WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman: The Adventures Continue #3 by Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Ty Templeton, Monica Kubina and Joshua Reed, on sale now.
The expansion of the DC Animated Universe in Batman: The Adventure Continues has brought back many elements from Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures into the modern-day. This has included minor characters, major villains, and even specific elements from the original animated universe.
In Batman: The Adventure Continues #3, Clayface returns, and the classic Batman villain used a horrifyingly cruel trick to try and escape Robin that directly references classic TNBA episode “Growing Pains.”
“Growing Pains” was the eighth episode of The New Batman Adventures, and it was primarily focused on the new Robin, Tim Drake. While on patrol one night, Robin fights off a gang from attacking a mysterious and amnesiac young girl. She eventually reveals to him that someone has been following her constantly. Taking the name Annie, Robin vows to protect her from a man who appears to be her father, who is a new criminal that Gordon and Batman had begun searching for. The criminal proves to be incredibly strong and particularly elusive, escaping from Batman and Robin. Robin searches for Annie and ends up bonding with her as she slowly remembers specific locations in Gotham.
Going to a spot near the ocean together, they’re once again confronted by her apparent father. It turns out that the location Annie remembered was his base and that the man was actually the shapeshifting villain Clayface. It’s revealed that Annie is just a construct that Clayface had created to scout out Gotham while he recovered from his last battle with Batman. But being separated for so long led Annie to forget her true identity and develop her own personality.
Robin fights against Clayface in an attempt to keep him from reabsorbing Annie, but Annie sacrifices herself to save Robin by jumping into Clayface and being absorbed. The heart-breaking sacrifice effectively dissolved her consciousness and killed her. Clayface is captured, but a despondent Robin comes to terms with the fact that the can’t save everyone.
“Growing Pains” was a major step for the new Robin, and the loss was one of his formative superhero experiences. It turns out that Clayface remembers the impact the incident clearly had on the young hero too, given what happens in Batman: The Adventure Continues #3.
When cornered by Batman, Robin, and Batgirl, Clayface splits into multiple bodies to evade the heroes. Giving chase, Robin and Batgirl find themselves staring at Annie, who begs Robin for help. After a moment’s pause, Robin sees right through the facade and uses a capsule in his belt to flash freeze “Annie,” forcing her to revert to her true form as Clayface. Robin actually says “this is for Annie” as he attacks Clayface, who drops the act and starts lashing out at the two heroes.
It’s an incredibly dark trick for Clayface to play, especially given the full context of what the villain did to Annie. The DCAU has never backed away from the fact that by reabsorbing Annie — who had developed her own personality, wants, and fears — Clayface effectively killed his own child. Robin ends “Growing Pains” by saying that Clayface should also be tried for murder, which explains his immediate fury at seeing Clayface try to trick him with Annie. With this move, Clayface took the memory of a girl that Robin liked and wanted to protect, and tried to use it as a means to escape justice. While there are plenty of bad dads in the DCAU, only the worst of the worst have killed their children and effectively walked around in their corpse.
A classic DCAU villain just pulled an unbelievably cruel move when Robin had him cornered in Batman: The Adventure Continues.