Gotham City Mayors (Part 1)

Hey everyone! I’m PurpleGlovez, longtime reader of the site. Many years ago, Collin posted a two-part blog detailing Gotham City’s mayors in the post-Crisis era (link: ). For some reason, I’ve always found the fictional politics of Gotham City interesting and the idea that it’s had so many mayors just gets the gears in my head turning. I’ve recently finished chronicling what I believe to be every appearance of a Gotham City mayor in a mainline comic book, and a few interesting facts came to light.

So in these series of posts, I’m going to go over them. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986, we all know that DC continuity was “rebooted” and new stories in the early years of characters like Batman were revealed, starting with the famous Year One. For this first post, I’m going to start with these “retroactively-established” mayors, and then in the second post I’ll start with the actual first appearance of a mayor in a Batman comic (1942’s Batman #12.)

But first, a rundown of Gotham’s mayors before Batman. Theodore Cobblepot, great grandfather of the Penguin, was mayor in the late 19th century, according to the Gotham Underground series, as well as Gates of Gotham and The New 52 All-Star Western. In James Tynion IV’s Batman and Robin #23.2, an unnamed mayor runs afoul of the Court of Owls in 1914 and is presumably killed by them. Archibald Brewster served as a well-renowned mayor during the Great Depression (per West End Games’ fabulous Daily Planet Guide to Gotham City.) Thorndike was killed by the Made of Wood killer in 1948 when Alan Scott’s Green Lantern roamed Gotham, as revealed in Ed Brubaker’s Detective Comics #784-786. Aubrey James was an associate of Thomas Wayne who was stabbed to death, according to Legends of the Dark Knight #204-206. Lastly, Jessop was in office after the Wayne murders, per Morrison’s Return of Bruce Wayne #5.

Now, our possible first mayor of Gotham during Batman’s career is a very obscure tidbit I discovered. In Alan Brennert’s astonishing Black Canary story in Secret Origins #50, we see Ted Grant talking to a young Dinah Lance shortly after the Batman’s debut. He claims that the mayor is a man named Falcone, a stooge of the Roman’s! But wait… the Roman is Falcone, right?

Well, at the time, not necessarily. Throughout the entirety of Batman: Year One, the Roman is never explicitly identified by name. In the mayor’s mansion dinner scene, Commissioner Loeb tells someone named Falcone that District Attorney Dent is their problem. Jeph Loeb took this and made Carmine Falcone the Roman in The Long Halloween. However, it seems some people (including at DC in the late ’80s) thought it was strange for Loeb to be so flippant with the city’s ultimate crime lord, and that it didn’t make sense for Harvey Dent to be the Roman’s responsibility, and took the conversation as if Loeb was in fact talking to the mayor.

This is the assumption Alan Brennert makes in his story. Now, if we take this at face value, what does it mean? Could Carmine Falcone have in fact been operating as mayor with the public unaware of his life as the Roman? It seems unlikely. In truth, if someone named Falcone was mayor during the early days of Batman’s career, he was probably a well-connected relative of Carmine’s.

In the compendium of Absolute Batman: Year One, Frank Miller’s complete scripts for the series are included. According to them, the man on the left in this image is the mayor of Gotham, sitting next to his wife! Intriguingly, when Loeb is talking to “Falcone”, a bunch of text in the script is blacked out. Guess there’s something DC didn’t want us to know? At any rate, there’s the man who was mayor on May 19th of Year One!

The next classic “Year One”-era mayor is a man named Wilson Klass. He originally formed an anti-vigilante task force to take down Batman in Prey (Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15), but when Batman saved his daughter from Hugo Strange, he directed the GCPD to turn a blind eye to Batman’s activities. He is also the named mayor in the summertime Heat (LotDK #83-84) and Infected (LotDK #83-84), and appears to be the mayor in Duty (LotDK #105-106), supposedly a year and a half to two years into Batman’s career, as well as Idols (LotDK #80-82), purportedly set in June of Batman’s third year.

Confusingly, a number of different men are shown as mayor during Batman’s early years. As you’ll quickly realize, the level of consistency is not ideal when it comes to Gotham’s mayoral office. Due to the volatile nature of Gotham politics, we just have to assume that mayors are recalled, impeached, ousted by scandal, or killed on a near constant basis. We can also assume deputy or vice mayors serve as acting mayor while the true mayor is on leave or indisposed. For Klass, something like this must have happened, because he appears intermittently in office until at least the summer of Year Three.

A man named Hill with brown hair was serving as mayor in Batman Confidential #24 when the Joker was first apprehended and sentenced to Arkham. He ran his campaign on a platform of zero tolerance towards crime. We know next to nothing about him, except this is presumably not another Gotham mayor who serves later named Hamilton Hill. Do You Understand These Rights (Batman Confidential #22-25) ostensibly takes place shortly after Prey… maybe Klass took a vacation with his daughter?

Next, Mayor Gill appears in Irresistible (LotDK #169-171). He’s slightly fat and has thinning black hair. After Frank Sharp used his… powers of persuasion (long story) to convince the mayor to switch some city contracts, Gill was kidnapped and rescued by Batman. This story takes place ambiguously early in Batman’s career, but Arkham Asylum is open, Batman hasn’t started collecting trophies, and Penguin seemingly hasn’t started his supervillain career. The story notes that Gill was already mayor when Frank first approaches him during his campaign. Hill is stated to have campaigned as well. Both of these campaigns would’ve taken place around the same time… so the jury is out. Are Hill and Gill really the same person, despite their slightly different appearances? A man named Hillford Gill perhaps? We may never (definitely won’t ever) know.

The next mayor is an unnamed man with white hair and a boil who was in office during the Rudolph Klemper murders and Harvey Dent’s earliest days as Two-Face, as shown in Batman Annual #14. This was Two-Face’s original post-Crisis origin and served as the basis for The Long Halloween, which pulls several story beats and moments from this comic. However, TLH actually rearranges the dates and sequence of events, changes a bunch of stuff, and doesn’t actually reference the Klemper murders. Thus, some people expunge Annual #14 from canon altogether… but if we assume it is canon within the framework of The Long Halloween, then this man was mayor at some point prior to or during the story.

Then, a man named Grogan is mayor in Two-Face: Year One #2, set just prior to Dark Victory. Although it’s a continuity nightmare, DC did intend Two-Face: Year One to be canon, and it actually has links to tons of stories (few of which make sense.) This is presumably the same Grogan who was commissioner of police at the end of Year One. Notably, the mayor has brown hair and no facial hair at the beginning of the issue, yet is shown with grey hair and a mustache later on when he is referred to as Grogan. Can DC keep anything straight?

A slightly fat mayor with thinning black hair (he kinda looks like Gill?) argues with Mr. Freeze over the phone in Robin: Year One #3.

A fat, bald mayor is killed by Midnight in Batman: Gotham After Midnight #7. The chronology of these stories is up for debate. If Gotham After Midnight immediately follows Dark Victory, then the Midnight mayor (killed shortly after Halloween) probably precedes the Robin Year One mayor. However, if you place Gotham After Midnight sometime later (it’s been “months” since the Creeper’s debut, traditionally a post-Robin character; Green Arrow seemingly knows Batman’s identity; Jim Gordon is implied to be single) then his time in office would be afterwards.

I’ll close out this post with a mayor that Collin doesn’t consider canon, but what the hell. In Fat City (Gotham Knights #18) a construction worker drops his lamp in a bucket of grease. It shorts out and causes the grease to become a sentient blob that travels through the sewers and kills people by sucking out their body fat. Mayor Charles “Chubby” Chesterfield actually gets in shape and becomes “Slim” Chesterfield in order to protect himself, encouraging Gotham to do the same. However, the virus ends up killing him anyway, right after he steps out of the shower. Darn! This story takes place after Batman adopts his yellow oval costume, and likely before the mayoral lineage becomes semi-coherent with a man named Hamilton Hill. We’ll get to him later.

Phew. That was a lot, but we’re not done. Next, we’ll take a look at all the mayors in the original Batman comics from 1942 through the ’70s! See you soon!

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Lists: My Favorite Comics of 2019 & Books I Read That Were Not Comics in 2019

I’m ridiculously late because I originally wasn’t going to do a Best Of list this year… but who am I kidding. Here are ten comics I quite enjoyed in 2019 (in alphabetical order by title).

Geoff Johns & Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock
Liana Finck’s Excuse Me: Cartoons, Complaints, and Notes to Self
Tom Scioli’s Fantastic Four: Grand Design
Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp’s The Green Lantern
Natalie Nourigat’s I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation
Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram’s Little Bird
Chris Ware’s Rusty Brown
James Stokoe’s Sobek
Emily Carroll’s When I Arrived at the Castle

And because I really do feel that a look at the literature one consumes can provide a unique window into personality, here is a list of books (non-comics) I read in 2019 (in order of most liked to least liked).

overstory powers

The Overstory by Richard Powers
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Tropic of Chaos by Christian Parenti
The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things by Bruce Sterling
Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin
The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
The Three-Body Problem: Part One by Liu Cixin
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by Wolfgang Streeck
Gulliver’s Travels by Johnathan Swift
Senses of the Subject by Judith Butler
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

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A Tale of Two Reboots

The rumor mill (and all recent in-story signs and signifiers) hint at something odd happening with DC’s main line in the near future—specifically, the cancellation of a reboot so that another reboot can stand in its place. Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock, undeniably canon, was a reboot story. It ended the Rebirth Era by undoing the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent, restoring the primary version of the Justice Society of America to the Earth-0 timeline (with Wonder Woman at the helm), and restoring the full history of the Legion, including the team’s interactions with teenage Clark (Superboy). 

But after Doomsday Clock wrapped, a month passed without any other titles acknowledging any changes whatsoever. Nothing was acknowledged. Nothing reflected the supposed reboot. Rumors swirled (as they have for the past year plus) about an ongoing schism within the DC office between publisher Dan DiDio and top writer Geoff Johns, internal frustration over publication delays, and different opinions about the overall trajectory of the superhero line. Then there was a tiny speck of ostensible Doomsday Clock reboot recognition in the form of a Scott Snyder-penned Wonder Woman origin story in Wonder Woman #750, cementing her as the first ever public superhero back in the 1940s, complete with a wink and nod at the formation of the JSA to follow.

However, a week after that, Snyder struck again, turning everything on its head with Justice League #39—the “finale” of his years-long Justice League arc, specifically the last issue (of ten-issues) of his “Justice/Doom War.” In Justice League #39, our titular heroes, defeated by the goddess Perpetua, are given one final chance to right things, via the Quintessence’s magick reboot door. Ganthet of the Quintessence insinuates to our titular heroes that Doomsday Clock has already occurred, saying “events that unfolded outside your purview. Some disconnected from your reality altogether but still deeply felt and impactful.” We even see a panel from Doomsday Clock in Justice League #39, specifically an image of Johnny Thunderbolt crashing through Black Adam!

After Ganthet ends his monologue, the JL bolts through the reboot door, leading to… nothing. It’s a damn To be Continued! And we are told that things will be continued in Metal 2 aka Death Metal aka Encore aka Snyder’s exhausting never-ending opus. And rumor has it that Encore will be a reboot that ends the Rebirth Era by undoing the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent (maybe), restoring the primary version of the Justice Society of America to the Earth-0 timeline (with Wonder Woman at the helm), and restoring the full history of the Legion, including the team’s interactions with teenage Clark (Superboy).

But wait?! That is exactly what Doomsday Clock‘s reboot did, you say? How astute you are! This is absolutely true. And this implies that Snyder’s reboot is trumping Johns’ reboot (even though they are virtually the same)—which, in turn, implies that Wonder Woman #750 isn’t a preview of a post-Doomsday Clock (Johns-rebooted) multiverse, but actually is a preview of a post-Encore (Snyder-rebooted) multiverse instead. Narratively, we can only guess how this’ll play out. The “official” company fanwank could very well be that Doc Manhattan rewrote the DCU at the end of Doomsday Clock only for Perpetua to have pressed the pause button or rewind button, preventing Manhattan’s alteration from sticking. What followed was Sam Lane’s death, Alfred’s death, Justice/Doom War, magick Quintessence reboot door in Justice League #39, and then…

Justice League #40! Here’s even more confusion. See, JL #40 is just a fresh creative team (Robert Venditti and Doug Mahnke) starting a new story that has nothing to do with reboots or the follow-up from Snyder’s magick door. There is internaut speculation that the continued fanwank-athon might see the JL emerge for Encore via some time anomaly, which will then lead to the “official” Snyder reboot. JL #40 is a head-scratcher in and of itself. In JL #40, we see a scene that was clearly drawn with Alfred alive and well, but then cleverly changed by Venditti and Mahnke to fit post-Alfred’s death. Sodam Yat is featured in the story, as is the Hall of Justice. Likewise, Wonder Woman mentions her connection to the JL Dark. Yet, Flash has never heard of Eradicator and neither Batman nor Superman seem to be familiar with Madame Xanadu. I literally have no clue as to where JL #40 takes place—or even on which timeline, even with an editorial note that tells us outright that this issue is after Superman’s secret ID reveal in “The Truth.” (Technically, it should go some point after both JL #39 and “The Truth,” which is where I’ve placed it on my chronology.) Scott Snyder then put his foot in his mouth on Twitter, inexplicably saying that JL #40 takes place before “Justice/Doom War,” which makes zero sense no matter how you spin it. Thankfully, Twitter isn’t canon, but it does speak to the general confusion and messiness behind the scenes at DC HQ.

Why is this all so complicated? And why cancel a reboot for another reboot (especially when they are the same reboot)? This is inner company warfare affecting story. This isn’t a team sport. It’s a bunch of singular egos, led by one Dan DiDio, battling for supremacy of a continuity clusterfuck they believe can only be saved by meta-acknowledgment of its very clusterfuckery. I’m sure if it were totally up to the Powers That be, they probably would have thrown Doomsday Clock right in the bin, ignoring it outright in favor of the Encore reboot or whatever’s to come. However, Doomsday Clock was one of DC’s best-sellers (and, no matter your personal opinion of it, critical darlings) these past two years. As much as they’d like to, they can’t ignore it. The best they can do is spike it six feet into the earth, claiming it’s canon but was “erased.”

Maybe I’m blowing my top for no reason. Hell, maybe I’m misreading this entirely or buying into the bogus commentariat dirt-sheets. Maybe I’m dead wrong about how things will play out. After all, there were similar problems in the Modern Age—like when Death of the New Gods came out alongside Countdown and “Batman RIP”/Final Crisis. And don’t even get me started about the New 52’s “band-aid story” Convergence. Relegating Jack Kirby’s Bronze Age Super Powers arcs as non-canon comes to mind as well, but the Doomsday Clock/Encore mess seems more egregious than anything in prior publication eras. After all, Super Powers didn’t connect to the greater DCU the way Doomsday Clock did and still does. And the aforementioned Modern Age and New 52 stuff wasn’t make-or-break reboot material. This whole Doomsday Clock/Encore debacle seems to have resulted directly from DiDio, Snyder, Bendis, and company having made a big mistake (or series of mistakes). When you make a mistake, it’s best to own up to it. But in this case, it seems like DiDio, Snyder, Bendis, and company are instead choosing to fix their mistake by claiming it was all planned and that they meant to do it this way. But, again, maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe these guys really do have a clever and inventive way of straightening this out. Snyder said, in a recent interview, “The idea is that everything happened – and happened IN continuity – everything mattered, Doomsday Clock, Year of the Villain, stories old and new, there’s just a story reason why it doesn’t seem that way on the surface right now. Bottom line, we need to reward fans for their dedication and passion for all the characters, for all these great stories, and say – now let’s do a big, crazy story that shows the connections, some obvious, some secret, a story that celebrates and rocks the whole DCU and – above all – let’s have some fucking fun doing it.” Could they do something that salvages all of this and could they do it in an interesting and fun way? It’s possible. But, like the old adage goes: Fool me once, shame on you… These funnybooks have already fooled me consistently since the 1980s, so I won’t hold my breath in anticipation of a miracle.

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The Influence of Quantum Mechanics and Borges’ Metaphysics on Superhero Comics

Dr Manhattan Before Watchmen

The origins of the Silver Age of comics date back to the 1950s and early 1960s. Fans often misattribute an augmented narrative use of aliens, monsters, spaceships, computers, robots, and nuclear mutants with the start of the Silver Age. While these tropes surely existed in the early Silver Age, the late Golden Age was rife with this stuff too. The primary thing that more accurately defines the switch from DC’s Golden Age to its Silver Age was a momentous storytelling shift energized by the cutting-edge scientific theories of Bryce DeWitt and new hypotheses about universal wave-function and particle physics by Erwin Schrödinger. The Newtonian model was replaced with the quantum perspective, ushering in a worldview that no longer focused on the physical but instead upon a field of probabilities. In the 1950s and 1960s, this burgeoning “Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics” reflected the inchoate fictive concepts that legends like Robert Kanigher and Gardner Fox were putting to pen and paper. If a multiverse could be a possibility in the real world, then it certainly had merit within sci-fi superhero comics. Of course, long before Schrödinger’s cat and relative state formulation, the Stoics of the 3rd century BCE (inspired by Heraclitus and Socrates before them) fleshed-out conceptual theoretical physics akin to contemporary Multiverse Theory. As unheralded comics muse Jorge Luis Borges notes in The Theologians, the Stoics believed in an “infinite cycle of worlds, with infinite suns, moons, Apollos, Dianas, and Poseidons.” As creators deftly layered the Stoic “infinite cycle of worlds” (i.e. a multiverse proper) into their superhero narratives, the superhero comic book genre entered into new levels of heightened visionary literature. These early superhero multiverse narratives, especially ones featuring the dimension-hopping heroes of the DCU, would stimulate the emergence of the literary genre of New Wave science fiction, which was born in the mid 1960s and flourished in the 1970s. Interestingly, despite being directly influenced by comics, New Wave science fiction novels would garner critical praise that the comics themselves failed to achieve a decade earlier (and wouldn’t achieve for decades to come). Such is the unjust history of “serious literature” thumbing its nose at “funnybooks,” I suppose. Without the multiverse of the Silver Age of comics, maybe we wouldn’t have had Michael Moorcock’s multiverse, and without that, we surely would have been deprived of Alan Moore.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the aforementioned “unheralded” Borges has always garnered recognition from someone within the world of superhero comics: Grant Morrison. Morrison built a great deal of his comics writing foundation upon Borges’ notions—from his early days on Doom Patrol (1989-1990) all the way through Batman Incorporated (2010-2013). Morrison was also equally influenced by Italo Calvino and William Gibson, two authors also indebted to Borges. Without Borges and/or the quantum mechanical theories of the 1950s and 1960s, we probably wouldn’t have Morrison comics. Same goes for the comics oeuvre of Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman too.

doom patrol 22

While writers implemented metaphysics in terms of authorship and narrative throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, multiversial storytelling ultimately culminated with 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC’s first ever reboot, which ushered in the Modern Age. With this reboot, writers were forced to grapple with something new, specifically the impact of these metaphysics upon the characters themselves i.e. postmodernism via metafiction. By 1986, comic book characters were quite experienced at navigating the multiverse, but now they would be forced to confront a reboot—or, at the very least, would either perceive it or not perceive it. Was Batman, for example, cognizant of the effects of the Crisis? As we know from reading our comics, Batman and friends (most of his friends anyway) did not retain knowledge of what had been in existence before the Crisis. So they did not grasp that there had been a world prior to their current (re)existence.

There is, of course, literary precedent in regard to the human perception of a reboot. Bertrand Russell, in his 1921 masterpiece The Analysis of Mind, sums it up perfectly by supposing that the planet might only have been created a few minutes ago, furnished with a humanity that “remembers” an illusory past. As per Borges in Tlön (1940), this ostensible negation of time demonstrates that “the present is indefinite, the future has no reality other than as present hope, that the past has no reality other than as a present memory.” Or, from another perspective, again from Borges, we could say that all time has already transpired and one’s life is “only the crepuscular and no doubt falsified and mutilated memory.” These Borgesian approaches, especially the latter, are really exactly how characters within the world of the superhero genre experience (or rather don’t experience) reboots. For Batman, when a reboot happens, all his memories become nothing but a “mutilated” historical record that reflects an “illusory past.” Of course, Batman wouldn’t have anyway of knowing. And, if he were to even catch a slight wind of this—as he sometimes actually does in the comics—it would be far to much for him to fully decode.

In Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (1972), literary theorist Gérard Genette coins the term “narratological metalepsis,” defined as “a paradoxical transgression of the boundaries between narrative levels or logically distinct worlds.”[1] In a nutshell, this is a more structural interpretation of “breaking the fourth wall,” which goes hand-in-hand with the meta-nature of how character’s interact with reboots. Following Genette’s further extrapolation of metalepsis in Métalepse: From Figure to Fiction (2004), scholar Douglas Estes, in The Temporal Mechanics of the Fourth Gospel (2008), adds to (or simplifies) Genette’s thesis by describing metalepsis as occurring when an omniscient narrator enters the world of the story that they are narrating. This happens time and time again in literature, maybe most notably (in terms of DC Comics), when Grant Morrison himself entered the pages of his own Animal Man run in 1990. Genette’s metalepsis and any kind of fourth wall-breaking are close cousins to the Borgesian intellection mentioned above.

If you are looking for a less academic but equally heady explanation of how fictional characters experience reboots, look no further than David Wong’s John Dies at the End (2001). Despite the novel’s steady stream of sophomoric comedy, it also captures these ideas very well. Scientists, philosophers, and writers have long tackled these metaphysics, not just in regard to the fictional element, but also as a way of trying to understand the cosmic nature of reality as well. As Borges reminds us in A New Refutation of Time, some Buddhist texts say that the world annihilates itself and reappears six thousand five hundred million times a day. Who knows, maybe we’ve been rebooted more often than we can count—and more often than Batman.

Every character lives in a universe in a multiverse in an omniverse. These things are all on a single shared timeline that spans from the beginning of creation to universal heat death. A character could exist on a Universe in any number of Multiverses in the Omniverse. But whether this character is on Earth-0, Earth-5003, or anything in between, this character shares a timeline with everyone else (generally speaking). There have been several timelines (as detailed by the Real Batman Chronology), but there’s only ever been one “Metaverse,” a recent Geoff Johns-coined term from Doomsday Clock (2019) that refers to the single line of fictional history that includes all prior reboots. We (the readers) have always been able to see the Metaverse. The characters, on the other hand, normally cannot. And, if they do, as stated above, it is difficult for them to fully decode. It’s very significant to be able to comprehend the Metaverse, even more-so to be able to travel through it. Traveling through the Metaverse isn’t time-traveling, in which one goes back and forth on a single timeline. Traveling through the Metaverse is literally traveling through another layer of fictional history, almost like looking at the Gods of the Gods. I’m not sure we have the language to properly speak about this, but looking back to Russell, Borges, and ancient Buddhist mysticism is a great place to start to learn.

doomsday clock 10 part 1doomsday clock 10 part 2

  1. [1]COLLIN COLSHER: Narratological metalepsis is also known as (or can be broken down further into) “narrative metalepsis,” “rhetorical metalepsis,” “lectorial metalepsis,” “authorial metalepsis,” “narratorial metalepsis,” “ontological metalepsis,” “discourse metalespsis,” and probably more. For the purposes of this text, I’ll simply refer to the whole umbrella as “metalepsis.” For even more on metalepsis, see Marie-Laure Ryan’s “Metaleptic Machines” in Avatars of Story (2004), Monika Fludernik’s “Scene Shift, Metalepsis, and the Metaleptic Mode” in Style (2003), and John Pier’s “Metalepsis” in The Living Handbook of Narratology (2011).
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Judo Chop! Part Ten

Goodbye 70s, hello 80s! Goofy martial arts panels (and even goofier martial arts/bodybuilding ads) are still a thing in DC Comics, even in 1981.

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Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective (Part 2)

dick grayson as batman retrospective

Welcome to Part 2 of “Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective”—a detailed look at Dick Grayson’s time spent wearing the cape and cowl of the Batman. In Part 1 we looked at mid-1990s arc “Prodigal” (by Chuck DixonAlan GrantDoug MoenchBret BlevinsMD Bright, Phil Jimenez, et al), which was basically a test run for Dick’s official move to take-up the Bat-mantle. Following Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne was lost in time and presumed dead (sent there by Darkseid, who left behind a corpse of a clone to fool everyone else). Thus, Dick became the official Batman, taking Bruce’s son Damian as his Robin. Initially fleshed-out primarily by Morrison, Judd Winick, Tony Daniel, and James Robinson, the new Dynamic Duo was unlike any other before it, a true push towards rewarding legacy characters and pushing them to the forefront of the overarching Bat-narrative. For over two years’ worth of publications, Dick was Batman (sharing the end of that period with a returning Bruce)—a truly exciting time for the Modern Age and a fitting end for the era. Let’s pick up where we left off, with the new Batman and Robin trying to awkwardly adjust to their new roles. Morrison and Robinson will be the chief architects here, with a side-order of Paul Cornell and Scott Snyder.

One of the best things about Dick as Batman is getting to see him mesh with young Damian. They are a great pairing, one of the finest in comics history. Morrison continues fleshing-out this team with Batman & Robin #4-6 (“REVENGE OF THE RED HOOD”) (art by Philip Tan, November 2009-January 2010). Jason Todd (Red Hood) has returned with new sidekick Scarlet (Dollotron Sasha). Together, they form the “Dynamic Duo for the 2010s,” Tweeting catchphrases, taking selfies, leaving literal calling cards, scheduling press releases, and uploading iPhone-recorded viral videos, all while violently killing criminals. Damian is introduced to the public as Bruce’s blood-son while Dick meets fiction writer, Oberon Sexton—actually the Joker in disguise. Red Hood and Scarlet are able to capture Batman and Robin, stripping them naked, tying them up, and propping them in front of a web cam. A commercial hits the air-waves explaining that the cam will activate if an attached phone system receives one million calls. Who wants to see the Dynamic Duo naked? Call in! This is a cheeky nod to the DC call-in number that caused Jason’s death (by fan vote) in the 1980s. While Dick and Damian escape, the Prince-inspired assassin Eduardo Flamingo (sent by “El Penitente” aka Simon Hurt aka Bruce’s crazed immortal uncle Thomas Wayne) arrives and beats the holy hell out of Jason and Sasha. Dick and Damian team-up with their evil counterparts to defeat Flamingo, but not before Damian is shot and paralyzed. A League of Assassins medical team shows up and takes Damian away to heal him. As cops drag Jason away, he asks Dick why he never put Batman’s corpse into a Lazarus Pit. Back at Wayne Tower, Dick opens a secret vault in the Bunker revealing Bruce’s remains. (Of course, unknown to Dick, these remains are actually a clone of Bruce.) Dick stares at the body and contemplates what Jason has said.

batman and robin #5

Morrison’s grand arc continues with Batman & Robin #7-9 (“BLACKEST KNIGHT”) (art by Cameron Stewart, March-April 2010), in which Dick teams-up with Knight and Squire versus Old King Coal. At Basement 101 (England’s equivalent to Arkham Asylum), Batman learns there is a self-replenishing Lazarus Pit in a nearby London mine. Batman ships cloned-Bruce’s corpse to Knight, who drags it down to the Lazarus Pit. “Bruce” is dunked and revived! Dick, Knight, Squire, and Batwoman are attacked by the crazy Clone-Batman, who battles his way out of the cavern. When Old King Coal collapses the mineshaft, Batwoman is crushed and killed, but Dick then resurrects her in the Pit! Meanwhile, instinctively, Clone-Batman flies to Gotham and terrorizes Alfred and Damian. Batman and Batwoman use a suborbital rocket to get to the States just in time to defeat Clone-Batman. Dick delivers Clone-Batman’s corpse and the news about Bruce to the JLA.

Things ramp-up wildly in Morrison’s Batman & Robin #10-12 (“BATMAN VS. ROBIN”) (art by Andy Clarke, May-August 2010) as Hurt unleashes his assassins known as The 99 Fiends upon Gotham. Batman and Robin meet at Wayne Manor where Alfred has had a breakthrough in the investigation into the whereabouts of Bruce. They realize Bruce is sending them clues from the past. Dick and Damian soon find secret passages inside Wayne Manor, including Hurt’s catacomb devoted to the worship of the bat demon Barbatos. Alfred informs Dick that Thomas Wayne was the black sheep of the Wayne family, who was ostracized for Satan worship in 1765. Deeper underground, Dick finds a statue of Barbatos and a tiny casket with a Bat-symbol on it. Upon retrieving the casket, Dick is mauled by a giant bat—the Hyper-Adapter in bat form retreating backward through time after its defeat at the end of Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne. Above ground, Robin and Joker fight-off the 99 Fiends. A rocket ride later, Batman and Robin confront Talia al Ghul, who reveals the existence of a cloned month-old Damian fetus that will come to be known as The Heretic.

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Morrison’s über story continues with “BATMAN AND ROBIN MUST DIE!” (Batman & Robin #13-16) (art by Frazer Irving, Stewart, and Chris Burnham, August 2010-January 2011). Hurt finally makes his public debut, posing as Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father), claiming that he never died all those decades ago. He captures Dick and Damian, shooting a .32 caliber pellet in the back of Dick’s skull designed to cause permanent neurological damage if not quickly treated. Hurt demands Damian pledge allegiance to him. Dick whistles a secret Miagani tune, causing the tiny Bat-casket—Bruce’s trick from the past—to spring open. Bruce invented the casket as a red herring for Hurt to painstakingly chase for centuries. What’s inside? A note that reads “Gotcha!” Batman and Robin punch Hurt to the ground, who looks up only to view another Batman standing over him: Bruce Wayne! Bruce has literally just arrived from the final page of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne! Batman, Batman, and Robin kick ass. Bruce chases Hurt out of the Batcave. As Hurt emerges, Joker is eagerly awaiting with his own trick. Hurt slips on a banana peel and breaks his neck. Laughing, Joker buries the immortal Hurt alive! In the Batcave, Bruce and Alfred reunite. Within hours, Dick makes a speedy recovery following a round of emergency surgery from Dr. Pennyworth. Damian worries about what will happen to Batman and Robin now that his father is back. Not to worry, kid. Bruce has a plan—and it involves Dick continuing on as Batman. (Both Bruce and Dick will act as dual Batmen.) Later, with Dick, Tim, Damian, and Alfred at his side, the REAL Bruce Wayne makes his public re-debut. Bruce drops one of the biggest bombshells in the history of Batman. As multiple Batsignals light up the Gotham skyline, Bruce goes full-on “Tony Stark,” announcing that he has personally-financed Batman’s war on crime from the beginning and that, from this moment forward, Wayne Enterprises will publicly fund a global anti-crime network known as “Batman Incorporated.” A new era of TWO BATMEN is upon us!

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Now that Bruce is back, Dick has some extra time to focus on his JLA duties, which means we return to Robinson’s sculpting of his character. In “REIGN OF DOOMSDAY Part 1” (Justice League of America Vol. 2 #55 and Superman/Batman Annual #5) by Robinson, Brett Booth, and Miguel Sepulveda (May-June 2011). Eclipso and a possessed team of shadow-powered international metahumans (and one Cthulhu god) attack Donna Troy, Jesse Quick, and Jade, taking over Alan Scott’s lunar Emerald City. Meanwhile, Dick (in a Bat-ship and spacesuit), Supergirl, and Alpha Green Lantern Boodikka examine all the asteroid remains of a recently destroyed New Krypton. However, their examination is interrupted by Doomsday! Starman and Blue Lantern Saint Walker quickly join the heroes against Doomsday, but he chases them to the Watchtower where Cyborg Superman makes his return as well. While Dick battles dozens of hard-light villains in The Arena (which has previously been referred to as “The Kitchen”), Doomsday assimilates some of Cyborg Superman’s nanotech to become Cyborg Doomsday! Cyborg Doomsday defeats both Supergirl and Cyborg Superman.

This leads directly into Justice League of America Vol. 2 #56-59 (“RISE OF ECLIPSO”) by Robinson, Booth, and Daniel Sampere (June-September 2011), in which we really get to see Dick take on a strong leadership role on the JLA! At the lunar Emerald City, the JLA gets possessed by Eclipso, who unbelievably is able to murder the Spectre, steal his powers, and split the moon in half. Of course, the fissured Moon throws Earth into a cataclysmic state. Meteor showers, tsunamis, and destruction rain across the planet almost immediately. On the lunar battlefield, Dick leads the remaining heroes and hatches a plan involving the Atom and Starman. They shrink down, enter the Shade’s brain, and shut down Eclipso’s control over everyone in his shadow army. As per Dick’s plan, Saint Walker uses his Blue Lantern powers to make Eclipso think that he’s already won the battle. The heroes easily defeat a detached Eclipso. Alan Scott, Jade, Saint Walker, and Supergirl combine their powers and fix the Moon. 

“REIGN OF DOOMSDAY” concludes in Action Comics #903-904—the final Modern Age issues of Action Comics Vol. 1 (!)—by Cornell, Azel Giménez, and Ronan Cliquet (September-October 2011). As an army of Cyborg Doomsdays (heavy emphasis on multiple Doomsdays here) rages violently, The Doomslayer (an ultimate version of Doomsday) arrives to destroy them all. Sounds good, right? It would be if the Doomslayer didn’t plan on destroying the entire planet in order to do so. Both Batmen (Bruce and Dick) join a gaggle of heroes to deal with the situation. Superman defeats the Doomslayer with help from Eradicator while Batman, Batman, and the rest of Earth’s superheroes defeat multiple Cyborg Doomsdays all across the planet.

If you didn’t know, Scott Snyder cuts his teeth at DC Comics by writing Dick Grayson as Batman. It’s a strong start that undoubtedly led to him eventually becoming the primary writer of the Bat-line, a role he held for over seven years before switching to Justice League in 2018. In Detective Comics #871-874 (“THE BLACK MIRROR” / “SKELETON CASES”) by Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla (January-April 2011), Dick learns that a ton of old Bat-rogue paraphernalia has disappeared from the police evidence room. After several murders are committed with the stolen stuff, Dick learns that someone called The Dealer has been auctioning off the goods. After meeting with Babs, Harvey Bullock, and Tim, an undercover Dick (using new Lucius Fox-developed Human Target-esque mask-making technology) attends the auction but is immediately outed as Batman. Dick later dons one of the Iron Man Bat-suits (from Morrison’s Batman: The Return #1) and chases the Dealer, who injects himself with Venom and Man-Bat Serum, transforming himself into a giant musclebound bat monster. Not long after, Commissioner Gordon meets with his long lost son James Gordon Jr—a psychopath who began a string of murders at a very young age, was institutionalized, and then became a drifter as an adult, committing even more murders. (We haven’t seen James Jr since he was a baby in Frank Miller’s Batman Year One!) James Jr has now finally returned to Gotham, claiming that his wicked ways are behind him. Of course, they aren’t.

skeleton cases scott snyder jock

Join us for Part Three of “Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective” as the Modern Age ends, ending Dick’s run as Batman too. We’ll also look at some New 52, Rebirth Era, and non-canon Dick-as-Batman material. Until next time!

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Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective (Part 3)

Dick Grayson's evolution

Welcome to the third and final part of “Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective (Part 3).” We left off in our last piece with Dick long into his tenure as Batman. With Bruce Wayne’s return in Grant Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman & Robin, there are two Batmen in Gotham, a unique and exciting time for what would ultimately be the twilight years of the Modern Age. With reboot looming via 2011’s Flashpoint (by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert), the sky is the limit for creators, so it would seem. As such, there are a lot of memorable moments. We’ll look at those Modern Age moments before touching upon cape-and-cowled Dick Graysons of other timelines.

In the wild and excellent crossover “JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM” (Batman #708, Red Robin #22, Gotham City Sirens #22, and Batman #709—by David Hine, Guillem March, Fabian Nicieza, Freddie E Williams II, Peter Calloway, Andres Guinaldo, et al, May-June 2011), we get the delightful debuts of Fireball and The Crusader—crazy scary powerful warriors subservient to Azrael (Michael Lane). Claiming to have been sent by God (in this case Ra’s al Ghul), the so-called “Angels of Death” destroy whole city blocks. Catwoman begs Dick to call Bruce for help, but Dick says that this is his own responsibility. Azrael kidnaps Mayor Hady while Fireball and the Crusader continue destroying the city. The Crusader’s powers include telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, flight ability, near invulnerability, super strength, and the power to make locusts and snakes appear at will. He’s amazing—one of my favorite comic book villains of all time (in case you couldn’t tell). Bruce, seeing the chaos on the news while away in Hong Kong, calls Dick to ask if he needs help. Dick says he can handle it. Eventually, Red Robin and Catwoman show-up with Jenny Lane and her kids. Azrael realizes that Ra’s al Ghul has been using him as a pawn and ends the attack.

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Detective Comics #875-881 by Scott Snyder, Francesco Francavilla, and Jock (May-October 2011) continues and concludes the “Skeleton Cases” story-arc. James Gordon Jr is back in Gotham, but is he a psychopath and did he really commit multiple murders? Inquiring minds want to know, including Barbara Gordon (Jim Gordon’s ex-wife), who returns to Gotham for the first time in over a decade. Unfortunately, Barbara is attacked by a mystery assailant and left naked, bloody, and Jokerized. Welcome back to Gotham, Barbara! Batman confronts Joker, who is genuinely annoyed that he’s dealing with Batman #2. Joker claims he doesn’t know anything about the attack. This is because it wasn’t Joker—it was James Jr, of course. James Jr kidnaps Babs and then contacts Dick, gloating that he knows the secret IDs of both Batmen! It’s heavily implied that Commissioner Gordon also knows, but I suppose that isn’t too shocking since it’s always been insinuated, especially by Snyder. James Jr monologues like Adrian Veidt, claiming he’s spiked Gotham’s baby formula vats. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but if so, thanks to the way James Jr’s drug functions, Gotham’s next generation will be composed of brand new psychos. Babs stabs James Jr in the eye just as Dick shows-up to save her. Commissioner Gordon shoots his son in the legs and reels him into justice in a scene that mirrors the climax of Frank Miller’s Batman Year One. Despite its myriad continuity errors (nearly every flashback is riddled with contradiction), this arc packs a chilling gut punch by the end. 

With Snyder riding high and taking the main reins of the Bat-line, DC gives him his own mini-series called Batman: Gates of Gotham #1-5 (art by Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy, May-October 2011). Snyder decides to rebuild some of the Gotham mythos with a little retconned history. In the late 1800s, the “first families” of Gotham (the Waynes, the Kanes, the Cobblepots, and the Elliots) began construction on the skyline of Gotham. Two young sibling architects, Nicholas Anders Gate and Bradley Gate, were hired to construct the elaborate Cyrus Pinkney designs. The skyline was built, but politics and intrigue led to a terrible accident and the death of Bradley. Unable to cope, Nicholas went insane and killed Cameron Kane’s son, earning a lifetime sentence to Arkham Asylum. Not wanting bad publicity, the “first families” covered-up the true facts of the murder and the Gate brothers never received credit for their involvement in the development of the city. With this backstory set in stone, we turn to the present. Three of Gotham’s bridges, the old Wayne Tower, and the Iceberg Lounge are blown up in terrorist attacks. Who is responsible? The steampunk villain known as The Architect aka Zachary Gate, descendant of the Gate brothers, who believes that the Gates were victims of persecution by the “first families.” And Snyder definitely gives us evidence that some underhandedness may have indeed occurred back in ye olden times. After some Dick-led Bat-Family teamwork, the Architect is defeated. Afterward, Dick reports to Bruce, who is overseas on business. Bruce tells Dick that he’s done a great job as Batman, but he’s coming home to Gotham for good soon and when he makes his return, they must have a talk about the future (i.e. Nightwing will eventually have to come back). Damn.

In Batman Incorporated #6 by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn (June 2011), Bruce gives a TV interview regarding Batman Incorporated. When Emoticon-Man (!) shows-up, Alfred kicks ass (!) and the villain is left surrounded by a bunch of GI Bat Robots and a grinning Bruce. Looks like the new Batman is rubbing off on the old one! Bruce holds a Batcave meeting with his closest allies and declares war on Leviathan, a global crime syndicate (secretly run by Talia al Ghul). Later, at the Bat-Bunker, Bruce explains to Dick and Damian that many people will now be trying to expose the secret IDs of all the Batman Inc members. After examining an Internet message board, Bruce demonstrates that much of the Internet community already believes that Bruce is indeed Batman! Bruce isn’t worried, claiming that a steady stream of misinformation will keep their IDs safe. Bruce and Alfred then begin a trip around the globe to meet with various Batman Inc soldiers, including Nightrunner, Black Bat Cassie Cain (!!!), a new Aboriginal Dark Ranger, Batwing, Traktir, Spidra, and Wingman (Jason Todd). We also see Gaucho and Jiro Osamu. Aboard the Leviathan satellite HQ, Doctor Dedalus and the mysterious leader of Leviathan begin their final preparations for an all out assault against the entire planet. On the twinkling blue Earth below, Batman Inc is ready and waiting.

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Batman #713 (by Fabian Nicieza, Steve Scott, Daniel Sampere, Andrei Bressan, et al—October 2011) represents the unbelievable end of an era. Issue #713 is the final issue of Batman Vol. 1. Dick and Damian attend a Wayne Foundation Annual Benefit for victims of the long-ago-but-never-forgotten Great Gotham Earthquake (from 1998’s Cataclysm by Chuck DixonAlan Grant, Devin GraysonDoug Moench, et al). At the event, Damian tells three eager kids his version of the history of the Dynamic Duo. Afterward, Batman and Robin go on their nightly patrol. Batman and Robin will never die!

In Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! #1 by Morrison, Burnham, Cameron Stewart, and Fairbairn (February 2012), Batman Incorporated is finally ready to attack Leviathan head-on. Batman (Bruce), Batman (Dick), Robin, Red Robin, and Gaucho infiltrate a Leviathan oil tanker. Batman (Bruce) is dosed with an experimental drug and becomes separated from the group. Super-villain Doctor Dedalus is able to taunt Batman and pry precious secrets about Batman Inc from the struggling hero. Across the globe, Leviathan agents seemingly kill Batwing and the Hood. (Don’t worry, they are okay!) Meanwhile, Batman (Dick), Red Robin, and Robin fight a brainwashed Dark Ranger and Nightrunner and a turncoat Gaucho. Dedalus sinks his own ship and reveals that several meta-bombs will blow-up all over the planet. Gaucho has a change of heart and betrays Dedalus, giving Batman the antidote to the drug in his system. Damian throws a knife into Dedalus’ head, killing him. Damian nervously mutters, “Father. I’m sorry. He was going to kill you.” Great stuff. Batman, Batman, Red Robin, Robin, and Gaucho then find the severed head of Jezebel Jet (Bruce’s ex). Over the phone, Talia tells Bruce that the war is officially game on. While the Modern Age might be ending, things are just heating up for the New 52. 

And that’s really where our Dick-as-Batman story ends. As referenced earlier in Snyder’s Batman: Gates of Gotham #5, Dick returns to his old role of Nightwing. Dick returning to his Nightwing gimmick is also referenced in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #60 (by James Robinson and Daniel Sampere, October 2011) and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #1 (by Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn—July 2012). In the latter, which is canon in both the Modern Age and New 52, Dick is shown back in his Nightwing persona.

However, it isn’t long before Dick is already wearing the Bat-costume again—at least for a classic Bat-ruse. In Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #3 (by Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn—July 2012), Batman dons his Matches Malone guise and, along with Dick dressed as Batman and an undercover Gaucho, Hood, and Freight Train, pumps the local bar scene for information regarding Leviathan. Dick gets to ham-it-up and do his amazing best-impression of grim-n-gritty Bruce Batman. Later, in the Batcave, Dick plays around, wearing the Bat-cape along with his Nightwing outfit.

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In Andy Kubert’s Damian: Son of Batman (December 2013-March 2014), in what actually seems to be a quasi-canonical future for both the Modern Age and New 52, Dick actually returns to the cape and cowl of the Bat after Bruce retires. Batman (Dick) and Robin (Damian) fight together long enough to garner new rivals in Jackanapes, The Weasel, Chipmunk, and Tomahawks. However, tragedy strikes when Dick and Damian investigate the scene of a grisly pile of murder victims about which are strewn a bunch of Joker-fish. When Dick examines one of the fish, a bomb goes off killing him instantly. This sequence is also shown in Batman #666 by Morrison and Kubert (July 2007).

Throughout the Modern Age, there have been other Dick Graysons to wear the Bat-costume, but they are all non-canon or alternate universe versions. An Elseworlds Dick-as-Batman from John Byrne’s Superman & Batman: Generations (1999) comes to mind as a highly notable Modern Age alt-version of the character.

After the Geoff Johns-authored Flashpoint reboot (2011), the New 52 brought a handful of fresh alternate reality Dick Grayson Batmen. Most notable among these is the Dick-as-Batman that debuted in Earth 2: World’s End #1 by Marguerite Bennett, Mike Johnson, Daniel H Wilson, et al (December 2014). This Batman had some longevity, appearing in over fifty issues, mostly in the pages of various Earth-2 titles. The Earth-42 Batman (from The Multiversity Guidebook #1 by Morrison et al, March 2015) is also remarkable. Not only is he Dick Grayson, but he is also a cute chibi version of Dick.

More recently, in the current “Rebirth Era” of DC Comics, Dick has returned briefly to the Bat-role, but only for ruses akin to when he wore the costume back in the Silver Age. For example, in Dark Nights: Metal #2 (by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo—September 2017), the entire Bat-Family (Nightwing, Batwoman, Batgirl, Batwing, and Red Hood) each disguise themselves as Batman using EMP holographic masks.

In Tom King’s current run, specifically Batman Vol. 3 #51-53 (“COLD DAYS”)—art by Lee Weeks, September-October 2018, Dick returns to the cape and cowl of the Bat after Bruce’s heart is broken by Selina and he has to go on jury duty for a Mr. Freeze trial. Learning that he will be sequestered at a hotel for what could be weeks of deliberation, Bruce asks Dick to fill-in for him as Batman. As the trial goes on, Batman (Dick) meets with Gordon and tells him that the other Batman isn’t doing so well. After routinely busting Killer Croc, Dick leaves a concerned voicemail on Bruce’s phone, inquiring whether or not Bruce is okay. Bruce is not okay. He vents in the courthouse bathroom by screaming and destroying a urinal. During the jury deliberation, Bruce tells his fellow jurors that everyone in Gotham sees Batman as this infallible god, whom they’d never even think to question—but Batman is human. He’s no god, no matter how much Gotham respects, fears, or loves him. With this sliver of reasonable doubt, the jury votes not guilty and Mr. Freeze is acquitted.

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Also in recent comics, we’ve seen an alternate Dick-as-Batman—the Batman of the future world of the 6th Dimension. In Justice League Vol. 4 #19-21 (“THE SIXTH DIMENSION”) by Scott Snyder and Jorge Jiménez. Mr. Mxyzptlk helps the JLA by opening a door to the 6th Dimension. There, the JLA finds an alternate future world where they are greeted by alternate future versions of themselves. The elder JL shows-off a utopian version of Earth where all crime has ended. The 6th Dimension’s Batman, an alt-Dick Grayson, tells Batman how the 6th Dimensional Bruce Wayne sacrificed his life to ensure the peace they now have. Alt-Dick gives Batman a tour of the Pennyworth Home rehabilitation center. Of course, things aren’t exactly as they seem. There’s a darkness to the ostensible utopia. The elder JLA is really led by Alpheus (the original World Forger, son of Perpetua, and brother to the Anti-Monitor Mobius and original Montior Mar Novu).

And that brings us up to speed. Let me know if I missed anything! Like I said, there’s a handful of instances where Dick wears the costume as part of a trick or ruse in order to fool someone, but this retrospective was really about tackling all of his more official runs as Batman. Overall, Dick was a wonderful Batman, who carried on Bruce’s legacy while adding flair of his own to the role. One can easily argue that Dick was a better-suited partner for Damian (and acted as a better father/big brother than Bruce ever did), which is pretty amazing. Dick’s candor, humor, and lightheartedness breathed new life into the concept of Batman, complicating the very idea of what it meant to be the Dark Knight for the first time in almost 70 years. Able to admit fault and rely on his heart, empathy, and humanity to guide him (in ways that Bruce has struggled with at times), Dick is a Batman that I wouldn’t mind seeing again in the future. Thanks for reading! Until next time, take care and keep reading superhero comics!

past present future

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Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective (Part 1)

dick as batman collin colsher

Ever since the Golden Age, Batman has occasionally had friends fill-in for him underneath the cape and cowl—usually Alfred or Superman as part of a ruse to fool either a villain or a snooping associate looking to discover a secret identity. However, Dick Grayson has, every once in a blue moon, filled-in for Bruce to wear the Bat-costume as well. While this initially happened quite sparingly (especially since the much smaller Robin didn’t necessarily fit into the costume very well back in the day), once Dick got to be around college age in the Silver/Bronze Era, it was a switcheroo that could be implemented more easily.

One of the first notable times that Dick wears the Batman costume is at the end of Batman #302 by David Vern Reed and John Calnan (August 1978). Dick, finally old enough to fill-out the costume, dons his mentor’s suite so that Bruce can be present when the cops arrive after a successful adventure.

In Paul Levitz’s old-school Earth-2 tale from Wonder Woman #283, (art by Joe Staton, Steve Mitchell, and Adrienne Roy—September 1981), which takes place after Earth-2 Bruce Wayne has died, Earth-2 Dick wears the cape and cowl of the Bat in order to help The Huntress (Helena Wayne) bust an elderly Joker.

levitz earth 2 dick as batman

In Mike W Barr’s Batman #353 (art by Don Newton, Dennis Jensen, and Adrienne Roy—November 1982), an adult Dick wears the Bat-suit, hoping it’ll give him an extra edge when confronting some crooks. Despite being a grown-ass man, Dick still needs inflatable pectorals to fill out buff Brucie’s costume.

A mere month later, in Gerry Conway’s Batman #354 (Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, and Adrienne Roy—December 1982), Dick seems to fill out his mentor’s costume much better, filling in for an injured Bruce. Dick wraps up an all-important case involving Rupert Thorne, Peter Pauling, and Mayor Hill. Awesome stuff—and the first legit glimpse of Dick performing at his full Bat-potential.
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Really though, besides sporadic instances like the above (throughout the Bronze Age and pre-Zero Hour Modern Age), Dick doesn’t wear the Bat-costume proper until “Prodigal” by Chuck DixonAlan GrantDoug MoenchBret Blevins, Phil Jimenez, et al (1994-1995). 


Having recently returned from besting bad news replacement Jean-Paul Valley, Bruce has decided he’s still not quite ready to be Batman full-time yet. Thus, Bruce temporarily bestows the honor of being Batman unto Dick! While this is a temporary move, lasting only a couple weeks, as referenced in Matthew Manning’s The Batman Files (2011), it is Bruce’s hope that Dick will one day become a permanent Batman after his death. Soon after, Dick debuts his now infamous spiky-shouldered Bat-costume. It’s worth noting that, while there are many artists credited to “Prodigal,” only penciler Jimenez drew Dick’s Batman costume with the spiky shoulder blade cape. No one else did this. So, it’s actually best to take those spiky shoulders as Jimenez’s bizarre artistic liberty. The new Batman meets with a pissed-off Commissioner Gordon, who (once again) realizes immediately that there’s a new face under the mask. Dick tells him to chill out and makes quick work of Croc, Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, Two-Face, and Tally Man. The most important part of “Prodigal” is really in the conclusion where Bruce returns to reclaim the mantle of the Bat and has an intense conversation with Dick (who becomes Nightwing again). Why did Bruce choose Jean-Paul over Dick in the first place? Because he knew Dick was his own man and didn’t want to just assume that he would be the natural successor to the title. Hmmm, okay. Robin Vol. 2 #13, the concluding episode of “Prodigal,” features Bruce at possibly his coldest in regard to his fellow Bat-family members. And what Bruce says to Dick here echoes this frigidity.

Nearly thirteen years later, following Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis (2009) where Bruce has been zapped into history and presumed dead, there is a seemingly permanent vacancy in the Batman position. Thus, Dick finally gets to shine as THE ONE AND ONLY Batman.

How does Dick’s Bat-reign begin? In the conclusion to the Battle for the Cowl arc (by Tony Daniel and Sandy Florea, 2009), we get lots of wannabe Batmen feuding for the top Bat-spot. Nightwing defeats a Bat-clad Jason Todd and claims sole ownership rights to the mantle. Dick, however, is very hesitant to assume the role of Batman, and doesn’t step into Bruce’s old shoes without deep contemplation. At first, Dick doesn’t even want the mantle of the Bat, but he’s got it and he’ll wear it with pride and honor. Dick designs costumes for both himself and Damian. He then suits up in the gray and black colors of the Dark Knight. We have a brand new Dynamic Duo! Damian Wayne is the newest and 5th Robin (in Modern Age continuity). And Dick is the new official Batman!

Dick is Batman for about a year in the comics, and is Batman from 2009 until 2011 in regard to publication time. Dick is a decidedly different type of Batman than his predecessors, less brooding, less nasty, less of a perfectionist—prone to complaining, but open to making big sweeping changes to better match his personal needs. Put bluntly, in spite of his whining (and his grinning), Dick as Batman is a breath of fresh air in many ways compared to Bruce. It’s an interesting experiment that actually was meant to go much longer than it wound up going. Not matter your opinion of Dick behind the cape and cowl, he proved that someone else absolutely could be Batman instead of Bruce. And he cemented the concept of legacy storytelling that is kind of lacking today. The Modern Age elevated Wally West and Kyle Rayner early on, but Dick becoming Batman paved the way for others like Donna Troy and Cyborg to be bumped-up to the next level too. During Dick’s official Bat-run, there’s lots of great stuff. Here are some highlights of his excellent tenure.

Morrison was the prime architect of Dick’s call-up to the big leagues. Naturally, we start with Morrison and Frank Quietly’s Batman & Robin #1-3 (“BATMAN REBORN”) (June 2009-October 2009), the new Dynamic Duo debuts a flying Batmobile in action against newcomer Mr. Toad. The debuting Professor Pyg adheres one of his horrific masks on a victim named Sasha. The masks turn innocent women into Pyg’s obedient followers known as Dollotrons. Dick and Alfred close-up both Wayne Manor and the Batcave and make the permanent move to Wayne Tower. Batman and Robin then have a meeting with Commissioner Gordon at GCPD HQ when Toad’s contemporaries, the Circus of the Strange, try to break him out of jail. The new Dynamic Duo has very little chemistry and the end-result is disaster. After their debacle, an upset Damian takes off after Pyg by himself but gets kidnapped. At the Bat-Bunker, Dick complains to Alfred, “It’s not even Damian. It’s Gordon… Those cops…  Nobody believes I’m Batman! I spent years building up respect as Nightwing and now they’re looking at me like I’m one more psycho Batman impersonator!” After a quick Alfred pep-talk, Dick saves Damian, stops the Dollotrons, and apprehends Pyg.

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Not everyone in the fictive world of the DCU was so happy about a new Dark Knight appearing so soon after the fall of version 1.0. In Superman/Batman #76 by Judd Winick and Marco Rudy (November 2010), Superman hears about the new Batman on the news and angrily confronts Dick, nearly physically forcing him to remove the costume, claiming that Dick as Batman is “grotesque” in light of Bruce’s death. Supes zooms-off to consult with Wonder Woman, who is able to calm him down. Later, Superman visits the Bat-Bunker and apologizes to Dick about their ugly encounter. The two shake hands as Superman gives his full support and acceptance to Dick.

While Morrison was quick to show Dick’s very different emotional demeanor right out of the bat (pun intended), Winick is keen to expand upon that idea as well. In Batman #688 by Winick and Mark Bagley (September 2009), Dick makes some smiling Batman appearances on TV before returning home to complain about how annoyed he is by the Bat-costume’s cape. Dick has a completely different fighting style than Bruce did. Alfred laughs out loud at the idea of a “neurotic Batman.” Dick then trains Damian in hand-to-hand combat.  Across town, Two-Face watches the news on TiVo over and over again and realizes that there’s a new man wearing the cape and cowl.

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There’s a fun bit of personal hypocrisy on the part of the new Batman that is displayed early-on in his Bat-run too. In Batgirl Vol. 3 #1, by Bryan Q Miller and Lee Garbett (October 2009), Dick and Damian watch Batgirl in action and realize that there is new person under that mask too—someone they claim is “not as good” as the old Batgirl. Hey, harsh indictment! It’s Stephanie Brown!

Winick, who became a sort of secondary architect (along with Tony Daniel) in regard to the development of Dick as Batman, wanted to dig deeper into re-building the Bat-mythos and he started to do so in late 2009. However, for whatever reasons, Winick would retreat backward just after getting out of the gate. In Batman #689-691 (“LONG SHADOWS”) by Winick and Bagley (October 2009-December 2009), Two-Face infiltrates the Batcave and drugs Dick. Alfred shows up wearing a Bat-costume to confuse Two-Face, allowing Dick to kayo the villain. Dick and Alfred then clean everything out of the Batcave. Out with old, eh? Forget the past! But not so fast… Dick finds a secret case file regarding the death of his parents. That case was solved ages ago, wasn’t it? Curious. Of course, as I hinted at above, Winick never follows up on this mysterious Flying Graysons case-file! Neither does anybody else. Oops. Comics, everybody!

Superman was an asshole to Dick earlier, but he was still hurting bad from the loss of Bruce. Having made amends and found acceptance, the Man of Steel returns to fight side-by-side with the legit Caped Crusader. In World’s Finest Vol. 2 #3-4 by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle (February 2010-March 2010), Dick has his first team-up (as Batman) with Superman (who is wearing a New Kryptonian police uniform) as they battle a giant Composite Super-Batman that is powered by a captive Kryptonite Man. The heroes save K-Man and shut down the robot.

In Morrison’s Batman #700 (August 2010), Dick and Damian investigate the apparent murder of Professor Carter Nichols, who is found dead in his lab with a laser bore hole in his chest and the room locked from the inside. Oddly, Dick notes, Nichols appears to be older than he should be. Dick says it must be suicide, despite the strangeness. In a neat twist, we learn that present day Nichols traveled to the future to kill his older self, then sending his future corpse back in time to 2010. Thus, the body Dick and Damian found at the beginning of our tale was actually an older Nichols from the future. In a bizarre way, it was suicide! Meanwhile, in the future, present day Nichols escapes, thus becoming newly rejuvenated and free to surf the time-stream!

batman #700

The legacy of being a second generation character wouldn’t be complete without an induction into the Justice League of America, which is what James Robinson was in charge of handling in late 2009. We get this is the maligned Justice League of America Vol. 2 #41-43 (“TEAM HISTORY”), “RISE AND FALL,” Justice League: The Rise & Fall Special #1Green Arrow & Black Canary #32, and Justice League: Rise of Arsenal #1-3 (by Robinson, Bagley, JT Krul, et al, December 2009-August 2010). There’s some ugly mean-spirited writing here (especially with all-things Arrow Family related), but Robinson handles Dick-as-Batman with relative grace. With the JLA in dire shambles following Blackest Night, Vixen decides to disband the team. Before you know it, Donna rebuilds a brand new JLA starting with Starfire, Cyborg, and Batman. The old Teen Titans are finally THE JLA! The rest of the team is quickly hired-on, including Dr. Light, Mon-El, Guardian, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Ray Palmer, Hal Jordan, and Red Tornado. However, the new JLA has absolutely no chemistry or teamwork skills and fails to prevent Chair and Tender Mercy from stealing an artifact. When the superhero community receives word that Green Arrow has murdered Prometheus, the JLA is shaken to its core and falls apart once again. Only Donna and Batman remain, along with new recruits Congorilla and Starman (Mikaal Tomas). The 4-member JLA refuses to participate in the hunt for Ollie. Afterward, Dick attends the child-funeral of Lian Harper, where a pill-popping Roy wigs out, curses at everyone, and storms off in a huff. Later, Roy straps on a cyborg arm, pops some more pills, and goes out to bash some skulls. Arsenal is back! Unfortunately, Arsenal is a pain pill-swallowing, drugged-up, hallucinating mess that actually purchases drugs from the very dealers he beats up. A shaky Arsenal winds up shooting heroin in an alley while clinging to a dead cat. Batman tracks Arsenal down and they fight, Batman obviously winning the duel. Dick and Donna immediately put Roy into rehab. Sweet Jesus, what an infamous bummer of a story—so infamous I had to include it here.

Robinson’s legacy arc continues with Justice League of America Vol. 2 #44-48 (“BRIGHTEST DAY / THE DARK THINGS”) and Justice Society of America Vol. 2 #41-42 (by Robinson, Bagley, et al, June 2010-October 2010). Batman and Donna get to know their newest JLA teammates, Congorilla and Starman, by training with them in the Kitchen (the Danger Room of the Watchtower). The JLA soon fights the Starheart, a sentient crystal created by the Guardians, which houses the emerald chaos magick energy of Alan Scott’s power ring. Alan goes insane and dons his Kingdom Come armor, forming a heavily-fortified emerald palace on the moon. Along with Obsidian and a new Dr. Fate, Alan is able to capture several heroes. Batman responds by leading the team of Hourman, Jesse Quick, Mr. America, Mr. Miracle, and Donna into the lunar citadel. The heroes, along with Kyle Rayner, battle a merged Jade and Obsidian. Eventually, White Lantern Jade defeats Alan (her dad) in battle.

new jla with dick

In Batman #692-697 (“LIFE AFTER DEATH”) by Daniel and Florea (December 2009-May 2010), Dick meets with Selina Kyle to ask her for information related to a case. Selina was always willing to help Bruce for free, but for Dick it costs him a cool $25 thousand. Selina points Dick in the direction Mario Falcone (making his return from the pages of Dark Victory). Meanwhile, Black Mask assembles the Ministry of Science—Fright, Dr. Death, Hugo Strange, and a revived Reaper (Dr. Gruener). Mario Falcone’s teenage sister Kitrina Falcone also debuts. Batman, wearing a new armored suit, burns down Falcone’s mansion then tracks Kitrina to an amusement park, but the Dark Knight is mind-controlled by Mad Hatter into attacking Mayor Hady, Catwoman, and the Ministry of Science. In his drugged-up state, Dick is knocked into the bay. The next day, Damian retrieves Dick, who realizes Black Mask is Jeremiah Arkham! Batman then kicks the Ministry of Science’s asses, after which Jeremiah is incarcerated in his own prison. Afterward, Kitrina debuts as Catgirl.

When we meet again, we’ll continue with the highlights of Dick’s official tenure as Batman! Bruce will soon return, leading to an awesome moment of dual Batmen in Gotham. Until next time!


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The Prismatic Age: Batman as a Reflection of Outdated Ideas

I was recently reading a post entitled “Comic Characters I Enjoy More in Spin-off Media” by the great Anthony Dean, who runs the wonderful blog, Diverse Tech Geek. In his piece, Dean speaks about some of the reasons that he isn’t that into the current Batman featured in mainstream comics. While he lays out a variety of complaints, the main one that strikes me (and one that has been seriously bothering me lately) is rooted in the following passage:

“Problems [with Batman] are probably tied to how slavishly dedicated DC is to Frank Miller and his 1980s series The Dark Knight Returns. That’s been over 30 years ago, yet it’s left a very deep mark on almost every version of Batman to date. [. . .] Other stories also feel like they’ve cast a similarly influential yet problematic and dated tone (The Killing Joke, etc.). There’s also various real life changes since the 1980s. For instance, Gotham feels stuck in the popular media view of 70s/80s-era New York as a ‘cesspool’ with major problems; however, the real New York (which Gotham’s a pastiche of) has since vastly changed and improved. Mental health treatment attitudes have also changed over the decades, which might make Arkham Asylum as a concept problematic in the future. Additionally, there’s much more criticism now versus the 80s of ‘tough on crime’ policies; such policies tend to disproportionately harm Blacks and Latinos. An angry rich White guy declaring a ‘war on crime’ conveys a different tone these days.”

Today, the majority of crime in New York City (where I proudly live) does not revolve around stick-ups, bank robberies, drug deals gone wrong, or back-alley assaults in seedy neighborhoods. Crime in NYC is white collar. Government kick-backs and tax breaks to corrupt real estate agencies, greedy landlords and greedier property-owners, European oligarchs purchasing large plots of building space and condos tax-free—and keeping these spaces un-occupied while homelessness is on the rise, big business polluting our waterways and air while denying or lobbying against science, racist over-militarized policing, hypocritical self-serving politicians, the privatization of our educational system—a system that is a pipeline for lower income children to end up in publicly-traded prison, institutions of power suppressing women’s rights and LGBT rights while abusing children, crumbling infrastructure, countless sick and addicted people without health care and working multiple low-wage long-hour jobs for uncaring profit-driven bosses, large portions of the community burdened by debt taken on by predatory lending by corrupt bankers. These are things that truly plague NYC today. (These things plague all of America too, for that matter.)

How is it possible that you could tell a story about a pastiche of NYC and NOT INCLUDE ANY OF THAT EVER? Thats bogus. And it’s what hurts superhero comics today.


And even if we move beyond the big city narrative, the reality of the 21st century is a place where super-villainy isn’t about some Ocean’s Eleven heist or some Venture Bros-esque costumed rivalry. True super-villains are the perpetrators of all the crimes I listed above. True super-villains exist as religious institutional leaders, right-wing lobbyists and pundits, evil corporations, vile self-serving TV talking heads, and corrupt government officials. True super-villains are the Nazis and White supremacists that cause more harm via gun violence than anyone else in America these days. Remember the 1940s when it was clear that Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman had to put their lives on hold to fight Hitler? Why isn’t this being addressed in comics today either? Is it because our corporate overlords that own the comics don’t want to discuss these things?

A lot of people come to comics for an escape from the shocking reality of now. They want pure fantasy. I get it. We all need a break from the horrors of the modern world. However, comic books have always—ALWAYS—been a reflection of the real world. Much of the fantasy and sci-fi genre have been as well. From the 1940s to the mid 2000s, superhero story-arcs have always addressed (some more directly than others) the global sociopolitical climate i.e. real world issues. Superheroes represent the best of humanity—an idealized version of what we could be if given fantastic powers. With great power comes great responsibility, as Uncle Ben said. Has the responsibility become too much of a burden to bear? Super-villains, on the other hand, have always represented the worst that humanity has to offer. And the ideation of both the worst and the best has shifted, as things do, over time. I believe that different comic book eras, for decades, have always shifted along with the times. Having recently read all of Batman through the 60s and 70s, Ive been able to verify this firsthand.

However, it seems like the shift has stopped dead in its tracks (for the most part). Whenever I see Batman patrolling and busting random muggers, or whenever I see Superman foiling a bank heist, I roll my eyes. If these types of crimes exist in our world, they are outliers—and they should be in the fantastical world of the DCU too. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always been an exciting (albeit Judge Dredd-like fascistic) power element involved with being into Batman or any revenge-based vigilante heroes (at least since the 1970s, anyway). There is something satisfying in seeing the give-no-fucks heavy-hitters, like Wolverine or Batman, kicking ass. After all, while they might be “angry White men” delving out justice from an extremely violent and privileged place, we know that these guys have strict moral compasses that guide them to, at the very least, be stomping out those who rightfully deserve to be stomped out. Their values are just and unsullied, even if their actions might not align with how we’d act in proper society. However, if the moral compass isn’t aligned with/tuned-into the current sociopolitical and economic climate in which we live, then Logan and Batman’s ass-kickings become more and more problematic. Maybe the course needs correction. Maybe Batman should spend less time hunting jewel thieves (what even is a jewel thief?) and more time patrolling Wall Street, surveilling Roman Catholic confessional booths, or hacking Milo Yiannopoulos.

I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid in the 1980s. And, as stated above, I’ve spent the past decade reading DC Comics in chronological order from the 1940s to the present. Never before in the history of comics has there been less reflection of the modern world in the pages of the so-called funnybooks than today. We are in the Prismatic Age, so they say, where everything is a reflection of a reflection of a reference of a reference, rebooted, reworked, re-fandang-doodled. Somewhere in the kaleidoscopic meta-miasma that is contemporary superhero comics, the vibrant rainbow of social commentary and real-world reflection has been lost. If comics are pure fantasy, showing a utopia that is only threatened by crises delivered by kooky cosplayers, angry gods, and cosmic monsters, that’s fine and dandy. I love all that. Comics wouldn’t be comics without that. But if we’ve abandoned the street-level narrative—the real world material that has always been at the very core of superhero comics, then comics aren’t as good as they should be. A comics devoid of social justice values is a comics devoid of values in general. Without a heart or a mind, you might as well count me out.

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Judo Chop! Part Nine

I know I said I was giving up on these, but theres just too damn much good stuff to ignore. Also, it makes sense to have “Judo Chop!” be a ten part series. So this is the penultimate “Judo Chop!”

Also, The Brave and The Bold #132, featuring Batman and Richard Dragon is basically a single-issue case study for martial arts in 70s comics. Every panel of every page.

richard dragon
karate chop woo
wildcat chop
canary chop
manhunter chop
earth 616 meets earth 1
manhunter shaw
legit chop to batman
ad one
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ad nine hand of steel
ad ten
ad eleven strong arms
ad twelve be taller!
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