You are currently browsing the batman category
I want to thank those of you who have pledged payments to my Patreon account, and I swear I’m not just saying that so I can link to my Patreon account again. I really am thankful for your generosity and willingness to spare a buck or three every month to my endeavors here. It’s very much appreciated. And like I said, there’s not going to be any special contributor-only content or anything, so everything I write for the site will be equally available to everybody. However, Patreon supporters will get to leave with me on my flying saucer to go live in my chocolate castle on Venus when the end times come, so just keep that in mind.
- Bully, the Little Bull Stuffed with Butter and Syrup, is a few days deep into A Month of Pancakes, which you should dig into immediately. I voted for Pancake Month, and got exactly what I was hoping for! Democracy works, sometimes!
- Blogging brother Tim relates his own thoughts on the state of comics blogging (as I did myself, not too long ago). One day soon, it will be just Tim and I standing alone in a wasteland filled with the desiccated corpses of fallen comic blogs, squaring off against each other, HTML tags in hand, studying each other for the smallest sign of weakness.
- Pal Andrew tells us about that one time the Jack of Hearts met the Incredible Hulk. Man, there’s nothing quite like 1970s Marvel comics.
- The Trouble with Comics gang look at nationalistic superheroing and discuss its impact on the medium. …I’ve been “on hiatus” from TwC for the last few weeks due to scheduling issues, but hope to be back and contributing there again in the near future.
- And now, for no real good reason, NEEDLEPOINT JOKER:
Someone brought in a couple of bins holding piles of ’90s Batman stuff, and this is one of three things I bought from them, just because it was so odd. (I bought it specifically to resell to a fella working at my previous place of employment, who is way into the character…and it is at that store the NEEDLEPOINT JOKER is currently on display.)
The other two things I bought were a Catwoman bank and a replica of a ’60s Batman fan club pinback button. Oddly enough, I passed on the signed Batman #500 from one of those home shopping TV shows, even despite being in one of those collectible fold-out comic binders. …The ’90s were weird, man.
Among other announcements at last weekend’s Wondercon, DC is apparently going to reveal the Joker’s real name in the forthcoming Justice League #50. They hinted at its reveal before, earlier in the storyline, and you can see those specific panels at that link where Batman learns the name, but we, the readers, are kept in the dark.
Now, assuming it’s not a big ol’ fake-out, it still seems kind of weird. As Twitter pal nicknewt newted…er, noted, “There’s two possible outcomes of revealing the Joker’s real name: 1: Someone we never heard of, thus anticlimactic / And 2) an existing character, which is dumb as [fudge].” My response was that it could be some heretofore unrevealed relative of Bruce Wayne, which, if I may opine briefly, would also be a dumb as [fudge] option. Given Batman’s reaction to the revelation of the name, it’s clearly got to mean something, but…well, I don’t know. We’ll see in two or three months, whenever Justice League #50 actually does show up.
And that’s the weird bit…the reason it feels like some kind of fake-out or doomed-for-the-reset-button reveal is because it is happening in Justice League, and not one of the main Batman books. Unless, as I also mentioned on the Twitterers, this is some kind of “Wolverine’s Origin” deal where the movie studios were going to reveal their own version of the formerly-secret information and it was in the comic company’s best interest to do it themselves in whatever title was convenient before it was done for them. I mean, I’m not sure what film or TV project could theoretically have done this. Maybe some throwaway line in Suicide Squad? Something they’re leading up to in Gotham?
The one time they almost got a real name to stick to the Joker was in the first Tim Burton Batman film, where he was given the name Jack Napier (a play, I think, on “jackanapes,” which is clever). The name ended up being used in the animated series (where I believe it was eventually revealed as an alias), and eventually faded away, finally unable to counter the decades of inertia of a nameless Joker. I noted, ugh, 11 years ago that the one remnant of that particular bit of the character’s history is that “Jack” (or something similar) is now sort-of the go-to name whenever the Joker’s past starts getting thrown around. (Interestingly, if a bit awkwardly, Alan Moore in The Killing Joke avoids mentioning his real name at all in the flashback scenes.)
Like I said, I’m still convinced this is a fake-out of some kind, but it got folks talking about their comics, so, hey, a win for DC. I personally think that would undermine the Joker’s power as a character, by nailing down this agent of chaos to a specific history, when he’s more effective as just this wild monster that came from nowhere to counter Batman’s need for order. It doesn’t matter who he was, just what he is, and (presumably) making a Shocking Reveal out of his true history may bump up sales and interest in the short run, but won’t really add anything in the long run. Then again, if DC really is sticking with it and (almost more importantly) if the tie-in media runs with it, the Joker’s real name could be with us for while…at least, until that previously-mentioned decades of inertia wipes it away once more.
Say what you will about Dark Knight III, and boy howdy you sure have, but it certainly brought customers into the store specifically for just that book. Now the real trick is “will they come back?” and of course I’ve had a customer or two ask the very astute question of whether or not this series will be released in a timely fashion (if it is, this would be the first Frank Miller-involved Dark Knight series in history to do so). And of course, there’s been some curiosity from parts hither and yon as to how involved Miller actually was in the series.
Having read it, I personally feel that this is definitely an interesting Brian Azzarello-written take on Miller’s Dark Knight-iverse, if not as quirky and strange as the previous installments. It lacks the wild shifts of tone in a lot of Miller’s work, from straight-up satire to dead seriousness, which is probably fine since trying to duplicate that particular balance is a chump’s game. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more, but I’m not feeling the Dark Knight-ishness of it quite yet. The inserted mini-comic with the Atom comes close.
As a retailer, I gotta complain about that cover, though. I’m trying to convince people they’re getting unique “FINGERPRINT SMUDGE” variants, but I think they’re beginning to catch on.
In other news:
- Speaking of Miller’s Dark Knight, Alan over at Trouble with Comics has a somewhat more critical look at the Dark Knight Saga than I tend towards, but still an entertaining read nonetheless. All Star Batman is a saint, I tell you…a saint!
- A wee bit of Star Wars comics history for you…here’s an old SW toy ad drawn by Rick Veitch.
- Can you believe that I’ve had to explain to people just who the Star Wars rabbit is? Oh, how very soon they forget that minor character from a handful of Star Wars comics published nearly four decades ago.
- First, read this Nobody’s Favorites post by pal Andrew about a certain superhero named Static…no, not the Static people like, the other one. Pay close attention to the lettering in those panels, and then look at this Twitter post I made a while back and tell me I’m wrong.
So I finally received my copy of the Batman Vs. Robin animated movie from Diamond this week, and this is some sticker that’s on the box:
Don’t know if that means anything to anybody that hasn’t read the comics…is there any kind of larger media presence for Talon and/or the Court of Owls that I don’t know about, that would make this sticker of use in attracting your average consumer in a Best*Mart? “But Mom, this movie has Talon and the Court of Owls! We have to get it!” Or is it enough that perhaps the very presence of the sticker ballyhooing their presence will pique curiosity: “Huh…these characters are apparently important enough for the manufacturer to go through the extra expense of printing and applying these stickers to the packaging…surely I, as a Blu-ray/DVD consumer, can’t let all that effort go to waste.”
Okay, I’m pokin’ a little fun. But honestly, one would think the promise of “BATMAN VERSUS ROBIN” would be enough get get someone to pull the trigg…OOH, sorry, Bruce, poor choice of words.
The movie itself is fine…not one I’d put on the TV to entertain the four-year-old in your life, because it starts off with a sequence that’s pretty much pure nightmare fuel. But it certainly delivers on the title, and I like the fact that this new movie builds off the previous Bat-imation film that introduced the Damian Wayne character rather than just leaving that as a stand-alone. I know the last couple of Justice League cartoons are effectively in sequence as well, but those are sort of blandish and empty (particularly the recent Throne of Atlantis), while these Batman films have a little more weight to them. There is one significant bump in the road, a flashback sequence that introduces the Court of Owls concept via a bedtime story in the most awkward bit of storytelling you can possibly imagine, but otherwise everything flows well, and violently, enough. I appreciated the clarity of the fight scene choreography, and I hope what I just typed right there turns up as a pull quote in an ad someday.
Anyway, I liked it. I hope they do at least one more to wrap up the Damian storyline…or, even better, maybe they can tackle the whole Batman Incorporated thing. That would be pretty amazing in animation. Plus, they still need to introduce this vital character.
The last couple of my posts have had me in a bit of a Negative Nelly mode, discussing some current retailing/publishing shenanigans, so I thought I’d try to focus on some of the stuff I love about comics this week, you know, for a little balance. And what’s better than Batman and Swamp Thing busting in on some thugs and giving them what for:
That would be from Brave and the Bold
#176 (July 1981) by Martin Pasko and Jim Aparo, about a year prior to the launch of the ongoing series The Saga of Swamp Thing
, also written by Mr. Pasko.
Ah, man…Jim Aparo didn’t draw Swamp Thing nearly enough, but I’m glad we got what we did. (Check out Brave and the Bold #122 for another Aparo-drawn Swampy/Batman adventure, written by Bob Haney no less.)
It has been almost literally decades since I’ve last seen this item, but my memory of the sight of it has been with me all this time. And now, here it is again, after all these years, recovered by Ralph from one of the boxes in his office, is the Batman-Colored-As-Robin-More-or-Less blue plastic whistle:
Don’t know anything about it, don’t know how old it is (probably from the ’70s, if not earlier), no idea how much it’s “worth” (everyone asks me if it’s expensive, I’m guessing “no”), but it’s certainly dirty and the stickers (one on each side) have seen better days.
This is almost, but not quite, proto-Batman of Zur-En-Arrh merchandise.
So following up on my brief grumbling about DC Comics and their handing of the 3D covers for Villains Month….
To recap briefly: DC Comics is replacing their regular superhero series for the month of September with what is essentially 52 supervillain “one-shots” as part of their line-wide “Forever Evil” crossover event, though they are all branded and numbered as part of particular series. For example, what would have been one issue of Action Comics for that month is now Action Comics #23.1 through #23.4, four weekly issues of Action each featuring a different villain. And on top of that, DC is using advanced lenticular imagery to give each cover a 3D effect.
In ordering these special issues, I had to take into effect the following considerations:
1. I needed enough copies to cover in-store sales, both for customer pull boxes and for sales off the rack (based on sales histories for each title over previous months).
2. I needed to gauge how many extra copies I’d need to cover extra interest caused by being a crossover tie-in.
3. I also had to estimate interest based on the specific villain being featured in each issue. (A Joker comic will sell forever…a Count Vertigo comic I’d probably have to staple dollar bills to the cover to get people to take it home.)
4. And then, of course, I had to use the immense precognitive powers all comic retailers must develop to foresee how many extra copies I’m going to sell because AWESOME 3D COVERS, DUDE!
After too many weeks of agonizing over these things (particular over Justice League: Dial E, tying together one of DC’s highest selling titles with one of their lowest, and wondering how stuck I’m going to be with copies), I finally settled on numbers I could live with for each title. I had enough to cover regular monthly sales, I believed I had enough to handle any additional interest each individual title might bring in, and I thought I had enough of a buffer to accommodate folks attracted by the 3D novelty.
And then this happened. DC wasn’t able to produce enough copies of the 3D versions of these titles to meet demand, resulting in allocation of retailer orders and the announcement of alternative editions of these comics with regular 2D covers.
In my case, it’s not as bad as it could have been, but Good Lord it ain’t good. Out of 52 titles, my orders on eight remain unchanged. On eleven books (including some particularly significant ones, like some Justice League titles), my orders were cut in half. Even more than half, in a couple of cases. Some orders were only dropped by about 1/3, but that’s enough of a cut to be problematic. In a number of cases, I only lost a few copies, sometimes as little as two. And, oddly enough, in the case of at least one title, I was allocated more than I ordered (which has me wondering if DC way overestimated the popularity of that one issue when originally setting their print runs).
For a couple of the drastically reduced titles, I am going to be stuck with not enough of the 3D covers to even cover pull lists, though discussion with some customers has shown that they’re sympathetic to the situation we find ourselves in, that it’s not our fault and they’re okay with receiving 2D covers if necessary.
Plus, there’s another potential hiccup, even with the titles for which I’m receiving my full orders (or close to full orders). The news regarding the allocation of the 3D covers has been widely disseminated, which means it’s widely known (or at least perceived that) these books are in short supply, which will jump up demand beyond that which I anticipated. As I noted, I based my orders on particular factors, but not one of them was “DC won’t be able to print enough of them, ensuring I don’t get even the numbers I ordered.” I was doing my level best to estimate sales levels on previous histories, demand for specific characters, and general interest in the 3D effect. Now that we’ll likely have “speculation” and “other stores trying to buy copies for their shelves” and “I hear these are rare, we better buy ’em” goosing sales, rack copies are going to dry up immediately, even with one-per-customer limits that we’re almost certainly going to have to impose. Even on that one Joker issue, for which I am getting my full order, but will now surely blow off the shelves.
Ordering the 2D cover alternatives to make up the 3D cover shortages was bit of a bear as well, though, as I said, some of my customers are cool with having 2D replacements. But now, I have to reconsider what my potential racks sales are going to be, as my estimates were at least partially based on the 3D covers attracting attention. Point 4 is now no longer a consideration in my numbered list above, which would have been the dealmaker in at least a few of the more borderline titles being offered. No offense to the World’s Biggest Count Vertigo Fan, who is very likely reading my website right now and is about to shoot off an angry email to me, but a Count Vertigo comic with a cool 3D cover might have sold to someone with no prior interest in Count Vertigo out of the novelty of it all. A plain ol’ Count Vertigo cover may not have grabbed that same customer.
Of course, Harley Quinn and Joker and Lobo and the like will sell comics regardless of how many dimensions their covers have…I plan on getting plenty of the 2D versions of those titles. Regardless, this whole hoohar DC caused by their overreach and inability to provide the product they promised is going to make a very nervous September for us, as I hope the orders I did my best to estimate will actually reflect reality. Otherwise, you may see me in front of the shop, rattling a tin can and asking for spare change.
Sigh. I hear if you look closely, you can actually see the grey hair shooting out of my scalp.
• • •
In other more amusing news: where I lead, Grant Morrison follows! Big news over the last couple of days, as Morrison revealed his interpretation
of the end of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke
. Basically, Morrison thinks at the end of the story, based on particular storytelling clues, Batman kills the Joker.
Why yes, that is an interesting interpretation, and old news to longtime readers of this site, who may remember I came to the same conclusion nearly a decade ago. …Of course, I’m sure I wasn’t the first, and in the end it’s just an interpretation of the ending, and not necessarily reflective of any direct intention of the authors. Not that I got anywhere near the blowback on this at the time that Morrison’s receiving now, since Morrison seems to attract his share of folks getting the vapors whenever he says anything. But anyway, I was a bit bemused by this turn of events, and my thanks to folks on the Twitterers who did their best to point out my original post.
• • •
One last item: Bully
, the Bull Who Walks Like A Little Stuffed Bull, was responsible for my corner box image
last week, in case you wanted to know what that was all about.
So of course it’s during my brief blogging sabbatical that the biggest, most amazing comic news of all time is unleashed upon us. No, not that Marvel apparently had to outsource for a new cosmic character since, you know, they didn’t have enough of them. And no, not that DC’s “Event Formerly Known As WTF Certified Month” seems to be about 75% “Special Surprise Guest Star Month” so far.
No, it’s all about a new Batman comic based on the 1960s TV show starring Best Batman, Adam West. And, naturally, mustachioed Joker:
It’s a digital-first comic, with a print edition to follow, and features the work of writer Jeff Parker, artist Jonathan Case, and cover artist Mike Allred.
Not that I’ve been keeping close tabs on reactions thus far, but from what little I’ve seen people seem to very positive about this development…quite the change from a couple of decades back, when folks were getting the vapors over the fact that a guy who made comedies was going to direct a Batman movie starring a comedic actor and oh my God it was going to be the campy ’60s Batman TV show all over again, will comic fans never get respect? (Of course, the resulting film was sufficiently “dark” and “gritty” to keep those fans happy, though really it’s just as amusingly peculiar and goofy and, um, well, campy as the rest of the Burton oeuvre.)
Anyway, I’m thrilled about this new Batman ’66 comic, and can’t wait for it. When it comes out, if it’s not the best-selling comic of the 21st century thus far, then we will have failed as a civilization. Not that you should feel any pressure or anything, Jeff ‘n’ Jon.
Of course, I realize not everyone has achieved sufficient enlightenment to realize the beauty of Adam West Batman, and thus come with me back to the mid-1960s, via this January 8-14, 1967 copy of the TV Weekly insert from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, coincidentally enough discovered in a comic collection we were processing just last week:
That’s a swell Dragnet cover, yes, but let us look to the letters page therein, where someone wrote in to complain that his favorite TV show was getting the hook because it could not compete with a certain Caped Crusader:
Wow. Just imagine how this guy would react to the idea of “Bronies.”
Well, let’s see here, what was going on Thursday night at 7:30:
Just look at that. How is anything going to compete with the triple-blast of the Joker and the Penguin and Venus? Sorry, Jericho and, apparently, Daniel Boone.
And sorry, D., but this moronic adult thinks the 1960s Batman TV show is a thing of beauty, and I’m glad to see it still being appreciated, all these years later.
BONUS BAT-HATER CONTENT, courtesy that atomic bomb in a human body, pal Andrew, who passed along this Letter of Comment from the April 1st, 1966 issue of Life Magazine, reacting to a recent cover feature on the Adam West Half-Hour Costumed Adventure Theatre television program:
Holy Dramatic Overreaction, Batman!
“Skinny little Hansi.”
“She grew up. She filled out.”
[There may be SPOILERS ahead for The Dark Knight Returns, both animated and comic-ated.]
Now I suspect it’s going to be hard to believe that one can forget a large, gun-totin’ woman named Bruno, topless save for some kind of adhesive swastikas placed over her breasts, and yet this is apparently what happened to me prior to popping in Part Two of DC’s direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. If I had remembered, I’m sure it would have crossed my mind at least once to ponder “I wonder if they’re actually going to go through with that” or “I wonder if they’ll tone it down a bit.” Instead, it came as a complete surprise to me when Bruno showed up on screen. And it certainly is a different experience seeing Bruno in a four-minute fully-animated action sequence on a 50-inch screen as opposed to seeing a handful of panels in a comic book. And by “different” I mean “that’s going to come as a shock when Mom puts this on for Little Billy and then walks back into the room when Bruno’s onscreen fighting Batman.” Yeah, yeah, it’s PG-13 an’ all, but man, that felt like a bit much. So of course I got a screenshot and shared it with you on my site. You’re welcome.
As for the parts of this cartoon that aren’t about topless Neo-Nazis: what I was really looking forward to was Michael Emerson’s turn as The Joker. Emerson was probably the best part of that TV show Lost, playing an evil and slimy little jerk who was still at least somewhat sympathetic and certainly charismatic, and that performance comes though in this role as well. A bit of Emerson’s voice work on the Joker reminded me of, oddly enough, Paul Lynde, which I’m guessing was likely more coincidental than deliberate, and is certainly not a complaint. (And of course, when one thinks of Paul Lynde in relation to Batman, this comes to mind.) His Joker was definitely creepy and unsettling, and probably the high point of this whole endeavor.
And speaking of the whole endeavor…one of the most intrinsic parts of the original Dark Knight Returns comics was the constant internal dialogue running throughout, revealing each character’s hopes, fears, etc., as well as providing the most affecting and emotional points of the story. When Alfred dies as the Wayne Mansion burns, just seeing him drop onscreen doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of reading Alfred’s “Of course” when the same thing happens in the comic. And when they push the dialogue from the comic’s internal thoughts to the cartoon’s external voice…well, let’s just say having Commissioner Gordon outright say “I think of Sarah…the rest is easy” as part of a retirement speech to a roomful of people lacks the gravitas it has when he repeats it to himself in the comic.
And that whole business with Superman nearly being killed by the atomic explosion, and his subsequent revival. In the cartoon, it’s simply weird and grotesque. In the comic, with Superman’s inner pleading with Mother Earth, there’s that undercurrent of sadness and despair and desire to protect that’s left unspoken, nor even implied, in the adaptation. …I suspect some enterprising group of fans will someday make a reedit of these films, filling in the lost narration themselves, that the cartoons sorely lack.
Not to say that these films are entirely without merit…the big set pieces still work just fine: Batman’s battle with the Mutants leader, the last confrontation with the Joker, the climactic fight with Superman. And even the nearly last bit of business, with Carrie and Clark at Bruce’s grave site…that was pulled off nicely. I also appreciated that they didn’t stray too far from the comic’s 1980s origins, keeping Reagan as President, and there’s even a brief shot somewhere near the end of the film, which of course I can’t locate now, showing a storefront for “VHS / BETA” or something like that. Or maybe I imagined it. You make the call.
Overall, the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns animated adaptation was an interesting experiment, if flawed, with some nice voice work. I understand the choices the filmmakers made…well, my jury’s still out on the Bruno thing, but I guess fans would have complained if she wasn’t there…but in my opinion the loss of the internal dialogues from the comic cut most of the heart out of the story.
Well anyway, if these Dark Knight cartoons do well, maybe we’ll get an animated version of the sequel Dark Knight Strikes Again. That I’d like to see.
If you’re wondering about that Hansi comic, here you go.
« Older Entries