hello-again

PAGE 1

This is just perversion pure and simple. Morrison understands the best villains should be perverts, and while, yes, dodgy, perverts are people too, and we’re all perverts, etc., i wouldn’t have it any other way. That whispered ‘yes’ is gold. This thomas has waited his entire life to see his wife and child slaughtered in front of him – it’s the fulfillment of a dream, why he got married and had a kid in the first place – and now he’s off to have the biggest orgy ever while shouting ‘WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU? INNOCENCE!’

PAGE 2

Morrison does another terse origin story here, a la ASS, aided and abetted by the brilliant Frazer Irving: bat concentrate, only the most important elements shown – a child prancing gaily outside a movie theatre, a mugger (who for my money looks somewhat temporally dislocated – part Victorian, part modern: mugger eternal), death and a rich woman laid out on the pavement, pearls and blood. The dominoes at the top of the page seem to suggest the inexorability of this sequence of events, and lend the rest of story the air of destiny. This is bat history in the making, people.

Now that we’re all gathered around the eerie neon pink radiance of this issue and i’ve got your attention, I’d like to clear up some confusion about Zur En Arrh with a bit of fanwank. It seems appropriate given that we’re returning to Zorro in Arkham territory here. One of the things that caused a great deal of head scratching at the time was the why Hurt and Batman should both hone in on it for their hedonic reprogramming – bit of a coincidence some thought. But my answer to that is simple. We know from his conversation with evil monk that Bruce sensed the Zur En Arrh hypnotic trigger’s presence and wanted to know what to do should his mind be attacked directly, and it’s only a short hop, skip and jump to infer that he, consciously or otherwise, probably grokked the shape of the thing and this fed into his eventual response. there, easy.

PAGE 3

I like that the now we’re out of mythic time, the eternal events of Batman’s origin, Chill is revealed as just some junkie street person. It grounds us again. Aaah, but this poses the question, is this wank fantasy or reality? I don’t know, you have to perform some funny narrative tilt-a-whirls in order to collapse this stuff into canon. I’m going with fantasy – the pictorial substitution of thought balloons, derangement so advanced it appears supernatural*. But we are dealing with the time stream over there in ROBW, aren’t we? Questions… I think it might be better to simply proceed apace with the perversion thing, because whatever’s going on here, it’s definitely that.

And what to say about the bacchanal panel? The infernal theme continues; Hurt as the devil in miniature with his minions cavorting in the libidinous red hell-light about him – Pyg taking a trip to the despair pit over there in the corner, Bruce in his bat mask waiting in the wings, danse macabre partner deluxe. In Hurt’s topsy turvy 666 world matter triumphs over spirit, the animal over the human… champagne over holy water.

Sounds cool.

I like that his quiff changes sides as Thomas transitions into Hurt. From the Right hand path to the left. From darkness to light, via hairstyle. You know, I’ve never picked up on the Doctor Wayne/Doctor Hurt thing – and neither has the rest of TEH INTERNET by the look of it – but of course it makes perfect sense. The good philanthropic Doctor and his dark shadow, the Doctor of pain. This interests me because, to psychologise the supernatural for a tick, Bruce’s Mother and Father have remained a sacred space for seventy years or so now, a deep site, once you peel away all the adoration,duty and reverence, of Bruce’s unaddressed rage. This arc is about ‘How dare they fucking well leave me? How dare he leave me there in that alley, the man who was supposed to be my protector?’ (the same, btw, could apply at this point to Dick) It *hurts* to look at these things, but it’s necessary in order to heal.

Moving on… Because I’m a racist I think all baddies should have inscrutable, dwarfish, Japanese manservants.

The press panels are a good way of addressing the many !!??s that at this stage in the game must be flooding readers’ minds and reassuring them that ‘all your questions shall be answered shortly.’ I like the breakneck pace of these opening pages, actually. We’re not being given a chance to catch our breath, just as Dick and Damian (BTW, internet, get the spelling right!) aren’t. The dominoes are tumbling towards the finish line, gathering speed in the gathering dusk, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them. This is the world turned on its head, and before you can ask ‘how’ or ‘why?’, you take a bullet to the head.

* See Morrison’s original B&R interviews

Zom: Perversion, you say? This is the ultimate geek perversion, the perversion of the sacred bat-myth. This is worse than naughty universe touching, this is naughty universe murder. Hurt’s origin and Bruce’s can’t co-exist (there’s a sense in which they can’t co-exist even if there is something multiversal going on here) – one must triumph, and one must die in a dark alleyway. Trust Morrison to assault the fictional fabric of Batman.

PAGE 4

‘Right now Doctor Wayne just wants to go home.’

You see? He’s at your doorstep already. I told you. When it happens, it happens fast.

What a panel.

It seems to say, ‘linger on the reality of this for a few seconds more before I march in and fucking END YOU.’

PAGE 5

If the first twelve issues of Morrison’s run have been about pitting Dick against his opposites, then this one is about pitting him against Batman’s. These are the guy’s THE Batman, not Dick Grayson, has to contend with, the Jokers and Doctor hurts. Will Grayson survive this black and red world? And if he does can he triumph? Or will it be Bruce? I think a lot of people will feel cheated if he doesn’t pull it out somehow, but hasn’t this whole thing been about how there’s only one Batman? Perhaps, time jaunting being what it is, this is all part of a plan devised by Bruce and Dick. Perhaps they’ve already established contact. After all, Dick does seem very certain Hurt is ‘finished’.

And was that Dick speaking? I only heard BATMAN.

And Damian? He knows he’s indestructible. There will be much bone smashing in a few seconds time.

PAGE 6

BLAM.

We don’t see blood though, do we?

I think the Comics Alliance boys are spot on with this one.

And about the 99 Fiends.

Zom: That they’re the Miagani? Makes sense to me. Ready made Bat-army, just like Miller’s Mutants, waiting in the wings.

PAGE 7

Wow. Just look at that city. Look at Damian striding through the cop cars towards the hotel (an image which now graces my desktop). This is what computer generated art should look like.

Did you catch the cop blowing his nose?

Look at the Joker, the only thing in that room: ‘Hello again [reader/little Bruce].’

Hello.

PAGES 8 and 9

‘Robin. Pay attention.’

It’s getting serious. no more zombies or henchmen, you’re in the room with the Joker now. You have to pay attention to stay alive. Dick knows this. Damien doesn’t.

Yet.

Irving really sells us on the white-eyed intensity of Dick’s magic eye, magic mushroom scouring stare here. He’s drinking in the whole scene, stilling his mind and not missing a beat.

Over to Dr. Wolper:

‘Batman’s Psychotic sublimative/psycho erotic behaviour pattern is like a net. Weak egoed neurotics…are drawn into corresponding intersticing patterns. You might say Batman commits these crimes using his so called villains as proxys.’

Whether he intends it or not – I’m guessing not – Miller puts forward a compelling case here, one that Nolan nods to via the idea of escalation and Morrison runs with all the way through his run, although his Joker is only weak egoed in the sense that he doesn’t have a permanent sense of self, turning what in Wolper’s eyes is a weakness into something far weirder and frightening. We’ve touched on the ways in which Batman completes Joker before, so I won’t bore you all with it again here, but needless to say then, they’re inextricably bound up with each other, and the Joker’s memeplex-cycles are closely attuned to whatever happens to the Caped Crusader, and then the rest of Gotham is forced to follow suit. Batman starts out all dark and so does his nemesis, he acquires a Robin and lightens up and it comes pop crime time (the Riddler may be the ur-pop crime criminal, permanently at home, indeed unable to convincingly move on from that environment, but the Joker had his joker-sled first), Robin becomes a troubled adolescent and Batman a beleaguered Dad and out come the crowbars, Batman approaches death and the Clown at Midnight is born, Batman dies…etc.

No one’s stopped to ask what would happen to Batman without the Joker, though. Would he hang up his cape?

I really like the slippery atmosphere here, though. It’s impossible, although urgent, to get a handle on what’s really going on. Can we trust the Joker? What he says is all too plausible, it makes too much sense. Of course he wants to help Dick because he wants Bruce back, he wants the status quo to resume…. But I’m sure he wants some bloody carnage too. And he wants something else.

But more on that later.

PAGE 10

More horror movie stuff. But if the previous pages were Lynch mixed with Argento, this is much more in the vein of theatrical British horrality plays like Theatre of Blood. The black and white wind up teeth are a great touch. D’you think they’re rigged to start chattering upon the coffin’s disinterment, or are they some kind of weird impossible plastic bugs, eating away at the bodies for months? Whatever, I like the idea that their laughter is absolutely deafening.

The Joker without Batman seems to be attempting to fill his boots by exacting karmic revenge on wrongdoers (particularly wrongdoers of Batman), but he doesn’t draw distinctions between the killer and the crimefighter, becoming both in his enemy’s absence. Sane? Not so much.

I have to say, I still don’t understand how killing members of the Black Glove starts a chain reaction that leads to the events here. Surely Hurt was always intending to return to Gotham? But maybe Grant will get around to explaining this later.

PAGE 11

‘To think I shook hands with this filth.’

Now I haven’t got a scanner, but if you cast your mind back to Revenge of Red Hood you might remember the funny look on Gordon’s face after shaking hands with ‘Sexton’. This isn’t in my mind, it’s there on the page. I hope it wasn’t intentional and that Tan’s picture simply intuited the evil emanating from the character. On a related note, is it just me, or are Sexton’s cheekbones very prominent under his mask all the way through the Batman vs Robin arc? The suggestion of a rictus smile?

PAGES 12 and 13

Matt Seneca take it away.

And the ‘I’ll call you Commissioner Gordon..’ line’s much blogged about already, although I should nod to its goodness here too. It would be like calling your Dad by his first name or something. Total weirdness. The little boyish half smile with which Dick accompanies the dialogue really sells it. I wonder if, by this point, Gordon knows this is the first Robin he’s sharing bat-train space with. He’s a good cop, he probably does.

PAGES 14, 15, 16 and 17

‘An event that’s sure to have serious symbolic value for the kind of crazy people we’re dealing with.’

Yeah, the Miagani.

Anyway, I like the idea that El Penitente is the mask Hurt adopts after every massive crime spree. He’s a deeply religious man, it seems, our Hurt. Just like the Devil to use God’s own rules against him.

‘His biggest joke would be for get us all to take him seriously.’

Morrison really does like to fuck around with reader expectation, doesn’t he? He really does write for the internet. On that note, I think this can only be levelled as a criticism of his work in that it’s potentially alienating for new readers – otherwise it’s kind of fine. Most hardcore comic fans are on the internet all the time digging through this stuff, so I think it’s justifiable given the times we’re living through.

Zom: Writing for the Internet or just writing for fans who are following closely? I don’t see much that’s Internet community specific about that line of dialogue, even if Morrison does occasionally talk about that stuff. He’s always loaded his writing with tricksiness and symbolism (or “hyperlinks” if you’re feeling like a wanker), so I’m not sure there’s too much substance to that kind of talk.

‘He could kill him!’

We all know straight away this line is going to be qualified to Gordon as referring to Damian. It’s there to ratchet up the drama. Cliched but cool.

PAGES 18, 19 and 20

This is what it’s really about. The Joker doesn’t care about Dick, it’s Damian he wants, because Damian is Bruce. And although most of the internet seems to be of the opinion that this is a sudden realisation on the Joker’s part after Damian calls him on his bullshit, I say he knew all along and that this is the reason he wants Damian there, alone, in that room, so they can play out their eternal dynamic. The Joker’s ‘You sound just like him…’ isn’t an exclamation of shocked surprise, it’s him revealing his true colours after all that faux weeping and pleading. This is the Joker he’s trying to hide every time Damian steps into the room. Look at that face, that evil bloody face, and tell me that’s not lurking behind everything else all the time.

And of course it always begins with violence.

Morrison cues us for this very neatly by setting up a scene almost identical to one in the movie. He even has Damian reproduce some of the Joker’s dialogue from the script, or a close approximation. And of course it all plays out like it did before, but this time it’s Robin kicking the crap out of the Joker in the interrogation room, with a crowbar no less! There’s something very satisfying about this. I’m sure Damien’s getting off on the righteous poetic justice too. You hard little bastard.

We needed to see this, didn’t we? It’s horribly violent, yes, but it had to be. There’s a brutal glee to it, shared by the reader and successive generations of Robins.

One thing though. We have to follow the thing to it’s conclusion. Things didn’t end well for Batman in the film, and I expect them to go very badly for Robin here.

Obviously the Joker’s got to get his S&M kicks first however.

P.S. I don’t know how intellectual vanity fits with Morrison’s conception of the Joker, but somehow it feels right that there are strange attractors around which his personalities accrete. Only Batman could reduce Joker the way Damian does. He’ll do fine, DC editorial. Let him become the superhero he was always meant to be. This is probably the last vestige of childhood before he really sorts it out. He has to go there. This demon needs slaying… and Damian needs to learn not to underestimate it too.

PAGES 21, 22, 23 and 24

And the better batmobile is down!

That really is symbolic, isn’t it? This is the end of the road for Dick and Damian. Their cool, new and improved, youthful take just received a catastrophic systems fail to the head. Novelty and youth are just another thing for baddies on this scale to trample. You can’t stay a kid forever.

BTW, the mobile’s voice is the one from the movie.

Even if they are a little extraneous and only included because COOL! YEAH!, it’s nice to see the return of the dollotrons and Pyg.

And one more thing before I go, why has that member of the 99 Fiends/Miagani/the Prodigy got a dark knight tattooed on his head?

Eh?

EEEEEEHHHHHH?

86 Responses to “Batman & Robin 13: Amy’s annocomments”

  1. amypoodle Says:

    you know what that space around the joker is filled with?

    THEORIES.

  2. amypoodle Says:

    but rushed that, but there’s no way i’m editing it. errors be damned. hot, fast and loose is the way we like it here at mindless ones hq.

  3. Shiny Jim Says:

    Speaking off things I and the internet never noticed, Dick and Damian’s belts are toppling dominoes, with the dominoes finally stopping and resting on the Bat/Robin symbols.

    Excellent annocomments.

  4. RetroWarbird Says:

    I’m gonna have to tackle this in pieces as I go along or else I’ll forget everything that invariably comes up. First: “a mugger (who for my money looks somewhat temporally dislocated – part Victorian, part modern: mugger eternal)”.

    Old Joe Chill’s diatribe about justifying it as Class Warfare speaks to that. Nothing says Class Warfare quite like Dickens. Just imagine how different the Legend of Batman would be if instead of “GIMME THE MONEY” Chill said “PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE?”. Random bit of non-importance – I actually wear that hat. It’s my primary hat. Literally every day. I’m wearing it this minute, indoors.

    It’s the universal “crook & burglar” cap. It’s so universal, even Japan knew enough to don Team Rocket in it.

  5. amypoodle Says:

    i’d also like to add that this review was written under the influence of 14 tracks’ awesome ‘in the shadow of film noir’ compilation. really fucking sinister. i thoroughly recommend it. not quite the scary bass cathedral tone bobsy proffered as batrob 13′s ambient noise in our emails, but pretty close.

    brill primer too.

    the antidote to this before i join a friend in the pub is some balls to the wall disco cheese.

  6. RetroWarbird Says:

    I did a full-on 1960′s Batman “clue-freestyle” on the subject of the 99 Fiends. Went something like this:

    99 Fiends? -> 72 Demons in Demonology -> Who are the other 27 -> Get out EVERY issue and count EVERY minion working for Doctor Hurt -> Holy fucking Christ there are exactly 27 -> Holy fucking Christ 27 is 72′s mirror reflection.

    1. Jezebel Jet (Black Glove)
    2. Sheik Al-Khidr (Black Glove)
    3. Sir Anthony (Black Glove)
    4. General Malenkov (Black Glove)
    5. Cardinal Maggi (Black Glove)
    6. Nine-Eyed Man (Ten-Eyed Tribe Exile)
    7. Pierrot Lunaire (Club of Villains)
    8. Le Bossu (Club of Villains)
    9. King Kraken (Club of Villains)
    10. Charlie Caligula (Club of Villains)
    11. Scorpiana (Club of Villains)
    12. El Sombrero (Club of Villains)
    13. Swagman (Club of Villains)
    14. John Mayhew (Black Glove)
    15. Wingman(Black Glove)
    16. First Batman Muller (Three Ghosts)
    17. Second Batman Branca (Three Ghosts)
    18. Third Batman Lane (Three Ghosts)
    19. Mister Toad (Circus of Strange)
    20. Phosphorus Rex (Circus of Strange)
    21. Siam (Circus of Strange)
    22. Siam (Circus of Strange)
    23. Siam (Circus of Strange)
    24. Big Top (Circus of Strange)
    25. Professor Pyg (Circus of Strange)
    26. Gabriel Santo (Penitente Cartel)
    27. Eduardo Flamingo (Penitente Cartel)

  7. RetroWarbird Says:

    “I wonder if, by this point, Gordon knows this is the first Robin he’s sharing bat-train space with. He’s a good cop, he probably does.”

    Ah, but does he know this young man has sexed his daughter? Doesn’t that sixth fatherly sense cover that one? You … something about you seems … I don’t think I like you.

  8. bobsy Says:

    Heh, that’s pretty cool RW – what about the gunmen protecting Penitente’s mansion, or the gangsters in B&R 12 with the domino masks, or the … ?

  9. bobsy Says:

    Oh yeah, he definitely knows – that whole scene is one big card on the tables moment. It seemed to me that even Gord’s ‘scary big black boots’ line was a pointed reference to ‘silly little green bootees’.

  10. RetroWarbird Says:

    “Joker’s ‘You sound just like him…’ isn’t an exclamation of shocked surprise, it’s him revealing his true colours after all that faux weeping and pleading.”

    The internet seemed to forget five seconds after Joker revealed his identity that he’d already spent a good deal of time with Damian as Sexton – enough to recognize Micro-Bruce in there.

    That being said I just re-read Under the Hood. And frankly … “You sound like him” COULD mean Jason Todd as well. Not that it does. I got Bruce from it as well. But hell … Damian’s playing Todd’s ironic punishment card 1.5 years later, and the “corruption of another Robin” would make Joker 2::2 with ol’ Bats. Bruce can always use another failure. (In the end, mi greatest failure wuz … u.)

    In fact, Jason Todd gave Joker practically the exact same fucking “You’re NOT as crazy as you pretend to be …” speech immediately prior to crowbarring him upside his noggin.

  11. amypoodle Says:

    it’s just not as interesting if it’s jason todd.

  12. RetroWarbird Says:

    I don’t know about the gangsters. They seem like late additions, and they definitely don’t seem like they fit the “Demon” mold. Gabriel Santo was obviously trying to recruit various Gotham gangsters and dealers. But then Gordon tells us that all the usual low-lifes have fled like rats.

    Perhaps to Hurt’s organization, they’d just be considered “more henchmen”. I didn’t count any of Caligula’s gladiators … Bossu’s gargoyles … or any of the other henches either. And as for Senator Vine – “Vine” is the name of a classical demon.

  13. amypoodle Says:

    what i mean is, thr joker isn’t hung up on robins. he’s hung up on batman.

  14. RetroWarbird Says:

    No it’s not. But it’ll make for a good comparison next issue when Red Hood shows up like an ersatz Club of Heroes.

  15. amypoodle Says:

    thing is, warbird, this fiends stuff is only interesting to me if it means something. at the moment i’m hard pushed to figure out what you find so interesting about it, esp when qualification for fiendom seems so arbitrary.

    not meant as a dis. just saying.

  16. amypoodle Says:

    you know there’s love.

  17. RetroWarbird Says:

    So … various “Demon” operatives … being the Miagani … fascinates me. A tribe that’s all but gone, and those left have weird tribal haircuts and have had their pagan gods “Christianized” into Demons and all work for somebody who may or may not be an ill-gotten immortal blood-bather. And they don’t all seem to be full-blooded Natives anymore, either.

    And then I think … wouldn’t be the first time. Deacon Blackfire was Miagani, and he did the same damn thing. Got into Satanism and bathing in fresh human blood and nearly took down Gotham, while we’re at it, except for some Batman bad-assery and some surprising resourcefulness from everyone’s whipping boy Jason Todd.

    Blackfire tried working from the bottom up via the homeless. These blokes are definitely more “top down” in their approach. The trickle-down theory … which more than a little resembles the rich pissing on the poor.

  18. RetroWarbird Says:

    No I agree. Other than working directly as “Hurt’s Henchmen” there’s not much of a connection between say, Hurt’s former lackeys like Caligula and Kraken, and his latter, like Santo or Flamingo. And some are even more out there. Nine-Eyed Man was a hired gun (nevermind the connection to the very tribe who cut out Batman’s demons).

    The Strange Circus were just Pyg’s henchmen from a Euro carny crew. Admittedly foot soldiers.

    On the other hand … they DO all have being murdered by Joker in common. Sombrero of the Club of Villains. All the Black Glove except Jet. Toad. I should probably know better than to follow Joker’s dot-connecting.

  19. RetroWarbird Says:

    Speaking of Todd (God, I can’t help but bring him up more) … I’ll settle for his scene consisting of “I just broke out of Blackgate easy … I confronted Joker and accused him and his whole Damian ploy of being “All about me, me, me, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” (Jason Todd = Jan Brady), finally giving us a face-to-face of Joker and Red Hood’s new clothes … only for it not to be about Jason at all, one bit, for him to run away feeling left out yet again, and last seen mowing down Dollotrons. Maybe even with Damian giving him a “Get the hell out of here, Hood, you insolent prick, Joker’s mine.”

  20. amypoodle Says:

    yes, it does make one wonder if he’s coming back, doesn’t it?

  21. RetroWarbird Says:

    Everyone’s coming back for the finale!

    Worked in the Bruce half of the run …

  22. Zom Says:

    I remember it being a bit crowbarred in, but fun nonetheless

  23. amypoodle Says:

    the club of heroes made sense. someone had to clean up gotham. talia and damian, however, were definitely of the crowbar.

    though death by manbat was cool, even if the whole jezebel jet thing was a bit dodge.

  24. Zom Says:

    They made sense, they just struggled to fit between the pages. Talia and Damian were forced every which way.

  25. Marc Says:

    Great stuff. I particularly appreciated Damian calling the Joker out on his film equivalent’s pretensions to following chaos as if that were a belief system. Also loved the opening allusion to Mazzuchelli and the attention to detail in tying up the Oberon Sexton loose end, even if it does dash my hopes of Joker, Mystery Novelist…

    …for now!

  26. Zom Says:

    Joker mystery novelist must happen.

  27. bobswana bats Says:

    reading these annotations and the comments made me appreciate grants run on batman a hell of a lot more than i already did. thank you, internets

  28. Bruce Martin Payne Says:

    I love the way the Joker talks to Dick Grayson, like a fellow professional, no need to patronize him. An artistic peer.

    And I love Dick telling the Joker about having him figured since age 12 – its such a relaxed, half-assed approach to maintaining a secret identity, it shows such respect for the mind of the monster in the chair in front of him.

    It’s one of the things I love about Morrison’s Batman run (and his JLA, for that matter) – that weird professional esteem among the cast, including the villains – the way that sense of working conduct includes being relaxed about the ‘other lives’ of their peers.

    Commissioner Gordon, Cyril & Beryl, the Joker – they all almost certainly know who the men under the cowls & domino masks have been – the Joker’s been alluded to knowing the secret since the 4th issue of Morrison’s run, the prose piece, and he’s flat-out face to face with Bruce in the outfit minus cowl during RIP – but no one makes a big deal out of it.

    It’s very properly adult. Respecting boundaries, keeping the personal lives out of the important work of popcrime and violence-for-justice.

    I like to think the Riddler still knows as well, but feigns memory loss out of that same sense of working fair play.

  29. Neon Snake Says:

    I like to think it’s the equivalent of operating under NDA…everyone flirts and hints around the details, but it would be terribly guache just to outright blurt out the details.
    joker being spanked with crowbars by todd and lil D…loved it in Under the Hood, loved it here (more, i think. D’s expression sold it completely…ta-da! because using a crowbar IS funny!). could give a shit about it being ‘unoriginal’.

  30. bobsy Says:

    Secred Ids are pretty 20th century really – the superhero communities are so interlinked now that the idea of publicly proving that BW is Batman, for instance, is kind of meaningless. You just have BW on TV going ‘What a ridiculous idea’ while one of any number of people in a Batmask does some verifiable junky-punching elsewhere.

    It’s not really abuot the secret IDs at all really – it’s more about how contiguous the secret ID and superhero persona are. When Dick goes ‘Joker, it’s me’, it’s very person-to-person and casual, far from the stagey over-enunciated dialogue that the superhero form is famous for. These guys have known each other for years, have one way or another been massive features in one another’s lives, for as long as Dick can remember probably. They’re not friends of course, but they probably understand each other better and hold each other in higher regard than most families do. The complexities of these hero-villain relationships are a little too crinkly and subtle to have been explored very far, even in the post-Watchmen ‘what if it were real?’ era. It’s one of the few things (almost) unique to the genre – how do mutual enemies interact personally? How does it line up to the real world? Is it like a friendship, or a family? Or more likely a serious sporting rivalry, or similar to the civil antagonism you might find between diplomats of rival nations?

    Anyway, moving on – everyone (esp. Dick) seems to be saying that the Joker’s switch to the side of the angels is total front, but didn’t the ‘You sound just like him…’ strike anyone as indicating how sincere the Joker had been up to that point? It’s moot now, because the second he saw the fire in Damian’s eyes the old him came screaming back, but up until that point…? Either way, frustratingly, Dick is right…

  31. Zom Says:

    Retro, in my fanwank the Joker wasn’t sure that Damian was sufficiently like Bruce until he whipped out the crowbar. That was the acid test, that’s what the Joker was looking for and hoped to find.

    On the question of relationships, compare Dick’s almost respectful attitude to the Joker with his outright contempt for Deathstroke. Both have the air of the personal, but they differ significantly.

  32. amypoodle Says:

    yeah, i’ve been mulling over a lot of these ideas for some time, but not half as thoroughly as you guys. cool stuff, bob and bruce.

  33. amypoodle Says:

    yeah, thinking about it, joker was just making sure, wasn’t he?

  34. bobsy Says:

    Yeah right the Deathstroke thing – though even in that there was no formality, no feeling that there wasn’t a mutual something between them that would make those comments worthless or irrelevant. Like, Dick knows Slade well enough to know that Slade knows Dick well enough for those words to hurt, kinda thing… It’s almost like a shoolyard thing I guess – the way you would speak to people who were in your class but not your friends – you don’t like them or really even know them, but chat to them, ask them for things, even insult them with total familiarity and ease, no social boundary in the way. Prelapsarian egalitarianism of the metahuman dynamic. (Sorry, I’ve had a weird few days.)

    Joker’s like Dick’s wayward uncle or something. He can remember the laughing competition, and will always be aware of that playful nature, but has also been hurt very badly by him, and is under no illusions about the bad thing in there. (though he’s never quite seen the worst of the Joker first-hand either: Bruce – maybe the Gordons too – are the only ones who’ve seen all that up-close, and lived to tell the tale.)

  35. RetroWarbird Says:

    “On the question of relationships, compare Dick’s almost respectful attitude to the Joker with his outright contempt for Deathstroke. Both have the air of the personal, but they differ significantly.”

    It’s fascinating stuff. I’ve said it before … Joker genuinely LIKES Dick Grayson. They’ve played games, but Dick was never say … clingy like Harley Quinn. So even if Dick doesn’t really “Like” Joker, Joker likes him, and that influences the relationship. (My best bat-theory ever being that Joker only killed Jason Todd because he was boring and not fun like Grayson.)

    Dick and Deathstroke on the other hand? Compared to Dick/Joker’s Hate/Like relationship … that one is purely “Hate/Hate”. Professionalism gets dumped at the door. And Dick should hate Slade. Dick comes from the Bat-Family – a group who really, really stands up for children. Slade has done some dodgy fucking things with children. Including statutory rape of a minor.

    Anyway, Grayson and Joker is fascinating to me as well because … well … you wouldn’t think about Watson’s relationship with Moriarty, now would you? It almost never comes up.

    But there’s no doubt Grayson was the Watson to Bruce’s Holmes.

  36. RetroWarbird Says:

    I’d like to think Riddler still knows Bruce’s identity as well. It’s been established for a long time that he’s genius enough to figure it out. I think he did in “Justice” among other places, and probably came really close back in some Silver Age stories.

    It’s just boring to him because he didn’t figure it out during an amazing pop-crime scenario that revealed it dramatically … and so now he can’t do anything fun with it.

    Riddler Renaissance needs to happen fast.

  37. RetroWarbird Says:

    Speaking of random … and it is random, since it doesn’t pertain exactly to this issue (yet). Next issue is called “The Triumph of Death”, and that particular painting was the same exact painting seen behind John Mayhew in his “The Study” in Mayhew’s mansion.

    Continuing the theme of looking at paintings on walls … the painting behind Darkseid in the Dark Side Club in Final Crisis # 1 and # 2 is a painting of a black and white checkerboard grid … ending in a Vanishing Point.

  38. amypoodle Says:

    i really like the idea that joker killed todd because he wasn’t a good playmate. nice one, warbird. it’s the exact opposite of the reason most batfans wanted him killed, actually – y’know, ’cause anything remotely robin related = FUNALERTFUN!

    frankly it still weirds me out that we were all so anti-robin at the time. must’ve been year one’s influence, because nobody could’ve denied carrie kelly’s coolness.

  39. Rick Says:

    Damn RW that is crazy and random, and awesome.

  40. Zom Says:

    It ain’t random

  41. Bucky Sinister Says:

    “frankly it still weirds me out that we were all so anti-robin at the time. must’ve been year one’s influence, because nobody could’ve denied carrie kelly’s coolness.”

    It wasn’t that most people were anti-Robin, I don’t think. I know I wasn’t, and I still called the “kill the little bastard” number. It was more an unthinking act of cruel novelty, a desire for grand guignol spectacle. “Do I want to see them kill Robin? You’re damn right I do! That would be awesome and funny!” Honestly, the second they put Jason Todd’s fate in the hands of the fans, that kid was toast. Much like the call-in poll Todd himself set up in Morrison’s Red Hood arc, there’s no other way it could have gone.

    I have to admit, though… I’m sure there were also a good number of killing votes cast just because Jason Todd was such a screwed up character. His origin story was so bad they had to call a do-over, for god’s sake! And Jim Starlin had been doing his level best for at least a year to make the kid unlikeable before the poll ever came up. Would we have done the same thing to Dick Grayson? I might have, just for a laugh. But I bet the vote would have been closer.

  42. RetroWarbird Says:

    A call-in poll (when properly advertised) is an instance of self-fulfilling prophecy.

    You appeal to something on that level … that depraved in either case … and get it out there for the masses … you can bet your ass it’s happening.

    Jason has become the bloodthirsty gits who killed him in the first place. At least he’s not living in Batman’s shadow anymore (although that’s more his perception than the actual facts about Grayson … frankly, who WOULDN’T want to live in Batman’s illustrious, gadget and supermodel filled shadow? The shadow is the legend.)

  43. Bruce Martin Payne Says:

    I was one of the 10,000-ish who called in to the murder line as a kid.

    I recall that part of my reasoning for that was in direct response to Dark Knight Returns – that line Bruce has to Alfred about ‘what happened to Jason’ and never forgetting him. I remember wanting that to stay true, as if him dying in the present comics would validate it, and his lack of being murdered would make it less ‘real’.

    After that issue, Batman makes the definite decision to actually kill the Joker, interesting in light of Alfred’s response to Bruce in the recent Last Rites issues – about how the Joker “wins” when he forces Bruce to think hat he has to resort to murder as a response.

    Its also implied in that last issue of Death in the Family that the Joker could well know Bruce Wayne is Batman. Resonance that makes me wonder even more if the death of Dick or Damien isn’t being foreshadowed (I hope neither dies, myself, but there’s been a lot of Dick Death signals in the run).

  44. Zom Says:

    So I take it you lot haven’t read our interview with a cape killer then?

  45. manvstrees Says:

    the 99 fiends being miagani is so dead on it aint funny
    bruce takes his followers back, the dark knight tattoo on the head

    god, so brilliant
    bruce is barbatos, got to be. dick is dead, damian is going to go through with the pact, and hurt is going so summon his master, which bruce has eaten invisibles style.
    whoops.

  46. Moo Says:

    What? No gang bang sexyparty for our heroes and villains?

    How… Pedestrian.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

  47. amypoodle Says:

    i reckon bruce likes the odd sex party.

  48. amypoodle Says:

    @ neonsnake

    the thing is with all this talk about originality is it can fuck off. that some rubbish writer had jason hit joker with a crowbar is just plain obvious and boring – that grant had damian do it is far more interesting. and that’s largely to do with the context. it’s context and motivation that sells this stuff.

  49. rev'D Says:

    My favorite bit was Joker’s false appeal:

    ‘I was a little Boy Wonder once too…’

    Which he was, for a time. Morrison kindly reminded of that period in ’52– “Even the Joker stopped killing, for a while, and there was just this brilliant, deranged clown running around.”

    Then-Joker might as well have been one of the Crime Alley Irregulars, really. One wonders if Morrison wouldn’t like to see a return to that period– a retreat from the very murderer’s messiah he helped distill. And Bruce having always had too much faith in the principle of reform, you can guess how it would go. Look at Two-Face. Yet the prospect of Morrison’s All-Weird, All-Different Bat-Family does stiffen the old nerd-tenna, dunnit?

    Of course Mozzer will happily walk Mr. J back to his macabre roots, a la Magneto (once a genocidal tool, always a genocidal tool)… At least we know Damian will be there to crack the Joker’s jaw when it comes clear. His locked room rebuttal reads like a direct refutation of Ledger-Joker. “You say you’re chaos, that you have no plan: but all you -are- is plans.”

    With all the nods to the history (& potential) to the character, I’m almost given to wonder if B&R’s principal mission as a comic is to ‘reset’ Joker the way R.I.P. rebooted Bruce.

  50. amypoodle Says:

    i always saw that as the fundamental flaw in the joker’s argument, tbh. he’s the biggest ‘schemer’ in the film. that shit definitely isn’t improvised.

  51. Matthew Craig Says:

    “Dick Death signals”

    Who do they summon? Pelé?

    (ba-dump-dum tish)

    //\Oo/\\

  52. amypoodle Says:

    awful.

  53. Smitty Says:

    Ok, so I’m colorblind. For those who know the deal – cool. For those that don’t – it basically means that colors kinda run together. I don’t see in black and white or anything.

    So anyway, reading BR13 and when the nerdlinger lawyer is running press flack for Hurt/Wayne in front of the pillared building someone sticks a real pasty white arm out and has what I see as the same color hair as Joker…plus it looks kinda like the guy has a Romero-esque mustache

    BA-Dump

    The question he yells, as I recall, was something about whose body is in the grave of Thomas Wayne?

    1) The Joker as Sexton was lurking around the Wayne family cemetery and had a shovel in prev issue.

    2) The Joker’s lines about being a master of disguise

    3) The Joker’s line to Dick about good men finding shovels to dig with in previous issues

    So either I drilled something here or my colorblindness has provided me with some VALUE-ADDED thoughts on my current favorite comic.

    As a final “huh-but-whaaaa?” I noticed that Thomas Wayne’s hair parts dramatically one way and Hurt’s the other. Seems like kind of a big deal to be so prominently displayed. Great artists do things for a reason.

    Anywho, see ya.

  54. amypoodle Says:

    am i being slow here? i’m not piecing it together.

  55. Smitty Says:

    I think, as Dick says, we need to keep our eyes on Joker here. He hasn’t played his hand yet but I feel if you trace his arc through this series you see he has been operating in yet another capacity as “Sexton” behind the main action all along.

    Why was he in the graveyard? Why was Joker just shuffling around that Graveyard?

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Joker has dug up Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father) to reset the status quo, clear the Wayne family name, and sweep Hurt from the board.

    In effect Hurt has played his last card – that of usurping Bruce’s father’s identity – but Joker is building a bigger box around him. That box is the knowledge cum weapon that Hurt is lying. He’s a pretender to the Miagani/Wayne crown…

    Again, as I said, it hinges on a couple things (not the least of which is my color perception) but it’s clear Dick sees the larger box – “You’re finished.”

  56. amypoodle Says:

    right. i think we have to ignore the evidence based on your colour blindness – because it’s not evidence at all – but i’ve got nothing against the idea that joker unearthed thomas.

  57. RetroWarbird Says:

    I don’t dislike the notion that Joker’s “Gravedigger” joke extends to digging up Thomas Wayne – but I will say that digging up “The Waynes”, both, would be funnier.

    Actually, it’d be interesting if Joker dug them up for forensic examinations … I’m not sure if a 30year dead body would still have trace amounts of say … the crazy Black Glove orgy party drugs … but there still might be ways to learn. And Joker’s quite an expert in the toxicology department, since he usually works in the field (albeit on the other end of it).

    That being said … if he dug them up I’m quite sure we’d know it by now, right? There was a good chunk of time between the “Graveyard Fight” scene and Grayson going to Gotham Grand to confront Joker.

    And Alfred was at home the whole time. Joker left to pick himself up after being shovel and demon beaten. Dick and Damian went all the way to Talia’s island (correct me if I’m wrong, but her island HQ has been shown off and on all through the run … isn’t it in Hong Kong or the South China Sea or something?) and then came back to confront Joker.

    Actually that was a lingering question I never remembered. The Graveyard scene happened … then they went all the way there … but then when they get back, Dick says to Oberon “The police are on high alert after what happened earlier tonight”.

    Was that even the same night? Would some funny business at Wayne Manor put the entire GCPD on a city-wide state of alertness? (It would if Dick called them and said “go on alert” but he never said he did that).

    Or are they on wide alert because of what Gordon says later – the vacuum swoosh of all the low-level gangsters and dealers fleeing the city for their lives …

  58. RetroWarbird Says:

    What is Bruce Wayne’s middle name, anyway?

    Now THAT would be the most crazy thing in 70 years of Batman.

    Bruce Thomas Wayne? Bruce Patrick Wayne? Bruce Kenneth Wayne? Bruce Alan Wayne? Did they name him after Great-Uncle Silas? (Who I just realized, since he’s Thomas’s uncle, would be Patrick’s brother. And I also just realized … there seem to be quite a few “brothers” in the Wayne Patriarch line. Patrick & Silas. Solomon & Joshua.)

    (Thomas & Simon? Nah … couldn’t be.)

  59. rev'D Says:

    Did anyone notice both Bruce & the Joker saying ‘Non Serviam’ to Hurt / Thomas?

    End of R.I.P. The Joker’s was more ego-based, saying “Don’t call -me- servant,” whereas Bruce’s was a flat-out Get To Fuckery.

    What any of this has to do with a rogue devil-worshipping Wayne patriarch clawing his way thru time to End The Batman, I haven’t the slightest. But it stuck out a touch on my last read-thru of the entire run.

  60. rev'D Says:

    …as did the portrait of a flabby, flaccid Solomon Wayne. Bit of a deviation in the phenotype.

  61. RetroWarbird Says:

    “All names from classical demonology, I believe,” said The Joker.

    And thus … Doug Moench and Kelly Jones’ “The Major Arcana” was referenced. In that story, Joker basically spent his last tour in Arkham cramming on demonology, the occult, and alchemy, and ends up accidentally summoning Etrigan.

    Somebody in a forum also mentioned the concept of a tulpa – at which point bells whistled in my head and I realized there was an Alan Grant 3-parter just prior to Tim Drake’s showing up, called Tulpa. Research on those issues pending.

  62. Zom Says:

    Amy’s been going on about tulpas since The Three Ghosts of Batman.

  63. alex Says:

    Insomnia???? Please!

  64. amypoodle Says:

    beast is very busy at the moment. give him time.

  65. alex Says:

    I’ll give him 2 days

  66. RetroWarbird Says:

    For some reason the word tulpa never stuck in my head despite oft-digging through annocommentations. I’ve myself used doppelganger, fetch, personalized devil, lesser demon, Bruce’s internal demons incarnate, and so forth when describing Hurt (and his terrifically unsubtle-about-it name). Not that they aren’t all the same damn thing.

    But I’ve been doing a lot of back-issue reading (particularly the Jason Todd years, in and around Crisis, and right after his death), and so there it was, staring me in the face. Smacking me in the face, actually.

    Shadow of the Bat come to life.

  67. amypoodle Says:

    well it was pretty visible – the tulpa theory was elaborated on at great length, if i recall.

    fucked if i can be bothered to theorise any more though. i genuinely have no idea.

  68. Smitty Says:

    Ah. Thanks so much for clearing it up. It’s all cool to look at now with our jaded 21st century eyes but assume you are somewhere in the middle of the 14th century and this happens – http://kottke.org/10/07/total-solar-eclipse-video

    Talk about when the black sun shines…

  69. amypoodle Says:

    i think i saw bruce wayne appear about half way through.

  70. Zom Says:

    Perhaps it’s just my english reserve showing through, but clapping and cheering at an event like that strikes me as a bit too anthropocentric, even if Batman does appear halfway.

  71. bobsy Says:

    Too anthropocentric? You ought to worry about these things less. Who’s going to be offended?

    I definitely wooped a bit during my one and only eclipse experience, because, and this is important, IT HAD GONE DARK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. If Batman had appeared I’d probably still be cheering now.

  72. Zom Says:

    It’s not about offence, its about not viewing the sun and the moon as if they’re putting on a show for you. I think there’s something very powerful and important in that.

    Mind you, I’m conscious that those people might well not have viewed it as personal entertainment, and that I’m being slightly ridiculous and partial. But I do think I have a point. Kinda.

  73. Smitty Says:

    That kind of nervous, twittering laughter has always earmarked a close brush with partial insanity. the one girl who kept saying “It’s huge” kinda clued me in that a lot of people aren’t programmed (even NOW) to cope with these cosmic occurrences.

  74. Zom Says:

    Not sure why now should be any different. People have been to space, I suppose, and they’ve seen a few movies with spaceships in ‘em, but cosmic occurrences are pretty fucking far out whether you’ve seen Avatar and footage of the moon landings or not.

    I get the nervous giggling, obviously, I even get the clapping, it just bothers me a bit that people are possibly using clapping and cheering transformatively or defensively in an effort to make the event more manageable, and maybe more about them, instead of allowing it to be about something profoundly Other.

    In the grand scheme of things it’s a small complaint, and a bit silly, but I think something of that order is going on with some people and it irritates me, prescriptive git that I am.

  75. Zom Says:

    …I think I also dislike the way all that clapping and cheering would impinge on my experience were I there.

    I knew there was some sort of selfish motivation lurking behind all my self important blather

  76. bobsy Says:

    I thought as much, to be honest – this is very much of the ‘Zom swapping seats at the cinema because someone behind him crunched their popcorn too loudly’ class of problems.

    (Is clapping and laughing and cheering a sign of defense against the Other? And not proof that the Other is successfully leaking in?)

  77. Zom Says:

    Clapping and wooping can be expressive or defensive, I would have thought. Maybe both at the same time.

    I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that people, when confronted by the sheer immensity of the moon moving in front of the sun, could feel a little bit scared and want to protect themselves by making noise and vigorous movements.

    In my view that defensive process could be about, at least in part, transforming the experience into something more mundane and of the human world, like clapping at a performance.

    I don’t really want to push this hypothesis any further, because I appreciate that it’s nothing but speculation motivated by personal irritation, but I don’t think it’s completely out there.

  78. bobsy Says:

    Sue, I just don’t think anyone’s really being defensive – they’re just processing. It’s not really one of the abilities of the species to just take something in without turning it into some sort of (verbal, social, percussive) code. Even ‘silent, respectful, awed contemplation’ would unavoidably involve distillng the experience into a manner more amenable to the individual’s pleasing, and be a social signal too, of course.

    I dunno – I just think shouting at the sky is a perfectly sensible reaction when the sky is doing something insane. What should one do? What were you doing back in 99?

  79. bobsy Says:

    ‘Sure’, not ‘Sue’. Unless you want to be Sue…?

  80. Zom Says:

    I probably said wow and then stood there looking at it.

    But what is processing and what is making more amenable? Again, is it really too much of a stretch to think that some people simply can’t deal with that stuff without filtering it heavily through noise and physical sensation, and/or previous experience that is ostensibly similar (being in an audience watching a man made entertainment)? Lots of people can’t cope with all sorts of things of a lesser order, people walk out of cinemas for less, they get faint and nauseous and have panic attacks.

    Of course, I can think of all sorts of other things that might also be going on! I’m only being so didactic being I’m being defensive. I’m not wedded to this idea, and I even if it is true, in some instances, I think its only part of the picture.

  81. bobsy Says:

    I know, just knocking it around int we?

    Next time we should try and have some of thsoe randy bonobo monkeys with us, see what they do (though I have a feeling I know only too well what their reaction would be, the mucky bleeders)- eclipses having been around far longer than man-made entertainment, I mean.

  82. RetroWarbird Says:

    They say laughing is a form of exorcising demons – figuratively AND literally. It’ll scare away dark spirits.

    Could explain why Joker’s immune.

  83. Shiny Jim Says:

    Joker’s not immune, he’s always been infected.

  84. RetroWarbird Says:

    Last night I dreamt in 2D and finally realized that Professor Pyg was talking about a television programming schedule.

    Seems obvious in retrospect.

  85. LavenderBunny Says:

    I slept through the eclipse in ’99, but I think if I’d made it up to the nearest local viewing spot, I’d have worried about the applause, too.

    In the sense that in the face of a major asteroid storm, the same crowd could have been standing there booing, or composing snippy e-mails, about the state of the performance.

  86. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » If you flinch. If you shudder. You will not survive: Return of Bruce Wayne 6 - the batmanotations Says:

    [...] Hurt’s entrance at the start of Batman & Robin #14 felt so brilliantly bad-touchy – like Zom said at the time, it fucked with the foundations of Batman’s origin story in a way that was as kinky as it was [...]

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