Tone Versus Story

November 12th, 2008 by | Tags: ,

Batman’s life is one of sustained tragedy. His loved ones will suffer, his path will be lonely, his city will see terror and destruction again and again, his friends will pull away from him, and no matter how hard he fights or what battles he wins, crime will always be present in the darkened alleys of Gotham City.

And this is a good thing. We read Batman comics for a certain noir tone, and that means corruption and cynicism and the looming threat of tragedy. When you give that up – well, just look at some of the Batman covers from back in the sixties.

There are other reasons for the fatalistic tone of Batman comics. A huge event happens, Batman plans a counter-attack. He hits it with everything he has, all his allies, all his tech, and wins. And then he sits around sprucing up the Batcave for the next year and a half, while the police easily handle the minor criminals in Gotham and the press cheerily reports the massive drop in crime. Comics are an ongoing form of entertainment, and there always needs to be something more to do, some evildoer left unvanquished.

At the same time, I would like to see a girlfriend introduced and not think, ‘which is it going to be, evil or dead?’ Or see an event come up that means something other than a body count. I’d like to see a few battles unequivocally won. I remember seeing The Batman/Superman Adventures animated series while I was a kid, and I was thinking, recently, how the comics are a little too dark and too traumatic to be labeled as ‘Adventures’ anymore. I think I would enjoy a little less noir and a little more adventure stories, even when it comes to Batbooks.

I also have no doubt that some people want the series to get a lot darker, but I wonder, at what point do you have to break the tone of the series to get a little more variety in your stories?

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7 comments to “Tone Versus Story”

  1. I appreciate the different tones they’ve tried, actually. Batman lends himself as a character that can work in a variety of tones. After OYL, I liked the themes going with Batman having Batman’s more slam-bang superhero stories and Detective Comics retaining the noir-ish, dark-alley based stories.

  2. Batman is pretty optimistic underneath it all, I reckon. Look at how he interacts with Catwoman (beyond Dini’s simplistic ‘twue wuv’ approach), Riddler, Harley, Ivy, Talia and Two-Face in particular. He’s quite loose on the ‘second chance’ front.

  3. Yeah, Batman is totally what I think of as a “hard optimist.” He knows that the world sucks, but he works so that it can get better.

  4. @Mark Poa: That’s true, post OYL Batman did lighten up considerably.

    @Illvillainy: But look how Batman interacts with his various Robins – two dead after being fired, two just with massive Dad/Bat issues. Look how he always gives the cold shoulder to his allies, or the various doomsday plans that have set up the Justice League or Gotham for disaster.

    @david brothers: I think he’s a nutter who works because a part of him believes that if he’s good enough, Mommy and Daddy will be waiting for him when he gets home.

  5. I think you’re right in a lot of ways, which is why, as much as they loved the movies, people like my wife, or my non-comics friends all tend to prefer Animated Series Batman. They all love the character, but for them, THAT is Batman, not the movie or the comic. Most of them extend this perception to the Joker and several other characters. I think it’s actually kind of telling that Lego Batman is clearly based on the Animated series, and not the comics or movies.

  6. Well it’s an all-ages LEGO game first and foremost. B:TAS would be a pretty readily available reference for a Batman with a similar accessibility.

    I think No Man’s Land signifies that you can have the tragic, struggling tone with a challenge that isn’t just a newer, eviler villain.

  7. @Esther

    “I think he’s a nutter who works because a part of him believes that if he’s good enough, Mommy and Daddy will be waiting for him when he gets home.”

    This may be one of the saddest things that I’ve ever read. If it ever made it’s way to a published issue, I’d cry like a baby.