Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesdays With Batman #1: A Cowardly and Superstitious Blog

Once upon a time, in another life, I decided to read EVERY BATMAN COMIC EVER. I quickly realized that this was pure foolishness, not just because of the vast amount of material out there (there has been at least one Batman story published every month for nearly 70 years, and in the last decade, more than one every week), but because of the dubious quality of most of them. But that's part and parcel of the vast amount of Batman stories out there. Likewise, the sheer numbers dictate that there are also more GREAT stories starring Batman than any other comics character (except maybe Jughead Jones).
I don't really have any grand game plan for what I'm going to do with these Tuesdays with Batman entries, but I figured I could use some sort of deadline structure and a project.

First up, something very recent: Batman Confidential #7 (July 7, 2007)

Written by Michael Green, from the tv show Heroes, and drawn by longtime comics vet Denys Cowan, this issue begins a new storyline retelling the first meeting between Batman and the Joker. It's a pretty oft-told tale, with Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's 20-years-old Killing Joke still standing as the quote-unquote definitive version, much in the same way that Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One stands as the Batman origin. Ed Brubuaker and Doug Mahnke's recent The Man Who Laughs was pretty okay.

I've never been a big Joker fan, despite having been at that perfect pre-pubescent age to absorb the Joker stories of the 1980s, like Killing Joke and A Death in the Family, that supposedly cemented the Joker as Batman's most dangerous and brutal foe. I guess I just wasn't goth enough as a kid to believe that a dude in pancake makeup and lipstick could or should be scary.
I'm also kinda against these constant retelling of origin stories. While I understand the importance and appeal of Creation Myths, I also don't care to read the same story again and again, with some new novel and edgy twist. But retelling origins has been something of a fetish for DC Comics since the breakout success of Batman: Year One in the 80s.
Since I'm airing all of my prejudices against this comic upfront, I should probably mention that I don't like Heroes either. And the whole Hollywood writers slum in four-colourland gimmick has produced very few positives. In fact, only one comes to mind: Christos Gage, once of the Law & Order franchise, who does pretty good, no b.s., action/crime stuff.
So, with all that out of the way, I'm actually recommending Batman Confidential #7. First and foremost, because Denys Cowan is awesome. In 1989 he did a memorable 3-issue run on Detective Comics (with '89 Batflick screenwriter Sam Hamm), and he drew the mind-blowing Denny O'Neil written The Question series. His style is sinewy and gritty and full of energy. Bad qualities for roast chicken, good qualities for comics art.
There are a couple of narrative threads established, and if you're at all familiar with comic book conventions (not Comic Cons like the one next weekend in San Diego, but the conventions of comic books) and the Batman myths, you know where it's all headed. But what's really impressed me is the theme Green has set up with Batman and his crimefighting techniques set up to stand in for the ideals of Reason, while the Joker will inevitably be the anarchic firecracker in Batman's rational cigar. Not surprisingly, considering my recent awestruckdom over books like Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs and How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Green plays that out in future issues.

MP3: "Batman" by Jan & Dean

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