bridge

The leading, upper-outer edge of the page’s porous membrane extends outwards into the reader’s domestic reality-space, super-imposed on an imaginary plane nearly a foot distant from the paper-thin physical boundary, roughly  on a level with the occipital lobe, back there at the back of the brain. Looking forwards, the page’s fluctuating inner boundary is theoretically infinite, a vanishing point occurring wherever the texture gradient of the eye-line happens to converge in that now-frozen, now-fluid moment, caught there in the net of the panel borders.

The strands of the net itself are made of strange, seldom-seen new substances, dark matter ranged in columns of jet-black shade and rows of burnt-black time, stacked like coal seams to support the comic’s bright, dense, exotic continuum of moving moments. From the first panel, the border-marker of the tunnel-mouth, the transition point from the conscious/consensus reality into unconscious, a somewhere that’s elsewhere, the panel borders disguise themselves as shadows. What looks for a moment like standard comicbook mechanics, the normal scaffolding keeping the strongman’s pants up, an arch of shadow channelling the reader’s gaze onto a vivid explosion of light and noise, is actually the picture itself.

You’re in the picture too, but not as a passive object placed inside it, there within the debatable  bounds of DC physics. The natural diegetic space at this point would probably be the bus’s eye view, naughty bored kids peering out the back window at the carnage behind, not-quite scared because not-quite believing the noisy light-show, quickly burning its way closer and closer, can actually be happening to them. That’s not right though – even though it’s gaining on them, the on-the-bus perspective would still be travelling away from the scene. The motive direction of the whole issue is precisely opposite to that – the reader is constantly being propelled onwards by the irresistible architecture of weight and gravity supported by the panels, a machine-ghost wheeling irresistibly through the comic itself, as it  rushes towards and past you even as you head the other way, tunnelling ever further into its speed-blurred dayglo world. The dissonance, the delicious difficulty of trying to catch sight of something that’s already behind you, is like a countervailing wind, blowing your mind. The reader is reading forwards, onwards, and the comic is coming at you in a head-on collision that never quite happens. [EDIT: Damn and arse - see sixth comment below.] The resultant spiralling dynamic is that of the space-hostess balancing a drink up the spaceship’s curved interior, or that simultaneous above-and-inside (encompass-and-transcend) view of a Here & There map.

uptown22

The reader’s eye falls into the book’s discrete young universe like a shining silver ball-bearing dropped into a thick pool of rainbow-marbled oil. Its own weight and momentum bores a self-sealing drill-hole into the narrative, new impressions sending ripples across the story’s surface, adding meaning as they go. The text is a living, viscous void, sucking and enveloping the viewer, previously so remote, into its indistinguishable depths.

funfair1

Being drawn in, and falling inexorably, it would be natural to assume you might eventually come to a stop somewhere. Shouldn’t something flat and familiar appear to give you some purchase, something to fix the spot and tell you which way is up? What we discover though is perpetual motion – we can’t arrive because there’s no ‘there’ there. Gotham is a mind, not a place. 95% subconscious, accessed via the traditional routes – through drugs and phobias, via rivers and tunnels. Gotham’s streetplan as a lattice of transitional non-spaces, unmediated, non-negotiable zones of zero influence, deceptively inert  where all kinds of messy psycho-muck can be dredged. It’s easy to think of the city as nothing but a fallen sprawl of bad  atmospheres, forgotten under-bridge troll towns; midtown skyscrapers misdirecting upwards to distract from the real business beneath; forgotten fairgrounds (I say! Gotham City Mayor’s Office? That spot could really do with being demolished and redeveloped now, yeah?); a landscape of dreams and portents populated by toothy anthropomorphic car-people, where the lines separating animal, vegetable and mineral are as thin as bat-rope, and more easily cut.

In the urban swamp familiar species include the vaulting Toad, as voltigeur, running and traversing the lines of influence linking the power nodes on the city-grid. He’s not a native as such, but actually comes from the universe stacked within/ underneath the DCU, an even murkier place accessed through the fairground portal. From the perspective of this strange creature, whose identity is so slippery he doesn’t know if he’s a reborn cartoon, an English aristocrat or American mastermind, ‘the sky is black’. The source of this anti-light is the black sun, or the underside of the universe (ours) above, enfolding and encircling his own in the glassy onion-layers of the  multiversal overstructure.  It is also the source of the vertiginous supergravity that has dragged us this far, and the onion is the ultimate shape (a teardrop) being described by the onward rolling motion of this issue, its skins are what we’re tunneling into: the human and non-human unconscious is always just the universe downstairs, and the routemap to get you there is hidden inside you.

mouth

Toad’s family also bear ugly scars upon their body-minds, proof of the stresses and rigours of upscale interdimensional travel. The ascended master kung-freak who occupies three simultaneous phase states, past, present and future. A combustible man ablaze with the flames of time, the slow fire we all burn in. Bearded lady bearing the physical and psychic stresses of embodiment, literal and social, hoisted onto poorly equipped genome and skeleton; and of course the Pyg, atavistic avatar, mad as a jigsaw, using common or garden power tools to rescue people from the angst of biological non-conformity, smoothing their existential turmoil into a steady state where existence can ravage them no more, his entourage of bacterial efficiency, more ruthless than a hypodermic colony of botulinum toxins.

toad2

Batman and Robin #1 has a superpower, can work miracles. It will submerge your viewing perspective deep within itself, where you will become a selective omniscience, a snooping presence unsuspected by even the greatest of detectives, privy to ancient, heavy truths.

alfie

Is there a point to all this jimmy riddle? Not really – maybe only this:  Nice to have a batbook that is progressive, moving forward in every sense. One that’s literally psychedelic, manifesting a new mind, implanting an alien thought-complex in the reader’s nervous system. It makes manifest an upperdimensional god’s battle cry, familiar from a few years ago, seem  real and accessible to you and me, fellow loyal Fan-Man: We come with god sight now.

Read the rest of the mindless get stuck into batrob:
Botswana Beast
Amy Poodle

6 Responses to “Batman and Robin #1: Never rains in Gotham”

  1. Neon Snake Says:

    Oooh, that Ghost Train image, separated from everything else…I’ve only just realised that I’m squatted down behind the horses, out of sight, watching the dolls troop out. Frodo and Sam watching the armies march out, hidden behind the rocks.

    Don’t breathe. Don’t make a noise.

  2. plok Says:

    Aha, another thing I saw-but-didn’t-see! That business about the tunnel and the bus, and the Here And There map…goddamn that Quitely, he’s always thinking!

    …But here’s a Gotham environment I particularly liked, which I haven’t really seen since the Batman movie of 1966: sunlit dockside, and a faintly ludicrous BIFF POW! moment. Is there a bit of that in here, too? The Gotham Police Station looks like a place you might see Adam West, as well…

    Nice piece!

  3. bobsy Says:

    Thanks. So yeah, Quitely as thinking-artmaker-man. The recent interview with nrama is really interesting in that respect. His answers are the kind of ‘I just draw the pictures man’ responses that you tend to get from working comic artists, but the namechecking of In Our time and Ted.com is a surprise, though it actually makes total sense. Slike, here’s a guy who’s really interested in ideas for their own sake, in cognitive mapping and the progress (historically and into-the-future) of leading models of thought. It fits with how his work always makes me feel, like it’s all about finding just the right way to look at things, and explores how looking at things from different perspectives can make you consider them in entirely new ways.

  4. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Batman and Robin #1: some quick thoughts, poodle-style! Says:

    [...] Read the rest of the mindless get stuck into batrob: Botswana Beast Bobsy [...]

  5. Anonymous Says:

    This article, along with, amypoodle has identified some great stuff. Great work.

    Quick question, have either one of you seen Fulci’s the Beyond? The reason I bring this up is your focus on the cityscape and amypoodle’s identification of the connection to grand guignol. Besides being an homage to Antonin Artaud and the theater of cruelty, the film neatly dove-tails into a discuss of stories where an individual’s foot-tread path unlocks either heaven and hell.

    This fits nicely into Batman no.666 and Morrison’s larger body of work (esp. Batman: Gothic, Kid Eternity, the Invisibles’ centipede and “pop” scenes, and the Key arc in JLA) and interests (esp. walkabouts).

  6. bobsy Says:

    Close Reading Dept. – Having had another look, I see I made a schoolboy error reading the opening chase sequence. The Toadmobile breaks through the central reservation and into the oncoming lane. So the POV could be that of the Cassady driving the bus, and the allusion to a head-on collision with the comic, one that never quite impacts, is made quite clearly in-text.

    Sorry.

Leave a Reply