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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.