Monday, July 16, 2012

Batman's Brother

Well, well, well; Scott Snyder has brought us the return of “Batman’s brother”.  I'm not the first person on the internet to point this out, by any means, but I still thought I'd mention it here for those not in the know.

In the recent epic “Court of Owls” storyline, Batman author Scott Snyder has been drawing a picture of an unknown history for Gotham (one that is being embraced across the company’s line of titles, judging by storylines in the Bat-books, the JL line, and even outlying titles like All-Star Western).  The story has been powerful and colorful, although it suffers from a lack of logic and motivation.  For example, if the Court of Owls is already composed of Gotham’s elite, what’s with all the elaborate schemes and undead agents?  They already run Gotham and have for generations; what the heck do they WANT?  Their motivations are completely unclear, and they smack far too much of opponents created specifically to give the hero trouble, rather than independent characters with their own agenda, which the hero runs up against and then opposes.  I mean, really… they built an underground MAZE?  With hallucinogenic water fountains?   Rather than just shoot their enemies? How bored ARE these people?  They remind me of Senor Senor Senior on Kim Possible; they seem to be ‘rich people being villainous for the purpose of being villainous”.   

 I would love to know who wrote that book.

At best, they are reminiscent of the thin-tied gangsters of Apex City who build giant mechanicalbears just to rob a bank.  It may be slightly crazy fun, but it is definitely fun, and it’s culminated in a development at the intersection of two concepts from Bat-history.

One, obviously, is the concept of “Owlman, the anti-Batman”.  Now, there have been a number of ‘anti-Batmans’ over the years; Cat-Man, Killer Moth (yes, really), Prometheus.  But Owlman is probably the most consistent and enduring ‘anti-Batman’.  Owlman, a concept originally introduced in the classic Crisis on Earth-3 story, was an evil Batman counterpart in a parallel universe.  Interestingly, he actually had a superpower, similar to Grodd’s ‘force of mind’; it was intended as a reflection of the fact that Batman’s brilliant mind was his greatest weapon.  

That part of the concept didn’t last, and later iterations of the Earth-3 Owlman were simply ‘Batman on the wrong side of the law’.  There was a short-lived, “Earth-1” version of Owlman, instantiated as the son of Roy Raymond, TV Detective (an old back-up feature in DC Comics), whose skills were almost entirely deductive; he served as the in-house detective with the Outsiders.

But on the whole “Owlman” has been “the evil anti-Batman”, as featured in Grant Morrison's Earth-2 and elsewhere.

None of this should be confused, of course, with Dell Comic's Owlman, who was.... well, he was this:

For my birthday this Friday I want an owl-gun that makes people go-go dance

The “Lincoln March” character in Snyder’s story is never called “Owlman” per se.  He is, in fact, "The Talon", a former functionary of the Court of Owls.  But that's just about as close to being called "Owlman" as you can get without the actual name. 

The other concept is, of course, the idea that Bruce Wayne had an older, brain-damaged brother he never knew about because his parents had him locked away and kept him a secret.  That idea was originally one of the fever dreams of the ridiculously irreverent writer Bob Haney, who lived to defy continuity, convention, and common sense.  Which I suppose makes sense, since he himself is actually Spock's crazy brother, Sybok:


You can follow the first link in this post for more on Zany Haney's original tale of Batman's brain-damaged brother.  But suffice it say that in the character of the Talon, Snyder has cleverly given us a literary Reese's: two old Batman concepts that taste new together.

Much wiser and more prudent than Haney, however, Snyder has made it pretty clear that Lincoln March is NOT Batman's brother.  And that's good, since all that really matters is that Lincoln March THINKS he's Batman's brother.

And iif  The Talon is Batman's brother, well....

at least it's not BANE.  But the less said about that story, the better.


SallyP said...

I have to admit that I thought this whole Owl thing was a remarkably good story...but that's probably because I so enjoy Batman being less than superbly omnipotent and the best at everything. It's nice to see him actually have to WORK at it once in a while.

And yes, I suppose it doesn't really matter that Lincoln is actually Bruce's brother, so long as he thinks that he is. I guess this cabal of Rich People, just get easily bored...and really like dressing up and doing evil stuff.

Anonymous said...

I just always assumed that the Court of Owls existed so that the elite had a trusted avenue for extralegal activities. But you're right, I didn't think about it much.

Well, we got to see Bruce Wayne's "guard dog" and that made me happy for at least a week. Anyone else?

Bryan L said...

Maybe the Court of Owls should try taking over the tri-state area? I got to the same place slightly differently. I was more bothered by the actual Talons. The regenerative abilities, the cryogenic freeze storage, etc., just seemed way over the top for basic assassins. I just kept thinking, if they can do all this stuff to people, why are they even bothering with "ruling" Gotham? That, in turn, made me think about all the villains who invent incredible technology and then use it to rob banks (like your Apex City example).

Anonymous said...

Apparently, while the Court has been preserving the Talons for centuries, they've only recently learned how to revive them, with a compound developed by Mr. Freeze. Makes me want to call bullshit at least a little, but at least they have an explanation of why now and not, say, 50 years ago.

Nathan Hall said...

Did Dell Comic's Owlman's gun also give its victims bird heads?

Also, Gold Key had an Owl of its own:

Nathan Hall said...

My fail - Gold Key's Owl is the same as Dell's Owlman down to the Gaga ray.

Scipio said...

Actually, the fail is MINE: his name was "the Owl", not "Owlman". A distinction without a difference, of course, but still confusing.

Accursed Interloper said...

"Snyder has made it pretty clear that Lincoln March is NOT Batman's brother."

... then turned around and spent half of the prodigious word-count of issue #11 (Special All Dialogue Post-Mortem Issue !!) blurring that distinction, injecting ambiguity, AND making it seem to not matter except of course it still does. It's annoying in all the same ways "Hush" was annoying, only multiplied by Gotham City (and seemingly ONLY Gotham City) having an entire secret history of absolutely pointless and overly elaborate (and expensive) secret evilness. The people who secretly ruled the city were the same people who already ruled it overtly, and their terror weapon was so secret that nobody actually believed in it. Jebus.
That said, it was well executed. The dumbness of the premise was, um, ah, er, um, transcended, yes transcended, by the deftness of the presentation.
. Yeah, that's my excuse for still liking it, and I'm sticking with it.

Anonymous said...

Snyder is honestly a lot less competent that what he leads people to believe.