It is true! Shipper Spotlight is not gone, but has returned from a brief hiatus. Since September wrapped up the so-called ‘0-Month,’ it is only right that I focus on this batch of books. I was taken by two books in particular, mainly due to their blatant dissimilarity. For this Shipper Spotlight I will be focusing on the familial relationships present in Batman and Robin #0 and Batgirl #0.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #0
Let me tell you a story about a boy named Achilles.
Achilles was the son of the nymph Thetis and Peleus, the king of the Myrmidons. According to the ‘Achilleid,’ written by Statius in the 1st century AD, when Achilles was born Thetis tried to make him immortal, by dipping him in the river Styx. However, he was left vulnerable at the part of the body by which she held him, his heel.
The future greatness of Achilles had already been foretold to Thetis, and this was one way that she was able to protect him and his legacy…for a little while, at least. This story was brought to my mind as I saw Damian dipped in water by his mother and then practically be baptized with blood. A baptism is a very personal and emotional activity which involves the past, present, and future of the individual that is being baptized. The fact that Talia is the one baptizing her son portrays the closeness of their relationship, while the fact that he is baptized in blood more so than water foreshadows Damian’s deadly future.
Let me tell you a second story about a young man named Alexander.
When Alexander was ten years old, a trader from Thessaly brought Philip (Alexander’s father) a horse, which he offered to sell for thirteen talents. The horse refused to be mounted and Philip ordered it away. Alexander however, detecting the horse’s fear of its own shadow, asked to tame the horse, which he eventually managed. Plutarch stated that Philip, overjoyed at this display of courage and ambition, kissed his son tearfully, declaring: “My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedon is too small for you”, and bought the horse for him. Philip was greatly concerned with giving Alexander the greatest education possible, in the end choosing Aristotle as his tutor. Alexander’s mother, Olympias, also had a great amount of influence over Alexander and influenced others in order to get the best for her son.
The fact that Damian hears many stories of Alexander in his childhood is fitting, as Damian’s childhood mimics Alexander’s. Damian is trained, mind, body, and soul, by tutors, but mostly by his mother. Talia’s methods seem intense, perhaps cruel, but even in their fights it is clear how much Talia loves him. I think that in a way, Talia wanted to keep Damian to herself. She knows that once Damian learns who his father is he will go searching for him and she may lose him. I can just imagine her heart simultaneously filling and breaking when she sees her son in the bat-cowl. Damian must fight and defeat his mother in order to learn of his father, and in so doing, he will also finally be a man and will leave his mother.
This brings me to my final story about a boy named Theseus.
Aegeus, one of the primordial kings of Athens, found a bride, Aethra who was the daughter of king Pittheus at Troezen, a small city southwest of Athens. After Aethra became pregnant, Aegeus decided to return to Athens. Before leaving, however, he buried his sandals and sword under a huge rock and told Aethra that when their son grew up, he should move the rock, if he were heroic enough, and take the tokens for himself as evidence of his royal parentage. Thus Theseus was raised in his mother’s land. When Theseus grew up and became a brave young man, he moved the rock and recovered his father’s tokens. His mother then told him the truth about his father’s identity and that he must take the sword and sandals back to king Aegeus to claim his birthright. Young, brave, and ambitious, Theseus decided to go alone by the land route and defeated a great many bandits along the way.
Damian defeating Talia in order to find out about his father is just like Theseus lifting that great rock.
This is possibly the greatest sign of a mother’s love: allowing her son to leave her in order to achieve the greatness he is destined for. We see all of this with no need of words in the final panel, and we know that Damian will find a kingdom ‘great enough for his ambitions.’
BATGIRL #0 (and a little Batman #0)
To the other end of the spectrum we go.
In the beginning of Batgirl, we read Babs speaking of her father as her white knight and pinning up newspaper articles of his daily heroism. Babs admits that he probably influenced her into being the person that she is today. Can you blame me for thinking that Batgirl #0 was going to be a father-daughter story? How disappointing to not see anymore interactions between the two.
One of the things that I love the most about Batgirl: Year One is the relationship between Jim and Babs. It is caring, defined by mutual admiration, and perhaps one of the best parent-child relationships portrayed in the comics (why do you think Joker used her to get at Jim in ‘Killing Joke?’). One of the reasons Babs is the person she is is because of her father, just as Babs says in Batgirl #0. Why is that not shown?
In fact, we seem to see more of this relationship in James Tynion IV’s Batman #0 backup, ‘Tomorrow.’ Here we see Jim bring a younger Babs to the roof of the GCPD building, lighting the Bat-signal and explaining to her why Batman is important. No, this is not a personal interaction, per se, but the sheer fact that he is talking to her about such an important thing in his life, and sharing such an experience, is extremely telling that perhaps there is hope that we will see their close relationship again.
As sad as it is for me to admit, there is just not enough on-panel Jim-Babs time to get back to the emotional and depth that the relationship had before the new 52. I can only hope for the future.
That’s it for this month’s installment of Shipper Spotlight. Stay tuned later in October for a special Halloween Shipper Spotlight which proves that even ghouls (or zombies) find love!
Posted by Stella Bowman