Category Archives: Batman Comics

Batman’s “Joker” as Mythic Archetype – The Clown Prince of Crime


“When it comes to the Joker, I think there’s a lot more self-doubt than there is with other characters. He really is his arch-nemesis. He is the devil in his ear. He tells you all the things you’re most afraid of are true about you.” Scott Snyder on the Joker as Batman’s nemesis

The Joker is a character that writers love to play with, a character open to various interpretations each rich in their own subtext.

As an archetype the Joker is a Trickster – he disobeys societies rules and conventional behavior. He is a shapeshifter, a clown, he is the best class of criminal that Gotham has ever seen.

Where Batman is about control, precision and discipline and serving a higher good, the Joker is  about unrestrained spontaneity and wild glorious mayhem in a whirlwind of chaos. He serves only himself. If he has a higher calling it is to cause as much harm and destruction to the people of Gotham while fucking with Batman’s mind any way he can.

The Trickster Archetype

Joker as Trickster

The classical Trickster archetype performs a range of functions.

In its most benign form the Trickster is a playful mischievous character (sometimes a shapeshifter) who brings attention to whatever is repressed in our individual or collective psyche. A Trickster is often an inversion of social norms.

The Trickster then is not only a character in a story, but an outer analogue for our own inner psyche. Whatever we are afraid of, whatever we keep repressed or don’t want to face, whatever is unpopular of should not be spoken of in polite society – the Trickster is going to bring attention to all of these things in its own unique way.

With the Trickster (and all archetypes) we are able to take an interior event of our psyche (1st person) and project it on to a character or archetype (3rd person) via story, film etc – in a way that personifies the qualities of that archetype. All archetypes (according to Carl Jung) live in our Unconscious mind, both individually and collectively.

This 3rd person mental abstraction (or character, exterior) then allows us  a chance to work with the archetype and reintegrate our own often unconscious or disowned qualities back into our psyche (back to 1st person interior).

Carl Jung Psyche model Archetype

While classical Jungian psychology allows for and encourages a healthy relationship with archetypes, to the modern world we are most familiar with archetypes through stories – movies, novels, comics, animation, art etc. The Trickster often is an inversion of our values, of whatever we outwardly say is important. But if the Trickster were merely the opposite of who and what we are, then there would be no truth in the Archetype.

So while the Trickster may appear bizarre, abhorrent, or at least unwelcome, it is merely a reflection of a part of our psyche that we refuse to look at, to integrate or become familiar with. The Trickster then is ultimately a servant of the mind, it exists to allow us a change to come to terms with the ideas we struggle with in a playful way. The Trickster is also a representative of primal forces likes sex, death, procreation and animal instincts.

Archetypes exist in all of our world stories, myths, and legends. They reoccur whether we want them to or not for all stories are reflected aspects of ourselves, and the purpose of stories is not just to entertain but pass on symbolic life lessons and help us transition into different eras of our lives.

Stories and symbols (such as Archetypes) can contain coded information that interacts with out mind at different stages of our lives, the same story can have very different meanings as we grow and evolve. Stories then are also a kind of technology for passing on information critical to human growth. Art is not only essential to human growth and development, but has always been and will always be part of what we are at a fundamental level.

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The Joker reoccurs throughout Batman mythology and follows Batman around like a bad smell. You just can’t get rid of him. For Batman to kill the Joker is to become that which he hates – those who would enforce the philosophy of death/execution on any they disagree with. For all of Batman’s psychological hang ups, he believes in the right of all people to live, he will even risk his own life to save those who would do him harm.

This could be viewed as a virtue, or as further evidence of Batman’s nuttiness – why the heck would you go out of your way to help someone who is trying to kill you? It’s one thing to say pull out an unconscious criminal from the wreckage of a prison bus hanging on the edge of a cliff. It’s another thing entirely to try and save someone from falling off a building who is awake and firing bullets at you while you do it.

The trickster is an alchemist, a magician, creating realities in the duality of time and illusion. In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and conventional behavior

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Joker as Shapeshifter

The Trickster archetype can also be a shapeshifter, taking on the form of the opposite sex or an animal – which goes some way to explaining the different versions of the Joker across different media, and his personality varies according to whoever the current popular writer may be. The Joker’s ad hoc multiple origins and rebooted continuity (depending on what era of Batman comics you are reading) also fits with the Trickster archetype. Trying to understand the Joker or pin him down is futile.

Heath Ledger’s Joker famously made up multiple origin stories that he would tell to people just to keep them guessing. One ongoing theme in the comics is Batman trying and failing to understand the Joker. Joker’s personality and methods shift with his various incarnations. A shapeshifter is ultimately whatever it wants to be, but also sometimes reflects a twisted version of the values of the hero or protagonist.

Trying to figure out what makes the Joker tick is like asking what is the essential nature of water. Is it liquid, steam or ice? The answer of course is that water is all three of these states, and it will shift between them depending on the conditions of its environment. The Joker can change persona’s and origin stories as easily as changing clothes.

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The Joker’s Many Incarnations

Bill Finger gave us the first version of the Joker, a career criminal and killer with a clown motif. Later as the Joker’s background was expanded it was established that he had been a regular criminal who fell into a vat of acid. Instead of dying a painful death – his skin and hair were chemically bleached, his mouth was damaged giving him a permanent grin. He dressed in a purple suit and went with the whole “clown prince of crime” theme. But these elements were not added until years later, so in his earliest appearances, you would assume the Joker’s face to be make-up.

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Further adding to the Joker’s origins was the Red Hood persona, a simple red helmet and cape that created a new mystery man in Gotham whom Batman and Robin would have to catch. While the Joker has had a number of redacted origins over the years, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson deliberately kept the Joker’s origin ambiguous and unknown. It was only later writers who made attempts at adding a true origin to the character, or more accurately an origin of who the Joker was before he was the Joker.

The Red Hood as a gimmick is a common one in superhero genre material. Create a “mystery” character, and tease out who they really are for as long as you can, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. The strength of this trope is that the character can be anyone, and when revealed, often the character is not whom you suspected – because the writers usually don’t know who it is either. So they throw out multiple clues for different people the mystery person could be. Then they may change the identity at the 11th hour, leaving readers puzzled and often quite angry with all the false clues.

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With the  censorship and forced overly conservative stories throughout the 1950’s the Joker became more a criminal who played a lot of gags on Batman, and was not particularly threatening.

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It was not until the 1970’s that the Joker got his teeth back, and returned to being the more sadistic gleeful killer and maniac he had been in his earliest pre-comics code appearances. When Neal Adams and Denny ‘O Neil worked together on Batman, they made a deliberate attempt to take Batman back to his Gothic roots.

Gone was the barrel-chested smiling cop Detective, and in his place was was the lithe gymnastic Batman, the first Batman who looked like he really knew martial arts, a globe trotting James Bond in a Batman costume. This 1970’s Batman incarnation was the beginning of the modern day  Batman and paved the way for the Dark Knight we know and love today. As Batman grew darker and more Gothic once again, so the Joker returned to being more  of a maniacal killer, and less an annoying clown.

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From the 1970’s onward the Joker has gotten progressively darker, more psychotic, more… ‘evil’ for lack of a better word.

Frank Miller made the Joker an integral part of his Dark Knight Returns story. While the Joker’s role in Dark Knight Returns is small, it sets up the nature of the ongoing adversarial co-dependent relationship of Joker and Batman for the next several decades up to the present day.

To Miller’s Joker, Batman is his world, without him Joker’s life has no meaning. Without the “game” of playing with Batman, Miller’s Joker becomes a catatonic nobody, until Batman returns from retirement.

Meanwhile, Miller’s Batman (having moved on and retired from being Batman) has no real interest in the Joker, other than stopping him once again after they both come out of retirement. A brutal fight ensues where the Joker dies after repeatedly stabbing Batman is something of a sidebar in the larger story of Batman in The Dark Knight Returns. Yet that scene remains one of the most defining moments in the history of Batman’s encounters with the Joker. The Dark Knight and the Clown Prince coming alive again to face one another, two archetypes locked in an eternal symbolic struggle, the warring conflicted selves of man’s psyche.

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Sadistic Soldier and Killer Clown

Grant Morrison’t Joker is both villain and temporary friend when he assumes yet another identity during the R.I.P. and Return of Bruce Wayne / Batman Incorporated story arc.

Morrison plays up the trickster angle of Joker being both benevolent and potentially harmful. Menacing and deadly in one story arc, benevolent and seemingly a friend in another story arc. I won’t give any spoilers here even though the run finished a number of years ago. If you have not read Morrison’s run on Batman it is great fun, as is Scott Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman run.

Scott Snyder’s interpretation of the Joker has become the most depraved and disgusting version of the Joker yet. While there are elements of Snyder’s Joker that I just don’t agree with, he clearly set out with a particular unique vision of Batman and the Joker, and he accomplished what he set out to do in his five year run. It is no easy task to come up with a different take on a character who has been around for 70+ years and exists across a diverse range of media.

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The Thin White Duke of Death


The other notable portrayals of the Joker in the modern era have been Paul Dini’s – both his incarnation in Batman Animated –voiced by Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, and the Paul Dini penned Arkham Asylum game series by Rocksteady Studios.

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Clown, Killer, Psychotic, and all around funny-man

In the Arkham Asylum video games and Batman Animated series Joker is a wild fun mix of his various elements and incarnations. More toned down violence in the Mark Hamill voiced cartoons, while more ramped up over the top and graphic violence in the video games. This is the same character, again, morphing and twisting to suit the audience (meaning the age ratings and what level of violence was permitted).

He’s the same clown putting on a show, no matter the venue. If you thought Deadpool was very “meta”, self-referential, funny and psychotic – then you really need to experience more of Mark Hamill / Paul Dini’s Joker tales, because the clown prince does murder, mayhem, psychosis and hilarity better than the Merc’ with a Mouth any day of the week.

In Batman Animated the Joker manages to be just as menacing and scary as any other incarnation -despite writers having to cater to network television rules for children’s entertainment  – thanks to Star Wars’ Mark Hamill voicing the animated Joker in a fan favourite performance – on and off from 1992 to 2016. That’s 24 years. No other performer has even come close to playing the Joker for that length of time.

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The friendliest and funniest psychotic killer ever conceived in children’s television


Mark Hamill gave us a version of the Joker who was over the top, the right mix of laughter and menace. To satisfy the requirements of a network TV show, the Batman Animated version of the Joker could not be overly violent or shown to be directly killing people in a show aimed at kids. But clever writing that satisfied the censors still managed to make him a menacing character, particularly in the direct market animated feature Batman Beyond: Revenge of the Joker – where Hamill’s Joker gets cut loose – he is every bit the gleeful sick sadistic psychopath made famous in the comic books.

“Ah, the new boy. The ears are too long and I miss the cape, but it’s not too shabby”

In live action we have the big three icons – Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Each bringing a unique vision of the Joker to life.

Cesar Romero’s Joker was a comical joking buffoon, a slapstick clown who jumped around everywhere and was very animated and over the top. Many fans found Frank Gorshin’s Riddler to be closer to the Joker from the comics. Cesar Romero’s Joker while  clearly a unique take by a talented actor just has no menace at all. He’s more annoying than scary.

Compare him with his opposite in Heath Ledger’s Joker who is all menace with little to no humor. In the middle you have Jack Nicholson who is both deadly and funny. While Keaton’s Batman is a world away from the comic book Batman, Nicholson’s Joker is much closer to the comics, only one-upped by Mark Hamill who manages to be the most definitive Joker on screen in Batman Animated.

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“Oh how delicious it is”

Jack Nicholson’s Joker was a great performance that veered between gleeful lunatic and unapologetic homicidal maniac. Burton’s Batman and Joker went back to Batman’s roots, emphasizing the Gothic elements of Batman like O’ Neil and Adams in the 70’s. Nicholson’s Joker was true to the earliest golden age appearances of the Joker. A career criminal who falls into a vat of acid and emerges as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Visually, Nicholson’s outfit is the closet to classical Joker we have seen on the big screen. In contrast Keaton’s Batman look is remarkable different from the comics being all black, rather than black/grey or black/blue. Keaton and Burton’s Batman look (the film and the costume) set the tone and style for all future theatrical incarnation’s of Batman, and even cosplayers today typically go with the all black costume when dressing up as their favourite Dark Knight Detective.

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“Have you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moon light?”

Heath Ledger’s Joker is a fan favourite performance, some would even say it was the performance of Ledger’s career. A more urban Joker whose hair is matted, whose face is a mess, but who still wears a nice suit with a dirty almost punk rock feel to it, Ledger’s Joker was all menace. A gleeful sadist who loves to torture Batman with indecision and doubt and keeping everybody guessing what his real plans and intentions were.

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“You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with”

Another interesting take on the Joker was the Brian Azzarello / Lee Bermejo graphic novel “Joker”. This take sees the a hired goon tag along with the Joker for the day, and we see him get up to all his usual tricks. It’s a great read, and noteable for showing a more realist take on the Joker. Not so much his personality, but the overall setting and mood is closer to say Marvel’s the grim tone of  The Ultimates or Watchmen than the usual Batman monthlies.

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Origins of the Joker

The Red Hood first appeared in Detective Comics #168. In a rather convoluted page of exposition the Joker reveals to Batman the “one secret I’ve kept from you all these years”. That Joker was a lab worker who decided to steal $1,000,000 and became the Red Hood. He later swam through a chemicals making his getaway which bleached his skin and hair.

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The Joker / Red Hood story is a bit silly, as were many Batman stories of its era. His origin would be told and retold over the decades, each time adding to or taking something away from the various stories he has told about who he is and why he exists. Fans still argue the true origin of the Joker to this day, and some theorists will state factually that his earliest origins are “most true”, but given 70+ years of fiction, and various writers – those details are up for debate and interpretation.

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Allan Moore did his part to confuse things by writing The Killing Joke graphic novel. Moore wrote it as an out of continuity one-off story. One where he crippled Batgirl/Barbara Gordon. Then when DC published it, they went ahead and made it canon. Leaving poor Babs permanently crippled, something Moore has said he regrets adding to Batman. More ideas for  Joker origins are thrown up in the air in The Killing Joke, which became a semi-canon. Until they were not any more. Well apart from Babs being crippled. They kept that part for some reasons and threw out pretty much everything else, until DC’s NEW 52 where both Joker and Babs get rebooted.




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Joker as Mythic Archetype

In Snyder’s NEW 52 Batman story “End Game”, hints have been dropped that the Joker may be immortal. With images of the clown prince showing up old in photographs taken before Batman and the Joker were born.

The logical rational answer, the answer Batman has to go with is that the Joker is playing another cruel trick. The answer is that after taking a rare chemical called Dionesium (the precursor of Lazarus pits) the Joker is miraculously healed from life threatening injuries. The kicker is that photographic evidence exists putting the Joker at a least a century or two old. Older than Gotham itself. In Snyder’s end to his Joker stories (Death in the Family and End Game) the Joker gleefully torments Batman with the idea that he has been around a long, long time and is possibly immortal. Batman refuses to believe it of course, and the tale is left open ended for the reader to decide the ultimate truth of the Joker’s story, which again plays into the Archetype of the Trickster –  a storyteller with multiple origins and many twisting lies and tricks.

In interviews with the site Snyder and collaborator (artist) Greg Capullo talk about their vision for the Joker in the NEW 52.

CBR: What was your and Greg Capullo’s thinking behind that and how he appears now versus “Death Of The Family,” or even that very first “Batman” issue when Dick was pretending to be him in jail?


Snyder: The most important thing is that he looks scary, you know? The other most important thing, when we were talking about him, was that he looks reborn in some way. Classic, but a little bit darker. We talked about different possibilities. We talked about the purple suit, and then we realized, no matter how you cut it and what the suit is, it just makes him not scary in a lot of senses. So for us it became about giving him the black suit with the purple handkerchief, give him a more funeral look. Make the hair shorter on the sides, make sure his eyes are very wide, very bloodshot, the wider grin with the clownish chin and nose. Make him a little less witchy and a little more scary, someone who is in the shadows, looking at you, who is clearly a Joker, young and restarted. He’s come back saying, “This is it. If I’m moving on, I’m starting over without you.”


Batman 40 new 52 joker archetype

The cover to Batman #40 depicts and angelic Batman about to stab a Joker themed demonic creature with a staff / spear adorned with the Bat-symbol. It’s  a great cover that emphasies the mythical archetypal relationship of the two adversarial characters in symbolic form.

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Snyder: And to me, the reason Batman is inspiring isn’t only because he terrifies criminals, but because he empowers us to go out and overcome our own fears, and to overcome the worry that what we do doesn’t mean anything, and that we can’t make a difference, we can’t change our situation. Batman is the ultimate example of how you overcome tragedy, or you take chaos and random violence and turn it into something meaningful.

Greg Capullo: Are you trying to say that they’re kind of like married, kind of like the yin and yang?

Snyder: Exactly. And I think Bruce knows that in some way. The Joker represents everything he fights against all the time.

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Trickster characters are often inversions of popular beliefs and attitudes. Tricksters take whatever is repressed, hidden or unconscious and bring it out in the open for everyone to see.

The very act of bringing unconscious material to light makes the Trickster character if not unpopular at least confronting and unpleasant.

Not all trickster characters are malevolent, Bugs Bunny for examples is a lovable non-threatening character who plays tricks on his nemesis (Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck), he is playful and challenges the ideas, values and perceptions of those he encounters.

Examples of classical mythological Trickster figures include half man-goat Pan, norse God Loki, and the African spider god/godess Anansi.

Modern Trickster figures include Bugs Bunny, Beetlejuice, The Joker and Dr. Who.

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Joker as friend or benefactor to Batman

The trickster is not just a serial pest, but also acts in service to a higher purpose by bringing to light the very ideas and values we may find repulsive, and cannot stand to see in another, but which are in fact deeply embedded within our own psyches.

The more we are bothered by an other’s behavior, the greater the chance that there is some aspect of ourselves we are repressing, or refusing to own.

In this way, the trickster can symbolically help us to see our own Shadow  qualities through story, song and performance.

Once these qualities or aspects of our own psyche are brought our attention, we still have to do the work of what Carl Jung refers to as “individuation” – being the war of opposites or dynamic tension between our higher and lower natures from which the “work” of real psychological growth and maturation into fully human beings comes.

The Joker at times has become a friend or benefactor to Batman (at least in his own warped view of reality). Joker sees himself as challenging Batman to be the best Batman he can be. He claims to know Batman better than anyone, as aspect that both Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison emphasized in their respective runs on Batman books.


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Joker as Madman and Cipher

The Joker as a foil to Batman reminds him of his own darker impulses, and is a constant reminder of walking next to the abyss but not falling into it. Of Batman not giving in to to his impulse to simply kill the criminals and lunatics rather than catch them.

In the mythical sense, the Joker can be viewed as an aspects of Batman’s own personality given personification. Where Batman does not kill, and rarely laughs or makes Jokes, and is all about discipline and control – the Joker is wild unrestrained Chaos. Pure hedonism, the embodiment of lower animal drives and desires which in themselves are not evil (fight or flight response, sex, death, survival etc) but which unrestrained make us no better than living in an animal state of consciousness.

However, animals generally kill for food or to protect themselves, whereas the Joker kills for the sheer fun of it, making him in a sense even less evolved than an animal. He is sub-human, a gross perversion of culture and humanity reflected back on itself.

The Joker is decadence and self-indulgence and greed and excess and wanton destruction of self and environment personified.

He is chaos and a man like Batman who looked into the abyss of his own soul and rather than finding the line between his higher and lower impulses, fell in love with chaos and and raw unimpeded impulsiveness.

Will the real Joker please stand up?

The Joker can be a blank slate, a blank canvas onto which a writer can project whatever they need to for the story they wish to tell. Joker is the dark side of humanity twisted beyond recognition, a gross reflection of the chaos and unpredictability of life itself. His meanings and symbolism change with the times, reflecting cultural patterns and ever shifting values. In more conservative times he is the silly annoying clown who is more of a pest than a true threat. In more progressive times Joker is the psychotic mass murdering lunatic, always pushing the boundaries of sanity and crime as an art form.

The Joker is the nameless nobody criminal, who reinvented himself as the costumed Red Hood, who reinvented himself becoming the Joker, the clown prince of crime, avatar of chaos and madness.

Whether the Joker is genuinely insane, or merely plays at being insane because he loves to hurt people and cause trouble is up for debate. There is no “correct” answer, both versions are valid, and each Batman writer creates their own version of the Joker, with evidence to support their views in the Batman canon.

Scott Snyder’s Joker seems to be a true psychopath who enjoys murder, mayhem and torture, and his recent End Game storyline is possibly building the Joker up as as some sort of immortal, devil or pure archetypal trickster character.

The deliberate invocation, or even the suggestion that the Joker may be more than some criminal lunatic who dresses like a clown makes for compulsive reading, and leave the reader with a sense of confusion at the end of the tale.

Similar ideas have been hinted at in stories such as Dark Knight Returns, that Joker and Batman give each other meaning, and that the Joker continues to push himself to new depravities just to fuck with Batman.


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An End to Madness and Laughter?

The Joker’s characterisation varies by writer and era. Sometimes he is a loveable fun trickster, at other times career criminal. He plays at being a gang leader only to routinely kill his employees. Joker has been a lunatic, psychopath, sadist and clown. Or any combination of these qualities depending on what elements a given writer wants to emphasize.

The strength of the Joker, and the Trickster archetype is that he can be put into just about any kind of story, and he works. Like water that once poured into a glass becomes the glass, the Joker becomes whatever is needed in a given story. He is the clown prince of crime, career criminal, lunatic, shapeshifter, trickster and more. He is all of these things and yet not limited by any of these facets of his personality. He evolves and devolves, taking on new forms for new stories.

Each new interpretation of the Joker adds something to the collective archetype of “The Joker” in Batman media. Each writer or actor that comes along has their choice of which elements they want to use from all the interpretations so far, as well as adding something unique of themselves to the character.

One of the great things about the Joker is that if you don’t like a particular version – there is always a new interpretation right around the corner.

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The Joker and Batman have a symbiotic relationship, as do most classic heroes and villains throughout literature and film, each hero and villain representing the aspects of human potential and personality through stories. Within each person are all archetypes and possibilities, the different aspects of our psyche being reflected symbolically in stories of exciting characters having adventures, facing challenges and becoming more than what they were, or simply entertaining us with a mindless distraction from our daily lives.

When we read a comic book the page is flat and two dimensional, but beyond the borders of the panels of simple ink on paper – our imagination soars as we expand those worlds to infinite dimensions. We see hear and feel the moments of simulated joy, sorrow and high drama our heroes and villains encounter. Those larger than life characters, however spectacular they may be ultimately remind us of how human we are.

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“In mythology and religion, the trickster deity breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously but usually, albeit unintentionally with ultimately positive effects. Often, the bending/breaking of rules takes the form of tricks or thievery, and their actions often end up changing the rules in the process of breaking them, much like an act of “civil disobedience”. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often funny even when considered sacred or performing important cultural tasks.” –

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State of the Art – BANE on the Brain

Bane is a pretty one dimensional character in my opinion, and I am not a fan.

Although I do like seeing the different interpretations of the character across various DC related media.

This article is the first then in a visual series showing the comparative look at the art style and redesigns of Batman characters in the comics, and other mediums.

These articles are designed so that you can skip up and down the page to see the contrasting pictures, reading the comments is up to you.  It it not intended to be comprehensive, I am not going to show every version of Bane, because that would be boring.  I will choose whatever I find unique, interesting, or just damn cool art showcasing how Bane is interpreted in different mediums.

Batman Vengeance of Bane one shot cover Chuck Dixon

The Vengeance of Bane one-shot written by Chuck Dixon was the prelude to the Knightfall Saga.  In the story we meet Bane first as a child born in a South American prison, who inexplicably remains in prison for life despite not committing any crime, and despite all good common sense.

Bane reads a bunch of stuff, works out some and decides to “break” Batman.

Batman whom Bane has never met or even seen a picture of, nor has any reason to hurt, nor any proof that Batman even exists.  Bane just decides that he has to break the symbolic champion of Gotham.

Why not? I guess it beats sitting around in a cell all day.  The cover here shows us his eventual costumed look, that of a mexican wrestler with the typical full face mask.  Of course Bane is a lot taller and bigger than the typical Mexican wrestler, but the basic look is an obvious homage to a show wrestler, right down to the lace up boots and hunched over aggressive macho posture.

Of note here are the the long pants and shoes which Bane only appears to wear on this cover and not in subsequent stories. The footwear may be shoes or boots covered with the leg of the pants, it it not clear.  The prominent tubing from Bane’s head to his arm tells us this is a significant aspect to the character by being highlighted in yellow.

The way Bane is looking out at the reader suggests some urgency to the character, he has beaten (and possibly killed) some men in uniform, and is eagerly looking to move to his next target, or get on with his quest / mission.  He is clearly a man of action.

Batman - Knightfall Bane first full apearance

On this page we see the first full image of Bane in costume in a Batman comic.  A previous page shows him without his mask in profile and partial views, putting on his outfit, (he has a rubbish hair cut) leading to this dramatic splash page that announces to the reader that Bane is here and he means business.

Here we can see Bane with mask, tubing from his head, wearing pants that look more like fabric, but could be leather, and a wrestler style open vest, that conveniently turns into a more traditional singlet depending on who the artist is.

Batman - Knightfall Bane 5 Batman off a building

The previous chapter in the Knightfall story ended with Bane breaking Batman’s back. Here at the beginning of the next chapter, Bane is standing on top of a building, boasting of his victory, then he throws Batman to the ground.

Batman should really be dead at this point, your life expectancy tends to go down when being thrown of off a building while unconscious with a broken back.  Also, when I re-read this story now, it is impossible not to hear Tom Hardy’s Bane voice .  Go ahead, read the speech bubbles in the following picture below and try NOT to hear Tom Hardy’s Bane voice in your mind when you read you read it.

Batman - Knightfall Bane 6 Batman off a building

Re-reading the Knightfall story this year (in preparation for more blog posts, and to see the similarities to the film) I now can not hear anyone’s voice but Tom Hardy’s when I read Bane’s dialogue.  Significant in this scene is the unobstucted rear view of of Bane’s mask and tubing, which is clearly connected to his his head, braced at the neck/upper shoulder region and connected to his wrist/forearm.

Batman - Knightfall Bane knightfall cover1

This art by prominent comic artist Kelley Jones became synonymous with the Knightfall / Bane saga.  First used as the cover to Batman #497, and later used on the cover or insert to later trade paperback collections of the Knightfall storyline.

This image show Bane maxed out on the Venom drug, with a grotesque physique that is over exaggerated in every way for emphasis, and showing his total domination over Batman.  It’s a great functional piece of art, in that it sells the book, and I want to know more about the story inside.

Kelley Jones is known for his moody Gothic style art, some people hate the extra long ears on Batman, I don’t mind them.  My favourite work of his is the Batman Elseworlds Vampire Trilogy where Batman becomes a vampire, punches the undead in the face and kills Dracula to save Gotham.

Batman - Knightfall Bane3 Broken Batman backk

Apart from being the critical moment, the money shot of when Bane breaks Batman’s back in Knightfall (the same scene would be pilfered and recreated in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises) this art is also notable for Bane having excessively hairy shoulders, which is typical of a man with high levels of testosterone.  I guess he had time to stop and shave them between breaking Batman’s back in this scene, and then throwing Batman off a building soon afterward.

Jokes aside, this image is brilliant.  You have the visual shock of a splash page, the look of pain on Batman’s face, the unusual jagged panel border sells the scene.

Batman the animated series Bane_800x533

Here in Batman the Animated Series, Bane’s costume becomes a full wrestler outfit with pants that are likely tights, the one piece swimsuit style singlet, a prominent belt and of course his mask looks even more like a Mexican wrestler mask than his earlier incarnations in the various Batman comic books.

I think he looks a bit goofy here, but the look does the job for the show so I can’t complain.  I mean does he want to hurt Batman or just pin him for a three count?

Bane concept art arkham asylum video game by Chuck Dee
Concept art for Batman Arkham Asylum by Chuck Dee

Chuck Dee drew a lot of fantastic character specific concept art  that was used in the character designs for both Batman Arkham Asylum and Batman Arkham City.  Of note here is the massive, almost Incredible Hulk like proportions of Bane, his arms and biceps drawn as thicker than his legs.

The image recalls the overly-exaggerated look of Bane from the earlier Kelley Jones Bane art, particularly the cover with Bane breaking Batman’s back.  In this image, Bane is clearly Hulked out on the Venom drug, hence his over-exaggerated un-natural and grotesque physique.

The orange pants are a prison uniform, as are the shackles on his feet and wrists, which have been incorporated into his Venom delivery system for reasons unknown.  Bane’s belt glows red, whether an artistic flourish or whether it has anything to do with the Venom delivery here is unknown.

Instead of one main tube connecting from his head to wrist here Bane has multiple tubes directly into his body, and a much larger module on his upper back which is no longer just a bracing point, but clearly has tubing connected to it, rather than just held in place.  The straps seem to connect his back, making the overall Venom kit more like a backpack than the old tiny canisters in previous versions of Bane.

Bane wears a metal mask and collar, which are presumably part of his prison restraints.

Chuck Dee concept art for Bane DC MMO game

Chuck Dee art here again, this picture of Bane is concept art for DC’s MMO.  I don’t know what the final look was in the game as I’ve never played it.  I downloaded the game on PS3, but it took like twenty minutes to even get the game booted so I just deleted it, but I think the concept art here is pretty cool.  This design uses all the main Bane characteristics established in other incarnations.

Mask, mean looking, belt, wrestler singlet and pants, chunky belt and of course the Venom drug delivery tubing.  Of note here is the spiky collar which gives Bane a slightly goth punk or fetish look in combination with the all black outfit and small silver studs on his wrist braces, belt and padded knee boots.  But I have to wonder is Bane tuly angry, or are those pants just a bit too tight?  This look seems to have been influenced by Bane’s look in The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.

Bane Arkham Asylum concept art by Chuck Dee

Further conceptual designs for Bane in the Arkham Asylum series by Chuck Dee.

The side on view of the metal mask is very Hannibal Lecter, while the knuckle dusters just seem like overkill for a character who is already very strong. While menacing, something of Bane’s essential elements are lost without his traditional mask here, he could be just another Venom fueled goon.

The overtly fetishized costume, belts and mask to me suggest maniac or psycho, overall not a great look for Bane in my opinion.  But the look can serve as the opening to a story, once Bane is back in more regular clothes, he would look much better.  The great thing about concept art is that an artist can really cut loose and play around with different experimental elements before arriving at a final design.

I like all of Chuck Dee’s concept art for the Batman Arkham games, a fair amount oh his work was used in video game articles, online wallpapers and other promotional ways for the game series, such as the covers on the tie in comic books. His Joker art is to die for.


This image is a CG render of Bane as he looks in the first two Arkham Aslyum video games.  You can see that the orange prison pants and the giant wrist straps have turned into restraints that also double as wrist gauntlets.

The neck collar / dog collar delivers electric shock to uncooperative prisoners in Arkham Asylum / Akrham City.  The action figure of this version of Bane was a really nice toy [see below], and looks just the same as the CG render here.  The Batman toy by contrast looks good, but the eyes (pupils) are really creepy.

I know because I have that same Batman toy on my desk here as I’m typing, and yeah the eyes just ruin an otherwise great action figure if you ask me.  I’m going to put some white out on the eyeballs at some point, so he looks more like the white eyed creepy Batman, who is creepy in a good way, and not in a silicon valley way.

DC_Collectibles_Batman_Arkham_Asylum_Batman_Bane RESIZED

BANE Batman-Arkham-Origins RESIZED

The follow up to the Rocksteady Arkham City video game was Arkham Origins, a prequel game that is set in the early years  of Batman’s career.  I played through all three games in the Arkham series multiple times, and this version of Bane was my favourite.  You fight Bane twice in the game.

The first time he looks like this and later in the game you fight Bane again as the final boss fight, and he looks absolutely horrific maxed out on Venom.  You fight Bane three times all up, as the second battle is in two parts, and the third time he goes insane as he overdoses on Venom and swells up to Incredible Hulk sized proportions.

In the first fight he runs away after the battle and jumps into a helicopter, then the Joker fires an RPG at the helicopter, a pretty awesome scene with plenty of explosions and just pure chaos courtesy of Mr J, who basically tries to murder the guy he hired to kill Batman just for fun. I wish joker had managed to kill Bane at the start of the game so I didn’t have to fight him again at the end of the game.  Stupid Bane.

BANE Batman-Arkham-Origins Render front and back

When you fight Bane again at the end of the game, he pumps himself up with drug of choice, the ever reliable Venom.

Overall I really like this look, Bane is big and muscly without looking freakish, and the boss battle while a little boring and predictable, is still good fun, unlike the third fight that follows, which made me Hulk out and turn into Al Swearengen from Deadwood.  %$#%&^*$%$ing Bane!

Bane Arkham Origins Final Boss Fight Version CG Render

After you beat Bane in the fight at the end of the game, he later overdoses on the Venom drug, and then basically Hulks out, going totally nuts.  You can’t damage Bane directly in this fight, which means you have to make him do dumb things like run into walls, electrocute him, all the usual stuff really.

The final Bane boss fight is tedious and annoying, you die easily, while Bane takes a fair bit of damage to beat.  If you stuff up some of the environmental cues (parts of the scenery you can use to damage Bane) then he becomes impossible to beat as there is no way to damage him, and you just have to start again.  I enjoyed all the boss battles in Arkham Origins, except for this one.

Injustice-gods-among-us-bane-render RESIZED  This is another CG render of Bane.  This time from the Injustice: Gods Among Us fighting game.  I recently got around to playing this game, and well, it is awful.  One of the worst fighting games I have ever played, terrible controls, un-intuitive combat.

Some of the character renders look decent, this is not one of them.  I think Bane looks awful in this game, and the art style I don’t care for at all.  He look sto angular and spiky, and I don’t find him threatening at all.

The relatively rubbish spin off comic based on the story of the game (which has Batman fighting Superman) was more enjoyable then the game, but that is not saying much.  I really wanted to like this game, but yeah it is rubbish in terms of game mechanics.  Some nice Dragonball Z style knock back attacks and supers, but that is about it.

You can watch a Youtube video in a few minutes of the best animations, and then forget this game ever existed.  Not even my cat like this game, and he normally loves everything with Batman.  The mobile/tablet version of the game looks excellent, but gets boring after five minutes, and it takes forever to upgrade your characters, so steer clear of that one too.

Bane Batman the Animated Series later seasons

I was never a fan of the gimp mask and spiky collar combo from The New Adventures of Batman and Robin.  But like it or not, the look works, the art style works, and of course this one of my favourite versions of the animated Batman.  I didn’t care for Batman’s redesign in the JLA cartoon, I think here in New Adventures he looks timeless and classic.  At least this version of Bane looks mean and genuinely threatening.

Bane Batman Brave and the Bold

This version of Bane is from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a great show that is under appreciated in my opinion.  Yeah, this version, it looks crap if you ask me.  Did the animators go out to lunch and get the work experience boy to whip this one up?  I mean Jesus, LOOK at him, what were they thinking?  If they were aiming for the worst looking version of Bane, then they succeeded .  I don’t know WHAT they were going for this design.

The basic elements and motifs are there, the mask, the green Venom cable tubing, the wrestler pants belt and singlet.  But the face, and the overly rounded silly looking shoulders just make me want to laugh at Bane, rather than be afraid of him.  The less said about this version the better.  Let’s move on.

Bane THe Batman show

Wow!  What is going on here.  This redesign is from The Batman (another animated Batman show) and is the most dramatically different version of Bane so far.  It is weird looking.  I don’t know if the red parts are meant to be a costume or he has read skin?

Overall I like that something different was attempted here, but I don’t think the look really works.  He looks a bit like Red Hulk after a night out in a fetish club.  I don’t love it, or hate it, but it is an interesting redesign.  The Batman show also gave the Joker a dreadlocked Rastafarian look, that show really changed up the look of the villains with some bizarre choices.

So this strange looking Bane is not that strange when you look at him in context with the other characters on the show, who are basically all weird looking.  I give them credit for mixing things up.  But weird for the sake of it does not equal good in my book.

Bane Justice League Animated DOOM

Now this is more like it.  This version is from JLA: DOOM, a pretty bland direct market animated feature.  Bane looks like a bad-ass.  Don’t mess with this guy!

Except… wait a minute, did he accidentally burn a hole in his clothes?

Why is there a giant Superman diamond shaped hole on the front of his one piece?  Overall, I love this look, but the open chest piece looks ridiculous.  Either cover it up or put him a proper singlet, not this bastardised piece of clothing.

I’m starting to sound like a real misery guts here, and I gotta tell ya, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Bane Young Justice 2 RESIZEDBane from the Young Justice animated show (a great show, well the first season is brilliant, second season not so much).

Another good look. Stripped back, no spiky collar or silly straps and junk all over him.  Just lean and mean.

Mask?  Check.  Venom cable (in fashionable red) and the classic prison tough guy singlet.  This is Bane before he hulks out on Venom of course, so he looks a bit skinny, but that is just the art style of the show, and for me it works.  i like than in the show he appear to be genuinely Mexican, rather than speaking with an accent and basically being white.  That always bugged me.

I can’t stand when characters of various non-caucasian races are anglicised for comics, or because they ran out of ink at the printers again.  Yeah, sorry old man whitey at the printer, that excuse may have held up in the forties, but don’t be pulling that shit now!


Sweet Jesus what were they drinking the day they came up with this one and where can I get some?

This is (sadly) the most camp version of Bane from the Batman and Robin live action movie.  In the film Bane just grunts and mumbles, and doesn’t talk. He is a mindless henchman to Poison Ivy.  His skin is so green and scaly you could almost mistake him for Killer Croc.  The spikes on the belt are just silly, not scary.  The prominent crotch is offensive.

Batman 66 did camp on purpose, and the villains in that show still look great today.  Cesare Romero’s Joker,  Julie Newmar’s Catwoman, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler.  Love or hate the show, the costumes worked in context, and the villains really popped on screen with their vibrant gaudy colours. The show looked like a comic book.

In contrast, Bane in Batman and Robin looks like the drawing of some ten year old kid who had never seen Bane, and based his drawing based on a description his mate told him of what Bane looked like.  Nothing about the costume, the overall look or the style works here in my view.  Utter rubbish.

This version of Bane was played by Robert ‘Jeep’ Swenson, a pro wrestler who sadly died in the same year Batman and Robin came out in 1997.  His physique was impressive, imagine what he could have been like in a modern comic book movie instead of the lousy Batman and Robin. He will be missed.

Bane Secret Six Cover MaskAn issue of the Secret Six comic book. Secret Six is another book that takes a bunch of DC super villains and puts them into a ad hoc team, similar to the Suicide Squad.  The results are mixed, some issues are great fun, others are pretty bland.

Depends on who is writer is really.  The cover is pretty cool.  Bane’s mask reminds me of Spawn, or Venom, take your pick. This cover may even be a homage to Spawn?  I don’t know, stranger things have happened.

Bane Lego Batman 2

This little fella is rather cute.  Bane from the Lego Batman video games of course.  His Venomised version basically looks like Hulk from Lego Marvel but with a a different skin.

Marvel vs DC 2 Bane vs Captain America shield slap to the face

I didn’t need to include this one, the costume is classic Bane and unremarkable.  I only included this image because I love seeing Bane doing a face plant after getting shield slapped by the good Captain.  Eat pavement idiot!

Every artist has the right to express their unique version of a character.  How boring would it be if Batman and his rogues gallery still looked exactly the same as they did in the fifties?  Pretty boring.  I love artistic diversity.  I don’t love Bane, but it has been fun looking at some of  the different artistic interpretations of one of my least liked Batman bad guys.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the visual comparisons too, and didn’t mind my criticisms too much.

Soon I’ll be doing visual comparisons of the different looks of other Batman characters, and eventually Batman himself, along with the Joker.

If I had to pick a favourite version of Bane,  I would go with the less pumped up look from the Arkham Origins game.  That was the first time I felt that I enjoyed Bane as a character, other than of course the cinematic version that I like – in my view the definitive Bane – Tom Hardy’s Bane in Dark Knight Rises.

Bane is awesome_publicity shot_dark knight rises 549x600
Tom Hardy Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

At first I did not care for this version of Bane but after watching the film multiple times, this look has really grown on me to the point where I like it.  Except for the part where the mask does basically nothing, and is attached to nothing, that still really bugs me.

I had a  words or two to say about Tom Hardy’s Bane, so check out that article if you missed it.  Mostly I ramble on about how rubbish the fights were in Rises, but there is some other stuff in there too, so take a look.

No Pain No BANE – Tom ‘Hardman’ Hardy

Do you love or hate Bane?  Do you like the comic book, animated, video game or movie version best?  I’d like to hear from you, so leave some comments people!

Batman, Uncle Scrooge and *&$#ing Zombies


I don’t know at what point in life Batman became my favourite fictional character of all time (apologies to Sherlock Holmes who runs a close second, Scrooge McDuck a close third).

I collected Spider-Man comics for years as a teenager and bought the odd Batman trade or cool crossover with the Predator or Judge Dredd.

There was something about Batman that he just felt so at home in the graphic novel and prestige format book format.

I never owned more than a handful of random Batman comics here and there, plus some prestige format oneshots and Elseworlds books.  It never occured to me to buy any of the monthly books, which would have cost way too much in addition to buying four to five Spider-Man books a month at a time before I ever had a job.

For some reason, those few Batman books were enough.  I didn’t know a whole lot about the character, I had seen Batman and Batman Returns and enjoyed them, but I was not in love with them.  I knew the comic book Batman was way cooler than any cinematic version ever could be.

Sherlock Holmes wordsworth complete stories with original illustrations collected edition

I used to thumb through all the various Batman trades at the comic shop but didn’t have enough money to buy any of them because of my monthly pull list.  Batman the Animated Series helped fill out the world of Batman in my mind, and seeing classic stories for free on television was a lot cheaper than buying all the trades to read the original stories they were based on.

It was not until years later that I started reading all the comics I could get my hands on in public libraries.  Then I started to develop a deeper appreciation for comic books and graphic novels of all types.  I used to have membership for six different public libraries around Perth, and I would go to all of them just to read their comics, (other books too) and then move on to another one.  I would usually have about thirty different trades lying around my bedroom, once I had read a few I would to a library, return then and borrow something different.

In six to twelve months I read more comics than I had previously read in my entire life.  To buy those same books would have cost several thousand dollars.  Many of the comics trades at the libraries I borrowed from I was grateful to read and have access to, but had no wish to own, or have lying around the house taking up valuable living space.

Would you want to buy every movie you watch?

No, of course not.

You can rent movies, but you can not rent comics, which is why I am so grateful to public libraries.

While I bought single issues of various comics for the better part  of a decade or so, at some point I had enough, cancelled all my monthly pull list permanently (except Savage Dragon) and decided to only ever buy trades from now on.
Batman bring coffee bat symbol joke

If a book didn’t get a trade, then it wasn’t worth my time.  American comics from the major publishing companies can be quite fickle at times for not finishing stories.  If you buy European and Japanese comics, there is typically a beginning, middle and end.  If you buy a novel anywhere in the world, it has chapter and an ending.

But due to the nature of monthly periodicals, American superhero comics typically go on forever with no end at all.  Things have improved since the nineties where now most comics get tighter story arcs with a consistent creative team.  But how many comic book stories have I read that were never finished? The artist/writer got too busy with other projects, or was just too flaky to actually finish something they started.

If a writer, artist or editor can’t commit to finishing a project, don’t expect me to commit to buying or reading it

Giving up the monthly pull list was one of the best (reading) decisions I ever made.  I remember one day looking at around a thousand single issues of flimsy stapled comics, and estimating how many graphic novels and trades I could have bought with the same amount of money.  After doing the shonky math I realised I would much prefer to have durable bound editions of comics on the bookshelf than ten miles of ugly white boxes in a garage or spare room.

Savage_Dragon isue 7 cover

I don’t care about first issues, second issues, special editions, limited editions, fancy pants signed editions, holo-foil 3D pop up books with fries or anything like that.  All that crap is a big ego trip!  It means NOTHING.  I read comics because I fucking LOVE reading comics, I don’t care what you call it, where it came from, who made it or why, if the story is fun, I will read it.  Everything else is just noise.

I don’t “collect” anything for value, prestige or whatever.  Giving up monthlies meant I could start tackling some of the classic series that had been around forever in trade that I had never read like Transmetropolitan, Sandman, Bone, Uncle Scrooge Comics,  or Concrete. Some comics are just far more satisfying and meaningful to read then the monthly junk food of superheroes.

Strangers in Pardise characters double cover
Whole lotta love

I am not knocking superheroes, or junkfood, I love both. But we need real sustenance in life. We need not just food, but soul food.  I still read vanilla superhero comics, not just the pretentious (and well written) stuff like Kingdom Come, but the truly fun stuff like Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, or Marvel Zombies by Robert Kirkman (the first two volumes are great, the rest fun but forgettable).

I just love reading comics, in any format, on any topic.  Mainly I read superheroes, but I love all types of comics such as American Splendor or Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse, Carl Bark’s Uncle Scrooge Comics, Paul Chadwick’s Concrete, or other all time greats like Bryan Talbot’s The Tale of One Bad Rat, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Kurt Busiek’s Marvels  and Astro City.  

I’ve tried reading Love and Rockets, Strangers in Paradise and Elfquest, but they are too feminine for my tastes, however  I am really glad those books are out there. I respect the creators of those titles, all of which are unique and brilliant in their own way.  I’m not really the intended audience for those books anyhow.  I’m more a guy who loves square jawed action heroes, zombies, westerns, kung-fu movies, evil robots, dinosaurs and brilliant cartoons like Donald Duck and Spirited Away.

Square jawed action hero Bruce Willis Die Hard

After giving up the monthlies (which was like giving up an addiction of sorts, I felt like I NEEDED those books, and that is not a healthy place to be my friend) I have never looked back since then. I have never and will never buy a single issue of anything ever again, no matter how good it is.  They fall apart, they don’t stand up on a bookshelf, long boxes are are ugly as shit and single issues of a 12-24 issues run of a story are frankly tedious to read.

Give me a trade or three to enjoy a story at my leisure.  Imagine every time you read a novel you had to read an individual book per chapter.  Why would you do that?  You would get fed up pretty quick with the interruption to the flow of the story and pack it in before you ever got to the end.  Give me a story with a beginning, middle and end, or otherwise don’t ask me to even consider reading something, it is a waste of my time.

This poster image instantly sold me on the film

I used to have a lot of comics in boxes that just took up space, so one day I started giving a lot of it away.  I gave away a seven year collection of Spider-Man comics.  I kept less than perhaps twenty books out of around five hundred or so, mostly the ones with really unique or brilliant covers that I liked.  I moved again recently and gave away a stack of hardcover trades, some great comics – but stuff I had no interest in reading again.

My friend’s teenaged kid was pretty excited, although not as excited as I was at his age for comics.  I hope he enjoys those free trades, I mean they were fucking hard covers man, I used to sweat blood to even touch something like that, let alone own it.

I used to deliver newspapers (something I never read, *ugh*, I feel dirty just looking at them) once a week  on Sundays, it took me around five hours and often it was cold and raining heavily.  Good old New Zealand weather.  For this I was paid the princely sum of $15 a week.  Which of course I spent every cent on comics when I would ride my push bike into the city, back when I lived in New Zealand as a kid.

calvin and hobbes hug

When I bought trades, I looked for stories that were already complete that I could read from start to finish.  I looked for the great books that I loved to read over and over like Bone, Tintin, Astro Boy, Maus, Dark Knight Returns, Calvin and Hobbes, Uncle Scrooge Comics by Carl Barks and other timeless greats.  I still read superheroes of course, but I only ever bought trades of the stuff that I really treasure and wanted to be able to read today, and ten years from today. Anything that didn’t qualify I would not bother with.

Marvel Zombies pg06
Metal Hand vs Metal Hands

I still read books from public libraries, and kept several books about comics on the shelf that gave summaries of over one thousand different graphic novels and great comics to potentially read.  I will read anything that appeals to me at least one time, but I only buy comics I consider to be truly exceptional, and worth reading multiple times.  Plus crazy fun disposable stuff like Marvel Zombies vs Ash / Army of Darkness. Sadly, most comics as fun as they are, are absolute fluff.

Disposable entertainment. That is what comics were always intended to be, but somewhere along the way the kids who used to read comics grew up and started making comics themselves, and slowly comics came to be written by people who actually give a damn adout telling a good story, and not just collecting a pay check.

Fantagraphics high quality hardcover reprints of Carl Bucks ‘Duck Comics’ are a dream come true

Originally comic books were cheap reprints of old newspaper strips cut folded and stapled to make a quick buck, and later comics evolved into cheap and shoddy original stories to make a quick buck.  But the overall quality of writing and art in modern comics today is light years ahead of where it was even two decades ago.  The overall standard has risen, even the worst crap on the shelf each month is still produced to a high technical standard, probably considerably better than most comics that came out 30-50* years ago in overall quality.  (*Jack Kirby being the exception)

The same can be said for video games and films.  The technical standards have risen so high, and become so standardised than even crap looks relatively good.  Comic books, films and video games have become such over crowded markets that vie for attention along with social media, cable TV, video games, home PCs, tablets and smart phones that  to be noticed in such a market, you need to make something really really good.  Personally I think this is a good thing.

Bone Complete Edition trade cover
The complete BONE available in one giant phone book sized collection. Essential reading for young and old. Get the updated colour version

Having so many time wasting activities competing for our attention means that any art form that makes it way to us whether as a physical product or digital product, it needs to be something good for us to even bother with it when there are so many viable easily accessible alternatives.  I believe that digital media has helped to democratise both the creation and distribution of old media in new forms.

Getting back to comics, digital colouring have been the biggest innovation in comics in recent decades in my opinion.  Neal Adams and his daughter we have to thank for finally encouraging comic book publishers to stop printing their stories on toilet paper and finally moving to a higher quality of paper stock. Small innovations like better paper stock and amazing digital colouring and separations, less censorship by publishers and editors in modern comics mean that comics have evolved into some truly beautiful and engrossing experiences.

Creators have more freedom than ever to actually tell the stories they want to tell.  With the full integration of digital comics (which took nearly a decade too long in my view, but at least tablets got cheaper in the mean time) onto just about any screen you get a hold of, I feel that comics are as relevant as ever.  Comic books are basically a niche, we will never see the sorts of sales numbers that comic book publishers had during World War II.

Even if we have World War III tomorrow, the internet, video games and HBO are not going to go away so that comics can make that comeback that some “experts” have been predicting “might” happen.  Comic books ever having astronomical sales numbers again is like the Y2K and all those 2012 doom and gloom prophesies.  Just a bunch of theoretical nonsense with little to zero basis in reality.

Concrete Paul Chadwick dog
Good puppy

WARNING! A Tangent has appeared…

It is really hard to read some older comics from the seventies that appear on newsprint with ink bleeding everywhere and dialogue not so much smudged during printing as rendered indecipherable.  Was that guy bleeding to death on panel three?  No, those were words spilling out of his guts, not blood.

Thankfully with the rise of digital colouring and separations, a lot of old comics have been reprinted in trades that now show the art closer to how it first appeared, before it turned to shit by being printed on what was basically toilet paper.

Batman vs incredible hulk and the joker

The modern equivalent in film terms is owning the home Blu-Ray with its superior visual fidelity.  The theatrical film full of scratches, lines, blurry images and other tell tale signs of wear looks even more ugly in comparison.  How many of us can say we have ever watched the first pristine print of a film?  I never have.

Only the people who made the film have ever seen that first print.  But with Blu-Ray you are getting the same flawless image every time, it does not degrade with use like film on a projector at the multiplex.  That is what I love about digital colouring/separations and digital comics, the image does not degrade.

I love holding an actual book in my hand, I still buy cheap non-fiction black and white text paperbacks by the truck load.  But digital comics actually look remarkably better than their print equivalent.  I never thought I would prefer a digital comic over a printed book.  I still love the FEEL of an actual book in my hands, but I read nearly equal amounts of digital comics and print trades these days.  And I tend to read things in digital that I never would have bought as print, plus they take up a LOT less room, and I can take my tablet with me anywhere.  On the train, in the toilet, in the shower.  Well, perhaps not in the shower, that is a bit extreme.  I’ve never that, as far as you know.  But I have eaten a hamburger or two in the shower after working all day and not eating, and that ain’t a pretty sight I tell you.

What I like about digital comics is that there are no more pages printed out of order, no more creased spines that make whatever appears in the center of a page unreadable as it disappears into that annoying cheap glue in the spine that inevitably falls apart the more you read the book.  No more stupid ad inserts messing up your enjoyment of the book, that you have to pull the staples apart carefully, remove the annoying glossy advertorial, then fold the staples back down, permanently damaging the condition of the book in the process.

Batman a Celebration of 75 Years TPB hardcover cover
Crotch of Justice

I still love a good trade for the bookshelf, but I am far more discriminating in what edition I buy these days.  Amazon reviews are often helpful as people often mention print defects.  At some point I felt a need to read all the great Batman stories, and started buying more trades and graphic novels, which I find deeply rewarding to read.

Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is a great trade book collection with fantastic binding, great paper stock, an iconic Jim Lee cover and just screams “love me, put me on your bookshelf and never look back”. In contrast the recent Batman 75th Anniversary Box Set that contains The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Hush and Batman: The Court of Owls in a nice slip cover is  a piece of crap.

I was all set to buy that 75th anniversary box set with its awesome alternate covers, only to read reader reviews of what a waste of money it was on Amazon.  I will still pick up the “A Celebration of 75 Years” which is a fantastic book, high quality and a great companion volume to the Superman 75 Years and Joker 75 Years books.

Batman 75 anniversary box set with slip cover 3 books Court of Owls, Dark Knight Returns, Hush
Awesome covers, great idea, shabby printing and binding

The Batman 75th Anniversary Box Set is the perfect example of a hastily cobbled together book set that is printed on inferior materials.

A book that is literally falling apart at the seams when it is brand new is not a quality book in my opinion

I would like this set to be re-issued at some point, but it seems unlikely, and even it it was reprinted on better materials, I would still be waiting for some reviews before buying it.

Another example is Two Morrows Publishing, who put out some excellent comic book magazines, books and prestige format collections of old material as well as one off new material, generally on grades of paper that are just fine for their intended purpose.

Two Morrows Publishing have published a great series of retrospective books that cover the medium of comics by decade, but they are printed on inferior materials that again fall apart when actually read.  I am grateful to find this out before I wasted any money on the books.  I was previously looking forward to collecting the entire series of books, as I love the quality of writing of all the Two Morrows publications, but now it is unlikely I will ever read those books.

I’d spend it all on comics

I should say that there is no issue at all with any of the wonderful Two Morrows publishing magazines and other book specials they have put out over the years, all of which are high quality in the printed stock, put together properly and are full of great content.  In short, BUY their excellent magazines and products!

A damn shame about those “American Comic Book Chronicles” retrospective books though.  I REALLY wanted to read them for fun, and use them for research as well. I will not be buying any of them sadly.  there other book titles are fine as far as I know, and I plan to buy several of those.  Overall they are a fantastic company making high quality products (as is DC), the American Comic Book Chronicles books seem to be the exception, so don’t think I am bashing the company, I love the company and their work and read they magazines frequently.

But it shows that you have to pay attention to EVERY aspect of production from advertising, sales and marketing to typography, graphical layout, colour corrections, printing, binding, shipping and storage.

Mess up ANY of those aspects for any reasons and a book or comic book may fail to reach its intended audience or be taken seriously, or fall apart in a readers hands.

Nobody wants to buy an inferior product!

Phoney-Bone Jeff Smith
First World Problems

There was a time I never cared about any of this, when I used to actually go to comic shops instead of ordering books online.  If there was a problem with a book I could take it back the same day and exchange it or get a refund. With buying print comics online, you don’t know what you are getting until it arrives, and if it is from overseas, I may be waiting up to four weeks to receive the book.

So if it is an expensive book that falls apart the moment you open it, well it pays to find that out before you buy it, because sending it back means waiting another four weeks for it to ship, and will likely cost me more to post it back for a refund that I paid for the book in the first place.  Publishers and direct marketers often have discounts for bulk mailing, but you and I, Joe and Jane Public, do not get those discounts when returning defective items.

curse Herge Tintin Captain HAddock cursing at sailors

Some sellers are considerate and will refund online purchases if you can show that the item is clearly defective, and it would too much to return it.

I would prefer to buy books here in Australia, buy given they cost two to three times the price of what I can buy them online for from the US and UK, it makes no sense to buy comics, trades, graphic novels or paperback books in Australia.

But despite any of this nonsense, I still love to read comics of all types and the majority of the time books are in perfect or near perfect condition when I get them in the mail.  This nit-picking is saying hey, these are the exceptions, these are GREAT BOOKS that I want to buy, but nobody wants to spend their hard earned money on things that are broken.

So if these issues are ever addressed, and we get to see better quality editions of the books I mentioned above, I will be first in line to buy them.

I am even a little angry that my favourite dude Batman got such shoddy treatment on his birthday!  How would you feel if somebody gave you broken presents on your Birthday or Anniversary?  I doubt you would be happy, you might even feel that the person responsible didn’t really care about you at all.

So I guess that is the impression I get from DC Comics, that the Anniversary year was  a chance to rake in a few extra bucks, and if some of the products are crap, well what does it matter.

Transmetropolitan Warren Ellis

Perhaps DC never knew about the printed Defective Comics, and so was powerless to do anything.  But I would like to think that a company like DC that when it DID find out about the Defective Comics would make amends by stopping sale of the broken books, and having them fixed if possible, otherwise pulped and overseeing that the next print run actually is done right before returning to the market.

No doubt all of this would be costly, and maybe it is not possible, I don’t know.  I don’t work in accounts, I don’t know jack about printing presses, binding, inventory and shipping or that sort of stuff.  I am just some jerk on the internet.

Bit I do know what I like.  And I feel that somebody ought to at least TRY to remedy the issue.  Perhaps they have already, I have no idea, the blog at the official DC comics site would be the perfect place to say

“Hey we’re sorry, it sucks when comics are falling apart brand new, and HERE’s what we are doing about it, because WE love Batman and YOU love Batman, let’s short this shit out people”.

Or at least stop selling the Defective Comics and post a public blog to apologise to the people who expected a wonderful gift set for themselves or a loved one and instead got something that was broken.  I think DC can do better, and I feel that a character with the history of Batman DESERVES better treatment on his birthday / anniversary.

All I can day is vote with your wallet, because if you buy crappily put together books, then you only the encourage more of the same, and have only yourself to blame.  Pretty negative ending for this usually cheerful blog, so here’s a cool pic of Marvel Zombies vs Army of Darkness to put a smile on your dial.

A book that should have been awful, but was all kinds of awesome.  Look at that eyeball hanging out of Wolverine’s mouth, that is just nasty, I love it!

The pages in the books and trades conveniently don’t fall apart while you are reading, the zombies however do fall apart, often in a comical grotesque fashion.  I encourage you to read it, it is tremendous fun.

Marvel Zombies vs Army of Darkness
Surprisingly good fun


Always Be Batman Meme

We understand instinctively that Batman is more than the sum of his tools. Yes, he was made to be Batman, but he made himself, too, molding his mind and honing his talents to better serve Gotham and its people  -Paul Asay

While the values of the Batman have changed over the decades, there remains key values, qualities and inherent characteristics that remain the same.  This is a large topic that I could talk all day on, so I will cover it in multiple posts, as part of my ongoing series on “How to be Like Batman”.

What are some of those core values, qualities and characteristics?  Broadly they can be said to be a mix of the qualities Batman embodies by who he was before he became Batman, and those qualities he developed through training on his way to becoming Batman.

Then there are and the qualities that we the reader ascribe to him or associate with him.  Let’s take a look at some examples off the top of my head (not a definitive list, it will be sure to expand as I explore this topic).  The list is kind of long, feel free to skip ahead and come back to it later, you don’t need to know em all to read the sections below.

But if you are obsessive compulsive like me about super-heroes, you WILL read the list.  I converted the list into the below table as otherwise it went way too long down the screen, and between you and me I hate tables, they are as exciting as Batman sitting down for a whole issue and doing nothing, but this particular table I like.

Batman Child of Dreams Manga

Batman Character Value Grid

table-of-batman-essential-qualities-by-john-sorensen bat values 101

Some of those qualities repeat or overlap, but I think you will agree that the list covers the basics of who Batman was in his inception, who he has become over the decades and includes his near-mythical status in popular culture outside of the comics themselves.

There are also the qualities that we ascribe to him as readers, or are inspired by, as Cary Friedman talks about in his book Wisdom from the Batcave (these are some, but not all of those qualities):


Inspiring Others


Strong Principles

Hard Work

Relentless Determination


Never Give Up

Endless Learning



I’m going to explore some of those key core values and characteristics of Batman (as well as other qualities) in these articles, in no particular order.  No doubt I will forget something that will have you screaming at the screen

“How did you miss that! You call yourself a Batman fan you maniac!”

So if there IS something obvious you feel I have missed, please put it in the comments and I will consider adding it into the next installment of the article series.  This first installment will cover the following sub-topics: Dark Knight, Self-Invented Myth, Wrathful Deity, Morality, Relentless and Determined, Death Defying Daredevil.  The “How to be like Batman” Series will cover the qualities of Batman, but also other unrelated topics in future installments.

Well, enough fluffing around… let’s get into it.

Batman Dark Knight Dynasty
I hope that is not Batman on a Robot Unicorn that Attacks


Knights in the classic literary and mythic sense are known for valor, bravery, honor, chivalry, strength, generosity, courage, justice, mercy and faith.

Scott Farrell of the “Chivalry Today” website on the topic of Nobility says “Although this word is sometimes confused with “entitlement” or “snobbishness,” in the code of chivalry it conveys the importance of upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching”  That sounds like Batman to me, he is incorruptible and uncompromising in his code of ethics and morality.

An inversion of the “good” Knight archetype, Batman lives in the night as a shadow, while he fights with bravery and integrity and valor, his dirty win at all costs tactics would not be considered honorable in the classical sense.  However, when viewed in the modern context of the corrupt Gotham City, the Batman is indeed an honorable and noble protector.  A Guardian of Gotham.

If we look at the example of real life classical knights, or modern soldiers, a life or death struggle has no real “rules”, anything goes if the aim is conquest or survival.  By the same reasoning, anything goes for Batman, as long as he does not intentionally kill someone, that is his main rule, or code of behavior whether pursuing criminals or protecting the citizens of Gotham.

As a vigilante, Batman exists outside of the civil law.  His mission is the ideal of “Justice”, not law enforcement.  Justice can be an obscure and indefinable concept, that has little meaning to the person it is being applied to, and really only holds value for the one who is applying the punishment or consequence.

If a man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, and is sentenced to prison where he is repeatedly raped, beaten and murdered, do we call this Justice? Clearly the value or idea of Justice is open to interpretation, Batman’s ideal of Justice may be very different than our own personal idea of justice.

In the Knightly value of generosity, the most obvious examples are not as Batman, but Bruce Wayne.  His considerable philanthropic efforts through fund raising events, anonymous donations, business expansion and more demonstrate Bruce Wayne’s clear determination to transform Gotham City into a better city for every citizen.  While Batman handles crime in a manner of crisis management, using similar tactics to peace keeping troops in tactical locations, his role as Batman is ultimately reactive.

While as Bruce Wayne his role is creative in building new infrastructure and resources to replace the rotten old guard of Gotham, the previous owners of Gotham being chiefly the mob who keep a stranglehold on the city in cahoots with the corrupt police force.

His ultimate goals as Batman and Bruce Wayne are not to end crime permanently, which is clearly not possible.  His role is to leave the world a better place than when he entered it, and all his efforts are devoted to that single vision.  While some may disagree with his tactics, his relentless persecution of organised crime allows the city breathing room to get back on its feet.

Batman does what law enforcement can never do, he goes directly to the heart of the problems in Gotham City, persecuting and tormenting the criminal elements not only with fear, but Justice. He is a inspiring example of moral values in a corrupt city, and standing up to oppression.

He is a bad boy, a rule breaker who operates outside of the law, because the law is so corrupt in Gotham that is it basically the government sponsored arm of the mob.  Batman enforces his own version of law and Justice as the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader and Guardian of Gotham.  In Batman’s value system, Justice holds a higher value than the laws of the nation.

Old SChool Batman


While his reactionary behavior is extreme, it is a crisis management response than in the long term, hopefully allows the infrastructure of Gotham City (law, civics, education, commerce, resource management etc) a chance to grow into a healthier more vibrant city.  While not all the people of Gotham look to Batman as a source of inspiration, enough do that it is clear he makes a difference, not just in putting criminals behind bars, but in giving hope to the citizens, where before there was only bleak hopelessness and desperation.

In this sense, he fulfills his role as a mythic figure, an idea whose time has come.  Batman the myth has more resonance and power than any one single man could ever hope to achieve.  By becoming an intentionally mythic, scary and heroic figure, he transcends mortal limitations, and becomes the Guardian of Gotham, the Dark Knight.

Batman taps into the vein of the universal unconscious and archetypes that Carl Jung frequently talked about, (click the link to see the full article) that primal part of human beings that responds to images, symbols and mythology.  The part of us that inherently recognises mythic figures for what they are in a very raw, visceral and immediate fashion.  It is one of the reasons Batman works best as a comic book character, and less so in films and other adaptations.

Even with no knowledge of the character, to see the comic book art of Batman is to encounter a physically dynamic, kinetic explosive force of living shadow and dream, a monster from the corner of your eye, a figment of your imagination given bold and vibrant life on a two dimensional pulp inspired plane.  Like a freight train at full speed, to encounter the Batman on the comic page is to find a relentless unstoppable force who bursts right off the page and into your mind, and once there, refuses to leave.

Batman is an expert in human behavior and what motivates our actions, he reinvented himself as a cultural myth, an urban boogeyman, a creature of shadow and mystery that plays on people’s fears of the night and the unknown. Unlike classical mythic characters, who only become myth in the eyes of others by accident, Batman invented his own myth, and lived it.  He tapped into the power of the human need to tell stories and fables, using it as another weapon in his war on crime.

Batman NOEL Graphic Novel


While not intentional, Batman in the mythic sense can be viewed metaphorically as a wrathful deity.  His anger, frustration, pain and devotion are channeled into an unrelenting and focused fury that will never ever stop once unleashed.  He takes a fearsome form in order to render service to other beings.

“True to their name, in Tibetan art, wrathful deities are presented as fearsome, demonic beings adorned with human skulls and other bone ornaments”  -Wikipedia

The Batman is a fear inspiring figure, he wears horn-like pointed bat ears upon his cowl that in silhouette give him the resemblance of a devil or demonic figure.  He dresses primarily in dark colours, to better blend in with the night and shadows.  Shadows and the night time have long been often associated with the unknown, and danger.  To be in complete darkness IS dangerous, as without a source of light, we can trip, fall and even die from injuries.

The Batman’s eyes were intentionally made into small white slits (rather than eyeballs) at the suggestion of Bill Finger.  To give him even more of an other wordly appearance, he seem to be less or more than human.  He wears a bat on his chest, a symbol of an animal that represents many things in different cultures.  A bat as animal totem can be symbolic of the earth, death and rebirth, unwavering devotion, heightened senses, being in touch with inner demons, journeying to the underworld of reality and more.  A bat is a most appropriate symbol for Bruce Wayne’s fanatical devotion to his cause.

“My disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.  I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible…” -Bruce Wayne


While Batman has his own ethical and moral codes, how these are interpreted are up to the writer.  At times Batman is very moral, to the point of total inflexibility such as in the Wonder Woman story The Hiketeia.  Wonder Woman is protecting a young woman whom she has sworn an oath to protect under the ritual of Hiketeia.  She is not aware that the woman she is protecting is a murderer, the woman killed several men who were sex slavers who had also killed her sister.  Batman is tracking the young woman who is wanted by the law, and confronts Wonder Woman, demanding she hand over the young woman / criminal, and Wonder Woman refuses, leading to a very one sided fight where Wonder Woman kicks Batman’s ass.

Wonder Woman The Hiketeai Batman Boot On Face

In contrast to this story, in the Allan Moore penned Swamp Thing’s #52-53, Swamp Thing comes to Gotham City and in his wake, everything starts growing, until trees and forests overwhelm the city.  Batman tries to reason with Swamp Thing, and then later fights him, burning him with a flamethrower.

When Swamp Thing grows multiple copies of his body Batman learns that he can not beat the creature, nor can anyone. Swamp Thing’s lover is being held by the city, and he wants her back, the city officials want to arrest Swamp Thing as a criminal. In a passionate and angry speech Batman argues that Swamp Thing is not even truly human – but more a force of nature whom laws do not apply to.  Batman knows that if they do not release the woman, they may lose Gotham City with no hope of recovery.

“Either we find some way to release the Cable woman, or we begin evacuation right away.  There are no other options. That thing out there is very nearly a God.  It can crush us.” – Batman

Saga of the Swamp Thing vol 1 issue 53 Batman (3)


Batman has faced defeat time and again over the decades is his career as the Guardian of Gotham City.  Often he has faced impossible odds, and whether he wins or loses, he does not give up.  The quality of “not giving up, no matter what”, is a quality he shares with his spiritual brother Superman.  It is one of core defining elements of the Batman, along with his iron-will, incredible self-discipline and regulation of his impulses.

In Batman: The Cult, – by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson – Batman faces Decon Blackfire, a religious cult leader whose imprisons Batman, then has Batman beaten and psychologically tortured seemingly without end.  Eventually Batman escapes, and recovers, but not immediately.  And not without consequences, as Batman was brainwashed by Decon Blackfire and takes a long time to fully recover, it is one of Bruce/ Batman’s  most humiliating and soul destroying defeats throughout his career.

batman the cult issue 1 Jim Starlin Bernie WRightson_X

Similarly in the Grant Morrison Batman R.I.P. storyline, Dr. Hurt tortures Batman psychologically, but this time Bruce Wayne has prepared a “back up” personality, the Batman of Zur-en-arrh who is basically a version of Batman without Bruce Wayne.

Dr Hurt triggers a post hypnotic suggestion that triggers Bruce’s transformation in to the Batman of Zur-en-arrh, and also leaves him in a state of withdrawal from synthetic drugs. Batman is effectively homeless, without his usual resources and out of his mind in the story.  Despite his condition, he still manages to be very dangerous.

Batman 678 Zurenarrh Grant Morrison_2_382x600 (2)

Morrison plucked the idea of the gaudy Zurr-en-arrh costume from an old Batman story.

Batman – The Superman of Planet-Xin appeared in Batman #113, 1958.  In the story, Batman meets his doppelganger from the planet Zur-en-arrh, he travels with him to the alien planet, where he magically has Superman like powers.

It is a fun nonsensical throwaway story typical of that era.  The Zur-en-arhh Batman in the ridiculous bright red purple and yellow costume tells our Batman that he observed him through a powerful telescope, and was inspired to become his own Batman.  No explanation though about the wacky colours that look like Robin and Batman mixed together.

batman 113_batman - the superman of planet x

In Batman: Venom by Denny ‘O Neil, Batman becomes addicted to an experimental steroid drug, after failing to rescue a young girl trapped beneath a heavy object, he decides he is not strong enough, even with more training.  He reluctantly accepts a drug from a chemist who turns out to be a criminal planning to take down Batman.

Batman gets out of control with the chemical addiction, and eventually locks himself in the Batcave for a month to detox himself, with Alfred on hand only to give him food.  Eventually Batman kicks his chemical addiction and comes back to beat the bad guys, who can not believe the will power Batman exorcised to get off the drug, as most of his new test subjects have gone crazy on the super-drug.

Batman - Legends of the Dark Knight 17 and 18 Venom story Batman on Drugs

In Batman: Knightfall a run down, overtired and sick Batman is faced with recapturing all of the inmates of Arkham Asylum after Bane breaks them out.  At this point, Batman has never seen Bane, who uses Batman’s own psychological tactics against him.

When Batman does face Bane, he is exhausted, outmatched and has no real hope of beating Bane.  Bane then swiftly breaks the Batman’s back.  Beating Batman physically by breaking his back was just the icing on the cake, Bane’s real goal was to leave Gotham without its Guardian, to beat Batman psychologically as well as physically, leaving him truly “broken”.

Detective Comics 664 Bane breaks Batmans back victorious_404x600

In Batman: The Court of Owls Bruce Wayne is tormented by the un-killable owl assassins in and out of his Batman costume.  His enemies seem unbeatable, finally after non-stop attacks around, in and under Gotham City, the owls invade Bruce’s Batcave, the one place that he likes to be left alone.

A pissed off Bruce Wayne runs and hides in a panic room with Alfred.  Just when it seems he is out of options and out of plans, he turns down the temperature of the room to below freezing, the one weakness the Talon assassins seem to have.  Cold slows them down temporarily, their re-animated corpses become vulnerable, eventually the cold will put them into a state of suspended animation if they are kept cold long enough.

Bruce emerges from his panic room in a kick-ass suit of armor that recalls Iron Man’s antique Mk.1 suit, and then he cleans house, mercilessly beating the Court of Owls Talon Assassins, kicking ass, taking names and taking out weeks of frustration after many dead ends in pursuing his investigations into the mysterious Court of Owls.

Batman Court of Owls armor

In all of these examples, Batman comes back from his physical and/or psychological defeats.  He rises up like the immortal phoenix of legend, from the ashes of his old self he rebuilds and reinvents himself time and again.  He is the ultimate unbeatable foe in that he never gives us, all defeats are feedback he uses as fuel to get stronger, to learn more about his opponents or whatever impossible situation he faces.

In our world any person like this would be dead a hundred times over, but in the world of comic books, Batman is immortal.  He is an idea that can not be beaten, and if he is, he only comes back stronger, each temporary defeat only makes him more determined and relentless.


Another example of Batman’s never say die attitude is his inevitable escapes from perilous death traps.  The camp TV show Batman from 1966 starring Adam West and Burt Ward played up this element of the Batman character to dramatic effect.

Episodes would air twice a week, with the full episode broken in half, the cliff-hanger in the middle that ensured the viewers would tune in later in the week to see how Batman would escape another fiendishly diabolical death trap.

In the Batman comics – and most adaptations in other mediums – Batman is a master escape artist who would do Houdini proud.  His relentless determination, never give up attitude and IRON-WILL are truly challenged each time he performs another desperate death defying escape from each new nefarious death trap from some diabolical fiend

Batman Adam West Death Trap Batman 66 Harry Houdini Chained Up

Well… that about does ‘er.  I don’t know any other Superhero that I could write so much about and never get bored, perhaps Superman or Wonder Woman.  But Batman is, and always will be “the guy” to me. I hope you enjoyed this article, I have more plenty more to say on “How to be like Batman”, and other topics, so keep your ear to the ground, set your phasers to stun and smoke me a kipper, because I’ll be back for breakfast.

And don’t forget to read How to Be Like Batman PART#1.  If you are wondering “where the heck is PART#2” ? Don’t worry, I have written it, but it is still not quite finished yet.  I am still putting the final touches on it.

Between you and me, PART#2 of How to Be Like Batman is one of my favourite topics, so I went DEEP on this one.  I don’t want to give away what that topic is until it is posted.

But I’ll give you a hint, is one of THE most important characteristics of Batman, I have mentioned it several times in this article and in other recent articles, and well… the clues are there – you’ll find out soon enough.

Each part of this series can be read in any order, but is part of a larger series, so relax about it and enjoy!


HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#1: Mental Training and Physical Conditioning

How to Be Like Batman PART#2: Develop an IRON WILL

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#4: Build Self Confidence Brick by Brick

The Best Batman Graphic Novel Nobody is Reading

Batman Death by Design is a fantastic original Graphic Novel by Chipp Kidd and Dave Taylor that I am sad not to see on on any of the TOP 10 Batman Graphic Novels Lists.

Death by Design is on my personal TOP 10 Batman Graphic Novels list, and I’m scratching my head trying to figure out why more people are not into it.


It is easily one of the best Batman graphic novels ever published.  The story is entertaining and not derivative of any other stories in 75+ years of Batman fiction.

That alone makes it interesting.

It is not easy to come up with a new story for a character who has been around so long in monthly publication.

The book was published in 2012, and the cover boasts the bold copy “New York Times Bestseller” which doesn’t mean a hell of a lot in today’s overcrowded market of print and digital products.

The reviews on Amazon are mixed, and some of the reviews leave me wondering whether the reviewers actually read the book at all.

But that is Amazon reviews for you.

Perceptual learning is the process of learning improved skills of perception

death by design 1

Booze, Brains and Batman

Professional wine tasters are able to taste much finer flavors, and make finer distinctions in the wine they taste, or the wine they may drink at home.

Wine tasters develop new neural networks in their brains allowing for a more sophisticated sense of taste, they are able to make more subtle distinctions in flavors that a non-wine taster would be incapable of perceiving.

The wine tasters have enhanced their perceptual learning through direct experience.  Of course this applies to any field of perceptual or experiential learning in life.  I used the wine tasting example as a snobbish cliche.

That “perceptual learning” quote does sound bloody ridiculous and obvious, but it is an important distinction, the kind of small detail that a wine taster, or perhaps the ever obsessive Batman might pay attention to.

Do people who have no appreciation for black and white cinematography, classic pulp adventure heroes and architecture  get the same perceptual enjoyment as people who DO appreciate those topics?

Probably not.

I wonder if at least some of people who read Death by Design will fully understand its brilliance.

Good art asks more of us than just viewing it.  We need to perceive it.  We need to feel it.  We may need to grow and evolve to even appreciate and understand it, it means educating yourself on why something is good, even if you don’t understand it.

We are told the Mona Lisa is “good” art.  But I don’t appreciate the Mona Lisa painting, nor understand it, my perceptual intelligence is just not up to the task.

Art is a funny thing, and very subjective.  But I don’t know, I love to read voraciously – not just comics but mainly non-fiction books on a variety of topics.  I love art, all kinds of art.  I know nothing about architecture whatsoever, but I appreciate the aesthetic beauty of old buildings, especially ones that have a history to them, or are particularly beautiful.

I enjoy black and white cinematography, photography and original comic art before it is inked or coloured or cleaned up for print.  Their is a raw primal beauty to a pencil sketch that you don’t get with a digitally manipulated image.

I feel that black and white cinema is a very pure art form, and not many people are very good at it in the modern era, as it is not so popular since color cinema came along.

Death by Design Batman Chipp Kidd Batcave Alfred

Batman: Death by Design combines the loves of architecture, black and white pencil sketches and pulp-era Batman detective stories into one cohesive whole that is far more than the sum of its parts.

The story in Death by Design involves the usual rampant corruption in Gotham City.  This time the focus is on old buildings that while beautiful and historic, were built illegally with inferior materials, below safety standards, or what would be reasonably termed an acceptable quality of building materials and quality of construction.

The Batman investigates who made those dodgy buildings and why, the story is a very mellow pacing, and takes place in the 1940s.  The art, clothing and buildings reflect the era Batman was conceived in.

The advantage is that the book is created by a talented artist – Dave Taylor who gives us the best of modern comic book art, but shown through a 1940s filter.  The pacing of the book is one of a film, and not a comic book.

Long establishing shots, close ups and more are used so well within the book that you won’t even notice, as you will be immersed in the story.  Death by Design really pulls you into its world, and that is a good thing, you WANT that in fiction.

You want to lose yourself in the story, forget the real world for a while and be carried away by the plot.

Death by Design has a real feeling of going at its own pace, and you get a chance to really settle in to the world, and you don’t always get to do that in comics.

It is a real luxury we typically get from people like Allan Moore, Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman – whose imaginary worlds seem more real than some real world places, thus is their resonant collective power.

The book reminds me of the pacing in films by my favorite director – Akira Kurosawa (director of Seven Samurai), who took his sweet time telling any story, the average length being a wandering three hours.  Akira Kurosawa was not just a director but an auteur – like James Cameron or Ridley Scott – who was obsessively involved in every stage of film production from initial concept to execution and post production.

Often in comic books you rush through a twenty to thirty page story like Jack Bauer mowing down terrorist threats in 24, blindly charging into the next chapter of the story to see what happens next.  I love 24, but you burn through them like you burn through monthly comics, and it just never FEELS satisfying, you want satisfaction, but instead get the buzz of never ending stimulation.  Like eating junk food compared to a good home cooked meal, it is just not the same.

In Batman: Death by Design we get a story completed in around 100 leisurely pages.  Chipp Kidd and Dave Taylor establish a decent prologue, main story, epilogue etc and it never feels rushed.  It is a book you deliberately read at a slower pace because the art is unbelievably gorgeous, the scans here really don’t do it justice.

Death by Design Batman Batcave Chipp Kidd_1

Death by Design Batman Batcave CLOSE UP ZOOM Chipp Kidd_2

Death by Design is one of most aesthetically pleasing Batman books I have ever read, and I have read a lot of Batman stories.  But judging by comments I have read online (other than comments by professional reviewers and writers)  I get the impression that the book may have a niche audience as the average reader of the monthly Batman comics is just not likely to appreciate the book.

It is hard to see how nice the art is, from the scans I made of the print version.  But take a look at the close up lift-out panel I have zoomed in on above this paragraph, of Batman at his bank of monitors in the Batcave.

The level of detail and polish is just stunning.  There is not a wasted panel in this book, no sketch has been rushed, each has been labored over like individual frames in a film.  Each panel is beautiful and meaningful.  I would very much like to see more of Dave Taylor’s art.

I particularly enjoy modern artists who are able to evoke something of the pulp era Batman such as Dave Taylor, Darwyn Cooke or Dave Bullock without sliding into nostalgia.  You may be looking at the old version of Batman, but with fresh new eyes.   It is like seeing Batman for the first very first time, and that is a good thing.

I LOVE this book, it is bloody brilliant

But perhaps it is TOO clever for the average Batman reader, perhaps it is too artsy-fartsy.  A few years down the track, no doubt some of those readers will mature in their tastes, tired of crappy gimmick stories where nothing of any real consequence happens – they may come to appreciate the book and wonder how they looked past it.

But some people will never be into it, and that is fine.  Not every story is for every person.  We all have our personal tastes.  I’ve read the book in both digital and print formats, and it looks beautiful in both.  But overall I prefer the printed version, as the art just shines when you see it on the page, and you can hold it close enough to see all the details, without having to zoom in like you would in the digital version.

Death by Design Chipp Kidd Batman_1

You may feel that my comments here make me come across as a pretentious wanker, and well… that doesn’t bother me, because I know that most readers will not bother reading this brilliant original graphic novel.  Feel free to prove me wrong.

Because most of the time we don’t want something new and different, we want more of the same. More superhero battles, cheap deaths, lazy plots and generic characters to rotate in and out of monthly books giving the illusion of change, but never really changing anything.

So to the few who read this post and say “Wow, that is a beautiful book”, I promise you will not regret reading it.  The story is good, the art is amazing, I’m already reading it for the third time this year when I decided to write this post, because I just love this Batman book, and more people ought to be reading it.