"The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" is the thirty-first episode of Batman: The Animated Series. It first aired on October 14, 1992.
A lone man, McWhirter, walks into a miniature golf course at night following instructions printed in cut and pasted letters. He hears a voice that instructs him to follow it. McWhirter demands to know what’s going on, but the voice tells him to follow some lights into a sand pit. He does so and discovers that it's quicksand. He is told he can either give up a collection of bearer bonds he’s supposed to transport and be rescued or he can keep the information to himself and die. McWhirter gives in.
Later, Commissioner Gordon talks to Batman about the loss of the bearer bonds and what happened to McWhirter. Batman easily deduces who's behind it: Josiah Wormwood, the interrogator. However, Batman doesn't yet know if Wormwood is even in town so he decides to pay Baron Wacklaw Josek, an associate of Wormwood's, a visit.
The Baron is attending a dinner as a guest speaker for the Foreign-Aid Society. However, his speech is cut short when Batman grabs him. Batman demands information and carries the Baron to the roof. Dangling him from a billboard, Batman drags all the information on Wormwood the Baron has to offer and tells him to leave. The Baron is angered to the extreme.
Later, the Baron calls Wormwood in and hires him to get Batman's cape and cowl. Wormwood is intrigued by the proposition but also curious as to why his new employer wants them. The Baron proposes a trade: he'll tell Wormwood what he wants to know if Wormwood will tell him about the bearer bonds. Wormwood plays dumb, but the Baron assures him that he'll be handsomely rewarded for this task. Although skeptical, Wormwood agrees.
The Bat-signal lights the skies above Gotham, and Batman arrives to meet Gordon. Gordon gives Batman a letter telling him to go to "where iron horses go to rot and children toot their horns a lot."
Batman goes to a park known as Traintown and enters into a train with smoke coming from its stack. However, he discovers that it's a trap. The exits are sealed and Batman discovers a young woman tied to a railroad track with the train rapidly bearing down on her. Wormwood promises to remove her from harm's way if Batman will give up his cape and cowl. However, Batman manages to prevent a window from being completely closed and squeezes through the opening. He dives for the woman only to find that she was a mere hologram. Wormwood manages to escape and decides that he'll have to put Batman himself in jeopardy.
Following another message, Batman goes to DeLarue's Wax Museum and finds himself in another trap. Searching the museum, he enters into a room filled with unfinished wax figures. Wormwood opens a panel in the roof revealing a 20,000-watt light that rapidly heats up the room. Batman tries to escape through a skylight but it's sealed off and he falls to the floor. He lands in a puddle of molten wax, rendering his weapons useless. He tries to hurl his belt at the light but it doesn't work. Fortunately, one of the wax figures has a metal frame and with it and Batman manages to shatter the light. However, it releases a toxic gas into the room. Wormwood tells him that he’ll shut off the gas only if Batman gives him his cape and cowl.
Seeing no way out, Batman surrenders the desired prize to Wormwood. Fortunately, his identity is still secret as Batman is wearing a bandanna underneath the cowl. Wormwood is unconcerned and takes the cape and cowl. Not ready to fully give up, Batman breaks the glass leading into Wormwood's control room, only to find him already gone.
Later, as arranged, Wormwood meets the Baron in his penthouse and demands to know why he wants Batman's cape and cowl. The Baron refuses to tell unless Wormwood reveals the location of the bearer bonds. Giving in, Wormwood tells him and demands his information. The Baron laughs and answers, "I am going... to wear them." Turning around, the "criminal" is revealed to be none other than Batman, who was impersonating Josek the entire time. Wormwood tries to escape with a locker key, which is required to retrieve the bonds, but Batman gives chase. Wormwood attacks Batman and after a short fight he slips out the window and is nearly killed but Batman saves him. Wormwood is taken into custody, and as there were bugs in the room, evidence isn't a problem.
As a final twist, after being put in a prison cell Wormwood is given a package explaining as "Confinement will speed your reform, but long, cold nights will be the norm, so here's a thing to keep you warm." Wormwood opens the package only to discover it's Batman's cape and cowl.
Home video releases
- When Wormwood asks, "Now, what will you do with the cape and cowl?" right before Batman reveals himself, the cape and cowl disappear from Josek's desk.
- The episode is based on the comics story "The Cape and Cowl Death Trap!" (Detective Comics #450, August 1975), also by Elliot S. Maggin.
- This episode contains the first use of the Bat-signal in the DC Animated Universe.
- Batman's tactic of disguising himself to trap his enemies and get information from them is later used in "Almost Got 'Im", in which he impersonates Killer Croc and orchestrates a sting operation.
- In pre-production, the original script was to have someone steal the cape and cowl and impersonate Batman while on a crime rampage. This would have been based on an episode of the old George Reeves series The Adventures of Superman.
- Bruce Timm mentioned in an interview that he was originally going to have Batman show his face to Wormwood as he gives him the cape and cowl, but he changed his mind, as he does not like seeing Bruce without his mask on. Strangely enough, Bruce pulls off his mask in the next episode.
- Bud Cort later voiced Toyman on Superman: The Animated Series.
- John Rhys-Davies later voiced Hades on Justice League.
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
McWhirter: (Reading Instructions) "Where tracks and golf balls roll and wind, round colored banners of all kind, here, new instructions you will find."
Commissioner Gordon: Look up "slippery" in the dictionary and you get Josiah Wormwood.
Wormwood: Alright. I'll get you the Batman's cape and cowl. That won't be difficult. He is only human, after all.
Batman: I want information from you. By the way, I hope you're not afraid of heights.
Batman: (Reading Instructions) "Where iron horses go to rot, and children toot their horns a lot. A damsel's pleas will come to naught."
Batman: (about the Bat-signal) Got a new toy, I see.
Batman: (Reading Instructions) "Where George Washington and young Babe Ruth, stand side by side with John Wilkes Booth, Batman will find… a plan most uncouth!".
Batman: All right. All right! Turn off the gas. You win.
Wormwood: You were playing... playing me for a fool!