Ableist Language in Superhero Comics

How do we define the “superhero genre”? Aside from sci-fi and visual tropes, at its core, superhero fiction comprises moralistic tales that pit good versus evil, right against wrong. Superheroes are meant to represent the best of humanity, those fighting for those that cannot fight for themselves, champions battling for truth and justice. The antagonists, therefore, are super-villains—embodiments of the worst that society has to offer, representing fear, hate, and terror. Of course, the superhero story can be deconstructed or complicated in myriad ways, but the essence of the theme is always made up of the above. Without this Manichean binary (hero pitted against villain) as a foundation, the genre really isn’t the genre at all.

Whenever conflict is at the heart of a genre, violence will inevitably get portrayed. And superhero comics are indeed violent. I’ve long struggled with how to engage with superhero comics’ glorification of vigilantism. Because of the good versus bad dynamic, most superhero stories are police procedurals (with capes) or action cop stories (with capes), and that is a hard sell for a lot of folks, especially these days where the mainstream has had a much-needed awakening to systemic racism in policing. Sometimes, under a certain writer or editor, superhero stories can also be straight-up fascist power narratives.

To steal/paraphrase from WaPo‘s Alyssa Rosenberg, like Hollywood, comic books “valorize the action hero, rarely showing the less dramatic work of building relationships within communities. Purely from a dramatic perspective, crime makes a story seem consequential, investigating crime generates action, and solving crime provides for a morally and emotionally satisfying conclusion. The result are stories that portray vigilantes as more effective than they actually are; crime as more prevalent than it actually is; and use of violent force as consistently justified.”

Batman, for instance, is an extremely wealthy White cis-male, essentially a cop (in a cape), who beats up people on a daily basis. A perspective that has long been bandied-about online is that Batman brutalizes “crazy people” or “mental patients” like Joker. And sadly, there is merit to that viewpoint. After all, this is what Batman does, right? Yes… but only when we view these tales through an ableist lens.

tec 559 bat nazi

Ableist language, according to the definition at pwd.org.au, is “language that is offensive to people with disability. It can also refer to language that is derogatory, abusive or negative about disability. … People may not intend to be hurtful when they unknowingly use an ableist term, but it will hurt people anyway.”

Check out these links for more details.

https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html
https://whatsortsofpeople.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/ableist-language-alternatives/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disability-related_terms_with_negative_connotations

With the above in mind, I’ve spent the last month quietly getting rid of all the ableist language from my website. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at how much ableist language we I use on a daily basis without even realizing. Phrases like “turn a blind eye” or “fall on deaf ears” were littered throughout my site. As were the use of words like “wheelchair-bound,” “abnormal,” “deformed,” “insane,” “mad,” “crazy,” “psycho,” or “nuts.”

This leads me to addressing both ableist language in superhero comics (by creators) and ableist language when writing about superhero comics (by people like myself). By looking inward at ableism, we can also face the troubling question posed above about rich 1%er Bruce Wayne’s constant beatings of “mental patients.”

Action 1002

In regard to ableist language in superhero comics, current creators still use it fairly often. Brian Michael Bendis recently had a villain call someone “autistic” as a pejorative while Si Spurrier used the term “lynch mob” to describe a “slave” revolution. (The latter is both a racist issue just as much as it is an ableist one—as “lynch mob” derives from the history of hanging Black men and women in America while the use of the word “slave” instead of “enslaved person” only serves to other or relegate one as an object.) I’d love to see creators do better.

In regard to ableist language when writing about superhero comics, as I was reviewing my own language and making changes on my website, a couple revelations dawned upon me. In scrubbing ableist words like “crazy” or “insane,” I found that the sentences sans those words had not changed meaning, nor had they become confusing or vague without them. The action being described in the sentence still told the same story. Ableist words, while potentially harmful and toxic, don’t even have legitimate descriptive meaning. There’s literally no reason to use them. They accomplish nothing.

For example, take the sentence, “The insane Joker laughs joyously while fire-bombing a bus full of children.” Now axe the ableist language. “Joker laughs joyously while fire-bombing a bus full of children.” Same story. Nothing lost.

The second and more important revelation I had while exorcising my ableist demons was about reader-response. Cutting the “crazy mental patient” label from all of Batman’s rogues doesn’t only remove the offensiveness—it also returns the stories to their intended narrative purpose by restoring the superhero genre to its roots. Inherently, as a superhero, we should trust Batman’s values and know that he is fighting for truth and justice wherever he goes. Remember, at the center of the binate genre is conflict between good and evil. Joker, Penguin, Two-Face… they aren’t supposed to be read as “insane” / “crazy” / “mental” / “[insert ableist word here].” They are supposed to be super-villains. They serve as the worst that society and humanity have to offer. Joker isn’t a “crazy mental patient”—he is a super-villain, a personification of evil. And Arkham Asylum isn’t a “psychiatric hospital”—it’s really a shitty place where evil people go. At its transparent nucleus, it’s meant to exemplify Hell.

If we describe Joker as a “crazy mental patient,” the purity of what makes the superhero genre the superhero genre is lost. (Interestingly, despite appearing as additional descriptors, the ableist words are actually reductive, as we have shown above, actually adding nothing but harm.) But not only is it offensive/inimical to label anyone with ableist descriptors, but when we do it for Joker, we also oddly make him a sympathetic or at least othered character (when he certainly isn’t meant to be such). The story breaks down and we lose sight of who is good and who is bad. The crux of the superhero mythos is lost because of the ableist language itself.

If we ditch the regressive language, then Joker is Joker the true villain once again. The purest elements of the superhero/super-villain dynamic are returned. The villain once again becomes the undeniable epitome of evil, which in turn re-establishes Batman’s place as archetypal hero, doing right by the world. His cause is righteous and his foes are evil, worthy of the justice they receive. In doing away with our ableist mindset, the accurate mythos returns.

This isn’t to say, however, that heroes and villains shouldn’t be layered and complex. Characters can and should have shades of gray. Superhero comics should be great, deep, heady, interesting, contradictory, unpredictable, mind-bending, etc. But the foundational aspects of the superhero genre should always be present, even if veiled or deconstructed. As I’ve demonstrated, the easy removal of ableist language when referring to bad guys and (prisons/hospitals) helps rehabilitate the heart of the genre to its pure superhero/super-villain dichotomy. Simplicity—not reductiveness—can be a beautiful thing (and something severely needed for anyone having trouble stomaching modern day fascistic vigilante stories).

Comics reflect the real world—even the most surreal over-the-top superhero titles reflect the world in which we live. This cannot be denied, and I truly think comics are of higher quality when they more closely reflect things in actual society. It’s precisely because comics mirror reality that words matter. Representation matters too. There’s a serious responsibility when writing these stories (and when writing about them) to keep the real world (and the beautiful varied spectrum of human beings within in it) firmly in mind. The elimination of ableist language doesn’t just curb abusive ideation toward disabled people, it also improves superhero comics by helping us remember what true heroism looks like and why we love superheroes in the first place.

But having said all the above, you might still be a bit unsure about everything. (Hell, I’m still working things out too!) And it’s precisely because of this uncertainty that I’ll end this article by playing devil’s advocate—even if only to address what a lot of side-eyed-glancing folks are probably be thinking, something along the lines of: “But c’mon. Joker sliced his own face off and has killed hundreds. He’s FUCKING CRAZY!” While watching Hannibal (the TV show) recently, which features an alternate reality where the greater Baltimore area has a handful of serial killers running around, I noticed that the terms “psychopath,” “insane,” “crazy,” and many other words like that get used in a very clinical sense over and over again. After all, Dr. Hannibal Lecter and his brethren—much like Joker, Pyg, or Zsasz in the comics—are pathological in their criminality, are they not? CSI workers and sanitarium therapists in Hannibal refer to their over-the-top murderers using such language, and when they do, it feels appropriate. I would imagine that CSI analysts and criminal psychologists in real life probably do the same. Someone that is dismembering, torturing, cannibalizing, or building totem poles out of severed limbs seems… crazy, right? Does this mean that, when referring to fictional super-villains (or real life villains) of this extreme degree, using terms like “psychopath,” “insane,” and “crazy” to describe them is not ableist simply because it literally applies to their clinical state of being or objectively horrific actions? While there might be worthiness to this rationale, it is in our best collective interest (in writing or critique) to dismantle the ableist lexicon that scaffolds so much of the way we speak these days. And I think professionals (cops, doctors, orderlies, guards, lawyers, social workers, etc) that deal with unrepentant criminally-institutionalized killers would probably do a better service toward the greater good (and toward rehabilitation) if they didn’t approach their jobs from an outdated ableist perspective.

If Dr. Lecter-types are running around giving people Columbian neckties or making angel wings out of human skin, the actions speak for themselves. Same goes for Joker gassing hundreds at a parade and then torturing Jim Gordon at the circus. Same goes for Ed Gein wearing someone else’s skin or Charles Manson emboldening others to commit heinous acts of barbarism. There’s no need to be reductive about any of this—whether in fiction or reality. These actions speak louder than ableist words. As demonstrated above, we needn’t (and shouldn’t) hide behind regressive verbiage.

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A List: Batman’s Sex Life

Photo Finish
Batman Chronicles #9 by Devin Grayson, Duncan Fegredo, & Lee Loughridge (1997)

When you think of James Bond, you think of the Bond Girls—but Batman has his “Batman Girls” that too often get overlooked. Here they are—in the form of a chronological “quick list” of Modern Age Batman/Bruce Wayne’s sex life. Much of Bruce’s social life is merely subterfuge designed to keep up playboy appearances (as a means of distancing Bruce Wayne from his Batman alter ego. However Bruce/Batman does fall in love and does have some serious relationships as well. Let me know if anything is missing.

YEAR ONE
-Viveca Beausoleil (The Batman Chronicles #19)
-Julie Madison (Batman and the Monster Men, Batman and the Mad Monk, Batman #682, The Batman Files)
-Theodora Hackley (Bruce goes on one date with her.) (LOTDK #2)
-the shaman’s granddaughter (This is platonic.) (LOTDK #1, LOTDK #5)
-Selina Kyle (Batman and Catwoman have sexual tension in multiple issues.)

YEAR TWO
-Linda Page (The Batman Files)
-few dates with Selina Kyle (Long Halloween, The Batman Files)
-Summer Skye Simmonds (Journey into Knight)
-Jillian Maxwell (The Batman Files, LOTDK Halloween Special #1)
-Pamela Isley? (This is sort-of platonic.) (Hot House LOTDK #42-#43)
-unnamed date (opening of LOTDK #76)
-Mary McClellan? (Bruce marries her in an alternate reality where his parents survive) (LOTDK #76-#78)
-Dr. Lynn Eagles (LOTDK #65)

YEAR THREE
-Dr. Lynn Eagles (This lengthy relationship carries over into the new year.) (LOTDK #66-#68)
-Dinah Laurel Lance? (This is unsubstantiated but hinted at.) (The Batman Files)
-unnamed date (Batman: Ego)
-Selina Kyle (Bruce dates Selina for the whole rest of the year, is supposedly very serious about the relationship—though, in Batman #600, he rejects her advances to focus on his crimefighting, so perhaps he was partly seeing her to keep up playboy appearances? Selina mentions wanting to marry Bruce, so it seems she was quite serious.) (Long Halloween)

YEAR FOUR
-Selina Kyle (Bruce is all business this year, besides the ongoing Selina relationship.)

YEAR FIVE
-Selina Kyle (Bruce keeps dating Selina on-and-off; he must really like her!) (Long Halloween, Dark Victory)
-Rachel Caspian (“Batman Year Two”)

YEAR SIX
-Selina Kyle (Bruce and Selina break up early in the year.) (Batman: Dark Victory #5)
-Callie Dean (This is platonic.) (Batman Confidential #40-#43)
-unnamed date that goes with Bruce and Alfred to Haly’s Circus (Batman #436)
-supermodel Britanny St. James (Robin Annual #4)
-Catwoman (Selina and Bruce may have broken up, but Batman and Catwoman still have a ton of sexual tension whenever they meet each other.) (Batman #683, Batman Incorporated #1, The Batman Files)
-April Clarkson (Gotham after Midnight)

YEAR SEVEN
-Kelli (JLA 80-Page Giant #2)
-Catwoman (Bruce still does everything shy of having sex on rooftops with Catwoman. And for all we know, they do that.) (The Batman Chronicles #9)
-Batwoman aka Kathy Webb Kane (Batman Incorporated #4, Batman #682, The Batman Files)

YEAR EIGHT
-Batwoman aka Kathy Webb Kane (This relationship carries over from the prior year. Batman and Batwoman get engaged, but Batwoman breaks up Batman early in the year.) (Batman Inc. #4)
-unnamed girl (Bruce breaks her heart.) (Batman: Ego)
-Catwoman (Batman still flirts with Catwoman when they cross paths.) (Catwoman: Defiant)

YEAR NINE
-Silver St. Cloud (Detective Comics #469-#479, LOTDK #132-#136)
-Talia al Ghul (“Saga of Ra’s al Ghul,” Batman #330-#331)

YEAR TEN
-Talia al Ghul (Batman is “wedded to” Talia and they conceive a child.) (Batman: Son of the Demon)
-Natasha Knight (The Batman Files)

YEAR ELEVEN
-Catwoman (Detective Comics #569-#570)
-Vicki Vale (Bruce goes on a date with Vicki Vale. We can assume she’s on a sort of friends with benefits situation with him.) (Batman #402-#403)

YEAR TWELVE
-Sharon Scott (Bruce goes on one date with Sharon, a recurring character in Blue Devil) (Invasion tie-in)
-Cristina Llanos (Bruce has a very short fling with Cristina.) (Batman in Barcelona)
Note that this is probably the worst year of Modern Age Batman’s life. The Killing Joke and “Death in the Family” both happen. As far as I can tell, Bruce dates very little this year. Most Modern Age Batman stories don’t explore Bruce Wayne’s love life with much detail, so it’s possible he had some off-panel flings, but definitely nothing serious. I’d apply this same note to pretty much every other year, actually. After all, Bruce has to keep that playboy persona rolling. With Batman’s early years prior to Robin, I assume DC higher-ups felt inclined to introduce romantic subplots because the comics just featured Batman, Alfred, and a couple rogues. By the time Batman deals with a ridiculously large rogues gallery, has a bunch of superhero allies, and has an extensive Bat-Family, there is much less time to focus on romantic entanglements. This however, doesn’t mean Bruce doesn’t date/sleep around—but, as mentioned, we rarely see these dates. If we do see them, the women are usually unnamed and we aren’t given any details about them.


YEAR THIRTEEN
-Lois Lane? (It’s implied in “Hush”—specifically Batman #611—that Bruce has a relationship with Lois at some point. This could go pretty much anywhere. Placement is speculative, but after “Dark Knight Over Metropolis.”)
-Vicki Vale (Bruce starts to date Vicki in a more serious manner.) (Gotham Gazette Batman Alive? #1, Batman #475, Detective Comics #642, Batman #746)

YEAR FOURTEEN
-Dr. Shondra Kinsolving (“Knightfall”)

YEAR FIFTEEN
-Vesper Fairchild (Batman #540-#541, The Spectre Vol. 3 #51, Batman #544-#546, Batman #600)
-Yuko Yagi (Batman: Chilld of Dreams)

YEAR SIXTEEN
-Talia al Ghul (Bruce spends a sad night with Talia, who takes care of him.) (No Man’s Land #0)
-Vesper Fairchild (It is implied in multiple issues that Bruce is that he’s still dating Vesper this year.)
-multiple random dates (It is implied that Bruce dates around to keep up appearances for his playboy lifestyle.) (JLA #47-#54)
Note that this is a super intense year for Batman, with “No Man’s Land” and “Tower of Babel.”

YEAR SEVENTEEN
-Sasha Bordeaux (Bruce develops a platonic liking to his bodyguard, Sasha. She’s also deeply in love with him. Bruce won’t reveal his positive feelings to her until the end of “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”.) (Detective Comics #775)
-Vesper Fairchild (Yes, Bruce is still dating Vesper, until he breaks up with her in the coldest possible way—by inviting her over while hanging out with a bunch of girls with whom he’s playing Marco Polo in the pool. This is also another hint that, while we may not see it, Bruce is very much keeping his playboy persona alive with more casual side relationships.) (Detective Comics #764)

YEAR EIGHTEEN
-Sasha Bordeaux (This is still platonic, although Bruce and Sasha share an intense discussion about their relationship.) (“Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”)
Note that we don’t Bruce dating anyone this year. This is another intense year with “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”, so Bruce has got a lot on his plate.

YEAR NINETEEN
-Wonder Woman (“The Obsidian Age”) (JLA #90-100)
-Catwoman (Bruce enters a serious relationship with Catwoman again. Although their relationship is intense they break up. They still date and have sex occasionally after the break up.) (“Hush”, Catwoman Vol. 3 #32)

YEAR TWENTY
-Black Canary (Batman kisses Black Canary.) (Birds of Prey #90)
-Dr. Amina Franklin (“Grotesk”)
-Sasha Bordeaux (Bruce finally kisses Sasha Bordeaux.) (The OMAC Project #1-#3)
-Catwoman (Bruce still occasionally has sex with Catwoman.) (Catwoman Vol. 3 #39)

YEAR TWENTY-ONE
-Karrie Bishop (Bruce dates Karrie.) (Detective Comics #822)
-Lilith Rutledge (LOTDK #207-#211 aka “Darker than Death”)
-Zatanna Zatara (Detective Comics #833-#834)
-Kay Scott (Detective Comics #835-#836)
-Bekka (Superman/Batman #37-#42)
-Jezebel Jet (Batman #655-#658)
-multiple unnamed dates (There are hints of Bruce still living that playboy lifestyle off-panel.) (Batman #655-#658)

YEAR TWENTY-TWO
-Jezebel Jet (Bruce’s relationship with Jezebel continues.) (“Batman RIP”)
-Una Nemo (Batman and Robin #18)
-Annie (A time-displaced Bruce technically dates her in the year 1640, but whatever.) (Return of Bruce Wayne #2)

YEAR TWENTY-THREE
-Marsha Lamarr (Again, a time-displaced Bruce technically dates her in 1971, but whatever.) (Return of Bruce Wayne #6)
-Selina Kyle (Bruce still has sexual and romantic encounters with Selina.) (“House of Hush”, Batman Inc, Batman 80 Page Giant 2011 #1)
-Dawn Golden (The Dark Knight #1-5)
-Talia al Ghul (Bruce, heartbroken by Talia’s evil ways, kisses her while Gotham burns.) (Batman Inc #11-#13)

Overall list of love interests/dates:  Viveca Beausoleil, Julie Madison, Theodora Hackley, the shaman’s granddaughter, Selina Kyle, Linda Page, Summer Skye Simmonds, Jillian Maxwell, Pamela Isley, Dr. Lynn Eagles, Dinah Laurel Lance, unnamed date from Ego, Lois Lane, Rachel Caspian, Callie Dean, Britanny St. James, April Clarkson, Kelli, Kathy Webb Kane, another unnamed girl from Ego, Silver St. Cloud, Talia al Ghul, Natasha Knight, Vicki Vale, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, Vesper Fairchild, Yuko Yagi, Sasha Bordeaux, Wonder Woman, Dr. Amina Franklin, Karrie Bishop, Lilith Rutledge, Zatanna, Kay Scott, Bekka, Jezebel Jet, Una Nemo, Annie, Marsha Lamarr, Dawn Golden  

Most important love interests/dates: Catwoman (Selina Kyle), Talia al Ghul, Rachel Caspian, Batwoman (Kathy Webb Kane), Silver St. Cloud, Vicki Vale, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, Sasha Bordeaux, Dawn Golden
  
Engaged to: Julie Madison, Rachel Caspian, Batwoman (Kathy Webb Kane), Talia al Ghul, Shondra Kinsolving (Bruce tried to propose to her but was unable to)

Married to: Talia al Ghul (this “wedding” was a League of Assassins thing, so likely not a legal marriage) 

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Gotham City Mayors (Part 4)

With the backing of Bruce Wayne himself, Marion Grange (debuting in Detective Comics #686) defeated Armand Krol in the election to become the next mayor of Gotham City. A liberal and former district attorney (she appears in this capacity via flashback in Two-Face: Year One), Marion is notable for being the first female mayor of Gotham depicted in comics! She took office during the Contagion storyline. We learn that she had a nephew die of the Clench virus as well. In Road to No Man’s Land, when Marion was in Washington, D.C. trying to secure federal aid for Gotham after an earthquake, she was shot and killed by a sniper’s bullet intended for Bruce Wayne.


Marion Grange.

When Gotham was reopened in the wake of No Man’s Land, Daniel Danforth Dickerson III won the emergency elections to become the city’s mayor, debuting in Detective Comics #743. He’s as corrupt as any old-school Gotham politician. In Gotham Central #12, when Commissioner Akins met with Dickerson to prevent him from cutting police overtime, a sniper perched on a building across the street fired through the window and put a bullet through Dickerson’s head, killing him instantly. Astonishingly, Dickerson’s assassination is referenced in The New 52’s Teen Titans #15, making him (to my knowledge) the only pre-Flashpoint mayor besides Sebastian Hady to be transferred over to New 52 canon – although it presents a continuity error, as discussed in the Hady section below. And that issue curiously claims he was killed at Kennmann Commons, as opposed to City Hall in the original telling.


Daniel Danforth Dickerson III.

After Dickerson’s death, his deputy mayor David Hull was appointed acting mayor, debuting in Gotham Central #13. Making a few sporadic appearances in Gotham Central and the Batman titles surrounding the War Games storyline, his tenure is somewhat unremarkable and the details of his leaving office remain unrevealed.


David Hull.

The next mayor is a head-scratcher. In David Lapham’s City of Crime storyline from Detective Comics #800-808 and 811-814, the mayor is initially identified as Hull. However, for the rest of the story he is referred to as Mayor Seamus McGreevy. He is involved in a wild criminal conspiracy known as “The Body” which utilizes doppelgängers and mass paranoia-induced hallucinations to serve their ends. As such, some speculate that McGreevy was never actually Gotham’s mayor. However, the story itself does seem to present him as a real person and the true mayor of the city.


Seamus McGreevy.

Here’s what I think happened: Since City of Crime takes place shortly before War Games, though it was published after, DC wanted to maintain continuity between titles and had Lapham name his mayor Hull. However, it soon became clear this was impossible. Hull serves as mayor before and after War Games, has a different physical appearance to City of Crime’s mayor, and no other comics give any indication of his involvement with The Body. The end of City of Crime makes it clear that the story’s mayor is not going to win his re-election campaign. Thus, as scripts were coming in, DC had his name changed and made him a distinct character to avoid conflicts with Hull’s post-War Games mayoralty. We can assume that Seamus McGreevy does briefly serve as Gotham City’s mayor, using his influence and contacts within The Body to temporarily displace David Hull from office.

When Batman returned to Gotham City after a year-long sabbatical following the Infinite Crisis storyline, an unnamed woman was serving as mayor, as referenced in Detective Comics #817. We know nothing about her, but there is an obscure clue to her identity: in West End Games’ 2000 Daily Planet Guide to Gotham City, it’s noted that many of Gotham’s mayors (including Armand Krol and Marion Grange) come from the District Attorney’s office. Thus, it’s speculated that Karen Willis – the District Attorney at the time, in the aftermath of No Man’s Land – was potentially on track for the mayor’s office in future elections. It’s unclear if this was a seed planted by DC editorial that never bore fruit, but at any rate, the unnamed female mayor of the One Year Later era could possibly be Karen Willis.


Detective Comics #817.

In Grant Morrison’s Batman run, we start to hear of another male Gotham City mayor, and in the post-Battle for the Cowl “Batman Reborn” comics we finally meet him: Sebastian Hady, as corrupt as they come. His scummy deeds include working with Firefly, trying to frame Jim Gordon for murder, blackmailing his election opponent and cheating on his wife. He is the father of twin girls, one of whom briefly dated Bruce Wayne. In Zero Year, Batman Eternal, and James Tynion’s Detective Comics, Hady was retconned to have been the mayor of Gotham for almost the entirety of Batman’s career in New 52 continuity, despite an earlier reference to Mayor Dickerson. At one point in Batman Eternal, Hady’s first name was inexplicably given as William. In Detective Comics #951, Sebastian Hady is murdered by the League of Shadows.


An iconic Zero Year shot of a Hady campaign billboard.

Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, otherwise known as the Penguin, served as Gotham’s unofficial “mayor” during the villain takeover of the city in Forever Evil: Arkham War. In Catwoman: Election Night, he also runs for mayor against Constance Hill (they’re both forced out of the race and Hady remains mayor).

In Manslaughter (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #15-17), Gotham is afflicted by a virus that only affects men. So while the mayor is out of commission, Councilwoman Muir is appointed mayor. She is revealed as the ringleader of the Daughters of Gotham, the group behind the virus, and she is shot and killed by Amanda Waller’s lackeys. In Detective Comics #969, Michael Akins is introduced as Gotham’s mayor in the wake of Sebastian Hady’s death, with Hamilton Hill Jr. serving as deputy. Akins actually served as GCPD commisioner for years following the Officer Down event, up through War Games and Infinite Crisis.


Councilwoman Muir.

Birds of Prey #15-17 were published from October 11 to December 13, 2017. Michael Akins debuted as mayor in Detective Comics #969 (part one of Fall of the Batmen), released November 22, 2017. In that issue, Stephanie Brown (the Spoiler) rejoins the Gotham Knights team, whereas in Manslaughter, Batwoman is rather cold to her and mentions the trouble she’s caused the Knights lately. This suggests that Manslaughter possibly takes place before Fall of the Batmen, meaning the male mayor that Muir replaces could either be Hady or yet another interim mayor. Alternatively, Manslaughter could still be after Fall of the Batmen, where Batwoman isn’t exactly thrilled about Spoiler rejoining the team anyway.


Michael Akins.

(In the Cold Snap story from the latest volume of Batgirl, issues #19-20, a white man with black hair is repeatedly referred to as mayor. Although it’s not explicitly stated, context indicates this may simply be the “mayor” of the Burnside neighborhood, and not of Gotham City itself. It’s also worth noting that a number of comics over the years feature a rotating roster of “mayors” in Gotham’s Chinatown district.)

In Neal Adams’ ostensibly canon Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul, we meet yet another mayor, a man named Atkins. In this series, Damian Wayne and Tim Drake are both active as Robin, meaning it must take place at some point after Akins’ tenure as mayor. (And yes, the similarity of their names is bizarre.) Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul was advertised as tying in to DC’s linewide Year of the Villain event, and follows up on other ostensibly canon work of Adams, namely his Deadman series, which in turn follows Batman: Odyssey. So, Mayor Atkins’ name is added to our list.


The faces of Mayor Atkins.

And finally, the current mayor of Gotham City in DC Comics continuity is a man named Dunch. We meet him and his wife in Batman #86, the inaugural issue of James Tynion IV’s run on that title. Dunch presides over the post-City of Bane Gotham with no explanation as to what happened to Akins or Atkins.


Mayor Dunch, from Batman #86.


Phew!! There you have it. Every mayor of Gotham City who has ever appeared in the mainline, in-continuity comic books. To my knowledge, anyway. And what’s more, solicitations for October issues of Detective Comics tease that another mayoral election will play a part in Batman comics very soon! If any readers know of a mayor I missed, especially from obscure sources like newspaper strips, RPG sourcebooks, or novelizations, please drop a line in the comments and I would love to research it. There are also tons of mayors in alternate-universe comics and multimedia, but that’s a post for another day.

In future timelines peripheral to canon, Winston is mayor of pre-Crisis Earth-2’s Gotham when Bruce Wayne’s daughter Helena operates as Huntress, per Batman Family #20. In the world of Neo-Gotham from Batman Beyond, Clement is mayor (digital chapter #3) before being replaced by William Dusk (Batman Beyond 2.0 #1) until his death, after which Greg Hoffman takes office. And in Dan Jurgens’ canon Batman Beyond series, Gotham’s mayor is none other than Luke Fox, the former Batwing!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Gotham City’s mayors as much as I’ve enjoyed researching them. It might seem like an obscure and nerdy topic, but I think it’s cool, and makes Batman’s gritty hometown feel like that much more of a real place. The idea that all these people served as Gotham’s mayor in the true story of Batman, and that there’s such a rich history throughout eighty years of comic books, is just fascinating to me. I’m grateful to Collin of The Real Batman Chronology Project for hosting these articles and hopefully more people will get into this kind of stuff. This is PurpleGlovez, signing off. See you next time!

Part 1: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-1-2/

Part 2: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-2/

Part 3: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-3/

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Gotham City Mayors (Part 3)

In the early 1980s, writer Gerry Conway took over the Batman titles and began his infamous “Marvelized” Batman run. As opposed to the mostly done-in-one capers of the past, his run featured an ongoing soap opera-like narrative that put a spotlight on Bruce Wayne’s social life, the inner workings of organized crime, and the political turmoil of Gotham City. Hamilton Hill debuted in Detective Comics #503 and was sworn in as Gotham’s mayor after defeating city councilman Arthur Reeves in the election. Hill was secretly in league with crime boss Rupert Thorne, and one of his many nefarious dealings as mayor was to replace James Gordon with a more compliant police commissioner. In Batman #381, Hill’s corruption was exposed and he was forced out of office.



Hamilton Hill.

George P. Skowcroft debuted in Detective Comics #551 and was appointed acting mayor in the wake of Hill’s downfall. In Swamp Thing #53, he infamously attempted to criminalize Abby Arcane’s relationship with Swamp Thing as beastiality. The Batman titles at the time teased an election showdown between Skowcroft and Lucius Fox, but when Denny O’Neil took over as editor after Crisis on Infinite Earths, most of the plotlines being weaved by Conway and Doug Moench were unceremoniously dropped. Thus, we’re not really sure who won the formal election or what happened to Skowcroft.


George Skowcroft (and my favorite reaction image ever).

In Huntress: Year One, we meet an unnamed mayor of Gotham City. Not only does he force an arranged marriage between his daughter and mafia prince Tony Angelo, but he plans to manufacture a crisis where he would intentionally destory Gotham’s dam system, flood the city, and swoop in with aid to take control of the fiasco and ride the wave of adulation to the White House. Kind of a weird plan, but whatever. His schemes are discovered by the Huntress, Helena Bertinelli, who takes the information to Batman. After being exposed for such a thing, this mayor was surely ousted from office.


The mayor from Huntress: Year One.

The timeline of Huntress: Year One is up for debate. Helena’s debut as the Huntress takes place around the Catholic holiday of Carnival, marking the beginning of Lent – usually a February date. In original post-Crisis history, Huntress debuted after the death of Jason Todd. However, Huntress: Year One reveals that Huntress was active while Barbara Gordon was still Batgirl, before The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family. If we place Huntress’s debut as late as it can possibly go, in the February before the Joker’s crippling of Barbara Gordon, then it would take place after Skowcroft’s appointment as mayor. The only other timeline clue is Catwoman’s claim that she is 29 – but can we trust Selina Kyle to tell the truth about her age?

So, some people do place the debut of Huntress earlier, sometimes prior to the introduction of Jason Todd, with speculation that this mayor could be Skowcroft or Hamilton Hill himself. To be honest, I don’t think he is Hamilton Hill. Their appearances are different and their storylines are way too distinct. It could theoretically be Skowcroft – but once again, the appearances don’t exactly match. In my opinion, the mayor from Huntress: Year One is the unnamed man who defeats Skowcroft in the formal election.


The mayor from Batman: The Cult.

The next mayor of Gotham appears in Batman: The Cult. An older white-haired man with thick eyebrows and squinty eyes, he is assassinated by Deacon Blackfire’s followers along with the rest of the city council. At the end of The Cult, a slim gray-haired man named Donald Webster is appointed acting mayor of Gotham. The mayor in Batman: Run, Riddler, Run is similar enough in appearance to Webster that we can say it is probably the same person.

The mayor from Batman: Run, Riddler, Run.


The mayor from Detective Comics #626.

Our next mayor is a chubbier man with black hair and a mustache who appears in Detective Comics #626. He’s mad that Commissioner Gordon gave him a parking ticket. Next, Mayor Julius Lieberman appears in Batman vs. Predator, where he is viciously eviscerated by a Predator (comics!) Lieberman has white hair and a mustache, but is otherwise similar enough in build and appearance to the mayor from Detective #626 that they might be the same person… but, they might not be.


Julius Lieberman.

After Lieberman’s death, Mayor Goode debuts in the Robin II mini-series. If you look closely, you can see his name on a plaque on his desk in issue #3. Goode reappears in Robin Annual #1, with slightly fuller hair. But a week before that issue was published, Gotham’s mayor helped celebrate the return of the JSA in Justice Society of America #1. Although he doesn’t look exactly like Goode, he’s got the thinning hair and same general build, so we can probably assume it’s the same guy. And then, on the same day Justice Society of America #1 was published – a week before Robin Annual #1 Gotham’s outgoing mayor inexplicably appears as an African American man in Detective Comics #648.


The totally blinged-out Mayor Goode from Robin II.

Detective #648 was written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Tom Lyle, the same authors of Goode’s appearances in Robin. This mayor is drawn very similarly to Goode, with his hair style from the annual, but he is colored as a black man while Goode is clearly white. I’m guessing this may have been a coloring error or miscommunication, since Goode appeared a week later in the Robin annual… but at the end of the day, does the published page supersede behind-the-scenes info? Does Detective #648 establish another canonical mayor of Gotham distinct from Goode? For now, the jury is out.


Detective #648’s unnamed mayor.

Detective Comics #647-649 also introduces the man who will become the next mayor of Gotham, Armand Krol. He’s a hardline conservative with a major hate-boner for Batman and Jim Gordon. His first appearance as mayor is the Misfits storyline in Shadow of the Bat #7-9 (his last appearance as a candidate being Batman #489-490). When Batman saves Krol from the Joker during Knightfall, Krol softens up towards the Dark Knight but never loses his adversarial attitude towards Gordon. Krol runs for re-election but is ultimately defeated. During the lame duck period of his mayoralty, he installs a friend of his, Andrew Howe, as police commissioner. When Krol’s successor takes office in Contagion, Gordon is restored as commissioner and shortly afterwards, Armand Krol succumbs to the Clench virus and dies.


Armand Krol.

To find out why Krol’s successor represents a historical milestone on our list, stay tuned for the next post!

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Help Wanted! The Golden Age Salad Days

Calling all divers hands! I’ve been filling in gaps in my timelines. Notably, I just added a Salad Days section for the New 52 (which required me to do a full re-read of the entire New 52, which I don’t recommend doing unless you want your brain to melt and run out of your nose). The only other big gap in my timelines is the Salad Days section for the Golden Age. The amazing Anthony Fallone helped me construct a first draft, which is up on the site, but I’m convinced (he, not so much) that there must be more to add.

Thus, I’m reaching out to all my followers and asking if they could scour the Golden Age in search of any references or flashbacks that we might have missed that pertain to Bruce’s time prior to becoming the Bat—from his birth until his early 20s.

Really, I’m looking for the tough ones, the ones that are easy to miss at first glance. Like this…

“I saw him once when I was a boy!” See what I mean? When I first built my Golden Age timeline, I neglected to do a Salad Days section, so I had to go back and do it later, which is decidedly harder to pull off later as opposed to as you are reading through everything.

So, if I’ve missed anything, please let me know. Happy to have some hunters out there giving me an assist. Thanks in advance!

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Gotham City Mayors (Part 2)

Alright, so now that we’ve looked at Gotham City’s mayors during the early years of the post-Crisis Batman’s career, we’re gonna take a look at mayors who appeared in pre-Crisis comic books between 1942 and 1980. To be honest, I’m kind of dreading making this post because there were a lot of appearances of Gotham mayors during this time with absolutely no consistency. I won’t be posting pictures of all of them because this post would just be way too long. Anyway, here we go…

The first mayor of Gotham depicted in a comic appeared in two stories in 1942’s Batman #12, as well as a story in Detective Comics #68. (Don’t get used to that level of consistency.) He was a caricature of New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The next unnamed mayor was an overweight man who appears to be bald under his top hat, from Batman #29. Next, an unnamed mayor with brown hair, a mustache, and glasses appeared in Batman #30.

The first named mayor of Gotham appeared in Detective Comics #121. Well, he’s not technically named; his son, Chadwick Carfax, is. Thus, we know that this is Mayor Carfax, a white-haired mustachioed man with glasses.After that, a balding man with brown hair and a monocle over his left eye appears as mayor in the Riddler’s debut story in Detective Comics #140. In Star-Spangled Comics #94, a balding man with dark hair and a mustache is mayor. In Batman #54, the mayor has dark hair and no facial hair; his head is covered by a top hat.

In Detective Comics #166, an ex-convict named John Gillen is working as a circus performer called “The Man With a Million Faces”. He transforms into the visage of Gotham City’s mayor: an older slim man with white hair. In Star-Spangled Comics #113, yet another nondescript mayor (with dark hair and no facial hair) appears in a top hat. In Batman #66, the infamous story of the Joker’s “boner” crimes features an elderly mayor with balding white hair and glasses. In Detective Comics #179, we get our second named mayor: Bradley Stokes. He runs a program where Gotham citizens can be “mayor for a week” during his vacations; named participants include Thomas Mays and Bruce Wayne. I wonder if we can use this program as a handy explanation for some of the mayoral inconsistency in this era…?

In World’s Finest Comics #69, we meet Mayor Sheppard, who frantically calls Commissioner Gordon as a psycho named Tom Beckett bursts into his office and threatens to blow up City Hall. In Batman #85, we learn that a man named Alan Dent is running for mayor; we never actually see him and he is never mentioned again. But, it’s theoretically possible (though purely conjecture) that Alan could in fact be any of the unnamed mayors who appear around this time. Two issues later in Batman #87, a mayor appears, a balding cigarette-chomping man. The mayor in Batman #91 appears to be identical to him.

In World’s Finest Comics #76, the mayor appears alongside City Hall in trying to convince a science convention to meet in Gotham instead of Metropolis. He has gray hair and glasses. In Batman #102, the mayor appears with a full head of dark hair and a dapper mustache. The mayor in Detective Comics #245 is a jowled man free of facial hair; the top of his head is obscured by a hat, but he looks plausibly similar to the man in Batman #87 and 91. (At this point I should note that, to account for the mayor’s varying appearances, it’s possible some of these stories actually take place out of sequence from when they were published.)

In Batman #120, the mayor appears to have white hair and seems a little overweight. The mayor in Detective Comics #277 bears a remarkable resemblance to World’s Finest #69’s Mayor Sheppard. In Batman #149, the mayor is a slim man with white hair, depicted both with and without a mustache. In World’s Finest Comics #140, it’s hard to make out the mayor’s features but he is a slim man who may have dark hair and possibly a mustache. The mayor in Detective Comics #330 is an older gentleman with white hair, glasses and a mustache. In The Brave and the Bold #59, a slightly overweight, balding mayor appears; vaguely similar to the man from Batman #87, et al. In Batman #173, the mayor has white hair and a mustache, and quite the shiny bald head.

The mayor in Brave and the Bold #67 is a nondiscrepant man with brown hair. A mayor appears in Batman #186 but it is impossible to make out his features. In Detective Comics #375, Mayor Taylor is mentioned, but not shown; as such, he could be any of the unnamed mayors who appear around this time. In Brave and the Bold #78, the mayor is another generic man with a top hat, and in Batman #207, we meet Mayor Hayes, a balding man with dark hair. In Brave and the Bold #81, the mayor has a head of black hair with white temples. Brave and the Bold #89 features a mayor of indistinct appearance with his back to the reader. In Brave and the Bold #94, the mayor appears alongside city council as a younger man with brown hair. In Brave and the Bold #102, he’s a fatter balding man with a mustache. In issue #105, this mayor appears again.

The next mayor is a bit of a head-scratcher. In Batman #245, two political bosses, Bilker and Harvey, are running candidates for mayor in the election. Bruce Wayne previously supported Harvey’s candidate before switching sides to Bilker’s man, MacCutcheon, whose face we see on a billboard. However, Batman exposes a plot by Bilker to frame Harvey for murder, and supposedly cinches the election for Harvey’s candidate. A few months later in Detective Comics #433, we meet another mayor of Gotham City: a blonde man who looks extraordinarily similar to MacCutcheon! So what gives? It could just be a man with an uncanny resemblance… or, it’s possible Harvey’s candidate didn’t win after all, and MacCutcheon was ignorant of Bilker’s plot, exonerating himself with the help of Batman and Bruce Wayne. But this is purely conjecture on my part.

World’s Finest Comics #218 features an orange-haired mayor who is threatened with blackmail over a kickback scandal by a villain named Capricorn. However, Capricorn seemingly dies before he makes good on any of his blackmail threats… thus, it’s unknown if the public ever learns about this scandal. In Brave and the Bold #113, a new mayor is sworn in, a young man with blonde/dandelion hair who briefly retires Batman and replaces him with the Metal Men. This could plausibly be the same mayor from Detective #433 and World’s Finest #218, if we assume this issue took place before those stories. Alternatively, it could be a separate person.

In the David Reed-scripted Batman #270, 275, and 283, an older, white-haired mayor appears. In the Christmastime Brave and the Bold #148, the mayor has orange hair and a thick mustache, while issue #150 clearly features the same mayor from issues #102 and #105. In Super Friends #22, what appears to be the same mustachioed mayor from Brave and the Bold #148 appears. In World’s Finest Comics #260, the mayor is a clean-shaven man with gray hair, while in issue #262, the mayor has white temples and a mustache. In Detective Comics #490, the mayor has orange-brown hair and a thick mustache, similar to the man from B&B #148 and Super Friends.

Well, that’s all the mayors I’m covering in this post. As you can see, there was no consistency whatsoever for many decades in depicting Gotham’s mayoral office. In-universe explanations of weight loss, weight gain, shaving, hair dye, wigs, and toupes (as well as out-of-sequence issues) can all theoretically be used to condense these mayors into a smaller number of people and explain their differing appearances. But in reality, the fact is that DC just didn’t care to keep it straight. Interestingly, it’s clear that a few artists did draw the mayor with consistency between different comic book issues, but this was a rarity.

Miraculously, things did start to get consistent under Gerry Conway’s pen in the early 80s with a certain character named Hamilton Hill. We’ll talk about him and other mayors in the next post!

Part 1: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/gotham-city-mayors-part-1-2/ 

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RIP Denny O’Neil



For my money, and many will agree, Denny O’Neil was the best Batman writer of all time. He was certainly one of my personal favorites. O’Neil, unlike so many of his peers (and unlike so many current writers), understood what it means to be a superhero. He knew that a superhero isn’t a cop, a bully, a strongman, or a rich man. O’Neil knew that a superhero is someone that fights for those who can’t fight for themselves, someone who can see systems of oppression linked to race and class, someone motivated by empathy, and someone that would walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

O’Neil changed the game. He gave us the Batman we know and love today, re-inventing the character in the 70s and forever stamping his mark on the mythos in a way that hadn’t really been done since the very beginning with Bob Kane and Bill Finger—and hasn’t been done since (except for maybe Frank Miller in the 80s). O’Neil never shied away from telling incredibly progressive stories about real people, and he did it, amazingly, for fifty years. Put simply, he was a great man, who told great stories.

I’ve always said, the industry could use more Denny O’Neils, so it’s an especially sad day for comics now that we don’t have any at all. You’ll be sorely missed, Mr. O’Neil. Rest in power.

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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: https://therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/the-strange-case-of-mayors-gill-and-hill/ ). 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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