The Prismatic Age: Batman as a Reflection of Outdated Ideas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.

bat-meme

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.

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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7 Responses to The Prismatic Age: Batman as a Reflection of Outdated Ideas

  1. Robert says:

    First of all, Collin, I want to thank you for all the work you have put into your chronology. I’m just flabbergasted at the effort, and no doubt time, that has gone into this. I grew up reading comics as a kid in the 70’s, but my focus was more 90% Marvel, 10% DC but with very little interest in Batman. (Oddly enough, this always made the DC universe seem more exotic to me with a distant allure, simply because I knew much less about it.) Comics then were a huge part of my inner life and now in middle age, dipping back into them represents not only a sort of self-indulgent nostalgia on my part but also a genuine way of recapturing some of my sense of youth (and hence, hopefully, not totally being a waste of time). I couldn’t care less about Adam West’s camp Batman (apart from the Batmobile – the only reason I watched the show) nor Tim Burton’s efforts, which appeared to be trapped in a nightmare, the nightmare of not being allowed to leave childhood behind. Following Nolan’s films, however, a darker and more serious Batman caught my eye (I belonged to the pre-Miller age and knew nothing of Year One) and I was drawn back into the world of comics, of Batman and DC. (I’ve set myself a project of reading all the Marvel continuity from 1961 up to about Secret Wars and pretty much all the DC continuity from Crisis on Infinite Earths onwards. So basically, your chronology has been of enormous help in planning my own reading as I attempt to recreate and live through the world of Batman and others. It’s really appreciated.

    Now to your op-ed. I agree with you – most crime in most civilized places in the Western World is probably of the white collar sort, most of it going unreported or unnoticed. But are superhero comics really about fighting crime? So at the moment I’m about 100 comics into my re-reading of the early Marvel comics and it strikes me just how often Spiderman is out and about coming across street crooks he needs to tackle. In the modern world, superheroes would be out of a job. There just isn’t that much for them to do. (Unless you end up creating Captain Accountant or the Super-Auditor, scourges of Wall Street. dedicated to unravelling tax avoidance, accounting arbitrage schemes and those pesky Euro-plutocrats when they have the time. But who wants to read about that?) That’s why super-villains are created i.e. a problem to solve another problem – that of not having enough problems. Superheroes are about escaping the limitations of the mundane and the physical – of becoming more that what we are. In so doing, they widen our worlds. They enlarge us.

    Sure, as you say, comics should also manage to be a reflection of the real world and real world issues, and maybe you are right in that this is lacking in the latest books. (I wouldn’t know – I don’t read them – for one, I haven’t gotten around to them and for two – well, let’s just say I didn’t like what I saw when I leafed through a couple – more on this in a moment.) But then you include stuff like this in your list of ‘the enemy’ – “right-wing lobbyists…white supremacists that cause more harm via gun violence than anyone else in America these days…Milo Yiannopoulos (?!?)”. And Batman should spend more time dealing with these people? Political bias much?

    To provide a bit of context, I myself am a person of colour (a ridiculous term, in my opinion, as it also renders white people effectively colourless, but, whatever – incidentally, you’ll also notice on which side of the Atlantic my spelling places me.) I grew up with racism when it was a lot more in your face than it is nowadays. For me it was a reality as opposed to a trendy ego-stimulating cause for outrage picked up by a privliged majority who ironically ignore their own privilege whilst admonishing others to ‘check theirs’. I picked up a copy of Ms Marvel (free on Amazon so why not) and was horrified to see the kind of racial abuse suffered by her character. Not because the abuse itself was bad – but the fact that people as a whole don’t behave like that anymore. It’s extremely rare. The irony is that whilst you may be critical of Batman being rooted to the past, other comics are tackling the past as I personally experienced it, 30+ years too late! It’s just not relevant. And not only that, I think it’s incredibly destructive. We are creating problems where we shouldn’t. In fact, I actually think it’s fueling racial tension and feeding white supremacists. And here is the frightening thing. What you call a white supremacist may have been expanded to include someone who is not racist but doesn’t want mass uncontrolled immigration happening too quickly and destabilizing the country – in other words, a lot of ordinary people (or I think basket of deplorables is the preferred term nowadays being advocated). And in case you think Britain is somehow more civilized than America, would you look at me with a straight face and tell me that the average black person today faces far greater racial injustice than he would have done during the era of the Civil Rights movement?
    What you are kind of agitating for, it would seem to me, is to create a new kind of crime category for superheroes to fight – political crime! But the frightening thing is that you’ve already decided what constitutes political crime – basically anything of the right.
    Right-wing lobbyists and pundits are the real super-villains? What about left-wing lobbyists? No, I’m not politically-biased, they don’t exist you might say. Think again. The left lost the economic war of ideas with the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have won, however, the ideological and the cultural war. Today, the reason that the ‘left wing’ hardly seem to exist is because the centre and the mainstream have all moved to the left. Left is the new normal. Not only that, this is a new left with a vengeance. For people who espouse tolerance so much, they seem to have very little of it when it comes to tolerating other types of ideas or of looking at the world. If you aren’t left, you are deviant, you are criminal, you are evil. So modern left-wing lobbyists hmmm – what about environmental lobbyists? Don’t think they do any harm? Oh no, they are are on the side of good. They are saving the planet. Riiiight. (Personally, I believe pretty much all lobbyists are foot soldiers of the devil. And whilst we are on an aside, here is another one. I consider myself pretty much apolitical. I try to pick a side based on objectivity and the wisdom of my experience. So Barack Obama – PRO: affable, articulate CON: ineffectual and weak. Donald Trump – PRO: strong, pro-American CON: a clown and a bullshitter. Neither of them should have been president in my opinion, but then again most politicians are a joke. America hasn’t had a decent president in at least 50 years.)
    Moving on to American gun culture. Approximately 30,000 deaths a year in the US due to gun violence. And apparently it’s those pesky white supremacists at it who you say are causing the most harm. Except nearly half are suicides. OK, so the white supremacists are offing themselves, great. It’s the ones that are offing others we need to worry about. But what about the disproportionately large number of gun-deaths due to black-on-black violence? Don’t tell me – they were black white-supremacists. And if we really care about lives, (which I don’t think we do nearly as much as our egos and feeding our sense of outrage – gives me a nice, warm self-sanctimonious glow), 30,000 is also roughly the number of deaths in the US due to road traffic accidents. If you Americans could drive as well as we do over here, that number should more realistically be closer to 15,000. Really, if Batman is serious about this, he should go around firming up your suspension (soft suspension is good for comfort but bad for road-holding), filling in potholes and teaching you guys how to indicate, merge, keep right unless overtaking and how to use f@<king roundabouts! 😉
    And Milo Yiannopoulos? Seriously. So he should be hacked but no darlings of the left.
    This is all frightening stuff Collin. The future of comics is war on crime, and that crime is…thought-crime!

    Despite everything, I love your website and will continue to read it. Thanks once again.

    • Hi Robert, Thanks for your response. Believe it or not, I don’t see the sociopolitical spectrum as a seesaw ranging from good to evil, but rather as a complex Möbius strip of varied perspectives. We clearly have different perspectives—on both comics and politics—and that’s okay! Nothing in this world is quite so simple.

      As I stated somewhere up there, the sci-fi and superhero genres have always reflected our real world, which, for me, is what makes them so darn interesting. (Pure escapism is just fantasy, really.) If you, Robert, were a big comic book reader in the 70s but you don’t read now, then your head would spin, mister, if you were to see just how different—or stagnant—they really are today. (And that’s the main point of this op-ed above.) I’ve already said (both in the piece and in the comments) that, my “list of enemies” is merely stuff that exists in the world today that never gets touched upon in superhero comics—stuff I’d personally like to see IN CONJUNCTION WITH the more traditionally superhero-ish stuff like muggers, bank heists, etc. In the 70s, nearly every aspect of society was touched upon. Only in comics could you find the delightful juxtaposition of social realism and the sheer fantastic! Now, not so much—merely the latter. My Batman fights for justice, always has. The idea of justice has evolved over the many decades that Batman’s been around, and he’s always seemed to adjust along with it… until more recently. The Batman of today is essentially the same Batman that was around in the 1980s. I think there’s something a bit off about that.

      But back to perspective, it seems we just have different values and viewpoints. Robert, I thank you for sharing a bit of your personal backstory, especially your views about what things were like back in the day. I sure hope that things have gotten better in America since the 70s! And they definitely have in many ways, that’s for sure! But there’s always room for development even if we’ve come a long way. (We also don’t want to slide backward, which is a legit danger.) I’m a very utopian thinker, and I want America to continue to better itself, to evolve, to grow. I don’t think there’s ever a moment where we as humans can’t learn something new, see new viewpoints. I want my Batman to grow in this way too. That’s partly why I’m glad to able to have this conversation with you.

      Let me address some of your points. While I have a differing opinion on the destabilizing effect of immigration, I do agree that “black-on-black crime,” high suicide rates, and even automobile accident deaths (each of which you referenced) are terrible things that exist today. And I don’t really see them tackled in contemporary comics either. But they could and should be. I’d love to see Batman trying to tackle these problems. Why is the murder rate so high in the poorer black communities of Chicago? Well, a lot of it has to do with systemic racism at a socioeconomic level. There’s a school-to-prison pipeline for kids growing up in poor communities, most of whom are People of Color (I know it can be a problematic term, very very true, but I still use it, even to describe myself as a Filipino, but I digress). With this hyper-inequality and hyper-inequity burned into the system, it’s hard to move out of one’s caste if you are born into it, especially if you are poor. And that’s barely chipping at the surface of the issue. Moving on. Why are suicide rates so high? Could it be that Americans… aren’t… happy? I wonder why? Could it be that most Americans are in crippling debt (and many sick without healthcare) while the environment literally crumbles around them (along with a very neglected infrastructure due to seriously messed up tax distribution)? I’d love to see Batman preventing more suicides both one-on-one and at a macro level as well.

      As far as “black-on-black gun violence” being more of a problem than or a comparable problem to “White Supremacist gun violence” (is that what you are saying?), it goes far beyond just numbers. There’s a big difference. While both are obviously rooted in systemic economic issues (and gun control issues), the high murder rates in places like Chicago or Detroit (and the high suicide rates nationally) are fundamentally different conversations than a discussion about White Supremacists shooting up high schools. The former are result of systemic problems—I would dare call them socioeconomic/political problems—whereas the latter are the result of active xenophobia, hate, bigotry, and racism, groups of people wanting to bring harm unto others solely because they are different. These concepts are at the very core of what it means to be a SUPER-VILLAIN. The super-villains of our world are far more terrifying than the costumed ones in the comics—but you used to see a broader mix of the two in prior comic book eras.

      (Also, when I talk about White Supremacists I’m talking about White Supremacists, NOT, as you say, “ordinary people.” And when I talk about the contemporary Left in America I’m talking about Democratic Socialism, NOT, as you say, Soviet era Communism. These are all very different things that you are falsely equating.)

      Okay, okay let’s talk Milo. Milo is a bit of a LOL, I agree, but he’s just a stand-in for an archetype. It needn’t be him specifically. There’s something about the internet troll who amasses a large following based solely upon hate-speech that is inherently linked to the horrors of xenophobia, bigotry, and racism. There are entire news agencies, television channels, publishing houses, and movie studios, run by multinational conglomerates, that speak to millions of people, spewing nothing but propaganda on an endless 24-7 cycle. It might seem subtle enough (especially in comparison to what the world has overcome in the 20th century), but there’s a hidden danger there that is too dangerous to completely ignore. The internet is a powerful tool that could have and should have been used to help democratize the world. But like any other tool, if you have the money or the power, then you get to use it more than those that don’t. Milo was a name to give specificity to this part of the piece, as were the white supremacists that kill innocent people, and the lobbyists (by name I could have said the NRA, American Conservative Union, American Family Association, Citizens United, John Birch Society, and so on and so forth), all of which have helped suppress women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, hurt unions, etc etc for decades. I gather you don’t like environmentalists, but I’d be curious to know the specific names of the “Left Darlings” and lobbyists you loathe so much. Although, it might not help us find common ground because I gather we might have a totally different idea of the meaning of Left and Right.

      I’ll leave our conversation with this. There’s an incredibly high level of privilege when one sees “opposing politics” as differences of opinion rather than matters of social consequence. You said that you consider yourself pretty much apolitical, trying to always pick a side based on objectivity and wisdom of experience. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of myself as being highly political BECAUSE I always pick a side based on objectivity and the wisdom of my experience. (Objectivity and wisdom can go a long way, cutting through the bullshit of politics, that we both agree. If there’s anyone that really does write the kind of socially and culturally relevant superhero comics that I’ve been “agitating for,” it’s one of my faves, Christopher Priest, who is an outspoken conservative and member of the NRA.)

      Despite everything, I love that you love my website and will continue to read it. Thanks once again.

  2. Rhett Khan says:

    Batman should be able to match wits with Bane, and go after white supremacists, and go after corrupt politicians and crooked CEO’s. The reason I’m so sure about that is I’ve seen him do all of those things already. So have you.

    It makes more sense than Batman fighting Amadeus Arkham’s teenage daughter, the one who grew up in Arkham that we’d never met (until a few weeks ago).

    • She’s been hiding behind walls and in secret antechambers below the building (you know, on the other side of where Batman built his Arkham wing… and on the other side of where Bane has his hidden bone throne dungeon). Sigh. Hey, though. I’ll give Tomasi props for FINALLY reuniting the Dynamic Duo. How freakin’ long has it been since Batman and Robin have fought side by side?

  3. RCN says:

    Man, I’m with you all the way here. There’s no point to art if it doesn’t make a commentary of reality, and this goes for Batman comics too. Since Morrison laid bare all of Batman’s faults and then left, I’ve been feeling the Batman comics have been lacking a bit of substance. And really, I think it has to do with what you mention here: they are missing substance because they are no longer about reality, they are completely self absorbed in their own realities, the ultimate alienation. How boring those new comics are.
    Dealing with current issues may date the comic, but that’s perfectly fine, because then it becomes a time capsule. Lee & Kirby’s comics of the sixties actually paint a pretty complete picture of their era. So did O’Neil in the seventies, or Miller in the eighties. Hell, Superman, the first true superhero is born out of the frustrations of two men who grew up during the Great War and the big depression. Those original comics are incredibly aware of the real world as it was back then, and provide an actually intellectually nutritious experience in revealing the values and problems of those times.
    You shouldn’t apologize about asking for Batman to give hell to White Supremacists. Those people can call themselves whatever they want, but they’re just neo nazis. Kirby had Captain America hit Hitler in the jaw back in the forties and got in trouble for it. But he didn’t mind, because as humble as he was, he was still an artist, not (just) a corporate drone.
    However, Marvel and DC Comics right now have their heads too far up their own ass.
    So don’t apologize. You’re absolutely right.
    As an aside, for some reason it seems its mostly British writers that explored Batman’s social side, some with more grace than others. Milligan, Grant, Moore and Morrison come to mind now. While for American writers, I can only think of Dini and O’Neil. But that may just be a bias on my side.

    • Hey RCN, glad some of us are on the same page. I wasn’t apologizing, merely trying to acknowledge all perspectives, which I think is so so important in these trying times in which we live. We could definitely use a new generation of Kirbys, O’Neils, Millers, Milligans, Morrisons, Moores, Grants, and Dinis—a new set of writers not scared to write about real societal problems that are going on in contemporary America. There are a few hopefuls to watch, but overall I feel like there isn’t much conceptual space left to mine in the superhero genre… unless DC and Marvel start doing delivering narratives that reflect the contemporary cultural zeitgeist instead of feeding us the never-ending, repetitive, and overdone instant gratification cash-grab stuff that we have seen in recent years. There needs to be something new, something bold, something utterly and unmistakably in the now! Frankly, these concepts aren’t exactly in Warner or Disney’s wheelhouses.

      But I remain a fan. There’s always something good in superhero comics… if you search long enough and dig deep enough. I just think we can do a lot better.

  4. A response to my op-ed, based upon replies I’ve received on Facebook. (Basically an entire addendum to this op-ed, LOL).

    I don’t want my core-readership on here to misunderstand me… I read nearly every single DC comic that comes out every Wednesday. I love Batman and I love comics. I’m just noticing a distinct difference between the comics of yesteryear and the comics of today—specifically in that the comics of yesteryear seemed to blend real world commentary with fantastical sci-fi scenarios whereas the former has been faded out leaving only the latter. I firmly believe in superhero comics as a vessel for social commentary, so if that’s disappeared then I feel like I’m missing an essential piece of the pie.

    This was an op-ed for sure, and very personal to me. One of the reasons I stopped writing (and left Twitter) over the past year is because my comic book opinions are very specific and very niche (or so it would seem). I have very distinct values and strong beliefs, but I don’t love to debate. We all come into things from different perspectives. Debating can be frustrating.

    I guess, for me personally, and again I can’t stress enough that this an an op-ed, I’m bored with what I’ve been reading lately. And I’ve never felt that way before. Maybe I’ve been in the game too long. While writing this piece I definitely thought specifically about Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, Detroit, and Baltimore as American cities that are actually more classically Gotham-esque and in which Batman would make more sense. But in the same vein, all of the problems I listed in my piece are direct contributors to what’s happened in American cities that have higher crime rates (or, for that matter, Mexican cities with higher crime rates—like Juarez, Tijuana, Los Cabos, Acapulco, La Paz, or Ciudad Victoria… OR places like Kabul, Islamabad, Kashmir, Rio de Janeiro, etc…). In fact, studies have specifically shown that crime rates have doubled in Latin America over the past 25 years. (See Christian Parenti’s stunning book Tropic of Chaos.) So, why wouldn’t Batman tackle THOSE bad guys AND the costumed rogues as well? At least there was a conversation about it in older comic book eras. (JLofA #153, Gerry Conway, 1978, comes to mind.) The only time I’ve seen it touched upon lately is in Christopher Priest books, which have enjoyed. (I still think of the speech Tim Drake gives to Batman in Tynion’s Detective run—Detective Comics #963 or #964 (2016)—as being one of the best Bat-moments of the past ten years. I want more of that! I love that! Neal Adams’ Black and White story from 2013 is also amazing, albeit out-of-continuity.) I’m not saying the sci-fi stuff has to go away, and I fully admit, on second thought, that both the patrolling against muggers and the bank robbery stuff are essential parts of Batman lore—so they should stay. All I’m saying is: let’s include ALL the bad guys. Why not have Batman tackle street crime AND also attempt to combat the root of human suffering?

    I think an overdose of Snyder and King have turned me off to DC’s current line as well. They just aren’t my cup of tea. Nor have they tackled contemporary issues that I laid out above. Only the Court of Owls and Penguin begin to approach the realm of contemporary super-villainy that I laid-out in my piece—but they are still miles away. I think the Court of Owls, if fleshed-out in that direction, might have potential to represent some deep rooted contemporary evil, but I don’t think Snyder really ever went there. And Penguin, while yes being a mobster, doesn’t quite check off the bad guy attributes that were on my list above either. (I think Lex Luthor does, but sadly Snyder and Johns are more into Luthor’s green-armored LOD super-villain character than his presidential corporate CEO character.)

    And I must fully admit that I was exaggerating when I said that Batman should sit down and debate right wing pundits or punch Richard Spencer. (Although TBH I’d love that.) I get that a lot of folks hate topical material and much rather prefer something timeless. I have mixed opinions about this. As a continuity person, topical stuff is a nightmare—and it horribly dates stories, sometimes in very poor ways. However, having recently read through 1970s Batman, I was surprised and charmed by how 1970s it is. You can’t read 1970s Batman (much of it, anyway) and place it anywhere else. Batman responds to his time. I dig that. (On the flip side, to play devil’s advocate, much of the Ra’s al Ghul Saga truly is timeless and reads well in any age.) So, like I said, I’m torn.

    I do strongly feel like Batman has become timeless TO A FAULT. This may be the unpopular opinion, but I think Batman has always been successful because he addresses the time in which he lives. That is oddly what made the character timeless in the first place! If he’s no longer addressing contemporary sociopolitical issues, then he’s become a prismatic pastiche that has lost meaning and depth. Again, this is just how I see things. I’m not proselytizing, just venting, really. After 80 years of Batman, I don’t want to see the same Batman anymore. I’m looking for a SHAKE UP. BIG CHANGE. That kind of thing, I guess.

    And like what I said before… I’m not calling for the abandonment of patrolling, alleyway fighting, or bank robbery bust-ups. Those things (duh) are a key part of Bat-lore. I don’t want that stuff to go away… I want that stuff to be a part of a wider spectrum of crime that Batman tackles. There’s SO MUCH material these days, why isn’t there room for the things I’m talking about in my piece? That’s all I’m saying. The gritty 80s crime still exists, especially in places like Chicago, Detroit, and Mexico. So, yes it should be a part of the narrative for sure. However, like I said, part of this type of crime is spawned from the things I listed in my piece that are decidedly not addressed in comics today.

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