Welcome to the thirty-sixth edition of Adventure(s) Time, examining a beloved cartoon and a related issue of its tie-in comic. This week, just in time for the holidays, we’re looking back on Mr. Freeze’s debut on Batman: The Animated Series. Then, his often-overlooked return in the Adventures tie-in comic.
Where to begin when discussing what many consider the finest episode, perhaps even one of the greatest Batman stories in any medium? “Heart of Ice” was the fourteenth Batman episode produced, but only the third to air. Debuting in that first week of episodes set quite a bar for the show, exhibiting the level of animation viewers could expect from the series. Viewers also experienced a haunting reinvention of a villain never considered much of a player in the Batman canon. In fact, Mr. Freeze had been relegated to only occasional comics appearances during this era. (Reportedly, editor Dennis O’Neil simply disliked the villain.)
From the team of writer Paul Dini and director Bruce Timm, “Heart of Ice” opens with the first instance (one of very few during the run) of the title card actually moving, becoming a part of the narrative. We discover the snow covering the episode’s title is falling within a snowglobe. The globe’s housing a toy ballerina, held in the hand of a mystery figure with red eyes. A metallic, toneless…cold voice speaks.
This is the reimagined Mr. Freeze, holding a plastic representative of his lost love. Her name will become permanently associated with this character. He’s mourning his lost wife, Nora.
A startling reveal of dark red eyes clashes against the cool blue and gray of his Mike Mignola designed suit. There’s an ongoing theme in the episode of contrasting cold with heat. Not only demonstrated in Freeze’s eyes, but also in the implied humanity of the ballerina trapped in the globe. Also notice the concept of Freeze waging his ice war in the midst of an August heatwave, and the revelation that the subject of his ire is a CEO named Ferris Boyle. (Boyle’s last name a subtle heat pun worthy of Mr. Fries/Freeze.)
The villain attacks various GothCorp operations, stealing hardware necessary to create a freeze cannon. Previous interpretations played up Freeze’s German accent, or the punny joke about him loving “ice” (diamonds), the character essentially remaining a cipher. This story structure, however, continuously reveals “cold” aspects of Freeze, such as him leaving one of his henchmen to die. Eventually, we have the revelation of why this man is seemingly dead to emotion.
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