TagBatman

On GOTHAM and Always Being Batman

A good deal of our remit, over here, is to talk about many of the themes of the fringes of things through the lens of pop culture. To that end, I’ve been having some thoughts about what they’re doing with the idea of the Joker in the show GOTHAM. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this, already, or maybe sometimes your eyes just glaze over when I go on the long rants, but anyway… Spoilers. Also, one image of violence and blood.

Throughout all of season one of GOTHAM, they teased over and over again that this or that villain of the week was going to end up becoming the entity that we know as The Joker. They did this all the way until the end of the first season, when we were introduced to Jerome Valeska, who worked with the circus and killed his mother and had just the most Infectious laugh.

They brought this character into season 2, as well, and in every ep we saw more and more of the Joker’s trademarks: constant killing for no reason, jokes and storytelling while putting himself in potentially deadly situations, desire for the spotlight, and the laughs and laughs and laughs. His father, the circus psychic, even prophesies to Jerome that his legacy will be madness and chaos and death and blood and laughter, and that children will wake screaming at the very thought of him. Jerome dies at the end of episode 3 of season two, at the culmination of a televised hostage situation, during which the whole city sees that face and hears that laugh.

Jerome is stabbed in the neck and he dies with a rictus grin on his face, and his own bright red blood around his lips and pooling in the corners. In the wake of the hostage situation and Jerome’s death, the TV news predictably plays the footage over and over. Showing that smile, that face, and letting everybody hear that laugh. A laugh that spreads through the city, to men in bars and children in wealthy homes and homeless people on the streets and two thugs who kill a homeless guy, laughing the whole time, one of whom then turns on and kills the other. Who dies laughing. All while Jerome’s father’s prophecy plays, again, as voice over.

In this way, The Joker is not a person. It’s not even People. The Joker is a demon, a virus, a possessing spirit and a disease that looks for the optimal structure, the precise right moment to enter you and make you into one of its limbs.

So I’ve gotta say, unless GOTHAM‘s long-term plan is that there will never be a singular Batman, never any Individual Rogues, i am really divided on the Jerome thing. I love the literal take on Grant Morrison’s ‘The Joker Is A Virus of Super Sanity, and thus is any- and everyone who is able to be that “free,”‘ but that idea really only works if the show also goes Batman, Inc., from the BEGINNING.

That is, if the animating spirit of justice/vengeance rests on or emanates from Bruce Wayne, first (though its origins, if any, would have to go back to at least Thomas Wayne, as things stand in the show), but ultimately is such that Everyone With A Mind To Becomes some form of Batman. In this, Bruce doesn’t “train” Dick, Jason, Tim, Barbara, Stephanie, Cassandra, Terry, he resonates with them and simply shows them what they are. What they all always have been, together.

I say that  this has to be the way of things because, now, anyone other than Jerome Valeska being possessed by that spirit of Jokerness and becoming the nemesis of a Bruce Wayne Batman, in the GOTHAM universe, will just ring far less mythic than it could. It would be a single human fighting an idea, a spirit, a legend, a myth, an evil god whose source that human has SEEN and TOUCHED. When what we could have is two Archetypes battling each other, forever.

In fact, my thesis is that, in Gotham’s universe, Wayne CANNOT be the only Batman. Ultimately, he can’t even be the first one in a line of Succession. Wayne has to be Gotham’s Shaman. He has to be its instructor and instrument of combat magick, its Medicine Man (which also gives greater mythic weight to the role Dr Thompkins plays and will play). He’s a guide to this realm where we are all caught between these miasmas of despair and longings for justice and the constant desperate madness underneath it all.

Unused Rian Hughes Batman, Inc. Logo

In this shamanic take there’d be no “order” or “chaos” to battle. At least not as we usually define them. There’s a Batman who recognizes a dark kind of balance and harmony and knowing that the struggle is eternal because the struggle is all of reality pulling against and defining itself. In this version, Batman’s purpose is rendered not as dichotomy of Good Vs Evil, Law Vs Crime, Justice Vs Injustice, but as a dialectic where all these things, all of these elements of Gotham, generate each other. Wayne’s purpose is to strive for the better, but always knowing that there will be forces that seek utter imbalance and destruction. THAT’S Jerome’s Legacy. That is what the essence of the Joker IS.

So, if they can still surprise everyone and pull THAT off—Bruce-Wayne-As-Shamanic-Guide, initiating Tim, Dick, Babs, &c into Batman’s/Gotham’s Mysteries—then I’ll be satisfied.

Just some thoughts, now that I’m caught up with GOTHAM.

Batman: Plutocrat

Bruce Wayne

Steven Padnick does a much better job expressing why I’m uncomfortable with the traditional version of the Batman/Bruce Wayne mythos, leading me to create my own alternative version, than I could:

Just look at who he fights. Superman (for example) fights intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority. Batman fights psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo. Superman fights those who would impose their version of order on the world. Batman fights those who would unbalance the order Batman himself imposes on Gotham. […]

Of course, Batman doesn’t like the upper class he belongs to, either! Shallow, petty, boring, and vain, they know nothing of the pain and suffering he sees every night when he hunts killers through the slums of Gotham, every day when he closes his eyes. But does he dislike his wealthy peers because they don’t appreciate how wealthy they are? Or is it because they aren’t wealthy enough to appreciate how much responsibility he has?

But even if he thinks they’re upper class twits, he really doesn’t do anything about it. He leaves them in place, protects them from harm, flirts with and beds them. They’re not the bad guys, after all. It’s all those poor evil people. The one’s who keep crashing the gate, the ones who happened to be hurt in the hunt for profits. If it comes to a clash between the twit and the poor schlub they screwed over and disfigured, Batman tends to side with the twit. (To his disgust, yes, but he’ll do it.)

Tor: Batman: Plutocrat

The Christopher Nolan version does its best to skirt around this by making the Waynes progressive elites who help the poor and develop alternative energy systems and by making the threats to the status quo (mob bosses, the Joker, Bane) legitimately worse than the status quo. Note, for example, that Batman/Bruce Wayne are aware of John Daggett’s shady dealings in Africa, yet Daggett only becomes a concern when he steals Bruce Wayne’s finger prints and begins meddling with the Gotham Stock Exchange.

My Hypothetical Batman Reboot

I saw Dark Knight Rises yesterday. I liked it, but the politics don’t sit well with me. As Grant Morrison has pointed out, Batman is a very odd sort of fantasy – a billionaire who wears a rubber suit and goes around beating up poor people.

I’m not going to spend time over analyzing the newest film, and the Batman mythos in general. Instead, inspired by Aaron Diez’s Hypothetical X-Men Reboot and China Miéville’s Rejected Iron Man Pitch, I decided to think about what I would do if I were to give Batman a complete reboot. Here’s what I came up with. This is, of course, not authorized by DC Comics or Warner Bros or anyone else.

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Grant Morrison talks about Batman

I haven’t read a Grant Morrison interview in a while… here he is talking about his work on Batman, including a good dig on Frank Miller:

Well, I still intend to do ‘Miller’-style first person narrative captions which give some insight into Batman’s thought processes but it seems more ‘realistic’ to imagine Batman as a hardcore fightin’ man who wouldn’t even notice his injuries until long after the fight was over, so no more of that ‘MY BACK SPLINTERS INTO A THOUSAND SHARDS OF AGONIZED BONE. HE’S GOOD. HE’S YOUNG. HE’S TOUGHER AND YOUNGER THAN ME. AND TOUGHER. DID I MENTION TOUGHER ? MUSN’T BLACK OUT…’ In Batman #657 we see some of the pulp noir narration and non sequitur imagery that goes through Batman’s mind during a fight and keeps him from being distracted by his aches and pains.

There’s some preview images as well (though the issue being previewed’s actually out already).

Newsarama: MORRISON IN THE CAVE: GRANT MORRISON TALKS BATMAN

Alan Moore: Comic Book Genius Turned Magician

Alan Moore is the author of such acclaimed works as The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and is a magician to boot.

Initially Moore worked as both a writer and an artist on a detective strip called “Roscoe Moscow,” but he decided he was a poor artist and decided to focus on writing. From there he went on to work for 2000 AD and Dr. Who Weekly (as many British comic authors did…) and eventually began working on the anthology Warrior.

It was here that Moore created two of his most seminal works: Marvelman (later called Mircleman) and V for Vendetta. The former would be reprinted and continued by Eclipse, the latter would be reprinted by DC (it is now part of the Vertigo imprint).

Moore was then hired by DC to write Saga of Swamp Thing beginning with issue 20. Moore continued working for DC and produced Batman: Killing Joke and most notably, The Watchmen.

The Watchmen was a politically savvy and realistic portrayal of a super hero universe. Along with Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons revolutionized comicsand paved the way for future mature readers series (such as The Sandman, The Crow, Preacher and many more).

However, disputes over the royalties of the Watchmen caused Moore to leave DC and vow never to work for them again. He then began his own company, Mad Love Publishing. Under this imprint he published two issues of Big Numbers. Around this time he also began two series for Tundra’s anthology Taboo: “From Hell” and “Lost Girls.” From Hell continued as a graphic novel series published by Eddie Cambell Comics.

Moore began working with rogue publishers Image Comics in 1993 and where he created 1963 which was cancelled due to low sales. Moore also wrote Wild CATs and a large amount of Spawn related material, including WildCATs/Spawn

Moore then began his relationship with Rob Liefeld and his Image off-shoot company Maximum Press (later Awesome Comics) where he worked on Supreme, Warchild, Judgement Day and other titles before Awesome comics went bankrupt.

After Awesome went under, Jim Lee’s Image off-shoot company, Wildstorm Productions (now an imprint of, ironiccally, DC Comics) offered Moore his own imprint. Moore accepted and America’s Best Comics was born. Moore has continued to write a number of books under his own imprint as well as other titles under the Wildstorm banner.

Alan Moore Fan site good starting point.

Twilight of the Super Heroes a rejected series proposal to DC by Moore

D.R. and Quinch scan page tribute to Moore and Alan Davis’ 2000 AD stories. Includes scans of an entire segment.

Alan Moore @ comicon.com lots of info and a small collection of works. Includes some performance art stuff.

Italian page a page dedicated to Alan Moore’s music, in Italian

Salon Books: From Hell an excellent article on Moore’s From Hell

V for Vendetta Shrine V for Vendetta fan site

Alan Moore interview an interview from Another Universe

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen review

Watching the Detectives illustrated annotations.

1963 annotations

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen annotations

Ralf Hildebrandt home page Watchmen annotations

The Annotated Watchmen more Watchmen annotations.

V for Vendetta annotations

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