Because every city deserves a Batman.

by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! As promised, this week’s post focuses on one of Grant batman-incorporatedMorrison’s greatest additions to the Batman mythos, Batman, Incorporated, and all the odd little philosophical underpinnings associated with it.

Following his apparent death and subsequent (if you will) dislodgement in time, Bruce Wayne returns to his own era with a fresh idea: if crime is a genuine problem (as we know it is), then the greatest conceivable solution to it is (of course) Batman. Therefore, wherever there is a large concentration of criminals, there must also be a Batman.

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Is Batman a Marvel character trapped in the DC Universe?

by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! Today, I want to examine (in general) Batman’s character development over the years. This will at once be generalized but multi-layered, and is inspired by a comment I’ve seen making the rounds of the hundreds of self-certified comics news outlets around the internet: that Batman is more like a Marvel character, and is effectively trapped in the DC universe.

That said, we need to define what differentiates a Marvel character from a DC character and how Batman might be more like one than the other.

Traditionally, Marvel characters are seen as more realistic and relatable on a human level; they are not the perfect, archetypal god-figures of the Golden Age of DC Comics. They have imperfections and doubts; they make mistakes. Some might argue that whenever a DC character demonstrates an insecurity or fails at something, the writers are effectively emulating Marvel. I’m not so sure this is the case.

Further, DC characters seem too perfect and hokey for some readers. Such fans might cite that Superman is too much of a Boy Scout, for example.

There’s always an edge, some worn-in grime, attached to Marvel characters, whereas DC characters always seem a little too clean and wholesome. Marvel’s characters, it can be argued, often go through more hardship in their development, rendering crime fighters that are not naïve when it comes to the realization that they may have to take lives in order to safeguard the public good.

So, where does Batman fit into all of this?

To say that either of the big two comics companies has a monopoly on any form of characterization is problematic, and possibly outright foolish. Where some fans might look at Wolverine cutting an opponent’s hands off as edgy and cool in a recent Marvel story, others may be compelled to bring up that Batman, in his original appearances in Detective Comics in the late 30s and early 40s, carried a gun and would often throw criminals off of rooftops.

Holding onto the idea of character development, though, this seems to imply that Batman has undergone more and better growth than his fellow DC characters. This is certainly true if Batman is the only character at DC you regularly follow or have any interest in reading.

I’ll be the first to admit I am a huge Batman fan, but I recognize that he isn’t the be-all, end-all of DC. And for those fans who might argue that Marvel is better at putting together morally complex, sympathetic villains (Dr. Doom and Magneto are awesome, after all), I challenge them to read Sinestro, Lex Luthor, or even the Joker (and many, many others) in greater depth.

In short, this has been a bit of a rant about the topic I started out with. I’d like to challenge fans to not fall into the natural sense of discrimination that fanboy tendencies sometimes lead to—be open-minded and willing to try out new things. Be willing to accept that the things you do not personally enjoy still have value. I recognize competing fandoms, but they need not divide us. We’re all nerds here, and we should be proud of it.

My comics picks for this week:

Avengers #27

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

Hawkeye #18

Uncanny Avengers #18.1

Forever Evil #7

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3

Let me know your thoughts on this matter below, and don’t forget to support your local comic shops! As always, tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Azrael and the 1990s

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by Jeremy DeFatta

Happy new book day, everyone! I thought for today we could look at another one of the heirs to the Batman mantle. Pretty much everyone who read comics in the 90s knows (and likely loathes) the character I want to focus on today—Jean-Paul Valley, better known as Azrael.

The 90s were a dark and twisted time in comics. Books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns had been released just a few short years earlier and the industry was still reeling in their wake. However else fans chose to read these books, their dark turn is what stuck around the longest; death, violence, distrust of authority, and loss of identity became some of the most recognizable tropes of the decade’s superhero stories. This is the era that saw the founding of Image Comics, but that also saw many established characters in Marvel and DC broken in various ways. At DC, Superman and Oliver Queen were dead, Hal Jordan was an insane mass-murderer with godlike powers, and Batman had been thoroughly defeated and paralyzed by a new enemy called Bane.

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The Making of a Modern Myth

by Jeremy DeFatta

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. And now, due to the New 52, the latest in a series of line-wide reboots in DC Comics’s main universe, we have a new Detective Comics #27 coming out this week. By the the time this post launches, it will likely already be available for purchase.

I can’t speak to its contents or quality yet, but I’m making it my recommendation for the week. Go out and give it a shot! It contains an immense amount of talent, including current writer Scott Snyder, Identity Crisis writer Brad Meltzer, and an alternate cover by indefatigable grump Frank Miller. See here for more details. Support your local comics shop! (On a side note, the DC in DC Comics stands as an homage to Detective Comics, which means their actual name is Detective Comics Comics … Hmm…).

Shameless plugs aside, I’d like my contributions to this blog to focus (at least early on) on Batman, his history, and his role in popular culture. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be examining not only Bruce Wayne, but other bearers of the mantle over the years, from Azrael, to Damian Wayne, to Terry McGinnis. As with the plug for Detective Comics #27, I will be laying out my recommendations for various comics each week, schedules permitting. With that said, let’s get this show on the road!

Why Batman? Well, why not Batman? It could be argued that Batman is the single most recognizable and financially successful figure to emerge from American comic books, but why is this? In an interview from the late 1980s published in The Many Lives of the Batman (Routledge, 1991), Frank Miller (of The Dark Knight Returns and Year One fame) establishes a theory that Batman’s popularity increases whenever times seem dark, bleak, or like things can’t possibly get better easily. As Miller says, Batman takes the darkness within himself and makes it work for the common good.

Batman is the product of violence and tragedy, and when we find ourselves seemingly surrounded by the same, we look to him for answers. This practice is in no way recent—Batman, like most superheroes coming out of the 1930s and 40s, was created by Jewish writers and artists (in this case Bob Kane and Bill Finger) who were forced to sit idly by, not knowing what fates had befallen friends and family in Europe with the spread of Nazism. Their only recourse was to tell stories of heroes that would go on to become the basis for a new cultural mythology in the United States.

What does this say about subsequent upsurges in Batman’s popularity? Miller himself was one of a handful of people responsible for the 1980s reinvention of Batman into a troubled, violent force for justice in an unjust world constantly on the brink of destruction due to the apparently endless Cold War going on between the West and the Soviet Union. When those fears and predictions did not come true, though, we saw the dissolution of the 80s Batman into dark and campy parodies of himself in the 1990s, which we will discuss in a future entry.

For now, though, let’s focus on the present and the mostly-present. Why did Batman experience an upsurge in popularity over the last decade and a half? We can certainly look at the War on Terror and the 2008 financial crisis, but are there other reasons?

What darkness lingers in our cultural zeitgeist that might require Batman’s fist to sort it out? Please discuss below.

-Part 1 of a weekly series. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @quaintjeremy.

image: dc.wikia.com