On Leather Wings
|"'On Leather Wings'"|
|Batman: The Animated Series episode|
The title card from the episode
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||Kevin Altieri|
|Written by||Mitch Brian|
|Original air date||September 6, 1992|
"On Leather Wings" is the pilot episode of Batman: The Animated Series. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on September 6, 1992. It was written by Mitch Brian and directed by Kevin Altieri. That was the first episode of the series to feature the villain Man-Bat and was also Man-Bat's first screen appearance. In comics, Man-Bat first appeared in 1970. Although "On Leather Wings" was the first episode of the series to be produced, it was the second to be broadcast, following "The Cat and the Claw, Part 1", which premiered just the day before.
A police blimp is flying over Gotham City. A blip ghosts across the radar screen, then the pilot sees something that looks like bat wings fly past the cockpit window. The blimp rises above the clouds, but they see nothing. We flash to the skyline of Gotham, and see a shadow of a giant bat creature flying past against the buildings.
The scene changes to outside of the Phoenix Pharmaceuticals. Inside, a guard is patrolling and making a demo tape for a radio ad on a micro-cassette recorder. He hears a cry and goes to investigate. At first he sees nothing, but then a shadow of a giant bat passes over her. The guard is attacked by the beast and drops his recorder under the desk. The guard tosses a chair through the window, and then the bat picks him up and tosses him out and into the river below.
The next day, Commissioner Gordon meets with Mayor Hamilton Hill and District Attorney Harvey Dent to discuss a police raid to capture Batman. Detective Harvey Bullock asks Hill for permission to form his own tactical squad, but Gordon has already denied it. Hill authorizes the strike force, reminding Gordon that Bullock has a reputation for catching his man. Dent promises to put Batman in jail if Bullock catches him.
Believing he's been set up, Batman investigates and finds out there were two similar robberies at pharmaceutical companies. Batman infiltrates Phoenix Pharmaceuticals, alarming two employees, who call the police. Batman gasses the police guard unconscious and crosses the police line into the scene of the crime. Bullock receives the call from Dispatch, and then calls in his special task force to convene on the building.
While the task force scrambles to his location, Batman sprays the room down to search for clues. He locates a set of footprints belonging to last night's guard, and then finds the micro-cassette recorder underneath the desk. He takes pictures of a shattered jar, and examines some sort of hair, but is interrupted by the arrival of the task force. Bullock sends his men into the building just as Gordon arrives. Bullock is sure they'll catch Batman, but Gordon says another pharmaceutical company was robbed across town. Batman escapes through an elevator shaft, but is ambushed by another squad. One of the team members follows him into a room, but Batman silences him. The rest of the squad is certain Batman's in the room, and the leader tosses a tear gas grenade into the room, where it rolls up against some gas cans. Batman grabs his temporary prisoner and dives through the window and swings away as the grenade causes an explosion. Batman deposits the squad member on the ground to be retrieved by Bullock and Gordon, and then disappears into an alley across the way.
The next day, Bruce Wayne arrives at Gotham Zoo, and heads into the bat exhibit, calling for Dr. March. When March appears, Bruce explains that he's there about a possible bat problem, since he keeps hearing squeaks from his chimney. March launches into a tirade against people who treat bats like pests, but his daughter and assistant, Francine, calms him down and introduces Bruce to her husband, Kirk Langstrom. Bruce plays the recording of the bat noises for the Langstroms, but they don't recognize the sounds as a bat. Kirk takes the tape and promises to analyze it.
Batman has decided to analyze the sound himself, but he can't find a match either. March calls at that moment, and lets Bruce know that he has starlings and brown bats in his chimney, but they'll leave as it gets colder. However, since Batman has already ruled out brown bats as being the source of the hair, and the sounds weren't recorded near his chimney anyway, Batman becomes suspicious. After running a computer scan of the noises, he decides that March is lying.
Back at the zoo, a shadowy figure is burning the tape and the hair. The figure suddenly begins to suffer an attack of some sort, and takes medicine to stop it. Batman arrives as the figure wanders out of the room, and locates a discarded Phoenix Pharmaceuticals vial. Kirk reenters the room, and finds Batman lurking in the shadows. Kirk tells him they had created a new species, something that was neither man nor bat, and that the monster is now looking for the final chemical to complete the transformation. Kirk then changes into the giant bat-like creature called Man-Bat and attacks Batman. Just as the giant bat has Batman pinned beneath a desk, Francine comes in, shaming Kirk and making him flee. Batman attaches his grappling hook to Kirk's leg and they both go flying off into the night.
Batman and Man-Bat crashes into the police blimp's cockpit window, and the two engage in a fierce struggle. Bullock and Gordon arrive and see the giant bat with Batman in tow. Batman covers Kirk's eyes, causing him to crash into a sign, knocking him unconscious. Batman then picks Man-Bat up and flees before the police can apprehend them.
Back at the Batcave, Batman analyzes the list of components that Langstrom used to create the giant bat and develops a way to reverse the process. He arrives at the zoo, where Francine is waiting, and reveals that Kirk is back to normal. The chemical is out of his system, but Batman doesn't believe that this mission is truly over.
|Kevin Conroy||Bruce Wayne / Batman|
|Marc Singer||Kirk Langstrom / Man-Bat|
|Clive Revill||Alfred Pennyworth|
|Bob Hastings||James Gordon|
|Robert Costanzo||Harvey Bullock|
|Richard Moll||Harvey Dent|
|Meredith MacRae||Francine Langstrom|
|René Auberjonois||Dr. March|
|Lloyd Bochner||Mayor Hill|
Bruce Timm states he wanted this series to focus on "mystery, mood, drama as well as super hero action sequences" and that Man-Bat fit into those categories perfectly. In an interview, he says, "Man-Bat was chosen specifically [for the first episode] because he wasn't familiar to very many people outside of comic book fans. Nobody had any preconceived notions about him. It wasn't like the Joker, where you had to deal with people expecting him to be Jack Nicholson or Cesar Romero."
Although this was the first episode made, the first aired episode of the series was "The Cat and the Claw, Part I", which was likely due to the success of Batman Returns.
Danny Elfman's theme from the first Batman movie is strongly used in one scene.
In the robbery report on the Batcomputer, the Carson Chemicals burglary is misspelled "buaglary".
Kevin Conroy, who voices Batman in the animated series, also voiced as the police blimp pilot who spotted the Man-Bat in this episode.
In Batman Beyond, Kirk Langstrom's formula would later be the basis for Abel Cuvier's Splicing formula.
In Justice League Unlimited, Professor Milo claims to have collected Kirk Langstrom's notes for use by the genetics division of Project Cadmus.
Lon Grahnke of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the episode two stars, but added that his six-year-old son thought the premiere was "awesome". Jim Bullard of the St. Petersburg Times wrote: "The episode is extremely well-written and drawn — an unusual combination in cartoons. The result is a unique, memorable style".
- Batman:The Animated Series The Legend Begins DVD
- Interview with Eric Nolen-Weathington. Modern Masters Volume 3. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004. 42.
- Lon Grahnke. "Watch It! Warnings and Recommendations". Chicago Sun-Times. September 3, 1992. 43.
- Jim Bullard. "Drawn to Batman? Series". St. Petersburg Times. September 4, 1992. 12.