Just a brief fly-by to share this fantastic short animation that’s been nominated for an OSCAR!
Best of luck to everyone involved.
Just a brief fly-by to share this fantastic short animation that’s been nominated for an OSCAR!
Best of luck to everyone involved.
Hello hello again! It’s been quite a bit since my last post but moving countries and tearing back into my university degree will do that. Regarding my last post about the quasi-fascist Bat-event that was The Dark Knight Rises I think that though many of my predictions were right my analysis wasn’t entirely so! It turns out that it wasn’t the gritty dire-fest I was expecting but a lively, enjoyable romp with a satisfying conclusion. The class politics was so muddled and confused itself that it lost its ability to offend (mostly).
Dick Grayson is inseparable in the public mind from the character of Robin, even though he hasn’t gone by that name in nearly 30 years! Grayson first appeared Detective Comics #38 in 1940 and served as Batman’s side-kick and best chum right up until 1984 so it’s no coincidence that he’s earned the title as the people’s Robin, appearing in pretty much every adaptation of the character within popular media. Grayson eventually grew too old for the green pixie-boots (I think comic characters age in reverse dog-years or something), and became Nightwing. I consider Nightwing to be his teenage rebellion phase as every version of the character kinda looks like he’s trying too hard, whether it’s hang-glider collars or gaudy pony-tails.
As Robin he was shortly replaced by the much disliked Jason Todd, who readers paid money with their phone-in votes to have murdered by the Joker. This left the role to Tim Drake, cunning and able, if a little boring, as Robin.
However relatively recently Batman, that is to say, Bruce Wayne died. In the vacuum of power left in his considerable absence there was a battle for the cowl, aptly titled Battle for the Cowl, to determine who would take over the Dark Knight’s mantle but it was never in doubt that it would land to his first and finest disciple. Dick Grayson’s spell as the Batman was an absolute joy to read and in the rejuvenated Batman and Robin series writer Grant Morrison gave a whole new spin to the dynamic of the duo, with Batman as the wise-cracking adventurer and the grim and morose Damien Wayne as his side-kick. Morrison challenges the notion that Batman, the character and the entire cultural phenomenon, is about Bruce Wayne and his dead parents.
Grayson’s Batman has a lightness about him, a sense of fun but the comics also have a palpable sense of danger too. With Bruce Wayne in the suit, no matter how bad things get you always know there’s a way out, he’s like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. Whenever he swings into the action you’re 100% safer than you were and he’ll have at least five different plans (and five more back-up plans) to save the day. Like the time where his enemies drove him insane so Bruce unleashed a back-up personality, the psychotic Batman of Zur-En-Arrh from the 5th Dimension (the 5th Dimension is the imagination!) as a psychological defense mechanism in case anyone ever attacked his fragile psyche. He has a plan for everything, you guise.
Grayson doesn’t. His adventures in Gotham have real peril as he’s not as infallible and all-knowing as his master, or as fast and strong. When Grayson and Damian unravel a mystery there’s a sense of accomplishment and it’s more rewarding for the reader since the stakes are so much higher. Robin also starts to become more useful as Bruce, arguably never really needs assistance but Dick’s Batman is relieved to have Damian around when shit hits proverbial fan. As the book progresses Damian’s hard-edge softens like leather in a boot and the circus orphan and his ward, the heir of the Wayne legacy form an unlikely and certainly more dynamic duo than has been seen in years.
Then Papa Wayne came back, as was inevitable in comic-land, and the universe got another reboot because the Flash ran too hard and all-those precious issues of character development were erased. Kinda. After giving Dick the cowl and showing his progression as a superhero, allowing him to earn the title of Batman within the confines of the book and to the reader, building his relationship with Damian, earning his respect, friendship and even adoration they couldn’t just throw it all away and have him regress into-
So he’s back to being a moody teenager, basically, and has virtually nothing to do with Damian. It’s funny the book took such a moody image too, since Dick’s Batman was always commented on as smiling and wise-cracking all the time. Batman (Bruce) and Robin are now a father-and-son duo and I just don’t think the two have any chemistry and it’s a bit weird this obsessive, moody vigilante taking his 11 year old kid out on missions for some reason. Dick worked like a cool older brother or uncle and was able to steer the grim and malicious youth to the side of good and their friction was the source of good dialogue and drama. A grim Batman and grim Robin is a bit less fun.
But where else for Dick? There can’t really be two Batmen (they tried it, didn’t really take off) so what to do with this matured vigilante? In a book called Kingdom Come (1996) Mark Waid and Alex Ross gave readers a glimpse of a possible future for DC’s heroes and our Dickie ended up, in one brief panel, as the Red Robin:
Sporting a cape and cowl reminiscent of his mentor but also fellow pulp heroes like the Phantom or Dr.Midnite and a chest-piece that pays homage to his original Robin attire, Red Robin is the natural end-point of Dick’s progression. Gone is the teenage rejection and daddy-issues, embracing his heritage as Batman’s partner but also his original title and pseudonym that hasn’t fit anyone else so well. Even the name has a pulpy air to it like The Gray Ghost or the Green Hornet and would establish him as a vigilante in the mould of those 30s/40s costumed crime-fighters.
There is a problem however. DC decided to introduce Red Robin into the main continuity but already two different people have held the title including ex-Robins Jason Todd and Tim Drake, the two characters DC has no idea what to do with. Drake is currently soiling the identity by wearing wings, goggles and more unnecessary pouches and straps than a Rob Liefeld X-Man. Both these versions have tarnished the possibilities Red Robin opened up for Grayson. But there’s always hope. If DC keeps reinventing its continuity every five minutes then maybe we’ll see Grayson take back his title one day.
I propose a Robin comic series focussing on Dick and Damian as Red Robin and Robin, Dick can be called just Red in the field (or Simply Red). Using the Gotham Tower and its underground bunker as their HQ and their flying Batmobile as their getaway they would be a completely unique Gotham book (for there are too many) and they should focus on the more “out-there” colourful story arcs, following the tone set by Morrison’s original run Batman and Robin. This would free up Batman for more introverted solo missions which is where he shines. If Bruce is surrounded by a gaggle of Bat-suited nit-wits he becomes less special and slightly redundant. As a young Dick Grayson laments in an issue of Batman Inc. :“Even the dog’s wearing a mask! It makes it all dumb instead of special!”
And what to do with Tim Drake, O loose end of mine. Well, I think it’s taken as red that Tim is the superior detective of all the Robins thus far, and the most likely inheritor of the Batman title so they should start the process. After his apparent death Bruce realises that Gotham will need a Batman to replace him and knows that Dick’s interests lie elsewhere, and so begins the Batman Beyond Project. Tim should be trained to become another Batman, one with ability-enhancing armour to make up the difference between he and Bruce and he should be sent on away missions with the Teen Titans or Justice League to deal with threats that an ordinary dude in a cape could not. This, again, would free up Bruce for solo Gotham adventures and keep him from appearing in every bloody JLA title going (such as the embarrassing soap-opera Justice League International). It’s also the only way we’ll ever see the awesome Batman Beyond in-continuity and Drake and McGinnis are arguably, very similar characters.
So there we are, folks, my two cents on our much misused Dick Grayson and his natural sidekick Damian. What do you think? Am I wrong? Should I be studying?
Yeah, I woulda gone with #Occupy Gotham but I’d be super late for the party on that one.
So, my lovely Gurlfrenn just booked us tickets to the pant-shittingly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises and at the BFI IMAX no less. But why is it then, as a life-long Batman fan, that after the four year wait and year-long, ever intensifying marketing campaign I am overcome with what can only be described as blockbuster ennui? I am rarely a victim of hype but I do fall for the occasional, clever hysteria machine (which recently left me twice shy after getting a nasty bite from Ridley Scott) but not so this time. Frankly, the marketing for Christopher Nolan’s latest Bat-sequel has been inconsistent at best – each trailer giving off a different tone and each poster drive featuring wildly divergent styles, one’s left a bit confused and, after Joss Whedon’s delightful four-colour fun-fest Avengers it all looks very…grey.
But, what worries me the most about the whole affair are the Occupy overtones and the series’ ultimately conservative leanings. This isn’t news and neither is it very subtle. Here at the Slate they pretty much outline all the relevant Occupy-esque scenes from the film’s first trailer. Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) dialogue is the most damning evidence, as she denounces Bruce’s world of excessive wealth:
“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The rest of us, presumably the 99%. Now, I’m not disparaging that a blockbuster is using contemporary issues as a backdrop or even as an arena of discourse but what’s troubling is associating Occupiers with terrorists, revolutionaries with evil and the police state with order, heroism and honour. Also necessity.
2005’s Batman Begins is by far the superior of the two Nolanverse pictures to date. It combined (and invented) the Gritty reboot, with an air of the gothic – Eerie old institutions, secret Ninja Tibetan hide-outs and weaponized Bats! The more bizarre aspects would be entirely eschewed in a sequel that is over-plotted, clunkily edited and devoid of humour. The closest Begins gets to politics is Wayne’s problematic choice to Leave R’as al Ghoul in the run-away train. As the car speeds towards imminent doom Wayne leaves his old master saying “I’m won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” which serves to solidify the vague Libertarian notions that had been bandied around the film thus far. It stuck out as odd, because the Batman I knew (from the Animated Series!) would have undoubtedly tried to save his nemesis with his trusty grappling hook. Batman has an almost Hippocratic oath – he would have had to save him. Even my mum tutted audibly at this scene lamenting the murky morals at work.
So Batman may be a libertarian who believes the state is complicit in the corruption and chaos that ravages his city and must work outside the law to enact change. I can buy this, I guess. If Batman were real he would be terrifying and anti-state.
But then there’s The Dark Knight. For the most part, The Dark Knight draws from the U.S’s demented War on Terror, casting the Batman as George Bush – who goes to perilously dangerous lengths to capture the madman and terrorist, the Joker. Not only does Christian Bale look eerily like him but his Bruce Wayne mimics Dubya in his policy of violence, kidnapping and phone-tapping up to and including extraordinary rendition. Again, I actually embrace using contemporary issues as source material and I love that the Batman doesn’t have to be our hero in every sense – that he can make morally disturbing choices and doesn’t have to be the audience surrogate that heroes usually are. But the film squanders this in its final moments; instead of merely reflecting recent history it decides to come down on one side. Even though Batman has lost his love and has conducted an immoral campaign of spying and surveillance against the people he has sworn to protect he has beaten the Joker and virtually shut down organised crime. To maintain order and peace in Gotham and keep the baddies behind bars (objectively good things) he must lie and say he was responsible for Dent’s murderous rampage. He utters the most tripe, Iraq invasion apologist bullshit line I have ever heard.
“Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.”
You don’t even need an arts degree to decode this here, boys and girls. There were no WMDs in Iraq. BUT the ends justified the means. Things are better because of a lie and thus, it was worth it. The above line is probably repeated ad nauseum by the entire Bush administration and Blair every night before they hop into their plush King-size beds. And then from the mouth of babes, Jim Gordon’s blonde, innocent son – “But he didn’t do anything wrong!” in context it’s beyond parody. He had to make the difficult choices and he will be hated for it – nay hunt him for it. Because he can take it. Because he’s not the hero-….bla bla bla bla bla bla.
So Batman’s a neo-liberal, willing to lie, cheat and steal and fuelled (like Dubya) with a zealot like fervour. He compromises his own moral codes in order to “bring peace” because he is “outside” the law – No UN resolutions for him! He’s also responsible for the crime of having a really silly voice.
Interestingly, Rorschach is offered the same choice at the end of Watchmen. But Rorschach is a proper, nut-job libertarian – he’s honest: “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”
I don’t think the Batman of the comic would allow Superman to craft a new Utopia if it meant Supes would have to fry a few skulls with his heat vision to do it. But Nolan’s Bush-man obviously has a different set of ethics.
And now we come to The Dark Knight Rises. The trailer has the “war-hero” cop Gordon being set-up for retirement as it’s now “peace-time”. If we thought the allegory in the previous film was circumstantial then BAM it’s just been confirmed. The follows a slew of images of scruffy-looking peeps ransacking Wayne Manor and mass scruffy uprisings around Gotham. The latest trailer even shows a gang or rising, scruffy Untermensch descending upon an up-market hotel. The lines are clearly drawn – the only question is which side is Batman on.
And to make matters more interesting the film even wanted to shoot at Wall St. while the Occupy movement was there, the trailers feature “terrorists” shooting up the Gotham stock exchange and now we get these, rather intriguing comments by Chris Nolan on the film’s scale and vision:
“It’s all about historical epics in conception. It’s a war film. It’s a revolutionary epic. It’s looking back to the grand-scale epics of the past, really, and for me that goes as far back as silent films. I’ve been watching a lot of silent films with my kids on Blu-Ray. We’ve shot over a third of the movie on the IMAX format, and that naturally puts you more in the mode of staging very large events for the camera. It’s my attempt to get as close to making a Fritz Lang film as I could. It’s also more in the mould of ‘Doctor Zhivago,’ or ‘A Tale Of Two Cities,’ which is a historical epic with all kinds of great storytelling taking place during the French Revolution.
There’s an attempt to visualise certain things in this film on this large scale that are troubling and genuinely to the idea of an American city. Or, to put it another way: revolutions and the destabilising of society have happened everywhere in the world, so why not here?”
This seems to be a direct allusion to things like the Arab Spring, most recently and his talk of a “revolutionary epic” brings to mind films like The Battle of Algiers, Strike! or I am Cuba. Giving my pinky, lefty, faggy, Communist background I would probably welcome a film depicting a people’s uprising in America to battle their subordination by the wealthy elites and their corporate sponsored congressmen. But given where the story’s come from and the apologist tone of the previous film will Batman be defending a corrupt, totalitarian state from a popular uprising? Is the Batman going to be defending “order” and “stability”…thus defending the likes of Mubarak or Gaddafi ?
The trailers depict armed, violent militias and freed prisoners attempting to “destabilise” society, orchestrated by a shady, esoteric Eastern terrorist group we can assume is The League Shadows from the first picture. If this is meant to reflect either Occupy or the Arab Spring it is insulting to both as both championed the use of non-violent demonstration and strikes. Any descent into violence occurred at the hands of the violent reaction by the police and armed forces. Also, having an Occupy uprising secretly organised by a shady, Eastern terrorist cell reads something like a Tea-party wet dream. The reason the police and the Tea-party never clash is that the tea-party are so well-armed at their rallies. Surely they would be more likely to attempt an armed coup on their black Socialist president.
Batman and Fascist propaganda are no strange bedfellows. Frank Miller, creator of the famed and yes overrated Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, gave the character new-life as a quasi-fascist, anti-state loon and also wrote and drew an anti-muslim propaganda rag entitled Holy Terror, though DC Comics were wise enough to allow him to actually feature Batman in the book. The writer recently sunk to new lows in an online rant about the Occupy movement which is so uninformed an demented it reads like a Rorschach journal entry. Given that TDK Returns revolves around the Batman coming out of a stretch of retirement, just as the latest film will, it merits mentioning.
Will The Dark Knight Rises really go the whole hog and confuse Occupiers with armed terrorists, terrorists with ninjas, revolutionaries with terrorists, order with peace? Or will Wayne turn around and realise he could have enacted more significant change had he paid more taxes and instead of buying mini-tanks just gave some of his loose change to upgrading the city’s infrastructure like his good ol’ Da did.
So after weeks of theorising, posturing and conjecture among the comic-book community over which DC stalwart was going to come out of the fictional closet the answer has finally been revealed. James Robinson, author of DC’s new Earth 2 book, has momentously announced that the “major” and “iconic” previously straight character is……Alan Scott!
You know…Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern!
Of course you fucking don’t.
I only know who he is because of late-night wikipedia binges in my early teens, living in rural Ireland with nary a comic-book shop in sight and the joys of downloading them still a mystery to me so I had to rely on simply reading about them. Reading anything to sate my appetite. Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, was created during the super-hero Golden Age of the 1940s and whose powers came from a magic Chinese Lantern full of mysterious Oriental energy that he found down a subway, or something. As the super-heroes’ popularity began to fade during the 50s the character started his first trip into obscurity and was eventually replaced by the Silver-Age reboot; the slick, daring fighter pilot/intergalactic beat-cop Hal Jordan – the Green Lantern that we know and love. That is if audiences even know of Green Lantern. After being replaced Scott’s stories were relegated to the parallel continuity universe of Earth-2, a retirement home of sorts for the super-people of the Golden Age where the characters were actually allowed to age, reproduce and die (sometimes indefinitely) with the Justice Society of America. Though I think this is a neat concept any and all of these events have been wiped from the multiverse canon by numerous Crises, each more permanent and infinite than the next, culminating in Superboy punching the Universe so hard it stopped making sense. I’m not kidding.
Ok, so DC’s chosen bastion of equal rights is a sort of awkward first-try at a Green Lantern that they’ve kept around for shits and giggles and hasn’t fronted his own comic-book for at least sixty years BUT this is the New 52 right? DC comics latest reboot (after the Flash ran so fast the universe…yeah…I don’t even…!) which sees the characters’ slates cleaned and clocks reset. We see Batman and Superman meet for the first time, again! No one’s wearing silly underpants! Aquaman’s got his own comic! So in this universe anything can happen. Could the newly outed Scott be this universes Green Lantern proper, an upstanding citizen, guardian of the Galaxy and serving member of the Justice League?
Yep, that’s right. He’s not only an ancient, obscure super-hero but he’s been relegated to a parallel universe once again, Earth-2, nicely tucked away under the radar of anyone who isn’t an avid collector of overpriced comic-books. Let’s revisit DC’s Editor-in-chief Dan DiDido’s comments that the hero would be “major” and “iconic”. The Green Lantern is iconic, I guess – but he isn’t Green Lantern. And I’m really not interested in hearing about whatever amazing adventures he’s had in some parallel universe stories from the 80s and how he became a character in his own right because that’s not important. What’s important is DC’s cynical decision to sneakily use the confusion of their continuities to garner tonnes of media interest whilst not actually having to make a truly controversial change. Making Hal Jordan gay might have been something as he’s the most famous Lantern, or Kyle Raynor because who cares? At least he exists in the mainstream continuity – at least he “exists”. Or they had an opportunity to craft a new character (God forbid) as the Lantern role can be passed on the different people. And by people I mean men. DC has no problem doing it when they need to fill their racial diversity quota, as evidenced by Jon Stuart or the ginger Guy Gardener.
So DC can bathe in the publicity as every news outlet, refreshingly out-of-touch with the brain-pulpingly over-complex history of the Green Lanterns and the DC Mulitverse, reports that Green Lantern is now gay, thinking that Ryan Reynolds may have to readjust his relationship with Blake Lively when Hollywood inevitably farts out a Green Lantern 2 that nobody asked for. And from the outside it looks like DC wins the Equality war with rival Marvel Comics who just recently featured their first gay wedding between Northstar, the first openly gay superhero in American comics, and his boyfriend. Both could be said to be cynical sales moves, designed to cash in on a hot-button issue, garner attention and to move product but Marvel’s is arguably a more natural evolution for their characters and is more consistent given that Northstar is a mutant and X-Man, a group constantly fighting to be equally represented in their universe.
Marvel’s track-record is a wee bit better on the equality front with Northstar (though he was, at one point, a literal fairy) but they also featured major and iconic characters changing sexual orientation in a parallel universe ten years ago with Colossus in Ultimate X-Men. But it wasn’t a publicity stunt, it was just this Peter Rasputin’s sexual orientation sans bells, whistles and press releases. His being gay was secondary to the fact that his skin could turn into steel and he could punch buildings.
What would have been preferable? Well, at the very least someone who exists in the mainstream continuity and who is a member of the flagship Justice League. To be honest, most of DC’s heroes are pretty gay. Clark Kent’s bumbling, awkward attempts to fit in as “normal” hide is rather fabulous alter-ego; Wonder Woman, raised in a Matriarchal, women-only island, surely must have a few teenage crushes and relationships before her lesbianism was “cured” by meeting her first man, Captain Steve Cheesepants or whatever. Or Batman? Billionaire playboy with a secret nightlife, a dungeon full of bizarre toys, gadgets and rubber suits, with a penchant for collecting young men. Ok, so those were rather easy targets but what of the simmering bromance between the Flash and Hal Jordan? Yes, yes all too obvious. It seems DC’s heroes are too straight and proper to be given any sexual identity whatsoever, hetero or homosexual – it’s like acknowledging your grandparents have (or had) sex. Ew.
DC already has a gay lead character in the form of the current Batwoman, which is great, but it’s always been easier to introduce lesbian characters with oversized breasts to a community largely made up of men. What they need is not to ham-fist a change but pick a character whose homosexual identity would gel or bolster with their character already. With Alan Scott, they picked him because his son was gay in the other unimportant universe and they must’ve felt guilty deleting one of their few gay heroes and changed Scott to make up for it. After the announcement many fans theorised that the gay character might turn out to be Tim Drake, the third Robin, due to his string of failed relationships. However, I believe this is only due to the fact that Drake’s a pretty boring straight edged character and writers lose interest in his story with regularity. No, the next gay character should be Batman’s son and current Robin, Damian Wayne.
Damian was introduced in 2006’s Son of the Bat storyline by Grant Morrison, initially to quite a bit of fan-hate. Son of the world’s greatest detective and a leader of a group of eco-warrior terrorist-ninjas Damian was raised as a child prodigy ninja assassin genius and stirred quite a bit of shit in first few appearances. Basically he’s a nasty condescending little shit who’s hiding a wee bruised heart and a desire to be good much like Artemis Fowl, who gets a name check in Damian’s début issue. He’s a joy to read due to his vitriolic distaste for everyone around him and he’s quite camp – think an older, more violent Stewie Griffin, but he’s also completely bad-ass. He’s only 10 years old but he has such a strong identity and character if he were gay there would be no bones about it, no excuses or awkward realisations. If you had a problem with it he’d detach your jaw with a crow bar. He’s great. As he grows into the role of being a hero, a good guy, he can also grow into his sexual identity, because he’s a very rare thing: a new, popular character who has shown the capacity to change.
All-in-all I’d put DC’s latest bid for attention from the mainstream media along with the “Dumbledore is Gay” event in terms of hollow offerings to the LGBT community. Both were last-minute cop-outs designed to appear as progress but are really just there to satisfy the guilty consciences of authors too afraid to take a chance within their main stories and so make concessions after the fact. I’m a breeder and I find this crap offensive in its banality.