Tag Archives: DC Comics

New Wave Anti-heroes, Rising Bodycounts and Batman

 

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Dirty Harry throws away his badge

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.

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“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

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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.

 

Judge_Dredd vs Predator bad ass knife

 

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

 

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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.

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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

(A.K.A. CRUSH…KILL…DESTROY!)

 

War Western and Film Noir
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.

Back to the 80s guns action and overkill

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.

 

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“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.

 

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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.

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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.

Batman by Greg Capullo one tough bastard
Miller’s Dark Knight by Greg Capullo

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

 

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Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”

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.

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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.

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Wagner / Grant Batman in Detective Comics #596

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

Batman Judge Dredd 1

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.
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5 ESSENTIAL SUPER LIFE LESSONS FROM MELISSA BENOIST’S SUPERGIRL

Supergirl Melissa Benoist eating S shaped super cake

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

Supergirl Melissa Benoist smile cape

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’

Supergirl illustration Melissa Benoist

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.

Supergirl fight master jailer bad dude

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.

supergirl hands on hip hero pose melissa benoist

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.

Supergirl Melissa Benoist meets Flash Grant Gustin

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.

supergirl martian manhunter flying melissa benoist

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.

Supergirl tv kara melissa benoist sister aunty capured house of EL

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.

Kara Supergirl tv show main cast melissa benoist

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.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Dean-Cain-Helen-Slater

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.

Supergirl smile chyler leigh on set melissa benoist

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.

Supergirl head_in_the_clouds_by_5red-d8tztzm

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.

Supergirl hands on hip confident smile Melissa Benoist

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.

Supergirl Melissa Benoist with Super Girl Scouts

Batman 2015: The Merry Batsmas Year in Review

It’s December, the time for a Merry Batsmas day and Joker’s New Year, so let’s take a look at the Batman in 2015 year in review.

Batman had another strong year with new animated films, some fantastic comic collections being released and more than a few surreal moments that nobody could have predicted, including being replaced in his own comic by Jim Gordon in a robot suit, and oh of course Batman became a literal Bat-God over in JLA, when he wasn’t too busy mixing it up with the Ninja Turtles. Plus Batman and the Joker were merged into one Frankstein-like monster over in the craptacular Future’s End. Yeah it was pretty fucked up…

batman joker hyrrid combined monster ugh

Early in 2015 saw Robin going up against Midnighter in the Grayson series that reinvented the original Robin/Nightwing as a fun spy book with decent action and art. Later Grayson teams up with Midnighter, and then of course they fight again. Batman turns up in an issue or two for a cameo, but he never meets Midnighter.

Once DC’s New 52 incorporated some of Wildstorm’s old characters like The Authority, Grifter and others into their mainline DCU, it was only a matter of time before some of them crossed paths with the Batman Family.

Grayson 2014 vs midnighter

Probably the most surreal moment of the several Grayson / Midnighter team ups that took place in both books was seeing the two lads going undercover to a bathhouse.

With Midnighter being an openly gay character, who started out as somewhat of a parody of the Batman archetype it is next to impossible for long term comic readers not to think of the Frederick Wortham “Seduction of the Innocent” fiasco that saw the morality of comics on trial, and pretty much set back the evolution of comic book storytelling ( in North America) about twenty-years, and is at least partly responsible for the stifling of the entire medium, while other mediums such as film and novels were able to continue to evolve and experiment with new methods.

Midnighter 2015 issue 3 vs grayson
Midnighter’s training methods were more unorthodox than Batman’s

The relaunched Midnighter monthly is an action heavy gimmicky as hell book that is also surprisingly funny, and has some real potential to be one of those undiscovered gems in trade format. Midnighter seems to be a character who has a chance to evolve beyond his parody / archetype of other “hard-as-nails” antiheroes.

Also at the beginning of 2015 we got the animated feature Justice League: Throne of Atlantis that was so awesome I fell asleep in the middle of the day watching it, and I have never gone back to it. I’m not even going to put an image in here, that is how uninspiring it was. Moving on…

Batman was replaced in his two core books in 2015(Batman and Detective Comics) by Jim Gordon in a robot suit. The design of the suit to me immediately recalls one of my favourite Manga/Anime stories – Appleseed, and the character Briareos, who is a human cyborg. His head has very rabbit like ears, and not much of a face – as does the new Robo-Bat-Suit worn by Gordon, who is basically now Batman and Robocop in one.

RoboCop Briareos Appleseed Jim Gordon

robobat bunny gordon

 

Towards the end of the year some cool Batman books were released. The first part of the much anticipated Batman / TMNT crossover came out, but I have not read it yet. Being a lifelong fan of both Batman and the Turtles, I am genuinely excited to read it. But let’s face it, most crossovers are crap. I still have a pile of nearly every Batman (inter-company) crossover next to me on the bookshelf here though – including Dredd, Spidey, Hulk, Cap, Daredevil and friends.

batman tmnt crossover artbatman ninja turtles shredder vs batman

December in 2015 saw the release of two awe-inspiring Batman books. The trade of (Hellboy creator) Mike Mignola’s three issue The Doom that Came to Gotham was released. I’m a big fan of Mignola’s stories and art. Sure his art is not for everyone, it is a very particular Lovecraftian Gothic Horror style he uses in his stories.

Personally I Iove all types of Horror, and Batman has Gothic Horror in his very roots, so to me Mignola and Batman are a natural fit. Batman stories by Mignola tend to be like the best episodes of the Twilight Zone and X-Files. You get super weird and scary shit, and at the heart of it is some sort of actual Detective story. Batman tends not to use those powers of Detective-ness often enough these days, he’s too busy running around in armored suits or messing about with the JLA, I love seeing the simpler solo style stories that Mignola creates.

the-doom-that-came-to-gotham-covers

The other release that got me super excited was the Batman Golden Age Omnibus. Collecting DETECTIVE COMICS #27-56, BATMAN #1-7, NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR COMICS #2, WORLD’S BEST COMICS #1 and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #2-3 it is a mammoth tome of classics Batman stories, on high quality glossy paper, beautiful hardcover all wrapped in a dust jacket by one of all time favourite comic artists Darwyn Cooke (author of the classics The New Frontier, Batman: Ego and Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman)

batman omnibus john cover

The tasty first volume already sits next to me here as I write this, and it is a beautiful book. The Batman Golden Age Omnibus V2 is scheduled for next year, along with the companion volume of the The World’s Finest Golden Age Omnibus. No sign of a Golden Age Wonder Woman book yet (there is a already a Superman Golden Age Omnibus out) but I guess they are holding off closer to the Wonder Woman / JLA movies considering the World’s Finest Omnibus comes out around the time of the BVS movie.

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Mid to late 2016 saw Batman riding a robot dinosaur… and becoming a god of Bat-Knowledge in Geoff John’s fun run on JLA.

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Hmmm, do you think they watched Transformers 4 much?
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You can tell that first picture is just an excuse for me to include this sweet internet fan art

Meanwhile over in JLA during the Darkseid War Batman became a literal Bat-God (or at least a temporary New God) when he sat in the Mobius chair.

Justice League 42 Bat god mobius charir batman geoff johns 2 Justice League 42 Bat god mobius charir batman geoff johns

The Geoff Johns JLA  is a great read. Not classic, but great FUN, you know the thing that comics are sort of meant to be when they are not trying to be too damn clever.

And why was Batman riding a bloody robot dinosaur? I guess because it is cool.

In 2015 Batman Eternal came to an end without a *hint* of irony.

Batman Eternal is a book I have mixed feelings about. I’ve read the whole run so far, and there is some really good stuff in there. Overall I think it is a great book, but you get so much thrown into a 52 week / 52 issue Batman Eternal story that there is just no way you are going to have consistent quality to the tale. The least favorite part for me was anything to do with the Harper Row / Bluebird character.

I like the Harper character, at first I just round her annoying and redundant, like how on the TV show 24 they have several stories in parallel, and any time you are not seeing Jack Bauer you are watching some annoying character that you have no interest in, some 3rd tier idiot who will be gone five episodes from now. Harper Row to me is that 3rd tier annoying character you wish would go away that DC is trying to push up to 2nd Tier status (equal to Robin, Batgirl etc).

The Harper character did grow on me however, and I started to really like her. Until they put her in THAT “my first superhero Halloween costume that I made in 5 mins but ran out of material halfway through so I threw on whatever I had lying around at the time” look.

batman-eternal-41 bluebird so lame
The living fashion faux-pas that is Bluebird (You DID have a choice Bluebird, you really did)

Bluebird feels so contrived and ridiculous to me. It’s like they want her to be the next Robin / Oracle / Spoiler all rolled into one. They want her to be Batman’s secret helper, a hacker, she messes with power grids, Robin is teaching her to fight and she has the inevitable crush on Robin that is so twee and boring.

Making Harper / Bluebird a jack of all trades – master of NONE to me is a mistake. Make her a Robin type or a Spoiler type, or a Batgirl / Oracle type. But don’t try and sandwich bits of all of them into one clumsy character that just screams “awkward”. A good character needs to be well defined, and so far when I get to anything with Bluebird I just want to skip it altogether and read the real parts of the story.

I hope this character improves. Maybe some people like the character? I don’t know, I have not heard from them. So far to me out of costume she is a good character, but in costume to me she is the Jar Jar Binks of the Batman Universe. The creators want so bad for us to like her and to perceive her as cool that is it just so forced and un-natural.

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Running Away From Explosions, now with Chicken Dance Dude

I’m all for empowered female characters (like the impressive female lead in the new Star Wars film) in comics that are no sexist misogynist male fantasies, and so far Harper is an okay character with potential. I hope she stays around, and the writers improve her parts of whatever story she is in, mainly in what they want her to be, her fundamental character motivation and aesthetic rather than any particular dialogue or anything like that.

Overall I think Batman Eternal works as a book. It was a bold experiment that I genuinely enjoyed, and had really no expectations going in after reading bits of DC’s other two maxi-series Future’s End and Convergence – both of which were a total let down to me, and confusing as hell.

With Batman Eternal wrapped up, we now have the Batman and Robin Eternal book already up to issue #12 or so. I’ll be waiting for reviews on this one. And it it’s good I’ll grab the softcover trades so I read good chunk of story over a couple of days. Because Batman Eternal is the 24 of Batman comics, it’s pointless reading/watching one, you need to binge to really enjoy this book.

batman eternal 1

Jumping back a bit, why was Batman riding a Dinosaur? Well 2015 saw two animated features released under the new Batman Unlimited brand. The movies and cartoon are based heavily around toy designs, and while that sounds like a recipe for a cauldron of steaming shit, the show is… not bad. It’s a show clearly aimed at a younger audience, it has a strong art style and some great action sequences. It has a decent voice cast and for a show aimed at a younger audience, I think it is pretty cool. There are things about it I don’t like, but it would be nit picking to even mention them. Batman Unlimited is not aimed at me so I am not going to apply the same level of criticism at it as I do with products that are aimed at my age group.

Batman Unlimited is based on a toy line, and has Batman showing off all sorts of cool gimmick costumes, and the show manages to spotlight other cool DC U characters like Flash, Green Arrow and Cyborg.

Speaking of animated features, announcements were made for 2016:

Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: Bad Blood, and Justice League vs. Titans were all announced as projects for 2016.

Former Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson will be voicing Lucius Fox and the Amazon like Yvonne Strahovski (Dexter, Chuck, 24, Mass Effect) will voice Batwoman in Batman: Bad Blood

Yvonee Strahovski Ernie Hudson Batman animated

There is currently bugger all information on the JLA / Titans animated movie. But the super-exciting part is that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill will return to voice Batman and the Joker in the fan favourite Killing Joke animated feature, which will be the darkest Batman tale ever seen in animation.

batman killing joke animated

2016 also will see the release of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. So we’ll get both animated and live action version of the Joker in 2016, and we’ll get to see two all time classic stories adapted into other mediums (The Killing Joke and the fight from Dark Knight Returns, which has previously been seen in the animated version of Dark Knight Returns).

suicide squad movie and comic
Hey, what happened to the Shark head guy? We get Killer Croc?
king shark flash tv show wow
Nevermind, there he is on the Flash

Mid year 2015 also saw the release of the kick-ass third chapter in Rocksteady’s Arkham video game series with Batman: Arkham Knight. Sadly I don’t own a PS4 yet, so I will have to wait to play it next year. I did watch all the trailers though, and replayed Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins all in a row, and they are still amazing games, just as fun as the day they were released.

Batman Arkham City 6

 

DC and Marvel both had a strong year on the small screen with fans endlessly talking about Agents of Shield, Arrow, The Flash, Daredevil, Supergirl, Jessica Jones and the one I really despise Got Ham. Or Gotham if you prefer.

While Marvel is keeping their universe somewhat coherent between their big live action movies and small screen serials DC is changing things up by keeping their TV and movie universes separate – which means we will soon see two different actors portraying the Flash and the inevitable confusion that comes with it. Will DC find an excuse to have two versions of the Flash in their JLA movie, or at least a cameo? Probably not. But it would be cool seeing as how there have been several version of the Flash in comics that have turned up simultaneously.

Supergirl champion roar TV

What else happened in 2015?

Well, both Marvel and DC kept on letting the cat out of the bag and trying to one-up each other with announcement after announcement and master plans unveiled in the style of a BOND villain who will just not shut up. Their collective plans for all their big movies from now until pretty much when I am dead have been announced. I need to sleep now.

Batman vs Robin was released as an animated featured and while it was watchable, I found it frankly boring after the fun of reading the Grant Morrison penned Damian Wayne stories.

Harley Quinn’s star kept on rising with key appearances in Batman comics, and other DC mini-series like Injustice: Gods Among Us which started out pretty awful, but has managed to improve and become a book worth reading for crossover and alternate reality tale fans.

The Suicide Squad film commenced principal photography and it seemed YouTube was going to show us the whole film before it is even released with more leaks than the Titanic.

we are robin book

And two more Robin themed books were released: Damian: Son of Batman and the why does it even exist We Are Robin book.

So all up it was a pretty strong year for Batman, that guy sure gets a lot done in 12 months. I think he would give 24’s Jack Bauer a run for his money.

In case you need another reason not to read DC’s Future’s End alternate reality maxi-series tale of awfulness here’s cyborg Lobo, Frankenstein: Agent of Shade a cyborg Gorilla and the Joker about to be mind fucked to Batman both figuratively and literally.

WHAT the WHAT?

New-52-Futures-End-12-Spoilers-Batman-vs-Joker-DC-Comics-5
Welcome to Conundrums ‘R Us, where every day is confusing
Oh and Terry McGinnis Batman is the main character in the story which has nearly every major DC character in a tale of confusion and stupidity where everybody basically dies thank to Batman (Wayne) and Mr Terrific basically creating Skynet from the Terminator movies. but yeah it’s really dumb and mostly boring.
My fav part of the Future’s End maxi-series was Deathstroke’s love / hate relationship with a sort of adopted daughter who happens to be a pscyhopathic killer and an artificial being with incredible near limitless power. Seeing Wildstorm’s Grifter palling around with Deathstroke in their own odd-couple / 80’s buddy cop movie side story was fun, but even that got old after a while.

 

And hawkman in his own band of merry space pirates (more Wildstorm forgettables) having Star-Jammers like adventures… why is THAT not an ongoing book ?

If you are scratching your head looking at this image above, well you’ll have to read / suffer it for yourself, I’m not going to regurgitate the nonsensical plot here. My advice: don’t read it, and don’t hold me responsible if you do.

Here’s to Batman in 2015 and more good things to come in 2016. I can’t wait for the BVS movie and the World’s Finest Omnibus.

bvs movie 1

Batman 1947 by Scott Hampton – 8 Pages of Perfection

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.

SOLO issue 9 cover Scott Hampton DC Comics

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.
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Scott Hampton Batman 1947 2 Scott Hampton Batman 1947 3
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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.

solo 09 page 10 vv

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!

The Man from Gotham – Bill Finger Returns in Documentary that Proves Everything You Know About Batman is Wrong

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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.

Dial B for Blog – Secret Origins of the Batman

Alternatively if you want the cliff notes version and a little sensationalism – feel free to read the Cracked.com article that gives you the bare bones:

5 Ways Batman’s TRUE Creator Got Screwed Out Of His Legacy

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.

john comics Bill Finger book batfan on batman blog

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman (Marc’s Bill Finger book on Amazon)

Marc also had a successful Kickstarter.com campaign to raise funds for an independent Bill finger documentary that

well exceeded its target.

The Cape Creator: A Tribute to Bat-Maker Bill Finger (Kickstarter page)

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.

Fat Man on Batman 53: Marc Tyler Nobleman: The Fickle Finger of Fledermaus

You can find the Fatman on Batman Podcast episode for download on Itunes and soundcloud and for streaming at smodcast.com and soundcloud.

SOUNDCLOUD.COM Fatman on Batman #53 Marc Tyler Nobleman

YOUTUBE Fatman on Batman #53 Marc Tyler Nobleman

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.

TempletonKane02
What if Bill Finger had not been involved with Batman?

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.

photo-original

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.

Bob Kane grave 1

*****

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.

Bill the Boy Wonder site - Bill Finger trading card (1)

You can find Marc Tyler Nobleman on his blog Noblemania at http://noblemania.blogspot.com.au/ on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MarcTNobleman

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.

bill_finger_batman_vs_bob_kane_batman_by_lroyburch-d66oc8g
Bill Finger Batman vs Bob Kane Batman by Leroy Burch http://lroyburch.deviantart.com/

5 Memorable Ways Grant Morrison’s Run on Batman Made an Impact

5. MORRISON GAVE BATMAN A SON

Batman and Robin 13 Damian Wayne vs joker crowbar
How do you like THEM apples!

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.

Batman Son of the Demon 1987 Mike Barr 2 Bruce Wayne Talia Al Ghul Baby 3

Batman Son of the Demon 1987 Mike Barr 2 Bruce Wayne Talia Al Ghul Baby
“A strange baby? Sure, we’ll keep it why not… that always ends well for everyone”

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

Batman_Incorporated_1

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.

Detective_Comics_215
I just want to know why the Batmen are floating in the air?

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.

batman 113-batman the superman of planet x Zur en arhh_55
Excuse me while my costume makes you go blind!

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.

batman 113-batman the superman of planet x Zur en arhh_2
Yeah it’s crazy no matter how you look at it

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?

batman of zur en arhh morrison bat mite action figure
Don’t mess with my Bat, man
Batwoman Morrison Kathy Kane Batman Incorporated  X
Bad-Ass Motorcycle Mama

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”

batman-incorporated 2
A Batman of many nations

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

Batman Incorporated disinformation Bruce Wayne online batman is bullshit
BATFAN_007: Dude, Batman is a scam created by the Illuminati to control the reverse vampires and Lizard people!!!!!??!!!!!!

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 International Club of Heroes Grant Morrison
Robin was no fan of the Village People’s YMCA disco break dance hybrid dance off in Gotham

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

final Crisis issue 6 death of Batman

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?

batman shoots Darkseid
Batman defies all good sense by shooting an unkillable God with a God bullet

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.

Batman_Return of Bruce Wayne_1

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

Batman and Robin Damian and Dick Grayson

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

Composite Batman of varius eras

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:

http://uproxx.com/gammasquad/2013/05/grant-morrison-summarizes-batman/

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).

Grant-Morrison-as-a-young-man

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.

5 Embarrassingly Bad Batman Habits That Had to Go

We all have bad habits.

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.

Bruce Wayne Smokes a pipe
Smokey Wayne is on the Case!

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”.

“A murder, how frightfully boring!”

#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.

Batman using guns

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.

Batman kills people
“Sorry about that old chum!”

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.

The Hanging Avenger
The Hanging Avenger

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!”

Whoops, butterfingers

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.

Batman expresses his disapproval of all the night rave party
Batman expresses his disapproval of all the night rave party

#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.

“You got what I need fella”

            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.

Bruce disrespects his main man Al

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.

Somebody needs a bath

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!

Batman jumps the shark
Batman jumps the shark
Okay, some of that stuff was a little bit crazy, but now it’s time to get nuts…

THEN LET'S GET NUTS!!
THEN LET’S GET NUTS!!

#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.

Sounds CRAZY?

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.

World's Finest#153 spawned one of the most well known Batman internet memes
World’s Finest#153 spawned one of the most well known Batman internet memes

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.

For my next crime, vandalism of a public figure

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.

Time for a little Bat-Brain-washing old chum
Time for a little Bat-Brain-washing old chum

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.

Help a Superfriend out Brother!
Help a Superfriend out Brother!

Batman puts his sniper skills to the test, tagging Superman with a radioactive tracer round.

It was probably just super-gas from the ass!
It was probably just super-gas from the super ass!
Superman picks up an odd sound, but otherwise has no idea that his best friend just fired a rifle at him. Some friend Batman is!

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.

Superman tangles with the disgusting snot encrusted Batarang
Superman tangles with the disgusting snot encrusted Batarang

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!

Somebody get that Snot-arang off poor Superman before I throw up
Somebody get that Snot-arang off poor Superman before I throw up
The Worlds Greatest Jack-Ass triumphs again.
WHOOPS! Sorry about that old chum. 
“I’ve taken you down with my Kryptonite Batarang and now now I must confess my secret identity to your worst enemy, who is now my new best friend”.
I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I did writing it, it took me ages as I could not stop laughing at some of these crazy panels.

So what bad habits do you feel Batman needs to give up? I look forward to reading your comments.

Batman as Demon – 15 Hellish Visions of the DARK KNIGHT

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_Demon_001
Batman Masterpieces, 1998 DC collection of 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.

batman-vs-batgirl-fan-art-02

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.

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Hot Toys Demon Batman

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.

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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.

you didnt take my head vampire batman
Vampire Batman by Kelley Jones

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.

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Vampire Batman by Kelley Jones
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Vampire Batman by Kelley Jones
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Batman by Tom Kelly

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!”.

Demonic Batman by Daniel Karlsson
Demonic Batman by Daniel Karlsson

A ghoulish looking batman with some really nasty teeth, very scary.

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Batman by Fear-sAs on DeviantArt

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.

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Demon Bat by BastardPrince

A very cool demonic / vampiric looking Batman by BastardPrince.  I dig the glowing red eyes and the use of shadow and minimal colour.

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Demon Batman by Archonyto / Deviantart

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.

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Batman Demon by Nevreme / Deviantart

This Batman is super creepy and spectral, a real living shadow.  I love it!

batman by Matt Kish
Batman by Matt Kish

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.

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Nosferatu Batman by Ted McKeever / DC Elseworlds

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.

Worst Nightmare Batman Arkham Origins Alternate Skin
‘Worst Nightmare Batman’ Deleted Skin from Batman Arkham Origins

A prototype for an alternate skin/costume in the Batman Arkham: Origins video game.  Cool design, but a bit impractical for the game.

Batman Custom Figure Nightmare Demon Nolan Batman Begins
Batman Custom Action Figure based on Batman Begins by BadVermin / he-man.org

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!

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Vampire Batman from Bloodstorm by Kelley Jones
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Vampire/Ghoul Batman from Crimson Mist by Kelley Jones

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!

Batitude – I Can and I Will, I Do and I Dare!

Batman and Joker Arkham by Chuck Dee

One of the things I love about Batman is his attitude.

I can’t speak about the cinematic Batman, but the comic book Batman don’t take shit from nobody.
Whatever the situation Batman exercises his freedom of choice to choose his attitude to life.

Where others would give up and go home, Batman rises to the occasion, refusing to admit defeat, even in the most hopeless of situations.

When Bruce’s parents were murdered, instead of being lost in the story of his personal trauma, he rises above his trauma, and even uses it as a reason to better himself, rather than to give up.

When Batman is trapped in yet another insane death trap or horrible situation where he has been shot, stabbed, poisoned, beaten, gassed or is bleeding to death, he doesn’t give up.

Batman’s attitude is to overcome all obstacles and whatever life throws at him – like the Juggernaut – his attitude is an unstoppable force of nature.

Batman uses failures, setbacks and pain as fuel to propel himself to greatness.  He transcends mortal conditions, making the ordinary extraordinary, not by any divine right, or by destiny, but simply because he chooses to be a little better today than he was yesterday.

Every day in Batman’s world is a chance to improve, to grow and evolve, one mistake at a time.

Even if Batman were to die it would be facing life’s difficulties head on, without a hint of fear in his eye.

Batman looks fear in the eye and laughs.

There are those fictional characters who have a death wish and are reckless, but a key distinction is that Batman has mastered his fears and his habits.

We can go through life either being a slave to our unconscious self-defeating habits, or we can be a master of our habits, by consciously choosing habits that serve us rather than hurt/sabotage us.

A wise man will be a master of his mind, and a fool will be its slave – Publilius Syrus

How do we move toward greatness or do incredible things?  By putting one foot in front of the other, confidently and doggedly marching in the direction of our dreams one step at a time.

I rarely live up the example of Batman in my own life, but I at least try, and aim to be a better man each day that I live.

Learning from my mistakes and using setbacks as fuel to drive me toward greater heights is all about attitude.

Attitude comes down to perception, and you always have a choice how you perceive your personal reality.

I love how Batman fails and comes back better than ever.  I love how Batman fails miserably but he never stops pursuing excellence in everything he does.  He refines himself gradual through incremental progression – he never gives up, and he never stops moving.  If he has a super-power it is his attitude and will power.

So, what does your attitude to life say about you?

Does your attitude hold you back with feeble excuses for what you have not done, or does your attitude propel you forward to new achievements like an unrelenting force of nature?

Do you make excuses for what you CAN’T  do in life, or do you make excuses for what you CAN do?

For me, it comes down to three words. Call them a mantra, a catchphrase or whatever you like.

“BE LIKE BATMAN”

BATITUDE Batfan on Batman Blog John Sorensen

Michael “Size of a Tangerine” Caine as Alfred

   Michael Caine punch to cameraWe’re each others’ good luck charms. I always say to him, I’m not your good luck charm, you are mine!  

Michael Caine

Father figure, mentor, friend, guide, conscience, bad ass, gentleman.

Alfred is all of these and more to ‘master’ Bruce.

Alfred as portrayed by Micheal Caine in Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy is the character whose essence is perhaps most true to the comic book source material.

Caine embodies the best qualities of Alfred.

Alfred is loyal, passionate, tough, loving and kind.  He is the father that Bruce conveniently forgets he has, the man who actually raised him.

The Alfred /Bruce relationship is at the core of the Nolan Batman films, their relationship is the core dynamic that binds the three films together thematically and emotionally.

Michael caine Alfred Bruce Wayne Batman Dark Knight Christian Bale

Micheal Caine’s Alfred eases us into our Batman cinematic journey.  The transition of Bruce Wayne boy billionaire to Bruce Wayne masked avenger is also the relationship of Bruce and Alfred.

Alfred is there at the beginning to hold our hand and guide us in the dark, he travels with us along the way through the hard times and the good times, he’s quick with a joke and a smile, he stands up to and questions Bruce’s journey as all good mentor figures do, and Alfred is there to shed a tear at the end of the journey, the lone figure standing over the empty grave of a strange man the world truly never knew.

Christopher Nolan began his cinematic relationship with Michael Caine in the film adaptation of the novel The Prestige.

Nolan has included Caine (his “good luck charm”) in every subsequent film from Batman Begins and Inception to Interstellar.

In Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Caine plays Alfred to Christian Bale’s Batman.  Alfred is a father figure, mentor, guide, conscience and a friend to Bruce Wayne.  Alfred is Bruce’s rock in a chaotic life, he is Bruce’s only family, and primary care giver, even though they are not related by blood.

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In the Batman source material, Alfred Pennyworth has been portrayed as a bungling amateur detective and failed actor for comedy relief.

Alfred later died and then turned into a super-villain called Outsider in one of the silliest and ill-conceived ideas in comics history.  Of course the idea would be repeated with Jason Todd / Red Hood as well as other ludicrous stories that make no real sense.  Alfred got better better and reverted to his normal self after Batman punches some sense into him (see the image below, top left panel).

Alfred over the years evolved into the sarcastic but warm hearted mentor/father figure to Bruce Wayne that we are most familiar with in the modern era of the Batman mythos.

Detective Comics 356 Alfred revealed as Outsider 1
Alfred gives up his short career in super villainy

Alfred is an essential of element any great Batman story.  Without Alfred, Bruce is just some spoilt rich manchild in a silly costume who takes out his anger on criminals and refuses to move on with his life.   Alfred is Bruce’s conscience, stand in father figure, mentor and friend.  Without Alfred, Bruce would rapidly descend into his own self-invented Batman persona, leaving behind the ‘Bruce Wayne’ parts of his personality.

As a character, Alfred has never been more vibrant, wise, sarcastic, kind and loving as when Sir Michael Caine brought the cheekiest, toughest and most loyal Butler in town to life in Chris Nolan’s Batman Trilogy.

Michael Caine Dapper Gent

If there is a valid criticism to be made of Nolan’s Batman trilogy it is perhaps they are TOO serious, too grim, too dark and depressing.  Batman is a dark character, but not one hundred percent of the time.  Spawn and The Shadow are darker characters (and both are killers), lets say not one hundred percent, but around ninety-nine percent.

I see Batman as more like 60-70% dark, in my hypothetical ‘just imagined for this sentence‘ scale of darkness for popular fictional anti-heroes, vigilantes and masked avengers.  Otherwise Batman becomes too much like Spawn or the Punisher.

There has to be a line somewhere, and I think maybe Nolan went over that line.  But I still love the films, even when they are not being true to the comics by having Batman kill, or when Bruce gives up being Batman after The Dark Knight to go sulk in his mansion like a bratty child.

Batman basically kills the main villains in each of the Nolan Batman films, something that doesn’t sit right with the comic book version of Batman.  Most of the time when I watch The Dark Knight I forget that he kills Harvey Dent / Two-Face at the end of the film by knocking him off a building, which muddies the character of Batman in a film I really love.

The thing you have to accept to really enjoy Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, is that this is HIS Batman, not our communal (comic book) Batman.  It is Nolan’s version of the character, and the internal film logic makes sense to him,but not always to us.

Alfred Bruce Wayne The Dark Knight Nolan Movie

The cinematic Batman is its own thing, you can’t hold a director/writer accountable for following their own vision in telling the story they wanted to tell.  Whatever the story ends up being, it is basically the writers/directors subjective opinion/interpretation of the character, so can not be “wrong” in any absolute sense.

You can argue “Batman doesn’t kill” and pick plot holes in the Nolan Batman Trilogy all day long, I have no issue with that, but remember that you can do that with any film ever made.  You could say, in an imaginary heated exchanged with the tea drinking heavy coat wearing Nolan:

“Wait a minute, I don’t think you are really being true to the essence of the Batman character here.”

And you would have a valid point.

But the counterpoint is that Nolan went with his version of Batman, his cinematic Batman – a character based on the source material that was never intended to be the same literal Batman from the comic books.  So calling out errors based on what people like in the comics is just irrelevant, because it is a movie, NOT a comic book!

I do have issues with Nolan’s Batman, – such as Batman killing Two-Face – but overall I love the films.

As Batman’s conscience, Alfred (Michael Caine) helps Bruce Wayne reach the outer limits of his psyche, harnessing the power of the villain / shadow archetype without fully giving in to the darkness he feels inside himself.  Batman owns his demons, they don’t own him.  It would be easy to just kill criminals and be done with them.  But Batman holds himself to a higher moral standard.

At the end of the day, Batman values life, and the lives of all people.  He is not an executioner, nor a judge.  Batman is more like a cop, bounty hunter or sheriff in the old West.  He chooses to operate outside of the law, because of the high level of Police corruption and all around ineffective law enforcement at all levels in Gotham City due to the stranglehold of the mob, serial killers and masked maniacs.

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Some may call Alfred an “enabler”, in that he at first resists Bruce, then ultimately supports and helps Bruce to become Batman.  He enables Bruce Wayne’s particular brand of madness.  Alfred is such a highly principled character, so strong, motivated, caring, loving, and yes – wise – that I feel it speaks volumes about the rightness of Bruce Wayne’s choice (or mission / calling) to become Batman.

In ordinary terms becoming Batman is basically an insane choice.  It would not be the choice of a well adjusted person.

But Gotham City is no ordinary city, it is the most crime ridden most corrupt city in America.  Extreme times call for extreme measures, and given the depths to which  Gotham City has sunk, and the cities genuine need for some force outside of government and law enforcement to allow for genuine change and progress, progress here meaning not capitalism, but a return to wellness, in this situation the invention of the mythic “Batman” may be a very reasonable response.

Any system that is so corrupt as to be completely ineffective has lost any sense of wellness, or sanity.  A return to sanity, or wellness then requires either abolishing the current system, or change from outside of the system itself that ultimately pulls the old system down by proxy, or coerces it the old system to change by demonstrating a superior model.  A city that lives in its own Shadow (as in the psychological term, not actual shadows) and refuses to evolve becomes a cancer on the land, and Batman is like an immune system response to the overwhelming attack of corruption (cancer) on the body of Gotham City.

Batman Robin Comic Alfred with Shotgun

Sanity and wellness then are ultimately the same thing.  Once the city has been rehabilitated, then in theory there is no need for Batman, or if Batman is to continue, he becomes no longer an emergency response to a sick body, but a worker preserving the healthy status of the city.  Batman becomes a defender of life, wellness and sanity, despite appearing to be a bit of a loony.

People in all times and places respond to Mythic characters, not with their intellect, but at a primal instinctual gut level. Mythic characters and archetypes bypass our everyday rational mind and penetrate our subconscious, they haunt our dreams and fantasies, they live in the space between worlds and flow from our intuition speaking to us of timeless tales and life lessons.

In this sense, Batman is an idea whose time has come.  He is the antidote to the sickness of Gotham.  He is Gotham’s underbelly given form and shape come back to haunt them, he is a wrathful deity determined to drag us kicking and screaming out of darkness and into the cold hard light of truth, showing us what we refuse to see or acknowledge for ourselves.

harry-brown michael caine

Michael Caine’s accomplished career has seen the actor staying the course in more iconic roles than most of us can even remember.  Early films such as Alfie, The Ipcress File, The Italian Job, Zulu and Get Carter established Caine as a versatile actor.  He could be an effortlessly charming ladies man, a tough guy, a quiet spy, a soldier, an upper class gentleman, or a lovable James Bond-like rogue.

Caine’s seventies roles were stereotypical male power fantasy roles that later led into his more intellectual roles in eighties cinema. Caine featured in further dramatic and comedic performances in the nineties, and a surprising return to both action and thrillers in the post year two-thousand era amidst the resurgence of aging male action stars in B grade films such as Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Arnold and Sly Stallone.

Throughout his career, Caine has played a mix of heroes and villains. He has every bit the talent and ability to play a Bond, Batman or Bruce Wayne.  Caine is well suited to a variety of roles, but he is not limited by those roles, nor afraid to do something different.

From working with Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters to boldy strutting around with a shotgun in Get Carter to being Austin’s dad in Goldmember, and the pseudo-father to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Caine never really felt like a “young man” even when he literally was a young man on screen.

Michael Caine seemed to appear fully formed on screen, full of wit, bravado and effortless class.  The seasoned veteran is a thoughtful actor whose acting style has changed and grown over the years, while still remaining effortlessly charming and unique.  Caine is a perennial favourite among impressionists.  The list of celebrities and laypersons who love to impersonate his distinctive voice are legion.

Alfred Pennyworth Batman comic sarcastic

Caine can play a tough guy loner, spy, mild mannered intellectual, charming thief, father figure, mentor or just a lovable rapscallion that you can’t help but enjoy on screen no matter what mischief he gets up to.

The Italian Job while a relatively boring film, is memorable for two reasons – the fantastic car chase getaway scene in the iconic mins through the stunning shops and streets of Italy, and leading man Michael Caine.  Remove either of those two elements and the movie would be a totally forgettable sub-par Ocean’s 11.

Even when playing a villain or amoral selfish character, Michael Caine remains very likable.  There is something about his face that he just seems trustworthy and reliable.  At this stage of his career, he literally is the archetypal Wise Old Man.  It is hard to imagine Michael Caine in his younger days being a scoundrel running around with Sean Connery picking up women.  Michael Caine starred alongside Sean Connery in the John Huston directed The Man Who Would Be King (1975).  Caine and Connery remained lifelong friends.

There is something of a retired James Bond feel to Micheal Caine’s Alfred in Batman Begins.  Beneath the cool and fatherly exterior is a man of remarkable depth and insight.  While Batman despises guns, Alfred has no issue with them, and will not hesitate to shoot an attacker.

As much as we learn about Alfred over the three films, by the end of Dark Knight Rises we still know next to nothing about his personal history.  The original Alfred introduced in Batman #16, 1943 was a fat bumbling Detective, a failed actor and son of Thomas Wayne’s butler Jarvis.

Batman 16_First appearance Alfred Pennyworth

Later revisions of the character saw Alfred slimming down, changing his name and becoming the slender snooty sarcastic butler we are more familiar with today. Another retcon of the character made Alfred a former cold war spy.  In yet another take on the character – Geoff John’s Earth-1 Alfred is a former Royal Marine, sharpshooter and martial artist who trains young master Wayne in martial arts.  It will be interesting to see which version of Alfred turns up in the next Batman live action film.

Michael Caine Get Carter Shotgun
Gangster, Ladykiller, Thief, Lovable Rogue

When Micheal Caine made Harry Brown following his success in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it instantly reminded me of his seventies film roles such as Get Carter.  It is easy to forget that Michael Caine is not just a classy English gentleman, but is also suave, sexy and charming on and off screen.  Just as dangerous as BOND on screen, and real life friends with BOND (Sean Connery) off screen.

Harry Brown was a return to the anti-hero character made popular in revenge films by Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood.  A senior citizen who grows tired of the endless street gang violence and drug dealing in his neighborhood, Harry Brown is set on a path of destruction when his best friend is murdered.  Being a former soldier, Harry is more than familiar with guns, and goes to town like a senior citizen version of Marvel’s Frank Castle / The Punisher.

The Four Horsemen of Awesome 1
The Four Horsemen

Michael Caine makes a difficult role believable. It is Alfred’s role to convince us that Batman is plausible, that it is not completely insane to dress up like a Bat and punch crime in the face.  Alfred is the cinematic bridge between our everyday world we inhabit and the realm of the unknown world, or underworld that Batman makes his own.

When Bruce decides to dress up as a giant bat and punch crime in the face, Alfred is the voice of reason.  Micheal Caine sells this role by being a very warm, gentle and yet tough no nonsense mentor.  Alfred’s acceptance of Batman ultimately becomes our acceptance of Batman, we want Bruce to succeed  in his insane quest.

Alfred helps us to make the unknown known, he helps us to see the shadow that is Batman is not some threat, but an essential part of our personality that we have been afraid to explore.  The power of Batman is not just about fear, but that there is a little of Batman in us all, we all have a dark side, and we all have hidden strengths demanding to be expressed.

Batman is an also an explorer of the human psyche

Batman then is not only a highly trained martial artist, scientist, criminologist, strongman, gymnast and detective.  He is an explorer of the human psyche, making his home in the place where most of us fear to explore within our own lives, he not only journeys to the mythic underworld daily, he embraces and empowers himself with the symbols of shadow.  Batman uses a criminals own fear against him by appearing to him as an otherworldly wraith, an invisible ninja, an unkillable spectre of the night.

Alfred doubts Bruce Wayne’s reasoning, methods and motivation.  He is the sounding board to Bruce’s eccentricities.  By running up against barriers and resistance in life, we are better able to gauge our actions, and know when we are moving beyond a barrier through the natural growth of our personality, of whether we are pushing ourselves in a direction which ultimately does not serve our best interests.  Bruce butting heads with Alfred over his decision to become Batman only leads Bruce to further solidifying the idea in his mind.

Bruce Wayne becomes determined to become Batman, despite Alfred’s well reasoned and sane pleas not to.  When Bruce later decides he no longer wishes to be Batman, Alfred reminds him that once you start something, you should really follow through.  Alfred suggests to Bruce that the city may need Batman after all.  Of course by the third film, Bruce Wayne has lost his way.  He has given in to his own ignorance and self-delusion.  He has walked away from his quest and Alfred, again the voice of reason pleads with Bruce not to be Batman.

After years of being idle, Wayne has lost his edge, and he faces new dangerous enemies he knows nothing about and fails to understand. Rather than retreating from his enemies, instead Batman charges head on into situations in which he has no hope of being victorious. This is where the movie version of Batman departs from the source material.  The comic book version of Batman would have retreated, studied his enemies and their tactics, and eventually moved in like a ninja, catching his foe unaware to kick ass and take names.

Michael Caine get carter shotgun2 resized

Instead, the Nolan movie version of Batman goes further down the rabbit hole.  He gives in to his own selfish false needs, his gives in to his own anger, desperation, rage, his need to prove to himself that he can still be Batman, and Bruce fails spectacularly when he is beaten physically and mentally by Bane.  Bruce is robbed of all his wealth and resources, cut off from his allies and then dumped in a third world prison.  Bruce then is his own worst enemy, and his spectacular failure seems to be what he needed to get him out of his Howard Hughes inspired self-exile.

Eventually Bruce Wayne comes back, he redeems himself.  He trains and reinvents himself like Rocky and other movie heroes.  But Bruce loses the one companion he has known his entire life. Alfred warns him not to continue his insane quest, and walks away, leaving Bruce to his fate.

Bruce Wayne redeems himself as Batman, but betrays his relationship with Alfred.  He destroys his relationship to the man who raised him and cared for him his entire life.  Bruce betrays Alfred by not telling him that he is alive after the resolution of the terrorist actions by Bane and Talia that threatened the city.  The crisis has passed, and what possible reason could Bruce have for not telling his friend, father and mentor that he is in fact still alive, and did not die in the bomb blast, we, the audience never find out.

At the end of The Dark Knight Rises Bruce/Batman is revealed as still alive, but the pain and anguish that Alfred went through because of Bruce’s deception will take a lifetime to heal, if at all.  The ending is bittersweet, as we see no evidence of Bruce Wayne attempting any reconciliation or re-connection to Alfred, the man who has been by his side his entire life, and whom he conveniently cut loose when the relationship no longer suited him.

On the one hand, we can say Bruce Wayne is a spoilt rich brat, on the other hand we can see his dedication and commitment to being Batman and serving the common good is total, and he is willing to sacrifice his friends, father figure, his wealth, resources and ultimately his own life.

Alfred Pennyworth Butler Batman the animated series

Starting in Batman Begins, Alfred supports Bruce in his one man war on crime, but he never really fully approves of Batman.  When Bruce insisted on becoming Batman, Alfred reluctantly supports him in his choice, but his loyalty is never in question.  It would be quite reasonable for Alfred to walk away and have nothing to do with “Batman”.

It would be reasonable to go to the cops when your former employer starts punching criminals in the face while dressed up at night because of his childhood trauma rather than going to therapy or burying his misery in a bottle of booze.

The fact that Alfred never does any of these things speaks volumes of his character and integrity.

Alfred’s actions also suggest that he is not just the Wayne family Butler,  but also Bruce Wayne’s primary care giver, the man who raised him more than his own father did.  The man who has been by his side his entire life, supported Bruce, loved him and never let him down.

Few of us in the real world have it so good.  Despite Bruce Wayne going through a terrible trauma and loss of his parents as a child, he was never truly without parents in the sense that Alfred was always his third parent, and continues to be his parent, mentor and counsel even as Bruce begins his career, obsession and calling as Batman.

The conflicting nature of the Bruce / Alfred relationship is one that has been tested to the limits in both Chris Nolan’s films, and in various comic book stories.  Most people have heard of Batman and Robin, but few appreciate how integral Alfred is to Bruce Wayne.  Robin, whether Dick Grayson, or any of the subsequent people to take up the role of Robin, can never be Batman’s equal.

Bruce Wayne found in young Dick Grayson the boy he thought he had lost, his inner child.  The child he so desperately lost in himself, who never got to grow up with his parents.  The death of Dick Grayson’s parents (also a murder) means Batman reliving his trauma, and knowing how it affected him, wants to guide young Richard Grayson to a happier, healthier life than Bruce had after the death of his parents.

Richard Grayson looks up to Batman, and sees the man he wants to become, while Bruce looks at Dick as the child who he never got to be, the child who died along with his parents the day Thomas and Martha Wayne were brutally murdered in a back alley.  Bruce, Richard and Alfred then are an impromptu family.  Alfred is the wise elder in the family, and guardian of the family traditions, while Bruce Wayne is the progressive rebel who cares nothing for tradition, and insists on doing everything his way.  Alone, Bruce, Dick and Alfred are broken men, but together they are a great team, and family.

While the Robin we know from the Batman comic books was not part of Chris Nolans Batman Trilogy, Alfred very much is, and that core relationship remains, proving to be the most emotionally resonant and satisfying relationship in the three films.

micahel caine smoking black and white still handsome bastard he is