Batman TAS: Tyger, Tyger

The Tyger

by

William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Cartoons and classic poetry rarely intersect with one another, but Batman: the Animated Series was no ordinary cartoon. The poem “the Tyger” by William Blake makes me think of an episode of Batman: the Animated Series that was based off of the poem. The episode was titled “Tyger, Tyger” and it features Selina Kyle (Catwoman) being kidnapped by an ape man and taken to an island laboratory where a mad scientist transforms her into a literal “cat” woman to be the mate for a tiger man he created.

The first stanza of Blake’s poem is recited by Batman to end the episode, but the comparisons from the poem to the episode are numerous. First, the word “symmetry” is an excellent word to think about in terms of characters. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) is Batman’s other half. She is a vigilante who skirts the law, and while she might not always do the right thing, she is still presented as a character who tries to do good things, much like Batman. For decades now, comic book fans consider the characters to be intertwined and meant for one another. They are star-crossed lovers and fans would like to believe that these two would settle down together some day.

In this episode, however, a mad scientist is trying to force Selina to be the mate to his creation, Tygrus. Symmetry should be natural, however, and this attempt at playing God, doesn’t work. Selina rebels and with the aid of Batman, she reverts to human form and they escape.

The real issue has to do with the nature of God, however. In Blake’s poem, the question is posed, “What kind of God exists that would create such a powerful and fearsome killer? If this is the creation of someone, then what does that say about the creator?” The episode is able to take this one step further as Tygrus rebels against the mad scientist to free Selina. His actions show us that even if a creator is malicious or evil, then we still have free will and we can act how we wish rather than what nature has dictated for us. The creator in Blake’s poem is never really defined, but he is mused upon and understood to be God.

The end of the episode is less than optimistic, however. Selina asks Tygrus to come to Gotham and he refuses. She says, “There’s nothing for you here” to which the creature replies, “There’s nothing for me anywhere.”

Tygrus had received an existential crisis regarding who he really was, and what was meant for him, and instead of growing from this self-actualization, he has retreated. Instead of coming to the realization that he is not his “father” and that he has free will to act appropriately, Tygrus believes he has no identity and therefore, existence is meaningless. As ridiculous as it may sound, Tygrus is a cautionary tale for viewers because he shows us that by questioning our nature, we could very well walk away from the encounter a lesser person than before.

Certainly, this episode is not just kid’s stuff.

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4 Responses to Batman TAS: Tyger, Tyger

  1. Seejo Crux says:

    It’s a shame more cartoons don’t follow Dini’s and Burnett’s example.

  2. Cathartic Lobster says:

    I agree! What other cartoon can say that it makes reference to a Romantic poet?

  3. joecrak says:

    Gargoyles.

    But yea B:TAS was far ahead of its time and to the admission of the creators got way with so many things other super hero shows couldn’t literary analogies aside from basic censorship.

    For example the 90′s spider-man wasn’t even allowed to punch anyone, whereas this show got away with tommy guns because children couldn’t imitate the real life usage of the archaic weapons.

    One episode i think that is just deeper and better all around of B:TAS is “His Silicone Soul” but really they ar all great. Even “Critters”.

  4. Cathartic Lobster says:

    His Silicon Soul is a beautiful episode.

    Almost Got Him is still my favorite, however.

    I knew about the tommy guns, but I never thought about Spider-man punching people. Good point.

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