a drainpipe. He decides he needs to get out of town, so he calls Eddie to set him up with the leader of the drug ring...

...who happens to be Thorne, which brings us back to the "present" and the end of Sidney's story. Unfortunately, Thorne drops the friendly tone he's had thus far and suddenly becomes hostile: he doesn't believe that Sid managed to kill Batman and make a fool of the Joker by complete accident, since "no one is that lucky or stupid!" He accuses Sidney of "playing dumb" to muscle in on his drug racket, and draws a gun on Sid, offering to get him out of Gotham... "in a pine box!" Suddenly gunshots and fighting sounds are heard from the next room, which can mean only one thing...

Batman makes his dramatic entrance and quickly knocks Thorne out. Sid asks how Batman survived and he explains that he swung away before the explosion, and decided to tail Sid and lay low to find out who was heading the drug ring. Batman also saved Sidney from the acid. Sidney thanks Batman and tries to leave—but Batman stops him, pointing out Sid is still technically a criminal since he was an accomplice to a gang and was involved in a drug racket. Sid understands this, but Batman also adds that "in the right environment," a man of Sid's "dangerous reputation" can get "a lot of respect"...

...which finally brings us to Stonegate Penitentiary, where the rest of the inmates hail Sid as the man who almost killed Batman and, in the process, managed to not only make a fool of the Joker but also set up Rupert Thorne. A beaming Sid remarks, "A big shot at last!"

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Accidental Hero: Sid, to Gotham's underground anyway.
  • Acid Pool: A vat of acid is the centerpiece of the Joker's funeral for Batman/death trap for Sid.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: At the funeral, Harley plays "Amazing Grace" on the kazoo.
  • And This Is for...: Batman calls his hits as he's beating up Thorne.
    Batman: That's for pulling a gun. That's for the drugs. And that one's for any I missed!
  • Antagonist in Mourning:
    • The Joker's reaction to Batman's "death."
    • Bullock as well.
  • Anti-Villain: Sidney is a Type IV. He just wants some place to belong and feel appreciated. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Gotham underworld is full of false friends and very deadly enemies.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Sid "the Squid" is given his nickname as a mocking joke by his buddies who think he is worthless as a crook. It becomes a badge of honor after he almost kills Batman, makes a fool of the Joker, and sets up Rupert Thorne.
  • Ask a Stupid Question... and you'll get mauled by Joker's hyenas.
  • Badass on Paper: Sidney is believed by the cops to be a criminal mastermind and all the other goons of the underworld think he's an incredibly tough guy (even a big-shot mafioso like Thorne, who sees all of the events and decides to believe that Sid's just playing dumb). The Joker is right about Sidney being just some lowly dope, but even then he doesn't seem to (hell, he doesn't wish to) compute that even the Dark Knight can be just as (seemingly fatally) susceptible to Murphy's Law as anybody else.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: "Sid the Squid" is being held at gunpoint by Rupert Thorne, who refuses to believe that anyone could kill Batman and escape the Joker out of sheer dumb luck and thinks Sid is trying to depose him. Then they hear violence in the next room, and in walks Batman.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
  • Burying a Substitute: Of all people, the Joker does this for Batman when he becomes convinced that Batman is dead. He takes the cape and cowl Sid was left with, puts them in a coffin, adds a "kick me" sign, and then throws Batman's "killer" in too.
  • Butt-Monkey: Inverted with Sidney. This bumbling wannabe crook, through several bizarre twists of fate, experiences incredible good luck throughout the episode, making monkeys of Rupert Thorne, the Joker, and (temporarily) Batman, and earning widespread praise he doesn't deserve for an incredible feat that, due to a freakish coincidence, he only appears to have performed. Thorne even lampshades the possibility that Sid's "loser" shtick may all be an act.
    Thorne: Nobody's that lucky or stupid!
  • Canis Latinicus: While Joker is wondering whether Batman is really dead or not given the lack of a body, he says "Batus delicti," a pun on "Corpus delicti": the term, which means "body of crime," is commonly misunderstood to refer to a murder victim's corpse but actually refers to the body of evidence proving that a crime has occurred, which must be established before a person can be convicted of committing that crime.
  • Continuity Nod: Bullock nearly recognizes the uncostumed Harley, having seen her dressed as a policewoman in her debut episode, "Joker's Favor."
  • Corpsing: Joker holds a funeral for his rival, complete with Harley Quinn playing Amazing Freaking Grace on a kazoo. Harley's voice actress Arleen Sorkin actually did the kazoo herself, and reportedly they had to do this bit (and Joker's follow-up line, "Well that was fun! Who's for Chinese?") in one take because the cast was laughing too hard to try again.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Sid gets locked up, but his experiences have made him a hero to the average inmate. He's the happiest guy who ever went to prison.
  • Extreme Doormat: Sid never does anything; the events of the episode simply happen to him and he barely reacts to them.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Deconstructed. Sid initially enjoys the acclaim he receives, but then he's threatened by a rival (on the grounds that killing the man who killed Batman would make him the toughest guy in town), captured by the Joker, and mistaken for a possible rival by Rupert Thorne. Sid keeps trying to explain the situation and is lucky to avoid getting killed several times.
  • Faking the Dead: Batman takes advantage of the situation by letting everybody think he's dead while he tracks Sid to find out who's running the drug ring.
  • False Friend: Sid considers Eddie G. his best friend—and Eddie sets Sid up to be Batman's bait. And it's very difficult to blame Eddie once you get to know Sid.
  • First Day from Hell: This is Sid's first day as one of Thorne's Mooks and he is subjected to five Mook Horror Shows (six if we count Batman sending him to jail).
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Most of the episode is Sid telling what happened from his point of view. Feeble as he is, he is just dragged from one situation to another (sometimes literally) by more powerful forces.
  • For the Evulz: This episode cements this trope as the Joker's MO, with him lamenting that robbing a jewelry store just isn't the same without someone like Batman to piss off in the process, to the point where he orders his gang to put the diamonds they were planning to steal back.
    Harley: Whee! Look at all the pretties!
    Joker: Put them back, Harley.
    Harley: Oh, Mr. J, you're such a kidder, you never c— [Joker grabs her by the collar]
    Joker: I said PUT THEM BACK! [...] Without Batman, crime has no punchline...
  • Foreshadowing: The tack on Joker's hand when Sidney goes to shake it is a sign that Joker's not happy with Sidney, along with the noticeable pause in Joker's voice as he says the word "Killed" in a Title Drop.
  • Framed for Heroism: Well, more like "framed for villainy," but Sid gets his badass rep when people think he somehow managed to fight Batman to a standstill and then kill him, rather than him just flailing, tripping, and Batman slipping to his doom.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": The Joker. A vat of acid. A coffin with a bat-cape and a "kick me" sign. Harley playing "Amazing Grace" on the kazoo. One of the defining moments for the show. The scene had to be done in one take as the actors were laughing too hard to try again. Harley delivers the Trope Namer line in response to the "kick me" sign.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Harley to Bullock: "I served you a subpoena once. It was a small subpoena."
    • There is also the couple of Yiddish insults that the Joker slings Sid's way during his eulogy, most importantly "gunsel." (Maybe he's using it in the kind-of-current-pulp-fiction-way that means "goon," but its original meaning is a rude name for homosexuals...)
  • Gossip Evolution / Snowball Lie: Even when Sid claims it was an Accidental Murder, being a Extreme Doormat, he just lets the Mooks treat him as their hero. Mere hours after the explosion, the Gotham Underground believes Sid is a mastermind at jail. Only one day after that, Rupert Thorne, with true information about Sid being a Bumbling Sidekick, believes Sid is a Magnificent Bastard playing the Obfuscating Stupidity card.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Montoya mutters "Madre de Dios"note  upon learning of Batman's "death."
  • Hello, Attorney!: Harley Quinn's disguise. She even wears glasses.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: That's all Sid ever wanted. And he finally gets his wish in the end. And then you realize Sid's dream was being From Nobody to Nightmare.
    Sid: A big shot at last!
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Sid is probably the most harmless goon that has ever appeared in Batman-related media, and that's saying something.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: Sid makes a convincing shadow of a squid's tentacles with his hands. This is Foreshadowing the Central Theme: Later, Batman shows up at the roof and engages Sidney. Sid fumbles around, which casts a bunch of shadows that make it look like he is actually fighting Batman to the onlookers below. The whole theme is how the Gossip Evolution could make a Snowball Lie, making a Bumbling Sidekick into a Badass on Paper.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: The Joker attaches a "Kick Me" sign to Batman's empty cape and cowl before it is to be sealed in a coffin.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: "Sid the... uh... [spots a billboard advertising calamari] Squid!"
  • Made of Iron: Batman punches a guy across the room and he hits his head on the front of Thorne's desk. The desk does not even have a dent and the guy does not even have a concussion.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Sid is certainly not one of the combatant Mooks, but he is such a loser he cannot be called Minion... he doesn't do anything useful (he's set up as bait, but Sid doesn't manage to accomplish even that).
  • Mistaken for Badass: Poor, poor Sid. Played for Drama, even—it nearly gets him killed several times.
  • Mood Whiplash: Two in-universe examples.
  • Mook Horror Show: The episode plays with this trope, showing us all the terrors Mooks have to endure:
    • First, Eddie G. sets up Sid as the bait in an effort to avoid this trope with the Batman, so Sid is chased by a Terror Hero. Sid is saved by his own stupidity.
    • When Sid is taken to a Bad-Guy Bar to celebrate how he killed Batman, some Bit-Part Bad Guy Gang Bangers challenge him for the title of "The toughest guy in Gotham." Cue a Bar Brawl. Sid is saved by the police...
    • At jail, Sid is menaced by Harvey Bullock with a little Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. Sid is saved by a lawyer...
    • ... who turns out to be Harley Quinn in disguise, who leads Sid to the Joker, who puts Sid in a Death Trap. Sid escapes by a Deus ex Machina...
    • ... then Sid decides to asks Rupert Thorne for help—who suspects Sid is trying to pull a Scheherezade Gambit and decides Sid has outlived his usefulness. Sid is saved by...
    • ... Batman, who finally plays this trope straight on Thorne's gang, and he sends Sid to jail.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The first few seconds of the Joker's raid on the jewelry store are framed in a way very reminiscent of the robbery in the opening titles.
    • The Squid was a minor Batman rogue who appeared briefly in the comics in the early 80's and was almost an Expy of the Penguin, but was shown as a very cunning and ruthless would-be crime boss, completely the opposite of Sid the Squid. While the comic-books' Squid remains obscure, his storyline is extremely significant to the Batman franchise in retrospect, as it featured the debut appearances of Killer Croc and Jason Todd.
  • Never Found the Body: Batman after the explosion. The gangsters don't care, but the Joker is cautious enough not to believe it without additional evidence.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Sid's mannerisms, voice and look are intended to be like Woody Allen.
  • No One Could Survive That!: The gangsters are certain nobody could have survived the explosion. As usual for the trope, they're wrong.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Thorne suspects Sid of this because he doesn't believe Sid could have achieved so much by dumb luck.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The opening theme and Batman's theme are played with an organ. This is because this episode walks the edge on the Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: The Joker tries to murder Sid for denying him a suitably epic showdown with Batman.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Harley "rescues" Sid from the cops in plain clothes and using her real name. Bullock thinks there's something familiar about her, but can't place it. (Word of God claims this was partially unintentional: they had come up with "Harleen Quinzel" as a Sue Donym and only later on did they decide to make it her real name.)
  • Off-Model: You can tell the animators had a hard time trying to keep Joker on model.
  • The Perils of Being the Best: Sid isn't the best, but he experiences the downside to this trope nonetheless, since as soon as people start thinking that he must be the toughest guy in Gotham if he took down Batman, a whole line of people form to kick his ass and thus become the new toughest guy in town, and he becomes a priority target for both the police and the criminal underworld.
  • Perspective Flip: The whole episode is another classic Super Hero tale, now from the point of the lowly Mooks that must endure the Mook Horror Show the Terror Hero Batman gives them.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Sid's (apparent) triumph brings him nothing but trouble—other petty crooks want a piece of him to establish their own Villain Cred, police attention is focused on finding him, the Joker tries to kill him for stealing his ultimate triumph, and Boss Thorne concludes that he's trying to put one over on him. Inverted in the end when he goes to prison with an impressive reputation among the other prisoners.
  • Red Baron: Sid is nicknamed "Sid the Squid," however this was initially done to "encourage" him into separating from the other members. The Squid eventually became his moniker after killing the Batman.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Batman's reappearance just before Thorne shoots Sid.
  • The Runt at the End:
    • Subverted by "Sid the Squid." He is the smallest and most pathetic of a gang of crooks, but is also the one who always comes out smelling like a rose because of his ridiculously good fortune.
    • Played straight when Bullock asks all the Mooks for information at Gotham's Police Headquarters: From a row full of ugly angry men, only Sid is showing fear. Who do you think Bullock picks for the interrogation?
  • Save the Villain: The whole situation is kicked off by Batman falling to his (apparent) death while trying to rescue Sid from that fate. When it's all over, Sid finds out that Batman saved him from the Joker's acid tank.
  • Scheherezade Gambit: After Sid ends the Whole Episode Flashback explaining How We Got Here, Thorne replies that Sid is just using Obfuscating Stupidity and invokes this trope as the excuse Sid needed to muscle in on Thorne's drug racket.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Day the Clown Cried was an infamous film starring Jerry Lewis.
    • Or rather, a coincidental Shout-Out a couple of years in the future, as Animaniacs (also produced by Warner Bros. Animation) had another crook called "Sid the Squid," which was an anthropomorphic squid.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: This episode is a lot of fun, if you're not Sid. The Ominous Pipe Organ should tip you that this is a Mook Horror Show, and we see a guy in an acid Death Trap from the victim's perspective!
  • Slouch of Villainy: The Joker is sitting in the shadows on a chair shaped like his face as he is introduced to Sid the Squid.
  • Something Completely Different: A nobody mob underling, "Sid the Squid," acts as the lookout on a job in which Batman is apparently killed. From Sid's perspective, Bats fell into a gas explosion, but everyone else thinks Sid pushed him. He has to deal with a jealous Joker, an angry Harvey Bullock, and a few rival mob bosses who can't believe his story. The producers admitted that this episode was an experiment to see if they could make a good episode with Batman appearing as little as possible (indeed, Batman only appears for about three minutes total in this episode). Arguably, they succeeded.
  • Strategy Schmategy: When Batman shows up, Sid fumbles around as he frantically tries to escape. To the rest of the gang watching from the street below, it looks like he's actually putting up a decent fight.
    Eddie G.: Sid's taking on the Batman! The little weasel's got guts! No brains, but guts!
  • Super-Stoic Shopkeeper: When the bar brawl starts over who's going to kill Sid first, the camera cuts to a bartender watching the carnage with a stoic expression, snacking on a bowl of bar peanuts.
    • Not So Stoic: Said bartender pushes the bowl of nuts off the counter to hit a guy that was already knocked to the floor.
  • Unintentionally Notorious Crime: Sid the Squid takes part in a small-time drug run but (apparently) accidentally kills the Caped Crusader himself.
  • Villain Cred:
    • Sid ends up going to prison, but he's happy—the other prisoners respect him for almost killing Batman and making fools of the Joker and Boss Thorne.
    • Sid's troubles begin when a bar tough picks a fight so that he can get a reputation as the guy who beat up the guy who killed Batman.
  • Villain Episode: The episode follows Sid's misadventures; Batman appears only briefly at the beginning and end.
  • Villainous Valor: The one true thing that can be attributed to Sid is that when confronted with Batman, even if he's about as threatening as a bug facing a windshield, he tries to fight the Dark Knight. The other crooks think he's got guys with what little they can see of the fight... and then all of the drama Sid suffers ensues because they all think that he had the best kind of luck a Gotham criminal could ask for on his side.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Sid, he even admits it. However, Rupert Thorne refuses to believe that and insists that he's playing dumb.
    Rupert Thorne: You think I didn't hear the rumors of the third-rate stumblebum who rubbed out the Batman? And now you say you "accidentally" made a fool of the Joker? No one's that lucky or stupid!
    Sid: Yes, I am! Honest!
  • "You!" Exclamation: Thorne when the very-much-alive Batman kicks in his door.