Pop culture is simply lousy with superheroes. From "Ironman" to "Batman" to "Hellboy" to "Heroes" and "Smallville," movies and TV shows have drawn upon the genre for inspiration. There's talk that the late Heath Ledger may be an Oscar contender for his turn in this summer's Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight." People take their heroes and villains extremely seriously. Remember when they were called "comic" books?
One superhero returns to his juvenile roots with the new cartoon "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" (7 p.m., Cartoon Network). In this new Warner Bros. incarnation, the Caped Crusader shares a lot of screen time and crime-fighting with a series of sidekicks, including Green Arrow and Aquaman and a novice called Blue Beetle. Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") provides the voice of the man behind the cowl.
Batman has had his share of interpretations over the years. The original Bob Kane comic character received a campy makeover for the 1960s TV series. By the 1980s, he was a dark knight, a brooding figure that appealed to the grownup readers of graphic novels.
"Batman: The Brave and the Bold" has the snap, crackle and pop of old-fashioned comics. The colors are bright and bold, and the dialogue is clever without being too knowing or self-deprecating. This is a cartoon for viewers young and old who take their superheroes seriously but don't go looking for moody introspection or see the whole enterprise as a metaphor for something deeper. It features good guys, bad guys, super powers, outrageous outfits, cool fights, great graphics and an obvious outcome. Who could ask for anything more?
As in the old comic books, the villains are bad, but absurd, like the Clock Face creature who sets out to kill the Caped Crusader with an elaborate cuckoo clock.
In the first episode, we meet Blue Beetle, a hero unsure of his powers who hides behind the cruelest secret identity of all. His friends think he's a geek who is just a little too into comic books and superheroes.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Teenage ghosts get cranky on "Ghost Whisperer" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ Crusoe mulls a moral transgression on "Crusoe" (8 p.m., NBC)
¢ Activists tangle with Japanese fishing fleets on two hours of "Whale Wars" (7 p.m., Animal Planet).
¢ Joan Allen appears on "Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influences" (7 p.m., TCM).
¢ Mush is the word on "Toughest Race on Earth: Iditarod" (7 p.m., Discovery).
¢ A man takes a crack at family management on "Super-Manny" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ Drew Carey hosts "The Price is Right Salutes the Troops" (8 p.m., CBS).
¢ A murder victim will never hear surf music again on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): A transgender male gives birth.
¢ Molly discovers something disturbing about Zach on "Starter Wife" (9 p.m., USA).
A farm girl (Judy Garland) leaves her black-and-white worldview to embrace a technicolor realm of possibilities only to discover that there's no place like home in the 1939 musical fantasy "The Wizard of Oz" (7 p.m., TNT).