Grading the Bat Books (Spring 2013)

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Professor BatWatch, the ridiculously strict and oddly eccentric tenured instructor of writing at Gotham University, is back, and he's ready to hand out the grades, for better or worse, to the poor lowly Bat students just struggling to graduate. Let's peek into his office and witness the spectacle.

Grades are based on performance from December 19th to May 9th.

Arkham Unhinged: Incomplete

Ah, Mister and Missus Unhinged, thank you for joining me. I'm sure you are wondering why I called you here. Your son, young Arkham, has been missing since January, and I know you must be fretfully worried about his unexplained disappearance. However, business is business and I find it incumbent upon myself as a trainer of tomorrow's leaders to demand a certain amount of accountability. Arkham started the term with me, and I am severely disappointed that he did not inform me before getting kidnapped, killed, gaining amnesia or whatever feeble excuse he has for missing classes.

As it is grade time, I must deliver a verdict, but I have chosen to show Arkham mercy by simply giving him an incomplete. However, I was not pleased with his performance for the few weeks he was present. He seemed slow on completing any projects, and I had the feeling he was just stalling for some reason. Phoning it in might earn you a C in some classes, but not mine! I can only hope that you will be comforted in knowing that Arkham's probable death saved him from the much greater shame of receiving an F in my class.

That is all. Thank you for stopping by.

Batgirl: D+

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Miss Gordon, I have to say I am very disappointed in you. Though not perfect, your performance last semester was notable and earned you solid marks, but this semester has been a completely different story. Your Joker project finished solidly enough though I do feel like it could have used a bit more polishing, but after that, you started acting like a completely different student with some bits in your narratives that were downright laughable. You had a hero catch a rocket inside a bag? Seriously Barbara, what were you thinking? Then there was this meandering bit about the two-bit Norman Bates knock off who was stalking your hero, yet his motivation never seemed believable, and the climax of the story was a disaster.

Seriously Barbara, you have potential, but sometimes, I think you are trying too hard. Not everything has to be thematic or push forward boundaries. You are allowed to just tell a fun story. You need to unwind in healthy ways. Maybe you should spend some time developing some good friends and make yourself more likable. Honestly, your difficult to put up with these days.

Also dear, I am terribly sorry to hear about your brother, but that is no excuse to show up to class drunk. Leave your Gotham U. water bottle here. I know that it vodka rather than water.

Also, you might want to speak to Miss Waller. I heard her saying something about your brother the other day.

Batman: B

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Mr. Wayne. Nice of you to join me. Beloved by everybody, aren't you Mr. Wayne? A rich kid who has it all. Well, you have not quite earned an A, but I will admit that you've done a respectable job this semester. Your Joker project was genius in parts though I do feel that your over powered heroes and villains are a bit too much, and the amount of students who found themselves imitating your work on the Joker project sickened me, but I will give your credit for a quality performance. Furthermore, you've continued to do solid work throughout the semester. Just paying a little more attention on the fine details would probably earn you even higher marks. Now, I'm done with you. Goodbye.

Batman and... (Robin?): B

Mr. Damian. Did you really feel the need to keep me waiting? I had to have my assistant come out and carry you in. Very unprofessional and the silent treatment is completely unnecessary considering I'm here to give you praise. Your grades were...troublesome last semester, but you've done great work in moving them up. I have to say that every bit of your work is just so...full of heart. It's truly refreshing. There have been no problems. Occasionally, you take things a bit too far or make your protagonist to dark for the tale, but overall, it's some of the best work I've seen all year.

That's all. Oh, but on a personal note, I have seen you hanging around with that Carrie girl, and I do not suggest you spend time with her. I find her distasteful and I would hate for you to get caught up with her ilk.

Now, if you will please leave. Really? Your just going to sit there? Fine, I'll have security escort you out.

That's it!

Hope you enjoyed. More grades are on their way!

Want More?

BatWatch is so much more than just weekly Bat Briefings. We also hosts Commentary Articles and Image Galleries for the entire Bat Family not to mention the best News Feed for Batman and Bat protégées on the entire web. Stick around, check it out, have some fun, and Follow on Twitter to keep up with the latest.

The Bat Family Needs More Diversity!

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This article is from BatShrine who kindly volunteered to share his thoughts with BatWatch. I don't agree with everything Shrine says in here, but I certainly agree with his main point that greater diversity in the Bat Family would be good for DC Comics, and BatShrine makes his point well. Anyway if I only posted things I agree with, that would pretty well defeat the purpose of sharing guest articles, wouldn't it?

BatShrine wanted me to let you know that he wrote this before the new Batwing came out which is why he did not reference him.

Speaking of guest articles, I'm fresh out. If anybody out there has some thoughts they would like to share with the BatWatch community, send it to me. I'd love to have it.

Diversity in Gotham

I'm going to start this by saying that Batman is a notorious loner that hangs out with A LOT of people. He has had a multitude of sidekicks, been on many teams, and started many of his own, but shockingly enough his direct family has been lacking in diversity.

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Out of his direct family, we have all the Robins which were white carbon copies of each other (features at least). They tried to make Jason Todd blond but retconned it. The only person out of the Robins that has any form of diversity is Damian Wayne who is biracial. He is half white and half whatever Talia is. But unfortunately DC hasn't realized the potential of that character to play on it. There aren't many multi-ethnic characters out there since people like to make "racial pairs" like Storm and Black Panther, or Black Canary and Green Arrow (and you thought it was just a coincidence they were both blonde, out of the fewer blonde characters out there). Damian Wayne has been treated and drawn like a white person ,so for all intents and purposes, he is white.

Then you have the Batgirls. Barbara who is a red head (which I wish was an example of diversity but red headed females are REALLY common in comics and cartoons), Stephanie who is the only blonde character in the bat family so she gets points for that (I don't know much of the character, and I don't know if she has dealt with any stereotyping due to her hair but I doubt it). And then you have Cassie! The first real step to any diversity, she is half-Chinese and half-white. She is almost Damian 1.0, but we actually were aware of her heritage. Unfortunately DC's editorial staff didn't like her, tried to ruin her and got rid of her. They did the same with Stephanie Brown too...

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Outside of his family, Batman's main team has always been the Justice League, and if I ask you to name who are the members of the Justice League, here are the names that might come up: Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkgirl (the TV show had a lot of influence), and if you have been reading DCnU Cyborg. My point being that you have to be white to be on the team for a long time. Multiple attempts have been made to diversify the team the two most famous is the JL cartoon using John Stewart and Cyborg now, but overall the trend is the character needs to be white (btw Martian Manhunter's alter ego is a white guy). It actually gets even worse with the Justice League because its made up of elitists. You have your billionaires (Batman and Green Arrow), your Royalty (Wonder Woman, and Aquaman), and your superpowers, and I mean they are the MOST powerful just by power set alone (Superman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and the Flash) who also happen to be connected to the military/police in some way (except for Superman).

So Where Have People Tried To Enter Diversity into Batman's World?

By his extended teams.

The first real major attempt was the Outsiders which had Black Lightning (he's black), Katana (can you guess that she's Japanese), Geo-Force (OK this one isn't obvious, Eastern European), Metamorpho (he's a rainbow of colors!), and Halo (who is this naive girl, can you guess what her hair color is?). This is a much nobler attempt to diversify Batman's world, but the problem is why not introduce someone directly into his family. They have to be extended and from another country. This is repeated in JLI and Batman Inc. There have been attempts to give us a black Batman, or a Brazilian team mate, but that's the thing. They are all from other countries. They don't hail from Gotham, (other than Black Lightning) but even so they don't work with him in Gotham. They are separate worlds essentially. He has his white Gotham and diverse groups outside of the country.

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Has the Bat Family made any headway into diversity? I would argue yes, and definitely in the gender and sexuality front. Batman's world has been very good at including strong independent women. At a time there were even more females (Oracle, Huntress, and Batgirl) than males (Nightwing and Robin) that were part of the family. Oracle became a major player in all DC, and I would say she is the only Bat character that didn't remain in the shadows of Batman. Thats pretty impressive and empowering to women. And on top of that she has been the number one superhero on a wheel chair for the past 2 decades (totally outshining Professor X), and since I am at it with people that have disabilities, Batman also had a genius mute named Harold working with him. You also have a lot of growth in the Lesbian front with Batwoman (who was ironically introduced to fight claims of Batman's homosexuality. brilliant move DC!), Maggie Sawyer, and Renee Montoya, and the best part is I don't feel that their sexuality rules their character, so I definitely applaud for that, yet you definitely see how their sexuality plays a role and affects their life.

There is a lot of growth even in the sphere of sexuality though. Gay and bisexual characters are practically non existent, so here's to hoping Harper Row and her brother develop and grow.

Why is this a problem?

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1. I am actually going to make a list for this cause there are a multitude of reasons. The first is simple representation and subliminal messaging. Without decent representation of different groups then you get subliminal messaging of the represented groups superiority. A very real example is Superman was first introduced to represent white America. Many of his initial villains were foreign, and what did he fight for again? Truth, Justice, and The American Way, so there are problems when you constantly present rich white people as the saviors. It might sound ridiculous but the affects of subliminal messaging is powerful. When all you read of black people in the comics is that they are poor people that need saving or thugs that rape and beat innocent people (never the crime boss though), it sends this subliminal message that black people are inferior and need white people to save and protect them or they are dangerous and you should avoid them. Plus, it perpetuates the idea that Americans are white and anyone else is foreign. Last time I checked everyone tracks their heritage from another country except Native Americans who are practically extinct (if a group of people can be extinct).

2. Here is an economic reason. If you create characters that have different ethnicities, then people of those ethnicities might start being interested in reading those characters. I mean, Wonder Woman was an icon for women and attracted many female readers. Logic doesn't fail that if you create and Arab superhero that more Arabs would start reading about him (especially cause the hype around Arab superheroes is usually so dramatic).

3. Batman deals with characters with many psychological issues, heroes and villains. There is a hugely untapped area of stories that are all around diversity and the psychological issues that surround it. A variety of identity issues come up from growing up as a black person in a white society, constantly having to straighten your hair, dress like a white person and talk like a white person simply to fit in. I won't go into a rant about it but drug laws highly target African Americans. Latino and Asian-Americans are constantly being used for cheap labor. The issue of being biracial where people perceive you to be one thing when really you are both. Transgender issues where people are simply just uncomfortable being around you. The double sided discrimination bisexuals get from both the homo and hetero sexual communities. The fact that no matter how many generations your family has been in America Asian's will always be viewed as Asians and not Americans. The list goes on, and all of it is very juicy untapped character stories.

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Now I am not saying diversity for diversities sake is a good thing. In fact, that can lead to one note boring characters, but entering diverse characters into the Bat Family can lead to very intriguing story lines. I mean one of my favorite stories that I read was actually how this Arab-American who has the powers of storm is in a plane that is about to fall. He attempts to save the plane, but at the same time as Power Girl and Batman, and everybody thinks he i-s the one bringing down the plane. Dealing with his fears, and and what happened to him was REALLY interesting and REALLY realm and it was different from everything else I have read regarding Batman. We've seen the mugging, we've seen the bank robberies, we've seen the murders (all blue collar crimes btw...) but we don't ever see that! And thats what I want!

More Commentary Articles

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4 Reasons We Might Not See Multiplayer in Arkham Origins

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4 Reasons Arkham Origins Might Not Contain Multiplayer

Every gamer knows that beating up bad guys by yourself is awesome, but beating up bad guys with a friend is even better. For this reason, everybody who enjoyed the first two Arkham games would love to see a fully integrated multiplayer mode in Arkham Origins, but as nice as that seems in theory, there are some good reasons we might not see multiplayer mayhem in Gotham just yet.

I'm not an expert at video games by any stretch, but here are some of my thoughts, and you can take them for whatever they are worth. I'll start with the reason I think is least important and move towards the reason I think is most pertinent to a delayed Batman multiplayer experience.

#4 – There Is No Obvious Partner for the Dark Knight

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If Arkham Origins were set after Arkham City, then there would be very little justification to keep a second player out of the game. Nightwing and Robin are both well established in the Arkham universe, and Robin was given a brief role in the last game both as a guest appearance and as playable in a campaign specific DLC package. Also, it would be hard to believe that yet a third major crisis, this one prophesied to be worse than anything seen previously, would affect Gotham without Batman calling in some backup. It feels like Arkham City's sequel is preparing fans to play as Robin or possibly Nightwing alongside the Dark Knight Detective.

However, Arkham Origins is set in the past before Dick Grayson ever became Robin or Tim Drake even likely knew of the Batman, so the obvious and expected route is not obligatory this time.

That is not to say that another partner in crime fighting could not be found. Catwoman guest starred with Batman in the latest Arkham game even if the two were not playable at the same time. Perhaps she could star alongside Batman in Origins. Any number of characters could take the role as Batman's assistant, but bringing in a character with a different skill set opens up its own set of problems that we will discuss later.

#3 – The Dark Knight May Have Contracted Call of Duty Disease

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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out in 2007 and absolutely blew people away. It was amazing, intense, and better than anything shooter fans had ever seen. Having raised itself to a pinnacle of excellence that few ever achieve, the Call of Duty franchise looked at all the innovation and boundary pushing work that brought them to their success and turned their back on it. Rather than coming up with something significantly different for their next game, Call of Duty has been pumping out pretty much the same game every year ever since much to the chagrin of some.

Now, I'm not a Call of Duty hater. Critics say each new installment is basically the same thing with different maps, and I agree. As a fan of the series, I encourage Call of Duty to keep it up. Their philosophy is simple. If it's not broke, why fix it? Sure, they could try changing things significantly for each installment, but they would run the risk of losing their throne as the king of shooters. By keeping the core game exactly the same while pushing the ball forward just a tad in each installment, Call of Duty has continued to rake in the cash.

The same holds true with the Arkham franchise. Pretty much nobody expected Arkham Asylum to be near as good as it turned out, but it was amazing, and Arkham Origins gave us nearly the exact same game only with a longer campaign, more side quests, a larger world and Catwoman. Other than than the addition of Selina Kyle, the series played it pretty safe, and now that they have sewn up several Game of the Year awards with Arkham City, why would they want to take the chance of trying something new and opening themselves up to a host of new problems? Keeping Batman solo is the safe bet.

#2 – It Has Never Been Done Before

I'm willing to be proven wrong on this one, but I've never seen a game similar to Arkham City integrate multiplayer.

Has stealth been done as multiplayer? Yeah, there's Splinter Cell and a few other games. What about massive open world environments working together across different gaming consoles? Have we ever seen that? Sure, games are doing that all the time these days, so where is the hangup?

The combat is the main issue. Again, prove me wrong if you know something I do not, but there are very few action games with the same level of acclaim as Arkham and none of them feature real multiplayer. God of War and Bayonetta art two top of the line combat games, but neither of them lend themselves well to multiplayer integration. Assassin's Creed is a game with a combat system somewhat similar to Arkham's, but try to get involved in multiplayer with Assassin's Creed, and you just end up walking around stabbing others in the back.

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I don't think Arkham style multiplayer combat has ever been done, and just trying to think about it theoretically, ignoring all those pesky programming issues, leads to some problems. The entire combat system of Arkham deals with being able to work through opponents in a systematic manner and attacking when the opportunity presents itself. The idea of adding a second player to the mix might sound appealing, but it might actually make the game much more difficult to play. Imagine striking at an enemy trying to build a combo only to have your compatriot down him first. Your rhythm is broken, and you're starting fresh. Another factor is that time slows down in Arkham combat. That might be cool for one player, but having the game slow for non-crucial moments for player #2 would get old pretty quick.

#1 – It's All about Batman

The Arkham games have been massively successful for one reason and one reason only: they make you feel like Batman. The city feels like Gotham, the combat feels like it was ripped from the pages of the comics, and using the cape and grappling gun to traverse the city is amazing. The way Batman uses his tech to solve problems and overcome obstacles makes you feel like you are the Dark Knight Detective.

Putting in a second player could damage that feeling of being Batman in many ways.

It's hard to feel like Batman if you can't string together a nice combo and you keep on missing targets because your friend hits them first.

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If we were playing as Robin, city traversal and problem solving would be no problem since he would be similarly equipped as Batman, but what would be the justification for Catwoman, Lady Shiva, Bronze Tiger, or whoever they threw in for player #2 having the exact same abilities, tech and skills as Batman? Unless you give the two playable character the exact same abilities, you are talking about redesigning every obstacle with multiplayer in mind. Even moving across the city is a problem. How cool would it be to swoop quickly from rooftop to rooftop only to have to wait every few seconds as your sidekick catches up.

The technical demands for the processing would certainly put a greater strain on the system. Generally speaking, you could expect either a fidelity drop if you are playing locally or potential lag if playing online, and neither of those are exactly fun.

Conclusion

Arkham Origins might contain multiplayer, but though it is easy to say the game designers should include it, it really is not as simple as it might at first sound. Whatever the final product looks like when this title hits shelves, I can pretty much guarantee you this. The priority will be on making you feel like Batman, and multiplayer will only be included in the package if it adds to that experience.

Want More?

BatWatch is so much more than just weekly Bat Briefings. We also hosts Commentary Articles and Image Galleries for the entire Bat Family not to mention the best News Feed for Batman and Bat protégées on the entire web. Stick around, check it out, have some fun, and Follow on Twitter to keep up with the latest.

Seven Mysteries for Batman, Incorporated

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If I were to put my head together with a few other Batman, Incorporated fans, we as a group could probably come up with two dozen different mysteries that need solving in the pages of Batman, Incorporated, but I am just one man, and I only came up with seven on my own. These are the questions that nag me when I think of Batman, Inc., and with only three issues left, the series does not have much time left to answer them.

#7 – Who is The Heretic?

The identity of the cloaked Batman knock off was a mystery in the pages of Batman, Incorporated for quite some time, but it was eventually revealed that The Heretic is a clone of Damian. Artificially aged, genetically manipulated and violently indoctrinated, he is little more than a malignant pawn of Talia.

Or is he?

It could be that this is the truth of The Heretic's identity, but something still feels off to me. If this character has no real connection to Batman and Talia wants to destroy the Bat, why would he wear a modified Bat suit? Why have we still never seen The Heretic's face? Why can he heal from wounds that should be fatal?

Even if The Heretic is no more than an advanced clone, we still know almost nothing about who he is. Hopefully, we will find out more about this mysterious figure before the series concludes.

#6 – When did Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd make up?

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Since Jason's revival, the Red Hood has opposed Batman in one form or another at every corner and in every encounter, but about a year into the reboot, we discovered that Jason and Bruce were working together once more to stop Leviathan. Bruce and Jason setting aside their differences to serve a greater good is a huge stepping stone for both of them, and it is criminal to leave this moment shrouded and unseen. Fans deserve to know how these two took their first steps towards restoring the father/son bond.

#5 – What will happen to Batman, Incorporated?

This is one mystery we can be assured will have an answer for this is the stated purpose the recently annoucned Batman, Incorporated Special #1. It's a good thing too because though many of the members of Batman, Incorporated never really got their moment in the spotlight, we grew attached to some. Knight, Batwing and even Bat Cow deserve some narrative resolution.

#4 – What is going on with Talia?

There is no doubt about it: Talia has been acting weird. She has never been a character above murder, but never before has she been portrayed as so brutal, vicious, and bloodthirsty as she has been in Batman, Inc.

There certainly are many possibilities as to why she is actong strangely. She could be possessed. She could be a clone. She could be a possessed clone...

I could come up with a nearly infinite amount of comic book style twists that might be in store for Taila in these last couple issues, but maybe Talia is truly as evil as she currently appears or some non-supernatural event has precipitated this change in Talia's behavior. Still, Batman has made it clear in earlier issues that he feels something is off with her, and if Batman's guts tell him something is wrong, well...I wouldn't want to bet against Bruce.

#3 - What was the point of the Future Damian story? (Batman, Incorporated #5)

For Batman, Incorporated #5, Morrison ignored the present almost completely and instead told a lengthy tale about the doom of future Gotham under the guardianship of the future Batman, Damian. The amount of mysteries in this issue could make up a long discussion in and of itself, but here are a few. What role does Dr. Hurt play in events? Who did future Damian accuse of being responsible for the destruction at the end of the issue? How did Bruce have this knowledge of the future? Was it a dream, an observation gained during his time traveling adventures during The Return of Bruce Wayne, or some sort of vision? If Damian Wayne is dead, who was that in future Gotham playing his part?

Looking at this entire arc, Batman, Inc. #5 is the only issue (other than issues zero which was clearly never part of Morrison's original plans) that feels like it doesn't fit. I guess it could just be that Morrison wanted to play in that future universe one last time before his time with Batman ended, but Grant doesn't seem the type to waste an issue with a meaningless, if entertaining, diversion. The man clearly has a plan, so how does this issue fit into that plan?

#2 - Who kidnapped Jason Todd?

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Everything started to fall apart for Batman, Incorporated a few issues ago. About the same time as Damian Wayne was being skewered by The Heretic, Jason found himself kidnapped. Nothing has really happened with this plot point until the most recent issue when Jason stops some members of Batman, Incorporated from rescuing him and instead says that Batman, Inc. needs to be working with his captors. All his captors are female, and almost all are wearing skull masks similar to the one Talia started wearing when she revealed herself as leader of Leviathan. Could there be a connection? It seems quite likely to me. Also, the leader of these contingent of warriors is a woman Jason claims to recognize, so who could these people be and what's their play in all this mess?

#1- Did Batman, Incorporated even matter?

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If none of my questions are answered, I would still say that Batman, Incorporated has been a fun ride, but Batman, Inc. always seemed better as a concept than it proved in actual execution. The series began with Batman recruiting an army which is a logical and interesting starting point, but once Leviathan really raised its head and Batman, Inc. started to fight back, all the members of Batman, Incorporated began to feel like nothing more than cannon fodder for Batman. In the current volume of the series, the story's focus has been on Bruce and Damian with the rest of the ex-Robin's playing important roles as supporting cast members. Outside of Knight, no member of Batman, Incorporated has felt particularly relevant. Now that we are nearly at the end of the series, Bruce is handling things on his own as per usual, and the ex-Robins are lending backup in their own individual ways. If Batman, Incorporated can't even bother to give its team members a significant role in the series finale, the the idea of Batman, Incorporated being something bold and new is completely shattered. This is either a series about an international group of Batmen or it is a story about Batman defeating Talia with a bunch of side characters filling up the background in big fight scenes.

Conclusion

The series has three more issues to make all known that can be known, but considering Morrison's past works, there will probably be quite a few questions left unanswered. Love it or hate it, it seems part of Morrison's style is story telling which leaves you trying to figure out exactly what just happened. Hopefully, Morrison will answer most questions and at least leave us enough hints to form the basis for future debate and speculation on the unsolved mysteries.

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Why I Don’t Like the Reboot: A Dick Grayson Perspective

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Today, we have a commentary article from Kristen. Kristen is just about to graduate with a doctorate in history and she has an especial love of the medieval ages. She also loves Dicks. By that, I mean she enjoys  Richard the Third, Dick Grayson and any other Dick or Richard of cultural significance. She has two great blogs, ThoughtsaboutDickGrayson which has the most in depth and wide breadth analysis of Grayson I have ever seen and includes lots of scans from all generations of Dick Grayson comics. She also runs DIcksIHaveStudied which chronicles all sorts of historical tidbits from pretty much every person ever named Dick. She's a Dick addict.

As such, I figured there was nobody better to bring us some commentary on Dick Grayson today. I think Kristen's article is fantastic, and I agree with just about everything she says.

How the DCNU Screwed Dick Grayson

I don’t like the reboot. For one thing, I dislike change, especially when it is merely change for the sake of change (which is what I think the reboot is). Second, I don’t like what the reboot has done to Dick Grayson. Since Dick Grayson is the only reason I even read comics, this is a huge problem for me.

A part of me realizes that I shouldn’t complain. Dick, after all, has not been Jason Todd-ed. Back in 1985, as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths (the first big reboot), Jason was given a new origin and attitude. While this made him a unique character, rather than a Dick-Grayson clone, it came at the cost of Jason’s popularity. Within a few years, Jason was voted to death. In the New 52 reboot, Tim Drake has been Jason Todd-ed: a likeable character has been revamped as a douche-nozzle no one likes. At least Dick hasn’t suffered THAT fate.

I also admit that Kyle Higgins has been doing a pretty good job. With Nightwing relocating to Chicago, Higgins just might be able to develop a cast of great supporting characters that is wider than Sonia Branch. Sonia has potential, but Dick used to have Bridget Clancy, John Law, Amy Rohrbach, Gannon Malloy, and more. Kyle’s Nightwing definitely compares favorably to some of the rubbish Devin Grayson and Bruce Jones made us suffer through back in the 2000s. To be honest, although I enjoyed the 1996-2009 Nightwing solo series, I have just as many (if not more) “favorite Dick Grayson moments” that come from other books as come from the solo series. Dick was awesome despite some of the crap that happened in his solo series. To a certain extent, I’m damning Higgins with faint praise.

So why am I complaining? Because I don’t think for one second that what I have gained (a decent Nightwing solo series) even remotely compensates for what I have lost.

The World We Have Lost

The most egregious losses are:

-Dick no longer a child sidekick (maybe he’s still the first, but I’m not sure)

-Dick was Robin for a very short time

-Dick not officially Bruce’s ward (this is beyond the pale. To be frank, I try not to think about it because it upsets me so much. Instead, I focus on the positive. Higgins and Synder have definitely made it clear that Bruce and Dick still have a special relationship – see Batman #11 especially – so I focus on that instead.)

-Dick no longer a founder of the Teen Titans

-several of Dick’s friends are non-existent (this is, of course, worse for Wally and Donna who have been snuffed out of existence, but it affects Dick as well. Since Dick exists in the New 52, I’m focusing on that aspect)

-Tim Drake’s origin has changed (and Tim has become a douche).

What Do These Losses Mean?

To be blunt, they mean Dick is a shell of his former self. Dick Grayson was the heart of the DCU. He knew everyone. He was the first kid sidekick, which meant he was the “mascot” for the Justice League. He knew the first generation of other kid sidekicks because those people were his best friends. He knew subsequent generations of sidekicks and young heroes because he mentored them the same way Batman, Superman, etc had mentored him.

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Dick being 16 when he became Robin means Dick has much less crime-fighting experience and harms his relationship with Bruce. Dick being 16 is better legally (less child endangerment) and is more believable, but please. DC, I’m reading a serial about a man richer than god who has essentially “risen” from the dead more times than Jesus - we are way past the point of “willing suspension of disbelief.” I’ve already swallowed the very idea of Batman hook, line, and sinker, so I am absolutely gullible enough to think an eight-year-old boy can fight crime dressed like a Christmas elf. (I am also capable of thinking a man in his mid-to-upper forties can still kick ass; it’s okay for Bruce to age, DC).

Dick being older when working with Bruce detracts from their special relationship. How are they so close when they’ve only known each other five years (at most)? Bruce and Dick are more than just student-teacher, mentor-protege, father-son, brothers, best friends, whatever. Non-sexual soul mates? I’m not sure exactly how to classify it, but it’s special. And even when the bond is frayed, they still have it. I, for one, pretty much read the comics for the Dick-Bruce relationship. It’s my favorite. (I also love Dick’s friendships; his romantic relationships are of least interest to me). To put it mildly, I would be devastated if Dick and Bruce no longer had a special bond. That is why the “Dick no longer Bruce’s ward” hurts so much. As I said before, I think Synder is still presenting the relationship as special, but I’m still annoyed at the unnecessary change in Dick’s status.

Plus, that change in status makes no sense. Dick was the first person Bruce really opened up to after his parents died. Bruce taking Dick in opened the door for Bruce to later take in other children. If Bruce didn’t take Dick in, it makes much less sense that he would take in Jason and Tim. Bruce bonded with Dick because they had shared a similar traumatic experience. Caring for little Dick made Bruce a more empathetic person, someone who was then willing to later take in other boys in need. If the Wayne Care Center was good enough for Dick, it would be good enough for Jason and Tim. Bruce took in Jason, and later Tim, because he was repeating a pattern established with Dick. Change Dick’s origins, change the pattern.

With Dick being older, we get a weird reversal in Robin ages. Previously, Dick became Robin at 8, 10, 11, or 12 (take your pick; I’ve seen them all). Jason was 12 or 13; Tim was 13. I thought it made sense for the boys to get older (until Damian came around). As Bruce aged, he presumably became a little wiser and realized eight-year-olds shouldn’t be vigilantes. Plus, Dick being so young gave him that much more experience. It helped make him a better leader. It made him someone worthy of admiration. In the DCU, Tim admired Dick. And it made sense. Dick was worthy of that admiration because he had been a hero from a young age. Dick had proven himself; he had earned respect. Now Dick has barely had time to prove himself, let alone earn respect.

Severing the Connections

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With Dick no longer founding the Teen Titans, a huge swath of Dick’s history, growth, and connections have disappeared. Why did Dick become Nightwing? The Teen Titans were involved in that transition. Is Dick a good leader? Without the Teen Titans, we have no idea. Does Dick have superhero friends? Not really. Donna and Wally don’t exist and Roy and Kory are Jason’s friends now. Reboot Dick is incredibly isolated. He is just another member of the Bat-Family. He used to be something much greater than that. He was a Bat, a Titan, an Outsider, a reserve JLA-er, and now he’s just Bruce’s second-in-command (I think). Sure, that’s a great job, but Dick used to have more hero connections and friends than Bruce. Dick used to be somebody. He used to be a contender. Now he’s back in Little League.

And what is up with Tim Drake? Tim’s new origin was Dick-free, which was a huge change. Back in the DCU, Tim was a Dick-fanboy, then a Batman-fanboy. Dick Grayson was an inspiration to Tim and instrumental in Tim’s journey to Robin-hood. That’s gone. With that connection severed, Dick and Tim both suffer. Tim is not a fanboy seeking to connect with his inspiration but a hubristic jerk. Tim was inspired to become Robin; now he thinks he deserves it because he’s so smart. That is such a far cry from the old Tim Drake that it’s criminal.

As for Dick, he’s lost yet another human connection. Since those human connections were such a huge and wonderful part of Dick in the DCU, Dick’s character has been lessened even further. Tim and Dick don’t seem to be especially brotherly, which wipes out twenty years’ worth of character development. We have barely seen Dick in the big-brother-mentor role, which was previously a great (in terms of quantity and quality) aspect of his character. We saw some of this brotherliness with Damian but not enough, and now Damian is dead. Now Dick is “Batman-Lite” in all the wrong ways: not as smart, experienced, awesome as Bruce. He used to be “Batman-Lite” in all the right ways: more nurturing, more people-oriented, more human.

In essence, reboot Dick has less experience, fewer friends and connections (don’t even get me started on what this means for his uncle-nephew relationship with Superman), and a weaker (at least officially) tie to Bruce. That is a complete gutting of a character known for his experience, leadership abilities, connections, and lengthy history with Bruce. Dick was the ultimate DC people person: he knew people, he loved people, and people loved him. Now Dick has no people aside from Bruce, Alfred, and a dead Damian. It’s basically what Dick had in 1943 – except then there were many fewer superheroes around. And Dick was clearly a sidekick then, which made his lesser skills and small social circle more understandable.

So yeah. Unless DC corrects all of these problems, I will never be satisfied with just Higgins’ Nightwing. DC took away my filet mignon and gave me a McDonald’s hamburger. Sure, I don’t mind McDonald’s, but it looks pretty sub-par compared to that steak you just took away.

Don’t Spit on Me and Tell Me It’s Raining!

If I recall correctly, when DC announced the reboot, it indicated that certain franchises would be less affected than others. Batman and Green Lantern were specifically mentioned as getting only a “soft reboot.” Those titles were already financially successful, so DC claimed they were only making minimal changes.

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Those were lies. Okay, maybe compared to other properties Batman has suffered relatively few changes (I don’t read any comics that don’t involve Dick Grayson), but the Batman Family has changed. Personally, all of those changes have been for the worse. Five-year timeline? Ridiculous. Barbara back as Batgirl? Even in the DCU Barbara was more awesome as Oracle than she was as Batgirl; that’s definitely true now. Babs went from her unique niche (a very necessary computer-and-information guru who was an inspirational symbol for the differently-abled) to just another cape who has to bear the indignity of being a twenty-something woman still going by “girl.” Tim Drake is way worse in the reboot. Alfred and Bruce seem pretty similar to their old selves, but Bruce has always been a much more static character than any of his associates. And Alfred? Well, I guess I’m just waiting for DC to screw-up the fail-proof formula of “awesome, resourceful, British gentleman.” I suppose Jason has gained (he’s definitely gained some friends), but that’s not enough for me – especially since Jason’s gain came at Dick’s expense.

So DC lied and rebooted more than they implied they would. Fine. Consumers are lied to all the time. But I think this lie has put the Bat-Family in the worst possible position: not entirely old, not entirely new, and succeeding at neither.

Wasn’t the reboot done to attract new readers and simplify continuity? If so, fail. Maybe DC is making a bit more money than before, but I doubt it’s enough to truly justify the risk. Most of the uptick was interest in the novelty, and it quickly wore off.

I will use myself as an example. I’m a twenty-something with expendable income; DC should be trying to take my money – especially since I am a woman. I’m told that the majority of comic-book buyers are men. Well, women are half the population, so getting our money, too, would really increase DC’s profits.

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To a certain extent, I’m a “new reader.” My dad loves Batman so I grew up imbibing the Batman mythos, but I didn’t read the comics until about three years ago. Luckily for me, my dad collects comics, so I had twenty years’ worth of stuff in the attic. I got caught up pretty quickly. Was I sometimes confused? Heck yes! What did I do? I looked online. It’s as though DC forgot about that great resource called the internet. There is so much out there about comic books it’s mind numbing. The Wikipedia page on Dick Grayson is longer than the Wikipedia pages of many historical figures (who were real!). I was able to fill in the gaps, and figure out what books I wanted to get (for instance, my dad didn’t have New Teen Titans, so I started collecting that).

When the New 52 started, I was apprehensive, but I gave it a shot. My dad was still buying the comics, so I read his. Then I moved across the country for college. I certainly could have swung the ten bucks a month for Nightwing, Batman, and Batman and Robin, but I didn’t love it enough to bother. Why buy the cow when I can get the curdled milk for free whenever I visit my parents?

DC is getting my money, but I only purchase old stuff (DCU). I don’t like the new stuff enough to purchase it, and I can’t be the only one.

As for “simplifying continuity?” You have got to be kidding me! The reboot just opens up about a thousand questions I didn’t have before. How many Robins in 5 years?! How was the possible? How is Damian possible? How many adventures have you had before? What is canon?

That’s the real crux of the matter: what is canon. In doing a “soft reboot,” DC has muddied the waters in the worst possible way. We know we’re not starting with a clean slate, but we don’t know what has and hasn’t been erased. Should we assume everything is intact until we hear it has changed? Should we assume nothing is intact until we hear it is? DC has been giving us mixed signals (Tim was a Robin; no, he was never Robin), so it’s hard to tell. That’s very frustrating.

If Wishes Were Horses...

I think that if DC really wanted to reboot and make things easy for new readers, they should have truly started over. Don’t give me year one in flashbacks: give me year one in year one. Bruce does the solo thing as Batman. Dick is introduced as Robin in year three. Time passes, and we have Jason. And so on and so forth.

I can suggest this, of course, because I am first and foremost a Dick Grayson fan. My Robin would be along in a year or two. A full reboot would not be as fun for a Damian fan because you would have to wait a few years (DC would, of course, speed the timeline up and no longer allow ten years to equal one college semester – I’m looking at you 1970s). But things would happen in order, and I wouldn’t have four rebooted origins thrown at me at once.

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DC would never have done this because they make too much money off having a zillion characters. Fair enough. Why not just simultaneously publish a line for new readers? DC already publishes archive collections and such, but those are expensive. Why not reprint old issues each month and charge $2.99 for those? You wouldn’t need to reprint all of them, just the ones containing relevant history. Plus, Detective Comics used to contain way more than just Batman. Modern reprints of the Batman stories from ‘TEC could include more than one “historically important” story. Within a few years, people could be caught up. Plus, many more experienced readers would probably jump at a chance to buy reprinted issues of these turning points (Jason’s origin stories are kind of expensive to buy). Furthermore, many older Batman comics are more child-friendly. So reprinting old issues would simultaneously expand DC’s offerings for children (who could then become lifetime customers), give new readers an entrance that is dated but digestible, and allow old customers to purchase reprints of significant comics.

As it now stands, I’m confused and each new editorial decision seems to make things worse rather than better. One benefit is that I now have a cut-off point for “comics I care about,” but that’s actually kind of sad. Sometimes I try to console myself by thinking, “Dick Grayson is so awesome that DC had to reboot their entire universe in order to make him Nightwing again.” Given the stripped-down character that is currently supposed to pass for Dick Grayson, I realize it was an exceedingly hollow victory.

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Nightwing's Greatest Villains #4 - #1

The Problem with Worlds' Finest

Should We Be Worried about Tynion's Run on RHATO?

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James Tynion IV (current writer of Batman, Detective Comics, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Talon) has only had a single issue writing Red Hood and the Outlaws at this point, and to make any judgment based on merely one issue would be rash and premature.

That being said, I'm going to be rash and premature.

I have been a huge fan of Tynion's work on Talon and the backup features of Batman and Detective Comics, but I'd be lying if I denied that there were some red flags in his first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws. I'm not going to get too much in the nitty gritty, but real quick, I'm going to hit a few points on what worries me.

1. Where's the Fun and the Funny?

Like many others, I enjoyed Lobdell's (former writer of Uncanny X-Men and current writer of Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy and Action Comics) run on RHATO, but let's be honest with ourselves, the series is not deep. The series formula is simple. Take three super types willing to use lethal force, throw them up against various baddies, make them crack wise in the face of certain death, add some self-destructive tendencies and a quasi familial relationship between team members, and boom, you've got Red Hood and the Outlaws. It's 80% fun action adventure with just a little bit of serious added in to give it flavor.

There was not a lot of fun or funny to be had in RHATO #19. Roy had one or two humorous lines and Jason's crack about his butler, “Kicking your a** all the way back to Gotham City,” was hilarious. Then, there was one obligatory and frivolous action scene, but beyond that, this issue seemed to take itself way too seriously. I wanted to have a good time, but I ended up feeling stressed and confused. That's not what I wanted.

2. The Art Grieves Me.

I do not believe Red Hood and the Outlaws has ever had a tiptop A-list artist, but it has always been good quality. RHATO #19, on the other hand, was...not pretty. In terms of characters bodies, things just did not look quite right, and regarding faces, people came off looking kind of like demented wooden dolls in many panels. It is certainly not the worst art I've ever seen in a comic, but it's not doing the book any favors.

3. Put the Pedal to the Melatonin.

Again, RHATO is simple. It delivers some good time action with just a touch of something deeper. In the first arc of this series, dozens of people were killed in the name of justice, the globe was spanned, mysterious forces were unleashed, pasts were discovered, and monsters were killed. In this issue, we have eleven pages of Where's Waldo.

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To be fair, the first eleven pages could have been intense. The problem is, we, the readers, had no idea what was at stake until the final few pages. Kori and Roy must find Jason but why? We had no idea. There is no threat looming large over our heads. Now that Batman and Red Hood has been released, someone could read RHATO #19 with a little more tension knowing Jason's fragile state of mind, but that was deprived us due to the bizarre timetable at work. Essence is trying to stop the Outlaws, but again, this adds very little because we do not know her motivation. We see Roy go through a vision, but this was more or less a retread of RHATO #18, and all the demons Roy confronts here are from an unknown past. By leaving us in the dark on key factors, RHATO #19 made the first half of the issue rather sleepy.

4. The Mystic is Expanded but Not Explained.

Tynion has spoken in interviews about how it is a strength of the series that there are so many story types possible from the characters such as the mystical adventures open through Jason's training in the All Caste. The problem with revisiting the All Caste is that it never really made any sense. Lobdell did establish the concept, but he pretty much dazzled us with bright flashes and cool fight scenes which made us breeze right by all the unanswered questions like, “What the crap does any of this mystic stuff actually mean?” If you are going to draw out a story that focuses on the mystic, then you are going to have to give some better guidelines on the rules of this mystical world, and right now, we're missing that.

In Defense of Tynion...

(Spoilers for This Paragraph if You Have Not Read RHATO 19) You might have noticed that I skipped what many consider the biggest red flag in the book, the mind wipe of Jason Todd. That is because I think that is actually one of the strongest elements of RHATO 19. Look, I do not want Jason to lose his memories on a long term basis, but through reading Tynion's past works and hearing interviews with him, I think I can firmly say this much; Tynion is a guy who gets and appreciates characters. The Jason Todd we know and love is not going away. He might fade a little, struggle with memories for months to come, or come out of this story a little altered, but his essence, long term, will remain the same. I think, and I suspect Tynion's thought process is similar, that Jason needs to learn that his past, even the bad parts, are what makes him who he is, and he is a better, stronger person for those griefs he has endured. I think this is a pretty clever way to explore that life lesson for Jason.

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Also, so what if Tynion is doing something a little different with the series? Just because he seems to be trying to strike a more serious tone in this issue does not mean he is abandoning what makes RHATO a fun series. Tynion is taking things in a new direction, and sometimes, it takes a little while to establish a new direction and new tone. There is a very real chance that Tynion might be, for example, building a more coherent world for the mystic nature of the All Caste, but it will probably take more than one issue to get readers up to speed. Just because things were not perfect in Tynion's debut issue is not a reason to write off the series.

Conclusion

RHATO #19 was rough around the edges, but even with rough edges, I still enjoyed it. However, there are some real concerns with the series, and we can only hope that things improve as the series continues.

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Whatever Happened to the Human Cockroach?

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Scott Lobdell is a divisive writer. Some comic readers consider him to have great skill while others consider him to be a hack. I'm somewhere in the middle. I really enjoyed his work on RHATO, but I've found his run on Teen Titans to be disappointing to put it kindly.

Regardless of your opinion of Lobdell's accomplishments, there is one quirk about Lobdell's writing process that is not disputed. Mr. Lobdell is not a planner. By his own admission, Lobdell likes to make things up as he goes along, and he does not have long term plans for his characters, teams and series. Fans of Lobdell claim that this approach keeps things fresh and chaotic, and while critics will agree that Lobdell's comics are unpredictable, they say his stories often fail to come together in any sort of meaningful way. (we're looking at you, The Culling)

One area which appears to highlight the problems of poor planning is Skitter. Skitter was introduced at the beginning of the DCNU as a new member for the Teen Titans. In interviews around the launch of the New 52, Lobdell said he wanted a character who did not look like a regular kid. He wanted someone who stood out from the crowd. As an insectoid girl with two extra arms, claws, glowing eyes, and eighteen inch long hair standing straight up, it's fair to say that Lobdell accomplished his mission, but to what purpose? Her use through the DCNU makes it seem as if Lobdell wrote her into existence one night, fell asleep, woke up the next day, and said, “Who is this chick and what the heck am I supposed to do with her?”

A Smattering of Skitter History

If you are up to date on Skitter or uninterested in her past, then just skip this section, but for those interested, we're going to talk real quick about how Skitter has been used in Teen Titans thus far.

Early in the DCNU, Red Robin heard reports of the monster Skitter, figured out that she is actually an innocent teenage girl, then tracked her down to a California sewer. When Tim confronted Skitter, she attacked him, and Red Robin would have been killed if not for the arrival of Wonder Girl who gave the bug a good swat and knocked her out. Red Robin took Skitter with him, and she cocooned herself and transformed back into her regular teenager form as Celine. Later, the Teen Titans went to fight Superboy, but Celine stayed behind unwilling to fight. After the fight was over and the Teen Titans were trying to escape, Celine showed up once more transformed back into Skitter. Skitter webbed up some cops and almost killed one before Bunker intervened on their behalf.

Before we go on, let's refresh our memory on what we know about Celine. How did she get her powers? We don't know. Can she transform at will? Who knows? Does she have any control as Skitter or is she pure animal instinct? It's difficult to say. Whatever happened to her sister? We have no idea. What is she like as a person? I have no clue. She has no development whatsoever.

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Finally, we get The Culling where the Teen Titans, including Skitter, are locked up in a concentration camp with a bunch of other teen metahumans. At some point, Skitter got separated from the team where she heard a voice similar to hers say, “Don't be afraid sister. We have better places to go.” That was the last we've heard of Skitter...until recently.

A Skitter Shocker

Last month's Teen Titans' “WTF Certified” cover revealed Beast Boy to be a traitor working with Trigon and Raven, but it was originally supposed to be Skitter as the traitor until an editorial mandate forbade it.

I have to say that I find all of this incredibly bizarre. Skitter was introduced, we learned nothing about her, she was written off the series without any real explanation, and then she is almost returned as a villain? What's the thought process that leads to this series of events?

Though I can't figure a justification for Lobdell's use of the character, I can certainly think of reasons that DC editorial might have stopped the vilification of Skitter. DC has been practically obsessed with making itself appear diverse recently, but it still receives significant criticism for failing in this regard. I suspect a conversation like this occurred at some point.

DC: “We love minorities. Just look at Teen Titans. We added a black girl to the team.”

Critic: “You mean Skitter, the girl cockroach with no character development that was presented as little better than a semi-trained dog and barely quantifiable as human that you wrote off the series after nine issues and then brought back as a villain? That black girl?”

DC: “Well...how about that Batwing?” He's pretty awesome, right?”

Come on DC! I hate it when people pull out the hater card rather than giving an individual or a corporation the benefit of a doubt, but you are just giving critics ammunition at this point.

Conclusion

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What will become of Skitter? Well, it appears that Lobdell did have a plan for her to be reintegrated into the series, but now that this has been squashed, her fate is more in doubt than ever.

Even if Skitter had been brought back in a positive way in the last issue, it still feels like she has been completely mishandled. We know absolutely nothing about her, and rather than develop her as a character, Lobdell decided to ignore her completely. It certainly is possible that Lobdell had a master plan that would explain who she is and why she matters, but given the fact that we still know almost nothing about Bunker or Solstice, and we don't really know much about the new version of Tim, Cassie or Bart, it seems quite possible that Lobdell is, once more, pulling things out of his butt. A little long term planning might do wonders to increase the effectiveness of this series.

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Batman in Walmart

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Batman in Walmart

This whole thing started on my twenty-eighth birthday. My lovely girlfriend Mary Jane loves getting me gifts, and so a couple of months ago, I found myself unwrapping several boxes full of various trinkets that made her think of me. One of these was a juice bottle with a nozzle in the shape of Batman's head. Ridiculous? Yes. A tad demeaning and juvenile? Perhaps. Did I drink it? Absolutely!

As I sat there trying to gain suction on the poorly designed bottle so that I could suck out the sickeningly sweet, artificially flavored with 100% unnatural ingredients fruit concoction, I found myself thinking about just how completely Batman has saturated our culture. There I was, a grown man, greedily sucking down a somewhat disgusting fruit drink from a container made for five year olds, yet I found myself delighted just because the bottle happened to be shaped like Batman. What's wrong with me?

What exactly is wrong with me? Well, that's a question for another time, but I found myself wondering just how much Batman has seeped into pop culture and consumer products. I've seen Batman on toothpaste, coffee mugs, soap, T-shirts, pants, jackets, coffee tables, tote bags, watches, and magazines. Batman has been used to sell just about everything, and I decided it was my mission to measure just how deeply Batman has become ingrained in our culture and commerce. To measure this, I went to the mecca of American pop culture and commerce, Walmart.

I vowed that I would walk through every aisle of Walmart and chronicle each toy, movie, ball and shoe that bears the Bat symbol. Would I find a Bat item on every aisle? That seemed unlikely. Would I find Bat swag in every section? That seemed plausible, but just how far does the shadow of the Bat reach?

The Quest Begins

Entering Walmart, I immediately stumbled upon gold as I found double DKR's in Redbox, The Dark Knight Rises and the Animated adaption of The Dark Knight Returns.

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I had already mentally charted my course from there. The plan was to travel the outer rim of the store and then work my way inwards marking down all Bat items along the way. I would go through the pharmacy section first where I expected little in the way of Bat items. Perhaps I might find some Bat vitamins, but it seemed unlikely, but beyond, there was the bath and body section where I would no doubt find soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and many more hygienic items geared towards kids that tricky mothers could use to lure their young ones into cleaning themselves. I would then enter what I expected to be a desert for Bruce Wayne memorabilia for I had little hope of finding Bat merch in the pet section or the garden section. However, I had high hopes to find treasures in the car department and sporting goods. I had great faith that I would find much to sustain my love for the Bat.

I was completely wrong.

I did find some items, but I was shocked to find myself halfway through Walmart before I began to find any more Batman merchandise. I did find a superhero haunting the hallways of Walmart showing his presence on every aisle, but it was not my beloved Dark Knight, and I must admit, a mild fire of animosity began to burn in my chest, but I'll address the usurper later.

The Swag

It's time to talk about what kind of Bat knick-knacks you can find at Walmart these days.

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My first real discovery of Bat merchandise came, to no real surprise, in the toy section. Lego Batman has made a big impression on the youngsters, and you can find a Lego Batboat, Lego Bat Helicopter, Lego Joker Helicopter, Lego Tumbler, and a Lego Bat Plane. You might figure there would be a bunch of Batman action figures, but you would figure wrong. There were two different lines of Batman action figures. One was simply called Batman, and in addition to Bruce Wayne, it also featured Joker and Mr. Freeze. There was also a line based on The Dark Knight Rises, but the only character available other than Batman was a single version of Bane. There was also a Batmobile and a life sized (for kids) utility belt which was actually kind of neat. There was a Dark Knight Rises holo puzzle. Finally in the toy section, there were two toddler toys versions of the Batmobile. One was a simple transformer and the other was a pull it back and let it go model.

In the entertainment section, there was also some Bat goodies. Oddly enough, Lego Batman, 1 and 2, were the only Bat video games in stock. There were lots of Batman movies including the Nolan trilogy, the four earlier big budget Batman films, a combo pack of some of the new straight to DVD animated Batman movies, and the first season of Batman: The Animated Series. Oddly enough, the old WB Birds of Prey was also on the shelves which struck me as really odd. Who wants to buy that? Perhaps this is an attempt to cash in on the popularity of WB's Arrow?

The clothing section held a few items. There were several different versions of Batman underwear and Batman T-shirts for boys. There was also one version each of men's underwear, socks, and T-Shirts in a Batman style. There were some boys' Batman swimming trunks as well. Oddly enough, the girls had five different Bat symbol T-Shirts to choose from whereas guys only had one which I for one find to be lame. For accessories, there was a pair of Batman sunglasses and a Batman watch up for grab.

Finally, there was a little Bat love in the party section. If you know a kiddo who wants a Batman themed birthday party, rest assured that you can buy him some Bat stickers, Bat paper masks, Bat banners, Bat invitations and Bat gift bags.

The Menace of Manhattan

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I was really very disappointed in this. Batman was not everywhere in Walmart though I looked for him desperately. He had fairly small sections in four different areas of the store, but that is hardly the expectation I had when I started this journey. Instead, a certain wall crawling arachnid seems to have stolen the spotlight from the Dark Knight. Spider-Man is the character whose face was plastered on anything and everything that a kid might possibly buy. How dare this filthy, whiny pretentious fool try to move the Batgod from his rightful place as king of comicdom!

I know that the Batgod works in mysterious ways but all according to his will. All righteousness and justice will flow down from the Batgod like the blood of his enemies that drips off his fists, and I can only pray that Batgod will, in his all seeing wisdom, bestow his wrath upon Spier-Man. May the day of his judgment come quickly. Amen!

Conclusion

I was really surprised to see Spider-Man had a larger saturation in Walmart than Batman, but I guess it makes sense. After all, you, I and a few other people might want to buy Bat themed merchandise, but we all know this stuff is really aimed at kids. All the praise Christopher Nolan won by making The Dark Knight trilogy so much darker and more mature might actually be working against the merchandising sales. The more dark and violent version of Batman is no doubt being seen by a lot of kids, but it is probably not going to have as much appeal to either parents or kids as a story marketed towards children such as Ultimate Spider-Man.

With all this in mind, I can see why DC is pushing Beware the Batman. No doubt, they are hoping this new Batman animated series will be like the series of the nineties so Batman can once again be on top of the pop culture war and become the hero of children's hearts.

Batman Beyond Moves Beyond the Cartoon

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Batman Beyond Grows Beyond the Cartoon

Online, I talk to people about comics constantly, and I ran into this one guy who was a big fan of Batman Beyond. He said, “Man, I really miss that show. They should have kept it going,” to which I replied, “You know they are continuing Batman Beyond in comics, right?” It's hard to decipher tone in written communication, but my impression of his words were of a man preparing to die of dehydration suddenly realizing I had a bottle of water because he said, “What?!!? What are you talking about? Where is this! Seriously?”

It's true. Batman Beyond is still alive and well, and I'd go as far to say that it has grown beyond the original conception of the show and is now better than ever.

Batman Before

I never saw much of Batman Beyond until recently. I grew up poor, (well, poor by United States standards which would be considered rich throughout much of the world not to mention compared to all the people who lived in previous generations who could never dream of having the luxury that “poor” Americans suffer through) and my family never had cable. I did see a few episodes of Batman Beyond when I was babysitting some kid, (to make another side note, I was a horrible babysitter. I napped while the kid played in the back yard. It's a miracle he wasn't kidnapped) and while “watching” the kid, I saw a few episodes and I thought they were okay, but I was not a huge fan. This was not the Batman I knew. The Batman I knew was now old, and the universe just felt like it glorified in the cyberpunk without really having a soul.

When I started gearing up for BatWatch about a half year ago, I realized there was a Batman Beyond series being released digitally, and I reluctantly resigned myself to shell out the money for what I thought was going to be a mediocre comic, but I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.

Beyond Excited

I immediately found that the current series is great, and this made me eager to give the cartoon another try. Watching from the beginning, I found that there was more to the series than just the cyberpunk aesthetic, and it most definitely did have a soul. I've now watched about half the episodes, (which are on Netflix by the way) and they are fun, but I actually think the current series is better for several reasons.

The story and art is just a tad more mature. It definitely sticks close to its DCAU roots; there is no sex nor, unless I've missed it, any cursing in the comic. The art is very much reminiscent of the cartoon style, but there is more detail than what can be provided in telivision animation.

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More importantly, the characters are more fully realized. Terry and Bruce always had good chemistry in the cartoon, and their oddball relationship was what drove Batman Beyond emotionally, but the supporting cast was much more limited. Terry's family was usually an afterthought. Dana played the stereotypical role of love interest/victim. Barbara Gordon occasionally had a little interaction with Terry, but for the most part, she was just another character giving orders.

Now, the supporting cast is much more involved and widespread. Dana just realized Terry was Batman. Dick Grayson is now a sort of antihero going by the codename Hush. Tim Drake is also back in play lending support to Batman when needed but still deeply scarred from his time as Joker. There is even a new character known as Vigilante who is the hired gun who killed Terry's father but is now trying to redeem himself by becoming a hero.

In short, there is a lot happening on the character front.

The stories too have broken away from the cartoon's mold. The cartoon was very much villain of the month, but the latest arc of Batman Beyond just concluded which included a twenty part story (the equivalent of ten issues) on one single villain, The Joker King. Giving a longer development time for villains and arcs really helps to make readers invested in the stories.

The Universe Expands

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Batman Beyond is currently being packaged monthly alongside Superman Beyond and Justice League Beyond in a print series called Batman Beyond Unlimited. Superman Beyond includes the adventures of Superman from The Animated Series during the same period as Terry McGinnis is wearing the Bat suit. Superman is now, obviously, much older. He is also a bit weaker, and when last I heard of him, he was working as a fireman. Justice League Beyond is pretty much just as it sounds, and it includes characters that some might remember from episodes of the Justice League cartoon which visited the future. I've read a little of these, and they are both entertaining, but if you have no interest, you can just ignore those series and buy the Batman Beyond series digitally.

Recently, there have been several major announcements for Batman Beyond.. The series is supposed to leap ahead about a year to the time when Terry is in college, and we also know that Terry, for some reason, will not be on talking terms with Dana. Around the same time, Batgirl Beyond will be making an appearance, and other than knowing that she has some connection to Babs, we know nothing of her. Joker is also said to be showing his ugly face to menace Terry which does not bode well for poor Tim Drake. Finally, Kyle Higgins, (former writer of Gates of Gotham and Arkham City and current writer of Nightwing) who most seem to liked very much on Nightwing, will soon be taking the reigns of Batman Beyond.

Conclusion

I've said an awful lot just to make a simple point: if you enjoyed the Batman Beyond cartoon, you owe it to yourself to check out Batman Beyond. With issue twenty-one, a new arc was started, and I suspect that the previous mega arc, 10,000 Clowns, will probably be collected in trade sometime soon.

More?

Want more Bat related goodness?  BatWatch has tons of News Articles, In Depth Reviews, Commentary, and Image Galleries for the whole Bat Family, and it's updated every day, so stick around and have some fun. Follow on Twitter and Facebook to get updates as soon as articles are added to the site.

The Dark Knight Rises Was a Mediocre Film

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I wrote this a week or two after the movie came out and posted it to ComicVine, but I have a much larger audience now, and I do not think most of you have read this. Also, people still talk about how amazing The Dark Knight Rises was, and personally, I don't see it, so this is still relevant in my book.

The Dark Knight Flounders

Before we get started, let me tell you where I stand on the previous films in the trilogy. I was not overly impressed with Batman Begins. It was an okay movie, but the action scenes didn’t do much for me. For this reason, I was pretty cynical when I went to see The Dark Knight, but I was blown away by the best live action Batman movie to date. The action and acting were amazing, the plot was solid with ingenious themes and resolutions, and all aspects of the Bat were well represented: the fighting, the detective skills, and the determination. When I heard the rave reviews of the Dark Knight Rises, I was ready for an even better Batman film. Boy, was I in for a disappointment.

I’ll put these in order of importance starting with the minor quibbles and working my way towards the more major offences.

Whatever Happened to the Dark Knight Detective?

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In The Dark Knight, Batman finally acted like a detective. He used high-tech gear to piece together a bullet fragment and pull a villainous fingerprint. He tracked down leads as Batman and Bruce Wayne in an attempt to put together Joker’s scheme. He quickly decoded many of Joker’s taunts and riddles such as the death of the detectives Harvey and Dent. He played the role of the classic noir detective and beat information out of lowlife thugs. For the first time in a movie, a director seemed to understand that Batman is more than a typical action hero who beats up bad guys. He pieces together puzzles and works preemptively on his intelligence with his intelligence to stop crimes before they happen.

Where the heck did that go in The Dark Knight Rises? The closest we get to Bruce detecting is noticing that Selina was dusting for fingerprints and then putting together…absolutely nothing from that startling revelation. Batman couldn’t even mention some theories as to why she might want to do that? I believe Batman yelled something like, “Where’s the trigger!?!!?” at Bane at some point during the film. Does that count as detective work? No! No, it does not. In Nolan’s final Batman film, Bruce is retarded back from a skilled detective to a simple action hero who reacts to villains rather than preemptively acting to stay one step ahead of them.

Bam! Pow! Wham!

There were so many epic moments of action in The Dark Knight. Who can forget when Batman soared through the air of Hong Kong from skyscraper to skyscraper, crashed through windows onto a secure floor loaded with private security guards a second after his explosives knocked a hole in the building, took on a dozen armed guards using stealth as his weapon, and removed the criminal accountant by using a high tech, experimental extraction device. What an amazing scene! That is not even touching on Batman’s encounter with the Scarecrow’s goons and the Russian Mafia, his first confrontation with Joker in Wayne Tower, the chase through the city streets as Joker tried to kill Harvey Dent, Batman’s fight with two dozen swat agents who were about to inadvertently kill civilians, and Batman’s final confrontation with Joker and Two-Face. Wow! What an action movie.

In comparison, The Dark Knight Rises gave us the memorable moments of…well, the airplane hijacking was pretty cool if…a bit unlikely, and…that’s it. Seriously, are there any standout action scenes to you? I remember Batman, Selina, and Bane wailing on each other in generic action movie tradition, but I cannot think of a single moment that stands out. Some bridges blew up, Batman damaged Bane’s mask somehow, Bruce got stabbed in the back, and he also jumped and fell to near death quite a few times. There was that classic pose from the comics where Bane broke the Bat, but it came and went so quickly that it hardly stands out in my memory. I think I’ve belabored on this point long enough. Suffice to say, the action scenes in The Dark Knight Rises were nothing special.

Destroying the Legacy of The Dark Knight

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Thematically, The Dark Knight dealt with the idea of Batman being the dark hero who would do the dirty deeds Gotham needed done even if they did not want him. Batman, Gotham’s Dark Knight, stood in contrast to Harvey Dent, Gotham’s White Knight, who would lead the city into prosperity and security by following the letter of the law. In the end, the White Knight was corrupted, but Batman, believing in the need for a hero people could admire, preserved Harvey’s reputation as Gotham’s White Knight by taking the blame for the murders upon himself. This sort of deception for the greater good was echoed in Alfred’s choice to hide the truth about Rachel leaving Bruce for Dent and Gordon’s choice to lie about Two-Face. All the heroes of the movie decided that the world deserved something better than the truth.

Now, I don’t believe in this philosophy in the real world. I believe people should always know the truth, but as a thematic concept, it was a beautiful, noble, and fascinating idea that Batman and the other heroes of Gotham would sacrifice the truth in order to create a better city.

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All of this is undermined in The Dark Knight Rises. Rather than having set up a better Gotham which inspires people, all the lies seem to have just created more trouble. Bruce, now viewed as a murderer, quit being Batman and allowed the city to go without a costumed crime fighter, and rather than embracing Harvey Dent as the hero Gotham needs, it is clear through the reactions of the citizens that they long for the return of the Dark Knight. Commissioner Gordon appears to have played a part in passing some sort of Dent Law, but he is clearly eaten up from guilt at having lied to people about Two-Face, and there are implications that the Dent Law somehow violates civil rights. Alfred’s choice to spare Bruce the pain of knowing the truth about Rachel seems to have done nothing to help him. Instead, Bruce spends his day mourning the girl he believe to be his one true love. In short, all the sacrifices of The Dark Knight seem to only have made things worse in the Dark Knight Returns.

Since When Is Batman a Quitter?

Bruce spent eight years feeling sorry for himself? Seriously? Perhaps more than anything else, the thing that makes Bruce Wayne Batman is his grit and determination. He is admired as a superhero not because he has powers, but because through his force of will, he has managed to sculpt himself into the ultimate crime fighting machine capable of doing battle with anyone…except apparently when he is throwing an eight year long pity party. I just want to slap him upside the head. If Bruce retired the cape, but continued to actively pursue noble goals as Bruce Wayne, then his character would remain intact, but by spending at least three years merely mourning his failures, it turns him into an unsympathetic loser.

A Plot Made of Swiss Cheese

Let’s Talk about Plot Holes.

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A. How did Batman overcome his lack of cartilage in his knee? He walks with a limp, finds out from a doctor that he has no cartilage left, and then designed a mechanical device which strengthens his legs (and apparently simultaneously makes his foot strong enough to kick through a concrete block). However, this little mechanical doohickey shouldn’t make the tiniest bit of difference for the problem was not that his muscles were messed up, the problem was he had no cartilage. Without some sort of cartilage replacement, then every step Batman takes should be met with extreme pain, doohickey or no doohickey.

B. Why did Talia care if Bruce killed her father? By her own admission, she was angry at him…perhaps even hated him, and she could not forgive him until…he died. Really? That’s a stretch don’t you think?

C. If she hates Bruce so much, why did she have sex with him? Don’t tell me that it is because she wanted to toy with his emotions and make him feel betrayed. Bruce had no idea that Talia was behind the scheme while he was in the pit. If he hadn’t escaped, Gotham would have blown up, Talia would have died, and Bruce would have never known. We are supposed to believe that Talia hates Bruce for killing Ra’s, who she also hated, yet sleeps with him because…well, we have no idea.

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D. Why was Batman unguarded in the pit? Sure, there has to be hope for true despair…or some such dime store psychology will be used as an explanation, but really? If a ten year old girl could escape, did Bane and Talia really think that it was impossible for a grown man, one of the best fighters and athletes on the planet, to make the jump? Couldn’t you at least post a couple guards at the top who would say, “Hey, all that hope you are feeling. Say goodbye to it.” Then, tazer him and lower him back in the pit. They could at least have set up a camera to monitor if anyone escaped…or given one of the prisoners working for them a radio to warn them about the escape. Come on people! This is not good writing. This is the stereotypical, “Now that I have you in my clutches Mr. Wayne, let me explain to you my master plan and leave you in this death trap which you could not possibly escape.”

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E. Wait, did I say that Bruce Wayne was one of the best fighters and athletes on the planet? I meant to say that he was a cripple who could barely move without pain. Bruce didn’t have his mechanical doohickey in the pit (not that it would have helped anyway), so how did Bruce suddenly get to the point where he could climb a forty food wall and jump a twelve foot chasm even though one leg is nearly unusable? Did his pit doctor hit Bruce’s knee with his magical healing punches?

F. Here are Ninety-Nine Plot Holes pointed out by somebody who is a better critic than me. Credit to Rumble Man for sending the line to me.

I enjoyed that last hour or so of The Dark Knight Rises, but the movie had significant flaws, and I am amazed that so many members of comicvine seem so pleased with the movie.

What Is the Future of Batman and...Robin?

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With rotating titles like Batman and Nightwing, Batman and Batgirl, Batman and Red Hood, and Batman and Catwoman, I'm not sure if any series has ever managed to suffer from multiple personality disorder as completely as Batman and...

Batman and..., of course, refers to the series formerly known as Batman and Robin, but ever since Damian was beaten, shot full of bullets and arrows, broken Bane style, riddled with projectiles once more, slammed head first into a wall, and run through with a sword, (because killing a Robin with just a crowbar and bomb was so twenty years ago) the old title doesn't really seem to fit the book anymore.

Right now, the series seems to be in limbo. With a new titles every month, it's anybodies guess what the future holds. However, that's exactly what I'm going to examine today, and though I can't authoritatively offer any conclusions, I can certainly give you a fair rundown of the options.

As I see it, there are only three big picture possibilities for the series. The series can be canceled, it can continue to act as a team-up book, or it can continue as originally conceived with a new Robin. Let's check this out one option at a time.

Canceled!

DC has made many calls over the past couple years that I, and many others, find questionable and downright stupid, but despite these reservations for the editorial staff at DC, I do not think there is any real chance that Batman and... is going to be canceled.

Peter J. Tomasi (former editor of Hitman and current writer for Batman and... and Green Lantern Corps) and Partick Gleason (former artist for Robin and cover artist for Arkham City: End Game and current penciler for Batman and Robin) have proven their skills on this book. In addition to delivering many of the most critically acclaimed stories of in the DCNU, they've been successful financially firmly planted in the top third of DC's sales month to month. Very few creative teams are still together since the inception of the New 52; Tomasi and Gleason are one of the very few left, and they apparently enjoy working together and unquestionably deliver a high quality product.

DC might occasionally make some immensely stupid decisions, but I do not believe that they are anywhere near stupid enough to shoot one of their champion horses in the face. Batman and... might switch titles and directions, but as long as Tomasi and Gleason are willing to work together, I think there will be a place for them on a Bat Family title.

The Brave and the Bold

The long term fate of Batman and... might be a mystery, but the immediate future is clear. Batman and... is just a modern incarnation of The Brave and the Bold, and it seems to me that this might be a good fit for the DCNU.

The original The Brave and the Bold lasted for 133 issues as a team up book between Batman and a hero of the month. (the series was also a variety show sort of book for other heroes of the super and non super variety for 67 issues before Bats took the lead) More recently, the animated The Brave and the Bold was a more tongue in cheek version of the series which proved that the basic concept still has legs, and it's really no surprise. People love seeing the emotional, physical and psychological force that is Batman contrasted to the backdrop of other heroes. It's a simple formula. Batman + X = Awesomeness

I believe Peter J. Tomasi's style would be perfect suited to do a modern reinvention of a Batman team up book. In addition to being just a solid comic book writer, Tomasi is an excellent character writer. Think about Tomasi's run on Batman and Robin. What scenes come to mind as those that really stand above the rest? I'll tell you the ones that come to my mind. Damian breaking the bat, (little b) Damian killing Nobody, Bruce worrying about how to be a father to Damian, Damian taking his Dad on a world tour to explore his past while donning a mini Bat suit to guard Gotham, Damian sacrificing himself for his father in Death of the Family, Damian brooding with his headphones, Alfred crying over a painting of the Family, and Bruce losing his mind in rage and loss all stand out to me as phenomenal scenes, and all of these moments are based on the emotional bonds between characters. They are not sweeping and grand actions scnes; they are based off the subtle and not so subtle elements that make the characters who they are. That is exactly the kind of touch that would work perfectly to paint short masterpieces as Batman interacts with some of DC Universe's most colorful characters.

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One of the aspects which make this so attractive an option to me is that The Brave and the Bold was almost always a one shot comic, (granted, it was from a one shot age) and personally, I'd like to see comics get a little closer to that approach. Since John Layman (current writer of Image's Chew and Detective Comics) took over Detective Comics, he has been writing each issue as a standalone case, yet he has also built an overarching story which builds from issue to issue. No doubt, this is a more difficult form of constructing a story, and it has not always worked perfectly as Layman has occasionally spent too much time on the one shot aspect of the story and neglected the overarching plot or vice-versa, but at the end of each issue, I've had a complete story which is satisfying in and of itself, and this has made me realize that I am really sick of having to wait eight months to see the end of an arc. Most issues these days try to keep us in a never ending state of suspense, and quite frankly, that is psychologically draining. It's refreshing to read a story that is one and done, yet I can still pick up the next issue and see how events have built from the last.

That appears to be exactly what Tomasi has in mind with the next several issues anyway, and though I did not care for the darkness present in Batman in the most recent issue and I thought Red Robin was forced into the issue unnecessarily, Tomasi did show the ability to tell a one shot story which is complete and satisfying as a standalone while continuing to work through the over arcing story of Bruce grieving for his son, and in addition to the lackluster guest appearance of Red Robin, Tomasi actually included a much more interesting guest appearance of Frankenstein, a character we would never regularly see interact with Batman. In just a few panels, I saw who Frankenstein was as a character, and seeing Frank interact with Bruce was easily the most entertaining part of the last issue.

Batman is, in my view, the center of the DC Universe, yet there are many characters with whom we never see him interact. I hate the reboot, but as long as it is around, Tomasi should use it to his advantage. We have virtually no backstory on a smörgåsbord of characters who, due to the reboot, have probably never met Bruce. That's an opportunity I would think would make many a writer's mouth water.

The New Robin

The most obvious and most likely outcome of Batman and... is that it will continue to have a rotating cast until the new Robin is chosen at which point she or he will take the slot left open by Damian and the series will once again fit its original moniker, Batman and Robin. The question of who will take on the role is still very much up to debate, and if you want a good discussion of options, This should give you some food for thought, but I don't have time to run down the list of options, so I'm just going to look at the most obvious choice, Carrie Kelly.

Carrie Kelly is most definitely not the new Robin yet, and nobody has officially confirmed that she is slated for that role, but you have to think that DC brought her into continuity for a reason, and you would think that reason must be more than just a red herring for future looking fans. There could certainly be another scheme in the works for her, but the timing and location of her debut is more than a tad suspicious, and from the buzz I've heard through interviews, it appears as if she will continue to appear in Batman and... for some time to come, so it seems likely that Carrie Kelly will soon be the Girl Wonder.

As for my personal feelings on the matter, I'm less than thrilled. I think it would be more meaningful if Bats were without a Robin for a couple years, but I understand Robin is a crucial part of the mythos, and DC is concerned about making the universe as friendly as possible to new readers. However, the replacement of the last Robin is less of a concern to me than the nature of Carrie Kelly.

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They say first impressions are the most important, and for Carrie's first foray into the mainstream universe, she threw a pizza in the face of some guys who were flirting with her. The more I've thought about this, the more it has bugged me. I mean, let's just reverse this and say it were a guy eating the pizza and two girls pulled up along side him, and said, “Hey Baby, love your hair! Want to share your pizza with me?” and in response, the guy threw the pizza in one of the girl's faces. Does anybody have a problem with that? I do! That would make that guy a complete douche, and though I understand that guys are held to a higher standard of conduct in the way they treat women due to chivalry, it still makes Carrie a severely spoiled brat, doesn't it? Reacting with a minor manifestation of violence to a slightly offensive comment is never a sign of maturity no matter the context.

Beyond that, I guess Carrie was fairly neutral to me, but again, first impressions are powerful, and I can't help but wonder why Carrie was brought out of retirement. Carrie was fine in DKR, but she was just fine. I never thought, “I really want to see this girl in a monthly series,” yet that appears to be the direction things are heading.

Conclusion

I do not think it is a coincidence that the last issue of Batman and... held several prominent costarring roles while possibly introducing the new Robin. I'm guessing that DC is floating the idea of Carrie Kelly as Robin to see how fans respond before they green light her as the certain replacement for everybody's favorite Bat Brat. The emphasis on costars to carry the book in the meantime makes me think they might be flirting with the idea of a team up book as well. If you have any strong feelings on the matter one way or another, this is the time to let DC know about it because they will soon be pushing ahead with their plans whatever they may be, and I suspect they are interested in hearing your opinions on this matter.

Can We Stop with the "Batman and Robin Are Gay," Jokes?

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A couple weeks ago, I saw a tweet from Judd Winick (former writer of Batman, Batwing and Green Arrow) that said, “The Dynamic Duo” with an image attached. Following the link, I found a picture of a building with graffiti art of Batman and Robin making out with each other. Way to keep things classy there, Judd.

I do not have a lot of time tonight. In fact, I should be in bed in thirteen minutes, but I'll stay up a little longer to give a few thoughts on this because it annoys me. I've seen these kinds of pictures on comic book forums and across the web, (many being more sexually explicit) and they bug me as does one similar incident which is more extreme that I will describe later. I'll start with my minor complaints and work my way towards my more serious concerns on this issue.

1. It's Just Bad Taste

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I presume that the thought process behind posting an image like this goes, “This is so funny that I must show everybody,” but what's the joke here? On a basic level, isn't it just saying, “Those guys are gay, lol.” Is that really your sense of humor? I would expect a more refined sense of humor from a mature fourteen year old, yet one of the guys who writes Batman and company thinks on this is quality entertainment? Sad.

2. I Don't Want To See It

Personally, I have no interest in seeing two guys kiss. That's not a moral judgment; I'm just saying that as a straight guy, I find the idea of getting it on with another dude gross, and I have no desire to see any part of the process. There are many things I enjoy as a straight guy that I feel reasonably assured in saying a gay guy would not appreciate. Considering that most comic readers are straight guys, what's the idea here? Is Winick just trying to gross us out?

3. Do You Really Think of Comic Book Characters' Sex Lives?

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Look, if you like looking up pictures of superheroes getting it on for your own...personal amusement, that's your business, but personally, I think I would have the self-respect to keep my fetishes to myself. I don't read comic books to see characters hook up. I do want a comic universe that mimics the real universe in most ways, and that includes having characters with sex lives, but personally, I don't need to see the sexual aspect of characters taking up panel space in any kind of significant way. I come to comics for the character development and heroics; sex scenes rarely add to either. Now I realize that what Winick tweeted was a long way from sex, but it seems to indicate to me a sort of preoccupation on the sexual behaviors of characters, and I find it a little odd for people to see a comic book character and begin speculating on their sex lives.

Incident #2

Something I reported on several months ago was an art entire gallery exhibit that showcased explicit images of Batman and Robin having sex. A kiss is clearly a sexual activity, and sex is just the furthest culmination of that same sexual drive, so these points do apply to a Winick as well, but these more harsh critiques are more fitting to the extreme example.

4. This Demonstrates a Lack of Respect for the Characters

It is extremely clear to anybody who has read any significant amount of Batman comics that the idea that Batman and Robin are gay is ridiculous (excluding that one scene of them waking up in bed together from a million years ago which I'm betting was an inside joke among writers and artists) since they have both shown themselves to be more than a tad amorous towards the ladies.

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If J.H. Williams III (former artist for Promethea, Detective Comics, writer and artist for Batwoman, writer for Legends of the Dark Knight and cover artist for Titans and current writer for Batwoman) were to tweet an image of Batwoman having sex with Superman tomorrow, (which he would never do because he is a classy guy) I can almost guarantee that the LGBT community would be demanding an apology from him because the image would be seen as an insult to the character's sexuality. If you need evidence that this would be a likely response, just look at the firestorm that erupted around Guardian of the Galaxy director James Gunn when he suggested that Batwoman could be turned straight by Tony Stark, yet somehow it is kosher to make nearly the exact same statement in reverse and back it up with graphic visuals? That's what we call a double standard, folks!

5. Robin Is Most Likely Under the Age of Consent

At almost every point in the history of Batman and Robin, all characters who have worn the mantle of Robin have been under the age of eighteen. The only exception to this rule was the first Robin, Dick Grayson, who was still using the persona of Robin while attending college, so we can assume he switched to the identity of Nightwing somewhere between the ages of nineteen and twenty-one. In current continuity, all Robins have been under age while wearing the suit. Batman getting it on with the Boy Wonder is a little thing we call statutory rape.

6. Is Batman a Monster?

Up until Flashpoint, Batman had become a guardian to all the boys who had served as his partner in crime fighting, so in the world of these, “works of art,” that show Batman and Robin getting it on, Batman apparently sees a young man in the grips of tragedy, goes to them in their time of need, takes them into his household, provides for their physical needs, becomes a father figure to them, creates and emotional and financial dependence in them, and then uses his influence with them to make them his own personal Boy Whores. Even if we are considering this an adult Robin, it still does not counteract the emotional manipulation and downright evil at play.

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Conclusion

I understand that in the cases of Winick and most others, people are probably just trying to make an dumb joke, but first of all, let's call a spade a spade; that joke is incredibly immature. Furthermore, if you take that sexual activity to it's ultimate conclusion, you get a picture that is downright stomach turning to anybody with a conscience. The fact that an entire art gallery could be dedicated to this is a condemnation of the art community, and the fact that most comic book news outlets failed to condemn it is worthy of criticism at bare minimum.

Why Does Gail Simone Have Such a Loyal Following?

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Why Does Gail Simone Have Such a Loyal Following?

Gail Simone's (former writer of Birds of Prey and current writer of Batgirl and Vertigo's Time Warp) fans are insanely loyal.

I do a lot of work to try to promote BatWatch across different sites, and one of my methods is by getting on Twitter, talking to creators, and occasionally sending them links to articles and reviews. Many times, a creator will retweet my article, and this always causes at least a moderate bump to Batwatch's traffic, but by far the largest boost I've ever received was shortly after BatWatch launched when Gail Simone retweeted my review of Batgirl #14. In one single hour, my Batgirl review received several hundred hits.

When Gail Simone says to check something out, her fans take heed.

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I've seen this Simone mania represented on various message boards and in tweets to Mrs. Simone. ComicBookResources has a small but fierce army of Simone defenders who I believe might take a bullet for the lofted writer if the situation should arise. Simone has a constant barrage of well wishes and praise which she passes on from her Twitter account. Honestly, all such minor observations are nearly moot when compared to the scandalous, amazing, fascinating and down right perplexing display we all witnessed last winter as Simone was fired and then rehired after her fans rioted and attempted to burn down DC's corporate offices.

That last part might of been a slight exaggeration, but the point is simple. The woman has clout. My question is why?

I tried to get various Simone fans to explain their love of Gail, but sadly, I received rather vague answers. For that reason, what follows is 99% personal speculation, but it's speculation based on the logical extensions of my personal observation, so take it for whatever it is worth.

Before we get started, I suppose I should disclose my own bias. I do not have much experience with Simone's writing outside of Batgirl, and I find Batgirl to be a mixed bag. I loved her Death of the Family story, and I enjoyed Knightfall, but I hated the first half year of her book, and I hated how the James Jr. story concluded, so I guess she comes out about average in my view.

Theories on Why People Love Gail Simone!

1. Simone Supports Liberal Ideology

Everybody likes to feel smart and cool, and everybody likes it when smart and cool people agree with them. Politicians have long tried to attach there ideologies to respected, cool people. Conservatives try to get by with old fogies (if awesome fogies) like Clint Eastwood, and poor libertarians like me are so desperate for some representation that our biggest rock star is Ron Paul, but liberals have a never ending supply of popular people willing to lobby for their values. In the school of politics, liberals sit at the cool kids' table.

Now taking a political stand in many professions can be potentially hazardous to your career even in the entertainment industry because about half the country will be disagreeing with you no matter what you say, and you can might ostracize potential fans, but this risk is virtually nonexistent in comic books because it appeals to a younger more liberal audience. Just based on my personal interactions, I would say that only about a quarter of comic book readers would be loosely described as liberal.

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Simone is very strong in promoting liberal causes especially in regards to promoting the LGBT community, and I suppose I can't really say that without mentioning the obvious example from the most recent issue of Batgirl, the revelations that Batgirl's roommate, Alysia, is a transsexual. Simone is very interested in mainstreaming sexually divergent lifestyles in comics. For instance, she has proclaimed that Black Canary bisexual and Catman is gay as she perceives them though this was never written into the comics. Simone also bashes conservatives and passes on jokes poking fun at the righe such as parodies Twitter accounts of Mitt Romney. By sharing the values of the majority of comic readers, she has built a common foundation with them. They feel more connected to her as a person, and they feel cool knowing that a successful writer shares their views. Simone in turn is seen as cooler because she shares the values of her audience.

2. Simone Is an Established Woman Writer in Comics

At DC, women account for less than five percent of the writers, yet about ten percent of comic book readers are female. This is a significant disparity, and any girls looking for some representation or guys looking for some variety in viewpoints can latch on to Simone as one of the best female writers in the business. To my admittedly limited knowledge, (I am pretty much just aware of Batman comics) Simone is the most successful female writer in the business. Simone's been in the field for quite a long time, she's bounced all over DC, and she's handled many of the most iconic female superhero properties of all time. Whatever your opinion on Simone, you have to give her some props for carving out a successful career in a male dominated market.

3. Simone Is a Professional

There seems to be an unwritten code among comic book writers that you do not speak evil of a fellow writer. You have to know that not everybody at DC Comics gets along, but you almost never see those grievances erred. (until someone gets fired or otherwise leaves the company) That being said, comic book writers do not necessarily come to each other's defense either. If one writer has stepped in it, then the community lets that writer deal with his or her own problems, or at least that is the impression I have garnered from interviews and by following writers on Twitter.

Yet when Simone was fired unexpectedly by DC, all of the creators unanimously stood up and said, “Simone deserves better.” The cynic would say that all writers have a vested interest in discouraging DC from that kind of behavior because they do not want to be fired without warning themselves, and this is true, but if that were the case with Simone, then writers would just condemn the practice of firing through e-mails rather than defending the individual. Simone had an army of not only fans but creators at her back, and if she were an unpleasant person at work, I don't think that would happen.

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Simone's actions during her firing also spoke towards her professionalism. If ever there were a time to vent, right after being fired would be the time to unleash the rage, but Simone kept her temper under wraps, and she still has many people lining up to work with her and offer her new series. Simone might have been a holy terror to DC editorial, (some completely unconfirmed rumors have said as much) but at least with her coworkers and in the public sphere, she appears to be above reproach.

4. Simone Interacts with Fans

Simone does the comic con circuits at least as much as any other writer, she has always been accessible for interviews, and I have heard nothing but positive reaction from people who met her at comic conventions, but beyond that, she is a constant user of Twitter. Honestly, she might use Twitter too much.

I have no idea how long Simone has had an account, but in that time, she has made over fifty thousand posts, and she has over thirty-four thousand followers. She tweets dozens of times throughout the day thereby building a quasi-personal relationship with fans. She also responds back to comments frequently, retweets clever statments, and promotes other artists' work. If Simone can merely convince all of her followers on Twitter to buy her comics, she would in that alone have enough purchases to make Batgirl one of the best selling comics at DC.

5. Simone Is a Good Writer

I saved the most obvious for last. Why do people like her? They like her simply because she is good at what she does, or at least that is what I heard from those Simone fans whom I quizzed, but is that actually true? Is Simone actually a good writer?

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Well, it's pretty much impossible to tell. For one thing, quality of entertainment is pretty much impossible to quantify. For another, the legwork to try to even approach on objective answer by looking at sales numbers and critical reception would amount to much more time than I am willing to invest right now.

What is quantifiable and easy to establish is that Simone has worked on a lot of different projects, and though some have done better than others, none have really flopped. Simone may not have proven herself to be a great comic book writer, but she has definitely done enough to be considered a successful comic book writer, and though some may not think her stories art the best on the market, there are a lot of rabid fanboys and fangirls which would passionately disagree.

Catwoman's Drug Problem

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High Times

Full disclosure this particular article is different. If you want a strident take down of Ann Nocenti's (former writer for Daredevil and current writer for Catwoman and Katana) Catwoman, you can check out My Regular Catwoman Reviews, and if you want something that points out some positives of Ann Nocenti's take on the first feline of comics, then you can read my article, “A Defense of Nocenti's Catwoman,” but this particular article is less about comics and more philosophical and investigative as I meander around the topic of how drugs might be affecting the current series of Catwoman.

My thinking on this subject started about a month ago. Every day I scour the internet looking for articles relating to various Bat titles so I can update BatWatch with the latest breaking news. While searching for Catwoman articles one day, I came across an interview with Ann Nocenti on women in the comic book market, and in the introduction of this article, the writer was listing Nocenti's truly impressive accomplishments, but in the midst of this came a mention that Nocenti once worked as an editor and writer for something called, “High Times.”

I read over that, and then went back and thought, “Now, what was that again?”

One quick Google search later, and I found that High Times was exactly what I had imagined, an online magazine dedicated to pot and other “psychedelic” drugs.

Suddenly in my mind, everything clicked into place. Of course Nocenti is on drugs. Have you ever read one of her comics? She practically has to be! Though all her her work seems a bit off, and I suspect it would all read better if you were stoned, Catwoman #14 was especially trippy with most scenes failing to make sense on any level. I even said in my review of that issue, “I literally think that Nocenti might be on drugs.”

My interest was piqued, and I was determined to learn more. What exactly had Nocenti advocated, and how might her drug use affect her writing? I needed to learn more.

What's Drugs Got To Do with It?

When it comes to drugs, I'm about as innocent as they come. I've never taken anything illegal. For that matter, I've never taken a drink of alcohol or smoked a cigarette; I simply never saw the benefit. I'm moderately satisfied with my brain, liver and lungs, and what few complaints I have on my body's imperfections would likely only worsen if I consumed various controlled substances, so why bother?

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That being said, I don't care if someone wants to take drugs. I'm a Libertarian which means I want as little government interference in my life as possible. My view, to use a semi-famous phrase, is if it does not break my leg or pick my pocket, what business is it of mine? In other words, you should be allowed to do whatever the crap you want to do with your life as long is does not take away anybody else's rights to life, liberty and property. If you want to smoke pot, go ahead. If you want to smoke crack, go ahead. If you want to blow your brains out with a shotgun, more power to you. I'm not saying I would support those actions; in fact, I would try very hard to talk you out of them, but I'm not for making a law criminalizing any of that behavior. The Libertarian view is all about personal freedom and personal responsibility, and being truly free means you have the ability to do some stupid things.

However, there is also that whole responsibility end of things, and there we find the part that most people don't like. I'm fine with all drugs being legal and people having the freedom to do whatever they choose to do with their bodies, but the flipside of that freedom is that people have to be willing to take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. If you become addicted to crack for instance, there is a good chance you will end up without any money and in very poor health. The Libertarian view on how government should deal with a drug addict is very simple. When the poor addict has ran out of money and luck, and he has to decide between feeding his addiction and feeding his body, the government looks at him and says, “Sucks to be you,” and goes back about its business. You can't truly have freedom unless you are willing to take the responsibility that goes along with it, and that means dealing with the consequences of your actions.

Currently, the United States gives neither freedom nor responsibility in this area. The government will tell you exactly what you can and cannot put in your body, and when you get down on your luck for whatever reason, the government will give you food, housing, and health care. I don't like either end of this. Personally, I think everybody should be able to get stoned if they so choose, but I'm not going to be for legalizing a single recreational drug until the government stops paying people simply because they exist.

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Ah, and one last thing before I stop with the politics. Lest you think I and all other Libertarians are all heartless douche bags, let me point out that I only said the government should not step in to help those in need. Individuals, on the other hand, should definitely step in to help those that need it. Again, it's about individual responsibility. Sure, it's easier to shrug off your individual responsibility to help those in need by saying, “Hey government, feed these people for me,” but not only is that a rather lazy way to do things, it is also extremely inefficient. What makes more sense? Is it better for you to use your own money and your own discretion to find those people in your community that really need a hand up rather than and a handout and personally help those in need, or is it better to send your money to Washington where a bunch of elitist lawyers make a confusing set of parameters on who should and should not have aid before they send your money back to the community through several layers of bureaucracy and force the individuals needing help to jump through several levels of paperwork Hell before finally handing the money to the individuals in need without really having any idea whether or not those receiving the funds are working families struggling to make ends meat or dirt bags who live of the government dole keeping all the while keeping in mind that the government takes out an extremely large chunk of this potential charitable donation to fund their needlessly bloated system which amounts to nothing more than an inefficient middleman to a simple act of charity? Which makes more sense?

Investigating the Pothead

I assume that nobody really objects to me making the logical leap that Ann Nocenti uses marijuana. After all, this magazine essentially boils down to a largely political news outlet, and those working for this type of media organization tend to be of one mind on their central agenda. Would you believe that the guy who edits the NRA magazine doesn't own a firearm, or that someone writing for PETA would bet on a dog fight? I mean, it's theoretically possible, but what are the odds? If you are actively promoting an agenda for a living, there is a pretty good chance you are a participator in the movement, right?

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Though I did not immediately go into full investigation mode, I soon found myself wanting to look into Ann Nocenti history with High Times a little more in depth, but sadly, not much was uncovered. Nocenti did write for High Times under the name Annie Nocenti, but I could only find two articles from her. If there were any others that she wrote, they have since been deleted. In the two articles, one was advocating some perfectly legal plant which nonetheless gave a nice high, and the other was even less memorable. I even dug into Nocenti's past works in other fields and on other topics hoping I would find something scandalous because my original expectations had been thwarted, but again, I was pretty much let down. The most interesting tidbit I could find was that Nocenti gave instructions to people protesting the War in Iraq, but who cares about that?

With that avenue thwarted, I turned my attention to High Times. Perhaps they advocated for something more detrimental than pot?

At first, it appeared that this was also a dry well. Looking at the home page, you see pot, pot, and more pot. If you peel back a layer or two, you still find pot. We all know what pot does. It temporarily makes you lazy and a bit stupid, but beyond that, it's got no significant negative consequences, so it's pretty hard to get worked up about it. However, the homepage of high times says that it covers “marijuana and other psychedelic drugs.” As someone mostly ignorant about the drug culture, I wondered, just what is a psychedelic drug? The short version? A psychedelic drug is a drug that gives you a hallucination or altered perceptions including little gems you may have heard of like PCP, psilocin (the active ingredient in shrooms) and LCD.

Jackpot!

The Dirt

Does High Times actually support any of these drugs?

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Well, let's be clear. They do not out and out advocate any of these substances because that would be, if not a crime outright, bordering close to a crime, right? I'm not sure what the exact law is on advocating crime, but it certainly is not a position you want on record, so High Times does not officially endorse any drugs, but it certainly talks about some drugs in a positive light. High Times clearly says it covers information on psychedelic drugs in general, but does it portray these big three drugs in a positive or negative light, and just what are the consequences of using these drugs?

1. PCP

Out of the three, this is by far the worst in my admittedly limited knowledge. I know PCP can make you do some crazy things.

HT Stance: In line with that, PCP seems to be the one psychedelic drug that High Times does not treat positively. I actually even saw one person interviewed on the site about his drug habits who spoke negatively about PCP which is pretty crazy considering everything else shown on the site. However, High Times' less than glowing opinion of PCP was not so strong as to keep PCP users from knowing how to pass a drug test for the substance, so it's hard to say that they are really against it.

Negative Effects: PCP often causes people to go into violent rages where they can inflict damage on themselves or others. Chronic users often develop memory problems, speech difficulties, anxiety problems, paranoia, and recurrent hallucinations. Overdosing causes death.

2. Psilocin

I'm not sure I've ever heard of psilocin, but I think everybody has heard of shrooms, right? Well, psilocin is the thing that makes shrooms so shroomy.

HT Stance: To quote High Times, “It' wouldn't be a psychedelic issue (of High Times) without shrooms.” Oh yeah, they love shrooms.

Negative Effects: Immediate negative effects sometimes occur and include weakness, loss of body control, nausea and vomiting. Overdose can cause panic attacks and psychosis. Long term effects sometimes occur which involve flashbacks and persistent hallucinations. In addition, shroom users sometimes take the wrong shrooms and poison themselves.

3. LSD

I knew a guy who took LSD when he was in college. He was drinking, and his friend thought it would be funny to spike his drink with some acid. (LSD) It caused a schizophrenic break with him which, I later found out, is not as uncommon as you might think. He is now in his late forties, and he is living at an assisted living home. He's a real nice guy, and his drugs help him stay mostly in the real world. He'll go along talking about day to day happenings, and then out of the blue, he'll mention how Elvis and Satan walked into his kitchen the other day.

HT Stance: They freakin' love LSD. The whole site is full of interviews with proponents of LSD, praises for every artist who got high and drew something or wrote a song, and mourning obituaries for famous LSD users that passed into early graves.

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Negative Effects: Even on a surface level, LSD is not really a fun drug. The drug seizes control of people's emotions and leads them on a trip which may be a heck of a lot of fun or might be a living nightmare. The length of the trip varies and perceptions change too, so if you are having a bad trip, it might last for what seems like forever. As if this were not bad enough, flashbacks occur which throw people back into the emotional state of past trips. The more LSD is used, the more common are flashback occurrences. LSD is believed to be responsible for triggering mood disorders and schizophrenia in people with biological predispositions towards those mental disorders.

Back to Nocenti and Catwoman

Coming full circle back to Ann Nocenti, I'm left with two main thoughts.

First, Ann Nocenti sucks. I already disrespected her as a writer; I thought she was mediocre at best, but now I dislike her as a person. Again, it's a free country and it should be even more free as far as I'm concerned, but that does not mean I think it is not a lousy action to promote a lifestyle which has proven to be destructive to many people.

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Second, my question lingers. Does this affect Catwoman? I cannot prove that Ann Nocenti has ever taken a single illegal substance, but surely she has and surely she does. She was not a young woman experimenting (not that it is to play around with this stuff at any age) when she was working for High Times, and unless she has had some sort of revelation that never made the news, there is no reason to think her lifestyle has changed in the years since, and what of Selina? Are her stories getting shafted because Nocenti is stoned while writing? Again, I can't prove anything, but I suspect drugs probably do play a role in Nocenti's writing. Try reading Catwoman #14 and telling me that was written by somebody sober. I just don't buy it.

Conclusion

Nocenti has almost certainly taken illegal drugs, and based on her writing now, I would say she still is. I think she should have every right to take what she wants and advocate what she wants without government interference, but I have to say, I think her work on High Times is pretty lousy, and I think its a shame she is writing Catwoman both because of her work with High Times and because of her work with Selina Kyle.

The Problem with Worlds' Finest

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BatWatcher Here,

I decided to take Sunday off to spend the whole day with my wonderful girlfriend who has been gone for the past week, but thankfully, I have received several articles from people who would like to share their thoughts with the BatWatch community, so today we have another cool article from Arnoldo Acosta, the same guy who wrote the immensely popular article, “How the DCNU Ruined Batman, Incorporated.” If you want to check out more of his thoughts on comics, Just Click Here to go to his ComicVine page. With no further adieu, lets' check out Arnoldo's commentary article.

The Problems with Worlds' Finest

After DC launched the New 52, not all the books remained for long. 6 books were canceled, 6 new books were produced, and 2 of those books from the Second Wave dealt with a completely new universe. Those books were Earth Two and Worlds' Finest.

Earth Two deals with a new portrayal of the Earth 2 universe and gives a spin to the JSA concept while WF deals with the Supergirl and Robin of this same universe now stranded on the main DC Earth, and the book is just not very good. In fact, it really sucks.

THE PLOT

Worlds Finest has a very simplistic main plot. It is basically a Gilligan's Island scenario. The heroes get stranded in a place, and all their effort goes on trying to go back home. The problem is that, just like in Gilligan's Island, the circumstances are set so that they will never return home.

This kind of plotting is not bad on its own, but it has a major flaw, and that is that looking at the heroines attempting to do something which they are meant to fail at again and again and again is repetitive and tiresome. We don't get anything from this experience, and worse, neither do the characters because the entire plot revolves around their attempts to return to Earth-2. They are literally in Plot Limbo.

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However, you can make the argument that the plot is not about them going home but accepting Earth-0 as their home which would be acceptable except that the book is not moving in that direction. Everything just focuses on how them trying to return to E2.

That attitude is the impetus of the plot, and at the same time, it stops the plot completely.

THE STRUCTURE

Another huge Problem with World Finest is the structure of the stories. In most cases, the chapters are divided between past and present. The "Past" section is drawn by Kevin Maguire, and the "Present" is drawn by George Perez. The problem is that this two sections NEVER connect to one another either plot wise or thematically, and most times, we not only don't learn anything new, but we get the same information that we already knew.

THE CHARACTERS

This is definitely the biggest problem with the entire book because even if the plot and structure are somehow flawed those still can be fixed, but the characters can't change who they are in an organic way without provoking other problems.

There are two ways in which we can analyze this characters in the book: how are they on their own books as completely new characters and how they are compared to the older versions.

Power Girl

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The new Power Girl is the Supergirl from Earth Two . As such, she was pretty much raised by a darker version of Superman. Her first introduction was in Mister Terrific #1 where she is presented as Karen Starr, C.E.O. of Starr Industries and Michael Holt's friend with benefits.

This introduction comes as a big problem for Worlds' Finest because for all intents and purposes this is the same character despite having been written by different writers. The attitude and actions of Karen in the Mr. Terrific series not only still count from a matter of continuity but are also relevant to the story. In Mr Terrific, Karen uses her powers and her proximity to Michael to steal his research and technology to cross dimensions which in all honesty makes her look like a Terrible Person.

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Anyone can understand her situation; she just wants to go home, but the problem is that she is willing to do anything to go home without any morality behind her actions, and that is the problem with Power Girl in both Mr. Terrific and this series. Power Girl doesn't act like a hero. She is selfish, she uses her powers for her own benefit, and she doesn't measure the consequences of her actions. This doesn't apply only in Mister Terrific. This is exactly how she acts in Worlds Finest. This is who she is.

The irony is that in the comic the flashback sequences are often the most interesting part of the issues even though they lead absolutely nowhere.

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Probably her biggest problem or at least the most noticeable is her oversexualization in the book. Most of the flashbacks to her arrival at Earth-0 start with her making a sex pun or saying how she wants to sleep with a bunch of guys. This happens in practically every issue. In the present, her costume gets torn apart as a running joke in practically every issue.

There is a huge difference between a sexually liberated woman and a nymphomaniac, and honestly, Starfire got bigger complaints for much less.

This is where I make the comparison with the Old Power Girl. Kara has always been a sexualized character because of her design, but she is not really a sexual character per say. In fact her old series treated that factor with a lot of comedy and humor.

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However in Worlds' Finest, all these sexual comments and innuendos are not really funny because it is meant to be taken seriously. Sex is not a joke like in the Old Power Girl series, but in this case, it is Power Girl's new hobby, and it is never relevant for the plot.

There is one final problem which is the costume. I personally never consider costumes as anything important since it is just a superficial change, and even now the costume that Power Girl uses will return to its more iconic iteration. However, the problem that I have with the redesign that she got for the start of the series was the "P".
The "P" symbol in the front of the costume shows how much different conceptually this Power Girl is this old version of Power Girl.

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These little panels come from All-Star Comics #64, and I think it speaks loudly of what Power Girl is at the very core. She is not just Superman with boobies. She has her own personality, confidence and strength. She is, in one word, unique, and I believe she kept that uniqueness for most of her history.

Power Girl is not that in World's Finest. She is not a hero, she is just a selfish and spoiled Supergirl of another Earth who doesn't care about anything but her best friend and her nameless sex partners.

Huntress

Helena Wayne is the daughter of both Batman and Catwoman on Earth 2. On this other Earth, she is raised to be Robin. Catwoman is not a criminal but a costumed heroine and a great mother while Batman has no problems using lethal means to fight crime.

This is actually a very interesting story and a very interesting set up. Unfortunately, it doesn't really matter much. Huntress feels very alienated from all of this because of her context in the New 52 Earth.

The first appearance of Huntress in the new 52 was in her own miniseries written by Paul Levitz. The miniseries dealt with Huntress going to Italy to disarm a slave trade operation, and it was very boring. The story had a very monotone feeling, and even though things were happening, the plot didn't seem to be moving forward at all. It felt very repetitive and boring, and Huntress is just like that.

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The new Helena is just not interesting as a character, and it is very hard to care for her or anything that she does because she doesn't really have a good motivation to do anything. She has no attachments on this Earth, but at the same time she doesn't care to go back home like Power Girl. It is not like she doesn't want to be back. I imagine that if she gets the chance to return she would do it, but she has nothing to return to since her family is gone.

On the other hand, the motivation of Helena Bertinelli is different. That Huntress was the daughter of a mobster, and a rival mob boss ends up killing her whole family except for her. She HUNTS mobsters because of that. It is very easy to understand and empathize with her. However, the new Helena Wayne doesn't have that. She just hunts people because thats what she was trained to do. It has nothing to do with avenging her family or returning to home; her motivation is nothing.

The final problem with Huntress is the "death" of Helena Bertinelli in the first issue. From the point of view of a fan of Helena Bertinelli, by saying that she is effectively gone, DC is just saying that this new persona of Helena Wayne has nothing to do with Helena Bertinelli. Aesthetically, she may look the same, but she is a completely different character on the inside.

CONCLUSION

Both Power Girl and Huntress were characters that had a loyal fan base, and the title of Worlds' Finest evoked the best team in the DCU, Superman & Batman. By making PG and Huntress the new Worlds' Finest, you might think that it would elevate all their good traits and make them worthy of that title, but they are not worthy.

Despite all the problems with the writing and the art, the real problem with the book is the main characters. The funny thing is that Huntress used to be a very sexual character who slept around a lot while being a bada** and PG was a caring well centered character. It could be that the intention was to invert their personalities, and that is the reason for all the problems, but for what reason would anyone do that?

It is sad to see two characters that were once so interesting and complex being put through so much of a change that they are practically unrecognizable and uninteresting.

The Worst Action Scene of All Time?

If you read superhero comics, then you like cool fight scenes; it's just a given. Every single superhero comic issue tries to work in a fight scene in one shape, form, or fashion even when it does not fit well with the tone or plot of the book. However, not all action scenes are created equally, and many downright suck.

This fight scene, in my view, is by far the worst action scene of the past year. Just in order to mock this scene, I bought an entire issue of one of the worst comics reviewed by BatWatch, Worlds' Finest. I hope my effort at mocking ridiculously bad scenes is appreciated.

Rebirth

For those of you who do not know, Worlds' Finest stars Huntress and Power Girl as the castaway duo from Earth-2 Supposedly, they are trying to get back to their own Earth and struggling to adjust to this new world though you almost never see any of these story lines pop up in the actual comic.

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Leading up to this issue, Huntress and Power Girl were going to try to return to Earth-2 via some of Mr. Terrific's tech located in Tokyo when they are attacked by Hakkou, a nuclear powered monster from another dimension. The monster fed off of various radiation until it became immensely huge. Wishing to get it out of the middle of Tokyo, Power Girl knocks the creature into the Bay where this issue picks up.

Expectations

Now what should happen in this scene? The two heroines should work together to subdue the monster and save lives either through brains or brute force and we should learn more about this creature to expand the overarching story.

What we get is a series of profound stupidites.

Stupidity #1 Environment Trumps Human Lives

Wherever you stand on environmental issues, I would hope that all but the most loony fringe of environmentalists can agree that human lives come before having a clean Earth, right? We should try to make this Earth as clean and nice a place as we can for the good of humanity not just for the sake of keeping mother Gaea clean of humanity's filth.

Well, Power Girl disagrees.

When we first see the monster, it is wreaking havoc on the ships in Tokyo Bay having destroyed at least a half dozen ships already. There is no shore seen on any of these panels which is important because it implies that these are not unmanned ships docked next to land but cruise liners out in the bay with what you would presume to be hundreds of people on board each. That means as Power Girl is approaching the situation, there are thousands of people either swimming in the water trying to stay afloat or clinging to sinking ships. There are two things that should be a priority in this situation, stopping the monster and rescuing the civilians. However, Kara immediately spots a much more important problem. Please dear readers, make sure you are sitting before you read the next sentence because it is truly horrifying. Kara had spotted that an oil tanker had sprung a leak.

Egads!

Power Girl immediately ignores the monster killing people and destroying ships and does not bother with those drowning in the surf and instead focuses on stopping the oil spill.

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Stupidity #2 Picking Up the Oil Tanker

I'll admit that I have no genius solution for how patch up an oil tanker. The best solution I have off the top of my head is to simply use her massive strength to force the metal back together thereby stopping most of the flow. Ah, in this brief minute a genius solution has occurred to me. How about using your freeze breath to turn the water into ice and stop up the hole that way? It should not really be a priority anyway, but if you must deal with the lead, why oh why would you pick up the tanker? What are you going to do with it, Kara? The only nearby land is the densely packed city? Are you going to drop it on some building there in order to save a few fishes?

Stupidity #3 Flash Frying the Civilians

As Kara picks up the tanker, it starts to break apart from the strain of the crack being compounded with the stress of its full weight and the wind pressure. The entire ship breaks apart and is now falling towards the Ocean. Keep in mind that this is in the middle of the Tokyo Bay, so there are no doubt crewman aboard right now who are tumbling to their deaths being smashed against the interior walls of the ship like eggs in a blender. I suppose those who were on deck will just die from falling though there is a small chance some might survive. Fear not though gentle civilians. Power Girl will save you from the years in traction and physical therapy which no doubt would have accompanied your survival.

Power Girl sees the oil falling towards the ocean, and rather than see one single seagull covered with grease, she ingeniously lights up the oil with her heat vision causing a massive explosion which burns off most of the oil before it can hit the water. She congratulates herself apparently oblivious to the fact that she just killed everyone aboard that ship and likely anybody who was treading water.

Stupidity #4 Suffocating the Survivors

In case anybody missed becoming a crispy critter via Power Girl's stupidity, there is a good chance they would suffocate to death since fire, as we all know, requires oxygen to burn. A fireball of that magnitude would probably burn up all the oxygen in the surrounding area. There is actually a military tactic of diffusing gasoline over a large area from a plane and then lighting it one fire in order to suck all the oxygen away from an entire large scale area. Power Girl just did that. Good going, Kara.

Stupidity #5 We Interrupt This Broadcast To Bring You Filler

Worlds' Finest has an insanely stupid habit of breaking up action scenes in order to insert pointless snippets of Kara and Helena's past lives, and that unfortunate habit is exercised here. Right as Kara is about to fry the oil, we get a six page flashback which establish absolutely nothing of importance to the series other than very basic character development aspects such as, “These girls are friends,” and “Helena misses her parents.” Also established very clearly is, “Kara likes sex,” as demonstrated by the following lines, “I like mine young,” and “Work hard, play hard. I've been earning my...rest breaks” Very classy. It's as if the writer could think of no way to fit it in the main story, so he just decided to put character development in an entirely different chapter.

Stupidity #6 Boys Toys

The Japanese (?) military fired a missile at Hakkou which Hakkou swats away. Just a quick thought, aren't missiles designed to explode on impact? Regardless, the missile heads towards the city, so PG chases after the immense phallus thinking, “That's the problem with boys toys. They don't always know where to put them.” Once again, keeping it classy.

Stupidity #7 Who Needs a Boob Window?

Power Girl intercepts the missile, and in the explosion, her clothes get torn up revealing the top of her bosom. This is part of about a six issue streak where Power Girl lost a substantial amount of clothes in combat every issue.

Stupidity #8 Helena Is Pretty Much Useless

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Yet another problem present throughout the entire series, Helena is completely useless when compared to Kara. Batman and Superman have the same potential dynamic when they work together, yet Batman always manages to pull his own weight by having useful ideas. In this entire issue while Power Girl is battling Hakkou and sacrificing people on the alter of Gaea, Huntress has only managed to do one thing, threaten some civilians with a working boat into saving some of the people in the water. Granted, this is a good thing, but it hardly measures up when compared to the grand actions of Kara. Helena does have one idea, however, and wow, is it ever something.

Stupidity #9 Helena and Kara Start World War III by Incinerating Tokyo

What do you do to a monster who becomes more powerful when exposed to radiation? You hit him with a nuke! Yes, that is really the brilliant solution stumbled upon by our favorite daughter of the Dark Knight. Showing she has not an iota of the brain power of Ace the Bat Hound, Huntress decides that if they give Hakkou more nuclear energy, he will choke on it.

Again, they are in Tokyo Bay which is not a huge body of water. Though it depends on how the nuke is calibrated, there is a very real chance that the nuke could destroy most of Tokyo if this full proof plan of giving the villain exactly what it wants to make itself stronger. Even if the explosion did not immediately kill people,certainly, the radiation would poison the land for generations. Added to that, a U.S. Serviceman (who would have probably shot Helena as soon as he saw her coming on board) explains how it is really worse than that. “All we need is a rogue nuke going off in Tokyo Bay. Everyone'll think it's the North Koreans, and then it's World War III...and the end of everything.” At least somebody in this comic has some sense, but it certainly is not Kara or Helena. When Kara asks Hel if she is sure about the nuke idea, Helena says, “No...but it's all I got.” Oh, it's all you got? Well, that is certainly a reason to start World War III. It's not as if Superman, Supergirl, the Justice League, or Firestorm could take this villain out in about 3.2 seconds. It's definitely time to risk the entire safety of the world on a hunch.

Somehow, this plan works.

Stupidity #10 Everything Ventured, Nothing Gained

After barbecuing several hundred civilians and attempting to plunge the whole world into nuclear war, the two ladies fly off satisfied with themselves. There is no exploration of whether the monster was from Apokolips or Earth-2. Nothing is learned. Roll credits.

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Conclusion

Every time I write something critical, I try to think of how the person's whose work I am criticizing would feel if he or she were to read my words. It is easy to be a mocker and poke fun of someone else's mistakes, but I do not want to be someone who hurts others for amusement. That being said, I do not know how to summarize this scene without being extremely critical, and I've run into this problem at other times as well, so let me just say this. I do not claim to have everything figured out, and I do not know if I, given the chance, could do a better job, but I can say that if I were to write a comic like this, I would be ashamed of my work.

Is Strix the New Cassandra Cain?

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A month or two ago, I saw someone mention the idea that Strix, a recent addition to Birds of Prey, is essentially the new Cassandra Cain, and I thought, “Yeah, okay, so they are both female, Asian martial arts experts, but that hardly makes them the same character,” and I basically dismissed the idea, but after mulling it over for the next several weeks, I slowly began to put the pieces together, and you know what? Strix is the new Cassandra Cain.

Let's observe the similarities, shall we? I'll start with the most obvious and benign and work towards the more suspicious and peculiar.

1. Female

I assume I do not need to elaborate on this point.

2. Asian

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of David Cain, a Caucasian, and Sandra Woosan (Lady Shiva) an Asian woman who grew up in Detroit. Mary's (Strix's) family consisted of United States immigrants from Japan who lived in Oregon.

3. Martial Arts Master

Cassandra was taught martial arts from her birth by her father, David Cain. Mary learned gymnastics at Haly's Circus where she was recruited to be an assassin for the Court of Owls and taught martial arts by undisclosed masters.

4. Tragic Past

Cassandra's life was a tragedy from the moment she was born. Lady Shiva had no interest in raising her daughter, and David Cain viewed Cass as his ultimate experiment and weapon. Strix, on the other hand, lived a mostly peaceful life until her family was killed by a Japanese firebomb during WWII. The firebomb disfigured Mary badly.

5. Flying Nocturnal Animal as Totem

Cassandra's, of course, was the second character to be called Batgirl. Mary, on the other hand, has taken the codename Strix which is a specific kind of owl without ear tufts.

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6. Worked as an Assassin

After honing her for eight years, David Cain finally deployed Cass in the field where she, unaware of what she was truly doing, killed a target and completed an assassination. Though she immediately sensed the wrongness of her actions, Cass never lost her sense of guilt over the murder. It is not clear how many Mary killed in the name of the Court of Owls, but given what we have seen from other talons, it can be fair to assume she murdered dozens during her tenure as the Court's assassin.

7. Tied with Shadowy World Dominating Organizations

Cass was on the straight and narrow for a long time after running away from David Cain, but after being mind controlled by Deathstroke, she did run the League of Assassins for over a year, an organization often tied to Ra's Al Ghul's schemes to save the world's ecosystem by destroying ninety percent of all life on the planet. Mary worked for the Court of Owls, a quasi shadow government whose goals include being evil, plotting and scheming.

8. Became Heroine because of Barbara Gordon

Cassandra Cain was recruited by Barbara as an street level informant during No Man's Land. Over time, Babs, Batman, and other members of the family saw her potential and heart and offered her the position of Batgirl. Strix, on the other hand, tried to kill Batgirl (Barbara) during the Night of the Owls before arbitrarily deciding to spare Babs' life because all villainous assassins are just misunderstood. By talking through their feelings, (well, Mary writing down her feelings) Batgirl's feminism saved the day.

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9. Essentially Mute

Cassandra Cain was never taught how to speak. Instead, David Cain taught her only fighting stances, and when she needed to talk to David, she communicated through motion. As such, Cassandra developed a nearly supernatural ability to read people through body language, but she never had much ability to carry on a conversation until a psychic rearranged her brain. Mary is mute though it is not clear why. She seems to have been able to talk at a younger age, so perhaps it was psychological trauma or physical damage from the firebomb.

10. Only Communicates with Barbara Gordon

Cassandra used her very small repertoire of words to pass information on to Oracle in her early days, and she rarely breathed a word to anyone else. Now, Mary pulls the same shtick staring menacingly at her teammates and only occasionally “says” something to Barbara by drawing words in the dirt.

Conclusion

What are we to make of this? Gail Simone (former writer of Birds of Prey and current writer of Batgirl) invented the character. Was she intentionally trying to reinvent Cassandra Cain for the DCNU, or is this merely a long list of coincidences? Regardless, Strix has thus far been a poor substitute for Cass unless you enjoy watching a mute character start pointless fights with allies on a regular basis.

How the DCNU Ruined Batman, Incorporated

Today, BatWatch features its first guest commentary by Arnoldo Acosta. You can check out his profile on ComicVine Here where he has plenty of other articles and comic book reviews. Arnoldo has been following Morrison's run on Batman from day one, and he has a perspective he would like to share. Everything past here is all him. (except for some help with grammar from me)

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The Death of Damian Is the Worst Thing That Could Happen to Batman Comics

Damian Wayne, the 5th Robin was killed recently in Batman Incorporated #8, and I have already talked a lot about what I think of death in comics in another blog post but my thoughts on this matter are slightly different here.

I don't think this death was made because of shock value or something similar, but this is a death that really leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Not just because I'm a fan of the character but because I feel that this is a step backwards in many ways.

THE NEW 52? What about the NEW Batman?

Before the New 52 was implemented I was actually really enthusiastic about it; I felt that it was an opportunity for DC to clean its continuity and open new possibilities while at the same time allowing the old things to work in different ways. Now, I think very differently about it especially when talking about Batman.

I have read Batman since DC changed his universe forever in 2005 with the event of Infinite Crisis and along with that event came Morrison's epic Batman run. Whether you like it or not, Morrison changed Batman and he changed the way people see Batman, not only readers but writers too, and the way he did that was by simply evolving the concept by taking it into its next logical step.

Many remember that Morrison's first arc was titled Batman & Son, but what few seem to recall is the title of the first chapter.

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Building a Better Batmobile

That right. There is the core concept of Morrison's entire run, Building something better, and to do that he used all the parts that he could. This is why he tapped into all those old stories of the silver age, he revived old concepts form all those things that preceded his run and made them the base for his run. By doing so, he created a new level by simply supporting himself into those old forgotten parts of Batman's own history.

Thats how he build a new Batmobile, and therefore thats how he built a new Batman.

The replacement Batmen, the death and return of Bruce Wayne, the New Son, the New Red Robin, the New Batman and Robin, the New Batgirl and Oracle, the New Outsiders, the New Batmobile, The New Villains, and a New Purpose.

Those things were genuinely NEW.

The idea of "new" implies that there was something old. However, it doesn't imply that it is something different.

Those things were the product of the evolution of Batman, and that was supposed to be the new status quo, and here is the thing about evolution, it goes up as in a spiral pattern.

However DC using the new 52 got rid of all that in the name of NEW. All got lost in the name of "progress," and we got back to the same old status quo.

The new Batman is just the same Old one in a new package, Dick Grayson no longer wears a cowl, the Batmobile cannot fly, and from now on Batman no longer has a son, so at the end of the day when the last page of Morrison's run has been turned and assuming Robin remains dead, if Dick is Nightwing, and the Batmobile is still the same, and if pretty much everything is back as it was before Morrison's run, and in certain cases like Oracle for example has regressed even further then...

What did we accomplish? Where is that next level on top of all of this?

If the only accomplishment of this journey was the sole journey on its own, then for future reference, you might as well completely ignore it cause it has nothing do to with this NEW Batman.

Go tell the future writers and readers to just be oblivious about it because there is nothing NEW coming from this. There is no next stage. It doesn't exists, and Batman wont move up that spiral anymore and will keep going in a never ending cycle.

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The Morrison run has officially become old and obsolete and the "NEW" in my opinion is just something even older and even more obsolete.

The Problems with Damian

JUST 5 YEARS?

Suffocating. There is no other word to describe what the 5 year timeline means to Batman.

Its constraining, its limiting, its cutting his oxygen and stealing his life out of him, and the reason is simple to understand.

Morrison made Batman progress not despite of his continuity but because of it. All those experiences, all those years can't be compressed into 5 years. Its taking away what made Batman advance.

It's basically like removing the engine of a car with the idea that it will go faster cause the car is lighter.

This has been a huge problem with Damian Wayne simply because he is 10 years old and even the most moderated calculus put only 7 years in the continuity of Batman, but thats just a general timeline since, in Batman & Robin 0, he had a total of 5 birthdays 1 year and a half before Batman and son which indicates that he grew in real time and wasn't artificially aged. Of course it doesn't help that writers just deal with this problem by ignoring the issue entirely.

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It almost seems like Damian just doesn't fit into this NEW 52 continuity.

Robin is dead, All Hail the new Robin!

It just amazes me that the second that it was hinted of the possibility of Damian dying, a ton of people start speculating about who or when there would be a new Robin. I guess thats the fan mentality and even I would lie if I didn't admit that I did contemplate the possibilities.

Some people say it is going to be Harper Row becoming the 5th robin in continuity and the 3rd Girl Wonder. Others say a big return for either Cass Cain or Stephanie Brown would be well received too, but what people don't seem to think about is what does it mean to have a new robin? What does it mean to Batman and what does it mean to Damian? Does having a new robin so soon implies that Damian's return will be much later than sooner, and if it is sooner, what happens if he returns and finds himself replaced already? Would he take on a different name then, or would we have 2 robins? What does this means to the fans who still want to read about Damian?

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What exactly is this "Death" you talk about?

There is a huge difference between the death of Jason Todd and the death of Damian, and that is that Jason just wasn't popular when he died so not many people missed him and the impact of his death was actually bigger than the impact that he made in life. Still, Jason returned to life and his return brought a lot of other interesting elements, but with Damian and in the current state of comics, its practically impossible to think that he will stay dead a full year much less fifteen years. Even though Morrison thought on killing him on his first appearance, he didn't. He survived and he became popular

There is the Lazarus Pit. That's how Jason returned officially.

Maybe he will get revived by the white lantern.

Or something supernatural.

Some people even say he will sell his soul to the devil to return like it was hinted in Batman 666.

Some even say that he will be back before the end of Batman Inc.

So at the end of the day, what is this death about?

Even if you consider that the death of Robin is bad because of the absence he provokes in Batman as well as the lack of consequences with which it has on Morrison's run, the death of Damian is still part of Morrison's run. Therefore the inevitable return of Damian becomes nothing more than a complete disconnection of Morrison entirely. This of course assuming that Robin stays dead by the end of Morrison's run.

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His return marks the end of everything Morrison created because a resurrected Damian would just be something else entirely or just a pale copy of Morrison.

THE MAIN PROBLEM

There are 2 possibilities and only 2

  • Either Damian comes back to life soon

  • or he doesn't come back soon

And even though this will be my humble opinion, BOTH CHOICES SUCK.

You may notice that I don't include "he wont come back ever" because its just not a realistic choice because if it isn't soon maybe in 10 or 20 or 50 years someone somewhere will try this character again.

So the matters in question is simply when will he be back and can he come back sooner or later?

Either way, he is just not going to be here for some time. Writers wont be able to write his stories for a long time, and that is exactly why this is such a terrible thing.

Whether it is a year or 20 years it is still a huge step backwards. It's simply ending that world that Morrison created.

I'm not discrediting writers like Snyder, Layman, Tomasi or Hurwitz by thinking they cant create a new world for Batman like Morrison did, and in some cases, Snyder has created some genuinely new interesting concepts too as well as utilizing the own history of batman and respecting his continuity.

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What I'm questioning is the sole idea of making Batman new utilizing new parts and forgetting about what made Batman good in the first place.

I read comics because I want to see what happens next, what will be the next step, the next adventure and how will the story progress. Thanks to the new 52 and the loss of Morrison's concepts, I feel that we are not progressing and its because we are not moving forward anymore

I don't want an story where Batman deals with the death of a robin cause we already had that, or where he gets a new robin who is a girl or not because robin left or died. It was already covered.

We are moving backwards, and DC thinks that is something New just because we are seeing the same scenery from another point of view.

Why Don't Black Superheroes Sell?

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First, let me clarify something. This is an issue that numerous people have addressed over the years many of which are better informed than me, so in no way do I mean to say that my ideas represent the definitive answer to this question. However, I do have some thoughts that I'm going to share which can basically be broken down into two separate non-exclusionary theories. The first theory is one I have heard from other comic book commentators, and after pondering it for months, I've decided that it tracks with me, so I am going to pass it on to you. The second theory consists of my own observations on the issue at hand.

Theory #1: Black Superheroes Are Not Relatable

Let's take a moment to identify some of the most popular black superheroes in mainstream comics and consider how relatable they are. Black Panther is a scientific genius/martial arts master/leader of a small nation which, due to its vast resources, is one of the most powerful nations on the planet. Anybody feeling much kinship with him? How about Storm? How many of you have been recognized as an African goddess before becoming a teacher at an elite school for the most talented youngsters on the planet? Can anybody commiserate with the half-vampire/half-human Blade who has no discernible friends and spends every waking moment hunting down those who represent the dark side of his heritage? No? How about Steel? Is anybody a technological and mechanical genius who designed weapons which wiped out a third world country? No?

Look, I actually like Steel a lot, and I have no animosity against any of the other characters I mentioned, but though I might like the actions of heroes like Steel, I cannot really claim any sense of identification with their origin or abilities. At least with Steel, I can identify with his compassion, his desire to do good in harsh circumstances, and the sense of deep family bonds that were so present in his own series, but most black superheroes do not even have that much common ground with which I, and I speculate most others, can identify. Blade has little compassion and no family. Black Panther is a pretty stoic character from what I have seen. Storm definitely has some compassion, but she still, in my perception, has some leftover attitude from her time as a “goddess” which makes me feel she is a bit set apart from the average Joe's perspective.

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Now if you have your critical thinking cap on, you are probably saying, “But BatWatcher, white superheroes are not relatable either.” In many cases, you are absolutely right. It's safe to assume the average comic book fan is not the Last son of Krypton, an amazonian princess, a narcissistic industrialist, or a billionaire with a rodent fetish, but all of these characters were established in the early days of comics, and they have since become iconic representations of the genre which have in turn become embedded in the subconscious of virtually ever person in the Western world. By getting in on the ground floor of comics, they did not have to be relatable in as large a degree. Those are the guys that new characters now have to compete against.

If you look at many of the characters who have become established in more recent ages, then they often run the Peter Parker route. They are, for the most part, everyday schmoes with a normal life who become extraordinary by circumstances and/or force of will. Think of the Batman and Green Lantern families and consider Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner who were all had relatable lives before the domino masks. How many black superheroes can claim the same?

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There was at least one black superhero that managed to break into mainstream comics in the modern era, Static, and he was essentially the black Peter Parker. He did not have anything exceptional going on in his life until he happened to get caught up in the Big Bang and developed electromagnetic powers. Static had a successful comic run of 45 issues in the nineties along with a cartoon series that lasted four seasons. With a notable track record like that and a desire to diversify their line, it is no surprise that DC tried to restart his series in the DCNU. However, they rebooted the character as a wealthy scientific genius, and it flopped. Coincidence? I think not.

Theory #2: Racial Disinterest

Racism is often talked about as if it is a white problem, but it is not. Racism is a people problem. Everybody of every race has a natural tendency to be drawn to those of his or her own race. Now the causes, the implications, and the strategies for dealing with this inherent racism on an individual and global level are all fascinating discussions which have nothing to do with this article, so let's set them aside for the moment. All I am doing is making the point that racial bias is the natural tendency of humans.

With that in mind, it is clear that people tend to be drawn towards entertainment with a protagonist of their own race. Perhaps this sounds controversial, but it pretty obvious if you just stop and think about if for a second. The majority race in the United States is white, so protagonists in movies, books and comics tend to be white. In Japanese movies, protagonists tend to be Asian. In India, protagonists tend to be Indian. There are many movies made for the United States designed to target different racial demographics, and they inevitably star protagonists of the targeted race. The closer the protagonist is to the audience, the more likely the audience will identify with the story and enjoy it.

In light of this, white consumers, which are the majority in the United States, will naturally be less inclined to pick up a book starring a black hero. It is probably not even a conscious decision; it's just that there is slightly less of an identification with that hero.

However, just like with the movie market, this racial gap should theoretically be made up by the comic being more appealing to black consumers. That's the way it works with movies, so why does it not seem to work in comic books?

My theory is simple. I think the black community is uninterested in comics.

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I taught English at a school in Pine Bluff, Arkansas that was 97% black, and there were many cultural shocks in store for me during my brief tenure, but one of the greatest shocks revolved around superheroes. One day, I wanted to talk about the heroic archetype while preparing to read The Odyssey, and I tried to lead the class in a discussion of what makes a hero by talking about superheroes. I know this is going to be difficult to believe, but when I tried to discuss the heroic qualities of Superman and Batman, I soon discovered that my ninth grade students had no idea who those characters were. Oh sure, they knew the names, but the vast majority of them could not tell me anything more about them. To quote one student, “Mr. Sims, we don't watch that s***.”

Now there were certainly a few Batman fans in the classroom, and I even ended up sharing some comics with a few of them in an attempt to find some kind of pop culture common ground, (its a long, agonizing story best saved for another time) but most of them had no knowledge or interest in the world of superheroes.

To be fair, one classroom does not a representative sample make. I tried to find some statistics on racial breakdown of comic followers to see if I could confirm my suspicious, but it seems this info is not readily available. However, if comics are trying to target a market which simply is not, as a whole, interested, that would certainly explain why black heroes rarely seem to gain ground.

Is Red Robin a Villain or Just a Boob?

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Tim Drake was my favorite Robin, but he has been transformed via reboot into a different character entirely which would be completely unrecognizable if not for keeping his pre-Flashpoint name. Though Tim's portrayal has been horrible throughout almost all of the DCNU, it was the zero issue telling Red Robin's new origin which really destroyed the character. I'm not going to go into agonizing detail, but to sum it up briefly, Tim wanted to become the new Robin, stole a bunch of money from Penguin (via computer) and gave the money to charity. Penguin tracked Tim down and sent his goons to kill Tim and his family. Thankfully, Batman saved the day and offered Tim the mantle of Red Robin.

Even since I read that issue, I've been struggling with a big question. Tim clearly made a bad decision when he stole Penguin's money, but was Tim's mistake his pride and incompetence by thinking he could steal Penguin's money and not suffer the consequences or did he steal the funds knowing that Penguin would come after him and being willing to risk his own life and the life of his parents just to catch Batman's attention? If it is the former, then Tim is incompetent. If it is the latter, then Tim is evil.

I'm going to examine the evidence of Tim's actions to see which of these two titles Tim most deserves. I have a feeling it will be a close match up.

Theory #1: Red Robin Is Evil

If Tim were truly willing to trade his parents' lives for the chance of being Robin, he is evil. I think we should all be able to agree on that. Therefore, the only way Red Robin could not be evil is if he had no idea Penguin would come after him, but that does not fit anything we are told about the character. Though it is unclear if it still holds true today, Tim was regarded as the smartest of the Bat Clan, save Batman, and we have been told constantly that Tim is a genius in the DCNU. Tim is a master at everything he attempts including school work, athletic programs, and private interests. He nearly managed to uncover the identity of Batman. He has the skills to do major league hacking, and he designed a state of the art monitoring system for his own private use. Tim claims that he's the guy who always has a plan, so with all that in mind, how can we possibly think that Tim was foolish enough to think Penguin would not find him? If Tim was not sure he could cover his tracks, then someone of his intellect never would have attempted to steal from Penguin.

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Even outside that one incidence, we get hints of Tim's darker nature. Another scene in the Zero issue has Tim's father, Jack, urging Tim to leave his family behind because he is destined for greater things. It is almost as if Jack knows that this is what is in Tim's heart, and he tries to give Tim permission. Tim says he has no desire to leave his parents, but in his inner monologue, he admits that he actually did think he deserved something better. This double faced nature has continued with the Teen Titans. Though Tim has operated with the team for eighteen issues now, he still keeps them at arms length, allows his pride to keep him from admitting mistakes, and rejects their efforts to befriend him while putting on a facade of kindness. Tim's handling of the Teen Titans has been suspicious in other ways too. Again, Tim has worked with them for quite some time, yet he has never been shown to train them or help them with their abilities in the slightest. Right now, Tim has a team of metahumans that are willing to fight and risk their lives for him, yet he refuses to give them any insight into the greater scheme of things, and as the Death of the Family arc proved, they are pretty much dependent on him for leadership. Isn't that exactly the way a villain would want his team to operate?

Theory #2: Red Robin Is a Boob

Tim Drake is in no way evil; he is, however, a moron. Sure, Tim might be good at book smarts, but he does not have a lick of sense when it comes to anything outside of a safe classroom environment.

Tim failed to uncover Batman's identity. Sure, the computer records might have indicated that Batman was some reformed arms dealer, but no matter what false paper trail Bruce set up, there must have been some way to uncover the truth, and Tim missed it. Tim has grown up his entire life being told he is amazing, so he could not take being rejected by Batman and came up with the Penguin scheme to impress Bruce. Unfortunately, Tim did not do a good enough job cleaning up his tracks, and he nearly died because of this mistake.

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Tim's time with the Teen Titans has reinforced the idea that he is an incompetent boob. Out of all the immediate members of the Bat Family, Tim is the only one who has to rely on a tech based suit just to fight crime. Though Tim did manage to track down and recruit the various members of the Teen Titans, he was obviously not thorough enough to vet their background as he is continually being surprised by news about characters pasts. (Wonder Girl's Silent Armor and past as a thief are two excellent examples of Tim being caught unawares) Immediately after assembling his new team, Red Robin decided it was time to take on one of the most powerful beings on the planet, Superboy. Unsurprisingly, that did not go well for him. Several times, Tim has become bitter, resentful, or angry when the team does something he deems wrong even though Red Robin has never done anything to train his team. Tim expects unquestioned loyalty from the team even though he has failed to even provide a reason for the team to exist ever since the “destruction” of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. The man with a plan has not yet formed a battle strategy before storming into battle. When presented an easy opportunity to strike at Joker during Death of the Family, Tim failed to act.

It is quite possible that Tim just is not that bright.

Conclusion

Honestly, I don't know what Scott Lobdell (former writer of Uncanny X-Men and current writer of Teen Titans, Red Hood and the Outlaws and Superman) is planning with Tim, but regardless of whether these bad decisions were because of Tim's corrupted soul or Tim's stupidity, it does not make the current Red Robin much of a hero.