"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 3: Mad (DC Comics): Poor Batman. His new continuity is only a few years old, and already he’s suffering from threat inflation, so that now seemingly every crime is one that could level Gotham City and every villain a mass-murderer with a three-figure body count to rival The Joker’s.
In this volume — collecting six issues and an annual from writer Gregg Hurwitz’s run on The Dark Knight — it’s The Mad Hatter’s turn for an upgrade. A villain formerly portrayed as either obsessed with hats or with Lewis Carrol’s Alice books or both, depending on the writer, Jervis Tetch here begins his road to villainy by killing a rabbit, then uses a step-ladder to reach the face of an underling who he proceeds to murder by plunging his thumbs into the victim’s eyes. From there, he murders a housewife by bashing her head in with an iron, he kills hundreds—hundreds!—of Gothamites through his mind-control technology, and he then has Batman’s girlfriend killed…by having her beaten to death in front of him.
In response, Batman tears one of the Tweedles’ jaws off, beats the diminutive Hatter until he’s drenched in his villain’s blood, then tosses him into a pond to drown until Alfred reminds him that he can’t kill the Hatter, or else he’ll be no different from him. I don’t think Batman should ever resort to lethal force, but Alfred’s argument isn’t all that powerful as presented here, given that one side of the scale has a madman murdering scores of innocents, and the other has Batman killing said killer.
That’s not the only surprisingly cliched bit of the story, which invents a new origin full of childhood trauma for Jervis Tetch akin to those Hurwitz previously gave The Scarecrow and The Penguin. Batman also decides he loves his current girlfriend, reluctantly reveals his secret identity to her and then, the very next night, one of his foes murders her while attempting to torture Batman’s secret identity out of her.
It’s a pretty problematic plot, to say the last.
We’ve known for a while that DC’s superhero line will go through some changes in the wake of Forever Evil, and as the March solicitations bring the end of that Big Event, not surprisingly the month looks rather transitory. In fact, Forever Evil #7 is scheduled to appear on March 26, just as the final issue of Blackest Night — also written by Geoff Johns as a spinoff of his highest-profile series, in case you’d forgotten — dropped on the last week of March 2010. (It must be pure coincidence that these solicits feature a $200 White Power Battery tchotcke.) Back then, BN #8 was supposed to “set the stage” for the “next epic era of DC Comics,” which turned out to be about 18 months long and featured the biweekly sort-of-sequel miniseries Brightest Day. This time, Forever Evil #7 teases the importance of the “Hooded Man” and promises to “leave the DC universe reeling and reveal the secrets to the future.”
So, yeah, sounds like another cliffhanger ending, perhaps even leading into another big-deal miniseries — specifically, the May-debuting weekly Futures End. Considering that the three tie-in miniseries (ARGUS, Arkham War and Rogues Rebellion) all seem to feed into FE #7, the actual content of that final issue may well be a giant scrum, not unlike the final issue of Flashpoint, in which some cosmic button is pushed, defeating the Crime Syndicate but at a significant cost to DC-Earth. As it happens, there’s no mention of the “Blight” sub-crossover (bringing together Phantom Stranger, Pandora, Constantine and JL Dark) feeding back into Forever Evil, but I’m not sure how much it’s supposed to relate, beyond being about the JLD trying to pick up the post-invasion pieces.
Gregg Hurwitz is in the middle of writing an engaging exploration of the Scarecrow’s New 52 origin in Batman: The Dark Knight (as well as fresh off of an Issue 0, in which the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents [Joe Chill] is detailed). Right before heading out to New York Comic Con last week, Hurwitz answered five questions that delved into his comics work in addition to his new prose novel The Survivor. I’m grateful to Hurwitz for squeezing me into his slammed schedule. After enjoying the interview, please be sure to check out CBR News’ interview with Hurwitz from August, and pick up Batman: The Dark Knight 13 when it goes on sale Oct. 24. Also, if you want to get a taste for The Survivor, please be sure to read a chapter here for free.
Tim O’Shea: I love the line you wrote connecting Thomas Wayne and Atticus Finch in Issue 0. What was it about the two characters that allowed you to make that connection?
Gregg Hurwitz: I think it’s an interesting contrast between the type of knock-you-over hero that Batman is and the quieter heroes we may encounter in our everyday lives. Atticus Finch has always symbolized the latter to me — a man of morals, quiet but stalwart and willing to do the right thing no matter the cost. That to me is the difference between Thomas and Bruce as well.
This week sees the print debut of Legends of the Dark Knight, the ongoing print version of DC’s digital-first Batman anthology. By design it’s not part of the regular Batman line, and therefore not counted as one of the New 52. However, it gives me an excuse to ask how many Bat-books DC Comics really needs.
Now, I don’t mean that to be as dismissive as it sounds. The current Batman line is built on years, if not decades, of steady readership and fan attachments, and you don’t just wave that away. Nevertheless, if there are only 52 slots in the main superhero line, must the Batman Family claim a quarter of them? The relaunch has made pruning these titles both easier and harder, and today I want to look at the opportunities it presents.
* * *
The Toronto Star highlights David Finch’s FanExpo-exclusive cover for Batman: The Dark Knight #11, featuring a much sunnier shot of the Caped Crusader backed by at least part of the Toronto skyline. The CN Tower is instantly recognizable, but I’m not so sure about the rest of the buildings, in particular, those in the foreground, which also appear on the regular cover. Perhaps Toronto has a little-known Gotham City district — a Wee Gotham, if you will.
That cover and J. Scott Campbell’s 50th-anniversary variant for The Amazing Spider-Man #692 will be available this weekend at FanExpo Canada, where attendees will also see the images gracing T-shirts, tote bags and lanyards. Other convention exclusives include a Jim Lee Before Watchmen lithograph and variant covers for Zenescope’s Call of Wonderland and Grimm Fairy Tales.
Kicking off Thursday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, FanExpo Canada features such comics guests as Finch, Campbell, Stan Lee, Neal Adams, Brian Azzarello, Greg Capullo, Jimmy Cheung, Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Dan DiDio, Dale Eaglesham, Steve Epting, Adi Granov, J.G. Jones, Jeff Lemire, Franics Manapul, Frank Quitely, Jill Thompson and Ethan Van Sciver.
So here we are, the last week of the New 52 rollout, and I must say it’s been a fascinating — sometimes exhausting — ride. It’ll be good to get back to more normal posting next week, but I have enjoyed these marathon stream-of-consciousness reviews. Although DC has said over and over that these books are all part of the same revised universe, there are so many different styles and approaches on display (The early ‘90s! The mid- to late ‘90s!) that the line seems a lot more heterogeneous than it did five weeks ago.
Moreover, the realization that these books are the new status quo is only now starting to sink in. Overall it’s a good feeling, but bittersweet too. After all, I had 25 years to get used to the last line-wide revampings.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, as always.
DC spent the day rolling out announcements about the Batman books in anticipation of its line-wide September relaunch…with one conspicuous absence until the very end.
So, Bruce Wayne is reclaiming sole possession of the mantle of the Bat, while Batman and Detective Comics are swapping creators: Batman writer/artist Tony Daniel will be taking over Detective Comics, while ‘Tec writer Scott Snyder is taking over Batman with artist Greg Capullo of Spawn fame. Both books will star Bruce Wayne rather than his protege and stand-in Dick Grayson beneath the cape and cowl.
For most of us, it’s getting to be the middle of April. Everything is blooming and getting greener. Our thoughts turn to familiar rites of spring like baseball, taxes, and that new Green Lantern preview.
On Earth-Solicits, of course, it’s July. The greenery is withering in the heat, the tax refund is spent, and half the Reds are sick thanks to being downwind from the Proctor & Gamble plant. Nevertheless, the residents of Earth-Solicits are just bursting at the seams, excited to tell you all that’s been happening in their world …
… but they can’t tell you everything, because then you’d have no reason to visit.
This sort of fan dance is especially pronounced in the current crop of solicitations. When something like a third of DC’s superhero line is taken up with titles like War of the Green Lanterns: Aftermath, Brightest Day Aftermath, and especially the cottage industry which is Flashpoint — titles which jump off from endings readers have yet to see, and/or which go deeper into books yet to begin — it’s hard to get excited, because right now it’s all hype for hype’s sake.
Thankfully, that’s not all there is to the July solicitations, so let’s cruise on….
Publishing | Diamond’s December numbers for sales in comics shops are out, and the picture is grim. Diamond reports that it sold 89,985 copies of the top selling single-issue comic, Batman: The Dark Knight #1—the lowest number for the month’s top seller since ICv2 started tracking the numbers in 2001. In its more detailed dollar analysis, Diamond sees comics sales down and graphic novel sales up for a slight overall increase, both in December and in the last quarter of 2010 as a whole. [ICv2]
Publishing | Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced that Nick Lowe has been promoted to senior editor. Lowe edits Uncanny X-Men, Generation Hope and New Mutants, among other titles. [Comic Book Resources]
Publishing | Douglas Wolk boils down the 2010 comics sales data into some easily digested bullet points, for the benefit of those who don’t like to spend all day squinting at sales charts. [Techland]
Pop culture | Apparently inspired by Tiger Mask, a character from a manga popular in the 1960s, people in Japan have been quietly dropping off gifts for children in orphanages and other institutions. [Inquirer.net]
Digital comics | Johanna Draper Carlson tries out the comiXology app for the Android OS and is somewhat underwhelmed. [Comics Worth Reading]
Not since Bane broke all the lunatics out of Arkham Asylum has Batman had this eventful a week. Perhaps to avoid the avalanche of news coming out of San Diego next week, DC has spent the past few days announcing a slew of new Batman projects and creative teams. And heck, even Marvel got in on the act, sorta…
Following in the Bat-footsteps of Tony Daniel and J.H. Williams III, artist David Finch is slated to go from simply drawing the adventures of the Caped Crusader to writing and drawing them. CBR and The Source are revealing that following a Grant Morrison-scripted, Finch-illustrated October one-shot called Batman: The Return, Finch will be serving as a writer-artist auteur for Batman: The Dark Knight, a new monthly series.
Favorably citing the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run on the character, Finch — a longtime, vocal Batman super-fan — says his new series will feature “demonology, dark arts,” and “a darker path where he’ll be stretched to his physical and psychological limits.” Given the furrowed-brow, gritted-teeth intensity of Finch’s shadowy art, that all seems appropriate enough. Personally, I’m wondering if and when Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, and/or Frazer Irving will get their own turns at Bat…