Batman day is here again, a chance for everyone to share their love for the dark knight detective. Comic readers, movie goers and Saturday morning cartoon watchers all have a favourite Batman memory. A moment in their eyes that solidifies him as one of the greatest characters of all time.
Punching His Ward
Batman’s long and troubled career as Gotham’s protector has been supported by a wide array of wards, allies and actual blood relations. This collection of sidekicks is the closest resemblance to friends and family Batman has. Each in their own way they define him. Perhaps the most recognisable face in Batman’s supporting crusade on crime is Dick Grayson the first Robin and then later Nightwing. He has even served time under the famous cowl himself. Dick and Bruce have a string bond, they know each others strengths and weaknesses. They know when they will have each others back. It is a trust that most of the time goes both ways… Except in this instance. In the early days of DC’s New52 Scott Snyder invented a brilliant new adversary for Batman. The Court of Owls, a secret organization who had been orchestrating events in Gotham for years. the Court use assassins called Talons to do their bidding. It is revealed a young Dick Grayson was inline to become a Talon before the events that led him to being Batman’s ward. Furious Batman has kept this from him, Dick storms into the Bat cave seeking answers. Before he can exhume any more anger Batman swiftly cold-cocks the former Robin square in the jaw. It is a shocking moment, so shocking in fact it is covered from both view points in Batman #7 and Nightwing #7. Sure they have had their differences over the years and Batman has kept secrets from Dick before. This just felt more personal because of the connection to Dick’s past, it is a huge betrayal from Bruce. Nightwing had every right to punch Bruce in the face, but of course he landed first and of course he had a reason. Like I said The Court of Owls are a great addition to Batman’s rogues gallery and Dick’s connection to them to is brilliant. I recommend reading The Court of Owls stuff and Nightwing #7-#9.
BVS Warehouse Scene
Remember the reaction Batman v Superman got when it was announced at comic con? The crowd was raucous when the Bat symbol appeared over Superman’s logo. Then it seemed the tide turned with every snippet of news that was released a head of the movies release. Perhaps the news met with the biggest scorn was the revelation Ben Affleck would be portraying Batman. It was little surprise when the movie did come out it was met with less than stellar reviews. Haters are gone hate, but I loved it! Affleck stole the show as the Caped Crusader. I defy any Bat fan to watch the warehouse scene and say that is not a great depiction of their hero. First of all the costume is kick ass. Earlier this year I saw it in the flesh next to past Batman movie costumes and it is the most imposing of them all. I think the shorter ears really work well and the squat Bat symbol is very Dark Knight Returns. The colour scheme is the closets to the comics we have ever had. The scene is all about the way the Bat moves. We got a sense of earlier in the movie when he hid in the shadows from the cops. Four minutes of Batman cutting loose like we have never seen on the big screen before. Director Zak Synder is at his brutal best, clearly channelling Frank Miller. Smashing through walls, utilising the utility belt, using his grappling line as an offensive weapon. The way he moves is the Batman should move. A tactical fighter and great and close combat. It could watch it all day!
Always Be Prepared
DC: The New Frontier is decades spanning story that tells the origin of the Justice League by bridging the Golden Age heroes with the Silver Age ones. The story goes from 1945 to 1963 and is really Darwyn Cooke’s love letter to the comics, movies and novels of these times. If you haven’t read it you really need to. Batman isn’t integral to the story as such but because he is such a huge part of DC’s story every time Cooke writes him it is fucking cool! Cooke draws a brilliant Kane/Finger era Batman. Later on in the book Batman updates his look and now has Robin as his sidekick. In a meeting with Superman he makes comment on the ‘new’ Bruce. To which Batman explains how he sees himself in Robin and how he set out to stop crooks not scare children. My favourite moment of Batman’s in this series though is in a meeting he has with Gotham city detective John Jones. Of course the reader knows Jones is Martian Manhunter. Batman breaks into Jones’ flat to confront him on a case they have crossed paths on. Batman believes at the end of the day he can trust Jones but that doesn’t stop him leaving without a threat. “…It took a seventy thousand dollar sliver of meteor to stop the one in Metropolis. With you. All I need is a penny for a book of matches.” Brilliant! In 2000 Mark Waid had a run on JLA . In a story called ‘Tower of Babel’ it is revealed Batman keeps files on how to take down his fellow Leaguers. This to me just feels like a really cool take on that, of course it may be coincidental. Either way it is a great case of Batman being Batman. It is often said in fandom because of his resources if he had time to prepare he could beat anyone.
For a generation Batman The Animated Series defined the character for so many. What made the show a success was even though it was a Saturday morning cartoon it took the subject matter seriously. Sure there were tongue in cheek lighter moments but everyone who worked on it really treated it with respect. There are so many good episodes, ‘Heart of Ice’, ‘Two-Face’, ‘Over The Edge’ to name just a few. It would be unfair to pick one and praise it above any others. For the show under the art of Bruce Timm utilised an art style heavily influenced by art deco and neo noir. The best example I can give to encapsulate this visual style is the opening titles to the series. What came to be this sequence start life as the pitch Timm used to sell the idea of a dark Batman cartoon. It is available on Season 1 DVD and is titled ‘The Dark Knight’s First Night.’ You can see from watching it, that it is pretty much frame for frame what we now know as that opening sequence. It showcases everything the show would become famous for. Moody night scenery, shadows, old fashioned cars, those white eyes from the cowl and great action. all backed up by that brilliant Danny Elfman score! The crowning moment is when the overly dramatic lightning strikes and we see our hero illuminated by its light standing over Gotham. I feel I have to mention Mask Of The Phatasm which is so much better than a lot of the live action Batman movies. It has a very Year One vibe the stand out moment is when we see Bruce don the cowl for the very first time. Again it is the score that makes it stick in the memory, this time provided by Shirley Walker. We get an extreme close up of those white eyes and an imposing silhouette as he walks past a clearly shaken Alfred. The music for this scene is perfectly called ‘Birth of Batman.’
Dark Knight vs Mutant Leader
Frank Miller is often created for making Batman dark again. The Dark Knight Returns is bleak, depressing and yes dark. Real comics fans will of course tell you Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams made Batman dark. Bill Finger coined the term Dark Knight. If anything Miller’s seminal work makes Batman psychotic. I read an article recently that questions whether Batman is a valid character in todays world of heightened awareness to mental health. Miller’s Batman really pushes the boundaries of this argument. For instance the story opens with him visualising his own death and claiming it would be good enough for him. For those unfamiliar with the story it is one that depicts a retired Bat after the death of Jason Todd. A series of events including a ‘cured’ Joker reverting to type, a ‘cured’ Two-Face reverting to type and a gang of unruly youths called The Mutants holding Gotham in a grip of fear lead to the title of the series playing out. Oh yeah and he beats Superman. There are so many fuck yeah! and quotable moments in DKR it is always a joy to reread. Miller was on the top of his game here and his internal monologues for a psychotic Batman are on point. That’s why it came as such a shock that it was left out of the animated adaptation. The first time I read it I didn’t think much of an insignificant moment as shaving his moustache off as anything major. In fact it is the turning of the tide for the whole story and the fact he can’t remember doing it indicate Bruce his not of sound mind. Perhaps being the Bat is his cure not his ailment. Internal monologues a side there is one moment that stands out above all others. “You don’t get it boy. This isn’t a mudhole. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.” See what I mean, psychotic. Outside of Miller Batman has never goaded a foe like this before or since. Even in Miller’s other great story Year One Batman never showed these tendencies. You have to watch the animated version to hear this line delivered by the brilliant Peter Weller.
Year One Speech
In my opinion this story has always been better than DKR. When Bob Kane and Bill Finger were doing the early Batman stories he was already an established hero. Miller crafts brilliant story that manages to slip seamlessly into continuity not disrespecting anything that came before or after. You could argue it is a Jim Gordon story and I love the relationship between him, Batman and Harvey Dent. We even get some year one Selina Kyle and that ending teasing The Joker is pure joy. It was great to see parts of Year One in both ‘Mask of The Phantasm’ and ‘Batman Begins.’ Clearly it is an inspirational story. While it may not be as action packed as DKR, at times it is more Police procedural there are still plenty of cool moments. The abandoned apartment block scene is one. A form of it worked its way in ‘Phatasm’ and I have to confess every time I wrote Batman fan-fic I always done a homage to it. It encapsulates Batmans gray areas. Of course he is on the side of justice but he can’t be caught by the Police, I always like seeing him in these situations. The tension that builds towards the end of the story is Miller at is best. Seeing Bruce come to Gordon’s sons rescue out of costume is a trait we saw often in Christopher Nolans trilogy. Another moment Nolan used in his trilogy is the scene with the bats. Yeah you have to ignore the science and nature behind it and just go with it. ITs brilliant. There is one moment that stands above all these. A moment still referred to today and repeatedly homage. I leave you with this “Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You have eaten Gotham’s wealth. It’s spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on. None of you are safe.”