Monthly Archives: September 2010

Klick! Klak! Boom! Struggling With The Code.


I need to stop before I even begin this evening. It is even harder than normal to know where to begin. The layers of contradiction, the pain, the struggle with a code. The Dark Knight Returns is and has been a legacy of a change in the comic book genre, one that brings about the turn of the hero to the anti-hero. Batman’s complexities emerge even further with Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight. (For those who have already talked about this graphic novel at great lengths…I apologize, I just read it for the first time.) I had always heard about this story being told. My friends would describe what they referred to as the “greatest Batman” story ever! I stared at the opening pages for several moments and thought to myself, this art is amazing. Then questions started rushing into my mind. Will this book live up to all the hype from not only my friends but all the people that have always said so many great things about it. I turn the pages. I didn’t flip around, the panels were too much at times, overwhelming my eyes, confusing. But then you get great images, or “splash” images, full pages, montages, the sort of thing that I always liked to see. It was the simultaneous display of images, things happening in different places all at once. The drawing and illustrating often times I felt was mediocre. However, the story, always maintaining a compelling stand, and interesting tone, a dark tone. I was confused at first, I kept wondering, when is this guy going to show up? Where is the man known as the Bat? Where the hell is Bruce Wayne at? At least then you know there is some part of Batman living within the pages of this book. I kept reading, waiting for the Dark Knight to Return, his image leaping onto the page.

At first there was just the mere hint of his return with the shaving of a mustache, Bruce Wayne’s alternate mask being removed, his mask of retirement, the denial of what he really was. After 10 years he is nearly forgotten, legend mostly. He is like the pop culture icon that remains heavy in the minds of the older generation that grew up with the icon during their youth. Now in their 30’s, the younger generation only getting trickling tid bits of the man that fought for Gotham as it slept. It reminds me of the A-Team and talking to someone in their 20’s that may or may not know who or what an A-Team is, or who B.A. is and that he was once played by Mr. T. The kid would look at me with a blank stare not knowing who Face was or did on the television show of the 80’s, or that they drove a van with a red stripe down the side. Incidentally, some of the nostalgia and the legend is revitalized with the tellings of a new story, a reinvention of the original tale. Much like the Dark Knight Returns, stories are told over again to solidify their ground within the echelons of society. It is a way to endure the test of time. By reshaping and retelling and molding the young to idolize, to remember, to retell, the Batman lives on. He becomes the symbol, the image, that is ever so discussed in Chris Nolan’s version of Batman in “Batman Begins”. Having never read Miller’s version of “Year One,” or even reading the Dark Knight Returns, I thought that they were one in the same, not that Batman had aged. It’s funny how you begin to forget the things friends once told you. Here I was forgetting that my friends were obsessed with the fact that Batman had aged, that he was reemerging as the Batman to take care of a menace, a new evil, an evil that will continue to reshape and retell itself as one head and another mask is removed.
For those that have not read it, you should, but beware that what I discuss may spoil the story. (Spoiler Alert) Even the Joker has aged significantly, which I find interesting, he is portrayed in a light that is not as vibrant as before. Although, much of the comic is portrayed this way. Perhaps that is why I found this particular rehashing or shaping of the Batman archetype so dismal. In some ways I really hated the portrayal of Batman. It was so contradictory on so many levels. But I think that is what I also loved about it at the same time. Here is Batman, struggling with aging, while Superman is still young, still self righteous in his own way. I am not saying that Batman does not have some type of Holier than-thou attitude at times. Indeed he does, and feel free to argue against that, but he does have his own code. I have been discussing this in a series of threads on this blog if you haven’t noticed. Go back and re-read the one where I talk about “Dexter.” Batman could stop so many crimes if he just kills the people. But then as he kills more and more, where does he begin to enter this area of turmoil, this inner conflict. He already suffers from a degree of trouble, or conflict. What interested me about this story is his temptation to break so many rules in his code, like coming to the idea of holding guns, of firing a weapon. Even his confrontation with Harvey Dent and the Joker is something that I would not have considered to be possible. But I also wonder if Batman had not decided to moonlight as a hero again, what would the Joker have done? Would he have remained comatose? Similar to a Pixar movie, The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible, aging, getting fatter, now with kids and wife, longing for the old days, forced into hiding. The desire to help the innocent running deep in their bones. However, he is ultimately noticed by the villain, who also comes out of hiding, which makes one question; If the superhero or the hero remained a “normal” person, out of the light, avoiding the temptation, would the villain return or would a villain emerge? I think that in the particular situation of the Joker, he either would have come out of his catatonic state to find Batman and bring him out to fight again, or it would have just happened the way Frank Miller wrote the story.

The beaten and bloodied Batman returns to the cave, wounded and “dying” as he says, not from his wounds, but from age. It is the complexity of the character that made me appreciate this comic, if not for the art, but for the story itself. I love this Batman, the one that is corrupted with human morality and mortality. One that questions his own agility, his own motives, and most of all his actions. The debate for or against Batman is strewn across many panels. You are bombarded with the question of whether or not there should be a Batman. Ultimately, with the final panels, the revealing of Batman as Bruce Wayne, loss of identity, that brings about the emergence of the one sole identity that he has always maintained and fought to secure as an icon for the people, the Batman emerges in the caves once more, training the future legacy of what it is to be the Batman…

Next Up… Looking at Vanishing Point, Hush Batman, Batman and Superman Apocalypse on DVD, and perhaps even a little more from Dexter Morgan (The new season just started and I wonder, if you were in Dexter’s shoes, would you cry or just be in plain shock?? If you were already desensitized by death, wouldn’t you look at it as a crime scene as way of a defense mechanism?? I don’t know, I think so…)


Batman, the origins, the myth, and questions unanswered…

Found at Cartoonlogos.com

I recently rediscovered my love for comics by enrolling in an English class solely dedicated to comics as I previously discussed in another blog post entitled, “My Comic Book Rediscovery.” I have to say, and pardon the explicit language, but “I fucking love this assignment.” Maintaining my thoughts as a way to participate with the class is an incredible way to make use of the technology at our disposal. As I have already made reference to technology in a brief post, I think it is amazing where we can go. I think that is the majority of the reason why Batman has an appeal to me. He is an average human, well not average. Let us first examine his physical attributes, the description that seems to have inspired 71 years of comics, television shows. More recently the legacy has brought people “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” Not to mention numerous video games which include the latest “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and the soon to be released “Batman: Arkham City.” But now I am getting ahead of myself. Taking a look back to compare the evolution of “Bats” as the Joker so affectionately calls him. In the first appearance of Batman, the infamous bat mobile was red! Yes, you read that correctly, the car was painted red. I guess Batman was not afraid of speeding tickets. (Or maybe thats why red cars get pulled over more often, the police want to prevent a sudden wave of vigilantes.) It was not until March 1940, that we see a blue colored car, matching the cape and cowl of the Caped crusader. I wanted to delve deep into the discussion of Batman. In order to do so, I felt that it was necessary to do as Will Brooker discusses in his discussion, “Origins and Wartime.” I think that is important for the purpose of this discussion to read part of his essay which is as follows:

If I seem to labour the point that Batman can be reduced to key characteristics, it is because much that follows will threaten any sense of consistency or constancy around the character. I feel the necessity to establish a simple collection of defining traits as a raft to cling to before embarking on sixty years during which Batman undergoes so many transformations, and is subject to so many competing, often contradictory interpretations, that any definining essense sometimes seems eroded: the character seems to become merely a name and logo adopted by a multitude of different ‘Batmen’, each representing a different facet of a specific cultural moment and taking on the concerns of a period or the tastes of an audience. Although it will be my argument in the chapters that follow that Batman is to a significant extent a fluid signifier, and that this has ensured his continued popularity for six decades… (39)

Characteristically as Brooker discusses the cultural evolution that is the Batman, he is as Chief Gordon says in the latest installment of the Christopher Nolan depiction of the Batman, “Because he’s the hero that Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now and so we’ll hunt him because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector, the Dark Knight.” I think that it is important to note that Nolan’s interpretation of Batman also holds to the statements made by Brooker. Nolan suggests that Batman changes or morphs into the hero of the time, the one necessary to protect the people. As Brooker continues to suggest, it is because he maintains the “virtual guarantee of hearing back the same list of key traits, the same story.” (40) Brooker says the things that I knew when I initially loved Batman. I had not read a comic book or seen the movie yet, but I knew, “Batman is Bruce Wayne, a millionaire who dresses in a bat-costume and fights crime. He has no special powers but it is very fit and strong, and very intelligent. He lives in Gotham City. He fights crime because his parents were killed when he was young. He is often helped by his sidekick, Robin. He fights villains like the Joker.” (40)
Now, we just mentioned who he is, now the question becomes, where does he live? It is interesting that Brooker also mentions this in “Origins and Wartime,” that Gotham city actually started out as Metropolis or Manhattan. In Tim Burton’s “Batman,” Gotham can be seen as the imaginary city, not restrained by any real city. Now one can claim that in Nolan’s version of Gotham is Chicago because he wants to maintain the aspects of realism, that if Batman were to actually exist, these are the things he would use, places he would visit, and the technology he would have at his disposal. In “I’m Not Fooled By That Cheap Disguise,” William Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson also declare that it is the origin story that;

establishes the four central atrributes/traits of the character: obsession; deductive abilities; physical prowess; and wealth. In the 1940 origin, the four panel sequence following the “terror and shock” of his parents death, shows 1) young Bruce kneeling by his bedside, saying “And I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.” 2) an older Bruce stands in a smoke filled laboratory peering into a test tube. The caption reads, “Trains his body to physical perfection until he is able to perform amazing athletic feats.” 4) Bruce sits in front of a huge portrait which hangs above a fireplace. He says, “Dad’s estate left me wealthy. I am ready… But first I must have a disguise.” (195)

Uricchio and Pearson establish the same argument by examining the panels in the original origin story, while also suggesting that there has been an “uneven accentuation and development” of the character. This could also be seen in the Batman films that focus briefly on the death of the parents in Nolan’s Batman begins. Whereas in Burton’s “Batman” the death of the parents and images of their death is repeated more so than in the stories that followed.

With that being said, I am drawn to discuss the new interpretations of Batman, similar to those crafter by Kevin Smith and illustrated by his childhood friend Walt F. Flanagan.

The Cover to Kevin Smith's interpretation of Batman.

Their rendition of “Bats” is something of a homage to the original, and while I love the original art, in it’s rustic form, I appreciate the attention to detail in new stories such as those done by Frank Miller and those done by Grant Morrison. That being said, I scanned a few images to include in this discussion of Batman. Although, I have read many reviews that suggest this to be some of the worse stories to illustrate Batman, I have to disagree. I also have some other questions about this comic. I see a lot influence from all avenues of pop culture, including Smith’s own comedy. There is a lot of stylization that spawns from the original comics, such as when Batman goes to visit Joker in the hospital and Batman is disguised as a regular man, prompting the Joker to say, “Where is your real face?” Then Batman changes behind a curtain to reveal his “true face.” (On an off handed note, this returns one to an original discussion, which one is the real face, Batman? or Bruce Wayne?) To return to this discussion I would like to turn one’s attention to certain pages of the book done by Smith. There is an interesting relationship that he develops between the Joker and the Batman that needs to be addressed. During a lucid state of mind, Batman asks, “Do you want to kill me?”

Scanned from my copy of Cacophony.

In the images posted above, the Joker walks around the question, but proceeds to answer Batman, by saying, “Yes,” in so many words. Later in the cave, Alfred basically says, “You were surprised by his answers.” Alfred in this scene acts as the inner voice, as if to say, “you are a fucking idiot to think otherwise.”

Smith also raises another question to the Batman franchise, a question which I had before reading this series, which is, “What would Batman do if there were no criminals?” I cannot do the panels any justice by describing them, so I have added them to this discussion.

Lastly, Alfred says, “you coddle that one,” which suggests that he is saying, “you should have let him die. You should have had some disregard to the code for one moment.” However, this brings me back to my previous discussion of Dexter and Batman which did not discuss the code as extensively. Dexter also lives by a code, a derivative of Batman’s code, but a code nonetheless. Dexter does not kill the innocent, Batman does not kill at all and does not watch people die. In Smith’s version of Batman, we see the Joker being rescued by the Caped crusader. “What?!” Even Jim Gordon says, “Let him die.” If Batman adapted a similar code, would he have nothing to do but direct traffic? It is page 100, in the comic that brings me to my last question and part of this discussion for the moment. For those who don’t watch the show, I have inserted a link to a youtube video displaying a similar curiosity that Dexter has for the serial killer known as the Trinity Killer.


I have provided a juxtaposition of these characters once again because both raise an introverted question of the characters psyche. In this discussion, one that specifically pertains to Batman or even Bruce Wayne, one that asks the question, “Is this man that is hunting him, just like him, with a dual identity? Or is he a lunatic, just plotting his next step?”

In contrast to the original Batman, the art almost falls into one that is a hybrid of new and old. The panels, are not monotonously laid onto the page anymore but artfully displayed for maximum effectiveness. Conversation bubbles are excessive at times, but Smith loves to talk, as it is reflected in his characters.
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On a side note:

I have recently discovered the game Batman: Arkham Asylum. I have played games of the comic genre in the past and they have been relatively boring. They have a certain novelty that wears off after several hours of difficult game play. However, this game as I will go into more detail later exceeds all expectations of a game. It also has a great feature which is a character profile that lists the first appearance of the character within the DC Comic book universe. This is a feature and aspect of the game that I found to be rather interesting. In any case, I must continue this discussion at a late date when I have gathered my thoughts into a more comprehensive discussion on this game and the details put into rendering the Batman on the screen alongside his adversaries.

An image from batblog, Harley Quinn is seen a lot in this game, and I thought she appeared sooner in the Batman world, but the source says she did not appear in comics until 1999.


Posture: Superman and Clark Kent

One thing should be noted before you read this new post. I wrote the majority of this after I read through “All Star Superman” last weekend. One thing that I really enjoyed was the artwork and the story arch. The stories were just fun as well. I was looking for a photo online when I stumbled onto this. I found it at (http://unitedmonkee.com/2010/05/27/ad-it-up-extreme-justice-colgate/) Superman and Lois
I found it interesting that after discussing the ads with several people that there was a discussion on the internet, revolving specifically around colgate ads that display the images of superheroes getting the girl. I chose this one because I had just read “All Star Superman” for my most recent assignment in class. I also found it interesting that after I attended class that there was a discussion on how Superman’s appearance changes through the comic.

This image was found at the following link (http://overheard.loveneverfails.ca/tags/comics/page/2/)

I just wanted to briefly address the changes as they were sketched in the image above before moving on to the next superhero, Batman.


New technology.

I was early to work today and found that I was looking at wordpress. At the bottom of the page it has this new link, wordpress for your android. Now I can blog on the go. Walter Benjamin’s head would explode with all this technology and constant bombardment of information…


Dexter Morgan meet Bruce Wayne. Dark Passanger meet Batman.

It was just early this morning that I was sitting in my car. I began pondering; did Batman ever kill anyone? I am not talking about accidentally letting go of the Joker, (i.e. the Michael Keaton’s version of Batman), or even the death of Penguin in Batman Returns. Better yet the Batman that drops his friend Harvey “Two Face” Dent to his death after throwing a handful of coins in the air that resemble his own distinctive coin.
Now, you are saying wait a minute… who really watches the movies? I was actually thinking the same thing. I was actually thinking did Batman kill anyone in his first days as a vigilante superhero? What was the first rendition of the Batman? But now you are asking yourself, Sia, what the hell are you trying to say?
Okay, I will try and get to the point. I must caution you I have just finished watching the first four seasons of Dexter. I also just recently watched Batman: Under the Red Hood. For anyone that has not seen it, this is a spoiler alert. Batman loses Robin (Yes, again.) Raz decides to bring back Robin as a thank you to the Bat, only Robin comes back “damaged” more or less crazy. Oh, did I mention the Joker killed Robin? Yes, and Batman does nothing to settle the score. Joker is left to rot in Arkham Asylum. The new Robin aka The Red Mask is angered with Batman and declares that it is either Robin or the Joker. Batman must ultimately decide to kill the Joker or Robin. Batman does not kill either one. It was around this moment that I noticed that Batman had a moral compass. He did not kill. He no longer carries his gun even like he did in the old days. Where did this all come from?
Now I say, Dexter Morgan meet Bruce Wayne. Both lost their parents at an early age in some horrible accident. I am not saying they are the same. Dexter is not exactly rich. Both work with forensics. Both have an idea of what is right and wrong and who is on their side of what they consider to be the law. Now this brings me to my question at hand. Is Dexter more of a superhero than a serial killer? Batman stops villains, true, but he does not make sure that they cannot do so again.
As many people learned in the season four of Dexter, he toyed with the idea of letting a killer roam free so that he could have a friend. Now I ask people this question. Is Batman making himself a social liability by not taking care of the problem? If he had killed the Joker, the numerous innocent by standers that the Red Mask kills in his plot to make a point with Batman…all could have been avoided. Dexter quite possibly could learn a thing or two from Batman.
But, on the other hand, I wonder if their own interpretations of moral conduct makes them the best kind of superhero to watch or read about, a flawed one, one with the humanistic qualities that people crave to read about. It is the reason that people watch reality television; they see the qualities from which they can relate.
I know I have begun to ramble, but I needed to introduce these ideas into the public domain, so that I could come to some sort of conclusive argument, to get at the root of my questions and maybe get some counter arguments that would not only be interesting but might bring clarity…

Dexter Season 5: Starts September 26th. The video is from youtube.

Batman: Under the Red Hood. Video is from youtube…obvious, but covering my bases.


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