"The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne" is the twenty-ninth episode of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series. It originally aired on October 29, 1992.
Out on a closed bridge, a solitary woman, Judge Maria Vargas goes to a meeting with a couple of thugs unaware that Batman is following her. The thugs demand money but she says that they were to make a trade. The men show her a videotape and she hands over the money. However, the thugs claim it's not all there and demand another hundred grand. Vargas insists she can't afford that much but the thugs refuse to listen. Batman intervenes, and during the chaos, the tape falls onto an I-beam hanging from the bridge and Vargas desperately goes after it. Unfortunately, she loses her balance and is knocked out on the girder. Batman manages to save her but the tape falls into the water below and the thugs escape.
The police later arrive and take Vargas to the hospital. Although she's not hurt badly, she'll be out for a while and cannot provide any information, leaving Commissioner Gordon to wonder what she was so afraid of. He insists that Vargas was an honest woman and had nothing to hide so he's sure that blackmail was out of the question. Batman, however, isn't too sure about it. Continuing with his musings, Gordon mentions that Vargas had just gone on vacation at a relaxation resort the Yucca Springs Health Resort that happens to belong to Daggett Industries. Batman figures that there's a connection and decides to pay the place a visit.
Bruce heads out with Alfred and schedules an appointment with Dr. Hugo Strange, the same doctor that treated Vargas. Bruce is placed upon a machine that Strange explains will lower his defenses. Bruce isn't too sure he wants to be subjected to the treatment but Strange goes ahead with it anyway. He asks Bruce about his childhood, and while Wayne isn't willing to talk about it, but Strange's machine reveals his thoughts on screen. Seeing that Bruce lost his parents, Strange presses the issue and discovers that Bruce Wayne is in actuality Batman. Bruce leaves more stressed than before but unaware of the true nature of Strange's machine. Strange, however, is intrigued by his newfound information.
Later, Strange calls up the Joker and tells him that he has something that would be interesting. Meanwhile, Bruce decides to take advantage of Dr. Strange's absence and examines his machine. Discovering a batch of tapes he finds Vargas' and watches it. The tape reveals that as a child she accidentally started the "Great Gotham Dock Fire" when she was playing with matches. Realizing the purpose of the machine, Bruce checks to see his tape but discovers that it's missing.
Elsewhere, the Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin arrive with some rather heavy bags. Alfred witnesses the three crime bosses entering the resort and discovers that the bags contain money. He calls Bruce who is erasing the tapes, and warns him to escape. However, Strange and his thugs discover and kidnap him. Unaware of this, Bruce realizes that Strange is going to auction off his secret and decides to make a new tape just before he destroys the machine. Strange and his thugs arrive, but they are too late to save the machine. They capture Bruce who is strangely apathetic and lock him up.
With his enemy locked away, Strange starts his auction, which quickly reaches the millions, but the Joker decides that they should all pay together, totaling $51,240,685.53. However, unbeknownst to Strange, Bruce has escaped. Batman connects a new link to the screen and the video shows Strange claiming that his plan was to imagine Batman to be anyone he wanted and Batman's enemies would believe it and pay a fortune. Enraged at this, the three villains attack Strange who tries to escape. However, the villains catch up with him at the airport and take him for an unfriendly ride. Desperate to save himself, Strange tells the villains that Bruce Wayne is Batman, which falls on deaf ears. The trio prepares to throw Strange out of the plane but Batman, who had climbed onto the bottom of the plane, cuts the fuel tubes forcing them to land. The villains threaten Batman, but he manages to disarm them and the police arrive taking the three into custody.
Gordon reveals that Judge Vargas has confessed to her part in the dock fires, but Batman points out that she had nothing to fear, since it was just an accident and she was so young at the time that it happened. Strange, however, is not convinced that he has lost. He has already figured out that Batman imagined the fake tape and he knows Batman's true identity. However, much to Strange's shock, Bruce Wayne walks up next to Batman. Batman then explains that he knew of Strange's scheme and had Bruce Wayne pretend to be Batman to help expose him--Wayne claims that he was happy to do it, especially since Maria Vargas is a personal friend of his. Now with his theory seemingly proven false, Strange is taken away.
When everyone is gone, "Bruce Wayne" removes his mask revealing himself to be Dick Grayson wearing Bruce's clothes and leg extension braces to look taller. Batman then decides to go home, believing he's had enough vacation.
- Harvey Dent/Two-Face makes reference to his past friendship with Bruce Wayne, as shown in episodes like "Pretty Poison".
- Hugo Strange makes one more appearance in the DCAU, a small cameo in Justice League Unlimited, "The Doomsday Sanction", as a member of Project Cadmus. The character was meant to be used more extensively, but further appearances were prevented by the Bat-embargo.
- Strange quips that Alfred is somewhat resistant to an ordinary dose of sodium pentathol (or truth serum). This resistance is later shown in "The Lion and the Unicorn".
- Ultimately, the Joker ends up discovering Dr. Strange's veracity about Bruce Wayne being Batman's secret identity in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Home video releases
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Two (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Batman's Greatest Villains (VHS)
- Hugo Strange is auctioning off Batman's secret identity, but the tape he holds has the words BRUCE WAYNE written on it rather clearly. He then goes on to hold this tape up toward the crowd of criminals, any of whom should have been able to read it with ease.
- When Strange tells the Joker that Bruce Wayne is Batman, the black makeup around the Joker's eyes disappears.
- The episode is based on the comics stories "The Dead Yet Live" and "I Am the Batman!" (Detective Comics #471/472, August/September 1977), by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.
- This is the first episode to feature several members of Batman's rogues gallery working together. Until now, each episode had featured only one enemy as the primary villain. This feat would later be repeated in "Almost Got 'Im" and "Trial".
- Joker's line "Time to fly the unfriendly skies" is a parody of United Airlines' slogan "Come fly the friendly skies".
- As the plane plummets toward the canyon, the Joker emits a scream similar to the classic Goofy holler made famous by Disney's cartoon character Goofy.
- This is the Joker's first appearance since his apparent death in "The Laughing Fish". No explanation is given as to how he survived the shark, nor does anyone address this matter.
- The names on the videotapes in the drawer are those of members of the production crew: Felipe Morrell, John Morris, Randy Rogel, Dan Riba, Wayne Schulz, Dexter Smith, Jeff Snow, Rex Irvine, Jonathan Fisher, Romeo Francisco, Trish Burgio and Kaci Jeter were all artists connected to the show.
- Michael Reaves originally wrote a sequel episode to this entitled "Mind Games" (not the Batman Beyond episode of the same name). However, the episode was never produced.
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
|Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Alfred|
|Ray Buktenica||Hugo Strange|
|Mark Hamill|| The Joker|
|Loren Lester||Dick Grayson|
|Ingrid Oliu||Renee Montoya|
|Paul Williams|| The Penguin|
|Carmen Zapata||Judge Maria Vargas|
Bruce Wayne: What happened to my parents is no secret!
Dr. Strange: We will continue tomorrow, yes?
Penguin: There is a certain stark beauty to this environment.
Joker: (on his answering machine) (laughs) Boy, did you get a wrong number! Leave your message at the sound of the shriek.
Joker: (inhales deeply) Ah, sunshine! Clean air! (coughs) Ooh, I hate it!
Two-Face: Get out of my face, clown!
Dr. Strange: Wait! It's not the right tape!
Joker: Oh, Hugo. Why didn't you tell us about your fear of flying?
Joker: Remember, it's not the fall. It's the sudden stop!
Joker: Man, things haven't been the same since deregulation.
Joker: Oh well, Arkham is nice this time of year.
Batman: Strange, I knew from the start your machine could read minds. That's why I asked Bruce Wayne to help me expose you.
Dick: Not bad, huh? Maybe I'll shuck this crime-fighting gig and try Hollywood. (removes disguise) I wish you weren't so tall, though. Walking in these leg extension braces is a pain!