Thursday, September 25, 2014

Red Before Red Was Red

I sped through two seasons of Orange Is the New Black before I realized why Kate Mulgrew's performance as prison mamochka Galina “Red” Reznikov rang a bell somewhere at the back of my mind. The reason? Batman.

On Saturday, September 5, 1992, the first-ever episode of Batman: The Animated Series aired. Titled “The Cat and the Claw, Part 1,” it introduced Catwoman (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau) and pitted her and Batman against a villain created specifically for the series, Red Claw, a terrorist of unspecified eastern European origin. But come on — just barely post-’80s? Eastern European? Terrorist? Children’s show? Red? She was obviously supposed to be Russian. Mulgrew voiced the character, and she returned for two more episodes: the second part of “The Cat and the Claw” and then “The Lion and the Unicorn,” in which Red Claw kidnaps Alfred.

I created the above supercut of Red Claw’s appearances on the show, chiefly to give people a chance to hear how much Mulgrew’s “vague, threatening east Euro” accent sounds like Red’s. (I actually have no idea how close Mulgrew gets to an actual Russian accent, but I’d nonetheless like to think of Red Claw as training for Red.) However, unlike many other great female characters who originated on the show but later transitioned to the comics — Harley Quinn, Renee Montoya, Roxy Rocket, Livewire and Mercy Graves — Red Claw has remained in the animated continuity only. So far, this is literally all we’ve seen of her, bad-ass tattoo, asymmetrical jump suit and fashion sash notwithstanding.

One quick thought, though: Are we past the point of naming Russian characters “Red” yet?

Another: I think the freckle-faced female henchwoman who shows up around the six-minute mark may be a rarity in Batman: The Animated Series. She may not have lines, but she’s one of a few female toughs to play B to a major villain’s A over the course of the series.

One last one: “And people wonder why no one takes Britain seriously anymore.”

Superheroes, previously:

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