Friday, January 25, 2013

Fisch on Friday: Define "okay".

In this Sholly Fisch story where Batman gets hit by a giant pie, Sholly Fisch shows that he understands the comedy duo of Superman and Batman.

Particularly Batman.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Joker's Five-Way Return

I don't know exactly what Scott Snyder has planned for the Batman family as the "Death of the Family" storyline crashes to its conclusion.  Honestly, I'm not always sure Snyder does himself, but I'm certainly along for the ride.  Just like the "Court of Owls" storyline, this one may not have a sensible, or even distinguishable, destination, or make much sense along with the way.  But the ride itself will have been riveting and made me think. And, after all, if comic book stories had to make sense, why, we wouldn't have a Killer Moth, at all, would we?  And where would be the fun in that?

Something happened to me at one point when I was reading one of Snyder's stories in this arc.  At first I thought I wasn't feeling well or had gotten the jitters from some afternoon coffee.  Then it finally dawned on me: I was afraid.

Afraid like when you watch a scary movie.  You know there's no monster/killer in YOUR house, but you identify with the characters and you feel afraid FOR them.  It's a special kind of discomfort because the Fourth Wall blocks you from helping or escaping.  

And Snyder's been able to scare me with THE JOKER, of all people.  Face it: no matter how often we are told the Joker is scary, writers don't always manage to pull it off.  Terror comes best from the unknown, the unfamiliar; and, as villains go, no one is more familiar than the Joker.  We all know the drill; the Joker gets a wacky plan, some innocents die, Batman stops him.   But Snyder's put some twists on the story this time that have kept if fresh for me.

(1) The Batfamily aren't the opponents; they are the targets.  "Villain targeting the hero and his entourage" isn't an original story, by any means.  But it's never been the Joker's M.O.  The scheme has always been paramount; Batman's goal is to distract the Joker from the scheme, to make himself the target.  Well, be careful what you wish, Batman.

(2).  Snyder has given us back the Joker as Master Planner.  In the Golden and Silver Ages, heck, even in the Bronze Age, the Joker was DC's great schemer.  If you don't believe me, just read his first story.  The very point of the character is that he's ahead of you, he's already planned the crime, and by the time you show up all you can do is watch it happen while looking stupid.  The Joker's not chaotic; he's not crazy (in the conventional sense).  He'll try and convince you that that's the case, but that's all part of his game.  Too many younger/modern writers have fallen for the Joker's schtick; Snyder knows better. 

(3).  There is a point to what the Joker is doing: specifically, that there are pros and cons to Batman having a 'Batfamily'.  Sure, it's being made in an odd, self-centered, and whimsical way (the whole extended metaphor of the King/Jester);  but that's consistent with the Joker's character.   The Joker was always one to take a theme and just run with it, whether it was flowers, or fish, or 'crimes in reverse'. But, theme aside, the point is a very clever one.  If the story of young Bruce Wayne tells us anything, it's that having family -- people you care about -- makes you vulnerable.  As I've discussed before, there's an on-going tension between Batman-as-loner and Batman-as-paterfamilias.  This is a problem the Joker has not only perceived, but it is now fully prepared to resolve.

(4) Even the point is being made very clearly, there's still a mystery: What's on the tray? Unlike the movie Se7en, where we knew darned well "what's in the box", we really do not know what's on the tray.  We know only that, well, the Penguin and Two-Face were able to identify it, whatever it was.
I'm pretty sure it's not Alfred's head or face; the Joker's own dialog make it clear that misdirection is part of his methods, and that's just simply too obvious a solution.  I'm also fairly confident he hasn't blinded Alfred, and if you think back to everything the Joker's been doing in this crime spree, you'll know why I think that. 

(5).  Snyder has used the Joker to put a stamp of identity and approval on Batman's principle villains, and he has ranked them.  There is an inner circle, consisting of him, the Penguin, Two-Face, and the Riddler.  The Joker gives each of them their due, recognizes that they have important roles to play, and take some pains to get them to participate in his scheme.  Now, he certainly doesn't treat them as family, but he does treat them as colleagues who matter to Batman, and therefore, to him.  There are lesser players (Mr Freeze, The Scarecrow, and Clayface) but theyare  definitely part of an outer circle.  Significantly, Catwoman is nowhere to be found in this scheme; she's currently still being wasted as an "anti-hero", but I have a feeling that won't last a year.

This last point might be the most significant one. Even I have begun to doubt the continued viability of some of Batman's Golden Age villains.   But the Joker -- as portrayed by Snyder -- has no such doubts; and if you can't believe the Joker, who can you believe?  Snyder has posted very clear sign-posts to the way to revive the Riddler--Batman's most intellectual foe-- in the new DCU and I look forward to seeing more of that.  Certainly more than I look forward to finding out what's on that tray.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Killer Moth Week, 7: Wrapping Up

So, now we have read together the first two appearances of Killer Moth and have come to several conclusions.
(1).  First and foremost, Sonny Blandish, millionaire aviator boxer surgeon, is the greatest character in the DCU.  He’s the Earth-1 Buckaroo Bonzai.
(2)  Forget Bat-Mite and A.K. Barnaby; Killer Moth is the biggest in-universe Batman fanboy.
(3).  Killer Moth wasn’t very good at being Killer Moth.
(4).  However, much like Honey Badger, Killer Moth doesn’t care.  [By the way,  I think the New 52 version of Killer Moth should have a tough gun moll named ‘Honey Badger’.] Therein lies his unique conceptual contribution: Killer Moth stands for the idea that you don't have to be good at something to love doing it anway. 
(5)  Other costumed villains are in it for something.  The Penguin wants power and prestige, Catwoman wants riches and independence, the Riddler wants the intellectual challenge, Two-Face is making a moral point, and the Joker—well, you know… the Joker.  Killer Moth is different.  Killer Moth is in it because he loves the concept of an anti-Batman, because he just loves being Killer Moth. It’s pure supervillainy, undiluted by purpose.
Several of you misinterpreted the coloring in some of the panels, thinking that Killer Moth was shirtless and had a moth tattoo on his chest, which is not that case. BUT IT SHOULD BE.  Killer Moth is exactly the person who would have his logo tattooed on his chest, and whoever brings back KM in the New 52 needs to make that a reality.
(6) Like Homer, Wikipedia occasionally nods. It states:
“In his second appearance (Detective Comics #173 July 1951) Killer Moth kidnaps Bruce Wayne and learns his secret identity. However, he is shot by other criminals and the resultant cranial injury causes amnesia. He remains a persistent enemy appearing through the Silver Age of comics. He is frequently remembered as being the first criminal Batgirl encounters in Detective Comics #359.”
That is demonstrably false.  Killer Moth’s first two appearances were in the Golden Age. His next appearance is the classic Millionaire-Dollar Debut of Batgirl in 1967 and he has a 1968 cameo in a Scarecrow story (Batman #200).   These are his ONLY appearances in the Silver Age.  Period.  At best, I’d say his ‘presence is maintained’ (thanks to Batgirl), but he is certainly not a ‘persistent enemy’.   Although in 1965 his costume does fight Batman without him in (Justice League of America #35)—but the less said about that, the better.   People who do not know really know DC history often assume that “if it’s silly, it’s Silver”; they are often wrong.
(7) The first time Prisoner 234026 is actually given a name (“Drury Walker”) is in 1992 (and that was in the series Shadow of the Bat, whose continuity is questionable). But his ‘real identity’ has never been the point, because Killer Moth is Killer Moth.  As Tim Drake said in Red Robin #9: “I think this is Killer Moth. The costume and the man change from time to time, so you can never really tell.”  Which sets up the interesting idea that Killer Moth might have secretly become the world’s first supervillain identity time-share.  It would be oddly logical.  I can easily imagine the original Killer Moth, who was pretty badly banged up by Whitey Casey, deciding that the important thing is KILLER MOTH MUST GO ON, and either rents out or delegates the actually Killer Mothing to others.  Kind of like the DCU version of Doombots. That way, any time Killer Moth does something bone stupid, which is pretty much every time he appears, we Killer Moth fans can just dismiss it with, “Well, that wasn’t the real Killer Moth; it was just one of his mothmen.”
(8) Killer Moth deserves, but does not have, a representative Heroclix figure.  Hm.  Let me rephrase that.  We deserve a Killer Moth Heroclix figure.  Fortunately, I’ve solved this by getting two 3D printing customs of Killer Moth and having the Corgi™ Mothmobile model altered and attached by my team of engineers to an extra Heroclix Batmobile base. That's the kind of thing real Killer Moth fans do, people.
(9) Killer Moth fighting Batman?  Probably not a good fit.  However, KM would make a great foe for someone more easily intimated by his pinache and entirely misplaced confidence.  Blue Beetle? Green Arrow?  You tell me.
(10) Killer Moth versus Batgirl is yesterday's news.  Because once you've seen this, what more could you hope for?
No, what I'd really pay good money to see is:  BatWOMAN versus Killer Moth.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Killer Moth Week, 6: Frasier, with more murder

So, in his elaborate French-farce deception of cynical criminal and former gay porn start Whitey Casey, Killer Moth (who has now taken the role of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, while the real McCoy languishes in an abandoned bank vault somewhere in the city) has promised to prove that Batman is scared of him, establishing his street cred for good.

In France, Whitey Casey is more popular than the Joker, you know.

Fortunately for Killer Moth this opportunity presents itself the very next night.  Now, if we wanted to be kind, we'd assume that Whitey has told Killer Moth what his next 'job' is, and that Killer Moth, as "Batman" therefore arranges to run into the Casey Gang on patrol.  But, well, we're not kind, and it's not true.  It's achingly clear from the dialog that, no, in fact, Killer "Batman" Moth and Robin just coincidentally happen upon them.

Robin can identify a bolt of silk from inside a car during a pounding rainstorm.  And they call me gay.

While Killer "Batman" Moth does his Captain Obvious routine, Robin indulges in silk-based humor.

Where's Hugo Strange when you need him? " Hm. Silkworms.  Cocoons.  I zee.  
I tink maybe your zubconsiouz is trying to tell you someting, Boy Vunder!"

"Batman" makes good on Killer Moth's promise and when Whitey Casey uses his 'mothsignal', his pursuers back off.

A quick change and Killer Moth condescendingly confronts Casey.

Hey, it's just like the restaurant scene in Mrs. Doubtfire. Except funny.

But Whitey Casey, who's so dissolute he gargles with absinthe, ain't buying.  Hilariously, the worldly Whitey still finds it non-credible that Batman was scared off by Killer Moth, because... because Killer Moth.
20 minutes?  Jeez, Vicki Vale could make it in 15.  But then, she doesn't have to change clothes.  Or even put them on. 

This is the point where Killer Moth should say "bugger off, Casey," realize that trying to build up the "Moth" brand is way more trouble than it's worth and just skip town with all of Bruce Wayne's money and Vicki Vale on his arm.  But the most important thing to Killer Moth, as we've established, is BEING Killer Moth, so he's got to escalate his escapades by promising to deliver Batman & Robin to Casey.  So quick-changing back into his Batman outfit, he drives to Robin to the vault where Bruce Wayne is trapped... OR IS HE?!?!


Well, of course Bruce Wayne escaped, you ninny. One; he's Batman; why didn't you go back and shoot him the second you discovered that?  Two; bank vaults are designed to keep people OUT, not in.  You'd probably know that if you'd ever tried robbing a bank, instead of cos-playing your "Killer Moth" fan fic character. Bruce managed to escape by--well, it's easier to let him explain it:

And just exactly how many days did it take you to notice the hinges, MacGyver?  Sigh.  He probably spent two days rummaging through the safe deposit boxes for materials he could use to build a primitive radio transmitter using the bars as an antenna, rather than just take the damned door off.

So, when KM finds the vault empty, he needs to improv fast.  Forgetting which end of the gun actually does the work, Killer Moth knocks out Robin just as he's asking the eternal question, "HOW MUCH LONGER ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP UP THE MYST..."

Smart money's on Stoneship. And I'll lay 3 to 1 against Channelwood.

 Pistolwhipper Moth then doubftires back into his crime costume.

These change scenes would be so much better with music: here.

But, MEANWHILE, the REAL Batman comes upon Whitey Casey (and you know he's not the first).

  "It's Frasier!  But Niles told us that Frasier went with Martin to the baseball game!"

Naturally, Batman takes barely a panel to beat the crap out of the Casey Gang (I mean, really; they're silk thieves), then dashes off to follow Robin, whom he's deduced Killer Moth has taken to the same vault he just escaped from.

Sure enough, Kidnapper Moth has locked Robin in the vault.  Which, if you think about it, means that the very first thing Batman did when he broke out of the vault was... re-attach the door.   Way to go, Mr. Monk.

Of course, by now, Robin realizes that he's been dealing with a fake Batman all along, so when the real Batman comes to the rescue, Robin attacks him. 

"Dr. Crane?! What are you doing here? Your brother said you took Mr. Crane to the baseball game!"

Batman proves his identity by spouting one of those stupid unrealistic Hero Hints from Heloise that he was so fond of in the Golden Age: "...then the racing stripes come out nice and straight!"  "Yeesh, only the real Batman would care about something so stupid in the pre-internet era." 

Meanwhile, Killer Moth makes the only smart decision in his career.

 Ya think...?

Whitey Casey, however, does his best work lying face down, and, believing that Killer Moth double-crossed him, uses the machine gun that Batman apparently didn't think to confiscate.  Probably too eager to rush back to make sure his patch job on the vault door was still holding up.

"Here's a dose of insecticide!" HA, HA! 
Yeah, I demand the return of Whitey Casey, along with Sonny Blandish.



And you just know that, as each bullet ripped through his body, all he can think is, "My KILLER MOTH COSTUME!!!!"

Naturally, this leaves us with the classic comic book irony of "Batman must save the life of the person who can end his career if he survives".  Yawn.

"Um, Batman; are you sure we don't have a hospital in the trunk?  I think we do."

They reach the hospital, and...

 That door, by the way, is not white.

So, Killer Moth was shot up by over 9000 bullets, but at least they were all in the legs and torso.  I guess that's why he survived.  Clearly, Whitey wasn't able to aim for his head (that would be nearly impossible from Whitey's angle, lying on the ground as he was).

 How terribly, terribly convenient.

Wow. I mean, I'm not surprised Dr Sonny Blandish has identified the exact portion of the brain entirely responsible for your memory of the previous week (he is Sonny Blandish, after all).  But facial reconstruction AND amnesia by gunfire?  Screw you, Joe Biden, I need a gat stat, because those things are MAGIC.  Once AGAIN, Batman's life/identity has been saved by guns.