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Booze, Broads, & Bullets: All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder

April 17th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Chad wants to talk about Booze, Broads, & Bullets. Sean wants to talk about Daredevil: Love and War and Dark Knight Strikes Again. Me? I’ve just got an index and some words about Miller’s second-most hated.

Behold, I teach you the Batman.

Batman’s story is fundamentally about revenge. He was wronged as a child and dedicates his life to the get-back. Joe Chill, for various reasons, is beyond his grasp. He can never have his actual revenge. Either Chill is dead, too old, or simply doesn’t exist. So, instead of having an explicit goal for his revenge, something he can point to when finished and have some sense of accomplishment or closure, he’s left with a phantom, something he’ll never be able to grasp. The object of his hatred is transferred to “crime” itself, and thus begins his never-ending quest to get back at the world for the death of his parents.

Batman would not be a pleasant person to be around. He’s been training to fight crime since he was a teenager, at the latest, and that kind of focus does not lend itself to being a particularly good friend. He has focused his life on figuring out ways to solve mysteries, memorizing facts about decomposition, learning ways to hurt people, and make them fear him.

Now imagine if, after being brutalized on his first night out fighting crime, he found a lens to focus his vengeance. A variation on the last happy moment from before his life was ruined. Zorro re-imagined in a blood-soaked haze. “Yes. Father. I shall become a bat.” He is rich enough to do anything, save for overcome the heartache that infected him as a child. So, he lashes out.

A child’s fantasy becomes corrupted due to unimaginable pain. The moment his parents died, Bruce Wayne’s childhood stopped and the seed that would grow to be the Batman began, nourished by blood and anger. He’s going to become a force of nature, something that strikes from the darkness and has no more substance than a shadow. But, not the swashbuckler with a sense of humor from the movies. No, when the Batman laughs, it is a bad thing. That just means the pain is coming. And he’s going to hurt you because he was hurt as a child. This is the Batman.

All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder is the story of how Batman learned to be human. Follow along.

One thing I haven’t seen anyone address is how Batman is treated in the text. The Batman of the early ’00s, who alienated his friends and allies simply because he could, was still treated as a hero and morally correct. The Batman of ASBAR, on the other hand, is actively disliked by everyone he interacts with. In the first conversation he has with Dick Grayson, age twelve, Dick realizes that Batman is putting on a voice. “It’s like he’s doing some lameass Clint Eastwood impression. That’s not his real voice. He’s faking it.” Later, when Batman tells him that the car is called “the Batmobile,” Dick rolls his eyes and says, “That is totally queer. :rolleyes:”

Alfred, after being ordered to let the boy eat rats, declares that he is not Batman’s slave. He vehemently objects to Batman’s treatment of the child. Jim Gordon, the closest thing Batman has to a friend, mocks him after doing him a favor and receiving no thanks in return. “Of COURSE not,” he thinks. “That’s hardly be GRIM AND GRITTY, would it?” An inexplicably Irish Black Canary echoes Dick’s opinion of the name “Batmobile,” and even goes so far as to say that maybe, just maybe, Batman “could find some wee benefit from speaking to a person or two, now and then– of course not while you’re so busy punching somebody senseless?”

Hal Jordan, Green Lantern, gives him the treatment on behalf of the Justice League. Wonder Woman wants Batman dead and shown as an example of the cape community policing their own. Superman, showing signs of the ending of Dark Knight Strikes Again decades ahead of time, declares that “this is my world. These are my people. These are my rules.” He overrules her. The only person in the JLA who likes Batman is Plastic Man, who is insane.

The dislike, or grudging acceptance, is nearly unanimous. Vicki Vale dodges a direct meeting with Batman, but calls him a “flying rat.” The only person in the entire book who meets Batman and is anything less than completely unimpressed with him is a woman he rescues from rapist muggers in an alley. She says, “Thank you. I love you,” as Batman is leaving. His monologue: “Nobody loves anybody, my darling. We just survive.”

Think it through. No one in the book likes him. He’s playing a role that is so obvious a recently-traumatized twelve-year old can see through it. He has flashes of darkness, where thoughts of his parents come unbidden to his mind. He repeatedly calls grief the enemy, because grief leads to acceptance and forgiveness. “Grief forgives what can never be forgiven.”

Issue nine. He unleashes Robin on Green Lantern because it’ll be a laugh and he needs to show the JLA he means business. The anger and grief inside Robin spills over and he nearly kills Green Lantern. Batman is suddenly forced to realize that he’s been going about his quest wrong. He was forcing the boy into the steps he followed to become Batman, not realizing that grief and closure are vital to growth. The issue ends with them weeping over the graves of Dick’s parents.

That is the first step toward Batman becoming an actual hero. ASBAR is the story of why Batman needs a Robin. It brings him back down to Earth and forces him to acknowledge his own flaws and humanity. It shows him that you can be young and adjusted, and that crime fighting doesn’t have to be about revenge. The mean one-liners and Eastwood fade. The fun of crime fighting doesn’t. “Striking terror. Best part of the job.”

Of course, the tragedy of ASBAR is that Dark Knight Strikes Again lies in its future. After being fired, Dick Grayson went bad. Batman has to kill him, and while he mocks him, he still marks his passing with a sad, “So long, Boy Wonder.”

Make no mistake: the Batman is a child’s fantasy. Batman’s defining moment is tragedy, and it has effected his adulthood in a way that, say, Spider-Man’s tragedy didn’t. Uncle Ben’s death taught Spider-Man that heroism is a requirement, not an option. The death of Thomas and Martha Wayne taught Bruce that the world is a cruel place. He took Zorro, a character his father enjoyed, and stepped into his boots. It is telling that Miller revises Robin’s origin to include the fact that Dick’s father was a Robin Hood fan and often took Dick to see the movie. Dick chooses his name in honor of his father. Batman does, too. But the difference in the two of them is astounding.

But, for now, ASBAR is the last lesson of the Batman. He’s mastered ways to hurt, maim, kill, investigate, deduce, and solve. This is where he learns to feel. I assume that next year’s Dark Knight: Boy Wonder will wrap the story and show us how Batman and Robin work together in their first bout against the Joker.

All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder is grotesque and exaggerated. It’s not a satire, and there’s definitely a point to all of the glorious excess.

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Hot Wondercon News

April 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Just so you know, Comics Alliance is the place to go for hot off the presses Wondercon news. Two bits of note for Friday:

Greg Rucka is done at DC Comics and his Batwoman? Well, y’all are gonna be waiting a while. I have more details in the link.

-Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder is back on track. It hits again in February 2011 under the name Dark Knight: Boy Wonder, a six-issue miniseries. I can’t even front, that news is super exciting. I can’t wait to see more of Miller/Lee’s take of the Dark Knight universe. Grant Morrison has faltered for me, due in part to the on and off art, and Dini is writing the kind of comic book you use to break up weed on. Miller/Lee’s ASBAR was like a chilled shot of vodka– something bracing and surprising, and something that’ll rock your world when you least expect it.

More on that later, though. Stay tuned, true believer :)

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Incongruous Art

January 4th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Something strikes me as a bit out-of-sync about All-Star Batman and Robin.  Now, now.  Settle down.  I’m not trying to start anything.

What jumps out at me is the juxtaposition of the outrageous, film-noir-on-acid dialog by Frank Miller, and the finely drawn art by Jim Lee.  Although Lee’s intricate art serves the story well in large-scale panels, like the fold-out wide shot of the Batcave, it seems like the characters need chunkier lines and more high-contrast colors to have the same impact as the words.

200px-goddamnbatman

Still, I wonder if my reaction to this is based only on the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen this type of art work paired with Frank Miller’s writing.

Does anyone think that this type of art suits Miller’s style just as well as the art we’ve seen in DKR?  Or better?

Does anyone else have examples of when an artist seems perfectly paired with a writer, or when it’s a match made in hell?

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Geoff Klock and friend on All-Star Batman #10

September 26th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I really dig Geoff’s blog. It’s one of my must reads for a variety of reasons. We have similar tastes, except when they are almost polar opposites, he’s a great writer, and he’s smarter than I am. Below is an excerpt from his post about ASBAR #10, which is an overall great read. Scott, one of his co-bloggers (is there a word for that?), absolutely nails a lot of what I like about ASBAR #10. Also, Miller/Lee Barb Gordon rules, from the Miller-style dangly earrings (scope the logos) to the entire demeanor. She’s a teenager.

Now I just need to get back to posting in Geoff’s comments and conversating about all this. I’ve been too busy to do so lately. I’m done with a big project, though, so I can come back with a bang.

Remarkable: Comics Out September 24, 2008 (All Star Batman)

First of all, Miller is acknowledging his own part in what would become the “Grim and Gritty” era of comics while simultaneously ridiculing it by having Gordon dismiss it by calling Batman a ‘Jerk.’ It’s also important to note that Gordon’s assessment of Batman as a ‘Jerk’ is important for how Miller views Batman; he has always felt that Batman should NOT be your buddy. He’s supposed to be scary, he’s not your friend but he’s the first guy you’d want to have your back in a dark alley. This informs so much of the way that Miller has portrayed the character, particularly in this series.

Miller gives us an interesting bit of background on Batman and Catwoman: they knew each other and were romantically involved in their adolescence. Hmmm, two people who share a young romance and grow up to be on opposite sides of the law? Sound familiar to anyone?

Batgirl is back in this issue and I get the feeling that Miller likes her a lot more than Robin and is using her as a sort of Carrie Kelly stand in. I also love that she is the ‘Fucking Batgirl’. I love the contrast of this with ‘The Goddamned Batman”. “Goddamned” is a very adult swear; it is a blasphemy and, as such, it carries weight. “Fucking” is a child’s curse word; it is shocking for the sake of shock and exactly the kind of thing that a rebellious youth would say to rail against the world.

I also like how, later in the issue, Gordon decides not to come down hard on his daughter because, as far as he’s concerned, she’s being hard enough on herself but, just a few issues earlier, you’ll remember that she was boasting about how great she was at bullshitting her dad. She’s playing him like a violin.

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Authentic Street Lingo?

September 17th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Batman’s Comedy of Eros, by Dennis O’Neil – ComicMix news

Comics have come a considerable distance in the few years since I left editing. Hell and damn, once verboten seem okay both in comics and on TV, and a few gamier locutions are beginning to pop up. But I don’t believe the medium – comics – has evolved to the point where authentic street lingo is expected.

This is about the All-Star Batman thingaling. I guess what he’s meaning by “authentic street lingo” is curse words, but I don’t exactly see why comics have not, or would not have, evolved to the point where it is expected.

“Motherloving” is a terrible, terrible word. It was bad in Ennis’s Punisher, it was bad in Priest’s Panther (or was it Deadpool?), and it was bad in last week’s issue of Amazing Spidey. “Butthat” is pretty bad, too. “*@#($&” is annoying, but not as annoying as the fake Legion grife and sprock and frak and whatever.

I saw The Incredible Hulk with Ron from iFanboy and James and Kirsten from Isotope. There is a bit in the movie where the old school Hulk theme plays. We were talking about the movie afterwards, and Kirsten remarked that playing the Hulk theme was a bad move. It was something that pulled you out of the movie and just reminded that you that you were a dumb comics fan who was seeing a dumb movie about a dumb guy who turns into a big dumber guy.

That’s what the fake censoring does. No one is doing it for the “Hee hee it was almost a cuss word” thing. People do it because the other ways look stupid. The other ways just serve to remind you that, HEY, this is a comic book, buddy! They jerk you out of the story. They look stupid.

The black bars are actually pretty elegant. I think the first place I saw them, and really noticed them, was in Adam Warren’s work, though Milestone used a variant of it. It’s reminiscient of the TV beep or music video cut. It takes away the word while still allowing it to remain present for dialogue flow or character purposes. A lot of all-ages titles get this right. They don’t use fake curse words. If they have a situation that needs them, they don’t replace it with “motherlover.”

Some people don’t like to be reminded that they are reading a comic while they’re reading. It isn’t a comics hate or self-hate thing. It’s no different than being pulled out of a movie or novel. It’s distracting. It hurts your enjoyment of the book.

So, yeah. Put me down with the people who expect authentic street lingo out of comics, be it superhero or otherwise. I can’t think of a single reason why not. If it isn’t a book that that is mature readers (and that is an essay to come, as Frank Miller had a really interesting discussion about it in some Sin City lettercols years ago) and you are worried about backlash, bleep the words.

David U from FBB has some more thoughts on the immaturity thing here.

More to come. I’ve been at work all day yesterday, all night last night, and possibly all day today again. I want to talk about this stupid streak of self-loathing comics fans have, or at least loathing toward other comics fans, and more on censorship and labeling.

I guess the long and short of it, though, is that labeling isn’t something I’m down with and self-loathing is for idiots.

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FBB with Tough Love for Censorship

September 9th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Funnybook Babylon – Archives – Tough Love Tuesday Breaking News: Insufficient Censorship

The reason behind All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder’s recall revealed! The censor bars didn’t print properly a whole bunch of times! Cusswords are visible! Look out! Don’t click through if you don’t want to see Batgirl being super-sassy:

(this makes the comic late, which sucks)

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Batmanual

July 11th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Basically, my interpretation of Batman is this: Batman loves his job. There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the most important bit.

Part of Batman enjoying his job means that the “Bruce Wayne is the mask” interpretation is both true and false. In the sense that Bruce Wayne is overall expendable and exists solely to provide income for Batman, it is definitely untrue. As Jon Bernhardt says in this piece for Funnybook Babylon, Bruce Wayne as Mask is a drastic misreading of Dark Knight Returns, and antithetical to the idea of Batman.

In essence, Batman wears two masks. One is the Batman mask– it’s an urban Zorro. The other is Playboy Bruce Wayne, and that one is an exercise in theatrical distraction. Playboy Bruce Wayne provides the perfect alibi. Who’d believe that this flighty guy could ever do anything worthwhile? This is part of the reason that Bruce Wayne hasn’t had a lasting relationship. The Playboy role is a barrier against that.

The Batman mask, though, is the interesting one. Bruce Wayne is, at heart, damaged goods. When his parents were murdered in front of his eyes, Bruce Wayne immediately went from innocent to lost. He can’t make the same emotional connections that other people do. Look at his best friends– all costumes. Does Bruce Wayne have non-costumed, or non-costume related, friends? Lucius Fox, perhaps.

Bruce is incapable of sustaining a regular relationship. He connects best with the other people who wear costumes, or run in those same circles. Look at his long-term on-again/off-again relationship with Catwoman. Look at Zatanna and Wonder Woman. Maybe it’s just a side effect of the job and shared experiences, but he tends to hang with super-women.

Anyway, going from innocent to lost doesn’t mean that you stop being a kid inside. The Batman mask and persona, if you think about it, are the reaction of a kid who had his childhood stolen from him. He puts on a mask and a cape, emulating his favorite hero, and fights the thing that hurt him when he was a child. He goes out at night and plays at being a hero. Look at Batman’s conduct. He puts on a gruff voice and uses parlor tricks to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, who are “a superstitious and cowardly lot.” He’s acting like something he thinks criminals would be afraid of.

Though, this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love his job. Being Batman is what Bruce Wayne uses as an outlet for his aggression. One thing Frank Miller does in All-Star Batman that I love is that he writes a Bruce Wayne who has a childlike glee at being Batman. Everything from the dialogue to the inner monologue speaks to a man who is a) acting (he’s deciding which persona to put on before he strikes), b) acting poorly (Dick Grayson sees through him immediately), and c) loves doing it anyway (“Every inch of me is alive“). He strikes with a laugh, rather, “the laugh” because he knows it scares criminals. He makes it a point to use theatrics when he fights. It gives him an advantage in the fight and it lets him playact.

I mean, for real, though. That giant t-rex and all those other trophies were in the cave before Robin got there. That’s Brucie at work.

Batman is a dark, serious, brooding, and violent knight, but he’s also someone who has to enjoy what he does. He likes getting out there, acting gruff, and breaking bones. He likes being able to make people safe and striking terror into the heart of criminals. In DKSA, this is best shown by the scene where he’s relaxing and leaning back in his Batplane, hands behind his head and feet up on the console. “Striking terror. Best part of the job.”

Batman is also that guy who is scarily competent at everything. It isn’t that he’s a genius. He’s just a person of maybe slightly above-average intelligence who applies himself. He studies and practices and trains with a fervor most people don’t ever employ. He can place the origins of accents by simply hearing them, give you the etymology of certain words and which poems they were used in and why, and even track a wolf eighteen miles through the underbrush. Why? Because he thought it’d be a good idea to know all these things.

He’s the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. In hindsight, he essentially spent the remainder of his childhood studying to become the Batman. He travelled the world, studied martial arts, science, and who knows what else solely so that he could be the best at his job. He turned himself into a detective of incredible skill just in case he needed it later. He’s an obsessive amongst obsessives, if that makes sense. Capo di tutti capi.

Finally, Batman has to have Robin. Robin is the perfect foil for Batman. Where Batman is the guy who lost his childhood, but never really left it behind, Robin is the child that came close to losing his, but managed to find it again. Batman isn’t so much a father figure to Robin as a big brother. They go and hang out together and play all the same games.

Robin existing gives both of them a chance to win back some lost humanity. They can use each other for moral support, since they are so similar in origin, and when that doesn’t work, they can go out and bust heads together. For Bruce, Robin is in danger of going down the same path he did. He’s lost his parents in a tragedy, just like Bruce did, but being Robin gives him a chance to cope. It gives him an outlet for his grief.

Alfred keeps Bruce honest. When he sometimes slips a little too deep into the Batman persona and starts to walk his talk, Alfred is there to call him out on it. His constantly sarcastic wit reminds Bruce that he is still a human being, and an adult at that.

The somber, super serious, depressed, hates-to-live Batman that was popularized a few years back is a mistake. Batman gives Bruce Wayne a reason to live and enjoy life. He likes being Batman. He feels that it’s right. Robin provides a balance to his darkness, and Alfred keeps him honest.

That’s the way it should work, anyway.

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The Big Three

July 19th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

David Mack, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, and Brian Azzarello are basically my five favorite comics creators.

Newsarama’s got previews up featuring three out of the five, and that ain’t half-bad.

Batman 666 and All-Star Batman 6 with a handful of pages a piece. Looking good. When’s the last time Barbara Gordon was this adorable? I think it’s the freckles, maybe. She actually looks like a gangly teenager.

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All-Star David and Gavin the Boy Wonder

May 16th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Before I do anything else–

Have you guys heard the new DJ Jazzy Jeff record? It is sick. Every single track is dope.

Anyway, I am in SF right now. Got a place, did some time at my job, and did a bunch of things San Franciscans do. I drank Chai Tea Latte at a Starbucks (it is good), rode the bus, and played phone tag with Comcast for two hours plus. On Friday, I get the honor of doing it again, this time in person with a four hour window for installation. Hurray.

Anyway, I live roughly a mile from Isotope Comics, so guess what my new comics shop is! Sending in the pull list later tonight, most likely.

Ed Brubaker signing there this Saturday at 8 til midnight. I’ll be there with the copy of Coward I bought last week!

Speaking of buying comics, and because I am a little short on content right now, here’s what I picked up at the Isotope. Haven’t read any of it yet, though.

All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder 5
The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Shot Callerz by Gary Phillips and Brett Weldele
Static Shock Trial By Fire by like six dudes with long names
The Annotated Mantooth by Fraction, Kuhn, and Fisher
Kyle Baker: Cartoonist
Nat Turner v2

Reviews coming soon as I work through my 4l backlog.

edit: I am maybe six pages into All-Star Bats and this is easily the best issue yet. I don’t see how people don’t like this comic!

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Bits & Pieces

April 26th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

Linkblogging again today! I’m off tomorrow so I can put some work in then.

– I am flying out to San Francisco on Sunday and staying until Wednesday! I’m apartment hunting for my move there in May. It’s fun trying to guess at your take-home pay without knowing how much the gov’t is going to ream you for taxes!

– I finally got the out of print Mr Majestic TPB. I now own each TPB of his two solo series, which is kind of a weird feeling. It took me a while to realize how much of a big Wildstorm fan I am. Anyway, the book collects issues 1-6 and the Wildstorm Spotlight by Alan Moore and Carlos D’Anda. I think that the series went on for eight issues total, but what we’ve got here are six done-in-ones plus a special. From the back cover copy: “Mr. Majestic rearrangest he solar system, repairs a temporal anomaly, gains a son, halts an intergalactic prison break, and meets the Ultravixens.”

Also from the back cover copy: “Remember when superheroes could move planets?”

The first Maj series is kind of a precursor to All-Star Superman in theme, if not in quality. Both stories take these wild silver age tropes and, rather than looking at them ironically (“Ha ha why do you need an invisible plane”) they just take them at face value. Majestic can move planets. Why? Because. It’s a pretty light and warm book from what I remember, and the team of Joe Kelly, Brian Holguin, and Ed McGuinness is the perfect fit for it.

Another choice line: “What the @#$# is wrong with you?! I’m a freakin’ nun!”

Ah, Ladytron.

batmanrobin6cvrsm.jpgI love Jim Lee’s new Batgirl design for All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. (For color reference, see here.) It’s just all around awesome. The freckles visible under the bat-mask, the bats on the boots, and the big yellow bat-symbol work really, really well. I also love costume designs made up of just two colors for some reason, so that’s icing on the cake. I’m also really, really fond of Frank Miller’s dangly and busy way of drawing earrings. It’s funky and different. Also, is it me or is that a Daemonite head that Batgirl (who I’m assuming is Barb Gordon, if only because of the freckles and hair?) is standing on?

– 52 this week (#51, to be exact) was pretty good and paid off in all the expected ways. Buddy returning was a nice capstone to his story arc, though he now may be the most powerful thing in the DCU. I can’t imagine DC dropping the ball on that, so expect him to show up in Countdown. Also, I totally called the Mr. Mind in Skeets thing, just like 51% of the rest of the internet, but the payoff was so much better than I expected!

– Is anyone else reading and enjoying Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov’s Barracuda as much as I am? It is trashy and ugly and excellent. Barracuda has turned out to be a lot smarter than anyone ever gave him credit for and the series has been quite a ride so far. Be interesting to see where it goes!

– What’s it say about me when the most striking part of the first Outsiders trade is John Workman’s lettering? I love that man’s work. He’s got style and he’s unique.

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