Happy Belated Batman Day
September 27, 2015 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Oh, sure, Batman Day is getting too commercial, but more importantly, it's on the wrong day. Kotaku's Evan Narcise uses the basic question of "When did Batman become Batman?" to take a look back at one of the Dark Knight's lesser-known villains and plotlines: The Wrath, a reverse-Batman whose parents were criminals killed by a police officer.
posted by Etrigan (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I remember that story - even owned it when it first came out, though lost in time, moves, and parents-cleaning-stuff-up - and it was brilliant then and remains so now. A friend of mine who is a huge comics fan even agrees with me that, over the past decades, it still holds up as possibly the best Batman story ever, better than Dark Knight Returns, better than Year One, not just because of how many things it casually set up, but because it's a cracklingly good story, allowing you to see Batman as both detective and crimefighter.
posted by mephron at 11:16 AM on September 27, 2015

And there was great Michael Golden art in that first appearance in the Batman Special. That thing was so overdue, I remember waiting like a year for it. It became kind of legendary, like Camelot 3000 #12 or that Guns n Roses album. Well, not quite Guns n Roses level.
posted by marxchivist at 11:22 AM on September 27, 2015

I wonder if the delays were why it came out as a Special and not an anniversary issue or annual. I found it in a thrift store a year or two after it came out (I was in my early teens) and loved it. I recently picked up the digital version from a Comixology sale; it's aged really well.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2015

"Because every day is Robin day."
posted by Paul Slade at 1:56 PM on September 27, 2015 [6 favorites]

Oh man--I'd completely forgotten about The Wrath, but I remember that story from the cover! It still stands out in memory as one of my favorites at the time now that I see it again. Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to check that one out again soon.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:06 PM on September 27, 2015

Thanks for this, Etrigan. I grew up in the Bronze Age and was primarily a DC fan. Denny O'Neil's Batman is my Batman. Frank Miller's Dark Knight was an amazing take on the character as an older hero returned, but primarily I want the Batman I grew up with: the detective who relied on smarts and strength and skills rather than armor plating. (I also loved O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow, with Mike Grell's fantastic art. Such a change from today's look.)

I've got comic books to find...
posted by bryon at 11:02 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also loved O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow, with Mike Grell's fantastic art.

Neal Adams drew that classic "social awareness" run of GL/GA, not Mike Grell. You may be thinking of Grell's work on a later Green Arrow solo book.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:36 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're right, of course, about Adams' work, up through issue #89. With the GL/GA relaunch in 1976, Grell took over art duties from Adams.
posted by bryon at 3:05 AM on September 28, 2015

Ah - I didn't know that. I stopped reading the book when Adams left, and I hadn't even been aware that O'Neil resumed writing it later on. I can't say I'm as keen on Grell's art as I am on Adams', but I do have a fairly lengthy run of his Jon Sable Freelance solo book stashed away down in the garage.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:47 AM on September 28, 2015

Appropriate OP username!
posted by numaner at 7:29 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

TIL that Grant Morrisson ripped off The Wrath's origin when he wrote Prometheus' origin.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:21 AM on September 28, 2015

Stop overanalyzing them, man! Show some mercy. THEIR PARENTS ARE DEAD!
posted by Samizdata at 11:39 AM on September 28, 2015

I probably have this stuck somewhere in my numerous longboxes, but I still haven't done the Big Sort/Weed of my collection that I keep meaning to get around to, so I'm not sure. I was never that big of a fan of Mike W. Barr, to be honest. I read some early issues of Batman and the Outsiders, but wasn't that impressed, even when they did a crossover with Teen Titans (although it should be noted that Katana, one of Barr's original characters, was in Arrow, and a different version of the character will be in the Suicide Squad movie); I was disappointed by his Batman: Year Two miniseries, even with Alan Davis on art; and most of the interest in Camelot 3000 seemed to be in Brian Bolland's art, and to some extent in Sir Tristan's reincarnation gender-switch, which resulted in a same-gender romance with Isolde, considered daring at the time.

But obviously Barr had and still has his fans, which makes me think of the people who used to write comics who somehow fell out of the field. It may be that some of them just got burnt out on the grind and found other things to do (according to his Wikipedia entry, Barr has written some books, and returned to DC in the aughts to write a few stories), but some of them simply seem to have fallen out of favor with The Powers That Be, for whatever reason. It's something that I think about when I notice that one writer or another seems to be the flavor of the month and all of a sudden they seem to be on about half a dozen titles at once.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:08 PM on September 28, 2015

I suspect the answer is that the influx of more ambitious comics writers who started entering the field from the 1980s onwards simply made the old guard look rather corny and unsophisticated by comparison. Alan Moore's the most obvious example, but I'd also cite people like Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker and (in more recent years) Jason Aaron as examples of the sort of writers who the likes of Barr simply couldn't compete against.

The old guard still has its fans, of course, but for my money this change has done the whole medium a world of good.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:42 AM on September 29, 2015

There's a hell of a lot of ageism in comics, and even people like Moore and Morrison seem to have been affected by it in recent years. The idea that older writers are inherently corny or unambitious doesn't really wash; the entire mainstream marketplace has changed dramatically, and a Jason Aaron never had to write for an all-ages audience. Barr did, and it was a fantastically larger one. It was a different time.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:50 PM on October 1, 2015

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