"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Perhaps no comic book setting provokes as much thought, or as much reinterpretation, as Gotham, which not only gave birth to Batman and his incomparable rogues gallery, but also numerous musings on the ever-changing nature of the fictional city.
The latest is Nerdwriter’s wonderful video essay “The Evolution of Batman’s Gotham City,” which traces the setting’s many interpretations over the past 75 years, from its earliest appearances in DC Comics titles and its redefining interpretation in Tim Burton’s Batman films to its near-destruction in “No Man’s Land” and its more grounded depiction in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
After drawing widespread attention last week for its effort to block singer Rihanna from trademarking “Robyn,” DC Comics has turned its attention to Gotham.
In documents filed Tuesday, and first reported by Pirated Thoughts, DC has asked the United States Trademark and Patent Office to reject an attempt by software company Palantir Technologies to register “Gotham” as the name of a computer program. As the law blog notes, the product was previously referred to as “Palantir Gotham,” but for unknown reasons the company decided to drop the first half of the name, thereby attracting the watchful eyes DC’s attorneys.
As Seth Meyers quickly discovered last night on NBC’s Late Night, Gotham City residents are really, really tired of being asked about Batman.
In an effort to get to know his audience, the talk-show host singled out Jeremy and, um, Jeremy, a pair of tourists from Gotham — yes, the Gotham City — who quickly set him straight on the subject of the Caped Crusader.
Today I am pondering that Ivan Brandon essay on TheAwl.com, and the things comics can do that movies just can’t.
Last week I mentioned the Lazarus Pit as an example of a comics staple that Batman movies — any Batman movies, arguably — would probably be reluctant to use. While the Pit comes with certain restrictions and side effects, it still boils down basically to an unlimited supply of extra lives. It runs counter to the idea of Batman as being grounded in reality, but in the context of a shared universe where Batman pals around with extraterrestrials (and their agents), a super-powered Amazon, and the King of Atlantis, it’s not that far-fetched. This is the old “Character Y could solve Character X’s problems” hypothesis, and it tends to be met with “Character X and Character Y play by different rules.” A good example of the latter was a “No Man’s Land” story featuring Superman (coincidentally collected in the new NML Vol. 3), where the Man of Steel’s well-intentioned assistance in trying to rebuild an earthquake-devastated Gotham turned out to be exactly wrong under the circumstances.
The sci-fi site io9.com has a sneak peek at Chip Kidd’s new graphic novel Batman: Death by Design, which focuses on Batman’s relationship to the physical structures of Gotham City. 2000AD artist Dave Taylor illustrates the story, which involves a series of construction-site mishaps that occur during Gotham City’s building boom. Says Kidd:
I started thinking about living and working in New York, and one of the great tragedies was the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station in 1963, because it was a beautiful building needlessly torn down. As somebody who has to use the modern Penn Station, it’s a horrible, stifling thing, after they threw it in the basement of Madison Square Garden. And there were these Manhattan crane collapses in the spring of 2008. I thought, “How could these two things possibly be related?” Batman is very much about architecture, as he uses the buildings as transportation and defense. Great Batman stories always incorporate architecture in some way, but I hadn’t seen a story that particularly dealt with that.
I can’t agree more about Penn Station, and it’s interesting that Kidd picks up on something we are all aware of and makes it explicit. Check out one of the pages below, and more at i09. The book is due out May 30.