The Real Batman Chronology Project @ BookFestPA 2015

bookfest pa
Hey, friends. I will be a featured guest speaker at this year’s BookFestPA, an annual arts event held at Penn State University every summer in conjunction with the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. This year’s BookFest is comic book themed and, as a former alumnus of Penn State, I’ve been invited to give a little talk about my websites and the history of Batman! My lecture will be more specifically about fictional canon in regard to superhero comics as viewed through the lens of the character Batman. If any fans of the Real Batman Chronology Project or Discontinuity want to come meet me in person, hear what I have to say, or check out the festival, try to come on out, especially if you live in the area.

July 11, 2015, Schlow Library, Penn State University, State College, PA. See you there!

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Convergence #8: The Status Quo Preserved (And Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Otherwise)

convergence 8 cover

Wow, there has been some BAD internet reporting on the final issue of Convergence. How anyone read issue #8 and thought that all of the old characters from previous continuities are now fair game to use and write about moving forward is beyond me. How any reporters read issue #8 and thought that Silver and Modern Age characters would now be apart of the upcoming DC line is just plain nuts. (Plus, there are plenty of non-continuity books—especially digital-first stuff—that allows for such tales to be told anyway, so why have a freak-out even if it were true.) Below is a literal synopsis of what happens, but a small caveat noting that there technically are a variety of different ways to read this issue. Things are extremely unclear (deliberate or not), but here’s my take.

Brainiac wishes to “return to what he was [before Flashpoint]” i.e. a less cancerous/poisoned volatile god dude. In order to do this, Brainiac must save the multiverse, which has cracked wide open and is beyond repair and headed toward death thanks to Telos being turned into a pressure cooker. Saving the multiverse can only be done if Brainiac is able to “channel the temporal energy within Telos and return [all the displaced characters] to [their] homes” i.e. their correct timelines. “It is the only way to reset the multiverse.”

However, the original Crisis blocks Brainiac from sending everyone home because it is “too strong. If it is not changed the multiverse will again collapse into one universe.” This, I’ll admit is a confusing part, but I think that in order for Brainiac to return everyone to their rightful timelines, he has to do it the same way he stole them in the first place, by swimming down time streams from Vanishing Point. Crisis being “too strong” means likely that Brainiac can’t slide past it due to its massively important chronal impact, which prevents Brainiac from properly returning everyone home where they belong. Pre-Crisis Flash and Supergirl respond to Brainiac’s complaint by saying that they know their fates i.e. that they will die to save the world: “If this is the only way to restore the multiverse and save everyone, we’ll do it like we did it before.” This means that Flash and Supergirl understand Brainiac to mean that they must go back and repeat their actions—fighting to the death to preserve the multiverse. Yes, there is a major retcon at work here. Modern Age Superman (and Lois and his baby) and pre-Zero Hour Parallax Hal Jordan go back and make an impact on the original Crisis. They “prevent the multiverse from collapsing,” which basically means that they work from the shadows to ensure the status quo returns in our present. Crisis goes down virtually the same. After all, the multiverse wasn’t really destroyed during the original Crisis anyway. Convergence is simply cementing that idea. While everyone was meant to think that Crisis smashed everything into one Earth, from our point of hindsight here in 2015 knowing that Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, 52, Final Crisis, and Flashpoint would later occur, we know that there always was a multiverse (hidden or not). So what if the original Crisis is now retconned—it doesn’t change a thing in the long run.

Brainiac then says, “Many of you will return to your deaths… to worlds with no tomorrow.” (Everyone that he has taken, if they go back home, will return to a doomed timeline.)

Modern Age Superman then says, “Don’t send us back to our timeline. Send us with them, Brainiac.”

Brainiac explains, “You must go back to the first Crisis and prevent the collapse of the multiverse. THEN EVERYTHING WILL RESET AND RETURN TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE I BROUGHT YOU ALL HERE.” Return to what it was before I brought you all here—this means return to the status quo right before the cities were stolen, essentially rendering Convergence down to a tiny blip of little consequence on each timeline. (The real question here is DOES WHAT HAPPENED UNDER THE DOME STAY CANON? Sure it’s just a blip on the radar, but it was a full year spent outside of time and space. For these characters a year of STUFF happened, and some of it pretty damn huge. Superman and Lois having a baby, Nightwing and Oracle getting hitched, Golden Age Robin becoming Batman, several important villains and heroes getting killed, etc… )

The next double splash shows the old pre-Crisis, pre-Zero Hour, and pre-Flashpoint versions of various Earths and their returned status-quo Multiversity Map equivalents for the New Age/New 52/DC You. “EACH WORLD HAS EVOLVED BUT THEY ALL EXIST.” And Brainiac is restored on Earth-0. The versions from old timelines that we’ve been shown in Convergence are ghosted-out. Gone bye bye. Long live the Multiversity Map. Long live the DC You.

Why anyone would want the characters from old continuities returning into the fold makes little sense. Talk about what a clusterfuck that would be. Enjoy your old comics! Show your protest by not purchasing new books if you don’t like them! The 52 Earths of the current Multiverse (i.e. the ones from the Multiversity Map) have been reinforced by Convergence. You won’t see a Golden, Silver, or Modern Age Superman again. Sorry, fans.

This is Tom King telling us that the new 52 Earths from the Multiversity Map represent everything from the old DC of yesteryear. He’s essentially saying that if you liked all of the great stuff that DC had to offer you in the past 75 years prior to the New 52 reboot, then don’t worry because everything that is new reflects the ghosts of the old continuities. They are truly dead, but what remains holds their spirit in new “hip” ultra-paneled costumage and hopefully-not-too-grim-n-gritty attitude. Whether we buy into that or not is a different story all together. A very different story.

convergence 8

Convergence (2015) 008-017

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Futures Ending

here to help
Welcome to another two-person round-table discussion/review of the DC weekly series The New 52: Futures End, in which a definitive future for the New 52 was shown, erased, rebooted, and then shown to be quite similar to what it previously was anyway. Of course, this being a weekly series, it took nearly a full year to get us from Point A to… Point A.2. Futures End began with New York City blown up and with the evil Brother Eye in charge. Futures End ended the same way, at least ostensibly. Both the esteemed Paramvir Singh Randhawa and Collin Colsher were strong advocates for Futures End for many, many months. But with a perplexing clunker of a conclusion, let’s see how they feel now that all is said and done (or not said and done, rather).


Hi again, Singh. Let’s get right down to brass tacks. Start us off, why don’tcha?

Thanks, Collin. Unlike Batman Eternal or Earth 2: World’s End, The New 52: Futures End had one thing going for it: the ability to do anything. Therein, however, lay self-destruction as the series proved too popular for its own good. And after a while it became clear to DC Comics that this storyline needed to continue. Which storyline? The Batman Beyond one, of course. And what better way to do it than by pulling a twist: thirty-five years from now, New York City is still blown up and Brother Eye is still in charge. Not only did this make the connection to Convergence unclear, but it also left people with the question: “Why did we read the story if the bad guys win?” Yeah, I guess we’ll find out how Tim Drake fixes the Bugs and disconnects Brother Eye when the new Batman Beyond follow-up book comes out, but what made this book worth it? The only events that we gave a damn about got wiped out.

What I appreciated more than the art or the storytelling of Futures End, something that was perfect until the very last issue, was the thematic value: the trope of “What makes a hero?” To Brother Eye, it is something that can bring order among the chaos of humanity. To Ronnie Raymond, it is someone who should be willing to be selfless, something Raymond himself struggled to be. To Dr. Yamazake, it is somebody who is selfless but at the human level of the normal people. To Superman, it is being there when needed. Yet all of this, all of this beautiful thematic value, something which I rarely ever read in a mainstream superhero comic, was tossed in the trash by letting Brother Eye win. Say Tim Drake arrived in a future with statues of the Justice League but found New York City flooded, readers would not mind it. Say Tim Drake returned to five years later and found a happy ending with Madison, readers would not be offended. Instead, when I read the series back, I feel like I should really only read the Stormwatch and Batman Beyond arcs because everything else is retconned.

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Futures End #0: ERASED

futures end 48

Futures End #48: NEW FUTURE… notice anything that looks the same? …Although, this is just New York (so far) and the prior version was the whole planet under Brother Eye’s thumb, so there’s still some hope?

The reaction to the end of Future End has been extremely hostile. And I can’t say I’m surprised. A lot of reviews are very harsh and definitely written in the angry moments immediately following the final issue. We’ve got a few weeks of distance to ease the pain, but even with the healing power of time at our disposal, there are still a few plot-holes that just won’t stop bugging me. Rather than delve into them (which would be like asking questions in a letter at this point), I’ll try to first assess the series based on its strengths… and then address its ultimate failure and loss of credibility.

Throughout the majority of its run, I really enjoyed Futures End. If I think back and imagine how I felt reading Futures End a mere month-and-a-half ago I should actually rephrase “I really enjoyed Futures End” to “I LOVED Futures End.” It’s so frustrating because the best thing about Futures End was how, at first, it successfully took advantage of the weekly format—every story arc (and there were many) progressed naturally and intersected with each other nicely, the passage of time was explicit and well-paced, the story beats ebbed and flowed accordingly, and we had several nice transitions and climaxes as a result. But then all was ruined in the last issue, which served to nullify all of the good stuff before it. That’s why it’s a mega bummer—a damn shame—that such a solid awesome series went out the way it did, if only for the fact that people will likely forget how great the ride mostly was along the way. A commenter on Martin Gray’s site said it nicely about the end of Futures End: “Suddenly every story counts, but none satisfy.” To go from such a tight, engaging narrative to a weird ending that makes very little sense any way you spin it (a plot-holey time-bubble shield around Terrifitech??) really mystifies me.

In a sense Futures End was the polar opposite of DC’s other big weekly, Batman Eternal. Eternal was abysmal at best for an entire year, a slog to read through, but ended with a crowd-pleasing little wrap-up. Futures End was very enjoyable and well-crafted for nearly a year and then shit the bed at the end. To discredit my own comparison one sentence after making it, Eternal, despite its final issue happy ending, actually did something similar to Futures End by acting as a bait-and-switch for another title. Instead of Batman Beyond, Eternal led straight into Batman‘s “Endgame,” giving us the same feeling of “who cares?” or “why did I bother?” It’s dawned on me that ALL THREE of DC’s weeklies for the past year (this includes the Earth-2 whatever meh series) have been pretty damn bad. Weekly titles are a gamble that I’m starting to think aren’t worth the risk. Seriously, the only good weekly I can think of off the top of my head is 52.

Futures End #47

Futures End #47

Futures End NEVER should have ended in a way that made the entire series a huge zero issue for a Batman Beyond reboot. Brother Eye wins in the end? Tim changes the timeline, but nothing really changes except for a few superficial things? “THE END, but continue reading a new thing to see what happens”? A series must be critiqued on its own merits, as it stands alone. And what we have here is a series that leaves me underwhelmed but thinking “okay, there’s a lot of interesting things that can be done with the new Batman Beyond series.” Unfortunately, that series has yet to come. This was the one I was reading and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

It’s BAD, but can so much of Futures End really have been all for naught, a big stinkin’ waste of time? Alternate reality characters from erased timelines have long been adapted into the primary timeline—think of Scorch from “Emperor Joker,” Paladin from “Second Coming,” the Despot Batman and Despot Superman from Superman/Batman, and more. I’m still holding out hope that a lot of the characters from Futures End, even though they’ve been erased, will still be used in some capacity. BUT AGAIN, I can’t retroactively say “Oh, cool they wound up using that or doing something with that, so I think Futures End is a five-star series now.” The series is done and it must be judged by what happened in those 49 issues.

Singh, I know you like to try to get into the mentality of the writers and publishers in regard to narrative. Do you think that this creative team had something else in mind for the conclusion, but editorial forced a change?? Is that possible? The ending literally makes no sense.

Yes, I do believe they changed the original ending. The best part about The New 52: Futures End was the synergy between the creative team. Each writer had a specific character to write and it worked incredibly well. When Tim Drake communicated with Terry McGinnis you could tell within the conversation that it was two different writers, Jurgens and Azzarello respectively. That’s why the ending, which was a product entirely by Jurgens, came as such a surprise. Futures End self-destructed due to its own success. While I’m positive that the original ending was changed, I’m not sure if editorial forced the change, although it is entirely possible. Going by the teasers released by Nerdist in October 2014, everything up until Tim becoming the new Batman is teased. Then in December 2014, the March 2015 solicitations come out and issue #48 has the solicitation “Eye Am Your Future.” So from what I can gather, everything up until #47 went according to the plan and maybe after that, DC realized that this series had become successful. What if it was always part of the plan? The title of the series is Futures End, so we knew at the very beginning that every single alternate future would be affected and now the definitive future we have is the Great Disaster Future. Undoubtedly I am excited for Batman Beyond, but that is not the point. The point is that there is no resolution to the story. Everything about this series, from to the art—glorified by the coloring of Hi-Fi—to the writing and storyline was near perfect. This is a classic example of how the ending can ruin something so profoundly.

Futures End is not alone in this regard. Ready at Dawn’s 2015 PS4 video game, The Order: 1886, is one of the most impressive video games graphically and boasts a wonderful game-play system, except, the way they ended the game, nobody can even really enjoy it. We all know Judgment Day can’t be stopped and it really makes me wish that Terminator 2 had its intended opening, a scene where Skynet is disabled but, in its last moments, sends a Terminator back in time. Futures End should have been like that: Brother Eye is convinced that it should not let Earth-2 refugees arrive on Earth-0 so it re-powers the Time Band and sends Tim back to the future. Maybe the future isn’t changed for the better, but should have at least been different from what we had initially.

Then there is the entire story of Brainiac and Brother Eye. While it is cool that Brainiac only arrives to “save” the population from the Brother Eye Future and Brother Eye is only activated to save the population from Brainiac, it does not mesh with what we previously had. Who was Brother Eye’s new programmer? Personally, I’ve just resigned myself to saying King Faraday, whose association with Brother Eye is another unresolved plot thread. Ultimately, we could stay here and talk about what went wrong for hours and hours, but I still enjoy the series for what it was. I mean, in Terry McGinnis we found a different, more passive-aggressive Batman. And for the first time in five years, I have now read a Tim Drake story that I thoroughly enjoy. The Fifty Sue plot thread was very enjoyable and, yes, while it does get negated given that all the elements required to let it happen no longer occur, I can still remember laughing at her blowing up a miniature Slade Wilson. The best thing I can do deal with the disappointment related to the loss of retconned Futures End elements is to simply remember the great Futures End tie-ins released in September 2014 and remember how, through The Multiversity Guidebook, Grant Morrison wrote the rules that allow everything to be canon.

I wonder if the creative team had a few more issues, they would have given us a better ending. Maybe the same ending, but a less bitter pill to swallow. Like maybe, we would’ve still gotten a fucked up Brother Eye Future, but one where the heroes are still kicking ass and on top of things despite Brother Eye’s existence and power. Now, bear in mind that Batman Beyond might actually deliver that world to us, which is great, BUT Futures End failed miserably, as we’ve pointed out, in this regard as IT was supposed to have done that.

It’s pretty crazy how this tossed-aside and virtually worthless erased timeline built up over the course of a full calendar year has some really key important stuff coming out of it in regard to “Continuity with a Capital C.” I mean, Brainiac God is defeated on this dead timeline, directly resulting in Convergence! Tim Drake as Batman (for the first time ever) is born from this defunct timeline and spewed into mainstream canon! The Earth-2 heroes are spared a gruesome death thanks to actions that occur on this erased timeline! And there are even a few other things of note as well. Again, the statement “Everything Counts But None Satisfy” rings so, so true. Or maybe more apropos: “Everything is ostensibly important and affects canonical continuity, but aside from that who gives a shit and who fucking cares.”

Let’s say I get on-board with the IDEA of Futures End. And I definitely can. Hell, I enjoyed the idea for almost a year! The big problem is that, when the idea fails, it crashes and burns. That being said, if this was always DC’s concept for Futures End, WHY decide to have it be a weekly series that lasts a full year!? Instead, why not do this type of story in an economical 7 to 12 issues? If they had, I bet no one would have complained. It would have been a good version of Brian Michael Bendis’ Age of Ultron.

Can there be any redemption for New 52: Futures End if, say, Plastique, Fifty-Sue and her “family,” or other throwaways somehow appear in Batman Beyond? Or will is just be regarded as more of DC trying to sell the idea that Futures End “mattered” somehow, too little too late? There remains a possibility of some positive retro-review action, but I won’t hold my breath. In the end, all we will likely ever have is a forgotten title that amounted to a hill of beans. Any final thoughts, Singh?

We’ve said it all, haven’t we, Collin. In any series, even a long-running one, everything can be good until literally the last issue, which has the power to negate all the goodness prior. All in all, Futures End is a perfect example of a story that had top notch writing, wonderful art, and a great big-event-feel that completely shit-canned itself with its last issue.

a lie

The penultimate issue: A bold-faced lie.

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Convergence Time

convergence #1

Convergence #1

Convergence has just begun. An über version of Brainiac (all other versions of Brainiac are mere emanations) and his sentient planet Telos (don’t call it a Blood Moon) has been able to travel to previously defunct comic book continuities, literally dig up a city from a point on each former timeline, and remove it to a place outside of time and space where it becomes an artifact—part of a grand “collection.”

A missing piece of an old defunct timeline should likely equal a damaged timeline or changed timeline, which brings about the obvious glaring question: “Will Brainiac’s time-traveling dome-collection really ALTER previous continuities!?” Someone recently asked me further, “How the hell does all this work? Telos says he waited ‘until the last moment before oblivion’ when collecting the worlds. But if all these cities were suddenly domed-up and transported, how has this not been referenced in all the glimpses of the future we were given in the pre-Flashpoint DC universes? How did those futures happen?”

I’ll be the first to admit that the true physics and chronal science of Brainiac’s “collection” procedure are still unknown to me and possibly not fully understandable. Brainac’s meddling very well could and very well SHOULD alter past timelines. The futures of those retro timelines might indeed possibly have to be amended. After all, if some giant menace appeared and ripped away an entire city in 2011, there would surely be repercussion in the form of a changed chronological order that would follow from 2012 onward, no?

In order to even attempt to make sense of any answer we must first understand, from a narratological perspective, HOW Brainiac and Telos are able to steal cities from old timelines in the first place. Brainiac has gained access to Vanishing Point, a place outside of time and space where “bio-organic Bush Robot Archivists” chronicle and preserve the histories of infinite timelines. When all is said and done, the complete record of any universe that ends is packed into a black hole for protection like a cosmic “message in a bottle” or an artifact ready to be placed onto a sealed pedestal at a museum. It is via Vanishing Point that über Brainiac is able to travel the timestream, picking from defunct timelines of his choosing, and “collecting” cities mere moments before they are erased from continuity.

But even knowing this part of the story is not enough to get us the knowledge we seek. We still need a fundamental understanding of how time works in DC Comics. Conveniently, there is a scene in The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 featuring some Archivist Bush Robots at Vanishing Point, which shows everything we need to know about DC’s concept of time/timelines quite succinctly, and all in an economical three-and-a-half-pages! By examining this scene and extrapolating further we can then tackle our question at hand and figure out whether or not Convergence really will affect previous continuities’ timelines.

In all of DC Comics, each timeline is a permutation of the current New Age (formerly New 52) timeline, of which there are near infinite permutations that date all the way back to the inception of DC Comics in the 1930s. These previous timelines are archived snapshots or data, protected “museum artifacts,” from which Brainiac has looted tiny slivers in the form of literal cities. Put yourself in the shoes of a Bush Robot and you’ll see how Brainiac’s looting truly functions. Time in DC comics (and some string theorists and other modern scientists think time works this way in REAL LIFE as well) flows in such a way that it exists (sorry to get all True Detective on you) as a flat circle. Variations of this concept, along with M-Brane Theory, the B-theory of Time, and some views regarding Eternal Return are all alluded to in the Vanishing Point scene with the Bush Robots.

theROBW #2

The Return of Bruce Wayne #2

Basically, every timeline has a beginning and an end and is constantly cycling through itself (sort of like a Moebius strip). Each of these timelines has an anomalous point from which it is destroyed/made defunct. (For the Silver Age, for example, the original Crisis is the anomalous point. For the Modern Age, the anomalous point is Flashpoint—although there are several technical anomalous points that occur before that i.e. Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, etc…). The anomalous point always exists somewhere in the middle of the timeline (or, actually, from an ontological/anthropological perspective, pretty early-on in most timelines). Because it exists in the middle doesn’t mean that everything that happens after it (i.e. the future portion of the timeline) ceases to exist. If it helps, apply the concept of “Irreducibility of Tense” to any timeline: Say, for example, we see a comment in a comic book that takes place in the present, which says “the sun is now shining.” Form the statement into a tenseless sentence: “On September 28, the sun shines.” The tenseless form can and should be applied to any point on the timeline being scrutinized. Instead of “Anthro was laid to rest in 38,000 BCE” use “Anthro dies in 38,000 BCE.” Instead of “The Legion of Superheroes will fight the Fatal Five in the year 3015″ say “The Legion of Superheroes fights the Fatal Five in the year 3015.”

Return of Bruce Wayne #2

The Return of Bruce Wayne #2

With all of this in mind, Brainiac stealing Gotham and the Modern Age heroes from a “dead timeline” literally means just that. He takes a look at the whole timeline from beginning to end. With his cosmic sight thanks to Vanishing Point (similar to the cosmic sight that we THE READERS have) he can see that Flashpoint happens when it happens. And from outside of time and space (sort of like where we are in comparison to the comics), Brainiac can simply travel to the point he wants to “collect” his city. This is why Brainiac, on his one failed mission in Futures End, wanted the original “Futures End Future” New York City, because he saw where/when Tim Drake was about to go back and create a new timeline.

So Brainiac and Telos’ appearances throughout the past on previous timelines should create a situation where I, as chronicler of the Real Batman Chronology Project, must go back and amend my old timelines, right?

Let’s first play devil’s advocate and say NO! There is an argument to be made that Modern Age Batman’s Modern Age timeline doesn’t change. The argument being that when Brainiac plucks Batman (and the others) from the exact moment prior to Flashpoint and takes them to a place outside of time and space (i.e. to Telos), the snatched city technically becomes a copy (like when you drag files from folder to folder on a computer). By this model we would have to accept the idea that a ripped copy can’t effect what has already been protected and sealed in a vacuum. In other words, Brainiac accesses a locked computer file and steals from it, but the original file will always still exist since it’s been locked and sealed in a black hole. Brainiac can access and even take from it, but the original finalized timeline can’t be messed with. This is the COPY THEORY in a nutshell.

The other devil’s advocate stance is that the old timelines are still locked-up and untouchable, but once Brainiac defiles them with his anomaly-collecting they simply become wholly new SEPARATE ALTERNATE timelines that reflect the disappearances of their cities. This means we’d have a Modern Age Timeline as it stands PLUS a Post-Convergence Modern Age Timeline as well! This is the ALTERNATE CREATION THEORY in a nutshell.

But let’s discontinue playing devil’s advocate and GET REAL about answering our question. Here’s the big fat fact. Brainiac actually physically appears on the timelines to scoop out his cities. This means that Brainiac must literally show-up to dome the cities on each timeline. This means that in order for a timeline to stay the same, its city must eventually be returned. Otherwise, the timeline definitely has to be changed! Compared to the previous stubborn answers, this is the most blunt and least convoluted, making it the odds-on favorite to wind up happening. BUT, even with a legit front-runner, we still don’t truly know what is going to happen at the end of Convergence. That remains to be seen.

In regard to Convergence‘s basic continuity retconning (i.e. old things that Convergence is totally affecting already), Convergence amazingly has the power to ADD a bit more story to the end of the Modern Age (in-between Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 and Flashpoint AND before Brainiac puts up the dome). Damian is 100% resurrected (even though we kinda knew he would resurrect for the 666 Future to happen anyway). Jason Todd never made it quite into the ol’ Bat Fam like he did post-Wingman in the New 52. A chronal disturbance brought most of the heroes to Gotham right before Gotham’s doming, created either by a hero (maybe Barry Allen) who foresaw the need for power in numbers OR by a manipulating Brainiac and Telos who wanted a BIG catch. Liberty Belle has her baby. Batman wears both his yellow-oval costume and his black-insignia costume? And maybe Ryan Choi was never really killed?

I’m going to wait until Convergence is all wrapped up before I make any changes to previous timelines on my website. As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities. Will things be different? Will old timelines need alternate timelines to go side-by-side with them? Will nothing change at all? Does any of this matter? Only TIME will tell…

batman 145

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Batman Eternal: Final Thoughts

Review time. Collin Colsher and Paramvir Singh Randhawa discuss the yearlong Batman Eternal weekly series now that its fifty-second and final issue has been published.

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It’s no secret, if you’ve been following my website, that I have had very little love for Batman Eternal. I often think of Eternal as this series that, at its initial inception, was supposed to be this really super fun story that would go for a full year exploring every nook and cranny of the Bat-verse while highlighting every Bat-villain and supporting character. And in a sense, that IS what we got, only it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t well-paced, and it wasn’t well-constructed. Surely what we got was not the intention of the creative team at the beginning. But before I dig into the meat-and-potatoes of the botched narrative, I’d like to separate the art and talk about that first.

The one saving grace of Batman Eternal was its myriad of different artists. The Ian Bertram issue was a personal favorite of mine. With a weekly book, you are going to get a lot of sloppy, rushed illustration, but overall Eternal was able to showcase a plethora of new and veteran talent. Jason Fabok, Dustin Nguyen, Andy Clarke, Guillem March, Alvaro Martinez, and Juan Jose Ryp (just to name a few) all had killer issues. How did the art strike you, Singh?


The art was the best part about Batman Eternal. We had talent from the range of Dustin Nguyen to Fernando Pasarin. The best part was that the cohesiveness that was missing from the writing team, was present in the art team. No matter how different the art was—and yes it was slightly mediocre at many times—it still managed to maintain an adventurous yet serious theme. Eternal #51‘s art under Alvaro Martinez is the perfect example of this. Not only does Martinez manage to depict Gotham City at its worst, he also manages to show fine increments of detail within almost every character. The best part, he does it with a degree of simplicity as well. That first page when we see Gotham burning, Alvaro Martinez shows it beautifully. Cluemaster’s associates are supposed to be an oxymoron, art showing them as simple and weak as opposed to the text box. Alvaro again does this perfectly. When Cluemaster unmasks Batman, the look on Bruce’s face makes me wish the writing in the series matched the level of talent we got from somebody like Alvaro, who I’m surprised has penciled only five issues for DC so far.


Batman Eternal #51


Let’s now address the narrative of Batman Eternal. I think you and I have a lot more to unpack in this regard. The title’s biggest problem by far was that it violated its own timing over and over and over while simultaneously ignoring literally every other Bat book. Weeks would pass (as we’d be told in the comic), but it would soon register clearly that action was continuing from a mere day or two ago. Then we’d be told it’s January when it could only possibly have been October a few weeks ago. These hidden ellipses are not just me nitpicking. These things RUIN storytelling—especially in a shared universe. I read and re-read these issues and tried to make a calendar of events that flowed naturally, following the beat of the story and the references to time (of which there are many), but alas I was unable to make heads or tails of how the passage of time was working. In fact, in order for me to get from issue #1 to #52 I had to insert several MONTHS worth of nonexistent ellipses that can’t really exist the tight way the story is written—Eternal never stops to breathe, never allows for any other stories to really fit in, and tells us that time has passed but actually shows that time hasn’t. Heh, maybe THAT is why it’s called “Eternal.”

I know, Singh, that you’ve been critical of the STORY of Batman Eternal maybe even more than me. What are your final thoughts on its narrative now that it’s all said and done?

Eternal #40


The best issues of Batman Eternal are the first four. Not only is the art extremely strong, but the narrative gives the series a clear direction and makes the reader excited for all fifty-two issues. While many can call Batman Eternal a Scott Snyder story, in reality it’s a Snyder story as much as “The Marshall Mathers LP 2″ is a Dr. Dre album. Sure, Dre has a strong influence given his strong position at Interscope Records and close friendship with Eminem, but he is really just a producer. That is the position that Scott Snyder takes for Batman Eternal. In the first four issues, it is not hard to see Snyder’s writing and the fact that he has a direct impact on the narrative. The story built up in those first four issues really does belong to Snyder.

For Eternal, Snyder put together a strong creative team that included himself, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley. Each one of these writers had proven themselves great writers who had consistently crafted great stories—except Tynion IV. Yes, one could argue that Tynion IV’s backup stories are excellent, but in actual series Tynion has fallen short on his work with both Talon, which was entirely dependent on having Snyder’s name on the cover, and Red Hood and the Outlaws. Make no mistake, Eternal was strongest in the beginning when the point of the story was clear: tell a great story about Batman and his supporting cast that gets you excited about the tease, but more excited on the path there. It may sound harsh for me to place all the blame for Batman Eternal coming up so short on Tynion IV, but the truth is the most talented writers are listed as consulting writers.

It’s clear that, after establishing the story, Snyder’s contributions became tangential around the tenth issue. This is when things began to go wrong for Eternal. With Snyder focusing more on his other work and John Layman leaving, the team effectively lost two main pens that wrote the strings of continuity. It’s after this point when Eternal starts having chronological/continuity problems both within its own narrative and by contradicting other Batman books. After all, was Mr. Combustible not killed in Arkham War? Was Roadrunner not killed a few issues ago? Why isn’t this story addressing what Peter Tomasi is doing? When will they reveal the main bad guy? Around issue #18, which I believe was Layman’s last issue, these problems started to arise. No worries though, because Hush comes in soon after, right? Wrong. We get twenty more issues that actually do a fairly good job of progressing the story, but it’s the last twelve issues that really bother me. At issue #40, everybody started wondering, when will they reveal the main bad guy? At this point, Ray Fawkes and Tim Seeley may have been writing their own titles, Kyle Higgins may have joined in late, and Mike Marts may have left, but surely letting Tynion IV be the man in charge had to be a last minute decision, right?

Eternal #36

Batman Eternal #36

Batman Eternal should have been the kind of story that reveals its main bad guy in the last five pages but is still good in spite of the late reveal. Those aforementioned editorial issues and placing Tynion IV at the head of the game plan, though, just may have placed too much pressure on everyone involved. And instead of writing a story about Batman and his supporting cast’s great journey during the Gotham Cold War, we got twelve-plus issues of filler. In fact, given that Snyder started writing “Endgame,” which is set after Eternal, one could argue that we got fifty-two issues of filler. Honestly, “Endgame” showed that, other than a change in scenery, there really is nothing fundamentally important arising from the events of Eternal. I can’t decide what frustrates me more, that from issues #36-49 Tynion IV was just treading water when he could have written a fantastic story about the Gotham City villains, or that Snyder invalidated a story he endorsed because the only way he could make “Endgame” work was by placing it after Eternal. Don’t get me wrong, all in all, Eternal as a concept isn’t a bad idea, but it really lost its way after the Hush reveal. Interestingly, in spite of all this, if one looks at web comments and other reviews week-to-week, it appears people were more satisfied with it than say Futures End because it, one, kept things continually happening (even though this ruined the element of surprise) and, two, concluded on a relatively satisfactory upbeat note.

Eternal #22

Batman Eternal #22


After a literal yearlong barrage of bogus red herring storytelling that went absolutely nowhere, Batman Eternal went out with a whimper, although, as you just said, Singh, I presume most folks enjoyed it on account of the neat wrap-up and happy ending. Wow ‘em in the end and you’ve got yourself a winner, eh?


Your comments above are true: Batman Eternal‘s pacing was completely off. And, again, it may sound unfair to place the blame on Tynion IV, but one has to note how ironic it is that the issues that have the biggest continuity errors like with Batwing and Corrigan, are Tynion IV dominated issues. One can look at reviews online, but I’m going to point out reviewer FHIZ from GothamSpoilers. Read his reviews for the series from the first issue to the last. You see huge excitement and then by the end of it, you see a sort of relief that the series is over.

Like I’ve said before, who the main bad guy is should not have mattered… but it did because when you give a project this big to that green of a writer, chances are he is going to get stuck and stumble. I feel like I’m not hitting the point directly, but I’ll try my best. Did we get a conclusion to any main plot? After reading the series, can you tell me who hypnotized Gordon? They say it was Cluemaster, but what about Dr. Falsario and what about Carmine Falcone’s knife? Why were the nanobot infected kids on the train when Hatter clearly wasn’t working for Falcone but just accepting the invitation like the Roman? Why did Dr. Phosphorous get haunted by the Deacon and why did he start working for the gang right after? What was the Ten-Eyed Man doing and why was Jade McKillen all over the place? What happened to Vicki Vale’s flashdrive? There were three main stories in Batman Eternal before the series started stalling for time: the GCPD, the Arkham Infestation and the Nanobot Infestation. Let’s see: In the GCPD story, a gang war breaks out and Gordon goes to jail so Bard collaborates with Batman to take down the gang war. Bard stops the gang war, Batman doesn’t shake his hand but then he does, then Hush is revealed to have somehow manipulated Jason Bard, and then Bard injures his leg but he disappears for like eight issues and it’s better again, and then Bard decides to retake the city and then retires. I could go on about the other main plot-lines, but that should be an indicator enough about how clustered it was. Like I’ve said, we should have gotten a story where each week we’d be excited to see Batman take down an enemy of his but instead we got a story where we’d get frustrated at seeing Batman not fight the Big Bad.


My only response to your last few statements is agreement about so many unanswered questions (i.e. straight up PLOT HOLES). I was particularly annoyed by the back-story of how Bard came to hate Batman and then came to Gotham to destroy Gordon. It made no sense at all. Very forced, contrived, and confusing, to say the least. Another moment in my mind is when they accidentally labeled Sebastian Hady as “William Hady.” These guys didn’t seem to give a shit about this arc. A real disappointment to all Bat-fans. Final thoughts, Singh?


My final disappointment is that not only did these guys not care about this arc, they treated it like just another pay cheque. Within the creative team, there was no cohesiveness, something that was even displayed in the less popular weekly Earth 2: World’s End. One issue Kyle Higgins was writing Tim Drake and then Tim Seeley, both showing inconsistency. At least in World’s End, Daniel H. Wilson was writing Mr. Miracle the whole time. A better example would be Futures End: Brian Azzarello was writing Superman and Terry McGinnis the whole time, so when Superman talked to Shazam and Terry talked to Tim, one could clearly see that it was Azzarello writing in response to what Jurgens had written and so on. These moments, which make a weekly an emotional journey where writers get attached to their characters and actually write with heart, were missing from Eternal. It sucks that with such a great art team, we had such a weak writing one.

eternal 51eternal 51 #2


One last shill for Singh: Check out his Youtube channel at Knight12ify and visit the Facebook page for the video game Mesozoica, which he is currently developing. Thanks!

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Comic Apocrypha: Liefeld & Platt’s PROPHET

Prophet #1

“Prophet #1″ by Liefeld (1992)

I’ve always been tickled by the idea of what the inner office workings of Image Comics must have been like in the 1990s. They were the golden gods, the darling boys of the industry. Totally untouchable, no matter what crap they were putting out. Kids (including me) ate it up. (There was some cool stuff published by Image back then, but, hey let’s be honest, in hindsight most of it was junk—a mega-BROey style-over-substance response to a general stagnation in mainstream superhero sales at the time.) Eventually, most of the big Image top-selling books of the time period faded away and disappeared. However Rob Liefeld’s Prophet is a prime example of an Image Era book that still remains. There aren’t many others. Spawn and Savage Dragon immediately come to mind, but beyond that, not really. It’s Prophet‘s continuation that is much more interesting than the other two mentioned books, mainly because of how weird and different the new title is compared to the old.

prophet 45

“Prophet #45″ by Graham/Roy (2014)

Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s Prophet is one of my favorite ongoing titles, amazingly spun out of (although now completely unrecognizable as being attached in way, shape, or form to) Liefeld’s original 90s creation of the same name. Looking back at those old Prophet issues, one can’t scoff and laugh at the wildly and abnormally proportioned bodies, over-stylized over-sexed pencil-work, and shabby Hollywood action bloodbath-to-the-max storytelling. How the old Prophet is even related to the new makes very little sense. What is even more interesting beyond the comparison of the old version of Prophet and new version of Prophet—(BTW the new version is NOT a reboot, it’s actually a continuation of the story!)—is the apocryphal behind-the-scenes stuff that apparently went on with the original in the early 90s.

In the glorious Image Age of the early 90s, Liefeld’s signature art style was at the center of everything, including his own baby Prophet. However, Liefeld, spread thin by numerous comics, hand-picked a replacement artist that could essentially mimic the Liefeld style. Thus, journeyman Stephen Platt (AKA Splatt for short) excitedly took over the illustration reins pretty early into Prophet‘s run. Nearly abysmally indistinguishable (except for the inclusion of feet, of course), Platt began drawing Prophet from front to back with the full support of writer Liefeld. Under the guidance of this dynamic duo, the book took off (like everything Image at the time) and starting bringing in mucho dinero.


Quickly, however, things began to turn sour between Liefeld and Platt. Platt was soon off the book just as soon as he had come on board. Rumors spread about clashing egos and missed deadlines, but nothing of detail could be drummed-up. In recent years, the vault has been opened, so to speak, and decades of relative silence on the subject have ended. Beyond infighting and disagreement about Prophet in general, supposedly, Platt couldn’t hit deadlines and couldn’t be bothered to be rushed, considering himself a high caliber artist in the vein of… wait for it… none other than the great Jean “Moebius” Giraud! Not only that, Platt was making $40,000 PER ISSUE to draw Prophet!! Think about that. Someone, in the 90s, was making $40,000 to draw the above pictures. This is IMAGE MOOLAH. Crazy.


Some of the best quotes about Platt during this era can be found in a wonderful Rich Johnston article from Bleeding Cool, entitled Fanboy Rampage: Rob Liefeld Vs Stephen Platt. The story of the meltdown between Image Comics and Stephen Platt says a lot about the industry in general and how things have changed in nearly twenty-five years. That we could go from the Prophet of then to the Prophet of now is quite amazing. Also, the fact that we can reasonably believe any of the chicanery that supposedly went down at Image in the 90s says a lot about how nuts things were back then. In a very strange way, it kinda makes it easier to appreciate BOTH versions of Prophet, doesn’t it? Hmmm… maybe not, haha.

Recently, I’ve been working on an effort to assemble a bi-monthly comic-strip (written and illustrated by myself and awesome Philadelphia artist Alex Agran). Nothing has been published yet, but I hope to get the ball rolling soon. I’ll leave you with a work-in-progress sneak peak of a comic/idea that I’ve been scribbling. This was obviously directly inspired by this blog post. Set amidst the backdrop of the golden era of Image and inspired by the “true story of Liefeld and Platt’s Prophet,” I give you a farcical chronal-jumping psycho-vision into the past via an episode of TIMEBRAIN.


“TIMEBRAIN #1″ by Collin Colsher

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Super Spies & Super Gods: Reviews of ZERO #15, MIND MGMT #31, GRAYSON #8, & THOR ANNUAL #1

No matter what flak they may receive (or deserve), there are some mainstream comics that are still worth a damn. I read four recent single issues, each published by a different BIG comic book company, and all of which wowed me to such an extent that I thought I’d feed the content machine that is the Internet.


Zero #15 (Image)
000000000000 ZERO!
Easily one of my favorite single issues of the year, Zero #15, a vessel through which superstar Ales Kot increases his worth, is a tripped-out, psychedelic ride through time and space that has to be read (and re-read) to comprehend–(and even then things are still a bit fuzzy but in the best possible way). If you are willing to accept this challenge, Kot delivers a conceptual masterpiece. The inter-cutting from Tangiers in the 1960s to the UK in the 2020s is amazingly handled, and done with incredible panache, mirroring the cut-ups William S. Burroughs (a character featured in this very story) so famously created with Brion Gysin in the 1950s. Kot’s stars, Ginsberg Nova and Edward Zero, we learn, are the possible products of—in fact, existing only because of—the cosmic wanderings of a psilocybin-demented Burroughs (tripping balls and pounding typewriter keys in our reality). Kot’s historical fiction—mixing elements of Burroughs relationship with Alan Ginsberg in the Interzone, hitting important notes of his darkest moments that inspired Naked Lunch and Queer, and ultimately centering on the tragic shooting death of Joan Vollmer—adds an Earth-Prime meta-angle to the already dense narrative. But what makes this issue damn-near perfect is the inclusion of the fantastic Ian Bertram, IMO one of the best current working illustrators in the biz, who FINALLY brings his stuff to Zero. This deadly combination of Kot and Bertram, long overdue, leaves me craving more. These two were made for each other. Their time-twisting acid-trip becomes a bizarre origin story that bridges the gap between the occult and spy novel, captured visually by Bertram and spilled onto the pages in ‘zine-like illustrative, multi-colored (and black-and-white) weirdness as Burroughs and Ginsberg chat through the smoky haze of a seedy Moroccan dive bar. Simultaneously, Bertram pencils Ed Zero, who struggles through the grimy, grotesque future, a sick vision of Will Burroughs’ mind-fuckery depicted in Cities of the Red Night. Actually, there are parallels and connections in Zero #15 to Place of Dead Roads, Cities of the Red Night, The Western Lands, Queer, and Naked Lunch both narratively and visually that are so impressive and complex they warrant further analysis—although, even after multiple read-throughs, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not quite ready to figure out the intricacies as of yet. Annotations to come? The occult, viral epidemics, sexual depravity, magickal vice, the Kali Yuga, and various areas of Hindu mysticism—all things central to some of Burroughs works—are definitely represented in Zero #15. Exactly how they all fit together is something else entirely. But the question is precisely what makes Kot and Betram’s Zero #15 so interesting and so deep, a comic book that gives even Grant Morrison’s metafictive hyperreality in The Multiversity a real run for its money. This is a damn good comic that does what good comics should: Reflect upon interesting subject matter while uniquely pushing the creative envelope to new heights.

Mind MGMT #31 (Dark Horse)
harry lyme and the coconut
Matt Kindt’s signature watercolor technique, frantic sketchy pencils, and striking inks all keep getting better and better with each issue of this amazing series. Mind MGMT #31 is no exception. So much STYLE and even more SUBSTANCE here. As the overall story nears its grand finale, this book continues to give me chills and make my jaw drop with unique layouts that come eerily to life by appearing in the last way you’d expect them to appear. Meru is still one of the best characters in comics today and her story—it really is her beautiful story despite the variance of unique characters that proliferate the pages of this series—shouldn’t be missed. A semi-resolution with Harry Lyme happens right on time, highlighted by a breathtaking splash-page with brush-strokes of vibrant purple sky and the aforementioned character in a redemptive pose, clad in symbolic medieval armor. There’s a great deal of meta-narrative here in the form of the story taking form within itself as a comic book as well. The meta-narrative has always been present in Mind MGMT, but this is taking it to the next powerful level of literalism. And it works wonders. The Salvador Dali excerpt in the “Triple Indemnity” back-up is a neat addition as well, adding to the high-stakes nature of the narrative.

Grayson #8 (DC)
grayson #8
Peter Tomasi has been running with Grant Morrison’s ball for the past three-and-a-half years. And while I’ve personally enjoyed Tomasi’s work on Batman & Robin, no one has shown a true grasp of what Morrison’s Bat-verse represents better than Tom King and Tim Seeley. What the hell happened to Kathy Kane, leader of Spyral? Why has this weirdo Mr. Minos been in charge of the game? We finally find out and it’s masterfully done. A new status-quo for Dick Grayson is ushered in for the post-Convergence DCU, leaving any reader with a heart and soul eagerly anticipating the next round of intrigue and mystery. The twists and character development fall nothing short of anything seen in John Le Carre’s best novels. This is the spy book that superhero comics deserve! Mikel Janin and Jermoy Cox are majorly on-point (as always), breathing extra life into the title with the expression of fluid movement in fighting bodies and detailed realism in facial countenances. Kathy Kane is framed perfectly with subtle glances at her “Bat-makeup kit” and dark ruby lips peppered throughout her scenes. These trademarks of what negatively defined and limited Kathy Kane as the campy Batwoman of the 1950s are now used to define her as the mysterious feminist, post-modern spy-queen, previously only seen briefly and never fully fleshed-out in Morrison’s Batman Inc run of a couple years ago. King and Seeley have re-introduced (and re-invented, in a sense) Kathy Kane, who is now immediately one of the most badass characters DC has to offer, a character that only increases her own value by the sheer fact that you won’t see much of her. Future Kathy Kane appearances could have the same feel as when any of Neil Gaiman’s Endless would show up in primary universe DC comics back in the day. Excellent issue on all fronts.

Thor Vol. 4 Annual #1 (Marvel)
Super Gods
Thor Annual #1 is a this brilliant trio of tales, showing different shades of Marvel’s Norse God of Thunder: Thor as Ultimate Deity, Thor as Humanist Rookie, and Thor as Old School Bad Boy. Jason Aaron’s “King Thor” opens the Annual, a jaunt into the Dead Earth future of the gray, elderly Old King Thor. This Dead Earth is a place/time that we’ve seen before in Aaron’s hall of fame Thor run, but now playfully illustrated by Conan‘s own Tim Truman. The sheer wonder of Thor’s granddaughters bringing a tear to the old curmudgeon definitely tugs on the heart-strings, but it’s the narrative scope of their gift that makes Aaron’s story a real winner. This is Marvel’s Earth, long dead, a wasteland of dust and forgotten memories—with only sad Old Man Thor to remember the old days. But this isn’t an alternate universe story or a What If…?; this is the real deal primary 616, which means that THE world gets a new start courtesy of the Norse Gods—a new Genesis, but with superheroes at the helm. It’s Super Gods as Creators of a new humanity (and some weird-ass mash-up animals). A glorious concept, done gloriously well. Following-up Aaron’s part of the Annual is Noelle Stevenson and Marguerite Sauvage’s charming feminist yarn about Thor (don’t call her LADY Thor!) and the awesomeness just keeps on coming. Stevenson and Sauvage’s “Thor” effectively shows the new Thor win over the hearts and minds of Asgard’s harshest (and most sexist) critics by showing that the new Thor has different (stronger! better?) sensibilities and new methods of interacting with the world that differ greatly from the old roughshod, rough-and-tumble drunkard ways of her thuggish predecessor. She’s not only more feminine, but more HUMAN as well. For all the lip-service mainstream comic companies have been serving up about wanting to cater to a more diverse audience lately, Thor Annual #1 definitely comes through on those promises. And for part three of the Annual, you can’t get much more out-there and fresh than to have pro-wrestling’s biggest star and current expat CM Punk serve up the final bit. With Chew‘s Rob Guillory handling artistic duties, Punk’s “Thor” is total maximum fun, fast-paced, and quirky. It captures the spirit of Thor from head to toe and shows Punk’s intensely passionate knowledge of the character. Not to mention, how great is it that straight-edge CM Punk’s first comic book story is all about drinking contests and getting shit-faced? Can’t wait to read more from Punk.

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Emanation Revelation: Won’t the Real Darkseid Please Stand Up

The Multiversity Guidebook poses a lot of questions…

Who is The Empty Hand? What is the true nature of The Gentry and how are they linked to The Empty Hand? Why are the Little Leaguers robots? What Earth did Hannibal Lecter Sivana come from? How exactly does the heirarchy of comic book window-watching actually function? What are the seven unlisted Earths? Is one of them the Anti-Matter Earth? Shouldn’t one of them be the Anti-Matter Earth? What is Ultraa Comics and how does Earth-33 exist in relation to our real-reality? Why does the Marvel Family of Earth-5 seemingly commune with a Shazam at a Rock of Eternity that is totally different than Geoff Johns’ New 52 version? Why have some Earths clearly NOT been affected by Flashpoint? Which Earths specifically have not been affected by Flashpoint? Why are KNOWN alternate Earths (such as those belonging to Batman 66, Injustice, and other monthlies) not included? Are they outside of the local multiverse—and if so, are they with other universes in a non-local multiverse, which also contains DC’s movie and TV universes? How many multiverses is DC currently operating? Why does the Infinite Crisis video game use the correct Earth denotations from the Multiveristy Map, yet ostensibly take place outside of the local multiverse?

But for me the biggest question of all is: What’s the deal with Darkseid and the New Gods and their supposed multiple emanations?

I think I have a pretty decent answer, but before tackling the question, it’s first important to understand the word emanation is defined—in Webster’s Dictionary—as “the origination of the world by a series of hierarchically descending radiations from the Godhead through intermediate stages to matter.” Or in my own layman’s terms: “a splinter version of a higher-level über-God.”

A sequence in The Multiversity Guidebook takes us high above Earth-51 where we see the New Gods awake from a long slumber to realize that Darkseid has risen from his grave. They also bear witness to Ben Boxer, Kamandi, and Tuftan as the trio learns the true history of the multiverse. Highfather and Big Barda reveal that both Darkseid and all of the New Gods that have been shown in Justice League, Earth 2, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin and other New 52 titles are merely emanations. The New Gods in The Multiversity Guidebook claim that they themselves are the genuine, absolute über-Gods and everyone else is just a lesser New 52 splinter-version. All others are replicas unique to each universe, merely pieces or slivers of the Real Deals.
multiversity new gods revelation of emanation

But how did we get to this point exactly? Here’s the history lesson. At the conclusion of Final Crisis, the age of the Fourth World ended and the age of the Fifth World began, meaning the New Gods basically retired and the superheroes of Earth essentially filled their void. Retirement for the New Gods meant being sent to oversee a newly reformed Earth-51. The Multiversity Guidebook shows us that Darkseid was buried on Earth-51 and tells us that the New Gods have been “slumbering” ever since Final Crisis. Orion isn’t shown in The Multiversity Guidebook because, like Darkseid, Orion died and as was buried (as per Final Crisis as well). Anyway, we see that the New Gods are in Supertown, but this Supertown doesn’t float in the sky as the gleaming capital of New Genesis does. This Supertown sits atop the “Screaming Mountains,” implying that it is on Earth-51 as well. It’s a panopticon palace fit for higher evolutionary beings, but notice that it’s literally grounded to Earth. This is because, at the end of Final Crisis, the New Gods left the Sphere of the Gods and relocated to Earth-51! The intention of Final Crisis was to put all Jack Kirby creations into one single universe and retire them from the DC sandbox (as Dan Didio even said in interviews in 2009). Thus, Grant Morrison sent the New Gods to Earth-51 along with Kamandi, Ben Boxer, and Tuftan. With the New Gods on Earth-51 and Darkseid dead (and buried on Earth-51 too), New Genesis and Apokolips were left unneeded and empty… until Flashpoint created alternate emanations to fill the vacancies.


Earth-51: Home to the pre-Flashpoint New Gods and their Supertown home, high atop the Screaming Mountains. Earth-51: Also home to pre-Flashpoint Darkseid’s corpse.

After the New Gods went into sleepy retirement following Final Crisis, a few years passed before Flashpoint occurred and altered DC’s continuity. Flashpoint affected multiple Earths, but NOT all. Whereas Final Crisis (like all the Crises before) was erased from Earth-0’s timeline by a line-wide reboot (Flashpoint in this instance), it wasn’t erased from the timeline of Earth-51, which stayed relatively the same. Some have argued that the New Gods pictured in The Multiversity Guidebook are standing on New Genesis, but, as I stated above, they likely are not and are instead standing in Supertown, Earth-51. It’s not simply that the Sphere of the Gods was above the influence of Flashpoint (even though maybe it was); it’s that Earth-51 and possibly other Earths were above the influence of Flashpoint too. Unknown to the slumbering New Gods on Earth-51 (and obviously the deceased Darkseid), Flashpoint created their emanations when it created a brand new New Age continuity (the New 52). These emanations have appeared as Darkseid in Justice League and Batman & Robin AND appeared as the New Gods in Green Lantern and Wonder Woman.

earth-51 is born

Final Crisis #7: Nix rebuilds the ravaged post-Great Disaster Earth A.D. as the new Earth-51 for the New Gods (and Kamandi).

Cut to now. In The Multiversity Guidebook, the pre-Flashpoint New Gods have woken-up from their hibernation to find the pre-Flashpoint Darkseid resurrected from his grave. The pre-Flashpoint New Gods and pre-Flashpoint Darkseid (i.e. the real true über versions of those characters, which have been sequestered on an Earth untouched by Flashpoint) have awoken to realize that their alternate versions have been running around on multiple Earths ever since the dawn of the New 52. Not only that, the über-New Gods realize that the New 52 versions are literally a part of them—emanations of their godhood.

Hard to understand? Put it in a familiar perspective. This is akin to what happened in the Modern Age with Kal-L, Superman-Prime, and Alex Luthor. Their timelines were completely obliterated with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, but they continued on in a pocket world, watching and spying on their Earth-0 replacements until their eventual return in Infinite Crisis. Basically, the same thing occurs with Flashpoint in regard to Darkseid and the New Gods, except Darkseid and the New Gods aren’t watching and spying. Instead, Darkseid is a lifeless corpse and the New Gods are in hibernation (as a result of Final Crisis). And also unlike Kal-L and company, Darkseid and the New Gods aren’t in a pocket universe; they are on Earth-51, which, again, was largely unaffected by Flashpoint. The other big difference is that Kal-L and Kal-El were different characters entirely whereas New 52 Darkseid/New 52 New Gods are EMANATIONS of the pre-Flashpoint Darkseid/pre-Flashpoint New Gods shown in The Multiversity Guidebook. In other words, the New 52 Darkseid is merely a part of the pre-Flashpoint Darkseid. Whether or not New 52 Darkseid knows this remains to be seen.

This question of whether or not New 52 Darkseid knows he’s simply a part of the real Darkseid is just one of many new questions that arise from our lengthy answer of the previous question! Silogramsam asks some highly important and relevant related queries on the DCU wiki forum: “1) [Are the ‘versions’ of the New Gods and Darkseid from the New 52’s Justice League, Earth-2, and Green Lantern] controlled by the ‘real’ ones seen in The Guidebook; 2) [Do] those other versions KNOW that they aren’t the ‘real’ ones; 3) Are the ones in the Guidebook ACTUALLY the ‘real’ ones?—(although, these New Gods’ insight into what is going on with those other versions would imply that these are, in fact, the real ones. [I Also] wonder if the writers of those monthlies would agree—(better check-in on Earth-33)! 4) Are those encounters in other universes all planned, purposely, by the one and only Darkseid [or by The Empty Hand]?”


Are you?

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The True History of the Multiverse and the Metaphysical Laws of Grant Morrison’s Psychedelic Hyperreality

Last week was great for Bat-related comics. Gotham Academy was dope and Scott Snyder penned IMO his best single book of the New 52 so far with the richly dense Batman #38. (I still have a lot of issues with Snyder’s poor handling of transitions and passage of time, and I hate his overuse of exposition where talking becomes a free action, but hopefully he reins it in a bit and we might finally have ourselves a worthy main architect of the Bat-line. It’s about time!)

The Multiversity Guidebook also came out this past week and it was delightfully much, much more than just a straightforward “Who’s Who” issue. It was a continuation of the non-linear ongoing story of the Gentry’s attack on the our “local multiverse.” Yes, the Gentry is attacking US as well! This is beyond meta, blowing meta out of the water, treading new territory in untried super-multi-layered ways.

While obviously insanely annotation worthy, I’ll save the annotations for the Rikdads and the Uzumeris. This article of mine is more in line with J Caleb Mozzocco’s thoughtful and elegant write-up on The Multiversity Guidebook for CBR. My sentiment definitely echoes Mozzocco’s—an appreciation for the pure joy The Multiversity offers. Mozzocco also took a grand look at the specific portion of the Guidebook that detailed “the true history of the multiverse.” I’d like to do the same, but by first reflecting back upon the precursor to The Multiversity: a little Morrison yarn called Final CrisisSuperman Beyond #1, to be precise. And then I will follow by examining Morrison’s kaleidoscopic meta-layering that drives the themes of The Multiversity.

In Superman Beyond #1, Superman visits Limbo, a space existing outside of regular time and space. There, Superman reads from the only book within the Library of Limbo, a brilliant cube of infinite information, which details the history of the multiverse. And here’s where the meta-narrative begins, but not just a metaphor or a pun or a wink or a nod or breaking of the fourth wall. The meta-narrative actively involves our world. It involves us and it is playing with the very notion of fiction in a very unique way. Fictional characters cease to be fiction because they exist—on paper, in comics, as a result of a higher power, unknown to them, having imagined them and imposed their will via scripts, pencils, inks, colors, edits, and, unfortunately, big business’ impact as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to where we were. Superman and Captain Marvel read the opening pages of the book to learn how the multiverse began. Here’s what happens.

superman beyond
Final Crisis - New Edition-125
The book starts with the blank void, created by The Empty Hand, which we will come up again later. Monitor and Anti-Monitor are naturally involved. Superman shockingly states, “This contains every book possible!” which is apropos because it is the literal output of everything DC has ever published, in a sense.
Final Crisis - New Edition-126“A conscious living void! With our entire multiverse growing inside it,” screams Superman. This is the Multiversity Map designed by Morrison and Hughes, seven years before they actually design it. And time moves forward. The vague “primal origin story” eventually takes us, after a significant ellipsis, to the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, shown above, which was DC’s first major reboot.
Final Crisis - New Edition-127
Final Crisis - New Edition-128And after another very large ellipsis, we reach Final Crisis, which also had significant ramifications for the DC multiverse.

The Multiversity Guidebook shows us the same story—essentially the “narrativization” of the publishing history of DC comics (the real life company)—but with much greater detail. But by keeping the decades-old adage that our Earth (the one I’m currently writing from and sitting at my computer on) is a part of the DC multiverse (I think?—but more on that later), the meta-narrative becomes one that is a complicated wonder to behold. The Guidebook shows us Earth-51 as Kamandi reads the equivalent of the infinite Limbo book scratched in an archaic language onto a wall in the empty tomb of Darkseid.
multiversity images guidebookmultiversssss The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-017

The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-018

Or, in terms of publication in our reality, DC had a Silver Age reboot in the 1950s. In 1961, with “The Flash of Two Worlds” (“Flash #123″) by Gardner Fox, Julie Schwartz, and Carmine Infantino, the concept of a multiverse was firmly implanted into DC Comics. All the comics published in the Golden Age (spawned out of the white void by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster) became retroactively a part of Earth-2 (as it would later be named), while the Silver Age ongoing titles would become a part of the universe of Earth-1 (as it would later also be named). An infinite number of Earths (or alternate storytelling realities or places to stick continuity errors) existed overnight. This allowed Fox and Schwartz to bring back old characters and have epic alternate Earth crossovers, as first seen in “JLofA #21″ in 1963.

These pages mirror what Superman and Captain Marvel saw in Superman Beyond—the “primal origin story” involving the omnipotent creator(s), blank void, and Monitors. But unlike the heroes in Superman Beyond, Kamandi has a better comprehension of the total picture. There isn’t a jump cut immediately to Crisis on Infinite Earths (we’ll get there soon enough). Instead, the history of DC continues…

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We skim through the 60s, 70s, and 80s until “The Crisis on Infinite Earths” by Wolfman/Perez (1985-1986), which was DC’s second reboot, and first every complete line-wide overhaul that erased everything and gave a fresh start to the company. All previous titles were immediately merged into one single continuity (more or less). No more Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-S, or Earth-X, just one DCU Earth. You know the story.

And where the history lesson in Superman Beyond stopped and did a jump cut to Final Crisis, we are treated to the whole thing in the Guidebook, showing what leads up to it and what comes afterward…

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1994 brought about “Zero Hour,” a soft reboot that brought about several unpopular editorially mandated retcons and also began the approach of “time-sliding” in order to keep things fresh and relevant. Most of the changes from “Zero Hour” wouldn’t last, but the lasting impact of this crossover would make things so that the Modern Age continuity remained more current and up to date. In 2005-2006, “Infinite Crisis” had Superboy-Prime (from OUR Earth, or what had previously been our Earth?) infamously “punch reality,” a way for writers and editors to create more retcons galore. The single Earth that had existed in DC for twenty years was split into exactly 52 Earths (more or less), thus bringing back the multiverse, which was explored in the weekly series “52” and “Countdown.” The idea of Hypertime—where all realities could confusingly simultaneously exist even on one single Earth—could now be fully disavowed by editorial and spread about the 52 Earths.

The Multiversity - Guidebook (2014-) 001-021

Morrison’s “Final Crisis” shook things up yet again. And “Flashpoint!” rebooted the DCU for a third time, creating the New 52 in 2011.

From the beginning to the debut of the Golden Age to Flash’s “Crisis on Two Earths” to Justice League of America #21 to Crisis on Infinite Earths to Zero Hour to Infinite Crisis to 52 to Final Crisis to Flashpoint to The Multiversity—this is real world history of the major retcon/reboot stories that have effected the DCU over the past 75 years! But it’s all been made into something that it a part of the fictional narrative. And paradoxically, part of the fiction is that this has all been “written into the fictions of Earth-33 (our Earth).” This is incredible in and of itself because it’s a fiction about fiction that is actually non-fiction. (Or something like that—it’s quite hard to properly articulate.)

And comic book writers are the super-race that sculpt the multiverse…

lil batman

…in comic book form! Here we see Lil Batman (Dick Grayson of Earth-42) reading The Multiversity Guidebook (the very comic in which he is in, while we are simultaneously reading the Guidebook as well). Scarily, evil Sivana has read it too. Comic books are not just pieces of fiction. They are physical windows into understanding the complete histories of entire universes. And to add another meta-layer, not only do writers sculpt these books, we (the readers) can engage with and “move” time backward or forward by stopping, turning pages ahead, or turning pages backward, giving the other members of the “super-race” (we the readers) a pinch of the power that the creators themselves have.

On a side note, I also LOVE that Morrison says “These are files on the fifty-two KNOWN worlds of something called the local multiverse.” There will always be an infinite number of universes and multiverses because there will always be a myriad number of fictions that exist (and that have existed). We are just dealing with this one particular group of worlds. It’s a charming and sophisticated acknowledgement and one that is long, long overdue.

The Multiversity Guidebook is a beautiful and touching tribute to the history of the DCU. While the characters themselves can only remember and be aware of their own rebooted timelines, there is a history that goes back 75 years and even before that, which can be seen by the all powerful cosmic eye of you and I as we read our favorite DC comics from yesteryear. Everything is canon! Everything is IN continuity! And it always has been!

Beyond being a whimsical explanation of DCU’s past and a reminder that nothing really goes out-of-continuity (even stories that are from previous continuities), The Multiversity Guidebook functions as an experimental analysis of the exchange between our real world and the printed universe. Morrison acknowledges, in Supergods, that superheroes look like drawings or special effects in the real world. But it’s more than just elementary meta-fiction for Morrison. Meta-fiction is too theoretical for Morrison, who doesn’t usually deal in abstractions. For Morrison, if a comic book exists in the real world (and it does), it contains a piece of (or a one-way mirrored window to) a very “real” 2D universe that we can hold in our hands. The Multiversity allows Morrison to take his ideas about the “reality” of 2D paper characters—and how we engage with them—to new mind-bending levels never before explored.

Part of this exploration requires us to understand the psychedelic notion of Earth-33/Earth-Prime, which is tough to fully perceive. In previous incarnations, dating as far back as the 1970s, Earth-33/Earth-Prime has been much more transparent—a representation of the Earth on which we live in reality. Any depiction of Earth-Prime must happen on paper, which automatically singles it out, by very definition, as NOT being our Earth. If I’m sitting on my Earth reading a comic partly set on Earth-Prime, then the 2D comic version of Earth-Prime I hold in my hands is actually some sort of Earth-Prime-Prime or Earth-Sub-Prime. A chart, like the Multiversity Map, can indeed show that our very real Earth is a part of the DC Multiverse—a legit multiple dimension string theory world amidst a a bunch of paper 2D ones. But the second our Earth is shown on paper, it ceases to be our real Earth. If someone were to draw the Eiffel Tower collapsing on Earth-Prime, the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t collapse in real life.

In Animal Man, Morrison integrated an avatar “paper version” of himself with the 2D DC Universe. Morrison’s “demiurgic Gnostic overlords” (from Supergods), rechristened as the “super-race of Earth-33″ in The Multiversity, act as script-writers that need “drama and shock and violence to make the story interesting.” Morrison explains further (in Supergods), “The implication was that our own lives might also be ‘written’ to entertain or instruct an audience in a perpendicular direction we could never point to, interacting with us in ways we could scarcely understand but that could be divined in the relationship of the comic world to the world of the creator and audience.” If we follow this line of reasoning (or Morrison’s laws of metaphysics within his hyperreality), one can easily understand drawing one’s self as a “paper avatar” into a story—either bluntly and directly as Morrison did in Animal Man or more veiled, silly, and fun à la Dr. Thirteen story from Tales of the Unexpected. However, does the same thing apply to an out-and-out depiction of Earth-33? The only way this truly works is if Earth-33 is never shown on paper BECAUSE we live IN IT. “There was no physical Marvel universe New York,” says Morrison (again, in Supergods). “The only real Marvel universe New York there could ever be was a paper-and-ink virtual-reality simulation on the pages of the comic books themselves.” Likewise, there is no physical DC Earth-Prime. The only real DC Earth-Prime there can ever be is a paper-and-ink virtual-reality simulation on the pages of the comic books themselves.

Comic book images of Earth-Prime appear to function as “planetary paper avatars” standing in for our Earth, which seems to exist outside the “local multiverse” shown in the Multiversity Map. Surely, these images of Earth-Prime must be outside of the circle, especially since we humans here on our Earth are very aware of “nonlocal multiverses” such as Marvel, IDW, Boom, Star Wars, and many others throughout the omniverse. In spite of this highly common way of thinking about layers of meta-fiction, Morrison’s Multiversity seems to hint at an Earth-33/Earth-Prime that is meant to literally be our Earth. But can Earth-Prime actually be more than a representation? In The Multiversity, will we see Morrison somehow use his adept cosmic meta grasp to link the real world with the fictional real world, making Morrison’s Earth-Prime a whole different animal than any previous conception? Or are we (the readers), as I stated above, truly “outside of the circle,” making the Source Wall a literal-literal version of the Fourth Wall while making us (the readers) a part of The Source itself?

These are long-winded BIG questions about meta-fiction that may seem to have stupidly obvious answers—that it’s an indisputable fact that a fictional paper reality will always be no more than a close representation of our real reality, even if it closely resembles our own real reality down to the smallest detail. But I’d argue the contrary. I think we are all in for a big surprise by the end of The Multiversity–albeit one that I cannot rightly explain at the moment. And it’s because of my wide-eyed puzzlement at Morrison’s grand consciousness-expanding aspirations for blending/conflating reality with fictional reality that these questions warrant being asked. Stay tuned-in and you might find that dividing lines will be blurred to such an extent that fictional reality and actual reality will become one and the same.
i can SEE YOU!!!

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Is Batman Likable?

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time enjoying Batman comics. I don’t mean to be negative. I really want to like them. I’ve been a huge Batman fan for years. Batman was my gateway to the rest of the DC Universe and comics in general, though more and more I find myself not in the mood to read a Batman story in favor of other areas of the DC Universe like Birds of Prey, Green Lantern, JSA etc… How can this be? How could I not like Batman anymore. The answer is that I still do very much, although there isn’t a whole lot in recent comics that reminds me of what I like about Batman. I decided to scour Batman’s 75-year history to remind myself what it is that I do and do not like about this important character from a reductionist point of view to create a new head-canon of Batman continuity that reminds me why I love the character instead of making me forget.

I experience this phenomenon, as I assume many people do, where if I read a comic that I do not enjoy, it seems to damage my love for the medium. Conversely, when I read a comic that I love, it strengthens my love for the medium. Thus for my own sake, I needed to become a reductionist. That is, I need to abandon “completionism” in favor of removing as many stories as I can that I do not enjoy so that my head-canon can become stronger, and thus maximize my enthusiasm for the medium. I’m not sure how many people feel this way. It sounds kind of strange writing it out like this, but it is undeniably how I feel.

This train of thought all started when I decided to give Scott Snyder’s Batman run another chance. Running out of old runs to enjoy, I decided that it was important to leave the past behind and try to see the good in the New 52 so that I could enjoy future runs as a part of a shared universe. I know that stories should stand or fall on their own merit, but strong stories feel even stronger when they are a part of a rich canon. As a consumer of fiction, I long for this sense of awe again that I have since lost when it comes to Batman. I want to live in a world again where the next great Batman story is just around the corner to make the canon even stronger. So I tried—I tried really hard, but the current canon does not feature the Batman that I want to read. So… Is Batman likable? He used to be. Then he wasn’t and then he was again, but now he isn’t. Let’s go back in time…

Batman’s character tends to undergo extremely long periods of stagnation. During the Golden and Silver Ages, Batman’s character didn’t have a ton of depth but still underwent some character development. In his initial outings in costume, Batman was an unrelenting, grim crusader for justice with mysterious motivations. With the introduction of the Robin character about a year later, he became an adventure-loving father figure and essentially remained that way until Frank Miller changed the character significantly. Most fans would argue nowadays that the Golden and Silver Age interpretation of Batman is far too brightly toned for their tastes. They might be right, but if Bill Finger and Gardner Fox were on one end of Batman’s tonal spectrum, then Frank Miller was on the opposite end with an overly dark and dramatic tone. There was, however, a 10-year long period where the tone of the Batman books was in perfect balance: the 1970’s.

The problem with Frank Miller’s influence on Batman is that his character ended up becoming a total dick to everyone close to him. This was not the case during the 1970’s. The books, under the creative direction of pioneers like Dennis O’Neil, Len Wein, Steve Engelhart, Neil Adams, Jim Aparo and Marshall Rogers, became much darker in tone and made Batman much more brutal to criminals, yet retained his fatherly affection to his family. The best example I could find of this is during Steve Engelhart and Marshall Roger’s run on Detective Comics.

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And in regard to his brutality toward criminals, look no further than issue #2 of Len Wein’s Untold Legend of the Batman.

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This is the Batman I find likable. This is also the characterization of Batman that influenced the creators of Batman: the Animated Series, so perhaps I feel the greatest nostalgia reading Bronze Age Batman because I was 7 years old when B:TAS first aired. It’s this simple but overlooked tonal balance between light and dark that makes Batman a likable character, in my opinion.

That all changed when Frank Miller arrived on the scene. Although I don’t necessarily think Frank Miller’s Batman is totally unlikable, the writers that Miller would inspire certainly pushed him that way. From 1987 onward, Batman became a total asshole. Right off the bat (oh, puns…) in Batman #408 (the issue right after “Year One” ends) we get the tough-love Batman who no longer trusts his family to get the job done and who prefers to isolate himself to everyone else’s (including my) frustration.
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Batman stays like this for almost 20 years. It is during this 20-year period that Batman becomes far less interesting than the rest of the Bat-Family. Since Batman is a total dick, the remaining members of the Bat-Family have something to rally against, and characters like Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, Cassie Cain, Selina Kyle and Stephanie Brown successfully outshine their leader in some truly fantastic stories. There was a saving grace post-Frank Miller who ignored Frank Miller’s influence for the most part: Mike W. Barr. Mike Barr’s run on Detective Comics following “Batman: Year One” largely ignored the tonal shifts implemented by Frank Miller, and unsurprisingly didn’t last. I would argue, however, that he produced the most likable version of the Batman character in the post-Frank Miller era, and was the only person until the 2000’s to have Batman undergo a character arc. In his masterpiece Son of the Demon, Barr had Batman go through a very believable and relatable character arc where love and hope returned to his life once again in the form of a pregnant Talia Al Ghul.
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Mike Barr made Batman happy and hopeful… and it was extremely interesting.
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It also included a very touching beat in the Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul dynamic.
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By 2004, the main Batman books had become increasingly dour. Crossovers like Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive and War Games plus the JLA story Tower of Babel had propelled Batman’s dickishness to new heights (or depths?).
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It was because of Batman’s lack of trust for his partner that all of the “War Games” nonsense happened in the first place. It should be noted that alongside these grim, asshole-Batman stories also ran Devin Grayson’s Gotham Knights which did a wonderful job restoring Batman’s compassion and family dynamic, but was unfortunately pretty short-lived and not influential.

By the time Infinite Crisis began in 2005, writers like Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison began to notice the problem with Batman. In Mark Waid’s words during his interview with Alan Kistler:

AK: Right. Well, my question was, with writers like you and those I’ve mentioned and your emphasis on fun and wonder, is there any fear that we’re going back to the grim and gritty 80’s with stories like IDENTITY CRISIS, WAR GAMES where Leslie Thompkins is a killer, and where half of INFINITE CRISIS looks like it’s about Batman being betrayed? What do you think of that?

MW: The good news is, and I guarantee you this, when we’re on the other side of the CRISIS, those days are GONE. Just gone. We’re sick to death of heroes who are not heroes, we’re sick to death of darkness. Not that there’s no room, not that Batman should act like Adam West, but that won’t be the overall feeling. After all this stuff, after everything shakes down, we’re done with heroes being dicks. No more “we screwed each other and now we must pay the consequences.” No, we’re super-heroes and that’s what we do. Batman’s broken. Through no ONE person’s fault, but he’s a dick now. And we’ve been told we can fix that.”

Holy shit was this the best news for Batman fans. His characterization got so bad that Frank Miller, of all people, parodied the character in the form of All-Star Batman and Robin. More on that later.

During the weekly series 52, Grant Morrison began a transformation of the Batman character in an effort to return him to the adventure-loving Bat-dad of the 1970’s in the form of the “Thogal” ritual, wherein Batman goes on an inward journey of self-realization to purge his inner darkness. During Grant Morrison’s Batman run, Batman smiled again and began his first character arc in 20 years.
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By the time Bruce Wayne returned from his trip through time via the Omega Sanction, Bruce Wayne re-learned the importance of family after realizing that isolation and a lone-wolf attitude were not getting the job done. He recalls that Alfred was there to help him on that fateful night where he decided “I shall become a bat,” and concludes that the only way to accomplish his mission is to rely on his allies instead of pushing them away.
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This was the direction I really wanted to see the character go indefinitely. I wanted to see the era of Frank Miller’s influence end once and for all and move on to a new, more dynamic and likable Batman. But all that ended with Scott Snyder. This brings us to modern day Batman…

It did not take very long into the New 52 continuity reboot until I noticed that asshole-Batman was back. Scott Snyder now leads the charge of the Bat-books with a Batman who has clearly forgotten about his experiences with the Thogal Ritual and the Omega Sanction and has become a parody of himself once again. Recall the scene in Batman v2 issue #7 where Dick Grayson angrily (and rightfully so) berates Batman for being an emotionless asshole. How does Batman respond? He punches him in the face, of course.
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I realize he needed to get the Court of Owls fake tooth out of his mouth or whatever, but there were so many other ways to accomplish that without acting like an ass. Say…you know what this reminds me of?
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At least Frank Miller doesn’t have Batman hit Dick in the face for no goddamn reason.

Say what you will about Batman’s indifference to killing during the Golden Age, but Bill Finger’s and Gardner Fox’s contributions to Batman were nothing short of brilliant. I still find the original Golden Age stories very exciting, and when I realized that Scott Snyder was channeling that old continuity in his Zero-Year story, I was very excited. I couldn’t wait to see modern interpretation of the purple gloves, Doctor Death, and the first Bat-Mobile. The idea of departing from the Frank Miller continuity in favor of re-embracing the original continuity is fantastic and very Grant Morrison in its conception. If you recall one of the final pages of Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #13 where a young Jim Gordon is seen comforting an even younger Bruce Wayne who just lost his parents, you probably remember having your mind blown because this directly contradicts Frank Miller’s seminal “Batman: Year One” story where Gordon is shown to arrive in Gotham at the same time as Bruce Wayne. Gordon’s presence in Gotham as a young Lieutenant even before the Wayne murders, however, was a pre-Crisis establishment.
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Unfortunately Snyder’s “Zero Year” fell flat for me even on a second reading. Seeing Greg Capullo’s renderings and re-imagining of characters like Doctor Death was thrilling, but the story is brought to its knees by cringe-worthy prognosticating, and it perpetrates what had already become a very tired cliché as worded by Grant Morrison in a recent interview.

“Every comic book hero — TV heroes too, like ‘Doctor Who’ — must inevitably, relentlessly, repeatedly face a dedicated threat to his or her very essence and core. It’s no longer sufficient to commit a weird sort of crime in Gotham City; any given baddie has to gnaw at the very roots of Batman’s being, fuck up the private lives of his friends and relatives, make him doubt his raison d’etre, set his postal district on fire and blow up his cave.”

Worst of all is the poor characterization. Surprise! Batman treats Alfred like shit to the point where Alfred’s will to participate in Batman’s mission is totally baffling.
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Just fuck right off. Ok, Bruce? Thanks.

So “Zero Year” ended a few months ago, adventure-loving Bat-dad is gone, and Frank Miller’s influence is alive and well due to Scott Snyder’s undying boner for the man. The result is a Batman who treats his allies terribly, pontificates way too much and is arrogant to the point of ineptitude (see “Court of Owls”). But hey, people love it! Batman sells nearly 120,000 copies a month still, so what do I know.

Anyway, here’s my new, ruthlessly reductionist head-canon that I came up with. These are what I consider essential Batman stories (with a good characterization of Batman himself). While my actual head-canon includes a bit more, the vast majority of the stories not on this list I can honestly do without.

Batman: Year One (Batman v1 #404-407)
Detective Comics by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox (Detective Comics v1 #27-38)
The Joker/The Giants of Hugo Strange (Batman v1 #1)
The Origin of Batman (Batman v1 #47)
Eye of the Beholder (Batman Annual v1 #14, Detective Comics v1 #66, 68 )
When is a Door… (Secret Origins Special #1, Detective Comics v1 #140)
The Batwoman/Challenge of the Batwoman (Detective Comics v1 #233, Batman v1#105)
The Black Case Book (Batman v1 #65, 86, 112, 113, 134, 156, 162, Detective Comics v1 #215, 235, 247, 267)
Pavane (Secret Origins v2 #36)
Tales of the Demon (Batman v1 #232, #235, #240, #242–244; Detective Comics v1 #411, #485, #489–490; DC Special Series #15)
Batman by Neal Adams v1(Batman v1#200, #203, #210; The Brave and the Bold #75–76, #79–85; Detective Comics v1 #370, #372, #385, #389, #391–392; World’s Finest Comics #174–176, #178–180, #182–183, #185–186)
Batman by Neal Adams v2 (Batman #219; The Brave and the Bold #86, #93; Detective Comics #394–395, #397, #400, #402, #404, #407–408, #410)
Batman by Neal Adams v3(Batman v1 #232, #234, #237, #243–245, #251, #255)
Strange Apparitions (Detective Comics v1 #469-477)
Batman By Len Wein (Detective Comics #408, #444-448, #466, #478-479, #500, #514, Batman #307-310, #312-319, #321-324, #326-327,  World’s Finest Comics #207, DC Retroactive Batman – The 70s, Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3)
Batman by Alan Davis, Mike Barr (Detective Comics v1 #569-575)
Batman by Jim Starlin (Batman v1 #414-430, The Cult #1-4)
The Killing Joke (One-shot)
Birth of the Demon (Graphic Novel)
Son of the Demon (Graphic Novel)
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (Graphic Novel)
Dark Knight, Dark City (Batman v1 #452-454)
Vows (Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2)
A Bullet for Bullock (Detective Comics v1 # 651)
No Man’s Land (Detective Comics by Greg Rucka)
Detective Comics by Greg Rucka (Detective Comics v1 #742-765, Death and the Maidens #1-9)
Gotham Knights by Devin Grayson (Batman: Gotham Knights #1–11, 14–18, 20–32)
Mad Love (One-Shot)
Detective Comics by Paul Dini (Detective comics v1 #821-837,839-845)
Suit of Sorrows (Detective Comics v1 #838)
Batman by Grant Morrison (Batman v1 #655-703, Batman and Robin v1 #1-16, Batman: The Return, The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6, Batman Incorporated v1 #1-8, Leviathan Strikes #1, Batman Incorporated v2 #1-13)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamison Weber is a long-time comic book fan in his mid 20s with an Economics degree from UCSD. Currently he is working toward a graduate degree in mathematics education in Arizona, and continues to nourish his passion for comic books whenever he gets the opportunity.

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