Btmn: Highly Condensed

9 February, 2006 at 12:43 am (batman)

BATMAN #648 by JockI was poking around the comic shop today, trying to find something Batman-y to hang another post on, but nothing was really lighting my fire. I considered writing about the two-part story that just wrapped up in Detective Comics, as written by Shane McCarthy and illustrated by the always-excellent Cliff Chiang. It was a classic Batman story: good Alfred bits, Batman versus the police, a non-superhuman villain, a taut pace and a solid resolution. The story stars the relatively recent psychotic villain Mr. Zsasz, who kills an astonishing number of people over the course of two comics. Which brought home the frequent iComic fan comment about Batman’s relationship with the Joker: why hasn’t Batman killed him? The Joker will always escape, and he will never be cured or redeemed. Which means that every day that Batman lets him live is another day that Batman is responsible for a future murder. With the Joker it’s usually be semi-acceptable because the Clown Price of Crime has a bemusing aspect that makes the murders part of the fantastic game of comic violence. Zsasz, on the other hand, is psychotic in a particularly nasty, ’90s manner. And to have the issue end with Alfred telling Bruce that he did the right thing by putting Zsasz back into custody, by keeping him alive felt a little distasteful.

But not enough to go into a full-blown morality post about it. Nor did the pathetically few (five? maybe?) pages that Batman actually appeared in in Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman & Robin #3. ASB&R has been getting wildly divergent press from the iComics community. I think it fails at its essential mission: to simplify and streamline the ages of Batman continuity into a core essence. This book does not capture my essential Batman, full stop. And so it ceases to be interesting.

To be honest, I rather think I’m waiting for the whole One Year Later comics event that DC Comics is about to unleash. More than Frank Miller’s streamlined Ultimate Batman, One Year Later is supposed to jump start the DC Universe so that characters can get back to the business of telling good super-hero stories. Now DC does this stuff all the time. Most recently with Zero Hour, which allowed them to update all the origin stories of all the characters, and prior to that with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which basically got rid of all the silly fifties and sixties comics with Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound and other camp sci-fi tales. Because comics are a monthly soap opera that keeps on getting tangled up in its own complexity, it is apparently time to clear the decks of the dead wood (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) so that the writers can get back to basics.

BATMAN: YEAR ONE by Jon SungAnd in that vein, The V — “the greatest collection of pseudo intellectual nerds in the world” — has set about condensing comics to their essence. Enormous, sprawling, lengthy, ill-edited, and vast stories are reduced to four panels, crappy computer-generated artwork, and hopefully a joke or two. There have been three or four dedicated to various Batman stories, amongst them the hilarious efforts of Jim Massey and Jon Sung. All of the submission so far can be found in the Highly Condensed Comics group on Flickr. PLEASE NOTE: not only are some of the comics teetering on the edge of highly vulgar, but many don’t make a damn bit of sense unless you’ve already read the comics that they are reducing. You may also have to join the group to see the pictures, so that helps prevent any accidental offensitivity. Anyway, be so warned.

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6 February, 2006 at 9:50 pm (batman)

John Cleese and Batman the guinea pigFrom John Cleese’s podcast came the unlikely headline that he was going to introduce Batman. Apparently if I had paid up at the official John Cleese website (Pay for something? On the web? It is to laugh!), I would have been more familiar with the cast of Mr. Cleese’s menagerie and wouldn’t therefore have been surprised — but entertained — to find out that Batman was a guinea pig.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that John Cleese is English. Because of this, he seems to pronounce “Batman” the way that someone would say the word were he referring to a member of a cricket team or indeed the personal assistant of a military officer. However, when referring to Batman, captial-B, originally known as “The Bat-Man” when he appeared in Detective Comics #27, well, the pronunciation is slightly different. An emphasis on a different syllable, as my father would say. To call him “the batmuhn” is quaint, but removes the force from the title that will allow criminals to think of him in the proper cowardly and superstitious manner that is their lot.

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5 February, 2006 at 4:13 pm (batman)

My recent George Clooney post made me realize that I haven’t done a sufficient amount of blogging about Batman. How can this be? Batman was a key figure in my developmental identity, and continues to be an icon or totem for my romantic ideals of justice, efficacy, and solitude. If he affects my life so much, how is it that Akiva Goldsdigger’s appalling schlockhouse travesty was the first time I’ve mentioned him on my blog?

Well, it’s going to be All Batman, All The Time around here for a little while, just to make up for that. Then we’re resume our ordinary service of weekly diacritical commentary.

Lego figurines of the Penguin, the Joker, Catwoman, Batman, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze.

BATMAN LEGO! BATMAN LEGO!!! When the Star Wars Lego set were made available for sale, I cursed my age, swallowed my pride and picked up a couple of the medium-priced sets (Original Trilogy only, naturally). I tried displaying them in my office for a little while, but they were eventually replaced with Stikfas. When Spider-Man hit theatres, Spidey-brand Lego sets were sold with an accompanying stop-motion digital camera.

Keaton's makeup changes in BATMAN RETURNSSurrounded by all these corporate Lego tie-ins, it was easy to concede that had these been available when I was a wee sprat, I would have been captivated. Back in the day my stepbrother and I spent hours with Lego figures and Testors paint, customizing figures to be Ghost Rider, various X-Men, and comic characters of our own creation. And while we were all Marvel Zombies at the time, the ability to somehow create or customize a Batman cowl would have had me cross company lines in a heartbeat.

Of course, it rather looks like Lego themselves are having some trouble getting Batman’s mask quite right. It also amuses me to note that the head under the mask is going to have two blank white ovals where the eyes should be, so that the mask can have holes instead of eyes. Taking the mask off, therefore, will reveal a soulless dome of bizarre, inhuman construction. Sort of a reverse counterpart to the makeup Michael Keaton wore around his eyes so that they’d blend in with the black of the mask. It’s not noticeable until their sudden disappearance right before he rips his mask of in Batman Returns. Also worth noting is how they customized the legs of the Penguin figure in order to make him seem shorter and fatter than an ordinary Lego person.

Lastly, here’s a embedded QuickTime video of someone’s CGI Batman Lego movie, starring the voice talents of Mark Hamill, Dick Van Dyke, and even Adam West!

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You’ll All Be Sorry

31 January, 2006 at 1:12 am (batman)

FACT: A Roundtable Interview with the 2005 Best Director Oscar nominees
ANSEN: So many of your movies this year moved audiences to tears. Do you cry easily in movies?

CLOONEY I cried at the premiere of “Batman and Robin.” [Laughter] I cried for a week.

Newsweek, 6 February 2006.

FICTION: The Commentary Track to Batman & Robin
George Clooney in GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK and as Batman in BATMAN & ROBINSCHUMACHER: Yeah, yeah, It really is seamless. George, I think you had a funny story about this scene, when you…

CLOONEY: …When I saw this scene in the dailies, absolutely. Yes.

SCHUMACHER: What was it you said? That you could almost…I can’t remember. What did you say again?

CLOONEY: Well, we were watching the dailies, and you had this scene at the beginning, of us putting on our batsuits…it was originally much longer, if I recall…

SCHUMACHER: Oh, yes, the ass scene originally took almost forty minutes.

CLOONEY: …And I just sort of buried my face in my hands and started weeping… I said, “I can almost hear the sound of my integrity as it slowly seeps into the dirt, along with my hopes and dreams of being taken seriously as an actor.”

SCHUMACHER: Ha ha! That’s a great story.

—Gail Simone, You’ll All Be Sorry, 23 January 2001.

Thanks to Matt Fraction for the pointer to the article.

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