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The Year of the Batmen: Part 2


Batman in the JLA

 

In this, the second entry of my “Year of the Batmen” series, I am going to discuss the Dick Grayson Batman and the dynamic of his entry into the newly reconstituted Justice League of America.

 

For the longest time the JLA was led by the holy trinity of the DC pantheon, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The Batman character, specifically embodied by Bruce Wayne, was often seen as the intellectual leader of the JLA and for the most part its chief tactician. The Wayne Batman was renowned for planning for every contingency, for being several steps ahead his foes and for never being caught off guard. This served him well in the JLA as that unit was often comprised by disparate heroes, some with much less experience than Wayne but often possessing much more physical power and or abilities.

 

Because Wayne often dealt with these heroes of different or greater qualities, who were used to pursuing causes of their own, he often clashed with them as they chafed under his authority. And because this Batman did not suffer fools well and was often harsh and impatient he often clashed with his team mates off times coming to physical blows. The most distinct rivalry often came from Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, who was essentially an inter-galactic policeman and who quite often resented taking orders from Batman who basically was the guardian just of one city.

 

As most readers know now the Bruce Wayne Batman is no longer on the scene. He has been succeeded by his foremost protege, Dick Grayson. For years Dick toiled under the shadow of the Bat as Robin and is only now getting up to speed as Gotham’s premier crime fighter. In the JLA, as written by James Robinson, we see a different personality to the Batman. It’s something I call the “Winick Model” after Judd Winick, who took up the writing for the Batman series as Grayson became Batman. This particular take on Batman found the caped crusader to be more open and visible. No more lurking in the shadows or avoiding the spotlight. He even smiles.

 

Fortunately, Dick Grayson is no neophyte when it comes to the team concept. Something the original could not claim. As Nightwing he fought along side the Teen Titans some of which now comprise this new JLA. The Teen Titans however could be seen, unfairly or otherwise, as a second tier unit. What’s different now are the expectations of being the Batman and serving in the JLA which has historically been seen as Earth’s mightiest heroes and its foremost protectors. So how does Robinson integrate this new Batman into this new progression? By having Grayson coordinate his first major action with the team.

 

In JLA #42 the team is confronted with a rogue Atlas and it takes all the group members to bring him down. Each heroic character is allowed an internal dialog that speaks to the reader on how they feel it is to be part of the team. Grayson comes off as a bit callow. He seems surprised to be even included. He says, “My league, me as Batman” as if he can’t quite comprehend that he is there. Something the Wayne Batman would not think even to himself. As the battle rages Dick also has to deal with the fact that two of his team mates have had an intimate relationship with him. Something the Wayne Batman would certainly sneer at. Grayson calls out instructions to Donna Troy and Starfire and they execute his plan perfectly and when the coup de grace has to be applied, it is Dick who orders Green Lantern into play. Jordan thinks it is “weird” taking orders from Dick as does Grayson giving orders to the Green Lantern.

 

So that part of the dynamic stays true. Batman calls the shots while the others follow, trusting that Batman will know what is best for the team and the consummation of the outcome to be without flaw. The major difference is the hint of doubt we see from each principle even though it does not affect their performance. At least for now.

 

Additionally, let’s study how this particular Batman is drawn for this story. Mark Bagley does the pencils. Inks by Hunter, Rapmund, and Glapion with colors by Pete Pantazis. This new JLA Batman is not very threatening. He wears the blue and gray costume as opposed to the more Gothic black and gray as drawn by Tony Daniel. Therefore this Batman is depicted to less of a loner and more of a team player. Even the cowl as drawn by Bagley has a less threatening look to it as the ears are minimized and therefore less frightening. This Batman will not threaten the team dynamic with arrogance or force of will and is drawn to reflect that.

 

As constituted now the new JLA Batman is a bit green behind those nominal ears. Unsure, untested in his new team dynamic. Will he be allowed to grow in this new structure? Will doubt set in if his next plan goes awry? The original Batman led without question. Will the Grayson version be allowed the same luxury? And what of the return of Bruce Wayne? As Dick becomes more comfortable in this role will he want to let it go? There are many questions to be answered as the Dick Grayson Batman not only fills out the most iconic of roles but also steps into the rarefied air of the holiest of trinities of the DC pantheon.

 

Next up for the Year of the Batmen, a sneak peek into the art of the Batmen as drawn by Daniel, Gary Frank, Rags Morales and Frank Quitely amongst others.

 

Posted by Dark Knight Dave

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