Caped Crusader vs Dark Knight

October 29th, 2010


‘thing is, i know we at mindless ones don’t really feel the need to justify these things or to bother kicking the argument about the way they might at, say, funnybook babylon, but i think the answer to the question ‘does bruce wayne work in cosmic scenarios? – in this PARTICULAR cosmic scenario?’ and the conversation one could have around it is probably an interesting one.

for geeks.’

There will always be a section of fandom who dislike Batman being placed in outlandish situations and believe it or not I understand where they’re coming from. DKR was a tremendous blow to the bat-membrane, one whose aftershock was felt for years to come, so it was necessarily taste and character defining. But, and I know this is so obvious it makes one wince to have to say it aloud, Miller’s Batman, despite the decade long shadow he cast, isn’t the only Batman.




(I could go on forever.)

Because Batman’s been around for a very, very long time. To quote Batmite in Batman Brave & The Bold:

‘Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it’s certainly no less valid and true to the character’s roots as the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy.’

Whether certain sections of his readership like it or not, Batman is a many angled beast. Some view what happened in the fifities and sixties as a ghastly aberration, the character mutilated by the effects of the Comic’s Code – ‘This isn’t the REAL Batman!’, they cry – but what about the fans who complained at the time of DKR’s publication that Miller’s Dark Knight was the imposter? I remember hating those guys, but surely they undermine the idea that Batman *belongs* to anyone, and I’d suggest that these conflicting takes demand a more accomodating position. That’s if the inner fanboy is ever going to assimilate change. Because change had to come to Batman, like everything else.

Grant Morrison, with his love of all things damned and fortean, was always going to excavate the stories hated by Miller worshipers, but as far as this reader’s concerned it’d come steam engine time anyway. Those stories were bound to be reintroduced into bat-canon at some point. Like it or not – there’s no point disliking it really because this is the way it is – we live in a post-modern Internet culture where everything bat-related is available at every single moment, it was only a matter of time before some young turk raised on Grant Morrison comics – arguably the writer who more than anyone else represents the post Miller age – began to reappraise the Batman of Zur en Arrh. But happily enough, praise be to Barbatos!, in the end it turned out to be Grant himself.

It was a dirty job but somebody was going to do it.

But because I’m a rabid Millar fan too, because I like Bob Kane’s early take as much as anybody (and, btw, Millar’s Batman *isn’t* a return to the pure, unsullied kanite vision, but rather a reimagining and reincorporation of it for a new decade, just as Morrison’s Batman isn’t a replaying of the sixties all over again) and as a backdrop to my bat-adventures, a genuinely gothic Gotham, I still think if you’re going to fiddle with the way a character’s been written for however many years it was between DKR and the start of Morrison’s run, you have to earn it. You have to make the stranger bat-stuff make sense and ensure the character doesn’t lose focus.

Because if Batman’s all things to all comers, then he’s nothing at all.

So let’s be clear, the grimier elements are hardly being ignored by Morrison, in fact I can recall certain posters on the much maligned but also missed Barbelith webforum complaining at the time it’s sixth issue came around that Morrison’s Batman run was conservative and represented a return to a Milleresque approach many of them wanted to see jettisoned the moment the bat-poles were reinstalled. If this was the better batmobile, with all the rape, pimps, purple dialogue and Batman bleeding out on the backseat it looked one hell of a lot like the old one.

But issue six also saw the introduction of a new bat-element, one that would allow for the reincorporation of an apparently totally different and tonally divergent Batman and put the above guys’ fears to rest (I know, I saw one of them the other day with a home-made Batman vs Robin T-shirt on) – the Black Casebook.

Back when Grant was writing the JLA I knew there had to be a batman front and centre and I never gave any thought to the heavy lifting that would get him there. All I needed was a bit of surface-deep resistance on his part, the odd grumble about untrained, superpowered civillians in combat zones and a few dark shadows to be totally convinced. It was a light strip, with character and motivation drawn in broad strokes, so expectations on that front were rather low. And Grant didn’t need to justify or explain away any of the weird shit for exactly the same reasons I didn’t. In fact, I expect the thought barely occured to him. But upon the arrival of the Black Casebook the picture changed altogether, leading many readers to wonder aloud how this Batman could have ever enjoyed those JLA adventures in the first place, when according to his own notes he finds events as relatively everyday for the DCU as alien invasion so sanity challenging. There’s lots of ways around this problem ranging from the argument that the diary entries in question represent a Batman whose mission is in its infancy and less used to dealing with monsters, ghosts and suchlike, to the more meta take that Morrison’s DCU output whilst possessing strong thematic links binding each project together are in the end modular, self contained fictionverses possessing skin deep or no causal relationship to one another. The Black Casebook, in that it allegedly contains all Batman’s adventures defying rational explanation, all those that do not fit, is a plausible way of filing and explaining away otherwordly elements, but it is also a trojan horse for the readmission of same and in the end Grant’s definitive mission statement – this stuff shall not be denied. The book shall be opened.

I used the word ‘otherworldly’  to describe this stuff, but I think a better word would be incongruous. Because the casebook not only serves to demystify the rainbow monster, but in the end is a fantastic lense through which to understand all the different chapters of Batman’s life. If everything can be analysed and potentially explained then it can all fit. And this doesn’t seem so crazy afterall, does it? Not when you consider this is the approach a detective would always take. On the surface of it The Hound of the Baskervilles seems bizzare and improbable, a monster straight out of the pages of a Carnacki the Ghost Finder novel and not at all the purview of a rationalist detective like Sherlock Holmes, but of course, it all makes sense in the end.

The casebook is an elegant way to remind Batman’s readership that we are dealing with a detective. And a good detective loves a mystery, whether or not it’s the mystery of Batmite, who, it turns out, is a drug induced invisible friend, exteriorising Batman’s basic survival trait, his imagination, his ability to do the impossible and make friends with the dark, his inner demons, his id, or the Adam West years which really represent the arrival of Robin on the scene, a happier Bruce and, correspondingly, a more light hearted Joker, and the inevitable rise and labelling by the Gotham Gazette of the pop crime phenomenon. The casebooks taunts us, challenging us to look again, framing our desire to shun the things we don’t like about the Batman’s 60 year history as pure denial. Cases unsolved. Aren’t those the juiciest ones?

The focus isn’t lost, everything is in the end figured to a very specific ground, forcing us to relate to these elements the way Batman would. The way the world’s greatest detective would. So it reinforces the rational, earthier aspects of the character, while at the same time expanding him.

It’s a neat trick.

But what happens when events defy explanation, when try as you might you can’t escape those pesky superheroes and all the other stuff that arrives with them because they’re hunting you down and plucking you from your dingy little cave and out into a world of supergods and devils from another universe? What happens when there’s a CROSSOVER?!?

You see, I strongly suspect there are two reasons informing some of the negative reactions to what happens to Batman in Final Crisis and ROBW, the first being that Batman’s eventual fate should have been decided in his own comic and not in Grant Morrison’s crossover event and the second being – what the hell is Batman doing taking on Darkseid in the first place? It’s difficult to argue with both positions to be honest. Batman’s apparent death and the events leading up to it really do represent an incursion from beyond, beyond the confines of his book and the character’s trajectory at that time, and no matter how hard the events of Return and the casebook entries of Batman 702 and 703 conspire to weave it all together, many readers will always find Darkseid and the New Gods’ overturning of their monthly Batman book a teethgrindingly jarring event. Because it was. That said, however, if we look a bit closer perhaps the overall theme of the piece doesn’t lurch about as much it would at first glance appear to.

If Morrison’s run has concerned itself with a refocusing of the batverse’s tattered edges, it makes sense that in the end it would need to incorporate that tricksiest of bat-elements, the DCU itself. This isn’t the MU, where you feel you’re on a pretty even footing the multiverse over, but the bendy home of Plastic Man, Clock King and Mr Mxypltk. Jeeze, i may as well say it, it’s the home of Superman. For many of us, and this may explain their enduring appeal, Superman and Batman represent the fundamental polarities within every superverse, the super-man and the superman and resultingly they’ve taken on totemic qualities. As teens many of us were careful to draw a very clear line between anything Batman and Superman related. Supes was only allowed in a Batman comic in the guise of a stupid government stooge, and Batman definitely had to be beating him up. Batman was like one those leering Gotham gargoyles warding off any of the embarrassing superdog shit that reminded us we were still in many ways children. Afterall, Batman comics were hardcore. Girls would put out if only they knew how hardcore they were. So this is in all likelihood the way many fans stave off invading tonalities from the DCU’s other spheres, the way I did it – they stay away from Superman comics. They pretend they don’t exist. Ah, but they do!

The difficulty has always been in figuring out how everything slots together. Let’s face it, it’s this relationship that forms the root problem people have with the silver age stories and so forth, they’re too superheroey.

Anyway. In that they broke down into various denied bat-tonalities (Batman as overseas adventurer, Batman as pop art icon, Batman as FUN! to name a few) the man bats of London in issue two of Grant’s run would have been difficult for some fans to parse. They were the first, concentrated and unprecedented blast of what would follow, a taster if you like, but one could hardly argue that in isolation they represented a reason to pursue these long neglected aspects of the hero’s title, other than perhaps ‘But I liked it!’, which is fair enough but never going to convince fandom in the long term. No, the manbats were a body blow to soften the readership up. The real whammy came at the end of the issue, with the arrival of Damian Wayne.

Metaphorically speaking it could be argued that everything really begins with the arrival of Damian, Batman’s son, straight out of a conveniently forgotten piece of bat-lore nearly twenty years previous. Damian represents the beginning of the unearthing that the casebook represents in its totality – the Batbooks’ bastard spawn, abandoned on the doorstep of a post Death in the Family bat-universe. And like the casebook, Damian really is an instory excuse for the writing to get wilder and weirder. To explore the secret Batman. To strip the character back and see what he’s made of? And didn’t you know therapy can never work unless we confront the apparently not-self, the animus? The Rainbow Monster itself?

In hindsight it’s quite clear that this is the main theme running through Morrison’s bat-project, this stripping Batman back. Exploring what he is at his core. And once you get beyond Bruce Wayne’s, albeit brief, destruction at the hands of his ultimate enemy, Dr. Hurt, then it makes sense that the next conflict should be between Batman and his ultimate enemy, the ultimate enemy of all superheroes, Darkseid. The rights or wrongs of whether or not this should’ve occured in Final Crisis aside, it does make thematic sense that the stakes moved up a gear so dramatically, because in the end a thorough excavation of Batman always had to make the transition from the personal to the universal, from the man to the myth he represents. And in the end that’s why he’s allowed to have a crack at  the Devil. Like Inana in the old myth Grant’s so fond of quoting, Batman was divested of everything during his descent into Hell, we got a look at all his dirtiest draws, but what Hurt left was his shining core, Man against the Unknown, and that’s been taking on Darkseid forever.

You see, the Deer People were right – he is a Shining One.

(But his lessons aren’t couched in anything so obvious as a burning bush, but in his actions. Smashing Vandal Savage’s face into a rock. Resisting and SURVIVING.)

We’re in danger of veering off course here, but I think if one’s going to bother to write an essay arguing the case for a morrisonian Batman, then it’s important to explain exactly why it made sense for the New Gods to invade Batman’s world. At first glance it seems like a scene shift too far, probably doubly so because it plays out in an alien book, but any reader playing close attention to Batman’s journey at the time would be able to wrap their head around it fairly easily.

And isn’t the effort itself rather enjoyable?

You see, in the end that’s my main argument for the incorporation of the superheroic into the batverse, because so long as the rules of the house are adhered to, it’s FUN! Much more fun than it all going off in a Superman book where battling Starro is just another chore to slog through after breakfast.  Many people appear concerned primarily with the scaling up needed to get Batman into that room beneath Command D, but what of the scaling down required to get Darkseid there? The New Gods are much more interesting placed under Batman’s microscope than anywhere else.

‘It was the Blueprint, the template for every bullet there has ever been. It was the original of the bullet that killed JFK, Martin Luther King… Thomas and Martha Wayne.’

‘The New Gods are incredibly powerful living ideas from a kind of platonic, archetypal world.’

‘Whatever they touch turns to Myth. Remember that much.’

See what I mean? In his own book, you don’t just have Batman beat Desaad in an off panel mind war, you show the process as in Last Rites. You don’t have Batman simply driven MAHAAAD by his enemies, you get the freudian monstrosity that is the Batman of Zur en Arrh. You don’t have Superman show up without a bunch of caption boxes detailing how bizzare and unearthly he is….  Sure, the crazy stuff the DCU throws up is great left hanging there as mystery, but we’re so used to it that we’re blind to its charms most of the time. Not so in a Batman book. The close analysis, the unpacking via monologuing, the unweaving of the rainbow he insists upon I think infuses the superheroic with power and meaning and we’re really missing out on something great if Batman isn’t used as an occassional reframing device. In this respect, he’s a story engine. Because once you know more about these things you can take them in more directions, and the good thing is they’ll never be truly earthed because they’re so damn weird to begin with. Batman in that he more closely aligns with a real world point of view is a perfect bridge, our eyes and ears in the DCU, and being so he’s really its greatest explorer. And he’d want to explore it. Taken en masse the DCU is the ultimate Arkham, rich with psychological metaphor, unbridled imagination and reified internality, it is the very world Bruce Wayne dons his bat costume in order to negotiate.

Let’s never forget that.

Morrison hasn’t.


Here’s to two more years of outlandish adventures!

(And hopefully more. Please. Grant?)

42 Responses to “Caped Crusader vs Dark Knight”

  1. matches Says:

    In the end, incorporation of more super-heroey elements into the Bat-verse comes down to two questions:

    1. Is it good? Morrison’s stuff works because it is very very good. Axiomatic, perhaps, but it’s tough for even the hardcore Batman “purist” to resist a good story on ideological grounds.

    2. Does it change the character in a way that limits the types of stories you can tell with him in the future? Batman is the most versatile of superheroes – he works in literally any kind of story. There’s little need to sync up what he does in JLA with what he does in his own title, except for the folks who live and die by making sure everything syncs up. Where there’s a problem is if the otherworldly elements become so entrenched in the Bat-mythos as to foreclose next month’s story being about gangsters and dark alleyways. Nothing Morrison has done fundamentally changes who Batman is or what types of stories can be told about him. Thus, while having him fighting Darkseid or time-traveling might be incongruous, once the story’s over, it’s over and we just move onto the next thing.

    Great post BTW. It’s nice to see a thoughtful look at this subject that offers something beyond “Aquaman needs to show up in Detective Comics because otherwise it’s not consistent with this month’s issue of R.E.B.E.L.S.”

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  3. James Sommerville Says:

    Hey Gang:

    Long time reader, first time poster.

    While I am sympathetic to your opinion regarding the Morrisonian Batman and especially the Black Casebook, I do think that the encroachment of the wider DCU, such as Darkseid and time-travel, make stories about gangsters and dark alleys a little silly in comparison. If Batman can defeat the platonic representative of Evil Itself in some sort of elaborate hyperspace chess match, how am I supposed to believe that some sociopathic hood with a gimmick could ever threaten him again? Doesn’t the escalation of Batman’s enemies make his regular adversaries and urban milieu seem far too small for such a great great man? Isn’t that what some of the kids are up in arms about?

    Again, I love the Morrisonian Batman and could care less what sort of problems future writers or even current readers will have as a result of this interpretation, but I can understand their concerns.

  4. Zom Says:

    I think that the answer to that question is quite complicated. Discussinferno.

  5. amypoodle Says:

    well, james, mate, these things should be the exception, not the rule.

    the trick is to play his interactions with the wilder currents of the dcu as EVENTS with honest to goodness repercussions. i mean, with all the fuss being made in some quarters about darkseid you’d be forgiven for thinking this stuff happens all the time. it doesn’t. it shouldn’t. morrison spent ages building up to a time travel story, and even then it’s all pretty grrrty stuff.

    sorry, i should’ve said this in the main article. i certainly intended to.

    something about how along the way i’ve learnt that i *do* want batman to be scary, rainy and grimy. i do want alleyways and newspapers blowing about in the gutters. i want lone eye lincoln. i’ve learnt that i was wrong to hope morrison would tear gotham down and completely renovate it.

    i just hope that some of the fans coming at it from the other direction have learnt other lessons. that batmite’s taken them to school and they loved it.

  6. Werdsmiff Says:

    Excellent, excellent post. (Long time reader … second time commenter, myself.)

    Not being hugely invested in current comics continuity, I tend to pick and choose stories based on my favourite writers. And while Morrison has crafted an amazing story across his Batman run, I do also see it as an interrogation of wacky old-school superhero stories and how they fit into the gritty modern environment, as well as an attempt to integrate them all together, which is a surprisingly neglected avenue of Post-Modern Comix ™.

    Legacy/Big Two comics are a strange branch of fiction, because they feature long-lived characters and acknowledge the weight of past stories, but allow further development. For my money, Batman can brawl with crooks on rooftops or tussle with gods, as long as it features a compelling story that offers an interesting take on the character. And when you’re talking about a character who’s existed for 70+ years, that’s no mean feat…

  7. RetroWarbird Says:

    Amypoodle, this is the one I was waiting for. Very well-framed, nice central thesis, little tangential meandering.

    You touched upon something I’d been getting at in my own head – Bruce’s reaction to these strange things. And my current frame of focus is on how acutely the “Outraged Fans’” opinions of the thing literally mirror Bruce’s own thoughts on the subject. It’s a dead heat. Bruce is in denial about The Black Casebook’s events. Millerites have for years been in denial about the Batman of the 50′s and 60′s. (I can’t ever help but wonder if the craven, clinging things – a Bat-Mite piggyback demon … a Rox Ogama … are meant to represent Millerism somehow, trying to drain the collective imagination from the character). The World’s Finest will not be denied. The Brave and the Bold will not be denied. They have nearly as much history as Batman’s own solo title.

    New Gods on Earth feels like an otherworldly intrusion from “beyond” the confines of Batman’s reality … and so here it occurs … in a crossover book rather than his home-title … littered with DC’s most absurdly, fantastically beautiful best.

    Batman is the greatest American heroic archetype. He’s ALL of them. They say Poe invented the “detective mystery novel”. (In fact, “they” (a collective term for my own hazy memory of things) say he practically invented the modern notion of Gothic Horror and Gothic Noir as well). Batman perfected them. And while he’s not the perfect Western hero, or the perfect Puritanical satirist … he’s proven to have a good handle on them as well (even in more modern, “present day” forms).

    It strikes me that the reason our Millerite grim&gritties, our Honor Jacksons and our Lone-Eye Lincolns are both cyclopean is because of the “singular vision” of Batman as a street-level vigilante. These sorts of characters have no depth perception, nothing to explore. Ironically, the fact that they deal drugs means they open alternate avenues of exploration for other characters in-story – even the most Millerest of characters has the ability to enable something strange to happen.

    James, remember that regardless of facing New Gods, there are still rules, and they are still being followed. Batman could not have stopped the Old Darkseid the way he did. Darkseid had to be reduced to the feeble old body of “Terrible” Dan Turpin before Bruce could spread his hunter’s shadow on the Enemy of Enemies.

    But the rules still exist … and as Batman has said on occasion … “All it takes is one stray bullet …” A scared kid with a lucky shot … a hitman like Deadshot or Deathstroke or Ra’s al Ghul’s assassins. Batman prepares for everything, even a “so-called” wild card like Joker who makes it his goal in life to prove to Batman that there is always random chance to keep in mind. Batman has prepared for Joker’s contradictory “predictability” as a wild card. But there’s really-really-real random chance out there. The stray bullet … the lucky punk … Hell, the vindictive Editorial Staff.

    The danger is still there. Every day, in the streets of Gotham (and now, thank Barbatos, across the globe.) So long as Batman isn’t leading the next wave of Challengers of the Unknown into the Multiverse, things are fine. The status quo has been shaken, tilted, and toppled … to give way to “Status Quo 2.0″ … “Batican II”.

  8. It Burns Says:

    I think it’s pretty amazing to look back at the brief Bat-pearences in 52, all the way to now, incorporating Final Crisis to boot, and to finally see the enormity of this Batman story. This is in no way poopooing the importance of this post, but I’ve always thought while reading parts of this story that despite elements I had trouble understanding, parts that were far out–and I loved each and every one–my love for those elements hasn’t approached my appreciation that Grant has given his readers a bat-story to be proud of.

    That might sound weird or insecure, but I feel that when this story is over, may that aweful second never pass, fans of not only Morrison but superheroes in general will have a work of art worth showing off, I won’t wax anymore and I couldn’t agree more with the post, obviously.

  9. Neon Snake Says:

    “If Batman can defeat the platonic representative of Evil Itself in some sort of elaborate hyperspace chess match, how am I supposed to believe that some sociopathic hood with a gimmick could ever threaten him again?”

    Answered in large by RetroWarbird’s invocation of the “one stray bullet”, I think, but still: it’s a very large and good question, and one that questions longform comics as a whole. I know that you’re questioning how to match the dichotomy of caped vs darkk, but you’re also touching on the constant, slow, creeping escalation of threat levels.

    Post-Crisis, after seeing the Anti-Monitor defeated, why would I ever believe that someone like Mirror Master poses a credible threat?

    I think my answer is that Darkseid was positioned as a threat to the world, to the DCU – not specifically to Batman, or Superman, but to the larger world. The heroes stopped Darkseid to save the world, not themselves (clearly, each hero was in individual, and specific, danger throughout the story, and the personal ramifications were touched upon instory, but still – the story was about the larger threat).

    Meanwhile, over in RIP, Batman himself was in severe danger from someone who (at the time of reading) could very well have been just some deranged film-maker with a penchant for halloween costumes, with no “actual” cosmic/supernatural elements at all – the story was written in such a manner to allow for full-on urban grittiness with gothic tropes if one so desired.

    I have vague memories of a JLA issue where, having defeated Starro or some such, Batman needs to be back because Jim has phoned in with a bank truck robbery.

    I think it just depends on where the threat is directed…and an awful lot on how well the proverbial back-alley mugger is written.

  10. amypoodle Says:

    by the way, has anyone read this?

    from the interview:

    ‘I’ve read a lot online about how people think that, ever since Dark Knight Returns, Batman has been to dark and gritty. But I don’t agree. That’s what made me love Batman. I think a Batman that is too fun and happy and has a little sidekick dog and all those types of things doesn’t speak to me at all. This is the character that speaks to me: The dark, angry, vengeful, almost hateful character. That’s what I love. And that’s what I’m doing. I want to push that as far as editorial will let me push it.’

    about as retrograde and reactionary as you can get, then.

    i mean ‘hateful’? jesus, dave, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, miller’s batman wasn’t intended to be hateful. sure, he’s easy to critique along certain lines, but the guy was still supposed to be a superhero – a legend (‘he’s too BIG….etc’) – not some vile bastard.

    it wouldn’t annoy so much if it wasn’t for all finch’s waffle about his being a ‘traditional’ take, because it bloody well isn’t. where do the finch’s of this world get this guy from? it’s Arkham Asylum, isn’t it?

    dave finch is officially a 14 year old and the anti me.

  11. amypoodle Says:

    it’s also the way he completely strawmans the alternative take. nobody’s been doing comics, and nobody wants to do comics, where batman’s all fun and happy with a little dog in a mask yapping around his heels. well, okay, i do a bit… but you know what i mean.


  12. Neon Snake Says:

    “This is the character that speaks to me: The dark, angry, vengeful, almost hateful character. That’s what I love.”

    There’s something in this which explains a lot of the issues that you’re exploring here; a number of Batfans aren’t just the fatbeards of stereotype, I’ve got a vague impression that many of them are very impotent, conservative, angry young men, buying into Bruce Wayne/Batman as someone who has been wronged by the world and is taking his vengeance, Bickle-like, upon it, or like some Randian protaganist against the bottom feeders and parasites.
    He HAS to be rooted in reality, and separated from the outlandish elements of the DCU, or fantasy (“if I train hard enough”) falls apart.

  13. amypoodle Says:

    i think what gets me about the finch type of bat-fan is their sense of entitlement (i touched on this in the main article, only i didn’t expand on it for fear of zom telling me off – but finch fell right into my clutches with all that ‘traditional’ bollocks) – there really is no type of fan more possessive than the millerites…. and i think that feeds into your reading really neatly, snake.

    what’s interesting, of course, is that finch’s stories will largely be rooted in the supernatural, which is another bat-era altogether from the one he thinks he’s aping.

  14. Rick Says:

    I wanted to touch on the Mugger bit mentioned earlier. When was the last time Batman was in serious danger from anyone not wearing a Crazy costume?

    I get that having him be prepared for all the stuff in Final Crisis makes his job in Gotham seem redundant but you could say that about Batman of before the Morrison run. It also may be part of what INC is doing. Bruce has gone global, Dick and Damian are watching the fort

    Crime beware you are in for a scare!

  15. Rick Says:

    Oh one last thing, but being Morrison and seeing as we are talking about Batman and Superman I can’t be the only one to see the duality of Batman INC and The Superman Squad?

    “As above, so below”?

  16. Neon Snake Says:

    Do you mean the idea that Morrison-esque Batman, with Ace the Bathound et al, will somehow break the character? Or maybe has already broken it?

    (I was too dismissive of “if I train hard enough”. I suspect that my teenage self read Batman entirely because I could, one day, if only I trained hard enough, be Batman)

  17. Neon Snake Says:

    “I wanted to touch on the Mugger bit mentioned earlier. When was the last time Batman was in serious danger from anyone not wearing a Crazy costume?”

    Speaking only for myself, I use Mugger purely as shorthand for the street-level stories, the ones that stay completely away from supernatural, super-science, superhero elements – so, include Riddler, but exclude Freeze, for instance. Azzerello’s “Joker” is a good example.

    So, not so much the literal interpretation of “How do I buy a thug with a knife as a threat”, but “How do I buy the street-level stories about muggers, bank robberies, and poisoned reservoirs as being meaningful, with chances of consequences that matter to me, when over THERE a Monitor is rebuilding a universe with a map from a Jack Kirby comic?”

    It’s one of those things that I kind of “get”, but find difficult to fully understand. Batman has always been part of the DCU, so it seems reasonable that the DCU should feature. I feel that one should expect it, and not get so massively upset when it happens. Put out? Sure. But screaming fits of rage…no.

    It’s like walking into an Italian restaurant and throwing a tantrum because some of the dishes involve pasta…what the fuck were you expecting?

  18. Zom Says:

    I think we should all bear in mind that Finch’s Dark Knight is almost certainly an example of editorially mandated line diversification. Who gives a shit what the “millerites” think? They’ve got their book, we’ve got ours. Ours will sell better, and who knows, maybe Finch’s grim-bats will be fun.

  19. amypoodle Says:

    are you referring to the superhatural stuff?

    well, maybeeee…

    i think it’s more that batman’s always been ‘broken’ or, as i say in the article, he’s always been a many angled beast. purists draw their water from a muddy well.

  20. Neon Snake Says:

    So, more that the post-Miller, Chuck Dixon-era is considered to be the “correct” interpretation? And deviance from that is the purvue of, well, deviants?

  21. amypoodle Says:

    above to snake.

    yeah, actually, i forgot grimbats could be fun. i’m not sure artist turned writer david finch is the man for the job though. there’s definitely room for good grimbats, but i sometimes think that the sort of person who has a burning desire to write *that* batman is probably not the sort of person whose writing i’m very keen to read.

  22. Neon Snake Says:

    “Who gives a shit what the “millerites” think? They’ve got their book, we’ve got ours. Ours will sell better, and who knows, maybe Finch’s grim-bats will be fun.”

    For sure, I agree with you, Zom. It makes no real odds, we still have Batman Inc and All-Star Superman, and no doubt will continue to get it.
    The article reads more like a clarification of the Mindless inclusive approach than a full-on slam of the Millerites. And makes for a diverting discussion over a coffee on a lazy saturday lunchtime.

  23. amypoodle Says:

    he was aiming that millerites thing at me more than he was you. zom knows i’m inclined to get sucked into arguments with 14 year olds on teh interweb.

    the inspiration for the article was 1. clarification and 2. it’s an interesting subject to talk about, if utterly useless.

  24. amypoodle Says:

    rick: morrison could’ve had the squad on his mind when he came up with inc, because there is a symmetry, but either way it doesn’t really matter. i think the guy just likes prismatic superteams.

  25. RetroWarbird Says:

    “I’ve got a vague impression that many of them are very impotent, conservative, angry young men …”

    Right? And yet these Millerites are the exact same people who can’t appreciate a perfectly good resurrected 90′s ultra-violent Jason Todd when they see him.

    I had dinner last night with a ladyfriend and we talked about Batman for three hours. I certainly got from her a strong preference for The Dark Knight Returns. And a mild dislike of Superman. But there’s silver lining all around – she started reading JLA to see Batman at work with colleagues, and she’s taken an interest in Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. And amidst the somewhat standard DKR/Year One/TLH/DV/Hush/Animated Series and Burton Movies core love, there was something else – while all those affected her view of what Batman is, somehow her favorite item in Bat-Lore remained the Adam West 60′s show. Hallelujah, rejoice.

  26. It Burns Says:

    “I’ve got a vague impression that many of them are very impotent, conservative, angry young men …”

    A similar feeling I had when Nolan’s Dark Knight was released. Conservative mags/shows/assholes were praising the film for its Bush-Doctrine Batman who showed America why the War on Terrorism was real and to fight it one must be above law and justice.

    I think a Batman that’s divorced from sci-fi, or a Batman who isn’t a spirit of Gotham as has been discussed on Mindlessones, is difficult to handle maturely because you must reconcile the idea that you’re praising a vigilante who, as Morrison has said, “beats up poor people” with the idea of a hero.

    I predict Finch’s Batman will run into this problem.

  27. amypoodle Says:

    but at least with dark knight nolan wants batman to be bigger than the petty, revenge driven codswallop that’ll fuel finch’s batbook.

  28. Lanmao, the Blue Cat Says:

    Great post, and a really thoughtful consideration of the dimensions of the character. Anyone familiar with the book, The Many Lives of the Batman? It’s a 1991 series of academic essays on… well, Batman, that would be relevant here, and includes an interview with ol’ Frank that shows he was working on DK2 from at least then. (looking it up on Amazon, it also appears to be worth money, and my dumb ass gave it to the thrift store when I moved)

    In defense of Millerism, if not Millerites: one of the things about the Miller take on Batman that makes it so appealing to me is its noirish moral complexity. By the quality of his quasi-realism, he throws into high relief the basic moral problem of the superhero, which is that a superhero is someone who has extraordinary abilities and believes that these authorize him to enforce moral codes through violence. When Supes defeats Metallo, or the Flash beats the hell out of Mirror Master at supersonic speed, they do this in a context so far removed from our own as to obscure the issue. On the other hand, when Batman kicks a mugger in the back of the head, there is no denying what’s going on.

    In the same vein, while it’s obvs wrong to think of Nolan’s Bat-Panopticon (Batopticon?) as being a desirable manly man response to all these hippie Muslim communist terrorists, what it IS is nothing more than what Batman does every night on a slightly larger scale: he routinely violates the law and the constitutional rights of people who have been convicted of nothing at all to dispense justice and ensure security for the innocents under his all-seeing observation (cue gargoyle-perching). And in Gotham, he appears to be necessary.

    To me, this is what Batman can get at like no other character. It’s Punisher that’s Travis Bickle, Batman is undeniably a superhero, but one in which you can half-believe. He presents the problem in a way that no other character can. The Morrisonian take on the character, while certainly possessed of its own merits, seems to me to lose this part of what makes Batman after Miller so interesting, at least to my mind.

    Also, I can’t see Ted McKeever drawing Morrison’s Batman, and that’s a damn shame.

    Also, David Finch is a twat.

  29. It Burns Says:

    Absolutely. I am a big fan of TDK and Nolan. I feel like, similar to Morrison, Nolan wants to bring Bruce Wayne into the story more, have him battle with Bruce and Batman being one and the same rather than Batman as an outlet for Bruce’s rage.

    I doubt Finch and the other Bat writers even consider the differnece, if the quality of their books is any indication (Tomasi, Azzerelo, Dini: I realize Finch should be given a chance since his book is yet to be realeased).

    And I wanted to chime in on the “back to Bob Kane” idea. Only that it’s odd how stupid the idea that any writer or artist today is rekindling that fire. A Batman who uses a gun, kills…a pipe-smoking dandy even…have these fuckers who make that claim even read those comics?

  30. It Burns Says:


    Couldn’t agree more that Morrison’s Batman loses (sheds?) that aspect of the character. While it is interesting to see Batman confront the question of rights and violation of the law, I feel that more often than not the problem runs in circles and no real progress is ever made because, after all, we’re reading about a man dressed as a bat. Don’t mean we can’t take Batman seriously as a character, but the further you segregate the symbols of the character from any particular story (the bat symbol, the batcave, the batmobile, Robin, Joker, on and on and on) in order to make the character more “realistic” and angsty as so often happens post-Miller (definitely not in TDKR and DK2), the whole mythos becomes somewhat irrelevant. It has no real connection to our lives.

  31. Shiny Jim Says:

    And that’s also why JMS’ Superman is shit.

  32. Sunday Brunch: 10/31/10 | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources Says:

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  33. Sunday Brunch: 10/31/10 : Buzz Mixx Says:

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  34. adpt Says:

    Longtime reader here too so I figured I’d chime in.

    I wasn’t reading comics when GM’s JLA was coming out but I’ve read it now and from what I gather it was very popular at the time. Have all the complainers just forgotten about it? Batman’s been fighting aliens with the JLA for as long as the JLA’s been in existance. Do these people just want that roped off (ironic because these are the continuity-bots)?

    And it might be worth keeping in mind (or maybe not) that the Millerite’s disowned Miller himself when he wrote DK2. Too bright and not grimngritty enough, I suppose?

  35. RetroWarbird Says:

    The Millerite faith is a dichotomous lot.

  36. James Sommerville Says:

    Just reading over the large number of comments that came during the weekend, it occurs to me that Morrison and Miller share a similar fundamental theme in their Batman work. Both depict him as the Man Who Isn’t Fooled. And I think that is what is at the core of his popularity on both the Morrisonian and Millerian divide (if there is such a thing). When I read DKR for the first time, I thrilled at the sight of a man who knew all the angles, who planned appropriately and did what needed to be done in order to win. Morrison’s Batman work, of course, doesn’t celebrate that hard-boiled literary tradition, but it does reiterate that same theme–the uber-Batman.

    Now, regarding the escalation of villains producing diminishing returns future-storywise, I see Retrobird’s point regarding the ‘stray bullet.’ However, that seems to me a rhetorical ploy on the part of Morrison in order to fool readers into thinking that the superhuman he is telling stories about is in fact only human. A stray bullet isn’t ever going to kill Batman; the very nature of the hero precludes it, especially now that he has been ‘mythologized’ by his contact with the New Gods as well as placed into a Manichean deathtrap.

    Again, please note that I couldn’t give a shit about continuity. Yes, it can be used to good effect, offering a treat for long-time fans, but it isn’t Important. Stories is stories. I think that my point is that Morrison is straining himself trying to fit all of Batman’s various modes and tones into a cohesive whole. The Black Casebook can only hold so much, the ‘stray bullet’ can only hold back so many.

    The Black Casebook, however, as Amy has pointed out,did open up my Batman imagination again. All of a sudden he seemed like a new person, someone I didn’t know at all, despite everything I’d read about him. So I can totally understand the device’s appeal. I think that, rather than reflecting some sort of unfulfilled power fantasies, the Finchian Pseudo-Millerites (as they should be called)are looking for comfort, familiarity. Nothing more, nothing less. The Black Casebook makes their hero a stranger to them so they want things back the way they were.

    Which is an obvious statement, I’m sure.

  37. amypoodle Says:

    i can imagine living in a world where both possibilities were true of the finchian psuedo-millirites, wish fulfilment and comfort (it’s easy if you try), but saying that, i do err more on the side of comfort… it’s just a really weird, violent archteype to be comforted by.

    as for the casebook bursting at its seams – i know what you mean, james. i’m not sure how i feel about this – i’ll try and untangle it…. okay… i know that in theory it’s crazy and doesn’t work, but only if you look at it too hard – probably about as hard as you’d have to look at any superhero continuity to undo it thoroughly, actually. i choose not to stare, basically, and so far that means morrison’s mega-batman still works for me.

  38. Zom Says:

    You absolutely can’t look too closely at Morrison’s it’s all true approach. Of course it can’t all be true, in a self consistent character history sort of way, but given that it’s a fiction Morrison doesn’t have to go that route, and we as readers don’t have to demand it of him, especially when you consider the unusual context of an ongoing comic book with a 70 plus year history. It’s perfectly legitimate to expect readers to understand that this is a more playful, plastic approach and to treat it accordingly.

  39. James Sommerville Says:

    Right. I too can happily stand not looking too closely at the Black Casebook and the Stray Bullet if it allows for the telling of newer, more thought-provoking stories. I think that Bruce’s mental battle in Last Rites, although told in a series of potentially ‘fictional’ (because hallucinatory) flashback sequences, offers the best example of Morrisonian modal and tonal inclusiveness. That’s where proof of concept lay. I’m thinking particularly of his incorporation of Year One into his interpretation, allowing Batman to retain that ‘real world’ edge while still maintaining his otherwise superhuman abilities.* Sketched broadly, the interpretation works.

    This is all the more reason to focus on the real point of Amy’s short essay: “Batman in that he more closely aligns with a real world point of view is a perfect bridge, our eyes and ears in the DCU, and being so he’s really its greatest explorer.”

    I would quibble and say that Batman’s particular point of view doesn’t make him the greatest explorer, a la Fantastic Four, but it does indeed offer the best narrative bridge between the DCU and its audience of mere mortals. For the same reason as you lot, I was thrilled by issue 702, by the human insights we gained regarding the New Gods, etc.

    Speaking of which, it seems to me all of a sudden, once again, that perhaps the Hyper-Adapter is the primary enabling narrative device here, and that the Black Casebook is an adjunct to it. “It was time. Time is pliable. As I stayed in place, he manipulated whole centuries around me.” Of course, this is classic retcon behaviour, allowing Morrison to tell his own self-contained story and providing an ‘out’ for future, inevitably less imaginative writers. But does it too allow for the modal and tonal inclusiveness that we all enjoy? Is this the real magic trick?

    I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it right now, so I throw it out as a question.


    *isn’t it strange that the hardest thing to shoe-horn seems to be Miller’s interpretation? Doesn’t that make it the most ‘fantastic’ of them all?

  40. RetroWarbird Says:

    I believe the Hyper-Adapter is even responsible for plucking Damian from obscurity (Or, more accurately … switching the Continuity-Genes of Batman: Son of the Demon from “off” to “on”)

    So Damian really, truly IS the impetus for everything happening to Bruce lately, in that he was the “first” plot hole to resurface.

  41. James Sommerville Says:

    In which case the arrival of Damian is when “the box opened.”

    Nice. I like it. Thanks for that.

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

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