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Grumpy Old Fan | Bob Haney and the wages of continuity

There'll be peace when you are done

There’ll be peace when you are done

You may remember the story of an antisocial teen working his way into Bruce Wayne’s life, and even becoming part of his family, before dying in a Robin costume.

You might also remember this story being called “Punish Not My Evil Son,”* as told by writer Bob Haney, penciler Neal Adams, and inker Dick Giordano (note: GCD credits Adams), in The Brave and the Bold vol. 1 #83 (April-May 1969).

Like much of the Haney oeuvre, “Punish” depends on unique circumstances that otherwise might not fit well within Batman’s shared universe. Young Lance Bruner, who’s around the same age as teenager Dick Grayson, is the son of one Prof. Bruner, Thomas Wayne’s “closest friend.” When we first meet him he’s horsing around with a couple of Wayne valuables and smarting off to Alfred, so already he’s off to a bad start. However, he shows Bruce an agreement signed by both Prof. Bruner and Dr. Wayne, which provides that “if anything ever happen[s] to the professor[,] the Wayne family promises to adopt and raise Lance.” Indeed, Bruce remembers seeing baby Lance in his dad’s arms, and recalls further that the professor was “the finest man I’ve ever known … besides my own dad!” Lance has already tearfully played the orphan card, so Bruce reminds a skeptical Dick how a certain other kid came to live at Wayne Manor — and away we go.

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Grumpy Old Fan | New beginnings in DC’s June solicitations

You unlock these doors with the key of imagination

You unlock these doors with the key of imagination

It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)

FIRST, AN ENDING

The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
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Comics A.M. | Comics and those headline-grabbing plot twists

Batman Incorporated #8

Batman Incorporated #8

Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52’s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]

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‘Batman and Robin’ #18: Now you see Damian, now you don’t

batman-and-robin-18-covers

When Batman and Robin #18 arrives in stores Wednesday, you’ll notice the cover by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray is decidedly different from the one solicited by DC Comics in December. Gone are the hopeful red hues of a Gotham City at sunset, replaced by the somber blue-gray tones of night.Gone, too, is what might be mistaken for a grin on Bruce Wayne’s face, now eclipsed by shadow.

And oh, yeah, it’s also missing a grinning Damian Wayne, soaring through the air at his father’s side, replaced by the darkness within the folds of Batman’s cape. Never has Gleason’s skull-shaped signature seemed more appropriate.

While the other Bat-Family titles receive completely new covers for the “Requieum” storyline, which deals with the aftermath of Damian’s death in Batman Incorporated #8, Batman and Robin #18 is the only one to boast a modified image — one made more eerie by the absence of Robin.

It’s an entirely silent issue,” writer Peter J. Tomasi told Comic Book Resources. “No text, no sound effects, storytelling at its purest form — show don’t tell — and, holy crap, does Patrick Gleason show why, in my humble opinion, he might be one of the best Batman artists ever. He knocks it out of the park.”

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By the Numbers | Round Robin … of Death!

joker-death

Today, ROBOT 6 introduces its new weekly feature “By the Numbers,” which takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers. The biggest, or at least most-discussed, story of the week was undoubtedly Grant Morrison’s decision to kill off Damian Wayne in Batman Incorporated #8, a little something to remember the writer by as he wraps up his six-year run on the Dark Knight.

That development, naturally, stirred memories of 1988, when DC Comics bumped off a far less-popular Robin in an even more controversial manner: by having the readers decide whether Jason Todd lived or died … by calling a 1-900 phone number. The Joker may have wielded the crowbar, but Batman fans handed down the death sentence.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Robin is perpetual

Bob-bob-bobbin' along

Bob-bob-bobbin’ along

First I’d like to thank DC Comics for plastering its latest spoiler unavoidably across the Internet bright and early Monday morning. It did confirm something I’d suspected since before Christmas, but being surprised still has a certain appeal, you know?

(That assumes this isn’t reversed in an issue or two. Kyle Rayner was killed one issue and revived the next during a Blackest Night crossover, and something similar is eminently possible, albeit unlikely, in this case.)

Anyway, Caleb has done a great job covering the event’s immediate impact, and Corey and Michael have also talked about significant aspects of you-know-what, so for my part I’ll be taking a closer look at the “position” itself. Some people study the presidency, some the papacy, and some of us have spent most of our lives reading about … well, you know.

SPOILERS FOLLOW, I suppose.

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Damian Wayne, and Grant Morrison’s tendency to kill his darlings

Aztek

In the swelling tide preceding Batman Incorporated #8, the promised death of the current Robin and the impending finale of Grant Morrison’s six-year opus, something jumped out at me about the writer’s previous work for hire: He has a propensity to kill the characters he introduces into the universes of Marvel and DC Comics before he leaves.

Think back to his first major mainstream superhero book, JLA. In it, Morrison and Howard Porter revived the team in a back-to-basics approach featuring the seven most popular and iconic members. But during that time Morrison also created (with Mark Millar and N. Steven Harris) the Mesoamerican hero Aztek. Launched in his own series — whose first issue teased his impending death — Aztek later joined Morrison’s JLA and was killed in JLA #41, the writer’s final issue.

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The slow death of superhero deaths

Batman Incorporated #8

Batman Incorporated #8

Here we go again. A major news outlet has enthusiastically run the exclusive story that a major comic book character dies in a comic released today. Superhero deaths and their inevitable resurrections have been a staple of comics for decades thanks to the sales bump they tend to get from press coverage. But the giddy acceptance of superhero deaths is starting to crack.

Since the heady days of “The Death of Superman,” mainstream news has loved a dying superhero icon. In 1992, Superman’s death was such a big deal, newspapers were writing hand-wringing editorials about what it could mean for the state of America. Right from the start, DC Comics only guaranteed he would be dead until March 1993, but somehow that got lost in the din of cultural symbolism and frenzied collectability. People really thought he was dead, even if they sensed it was financially the stupidest thing DC could do. Needless to say, Superman came back. And ever since, it seems Marvel and DC have been chasing that same media buzz by (temporarily) killing off their marquee characters, whether it be Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man or even the Human Torch. But with each passing media blitz, an interesting thing is happening: Mainstream outlets are beginning to become just as jaded about superhero deaths as we longtime readers are.

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Grant Morrison and the problem of an immortal Batman

batmaninc8

Warning: Spoilers for Batman Inc. #8, The Dark Knight Rises, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus follow.

Grant Morrison’s reflection on his Batman run is interesting, in that it offers insight into what the writer thinks makes the character tick, but the part that jumps out at me was the very end where he brings up Robin and asks, “What son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?”

It’s something I’ve been thinking about since seeing Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. As flawed as that film is, it has some intriguing ideas about the relationship between creator and creation, whether that’s alien and human, inventor and android, or parent and child. On that last dynamic, Charlize Theron’s character Vickers observes, “A king has his reign, and then he dies. It’s inevitable.” That’s a horrible thing to say about your father. It is, however, true.

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Some thoughts on the future of Damian Wayne

batman-incorporated8-croppe

Hey, have you somehow managed to avoid hearing about the thing that’s going to happen in that one comic book Wednesday? The thing the writer and publisher are so excited about that they’ve been hyping it up in various media?

If so, then you must be the sort of comics fan who doesn’t like to have story points spoiled for you in advance, so out of respect for you, and respect for  the diligence you’ve shown in so far being able to avoid having the story — whatever it is, in whatever book it’s unfolding — spoiled for you, I’m going to bury this entire post below the break.

So, if you already know what I’m talking about, read on!

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Quote of the Day | Grant Morrison on his epic Batman run

Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison

“I chose to build my story around the basic trauma, the murder of his parents, that lies at the heart of Batman’s genesis. It seemed to me there would be a part of Bruce Wayne that resented his parents for leaving him and especially resented his father for not being Batman that night, so the principal villains were an archetypal bad father figure in the form of Dr. Hurt and a dark mother in the form of Talia, our villain for the concluding chapters of the story. This master theme of damaged and ruined families was nowhere more in evidence than in the creation of Damian, the first ‘Son of Batman’ to be acknowledged in the canon. In many ways this has been Damian’s story as much as it has been the story of Bruce Wayne and it’s a story that had its end planned a long time ago – for what son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?

Grant Morrison, in an essay on the DC Comics website, addressing his more than six-year stint
writing the Caped Crusader, from Batman to Batman and Robin to Batman Incorporated

Grumpy Old Fan | Unfolding DC’s April solicitations

Work it, Dr. Fabulous!

Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!

On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.

A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!

Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Grumpy Old Fan | After the end of the world

Christmas with the Joker in Gotham Central #13

Last week’s solicitation roundup included the prediction that “Death of the Family” would kill young Damian Wayne. As most of you know, Damian is supposed to be about 11 years old, was raised by the League of Assassins, and has served (for the past “year or so” of comic-book time) as the latest Robin, the Boy Wonder. The solicitations were strangely silent concerning him, and thanks to the peculiarities of comic-book deaths, I figured he could take it.

That was last Thursday.

Since last Friday, I have rolled around that morbid prediction in my head, along with countless other real-world doomsday scenarios and nightmare moments. I am a fantastically lucky individual, and that is not meant as any kind of boast. I mean it simply to say that nothing remotely horrible has happened to me — no broken bones, no extended hospital stays, no natural disasters; and certainly nothing as devastating as my child’s death.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s March solicitations come in like a lion

The sociopathic apple doesn't fall too far from the incredibly-driven tree

No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl.  There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.

Ready? O-kay!

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.

As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).

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Grumpy Old Fan | 43 for 43

The longest journey begins with a single issue

Every week, hard as it may be to believe, I try honestly to offer something I think might interest the larger group of DC Domics superhero readers. However, this week I am invoking a personal privilege. For one thing, with Halloween on a Wednesday (when I usually end up writing these essays), the holiday will more than likely take priority.

The main reason, though, is that today is my birthday, and as you might have guessed from the headline, this year is my 43rd birthday. Therefore, this week I have pulled together an especially memorable DC story and/or issue from each of those years, 1969 through 2012. (Note: They may not always line up with the actual year, but just for simplicity’s sake, all dates are cover dates.) These aren’t necessarily the best or most noteworthy stories of their particular years, but they’ve stuck with me. Besides, while I’ve read a lot of comics from a lot of sources, for whatever reason DC has been the constant. Maybe when I’m 50 I’ll have something more comprehensive.

* * *

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