Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dark Knight Rises, Old DC Universe Falls

You can skip the nerdy list directly below if you want to move on to the more Batman-related stuff in this entry, which normal folk might understand.  I mention the time I met Christopher Nolan.  (Regardless, you need to attend the Spider-Man/Batman debate I’m hosting next Wednesday at Muchmore’s at 8pm). 

Here’s a (very rough) list of twenty-five things I liked (in no particular order) about the past few decades of DC Comics.  Those of you in the know will see this list and understand how easy DC Comics has made it for me to (almost completely) stop reading their stuff, even though I sincerely hope new readers will love the future as much as I loved these bits of the past:

•Gog, in some sense (more for the questions he raised, as with many time-things)
•all the multiversal/time hijinx over the years (including Freedom Fighters)
•Wally West
•Donna Troy
•the whole New Teen Titans-era lineup: Cyborg, sometimes Wally, etc.
•Silver Scarab
•Obsidian and Jade
•whole intergenerational aspect of JSA, Infinity Inc., and even Justice Society Infinity
•Stephanie Brown becoming Robin and Batgirl
•Ambush Bug
•Doom Patrol permutations
•Rann, Thanagar, and Throneworld’s entangled histories
•Justice League history of lineup changes (including Identity Crisis)
•Justice League’s nationalist suffix
•interwoven elements of the Superman mythos from just prior to Flashpoint
•the Flashes’ marriages
•Superman’s marriage
•Green Arrow and Black Canary’s relationship
•ambiguity of Phantom Stranger’s origin
•Final Crisis, which killed off Darkseid

Despite all these losses (these things all having been eliminated in last year’s reboot), I am, in the end, comfortable with the reboot for the simple reason that most comics are stupid – as you can tell by going back and reading them years later – and every few years most of the accumulated crap has to be disavowed one way or another anyway.  I mean, hell, prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot in 1985, one of the Freedom Fighters, the Ray, was described as having gained his vast energy powers simply because he was exposed to lightning and sunlight at the same time while hot air ballooning.  That’s beyond retarded.  And so I do not weep for the Millennium Giants, so to speak. 

(I’d thought the Legion – very ironically, given all the reboots that team has gone through – had emerged from last year’s relaunch as the DC series with the most intact continuity, since writer Paul Levitz’s current run sounded like it was of a piece with almost all his prior stories and, since it takes place in the thirty-first century, is sufficiently removed from most of the DC Universe to suffer few necessary editorial ripple effects from the overall line-wide relaunch.  But in an interview, Levitz said a six-issue arc in 2013 will introduce the villainous Fatal Five as if for the first time, in keeping with “the new DC logic.”  Sad news for anyone still clinging to that tiny bit of the old ways.  The future dies last, as it were – but at least it’ll be drawn by the nostalgia-inducing Keith Giffen, as it was in the 80s and early 90s.  But is Gates still supposed to be from an alternate universe?)

But let us move on to Batman.

•When I briefly met Christopher Nolan,
the Dark Knight Director, I told him I hoped this summer’s version of Bane would be better than the one from Batman and Robinhere’s a clip of that Bane, just in case you managed to repress the terrible memory from fifteen years ago.  I was with DC Comics employees when I saw Batman and Robin, and one who might prefer not to be named (it wasn’t Nybakken) reacted by saying, “It’s like watching that gravy train go right off a cliff, isn’t it?” 

I was one of countless civilians who tried to warn Nolan that unless Bane’s dialogue is audible through his mask – which was a problem in an early cut of the film – people might think the Joel Schumacher version of Bane was better.  And that would be tragic.  Nolan seemed to understand.  If you enjoy the final results when you hear Bane this weekend, maybe you should send me a few bucks out of gratitude.

•Here’s a very clever trailer for the Hub channel’s Batman: The Animated Series marathon, cut to mimic trailer #3 for The Dark Knight Rises.  (As further prep for next week’s Spider-Man vs. Batman debate, you might also enjoy this computer-animated fight between Superman and the Hulk.)  

•I’d bet a billion capitalist dollars the original Christopher Nolan plan, when he shot the final sequences of Batman Begins, was to explain Batman’s vast rogues gallery as Arkham escapees driven coocoo-bananas by Scarecrow’s fear gas.  But it appears likely Nolan’s films will end without that ever having been referenced or used as an explanation since it happened at the end of the first film.  If I’m wrong, don’t tell me – no spoilers!

•There was briefly a blonde Batgirl named Stephanie recently (as noted in the list above), and DC not only ditched her over the objections of many fans when the universe got rebooted last year but then yanked her at the last minute from the separate universe of the Smallville spin-off comic book.  That just got revised, mere weeks before its release, to be the more familiar Barbara Gordon, likely meaning there was a creepy edict from the movie/TV overlords at Warner Bros. saying “Same characters in all media!”

I don’t much care about that, but I do wonder if the higher-ups will also someday throw a shit-fit over the fact that the characters called “Young Justice” on TV are called “Teen Titans” in the comics, whereas the characters called “Teen Titans” on TV don’t all exist in the comics anymore.  Branding poses some complications that even rebooting the universe cannot easily untangle.  

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