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Episode 228


The gang is all here to discuss everything announced at Comic Con International as well as cover anything that happened in before or after the convention. We cover All-Star Batman #12, Batman #27 and Detective Comics #961. IT is a quick one this time around as Game of Thrones’ new season is upon us. Be sure to leave your thoughts about the episode below!

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  • Zach

    Before I burden you all with this belabored series of thoughts and questions, I just want to say how much I appreciate the Comic-Cast and the insight each of you bring to the show. I’ve recently started reading the Batman universe books again after several years of neglect and have enjoyed listening along as I process my thoughts on the continuing evolution of the character.

    Some impressions regarding Batman #27 and Episode #228’s commentary:

    I’m not sure that I share the opinion that King’s characterization of Batman suggested a specifically jaded character, or a character who doesn’t believe in the idea of self-rehabilitation or re-invention like was suggested in Episode #228. I don’t see where that was expressed in any form. If anything, Tom King’s entire tenure on the main title has been negotiating the various phases that Bruce Wayne has undergone a re-invention of self. Whether it be his relationship with Gotham and Gotham Girl (the role of a hero), addressing Bruce’s attempted suicide earlier in life (one’s value of their own life), or the current state of the relationship with Selina (the desire to share and receive love). All of these interpersonal arcs have been about Bruce’s struggle to define himself outside of the cowl and beyond the tragedy that defined his childhood.

    However, these themes have also existed outside of Batman himself: “I Am Bane” is entirely about the cultivation of a persona to confront the atrocities set before one’s self, and King’s juxtaposing of Batman and Bane was meant to observe the similarities and differences in their paths. We are seeing the same questions being raised in “The War Of Jokes & Riddles” with Kite Man, but also The Joker, who is presently confronted with an “identity crisis” himself. The storyline began with The Joker’s inability to find anything worth laughing about. I think this detail is imperative to understanding his current relationship with Charles Brown. The Joker is uncertain of the “what” and “how” in cultivating his future presence as a villain in Gotham City, which is mirrored in Charles Brown’s own sense of self, which he is being forced to confront as he serves as a strategic pawn in a three-way chess game between Batman, The Joker, and The Riddler.

    I think because the war itself in “The War Of Jokes & Riddles” is more of a foreboding background element to King’s story arc, the severity and psychological toll it has taken on Batman has been underestimated in King’s realization. We know Batman is being violently thrusted into an extreme decision, we assume this will be Bruce’s confession to Selina that is seemingly serving as the backbone of this entire story. But perhaps King hasn’t expressed this trajectory with the most lucidity.

    On the notion that Kite-Man is simply lucky, here are Tom King’s thoughts on Kite-Man:

    “To me, he’s Sisyphus, the guy who rolls the rock up the hill only to have it fall back down and crush him. I was interested in a character like that and how he could possibly survive in Gotham City.”

    In my opinion, this same description could also be applicable to Bruce Wayne, The Joker, The Riddler, Two-Face, Clayface, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain (for Don), etc. Depending on which origin you choose to adhere to, nearly every character in the Batman universe is defined by their chosen method of survival. They choose to become a hero or they choose to become a villain. What isn’t chosen are the circumstances that motivate their decision. We are seeing Kite-Man undergo the same decision. He’s thrust into a conflict without agency, his son has been poisoned, his life has been threatened, he’s becoming an alcoholic, and we are observing the how/why he chooses to become the super-villain. In this context, the reveal of Kite-Man is not of moment of excitement or victory, but of great tragedy. We are watching another character fall victim to the tragic circumstances of their life and make a poor decision.

    (…)

    I would even go so far to argue that the entire “Rebirth” period of the Batman universe has been about re-establishing identities, re-inventing characterizations, and rehabilitating continuities that were ignored or abandoned during the “New 52” period.

    This long-winded rant leads me to ask a question that I think continuously percolates on the comic-cast but is never directly address, which is: What defines the character of Bruce Wayne? What defines the character of Batman? How do these definitions change over time and history? Should they change? What is essential? What is disposable? What can be augmented?

    So often, the criticisms each of you have regarding a Batman story stem from these questions and how each of you reconcile and answer these questions for yourselves. I’m fascinated by this because what we’re are really saying is: Here is why I love this character. Here is how I relate to this character. Here is what I admire or despise about this character.

    Perhaps the greatest thematic conceit in Grant Morrison’s tenure on the Bat-books was his treating Batman’s publication history as the character’s biography. This was great because it was all inclusive, it said that Batman is anything and everything. He is gothic and he also is modern. He is camp and he is grit. All of these elements can exist simultaneously and the essence of the character won’t be betrayed because the character’s essence has infinite possibilities. I personally think that is what makes serialized fiction wonderful, is its continuous evolution, that nothing ever has to be fixed or static. Batman’s costume can be black, then blue, then gray, then purple, etc. I enjoy the variations that are created by writers and artists. But not everyone loves comics or Batman for those same reasons, therefore I ask: What defines Batman for each of you? Why do you love the character? Is there a definitive rendition of the character for each of you? And if so, what is it?

    (…)

    I’ll look forward to each of your responses.

  • Some useless trivia as to whether the comic strip “Peanuts” exists in the DC Comics Universe: I can’t speak to Rebirth or the New 52, but there was a take-off on the strip back in the mid 1970s. The Joker had a short-lived monthly comic book and in issue #3, the Joker had an amnesia stricken Creeper (whom he had captured) go and kidnap cartoonist Sandy Saturn (who drew the comic strip “Cashews” – get it? – that had a Charlie Brown-esque character with a striped shirt and all) for a ransom of one million dollars. Any similarity to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz ended there though. While Schulz seemed kind and timid in interviews I saw, the Sandy Saturn character was a bit of a grouch. The Creeper did eventually get his memory back and apprehended the Joker at the end of the story. I’ll post a tweet response to the podcast with a pic of an example of the Cashews comic strip.

    Great show as always and thanks for mentioning Batgirl to Oracle and Bat Books for Beginners!

  • Bill Heuer

    Thanks again for another great podcast. Ed, I know you love Snyder (Death of the Family vote here!), BUT I think even Dustin’s past comments about his control over DC universe continuity has gotten a little out of hand with Dark Knights Metal. Dark Knights Metal is already off to a troubling start with Snyder is trying to make all Meta-humans origin due to Nth metal in their blood. It takes away from many of the best superheroes’ origin stories. To say that someone is special just because they have this substance in their blood limits a lot of interesting origins and frames these origins now in a very boring light. I know he’s one of their all star writers but this just seems way too much control that DC is giving him. Unless this story is out of continuity? Has that been confirmed?
    Regarding the potential marriage of Bruce and Selina, is anyone else hoping that, following their marriage, Tomasi could take on the Batman title? I feel that his amazing writing when it comes to superheroes’ and their family dynamics is unparalleled among DC’s current writers. I’ve loved what Tomasi and Gleason did on Batman and Robin as well as currently on Superman.

    • Zach

      I do wonder though; What is the superior alternative to not supporting Snyder and other creators in their excursions with continuity? Are you willing to trust the judgements of editorial and executives over the creative teams of writer/artists? Continuity is only what it is because of the contributions made by creators. What defines continuity is an uninterrupted progression, not a status quo. Therefore, continuity HAS to constantly be in-flux, re-inventing itself, and it is to the benefit of the greater universe if it’s progression in the contemporary moment is overseen by a single creator. There are very few examples of any form of art that benefited being made by committee. One could argue that DC’s trust in Snyder has everything to do with how marketable his content is rather than its literary value, but that cynicism undermines Snyder’s talents as a creator because it assumes his worth is entirely grounded in the profit he produces and not his craft and the longevity of his ideas. However, I think it’s presumptuous to assume that he has all that much “control” to begin with, because corporate publishers never simply allow one writer carte blanche, even when profits are soaring in the direct market. Regardless of my own opinion of Snyder’s tenure as the architect of the Batman universe, I do think as readers, we should support auteur-driven comics at the corporate publishers, even if we ourselves don’t particularly respond to a single creator’s vision at the time.

      It is my understanding that “Dark Nights: Metal” is within continuity. I will ask though; Why does the Nth Metal bloodline change the origin of the characters? I don’t see why the origin stories themselves would be any different simply because of the presence of Nth Metal in the bloodstream. Maybe I’m missing something?

  • Bill Heuer

    “Superior alternative to not supporting Snyder and other creators”? Not sure I follow your question. Valid point about creatives needing to push boundaries in storytelling but they also can’t have free reign in a continuity-based universe unless the universe is, itself, being rewritten or reworked. If a creator has a great story to tell then.just make it an Elseworlds story (ex. Superman Red Son, Gotham by Gaslight) where the creator can tell an awesome story and have the overall disclaimer that that particular story isn’t affecting anything really happening in the DC universe.

    All this being said, I’m a big fan of Snyder and have enjoyed his adjustments to Batman’s current continuity in the New 52 but he is now leading a story that is Batman-centric and Bat-themed with a wide reach across the DC universe that is essentially saying that someone like Barry Allen, for example, only became the Flash because he has Nth metal in his blood. Doesn’t this take away from his amazing origin of being this ‘chicken or egg” causality between him and the Speed Force? It makes some of these origins less interesting now knowing that anyone with this metal within them can be super like the pantheon of amazing heroes of DC.