Back to the Future. Star Wars. Batman. Transformers. Predator. The Terminator. These are some of the cool properties you’ll be seeing in this short Q&A with Khai from Kool Kollectibles.
It’s no secret to anybody who knows me that I love Batman and Transformers. While I own a few Batman figures here and there, I have around a hundred or so Transformers toys from various toy lines, and a bunch of of the old Marvel Legends toys among other stuff.
But some people take toy collections to a whole other level, be it upmarket highly desirable or rare items, fantastic displays, and with the internet people can even develop their own fan following. Well, I for one am a fan of Kool Kollectibles, I love checking out new pics of whatever amazing toys he has picked up, and took this opportunity to ask him a few questions, and of course share some stunning pics of his amazing collection.
You can find Khai’s main site koolkollectibles.net, and link to all his other social media pages from there.
No two collections are the same, and no two collectors are the same. Thanks to the magic of the internet collectors and fans around the world can enjoy seeing what other people are into, get ideas about how to display their loot, discover something they never even knew existed or just admire a really fantastic collection.
So without further ado, here’s some quick questions and amazing pics from Kool Kollectibles.
JOHN: What are your overall favourite top 3 toys and why?
KHAI: I collect a lot of different lines of figures and other collectibles, but my top 3 right now would have to be (not in any order):
1) Hot Toys 1/6th scale Chewbacca figure
2) Pop Culture Shock 1/4 scale Ryu Ansatsuken statue
3) Hot Toys 1/6th scale Delorean Time Machine
JOHN: One issue every collector faces is space. How do you store and display your collection? Do you ever get rid of old items to make room for new items?
KHAI: The best bit of advice given to me as a collector was to put money aside for decent glass display cabinets. Some collectors continually spend money on figures, but either have no space to display them, or have open display cases that results in a lot of dust maintenance. So I saved up money for a while and bought some big glass display cabinets and it was the best decision I ever made. Having your collectibles displayed well in a glass cabinet really takes the collection to another level. With decent lighting too, it simply looks amazing, and is less maintenance with dust etc.
Also, a collection shouldn’t be judged on its size. Some collectors think bigger is better. That’s not necessarily the case. I’ve seen some smaller collections, but they’re displayed well and in a classy way, and are collectibles that are loved by the owner, not because they are the “in thing” at that moment in time.
I normally buy things to keep, and so have not had to sell many things at all. But for space and money, I did end up selling my 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures since I was getting essentially the same characters in the large 1/6th scale and didn’t need to double up. So now that I have my larger cabinets in place, I try to pick and choose the items I buy now to fit into themes or source material that I love.
JOHN: You have a focus on Hot Toys movie characters and Transformers Masterpiece figures, why these particular lines over other lines/brands of toys?
KHAI: Most of my collecting is based around nostalgia. I grew up in the 80s watching the classic cartoons such as Transformers, Battle of the Planets, He-man, MASK etc. Then through the 80s and 90s and even now I still love movies. I love the classic action and sci-fi movies from the 80s and 90s. I was lucky enough as a kid that my grandparents and parents spoiled me with the original G1 Transformers toys, many of which I still have today. When I saw the TF Masterpiece figures around the 2010 mark, it was mind-blowing for me to see the characters I loved in a toy form that was as close as their cartoon aesthetic as possible. And with such improved engineering, the TF Masterpiece figures are some of the best Transformers toys ever made. With the nostalgia that they bring, I smile each and every time I see them.
As for Hot Toys figures, Hot Toys is by far the benchmark at the moment on 1/6th scale collectibles. The attention to detail, realism, paint application, and tailoring is second to none. And with them making iconic characters from Star Wars, Terminator, Back to the Future, Predator, Aliens etc, and then new characters from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes, there was no way that I could pass them up! They are simply some of the best action figures around at the moment, and look incredible when displayed together.
JOHN: Any advice for new collectors, or people looking to get into the hobby?
KHAI: Spending can quickly get out of control, especially with peer pressure in buying everything to keep up. I would say just stick only to source material that you truly love, and pick and choose carefully what you buy. Remember, it’s not about the size of the collection that matters, it’s how you love each item in your collection that really matters to you and those close to you that come and look at it.
JOHN:What are you top toys that fall into the category of “unobtainium” for you. That is toys that are very rare, super super expensive or just not made anymore and are nearly impossible to get ahold of even if you have the money. What are your top “wish list” rare items, your holy grail items/toys?
KHAI:I recently got my first Pop Culture Shock statue with the Street Fighter Ryu. I have played Street Fighter since arcade days in high school, so for about 25 years now. The characters are ingrained in my consciousness! If I could wind back time, I would go back and buy the PCS Street Fighter statues previously released. PCS truly limit their edition sizes, and once sold out the price skyrockets to a point where I cannot justify the expense. So those PCS statues are some that fall into this grail category for me.
JOHN: Do you collect any traditional (meaning cheap and usually small eg 6-12″) action figures, or just the more upscale stuff with better detail and sculpting?
KHAI: I used to collect the smaller cheaper figures such as the Star Wars Black Series and NECA figures. But I found they were harder to display in a way that showed them off well, and then I was doubling up the same characters in larger scales. So to minimise my cost and space issues, I just decided to stick with the larger collectibles and buy less of them.
JOHN: Your entire collection gets sucked into a mini-black hole, except for ONE toy of your choice, what toy would that be?
KHAI: Always a hard question to answer, as collectors tend to end up with a few items that are their favourites. Strangely, if I had to save just one item in my collection from a fire or black hole, I’d probably pick the TF Masterpiece MP-13 Soundwave. Soundwave was my first TF G1 toy when I was a kid, and the Masterpiece version is amazing. So for nostalgia, fun factor with the transformation etc, I’d have to say that.
JOHN: Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Transformers – which is your favourite movie/comic/toon franchise and why?
KHAI: Star Wars would have to be my pick for favourite franchise, particularly the original trilogy. I used to watch the movies every weekend on VHS tapes, and just love the whole story arc and characters.
JOHN: Where can people connect with and follow you online?
KHAI: The best place to keep up with my latest news etc would be the Kool Kollectibles Facebook page and YouTube channel. I also keep the website and Instagram account up to date too! Links below 🙂
Thanks Khai for taking the time to answer some nerdy questions. There were so many great pictures of your collection, it was hard to pick, so I put as many in as I could.
There are some more great pictures below to enjoy, in some excellent display cases, be sure to follow Khai on Facebook / Twitter etc at the links above if you want to keep up with his collection, or view lovely full screen HD galleries of his toy collection.
So many wonderful toys. My favourites have to be the Batman 1989 toys, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight and the Terminator toys from various films. Just a spectacular collection any comic book fan or action/sci-fan would be very jealous of.
When I think of tough guys, loners and outsiders -your Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, your Wolverine, Punisher, Bond and Judge Dredd – Batman to me is the king of the outsiders. He’s the king of the loner antihero “don’t fuck with me or you’ll regret it” crowd.
Batman is a bad boy. He’s dark, cool and sexy. He’s exciting and dangerous but also emotionally distant. He’s not the kind of guy a girl brings home to meet her parents. He is the kind of guy who smashes a mouth full of teeth down the throat of a rapist in a dark alley at 3 am in Gotham City.
BATS OF A FEATHER, FLOCK TOGETHER
Where Batman differs from his anti-hero contemporaries such as Dirty Harry, Wolverine and The Punisher is that Batman doesn’t kill, and that is a deliberate moral choice that Bruce Wayne made. Some say that is his weakness, while a contrasting viewpoint is that it is one of Batman’s greatest strengths. Batman gets to have all the darkness and edge and cool of an antihero, but still gets to be a morally decent human being who refrains from killing his enemies or criminals in general.
Another of my favourite characters is The Punisher, you can call him amoral, say he has PTSD or whatever else you like. It really doesn’t matter, labeling Frank Castle won’t help you understand him, and it sure as hell will do nothing to stop him.
When the Punisher comes to town he’s like a tank that just mows down bad guys and keeps moving. To some he’s a total psycho, to others an agent of mercy, or avatar of death. He’s a one man army of destruction with no moral “confusion” about what he does or why he does it. In Frank Castle’s world, everything makes perfect sense.
“Label me, you negate me”
There are bad men in organised crime who do things like kidnap young women, ship them overseas and sell them into sex slavery while they are forced onto highly addictive drugs. There are bad men who put semiautomatic weapons into the hands of children, there are men who rape and torture and kill civilians for profit, or simply because they could get away with it.
In Frank Castle’s world, those people need to die. The world is better off without them. The crime families, mobs and gangs are beyond the capacities of the police and legal system, so therefore their ever present threat needs to end, permanently, and Frank Castle is the man for that job. He’s not so much a man on a mission or executioner nut job – as an unpaid civil servant. In Frank’s mind he’s the guy who comes around to take out the cities garbage, that nobody else wants to deal with. In his world view he performs a necessary job that nobody else wants to do.
Frank Castle makes for an interesting contrast with Bruce Wayne. Both the Punisher and Batman fight crime, one is a former marine, the other a rich autodidact civilian. Their methods differ, but their basic goal of a war on crime – of targeting high profile crime lords and super-criminals means they are similar characters. The key point being that Punisher kills criminals, while Batman keeps them alive to face arrest and prosecution. Both use fear as a weapon, and display fierce sigils branded onto their chest that make it clear that if you are close enough to see them, then it is already too late, and your day is not going to end well.
BATMAN AIN’T NO MAGILLA KILLAH
In Batman’s first year in Detective Comic, he DID kill people, and sometimes used a gun. Sometimes he killed people on purpose, and other times inadvertently like punching a guy out of a window, or off a high railing in an industrial factory.
Then with the introduction of Robin, the powers that be at mighty D.C. decided that Batman would not be a killer (at least not an intentional killer, and certainly not a psychopath) and made both the character of Batman, and the books he featured in lighter in tone. He became more like Superman and less like The Shadow. Unfortunately it meant that Batman went from a cool urban commando to a grinning idiot who ran around in the daylight, at least until he was rescued in the 1970’s by Denny O Neil and Neil Adams who returned him to his Gothic pulp roots.
What started as a Gothic inspired pulp vigilante book with a coat of Superhero paint (inspired by the success of the Superman books) turned into a genuine Superhero book, with a very MORAL character. Who deliberately chose not to kill, or use guns, and that is the Batman we have had ever since. The version that most of us enjoy and get all worked up about when live action film versions of Batman ignore his integral morality. The guy who swore off guns forever. The guy who refuses to use “the weapon of the enemy”.
Another perspective on why Batman does not use guns, other than the editorially mandated one, a story if you will in the Batman canon that never really happened, is WHY did Bruce Wayne suddenly decide to stop using guns, and killing people by pushing them over balconies, or the odd snapping of a bad guys neck?
I think another possible reason, if you like to ponder these sorts of theories and ideas – and you want to include all of the Batman continuity as a whole from 1939- to the present day, assuming it’s ONE GUY who has changed and evolved as a person – I think that Bruce Wayne realised the error of his ways after those first months where he was a very sloppy and careless Batman, who perhaps didn’t always kill on purpose, so much as inadvertently. Batman used a gun only sparingly – rather than charging in lighting up the night with a muzzle flare (except that time he had a machine gun mounted on a plane, kind of hard to ignore that one) – and I think Bruce Wayne evolved to become a more moral person, who saw what he was doing was wrong, and decided not to kill anyone on purpose, and that he would certainly never be an executioner ever again.
I think that perspective gives more credibility to the character, and more growth to him as a moral human being who starts out as a man-child punching crime in the face. A character who starts out obsessed with vengeance or revenge for the death of his parents, and evolves into a Batman who serves Justice, and who avoids killing at all costs, who ultimately wants to work WITH the system of law, by putting criminals in the hands of the cops, lawyers and judges. Rather than being someone like Frank Castle who wants no part of the systems of government and law that he operates totally outside of, Frank Castiglione skips the judge and jury and sends criminals on a one way first class trip straight to the coroner.
Batman wants the world to be a better place, Batman’s dream is not just Justice or punishment, but to live in a world where he is no longer necessary, while Frank Castle’s dream is just to wipe out as many monsters as he can before his inevitable demise, he has no end goal. Of course the idea of why he stopped using guns was sort of glossed over in the comics, there have been several key Batman stories that talk about guns, but it’s kind of this forgotten thing in his history and people are often surprised at those earliest stories to see him using guns. It just seems kooky and odd now, and we want to forget about Batman using guns and sweep that taboo stuff under the rug.
ALL YOUR GUNS… ARE BELONG TO US
We can take this contrast of the moral vigilante hero even further with the characters such as Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd and to some extent James Bond.
‘Dirty’ Harry Calahan is permitted to use “justifiable force” within his job as a cop. He is legally allowed to shoot the bad guys, if the situation can be reasonably justified as presenting a threat that requires that level of lethal force.
In the first Dirty Harry film, we see Calahan bending the rules, using force in excess of that which is necessary and eventually breaking the rules altogether when he shoots a subdued criminal at the end of the film. He then throws his badge away in the final moments of the film, as he knows he can no longer be a cop, and he has gone too far. Dirty Harry is a film that really was not intended to have a sequel. But sequels happened, because the films made money for the studio, Warner Brothers kept making them.
Somehow in the sequels Harry Calahan ends up back on the police force he walked away from in the first movie. He keeps right on using excessive force, to the point where he basically becomes like the Punisher, he often goes around executing criminals, not really even trying to enforce the law at all, yet he somehow still has a badge. By the third Dirty Harry film (The Enforcer, 1976) Harry is no longer content with just a Magnun gun to obliterate his enemies and uses a bazooka to blow away a bad guy in a guard tower.
The Dirty Harry film series was very entertaining, but utterly ridiculous as they kow towed to the prevailing paradigm of 80s action cinema – that of rising body counts and zero accountability from fetishized heroes who used lethal force, who changed from being somewhat realistic hard edged anti-heroes to over the top comic book like action heroes minus any morality or conscience.
“Dirty Harry is, perhaps like Rocky Balboa before him, also a keen dissection of the evolution of the action star from the 1970s to the 1980s. James Bond, for the most part, stayed James Bond. But Harry and Rocky changed as film trends changed. They both, in their respective first films, started out to be gritty and melancholic and kind of realistic. And both, by the fourth films in their respective series, had mutated into unbeatable, peerlessly heroic icons that were used in a somewhat jingoistic fashion by their fans. This was a movement from the depression and hopelessness of the Vietnam War to the blast-’em-all mentality of the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan years.” – Witney Seibold / CraveOnline – The Series Project: Dirty Harry
WE COME IN PEACE… SHOOT TO KILL, SHOOT TO KILL
The Batman / Dirty Harry / Punisher vigilante archetype is taken to the extreme with Judge Dredd. In a post-apocalyptic dystopian future, gigantic megacities are rampant with crime. The Judges are entitled by their job role to be judge, jury, executioner and cop all rolled into one, in an effort to streamline the process of law and justice in vastly over populated megacities. The “Judges” as they are known in the 2000 AD fiction are a drastic response to crime in a world where other alternatives fail.
Dirty harry as he becomes more lethal, more of a effective killer moves away from the law and justice, becoming an aimless amoral vigilante. Judge Dredd however kills as part of his job as a judge in Megacity 1. It is part of his job to kill, and the more effective a killer he is, the more effective he is at enforcing the law in his world. That is not to say that Dredd kills all criminals indiscriminately like the Punisher, he still has legal mandates to follow.
For people not familiar with Dredd, he is sort of like a combination of Dirty Harry and Batman. A bad ass vigilante type, who happens to be a law enforcer, who bends and sometimes breaks the rules, but who ultimately still has a morality to him that means he is not a pure fascist or sadist. Judge Dredd appears to be a fascist at a glance, but looking into his stories he doesn’t have a political agenda, he is both a parody of actual law enforcement and in his fiction a good cop, in that he does his best to actually enforce the law, even when he bends or breaks the rules he lives by as anti-hero characters often do.
“While sometimes Judge Dredd is a good man doing his best to save his city, he’s still part of a fascist system.
But the best part about this is, although America is still one of the greatest Judge Dredd stories out there, highlighting Dredd and the Judges as fascists really wasn’t anything new. In fact, it had been part of a major story arc that had gone on for a while.
To me, Judge Dredd is one of the most morally complex and interesting characters because of that key conflict. He’s a man who’s a part of a fascist system, but he and many other Judges aren’t doing what they do for power’s sake, they’re not doing what they do because it suits them. No, the Judges – especially Dredd himself – do the job they do because they believe that it’s right. That, under the circumstances, there really is no other way. That they put a harsh leash on the citizens, but only because the previous system of democracy lead to Armageddon.” – James Aggas / Judgedreddcollection.com
In a world that doesn’t make sense we often feel powerless and helpless. Characters such as Batman, the Punisher and Judge Dredd force the world to make sense on their own terms. We feel empowered reading these characters not because their solutions to problems are legally or morally right, and not because their solutions seem to work (temporarily) but because these characters appear to be both powerful and capable. In fiction heroes can take on the world and win.
However their examples are not sometime to emulate. Their actions just don’t work in the real world, with rare exception. For every Sunday Superhero who leaps in to rescue a citizen in distress, there are far more people we don’t hear about who get shot stabbed or killed trying to help someone out.
Batman, The Punisher, Judge Dredd and Dirty Harry are terrible terrible role models. But we love these characters because they are power fantasies, the characters look cool and powerful, and most of us would rather feel cool, powerful and in control of our lives than helpless and afraid.
Nobody wants to be adrift in a sea of emotional chaos where down is up, up is down and we don’t know how to make sense of the world. Tough guys, loners and antiheroes like regular heroes are ciphers, characters we project ourselves onto and vicariously enjoy for their values and hardline uncompromising attitudes. They can’t succeed outside of their own fiction, in real life we are often forced to compromise and do things we don’t want to do, often it can be soul destroying and it’s not a matter of choice, but survival. That kind of hardline no compromise attitude rarely works in the real world.
That hardline attitude may work well temporarily in places like combat sports or the military, but those environments still have rules, and the real world has no rules, just human idea constructs smooshed over top of what we call life. And in life we have to find our own way and make sense of things – the world is not black and white, but endlessly complicated, expansive and multidimensional.
BAT… JAMES BAT
We can’t escape from the 70’s Batman and fully understand 80’s Batman without a nod to the prolific James Bond. Forties Batman was grim and gothic, fifties Batman was a grinning idiot who ran around in the daylight, late fifties and early sixties Batman had increasingly bizarre adventures in space and other forgettable stories. Seventies Batman moved back closer to his roots, bringing back the Gothic dark elements of the character, while adding an exotic globe trotting James Bond angle to the Batman mythos, before moving into more grim existentialist flavored Batman stories in the eighties.
James Bond, in any incarnation is not a vigilante. He is a spy, a tough guy and a loner however he works for a British government spy organisation. He has a famous “license to kill”. It’s an unavoidable part of his job to kill. His portrayal has veered from serious to outlandish and comical and stone cold serious again through the different actors, and tone of the various movies. From high camp, to straight action to gritty intense emotional drama, Bond has done it all. He’s a very effective fighter, killer and spy. He makes for a great contrast with Batman, Dredd and Dirty Harry. We can see the overlap in their methods, their morality (or lack of) and the dangerous situations they all face on a daily basis. Leaving these guys aside for a while, let’s take a look at some of the overall trends in action heroes in cinema and comics during the 70’s and 80’s, and then see how it all relates to, or influences Batman media.
BACK……..TO THE 1980’S
If you look at the history of american action movies you have your war and western films, film noir, detective stories of hard boiled gum shoes and the like, and as the war and western movies died off in the 50’s and 60’s you had the rise of the loners, the outsiders, tough guys, and antiheroes typified by actors like Lee Marvin in Hard Boiled, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry.
As the straight laced 60’s action heroes gave way to more grim anti-heroes of the 70s, and excess over the top body count of 80s action cinema the cowboy/cop/soldier turned into the loner /outsider/antihero. The hero archetype in cinema moved from establishment to anti-establishment and back again, taking on new forms and permutations. The trend continued in the 80s with new wave action hero’s such as Stallone and Schwarzenegger who were as famous for their imposing physiques as their high bodycount movies and non-stop blood thirsty action.
In the 80’s out were the straight laced serious cop/cowboy heroes and in was super-human murder death killing machines such as The Terminator and Rambo. Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme and others continued the trend of Stallone and Schwarzenegger in B-grade cinema where the selling point was the high bodycount, martial arts expertise, military commando’s and other types of extreme hero killing machines who dominated the decade. The lone hero or anti-hero with the highest bodycount and the smartest one liner and baddest attitude that started with Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood evolved and devolved in the 80’s to new forms.
Heroic trends shifted from establishment to anti-establishment to jingoistic pro Americana war propaganda and back again.
“RIGGS IS CRAZY!”
But the 80’s was not just home to near super-human killing machines, but was also the decade of rogue cops on a revenge mission and sci-fi, technology, A.I. and Trans-Humanist fears with Robocop and The Terminator. The crazed 70’s cop on a revenge kick morphed and blended with the 80’s excess new breed of action hero. Martin Riggs in the first Lethal Weapon is tough yet vulnerable, by the fourth film in the series, he has become a parody of himself, he still gets hurt, but we know he will always come out on top like Rocky and Dirty Harry. The heartfelt portrayal of the genuinely suicidal Riggs continued the new trend of sub-genre PTSD that was firmly established in The Deer Hunter (1978).
Alongside these new special effects heavy blood thirsty action movies was the usual glut of B-grade Kung-Fu Killer imports that trickled down the pipeline and eventually gave way to American teenagers new obsession with Deadly Ninja films.
It didn’t matter any more in this crowded action-genre market whose side the hero was actually on. What his values, ethics and mission were – only how big the explosions were, and how many people he killed during his mission or journey. James Bond who had dominated the action movies of 60’s had become a relic by the 80’s – he was no longer cool. What was cool was pointless mass carnage, excessive blood and explosions, abstract violence as pop-art – a trend that ironically James Bond himself helped to start in his earliest films, this trend continued throughout the 80’s as “me-too” Z-Grade action movies appeared on the video rental shelves next to the big budget action blockbusters.
WHERE DID YOUR BAT-MANNERS GO OLD CHUM? (A.K.A. BATMAN IS A BIT OF A BASTARD)
As these types of new wave heroes and anti-heroes invaded comics along came Wolverine, Judge Dredd, The Punisher and of course Batman became more of a hard ass in the 80’s. If 70’s Batman was typified by James Bond style globe trotting adventures by Denny ‘O Neil and Neal Adams, the 80s were about grim and gritty Batman, none more grim and gritty than Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, a tought ruthless bastard who was equally likely to sneer or laugh at you as he broke both your arms…Miller’s semi-sadistic vision of Batman overshadowed every other Batman story in the decade of Miami Vice, new wave pop, hair metal and hip-hop. While Wolverine and The Punisher debuted in the 70’s, it was the 80’s were they graduated to their own titles and found new fans as they became a popular ultra-violent alternative to mainstream superhero comics,.
No other writer had written Batman so gruff, stand offish and downright mean as Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns. This was Batman as Dirty Harry, Batman as Judge Dredd in another costume. Gruff, uncaring, stand-offish, he often spoke in short sentences with a commanding tone that other Bat writers over the years picked up on.
The team of John Wagner and Alan Grant in (issue numbers) ran with their own version of this hard bastard Batman in a fantastic run of comics. John Wagner, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s gave us a breif fan favourite run on Detective Comics staring in 1988, in Detective Comics #583-594; 601-621 (thanks to FamousFanBoy for the reference).
For people who grew up on and only knew Batman from the campy 1966 TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward, this hard cynical violent Batman of the 80’s seemed excessive, mean and horrible, a betrayal of their childhood character.
But for hardcore Batman fans, it was a return to the roots of the Gothic vigilante who terrorized the criminal underworld before he was castrated by the Comics Code Authority and his stories turned into a saccharine dayglow fever dream of political correctness. It was more of the hard bastard 80’s Batman who fans greedily devoured and asked for seconds.
With the influences of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman and Wagner’s Judge Dredd, Batman in the 80’s was a tough bastard who grew more dark, grim and cynical. In short he was becoming more like the modern Batman we know. Some would call him a fascist, or mentally unstable. But no matter what label was thrown at the Dark Knight, none of them could really stick, or at least not for long as a new fresh interpretation was always just around the corner.
Many of his regular monthly stories reflected the regular version of Batman fans were used to from the 70’s. But the hunger for for a harder edged Batman would reach it’s peak with the 90’s Knightfall storyline, where Batman / Wayne is replaced by nutcase Jean Paul Valley, who uses deadlier weapons and becomes a parody of Batman while trying to replace him.
In the modern era we get a composite Batman. The athletic James Bond Batman of Neal Adams, the hard cynical bastard Batman of Frank Miller, the relentless manhunter Detective of Paul Dini, the Gothic Dark Knight of Bob Kane & Bill Finger and other great Bat-writers. The modern Batman is a mix of all these great elements, and the whole of Batman is greater than the simple sum of his parts, his diverse writers, artists and influencers.
He can be grim and cynical, he can be the light hearted Lego Batman or Adam West Batman, he can be eerie and creepy Batman in Kelley Jones horror stories, he can do it all. Batman is tough, he’s an awesome idea, nobody is going to break him by writing a bad story, Batman’s been around too long and is so damn cool and brilliant that he can do it all. Fighting white martians, fighting Superman, fighting sharks and jumping sharks, he’s been there, done that and now he’s ready for more.
“…this is the most perfect version of Batman ever. Wagner and Grant’s Batman is the gritty, damaged Miller version, merged with Morrison’s “love god”, merged with the father figure who raises and nurtures Robins, merged with the super-hero from the pages of Justice League. He’s every Batman, it’s all in him! – Paul C. / FamousFanboy/Blogspot.com.au
While Alan Grant was a prolific Batman writer in the late eighties and into the nineties, his collaborator John Wagner contributed to only a select few Batman stories. Its makes his contribution however small that much more special. I’m not saying he is more important than any other Bat-writer over the decades, but to get to the modern Batman we love you have to go through Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd and Frank Miller’s Batman – the same way to fully understand the Golden Age Batman you need to know about Zorro, The Shadow, Doc Savage and Superman. Frank Miller’s influence is significant, but often over stated.
To follow the trail of the smiling daylight cop Batman to the dark detective Batman, his diversion into sci-fi bizarreness and high camp and a return to the darker Batman that revisited his Gothic roots from Detective Comics #27 you have follow the reinvention of characters at DC lead by Julius Schwartz such as the Silver Age Flash, which leads into Denny O Neil and Neil Adams Dark Knight Detective of the seventies, which leads into Doug Moench’s Batman of the 80s, Miller’s Dark Knight, Kelley Jones’ gothic horror Batman, Chuck Dixon stories of the 90’s. Paul Dini’s Batman Animated stories, Loeb and Sale’s Halloween stories, and all the regular amazing talent on the monthlies up to the modern day with fantastic runs from brilliant writers such as Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder.
POST POST POST MODERN CAPE AND COWL
Batman comics group editor Denny O Neil’s overall influence on Batman from 1970s-1990s cannot be understated. He has been involved with the character as a writer and editor for longer than any other individual, he was in the unique position to help reshape Batman from irrelevance to pop-culture juggernaut.
You don’t get Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Nolan’s Batman Begins or Snyder’s Batman v Superman without the groundwork laid by Denny O’ Neil and other talented bastards over several decades. Denny takes Batman seriously, he respects the character and puts him in challenging situations where he is forced to rise to the challenge and use all his skills. Denny’s Batman is perhaps the most human. He fails, he expresses remorse, he is not invincible, unbeatable, nor any sort of Bat-God under Denny O Neil’s pen.
Denny is perhaps the most significant writer to have ever worked on Batman next to his co-creator Bill Finger. His background as a crime reporter / journalist led him to include social and sometimes political commentary in his Batman stories in a seamless way that integrated with the core themes of Batman and whatever case the world’s greatest detective was trying to solve that month.
Denny ‘O Neil along with other new generation writers of his era lifted the craft and quality not just of Batman, but the superhero genre of fiction. Putting real world issues into populist cheap entertainment gave Denny’s stories a more timeless feel. While some of the dialogue in those older stories can be a bit hammy, the themes of his stories still resonate today. With Neal Adams’ anatomically accurate drawings, and cinematic dynamic storytelling style, together Denny and Neil redefined Batman for an entire generation of Batfans.
Including Batfan Paul Dini who (along with Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm) would redefine Batman yet again in the 90s with Batman the Animated Series, creating one of the the most definitive and enduring versions of Batman beloved by fans around the world.
NEW WAVE HEROES AND ANTIHEROES SETTLE IN
The new wave of western anti-heroes such as Clint Eastwood’s Blondie in For a Fistful of Dollars were seen as sheik, uber-cool nonchalant ass-kickers by the youth, and needlessly cruel and violent by the older generation who had grown up with relatively bloodless Westerns and exaggerated morally perfect heroes typified by John Wayne, Gary Cooper James Stewart and other stars. Sam Peckinpah continued the trend of bloody Westerns featuring unlikable and often downright villainous – yet human – characters.
With “emotional realism” taking precedence in the late 70s into the 80s, many stories in both films and comics also brought a kind of cynicism and existential meaninglessness that is still today often mistake for “realism” in general, rather than as a sub-genre of the “realism” movement that swept into film through the seventies, echoed a couple of decades later in TV and comics by the likes of Oz, The Wire, and The Walking Dead.
From the 70’s to the 80’s we had the end of the John Wayne moral Cowboy / War Hero / Lawman characters and the rise of the anti-hero and excessive violence. This was the era of Wolverine and Judge Dredd, of Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Batman, of Dirty Harry, The Terminator, Robocop and Rambo. The trend of new wave surreal realistic violence started by genuine passionate film makers such as Sam Peckinpah devolved into mindless blood letting, bigger explosions and body counts, and a sort of amoral glorification of pro-american killing machines masquerading as fetishished unbeatable soldier heroes and one man armies on revenge missions for America.
Even the anti-war film Rambo, the grim and gritty tale of a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who is unable to return to civilian life (a new sub-genre of film showing the real life after effects of the Vietnam war – rather than the glory and propaganda of earlier war films – first touched on in the in the PTSD infused The Deer Hunter) devolved into a remorseless killing machine in his sequels, depicting the jingoistic consequence free fantasy violence that the first film spoke out against.
The tie in jingoistic 80’s cartoon depicting John Rambo leading a team of “me too” G.I Joe type team on missions where rocket launchers, grenades and realistic automatic heavy artillery led somehow to blissful bloodless resolutions to american foreign concerns in exotic locations further eroded whatever credibility Rambo had established as a character in his first appearance. Further even bloodier sequels would cement Rambo’s memory as another 80’s murder/death/kill machine, drowning out the tone and message the first Rambo film established in a deafening roar of semiautomatic gunfire and garnished with a tidal wave of empty shell casings.
…AND THE REST
James bond continued to do what he does best through the years, leading from the lukewarm Bond of the 80’s to the politically correct but underwhelming Bond of the 90’s – Bond remained somewhat unpopular – as even the cold hearted killer BOND looked tame and boring next to the existential cool of Clint Eastwood or the bad boy outsiders like Judge Dredd, Batman and Wolverine who appeared in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
As the 70’s ended, so did the era of John Wayne, and moral cowboy heroes and conscience of America for several decades. The Duke starred in his final film The Shootist (1976), a somber small scale western film about an aging gun fighter dying of terminal cancer. Directed by Dirty Harry’s Don Siegel, it’s the film nobody really expected to see after John Wayne’s semi-retirement from cowboy film in the 60’s.
James Bond continued on through the 80’s, and moving into the 90’s attempted to reinvigorate the franchise with Pearce Brosnan in four films (and a non canon video game) that were an odd mix of poorly implemented political correctness and other 90’s cliches that failed to modernise Bond in any meaningful way. They were still fun films, but lacking in many ways. Brosnan was excellent as Bond, but the writing was not up to the standards it should have been for such a beloved character.
Not until the success of Batman Begins and The Bourne Identity did James Bond successfully move out of action adventure movie limbo (and legal dramas behind the scenes) to be reborn a meaner, more handsome, more clever and capable Bond than any we had seen ever before. The sense of humor and knowing winks to the camera of the Connery and Moore era were gone, this Bond was all seething rage, pain and pathos, this was James Bond: Year One, a reinvigoration of both the character and franchise that continued on for several films. Things had come full circle as 70’s Batman was heavily influenced by the cinematic James Bond, and decades later James Bond was heavily influenced by the cinematic Batman.
Further permutations of the vigilante archetype played out through the eighties and into the nineties. One of the more interesting comic book oddities was Marvel’s Moon Knight.
Moon Knight was a creation of prolific Batman writer Doug Moench.
Having penned many Batman excellent stories, Moench created Marvel’s most superficially Batman-like character “Moon Knight” in the late 70s. What was similar was the costume, money, gadgets, vigilante schtick and war on crime, what was different is that Marc Spector was formerly a mercenary, a cold blooded killer who was reborn as Moon Knight, whose new superhero mission was to serve as the avatar to Khonshu -the Egyptian God of the Moon.
Moon Knights depictions would vary over the decades from being a moral hero, to psychotic, to multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Moon Knight then is a Batman like character who is genuinely crazy, who sometimes kills, while still basically being a moral hero on a mission. Loose affiliations with the Defenders, Avengers and other teams mean Moon Knight varies in his personality and depiction as much by writer as because of his multiple personality disorder and supernatural origins.
While superficially similar to Batman, the Moon Knight stories are different enough to make him a genuinely interesting and even unique character.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick tour of Batman’s vigilante contemporaries and influences. Coming up in a future article I’m going to take a look at the Golden Age characters who are part of Batman’s DNA like The Shadow, Doc Savage and Zorro.
So stick around, there is plenty more to come Batfans.
There is nothing in my life that I would go back and change, even the darkest moments. All the successes and greatest joys in my life are a result of the absolute worst things. Every missed opportunity is a blessing is disguise – Ronda Rousey
1.YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR OLD LIFE, BUT YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD
With the painful loss of her home planet of Krypton, her whole way of life and everything she knew – it was the toughest event that Kara Zor-El ever faced. But the loss of Krypton was the gain of Kara’s new home on earth, her new earth foster family, her new super powers and becoming the selfless iconic hero Supergirl.
Kara would never have become Supergirl if not for the death of her parents, the same way Bruce Wayne would never have become Batman without the death of his parents, or Kara’s cousin Kal-El would never have become Superman.
Krypton’s loss was earth’s gain. Kara’s ordinary life was destroyed, and she was called to her destiny on earth. But it wasn’t easy. For years she hid her powers and who she was from all but her foster family. Eventually Kara embraced her new self – superpowers, being an alien outsider on a new world and became Supergirl. She embraced living the unique life that only Kara Zor-El could live.
I love pretty much everything about our Kara. She’s pretty, strong, kind, caring, helpful, adorable and becomes badass when she has to – Reddit User ‘Furan_Ring’
2.WHEN PEOPLE LOVE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO WHEN PEOPLE HATE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO
Don’t let other people’s perception of who you are and what you stand for shape your core values. Whether people love, hate or are indifferent to you, you must live the life only you know how to live, and live the principles, values and choices that makes the most sense to you right now.
We can’t predict the future, we don’t know what good or bad consequences will come of our actions, but we do know the values we live by, and if we are not happy with that, we can upgrade our values to better ones and develop new habits that serve us rather than hold us back.
Heroes choose their own values, mission and code of behavior to live by, they don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do and they don’t ask permission to be who they know they have to be.
There are times when people will love and support what you do. You can accept support from others, but don’t become dependent on that, instead welcome all who choose to help you, but be self-reliant and accept no excuses for living anything less than an authentic life.
There are times when people may hate you, or what you stand for. They may openly ciriticise you, or do it behind your back. You can waste you time and efforts trying to manage others people’s perception of you, or you can simply be indifferent to people’s ideas about you – good or bad.
Being free of the need for approval or criticism means you live life on your own terms. It doesn’t mean being rude and arrogant to people you disagree with or don’t like. It does mean affirming who you are and not letting people push you around, and being immune to other people’s ideas about who you are and what you should do with your life.
Instead you must choose your own way of life and maintain an inner light that never wavers. A hero’s inner light and belief in themselves stays lit through the darkest stormiest night and brightest day and is unchanging.
The world corrupts those who are easily corrupted, while those who stand firm in their belief in themselves are untouchable by any force in this world.
So whether people love you, or hate or are indifferent to you – keep living the life only you know how to live, keep being a hero or heroine in your own unique way.
3. SOME BATTLES WE MUST FIGHT ALONE, WHILE OTHERS WE HAVE TO ASK FOR THE HELP AND CO-OPERATION OF THOSE ON WHOM WE DEPEND
We all have things we must do for ourselves by ourselves each day, and then there are tasks in life that are beyond us and our current abilities, in these times we must ask for help. We all need co-operation in our lives if want to become greater than we were yesterday, and be excited about tomorrow.
We all need friends, family, associates and well wishers to co-operate with if we want to keep overcoming obstacles in our lives, or get projects done that are simply too big for one person, no matter how smart, strong, resilient or talented.
A heroine looks after her family and friends and all those whom depend on her. And she knows the people who truly value her will be there for her when she needs them. Co-operation allows us to get large projects done and things that would be impossible for one person to ever achieve. To be greater than we were yesterday and excited for tomorrow, we need to cultivate healthy relationships with friends, family and associates.
4. FAMILY IS NOT JUST BLOOD, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOW UP IN YOUR LIFE
Family are the people who show up in your life who love you and support you unconditionally. We are all born with one type of family. Some people have families that love and support them. Other people have families that treat them poorly or even abuse them. Most of us find our experience lies somewhere in between the two extremes of unconditional love and outright abuse.
But along with our biological family, are the people who show up in our lives and love us, who support us, without anyone ever asking them to, and without being related by blood.
So whether blood relative or just someone who chooses to be part of your life, family is whoever shows up and loves you, whoever supports you in your choices even when they disagree with them. Loving someone only when they agree with you is not really love. The people who show up in our lives and support us no matter what choices we make are like rare jewels in this world – they are people to be treasured and appreciated.
As Kara is an alien outsider in this world, we too at times feel likes outsiders. We all need to find our own version of fitting in and belonging. To accomplish that we can either compromise who we are and try to “fit in” with other people and their values – or we can look for a tribe that already shares our common values, that accept us for who we are, rather than belittle us for what we are not and will never be. Those who truly love us and support us are our family every bit as much as our blood relatives.
5. BE YOURSELF – THE UNIQUE SELF THAT THE WORLD NEEDS YOU TO BE
Conformity means taking on others peoples values as more important than your own. It means taking on other peoples ideas about who you are, what you should do, and their own selfish opinions about how you should live your life. No other persons “opinion” about you, should ever be more important than your own opinion of yourself.
No other person has the right to choose your values for you, or try and live your life for you. You MUST choose your own values, go your own way and be uniquely you, you must BE YOURSELF because you simply can’t be anyone else. It’s just not possible.
Only you are uniquely qualified to know how to be the best version of yourself. The world demands and expects conformity, it expects well behaved polite automatons who don’t think for themselves. But doing that means not only compromising who you are, it means depriving the world of your unique talents and abilities.
The world demands conformity and mindless drones, but what it NEEDS is unique individuals who say “YES!” to life, people unafraid to express themselves, and live their unique lives as only they can.
The world needs people who accept themselves and know it is “okay” to be you, it is okay be different. It is okay be strange and flawed, to feel doubts, insecurity and vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be human.
Our differences are what make us unique and often the source of hidden strengths.
People who live fearlessly are the ones ones who shape our future, they are often invisible leaders and trend-setters, they are paradigm busters and rebels, they refuse to be classified or labeled or held back by any kind of limiting belief. They also get scared and doubt themselves and have both spectacular successes and monumental failures in life.
They are our heroes and super-heroes. They are our family and our friends. They are our peer groups. They are YOU and me. Because no hero or heroine can accomplish anything worthwhile by themselves. We are in this life together.
Heroines and Heroes stand up for themselves and just as important – they stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves, for the people who have no voice in this world.
The greater our co-operation, the greater our capacity to love, the greater is our potential as everyday heroes and heroines – the kind the world needs to stand up for what they believe in and be heard with a unique voice and one of a kind perspective.
There are many great Batman stories to read. Some short and sweet, others lengthy bloated epics.
But now and then something surprises you.
You read a story that you have never heard of, and it really touches you in some way.
Batman: 1947 by Scott Hampton is one of those stories.
I read the 8 page story this week for the first time, and I have to say it is one of my all time favourite Batman stories, and you won’t find it in a traditional Batman comic book.
The Batman: 1947 story featured in an obscure showcase for artists called “SOLO” from DC Comics, the 12 issue series ran in 2004, and each issue featured a selected artist. Every short story in the issue was by the same artist, with various writers.
I mainly took a look at them recently for any Batman related content,and was pleasantly surprised by the short story drawn by Scott Hampton and written by John Hitchcock with Scott Hampton. if you have read any of Batman Black and White, stories then SOLO is like a colour version of that (but with any characters from the DCU).
Take a look at the images below, I’ve written some brief comments below the pics, but mostly I just want you to take a moment, pause for a breath, and really pay attention to this story. Don’t just skin over it looking to rush to the end, okay?
Breathe in deep, and read slowly.
While only a few pages long, Batman: 1947 is a powerful short story. It gets so much right about Batman.
I love how the comic starts off in a world that is more on the side of realism than traditional comic art. The actor who is playing Batman gets into the unfortunate situation of chasing real criminals and encountering real danger while giving a public performance, and gives chase to some criminals as the crowd eggs him on.
The panel where the real Batman drops into frame, tells us that this not the real world (where Batman is fictional), but is most likely Gotham City. The contrast between the meek looking actor and the powerful looking Batman is one you can really feel.
Batman has such presence and power in that single panel that when I read the story I was like:
“YES! This Scott Hampton guy gets how to show Batman”
Batman easily takes cares of the criminals, then disappears into the night.
I love that he lets the actor Batman take the credit for stopping the criminals.
Batman is no glory hound, he does what he does out of a sense of duty, not for credit and glory. The actor Batman turns to see the real Batman on a distant rooftop, looking like another statue, a Gargoyle or Grotesque, a protector – no -Guardian of Gotham who wards off evil spirits and Guards the city against threats.
Batman briefly moves from urban legend, to solid physical presence and then back into a mythic archetype in the space of only a few panels. Scott Hampton gets the mythic resonance of Batman just right.
The contrast in the panel of the skinny actor who appears fully lit in the background, with the broad shouldered, large chested Titan of Gotham, the Batman in the foreground, and who appears in shadow is just perfect.
The actor gets to a be real hero for one night, and goes home to his family.
If you go back and look at the story again, you will see that Batman appears in only 6 panels of the story. He appears for two pages in a row, then on the second to last page you see him as a silhouette in the distance. This sort of minimalism was also used to good effect in Ed Brubaker’s Gotham Central series, where the focus is on other characters, and not Batman himself, and has also been used in other short stories where the focus is another characters perspective.
Well, I loved this story, and please read it again before you move on, take a moment to savor the beautiful art and the short but powerful story that put a big smile on my face this week. I think it is one of the best Batman short stories I have ever read. I just love it!
A little over a year ago I started a blog about Batman called “BATFAN on BATMAN” at WordPress.
I wanted to take two of my favourite things – my passion for writing and my love of the fictional character Batman and combine them.
The decision to start this Blog I was inspired by several things:
1) My lifelong love of Batman, the greatest fictional character of all time.
2) The book “Wisdom From the Batcave” by Batfan Rabbi Cary A. Friedman.
“Wisdom” is a book I find to be deeply inspiring and motivating in my own life.
It is the tone that set what I wanted to do with my Batman blog, explore how The Batman inspires me (and others) to be a better human being and face life’s challenges head on. You can find the book in print and in digital format at Amazon. Wisdom from the Batcave, Cary A. Friedman – Amazon.com
3) The Podcast “Fatman on Batman” by Batfan Kevin Smith, he of Clerks fame.
I have been listening to this Fatman podcast along with Smodcast and HBO for several years and love the laughs and stories Kevin has shared through his podcast network. The name of my blog is inspired by Kevin’s podcast. You can find his Fatman on Batman podcast on itunes and on his smodcast website. The sub site is Channels Fat Man on Batman
You can also find Kevin Smith on Twitter and Facebook where he posts cool stuff relating to his movies, Smodcast Network and other projects.
A little over a year old, my blog gets regular amounts of traffic, and is slowly growing.
Cary Friedman (the guy who wrote that book I love) I communicate with now and then via email, and he has given me some really generous feedback and encouragement on my articles so far, and I have to admit, that is awesome!
Of the 50 articles so written far (this right here is post #51) the consistently most popular ones have been my “How to Be Like Batman” series.
It takes me around a month to write one part of the How to Be Like Batman series, as I read a lot of books, comics and other stuff that I quote from and am influenced by. They also tend to be 5000-8000 words or so each, so yeah it is a real bitch to edit them and it takes me forever. But it is worth it, because I love writing those articles.
I decided when I began that this BATFAN on BATMAN blog that I would eventually collect the best articles into ebooks for Amazon kindle. My feeling is that the first book will be the HTBLB (HowToBeLikeBatman) series expanded into a full ebook, which means it will be a few months away, as I am currently writing parts #4-9 of the series. It also means I will rewrite part of each for the ebook format. I also have to teach myself all sorts of boring stuff about formatting. UGH!
I recently added an expanded article listing on the sidebar to my blog, so now is a great time to check through the older articles if you have not already taken a look.
Just scroll down and you will see it on the right side.
Scroll down from the top – which looks like this:
Keep going down a little from the top of the page/ header and you will see the list of articles on the right hand side of the screen at BATFAN on BATMAN Don’t forget to follow this blog on email by clicking that orange bar thing under my smug mug. That way you can keep up with new posts, which are rather infrequent.
So far I love writing this BATFAN on BATMAN blog. I have several hundred articles planned out in hardcover journals, and I am adding new ideas to them every week. I wish I had more time just to write. Currently I put 1 hour per day into writing the blog, I average around 2-3 posts a month, at around 2000-5000 words per article.
I would like to post more frequent posts, but I prefer QUALITY over quantity, so I never rush anything. Every article is some sort of idea I had, or was inspired to write about for whatever reason (other than the opinion pieces, which are usually shorter posts I out out while I am working on my main articles).
I aim to write timeless rather than timely content, so you can read it tomorrow or ten years from now and it will still make sense, rather than being dated.
I keep a pen and pad by my bed, and in my study by the computer so no good idea ever gets lost.
If I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, I write it down on a pad, then the next morning I add the idea into one of my blog drafts that just has lists of article ideas, and potential titles for articles.
I keep notebooks next to the bed, and next to my PC always.
In the above pic you can see the ungodly pile of books, notebooks and crap that sits next to where I sleep.
And no that is not a sex toy and lube. The stick is a rolling thing for post-exercise myofascial release, and the thing beside it is hand cream, as I do a lot of deadlifting and have to file calluses from my hands, and I usually forget to put on moisturiser so basically my hands are like sandpaper most of the time, which tends to annoy my girlfriend.
I take long walks for 1-2 hours often in the mornings, and sometimes I take my dictaphone with me and record ideas while I am walking, that I later write down in the journals.
I don’t limit myself to any one form of Batman, nor any one media. My personal favourite Batman however is the comic book version, so I tend to focus on him. I guess the second favourite version would be the one in 90’s animated series, and I really love the version of Batman they created for the Arkham video game series, he kicks some serious ass.
Video games are the only medium where we can actually see how Batman moves, where he has his full martial arts abilities that you don’t see in any of the live action movies or animated shows.
I’ve held off on some particular articles – like my Arkham Asylum video game series of articles as I have planned to do not one or two, but a whole series focusing on the gameplay, art design, themes and motifs, story and overall planning and design of the games.
And a whole series of articles on Batman: The Animated Series – as it is so highly influential, it helped set the tone and style for modern Batman and I just love it to pieces!
My blog so far has 50 articles, and 80+ articles in draft form that I am still working on. Some get finished in a week or two, others take months as ideas come together.
So expect to see the blog grow exponentially in the next six-twelve months.
I have another key focus also on spotlighting the best non-fiction books about Batman, most of that stuff in still in draft format. I read those non-fiction books about Batman for fun and personal research while writing, but I am also writing an authoritative guide to all the best books about Batman.
I want it to be a useful resource for fans, writers/researchers/theorists and even people looking to buy gifts for family members etc. So I am taking my sweet time with that one, as I want it to be authoritive. I’ve looked for an article like this online, and so far the closest thing is BOF (Batman on Film’s list) which doesn’t cover even one third of the books out there. But you should read that BOF list for sure to keep you going.
A follow up to my inevitable Great Non-Fiction Books about Batman Guide will be an article on the best Batman trades and graphic novels.
I could have written that a year ago, but I put that off for now seeing as there is plenty of other guides already on various sites like IGN and ComicVine. if you are looking for more good Batman trades right now, then just google “best batman books” and you will find the lists on IGN, ComicVine, Reddit etc.
Now, those lists are good and useful. But my list will kick their lists ass and have them begging for mercy.
I don’t care about the TOP 10 or whatever. I am more interested in what are the best Batman stories and collected editions of all time, across all formats and all media, including expanded Batman media, alternate reality tales etc as well as the mainline DC Universe.
I love all those lists, but they are not definitive in any way. They are basically lists of best selling comics, not necessarily the best of most in interesting stories. Great to start with, but not much use to long term fans.
My overall aim for the BATFAN on BATMAN Blog is to write content you just can not find anywhere else on the internet.
I was sick of reading the same shallow articles about Batman media copied and pasted on 50 different websites masquerading as “content”, UGH!
That kind of crap really only exists to create web traffic and generate ad revenue sales, and frankly it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
There are perhaps less than half a dozen in depth books that cover the topics of Batman Theory, History, Myth, Psychology and Legacy that most people have never read, nor even heard of.
So it is part of my mission, my vow of to make casual fans and experts more aware of these books. It’s obvious every time I am on Quorra, Facebook and Twitter that the same questions keep being asked about Batman, and reading even ONE of those awesome books about Batman would answer most people’s general questions, not to mention make you almost an instant Batman expert.
If there is guiding ethos to my Batman Blog, it is to talk about Batman with the passion of a fan, the depth of an academic, but the accessibility of the internet, podcast and video game generations.
So yeah, it may not be for everyone. And that is okay. But I hope you find something to enjoy here.
I believe that people should be able to find great content about Batman in print and digital media.
So far the Batman print media is far better than any online content, which is a real let down in my opinion, there is perhaps less than 10 genuine Batman websites that have real Batman content (other than the latest non-news like a picture of Batflecks Bat-Underwear, Bat-Underarm Deoderant or other Bat-Bullshit).
My aim is to write articles that are more in depth than the typical shallow articles you find online about Batman, with the depth and insight of academic writing, but without being so stuffy and boring. Also I horrible at typing, I really should not tell you that. But whatever.
If you ever saw one of my drafts it looks like somebody vomited words on to a page in a random assortment. It’s not pretty I tell you. It takes me hours to edit the hell out of things to get them readable, let alone comprehensible. I wish I could just talk and have someone else type and edit my ideas. I keep dreaming about a podcast, but I need a regular co-contributor to host with me, as it would be dead boring just me talking for hours about Batman.
One of the things I love about Batman is that he is always being reinvented for new audiences.
Just when you think Batman might be done…………. you remember that Batman might have something to say about that….
Batman is my favourite character by far, in any medium.
He takes the best elements of Zorro, The Shadow, Sherlock Holmes and Dracula and combines them into an awe-inspiring package of exciting thrills and non-stop entertainment.
Batman comics have incorporated German Expressionism, Gothic Romance, Film Noir, Penny Dreadfuls, Pulp Fiction, Crime Thrillers, Police Procedurals, Lovecraftian Horror and Superhero Conventions into a seamless package. After 75+ years, there is no shortage of Batman stories to tell.
Batman remains not just cool, but upper echelon level cool like James Dean, Bruce Lee or Elvis Presley. He’s a genuine icon, in the best possible way. And he is inspiring as hell.
Batman possesses the kind of timeless cool that never goes out of style.
He may die and come back. He may get re-booted into new universes. His costume might change a little here and there.
But ultimately, Batman is still Batman. He works. He just works no matter what you throw at him, he makes sense of it and keeps going – Batman is an unstoppable pop-culture Juggernaut.
While Batman is a composite character composed of the best bits of other characters that came before him like…
Superman (the basic costume, chest insignia and superhero motif) Doc Savage (his utility belt) The Shadow (night time masked avenger and antihero) Zorro (swashbuckling dual identity, rich playboy persona) Sherlock Holmes (worlds greatest detective)
Yet, despite being a composite character heavily influenced by the pulps and science heroes and detectives that preceded the superhero genre – Batman somehow manages to be unique and one of a kind.
There are similar characters with superficial similarities, and costume etc – but no other character in all of fiction is quite like Batman at his very core.
So here’s to Batman, and here’s to many more posts and articles in the near future. And a big thank you to my supporters, readers, fellow bloggers and everyone who just freaking loves the god damn Batman. I don’t want to name names and sites/blogs as you are ALL awesome, and I don’t want to leave someone out. But THANK YOU so much for reading and following this blog.
You make slaving away at a keyboard when I would rather be outside walking around (or inside playing Assassin’s Creed) all worth it.
I’m kind of a slow mover in life. I don’t like to rush anything. It means that I like to take my time and when I do things, do them well and give it my best efforts
But I’m just getting started. Consider every post so far a “warm up” for the articles that are yet to come. I don’t know how long I will keep this blog up. I have a lot to say about Batman, and I’ve committed…. no I’ve sworn on oath to my parents (who are both still alive FYI) to write for 5 years and get out every article that is rattling around inside my brain, otherwise I just can’t sleep at night.
Pain is direct feedback from his immediate environment about what his body can and can not do.
Batman has the presence of mind to be aware of pain, while not being overwhelmed by his physical pain sensations.
The suffering that comes with physical pain Batman transcends by refusing to let the signals of physical pain overwhelm his consciousness. He refuses to let his mind and judgement be clouded by physical pain.
He still feels every bit of the pain, but he does not let that physical signal that travels along his nervous system into his brain turn into mental/psychological suffering because he does not mistake the experience he is having (pain) for who he is (Batman).
Batman accepts that physical pain and injuries are part of his mission. He is not bothered by injuries, other than that they slow him down or prevent him from completing a task.
In one way of looking at Batman’s behavior, Batman abuses his body by pushing it too hard. Another way of looking at his behavior is that Batman refuses to let physical limitations prevent him from accomplishing a task in his war on crime.
Of course there are limits even to what Batman can endure and some types of pain and injury will cause immediate dysfunction and render Batman incapable of doing anything other than calling for help or retreating to heal before coming up with a new plan, tactic or strategy.
We too should know the Bat-Wisdom of when to ask for help, when to retreat, and when to heal and recover.
There are times in life to listen to the signal of pain, and back off from what we are doing – like at the gym or during sport – if we experience an injury, the smart thing is to stop what we are doing, rest, get treatment and use active recovery.
But then there are times when we must push past pain signals and ignore what our body is telling us. We must act in SPITE of pain. We must not let our body run our mind.
We must choose without any external signals to know when to push past limits, and when to respect them. Either way requires a conscious intelligent decision, rather than blind reaction.
For example you wake up and your house is on fire. You children are asleep and you must get them out or they will die.
Your body is screaming at you from the pain of inhaling smoke fumes, you may get burnt during the process or injured by debris or tripping on objects. The door handle burns your hand when you touch it, but if you do not open it you will die.
If you fail to transcend pain, your kids will die.
These are the times to rule our body with an iron fist and ignore the signals to simply get out of the house and live.
The greater perceived potential pain of death and loss helps to us to look past the immediate physical pain and very real present danger.
These are the times to be like Batman, to transcend ordinary circumstances and find our inner hero who will preserve the life of his children and family at all costs, even if it means sacrificing his own.
While we may have to perform a heroic act perhaps once in a lifetime, Batman goes out night after night and does his job, he fulfills his calling to simply “Be Batman”.
Pushing past pain just to kick a ball harder, or lift a weight heavier serves no higher purpose. They are ultimately selfish goals.
It may feel subjectively great, even euphoric to break one of our own athletic records in the moment, but what is more valuable?
Beating some personal record, experiencing a moment of euphoria that may come at the cost of months of rehab after we abuse our bodies – or the saving of a human life?
We must know our own strengths and limitations in life, and we must equally know when to gently move through them gently and respectfully, and when to break down walls like Batman in the Batmobile busting through police blockades and barriers – not just because we can, but because it serves a higher purpose.
Batman knows his priorities. He doesn’t doubt himself, or his mission.
He doesn’t care about setting athletic records or lifting a heavy weight for the sake of it.
Batman’s training is ALWAYS practical. That heavy weight lifted in the gym translates into lifting a heavy fallen beam during a fire that has pinned some poor soul to the ground, and will be dead in a matter of moments.
That gymnastic leap, tuck and roll means he can dive through a window, his cape, cowl and gloves protecting him from serious cuts from the glass.
Those brutal training scenarios where he deprives himself of food, water and yes, even oxygen means that Batman has mentally prepared himself for all eventualities, and has a plan for how to beat every impossible scenario he can conceive of. Batman has a rich mental bank of scenarios and escape plans for every type of situation.
While he plans and prepares, Batman must remain focused in the present moment. Ever alert to opportunity and new possibilities emerging that he had not yet anticipated.
While Batman is a master planner and strategist, he is also an expert at off the cuff spontaneous creative simple solutions to difficult problems. He is the MacGyver of the Superhero world. Batman is a master in the fine art of masculine improvisation.
Give Batman a box of matches, a watch and a toothpick with some gum, and he will escape from an impossible trap, build an airplane or defuse a nuclear bomb before he has even had breakfast all while he is bleeding to death with a concussion and a dislocated shoulder.
There’s still something about the character [Macgyver] that strongly resonates. And that resonance actually goes a lot deeper than pop culture; it in fact points to an universal archetype of manliness, and a trait of masculinity that has been valued and celebrated across times and cultures: improvisation. – Brett and Kate McKay / Artofmanliness.com
Whether doing the impossible, or making the extraordinary part of his daily routine, Batman applies personal excellence to all he does in life. He transcends pain not as a masochist, but because his job demands it. He can’t afford to fall to pieces going into a burning building to pull someone out any more than a real life fireman can.
Batman can’t afford to get sloppy and let his physical sensations and emotions overwhelm his decisions on the street any more than a real life cop can. Fear and hesitation in the field can mean death comes sooner than rather than later. However the right kind of fear also can keep us alive. It takes training to trust your instincts under high stress situations, and you know Batman has trained himself for exactly that.
While it is impossible to literally be Batman, we can all learn a little from Batman that we can apply in our daily lives. Batman did not turn into a Superhero, urban vigilante and Champion of Justice overnight – he got there through gradual slow training, making mistakes, experimenting with his own life. He made 1000’s of mistakes on his way to greatness. And he will make a 1000 more mistakes as he continues to evolve as a human being.
The Art of Batmanliness then involves not only transcending pain, but knowing your limits.
It means knowing when to push forward and break down barriers, and when to retreat and lick your wounds, growing stronger with each new stimulus, with each new piece of feedback that life gives you. And being like Batman also means that every time life knocks you on your ass you have the bravery to stand back up and fight on or retreat and replan your approach to your mission.
The man who gets knocked down and stays down beats himself.
The man who gets up no matter what is impossible to beat.
If there is one documentary that I am looking forward more than other in the near future, it is Marc Tyler Nobleman’s Bill Finger documentary The Cape Creator: A Tribute to Bat-Maker Bill Finger.
Bill Finger is the co-creator of everyone’s favourite Dark Knight Detective – Batman.
Unofficially he created around 90% of what we know to be Batman – the cape and cowl, Batcave, majority of the classic villains, the “Dark Knight” nickname, origin story, and a whole heap of other stuff that will be the subject of a more in depth post here soon enough where I promise to do my best not to refer to Bob Kane as the ultimate comic book villain, but don’t keep your fingers crossed.
If you really need to know the full details now of what Bill Finger created, then read Dial B for Blog’s article – which is the single most in depth article on the topic of who contributed what to Batman, and a thoroughly engrossing read. There is not one other site or article on the whole internet that goes as in depth as the Dial B for Blog article, and if they do, then it is likely they just copied the information from the Dial B for Blog original article.
Frankly if you have not read the ‘Secret Origins of the Batman’ article, you are not qualified to call yourself a Batman fan in my opinion.
Anyway, Marc Tyler Nobleman has been raising the “Bill Finger Awareness” flag for quite some time now.
Marc has published a short book on Bill Finger in the form of a picture book that tells a brief Bio of Bill Finger relative to Batman. It sits on my bookshelf next to my Batman 75th Anniversary trades and the Visual History book, next to a stack of Calvin and Hobbes books, and some dangerously piled comics that probably violate several city zoning laws.
The Kickstarter campaign for The Cape Creator: A Tribute to Bat-Make Bill Finger aimed for a goal of $12,016 and currently has a total of $17,863 pledged (the campaign is closed).
What this says to me is that there is a significant amount of generous people who really want to see the documentary, and I feel that is awesome news.
I remember hearing about Marc’s determination to make a Bill Finger documentary on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman Podcast. It was one of the best episode’s that I have listened to at least five times as it covers so much.
In Fatman on Batman episode #53 Marc Tyler Nobleman lists every individual aspect of Batman that Bill Finger contributed and what Bob Kane contributed to Batman. That full list of credits will be the subject of a post here soon if you don’t get time to listen to it.
I’ve listened to that Fatman on Batman episode at least five times, as it truly SHOCKING what the facts are in the history and creation of Batman, and what the “official” story is (for legal reasons) and why Bill Finger STILL does not get a byline credit on the comic book character he co-created.
The short version is eventually we will see a Bill Finger documentary, which I am very excited about. I wish I knew when it was coming, I have no idea. I’ve checked Marc’s various websites and sent him a message on Twitter, and while he does not have a date yet, he replied that he will be announcing some Bill Finger related news “soon”. The documentary is still a work in progress, so there is estimated date yet of when we might see it.
Bill Finger died without ever getting his due.
Bob Kane made the following comment in his autobiography, (a biography that is known to have generous exaggerations sprinkled with lies)
I never thought of giving him a by-line and he never asked for one.
I often tell my wife, if I could go back 15 years, before he died, I would like to say, ‘I’ll put your name on it now. You deserve it. – Bob Kane
Bob Kane’s words are empty and hollow. A backhanded compliment (more of an insult really) that didn’t mean a whole heck of a lot when the person you are talking to has been deceased for over a decade, and when you have an iron clad legal agreement that guran-damn-tees you will credited as the SOLE creator of Batman until the end of time.
While Bill Finger should have been listed as the co-creator of Batman from the start, unfortunately it was the norm back in the days before “creator rights” become a hot button topic to not put credits on comics, or to have ghost writers and artists who would do work for hire but receive no official credit. It was just how things were done back in the day. That doesn’t make it right, but sadly that is how it was.
Bob Kane’s gravestone is a thing of beauty, and also has a rather suspect inscription that at first seems innocent and lovely. But after hearing the facts about Bill Finger and Bob Kane, you do wonder about these self-congratulatory words.
ROBERT KANE AKA BOB KANE
OCTOBER 24, 1915 – NOVEMBER 3, 1998
GOD bestowed a dream upon Bob Kane, Blessed with divine inspiration, Bob created a legacy known as BATMAN. introduced in a May 1939 comic book, Batman grew from a tiny acorn into an American Icon.
A “Hand of God” creation, Batman and his world personify the eternal struggle of good versus evil, with GOD’s laws prevailing in the end.
Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne, Batman — they are one and the same. Bob infused his dual identity character with his own attributes: goodness, kindness, compassion, sensitivity, generosity, intelligence, integrity, courage, purity of spirit, a love of all mankind.
Batman is known as the “Dark Knight”, but through his deeds he walks in the Light of a Higher Power, as did his creator — Bob Kane!
Beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather In Loving Memory
Bob Kane’s co-creator was not Bill Finger after all. Turns out the co-creator of Batman was GOD himself!
It seems Bob Kane never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
The irony of his grave stating he was of such good moral character while he lied and took credit for the work of others is the ultimate hypocrisy in my book.
The thing about being a writer is you can write your own autobiography if you want to. You can make it as truthful or exaggerated as you like. But people leave impressions on each other. Bob Kane was not an evil man, but he was a man who lied and did some dodgy things in his lifetime that disadvantaged some other people. He was still the co-creator of Batman any way you look at it, even if the evidence of how much he contributed to the creation is highly dubious.
A few different folks online make no secret of their disapproval of Bob Kane, such as Chris Sims of Comics Alliance:
For those of you out there who may not know why David Uzumeri and I spit out the words “Bob Kane” like we just drank sour milk, the short version is that the guy credited with creating Batman was probably the person who did the least amount of work in that creation, while the people who did the heavy lifting never even got to put their names on the stories they created. It’s not just Bill Finger, of course — Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, all those guys got screwed by Kane one way or the other — but while most of those guys thankfully lived long enough to be recognized for their work, Finger, the co-creator of Batman, died in obscurity without ever getting to claim his creation. Even today, you could read Batman comics for years and never see his name. – Ask Chris #164: Bob Kane Is Just The Worst
I’m hoping that in Marc Tyler Nobleman’s eventual documentary on Bill Finger that he makes it as clear as he did on Kevin Podcast just how much Bill Finger contributed to Batman. During his comic book career, Bill Finger wrote 1500 comic book stories, a significant number of those stories were Batman stories.
Check out this short four minute video where Marc talks about Bill Finger, creator rights, and how Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster also got shafted.
Bob Kane got rich off of Batman, and contributed very little to the character. He took the credit, the fame and the cash.
Often for work that Bob did not do himself that he paid others to do for him as sub-contractors.
Bill finger did the lions share of hard work on Batman. He created and co-created characters and stories that he was not credited for, along with other “Ghost” creators that Bob Kane employed. Bill Finger died poor with no grave, no funeral, he didn’t get the cash, he didn’t get the credit or the fame. He also never took credit for the work of others.
Bill Finger’s story is long overdue. I am grateful that eventually will we get to a proper documentary thanks to Marc Tyler Nobleman and of course everybody who contributed to the campaign.
I am grateful Bill Finger was around when the world needed a Batman, otherwise we would have been stuck with this other guy in a red costume and domino mask that Bob Kane created.
Yeah, THAT version of the character would have lasted 75 years for sure, no doubt about it.
Batman has had surrogate sons right from his earliest days via the various characters who have been Robin. But not a biological son, other than in alternate reality stories. Grant brought back an obscure character from an Elseworlds storyline Son of the Demon, 1987 by Mike W. Barr and Chuck Dixon that many fans had forgotten, or were not even aware of.
In Son of the Demon Bruce impregnates Talia Al Ghul. Talia later claims to have had a miscarriage. The book ends with the very much alive un-named baby mysteriously being given to an unknown couple.
Grant Morrison took that loose end and imagined that Damian Wayne was raised to be the heir to Ra’s Al Ghul, the next Alexander destined to rule the world. Damian was raised as part of the League of Assassin’s to be an amoral ruthless killer.
Damian Wayne was a character you loved to hate. I know I did. A spoiled ten year old brat who was more angry and cynical than Batman.
Talia Al ghul drops Damian off one day to spend time with daddy dearest, leaving Batman with no option than to begin deprogramming the kid from being a killer. When Bruce’s near fascist regime doesn’t really help the kid, eventually he realises (after some prompting from Alfred) that what Damian Wayne needs is a father, not a mentor. Bruce struggles to be a father to Damian, while Damian slowly warms to Alfred while constantly struggling with the need for his fathers approval, and his desires to return to his former life as an assassin with Talia.
Damian needed love, not just discipline. Eventually Damian evolves to become a better person, even having respect for his father, despite routinely ignoring Bruce’s instructions and putting them both needlessly in harm ways on multiple occasions. A later plot development revealed that the deceased Ra’s Al Ghul planned on using Damian Wayne as his new host body, which would effectively kill Damian. This further reinforced Damian’s allegiance to the Bat-Family, although a couple of times during Morrison’s run Damian Wayne does go back to be with his mother Talia al Ghul, only to be rejected or betrayed by possibly the worlds worst mother.
4. MORRISON MADE OBSCURE GOLDEN AGE CHARACTERS A SIGNIFICANT PART OF BATMAN’S WORLD
Morrison brought back several Golden Age characters such as the original Batwoman, Zur-en-arhh (as a back up personality for Batman) and the bizarre and frankly silly Club of Heroes from Detective Comics 215, #1955, The Batmen of All Nations. What seemed like gimmicky crap instead became a key feature of Morrison’s Batman run.
Morrison wanted to include parts of Batman’s history that some people found shameful, that had been repressed or had been “swept under the rug”.
Grant Morrison embraced all of Batman’s contradictions, his best, worst and most bizarre elements, and put it all into some kind of strange Batman quantum soup. Morrison’s Batman embraced all of Batman’s history and every continuity, no matter how nonsensical.
The Club of Heroes from Batman #215 were ethnically diverse “Batmen” representatives around the globe. In Morrison’s version he brought back some of these characters and made them part of Batman’s modern mythos.
Zur-en-arhh first appeared in Batman #113, 1958 “The Superman of Planet X”.
In the story some dude on an alien planet who was inspired by Batman – with bad fashion sense – decides to emulate him after seeing him on Earth through a telescope. Zur-en-arhh brings the real Batman to his planet to help him.
On Planet X Batman has the powers of Superman, he fights aliens and saves the day of course, eventually returning home. Despite Batman having Superman’s powers, the most memorable part of the story to modern reader is the strange colour scheme used for Zur-en-arhh which seems to be closer to Robin’s costume colours than Batman’s.
I guess Zur-en-arhh’s telescope was defective, or maybe he was colour blind. How else do you explain his gaudy fashion faux-pas?
Purple, red and yellow were prominently featured in Zur-en-arhh’s costume. Grant Morrison took the costume and created a “back up personality” for Batman that he reverts to after being brainwashed and drugged by Dr. Hurt (who may or may not be the Devil) during the Batman R.I.P. storyline.
When Batman becomes Zur-en-arhh in the Morrison run he also sees hallucinations of Bat-Mite. Batman R.I.P. was another controversial story that divided fan opinion. Whether you loved it or hated it, it was a truly unique story.
Hell, they even made a toy with a bonus Bat-Mite thrown in. Now… where can I buy me one of those Batman pervert telescopes?
Kathy Kane (the original Batwoman) appears briefly in Batman Incorporated, mostly via flashbacks that show her as a total bad-ass, instead of the lame character who originally appeared in the classic Batman comics.
3. MORRISON MADE BATMAN A GLOBAL BRAND WITH “BATMAN INCORPORATED”
Grant followed up reintroducing the Club of Heroes by creating Batman Incorporated. The idea being to have various Batmen around the world contributing to the global war on crime and further fueling the idea that Batman is an urban myth, more than one man, or un-killable. Bruce Wayne travels the world and recruits various International Batmen in one of the more entertaining chapters of Morrison’s long run on Batman.
The whole idea of Batman Incorporate is deliciously absurd as Bruce Wayne comes out publicly and states that he backs / funds Batman. Bruce Wayne also goes online and creates all sorts of information about who Batman really is. The idea is that there are so many contradictory theories and disinformation about who Batman is that it becomes a mess – like modern day conspiracy theories that run rampant on websites, chat rooms and message boards.
Just one more crackpot conspiracy theory among a thousand others – Batman Incorporated V1, #6
All the theories are basically unprovable. I love the idea that Batman has created multiple fake user accounts and websites that basically say Batman is Bruce Wayne, and only add further confusion by being unreliable sources of information.
While some fans hated this element, Batman Incorporated is my favourite part of the Grant Morrison Batman stories.
Batman has had his issues with the JLA before, even walking out of them on to lead the Outsiders team on the cover of Batman and the Outsiders V1, #1 1983. Batman remained a leader of the Outsiders for 32 issues before going his own way once again. While Batman has been vocal in his disapproval of the JLA in various stories with Batman Incorporated he had the chance to build up a non-team – Batman Incorported – from scratch that would follow his orders. Each Batman operated in their own country, more a loose collective than a team in the traditional sense. Grant Morrison wrote some of the most memorable issues of JLA, and with Batman Incorporated Bruce Wayne starts a bold new experiment that leaves Nightwing, Batgirl and Red Robin (not to mention the readers) shocked, wondering if Batman has truly lost his marbles this time.
2. MORRISON KILLED BATMAN AND SENT HIM BACK IN TIME TO BE A CAVEMAN
Grant Morrison killed Batman – or at least made everyone in the DC Universe and the real world world think Batman was dead, right after he broke his “gun rule” and shot Darkseid with a bullet that could potentially kill a God.
Turns our that during the events of Final Crisis the Batman that died at the hands of Darkseid’s Omega Beams was a clone. Meanwhile the real Batman was sent back in time and had become an amnesiac cave man. Then Batman became a pilgrim, pirate and Zorro like Western hero, confused yet?
As Batman journeyed through time he regained pieces of his memory. This story more than any other was a love / hate affair with fans, some fans swearing off of Morrison’s Batman altogether, others finding brilliance in how Grant broke down and rebuilt the mythology of Batman piece by piece.
During his run Morrison explored Batman as a man, as an icon, as a symbol, as a god, as mythology, and Batman as pure idea.
Final Crisis was the storyline that divided fans more than any others. Some used the story as further evidence to call Morrison a lunatic who writes incomprehensible nonsense, while some high brow fans praised him as a creative genius. The truth is that many fans simply did not understand what the heck Morrison was doing with Batman, but in contrast there were plenty who did understand and just did not like Morrison’s Batman stories.
At the beginning of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, the writer established that Batman is much more than Gotham City. Now that he is rebuilding Bruce Wayne, he has to take him back to Gotham City and establish him in the city throughout time. Batman and Gotham City are intrinsically linked to one another and inseparable throughout time. – Cody Walker, The Anatomy of Zur-en-arhh: Understanding Grant Morrison’s Batman
2. MORRISON MADE BATMAN AND ROBIN SWAP ROLES
With Bruce Wayne out of the picture (characters in the DC Universe thought he was dead, and so did the public after the events of Final Crisis – until it was revealed Bruce Wayne had been sent back in time) Dick Grayson (formerly Nightwing and the first Robin) reluctantly stepped up to become the new Batman, with Damian Wayne as his sidekick Robin.
Where Bruce was cold emotionless and gruff, Dick Grayson was a happier light hearted Batman who even cracked jokes. Damian Wayne continued to be Robin – a cynical angry savage Robin. With this pairing reversed – happy Batman, angry Robin, Morrison mixed up the dynamic of the dynamic duo. What could have been clumsy and irritating turned out to work surprisingly well.
1. MORRISON MADE EVERYTHING BATMAN CANON
Dark Knight Returns? Canon.
Batman ’66? Canon.
Batman with guns? Canon.
Batman Manga? Canon.
Crazy LSD inspired science fiction stories with Batman fighting aliens? Canon.
Morrison took everything cool, great, nonsensical and contradictory from Batman’s long history and made it all canon.
Yes, all of it.
It even makes sense if you listen to him on the Fatman on Batman Podcast with Kevin Smith where Morrison explains his theories. Morrison and Smith talk in depth about Morrison’s career in comics and go super in depth into his theories on Batman, Superman, superheroes in general in Fatman on Batman episodes #26 #27 and #44.
Uproxx.com has a great brief transcript and a link to a short video highlighting Morrison’s mad theory:
Grant Morrison: The best way to do Batman that’s never been done is to accept every single year as one guy’s biography. […] Batman from 1938 who’s out there with guns in his hand and he’s fighting vampires and crooks, I thought, well, imagine that’s Batman at 20, you know. And then he meets this kid when he’s 21, and the kid’s this little working class circus kid who’s totally cocky. And this introverted young Norman Bates Batman is suddenly, “Wait a minute. This is the kid that died in me. This is everything that I wanted to be.” And the two become friends, and it’s not creepy. It’s like, “He’s my best friend and my brother and everything I wish I could be.” And the kid’s looking at him like, “He’s everything I wish I could be.” Kevin Smith: “You’re going to make me cry.”
Grant Morrison: Then it’s suddenly Adam West and Burt Ward for a few months, where it’s just really synthetic and fucked-up because they’ve been on so many mind-altering chemicals from The Scarecrow and The Joker. They don’t know what the fuck’s happening. When they punch people they’re seeing graphics in air. I thought, imagine it’s just all real. […] It fit beautifully into the personality of this insane, billionaire, unique human.”
The video (of the audio) is a little over 3 minutes and if you are true Batman fan you would be silly not to listen to it.
The full conversations of Smith and Morrison over 3 Fatman Podcast episodes go to around four hours, you can find them on Smith’s Smodcast/Fatman website, Itunes and edited together by fans on Youtube.
Morrison’s “everything is canon” Batman theory that he used for his 6 Year Batman run:
3 episodes of Fatman on Batman with Kevin Smith and Grant Morrison edited together on Youtube:
Grant Morrison took everything from Batman’s convoluted history and said “why not?”
The reboots, pre-crisis, post-crisis and made it ALL canon in a bizarre way that makes sense. He even included the Batman ’66 TV show and the screwball 50’s comics where Batman did increasingly bizarre things month after month. In Grant Morrison’s Batman everything from the original Dark Knight who killed and used guns to the smiling cop who walked around in the daylight to the 70’s James Bond adventures, 80s dark and cynical Batman and everything else before or after and made it canon (at least while he was writing the book).
He brought back Bat-Mite and the original Batwoman, the Club of Heroes, Dr. Hurt, Zur-en-ahh and any other shameful dirty laundry that fans are generally embarrassed by or want to forget. Grant brought it all back and celebrated everything that was part of Batman’s history, the good, the bad and the ugly – something only a true hardcore Batman fan could do.
Things we want to keep in the past and would rather our friends not know about us.
But Batman is better than us, right? He’s a master of martial arts, criminology, a a world class detective and apparently a real jack-ass.
It’s time to rifle through Batman’s dirty laundry and shake some skeletons out of the closet and see what turns up.
Here is a list of the Dark Knight’s embarrassingly bad habits, some of which he has managed to beat.
Let’s count down 5 of Batman’s most ill-advised habits, and I’m sure you can suggest a few Bad Batman Habits in the comments.
#5 BATMAN’S CHAIN SMOKING HABIT
In the modern comics Batman is in tip top shape. But it was not always that way. In his earliest appearances he was constantly smoking a tobacco pipe, fitting in time to solve murder cases when we was bored, nor too busy smoking.
Batman / Bruce Wayne loved a good puff back in the day.
Sometimes when he was not busy smoking he would even consider solving a case or two. Because he had “nothing else to do”.
#4 BATMAN USES GUNS
It is no secret that Batman used guns in his first year as a masked dual identity avenger. But that was swiftly changed when the DC staff realized how much kids loved batman – they did away with the guns. Modern Batman has also used guns sometimes, usually getting retconned away at the blink of a batarang.
I love the scene where Batman shoots at some explosives as a distraction.
“Well here goes. I hope I don’t get blown up.”
Way to use your that brain of yours Batman. IDIOT!
#3 BATMAN KEEPS KILLING PEOPLE
The cavalier attitude of Batman in his first year as the Dark Knight Detective resulted in significant incidental deaths. Knocking people out of high rise window, off platforms in chemical factories, swinging into a dudes neck with his foot resulting in a broken neck, not to mention hanging one of Hugo Strange’s Monster Men in Batman#1.
In Detective Comics #27 Batman shoves a man over a railing into an acid tank.
In Detective Comics #30 Batman swings toward a bad guy with his head out a window, his foot directly colliding with the unfortunate mans neck. A sickening *snap* highlights the Batman’s brutal treatment of this criminal.
If you thought that was bad, it gets worse. In the back up story in Batman #1 (the same issue where Robin debuts) Batman hangs one of Hugo Strange’s Monster Men.
On the previous page he fires a mounted machine gun at the bad guys van, commenting
“Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time it’s necessary!”
If you thought that Batman executing a criminal was bad, it gets worse…
In Detective Comics #39, Batman pushes a giant idol onto a whole mess of bad guys with no remorse, and no good for reason for doing it in the first place.
Unlike in the video games, these guys are not just resting their eyes for a really long time.
#2 BATMAN IS A DRUG ADDICT
In Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20 Batman gets hooked on the super steroid drug Venom (the same drug that villain Bane would take years later).
After failing to save the life of a young girl trapped underwater by a giant boulder, Batman is convinced he needs to get stronger. Failing to surpass his limits in weight lifting, he turns to a new designer drug from a madman chemist who is out to build his own mindless insane Super Soldiers, and he wants to recruit Batman. (Yeah he’s also the villain SHERLOCK, way to use that Bat-Brain of yours again World’s Best Detective!)
The Dark Knight eventually triumphs, but not before becoming a deranged addict, sending Alfred packing and refusing to read the newspaper.
Batman goes to his dealer and also disrespects Alfred. I have not included the panel where he beats up a young kid and threatens to rips his head off. No, I’m not joking.
An overly aggressive and out of balance Bruce sends his trusty Butler and friend Alfred packing
Legends of the Dark Knight #18,1991 has the infamous cover of a strung out Bruce Wayne. In this issue he comes to his senses and has Alfred lock him in the Batcave for a month in a self-imposed detox.
And in the next issue after Batman kicks his habit he fights a shark on one of my favourite Batman covers of all time.
Proving to kids that they don’t need drugs to fight crime or beat up innocent sea creatures!
#1 BATMAN IS BATBALLS CRAZY
In World Finest Comics #153, 1965 Batman becomes convinced that Superman killed his father, slaps Robin for DARING to question his insane crusade to get Superman, and teams up with Lex Luthor (after revealing he is secretly Bruce Wayne/Batman) to finally take down Superman.
Well it was.
The story was part of DC’s line of “Imaginary Stories”. Whatever the hell that meant. Stories that were made up for comic books that never really happened. You know, like every comic book story ever.
Wait a minute, are not ALL comic books stories made up stories?
Who can say what really happened, what was an imaginary story, hallucination or dream sequence? The writers? The readers? Does anyone really care?
It’s a pointless discussion, as all superhero comics are imaginary stories. But fans actually argue about this kind of nonsense all the time in internet forums, podcasts etc. I’ve never done it… as far as you know.
Anyway, take a look at the images for yourself and see how crazy Batman was in this story.
Batman is convinced Superman killed his dad! He must get revenge, but not before he vandalizes a giant picture of Superman – the fiend!
Why he bothered to get a near life sized portrait of Superman to scratch up with a knife when he could have been busy getting revenge on his friend I don’t know. But Bruce Wayne is crazy and has loads of money, so he’ll probably write it off come tax time.
While it is highly unlikely Batman will use any of the bizarre tactics from World’s Finest #153 in Batman V Superman, the idea that he just might makes me laugh.
“I’ll end Superman’s career forever”
Yells an angry Batman to a picture of his parents on the wall.
Yeah, yelling at pictures will get the job done Bats, you nutcase!
Then Batman *slaps* Robin for daring to question his totally bonkers ideas about Superman.
Of course then he hypnotizes Robin (*cough* brain washes) to make him forget their conversation before dashing off like a lunatic to shoot Superman with an air rifle on the next page.
Remember, Batman was NOT on drugs in this story kids, that was a different story.
Batman puts his sniper skills to the test, tagging Superman with a radioactive tracer round.
Later in the story, Batman knocks out Superman with a Kryptonite Batarang, (as you do for good friends) putting a quick end to the former World’s Finest team. It’s dopey but still kind of cool.
During the story Batman reveals his secret identity to Luthor, and teams up with him. The story ends with Batman accidentally finding out (through not using his famous detective skills whatsoever) that Lex Luthor was the one who really killed his father. DOH!
So what bad habits do you feel Batman needs to give up? I look forward to reading your comments.
This post is an excuse to show off a collection of awesome Batman art.
Some of it is fan art, some from the pros.
One of the things I love about Batman is that you can run him through a whole variety of filters.
You can make him an urban myth, a pulp vigilante, a bonafide Superhero, a modern day Knight, a Demonic Wraith or even a Vampire, and it works because there is something of each of those elements in the core version of Batman.
I’m thinking a good follow up to this post will be a gallery of Elseworlds Batmen, as I’ve been reading some classic 90’s DC Elseworlds stories lately.
So bring on the alternate worlds and wild flights of fanciful imagination.
Some of these demonic Batmen have appeared in actual stories, but most are just one off pin up art.
Batman with a flaming pitchfork, horns and and sitting on a pile of skulls. Sure, why not? VERY METAL! I really like this picture.
I really dig the Wraith like nature of Batman in this picture, he seems to be one with the shadows. I don’t know who the artist is, if you do please let me know.
Hot Toys make some of the best Batman collectibles on the planet. The memorable scene from Batman Begins where the Scarecrows fear toxin is released in Gotham City and we see a vision of a Demonic Batman is recreated in this amazing toy. There had been fan customs for years, but leave to it to Hot Toys to make the definitive Batman as a Demon toy.
This hulking behemoth with an axe has a barbarian / Conan sort of feel to it. Very cool picture. Look at those forearms man, I bet he’s on demon steroids.
Kelley Jones is a phenomenal horror artist. His work on the Batman Vampire Trilogy is unparalleled.
The three Elseworlds books where Batman becomes a vampire, kills Dracula (who was trying to take over Gotham), and eventually kills his rogues gallery is an awe-inspiring tale of the macabre.
Batman pleads for Gordon and Alfred to kill him, ending his blood drinking ways for good – and Batman is well pissed off when they fail, knowing that he can not stop himself from eventually feasting on innocent blood after he runs out of bad guys.
Two colours – red and black used to simple and dramatic effect here. Batman in silhouette always works great, I don’t know if he is a vampire here, but the claws on his hands, teeth, crosses in the cemetery and wing-like extended cape suggest so. This picture just screams “bad ass!”.
A ghoulish looking batman with some really nasty teeth, very scary.
I don’t know what the heck if going on in this picture, this ghoul is all kinds of wrong. That is one scary looking Bat-demon. Amazing piece of art. I love the texture and detail. I would love an action figure of this demonic Batman, it would be right at home with Clive Barker’s cenobites from the Hellraiser series by McFarlane Toys.
A very cool demonic / vampiric looking Batman by BastardPrince. I dig the glowing red eyes and the use of shadow and minimal colour.
Another vampire Batman, those Elseworlds books were really popular, you can even buy an action figure of Batman as a vampire that was also used in the DC MMORPG.
This Batman is super creepy and spectral, a real living shadow. I love it!
This Batman by Matt Kish is one of my favourites by far. A beautiful piece that speaks to the horror fan in me. I imagine this is how cowardly and superstitious criminals see Batman.
Another Elseworlds Batman here.
This one is “Nosferatu” Batman, the book is based on the classic Nosferatu film, and uses German Expressionism liberally, which is pretty cool seeing as how German Expressionism, Gothic Horror and Film Noir are part of Batman’s DNA.
I don’t really care for this one to be honest, Batman just looks too weak and spindly despite being strong. But the book is an interesting experiment, and part of a trilogy of stories. The other two stories are with Superman and Wonder Woman. Superman appears near the end of the Nosferatu book, and he and Batman fight, probably one of their strangest battles ever.
A prototype for an alternate skin/costume in the Batman Arkham: Origins video game. Cool design, but a bit impractical for the game.
This custom made toy is a real gem. Based on the version of Batman we see in Batman Begins, after Scarecrows fear toxin is unleashed on the good citizens of Gotham. Damn this toy is nasty! What a great sculpt. Well done!
Kelley Jones is a legendary Batman artist, and it seemed right to end with two of my favourite piece of his from the Batman Vampire Trilogy. If you have not read the books for some reason, you really need to, they are great fun.
All three Batman Vampire books are great, but the third book is where Jones really cuts loose as Batman goes all feral and ghoulish, and kills a lot of villains. The book sure gets bloody by the end.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this round up of Demonic Batmen as much as I did. It makes a nice break from my usual long 3000+ word essays that I typically fall asleep halfway through when I read them. So many words!