Friday, April 13, 2012

Wolf Week #0

As long-time readers will know, one of our (least) favorite characters here at the Absorbascon is the Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

"If only I knew some form of... self-defense! Like any 23 year old female New Yorker would!"

The Golden Age Batman was a spooky, ingenius, smack-talking detective who pretty much invented Being Cool. The Silver Age Batman was absurdly unflappable, dealing coolly and casually with bizarre creatures from outer space and other dimensions, and was secure enough to put a cape on his dog. The later Iron Age Batman was five kinds of dark crazy-scary and slowly morphed himself into the omnicompetent Platinum Age Batman who needed nothing more than "time to prepare."

Like Clouseau, Stupid Bronze Age Batman is a master of easily penetrated disguise.

But in the middle of all that, from about 1970 to 1986, was the caustic, bumbling, overconfident and undercompetent Bronze Age Batman. Who, for some reason, no one seems to notice is an idiot. Really, the Stupid Bronze Age Batman is like Inspector Clouseau, blithely acquiring fame as a brilliant crimefighter with each stumbling misstep he makes, his idiocy hidden in plain sight.

"No nothin' "? Did Batman just say "no nothin' "?
Only in the '70s, folks; be glad you missed them.

How did he get away with this? Well, I credit the
Minor League Batman Theory. As much as I like Major League Baseball, I enjoy watching minor league baseball much more. Why? Because, thanks to the imperfections of the players, minor league baseball is MUCH more interesting; you never know quite what's going to happen.

Stupid Bronze Age Batman can't even get to first base without help.

Similarly, a flawless Batman doesn't allow for lots of suspense in a story. We certainly want Batman to be really cool and capable, yes; but if he's
too perfect, we don't identify with him, we don't fear for his safety, we don't thrill to his adventures. Perhaps the Stupid Bronze Age Batman's human imperfection was his literary strength. Think how much acclaim and popularity Scott Snyder's recent work on the character has won, in part by showing us a Batman who is overconfident, vulnerable, and possibly outmatched!

Well, we're certainly going to see a Batman who is overconfident, vulnerable, and possibly outmatched this week here at the Absorbascon, as we sit down to read the 1974 Len Wein story enitled...

...which first appeared in Baman #255 and surely won't appear anywhere else again, so enjoy it
here while you can.


Nathan Hall said...

Didn't figure him
To make his move now - WOK! CHOO!
Unfinished haiku.

Scipio said...

Wok Choo is the Bronze Age martial art of clobbering Batman.

Bryan L said...

Ah, yes, 70s Batman. My era, unfortunately. Drove me away from DC for quite some time, as I'm sure it did many others. I never could understand why anyone wanted this idiot around (for example, in the Justice League) -- even the Super Friends Batman was vastly more competent.

Scipio said...

THANK YOU, BRYAN! When this subject comes up I usually feel like the little boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes".

It's good to know I'm not the only one who's always viewed the Stupid Bronze Age Batman with an appropriately jaundiced eye.

Anonymous said...

Great Gotham, this image from that page you linked to:

It's the very lamp that knocked Hal out in his first adventure! When is Geoff Johns going to bring back Yellow Lamp as a JLA villain?

I remember Bronze Age Batman as well, and his foibles ... and yet I liked them. Besides the "minor league" analogy (which was indeed part of the appeal), I think it was also a nod to the reality that no human being could flawlessly do all the things that Batman currently does flawlessly. Brawl constantly with gangs of street thugs and you're going to take a beating once in a while. Fall from a building and you're going to miss the flagpole once in a while.

Bryan L said...

That's the problem, though. It wasn't "once in a while," it was all the freakin' time. It honestly made you wonder why this guy put on a suit and tried to fight crime -- Moe, Larry, and Curly could do a better job. He got slapped around by every thug in Gotham, without handing back any butt-whupping.

I suspect it was an attempt to "Marvelize" Batman, making him more in the mold of a "accidental" hero like Spider-man. But Spider-man has powers, and can theoretically take getting beat up while coming back for more.

Batman's "power" is preparation. He trained for this all his life. If every time you go out, something catches you by surprise, some schmoe beats you up, or some petty criminal eludes you, it pretty much undercuts the whole Batman concept.

I'll agree that it can go too far in the other direction, with Batman being virtually omniscient, but surely there's a sweet spot somewhere where he's extremely competent but not infallible.

Nathan Hall said...

And if Moon Knight is Marvel's version of Batman, it's clear that marvelizing Batman is always a bad idea. Poor Loony Moony can't keep his own title running for long. Add to that all the poor writing with his split personality and god delusions, and on his good days he's still a bigger mess than "Zur En Arrh" Batman in the RIP storyline.

Seriously, if Nick Carter or Sherlock Holmes were as clueless and self-defenseless as Bronze Age Batman, we'd think Watson and Patsy were the real heroes. Batman was just lucky that Robin was entrench in the sidekick mold by the time the Bronze Age came.

Brushwood Thicket Farmer said...

I think I vaguely remember this story, hoo-boy. I never noticed these things back then, as superheroes talking like a pre-teener seemed perfectly normal to me.

Justin S. Davis said...

I think my childhood comic tastes are about to take a serious beating....

SallyP said...

Haw! If there is one thing that I tend to enjoy, it is Batman looking stupid. And although I am actually...a little...kind've liking Batman a wee bit more than I used to...I still can't help rejoicing at a good Hal Jordan-like clonk to his noggin.