Wednesday, January 31, 2007

10 Things Batman Should Never Say

I take back everything I said about Mike Sekowsky during Widowmaker Week, because it's by far the best story in the recently released Brave & Bold Showcase edition.

I'd not read much Bob Haney before, and my impression of his work stemmed largely from other people's perceptions (such as H and Devon). So I wasn't really prepared for the experience of reading this volume. No matter, I suppose, for one could no more effectively steel oneself against Haney's writing than one can mentally prepare oneself to fall into a wood chipper.

It's not that it's bad, per se. A lot of people write comics badly; at Marvel, it's a job requirement. It's that it's so perversely and haphazardly bad. Villains like "the Collector", "the Molder", and "the Cannoneer"; French farce betrayals and love triangles that wouldn't have been believed on Three's Company; heroes acting and talking wildly out of character.

I kind of get what Haney the Hippy was trying to do. Haney was trying to bring a dose of Marvel-style "coolness" to DC comics. You'll notice oblique references to Spider-Man and the Hulk, there's lots of romance, and characters speak very -- well, I'll call it "casually".

Now, I've never heard Haney, never seen him, never even seen a photo. I can only picture him as a comic-book writin' Sammy Davis Junior, all angles, sharkskin, and sharp creases. Always wears a hat. Calls everybody "baby". Bloody Mary for breakfast.

He's probably not like that, of course; he's probably just a member of the generation that thought that's what "cool" look liked. So his attempts to coolify characters means that everybody talks just like Metamorpho.

Which leads me to the real point of this post:

(At Least) Ten Things Batman Should Never Say

1. "Why was that bow buzzard trying to ventilate your beautiful torso?"

Actually, I think we're pretty safe from ever hearing this one again, since occasions for saying it would be pretty rare. Unless, you know, he's talking to Black Canary.

2. "Have you flipped your badge, Commissioner? It's me, Batman -- your humble obedient servant and all-around crimestopper!"

This is the kind of talk that makes me want to beat Spider-Man to death with hammer. Besides, Batman is not a supporting character and so should never stoop to introposition.

3. "Sure, fella, and my best bat-wishes with it."

No, I'm not going to complain about "bat-hyphen" nouns. Haney was writing during the height of TV's Batmania, so I won't pick on him for that. It's "fella". Batman should never say "fella". Bruce Wayne is a blueblood billionaire not a salty stevedore.

4. "Brucie boy."

Another faux Spider-Man moment. What kind of person would have heroes with secret identities and loved ones to protect use someone's first name while they're in costume rather than codenames? I mean, other than Brad Meltzer? Let alone do it to yourself? Scipio does not approve of Batman referring to himself in third-person.

5. "Follow, follow, follow the gleam."

Batman should not be singing the song that won the 1920 Silver Bay prize at Bryn Mawr. Or any other. At least, not while swinging on a batrope.

6, "I'm a chemical pheenom."

This goes without saying (I hope). This is from the infamous "Bat-Hulk" story, which wastes appearances by the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler on some goofy "Batman becomes a monster with a bad personality " story. Maybe that's where Frank Miller got the idea for All-Star Batman?

I would say that Haney wrote this because he missed Metamorpho so much except--oh, wait that's right: Metamorpho's the co-star of this story!

7. "UHH ... Grip like .. a ... king crab's ... bite!"

I'm at a loss to imagine anyone saying or thinking this, let alone Batman. Maybe this is the same Batman who said, "Step away from the lobster trap?"

Oh, and pardon my adolescence, but I dare you to look at the panel without thinking something naughty and giggling: "The tall man grabbed Bruce firmly from behind..." . I think it's the word "slither" that puts it over the top. Well, that and "but he FEELS him ..."

8. "I'm being hit by a plastic deluge ... and it's hardening!"

Speaking of naughty pictures; oh ho, how ribald! As bad as the quote itself is, the picture (below) really completes it. It's Bob Haney meets slash-pic. C'mon, DC; break down and publish these in a 365 Days of Really Gay Batman Panels desktop calendar and you'll make millions!

9. "Commish".

Okay, I've performed emergency tracheotomies while lost in the Southeast Asian jungles and armed with nothing but a pen-knife and a box of Kleenex (I travel light). Yet I almost fainted when Batman calls Jim Gordon "commish". In any sensible Golden Age story, this would be the point at which a thought balloon would inform you that Robin is starting to catch on that Batman has been kidnapped and replaced by a criminal lookalike named Knuckles Brenneman as part of some byzantine scheme to gain access to the Batcave where an item kept as souvenir in the Hall of Trophies secretly contains information as to the location of unrecovered swag from the Amalgamated Gum Co. payroll heist that the Lefty Lochner gang pulled a few years ago before Lefty got sent to Joliet and the chair.
"Gosh, I bet that's the real reason 'Batman' didn't want to use our batropes and is letting me drive the Batmobile! I'd better wait and see what's he up to before I expose him! I won't expose him till we're alone in the Batcave and we're not surrounded by police who could help me -- that way, when the real Batman escapes he'll be just in time to save me!"
But in the Haney Age, it's the way everyone talks. No one should say "commish", except Harvey Bullock, who is allowed to do so precisely because it makes him sound cloddish.

However, Batman should say "I've got to get him! I want him so bad, I can taste it". Frequently. In fact, from now whenever I say that phrase at the bars, I will precede it with "As Batman said..." .

10. "Why, Commissioner, under that rocklike exterior of yours beats a rocklike heart!"

Actually, I'm less disturbed at Batman's flip disrect of the commish, than at the news the Batman apparently ogles his rocklike physique. Guess Bruce has daddy issues; let the slashfic begin!

Still, to his credit, while Bob Haney may not have known how to write Batman, he sure knew how to write Hal Jordan:


Anonymous said...

Haney is pretty notorious for playing around with continuity and characterization. He'd have Wildcat or The Spectre team up with Batman all the time, without a mention of Earth 1 or 2.

I'm guessing you've probably heard of "Earth-Haney", a fan theory that all these stories happened on their own Earth. Just imagine, a world full of jive talking heroes.

Anonymous said...

"Just imagine, a world full of jive talking heroes."

I don't have to imagine it; it's called Earth-616...

Harvey Jerkwater said...

There's an issue of Haney's B&B where Batman teams up with a modern-era (early seventies?) Sgt. Rock. Rock recognizes Bruce Wayne as his "Playboy Sojer!" Because, yes, Earth-Haney's Batman was not only in the army, he was in Rock's unit. (Not during the Big One, I think, but later.)


At least he gave us Batman and Wildcat boxing with cestii in a prison for the Joker's amusement to save a puppy. That's all kinds of rad.

Bill D. said...

Can we just all pretend that the Super Sons stories took place on Earth-Haney, too? Because that's the only sort of context in which they could ever hope to make sense.

Daniel said...

I had no idea that "Follow, follow, follow the gleam" was a real song. And I bought that comic when it was new.

Eric said...

The "Brucie boy," reminded me of the bit of commentary on the 1966 Batman movie (the only commentary I've ever listened to all the way through -- Burt Ward starts referring to Adam West as "Batman," about 3/4's of the way through...and nobody notices the difference), where West comments on Wayne dancing with "Kitka," and says, "Carrreful Bruce, baby...this could be it -- the love of your life!" For some reason, that seems so creepy to me.

Anonymous said...

Even unreasonable people agree that the Bat-Hulk story should never have been published.

I'm guessing this means I'd probably like it....

I think if I were a Haney super-villain I'd be called The Contrarian.

And as long as we're talking about Mr. Haney's gifts to the world of Batmanian dialogue I would like to offer up:

"You selfish crumb! Swamp Thing's this city's only hope! Bug out--or I'll crack your greedy skull!"

And the following moment of quiet reflection:

"The ultimatum Charlie White Wing gave the government has only another 12 hours to go... And I'm a helpless hostage! As Tom Paine, the revolutionary writer said... "These are the times that try men's souls!""

I like that Batman has to remind himself just who Thomas Paine was. Makes him seem almost human....

MarkAndrew said...

Brave and the Bold did get better, though. Almost immediately after this volume ended. Much less Marvel-lite, and a bunch less stupid.

Michael said...

It was revealed later in World's Finest that the Super-Sons were just a computer simulation.

In the infamous Brave and Bold 124, Bob Haney and Jim Aparo showed up in a Batman/Sgt. Rock tale. Terrorists tried to make Haney and Aparo write and draw a story in which Batman and Rock get killed, because then it would happen in "real" life. Probably the most bizarre of the Haneyverse stories.

Anonymous said...

I always thought Haney was refreshingly well-adjusted in his approach to comics continuity, when contrasted to the obsessive-compulsive mode of most of his peers. The Super-Sons thing was a case in point. Somebody, months or years after the fact, just couldn't leave them alone and had to write a story explaining them away. Haney, I'm sure, never felt that there was anything that needed explaining.
Anyway, I've felt that editor Murray Boltinoff was equally worthy of credit-or-blame for the Haneyverse. I love this letters page exchange with readers scratching their heads about a Super-Sons story where Robin shows up. Readers couldn't figure out why Robin was his usual teen-aged self, yet existing concurrently with the teenaged Super-Sons. Boltinoff responds with a charmingly clear-as-mud reply:
The readers say: "There has always been a sort of paradox with the Super-Sons... Thus, they have aged roughly 16 years while Robin is still in college... The appearance of Robin raises serious continuity questions... Robin should have been about 17 years older."
And Boltinoff replies: "And making Batman and Supes senior citizens? Come on fellas, flip your file back to #215, which stated, 'Did you ever wonder if one day, Superman and batman had sons, what they would be like? Heroic chips off the old blocks, or super duds? Wonder no more, faithful ones! Imagination? Put-on? No! For now, here, revealed in all its shock and anguish, the sensational top-secret story that cried out to be told.'"

Anonymous said...

Bob Haney's run on B&B was responsible for one of the most awesome Batman stories ever ever. See

SallyP said...

It's the Hal Jordan picture that does it for me. I love the slightly manic smile on his face.

Doesn't seem to be doing too much for Batman however.

Anonymous said...

Joliet, woo!

Bill Reed said...

I'm not seeing the bad here. Bob Haney was quite possibly too awesome for we lowly humans.

Anonymous said...

"Follow the gleam" was a Tennyson quote before it was song, and I always assumed that was what Haney was quoting.

Derek said...

Joliet, woo?

Sir, I've lived in Joliet my whole life and not once has it ever merited a "woo".

... with the exception of Joliet Jake from the Blues Brothers. Woo!

Chance said...

I'm torn between listing "Von Dort? Von Dort?" as one of the things Batman should never say, and listing it as one of the things he should always say.

I do know he needs to wear the racing cowl more often.

Chance said...

I'm torn between listing "Von Dort? Von Dort?" as one of the things Batman should never say, and listing it as one of the things he should always say.

I do know he needs to wear the racing cowl more often.