In 1967, Birdman debuted on Saturday morning TV. He was powered by the sun, written by confused idiots, and brought to life by even more confused foreign animators. As a nerd of some renown, I’ve seen over seven cartoons, and the original Birdman is without question my all-time favorite. You are very lucky to be reading the first installment of Birdman Theater, a Pullitzer-eligible series where I describe episodes of Birdman to you, the hot ladies of 1-900-HOTDOG. Now, as soon as I stop fucking around, we can start Birdman Theater Episode 0001: Birdman Episode 03A: The Quake Threat!
Out of respect to the original writers, no dialog will be altered in these Birdman scenes.
Like every Birdman episode, “The Quake Threat” starts in Birdman’s volcano base with him getting an emergency call from Falcon 7. Two important things to know right away are that Falcon 7 is voiced by a man clinically unable to convey urgency and Birdman has no secret identity or hobbies. He is never putting down a book or rushing a woman out of his volcano who only knows him as everyday test pilot “Birdley Mantooth.” The only thing he is ever doing at the start of an episode is sitting here and waiting for his computer to turn on. We have no reason to believe he’s wearing a costume at all. We could very well be looking at his nude body.
Birdman cartoons cram an entire three act structure into seven minutes, so the plot is usually developed by Falcon 7 explaining who the bad guy is, what he’s doing, and what he wants. “The Quake Threat” is no exception. Professor Kairoff has an earthquake beam and he is going crazy with it– just pointlessly making earthquakes. Falcon 7 worries he’ll use it to demand ransom from the world or loan it out to other people who will demand ransom from the world. Birdman has a lot of trouble following along, and Falcon 7 seems pretty cranky that so much of his workday is being spent explaining the downsides of earthquake crime to Birdman. Once he finally understands, it occurs to him:
It’s a criminal madman causing earthquakes for no reason and Birdman’s main concern is him potentially giving his earthquake ray to the wrong person, and this seems like a great opportunity to mention Birdman is stupid as shit.
Falcon 7 has no idea where to find Professor Kairoff, but Birdman figures he’ll just follow the shockwaves and leaves screaming his catchphrase, which is his name. By the time he gets into the sky, the writers realize Birdman can fly and shoot lasers and neither of those abilities allow him to follow the shockwaves of earthquakes. Or, now that they think about it, the shockwaves from a ray that caused the earthquakes? Jesus, what are they going to do? Wait, hold up, Birdman has a “solar band,” a device used only this once during the show’s two year span, which is a bracelet that lights up when you’re going towards the source of an earthquake ray shockwave. Honestly, it’s amazing whoever sold this thing to Birdman wasn’t fucking with him. Real quick, I reverse engineered the schematics:
We are finally introduced to Professor Kairoff who is watching Birdman flying toward his base. If you know anything about old cartoons, you already know he’s got a real-time, full color security camera that can film anyone, anywhere. He knew someone might be coming, so he was scanning sector “Sky,” coordinates “Fucking Middle Of The.” Also, Kairoff is a weird little gremlin in a pink unitard with red panties and he’s been living alone so long he talks to his robots. He lives in the volcano next door to Birdman, and thinks Avenger’s name is Eagle. Most writers wouldn’t risk the confusion of having one main character forget the name of another main character, but Birdman doesn’t give a shit. He’s lucky if he stays the same color for a whole episode.
Notice the evil genius didn’t say, “Oh, shit, he must have traced my earthquake ray shockwaves with some kind of, I don’t know, solar band?” Do you know what this means? It means the writers of this, the stupidest goddamn show, have written a genius villain dumber than themselves! Let’s see if that ever ends up being a problem for him as we continue the story.
Kairoff tells his robot “Gorga” to take two metal men up the elevator to dispose of Birdman. These voiceless “metal men” are automatons so disposable even the writers and animators forget about them several times a scene, but for some reason Kairoff gave this one, Gorga, a name. Why? What makes Gorga special? The answer lies in his schematics:
Gorga and the two metal men he selected using a decision protocol you or I might call “love,” emerge from the mountain and immediately shoot Birdman and Avenger in the heads. To their credit, no one could have predicted their mitten claws would shoot lasers. Also, due to budget limitations, they can only change direction in flight once every six episodes.
I know you’re worried, but don’t be. Both of them are fine. Weirdly fine. It’s almost as if no one involved in this from the writers to the animators to the fictional characters seemed to care if these “force rays” work. I mean, one of them hit an ordinary bird square in the face. Gorga, if your laser can’t kill an ordinary bird, why bother shooting it? Because your best friend asked you to? Gorga, you may be a robot, but here you are teaching me what it is to be human. Anyway, the unharmed Birdman easily obliterates Gorga. Wait, oh no! Not Gorga!!
It might be because I’m having trouble dealing with what happened to Gorga, but this next part is confusing. Avenger is now in the clutches of one of the other metal men. I have no idea why this majestic eagle, flying hundreds of feet above only a moment ago, would dive down in the middle of a battle to nest in a robot’s ray-blasting robot claws, but here we are.
And now I know I must be crazy, because as soon as Birdman sees his amazing partner being used as an eagle shield, he says “DROP THAT BIRD YOU BUCKET OF BOLTS,” and full-power shoots the fucking shit out of his own bird. Birdman will absolutely kill you through a hostage. He loves justice so much he will pay for your robot execution with the life of his own dearest friend.
There’s no reason Avenger should be alive. Eagles are about 10 pounds of hollow bones and feathers and this one has eaten direct hits from two kinds of laser beams in five seconds. I have a theory that one of Birdman’s writers truly hates eagles and he brutally murders Avenger in the first draft of every script, but before they send it off a second Birdman writer comes in and adds “he doesn’t really die” in Korean.
The final metal man grabs a giant boulder and throws it at Birdman, demonstrating an absurd strength less plausible than tension in a story about a laser-proof eagle. Birdman easily catches it and throws it back, a defiance of physics so deranged Gorga and the other destroyed metal man spontaneously reform so they can be killed again.
Please know that two different characters made mention of there being exactly three metal men, so these are not extra robots from off frame– this is simply far beyond the number of things the writers and animators can keep track of. Once more than zero things are on screen, it’s anyone’s guess where they are or which ones died. But I’m sorry to say, this time Gorga really is gone.
Kairoff’s robots, the ones who shot things at our heroes with no chance of hurting them, didn’t work and their remains have already vanished, but the evil professor has one more idea. He turns on his intercom and says, and I quote:
Birdman, in his outside voice without guarding his mouth, says to his bird, who doesn’t speak English or understand the concept of deception:
Birdman, who you’ll remember is so stupid, gets into the elevator which is also a cage and is immediately squashed in a trap. Well, not immediately. First Kairoff makes a joke. Well, not exactly a joke. He laughs while he taunts him. Well, not taunt exactly. More like a welcome, and then the same welcome again, but with a laugh in the middle. Does that make sense? No? Well, then welcome to Birdman. Ha ha ha, welcome… indeed.
Why would he say this? Is he mad from loneliness? Heartbroken after seeing his precious Gorga die twice? Written by careless hacks? However Kairoff came to be, he’s the best. And when Birdman demands to be let loose, he replies with words that seem like they were formed by poking the brain of a cartoon writer during an autopsy.
There’s nothing better than Birdman dialog. It’s perfect. It’s like the producers were throwing cliches together and hoping for mediocre, but got everything a little bit wrong to form a masterpiece no competence or sanity could have created. For instance, Birdman responds to this by saying, “I SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED THIS. AND I’VE BEEN AWAY FROM THE RAYS OF THE SUN FOR TOO LONG. MY STRENGTH… IS… EBBING.”
This is the second act of all Birdman stories– the part where he runs out of solar power. Birdman’s weakness is that he can’t fight at night, underwater, inside, or when it’s partly cloudy, and he never remembers any of this. Here he is once again caught off guard by the very basic premise of his super power. The only thing dumber than a solar-powered hero walking into a dark elevator to battle a villain who can defeat him by refusing to open it is what happens next.
Kairoff turns on his video conference machine to brag to three men about how he caught Birdman who yells to himself:
No they’re absolutely not, Birdman. That’s clearly a reporter doing a story on a ventriloquist who helps the police solve supernatural crimes. Did he call the wrong number? Is Birdman looking at a different monitor? Are the leaders of world nations what everyone sees during the last moments of an elevator crushing?
This is all standard Birdman adventure right here– everything is crazy, and he’s trapped and powerless as a result of his unimaginable stupidity. To recap, his plan was to tell the bad guy, “I’m pretending to be a bad guy,” and lock himself in a cage. Luckily, whenever this happens, Avenger turns into an invincible rescue machine. He knows Birdman’s dumb ass is somewhere needing sunlight, so he rips through an air vent and goes nuts, tricking the “genius” into blowing skylights into his own roof with wild laser gun shots. It would be a weird way to handle a bird loose in your home even if you didn’t have a guileless idiot right behind you loudly narrating how your bad decisions are helping him.
Two seconds of sunlight recharges all the power Birdman lost from eleven seconds of being inside, and he breaks free! Kairoff and his last remaining metal man throw some lasers at him, but shooting at a full-powered Birdman this late in the story is like throwing a teddy bear into an orgy. Maybe it only bounces off, but it’s more likely you’re about to see a soft, helpless thing get destroyed by a lunatic’s violent penetration.
Birdman easily blocks their rays with his solar shield, a tiny energy field no one has ever shot around in the history of television. Then he leaves.
I’m serious. He decided he needs more solar power (while literally bathing in glowing sunlight), so he flew out through a hole in the roof. He called a timeout in the middle of a fight for a plainly unnecessary reason, and then flew right back around. Professor Kairoff was so confused by the whole thing this is what he said when Birdman re-entered:
I guess he figured he wasn’t coming back? He’s a pro, though; so he recovers quickly and grabs a lever. He warns, “ONE MOVE OF THIS LEVER AND I CAN START A QUAKE IN YOUR COUNTRY’S CAPITAL!” This is another strange quirk of Birdman in that it’s very obviously America but they always refer to Washington D.C. as “your country’s capital.” I think they were hedging their bets so if Vietnam won and moved the capital to Hanoi this cartoon wouldn’t age into something ridiculous.
You already know from earlier how Birdman responds to hostage situations. That’s right– double goddamn solar beams. He annihilates this little fucker. Kairoff’s tiny body is ground zero for 200 megatons of solar destruction. You do not threaten Birdman’s nation’s capital, wherever such a place might be, with an earthquake lever!
This isn’t a murder, though. Birdman hit Kairoff with the kind of explosion that only affects solid rock, sex robots, and earthquake machines. In fact, Kairoff seems completely uninjured. What is he? And why? Did a bat crash into a sperm bank? Is he a star vampire? Is he an ordinary Turkish child? And damn it, Birdman, was the secret to beating him just flying in and shooting him this whole time!?
Hold on, Birdman, you don’t have the authority to do any of this? And y-you know that’s the elevator out, right? You’re trapping him in the… Birdman, that’s how you get out of this place. He’s twenty inches tall and can very clearly fit through the bars, Birdman! And you’re leaving? You’re putting him in the elevator he uses to get in and out of his own home and leaving!? To get the same cops who asked you to take care of this guy!? Birdman, y– oh, I guess he’s gone.