Batman Turns 75

Happy new book day, everyone! Today marks the official 75th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 back in 1939. That was one of the primary reasons I chose to start my blogging hobby with a Batman column, and I have stuck to it for seven months now.

I have tackled lots of angles on the character, his history, his potential heirs, and even some of his antagonists (after all, the Joker is in all of us, just waiting to get out). I have also shown you all part of my Batman collection, voiced my need for aid in finding an old comic from the 90s, and even drawn sometimes loose connections between Batman and real life historical figures. It’s been a wild ride so far.

Though I am not exclusive with my superhero fandom, Batman has held a special place in my heart since childhood. The Tim Burton/Michael Keaton films and Batman: The Animated Series cemented differing versions of the character in my mind at a very early age, and the idea of the multiple narratives, universes, and timelines of this mythical character attracted me almost from the beginning. In fact, I still imagine Kevin Conroy‘s voice whenever I read a comic featuring Batman.

And that version of the character may be for me what many would call the Batman of my heart. It has grown over the years, shaped by the stories and other media I’ve been exposed to in the years since, but some things remain part of the character’s core.

Batman isn’t entirely good or kind–no one that damaged would be–but he has enough of both present within him to recognize the darkness his experiences have placed within him, and (again, as Frank Miller has said) he makes that darkness work for the betterment of the world around him. He is generous and charitable with his immense wealth, since it holds little allure for him beyond funding his war against crime and maintaining the illusion of Bruce Wayne’s apathetic playboy lifestyle. Because I also believe Bruce Wayne is the false identity and Batman is the real character; Bruce only exists to keep suspicion off of him in his real life.

And I believe that life is long and filled with adventure. One day, decades hence, Bruce will finally be forced to retire and pass on the mantle to one of many possible heirs. Because there must always be a Batman.

Final page from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Art by Frank Miller. Image found at http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/BatmanTDKR4-199-The-Dark-Knight-Falls.jpg

Final page from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Art by Frank Miller. Image found at http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/BatmanTDKR4-199-The-Dark-Knight-Falls.jpg

That’s my thought for this auspicious day. Any of you who might be capable should leave flowers on the graves of Bill Finger and Bob Kane today. Little did they know what their attempt to simply pay the bills would become over the next century.

That said, who is the Batman of your heart? Which take from which writer, artist, or medium is the core, definitive Batman for you? Let me know in the comments below.

I would also like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be expanding the scope of this blog in the coming weeks. Batman shall always form its core, but I need to stretch my legs a bit. Please keep coming back to see what I’ve come up with.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman #33

Batman Eternal #16

Batman Beyond Universe #12

Superman #33

Injustice: Year Two #8

Daredevil #6

Storm #1

Velvet #6

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Mr. Freeze: The Most Sympathetic of Batman’s Villains

Good day, everyone! I hope your week is going well. For this week’s post, I want to focus on another Batman villain the way I did the Joker many weeks ago. This time, I want to look at Mr. Freeze, Batman’s most underrated and sympathetic opponent.

Mr. Freeze (originally named Dr. Victor Fries and called Mr. Zero) was created in 1959 by Bob Kane, David Wood, and Sheldon Moldoff. At first, he was a somewhat ridiculous, generic ice villain, of which there were several in the Silver Age (the Flash’s Captain Cold being another notable example). And Mr. Freeze remained an unremarkable sometime foe of Batman for decades, despite a slight bump in popularity during the Adam West years based in no small part by portrayals by such esteemed actors as Eli Wallach. That is, until the 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series entitled “Heart of Ice.”

The animated version of Mr. Freeze (voiced by the late, great Michael Ansara) was an entirely new take on the character defined by his sorrow and his quest for vengeance against the company that pulled funding on his studies to cure his wife (then in suspended animation) of an undisclosed terminal illness. The resulting seizure of his lab by its big businessman owner (Ferris Boyle of Gothcorp in some versions) ended with Victor Fries being bathed in a cryogenic formula that drastically lowered his body temperature and made it nearly impossible for him to survive exposure to even the mildest environment without the aid of an armored suit.

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Thomas Wayne, the Grittier Batman

Flashpoint Batman symbol found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxHOklbcpas. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

Flashpoint Batman symbol found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxHOklbcpas. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

Happy new book day, everyone! First off, a spoiler warning: in continuing my series of thoughts on Batman as a character more at home in the Marvel Universe than at DC, I am looking at Thomas Wayne this week. This furthers and clarifies one of my earliest posts in this column on the Earth 2 Batman. All of that said, if you have not yet read/watched Flashpoint, Batman: Knight of VengeanceJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, or the New 52 Earth 2 but intend to, you should turn back now unless you don’t care about spoilers.

Thomas Wayne, father of Bruce Wayne, has resurfaced in several forms in recent years as a grittier alternative to his son. Notably, he was showcased as Batman in Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. In this alternate universe, young Bruce is killed in the mugging that originally claims his parents’ lives while Thomas and Martha Wayne emerge unharmed. Wracked with rage and survivor’s guilt, Thomas uses his knowledge and wealth to become his world’s Batman. This iteration of the character, at the time of the Flashpoint story, is far grittier and more violent than most popular depictions of Batman in recent years. In fact, there’s quite a bit of the old, grizzled Frank Miller Batman at play in Thomas Wayne’s conception.

Unlettered cover to Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3 found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wayne. Image courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Dave Johnson.

Unlettered cover to Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3 found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Wayne. Image courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Dave Johnson.

A gun-toting alternative to this character is also featured in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, the recent animated film largely based on the Flashpoint comic. The transition from comic page to screen remains largely faithful to the original version of this character, but he somehow comes across as even darker. Both iterations of this same version of Thomas Wayne are merciless killers who keep a much tighter grip on Gotham City than Bruce ever has. This has not been the only story to use Thomas Wayne in this manner, however.

Though planned during James Robinson’s tenure as writer on the title, the new Batman of the New 52 Earth 2 title has been revealed during Tom Taylor’s run (paired with original artist Nicola Scott) to be the still-living Thomas Wayne of that world. On the night that Joe Chill guns down Thomas and Martha Wayne, Thomas is apparently too stubborn to die. He uses his connections as a doctor at the hospital to which he is rushed to check himself out and go into hiding due to a somewhat convoluted, shady past in which he’s had dealings with the criminals who sent Chill after him.

Leaving young Bruce in Alfred’s hands, Thomas goes underground for years in his quest for vengeance. As he grows older, he develops a dependence on a drug that augments his physical abilities, making him stronger, faster, and more agile than even Bruce with all his advanced training. Though he and Bruce later have a run-in, confirming that Thomas is indeed still alive, Bruce never accepts him back into his life once he sees what Thomas has become. Later, following the deaths of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman at the beginning of Earth 2, Thomas Wayne, now in his 70s, emerges from the shadows to take up his fallen son’s old mantle and protect the world as a Batman far more willing, even preferring, to use lethal violence in his war on crime. Check out Taylor and Scott’s run on Earth 2 to see what happens next.

Image of Earth 2 Batman from http://media.dcentertainment.com/sites/default/files/EARTH2ANN_2_38.jpg. Art from Earth 2 Annual #2 by Robson Rocha.

Image of Earth 2 Batman from http://media.dcentertainment.com/sites/default/files/EARTH2ANN_2_38.jpg. Image courtesy of DC Comics. Art from Earth 2 Annual #2 by Robson Rocha.

That’s it for this week. Let me know your thoughts on Thomas Wayne or anything else related to Batman in the comments below. Confused about the multiple timelines and alternate universes at play in the DC Universe and how they relate to Batman? If so, I may have an idea for the next shift in this column. Come back next week to see what I’ve put together.

My (numerous) comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #14

Grayson #1 (possible review forthcoming)

Injustice: Year Two #7

Justice League United #3

Infinity Man and the Forever People #2

Daredevil #5

Avengers #32

Spider-Man 2099 #1 (possible review forthcoming)

Don’t forget to check out my personal blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts, and feel free to tweet me @quaintjeremy.

What if Batman were a Marvel Character?

Happy new book day, everyone! I hope you are all doing well. Welcome to the beginning of the second six months of this Batman column. Awhile back I asked a popular question: is Batman a Marvel character trapped in the DC Universe? The Internet reacted favorably. This seems to be a popular line of thought, being as even Joss Whedon has joked about it during press conferences. Today, I wish to propose a few thought experiments to determine what Batman might actually be like if he were a Marvel character.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Imagine... Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by the late, great Joe Kubert.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Imagine… Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by the late, great Joe Kubert.

To begin, this doesn’t seem like a very new question in Nerd Culture. Back in 2001, DC actually thumbed its nose at Marvel by putting out a series of stories where they allowed Stan Lee to reimagine most of their major characters as he would have created them. He created a black Batman named Wayne Williams (in keeping with his alliterative naming gimmick) who had more in common with Peter Parker than the original Bruce Wayne. A far cry from a billionaire playboy, Williams was the son of a murdered police officer who swore vengeance on the criminal who took his father from him. Using his knowledge and connections, Williams was able to put together enough of a costume and gadgets to make the Batman comparison legitimate. This iteration of the character actually sounds pretty interesting. I wish DC had done more with him than simply treat him as something to dangle over Marvel’s collective heads as some sort of publishing rivalry joke.

Further, some might argue that there already are characters in the Marvel stable who seem inspired by Batman, and that is certainly a valid point. But are any of them true analogues of the Caped Crusader? Let’s look at a few.

The Internet has already had a field day making all sorts of comparisons between Batman and Tony Stark. Certainly, some things stick—they are both billionaires with very public lives, both are CEOs of their respective family companies (most of the time), both seem pushed into the superhero life, and both are non-powered superheroes who rely on their intellect, wealth, and technology to put them on even footing with godlike peers. In terms of personality, the comparisons tend to dry up; where Stark is a joker and a partier, Bruce Wayne is taciturn and pugnacious.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Knight. Courtesy of Marvel Comics. Art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Knight. Courtesy of Marvel Comics. Art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Personality, methods, and appearance do make the leap when looking at Moon Knight, however. Marc Spector’s cape and cowl, gadgets, and little throwing moons reminiscent of Batarangs all beg comparison, but it is primarily a cosmetic one. Though he also calls the night home and is fairly brutal in his dealings with criminals, Moon Knight is far more mentally unstable than Batman has ever been shown to be. In fact, in recent years, he has been widely defined by his schizophrenia and the advantages granted by having his skill sets divided up among several personalities.

Personally, I believe one of the closest comparisons that can be made with Batman in the Marvel Universe lies with Danny Rand, better known as Iron Fist. Though he possesses mild supernatural powers, he is a billionaire martial arts master defined by early personal tragedy and a desire to fight crime at the street level. Further, and though a looser comparison, he is also a team player, having a rich history of working at Heroes for Hire with such fellow street vigilantes as Luke Cage and Misty Knight.

If questions persist, I may return to this topic in the future. For now, though, what do you all think of the history and comparisons I was able to put together here? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @quaintjeremy. Don’t forget to check out my personal blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts. If you have indie comics work you’d like reviewed, I’m your guy. Feel free to drop us a line.

My numerous comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #13

Grayson #1 (potential review forthcoming)

Earth 2 #25

Avengers #32

Daredevil #0.1

Moon Knight #5

She-Hulk #6

Thor: God of Thunder #24

More on Batman next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. See you all then!