March 1, 2013
Robin died. A different Robin than the first one that died — both were bratty punks with a tendency toward murder, but this one, people had come to enjoy a bit. The first time, the comics readership had a choice, and voted to let the little bastard die; this time, he’s just been taken off the game board, no reader participation invited. It’s provoked quite a lot of reactions, largely because it’s a big “important” story, like the time Johnny Storm died, and has been promoted with the same gusto. My favorite of these has been Colin Smith’s call of “why does no one seem to care that we just looked at a ten-year-old getting stabbed in the belly,” once again proving at length that he is troublesomely sane for a comic book fan.
DC Comics has slated a whole month of mourning across the bevy of Batman books, although they’ve again skimped out on reader participation by not polybagging them with black “R”-logo armbands. Then again, I’m not sure anyone would be right to mourn Damian Wayne, our young Robin. For one, within the logic of the story, he’s the grandson of constant death-cheater Ra’s al Ghul, and a dunk in the revivifying Lazarus Pit is a destiny I’d bet money on. For another, even if that’s not how it happens, we’re living in a year when Vibe has his own comic book, and if Vibe of all people won’t stay dead, no one will. For a third, would it even be that great to keep him around?
“Yes,” cry out the fans of Damian Wayne, while also personally insulting me. “He’s a great character and a breath of fresh air and he and Dick have crazy chemistry and blah blah.” Okay, that’s fine, and I hear you on that; I’m no small fan of the Dick-and-Damian Batman and Robin myself. But let’s look at what being a Batman sidekick gets you: a decade or so (give or take forty years in Dick’s case) as the Boy Wonder, and then the sales department dictates a newer, fresher take (or a return to a more classical i.e. guaranteed-appeal take), and then what?
I’m not going to broach the issue of “disrespecting characters” because as it turns out, I’m real and they’re not. As it is, in my imagined future for the Batman books, Damian will end up dead for a minute, dunked in a Lazarus Pit, insane thereafter, and an enemy of the Bat-family until such time as he can be pulled back into the fold as the prodigal “bad boy” (i.e. when Jason “Red Hood” Todd’s appeal no longer translates into sales). Or, he comes back, returns to being Robin, and eventually transitions into a full-time post-Robin gig as Redbird or something (see also Tim “Red Robin” Drake). Or, he comes back and then is written out and in and out and in and out and in until the enduring social profile of the character is the idea that liking them makes you part of a persecuted set (see also Stephanie “Batgirl” Brown and Cassandra “Batgirl” Cain). (Eventually, in any of the above scenarios, Batman presides over a legion of twenty-something-year-old acolytes who were all born in different generations.) Or, he stays dead, and the New 52′s thirst for blood is decried all ’round.
None of these seem like winning propositions to me. Yes, someone could come along and make decent comic books out of them, but someone could also come along and make decent comic books out of Firestorm, so let’s not get crazy here. I mean, it sucks that Damian died, sure. I just dread to find out how badly it could suck if he lives.
March 1, 2012
I already posted about the gnarly death-metal violence of Jean-Paul Valley fighting Bane, but Bruce Wayne got his share of hits in during Knightfall. This was a moment I don’t even remember noticing when I was a kid, but as an adult it gave me pause. Beyond the obvious “wh–” factor of Batman whipping a batarang right at Poison Ivy’s face, I had to stop and go, “Wait–don’t those things have razor edges? Was Batman seriously prepared for the possibility of slicing half a woman’s lips off?”
February 29, 2012
Probably hundreds of artists have drawn Two-Face over the years. The scarred half of his face ranges from “boilsome and poxy” to “scratched and ridged” to “latex fishman” to “puked-up applesauce” based on who’s doing it. For my money, the one to beat is Klaus Janson’s rendition. Even if it’s not the best Two-Face story by a long shot (that’s the Batman Annual that Andy Helfer and Chris Sprouse did, re-telling his origin and making it brutally grim and tightly-clenched), no artist has ever managed to make Two-Face look quite as horrifically ugly in a way that still conveys the essential nature of his character–keeping him as a human being who’s been partly ruined, rather than a handsome guy with half a Halloween mask.
February 28, 2012
I’m a child of the 90s, so I have a soft spot for Jean-Paul Valley, a.k.a. Azrael, Azbat, Batman II, and that dorky shithead with the ponytail and the voices inside his brain. I fell hook, line and sinker for Knightfall when it happened, and re-reading it as an adult, it actually still holds together for me. Part of it is the relative tightness of the narrative–it reads like a Law & Order episode, if that makes any sense, where all the pieces that aren’t necessary have been stripped away, leaving only the parts that advance an already-sprawling story of Batman getting run into the dirt. Another part of that is the difference between Bruce Wayne and Jean-Paul Valley, when Azrael takes over as the replacement Batman. Suddenly it turns into this gnarly, delirious, super-angry story, like the soundtrack switched from Wagner opera to Slayer–especially in moments like this, where Bane is confronted by the psychotic, ultraviolent Azbat:
February 27, 2012
February 26, 2012
Is it just me, or have there been maybe no more than four stories in the history of the universe to take Maxie Zeus seriously? Yes, I know, his name is “Maxie Zeus,” for one thing, but still. I imagine his first appearance tried to establish him as a credible threat. I know he appeared on Batman: The Animated Series and probably wasn’t a huge fuck-up there, either. Also, he was one of the goons in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, where Grant Morrison more or less ignored all previous instances of him doing stuff, and pitched him as a delusional Electro. Beyond those three things, this is what we usually see of Maxie Zeus, when we see him at all:
February 25, 2012
Bane is, I’m pretty sure, the only major-motion-picture supervillain whose origin story involves “being a 10-year-old faced with the threat of prison rape.” About two pages later someone tries to intervene and in the process Bane gets knocked over a railing and falls, like, two stories directly onto his head. It’s these sort of things that create people who millionaire Bruce Wayne uses violence against indiscriminately.