Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Batman's World

Let’s babble a bit about Batman, OK? OK! 


Over in the main DC Comics title, Batman is off to find Bane or more to the point, the Psycho Pirate who is working for Bane. In the previous arc, eager young super heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl got their heads messed with by the Psycho Pirate who was in turn doing dastardly things for the Suicide Squad. Gotham, alas, got dead for his trouble. Gotham Girl is alive but really deep into some serious psychosis and the only one to get her out of it is that bad ol’ Psycho Pirate. 

So Batman assembles a team from Arkham Asylum including Arnold Wesker, the erstwhile Ventriloquist who is currently bereft of the Scarface dummy who usually runs that particular criminal show. Also joining the team is Punch and Jewelee because every team need some Harley Quinn level crazy. And also signing up is Bronze Tiger, former brainwashed pawn of the League of Assassins. Finally, Batman recruits Catwoman who it appears while I wasn’t looking killed 237 people. Apparently she had a really good reason for doing that but still… 237 people? That’s a lot to answer for. And in fact, Selina Kyle is facing the death penalty for her role in those deaths. 

A well adjusted bunch Batman has pulled together. 

Anyway, the plan appears to be for Batman to get shot out of the sky and tossed by Bane into the cell that Bane himself occupied for most of his childhood. OK, not sure where this plan is going but Batman gets out of the cell in a few hours because he’s that awesome. And everything’s going OK until someone betrays Batman and the plan. The nutcase bereft of the dummy that calls the shots, right? No. OK, the crazy couple with weaponized attention deficit disorder then. No, not them. Brainwashed assassin? Nah. 

Well, it can’t be Catwoman. She loves Batman, she wouldn’t betray- 

Oh, never mind.

Tom King’s 2nd story arc is a twisty labyrinth of the mind and the soul as Batman goes all out to save a young girl’s sanity and her life. It’s the kind of layered, complex storytelling that made King’s reputation on DC’s Omega Men and Marvel’s Vision. 

King’s sequence of Bane’s time in his cell is particularly jarring. Bane is trapped in a cell over the course of his life from age 4 to age 17 which floods each day with the incoming tide and pushes the captive into the iron grate that covers the top of the cell. It’s a brutal, horrifying sequence. 

Mikel Janin provides the art for this latest arc, proving a marked dynamic stylistic contrast to David Finch’s solid pencils and layouts.



While Tom King and Mikel Janin are presenting a very intense and dark Batman, it bears noting that 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Batman TV series which sits at the other end of the Batman spectrum. Nothing in comic book pop culture has been so universally loved and loathed at the same time as the iconic ABC TV series that debuted in 1966. It was bright and colorful and fun which is a good thing unless you were an obsessive fanboy who thought Batman should be less Caped Crusader and more Dark Knight Detective. 

The thing is, the Batman that we know and love from the words and art of teams like Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and more may never have seen the light of day if not for the boost in attention the Batman TV series brought to the character. 

And let's get real here, as absurd as things may have gotten on that program from 5 decades ago, stranger things have happened to Batman in our beloved comics, even the especially dark and gritty ones. 

At its peak, the Batman TV show was a program with a specific point of view, a world beset by the most bizarre villainy defended by two crime fighters who took their work seriously. Playing it straight is what made the sillier aspects of the show more palatable and helped it to stand the test of time to remain a fondly remembered creation from a simpler time. 

Kudos to Adam West and Burt Ward for bringing their version of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder to life and in doing so, paving the way for some many other versions of their legend to persist and flourish in comics, movies, games and more.





One significant way the TV show influenced the Batman comics was the introduction of Batgirl. Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, would not make her debut on the Batman show until the 3rd season but producer William Dozier was looking ahead to the future when he asked comics editor Julius Schwartz if he could introduce a new Batgirl character in the comics to lay the groundwork for her television debut. 

So Batgirl made her first appearance in Detective Comics 50 years ago this week. 




So happy birthday, Barbara, AKA Batgirl! 

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And that's a wrap on another day's post. I'll be back tomorrow with another one. Until then, remember to be good to one another.















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