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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Batman, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Watch: Bruce Timm’s New Short ‘Batman: Strange Days’

DC Comics has posted online the new Bruce Timm short "Batman: Strange Days" that was created in honor of the character's 75th anniversary.

0 Comments on Watch: Bruce Timm’s New Short ‘Batman: Strange Days’ as of 4/10/2014 9:39:00 PM
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2. Batman and The Walking Dead top still blah March comics sales

Batman 29Comics sales continued to look anemic in March, with sales down  4.40% in dollars and 9.85% in units over a year ago for year to date. The one positive number was graphic novel sales for the quarter, which were up from last year, although still down from Q4 ’2013. Batman once again led the periodicals, and Walking Dead led GN sales. Marvel held its share of units and dollars, while Image was up to double digits in both, with DC slipping a point or two.

Marvel  had five of the month’s top ten best-selling comics, DC four and Image one — see if you can guess what it was. In GNs, it was more mixed with Image having four titles in the top ten—including the $60 Stray Bullets Uber Alles edition—and Dark Horse and Boom! charting with Avatar: The Last Airbender Volume 7: Rift Part 1  and the third Adventure Time OGN Seeing Red. 

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14 Comments on Batman and The Walking Dead top still blah March comics sales, last added: 4/7/2014
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3. Bruce Timm’s New Short ‘Batman: Strange Days’ Will Premiere Next Week [Gallery]

Bruce Timm has completed a new short entitled "Batman: Strange Days" which will premiere on Cartoon Network next Wednesday, April 9th, following an episode of "Teen Titans Go!" (6:30pm ET/5:30pm CT). The monochromatic piece, which was created as part of this year's 75th anniversary Batman celebration, pits Batman against Dr. Hugo Strange, a classic "Detective Comics" villain who predates the Joker and Catwoman.

0 Comments on Bruce Timm’s New Short ‘Batman: Strange Days’ Will Premiere Next Week [Gallery] as of 4/4/2014 2:21:00 AM
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4. Interview with co-author of Bob Kane’s autobiography

According to the official Warner Bros. release kicking off the 75th anniversary of Batman, he debuted (via Detective Comics #27) on March 30, 1939. 

Also of note in that release: no use of the word “creator.”

In 1989, coinciding with Tim Burton’s Batman, Bob Kane’s autobiography came out.

But as with most of the output Bob’s name is on, he did not create it alone. His co-author was Thomas Andrae, who through my Bill Finger research became a friend.

Though I’ve known for a while how important Tom is to Bill’s legacy, given what he’d told me about how he’d persuaded Bob to include Bill in the book as much as possible, I only recently realized that this story-behind-the-story should be documented. In my eyes, what Tom did on Bill’s behalf was heroic.

Interview answers © Thomas Andrae 2014.

How did you come to co-author Bob Kane’s autobiography Batman & Me?

I had done an interview with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1981. It was reprinted in the Overstreet Price Guide in 1988, in celebration of Superman’s fiftieth anniversary. I thought it might be a good idea to follow this up with an interview with Bob Kane for Batman’s fiftieth anniversary in the 1989 Price Guide, so I contacted Bob and he was amenable to the project.

When I went down to interview Bob, he told me that he had written his autobiography. [It was] a very long manuscript (about 800 pages) that wasn’t publishable. It was too self-centered according to those of us who read it. There were far too many uses of “I” in it, for example.

[But] I...thought, in the interest of comics history, the manuscript should be published, [so I] offered to find a publisher.

What was your job/primary work focus at the time?

I was a graduate student and working for Bruce Hamilton at Another Rainbow Publishing as an editor of the Carl Barks Library 30-volume set of his works. 

 Carl Barks and Tom Andrae

Had you met Bob before you began the book?

This was the first time I contacted him.

What was your first impression of Bob?

He was a very charming guy and quite friendly. Bruce Hamilton and I went down to L.A. together to meet him. After the inteview, we went out to dinner with him and his wife Elizabeth.

Did you meet with him in person to discuss/write the book? If so, how often and where? If not, how did you work together?

I didn’t meet with him again in person. We had many phone discussions and some correspondence for about a year or more while working on the book and when we were producing and marketing it. In this period I got to know Bob quite well, and he seemed fairly open about his life, up to a point. I felt that we were friends.

I edited [the book], took out some chapters, and created a number of new chapters based on interviews with him and on my own research. All in all I probably wrote close to half the book in this manner. 

Did your impression of him change during the process?

Yes. He had a tremendous ego, although he was very insecure. I asked for a byline and got one. He pretty much had to do this: I was supposed to get the manuscript into publishable shape—which was quite a task. I was responsible for not only rewriting the book but for advertising it, formatting it, and getting a publisher for it.

But he told the publisher that my byline was too big so they reduced its size. From what I gather from others who had worked with Bob, I think that I was lucky to receive a byline at all. It may have been a first.

How was he to work with?

Pretty easy, but he could be temperamental. When Bob Overstreet decided to go with a Jerry Robinson cover rather than one by Bob, [Bob] threatened to nix the publication of the interview. I convinced him otherwise, because we were taking orders for the book in an ad in the Price Guide and it would have sabotaged the book project to kill printing the interview.

No one wanted to publish his bio until I asked Eclipse to do it. I got the idea to take out a pre-publication ad for the book that appeared in the 1989
Price Guide. We received 1,500 orders; that proved it was a viable project and helped get a publisher for it. I did all the work in this initial stage of order-taking.

Do you remember how the subject of Bill Finger first came up during the process?

Yes. Bob felt guilty about how he had treated Bill, although he was afraid to acknowledge Bill as co-creator of Batman, or to give him a byline, for fear it might open the door to a challenge to Bob’s legal status as the sole creator of Batman. He feared a [Finger] byline would quite negatively impact his Batman royalties.

What was Bob’s reaction when you suggested including Bill?

It was Bob’s idea to give Bill some credit for having invented aspects of the costume and for creating the Joker. But Bob also claimed he co-created many of the villains since he, Bill, and Jerry discussed everything before it was published and Bob drew the art for the stories with the characters.

But Bob was mistaken about who created what, such as the Penquin or Catwoman, which were Bill’s creations, and Jerry did much of the art as well, with Bob and sometimes without him. In general, Bob failed to give Bill credit for creating most of Batman’s villains, claiming that he created them. Bob’s memory was not very good. Also, he was willing to go only so far in giving Bill credit.

I tried to add more about Bill’s contributions in creating the initial concept and image of Batman, but Bob refused to include them, claiming that he, not Bill, was the creator of Batman, which was a gross exaggeration.

Did Bob express—or did you glean—his personal feeling about Bill Finger?

I think he liked Bill and genuinely felt guilty about how he had treated him and how Bill ended up in near poverty when he died. Bob confessed that his ego prevented him from giving Bill the credit he deserved. But his attempt to remedy this was, in my mind, quite, quite inadequate. Also, he never gave others, like Shelly Moldoff, who was his ghost artist for twenty years, any credit, nor Jerry Robinson for his creation of the Joker. Bob expressed a lot of anger towards Jerry, stemming, I think, from being jealous of him, of his artistic ability, and of the recognition that he had received.

When you say “Bob confessed that his ego prevented him from giving Bill the credit he deserved,” what do you mean exactly—that Bob was willing to say in print that Bill’s name deserves to be on Batman (as the book does) but not go so far as to ask DC to officially change the credit line?

I think he meant that he should have put Bill’s name on the Batman strip when it appeared. But the point is moot because I don’t think he would ever put Bill’s name on Batman. He never gave byline credit to any of his ghosts.

What do you remember about the passage that stands out most to me: “Now that my long-time friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero ... I often tell my wife, if I could go back fifteen years, before he died, I would like to say ‘I’ll put your name on it now. You deserve it.’” How did Bob feel to include that—nervous? Conflicted? Redeemed? Other?

I believe that Bob sincerely felt some remorse about how he had treated Bill. He describes his spiritual conversion in Batman & Me. But Bob never felt guilty enough, in my estimation, or realized the full extent of Bill’s contribution. Bob was asked to give Bill credit as co-creator by the Finger estate when the first Batman feature film was in production and he declined.

Have you seen my account of this? If so, do you remember any other details that I didn’t cover?

I’m reporting what Bob told me about his decision in a conversation with him. I don’t think you covered this.

How did you feel convincing Bob to include more Bill?

I felt that it was a slight victory in correcting a massive injustice, but too little too late.

Did you talk with Bob’s wife Elizabeth during the process? If so, how was that/she?

She was a very nice, sweet person, but knew little about Bob’s work, so we didn’t talk about the book.

Do you know what her reaction was when Bob would tell her that he felt Bill deserved credit for Batman? Perhaps first I should ask if you believe he actually did tell her that?

Yes, he did, but I don’t know what her reaction was.

Do you remember if you asked Bob if he would consider recasting his contract with DC Comics to reflect his statement about Bill? If so, what was his response?

He was not amenable to this and told me so. 

How honest do you feel Bob was in recounting stories?

I think he was fairly honest but too self-centered to see reality clearly enough and had a bad memory to boot. His ego was always in the way. He primarily remembered what he did on Batman—and that was usually inflated—rather than others’ contributions. I constantly had to fact-check what he told me because he had a predisposition to aggrandize his work on Batman.

What was the media response to the book?

We got some favorable media attention, but not going on The Tonight Show like Bob thought would happen.

What was Bob’s feeling about the final product? Do you think it got the recognition he wanted? Do you think he did not get anything he wanted from it?

He liked the book very much and frequently carried it around with him when he went on public appearances. But he was a little disgruntled that I cut out some of his nostalgic asides. He was a garrulous writer. No one would publish it until I asked Dean Mulanney and Cat Yronwode to do it. I designed four editions including a signed edition with Bob’s original art that sold very well. I think Bob made over $200,000 on the book plus more on the second edition

Professionally, what did the book do for your career?

Nothing in academia but I got some credibility among fans and the popular press.

Is there anything about the book you would now change if you could?

Give full credit to Bill as Batman’s co-creator and give him a byline indicating that, and give full credit to Jerry Robinson and the other artists who did much of the work that Bob got credit for. I would have liked Bob to publicly acknowledge Jerry as the Joker’s creator and Shelly Moldoff as the chief artist on Batman for the decades that he drew the strip.

Were you involved with the “sequel,” Batman & Me: The Saga Continues? If so, how was that process compared to working on the first autobiography?

Yes. I edited most of the new material; Bob took my name off the cover (though it’s still on the title page).

What do you think Bob Kane’s legacy is?

I think that Bob was responsible for creating the original germ of the idea of a Batman superhero, which Bill fleshed out and made viable, and for partially drawing the strip for a number of years. I think that Bob’s art, crude as it was, gave the strip an Expressionistic, nightmarish look which helped establish the gothic ambiance of the early stories. To me, the art he did with Jerry as his ghost was very compelling. Thus he made a great contribution to Batman’s legacy. Unfortunately his treatment of Bill, Jerry, and Shelly is a dishonorable part of that legacy.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about my role in creating the book. This is the first time I’ve done so publicly.

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5. On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid

A panel on Friday, March 29th, the first day of programming at WonderCon brought together a rather iconic cast to discuss “iconic characters” and what keeps a character “true” to their origins over long periods of time. Mark Waid opened as moderator by pointing out that the table full of seasoned pros had more than 125 years of comics experience between them and most had worked on longterm characters and newer creations alike. The essential question posed by Waid was how to “vault” characters “into the 21st century without losing what keeps them special”. The question seemed particularly pertinent to Waid, whose ongoing work on DAREDEVIL has evoked critical acclaim. Waid asked his panellists how they handle the “core elements of characters” to face this challenge.

mbrittany mwaid 1 255x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid J. M. De Matteis introduced an image that stayed with the panellists as a reference point for discussion. He felt that creators handling long-lived characters work “within a cage”, so they can’t “go wide” with the character in term of change, but they can “go deep” in terms of making new discoveries. For De Matteis, personally, it’s all about the “Big Why” of characters, figuring out what makes them tick. He prefers working with super-villains to pose questions about the formative impact of their past histories because there’s “always a little corner of the psyche to dig into”. Ann Nocenti, however, in her recent work with Catwoman found that “her archetype was pretty clear” as a troubled kid originally, “on the streets” originally, and moving through “foster homes”. Her intuitive approach is to “play with a character and see what feels right” and she doesn’t mind the fact that later creators will do the same with long-term characters. It’s “like treading water”, she said, “You give a sense of constant, dynamic action, but you’re really not moving far”, and she expects later creators to be under the same constraint.

mbrittany nocenti slott dematteis 300x117 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid Doug Mahnke’s challenges, as an artist working on long-term heroes, is rather specific, handling costumes and their overtones. He observed that heroes, even today, often don’t look “contemporary” because their appearance has become iconic and we no longer question the anachronism, like Superman’s “underwear outside his pants”. Other features like capes and boots, Mahnke said, “made sense at the time” they were created based on a “swashbuckling” influence. In fact, he explained, an artist’s job is to “bring out the majesty in the character. It doesn’t matter so much what they’re wearing”, but you can use costume as a “tool” to use to your advantage.

mbrittany dematteis mahnke 300x145 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid Several of the panellists then commented on the fact that objectively, some of the nomenclature and costumes of characters created decades ago would seem “stupid” now. Nocenti’s example was a resurrection of a minor character, Zebra Man who was “visually fantastic” but the name and concept bizarre. Slott felt that once an icon is an icon, “the fact that it’s an icon gives it weight”, preventing further critique from readers. Even Waid’s considered opinion was that “Green Lantern” is a “stupid name for a character, but after 75 years”, it has “gravitas”.

mbrittany nocenti slott 300x161 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panel then tackled the question of when and how exactly a character becomes officially iconic, and they set the bar high on awarding this status. De Matteis opined that “nothing about the character idea makes it iconic. It’s the execution”, and not every character reaches this status despite reasonably strong storytelling behind them. Dan Slott interjected that it only takes “one writer and one artist to do it”, like Frank Miller on DAREDEVIL. The discussion often drifted into slap-stick commentary on the more absurd aspects of superhero lore like the possession of a super vehicle as an icon accoutrement. Nocenti provided the little known detail that Cat Woman’s car is known as a “Catillac”. Slott confessed to proposing in a “meeting with real adults” that Superman’s car should be known as “Superman’s Ford Taurus of Solitude” with disasterous results.

Waid observed that some characters are iconic in pop culture without necessarily being long-lived, like Woody Woodpecker, who’s highly recognizable, but not a currently active character. Waid commented that the tendency toward merchandizing may encourage the slow-down or freeze of new developments in a character since “every character becomes a beach towel” in the end. The entire panel segued into a long and fairly serious discussion of Wonder Woman as a character and why she has, or has not, lived up to her iconic status in terms of actual comic storytelling.

mbrittany mwaid 2 251x300 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid

Most felt, like De Matteis, that Wonder Woman comics have not always been “all that good”, nevertheless the character definitely qualifies as “iconic”. Waid had a fairly idiosyncratic theory behind why this is the case. He observed that there was a strong “sexual element” to the “first 10 years of the strip” that was later removed to render the character more “plain vanilla”, and that now, lacking that “x-factor of sexuality”, stories fail to live up to the early days (an issue, he said, he frequently discusses with Grant Morrison). Slott disagreed pointedly with Waid’s assessment. He instead blames the lack of verve in Wonder Woman comics to the fact that comics are essentially a “make dominated industry” that has not explored the “many angles of the character” sufficiently. Slott still feels that if the right team is put together, the stories can rise to iconic status again, without recourse to the “weird quirky bits”. His choice of phrase caused plenty of giggling among the panellists.

This led Waid to ask his panel how they decide what elements are most essential to a character, what continues to translate, and what can be left behind. De Matteis advised to “always approach the characters psychologically and emotionally” and not worry too much about the “other stuff”, and sometimes that psychological appeal can be found in lesser known characters. Nocenti commented that her current work on KATANA based on the strange but intriguing concept of a “girl with a sword” produced “good potential” for developing “obsessional love triangle” elements between herself, her murdered husband, and his murdering brother.“The less iconic a character, the more fun you can have!”, she enthused.

Slott agreed with Nocenti on  this idea, up to a point. When you’re handling an iconic character, readers lose the fear that their reckless lifestyles will do them in, whereas if a character is “unknown”, “Everyone is worried”, wondering if they will survive from issue to issue. Slott and Nocenti shared an interesting moment of commiseration, albeit brief, about their mutual killing off of Spider-based characters, and the emotional reaction of fans. “Screw letters from emotional fans”, Slott concluded, laughing, but Waid intervened by informing the audience that he’s sure Slott “weeps himself to sleep at night with 6 year olds’ fan mail” over the death of Spider-Man .

mbrittany comics 300x200 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panellists didn’t always find their subject matter easy to decipher, nor did they feel that there’s always an easy answer for why some characters “click” as icons and some don’t. Batman, particularly, has a mysteriously successful dynamic, they said. But some things do change. Waid observed that he “couldn’t have imagined a world where I walked down the street and everyone knew who Tony Stark was” until after the Iron Man films had been made. Waid suggested that iconic status for characters might be measured in the number of imitators who have sprung up. De Matteis returned to his general position that archetypal patterns determine iconic status, however. Slott provided examples, stating that Superman is like Hercules, Batman a being on a vengeance-quest, and Tony Stark is, too, iconic in formula, as a combination of “Man and Machine”, an icon that the world is ripe for right now.

mbrittany nocenti slott 2 300x190 On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid The panellists’ parting thoughts during the Q and A period focused on an interesting point made from the audience about the superhero/villain ratio. With so many more supervillains than superheroes in comics, “recycling” them is the norm, but at what point do they become “stale” and need to be retired, at least for awhile? De Matteis was firm about the roles of the artist and writers, insisting that there are “no stale characters but stale interpretations of characters” and that good work will prevent this problem. “Every character is great if you did into them in the right way”, he said. Waid’s closing example to support De Matteis’ point was that “20-25 years ago, no one would have thought that GREEN ARROW would become 2 times the best selling DC book, and then get his own TV show”. His bottom line: “If you dig deep enough you can find something that resonates”, and that’s the key to creating an icon, something that may not happen overnight.

 Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.


Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.




15 Comments on On the Scene: WonderCon 2013, ‘What Makes an Icon?” with Nocenti, De Matteis, Mahnke, Slott, Waid, last added: 3/31/2013
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6. Bill Finger’s sole Batman credit in his lifetime

In 25 years of writing Batman stories, including some of the most popular ever, Bill Finger was officially credited as a writer (or co-creator) precisely zero times. (By that I mean in a credit box within the story. In the 1960s, editor Julie Schwartz, bless him, did sneak Bill’s name into the backmatter at least a couple of times.)

One time only, Bill did get to see his name prominently displayed on a first-run story—but it was not in print. Bill was the only writer of Batman comics who (with Charles Sinclair) also wrote an episode of the 1966 TV show that made Batman’s popularity go mainstream. 

Small screen was big time on one level, but in the grand scheme, small solace for a marginalized career.

Speaking of TV credits, here is what the credits for the landmark Batman: The Animated Series could’ve looked like if things had played out differently…fairly:

courtesy of @hrguerra

Note the order.

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7. Batcake

On 5/5/13 (National Cartoonists Day), I spoke about Batman and Bill Finger at Washington Hebrew Congregation, “the area’s largest Jewish congregation and among the largest Reform congregations in the country.”

The audience was great and I always love giving this talk, but the highlight: Batman cake pops.

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8. Ryan Adams, singer of "New York, New York," likes Batman

And I like that song a lot and so I like that he favorited a tweet I sent him about Batman.

In honor of those whose lives were lost or affected twelve years ago today:

This makes it even more haunting:

Engine 26, New York City

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9. Reviewed! Every Issue of Villains Month, Week Two

We head into week two of Villains Month, with thirteen more titles out this week. Ranging from Harley Quinn and The Riddler through to Mongul and Black Manta, a theme seems to emerge this week – DON’T EVER GO INTO SPACE!

Follow the jump for every issue reviewed, from my least-favourite through to my favourite.

One thing that you should note is that some of the comics take place as part of Forever Evil – the Batman and Flash comics, it seems – whilst the Green Lantern/Superman issues are more general. So some issues follow on immediately from the first issue of the event, whilst others are more general stories. Keep that in mind as you buy the comics – they’ll all make sense, but some will be directly following on from the main story whilst others are unconnected origin stories.



Solomon Grundy

Matt Kindt (w), Aaron Lopresti (a), Art Thibert (i), Travis Lanham (l), Michael Atiyeh (c), Anthony Marques, Mike Cotton (e)

It feels like there’s a big missing section from this comic somewhere, which would help tie the two stories together. This is an origin story interweaved with a scene of Grundy causing chaos in the modern day, but the end of the comic leaves readers with a whole load of questions. The issue starts with the character crash-landing on Earth from outer space…. the origin sequence ends with Grundy being created, a hundred years ago, on Earth. So how did he end up in outer space, so he can subsequently crash back to Earth? No idea.

It’s a massively melodramatic story as well, veering almost immediately into complete manic camp – especially in the origin sequence, which is the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s almost parody of itself. This is a bad comic, but at the same time? Enjoyable BECAUSE it’s so bad.




Tony Bedard (w), Pascal Alixe (a), Hi-Fi (c), John J. Hill (l), Rickey Purdin (e)

There’s a lot of horror in space this week, and Tony Bedard’s Brainiac story – although not really capturing the character’s intelligence – offers another imminent threat. Crucially though, I simply didn’t find any of what happened to be particularly interesting. Hi-Fi’s colours have picked a strange palette which makes every page into a fuzzy blur, like we’re watching an out-of-focus tv channel. Their decision muffles Pascal Alixe’s artwork significantly, and also seems to cause some real problems for the narrative. It’s quite hard to tell how some of the images relate to each other due to the colouring, especially when panels move around within a fixed space.

The story isn’t all that interesting either, explaining the duller parts of Brainiac without telling us anything about the cool bits – why don’t we get to find out the point of the pink disks he attaches to his head halfway through? What do those do, then?




Marguerite Bennett (w), Ben Oliver, Cliff Richards (a), Daniel Brown (c), Sal Ciprano (l), Rickey Purdin (e)

I didn’t understand the ‘controversy’ about this issue, but the story itself doesn’t really help endear this new character to readers. Despite Simon Bisley’s Lobo on the front cover, the character doesn’t make an appearance anywhere in the story. This is, instead, about a younger, sleeker Lobo who speaks in the same way (Bennett’s script absolutely nails the dialogue) but doesn’t really get much of a chance to shock the reader. The story is slow and doesn’t go anywhere, and the whole point of Lobo, surely, is that he does outrageous and over-the-top things – this issue doesn’t give readers any of that craziness.

It’s not a bad comic, but it’s nowhere near as dynamic and enjoyable ridiculous as a Lobo story should be.




Greg Pak (w), Ken Lashley (a), Steve Wands (l), Pete Pantazis (c), Anthony Marques (e)

There’s a miniseries hidden inside an issue here, with Zod a character who has a lengthy backstory which struggles to be crammed inside a single issue. The main concern with this issue is that Pak simply can’t get the whole story into this issue, leaving us with an issue which leaps around in time and sequencing almost as random, leaving readers slightly confused as to what’s happening. Ken Lashley’s artwork manages to do some heroic efforts in this regard, however, establishing the alien world Zod surrounds himself in as a really bizarre, weird place to live in.

Lashley seems to be the perfect fit for an outer-space story, as he manages to design around five different outfits for Zod (like I say, the story races through time like a dervish) which all seem appropriate to his place in Krypton’s society and his role as a constant outsider to it. If this had been expanded into a longer piece of work, it could have made for an interesting tale. As it is, this is a story which is constantly rushing forward, and the reader falls behind sooner rather than later.




Marv Wolfman (w), Cafu (a), Jason Wright (c), Steve Wands (l), Anthony Marques, Mike Cotton (e)

Marv Wolfman returns to a character he co-created and gives him an utterly horrific backstory and motivation which I presume will be setting up some future storyline in Teen Titans. This wasn’t a bad issue by any means – almost every issue this week seemed fine, at the very least – but it is a bit reliant on the central shock value of the character’s actions. If you strip out the villainy, I’m not sure I really felt a true sense of what the character’s ambitions are beyond ‘be horrible’.

Cafu and Jason Wright offer some brilliantly realised artwork, however – Wright’s colouring is especially fantastic, and ensures that this isn’t an issue which looks as grimy and dirty as it reads. There’s a brightness and vibrancy in the colouring which takes the character and makes him seem more impressive and powerful. The secondary characters are all muted, leaving Trigon the brightest character on each page.



Harley Quinn

Matt Kindt (w), Neil Googe (a), Wil Quintana (c), Taylor Esposito (l), Harvey Richards, Will Moss (e)

Remember how Harley Quinn is a terrible person wrapped up in a sweet and adorable harlequin bow? Matt Kindt’s issue reminds you that within that candy coating beats an evil, evil person. Struggling a little to connect the two halves of her personality to each, Kindt’s script eventually resorts to having the two narratives in her head shout at each other – which actually seems to fit her pretty well. This is a madcap issue, running at a very quick speed thanks to Neil Googe’s utterly wonderful artwork.

Googe steals the issue, in fact, emphasising the utter horror of Harley’s power fantasies during a particularly grim, extended joke sequence in which she acquires her new costume. There’s an overwhelming presence of character on the pages of the issue and it’s very good fun, even if it is rather aimlessly. The final page is a mega disappointment in that regard – it puts her back to square one for the New 52.



Mr Freeze

Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray (w), Jason Masters (a), Dave McCaig (c), Jared K. Fletcher (l), Darren Shan, Rachel Gluckstern (e) 

Mr Freeze has gone through an interesting development during the New 52, in that Scott Snyder invalidated the whole ‘dead wife tragedy’ aspect in the character. With Nora now a distant memory, Palmiotti and Gray are left with the task of finding a new thing for the character to fixate on. That they magae to do so may well be the greatest triumph of the New 52 thus far.

The character was so heavily motivated by a need to protect his wife that a more straightforward villainous agenda feels beneath him, but the creative team here do their very best to work on the character and make this new aspect work. Their tactic is to make him so amoral and unfeeling as to be completely unpredictable, and McCaig’s colours assist this greatly. The bright red goggles, the only dynamic feature of Freeze, hide his eyes for the entire issue – a very effective tactic. It’s a solid issue.



Jim Starlin (w), Howard Porter (a), Hi-Fi (c), Carlos M. Mangual (l), Kyle Andrukiewicz, Joey Cavalieri (e)

An excellent reimagining for the character which realises the original design doesn’t really need to be changed.  The last I saw of Mongul, he had one eye and was terrorising the Green Lantern Corps. Here, though, the New 52 reimagines him as a military genius, living on a massive spaceship the size of a planet and defeating every force in his wya.

Starlin writes the issue as a celebratory monologue from the character, as he takes his latest defeated foe for a tour round his house and gloats about how easy victory is for him. On a character level, we now have a great sense of what Mongul is like and how his mind works. Starlin’s script is tight, but still allows the character to show himself off repeatedly; aided by some of the best art I’ve seen from Howard Porter, whose style usually puts me off.



Reverse Flash

Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato (w), Scott Hepburn (a), Buccellato (c), Carlos M. Mangual (l), Harvey Richards, Will Moss (e)

It wasn’t until the last page that I realised this wasn’t an issue DRAWN by Manapul, but was instead the work of Scott Hepburn. Coloured by Buccellato, Hepburn hurls himself wholly into this issue, producing some dynamic and wonderful pages with a zip and pace only Manapul himself could match. For the most part, this is an issue featuring the Reverse Flash as a regular person, and the pages reflect that with a blocky style. But whenever he transforms? Suddenly the pages explode apart with zagged borders and fractured panels.

It’s a fantastic showcase for Hepburn. As far as story – this is okay. It gets the idea across of the main character, but in doing so it accidentally breaks one of the supporting characters. By establishing Reverse Flash as a sympathetic figure, it has to make his sister – Iris, perhaps you’ve heard of her – seem rather cruel. I didn’t buy that, particularly. As this is, however, essentially an advert/prelude to the next big arc on The Flash, perhaps the team will be able to sort that out later.



Court of Owls

James Tynion IV (w), Jorge Lucas (a), Dave McCaig (c), Steve Wands (l), Katie Kubert (e)

A paranoia thriller of a one-shot, here James Tynion IV lets loose with the conspiracy angle of the Court of Owls and manages to just-about put their ship back on water. Which is a strange metaphor to use, but I’ve written ten reviews about villains already and my mind hurts. The Court of Owls were an interesting idea which didn’t quite hit the target during Scott Snyder’s original story, but here Tynion manages to get the concept together and make it seem plausible that they would exist.

Jorge Lucas and Dave McCaig nail the issue, absolutely. Coupled with the disturbing white-on-black lettering from Wands, the issue manages to create an investing and fascinating tonal style which gives the concept of a secret society in Gotham a feeling of realism. There is one panel where Lucas misses this mark and creates an unintentionally funny moment, but overall this is an engaging issue.



Black Manta 

Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard (w), Claude St. Aubin (a,/i), Blond (c), Carlos M. Mangual, Taylor Esposito (l), Kate Stewart, Brian Cunningham (e)

The most interesting aspect of Forever Evil is undoubtedly that several of the villains seem to have immediate plans to overthrow the Society of Super Villains and go their own way. This is once more the case with Black Manta, and the character seems primed for an interesting future following this issue.

Following Geoff Johns’ plot, Tony Bedard quickly sketches the basics of the character’s personality despite the book being heavily connected to Forever Evil. At least half the issue is working through the events of Forever Evil #1 from Manta’s perspective, expanding his role and motivations within a narrative we’ve already seen unfold. As a result, this is an issue which requires the reader to have seen the main event in order to get the most out of it. But, if you have, what follows is a surprisingly effective character issue.

The bulk of this story is based around the enmity between Black Manta and Aquaman, which makes one scene towards the end particularly effective – where Manta has the choice between two objects, and picks one over the other. It may be a little slight, but Black Manta is a quick and fun piece of the Forever Evil storyline, and shines a spotlight on a character who has seen significant growth over the last year.



Killer Frost

Sterling Gates (w), Derlis Santacruz (a), Brett Smith (c), Dave Sharpe (l), Kate Stewart, Brian Cunningham (e)

Killer Frost is a proper done-in-one horror story which then trails into the DC Universe right at the end, and is all the better for it. If Villains Month is proving anything, it’s that a lot of American writers struggle to create a proper done-in-one issue. Killer Frost – and the final issue of this month – are perhaps the two best exceptions to that rule, thus far. Sterling Gates and Derlis Santacruz take a note right out of Whiteout and The Thing, by stranding the central character in an Arctic Colony where people are acting suspiciously.

The majority of the issue is spent with her before she becomes a super-powered villainess, and as a result we get a real feel of her and her motivations, making her a sympathetic protagonist. When things go wrong, we get to experience John Carpenter-in-reverse, with Santacruz offering some exceptional suspense work which shows just enough of the violence to get the concept across – without ever showing so much that the comic feels gratuitous.

And when the issue moves into the DC Universe proper, Gates reconnects the character with her most well-known opponent, but adds a new wrinkle to their enmity which again serves her brilliantly. I knew nothing of the character before – now I’m excited to see where she moves next.




Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes (w), Jeremy Haun (a), John Rausch (c), Taylor Esposito (l), Katie Kubert (e)

The Riddler finally gets a showstopping sense of definition at DC, as Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes take the character and evolve him into a fully-formed, unpredictable theorist. Creating several rather clever riddles (I only guessed two out of five) and leaving them on the first page of the issue, readers are then asked to work out how these five riddles are going to allow the character to complete his goal of breaking into Wayne Tower.

This is gripping stuff, with Haun’s artwork methodically detailing the character’s movements and body language. There’s a moment where the character plays golf halfway through the issue which is a brilliantly quirky detail, and demonstrates just what makes him so fun to root for. There’s a playfulness in this violent and mentally ill supergenius, and Fawkes’ script allows the character several interesting new tics and ideas. Riddler comes off as evil, but in a way which suits his high intelligence levels – he’s a bag of tics and fears and arrogance, shaken up and then let loose into the world.

Taylor Esposito’s lettering is a great asset to the story also. If the reveal of each riddle weren’t placed as perfectly as Esposito places them here, the issue would fall flat, regardless of the great script, art, and colouring. Esposito carefully works out how to set up each page, creating a seamless reading experience for the reader. It’s really a tremendous issue. I’m biased because I have a previous love for the character… but this issue took everything I like about him and made it sing.



Here are the numbers:

* four books directly follow from Forever Evil – including all the Batman books, aside from The Court of Owls.

* eight have no connection to Forever Evil whatsoever

* there is no origin story for Lobo or The Riddler

* Batman created by Bob Kane, Court of Owls created by Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo, Aquaman created by Paul Norris, Mongul created by Len Win/Jim Starlin, Harley Quinn created by Paul Dini/Bruce Timm, Superman created by Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster, Lobo created by Roger Slifer/Keith Giffen, Trigon created by Marv Wolfman/George Perez

15 Comments on Reviewed! Every Issue of Villains Month, Week Two, last added: 9/12/2013
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10. reviews#402-403 – Superman Fights for Truth! & Batman is Brave! by Donald Lemke & Ethen Beavers

.. Superman Fights for Truth! (Dc Comics) by Donald Lemke &  Ethen Beavers Picture Window Books 4 Stars .. About the Story:   Someone has stolen from the grocer and it is up to Superman to catch the thief and returns the goods. Opening:  Superman hears a cry for help.  “Titano took my bananas!” yells a …

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11. “Batman at 75” panel: main theater sold out!

The main theater for the “Batman at 75: To All a Dark Knight” panel at the Paley Center in New York on 5/5/14 is sold out. Seats are still available for the closed-circuit seating areas.

“I've been lucky to moderate some cool pop-culture events over the years, but there's one on the horizon that may take the cake.”
—Whitney Matheson, USA Today’s “Pop Candy” and moderator of the panel

After the panel, the panelists (Kevin Conroy, Chip Kidd, Kevin Smith, Michael Uslan, myself) will retire to a special undisclosed location to enjoy a Dark Knightcap.

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12. Noirish tributes to Bill Finger's most iconic creations

Courtesy of the thorough and tireless and stylish Bill Finger Appreciation Group:


Robin (Dick Grayson)

 Green Lantern (Alan Scott)




 Commissioner James Gordon

Lana Lang





A profile now recognizable among Batman fans

0 Comments on Noirish tributes to Bill Finger's most iconic creations as of 3/24/2014 8:41:00 AM
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13. Sunrise in Aurora, Colorado

When I reflected on the shooting tragedy that took place in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, it did not occur to me that I would ever go there.

When Sunrise Elementary School in Aurora invited me in the fall of 2012 to do an author visit on 2/8/13, I was surprised and (as always) flattered and excited—but also a bit worried. I told my kind host, librarian Susie Isaac, that my latest book is about Batman and asked if, under the circumstances, it would be insensitive to bring it up during my presentation. Mind you, I am not one who shies away from having tough conversations when situations call for it, but I was not about to risk upsetting young people.

Susie was as cheerful as the name of her school. She assured me that all would be fine. She said none of their students were directly affected and the Batman connection to the tragedy did not dim the students’ enthusiasm for the Dark Knight.

That dynamic alone would make for a memorable visit, but amplifying that, Susie went all out to prepare for my arrival.

Every school day for the month prior, she lobbed a trivia question about me to the kids.

She ran a contest for the students to design their own superheroes and decked out the library with their creative submissions.

And she shared my books with the kids, who then welcomed me with great gusto.

Before the presentations, I was interviewed on the students morning news show. One student announced that there were no birthdays that day.

Oh, but there was. Bill Finger was born on 2/8. Adding even more poignancy, Bill Finger was born in Denver.

Of course this visit had the same purpose as any I’ve done: motivate, educate, entertain. Yet as I was trying to deliver on those goals, I was privately grateful to be able to mourn strangers on their own turf, strangers I may have been more drawn to than other victims due to the movie they were watching when their lives were senselessly cut short. They were watching a movie about a hero who shuns guns.

Thank you, Susie and the students of Aurora, for inviting me into your community.

3 Comments on Sunrise in Aurora, Colorado, last added: 2/10/2013
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14. The Dark Knight Rises: Batman’s Third Act

The “titles” of Batman Begins showed the symbol of a bat formed in a swarm of bats, the titles of The Dark Knightshowed it in fire, now The Dark Knight Rises shows it in ice. The bats in Begins were a symbol of fear, the titles a metaphor for an identity forming out of shadows. The fire of The Dark Knight was like a wall of fire for that bat, that symbol, pushing through the chaos inflicted by the Joker. Now, the bat is, literally, the cracks in the ice formed by the isolation of Gotham City at the hands of Bane.

11 Comments on The Dark Knight Rises: Batman’s Third Act, last added: 2/12/2013
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15. Art Wall: spaceships, Strange and Sonic

TweetFriday is art day! Friday is also the harbinger of the weekend, but who cares about that? Instead, take a look at all the pretty pictures I gathered for you from the shady, cob-webby corners of the Internet you dare not venture… (I can’t say more) FF by Mike Allred (you HAVE to click on this to [...]

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16. Second Opinion: Batman #17

TweetScott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #17 came out this week, concluding their ‘Death of the Family’ storyline to universal approval from reviewers. But in all the rush to celebrate and praise, there’s been precious little evaluation of the book itself — many of the reviews, in fact, read more like a pre-emptive defense of the [...]

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17. Interview: The Odyssey of Neal Adams

TweetInterviewing Neal Adams over at the New Statesman in the run up to this month’s London Super Comic Con, we chatted about his legendary role in providing greater creator rights for all within the comics industry, his own start in comics, and pushing comics in a more “relevant” direction. So while I recommend going ahead [...]

15 Comments on Interview: The Odyssey of Neal Adams, last added: 2/19/2013
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18. You Can Never Be Me: Bat-tales from Patrick Kyle

TweetYou Can Never Be Me by Patrick Kyle There’s a meme (as I believe they’re called) that I see cropping up fairly regularly in my forays of Internet yonder. Here, allow me to show you: Batman is a seductive fellow, isn’t he? Fetishes aside, one of the main appeals of the character is that, theoretically, anybody [...]

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19. Kick-Watcher: Not-for-profit inspirational Batman documentary

Brett Culp kick-starts his Batman inspired not-for-profit documentary, Legends of the Knight. Culp that features interviews from everyone's favorite industry Bat-fans, and powerful everyday people that use their enthusiasm to be active in their communities and overcome extreme hardship.

3 Comments on Kick-Watcher: Not-for-profit inspirational Batman documentary, last added: 2/23/2013
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20. Review: Batman Incorporated #8 – The Boy Wonder Returns

(Spoilers!) Well, we can’t say that we didn’t know it was coming. From early on in the run, Grant Morrison has said in interviews and at convention appearances that his six year Batman run would end in heartbreak.

Even for those who somehow missed DC’s massive spoiler alert, Morrison’s obvious love for the character that everyone initially hated, then came to love, marked his doom. Along with, of course, the bizarrely popular reset button that every superhero character possesses, demanding that writers put their “toys back in the box” when they leave.

splash Review: Batman Incorporated #8   The Boy Wonder Returns

It’s perhaps testament to Damian Wayne’s popularity that even as the death promoting cover leaked, with the events spelled out by the publisher and revealed by the writer, that fans first hoped the “death” was another misdirect, and now cling to the idea that no one in comics ever truly dies. And that latter trope is now partly the problem with the whole concept of death and loss within the superhero genre – when heroes die every week only to return weeks, months or years later, what impact does killing them even have anymore? Especially Robins. For every fan feeling a little sad at this newest revelation, there are ten more dismissing the gravity of the plot out of hand, with a dismissive, “he’ll be back”.

Morrison of course – love him or hate him – is not known for casually killing his characters. Every plot thread and complex idea in the last six years has been leading up to this moment; the culmination of the twisted war between parents that has their spoiled and far wiser child at the centre. To dismiss this latest character death as nothing more than controversy seeking is to underestimate the intricate planning behind these events.

Morrison didn’t create Damian, but he moulded him into one of the strongest characters in Gotham, giving us a Robin that was truly different from his predecessors. Playing the dour Boy Wonder to Dick Grayson’s chipper Batman revitalised the concept of the Dark Knight in a whole new direction; the resulting Batman Incorporated somewhat hamstrung by the narrow confines of the continuity obsessed New 52.

alfred Review: Batman Incorporated #8   The Boy Wonder Returns

That particular pairing resurfaces in Batman Incorporated #8. We’ve seen over the past few issues that Damian is not the Batman of the future that Bruce assumed. Instead that honour goes to an unnamed monster, a bizarre adult clone of Damian who his mother has raised from the belly of a whale. A leviathan. Curiously enough, leviathans and whales have been swimming around my own mind recently; from my re-reading of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’ The Unwritten, to the recent season of Supernatural, and the arguments of Thomas Hobbes. Symbolism is usually a tad more subtle in the works of Morrison, but the whale is such a potent allegory that it is no shock to see it break through.

Chris Burnham plays his pages mostly straight, with some fantastic fragmented panel layouts and one of those amazing scatter pages picturing the most frantic fight scene in the book. Glass and broken glass is a repeated motif once more, both fracturing Batman’s struggle to escape his confines and heralding the entrance of the various Robins. The near colourless clone is draped in a cloak of fire at the climax, mirroring the cape of Damian in a hellish form. The final splash page brings together glass, fire and rain with deceptively simple ease; the final page finishing on an extra tiny panel sequence, another of Burnham’s signatures, now fading to black.

This issue is all about the Robins, with Batman only appearing on two pages. Damian rides to the rescue, briefly saving Grayson on the way, as Tim fights off the Leviathan henchmen and saves a damsel in distress (Ellie). With an army of brainwashed children on his heels, Damian starts cracking skulls (because children on children violence isn’t quite as worrying as adults beating on them) before ending the fight with his quick thinking. Not quick enough however, as our other former Robin, Grayson bursts on to the scene to save him from gunfire.

damian grayson Review: Batman Incorporated #8   The Boy Wonder Returns

I won’t lie, having those two team up again is, well, awesome. There’s a little foreshadowing in Damian’s praise for Grayson which sounds more than a little like a goodbye. “We were the best Richard. No matter what anyone thinks.” Knowing what is to come, that is perhaps the real moment of sadness. The final battle comes down to Damian and his demonic twin, with both Tim and Grayson laying broken on the floor.

As Damian begs his mother to stop, to call off her monster, he remains sure that he is the only one who can reach her. He steps in to save Ellie from the monster, remembering his promise to his father that he would never kill again…

His faith is misplaced. His last word is “mother”. Talia weeps, Bruce is too late, and Damian dies a hero. And unseen, I can’t help but think of the little kitten back home waiting on him.

Damian was a character nobody should have been able to relate to – a poor little rich kid begging the attention of his parents. And yet, Batman himself is equally unrelatable – a playboy millionaire with a disturbing obsession with crime-fighting, a detective with near superhuman psychological barriers, and often just a big brooding emo kid. But we love him, of course, and not just for his gadgets. He’s human and so his achievements seem that much greater than the big Boy Scout. He is ancient and iconic, a creature of the night that battles for good, a modern day Sherlock Holmes.

What Morrison did, stitching together that vast history into one epic lifespan, broke him away from the lone warrior teetering on the edge of madness and made him human once more. Of course that Batman would have a son, and even come to learn to forgive the transgressions of all his family. He even, dare I say, began to see shades of grey and inspired his son to choose heroism over villainy.

pets Review: Batman Incorporated #8   The Boy Wonder Returns

And Damian the brat became Damian the loveable brat. With his ribbing of Grayson and his fondness for his menagerie of pets, his occasional wisdom beyond his years, and most of all his tiredness with the ridiculous war between his parents, Damian became perhaps one of the most popular newer characters DC has.

Had. Of course he could come back, of course he probably will. The fall out will last so long and then an editor or writer will decide that that particular toy needs to come back out of the box. Let’s have a new Robin. Let’s kill them too.

But make no mistake, this is a real death. With Morrison soon to leave Batman behind, this is the end of his Damian. He introduced the character as we now know him back in 2006, as a murderous little psychopath and his mother’s pawn. Now he has ushered him out, as a genuine Robin, a beloved son, and a true hero. And as cliche as some superhero deaths may be, this really is the end of an era.


Batman Incorporated #8
Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Chris Burnham, Jason Masters (p.6-9)
Colourist: Nathan Fairbairn
Cover Artist: Chris Burnham

Letters: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Michael Marts, Rickey Purdin
Publisher: DC

If you like, try: Growing your heart three sizes!

12 Comments on Review: Batman Incorporated #8 – The Boy Wonder Returns, last added: 3/1/2013
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21. Another Robin is dead, and here’s what they’re saying

Well, the task of being Batman’s sidekick has claimed another life. Young Damian Wayne, the fruit of Batman’s own loins, with killed in a battle with his clone brother in Batman, Incorporated #8. And not in a quick one panel zap, the way we used to do comic book deaths, but in a multi panel pummeling. Since Damian was a little brat for most of his 10 years, some people weren’t that sad. But others were. The reactions have been many and varied. First and most poignantly the entire Batfamily is mourning on next month’s somber covers, as revealed at Buzzfeed.

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And there was much talk in the mediasphere as well, although without cool Greg Capullo covers. One thing’s for sure…Damian wasn’t the first Robin to die…and I’m guessing he won’t be the last.

First, author Grant Morrison explained his motives:

I chose to build my story around the basic trauma, the murder of his parents, that lies at the heart of Batman’s genesis. It seemed to me there would be a part of Bruce Wayne that resented his parents for leaving him and especially resented his father for not being Batman that night, so the principal villains were an archetypal bad father figure in the form of Dr. Hurt and a dark mother in the form of Talia, our villain for the concluding chapters of the story.

Like or loathe the story, it was clearly planned for a while.
At Wired, Sean T. Collins investigated the cause of death::

If we were to take a look at the coroner’s report, we’d no doubt find “franchise maintenance” listed under “Cause of Death.” Morrison’s execution of the concept has been excellent, particularly when teamed with artists like Frank Quitely, Chris Burnham, and Frazer Irving, who wring both off-kilter action-scene dynamism and genuine pathos out of drawing Robin like the child he is. But one need look no further than most of the other books that have featured the Dynastic Duo to realize that the role has a limited shelf life outside of Morrison’s control.

It’s tough to imagine “Batman as dad, Robin as his son” taking off in the public imagination to the extent it could be used as the backbone for a blockbuster film, or even an animated series. “Batdad,” as an image and as a set of ideas about that character, simply doesn’t square with his pop-culture profile as an avatar of terrifyingly badass hypercompetence and black-clad angst. This is to say nothing of all the child-endangerment issues we’re already whistling past when we read about Robin, which are only compounded when the child being endangered is Batman’s own son.

At Robot 6 (which has been covering the death of Robin the way KNBC covers a car chase) Corey Blake took a look at history an knew it had to happen:

When Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley insisted to The New York Times in 2007 that Captain America Steve Roger is “very dead right now,” those last two words didn’t go unnoticed. “Still, these are comic books, where characters have a history of dying and returning,” noted the newspaper of record. Four years later, the New York Daily News couldn’t get halfway through its coverage of the Human Torch’s death before cynically pointing out, “Fans can also be optimistic that The Human Torch will eventually return.

J Caleb Mozzocco knew Damian’s days were numbered:

I certainly didn’t think Damian was going to last too terribly long, and assumed it was only a matter of time before it was revealed he wasn’t really Batman’s son. And/or The Joker killed him (not that I know all that much; I never thought DC would bring Barry Allen or Jason Todd back from the dead, or re-number Action Comics, for example).

Oddly enough, he has at this point been around so long that I just recently stopped expecting him to be written out of the comics.

Chris Arrant points out that Grant Morrison is a serial killer, with many of his own creations dead:

Think back to his first major mainstream superhero book, JLA. In it, Morrison and Howard Porter revived the team in a back-to-basics approach featuring the seven most popular and iconic members. But during that time Morrison also created (with Mark Millar and N. Steven Harris) the Mesoamerican hero Aztek. Launched in his own series — whose first issue teased his impending death — Aztek later joined Morrison’s JLA and was killed in JLA #41, the writer’s final issue.

Former DC editor Mike Gold was glad to see the little brat go:

His obnoxious demeanor isn’t reason I detest(ed) his character. I do not condone his birth.

Batman – Bruce Wayne no longer exists – is the poster boy for obsessive-compulsive. All the Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Lexapro combined can’t help this sucker, and yet somehow we have come to perceive his behavior as noble. If we refused to sell guns to the mentally unstable, Master Bruce wouldn’t make it to his next fox hunt.

WaPo’s David Betancourt just wonders “WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?”

Mike Mayhew feels that the killing of the son reinforces Batman’s immortality:

It started the way it’s supposed to. Batman, the fictional character, outlasted and replaced his creators. But because a company owns him, the natural process stops there. There’s no reason for him to go away. Ever. As long as he continues to make money, the king never dies. He never gets out of the way and he never passes the throne to his heir. That’s what Morrison describes in his essay. The Dark Knight Rises aside, no one besides Bruce Wayne – not Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne, Jean Paul Valley or anyone else – gets to be Batman for long. Batman does not R.I.P. Bruce Wayne always returns.

Tom Bondurant looks at the context of Robins through the ages

I mention all that in order to highlight those long stretches of stability. Most of Dick’s 44 years as Robin weren’t spent on some long-term emotional journey to adulthood. In fact, I would argue that the real story of Dick’s “graduation” began in 1980, when Marv Wolfman started writing Batman and the then-new New Teen Titans.* In both books Dick was eager to establish his independence from Bruce, including dropping out of college and operating out of New York City with the Titans. This estrangement challenged the nature of “Robin” even more than Dick’s physical separation from Bruce, because it forced readers to evaluate whether “Robin” meant anything apart from Batman. Moreover, Batman’s post-Adam West gothic makeover had long since gotten readers used to the idea of Batman without Robin.


6fc5 Another Robin is dead, and heres what theyre saying

Valerie Gallaher questions whether showing the brutal death of a young child is really in good taste.

But here is the big elephant in the room and I’m going to just say it: in the aftermath of the brutal killing of so many other children in Newtown, is this a tasteless story? Or more precisely, is the story itself not tasteless — but the use of it as just another “gimmick” to tickle the mass news outlets (of which I am quite aware I am a part of) into once again realizing that comics exist, tasteless? I only have to point to one of the the NY Post’s headlines for the Robin story, “Holy Hit Job!” — a bizarre nod to the sunny 1960s TV show.

Penultimately, Burt Ward, who once played Robin, reacted with shock and alarm:

Ward tells us, “It’s a terrible choice to kill off Robin. Why bite the hand that feeds you? … Robin should only die in people’s imaginations! Or in a state of primal ecstasy!”


For those who want to compare and contrast with other memorable deaths PW’s Matt White has the 10 Most Memorable Superhero Deaths

13 Comments on Another Robin is dead, and here’s what they’re saying, last added: 3/2/2013
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22. DC Announce Next Batman Arc: ZERO YEAR

Following on from Night of the Owls and Death of the Family will come an 11-part storyline from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo called ZERO YEAR. Taking the sime kind of approach as Frank Miller’s ‘Year One’ story, this will see Batman in the New 52 – establishing the Bat Cave, meeting his first super-villain, and hopefully painstakingly working out just how pointy the ears should be on his costume.

untitled DC Announce Next Batman Arc: ZERO YEAR

Snyder is careful to establish that this isn’t going to be a story which dismantles the story and idea behind Year One, but will instead be a new story giving a different perspective on Batman’s origin, and building up the character in a different way:

We tried to preserve as much of Batman’s history as we could and keep what we could of this history intact. It’s ‘The Zero Year,’ the one that no one has told the story of before. We see how Bruce became the Batman, built the cave, faced off with his first super villain … It’s time for a new story showing how Batman became who he is in The New 52. It builds up the mythology

And, as the creative team established a short while ago, the story is not intended to cross over into any event storylines - like the last two Batman stories have. This is set to be self-contained. And looking at Capullo’s lovely, simple cover for the first issue of the story (issue 21) it looks as though DC are hoping to turn this into the first properly notable and standalone graphic novel collection for the New 52. So shiny.

Batman in the new 52 currently has a wonderfully convoluted and messy backstory, with countless robins, a son, a couple of rebirths and a few vanishing Batgirls currently crammed into what DC says are the first five year’s of the character’s life as Batman in the new DC Universe. How is Snyder going to deal with all that?

And most importantly – when is Bat Mite coming back?

11 Comments on DC Announce Next Batman Arc: ZERO YEAR, last added: 4/7/2013
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23. The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive

Hold onto your monocles, because it’s time for DC comics to make their first attempt at getting you to drop them in shock. The initial round of April ‘shock’ gatefold covers have been released via various locations – CBR, MTV Geek, DC’s Source blog, and so on – and I’ve collected them here. So far we have, I believe, seven officially released covers from DC, as part of their (formerly WTF) April promotion, from comics including Dial H, Batman, Stormwatch and Swamp Thing.

Each one of these is meant to make you spit out your Pimms in surprise – so, how well do they succeed?

wtf6 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive wtf1 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive wtf2 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive wtf3 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive wtf4 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive wtf5 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive

wtf7 The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive

Personally? Well.. I wasn’t shocked (my monocle remains trusty and proud), but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the stories suggested here. Mr Miracle’s return in Earth 2 is probably the best of the reveals so far, but that new Batwing also looks pretty familiar…

11 Comments on The First Round of Shocking WTF DC Covers Arrive, last added: 3/21/2013
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24. Superman and Batman origins in eight words

In All-Star Superman #1, writer Grant Morrison retold the origin of Superman in only eight artfully chosen words:

On Twitter, Dave Lartigue (@daveexmachina) retold the origin of Batman in only eight artfully chosen words:

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25. On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event

As the first of several “Comic Book Roundtable” events to be held at the Soho Gallery of Digital Art under the auspices of gallery owner John Ordover and former Marvel editor, author, and educator Danny Fingeroth, this event exploring the life and legacy of Dr. Frederic Wertham was planned for the occasion of Wertham’s 118th birthday, but in the lead up to the event, recent developments in scholarship about the controversial comic reformer shed new light on the evening’s subject matter. In February 2013 Librarian, professor, and scholar Carol Tilley discovered, after examining Wertham’s papers held by the Library of Congress, that some of Wertham’s methods and reports were questionable, sparking debate in comics scholarship and among comics fans.

IMG 4708 225x300 On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event

“Surely You’re Joking Dr. Wertham” hit the controversy head-on by bringing together a distinguished panel for discussion, including Tilley, comics writer, editor, and educator Denny O’Neil, author and educator David Hajdu, practising physician, psychiatrist, and author Sharon Packer, and author, editor, art director, and cartoonist Craig Yoe. The Soho Gallery provided excellent accompaniment to the event in the form of Wertham-related images and quotes displayed as a digital exhibit, and hosting a reception afterward.

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The evening opened to a thoroughly packed-in audience, among whom were many scholars and authors who have shown a public interest in Wertham’s career and legacy, including James Reibman, the official Frederick Wertham biographer designated by Wertham’s estate. Host and moderator Danny Fingeroth provided an introduction to Wertham in the form of slides including pictures of Wertham in and out of official capacity as a clinical psychiatrist working with children, and also reminded the audience of the other books Wertham authored aside from his now legendary Seduction of the Innocent, a critique on the “influence of comic books on today’s youth”, published in 1954. This placed Wertham within the context of other cultural reactions of the time that questioned the sex and violence being depicted in comics as appropriate for young readers.

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Tilley started off the panel discussion by explaining exactly what her recent research has uncovered about Wertham’s work. While her original intention was to locate materials relevant children’s education, she found “other things” that she didn’t expect to find among Wertham’s documents which she found “well-organized” in a “couple of dozen plus boxes” at the Library of Congress. The documents included copies of Wertham’s other research papers and speeches spanning his career, among which she found “discrepancies” and “some indication that he did things like combine the testimony of kids” or “broke apart” the testimony of one child “into four or five” in order to use quotes. This practice also resulted in evidence of “deleted or added” phrases from the children’s testimony that Wertham presented in Seduction of the Innocent and other works. This resulted, Tilley said, in a general “perception” of evidence in Wertham’s book that was “not the same as the actual case” of his research materials. When questioned about whether these changes were negligible or whether they altered the meaning of the children’s testimony, she confirmed that these “additions and word changes did change the meaning of testimony”. While Wertham’s book has often been criticized for its “lack of attribution” in footnotes or bibliography, Tilley feels that she has “seen personally” that his use of sources was not exacting enough. For those interested in Wertham’s legacy, this was something of a bombshell, though Tilley has been public about some of these findings previous to the evening’s discussion.

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Hajdu then commented on Wertham as a figure, reminding the audience that Wertham is  often a “handy symbol” of a wider movement against comic book excesses, and even a “personification” of the “cynicism toward comics in the late 40’s and 50’s”, even though he didn’t start this trend personally. Hajdu explained that even “newspaper comics incited criticism” prior to Wertham’s career and were often perceived as “crude, anti-literate” and examples of “defiant behavior” that raised public concern. The Catholic Church, particular, he noted, were active in inspiring state legislation against comics, due to their belief in the “power of aesthetics and the power of art” for both positive and negative influences on human behavior.

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[Packer, Yoe, and Fingeroth]

O’Neil, himself raised Catholic, confirmed that his “first encounter with the (comic) witch hunters was in the pages of The Catholic Digest” and that he, as a young person “read and believed” that superhero comics, particularly, were potentially harmful. He related, to the audience’s amusement, that former Marvel editor Roy Thomas “as a kid” had participated in a book burning in Missouri where he “burned comics he was not interested in”, but rescued others he liked. Tilley briefly added that she had discovered evidence that librarians, too, had participated in comic burning and attempted to keep them out of libraries during this period because they were seen as “disruptive”.

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Packer suggested that Wertham’s book title, Seduction of the Innocent, might have spoken particularly to a Christian demographic because of its suggestion of the massacre of the innocents by King Herod related in the New Testament of the Bible. This led to a reassessment among the panellists of Wertham’s title, since its original version was “All Our Innocents”. Fingeroth pointed out that this change made the title “very pulp sounding” and therefore more sensational.

Yoe’s background on the subject of juvenile delinquency as an author, and also his discovery of the “fetish art” of Joe Shuster confirmed that there were real-life implications for the more violent aspects of comic art, such as the case of the Brooklyn Thrill Killers who killed indigent people and molested women and when interviewed by Wertham as an expert witness, confessed to being inspired in their deeds by Shuster’s artwork. Yoe, however, prompted a wide-ranging and at times heated discussion on the subject of exactly how and when Wertham’s papers at the Library of Congress had been made available for research purposes. Both Yoe and Hajdu, upon requesting access in the past, had been denied use of the papers since they were “sealed” until the children who participated in the studies had passed away. “In many ways, I respect Dr. Wertham”, Yoe said, but “the Library of Congress is our library” and its contents “should be seen” regardless of the circumstances behind their compilation. Outspoken attendee and Wertham biographer Reibman, who was granted access to the papers at a much earlier date in order to work on his book, disagreed with Yoe’s statement in favor of “freedom of information”, arguing that sealing Wertham’s papers at the library was part of the “terms of the gift” to the library. Reibman’s frequent interjections on behalf of Wertham during the event contributed to a rather heated atmosphere.

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Yoe questioned further why some individuals, and not others, were then granted access despite the terms of the gift. Hajdu chimed in that he had requested access “dozens of times” but had been denied despite his academic credentials. Yoe asked Tilley if, based on her experience as a librarian, this discrepancy was “unusual” or not. Tilley confirmed that in her experience, the sealing of the papers while at the Library of Congress and then granting access to only those individuals sanctioned by the estate of the deceased, was indeed “unusual”.  Attendee Karen Green, Graphic Novels Librarian at Columbia University, also commented that while “archives can be restricted”, for public documents this practice is “not usual”. Tilley provided further information about the situation by explaining that she was obliged to sign an agreement with the Library of Congress about the materials she accessed, even though a large portion of the Wertham papers consisted of “newspaper clippings” which “shouldn’t be restricted” anyway. Yoe brought some levity to the rapid fire questioning and often terse dialogue between he and Reibman by pointing out that Hajdu closely resembled a young Frederic Wertham and ought to have just turned up at the library, saying “I am here to see my papers”. Though Hajdu found the comparison amusing, he said “That’s the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard”.

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[O'Neil and Hajdu]

Fingeroth then gathered the reigns of the discussion as moderator to direct attention back to the panelists and away from the discursive arguments breaking out among audience members. Fingeroth asked O’Neil, specifically, if he had felt any “lingering hesitation” about comics after his experience with The Catholic Revue in childhood. O’Neil related that Wertham’s legacy, but particularly the Comics Code had impacted his career in comics.  He was involved in “several public arguments” with administrators at comics publishing companies, wherein comics supporters felt the need to argue “comics are good, not evil anymore”. O’Neil’s personal feeling has always been, and still is, he said, that “If it’s censorship, it’s bad”, and often felt frustrated by the “vagueness of the language” in the Code itself, often leading comics creators to create elaborate avenues to get around the letter of the Code. He related a particularly frustrating incident where an IRONMAN story involving a “six story tall monster” crushing a police car was censored because it “showed disrespect to the police car” even though it also showed policemen being very brave in their fight against the monster. This kind of “idiocy” in the Code he particularly objected to, and added his motto that “blind worship of authority figures whether or not authority figures had any authority” should never be supported.

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At this point, it was relevant to clarify that Wertham was not the founder of the Comics Code, though his work certainly paved the way for its development. Yoe reminded the audience that Wertham was, in fact, a progressive who was in support of the freedom of the press. It was more that Wertham “created the climate”, O’Neil supplied, which led to the Senate hearings, which led to the drafting of the Code. Both Yoe and O’Neil agreed that comics publishing was, in fact, in a very low economic position at the time of the Senate hearings anyway, due to the rise of paperback novel sales and TV watching. Yoe and O’Neil continued to discuss whether a “rating system” couldn’t have been created, rather than the unilateral Comics Code, in order to steer children away from more disturbing comics. Hajdu pointed out that the rating system was not in effect in Hollywood, by comparison, until the 1960’s, so there was not a particularly clear model to instate for comics at the time.

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Fingeroth asked the panelists, and in particular, Packer, whether Wertham’s research was purely “anecdotal” or whether he furnished “hard statistics” when working with children. Packer provided some context as a clinical psychiatrists about the methods of the time during Wertham’s career. She compared Wertham to Sigmund Freud and pointed out that though “Freud was celebrated at that time”, “much of his original psychological literature” was “just as baseless” as Wertham’s methods. Tilley added that her survey of Wertham’s papers revealed that his “data was rich”, but it was just “how he used it rhetorically” that was “questionable”. Yoe commented that even though his rhetorical use of his data might lead us to view Wertham with increased suspicion, in the big picture, Wertham made a “pretty good case. Many comic books were not good for young children” in term of their content.

IMG 4721 300x225 On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event

[Tilley and Packer]

Fingeroth took the question to a finer point. Did Wertham, he asked, in the opinion of the panelists, “take too many liberties” or not? Tilley stood her ground by asserting that “scientific investigation” requires accuracy, and a failure of accuracy is troubling from a scientist. Tilley added that her “personal sense” from working with the papers is that Wertham “cared more about getting rid of the comic book industry” than about his public cause of helping children develop in a psychologically  healthy atmosphere. Though he certainly “cared for kids”, she reminded, she still felt that Wertham used children as “leverage” to achieve this greater goal of attacking the comics industry. One of the things that gave her a less than sterling impression of Wertham’s personality was discovering detailed transcripts that he “noted meticulously” of phone conversations that contained potentially harmful gossip about people who he saw as enemies in his career. He “collected information”, she said, “looking for weak spots” in the lives of people he wanted to undermine, particularly people who acted as “consultants for the comic book industry”.

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Fingeroth asked about Wertham’s movement, in his later career, toward criticism of the film industry and whether Wertham might have seen “comics as a stepping stone to a higher agenda” as a “career path”, but the general consensus among panelists seemed to be that comics were more easily attacked as a less profitable industry early in Wertham’s career, and that the tide of criticism had generally turned toward film around the time of Wertham’s developing interest in film. Film itself had, by the mid to late 60’s, become more overtly violent with works like Bonnie and Clyde.

Fredric Wertham on Mike Douglas 1967 300x227 On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event

The rather charged atmosphere during the panel discussion gave way to an extensive question and answer period involving the audience and spanned a number of subjects. Did the distaste the comic book industry came to feel for Dr. Wertham result in a generally negative portrayal of psychiatry within comics? Yoe agreed that there are certainly plenty of “sinister psychiatrists” portrayed in comics tradition, and Packer supplied examples from Batman mythology including the Arkham family. O’Neil added that the character Harley Quinn was originally assigned to “cure” the Joker of his madness and instead was “driven nuts” herself. A more pointed question was posed about whether the possibility that Wertham skewed his evidence really made the questions he was asking about the role of comics at the time irrelevant. Hajdu fielded this question by commenting that the “weakest criticism of Wertham is that comics can’t affect minds and hearts”. As an art form, Hajdu argued, comics certainly do have impact and can “transform people”. “Comics have that power”, he reminded.

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O’Neil weighed the issue by confessing that as a comics creator “You launch a given work and you have no way of knowing how it’ll bounce” and he often worried during his early career what impact particular comic stories might have on “kids already imbalanced”. O’Neil gave and example of his decision-making when he declined to include a “martial arts move” in one of his comics because it was “simple and damaging” and judged that kids might too easily learn to implement it. The audience, of course, immediately wanted O’Neil to demonstrate the deadly move, but he refrained in the interest of safety. For the same reason, O’Neil never allowed Molotov cocktails in his works, sure that it was too much of a “temptation” for kids to “see if it would work” building their own.

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The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald asked a rather burning question from the floor, one that continues to puzzle readers and comics historians alike: “Why do you think he attacked comics specifically? What did he hope to get out of it?”. The panelists answered in various ways. Yoe felt pretty strongly that Wertham was, in fact, motivated primarily by the fact that he “cared about kids” and was worried about the impact of comics. Packer analyzed Wertham a little by pointing out that Wertham himself, despite being married for many years, had no children of his own and this might have created a kind of “displacement” of concern for children that drove him to extremes. Hajdu simply stated that he felt Wertham to be “attracted to sensationalist cases” whether as an expert witness in extreme criminal cases or his research. He was, Hajdu said, a “publicity hound” at heart. Even Yoe added the admission that without a doubt Wertham had a “raging ego” driving his career.

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Questions continued to circle back to the central role of Tilley’s new research on Wertham’s inconsistencies. How do we reassess Wertham based on the incorrectly conveyed details of his research, which clearly skewed his information in order to more sensationally and fundamentally support his thesis, when the “big picture” of his message, that extreme violence and sex in comics can be inappropriate for child readers, does seem sensible? Fingeroth presented a list of Wertham’s more “progressive” tendencies, stating that it’s possible to “go through a checklist of Wertham’s beliefs and agree except for comics” and respect many of his social contributions.

The final assessment of the panelists revealed some consensus out of a wide-ranging interrogation of Wertham’s method and legacy. O’Neil reminded the audience that Wertham was certainly not the “black-hearted villain” that many comics fans feel him to be, but he did detrimentally present those working in comics, “demonizing” them and making them out to be the “seducers and corruptors” of society, a crusade that damaged comics for decades to come. Yoe felt that the fundamental problem with Wertham’s whole approach to his subject was not necessarily the assumption that comics could be damaging to young minds, but that he “didn’t see that comics could be an art form”, and never commented on their positive potential as an “educational” resource. Yoe left the audience with the question, a lingering one, “Why couldn’t he see that?”. If Wertham had seen the potential of comics as a positive force, no doubt our current view of his work would also be more balanced on the whole.

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[The panelists and their moderator]

A predictably lively, but amicable, discussion period followed during the reception for the event, but if attendees expected definitive answers about the implications of Tilley’s new research on Wertham, they were left to their own devices. The panel discussion did provide solid context for Wertham’s life, work, and even a little for his motivations, as well as some solid information on what exactly Wertham’s failings as a researcher might be. Whether audience members were “pro-Wertham” or “anti-Wertham” initially, the discussion opened up new facets of his personality and work for further thought. Frederick Wertham may be less of a mystery now in the light of new research, but if anything, he’s even more of an enigma, confirmed as a complex figure. Learning more about Wertham changes perception of comics history, and that’s bound to change even more as scholars pay closer and closer attention to the records left behind in collections, personal archives, and thankfully, libraries.

The Comic Round Table events will continue this Spring at the SOHO Gallery for Digital Art with another hot topic in comics right now, the openly anti-gay position of Orson Scott Card and his work on SUPERMAN entitled “The Man of Steel vs. Orson Scott Card” on April 10th.

Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.


15 Comments on On the Scene: Sparks Fly at ‘Surely You’re Joking, Dr. Wertham’ Event, last added: 3/24/2013
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