The Demon Within

  Batman and Robin tangle with a bratty witch-boy.
  Original Airdate: May 9, 1998
  Episode # 10
  Rating: * 1/2

Credits Cast

Story by Rusti Bjornhoel
Written by Stan Berkowitz
Directed by Atsuko Tanaka
Music by Shirley Walker
Animation by TMS

Kevin Conroy as Batman
Mathew Valencia as Robin
Billy Zane as Jason Blood
Peter Renaday as Auctioneer
Stephen Wolfe Smith as Klarion

When “The Demon Within” premiered in 1998 it looked like a one-shot idea: Batman going mano a mano with the forces of darkness. With hindsight, it seems to anticipate such Justice League stories as “A Knight of Shadows” and “Kid Stuff.” More plausibly, it exemplifies Bruce Timm’s admiration for the work of Jack Kirby; after all, it followed by a year the similarly themed Superman episode “The Hand of Fate” and the beginning of the Darkseid arc.

Be that as it may, it is still a one-off. Batman always plays it cool, but even his famous equipoise can’t disguise the fundamental coldness with which he regards the higher and lower realms. Arthur C. Clarke argued that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. More to the point, on the moral plane, magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology: it all depends on what you do with it. And when Batman confronts Morgaine le Fay, Mordred, or Klarion, he is merely fighting a thug who’s got special weapons, and he is as unimpressed by them as he is by any small-time hood who’s copped a gun and an attitude. Our hero comes to life, and then only briefly, in “A Knight of Shadows,” when the Demon questions J’onn J’onzz’s loyalty—and that’s because the Demon has touched one of Batman’s personal nerves, not because Batman himself is unnerved by Mistress le Fay.

Actually, I am probably wrong in putting magic and technology on the same moral plane. If magic is “religion used for questionable private purposes” then it would implicate issues beyond the magician’s intent: the corrupt appropriation of God’s power is always sinful, even if the thief intends to do good with it. But the Timmverse animated series don’t take such a subtle view of the matter either, probably because those episodes involving spell-casting are more intent on spectacle than metaphysics. And once the metaphysics is off the table, then only the faux-technological aspects remain. Subtract the personal demons that drive a Mad Hatter, a Clock King, or a Riddler, and all the remains is malicious showmanship.

That, of course, is why Batman gets involved in these things, even if he can barely feign interest in what’s going on. I can barely feign interest in it myself. Klarion is a peevish child, like Baby-Doll; unlike Baby-Doll, he has nothing but malice. Baby-Doll had little enough going for her; Klarion has even less.

“The Demon Within” is basically a magic show, and I don’t intend the comparison as a compliment. With skillful sleight of hand it distracts us with bright lights and dark smoke while whisking off the table anything of substantial interest. There is some pleasure to be had in the show, and even flashes of subtle wit. But it remains a fundamentally empty exercise.

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"The animation was spectacular. Everyone was in proportion, and the magical effects were simply amazing!"World's Finest

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