Holmes and Watson. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Batman and Robin. Lucy and Ethel. Hamlet and Laertes. The list of heroes and their BFFs is long and overall an honorable one… and usually necessary.
A sidekick, at base, is a supporting character and a supporting character’s main function is to bring out aspects of the protagonist. In most cases, the sidekick is there so that the protagonist isn’t constantly monologuing. Granted, Hamlet is a champion monologuist but when Laertes is there he can be engaged in a dialogue. Holmes needs Watson so the reader can see how brilliant the Great Detective is. Whatever his other character traits may be, Watson’s prime one is to be surprised and amazed by Holmes and, in that, Watson represents us, the readers.
There are many different ways of interpreting a sidekick. Watson, for example, can be Nigel Bruce’s bumbling Colonel Blimp character or Jude Law’s testy and acerbic put-upon friend or Martin Freeman’s occasionally explosive but loyal best man. In the Harry Potter films, Ron Weasley, in the first film, is at one point both brave and self-sacrificing. In later films, however, he becomes cowardly and mostly comic relief, very like Nigel’s Bruce’s Watson.
Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).
The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one – Jason Todd – who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.
Moral and ethical questions have been raised about the whole idea of the adult hero having child/teen sidekicks. The lifestyle, after all, is inherently violent and rather dangerous. Frederic Wertham, in his suspect 1954 treatise Seduction of the Innocent, postulated Batman and Robin were gay which, given those times, was thought to be profoundly deviant. Wertham was blowing it out his ass but the damage was done at the time. Still, one can see that it was a dangerous life style to include the kids in. The questions remain.
For me, I’ve sometimes identified more with the sidekick than the protagonist. I love Holmes but I’ve always identified more with Watson (except for Nigel Bruce). Batman (and Bruce Wayne) is difficult to like but Dick Grayson (especially in his adult incarnations) is someone with whom I can more easily relate. I think sidekicks are designed that way. They put more human into super-human.
DC’s Rebirth brings with it a commitment to the tenents of the brand before things got overtly grim and gritty. No better examples crossed my desk this past week – opening up my now monthly shipped comic pack – than Titans and The Flash. Forgive me, I’m not actually sure if they are supposed to be preceded or followed by the Rebirth moniker… the shop keep explained it to me a week ago, and I honestly don’t even remember now. But no bother. Each issue was read and absorbed, and I’m here to finally say the words:
DC put out some great comics.
Titans directly follows the Rebirth one-shot reintroduction to the DCU from a few weeks back. As you’ll recall that’s where (SPOILER ALERT) we learned the Watchmen may be big baddies in this new version of the DCU, that there’s up to three Jokers running around, and the Nehru collar is slowly falling out of style. But most importantly: Wally West has returned from the void that swallowed him whole during the now-defunct New52.
For a first issue, Titans takes things aggressively slow. In antitheses to the norm of #1 issues, here we get basically just a single drawn-out scene. Wally has returned to Titans Tower – err – Apartment, to gather intel on his former team. Nightwing immediately springs forth from the dark to fight the would-be intruder. A few panels – and one big shock – later, Dick Grayson remembers his fast friend. Not long after that, a similarly paced intro-fight-shock-apology occurs with each of the remaining Titans (in this iteration we have Nightwing, Arsenal, Garth, Donna Troy, and Lilith). A couple of hugs and exposition about a potential big bad to hunt down, and the issue is donezo.
The Flash reintroduces Barry Allen to all, by way of a more rote version of his well-treaded backstory. Taking cues from the recent TV series, our definitive origin is now this: Barry witnessing the murder of his mom when he was 7, by Professor Zoom. His father is incarcerated for the murder, and Barry spends his days eventually exposing and incarcerating Zoom at Iron Heights. Barry is still CSI, under TV-guided Captain Singh. The issue pulls a bit of a wink and nod by starting us off at this familiar crime scene; a murdered mother, a father to blame, a child who watched it all. But this isn’t Barry Allen’s backstory. It’s present day, where he’s tending to a new case in Central City. And with his lab equipment churning away, Barry takes to the streets.
We’re caught up to the Rebirthening of Wally West, but this time from Barry’s perspective. After a similar explanation of the potential big bad, Barry splits from his protege to continue in his own way. He runs to the other top CSI in the DCU; Batman. From there, a quick reset of known facts (Comedian’s bloodied pin, visions of speedsters, mentions of time bandits…), a cliffhanger to chew on, and the issue ties itself up in a neat bow.
Beyond the snarky synopsis though, both of these books peel back the words of Geoff Johns not more than a few weeks back. As I’d snarked about previously, the DCU creative powerhaus incarnate took umbrage towards the cynical and cyclical nature of the brand he himself represented. He appealed to the baser instincts of the DCU: to celebrate heroism and optimism over real-world issues and the doldrum of continually modernized comic canon. At the time, I scoffed. In fact, if you go back and read my words, I vowed to continue to ban my enjoyment of their (and Marvel’s) books! But somehow, like a jilted ex, I couldn’t quit on comics. And while neither Titans or Flash were perfect… they were what was promised.
While we’re still very high above the week-to-week gestalt of what all DC is trying to prove with their Rebirth movement. But if the aforementioned issues are the spark to ignite the new wave of pulp, then I’m very much game for the future. Even with the imminent threat of further dragging down Alan Moore’s creation into the mire of pop-cannon or the threat of unknown Speed Force demons, it’s hard to finish either opening salvo and not walk away with a smile. Titans overtly celebrated friendship and the makeshift families we build for ourselves – through the lens of a formerly hokey after-school superhero club. Flash begins right where the New52 left us off – angry, depressed, embittered – before pivoting towards hope, rationality, and the teaming up of dissimilar heroes working towards a common goal.
Suffice to say I’m timidly optimistic myself. While he didn’t pen either issue, I feel as if I owe Mr. Johns a drink the next time we cross paths. Granted it won’t ever happen… but I’ll be damned if I don’t owe it to him anyways. The future is bright once again.
It’s back to school time and even though it comes around every year, it always surprises me at how quickly it sneaks up after a fun summer. This year, we’re sending our last child off to college, and that’s made me think of a classic Batman story. Face with an empty nest, I’m seeing a familiar story in a totally new light.
Today we’d call the October 1969 issue of Batman, #217, a reboot. It’s hard to conceive of it now, but in this story, they stripped the character down to his very basic elements. No more Wayne Manor, no more Robin, no more Batcave and no more outlandish villains. Of course, they all came back eventually.
The time was right for a change. The Batmania of the sixties, fueled by the TV show’s camp craze, was over and done with. By 1969, the TV show was like an embarrassing memory from a party where you had too much to drink. Oh sure, it was fun at the time, but then you need to sober up and leave that tomfoolery behind you. And back then, no one ever dreamed that one day in the future Batman would be bigger than ever and there’d be a whole new wave of Batman ’66 merchandise. And to even say that you could actually own every episode, and watch them whenever you wanted, seemed crazy.
Back in 1969, comics in general, and Batman in particular, were taking big steps to position themselves as more than juvenile kiddie fare. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams led the brigade of creatives who took a more serious, more grown-up approach to Batman. He’d no longer be a silly buffoon in tongue-and-cheek adventures.
“One Bullet too Many” by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, was first published in ’69, and later reprinted in the classic collection: Batman from the 30s to the 70s. This tale was a part of a long re-energizing of the Batman mythology.
In this story, Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin the Boy Wonder) is preparing to leave for his freshman year at Hudson University. Dick gently teases the saddened Bruce (Batman) Wayne and their butler, Alfred about his imminent departure for college. He then brings his two (!) suitcases to the front door. I guess Alfred didn’t need Bed, Bath and Beyond’s College Registry/Pack and Hold in those days.
Astoundingly, Bruce and Alfred don’t arrange to drop young Dick Grayson off at school. Instead, Dick casually hops in a taxi as the adults glumly watch from the front doorway. Can you imagine a parent hailing a cab to take their child to the first day of college today?
Long before I started my freshman year of college, I read this Batman story and thought of how I’d be like Dick Grayson one day: bra
vely leaving for college with equal parts of excitement/hope and homesickness/apprehension.
(Of course, Animal House and my father’s fraternity stories painted an entirely different picture of college, but that’s another story.)
So while I identified with college freshman Dick Grayson so long ago, now I find myself looking at this story in an entirely different way. As we venture to drop our daughter off at a college majestically overlooking the Hudson River, it sure seems like the fictional “Hudson U” to me. So I now find myself identifying with the crestfallen sadness of Batman and Alfred. And I now see this tale as the quintessential empty nest story.
As soon as young Dick’s taxi drives off, Bruce tells Alfred to pack it up, and that they’re getting outta town. “Take a long, possibly last look, Alfred,” says the Caped Crusader. “We’re moving out of this suburban sanctuary.” I guess there wasn’t a need to stay in the Gotham school system with Dick in college. He’s decided they’re moving to the city and he’s going to start a new business. The venture was called V.I.P. (Victims Incorporated Program), but it was essentially a “second act” start-up, by today’s standards.
Kudos to Bruce Wayne for his courage. Good for him, and Alfred, for closing down dusty old Wayne Manor and the Batcave to bravely start the next chapter of their lives. I’m overly sentimental, and, I’ll admit I am having trouble making the transition that decisively. Packing up our Wayne Manor and starting a new business isn’t quite as easy for me, but I get the idea. It’s good advice. Leave it to Batman to show me the way. Again.
Okay, I admit it. I like sidekicks. Sometimes, I like them than I like the hero.
According to the folks I know who are better at this than I am, sidekicks like Robin and Jimmy Olsen came into existence primarily as exposition aids. By talking to them, the hero tells us, the reader, what he is thinking. It also gives the reader someone with whom to identify.
Sidekicks are not limited to kids, nor are they appealing only to kids. Dr. Watson is a sidekick to Sherlock Holmes. These guys, among others, were sidekicks to David Letterman.
I’m thinking about this lately because I’ve recently read some interesting things about so-called alpha and beta males. The conventional wisdom has it that women prefer alpha males, who are dominant, strong and aggressive. Hal Jordan is a stereotypical alpha male, according to this definition. So is Conan the Barbarian.
A beta male is less imposing. He doesn’t give orders. He listens. Instead of throwing his weight around, he cooperates. To hear right-wing propagandists, beta males are the result of feminism. And, if you read further (but you might not want to, because the descriptions have no relationship to life as we know it), you’ll see that the assumption is that beta males never have sex.
Maybe that’s why I like the sidekicks. They seem more approachable and easier to engage in conversations.
Let’s look at an example from the comics, because that’s what this website is about. I’ve always preferred the Elongated Man to Mr. Fantastic. Same super-powers, but one is kind of aloof (or was when I was reading the series) and one is an excitable goofball sleuth.
It shows an actor’s range if he can convincingly play both alpha and beta. My favorite current example is Corey Stoll. He’s a totally douchebag alpha in Ant-Man and an uncertain beta in The Stain, where, even with that horrible wig they force him to wear, he’s still much more attractive.
So, is Dick Grayson an alpha or a beta? I would argue he’s a beta, and I would argue he’s one of the most attractive fictional characters in the medium, right alongside Peter Parker (another non-alpha) and Matt Murdock.
With more women and girls in the marketplace, it’s my hope that we’ll see more good stories about the sidekicks. Especially the cute ones.
FUTURES END #1 Written by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen Art by Patrick Zircher
I won’t lie to you, this book’s got me confused.
It starts in the semi-distant future of the time of Batman Beyond, a world that has been taken over by the latest iteration of Brother Eye, a sentient satellite/robot/thingy, which has taken over the world in Terminator-esque fashion. In an attempt to Fix What has Gone Wrong, Batman Beyond/Terry McGinnis comes back in time to kill someone, a person not specifically named as of yet, but since in this story, they maintain that now it’s Mr. Terrific who built Brother Eye, one might be able to guess he is the target.
The thing is, Terry has not gone back in time far enough. He landed fives years in our future, a time where Michael Holt has already created Brother Eye and is in the process of introducing its technology into society. Terry says they’re seven years too late, but he landed five years in the current DCU’s future, which means he should have landed about two years in its past, relative to our present, which would be a little bit before the narrative of the New 52 even started…
Timeline worries notwithstanding, another big problem here is that we’ve already seen Brother Eye in the New 52, in the pages of Dan Didio and Keith Giffen’s OMAC, and he had no connection to Mr. Terrific at all. At the same time the Mister Terrific book was going (and I was enjoying it) and there was no mention of any Brother Eye technology at all. Indeed, when they ended the book, they tied it into the coming Earth 2 title instead. If one wanted to go there, one would have to assume that this book spoils to some degree the events in the aforementioned Earth 2, wherein Michael is currently in somewhat dire straits.
I must assume it will be explained, but we’re once again in a position where DC seems to be reversing itself on the storylines of a new universe that’s not yet even three years old. This appears to be the third version of Brother Eye in only five years, and the fourth in total. In the previous iteration of the DCU, Brother Eye was created by Batman as a fail-safe system to take down his fellow heroes should the need ever arise. The system gets out of hand…
and they have to take it down, a goal at which they only partly succeeded, as various OMACs kept popping up in various places.
In the New 52, Brother Eye is back in control of a single OMAC, in the person of one Kevin Kho. After the brief (but enjoyable) run of his title, he popped up in various titles, most recently the Suicide Squad, mere weeks ago during the events of Forever Evil.
(And this is all over and above the original OMAC series created by jack Kirby during his brief but creative period that he was at DC, a period that also brought us The New Gods, another stable of heroes too good for DC to not keep using.)
So I’ve no idea how these stories from the current DCU will be tied to the new facts presented in this first issue of the weekly book (which got a tease last weekend as part of Free Comic Book Day.
The story as presented has some obvious parallels to The Terminator, but older DC fans will also recall the MaxiMegaCrossover Armageddon 2001, where a hero of our time chooses to take control of the world, forcing a person to come back to the past, discover which her is was, and stop them.
The book suffers from a weakness not of the story, but the premise itself. Taking place five years in the future of the DCU, it can be safely assumed that the events of the story will never come to pass, so we’re effectively reading a just short of a year-long(more on that in a moment) “imaginary story” that will have no impact or connection to the ongoing narrative of the regular titles. Such stories are lots of fun to read in graphic novel or other one-shot format, but 40-odd issues at three or four bucks each? Not so sure. I mean, Trinity was entertaining, and Countdown…a bit less so, but both ended up being very expensive stand-alone stories, and they got a lot of people quite annoyed as a result.
They’ve certainly started the death toll quickly, with one major DC down already, and one super-team which was getting positive press for apparently getting a major spot in the book…suddenly not. But again, since the book takes place in a nebulous future that will almost certainly never take place, there’s no sense of loss at all. I expect we’ll hear neither hue nor cry at these, or any deaths in the book, as even the most casual reader will suss the fact that they Won’t Really Count.
There’s another weekly starting in October that will connect with Futures End in some way. I think it takes place in the present in the DCU, which, if so, would still be later than when the string of events supposedly started. How they’ll connect, or if it will be a story you could enjoy on its own, we shall have to see.
But here’s the thing – Dan Didio has already let slip that all three weeklies (the third being Batman Eternal, which is quite good so far) will not all be a year long, as the past weeklies have been, but will all be ending in March of 2015. This certainly gives the impression that something will be coming in April of 2015, which only happens to be the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
So DC has effectively gotten people to already half-discount the current story, making it seem like it’s nothing more than a prologue to Whatever’s Coming Next. It’s the exact same mistake they made with Trinity War and Forever Evil. They sold Trinity War as a Big Event, but as soon as news (and the solicitations) for Forever Evil came out, interest in Trinity War all but ceased as people assumed that FE was the real Big Event. It’s a process they’ve been using since Infinite Crisis, but now that people are hip to the move, interest in the current book drops as soon as news (or even just rumors) of the next Event come to light. Forever Evil has ended, though the last issue of the book has been delayed over a month, resulting in several books coming out that take place after the ending. And largely, save for Dick Grayson, not a heap of a lot seems to have changed. Lots of rebuilding, some strained relations between folks who knew Grayson, but pretty much it seems to be back to first position.
Mixed into the coming months is also Grant Morrison’s next mini Multiversity, which also deals with other worlds of the DCU, and will (assuming it doesn’t get delayed, because how could that ever happen on a Grant Morrison book?) will also be ending next Spring.
So DC has certainly done a good job of getting people interested in next April. Problem is, there’s a whole Gorram year between now and then, a year full of books that DC needs to keep people interested in. If people start to get a whiff of a Clever Theory that DC plans to pull another massive change to their books, we may end up with a year-long lame-duck session, with people dropping books they presume (correctly or no) are going to go away, which will only serve to make that more likely a possibility.
In short, DC needs to make its books exciting and engrossing right now, and not dangle a carrot into the future and ask us to trust them. Sorry but fool me…lessee, carry the four…
Let’s just say I hope we’ll all be here come next April.
In case you don’t follow the Twitterverse, allow me to succinctly sum up the “happening” that occurred this past week. Rob Liefeld, stalwart artist and writer, melted down. After months of being jerked around by his nebbishy editor, he waved the white flag and left his position at DC. He took to Twitter to vent a bit. Creators around the industry came to bat for the editor he trashed. He lashed back. First to Marvel’s First Hat Honcho, Tom Brevoort. Then, Scott Snyder, in a private communication, reached out to the champion of anatomy himself. After a bit of back and forth, the private conversation became not-so-private. Seems Liefeld took it upon himself to imply that Scott’s success at DC lies with the character Snyder writes, not his prowess of prose.
I could actually argue on the side of Robbie Jordache about the editorial mandate issue. Seriously. It’d be brilliantly positive. The single time in my life I wouldn’t take every chance I get to dump pot shot after pot shot on the man whose most famous creation is the thigh pouch. This however, is not that sunshiny post. Rob? You done went and got me pissed.
The tweets in question:
“It’s not you (referring to Snyder). It never has been. It’s Batman.”
“I’d like to think that if your going to wave your ego around on Batman you’d remember all that came before you. Holeee crap.”
“One word. Haunt. Two words. Swamp Thing. Not all creations equal”
Where do I even begin? OK, Rob, if you’re paying attention (which shouldn’t be hard since you’ve got an abundance of free time right now…), here’s the skinny: Scott Snyder’s Batman is selling amazingly, well, because he’s writing it brilliantly. Yes, Batman will sell tons of books because he’s in it. Certainly all the other Bat-titles being produced right now are enjoying that fact; they’re not as good (save perhaps for Batman Incorporated). Snyder’s run, first for a year on Detective, and now on Batman’s flagship title, has proven time and again what a talent Scott happens to be. For one year, he thrust Dick Grayson into the cowl, and delivered a series I personally hold up as being one of the most deftly written in the last decade. And when he transitioned to the main book? He created an original epic story and villain (in the entire Court of Owls) that takes all the gravitas Hush falsely earned, and did it without relying on the crutch of every single rogue in the Bat-gallery. To imply that the consistent sales Snyder’s run is bringing in is due to the nameplate alone is not only short-sighted… it’s insulting to me as a fan.
Rob’s next pec-pulsating punch to the gut implies that Snyder takes credit for his success without denoting all those great creators that came before him. Given Liefeld’s inability to draw a straight line, a proper foot, or a plausible gun has perhaps caused him to not be able to read. Because when I read Snyder’s run on Detective Comics, I saw that he brought back James Gordon Jr, a character who‘d long been forgotten since his introduction in Frank Miller’s acclaimed “Batman: Year One.” And in his tenure as Bat-plotter, Snyder has paid homage to nearly every other writer before him, including working with Grant Morrison to tie-in several pieces of “The Return of Bruce Wayne” with his “Gates of Gotham.”
If Rob’s beef was that Snyder took credit for the work he’s done? Well, that steak ain’t for dinner. Snyder is allowed to revel in his limelight. He’s earned it. And while Rob’s runs on several books saw increases in sales… it seems it wasn’t enough for the powers that be. And so, we end up in this one-sided squabble.
Snyder’s ultimate response to the fans: “…I’ll echo what my brother @GregCapullo said before. All of us on team Batman are extremely proud of the success, and that success is due to your support. But as the team on the book, if we didn’t believe that your incredible and humbling support was due at least a little to us doing a somewhat decent job – if we sat back and said – Batman sells Batman – what sort of book would that engender? We have to think the sales are because you guys like what we’re doing on the book. It fuels us to continue to do stories that matter to us, knowing that you’re telling us you like what we’re giving you, on a character that means everything to us both. That’s it. I will not fight or post another negative tweet about Rob or anyone. And, I want to say sorry to you all and no one else– to you, the fans of comics, not just me or Rob – for bothering with this. It’s a waste and we should be pushing the good not attacking each other. And I’m guilty of that too. So I’m sorry to you for going negative. Thx to those of you who reminded me of that.”
See? Snyder certainly isn’t waving his ego around now, is he?
And let’s not leave the table before we discuss Haunt versus Swamp Thing. First off, I tried Googling to see where or how Liefeld is tied to Haunt. Couldn’t find one. But suffice to say, even if he had anything to do with it, I’ve read it. It doesn’t hold a candle to Swamp Thing. And again, I cite the books themselves to combat this idea that “all creations aren’t equal.” Well, Robbie? You’re damned right. All creations are not created equal. Swamp Thing has decades of material from which to draw from. To expect Haunt would be on the same level is asinine. And for the record, I didn’t give two poops about Swamp Thing before Snyder was on it. And I say this knowing full well Alan Moore wrote the character. Snyder’s prose and ability to craft truly creepy tales helped Swamp Thing rise to the top of my pull list every month. I got through two issues of Haunt. And the second one was read during a long night in the loo, where no other reading was available, and my phone was dead. I’ll leave it at that.
At the end of the day, I want to give Liefeld a pass. I really do. He was exasperated, like so many others these days, at DC’s whirlwind editor machine. Since the New 52, it would seem that unless you’re on the top of the heap in sales, the Brothers Warner are pushing down on the middle management to keep shaking the tree until money falls out. By doing this though, it inevitably leads to creator burn out. And through the lens of his exasperated state, Rob lashed out at those defending the editor in question. What good did it do you, Rob? Where you could have once just waved that white flag and retreated back to the land of your creator-owned crud, you instead decided to pick a fight with Batman.
And Robbie, in case you never got the memo: Don’t ever pick a fight with Batman.
Marc Alan Fishman and fellow ComicMixers Emily S. Whitten, Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman and Adriane Nash will be at this weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con, mostly hanging around the Unshaven Comics booth hawking his wares. Drop by and say hello.
From the second I saw the original Batman television show I was hooked.
Just that quick, Batman had replaced Spider-Man as my absolute favorite superhero. Bruce Wayne replaced Peter Parker, Dick Grayson replaced Gwen Stacy and the Joker replaced Dr. Octopus.
When the TV show became corny to my friends, I was still a fan. I didn’t care that they had all switched to the Green Hornet. Yeah, Kato was cooler than Robin and the Green Hornet was just, well he was just cool, but Batman was still my guy.
When Michael Keaton was cast in the 1989 film I was all in. When people started bitching that Mr. Mom was going to play Batman like a joke I didn’t care. I just wanted to see Batman on the big screen. Batman the movie was one of the first DVDs I ever brought and this was when DVDs cost a lot more than they do now.
I’ve seen every episode of every Batman animated series. I own hundreds – maybe even more than a thousand action figures. Without a doubt the single action figure I own more of is Batman.
I write this in my office under a framed 1966 Batman movie poster. To the left of the poster is a cabinet full of porcelain and bronze action figures, of the 18 figures in the cabinet there are four Batman’s and that is the only figure that is represented more than once.
I was very close once to buying a replica of the 1966 Batmobile. How close? I was filling out the paperwork when I realized I was buying a fucking Batmobile.
What kind of asshole buys a fucking Batmobile when he lives in Manhattan and rarely drives the car he already owns? Hell, what kind of asshole buys a fucking Batmobile anyhow? For about two hours I was that type of asshole and a few years later I regretted not buying the car and yes, on occasion I still think I’m that type of asshole.
I own every single Batman movie on DVD and some even on VHS. I’ve watched and own every single Batman TV episode. On many occasions during late nights in my studio I watch from episode one until I stop working. I once did more than 24 hours of watching the show. I was high on coffee and Adam West and loved it.
There has not been one Batman movie I have not seen the opening weekend. In most cases I’ve seen the movie the day it opened, except for the current one. I had every intention of seeing The Dark Knight Rises the opening weekend. I wanted to go to an all day screening of all of the Christopher Nolan Batman films with my dear friend and business partner Tatiana El-Khouri that would climax with The Dark Knight Rises but I was too busy.
I missed that boat and with it I think I missed my one chance to see the film I’ve been waiting well over a year to see. I hear the latest Batman may be the greatest yet. I fear I may never know because I have no intention of seeing it.
I was unable to write my column last week and it’s most likely a good thing that I didn’t. Undoubtedly because of the Aurora shootings and my personal experience with violent crimes my article would have been a hate filled call for revenge against the shooter and his friends and family.
Yeah. His friends and family also.
I’m well aware (now) that makes no sense, but in my initial rage it made all the sense in the world. My piece would have been filled with all sorts of reasons to just beat the living shit out of the crazy motherfucker who committed this sick act.
My heart goes out to the victims of the massacre. There is nothing and I mean nothing that can prepare you for the news that someone you love has been murdered. Trust me. I know.
Because of my history and the way my stupid mind works I simply cannot bring myself to go see The Dark Knight Rises.
I hope and pray that I’ll get over this but I fear that is not to be. I have issues and as much as I love my ComicMix audience I’m not prepared to give you the low down on the details of those issues that prevent me seeing The Dark Knight Rises because of that revolting motherfucker’s actions.
Alas, the people the madman killed and their families are what is important and what we should be thinking about. On a much and I do mean much lesser note that coward with a gun also killed Batman for me. My favorite superhero has now been corrupted in my mind.
To many I’m sure it seems silly for me to give that asswipe the power to corrupt one of my favorite things but unfortunately I have no defense over how I feel. If I associate something with something that’s bad I’m powerless to stop it as much as I try to do so.
I take some comfort in the knowledge that America has rejected the bastard and the hold he has over me is insignificant for America has made The Dark Knight Rises a big hit.
Bravo America. USA!! U S Fucking A!
My demons are mine alone and I rejoice in the fact that the film is doing well in spike of the doings of a limp dick psychopath.
I stop people from telling me about the movie. Not because of my issues but because I’m going to make every attempt to see it. If I don’t manage to see it on the big screen then I will endeavor to watch it when it’s available on pay for view if not then I’ll try and see it on DVD. If those efforts fail I’ll try and watch it on HBO.
Somehow, somewhere I’ll see that movie. That sick motherfucker may have won the battle in his demented mind, but America has already won the war and as for me, I’m determined to win my personal battle.
I don’t know a lot but I do know this, crazy sick assholes do not make the rules, they just make noise. Today that bastard may have killed Batman for me but everyone knows that killing a superhero is just temporary.
I’m sure that Batman will be back in my life and I’m just as sure that the shooter will be forgotten and his victims remembered at the same bat time on the same bat channel, forever.
Good morning, DC! Please, have a seat. Why yes, this is a new office. Thank you for noticing. Would you like a mint? Oh go ahead, pocket a few to take home with you. Are you nice and settled in? Excellent.
I wanted to stop today – just a bit shy of your one year anniversary as the “DCnU” – and give you an evaluation. And let’s be honest… this time last year? You were phoning it in something fierce. Anyways… I’ve assembled some thoughts about this leaner-meaner-DC you’ve tried to become. How about we take a little time now to go over my thoughts.
I’d like to start with something positive. Frankly, it took balls to announce to the world you were resetting things. Or rebooting them. But not ret-conning them. However you want to phrase it. To take your entire line back to #1 certainly got you the attention you wanted. Suddenly all the Internet was ablaze with rumors and opinions. You even got TV, newspapers, and traditional magazines interested in you again. I bet you hadn’t seen this kind of love since you killed Superman. For a few months. But not really. How is the Eradicator doing these days anyways? Ha ha ha! But I digress. If nothing else, you like to look like you’re a risk-taker. Frankly, we both know you’re not, but that’s a lengthy discussion we’ll have at another time.
Looking over your line, I can’t help but feel like you couldn’t stop yourself from playing favorites. For every amazing Batman you put out, you matched it on the shelf with less-than-stellar clones like Detective Comics and The Dark Knight. Action Comics got the world talking about Superman again. Superman reminded us why we stopped reading his book somewhere between Electric Blue and New Krypton. And four Green Lantern books? I mean, I know you were trying to suck up to me with giving Kyle Rayner his own book… But did you actually read what you put out?
Justice League was your pride and joy. Justice League International was made with scraps from the bottom of the fridge. And for all the love you gave Animal Man and Swamp Thing, you couldn’t match the complexity and depth in Resurrection Man or the abysmal Suicide Squad. I just kept getting the sense that you unnecessarily spread yourself too thin, DC. You published fewer books per month than you had prior… but in getting leaner, you didn’t realize it would make each effort you put out that much more important.
I feel like I’m being a bit harsh on you. Here… stop crying for a second. You did good things too. I mean, let’s talk about Batman, Action Comics, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing, OK? Here you were able to really play with people’s expectations. Your gamble paid off in spades. Grant Morrison proved (well, I should say is continually proving) that he can marry his love of the golden/silver age while still spinning modern yarn for the lynchpin of your universe. Scott Snyder’s pair of books were decidedly different, and elegant in separate ways. In Batman he was able to prove his deft hand at writing a plausible difference between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, when under the cowl. And while I didn’t have the patience or wallet to enjoy the entirety of “The Court Of Owls,” just keeping to the main Bat-Book proved all the epicness I needed to thoroughly enjoy the event. And over in the “The Dark”? Well, all I can say is you’re finding the perfect way to release Vertigo books with a different logo on them. And I mean that in the best way.
See… Don’t you feel better? And hey, also keep in mind that for the first time Aquaman was really selling well. And the core Green Lantern title has never been sharper. Now, of course we both know you slapped a #1 on it, but it never really “reset” after flashpoint. Very smart of you. Well, it doesn’t hurt that Geoff Johns is the one writing it, so he didn’t have to apply his whole “make the universe over” rule to his own book. When you have that many letters in your title, I guess the rules don’t apply. Say, how did OMAC sell, anyways? Cough, cough! Excuse me. Nervous tic.
As I sat to prepare your report card, it became increasingly taxing to determine a final grade. I mean, if I were to be harsh about it? I would just give you a D, and call it a day. The greatness achieved from the top talent you employed just can’t hold up those who only tread water. For all the interest you garnered from the mainstream media, you never figured out a way to hold on to their attention, lest you revert back to the old days of just throwing anything out there in hopes of someone paying attention.
Who did you decide to make gay this week? Whose backstory did you change, just to get the message boards flustered? And don’t even get me started about your “girls should wear pants” fiasco. The continual desire to turn amazing artists into mediocre writers, and your desire to employ Rob Liefeld even after his one book was basically universally jeered. And of course, your commitment to force needless crossovers throughout the line, to bump up sales. All of these things pull your GPA (Geek Projected Approval) down into the gutters.
I could go on, but I see you’ve stopped paying attention to me, DC. I know you want to focus on the future – by raping the past. Batman is about to enter “Nightfall.” There’s all that “Before Watchman” stuff you keep cramming down our throats. Oh, and I’m pretty certain I heard you muttering something about more Justice League teams and the resurrection of WildCATS. I can only hope you learn from your mistakes, in going forward. So for now, I’m ready to give you a final grade for your first year, you get an Incomplete.
… or how I learned to stop worrying about Michael Davis and love his bombs.
So let’s just get this out of the way. The last Spanish class I took was senior year in high school. I did get an A in it. But between then and now I’ve filled my brain with other more important facts aside from the difference between juevos and huevos. One means balls. The other means eggs. But the one that means eggs also means balls… in the testicular vernacular. My bad.
Those who aren’t following the east-coast-by-way-of-living-on-the-west-coast-vs.-mid-west battle that’s taking place here in the hallowed halls of ComicMix, let me bring ya’ll up to speed. A few weeks ago, Michael Davis applauded DC’s reboot of their universe. He said it was a bold move by the powers-that-be, and while he didn’t love every single thing they did, his praise was for the top brass having the big ones to allow the universal reset. The following week, I said that the praise was silly. The reboot wasn’t really a reboot. It was slapping #1s on every book, rebooting a handful of titles and just assuming most everyone would take all their love and knowledge of the former continuity, and allow it to inform their reading of the new books. I think it’s not so much a bold move, as a lazy one that succeeded in doing exactly what the powers-that-be wanted it to do; it moved product, and created publicity. That doesn’t take balls. It takes a bottom line for net profits.
I was fine to leave the discussion at that: a gentleman’s debate on just how ballsy the move truly was. Michael Davis however, had other plans. He spent this week saying I was now Dead To Him, and proceeded bait me to tell all of you just how a snot-nosed punk (like me) might reboot the DC. For those who didn’t read his pitches, I recommend you do. Or actually let me save you the time; pretend it’s 1993 and go read some Milestone Books. Then look for all of them on the shelves today. Didn’t find ‘em? Me neither. So Mr. Davis, or as I now call you, … Mickey D… let me tell you (and the crowd forming around us) about how I might shuffle things around had I the One Ring, Sword of Omens, The Force, and the last name DidioLeeJohns.
Granted I don’t have the column space to denote 52 pitches mind you, but I’m chock full of ideas. Given the power, here’s a taste of what I’d do, with a real reboot:
Nothing needed to change from what they already are doing in Action Comics, really. Grant Morrison’s return to the Golden Age to draw inspiration makes me love this title and character again. The only thing I’d like to add? Agustus Freeman IV, a prominent member of the secretive “Metropolis Society” takes a young Clark Kent under his wing, to show how him to take his immeasurable power, and use it to the best effect for the greater good. But how does he know Clark’s secret? “I know a Kryptonian when I see one. And I haven’t seen someone from my homeland in 173 years.” Grant and Rags continue their collaboration.
Fighter Pilot-Turned-Astronaut Hal Jordan is manning Ferris Aeronautics’ last hope for a government contract: an experimental small spacecraft using advanced propulsion technology. While out on its first voyage past Mars, a bright green light cuts across the sky. It impacts the red planet, hard. Always one to act first and think later, Highball Jordan lands to investigate. In a freshly made crater, an alien reaches out to Hal telepathically. “There isn’t any time. You must take me to Earth. I must see Doctors John Henry and Curtis Metca–” Before he can end his plea, a red flame engulfs the dying telepath. A vicious alien, with a fiery red glow, and an odd symbol etched into his chest, drips blood from its snarling mouth… hovering above menacingly. It lunges toward Hal. Grabbing the first thing that catches his eye, he flails a green obelisk at his attacker. Splorch! Hal throws the still smoldering crash victim into his shuttle, along with the now glowing green alien-smacker. He takes off towards earth, still pursued by the now-even-angrier blood-spitter. The ship lurches once. Twice. “Hal Jordan of Earth, you have the ability to overcome great fear. The war of emotion rages on. Welcome to the Green Lantern Corps.” A flash of emerald light, and the ship is hurdling towards a strange portal. Over the com system, Carol Ferris yells… “Hal! What’s going on?! We need the Sapphire back in one p–” Written by Geoff Johns. Art by Doug Mahnke.
Detective Chimp and a ragtag group of magically endowed heroes take mystically-themed odd jobs from out of their office… the back of the Oblivion Bar. First case? Getting June Moon put back together again, before the she tears the world into bits! (Hey, I loved this book when this was the pitch, and taking a few cues and characters from the already decent Justice League Dark would give this book a bit more levity, instead of unneeded angst. Plus, magic is cool.) Written by Gail Simone, art by Darwyn Cooke.
Everyone loves the circus… except Carmine Falcone. Don’t blame him though. Hally’s Circus turned down his offer for his family’s “amazing protection and accident insurance plan.” When the big top opened up that fateful night, it would never open up again. The only survivors? Dick Grayson, and Megan Moore. The Boy Wonder and the Girl of a Thousand Faces had their family taken away from them. Inspired by the heroes that have popped up around the world as of late (like the mysterious Batman of Gotham City, the Flash, and Superman) Dick and Megan vow to exact their revenge. But they can’t do it alone. A few Facebook messages later, a team of teens with amazing abilities unite to become the Teen Titans. Better not tell the adults. Written by Judd Winnick, art by Mike McKone.
Of course I have more pitches than these, but well, I only have so much space per week. I think I’ve made my point? The basic gist here is simple… Taking a chance by starting every book over, would allow a whole new set of readers an opportunity to get acclimated to characters they might otherwise feel are too heavy in history to start anew. And old fans can find that love of their characters, with just a few modern twists and a wink and nod. It’d be a move that – dare I say it – would take considerable huevos.
Comics legend Jerry Robinson died this morning at the age of 89.
Best known for his work with Bob Kane during the earliest days of Batman, the Trenton, New Jersey born artist started off as a teenager lettering and inking the Batman feature in Batman, Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics. As Batman rapidly grew in popularity, he progressed to the role of character designer and, shortly thereafter, penciler of the feature. It was Robinson who named Dick Grayson “Robin,” not after himself (as often reported) but after N.C. Wyeth’s famed illustrations of Robin Hood. Shortly thereafter, Jerry designed Batman’s most famed enemy, The Joker. His original art for that initial design, in the form of a playing card, has been on display at various museums across the nation.
(It should be noted that the late Bob Kane disputed this and most other creator-credits regarding The Batman. As a matter of contractual obligation, DC Comics gives Kane sole creator credit for the feature, a matter of significant dispute with Robinson as well as writer Bob Finger.)
In later years, Robinson started an international newspaper syndicate (the Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate) and wrote an important history of the comics medium, titled The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art. He also served as president of the National Cartoonists Society in the late 1960s.
His other comic book work included Bat Masterson and Lassie for Dell Comics, Black Terror for Standard Publications, Green Hornet for Harvey, Vigilante and Green Arrow for DC (with his friend and frequent collaborator, Mort Meskin), Green Lama and Atoman for Spark Publications, Journey Into Mystery, Battlefront, Crime Exposed, Strange Tales and Battle Action for Marvel, Rocky and His Fiendish Friends for Gold Key, and Astra for Central Park Media.
Jerry received numerous honors and tributes during his long life, including four separate awards from the National Cartoonists Society: the Comic Book award in 1956, the Newspaper Panel Cartoon in 1963 for Still Life, the Special Features Award in 1965 for Flubs and Fluffs, and the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004 and, in 2010, was the recipient of the first annual The Hero Initiative Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award for his “outstanding efforts in changing comics one day at a time.”
The Giordano award focused on Jerry’s less-well known work as a political activist obtaining the release of jailed and tortured cartoonists in Uruguay and the Soviet Union. He also joined Neal Adams and others in the creator rights movement and aided Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their struggles with Warner Communications / Time Warner in obtaining recognition and financial security for their efforts.
[[[Jerry Robinson: Ambassador to the Comics]]], the definitive history of this critically significant cartoonist, was published by Abrams late year.
On a personal note, I had the honor and privilege of dining with Jerry and discussing both politics and comics on numerous occasions during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. When, last year, we met up at the Baltimore Comic-Con at the reception prior to his Giordano Award presentation, I found Jerry to be as gracious, as warm and as sharp as he had ever been, and he entertained my daughter with stories peppered with quotes from material I had written about him many, many years earlier.
It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life.