Dialogs: Batman and Death in Comics

The unfortunate demise of Bruce Wayne, and the somewhat middling comic stories that have cropped up in his absence has sparked a debate amongst the Dogs – how long is this going to last? was this a good idea in the first place?

We get into tons of stuff here, and I’m sure there is more to discuss, but for now, here is the first salvo…


First off we have Ricky who comes to terms with the insignificance of death in comics:

On to comic books. I know most of you don’t read GL corps and don’t give a shit about Kyle Rayner, but it seems he’s dead. My first reaction to this was “i wonder how they are going to bring him back?” After this event I realized how insignificant death in comic books is to me. Remember our conversation about how long Bats should stay dead? I was saying 5 years is good but now I’m going to have to side with Ross and say 10 years.

I go off on a tangent about Dick Grayson being the story of an entire life:

About death in comics. I’m going to have to go with 5 years, or less, for Bruce Wayne, and for Kyle, well that could comfortably go to 10 and I don’t think the general comic book reading audience would miss him. (How did he go anyways? Was it gruesome?)

Even so, I don’t think we’ll see him gone for that long. Think about how much shit happens in comic books in a given year. Alternate universes are discovered, and destroyed, discovered again, all in the span of like, 12 months.

I know the argument is, 10 years, or it doesn’t mean anything. But in addition to just being good business to keep your biggest and brightest names in circulation, I just don’t have that much faith in the creativity of this industry to provide a decade’s worth of stories that *don’t* have Bruce Wayne in it.

When Hal Jordan kicked the bucket, we got Kyle Rayner, and while eventually he found a place for himself in GL lore, he still really never gained public acceptance, not in the way Wally West took over Barry for the Flash. While DC might play with the notion, Batman, as a concept, isn’t a legacy character like GL or The Flash. Dick Grayson is also not Kyle Rayner, nor is he Wally West, I think in the years he fought as Nightwing he’s earned an identity that feels unique to him.

Being Batman, and probably even a competent and good Batman, is all part of Dick Grayson’s ultimate realization that he is his own man.

Plus, we know from interviews that Grant Morrison has a specific beginning, middle and an end for his whole run in Batman, which began waaay back in Batman and Son. If DC’s intention is to let the man who made the mess clean up after himself (ala Brubaker over in Cap), I have a hard time believing that DC signed him to a 10 year contract. The best basketball players in the NBA don’t even get contracts that lengthy.

Anyway, thinking about this makes me realize how fascinating a character Dick Grayson really is. You can follow, basically the life of a human being. From his adolescent years to his rebellious teenage days and now as an accomplished young man who other younger heroes look up too.

Following that logic, I wonder if we’ll ever see him grow old, like to 50, and then at 87, die, lets say…from natural causes. Wouldn’t have be an interesting death, and an interesting life?

Eshwin chimes in with 2 years, and gives us an overview of the current Batstories:

I think you’re all high. If DC goes 5 years without Bruce Wayne on its main titles, I can almost forsee the main titles not even being the main titles. Look for a few more ‘Batman Confidentials’ and mini-series that take place outside of continuity to be the big releases over the coming years, if your horrible vision carries through.No longer than 2 years, please, and if anything, let it be over way before that. It’s not that I hate Dick Grayson and Damien, but honestly, while he’s a good character and the first Robin, he’s proving, it seems to me, that if anything, he’s not Batman. He’s proficient, determined, committed, but his performer antics and flashy ways also make him more like an experimental Batman, one whose behavior recalls past eras of the Bruce Wayne character.Damien has shown no progress at all. Like, yeah, it’s cool that they put him into situations where his badassness plays off well against some lunatic and he’s usually saving a child his own age. Something about that is poignant somehow. But his constant insubordination around Dick and Dick’s hesitancy to shut the boy’s insolence down as Bruce would have done is a bit tiring at this point. I haven;t read issue 6 of BnR, but I am going to guess nobody addresses the obvious problems in their relationship in any significant way. He seems to have some sense of morality because of his dad, whom he seems to have barely known at all. In fact, Battle for the Cowl is the only time I ever really liked him at all and saw a glimpse of his humanity on some level.

I was really excited about this era in the beginning, but I am losing interest. My favorite series right now is ‘Unseen: A lost tale from the life of Bruce Wayne’ which I think says it all. I’m not blown away by BnR anymore like most people, Red Robin started off amazing and now its mired in some convoluted league of assassin’s plot and as far as Detective Comics … there shouldn’t even be a Batwoman, let alone an ‘edgy lesbian’ Batwoman, I don’t care how great the talent on that title is. Judd Winick’s run on the new Batman main title was forgettable at best, but I have a little more faith in Tony Daniel.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say. sorry to derail the more thoughtful questions on an older Dick Grayson …. to attempt to answer that one, I don’t know if DC has ever handled a life in continuity like this. From boy, to teenager, to young man, to finally a guy who’s likely in his late 20s or 30s. But except in alternate universe, we don;t see those characters as old men because they are part of an ensemble, and Grayson’s not so popular that people aren’t going to be asking: Damn, so where’s Bruce Wayne now, is he still alive?

Every day I buy a comic book, people are talking about the resurrection of Bruce Wayne, how there are clues in Crisis of Infinite Earths and various other DCU events that Grant Morrison retroactively mined for clues for his story. Please …. please. No longer than 2 years.

John also favors two years, and compares the handling of Batman RIP to that of Captain America…uh…RIP:

So i’ve been pretty lax in posting here recently because of my obvious lack of a ps3 to play the games currently on our collective plate, but also because the “john’s going to australia” bandwagon is in full swing. I mean, I havn’t even finished Bioshock for crying out loud (partially due to my computer crashing and losing my saved game).But comics – comics I can do. So first off, the Batman/Doc Savage special is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I realize that this is supposed to be a prologue into the upcoming First Wave series, but the way Bats and Doc Savage are written just feels, I dunno, off. Yes, I know that certain liberties are being taken due to the time period that it’s taking place in, but Batman with loaded guns is just really out there. I did like the captions with his thought process though, trying to stay one step ahead and come up with an escape route. Lots of potential there. As for the Doc himself,it’s really me having only read Ellis’s take on the character in Planetary – the final issue of which I loved.As for how long the ‘true’ Batman should stay dead in the DCU, I have to agree with Eshwin – 5 years is really pushing it. I’d say, 2 years of Dick wearing the cowl would be the optimal time frame and 3 years max. But that 3rd year is if and only if its written correctly, or in other words, if a compelling story requires it. So far however, Dick as Batman has been rather lackluster. Yes, it’s had its moments, but it’s been a mediocre performance at best. I think the biggest reason for this is how the transition, or the passing of the mantle if you like, was handled. If anything, Dick became Batman came too fast.

Take Captain America for example. Brubaker has did an incredible job with the change from Steve Rogers to Bucky Barnes. He took his time and for about 9 issues there was no Captain America character in the Captain America comic. 9 issues from the death in #25, Bucky did not become Cap and don his version of the uniform until #34. That’s almost a whole year, while Dick became Batman in 3. I’m not saying that DC should have done the same thing as Marvel with Batman. All I’m saying is that maybe if they let it sink in a bit longer – say another issue of Jason Todd as the gun totting Batman terrorizing Gotham – Dick finally taking up the mantle could have had more impact.

But 5 years of no Bruce Wayne? Definitely a no.

Now Kyle Rayner’s ‘death’ in GLC is really a question mark. Is my favorite GL really dead? If I hadn’t seen the whole BN cheklist from the beginning, I’d probably be swearing left, right, and center.

Reading through what’s been said though, there is one character that I don’t think anyone has mentioned and has been dead for about 5 years now. I give you a hint: Grant Morrison killed her at the end of his stint at Marvel (at least i think it was the end), and after all this time, it still works without her.

I touch on the likely disappointment we’ll all have when Bruce eventually returns:
Oh and to answer your quiz question – Jean Grey! She’s been dead, or at least entombed in some kind of meditative state (is that right?) for a while now, and most folks are fine with that. Cyclops is running around with White Queen, so it’s fun to play them off each other. Lots of good material there.You guys bring up a lot of good points though, and like to see them bring back Bruce Wayne sooner rather than later, but sometimes, I can’t help but think that DC’s editorial have weird WB executive tinged business decisions.It’s not like I want that to happen! But for some reason, I could see something stupid like that happening anyway.

Furthermore, I think that however they bring back Bruce Wayne, it’ll probably feel disappointing. After years of build up…how could it live up to the hype. This compounded with Grant Morrison’s (and many writers these days) tendency to write for collected editions means that the story, taken in pieces, is just going to feel a little flat.

Even now, and I echo the sentiments you guys have about Batman and Robin, it’s just kinda, whatever, type of comics. I might just wait for the trade, I remember similar feelings about Morrision’s past run on Batman, but having read them as a collection, I think they’re brilliant.

I really can only think of two comics creators whose stories in single issues actually felt satisfying, Jeff Smith’s Bone, where I collected almost the last 20 issues, and Paul Popes THB, which almost never really comes out at all, so every issue is a rare treat, on top of being weirdly cool stories to begin with.

Ross’s input speaks of the emotional toll death should take, and how time can emphasize it:

Jean Paul Valley had a sweet nick name for his time under the cowl. I say we make it our mission to come up with one for Richard.hmm…DickBat? NghtBats? GrayBats? BATWING! Sure its been used for the plane but fuck it, its the “Batplane” now Dick wins this oneI haven’t read a whole lot of Batwing but I will take you’re word that it has been overall lackluster John. I have a question as to whether Batwing has gotten a nice juicy story to sink his teeth into. But I have a feeling the answer is no. There is all this Blackest Night stuff going on right now and I have a feeling once it is over shit is going to get real for the Dynamic Duo. If things are done correctly Batwing will evolve ala Buck Gunderson and get more and more interesting as his adventures under the cowl continue.As far as contracts for writers go. I don’t know how long comic writers sign on for contracts or that if basketball contracts are a fair comparison. Basketball players use their bodies to make money athletically and there is only a certain window of opportunity in one’s life where that can be taken advantage of. But in wresting ;D which is also athletic and more similar to comics than I think basketball is, 10 year contracts are not that uncommon. That isn’t to say that I think they signed Morrison to a 10 year contract. But if that’s what it takes to have him dead for a meaningful amount of time then I am all for it.

It saddens me that you guys expect Bruce back that quickly. We SHOULD be sad that Bruce is gone. It shouldn’t be an annoyance that he is dead. We shouldn’t just be looking at our watches waiting for the writers to bring him back to life. His death should bring about a genuine feeling of despair. BATMAN IS FRIKKIN’ DEAD GUYS! And before he comes back they need to make you guys (yeah especially you Ninja Dog) miss him.

My thoughts on how comic characters are ‘in on the joke’ re. death:
Basketball isn’t that great of a comparison, you’re right. But lets look at the comic industry itself. And I guess thinking about contracts isn’t exactly what I want to express here, more like, the tenure of a team or a single person on a book. It seems to me that every super hyped up creative team never actually lasts that long anyway. People leave for whatever reason, go on to other stories or characters, or whole companies all together. It’s a weird little quirk of the industry.
You’re also right about how sad we should be that Batman is gone!

But I’m more sad that I’m *not* , and I feel like time won’t foster the proper emotion in me. While his demise was poetically symmetrical in a way, it was also just another death. I think everyone here knows that death in comics is simply a binary state. Dead.Alive.Dead.Alive.

Even our superheroes are sort of in on the joke about death too…

In Identity Crisis Green Arrow summons the ghost of Hal Jordan, they have a bit of a chat, and before he leaves, GA asks, “soooo…when are you coming back?”. Jordan, as the Spectre, plays dumb at first, then gives a knowing little *wink* and says, “I’m working on it”. *wink wink*

In Infinite Crisis, the heroes gather on the moon while Superman delivers Martian Manhunter’s eulogy…everyone is in tears and Supes ends the scene with “…and let us pray, for a resurrection”. *wink wink, nudge nudge*

This is jaded curmudgeony comics fandom at it’s worst, but what does it say that the people in the comics itself are aware of how impermanent death is?

Everything about death in comics, and Batman’s, is symptomatic of a larger problem in comics, the lack of creativity and originality, but that’s a whole other issue. Believe me I wish it weren’t so, that I’d elicit some kind of emotional response from death in comics, but you know…Ouroboros.

The end result though, is that people just wait impatiently for comics to return back to the safe, save state. And why not? It’s preferable, and comforting, to have slightly predictable Real Batman stories than slightly predictable and disappointing Batwing stories.

And lastly, we have Eshwin finding some value in our current Batwing stories:
Well, the best parts of Red Robin do elicit that state of mourning. Actually, having lost a parent, I am sad for Batwing and Tim and the gang when the stories tend to go into that state of grief over Batman and not only because he’s a hero, but because like a good patriarch, he’s really been the emotional anchor for them all. For a few moments, I enter their heads and I go ‘fuck that’s rough’, but when I am not reading those comments and the stories are fixated on Clayface teaming up with some commando guy and ‘yay the new batmobile can fly’ and ‘look at Damien he just nearly killed some guy and he’s only 10’ then I just skim through the issue and I don’t bother looking at my watch for Bruce to return … I just read Batman Unseen, or now, Batman Confidential and soon the ‘First Wave’, which I am hoping is going to be something like The Legends of the Dark Knight series, which for a long time, was my favorite Bat comic. I don’t know why they cancelled it when it had some of the besy Bat-stories ever, but I guess that’s a whole other issue. Maybe it wasn’t selling, maybe it became shit, I wasn’t there to see it die, fortunately or unfortunately.Anyways, my point was, that people can always find more Bruce Wayne stories, and so I don’t think that people will mourn Batman or be irritated so much as they will just start turning towards those other titles.John has a good point, Dick became Batwing too fast. First of all, one solid issue should have come out that just got one issue out of the way: Gotham needs Batman as a symbol, Nightwing or some variation will not do. They could have covered this in one issue better than they did in BFTC, and they didn’t at all. Secondly, now that dick is Batwing, he needs to fuck up so he can reevaluate himself and his path, come back as a man, and finally earn Damien’s respect. Damien needs something to happen to him. I would love it if he actually got a chance to show some humanity after Dick just shuts him down, or he shows that beneath the angst, he’s really missing Bruce, the father he really came to know over a brief period and whom he has some regret over not knowing more. It can still be rectified, but restoring Bruce to the main titles should happen, if not for anything than the fact that they will slowly go to shit anyway, and other titles will gain some clout to replace them.

Anyways, my favorite comics these days are bat issues. My next post I will post here will be a review of what I feel is the definitive Batman issue, and my favorite Batman comic of all time. Then I think I will post it on Ninja Dog Corps after it sees a few more posts from you guys


One response to “Dialogs: Batman and Death in Comics

  1. I have to say, Batman and Robin #6 kind of tied some things together for me, and kicked ass to some extent. It was the first single issue that I felt somewhat satisfied when reading it.

    That said, everything else is kinda ‘meh’ these days except for Unseen and Blackest Night.

    So yeah, please, no longer than 2, and preferably sooner.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s