|"I AM ORDINANCE! I AM THE HEIGHT!"|
I'm sorry; I mean NuBatman. Bat-Jim. Gordonman. Tick Gordon. Whatever you want to call him.
I'm necessarily interested in discussing whether the idea of Jim Gordon playing the role of Batman makes any sense. What does "make sense" even MEAN in the context of a comic book? Jim Gordon shooting an orphan for no reason; THAT would make no sense. Anything short of that is just comic books.
But I am interested in discussing some issues that it brings up.
THE ARMS RACE
Scott Snyder seems like a very nice, earnest, young man. But after month after month of nothing but 'huge, game-changing stories', I'm convinced that's all he can do. I make fun of the Bronze Age Batman a lot (and with good reason); but at least in the Bronze Age, they knew how to tell a one-issue, simple story that seemed meaningful and satisfying withOUT breaking all the toys.
"I would just say that Dark Knight Returns was a huge change," Snyder said. "'Year One' was a huge change. One of the things that was very heartening for me, when I was doing 'Zero Year,' was that a friend sent me a back-of-the-comic letter to Frank Miller when he did 'Year One,' and it's basically about how he was ruining Batman with 'Year One,' because he was making it so dark."
Plus, Snyder and Capullo have given themselves an "out" — they admitted to Newsarama that there's a plan for bringing Bruce Wayne back to life, although they stopped short of saying when or even if it would happen during their run.
"We would never, ever make a change like this unless we had a better story for all these characters," Snyder said, "including on the other side of that change."
I don't want to read stories because I have to, because they Change Everything. I want to read stories simply because they are stories I want to read. Stories I deserve to read. I can skip them and not be lost on all the developments in Gotham City, yes. But I don't skip them because I know I'll be missing out on an experience I will enjoy.
The literary arms race in comics is out of control (at least in Gotham). Every story is about an enormously far reaching past conspiracy that underlies everything unbeknownst to us (e.g., The Court of Owls; The Riddler took over all of Gotham City once, the immortal Joker); or Batman's Greatest Enemy doing his Greatest Evil (breaking up the Batfamily; figuring out Batman's secret identity, blowing up the batcave, cutting off his face, secretly becoming Batman's new pal, controlling the entire Justice League, cutting off Alfred's hand, killing himself and Batman); or a hinted game-changed future (Batman crucified on the batsignal, Gotham destroyed again, Catwoman is a crimelord, Batman's dead, Jim Gordon is Batman, my god nothing will ever be the same).
Frankly, I'm tired of it, and I would pay good money to read a story where Batman tries to catch a fur thief. Not that there are still fur thieves. Or even furs. But you know what I mean.
COMMISSIONER BENJAMIN BUTTON
THE INEVITABILIFICATION OF ELSEWORLDS.
Look, we are just start to recover from a generational obsession with making Kingdom Come a reality. And now we've already started on the path with Batman Beyond. Making 'the Powers Family" into a force in Gotham and one relevant to Batman just plays into that. I don't want that for the same reason I don't want to vote for a former president's wife, or son, or brother; I don't like being told that This Future Is Inevitable and You Will Like It Because You Have No Other Choice.
Could the "EVERYTHING MUST BE BIG" be spillover from JJ Abrams? He's causing a lot of problems in a couple of universes with that attitude.
Remember when you could just read a comic without that story being part of a larger, sweeping arc that revolutionized EVERYTHING?
While I think there's something to be said about changing the status quo, even constantly (a telenovella-style Superman series, for example, could be a lot of fun), the problem I've seen at DC for years is a complete disinterest in following through on those changes beyond the scope of a couple of stories.
Just move on to the next tweetable plot point and revert the changes when they become inconvenient or unpopular. In fact, the "escape hatch" always seems more important than the ramifications of any particular story.
But I've said it before: Too many stories just seem to be the writer "putting his mark" on a franchise. There's no thematic consistency, no larger story, no long-term plan, just rewriting the past or asserting a future to "shake things up."
The sudden Batman Beyond obsession is the really weird part, though. I didn't care for Kingdom Come, but I understood the obsession: The story was wildly successful and, by acting fast, DC almost had the momentum to launch an entire imprint built around it. So, of course writers wanted to ride those coattails. But Batman Beyond hasn't been on the air in almost fifteen years! Kinda lost the momentum, there, with two new Supermen between.
So, how do you feel about the bottles getting lifted and the cities getting returned...
Hey, at least they're getting TV mostly right. Joe finally brought up the illegal prison! And Iris got to take out her frustrations on someone!!
I think it's simply a lack of skill on the part of the writers. Or willingness to put in any effort. Or both.
It's HARD to craft an interesting crime story or mystery, and it takes work to research the information, pull facts together, and give it some semblance of verisimilitude.
On the other hand, WORLD-SHAKING EVENTS are easy. I've said it before -- I used to come up with them daily when playing with my action figures lo, those many years gone. I didn't come up with intricate locked-room mysteries, because you have to think. Even a police procedural takes some time and effort and research -- that's why most TV shows are room-written, and individual stories are assigned to different writers and then thoroughly edited by the showrunners.
Cosmic and world-shattering storylines take no effort, because you're just throwing out broad strokes and then writing dialog: "Okay, we've got cities kidnapped from every different universe DC has and the heroes that are kidnapped with them all have to fight for survival." DC will ride that for months.
Contrast that with pretty much any mystery Batman had to solve in the Golden, Silver, or even Bronze age. "What, I have to come up with a interesting crime, figure out clues for Batman to find, show him figuring it out, then capturing the bad guy? No way, dude, that's gonna cut into my xBox time."
I think what I'm saying is the the more intimate and intricate the story is, and the closer it is to the "real world," the harder it becomes. And thus we move from tweetable event to event.
I've lost the link, but some time back IGN interviewed Snyder when he was wrapping up 'Death of the Family' as follows:
IGN: ...My last question is just, what’s next? What’s next for Batman?
Snyder: Well, we have a huge story coming this year starting with issue #21 that, in my opinion, is probably our most ambitious thing. If you stay tuned for like a month, we’ll be announcing it and I’ll be able to actually talk about what it is. It’s something that I’ve been prepping for a number of months; researching and trying to design the biggest story that we’ve done. Something that you guys will be excited about.
I really feel like if you’re going to write Batman – I keep feeling like I’m waiting for them to kick me off or someone to pinch me and be like, “No, your time is over on this.” – for me, you gotta only do the biggest stories that you can, that matter to you the most. I promise in 2013 we’re going to do one that’s absolutely our boldest and most ambitious one. You’ll definitely be seeing another of my favorite rogues that I’ve kind of hinted at online and everything too.
Sigh. You see the problem, right? If every creator feels this way, then every creator is trying to tell the biggest, hugest, boldest, most ambitious one before they leave the book in what is now the industry-standard 24 months or fewer... and consequently all we get is stories like 'Death of the Family' or 'Court of Owls', where the dial is turned up to 11.
There's a reason those dials have numbers below 11; you need to use them sometimes. But it seems Snyder is not going to, and never will.
Oh, and another thing: so far as Snyder always telling the story about the 'far-reaching conspiracy that undermines everything we thought we knew', you might add that he did the exact same thing with Superman in his brief, punctuated run on Superman Unchained, which I lost patience with early on.
It's the singer always going for the stratospheric high notes - impressive at first but eventually begins to feel gimmicky.
There is a commercial element to this too. If you can create one of those touchstone "Killing Joke" type stories, it appears to have a long-term payoff financially. So writers are constantly swinging for the fences so they'll have that trade that stays in print for decades.
DC has introduced all kinds of interesting ideas in the 10 or so years before the New 52 but never let any of them settle long enough to see if they could become good or great ideas. There is something about a stable supporting cast and environment that roots a character and thus gives him the opportunity to grow. I know Grant Morrison isn't a favorite around the Absorbascon but he's pretty scrupulous about ending his psychedelic journeys by putting the toys safely back in their box.
I think Batman Beyond is the symptom not the disease. "The definitive future" seems to be the latest Didio fixation driving DC (after the "Batman must be 29," "there can only be 1 Flash," "Wonder Woman needs secret identity," "Superman needs to be single" mantras & the Kirby fetish to name a few). Not to bring up the other guys, but I always thought back in the day Claremont's Uncanny X-Men handled the future timeline trope well (lots of plays on possible or alternative futures but always filled with ambiguity).
The sad part is: Commissioner Gordon has to take Batman's place is a GREAT story.
A great SILVER AGE STORY. In 16 pages.
It's having it as a new (but obviously temporary ) status quo that is annoying.
"I know Grant Morrison isn't a favorite around the Absorbascon but he's pretty scrupulous about ending his psychedelic journeys by putting the toys safely back in their box."
Tell that to Niles Caulder.
I still say that "Endgame" is Bruce's nightmare, literally. It's Snyder's version of an "imaginary tale" the only way that modern audiences could accept one. How so?
1) The story opens with Batman shaking off Scarecrow toxin that makes you imagine your death over and over. And just as one death-imagining ends, Bruce "wakes up" just as the Jokerized JLA shows up. Hmmm, suspicious.
2) How did the Joker Jokerize the entire JLA, including a Kryptonian, an Atlantean, a demigoddess, and a speedster whose metabolism should process any toxin in no time? Nevermind that, dreams don't trade in details.
3) Suddenly we're seeing the Joker in old photos where he never was before? That's a creepy-as-sh*t detail from a nightmare all right.
4) Suddenly the Joker isn't a man, he's more like an indestructible spirit? Again, nightmarish.
5) Batman dies at the end; Scarecrow toxin. Only this time, perhaps, Batman died by accepting death rather than fighting it until he lost, and maybe that's indicative of him finding the way to overcome the venom.
6) The Epilogue with Alfred in the hospital contains a couple dreamlike elements, like the silhouetted injured man and boy w/ Robin insignia walking away, and the story ending with the janitor sweeping the stage. That's open to all sorts of interpretation, but I see it as, the fiction has just ended.
I'm putting all my chips on: "Endgame" wasn't real.
This is not to say that Bruce Wayne will be ready to hit the streets immediately after his ordeal; it might well be that Batman needs someone to patrol the streets for him for a while, like how Azrael did. Wait, not Azrael, someone much more trustworthy. Someone whose very middle name is "worthi" with an added "ngton".
My God, I agree with you completely. All these enormously IMPORTANT stories, all the Cross-overs...it's exhausting. I'd kill for a nice done-in-one or possibly two or three issue story. Heck, I'd be happy to just have the Bat-Family hanging out and having a cook-out with Alfred.
One of the things that writers have forgotten, is that you need an issue to catch your breath between the next death-defying huge massive all-important tale. Otherwise, there is never a payoff. You need a build-up, a crisis, and a resolution. Even...a...dare I say it...a happy ending!
Let the Characters relax for a minute or two. Let the Readers relax for a minute or two as well. One of the reasons I loved the old JLI so much is that they went around doing stuff that PEOPLE do, and it was...fun.
Bryan, that's a good point. The only stories that are easier are "big gathering of heroes needs to collect the Six Ancient Macguffins of Irritation," which I think we all can be thankful don't come up too often anymore.
And Scipio, absolutely right. It's a great story idea (and has some synergy with "Gotham," obviously), and could even be a good status quo, an actual changing of the guard that isn't stupidly temporary (Azrael) or implausibly boring (Dick Grayson).
Although, the missile launchers and bunny ears still look stupid.
(There's also probably value in a demonic Joker who's just possessing hosts, connected to the likes of Punch, Kasperle, Guignol, and so forth, but maybe not a good match for the current conception of Batman.)
It occurred to me the other night (I thought I mentioned it here, but I guess I forgot or decided it was too mean) that the obsessive brinkmanship, constant "epic" catastrophes that have no consequences, motifs that constantly appear with no consistent interpretation, and writers looking to almost stymie each other by undermining the status quo--all of it--is something we've seen before in one place.
I hypothesize that, over the course of the last thirty years (minus a few months), after initially being dismissed as a lark that nobody really enjoyed as much as the idea seemed fun, the DC Challenge has begun absorbing the entire DC line!
Of course, that still doesn't explain the Batman Beyond fixation...
"I hypothesize that, over the course of the last thirty years (minus a few months), after initially being dismissed as a lark that nobody really enjoyed as much as the idea seemed fun, the DC Challenge has begun absorbing the entire DC line!"
That is one of the most brilliant things I have ever read.
It's so great to not care about any of this. Living in the past has definite advantages.
Apathy: It's What's for Breakfast.
Bunnyman and Not Super-Man both are being touted with the 'never been done before' excuse, like not having been done proves something is great. They've never depicted Batman as a necrophiliac rapist either so does that mean it's likely to be considered next? Some things have never been done before because they're bad ideas. Armor wearing Gordon and Superman stripped of everything that makes him Superman are equally bad i deas...
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