Wordless Wednesday 10

Image

© 2014

© 2014

Six Months of Batman: Batman’s Six Masters

Happy new book day, everyone! This week marks the six month anniversary of my Batman column here at Sourcerer, so I thought I would follow the themes of sixes and write up a little bit on what is known about Bruce Wayne’s six masters who trained him during his travels around the world before he became Batman. It took quite a bit of digging to find what information I have on these characters, and I have to include the disclaimer that some of my findings may no longer be canonical since the onset of the New 52. In fact, there are many possible masters out there who could be the six Batman himself admits to training under, and I will attempt to organize them by theme.

From http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/File:Henri_Ducard_002.jpg. Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Patrick Gleason.

From http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/File:Henri_Ducard_002.jpg. Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Patrick Gleason.

There is one master who is set in stone across all of continuity at this point, and that is Henri Ducard. Depending on which version of continuity you consult, however, Ducard is either a hard-edged French bounty hunter who taught the young Bruce Wayne detective skills, or a brutal French hit man who taught Bruce what he called the art of manhunting. Either way, Ducard is responsible for many of the detective skills Bruce Wayne acquires in his journey. On a side note, Liam Neeson originally introduces himself as Ducard when he first meets Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.

There are several other teachers that have been revealed during Scott Snyder’s run on Batman in the New 52, and those include a bank robber who taught Bruce tactical driving (Bruce knocks him unconscious and leaves him for the police after he learns all he can from him) and a trap master who taught Bruce aspects of escape artistry. In pre-New 52 continuity, much of the latter skill set, along with ventriloquism, sleight-of-hand, and stage showmanship, were taught to Bruce by magician Giovanni Zatara, father of Zatanna.

With advanced detective skills, Batmobile operation, and stage magic out of the way, there are still several skill sets to look through—namely the sciences, tracking abilities, and martial arts. Admittedly, it’s unclear who many of Bruce’s science teachers were, but there must have been several. He demonstrates advanced knowledge of forensic pathology, chemistry, and mechanical engineering, among many other disciplines. It is likely a lot of this knowledge was accumulated during Bruce’s time trying to find the right fit at a university.

In terms of tracking abilities, Bruce sought out a diverse array of instructors, including groups of tribesmen from South Africa. In the first volume of the original run of Legends of the Dark Knight, “Shaman,” a young Bruce Wayne travels to Alaska to study under a world-renowned hunter named Willie Doggett. It is also during his travels in Alaska that Bruce goes on a vision quest which helps set him on his later path in becoming Batman.

From http://neurodojo.blogspot.com/2013/02/becoming-batman-academic-edition.html. Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by David Mazzucchelli.

From http://neurodojo.blogspot.com/2013/02/becoming-batman-academic-edition.html. Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by David Mazzucchelli.

Batman’s martial arts masters are certainly many, and various iterations of his continuity list several standout examples. Included are Yoru-sensei of Japan (featured most prominently in Batman: The Animated Series), the immortal Master of the mystical city of Nanda Parbat, and Kirigi (a ninjutsu master retired to the mountains of North Korea for whatever reason). Older continuity also included such characters as boxer Ted Grant (also known as Wildcat) of the Justice Society of America, entities that no longer exist in the New 52.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra's_al_Ghul. Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Cliff Chiang.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra’s_al_Ghul. Courtesy of DC Comics. Art by Cliff Chiang.

Though it is unclear how much Bruce learned from him, Ra’s al Ghul must also be included in the list of martial artists Bruce Wayne encountered during his travels. Some stories, such as Batman Begins and the Arkham Origins video game, actually show Bruce being instructed by the League of Assassins/League of Shadows for a time before parting ways with them over ideological differences. Regardless, Bruce did encounter Talia al Ghul and father Damian during his journey, and it is likely he encountered and learned from Talia’s father. Some hints given as to Bruce’s New 52 past suggest this, so for the purposes of this post, Ra’s is one of Bruce’s six (or many more) masters.

That’s it for this week. What do you think of the information I was able to collect and relate? I’ll admit that thinking of all the various people Batman studied under was partly responsible for the idea that spawned my posts looking at real people with Batman as a critical lens. I hope to do more of those posts in the future.

In other news, this week is the 25th anniversary of the release of Tim Burton’s Batman film in 1989. Check out my recent review of it to see my thoughts on its relevance and how I feel it has held up over time. And don’t forget that this year is the 75th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance, the main reason this column even exists. Go out and support your local comic shops!

I want to thank you all for reading these posts for six months now. I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on Batman and have found some of this accumulated knowledge informative, even helpful. I’ll be back next week with more on the Caped Crusader.

My numerous comic picks for this week:

Batman #32

Batman Eternal #12

Batman Beyond Universe #11

Superman #32 (review forthcoming)

Sinestro #3 (review forthcoming)

Justice League #31

New Avengers #20

Uncanny Avengers #21

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6

Tweet me @quaintjeremy and be sure to check out my blog, quaintjeremy’s thoughts.

Review: Sinestro #2 (Spoilers!)

Hello, everyone! Today I’ll review Cullen Bunn and Dale Eaglesham’s Sinestro #2. This contains some spoilers, so be forewarned.

Sinsestro2

Continuing from the conflicts set up in the first issue, Sinestro spends a lot of his time this month reasserting his control over the lantern corps he founded. With the Sinestro Corps under Arkillo‘s control, it has grown, but not in a way Sinestro sees as being worthy of his ideals. As Sinestro states, he created his army to establish order and pursue justice across the universe using methods the Green Lanterns’ Guardians had no stomach for—namely, fear. Arkillo’s recruitment of untrustworthy criminals into the fold does nothing for this mission, leaving the Sinestro Corps a bloated force of bullies and murderers in need of guidance. Much as he has in the past, Sinestro demonstrates that the yellow rings he created for his corps will ultimately answer to him over their own wielders, and he gives Arkillo the trashing of his life.

After, Bunn sets up an interesting scene between Sinestro and his daughter, Soranik Natu, who had been kidnapped last issue to be used as leverage by Arkillo (this doesn’t go as he planned). Soranik, much like everyone in her generation on Korugar, grew up despising the tyrant Sinestro and still has no love for him after the revelation of her true parentage several years earlier. It appears their relationship may finally be on the mend once Sinestro reveals his ultimate goal of rescuing what survivors remain from the destroyed Korugar and settling them on a new homeworld. We will have to see how this continues to develop as the series takes shape. I would actually like to see Soranik rise to her birthright as Sinestro’s heir and become a terrifying dark queen in the process.

Bunn also introduces several new members of the Sinestro Corps that do meet Sinestro’s personal criteria, namely Dez Trevius and Rigen Kale. I am interested to see what he eventually does with these new, younger characters in the title. So far, they have certainly proven themselves loyal and capable in Sinestro’s eyes, which probably means a betrayal is coming soon. Good thing Sinestro is rarely caught off guard and hardly ever unprepared. As he tells Lyssa Drak, his closest friend and adviser at this point, he doesn’t even trust her. Why would he trust anyone else?

All of this is framed by an early appearance of the characters who are becoming the main antagonists of the story, the heads of the religion of anti-emotion taking hold across the universe. As I have seen mentioned elsewhere, these beings are becoming known as the Pale Vicars, which certainly shows off Bunn’s British identity. I am eager to see how they factor into the larger story being constructed here, especially since they are now aware of Sinestro and the fearful power he wields.

Side Notes and Further Recommendations

A good place to start with background readings to get caught up on Sinestro is to dive straight into the Sinestro Corps War vols. 1 and 2. I’ll recommend more next review.

I was pleased to see this issue contained a few preview pages for Superman #32, the beginning of Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr.’s run on the title. This is appropriate given Johns’ long tenure writing Sinestro in Green Lantern. I highly recommend catching the beginning of this new era in Superman’s ongoing story beginning this month.

As I mentioned in my last review, Sinestro is also currently factoring rather heavily into Tom Taylor’s Injustice: Gods Among Us series. As I have said several times before, it is certainly worth a look. If interior artwork is any giveaway, Sinestro may also become an important player in the new digital-first Infinite Crisis series written by Dan Abnett that started recently. I’ll be returning to this title for a future review.

Finally, I strongly recommend checking out the recent Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice, both of which are available in their entirety on Netflix. It is a shame they were both cut short too soon. Sinestro does not have a strong presence in Green Lantern, but he does appear in one episode and is voiced by Ron Perlman, which works wonderfully. Go and give these series a shot; I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

That’s it for this review. What do you all think so far? Who among you is also reading this title? Do you find my rundown fair? I’m definitely sticking with the series for now. In fact, come back within the next month for my review of issue #3. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Image: Unlettered Sinestro #2 cover by Dale Eaglesham. All characters and likenesses thereof copyright DC Comics or original authors, etc.

Review: Batman Returns

Happy new book day, everyone! Continuing from last week, for this post I will recount some of my revised and expanded notes I took while watching 1992’s Batman Returns for the first time in nearly a decade. As most of you already know, the film was directed by Tim Burton and stars Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Walken. Here are my thoughts and observations, grouped  around a few specific themes.

The Aesthetic

The look and feel of Gotham are fairly different from the first movie. Whereas the previous movie seemed strangely timeless, this entry in the series is set around Christmas with a seemingly bottomless, thin, clean layer of snow everywhere. The opening shots of the movie really work in Tim Burton’s quasi-German Impressionistic signature style, which was largely absent from the previous movie.

This style is rarely deviated from for the remainder of the film. One would think that the whole “world of eternal night” look would work for Gotham, but I actually found it distracting. Further, the statues in Gotham’s central square seem to evoke both Soviet propaganda posters and the cover of Atlas Shrugged, which shouldn’t be possible.

Side Characters

There are a lot more minor characters this time around, but the only one of serious note (and arguably a major character in his own right) is Christopher Walken’s Max walkenschreckShreck, a character unique to the film. An unscrupulous, cowardly businessman and murderer, Shreck is the real villain of the story. In fact, his various plots account for the majority of the conflict in the movie. (On a side note, is the actor playing Shreck’s son purposely mimicking Walken’s signature accent or does he also talk like that? Is there an entire part of the country that talks like that?)

Batman/Bruce Wayne

This movie makes it look like Bruce Wayne just sits around brooding inside Wayne Manor until the Batsignal goes off. On that note, the big automated Batsignals surrounding the manor and lighting up the entire grounds seem to be a bit too obvious. I do still like Keaton’s performance, and there is a strong sense of continuity with the previous film because of it.

Another detail I could not help but notice is that Batman continues his killing streak. I counted four victims this time around, but there could have been more. All of the kills were from the Penguin’s creepy circus folk—the two guys on the hood of the Batmobile who get thrown into a burning building and don’t come back out, the fire-breather who gets roasted by the Batmobile’s rocket engine, and the strongman performer that Batman puts a bomb on and drops into the sewer. I would also argue that Batman is at least partially culpable in the Penguin’s death because his manipulated bats cause him to fall and acquire mortal injuries.

Batman’s technology also enjoys more of a spotlight, especially the guided, self-propelled Batarang he uses to knock out several circus folk. I enjoyed the scene of Bruce working on repairing the Batmobile himself after it is hacked and hijacked by the Penguin’s henchmen, however they managed to do that. How they managed to get its blueprints in the first place is a bit of a plot hole.

Catwoman/Selina Kyle

I enjoyed Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in this role, but the origin for Catwoman presented here is odd and has no basis in the source catwomanpenguinmaterial. Sadly, it is also clear that this is the basis for the later Halle Berry flop. I find the scene of the newly risen Selina destroying all of the innocent things (stuffed animals, a dollhouse, friendly messages, etc.) in her apartment saddening, even heartbreaking, and I’m not entirely sure why. Her breaking the neon sign in her apartment that says “Hello There” so that it says “Hell here” is quite chilling. I may come back to this version of the character for close reading in a future post.

Burton’s fondness for women’s shoes demonstrated through Kim Basinger’s character in the first movie is continued here. There are a couple of scenes of Pfeiffer removing her shoes or hunting them after misplacing them that are entirely immaterial to the story itself, and once she becomes Catwoman many shots of her either begin or settle at her boots. There is even the moment where the Penguin vigorously sniffs at her boot when she holds him at bay during their first true meeting. Again, this doesn’t bother me, but I couldn’t help but notice and comment on it after the last post.

On a side note, I wonder if the scene where Bruce and Selina dance and speak at a masquerade ball was the inspiration for a similar scene in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, since I can’t recall a similar scene of any character-defining importance from the source material. Can any of you help me out on this one?

The Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot

The Penguin is one of those rare Batman villains that doesn’t have a huge amount of origin story material in the canon outside his name and deformity, so DeVito’s take on reubensbatmanthe character is as valid as any. Also, Oswald Cobblepot’s father is played briefly by Paul Reubens, which makes the entire situation creepier for me. I find the Penguin compelling and tragic despite his being genuinely unlikable in many ways, none of which have anything to with his appearance.

That said, the Penguin’s early years, as they are glossed over during the course of the film, seem odd and contradictory. They are at home in a Tim Burton story, but not in a Batman story. For example, young Oswald is abandoned, ends up in Gotham’s sewers, and is raised by a hidden penguin civilization. Later, he ends up in a circus outside the city. That’s all the explanation given for how he recruited his gang.

I don’t like being one of those people who agonizes over details of realism in a work like this, but there are problems here I just can’t overlook. Most of them simply come from a lack of explanation, such as why are penguins living in Gotham’s sewers? It can’t possibly be cold enough for them year-round. And if he spent the first years of his life among penguins, why isn’t Cobblepot more like a penguin version of Tarzan? I almost feel like that was Burton’s intention here (Cobblepot is a wealthy child raised by animals, after all) but it didn’t come through at all.

Other problems in the Penguin’s story come from a failure to explain situations satisfactorily, such as when the Penguin off-handedly remarks on how people always bring produce to speeches when he gets pelted with it. No. Just no. That’s not good enough.

Final Thoughts

In all, I enjoyed this movie, but I have more problems with it than I do with the ’89 Batman. This is odd to me because, when I was younger, I actually thought this one was the better film. Small complaints aside, the acting, directing, and cinematography all work, and though these characters may not fully resemble other established versions, they work within the bounds of Burton’s version of Batman’s world.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #9

Earth 2 #24

Moon Knight #4

Thanks for reading. Do you agree with my assessment of Batman Returns? Do you take issue with this review? What did I miss? What did I get wrong? What did I get right? What are your own thoughts on this film? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me @quaintjeremy.