Archive for the '4thletter exclusives' Category

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The Revengers Explain Themselves

January 4th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

This week Marvel released Avengers Annual #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell’otto. It’s the long-awaited follow-up to New Avengers Annual #1 from several months ago, which featured Wonder Man’s Revengers beating the stuffing out of the New Avengers and trashing the mansion. The new issue reads almost like a Garth Ennis anti-superhero story where he somehow reins in the sodomy and bad language. Despite his extreme actions, there’s little reason not to root for Wonder Man. He brings up good points about why the Avengers may not be worth having around and their rebuttal is never anything more than, “My God, Simon’s gone insane!” or “Are you being mind-controlled?” or “Please, Simon! You need help! Would punching you in the face help? I’m going to punch you in the face. It might help.”

The Avengers naturally win and the final scene shows that Wonder Man’s reasoning for wanting the Avengers disbanded goes deeper than originally thought. Before that, after the other Revengers are taken down, one of the Avengers wonders aloud why they did this. Bendis had his own spin on it, having them express feelings of revenge, atonement, insanity and — in Anti-Venom’s case — full agreement in Wonder Man’s mantra. Me? I think Bendis was as off the mark as he is whenever he writes any scene with Marvel Boy in it.

Okay, that might have been a little harsh. It’s not that bad. Still, I think I can shed some better light.

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The Juggernaut Plus Prop Challenge

October 17th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Last year, I went to NY Comic Con, stared Artist Alley in the eye and laid down the gauntlet for the Venom Plus Prop Challenge. The bounty was wonderful. Naturally, I’d have to think of a new subject for my sketchbook during this year’s Comic Con trip. Venom is out and Juggernaut is in.

The theme is simple: Juggernaut and another object. Any object. It’s not for me to suggest what it is, but for the artist to come up with the idea. Luckily, nobody gave him a hammer because look where that put him. Depowered and off Marvel’s best book. And nobody drew Colossus in a Juggernaut helmet because that’s lame and smelly. You know it’s true.

Let’s see what we got.

Juggernaut with Umbrella
by Chris Giarusso

Juggernaut with Cell Phone
by Jacob Chabot

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 1

September 6th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Sometimes I get identified on this site as being a Marvel guy as compared to Esther being all about DC and while I’d like to argue against it, my latest buying habits in the past year don’t back me up. I seem to skew more on the Marvel side with only a handful of DC stuff on my plate. It wasn’t always that way. I seem to remember that in the mid-00′s, I was either pretty even with it or maybe even more on DC’s side. Thinking back, things were actually pretty exciting during the lead-up and follow-up of Infinite Crisis. It was really Countdown to Final Crisis where the company started to slope downwards in my regard.

As of a month ago, the comics I was reading under the DC banner were as follows: Batman and Robin, Batman Inc., Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Booster Gold and Secret Six. And you know what? I didn’t even like Secret Six that much by the time it ended. I liked the promise more than what happened. There’d be a good one-shot story in there every once and a while, then it would go into six issues I didn’t care about. At least it gave us the happy-go-lucky characterization of King Shark. At the same time, I feel guilty reading that when I should have gotten off my ass and started reading some of the series that I kept hearing were good like the latest run of Detective Comics, Batgirl, Action Comics and Doom Patrol.

When I first heard about DC’s reboot/relauch I raised an eyebrow and initially had the same, “Can they do that?! HOW CAN THEY DO THAT?!” reaction as everyone else. I just used my inside voice. Then I looked back and decided that maybe this is for the best. Oh, sure, it can and may be a failure in the long run. That’s their problem and the problem of whichever readers got screwed over by the big change. Me? I was only reading six comics by them. 52 new comics are being thrown against the wall and if even seven are still there when gravity kicks in, who am I to hate? Yes, this could definitely work out for the best.

I think back to when we got One Year Later and how enjoyable it was, despite how a lot of it returned back to the status quo. While it did turn me onto a couple good comics I wouldn’t have otherwise read, it did also allow me to join in and laugh at some of the stupider moments with the masses, like everything in that first Nightwing comic. Hey, remember when Nightwing is fighting this guy and he kicks him and practically shits himself while going, “Y-you’re a *gasp* m-metahuman…” as if he had only heard of such a thing before and never met one? Ah, man, that was the dumbest thing. I think the balls-out drive behind this new initiative can lead to an interesting six months at the very least.

So since I’m genuinely interested in this editorial stunt and I owe my comic guy for always having me at his place for wrestling PPVs and never having me pay for the show or food, I decided that I’d go headfirst into the new 52. I’m reading every single one of those fuckers. Yes, even the Liefeld one. Every week, I’m going to give my thoughts on them and decide whether I’m going to stick or drop it. Since these are all supposed to last six issues at the least, I’m going to try and keep going throughout that time so we can see what I’m still reading by the end of February. Who knows, by then I might just be doing an update about what I thought about that week’s issue of Blue Beetle because it’s the only thing left I care about. Though in the beginning, I’m giving every #1 a fair shake. You have my attention, DC. Wow me.

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This Week in Panels: Week 100 SUPER SPECIAL EXTRAVAGANZA! (Part 2)

August 22nd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Okay, so PART ONE is getting a little too stuffy. Here’s part two.

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This Week in Panels: Week 100 SUPER SPECIAL EXTRAVAGANZA! (Part 1)

August 22nd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

God, has it been 100 installments of this garbage already? Well, I said we’d be doing something special and I wasn’t lying. The regular update is merely the appetizer.

So for those of you seeing this for the first time because of the allure of triple digits, here’s the skinny: every week, me and my crew (usually 4L boss man David Brothers and readers Was Taters and Space Jawa) supply panels for all the comics we’ve read from the previous Wednesday. Each panel is meant to be a breakdown of what the comic is about. The essence. The chance to sell it and show off its tone. Give you an idea of what its contents are all about. Yes, some people actually enjoy this. Go figure.

Now let’s get moving.

Avengers #16
Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.

Avengers Academy #18
Christos Gage and Andrea DiVito

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Frank Miller Owns Batman: “i rushed it. i blew it.”

August 8th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Jim Lee and Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is the best Batman story to come out of DC in years. It’s only rival is probably David Lapham and Ramon Bachs’s Batman: City of Crime.

So far, we have most of a Batman. We have the thirst for vengeance that birthed him, the will that powers him, and the rich inheritance that provides his means. Right now, at this moment, we have the makings of an urban legend and a night terror. Cops and criminals both know and fear him, as well they should, and the citizenry knows that there’s a dark angel waiting in the shadows to protect them. The specifics of his mission, and by that I mean the brutal violence, probably aren’t clear to John Q Public, but the fact that he exists and is fighting back is enough. There is someone out there with a spine, and he is on our side.

The problem, though, are those specifics. They get the job done, but they’re far from pleasant. They give us a Batman who is a little too hard-edged, a little too happy about getting to do some damage, to be a comic book superhero. The Batman’s methods must be tempered just a little. Right now, he’s a shadow who lurks among shadows. The problem with that is that there’s no difference between one shadow or another. One shadow can hold pain or pleasure, and you won’t know which is which until it’s too late. While it’s clear that the Batman is a benevolent shadow, there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t become one of the other, darker shadows at some point in time.

Enter: Robin.

The appeal of Robin is three-fold. He provides a character for young boys to relate to, a fact that is increasingly irrelevant as time goes on. He brightens Batman’s methods, turning him into a four-color hero instead of a bastard child of The Shadow. Finally, he provides a fix for Bruce Wayne, whose development was not stunted as a result of his parents’ murder, but rocketed off in a different direction. We played with toys. He played detective.

It wasn’t the death of his parents that turned Bruce Wayne antisocial. It was the quest that followed. He wanted to become the greatest detective slash crimefighter ever, and that quest has very little room for proms, high school, and the standard socializing everyone else does. The death of his parents changed how he views the world. Everything is either a tool for his war or irrelevant. This doesn’t preclude Wayne maintaining relationships, but it’s clear that his deepest relationship is Alfred, who was swept up in his quest and has merely managed to hang on for dear life while enabling the child.

Bruce Wayne grew up, but he didn’t grow up like we did. You can see it in the romantic relationships he pursues as an adult (which generally have built-in trapdoors like “she’s a villain” or “i can never tell her my secret”) or his treatment of Jezebel Jet (where he claims to have turned love into a weapon). He has used a long string of starlets and debutantes as cover for his mission–beards, essentially–without a care for how they would feel about it. They, like everyone else, are tools. WayneCorp, or Enterprises, or whatever, is a tool, too, something that lets him fight his war. Everything is either a weapon, a threat, or not worthy of attention. (More on the subject here, pulling in the idea of a Real Man and examples from Richard Stark’s Parker novels and Lone Wolf & Cub)

Robin is what changes that. Early in All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman refers to grief as “the enemy.” He goes on to say that “there’s no time for grief. There’s no room for grief. Grief turns into acceptance. Forgiveness. Grief forgives what can never be forgiven.” Batman doesn’t think that there’s any room for acceptance in his war. He’s driven by anger at the unfairness of life. If he’d taken time to accept what happened, then he wouldn’t have the edge that has made him so successful. He’s a child lashing out after being hurt. It’s just that his way of lashing out is stretched out over a long period of time than a thrown punch or pitched fit.

As a result, though, he pushes a twelve year-old kid too far, too soon. If you don’t address these emotions, they’ll rot and fester inside of you. Batman had years to work through his issues, and he did so thanks to Alfred and the dozens of masters he learned his craft from. He didn’t not-grieve–he just grieved in a different way than most people did. He accepted that his parents were gone when he began fighting his war to ensure that no one else’s parents would die that way.

Robin didn’t have that, and nearly killed Green Lantern as a result. The anger and poison was bubbling just below the surface, and when pressed, it spilled over. You have to release negative emotions somehow, and Batman’s mistake was assuming that what worked for him would work for someone else. More than that–Batman’s mistake was thinking that what worked for him actually worked for him.

He drives Robin to his parents’ grave and tells him, “Find them. Say goodbye.” Put differently: “Grieve.” Robin hits the gravestone, a symbol of his dead parents, and collapses. Batman’s hand drops on his shoulder and they both cry in the rain, next to Robin’s parents. “We mourn lives lost,” Batman’s monologue says, “including our own.” They’re damned, or maybe just lost, and there’s no going back from here.

This is the moment when Bruce Wayne turns from the Bat-man, a fearsome creature of the night, to Batman, a superhero with a cheerful kid sidekick. This forces Batman into the role of nurturer, as well as avenger. He can’t proceed along his path any more. It may not be self-destructive, but it is definitely damaging to a third part that’s as close as Robin. He has to change, he has to adjust, because otherwise he damned this child for nothing.


(this is one of my favorite batman scenes, i think.)

Batman is an homage to Thomas Wayne. Batman and Robin, or maybe just Batman’s treatment of Robin from here on out, is an homage to Martha Wayne. Batman has to become a father, instead of just a Dark Knight, and that means that his mother’s mercy is going to play a bigger and bigger part in his life. It shifts his quest from pure vengeance into something more. It’s a splash of love, a love that he’d been keeping at a distance to keep his sword sharp, in a war that sorely needed it. “The greatest of these is love,” right? Robin pulls Batman out of the shell he’d built around himself and into normal humanity.

Robin is the secret to building a better Batman.

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Captain America: The Deleted Scenes

July 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s kind of a bad time for my writing. All my go-to articles have been running dry. Jeph Loeb stopped writing Ultimate Marvel comics, so no more of that. I’ve finished writing about Venom. I don’t have too many wrestling PPV shows to rank and review. Just as bad, Marvel has stopped releasing novelizations of their movies. I can no longer know the story of movies in the Avengers Saga a month or so before they’re released. Because of that, I can’t do any informative lists that show all the scenes that were taken out of the original version of the screenplay.

Or can I? While yes, it appears that there isn’t any novelization for Captain America: The First Avenger, that doesn’t mean I’m empty handed. I called in some favors and got to see the extended original cut of the movie. Oh, man. You won’t believe some of the stuff they got rid of! Mostly because it’s all lies.

An entire hour was cut. Removed scenes include:

- A scene where pre-experiment Steve Rogers gets sand kicked in his face at the beach. He meant to gamble a stamp and send a couple bucks to Charles Atlas to make him a man, but got distracted by news of Pearl Harbor.

- When playing hangman with Bucky, he had only one turn left and only the first letter revealed. After biting on his pencil for a moment, he asked if that letter stood for France. Lucky guess.

- When talking with Erskine, the two of them had a long, hearty laugh about how Disney had released a cartoon where Donald Duck was a Nazi. Steve kept insisting, “This is a thing that actually exists! Look it up! Donald is saluting Hitler and everything!” He later had this same conversation with Colonel Phillips, Peggy and even Red Skull. I’m not sure exactly why Marvel would remove this reference.

- When Red Skull steals the first Cosmic Cube and shatters it on the ground for being a forgery, he then curses a blue streak and realizes that he just busted up the real thing after all. Much of his villain plot is based on him trying to find glue and tape, which was scarce in Nazi Germany.

- Much like Arnim Zola was introduced via his face reflected off a monitor, the character of Helmut Zemo was there too. He was introduced by putting his hands behind his back and his shoeless feet on the table while the shot lingered on his purple socks.

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Frank Miller Owns Batman: “he’s a rube.”

July 25th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Trying to recover from San Diego still, so I haven’t gotten a chance to crank out the big finale. I did want to do this quick hit-type post, though, because as much as I love Frank Miller’s Batman, there’s a whole lot wrong with All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. It boils down to pretty much “Miller’s reach exceeded his grasp.” ASBAR, as it currently stands, is too much spread over too many comics. If it were a little tighter, maybe five or six issues, it would be fantastic. At ten issues… well, it’s a little long and maybe too much to love.

-Wonder Woman–I’m not a particularly huge Wonder Woman fan or anything, but she feels wrong in this book. Miller cranked up the man-hate for some reason, and it poisons the character. It’s surprising to me, because I feel like he did so well with her in Dark Knight Strikes Again:

She’s royalty, the next best thing to being a god, and knows it. It makes sense for her to be above the regular folk and a little more willing to get down and dirty when it comes to fighting. She’s a warrior princess, right? She’s not just a regular old superhero. I like that idea, but in ASBAR, it barely even comes across. She seems mean-spirited, rather than pragmatic.

Man, on reading this after finishing the post, do you know what it is? She has no regal poise in ASBAR like she does in DKSA. She’s super-human in DKSA, but still clearly loves people and her friends. She’s too raw in ASBAR. She’s abrasive, and not in an enthralling, Batman/Wolverine sorta way.

-The first arc is way too long. Issues 1 through 9 serve as the first arc of the book, charting the arrival of Dick Grayson, introduction of Robin, and the initial softening of Batman via grief. And as much as I love the grotesque nature of the series (Geoff Klock’s writing on that subject is essential) with all of its insane foldouts and incredible spectacle, it takes too long to get to the point. It isn’t a strong enough work to pull you along for nine issues, unless (like me) you grew up on both these creators. It’s all stick and very little carrot, all the way up until Batman and Robin cry in the graveyard.

Miller tries to fit in too much. The Justice League stuff is entirely too long for its place in the story. The JL are there to establish Batman as a threat and then decide to do something about it. Shoulda happened off panel, I think, with Green Lantern telling us that the JL is worried. Later, because you know it’s coming, the JL could show up as a surprise or something at the end of an issue. A real “oh snap” moment for the series, rather than the meandering introduction of the League that we got.

-The car chase is great, but again: too long. I love its grotesque nature, but hate how it screws with the pace of the book.

-If the first arc had been–I dunno–five or six issues with a lot of the fat trimmed off, it would’ve been much, much stronger. It wasn’t, though, and while I enjoy it, I enjoy it in a way that’s specifically about my trust for Miller and Lee’s work, rather than anything purely rational. Sabes?

-Miller’s Joker is brilliant. A Joker who doesn’t tell jokes early in his career revitalized the character for me at a point where about all I had for the idea was scorn. It made him evil and creepy in a way I could appreciate. Miller does good crazy/evil, too–”I love her only when she cries” is SO good, and when Joker switches from “her” to “it” is chilling. His Joker is good, and probably the best up until the point that Morrison introduced Joker as Oberon Sexton. I like it a lot.

He also shows up too early. We get five strong pages of him as an introduction, but if he’d been pushed to a second arc, it would’ve been stronger and not interfered with the story quite so much.

-Black Canary gets half of the third issue to herself. This is story bloat. We don’t need to know that much about her, but I guess Miller wanted to establish this version as being his own or whatever whatever. I wasn’t particularly fond of it, though I like his Canary, but this just feels like padding. She’s incidental, I assume, and while her hijinx are interesting and violent, that’s just not enough to justify the expense.

-Vicki Vale? I don’t care. I get it, but I don’t care. The Jimmy Olsen bit was cute, but I don’t care. I keep forgetting that she wasn’t just in the Michael Keaton movie, even. Who cares?

-Jim Lee is both the perfect choice and an odd choice of artist. He’s the definitive superhero artist in our post-Kirby world, doubly so now that he’s top dawg at DC, and as a result, this story is lent a level of seriousness (and… not grandeur. I’m tired and blanking, so let’s just roll with seriousness) that it doesn’t exactly require. That seriousness makes the story and art work against each other. You expect one story due to the art, but you’re getting a different one. I would’ve loved to see Miller draw this, because he can draw gleeful superheroics like most people can’t, but that would’ve marginalized the book as being off in Miller’s little world. It’s a tough row to hoe, and I don’t honestly know whether or not they should’ve gone with Miller instead of Lee. It definitely screwed with the perception of the book, and I’m saying that as a guy who likes both artists.

-A little editing would have really gone a long way. Again: he’s trying to do too much and the series suffers. Stronger editing was definitely needed. Drop some scenes, compress others and it would have been better, at least in terms of technique. I like the grotesque, sprawling, hot mess of a comic that it is as published, but man. I hate liking a book and having caveats, you know?

-With all that said, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #9 is about as fun of a cape comic as you’ll ever see, and probably my favorite single issue of a DC Comic. Top five, at the very least. Maybe top three. The way it takes on the absurdity of superheroes, Batman’s respect for the cowl, Batman’s insults, “Care for a glass of lemonade?”, “we have to be criminals,” “What a rube,” Robin reading Yellow Kid, and that moment where everything flips upside down… it’s good.

It’s what the series should have been the whole time. It’s got the comedy, action, and melancholy sadness that I expect from cape comics. It makes Hal Jordan look stupid, but who cares about that guy. Miller is a funny guy. He could do (has done) some real mean and funny comics. Ever read Tales to Offend? I like that comic. Some of that same sense of humor bleeds through to ASBAR #9.

But yeah. We’re gonna get to that issue. Please believe it.

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Frank Miller Owns Batman: “my young charge enjoys herself far more than she should. so do i.”

July 19th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Batman is a painful idea, one that is fueled in large part by tragedy.


At the same time, Batman is a healing idea for Bruce Wayne. One thing Miller does that not enough Batman writers do is make it clear and plain that Bruce Wayne loves being Batman. There’s this line I latched onto the first time I read Dark Knight Strikes Again. Batman crashes a flying Batmobile into Lex Luthor’s tower, beats up his goons, slashes a Z across Luthor’s face, and then skates, Catgirl in tow. I mean, he demolishes everyone. It’s thrilling. When he’s done, he leans back in the Batmobile, kicks his feet up on the dash, and says, “Striking terror. Best part of the job.”


Something in my head just clicked when I read that, and I just knew that this is how Batman has to be. Batman has to enjoy what he does on a very personal and deep-seated level. Otherwise, it’s just a job, isn’t it? He clocks in, clocks out, and goes home. Enjoying the “being Batman” parts of being Batman is vital to his character, otherwise he’s mired in misery for no good reason. Even Daredevil loved dancing across the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen.

If Bruce Wayne enjoys being Batman, then being Batman is more than just a gig or revenge. It’s a calling. It’s something that he’s built to do, something that exercises that little part of your brain that makes you good at things. He’s into being Batman like an artist is into drawing or a writer into writing. He sits down at the crime-fighting equivalent of a drawing board and slips into the zone. If you have the opportunity to do things you like as part of your daily life, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Everything else drops away, and it’s just you and your painting, or essay, or video, or whatever. Things make sense.

Or, it’s something like Rakim said: “I start to think and then I sink/ Into the paper like I was ink/ When I’m writing I’m trapped in between the lines/ I escape when I finish the rhyme/ I got soul.”

That’s what being Batman is, and has to be, for Bruce Wayne. It’s got to be a calling, something that energizes him and gives him the strength to go on. In Dark Knight Returns, after jettisoning the Bat, his life is empty and he bounces from whim to whim. He rediscovers the Batman and the result is striking. “This should be agony. I should be a mass of aching muscle–broken, spent, unable to move. And, were I an older man, I surely would… But I’m a man of thirty — of twenty again. The rain on my chest is a baptism–I’m born again.”

The reference to baptisms and being born again is on the nose, innit? This is Batman’s religion. This is how he gets closer to God. And the bold on “born” but not again is suggestive, too–this is how Batman begins. That thrill that dances up his spine, that impossible stamina, and that feeling of being a man made god. It’s undeniable. It’s seductive.

Dial it back twenty-some years to All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, and there’s this:



You get the feeling that Wayne just wants to get out there and DO something. His captions scream out how empowering and rehabilitative Batman is. “I should be exhausted. I haven’t slept in days. But I can’t get tired. No matter how hard I try. Not with this pulse pounding my ears and dear Gotham calling to me like a sultry siren.”

That sounds pretty incredible, doesn’t it? Positively life-affirming As if Batman were a medicine, or steroid, that’s keeping him going. It reads like it revitalized his life and gave him an irresistible reason for being. Everything in the city, from the cold and nasty wind off the river to the jerks laying on the horn at asleep o’clock is perfect. It builds up to Batman’s ultimate playground, the perfect location for a creature like him. He’s where he belongs. He’s in his zone. Batman be to crime-fighting what key be to lock.

I can’t help but love that in a major way. I don’t think Batman should be a happy go lucky type of guy, but he’d definitely have a devil may care grin and take a certain amount of pleasure in doing what he does. He might not show it, but it has to be there. He has to like it. Being Batman has to be fulfilling and something he can enjoy. The enjoyment may ebb and flow, but striking terror has to always, always be the best part of the job.

There’s this really good sequence in Charlie Huston and David Finch’s Moon Knight that sort of relates. It starts with Moon Knight staring down Taskmaster before taking him apart in a major way (“Yes, kill me. See if that works this time.” and Taskmaster crumbles in the wind), getting what he wants, and vanishing into the night. As he leaves, he’s thinking, “I get what I want. Glories. I get glories. Glories such as these.”

Moon Knight is geared more toward reveling in violence and sado-masochism than Batman is, and that’s how he honors the god that gives him his gimmick and/or powers. He puts the boot in, and Khonshu is pleased. Moon Knight’s glories aren’t Batman’s, but Batman, every single night, ends up with glories. Being Batman shows him a side of life that most people never see, where the city speaks to you with the familiarity of a lover, your life and death are always near at hand, and hand-in-hand, and everything is your playground.

Later in the series, Batman and Robin have to get somewhere in a hurry. Batman, indulges himself a bit and says, “We hitch a ride.” This is the ride:

Normal people don’t get to do that. This is what being Batman is all about. You see the city as an entity, you learn the secret paths and language, and most of all, you get to be exactly where you want to be.

“Every inch of me is alive.”

next: i rushed it. i blew it.

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Frank Miller Owns Batman: “i mean, i’ve seen better, but i guess this is okay.”

July 18th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I like Captain Marvel because he’s a boy’s fantasy. Say a magic word and bam, you turn into an idealized version of yourself, people respect you and take you seriously, and you’re a true blue hero.

Batman is a child’s fantasy, too, but a more specific one. It is Bruce Wayne‘s fantasy, and his reaction to the death of his parents. The actual Bat part of the fantasy came later, of course, but the avenging angel saving the innocent from the predations of criminals was born as Bruce watched his parents die.

It’s kind of a childish, or maybe just simple, idea, isn’t it? Batman declared war on crime. Not a specific type of crime, or a certain criminal. He declared war on a nebulous object, something so big that it will never, ever go away. Why? Because it hurt him and took his parents away.

I like how the Mark of Zorro figures into Batman’s origin. It was his father’s favorite movie, and it was the very last thing he did with his family before he died. The Mark of Zorro is the last thing he saw as an innocent, and that’s significant. Don Diego was a man who believed in justice and protecting the downtrodden by night, and pretended to be an affable fop by day. He used a certain symbol as a calling card and to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies. A Z scratched into flesh or cloth was a warning and an admonishment. It’s easy to see why this would be attractive to a six year old kid who just watched his parents die. It’s simple and attractive, with a very clear idea of right and wrong.

Bruce Wayne then dedicates his life and fortune to training himself in the arts of crime fighting and fighting. You can probably assume that he’s an expert fencer, too. He returns to Gotham as a twenty-five year old and attempts to begin his war on crime, but soon realizes that it won’t work without a symbol. The genre demands drama, and a bat comes out of the nighttime sky and pushes its way into his life and psyche. With the addition of that symbol, he’s ready to begin his war.

One of the best bits in All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is the huge fold-out spread of the Batcave. It’s spectacle on overdrive, the sort of thing that only comic books can do, and it’s wonderful. It’s the first time I’ve really seen the Batcave as something incredible, rather than being Batman’s dark, nasty cave. It’s filled with stuff. He’s got a gang of cars in various styles. There are suits of armor that sit in homage to some of the best-respected armies in history–Greek hoplites (presumably Spartan?), Roman Centurions, Japanese samurai, and a Crusades-era Muslim soldier. There are helicopters and jets.

And then, big as life, there’s a giant robot tyrannosaurus rex in the process of being built. This isn’t an arsenal. It’s a toy chest. Every single thing in the Batcave can be mapped to a real-life toy, save for maybe the Bat-computer. The Batmobiles are essentially Hot Wheels in a variety of styles, and the suits of armor are soldier toys, something that would let you make cowboys fight aliens or knights fight tanks. All he’s missing is a giant robotic GI Joe. The cave’s a giant playset.

And Batman, who is twenty-five years old, turns to Dick Grayson, age twelve, and sees the look of pure and utter astonishment on his face and asks him if his cave is “cool or what?”

“Eh, it’s aight.”

:negativeman:

Batman: child at heart. I hesitate to call it arrested development because it isn’t, really. It’s a sort of parallel development. He found his calling decades before any of us actually do. It just so happens that his calling springs from a very, very childlike space, and he’s got the money to do exactly what he wants. He can fulfill almost every childhood dream, but most especially the crime fighting one, and he does that by way of his wonderful toys.

Miller and Lee reveal similar origins for Robin. While exploring the cave, he finds Bruce’s cabinet full of weapons, picks up a bow and arrow, tests the tension on the string, closes his eyes, and thinks. The picture that comes to mind is Errol Flynn as Robin Hood on a moonlit night. Robin Hood, of course, is one of the precious few characters more swashbucklin’ than Zorro.

Sidebar: I really like Lee’s storytelling on this page. Panel two, with him looking at the bow leads nicely into panel three, with the “…” implying thought, and then the angle of Grayson’s head lines up with the angle of Robin Hood’s head, as if he’s becoming the character.

When Grayson explains why he’s going to be called Hood to Batman, he mentions that his father used to make him watch an old movie about Robin Hood, and that that’s why he took up archery. So, once again, you have the son attempting to honor the father through deeds and identity. Both characters latched onto something from their childhood, something that is an indelible link to their parents, and made it the focal point of their life.

At first, I thought this was just sort of a nice coincidence, right? “I do this in remembrance of you” sort of thing. But, no: the costumes and gimmicks are a reminder of their parents. Every time Batman goes out and slings a Batarang, or every time Bruce Wayne guzzles ginger ale like it’s champagne, he’s connecting himself to his folks by way of The Mark of Zorro. Every single time he suits up, that’s what he does. Robin, too. When he flips down from a skylight, leading with a joke and following that with a closed fist–that’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. That’s his father. That’s his family. The costumes and identities are like… tokens, or keepsakes. A reminder, a crystalized memory.

Batman and Robin are living memorials, a testament to their love for their family.

(Funny, but unrelated, trivia: Basil Rathbone was in both The Mark of Zorro and The Adventures of Robin Hood, playing opposite Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn, respectively. Batman and Robin/Zorro and Robin Hood have the same enemy, it seems.)

next: every inch of me is alive.

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