Posts tagged batman
Comics Review: Batman Classics–the Silver Age Newspaper Comics vol.1 by Ellsworth, Moldoff, Infantino, et. al
Review by Prof. Jenn
What a fun collection of vintage comics featuring everyone’s favorite dynamic duo! It’s a trip into the cheesy one-liner past of Batman’s late 1960s appearance in newspapers. This collection begins with a wonderfully detailed rundown of the history by Joe Desris, and is enlightening to read just before plunging into the series of snippet-length strips.
These are not old comic books, they are comic strips from newspapers 1966-67, so they are all brief, cheesy, sketchy, mid-low quality art, with a little joke or a PSA at the beginning of each (“Never fight with a smiling fortune-teller.” “Unless you want to strike a happy medium!”). We meet several of our favorite villains, with some I’ve not heard of before. And yes, there is some material here not appropriate for a modern audience, in the realm of sexism, and racism especially. Any of you Batman nerds remember The Laughing Girl? Ugh…
For all its vintage kitsch, this volume is a pleasure to read, and certainly anyone who collects Batman should have this in their library, even if they prefer the dark Nolan variety of the Caped Crusader. It’s a funny, refreshing collection that is a nice reminder of where Batman was before his gritty reboot.
Bottom Line: This collection is highly recommended, old chum.
Picking up five years after where season 1 left off, season 2 of Young Justice starts off with some new heroes, as well as the old team stepping up to new roles. Right off the bat, though, I was left wondering why, if it’s five years later, would they still be focusing on the same issue of a missing 16 hours that happened years ago. This has yet to be addressed, and I’m not going to sugar-coat it.. it’s a little bit infuriating. That consistency blackhole aside, there are a lot of really fun and interesting developments in this latest edition.
The previous members: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis, have all gone through some changes since we last saw them. To give you the skinny without the spoilers: Robin (Dick Grayson) has stepped up to become Nightwing, while Tim Drake has taken his place as Robin. Miss Martian and Superboy has split up, and Miss Martian has a new love interest. Aqualad, in the last season, watched his beloved die, and was driven to the dark side because of this. Lastly, Kid Flash and Artemis aren’t even present at Mount Justice. We also get to meet a new pack of superheroes: Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Beast Boy, Wondergirl, and Impulse.
These two teams learn the ropes of their new roles while investigating the Justice League’s missing 16 hours from the previous season, and while trying to track down and extinguish a secret alien invasion. During this saga, they also develop a tangled web of good versus evil while facing down Aqualad (Kaldur’ahm) while he’s establishing himself as Black Manta’s right-hand man. This brings up a lot of fluctuating feelings with the team, who are now forced to defend themselves and the Earth against someone who was previously a friend and teammate.
caution: video contains mild spoilers
While I was hoping to see more story line regarding Batgirl, the new Robin, and Nightwing, that’s just me playing favorites. So far, we haven’t seen very many background details regarding the new characters in this volume. To be fair, though, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up with this lineup change, and you can only do so much at a time. We do get to see what happened with Miss Martian and Superboy, what happened with Kid Flash and Artemis, as well as news on where the original Speedy disappeared to. The biggest plot development that we get to discover, though, is Kaldur’am’s new path in life.
The DVD was released on January 22nd. You can get your hands on it here. When you do, let us know what you think!
A lot has been happening since we last heard about this little band of crime fighters. In the recent DVD release (on sale on WB’s site), Dangerous Secrets, we’re given a full two-disc set of superhero fun. There’s so much going on in this volume that it’s a little difficult to pare it down without giving anything away. So hold on tight – there may be small spoilers, but we’ll certainly keep the best of those dangerous secrets hidden.
First of all, we join the team after they’ve been attacked by Red Tornado and his siblings, and have also been told by Sportsmaster that there is a traitor in their group (all from the last volume). Instantly, we see team member against team member, questioning motives and keeping a close watch. The dissension that is sown amongst these junior heroes is palpable, just by planting the simple idea that there may be a traitor. Expect to explore most every team member’s personal views on their mates while they decide on this issue.
That’s not the only tactic used in this volume to get you closer to the characters. Just about every main character on the team, including their former watcher, Red Tornado, gives at least one huge reveal. It seems everyone has a secret, and is hell bent on keeping it from their teammates. For a while at least. We already know a couple of them; for instance, we know Artemis is not actually Green Arrow’s niece, and more to the point, that she has a sordid family history. But can she trust her teammates with this information? Will they trust her after they find out? Unfortunately for these heroes, having ties to the wrong side of the law can often lead to suspicion, no matter how great your own motives are. If you’re brave enough, let’s take a look at this clip from the episode “Usual Suspects,” which highlights three of our heroes’ weakest moments:
We also get to see a few new additions to the team. Namely, Zatara and Zatanna – the father-daughter magician team made famous from the old Batman comics, going into the 90s cartoon show, Batman: The Animated Series. Zatara is starting to show promise as a young, budding magician, but we’re left to wonder through much of the series if her father will let her join the team. We also see the return of Doctor Fate and Red Arrow.
However, there is one thing about this volume that has been really disappointing in many ways. That is the Batman villains. Early on, we see the infamous Injustice League – a culmination of criminal masterminds bent on taking down the Justice League. A lot of these criminals include classic Batman villains such as the Joker, Poison Ivy, Ra’s al Ghul, Klarion the Witchboy, and Bane. I really have to say.. as an avid Batman fan, this was greatly dissatisfying. This incarnation of the Joker has been, by far, the worst I’ve ever seen – and that includes John DiMaggio’s lifeless voice inflection in Under the Red Hood. Not only was the character design sub-par, but there was nothing intrinsically Joker-like about this classic villain. The voice acting was boring, the writing was uninspired, and that iconic laugh you expect to hear from the Joker just falls completely flat. The other villains in this category barely got enough screen time or dialog to even make an impression. The one exception possibly being Klarion the Witchboy – who actually did carry over the irritatingly chaotic and childish nature of the character.
Over all, the writing for this volume was pretty outstanding. The character development within the Young Justice League, and even, to an extent, in the actual Justice League, was phenomenal. We learned an awful lot about the young heroes we’ve grown to love. I also found it quite encapsulating to see that the second disc basically followed one, solid story arc. I do wish the Batman villains were much more better executed, and will hopefully be better developed in future seasons. However, that aside, this set was a thrilling ride that really has a way of reeling you in.
It’s pretty safe to say that the release of The Dark Knight Rises was one of, if not the most, anticipated film this summer. Since 2005, Christopher Nolan has kept us on the edge of our seats with his wonderfully macabre telling of the Batman tale. On a personal level, I have always had a very strong fondness for the entire Batman world. The dark knight has always ranked at the very top of my list of superheroes, particularly because he’s the antihero. When you think about recent films, shows, and projects, antiheroes have really stepped into the spotlight lately (consider works such as Dr. Horrible or Breaking Bad). I’m sure we could spend all day considering the psychology of this, but today we’re more focused on Batman, and suffice it to say, the recent Nolan Batman films fit right into this antihero craze. Add the long-standing fandom of the Batman world to the antihero love, and cap it off with the brilliant success of the highly acclaimed last installment, The Dark Knight, and you have a recipe for some high levels of excitement. I do believe, in a lot of ways, the ending to this trilogy lived up to the hype. However, some aspects left me looking for more. Let’s get to that now.
From here on out, all you’ll see is SPOILERS. If you have not seen the movie, and don’t want it SPOILED, skip to the next article instead.
One thing I greatly admire about Nolan’s take on the Batman story is his ability to reinvent characters. Nolan faced the challenge of demystifying the characters in the Batman realm, bringing them more to life by making them more human, while still remaining true to the comics. In some ways, this leaves us with a lot of questions about specific characters and their origins, while lending a new sense of intrigue to them. Take, for instance, Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight: we never got a solid origin story out of that, but the way he spoke about his potential origins, he gave us a deep look into the psychosis of this character. This relates to the newly introduced characters, too. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, put simply, was brilliant. Throughout the film, Selina Kyle hints several times at a past filled with bad mistakes and regrets. We never get the details on what happened with her past, but we’re told why she wants it erased to badly, and certainly feel her sense of urgency to the point that we can feel her justification for all of her devious plots. Meanwhile, we get a glimpse at the remnants of Bruce Wayne’s internal torment. We see old, exalted photos of a half-forgotten life hindering his ability or desire to move on. We also get to watch him come back to life and force himself to be the hero he is, not because he wants to, but because he has to. This need to return to Batman is also hastened by Gotham City PD’s Officer Blake, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. Blake was an orphan, himself, who depended on Wayne’s contributions to local charities growing up, and who was inspired by Batman’s moral influence and strong will to help the people of Gotham. So with that in mind, we enter into this film being immediately greeted by three strong characters in desperate situations.
Next, we have Bane. In many stories, Bane has pretty much been the equivalent of a pumped up hired gun. However, the original Dixon story that influenced Bane’s presence in The Dark Knight Rises, “Knightfall,” gives him a much stronger presence. Because of that story arc in the comics, Bane became known as “The Man Who Broke the Bat,” for having broken Batman’s back during a fight. This is also true of TDKR. The very first fight between Bane, played by Tom Hardy, and Batman is an extremely powerful scene. After teaming up with Catwoman, Batman is brought down to the sewers to find Bane and confront him head-on. Before they get all the way there, Batman is pulled away from Catwoman, and thrown onto a metal walkway, going across the sewers below, with Bane, and locked there. Instantly, the music drops, so all you hear are select sounds from the confrontation and fight. The entire time, we see Catwoman clinging on to the bars of the walkway, obviously distraught about double-crossing the dark knight, and very concerned for his life. The blows go back and forth rather evenly for a while before Bane takes a very commanding lead, tossing Batman around like a rag doll. Eventually, true to the story it was adapted from, the scene turns more serious when Bane lifts Batman over his head, then drops the Bat onto his knee, breaking his back. To add insult to injury, Bane peels half of the broken mask from the fallen hero’s face while he’s writhing in pain on the ground, and tosses it aside. Leaving the scene with the symbolic gesture of discarding something that was meant as a beacon of hope for the people of Gotham.
Above all, though, I’d have to say my own personal favorite character here was Miranda, played by a fantastic actress, Marion Cotillard. Miranda is Bruce’s business-associate-turned-love interest throughout the story, growing more and more prominent in his life. While Batman is recovering, Bane is taking over Gotham, with the promise of destroying it with a nuclear bomb, and the entire city is left to fight and scavenge. During this time, Miranda appears to be working with Bruce’s business associates, but of course we come to find out this is a ruse. After Batman seemingly defeats Bane, we get Miranda’s reveal. Throughout the entire film, we’ve been teased with what is presented to be Bane’s backstory. A small child in a prison made out of a giant hole in the ground, nicknamed “Hell.” The child is the only person to ever escape this prison by climbing the walls. This is the same prison Batman is exiled to while recovering from his broken spine. To get out of the prison, he has to climb the same wall the small child did. After several tries, he manages this feat while the rest of the prisoners are shouting “Rise! Rise!” in their own language. We hear the story of the child – the spawn of a mercenary and a noblewoman – in pieces, but we hear the ending from Miranda. This child turns out to be Miranda, who reveals that she is actually Talia al Ghul, there to fulfill the legacy of her father, Ra’s al Ghul. In the Batman universe, Talia is a character with a long history of being Batman’s love interest, Catwoman’s rival, and Bane’s accomplice. However, showing Talia as the little girl escaping “Hell,” supported by her childhood friend and protector, Bane, gives a whole new level of emotional depth to both of these characters. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Marion Cotillard presents this reveal scene with a certain stoicism that makes the entire twist seem that much more significant.
As you may recall from previous posts, we’ve been following along with the progression of the teen superheroes from Young Justice. For those not familiar, Young Justice tells the story of some of our favorite DC superheroes’ proteges. We were lucky enough to get be able to catch up with the recent release of Young Justice: Season One – Volume Three.
In this volume, Robin, Superboy, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, and Artemis face dangers with a lot less help from their superhero mentors. Defending the world from their headquarters at Mount Justice, the team is sent in to foil a nefarious plot guided by telepathic villain, Psimon, to have their memories stolen, and have to fight their way back to reality. We also get a visit from Red Arrow as he tries to face down the assassin Cheshire on his own. This volume closes out with a suspenseful battle against Red Tornadoes mysterious “relatives,” Red Inferno and Red Torpedo. While all of these storylines were very exciting and well-told, my personal favorite on this volume will have to be the third episode, Terrors.
What’s particularly fun about this episode is the familiar faces we get to see. The plot starts out with Miss Martian and Superboy going undercover to enter into a maximum security prison, run by Warden Amanda Waller. They’re greeted by Dr. Hugo Strange as the prison psychology, and are there to keep an eye on Mr. Freeze and Sporstmaster as they occupy cells right next to them in the prison. We also get to see a timid, outcast version of Edward Nigma (the Riddler) get teased by the other inmates. Superboy and Miss Martian are forced to keep their cover while trying to unravel any plans these old time villains have in store. Care to see an example of these fantastic cameos? Take a look at the clip below:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. After being burned by the whole ‘young icons’ genre that went on in the 90s, I was very reluctant to give Young Justice a chance. I’ll be the first to say that WB has really been knocking it out the park with this series. If you’re timid to check out this series, I urge you to step and give it a chance. You will not be disappointed.
Presented by trauma psychologist, Dr. Andrea Letamendi, author of The Psychology of Superheroes, Dr. Robin Rosenberg, Dr. Travis Langley and comics writer Len Wein, the panel was a discussion of how trauma is portrayed in comics and how superheroes deal with trauma. This is a topic that I find fascinating for a number of reasons. I went into the panel not quite knowing what to expect beyond the fact that trauma or tragedy is very often presented as the catalyst for a character’s development in comics. Trauma is something the audience hasn’t necessarily experienced, but can empathize with. Unfortunately, there are people who deal with trauma on a daily basis: Soldiers and other service-members, police officers, fire fighters and EMS personnel. There are questions about how trauma affects characters. Why does one character become a superhero and one a supervillain? (The answer is fairly simple: every villain is the hero of his or her story.) Watching footage of IED (improvised explosive device) explosions, it’s not hard to imagine that days, weeks, months and years of exposure to those circumstances can and does alter both military and civilians exposed to it, in profound ways.
One of the characters in comics with a backstory that many of us can relate to is Batman. Sure, Bruce Wayne is incredibly rich, but he’s also witnessed his parents’ violent murder. Trauma to a child is something most of us feel sympathetic towards, and the desire to both avenge his parents and protect others from experiencing the same or similar loss is one most of us would hope we’d have. Heroism isn’t about the trauma, but about empathy and how that trauma is synthesized into the victim’s experience. Peter Parker/Spiderman is another good example of how plausible trauma is used in comics to give a character the imperative to use their powers for good. “With great power comes great responsibility,” is the echo throughout his early days as the web-slinger, and they make all the difference in the world.
I’m very glad that there was a distinction made between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the experience of trauma. Not everyone who experiences trauma will experience PTSD. (Additionally, there are distinct phases to PTSD, and not everyone experiences it the same way.) This was not a panel that was glossing over aspects of trauma, but presenting it in a way that can be understood by laymen. Every comic fan has seen numerous depictions of trauma, even if they didn’t name it trauma. I’m also very glad to note that this wasn’t a glossy pep talk about the effects of trauma and how to buck up under pressure. This was a very serious look at trauma through the lens of comics.
One thing I found lacking was the discussion of women as trauma survivors and the reliance in comics on using sexual violence against women. While statistically speaking, sexual and domestic violence are the most common forms of violence women will experience, we have plenty of women in the military. Many of those women have not only experienced the trauma of war, but sexual violence as well. Comics rarely show the arc of how a woman like Barbara Gordon transitions from Batgirl to trauma survivor to Oracle. Harley Quinn, at the other end of the spectrum, is psychologically abused over time by the Joker, and provides a prime example of how trauma doesn’t have to be particularly violent. I think there’s a need to go beyond accepting that fridging and sexual assault/murder of women provides the impetus for Hal Jordan or Frank Castle to go to some very dark places. (Although, as noted by the panel, Frank Castle was already on the anti-social personality disorder spectrum, before he became The Punisher.) Many of the questions asked by the audience also focused far more on male characters than on the spectrum of characters in comics that have been brutalized in any number of ways, from heroes and villains to innocent bystanders.
This may seem like a strange topic for a panel at a comic convention. I found it a refreshing way of looking at not only a medium that has become an intrinsic part of our collective consciousness, but at a mental health issue that has been placed front and center by current events.
In the last decade, the US has joined much of the rest of the world in experiencing the trauma of terrorism, while the suicide rates for veterans is shockingly high. One in five women (based on current reported incidents) are expected to experience sexual violence in their lifetime. As I type this, rape is being used as a tactic of war in the Congo and Sudan. Trauma is something that happens every day. It happens to people we know, it happens to our families, it happens to us. Comics as a medium are in a unique position to not only present trauma as something that can be survived, but to show how that happens. In my opinion, comics have potential as a treatment tool, giving survivors a connection to characters they recognize and admire. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee helped to have a comic about Martin Luther King and nonviolent social change printed in Arabic and Farsi for distribution in the Middle East. Why couldn’t a comic about trauma be used in a similar way wherever it was needed?
As each person or character is a unique individual, responses to trauma will vary. Specifics of why one individual will survive, and another won’t aren’t set in stone. Why one individual becomes Batman, one The Punisher, one the Joker, and one Two-Face is more complex than examining the trauma or the person experiencing it.
These are questions that will continued to be asked by the psychiatric, psychology, and neuropsych fields for a long time. They’re questions human beings face every day, and they are questions that anyone who reads comics has seen posed for a long time. Will comics continue to evolve in how they portray the narratives of the trauma inflicted on protagonists and villains alike? I don’t know the answer to that, yet. I hope they do and I hope that more fans and mainstream media will look at the parallels between comic narratives and real life. Perhaps if we think about those narratives, we can act with more empathy towards those people we encounter every day, who have survived or may struggle with the aftermath of trauma.
I left the panel thinking that there is a lot more discussion to be had and that I would love to see comic creators talk to trauma specialists and survivors a little more, as the subject is so integral to so much of their work.