Blogging A to Z Day 8: Gotham

#AOkay, there are a lot of comic book shows on the air right now, with more on the way! The one departing the most from its comic source material, however, is probably Gotham. This is a show about the city of Gotham before the Batman – about a young detective Jim Gordon, and his cases. So instead of being a Batman crimefighting show, it’s another police procedural – there’s a lot of those on TV right now as well! They’re trying to tap into two TV themes at once, it would seem.

I used this on another review over at Comparative Geeks.

I used this on another review over at Comparative Geeks.

The case they opened with was the most obvious: the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. With this case, we quickly get to see the corruption at the heart of Gotham city, and see the good cop Gordon at work. However, we also quickly get to see some of the show’s greatest limitations – limitations that I think will make Gotham a show that only has a few seasons in it, unless they make some big changes.

One is the obvious: with young Bruce Wayne in the show, we have placed the show in time. Batman is an adult, even if a young adult – so the show is years from having Batman on it, if it ever does. Which is okay – they seem to have purposefully made this a Batman show without Batman in it. However, they have to keep it an interesting Batman show without Batman in it, because what they don’t have is the option to bail themselves out by having Batman show up!

The other limitation becomes apparent the more of the show you watch. Increasingly, they are adding and including known Batman villains, either in their young incarnations (roughly the same age as young Bruce) or are including them more as adults at Gordon’s age. They run the risk of having included basically every Batman character except Batman within a few seasons – at which point, what do you do?

There’s a deeper problem with this, about Batman lore and some of the bigger-named Batman comics, like The Dark Knight Returns (which our kind host here on Sourcerer reviewed over on Comparative Geeks, and then I did too!). In these comics, as well as in movie representations like The Dark Knight, there is a gnawing doubt, a question – are there all of these crazy super-villains because of Batman, or is there Batman because of them? The answer in the comics tends towards Batman as the cause, like the Joker argues in The Dark Knight. However, the show Gotham is definitely setting up a city where the super villains are all there and waiting, and the city desperately needs a Batman.

A Batman who won’t be showing up to save them…

This post is by @CompGeeksDavid of the Comparative Geeks and regular Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Comparative Geeks!

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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

How Dick Grayson Almost Killed Comics

Detective_Comics_38

by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! Stemming from last week’s piece touching on Batman R.I.P., I would like to shift focus for two or three posts to Bruce Wayne’s original and longest-serving heir apparent, Dick Grayson, the original Robin.

For a few years after Bruce’s apparent death, Dick served as Batman with only a few people who had been in close proximity to the original for extended periods of time (such as Commissioner Gordon and the Joker) able to tell the difference. We will return to this period in the near future, but this post  will focus on Dick Grayson’s early history, and the reasons for his creation and persistence in early Batman stories.

Dick Grayson has been around nearly as long as Batman himself; he first appeared as Robin in Detective Comics #38 in April 1940, making the character 74 years old this month. Much like his legal guardian and adopted father, Bruce Wayne, Dick’s childhood was defined by personal tragedy. At a young age, Dick saw his parents murdered by a crime lord named Tony Zucco, an event that forged a nearly unbreakable connection between Dick and Bruce. Dick would go on to become Bruce’s ward and partner is his war on crime in Gotham City.

Grayson was originally created for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was believed that Batman as a title and as a character was becoming too dark and violent and needed an innocent/light side forced into his character development. As such, he ended up with Robin, one of the first sidekicks in comics, many of whom were created specifically for this sort of purpose. Further, the introduction of Robin into the Batman story was a shrewd marketing ploy. It was believed that children would be more likely to spend their hoarded dimes on comics that featured child characters.

Regardless, many writers over the years have left their stamp on Dick/Robin and what he means within the Batman mythos. Some have seen Robin as a sort of second chance for Bruce. Although he could not save Dick’s parents, Bruce tries to give him a good, privileged life with strong parental figures in it, with Bruce and Alfred acting as father and grandfather or in some capacities as dual fathers. Dick also represents Bruce’s lost innocence and that such innocence can be preserved in others, being as Dick remains fairly lighthearted even after his own tragedy.

And then there was Fredric Wertham, the Satan of comic books.

Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1954) craze very nearly killed off comics as a medium. He either honestly believed or desired the publicity enough to espouse the belief that comic books were filled with all sorts of subversive messages aimed at corrupting the youth of America. One of his prime targets was the relationship between Batman and Robin, one he viewed as laced with homoerotic and pedophiliac undertones.

Even today, a simple Internet search will turn up all sorts of websites aimed at proving whether or not Batman is gay, as though it matters. On this note (if not many others), I side with Frank Miller in his assertion that Batman is far too busy and absorbed in his war on crime to even have that much of a sex life. But, as Miller says, perhaps the great gay Batman story will emerge from a future generation comfortable enough with it to not simply shoehorn it into stories otherwise devoid of sexual content.

Returning to Wertham, it really is unsettling how close the world of popular culture came to losing an entire medium, or at least seeing it stripped down to almost nothing. Imagine if the only movies coming out were all family-friendly Disney/Pixar animated musicals. To some people, that might sound all right, even preferable, but would it still feel that way after a few years?

The comics industry effectively neutered itself by establishing the Comics Code Authority, which was a brand of self-censorship aimed at getting Wertham’s witch hunt off its collective back. As such, true freedom of expression and narrative evolution in comics were held back for decades. Where once comics held something for everyone—romance, fantasy, science fiction, detective/crime stories, superheroes, war tales, westerns, even horror—they were reduced to only stories appropriate enough for young children to enjoy, a stigma still believed in by many today. And so much of this stemmed from a young boy named Dick Grayson.

I hope you have all enjoyed this mixture of history, character analysis, and opinion. Whether you did or not, please let me know your thoughts below. Next week, I will focus on Dick growing up, entering his rebellious phase, and striking out on his own to become Nightwing.

Don’t forget to support your local comic shops; I guarantee they carry lots of old and new stories about Dick Grayson. Tweet me @quaintjeremy.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #1

Daredevil #1.50

Nightcrawler #1

All-New X-Men #25

East of West #11

image: Detective Comics #38 Cover, Art by Bob Kane (pencils) and Jerry Robinson (inks), Apr. 1940. Via Wikimedia.

The Strange Case of Batman of Zur-En-Arrh

Zurenarrh

by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! Today’s Batman post was inspired by a recent Twitter conversation with fellow contributor Will Hohmeister following the first of my Joker posts. It will delve a bit into Batman’s psyche and examine one of his backup personalities, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

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