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« IT'S LIKE KATRINA NEVER HAPPENED! | Main | Inelegant integration and my discontents. »

Monday, 08 February 2010


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Adam Roberts

Also, FDR's polio/wheelchair thing was the perfect cover for a super athletic crimefighter.

Evil Bender

I think Neil Gaiman plays with Batman-as-multiplicity in a compelling way in Whatever Happened to the Dark Knight, where the murder of his parents enacts a range of irreconcilable stories, each being shown to Batman himself. "That never happened," he says while he's still missing the point.

As the kids say, SPOILER: Near the end of the novel, he's told "The only reward for being the Batman is you get to be the Batman." He dies, and is reborn, his slate blank except for the key event of his parents' murder shaping his adulthood. Nothing is fixed except two people gunned down in an alley and a mask which can hold innumerable meanings.

All of which is, I think, at least a partial explanation for why Batman's rogues gallery is so widely known: Batman is the cipher which allows them to exist.

...or something like that. I'll confess I haven't wrangled all of the implications here.


Adam Roberts:

I would SO read that comic. Signs the Social Security Act by day, uppercuts Nazis by night!


Somehow, Adam neglected to link to this. Not sure how that happened. That said, I don't have the time to dig them up now, but there are, in fact, comics involving FDR personally waging his own WWII ... but as they were drawn before his polio became common knowledge, he's not in a chair yet. (Sorry, Steven.)

Evil Bender, this has convinced me I need to re-read Whatever Happened, because I don't remember that and can't imagine Gaiman would treat Wayne like that. It makes no sense (he says, clearly so invested in his own/Warren Ellis' theory about what makes the Batman the Batman that he can't imagine anyone thinking differently).

Evil Bender

My reading of Gaiman's take may be off. I think the strongest case I can make for my reading is the (SPOILER again) version of Batman's death in which Alfred has been hiring friends to play villains in order to help Bruce Wayne out of his depression. I was shocked to see Gaiman play Batman as so ridiculous, but it makes sense under the interpretation that Batman holds all--or at least many--possible meanings, and those around him may change, but he'll still be the guy dressed up like a flying rodent.

Please let me know your take when you give Whatever Happened another look. I teach various Batman texts at least once a year, and I'd love to know what you make of it, and why I am (in app probability) delusional.


I actually just re-read it at your spurring, and now I'm not sure what to think. My initial impression was that Gaiman was being annoying, because toying with Sandman fans on the occasion of Batman's demise was just wrong, wrong, wrong ... and that's still there: Martha Wayne sounds like Death, right down to the rhythm of her speech, but that's probably not intentional on Gaiman's part. He probably can't not write dead characters consoling other dead characters without it seeming like "The Sound of Her Wings" at this point. That annoyance has abated a bit, though, but now it's being replaced with another: I also remember this exchange between Clark Kent and Batman in The Wake:

The one I just hate is when I'm just an actor on a strange television version of my life. Have you ever had that dream?

Doesn't everyone?

Because guess what, Batman, you just did again! Only this time, after you died! I like what he's done by reducing the character to what Ellis already had back in 2000, but I just don't know what to make of it. It seems too easy, i.e. too obviously a prelude to a ret-con, and while Grant Morrison loves nothing more than a few more Earths to cycle through the next continuum-wide crossover, I can't help but think that at this point the Morrison-esque meta-meta-narrative cheapens the story for everyone who's not one of Douglas Wolk's "super-readers."

But I think I may just be annoyed again. Let me take the evening to digest and return to this after class tomorrow.


Good post, man.

(I should leave comments more often. Why not just say things are good when they're good? It cheers people up.)


Thanks, John! (I don't think comments like this one have the same cockle-warming effect, though.)

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