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Batman Day: Upon a Star

A comic about the lack of stars in Gotham.

By Riley’s Desk, illustrator of all things, even sometimes Batman. Check out the ole instagram or twitters @rileys_desk, and have a good Batman Day. 

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Comics Film Television

Batman Day 2021 Recommendations

Batman is a household name worldwide. From movies, to toys, to everything in-between…Batman is everywhere. While many lament the sheer amount of Bat content constantly coming out, there is a reason he is so popular with so many. Batman is an extremely beloved character and means so much to so many. Instead of bringing you some sort of top 10 reads list or something similar, our staff brings you a bit about their personal relationship with the characters of Gothams and a story they want you to check out that means something to them.

Dan McMahon

I don’t think my love of Batman and Gotham characters is a secret in the slightest. I grew up on a stream of Batman. Hell, we started this whole thing as a DC podcast, so my allegiances have never been a secret. Batman for me has always been a versatile character that you could use to tell any type of story. He was the character you could drop into any story and it would make sense. I’ve talked about Batman on the show at length so I wouldn’t take up space here from our other writers. Batman is a character you can always depend on to keep the lights on. Now more than ever, I appreciate the characters’ stories, family, and what he stands for.


Now I assume if you know me, you would assume my recommendation would be “Heart of Ice from Batman: The Animated Series. I do think if you haven’t seen it, it’s time to pop it on and get ready to put your heart on ice. But I wanted to recommend a story I haven’t read since I was young up until the moment before writing this. I want you to read Gotham Knights #18 “Cavernous” from Devin Grayson, Roger Robinson, John Floyd, Rob Schwager, and Bill Oakley. It’s an issue that I read multiple times when I was younger because it made me realize that Batman was depressed. That his choices and things he had done actually alienated the people he cared about. Batman didn’t have the emotional tools needed to reach out to others to tell them he just didn’t want to be alone so instead he did his normal pushing them away. But eventually he asks Aquaman to help him get his penny unlodged after the Earthquake (See No Man’s Land). But there is a moment on the last page that is very worth reading this one off issue for. You don’t need any knowledge of the stories surrounding this, it’s rather stand alone to highlight the loneliness of the bat.

Jordan

I often get very sick of Batman. I loved him as a child of course, because of all the movies, cartoons and toys. But growing older and getting into comics I start to resent his overexposure and by extension Batman himself. But then occasionally I read a great Bat story or revisit a classic episode of the animated series and I remember that Batman is just the coolest thing. Unlike a lot of characters Batman’s world could survive entirely on it’s own. Divorced from the wider DC Universe, Gotham is a living, breathing world with its own internal logic and world. Batman’s villains know each other, they have their own rivalries and relationships and that’s not something you can say for most superhero rogues. There is just something about Gotham that is so endlessly appealing, that brings out the best in its creators. With a moody atmosphere but also poppy fun. Because Batman can be anything. He’s malleable in a way other characters aren’t. That’s why despite the oversaturation of the character I will always love Batman. Because it’s a whole world of stories and characters in its own right that feels timeless and larger than life in its own way. 

Shadow of the Bat #1-4:

Up in the pantheon of Batman writers there are names like Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder and Denny O’Neil and rightfully so. But for me my favourite work with the Bat of Gotham has always been with Alan Grant. I revisit his stories a LOT, especially those with art by the late great Norm Breyfgole. Together these two created the ultimate image of Batman to me. A dark mysterious creature of the night. Breyfgole’s stylized art depicts a Gotham larger than life. It’s angular and all encompassing and within it stands Batman. Stylish and angular, a haunting shadow streaking across the night sky. It perfectly suits Grant’s dark and psychological stories. But it’s not all darkness. I’m a believer in Batman needing empathy and levity. This particular story has Batman fighting a murderous serial killer, but also walking a lost girl home. Alan Grant’s Batman is one that perfectly encapsulates all aspects of the character to me. He’s a dark vengeful spirit but a compassionate hero at the same time. 

But what’s a specific story from this run that I recommend? Really anything by Grant and Breyfgole I say is worth a read. One story stands out to me though and that’s the first arc of Shadow of the Bat. This was a new Batman title made especially for Grant to go wild, and his first arc was a real mission statement. The story here takes place over four issues and follows Batman as he tries to solve a series of serial murders around Gotham City. The catch is that he’s already sure of who it is, Victor Zsasz. This is Zsasz’s first ever appearance and Grant and Brefygole established everything about him here. His sickening need to kill people, his obsession with marking himself with tallies from his victims and his lanky visage. The only problem for Batman is that Zsasz is already in Arkham, after he caught him in a previous adventure. So Batman has to break into Arkham to try and figure out what’s going on and how he’s getting out. A super simple conceit that gives way to a brilliant story dripping in atmosphere. To me this is the definitive Arkham story. It’s a building that feels gothic and larger than life, a sickening hole where the superstitious and cowardly are thrown away and forgotten. Grant and Breyfgole are the kinds of nailing the mood of Batman. They really build up the world of Gotham in a way that lets us understand Batman even more. It’s a perfect Batman comic and one that I will cherish forever.  

José Cardenas

My Bat-Love began when I was eleven years old. It was December, between Christmas and my birthday, and my parents presented a double-whammy Birthmas present that would set me on a path to creativity and superhero fandom. 

The gift — Lego Batman: The Videogame

As children, my brother and I adored Legos, always building the sets, playing with them and inevitably breaking them because we were never the delicate type of boys. The idea of playing a video game version with Batman, who we knew from a collection of cool cartoons, was a dream come true, and I’m sure welcome salvation for my poor parents’ feet. 

That game introduced me to the meaning of “atmosphere” with the eerie music from the Burton films, dark urban environments and the Stud sound effects that will haunt me forever. It was also a really great relationship-builder with my little brother. It helped so much, we even got to a point where I would let him play Batman, a true mark of respect in our household.

That’s what Batman means to me. A dark and strange city filled with wonder, and me with my family, trying to make our way through it all. 

So in comics, my Batman recommendation is Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Not only did the trade paperback reignite my love for Batman in high school, but it also brought back those childhood feelings of dark discovery.

The Caped Crusader, after years of experience with his villains and his city, is faced with a threat even older than him and completely unfamiliar to me. What helps him persevere are the thoughts of his family, who stay with him through the end. 

This is a Batman comic that anyone can read.

Andrew Malacarne

I was born after Batman: The Animated Series but before the era of streaming so I had to find my own connections to Batman. We’re now in an era full of kid friendly comics coming from DC and Marvel but those used to be far and few between. Cartoon Network came to my rescue in the form of Young Justice. I was three years old when Teen Titans came out and had forever wanted to fill that void after seeing heroes my age going on the adventures I could only dream of. Young Justice was the solution I needed. My connection to Batman is through his family. I never felt a strong connection to Bruce’s dark quest for vengeance but the light his family brings is what made me believe in Batman. My favorite Gothamite is Tim Drake, the third Robin, who represents what I saw in myself as a kid. He’s the one who wasn’t chosen but had to prove himself worthy of his place. It may be that constant imposter syndrome but I feel the same way. I wanted to, and still do, be seen as worthy in what I do. Tim’s my fictional brother and I wouldn’t choose another.

Young Justice is a perfect introduction to Batman and the greater DC Universe for new fans. Balancing new and established characters it gives fans their own young heroes that they can see themselves in. From energetic Kid Flash to brash Superboy or mysterious Artemis and optimistic Miss Martian there’s a hero for everyone. It explores the depths of DC with some great deep cuts that will make old fans happy while giving new fans a great look at everything DC has to offer.

Rook


I think the first cartoon I ever saw was Batman: The Animated Series. I was two, so I was a little young for it — something I proved almost immediately, when I saw Batman bleed and I started crying. I don’t think I had ever seen an adult or authority brought low like that before, so it was a visceral shock.

But images of that night, the deep red skies and hostile silhouettes of Gotham City, lived in my mind from that point forward. There was always an allure to it, like a nightmare that’s so exciting you almost remember it fondly. As I grew older, some of the sharp edges became less threatening, and I enjoyed the occasional Batman comic or episode of Justice League. But I didn’t really feel like I “got” Batman on a personal level until I was eight. 

My parents didn’t get shot in an alley or anything, but I’ve had post-traumatic stress disorder ever since. And Batman, for all of his stylish visual presentation and plethora of incredible skills, is first and foremost the character built around trauma. His triumphs, his defeats, his villains and his family all reflect the singular moment that destroyed his life, and his steadfast refusal to give in to the cruelty of the world and the ragged wound at the center of his psyche means a lot to me.


On that note, the Batman story that I’m going to recommend is I Am Suicide from Tom King, Mikel Janin, June Chung, and Clayton Cowles. This is a little bit of a cheat, because it’s following up on the end of the first Batman arc of Tom King’s run, I Am Gotham — but I’m picking it anyway, because I think this story is essential. The main thrust of the story is a Suicide Squad mission to Bane’s island nation stronghold to recover a power that can heal someone’s severe psychological damage. At its core, the arc is anchored by narration from Bane, Catwoman, and Batman. It cuts right to the heart of their parallel traumas, and how both defying and accepting their pain fuels them. 

Violet 

Batman has always been a part of my life, having two older brothers, it was an inevitable escape. I used to watch Batman The Animated Series clips on YouTube with them most evenings. One character in particular caught my attention.

To be honest with you, a few months back, I was asked to write something similar about what a certain comic book character means to me, and I couldn’t type out the right words without my vision getting blurred from my own tears. I ended up backspacing everything thinking it was “too deep” for a comic book character. But now I realize it’s important to voice how you feel; especially about particular escapes such as comics and how they transport you to another world for a few blissful moments. They make you forget about the harsh, horrible reality we all share. 

Harley Quinn does exactly that for me, each time, without failure. I don’t relate to wanting to maim humans who look at me funny, trust me (well only sometimes, I’ve got a pet peeve about people staring but anyway). I relate to her highly on how she can be so conflicted with her own demons yet make someone smile. That someone being me. 

She intrigues me with how persistent she is despite the trauma she’s been through, she remains motivational but in no way glosses over the ugly. Harley never denies that; sometimes life is shitty and most definitely doesn’t always work in your favour but it’s important to make do with what you have and chase better things for yourself. I’ve said before; she’s messy and unsure, but will figure out the answers with you along the way and it’s makes you feel less dumb for not knowing the answer to every situation life. 

Harley’s individuality certainly has rubbed off of me in the best of ways. I’ve learned life is waaaaay too short to not have colourful hair and to not impulsively do the things you’ve always wanted to do. You have your entire old age to be boring! Spice up your life, manically dye your hair every month, just please use a conditioner mask!

Her charismatic, bubbly, unpredictable nature breathes life into my soul each new release. I should probably find a new source of serotonin, or maybe it’s about time I finally book in for that therapist but until then, I’m going to continue soaking up every last little frame of this joyful jester. 

Recommendations: 

Vengeance Unlimited

Harley Quinn Vol.6 Angry Bird by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, Mirka Andolfo

Adam

I think there are very few people in the world who aren’t in some way aware of Batman.  They might not know much but Batman, Robin, Joker; these are some of the most recognizable brands in the world.  And that was the level of recognition I had.  I knew some names but who the characters really were?  No clue.  All that changed after the most on-brand Batman introduction I could possibly have, the LEGO Batman – The Videogame.  But unfortunately LEGO Batman gives a very skewed perception of what Gotham really is.  Apparently Killer Moth ISN’T a major player in Gotham?  There are very few Mad Hatter stories?  Disgraceful.

Years later when I began dipping my toe into comics, Batman seemed like one of the logical places to start.  And I followed a lot of the New 52 and Rebirth titles for Batman and the larger Bat-family, and liked most of what I read but it was never my favourite thing.  I was never a Batman or Nightwing FAN.  Just someone who occasionally reads them.  All that changed when I first read a book with Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.  I can’t even remember which book it was, but now these two were my favourites who I’d follow anywhere (except War Games/Geoff Johns Titans).




Batgirl Volume 3

The third volume of Batgirl was part of the Batman Reborn relaunch, as Dick Grayson takes on the mantle of Batman, Damian Wayne becomes Robin and Stephanie Brown, once Spoiler, then Robin, then back to Spoiler, takes on the mantle of Batgirl.  And it’s fantastic.  Written by Bryan Q. Miller, the art team is PACKED full of future talent like Lee Garbett (Loki: Agent of Asgard), Pere Perez (Rogue & Gambit) and Dustin Nguyen (Batman: Lil’ Gotham) and stunning covers from artists like Phil Noto, Dustin Nguyen and even early Artgerm covers (which makes tracking down the single issues a nightmare).  

Only 24 issues thanks to the New 52 cutting the run short, Steph’s run as Batgirl is just unashamedly fun.  We really get to the core of how she stands out from Barbara and Cass and she gets to show why she deserves to take on the Batgirl mantle perfectly.  It’s also very tied into the Batman Reborn line as a whole and Dick!Bats, Robin and Red Robin make frequent appearances.  Stephanie’s time as Batgirl may have been much too short, but every issue was perfect and balanced really fun moments with some real heart.  I can’t recommend it enough but just be prepared to fall in love with Stephanie Brown and start to hate DC for the years of Steph erasure.

Isabel

I didn’t get into superheroes until late in life. (Late for superheroes – I was 14). It was a very gradual thing, I watched all the MCU movies, and slowly moved into Marvel comics, where I stayed for a good number of years. And then, two events coincided: my stepbrother gave me his DC Universe log in (remember that?), and on March 10th, 2019, I broke two bones in my ankle. I had to go on medical leave from college, and I spent my days lying in bed with nothing to do. Except, of course, watch everything DCU had for me to consume. I was ravenous, it was like I was a kid again – I watched Young Justice twice, I watched all of Batman: The Animated Series in about a week. At some point, I started reading comics too. I still have the excel sheet with everything on it, I read hundreds and hundreds of issues. I read the entirety of Birds of Prey (127 issues), I read Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl in two days (73 issues), I read over half of the 90s Robin run (117 issues).

I watched the Justice League Unlimited episode “Dead Reckoning” the same day a different, traumatic thing happened to me – and it all kinda clicked there. You might not even remember this episode, it’s the one with Deadman, and Gorilla Grodd tries to turn all humans into gorillas – you probably remember that. In it, Devil Ray almost shoots Wonder Woman, but Deadman stops him, by possessing Batman and shooting Devil Ray – who falls backward into some kind of electric panel, and dies. Obviously, Deadman didn’t mean to do this, but he can’t communicate this to Batman, who comes back to himself holding a gun, and looking straight at a dead body. And it was that, that sense of being trapped, the betrayal of my own body, that clicked with me. The show never follows up on it! It’s never mentioned again, beyond cursing Deadman to more time on earth as a ghost, and Batman storming off near the end of the episode. But – Batman knew how I felt. Batman understood. That’s a big part of Batman, that self identification. And after self identification is caring, because he does care – of course he does. He sees himself in the people around him, just like we see ourselves in him. How can you not care about someone you see yourself in? 

I want to recommend “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” which is an interesting story. Denny O’Neil writes prose, with Marshall Rogers on art and page layouts. It’s a fascinating style, one that never really caught on. The story is pretty good, but the page design by Marshall Rogers was what really caught my eye, because it’s not a standard comic book, it’s much more abstract. The interaction between text and image is fascinating, the balance of prose and art switching easily between pages and propelling the story along. It’s almost like a collage, text pasted over and into the art behind it. The last page of the story made me audibly gasp, it’s incredibly striking, white text boxes standing out on the black of the page. It’s a beautiful comic.

I also want to direct people towards the gem that is Batman: Black & White. It was brought back recently, but I’m talking about the 90s stuff here. The main conceit of a short comic about Batman – written and drawn by people who haven’t necessarily worked on Batman – means it’s full of perfect little stories about all the different things Batman means to people. Brubaker & Sook’s “I’ll Be Watching” is a story about the comfort of having Batman there, always, while McKeever’s “Perpetual Mourning” is a quiet thing about Batman bringing humanity back to the dead, and Claremont, Rude & Buckingham’s “A Matter of Trust” is a heartwarming story about Bruce babysitting for a friend.

Marc Quill

Growing up consuming a fair amount of superhero fiction meant I was fully aware of who Batman was, even while I was just a kid in the Philippines. 1995’s Batman Forever may have been critically panned, but as a kid, it didn’t matter to me. I found it enjoyable and a rather entertaining first exposure to the world of Batman. Then came Batman: The Animated Series, the beloved cartoon which pretty much helped define Batman to a new generation of young kids.

Over the years, I came to realize that while Batman himself was cool, his “family” of costumed allies edged him in that regard. Whether it’s old favorites like Dick Grayson (Robin I/Nightwing) and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle) or newer characters like Cass Cain (Black Bat/Orphan) or Harper Row (Bluebird), it’s been quite satisfying for a character often characterized as a loner to have this massive support network of Gotham-based heroes helping him out at a moment’s notice.

As such, I feel that the 52-issue Batman Eternal is a good series that helps showcase the Bat Family at their finest. These stories — largely written by Scott Snyder and a rotating group of guest writers, plus various artists, are high-stakes tales that obviously feature Batman, but also gives a good amount of page time to various characters.

Eternal shines a light on characters such as Tim Drake (Red Robin) and Stephanie Brown (who’s introduced into the New 52 continuity here), as well as Red Hood and the aforementioned Harper Row (whose transformation into Bluebird is chronicled over multiple issues). It’s an adventure that manages to maintain steam through 52 weekly issues, with Snyder being helped on writing duties by an all-star stable of writers including Tim Seeley, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and current Bat-scribe James Tynion IV. The art throughout these issues isn’t too shabby either, with heavy hitters like Dustin Nguyen, Jason Fabok, Guillem March, and Joe Quinones all providing some well-drawn panels.

The main thing, however, that drew me to Eternal was the culmination of Harper Row’s hero’s journey. She’s been a polarizing character for some, but I think what’s made her one of my favorite Bat-Family characters is how she’s defined by resolve and refusing to falter even as the world in Gotham grows more dangerous. Despite not having any actual combat experience and only having her resourcefulness as an engineer on her side, Harper proved herself to be a hero by striving to do the right thing not only for her, but for her younger brother Cullen. That familial bond is why she even decides to be Bluebird, and her first outing in Eternal #42 is a great debut for a Gotham hero that doesn’t nearly get enough of a spotlight.

My Bluebird-based bias aside, you really can’t go wrong with Batman Eternal for an adventure that truly lives up to its title in every way imaginable.

Jimmy Gaspero

I don’t remember when I first heard about Batman. I just always knew there was a Batman. My dad was a fan of the Adam West/Burt Ward movie and television series that was on from 1966-1968 when he was between the ages of 10-12. I didn’t grow up ironically loving that version of Batman for its camp or corniness, because my dad didn’t. He genuinely loved it and I did too. It didn’t take long for me to learn about a different version of Batman though, which happened through the comics. My dad wasn’t an avid comic book collector, but he would take my brother and I to the local comic book shop. He was always interested in new number 1 issues of anything or issues he thought might be valuable one day. So I wasn’t a regular reader of Batman comics, but you better believe I still have all the issues from Batman: A Death in the Family from 1988 as well as Batman #500 from 1993. My thoughts and feelings about Batman are inextricably linked to my dad.

Since getting back into reading comics around 2008, I’ve read a lot of Batman comics, and truth be told, when I try to look at it objectively, I’m not a huge fan of the character. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly read some great Batman comics, but too many times it feels like different writers giving subtle variations on a theme I don’t find that interesting. I will always love Batman though, because I can’t think of Batman without thinking of my dad, and I love my dad. 

When it comes to suggesting Batman comics, I don’t believe it gets any better than Batman: The Black Mirror. This storyline was published in Detective Comics issues #871-#881 written by Scott Snyder and artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla. Dick Grayson is the Batman and must contend with the return of James Gordon, Jr., Commissioner Gordon’s son and a psychopathic killer. This storyline begins Scott Snyder’s run and is the final arc of Detective Comics before DC’s New 52. Snyder writes as though he’s not going to be allowed to write Batman again and the result is, in my opinion, the best Batman story ever written. It’s smart, dark, full of twists and turns, and gorgeously illustrated. If you read one Batman story in your life, this should be the one. 

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Comics

The Belle Reve Files – Suicide Squad #10

Welcome back convicts. Today we’re discussing a landmark issue of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, #10. You might’ve encountered this cover before. It’s incredibly iconic and might be the single most recognisable image associated with this run. Obviously, that’s because of a certain vigilante taking up much of the page. Batman sells books and bumps those numbers up.

But outside of Batman, it’s an incredible cover. It’s a powerful statement and in my mind, the greatest image of Amanda Waller ever drawn. Here we see Batman with his back to the wall, a much shorter and obviously less physically powerful character barking at him. It boldly throws Waller into the wider universe and having freaking BATMAN as the one she’s backing into a corner sends a powerful message. It’s one of those covers that says a lot with a little and leaps off the stands. So what about the story behind the cover? Well let’s dive in, shall we? 

The issue starts with the introduction of Father Craemer, a priest who is setting up shop in Belle Reve. Craemer is one of my favourite supporting characters in this run, it’s clear that Ostrander loves him since he’s used later in his Spectre run. Craemer has decided to move here to help these criminals and minister to them. The good word and all that jazz. He’s a great character that has a really unique and interesting relationship with the Squad. We have psychologists to get into their heads, but Craemer gets to their hearts. He’s someone who actively tries to empathise with the Squad and that’s something Ostrander uses to great effect later.

Craemer is introduced alongside another member of the Bell Reve staff, Murph. Murph is a prison guard, who helps to fill out the Bell Reve supporting cast. I particularly like his conversation with Craemer in this opening scene. We get to understand why he’s working here and that he doesn’t like it all that much. It helps to ground the series and shows that these are real people, not background extras. This conversation is only on the third page and we already know everything we need to know about these characters. We understand who they are, what their role is, and what their perspective is on working here. 

The two of them then encounter Duchess, who we met in the last issue. She seems to have linked up with Belle Reve between issues after hauling in Slipknot. We get this really great panel of her with this massive sci-fi gun like something out of Aliens. It’s apt since Duchess is basically a female version of Dutch from Predator. A muscle-bound commando with a bandana firing massive machine guns from the hip. Ostrander, McDonnell, and the team then move from her introduction into a scene with Flo, Waller, and John Economos.

I love the way that the scene changes here as Waller sees the Duchess on a TV screen from the last panel. There are a lot of characters in this series and it could feel all over the place shifting between them all. Thankfully Ostrander manages to tie it all together seamlessly. When you read these issues you’ll notice that he only shifts perspective through action and reaction. We start with Cramer and Murph but switch to an introduction of Duchess when Murph gets a call about her. That then moves us to Waller as she watches her on a screen. It’s just really damn good writing and it feels totally seamless. Everything just flows really well and the momentum is never slowed for a second.

Now comics are often spoken of as condensed storytelling. Comics are a medium that has to do a lot in a small number of pages, especially back in the day when long-running stories weren’t as common. I want to point to this specific page as an example of Ostrander doing this condensed storytelling perfectly. It’s a conversation between Flo, Waller, and Economos and it tells you vital information about the characters while setting up plot points for future stories. In a single page, we learn that Flo has a crush on Bronze Tiger and that Waller knows about it. We know that Waller feels she’s saddled with Flag and believes he’s inevitably going to crack and we understand that Flo yearns to be in the field but that Waller cares too much about her.

That’s a lot for a single page but it never feels exhausting or forced. Flo never outright says she has a crush on Tiger but Waller joking about it tells us all we need to. Waller telling Flo that she’s not expendable tells us all we need to know about their relationship. Nothing is explicitly said but the implication is enough for us to immediately understand. It’s all done so efficiently and smoothly. If someone is wanting to make comics they should look at this page and study why and how it works. 

Following this, we get a brief but important scene with Rick Flag and Mark Shaw. Shaw announces that he’s leaving to do his own thing as Manhunter and invites Flag to come with him. Flag just ignores him, locked in his grief for Karin. It’s a brief moment that mostly acts to set up Manhunter’s own series which was also written by Ostrander and his wife Kim Yale. But it also helps to establish just how grief-stricken and disillusioned Flag is. It also goes back to my point about transitions. Waller spoke about Flag going off the deep end and in the next scene, he barely talks. 

Shaw heads out and the issue cuts to midnight. A lone figure sits in their cell, shrouded by shadow. The figure blocks the security camera and escapes his cell. The guards note that the man is Matches Malone, thrown in Belle Reve as a favour from Commissioner Gordon. We get these great pages by McDonell with lots of small panels showing glimpses of this figure breaking out and heading to storage revealing a package from Gordon. Inside of course is Batman’s costume, revealing that this figure is our very own Caped Crusader. Batman breaks into the office of John Economos and does some snooping around as Batman tends to do. He is eventually found out by Waller and she calls in Flag, Duchess, and Deadshot. Only Waller is interrupted by something on the monitor, Batman.

Here we finally get the reveal. This whole breakout sequence is so incredibly well done. See what needs to be understood is that here, Batman’s a horror movie monster. He’s like Jaws or the Xenomorph. He’s revealed in brief glimpses only to come out in this amazing big panel, as a dark vengeful creature of the night. It makes perfect sense as well given that this is a Squad book, not a Batman book, so we get to see him in a new light and from a different perspective. I’m also just always gonna love anytime Matches Malone is used, such a fun part of the Batman mythos. 

Of course, the Squad aren’t just gonna let Batman collect his things and leave. We get to see Duchess in action first, McDonnell draws her as a massive imposing figure that towers over Batman. It’s here where we get a lot of our understanding of the character. She’s someone who revels in a good fight and yearns for a worthy opponent. Introducing a character by essentially having her hold her own against Batman is a smart way for the creative team to set up how powerful she is. Of course, being Batman, Duchess is taken out as he moves on to Deadshot. There’s a great little page of Batman ducking under Lawton’s line of sight and knocking him out.

Batman seems to be home free before Flag comes in and tackles him. We get a great action sequence of these two stern heroes coming to blows. It’s depicted in another one of those full-action pages that McDonnell does a lot in this run. We don’t really get to see who wins though as Waller interrupts with the entire staff of Belle Reve. 

Here we get just some of the coolest stuff ever in a comic as Batman negotiates with Waller. Millennium as an event wasn’t amazing but it’s important for how it thrust the Suicide Squad into the wider universe. The Squad is supposed to be a secret so what happens when they take part in a line-wide crossover event? This is the fallout of that event as Batman notes that he had heard rumours of the Squad and became curious during the crossover.

This issue really functions as a way for Ostrander to address how the Squad can even function in a world of superheroes. So Ostrander throws in a character to effectively tackle this head-on, and what better character for it than the world’s greatest detective. Only Batman doesn’t get out with the evidence, Waller threatens to find out who he is and blow his cover if Batman blows theirs.

The whole issue effectively ends in a stalemate which is hardly the most dramatic end for a crossover comic book. But it’s important to remember just who these characters were at this point. Batman had just broken into and out of a prison and torn through the Squad with little effort. He went through all of this and in the end, was only stopped by Waller. It’s the defining moment for this character. She’s tough as nails, will do anything to get what she wants, and won’t let anyone jeopardize the Squad, no matter who it is. Not many characters can say that they blackmailed Batman. It’s such an important moment because it solidifies her place within the wider DC Universe. She’s not just someone who commands a Squad of criminals, she’s someone who made Batman think twice. 

Also as a side note, we get one single panel of Deadshot talking to Batman that just reveals so much about Lawton. Deadshot remarks how he’d take out Batman just for fun. Only Batman points out that if Deadshot could’ve he would’ve, instead, he was holding back. It completely shatters everything we know about the two characters’ rivalry. It’s not explained or elaborated on and it doesn’t need to be. The implication is interesting enough and forces us to think more deeply about the characters.

This whole issue is just damn good writing with a killer premise and fun action but it’s all in service of character. Like how Batman’s presence causes Flag to yell at the Squad and complain that he deserves better than to be working with this scum. It’s here where Waller reinstates Flag as leader since he’s just proven himself. Despite the story ending in a stalemate so much happens in this issue. New characters are introduced, old characters are given new motivations and interesting new elements of characters are revealed. This was all done in a brief 22 pages. 

It’s also just a stellar Batman story. Ostrander is one of my favourite writers to work on the character despite not having a proper long run with him. He just gets Batman and the unique presence he brings to a story. This entire issue is an absolute masterclass of comic book storytelling, it might just be the greatest single issue of the entire story. Just really highlights how good this medium can be when everyone is working at the top of their game. 

Categories
Comics

I Am Batman #1 Impresses as Jace Fox takes up the Cowl

I Am Batman #1
Written by John Ridley
Art by Olivier Coipel, Alex Sinclair, and ALW’s Troy Peteri
Edited by Ben Abernathy
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: September 14, 2021

Jace Fox’s Destiny has arrived. We’ve been following the estranged son of Lucius Fox and his quiet reintroduction to the DC Universe but it’s here that he (literally) steps up to be something more real, concrete, for Gotham. The Batman, albeit differently, is already showing signs of the type of hero he’ll set out to be. I Am Batman throws Jace into the fires of Fear State in an #1 that gives an idea of Ridley’s mission statement for our new Batman.

Picking up from I Am Batman #0, Jace is moving comfortably in his Father’s world with reservations remaining given their past. It’s the work that takes place outside the offices and boardrooms that Jace is more attentive to. Coipel’s exquisite pencils sharply have Jace suit up in his freshly printed Batsuit with details that describe how grounded of an approach this Batman and the person behind the symbol will be. Ridley writes our Hero as someone who is well aware of Batman, as far as what he stood for and acted like. He doesn’t want to be that. He wants to be a man of the people and that starts in times of unrest. A Batman that is seen and heard, a vocal and physical reminder in the face of danger.

It’s a great contrast from our traditional and mainline Bruce Wayne’s characterization when it comes to being Batman and what he does with it. Ridley has been charting Jace’s character backward and forwards through time given his introduction with Future State and then working backward with the prequel series The Next Batman: Second Son and now the current present-day series. We’re understanding more about Jace through this investment in this character and it’s slowly paying off as he steps up as his own character taking on a mantle that plenty of characters have before. 

As Coipel’s pencils guide our next Batman around the Gotham City streets, he’s presented as a smaller…a more intimate figure on his cycle. A man in a suit really as he catches two kids tagging walls with graffiti. He humors but sternly attempts to warn them away from the activity and it’s the small acts that set Jace apart, the honest effort to be seen and heard as the Batman. We zip through the city streets in a widescreen page that features some stylized nightlife, pedestrians, and a speeding car giving Jace another bout with both citizens and police in his newfound crusade.

Coipel’s mastery of the page can’t be overstated as he uses both small and large panels, sometimes window-like to show actions all contributing to the overall action and always taking care to never lose the characters in the process. He’s aided by Alex Sinclair on coloring duties and even at night, the backgrounds and surroundings never make Jace a darker figure, losing him in the nighttime. Instead, he’s the focus as he rides and battles his way across Gotham with a crisp and kinetic Coipel drawn ferocity. 

While I Am Batman #1 is a first issue and I would say that it is reader-friendly to a point…it also lends itself to be read like a Part 2 or a continuing piece of a narrative given how much of Jace’s backstory and prequel series has led to this point and story threads are mentioned to give readers enough information to know what’s happening. If someone chose this as their first introduction to Jace Fox, I’d probably hand them the #0 issue as well just to be on the safe side. 

Categories
Comics

Maw #1 – Review

“What does your anger look like”- Maw #1

The world isn’t fair. Justice is more like a fairy tale than anything resembling reality, and with an unfair world comes rage, a lot of it. We tend to see rage as this horrible feeling, which, to be honest, isn’t the case. Which doesn’t mean it’s a beautiful thing or something like that. It just means that anger and rage are a lot more complex and more transformative than we might think. These are some of the things we can see in Maw.

Maw is a new horror mini-series written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, art by A. L. Keplan, Colors by Fabian Mascolo and Federica Mascolo, and letters by Cardinal Rae. It tells the story of Marion, who is dragged into a female retreat by her sister Mandy, trying to give her a new perspective and some empowerment, things she seemingly can only get from a drink. But after Marion is the victim of a horrible assault, things take a turn and awakening something in Marion that starts a violent transformation.

Maw #1 (Written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, illustrated by A.L. Kaplan, colored by Fabiana Mascolo with coloring assistance by Federica Mascolo, and lettered by Cardinal Rae) / Source: Boom! Studios

The first thing that caught my eye in this comic was the way it’s colored. Fabian Mascolo (with the assistance of Federica Mascolo) uses colors in a way that really enhances the story. One example of this is how Mandy’s redshirt really contrasts with the rest of the color palette, while Marion’s black outfit makes her less noticeable, even with a bright background. This is such a great way to make the reader familiar with the characters without tons of boring exposition. There are a lot more moments where colors are used to strengthen the atmosphere and tone of a scene. I will always appreciate this in a comic.

The art itself is also pretty amazing. Kaplan’s use of shadows, facial expressions, and body language does a really great job of telling the story, making the readers feel the emotions permeating the scene. There is a flashback that is extremely charged with emotion. But due to the nature of the scene, feeling them without being there could be a challenge if it wasn’t for Kaplan’s fantastic job.

Maw #1 (Written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, illustrated by A.L. Kaplan, colored by Fabiana Mascolo with coloring assistance by Federica Mascolo, and lettered by Cardinal Rae) / Source: Boom! Studios

All that being said, if I had to choose a favorite thing about this comic, it would be the way it explores the themes of injustice, violence, and rage. This comic doesn’t hold any punches, it’s pretty raw and will make you feel extremely mad at the world, and I think that’s good. We should be mad at the world when looking at the right reasons. Thinking that there isn’t any more violence against women anymore is either naivety or voluntary denial of the facts. The way the system continues to run over the many women that have been victims of violence is just terrifying. Maw takes these problems and puts them right in your face, making you really think about it. There are some moments where Doyle’s dialogue will make your blood boil. I’m thankful for that.

Maw #1 is an outstanding introduction to what looks to be a shocking and important story. The creative team uses everything the medium of comics can give you and uses it to create a comic that will make you see through the effects of rage and the ways of power. I truly believe this is the start of one of the most important series in comics right now.

Categories
Comics Food

GateCrashers: Happy Hour Presents Gotham, A Batman Inspired Cocktail

“This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.”

As we approach Batman Day on September 18th, we find no better salute to the Caped Crusader than to serve up a cocktail honoring the city they call home. My love for Batman began with the Tim Burton classic film Batman and was solidified with Batman: The Animated Series. Multiple sessions of the Arkham trilogy later, and we find ourselves here, celebrating one of DC Comics’ legendary characters. The cocktail itself is similar in blueprint to a Manhattan, akin to the fictional city of Gotham being a modified combination of NYC and Chicago, but the differences at the end are what make it unique. Now, sit back in your worn leather chair and let Alfred bring you a Gotham, try to savor it as the BatSignal shines in the distance.

INGREDIENTS

Whiskey, Rye, or Bourbon

Dry Vermouth

Sweet Vermouth

Bitters (Orange preferred)

Ice

MATERIALS

Ten ounce highball glass

Spoon

Measured Shot Glass

Cocktail Shaker

Strainer

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pour Ice into a Shaker and set aside.
  2. Pour 2 shots of Rye into shaker.
  3. Pour ½ shot Dry Vermouth into shaker.
  4. Pour ½ shot of Sweet Vermouth into Shaker
  5. Pour 2 dashes of bitters into Shaker
  6. Stir all the ingredients in the shaker for 10 seconds.
  7. Strain ingredients into chilled highball glass.
  8. Enjoy!
Categories
Comics

Is Titans United #1 New Reader Friendly?

Those familiar with HBO’s Titans will recognize the lineup in Titans United. Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Red Hood, Superboy, Donna Troy, Hawk, and Dove are together again for a new, 7 issue mini-series from Cavan Scott and Jose Luis. Although the book is using its connection to the show for advertising purposes, it quickly establishes that the mini-series will ultimately not tie itself to the shows’ specific continuity. 

Issue #1 of Titans United is a fairly fast-paced start to a new adventure for the team. Within the blockbuster action, Cavan manages to include a bit of breathing room for showcasing relationships within the Titans. The team dynamics will be familiar for more regular readers, but some new conflicts are simmering as well. Particularly, with the addition of Red Hood as a roster regular. The art is well done and the designs are some of my favorites for these characters yet! 

Overall, the plot is fairly straightforward without being remotely boring, making Titans United #1 a great place to start for anyone that is vaguely familiar with the IP from any type of related media (comics, cartoons, HBO series). There are bits and pieces from almost every iteration of the team sprinkled throughout the book, making it very easy for fans of any version of the team to find something they like. However, the lack of character introduction makes me hesitate to recommend it to those that are completely unfamiliar with the property. 

Titans United #1 is a great start to a story that all fans of various Titans media are likely to enjoy!

Categories
Comics

GC616 News for Marvel Comics Released 09/08/2021

The GC616 logo flashes across the screen before fading to reveal Reagan sitting at the desk like always.

Reagan: Good evening and welcome to GC616. The Bullseye lockdown continues, now in its tenth day, no updates have been issued by the authorities who are requesting that citizens continue to stay inside their homes and away from any uncovered windows. As usual, we will update you on the details as they become available.

In the meantime, here’s Justin with some news about the comic series Conan.

Justin Partridge III sits behind his usual taped together TV trays, but he looks concerningly happy this time, dressed head to toe in a Pilgrim outfit. A grim black one, complete with tall, wide brimmed hat, riding cloak, and sword belt, which houses a rapier. An odd staff-like object adored with the head of a wolf leans against the main anchor table. Draped across the front of the trays is a poorly hung streamer-paper banner that reads “HAPPY 300 ISSUES, CONAN!” and to the side of the trays a low sitting lawn chair stands.

Justin gestures wildly with his hands as he speaks.

JPIII: Hello again, Citizen Fleshies! MAN, do I have a treat for you today. Here in the studio today, all the way from Aquilonia and The Hyborian Age! The man celebrating a whopping THREE HUNDRED ISSUES! The one, the only, CONAN, THE CIMMERIAN!

Justin takes his phone from the cloak and starts to play a random Basil Poledouris track as Conan The Barbarian steps cautiously into the studio. He is wearing one of his borrowed Hellfire Club frocks but holds a wicked looking double-headed axe. He sits but lays the axe on his lap, eying the off-screen crew menacingly.

JPIII: Conan! Thank y-

Conan: My wine.

JPIII: OH! Yeah, of course!

Justin reaches behind the trays and lifts up a comically huge clay jug of wine. He hands it, with some effort, to Conan, who seems able to lift and drink from it with one hand.

JPIII: So, Conan. 300 issues! That’s a big deal! Did you have any idea when you first met the Frost Giant Daughter that you would end up here? 300 issues later?

Conan seems to have finished the wine. He eyes Justin closer.

Conan: Why are you dressed as a priest?

JPIII: It’s not…I’m Solomon Kane. 

Conan: KANE!? THAT BRIGAND!?

JPIII: NO, WAIT IT’S A COSTUME!

But his axe is already up and the battle is joined! Justin barely gets his sword and staff drawn before Conan hits him with a mighty glancing blow, launching him through his section of the backdrop. Sparks fly! But Conan seems satisfied with the single blow and he leaves the studio, taking a huge handful of deli meat from the crew table before he does. 

Justin’s head emerges from the hole. Except…it isn’t his face. The synthetic flesh once showing Justin’s face has ripped away…to reveal the face of MACHINE MAN! Or at least A Machine Man. Now dressed in a ruined Justin suit and Solomon Kane cosplay.

X-52: B-*ack-ack-ack*ZZYT! T-T-TO you, <Lead Anchor Designate>.

He falls backward in a clatter of gears. The feed cuts back to Reagan, who has a surprised look on her face.

Reagan: Umm. I’m sure Justin is fine. Now let’s catch up with Taneli and the Defenders.

The report switches from the high quality 4k resolution that the studio cameras are capable of to a much granier security camera feed. Taneli floats in his prison cell behind the refined Atlantean bars. His cloak floats in the water behind him with no noticeable breathing apparatuses for someone who from the looks of it is a regular human. A blue skinned atlantean swims by as they make their prison rounds to ensure no one has escaped from King Namor’s bondage. He floats towards the bars and looks up at the camera, his eyes perking up behind his half mask with a large smile on his face.  

Taneli: Hello again viewers. It’s been sometime since we last met. I’ve been without any form of communication since I splashed down into the oceans. I did find Atlantis or more like they found me. King Namor had me locked up here as a trespasser as I was peeking through their armory for the item which I seek. I am still new to this world of magic so bear with me as I stumble my way to find what I need. So I have been a prisoner for some time. 

He held up his wrists that were bound together with a coral cover set of chains. As the viewers watched, Taneli’s fingers and hands moved as if they were dancing as the water itself heated up. The metal grew hotter as it expanded enough for Taneli to slip his hands out.

Taneli: Perfect, finally got that right. I would have had to wait another week if that didn’t work. You’re here to hear about the Defenders, aren’t you? They’re stuck in a time before time. A world before our, well, your world. Carlo Zota is a rogue scientist spiraling through that time and the Defenders are there to stop him at the request of the Masked Raider. Now they’re in the Sixth Cosmos on Taa. Turns out that’s where Galactus was born. A destroyer from the world before.

As Taneli speaks, his hands wave again as the bars shift in opposite directions so he can swim through. The camera feed changes to the next camera as he makes his way through the city, each capturing his report, controlled by his magic.

Taneli: The Silver Surfer is on this team… the Herald of Galactus. The mothman of planetary devouring if you will. Imagine being faced with the being that is at the root of so much of your own suffering and the suffering of billions? What choice would you make? I doubt the Silver Surfer would kill a child but hope to set him on a path to a better future. Taaia, Galactus’s mother, helps the team face the devourer of the world before. Who just so happens to have made Raider’s friend Zota his herald. One moment…

As Tanelli swims into a clearing, a group of Atlantean guards turn their sights onto him. If he wasn’t quick with his hands, he would have been killed. But before they could strike, a portal was opened that they were all sucked into as the guards and the water were teleported far across the galaxy to the planet of Frost Giants. A true chiller of a realization for them.

Taneli: The Defenders uses a weapon of pure emotion to handle Omnimax, their version of Galactus, before being sucked even further back in time and reality. Sticky situation but it’s good for me. Good that I need not worry about Stephen Strange meddling into my affairs. I am off to somewhere a lot dryer than this. Actually, a place almost out of time. Until then, stay safe. 

Taneli enters one of the Atlantean’s ship’s as he commandeers it for his own needs. The camera lingers as the vehicle leaves the docking bay.

Reagan: Thanks Taneli! Now let’s go to Chad who is not coming to you via text this time.

Chad’s typical fanfare plays with heavy electronic beats with his sizzle reel opening his report. The highlight of this week’s reel starts with a still frame of a beautifully stenciled glass door that reads “Alias Investigations”. The stillness is broken as a woman in a leather jacket throws Chad through the glass and towards the camera. The reel ends and Chad is sitting on his couch in a C.M. Punk “Clobberin’ Time” shirt and a pair of boxers with Spider-Man logos printed across them.

Chad: What up my Chadlians! I just got back from Krakoa. Absolutely wild Labor Day Week. Did you know they grow everything there? Also they’ve got the magnets guy on trial. Not so mag neato. Also I was just watching that last report and only caught that Galactus’s mom is a total MILF. Sucks I’m not a celestial but it’s not the size that counts.

Chad turns off his TV so he can start his report.

Chad: Sorry my boy C.M. Punk is back in the ring. Anyway, Spider-Man! Finally something happened. You ever see those gaslight, gatekeep, girl boss memes? No? I’ll tweet some for you. Anyway, The Human Centipede turns out to be the bone-zone consequences of Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy. But it’s not. Turns out Harry Osborn gatekept, gaslight, girl bossed his dad into clapping some robot cheeks. Basically he worked with some bad dudes to make robots and make these fake offspring. Listen, Norman ain’t a good guy but what kind of shitty parenting leads to your kid building a robot that you take on a one way trip to pound town? Sick stuff. That’s all I got this week. If anyone knows Galactuse’s hot momma, give her my number. Oh wait, I got something else!

Chad leans forward on his couch and opens his laptop, VERY quickly closing some tabs before anyone can see. 

Chad: Check it. I found a super cool webcam to watch. You know how sometimes Zoo’s have 24 video feeds of penguins or hippos or something? I love watching those. They’re like my ASMR but now I found this super weird one.

Chad: I think it’s actually like a Go Pro or something strapped to a bird’s face. Super weird angle but I have been seeing some really cool stuff. There is this dude Ka-Zar and he died and came back. ARE I PEE to KA-ZAR but he got better. So he’s a smokeshow, his wife, Shanna, is a smokeshow, and they have a cool ass kid with like a flower launcher. Basically the coolest family on Earth.

Chad: So they fought a T-Rex, OH WAIT IS THIS THE SAVAGE LAND? At the party on Krakoa, Wolverine said if I gave him a good game ass slap again that he was gonna send me there. Dude was a great pong partner. Anyway, the T-Rex was on some Resident Evil business with some worm monster in it but Ka-Zar tossed it out like the trash after moping around for a minute. 

Chad: Shanna said something at their dinner though. Wait actually maybe this stream isn’t legal? Maybe I shouldn’t watch this family eating dinner… anyway she said that they can’t eat the animals that they protect. It made me think about those little penguins at the zoo… I would be heartbroken if someone ate them. I really gotta think about this whole vegan thing a little bit more. Beer is vegan right? Anyway, back to you Reagitoni.

Reagan: Thanks Chad! Now we’ve got Kevin with some news about X-Force.

The camera cuts to Central Park. Kevin stands in his fedora and trenchcoat, looking extremely uncomfortable in the bright September sun. Beside him stands the blue furry form of Hank McCoy, frowning at Kevin.

Kevin: [Breathless] Reagan, I am here on an incredibly rare field operation outside my basem – uh, my operations center, for a coveted interview with one of the shadiest and hard to reach individuals on the entire planet.

Beast: You are here because I wished to let you know in person that I would like you to please stop trying to contact me, or indeed the other mutants you have been deluging with attempted communications.

Kevin: [Ignoring him] Now, Beast, if that is your real name

Beast: I can assure you it is not.

Kevin: You’ve been hiding out from the world for a very long time. Some people think you exist only as a legend, a rumor, a shadow in the night –

Beast: What on Earth are you talking about? I was an Avenger for several years. In fact, you see that bar on the corner? Simon and I once –  but no. That was… another me. [Murmuring, as if to himself] In fact, perhaps it’s better that you do think of me this way.

Kevin: And what way is that? As a secret mastermind behind a global conspiracy against mankind itself??? 

Beast: [Nods to himself and then looks up, as if resolved] Yes.  Why not. Yes, I do what I must to protect my people, and I do it well. And it is good for you – for humans – to be aware of what that entails. Especially after your recent appalling behavior.

Kevin: [Growing more excited] And that creature on the coast – those recent murders – you admit that you were-?

Beast: [Looking into the camera] What I admit is this: some of you humans attacked me- attacked Krakoa very recently, with your miniaturized assassins. Ingenious technology, but – thanks to my good friend Black Tom Cassidy –  it has not worked. I am still here. And you, my Russian friends, will not be able to say the same for long.

Kevin: Is that – Russian – so –

Beast: I know who you are. I know what you’re doing. I know everything that transpires on this world now, and rest assured, I – we – will stop it. And on that note, I must bid you adieu. And you, strange little man – do not try to contact me again. I have known fine reporters in my day, and you are not among them.

He turns and strides off camera. Kevin barely notices, bouncing with excitement

Kevin: I knew it!! I knew it!! Oh they called me crazy, well who’s crazy now??? ‘Russian’ – He practically admitted he’s in bed with Putin – probably got kompromat on the whole nation!!!  Man I’ve got to make sure they see this on Reddit

Kevin races out of frame. The camera hangs on the empty park for a moment, then cuts back to studio.

Reagan: We really need to vet our contributors better so we don’t keep bringing on conspiracy theorists. Anyways, thank you one again for tuning in to GC616, we’ll see you next time!

Categories
Comics

Batman: Heart of Gold

What makes Batman Batman? With the hero not being a billionaire anymore and not being able to afford his famous toys, it might be the right time to ask that question.

Just prior to the Joker War, when the Joker stole Bruce Wayne’s fortune, it was revealed the billionaire had been embezzling money through shell companies and illegitimate accounts. That money, of course, was intended to fund Batman’s war on crime, but Bruce couldn´t explain that to the financial regulators and, even if he could, it was illegal anyway.

Catwoman then outsmarted the Joker and transferred the fortune to Lucius Fox, who offered to transfer it all back to Bruce. The problem was that, with the embezzling revelation, the USA government was sure to keep an eye on each penny spent and that would make secretly funding Batman’s activities impossible.

That put the Dark Knight in a delicate situation, in which his operations would need to be less costly and his resources less vast.  

And this invites the question of what does this mean for Batman? Who is Batman without his deus ex machina gadgets?  Is he even defined by his money?  

Every time I see a status quo change in Batman or a different media interpretation, I always remember that interview Grant Morrison gave to LA Times in 2010: 

“It’s really weird. Batman can take anything. You can do comedy Batman; you can do gay Batman…it all works. It’s something intrinsic to the character. It’s so strange and amazing”.  

https://web.archive.org/web/20100815191623/http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2010/08/grant-morrison-.html

Of course, Batman is famous for paying for the Justice League Satellite in the JL cartoon and for joking that his superpower is being rich in the Justice League movie, but stories in which his mega-expensive tech isn’t all that important aren’t rare. Just a grappling hook and some batarangs and he’s ready to go.

Quoting Frank Miller,

“Batman isn’t interesting because he has a cool car. It’s great that he has a cool car. But he’s interesting because he straightens the world out. And he brings order to a very chaotic world. Especially when you’re a child. You need somebody, even if it’s a fictional character, to tell you that the world makes sense and that the good guys can win. That’s what these heroes are for”.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-features/a-rare-interview-frank-miller-871654/

Miller even writes that Batman in his seminal work “Year One”, in which we see a Batman with no technology, outside of a sonic device designed to attract bats. In Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”, considered one of the best Batman stories ever, he doesn’t use any kind of tech at all. In “The Long Halloween”, another beloved story, Batman doesn’t use any expensive gadget either.

During the 90s, in the famous Alan Grant run, Batman might have used special suits and fancy computers, but they are mostly a device to accelerate the development of the plot as opposed to an actual necessity or an integral part of the character. What is essential to that era is how the rich hero reacts to the constant social and political issues present in the stories: there is an extreme effort to present Batman as a compassionate person, using his money to help people in need.

In Alan Grant’s words,

“Because Batman is human. He’s experienced the full gamut of human emotions – grief, fear, rage – so he understands how people feel. Plus, he’s a self-made hero. He didn’t need an alien with a power ring, or to be born on a high gravity planet, or have an accident with chemicals. Instead, Batman took human powers to their limit with no external help (except for Alfred, perhaps). It just made sense to me that he would be a man of huge compassion – not obsessed to the point of insanity which some writers have proposed”.

https://www.trashmutant.com/tmi—alan-grant-interview.html

Grant’s Batman is probably the most compassionate and least emotionally detached version of the character we’ve seen in the Modern Era. While it is very interesting seeing him engaged in social justice activities, it is sometimes very easy to overlook the role rich people have in the unequal distribution of wealth. There is a danger to reading stories that humanize the rich and save them from scrutiny, even though that isn’t the writer’s intention. I will come back to this in a moment.  

What Grant brings upfront in his stories is Batman’s heart. That is the foundation for Bruce Wayne to become a hero. Alan Grant clearly sees Batman not as a selfish figure who dresses like a bat to avenge a personal tragedy, but as an altruistic hero who doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to other people. That’s why he trained to be one of the world’s greatest martial artists and detectives: for other people, not for himself. But with all that altruism, it’s difficult not to question his relationship to wealth distribution. A gold heart without sharing is an awkward capitalist invention. 

If we look at the reason behind James Tynion IV’s creative decision to take away Batman’s money, we will see that there is a plot reason and there is a civic responsibility reason:

“The hero’s endless fortune doesn’t just invite questions about his civic responsibilities, it’s also come to function as a deus ex capitalism, handwaving any level of property destruction and excusing any reveal of a new gizmo or vehicle.

Batman’s money allows writers to transform him into a grim version of Silver Age Superman, who could travel backwards in time by accidentally flying too fast. And while that may be a realistic depiction of the power of a multibillion-dollar fortune, it’s not particularly good for creating high stakes comics.”

https://www.polygon.com/2020/10/20/21524863/batman-how-much-money-net-worth-rich-dc-comics

The plot reason has more to do with the writer himself, while the civic responsibility reason speaks more of Batman as a character. Is he socially responsible? Getting rid of his fortune is a smart way to avoid that question, but that’s not what I am going to do. If the heart is part of him being a hero, then we should ask if Batman’s heart is in the right place.

Some characters like James Gordon expressed concern that Batman might attract his mentally ill villains, but what about the common villains: the robbers, the thugs, and the muscle for the crime lords?

Some scientific studies suggest there is a relationship between income inequality and crime.  When money is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people and a great number of people in need, the result is a great crime rate.

The French economist Thomas Piketty discussed in his best-seller book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) the history of wealth and income inequality in Europe and the United States since the 18th century and demonstrated how an unequal distribution of wealth causes social instability.   The problem is that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few means a lack of wealth in the hands of many.  Billionaires are made out of the exploitation of labor, oppression of marginalized people, and the neocolonialism of underdeveloped countries.  

This means that for Batman to be a billionaire, several Gothamites, and people everywhere there is a Wayne Corp., need to be poor and if there is poverty, there is crime. So with that said, it stands to reason that the Wayne family wealth is partially responsible for Gotham City’s crime rate.

When Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted in 2019 that billionaires should not exist, he brought to the general public a discussion about the moral question behind the existence of super-rich people.

More and more people are seeing billionaires not as an epitome of success, hard work, and talent, but as an epitome of greed, privilege, and exploitation; characteristics that do not fit a hero.

Comics have always been political and a product of their time, so as society’s view of super-rich people starts to change, maybe Batman’s relationship to wealth needs to change too.  If part of what makes him a hero is his heart, it should be in the right place and associated with good characteristics.  

Maybe, if we don’t see more social responsibility, Garth Ennis’s view of Batman could one day become the mainstream view:

“What we’re talking about here is a billionaire aristocrat who beats up poor people, as well as the mentally ill. I don’t know what that has to do with a code of honor.”

https://www.cbr.com/garth-ennis-batman-reptilian-dc-interview/

I don’t intend to give a definitive answer to what makes Batman Batman, but I definitely think it’s important to analyze his heart, because what is a hero without a heart?

With all that in mind, we should ask ourselves: should Batman ever be a billionaire again? 

Alex (@QueerlyNerd).

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Batman: Wayne Family Adventures Brings Us Closer to the BatFam than Ever Before

The first offering of DC and Webtoons’ recently announced partnership, the first 3 chapters of the Batman: Wayne Family Adventures are absolutely delightful.  Written by CRC Payne and focused on Batman and the larger “Bat-family,” it’s a fun, slice-of-life, all-ages story that is allowing it’s lesser-known characters to really shine. And best of all, it’s completely free on the Webtoons app!

Wayne Family Adventures biggest strength is that it’s a story that could only be told in this format. A low-stakes book of fun family misadventures isn’t going to be dominating the direct market, but on a platform like Webtoons it’s able to bring more eyes to the Bat-family than there would be reading any regular issue of Batman.  As a huge fan of the Bat-family aspect of the DC universe, this is a story I, and many others, have wanted for years and as the family begins to tighten up in the main continuity, now is the perfect time for it.  With the series focusing on characters like Cassandra Cain and Duke Thomas who aren’t as well known to the wider audiences and more casual comic fans, it’s a great opportunity to bring more eyes to them.  While it acknowledges the 80 years of Bat-continuity by bringing in more recent characters like Duke and Damian, it’s not tied down by it.  You don’t need to know anything coming into these stories beyond the basics of “Batman fights crime and adopts orphans.” Every character gets a brief little blurb that tells you everything you need to know about them and the dynamics between the kids has all been set up perfectly to allow new readers a chance to really get to know them.

The art from the team of Starbite, Maria Li, Lan Ma and Jean Kim is absolutely perfect for this book.  The renditions of all these characters are adorable, and seeing Damian Wayne not coloured as a white person for a change was great.  The comic is vibrant and kinetic in the brief action scenes and every character is so expressive and cute.  Although some gutters seem unnecessarily large, it flows perfectly through the webtoons vertical format and little background details, like Bruce having a “worlds okayest dad” mug, just make the whole thing so charming.  The lettering from Kielamel Sibal is also key to the fun vibe that makes this series so special.

The first three chapters introduce us to the Bat-family, first through the eyes of Wayne Manor’s newest resident Duke Thomas, and then through the daily life of Oracle.  There’s an episode focused on the battle for the last cookie, and honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. The episode is full of the witty banter we all expect from our superheroes and as someone with many siblings, it completely nails the family dynamics and constant but loving fights there.  The whole thing is just complete fun and even Batman gets to just be an exasperated dad overwhelmed by his wonderful idiot children instead of a dark and broody figure.

If you’ve ever seen a silly tumblr post or fan-comic of these kids interacting and wanted more of that, this webcomic is exactly for you, and I cannot recommend it enough.  And once again, it’s completely free to read, with an option to read the next few early with Webtoons coins system!

Catch new episodes of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on Webtoons every Thursday.