Funnybook Babylon

March 3, 2008

All-Star Batman and Robin Is Amazing. No, I am Not Trolling. (FBB Remix)

Filed under: Articles — Jonathan Bernhardt @ 9:11 am

This article kicked off the FBB invasion of PopCultureShock, and also launched PCS’s new comics feature, Alternate Current — a series of weekly posts on thought-provoking, or simply fun, topics from bright minds all throughout the blogalaxy. Go check it out every week. I think it runs Thursdays? Maybe I just write fast. And if you already read this over at PCS, there’s new, FBB-exclusive content at the end. Never say we don’t love you.

Man, Issue 9 already. How time flies!The ninth issue of Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder came out this Wednesday, and finally, at long last, it looks like we’ve got enough material here to accurately gauge it. Its release schedule is still highly irregular — though it’s been rapidly getting less so — and sure, it’s taken us over two years to get to this point. But here we are, and from all appearances, Miller and Lee have handed us something a hell of a lot more complex than most people thought they’d get when they picked up the first couple issues. Really, though, this is Frank Miller we’re talking about. You should have known by now there’d be something lurking there underneath all that sex and violence.

After the first couple issues of ASBAR (God I love that acronym) hit, the conventional wisdom stated that Frank Miller had, quite frankly, gone insane. That’s fine. That was more or less the conventional wisdom that followed The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Not so much following Batman: Year One, but there was still some kvetching about how Miller portrayed Catwoman. What people seemed to miss about Miller’s latter day Batman work — especially the oft-maligned DKSA, which is right now competing against itself and only itself for “Most Disappointing Comic” in some silly poll Wizard Online is running — is that Miller is doing something most comic writers seem incapable of doing: he is reacting. DKSA is a reaction to DKR and its rather blind, unconsidered acceptance by both creative forces at DC Comics and the comic community at large; the book is a mockery through absurdity. Not a lot of people got this message, and many of the ones who did still disliked it, because they found the writing or art off-putting. And to be fair, Miller’s exaggerated “ugly” style that he pulls out these days is something that takes a little getting used to.

But a lot of people — including, I’m assuming, the bright minds and hearty souls over at Wizard — disliked Dark Knight Strikes Again because they came into it expecting something they were never going to get, based, perhaps, on their misunderstanding of what Miller actually did with the character in Dark Knight Returns. The absolute worst way to engage with the text of DKR is to read it like Miller is saying that Batman’s a cool dude, totally ripping around town and kicking all sorts of asses, thinking that it’s a war and his kids in it are soldiers and that this is how things should be, thinking that creepy memorials are the way to go when a child in his care dies. DKR is not an endorsement. DKR is a cautionary tale.

So when the main line DC Comics version of Batman got his sidekick killed, it must have been bizarre for Miller to see that memorial show up. Because that memorial was not a good thing for the character. What happened when that memorial went up in Dark Knight Returns was that Bruce Wayne stopped being Batman. So when DC killed Jason Todd off on their main line, and someone realized this would be a great opportunity to do a throwback to that wildly successful miniseries that Frank Miller did — which, along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen, comprised a late-eighties sea change in comics, for better or for worse — they essentially betrayed the memorial’s symbolism. Sure, they kept the inscription, the glass case, the creepy costume, all that physical stuff, but they botched the context. In DKR, that event makes Batman hang up the mask. In the main DCU, that event makes him…try to kill Joker, but get stopped by Superman because Joker is part of the Iranian delegation to the United Nations (or the one from Qurac, or Khandaq, or whatever made-up fake Arabic state is standing in for Iran these days). Then he continues soldiering on, getting kind of nutty until Tim Drake saves his soul. And there the memorial stays.

The memorial looms, now; it’s pretty much replaced the T-Rex and the giant penny as the standard stage prop you see when any DC artist does an interior of the Batcave. That’s a powerful message, and one that doesn’t seem to be that considered. And in the late nineties, with dreck like Bruce Wayne: Murderer? and Batman: Fugitive cemented the bizarre, one foot in the room, one foot out the door approach Batman’s editorial handlers, Batman’s writers, and a large group of Batman’s fans took towards the character, perhaps best summed up in what was maybe the most misguided, character damaging single issue of Batman ever penned — Batman #600, the climax of Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, written by none other than Ed Brubaker. Let’s be clear: “Bruce Wayne is the mask” is perhaps the most tedious, surface-level, purely lazy interpretation of Frank Miller’s legacy with this character that you can make.

Yeah, he painted himself yellow. What?Come on!! Lemonade!!!

That, I think, is why after Dark Knight Strikes Again failed, Miller felt the need to come back and try it again, in a way that would appeal to the baser natures of some the people that gave DKSA the heave-ho. It’s slick and beautiful, Jim Lee at his finest, his most insane and fundamentally sound. Miller has Lee doing things that Jeph Loeb wishes he had the imagination to ask for in Batman: Hush. And Lee’s style fits the new approach Miller is taking to the material perfectly. Instead of using intentionally ugly art to contrast with the sickly-sweet over-pop portrayals of superheroes in DKSA (and anyone who thinks that art wasn’t intentional should reread not just his first run on Daredevil, but the issues immediately preceding it, when he was the book’s penciller; every choice Miller makes is a matter of style and is done by a man with a very, very solid grounding in his craft), Miller and Lee are using the art to emphasize the slick, fuel-injected, ultra-violent, over-the-top creature Batman has become. Everything about this book, from Batman’s ridiculous inner monologue to the 12 year old boy who’s the closest thing we have to a character we can identify with, to a six-page fold out of the Batcave, indicates that there’s something behind all this sound and fury, and that it’s something important.

The Batman of All-Star Batman and Robin is not just a dude who can bust some heads. He’s not one-dimensional. And like most characters that are not one-dimensional, he should not always be taken at his word. As we’ve seen so far, this Batman is a troubled individual in an utterly insane world — an updated analogue of the Silver Age, where the whimsy that characterized that era’s climate has been replaced by the exaggerated faux-maturity that characterizes ours. This character has built a reactive persona that he hides behind, and in Issue #9, for the first time in the run, it comes down, and we see Bruce Wayne. Issue #9 is also the first time we see a recognition that violence has consequences, which starkly contrasts with the extremely funny, over-the-top scene that comes before it. Basically, Issue #9 is the turn that the first eight issues were building to, where Miller pulls back the curtain and makes how he sees these characters explicit. Seriously. Go back and read Issues #1-9 in one sitting, and see how he does it. Miller is a master — he’s crafted a ludicrous comic that’s not only viscerally entertaining and amazingly funny, but carries on the tradition of the old DC Universe, translated into the modern era, while also giving a spin on the character that has as much weight and consideration as his work in Dark Knight Returns. Probably not as much impact, but that’s a good thing. Let’s be honest — just like with its contemporary, Watchmen, fans are a bit too blindly rabid when it comes to DKR.

It’s a good time to be a Batman fan. Grant Morrison and Frank Miller, with generally solid work by Paul Dini on the side? Yes please. It’s taken way too long, but Miller and Morrison, who are far and away the best two minds currently working on superheroes for DC, are taking a character that has honestly been doing nothing of note for almost fifteen years and breathing major life back into him (with assists by guys like Darwyn Cooke and David Lapham, of course — Batman: Ego and Batman: City of Crime complete the essential post-Knightfall Batman). This should have sea-changing effects on the Batman franchise — complete with people trying to drag it kicking and screaming back to the way he was in the nineties. But that’s cool. We won’t see the real way Morrison and Miller are changing how people view these characters until a new crop of writers gets in and starts wrecking shop. And that’s the way it should be.

But what kind of man puts his name on a crosspost without changing it up? That’s just lazy. And down here round Baltimore way, everyone knows what happens when you don’t change up. So here’s some more about the All-Star books in general.

DC Comics announced their All-Star line in 2005 to what would probably best be described as general fan confusion. Ever since Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis (with helping hands from Ellis and a couple other guys) had updated and reinvigorated a bunch of Marvel’s core franchises with the high-speed, low-drag Ultimates line, there had been constant internet clamoring for something to match on the DC side, and an accompanying rumor every couple of months or something that maybe something like that was coming. So when DC announced the All-Star line, promoting it as the biggest creators in funnybooks on the biggest franchises at DC, people thought maybe they were finally getting their DC redux of the successful Marvel imprint.

Jim Lee's Iconic Batman: Feet first.This cover is so good it was homaged months after it came out. BY ORDER OF JEPH LOEB. It’s here forever.

Of course, this kind of ignored that the Marvel Ultimate universe was never sold like that — when Bendis launched Ultimate Spider-man almost a decade ago, he was basically nobody — but the thinking persisted anyway. And when Frank Miller and Jim Lee put out All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder #1 in September 2005, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely followed it up with All-Star Superman in November, the reaction was generally baffled and somewhat wary: what’s the continuity here? Do these books happen in the same universe as the other Batman and Superman books? Do they even happen in the same universe as each other? What does Grant Morrison mean when he says that this is what Superman would be like today if the Crisis never happened? And what the fuck is Frank Miller up to?

It’s early 2008 now, approaching two and a half years later, and all we’ve gotten are nine issues each of All-Star Batman and Robin and All-Star Superman and a couple of rumored or announced but unsolicited books — Geoff Johns’s All-Star Batgirl and Adam Hughes’s All-Star Wonder Woman. Every now and again talk about a Lantern or Flash book gets kicked around. Two and a half years in, I think we’re justified in asking the big question, and that is: is the All-Star line succeeding?

The short answer is “sort of.” The longer short answer is “it all depends on how you define success.” The actual long answer is that the All-Star line has basically delivered exactly what its editors and creators promised fans at the outset of the line, but it has fallen far flat of the external expectations that were placed on the line because of the line’s context in the Greater Superhero Funnybook Discourse.

It’s a hard truth that you can’t build a successful imprint — and we’ll define “successful imprint” here as an imprint that can move copies based on its the titles of its books, rather than the names of its creators — in Big Two superhero comics when both of your theoretical ongoings come out quarterly, at their most frequent. Actually, each book has released nine issues in thirty months, so the average is quite a bit worse than that, though both release schedules have gotten a bit better recently. A linewide three to four month wait between the release of issues in ongoings featuring licensed properties usually means a line is about to die or is dead already, and is just tying up loose ends before disappearing. But not with the All-Star line. The All-Star line has done all of jack shit to build itself into a successful imprint as defined above, but it doesn’t matter. It succeeded anyway.

That’s because the All-Star line does not, and never will, have to move copies based solely on the reputation of the All-Star name. The line, as said above, is dedicated to giving the best creators in comics a stage to tell the stories they want to tell with DC’s biggest, most recognized properties. Frank Miller on a Batman book is going to sell, no matter what words you put in front of the title. Grant Morrison on Superman is going to sell, no matter how late the single issues are. The All-Star line was only envisioned like the Ultimate imprint in the minds of fans who didn’t read the promo material closely enough — all the All-Star line has ever been, since 2005 and before, is a convenient header to throw the biggest-budget, highest-profile collaborations under, with an editorial support staff that’s used to dealing with successful creators who are dedicated to telling a story, regardless of the usual, limiting concerns of shared-universe superhero comics: continuity and monthly schedules. All-Star issues come out when they’re done (much to the chagrin of the fans, and the All-Star line editors that the fans bother, like somehow if the editors just call Frank Quitely one more time, he’ll rush his art just to get that issue of All-Star Superman to the New York offices lickety-split), and that’s how it should be. The All-Star books are more or less an organized attempt to generate new Dark Knight Returns and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?s.

And regardless of how irregularly the books perform in the direct market, this is a shrewd economic move by DC. If even one of the stories in this line achieves that kind of status, it not only increases the cultural cache of that DC property — and as far as this kind of intellectual property is concerned, cultural cache is everything — but creates a book that basically be kept perpetually in print, with a version sold in hardcover for $70 retail, and always provide a steady stream of revenues. And if any of these stories do for characters what, say, The Killing Joke did for the Joker, that sort of thing will carry over to DC’s insanely lucrative film franchises — this summer’s The Dark Knight fashions a Joker that, at the very least, uses Alan Moore’s book as a substantial starting point.

So the All-Star line will never be Ultimate DC, and that’s cool. It’s not supposed to be. Marvel reinvigorates its properties by reaffixing them in time: restarting their properties in the new millennium, with iPods and the internet and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. DC reinvigorates its properties by doing the opposite, and making them more iconic — removing them from an acknowledged timeline. Neither All-Star Batman and Robin nor All-Star Superman happen in “our world, but with superheroes.” They both lay out worlds much more extreme than that. And that’s fine; both models work. And both lines have enjoyed the success that well-executed reinvigorations deserve.

Though for one of those lines, that’s about to end. You know, with the Jeph Loeb and all.

22 Comments »

  1. Not for nothing on the ASBAR review, but I do feel compelled to stand up a little for the Murderer/ Fugitive story. While certainly not a masterwork of American fiction, one of the points of that story was to move Batman away from the bizarre “Bruce is the mask” characterization. Batman #600 is only the mid-point of the story, and the arc as a whole ends with Batman repudiating that POV. It didn’t stick, because editorial didn’t let it, but that was clearly the Bat-writers’ intent at the time. Brubaker wrote an afterword to one of the trades that makes his intention explicit.

    Comment by matches — March 3, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  2. “Really, though, this is Frank Miller we’re talking about. You should have known by now there’d be something lurking there underneath all that sex and violence.”

    We should have known??? What are you possibly basing this assumption on? When has Frank Miller *ever* hid anything beneath his sex and violence?

    This article was just ass-kissing. It was applying a rationalization to try and give some truly shitty work some kind of meaning. I don’t care one way or the other about Batman, or any superhero. I’m not looking for anything in a superhero story other than a decent story. Miller hasn’t written a decent story since DKR, with the possible exception of Sin City, and I defy you to find one single non-fanboy to read any of his tripe and tell you it wasn’t garbage.

    My post is on some hostile/ confrontation shit because the condescending tone in this review was overwhelming and unbearable. I don’t even care what point you were trying to make because it got lost in all your, “I’m so smart for understanding Miller and everyone else is stupid!” nonsense.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if Batman can beat up Spider-Man or whatever, these characters and stories will die once the current generation of readers dies. They’ll live on only in movies – that will, incidentally, contradict and ignore everything in the comics – and eventually be replaced by whatever heroes the 21st century creates.

    Comment by Kenny — March 3, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

  3. Kenny, you are embarassing yourself.

    Comment by newagemilhouse — March 3, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  4. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if Batman can beat up Spider-Man or whatever, these characters and stories will die once the current generation of readers dies.”

    Putting aside the point of Jon’s article (which I do agree with):

    I work with a lot of early elementary school kids. They fucking love Batman and Spider-Man. I don’t know how many of them are bothering to read comics (and believe it or not some of them are) but the characters are going to continue to endure in pop culture long after all the Kurt Busieks and Mark Waids and Mes and Yous are dead in the ground.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — March 4, 2008 @ 2:59 am

  5. newagemilhouse,

    It’s *impossible* to embarrass yourself on the internet because no one knows who anyone else is. I’m never going to meet *any* of you, so why should I care what anyone thinks of what I say? I think it’s more embarrassing to have a name like “newagemillhouse,” because at least I sign what I say with a real name, but that’s just me.

    Further, this article is *shit*. It’s full of, “If you don’t like what I like, you’re just stupid,” smarm, and it’s that same attitude that chased me out of collecting comics with any sort of regularity.

    Beyond the intolerable smarm of the article, it’s full of cherry picking facts to support it’s hypotheses. Miller didn’t only use his “ugly” style in that god awful Dark Knight book, he’s used it in just about everything his drawn since coming back from his break from the mainstream. He doesn’t hide anything beneath his sex and violence, he just uses sex and violence for its own sake.

    I think I’m more offended by the tone of the article than anything else. I don’t appreciate reading an article telling me I’m stupid for not agreeing with the author.

    Comment by Kenny — March 4, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  6. Chris,

    “Putting aside the point of Jon’s article (which I do agree with):”

    By virtue of posting it on your website, I just assumed all the editors here did.

    “I work with a lot of early elementary school kids. They fucking love Batman and Spider-Man. I don’t know how many of them are bothering to read comics (and believe it or not some of them are) but the characters are going to continue to endure in pop culture long after all the Kurt Busieks and Mark Waids and Mes and Yous are dead in the ground.”

    I don’t agree with a few implications in your statement nor in your main point. I don’t think Busiek or Waid or any current superhero creator has anything to do with the current unpopularity of comic books. I think the Direct Market distribution system, and the smarmy, clubhouse atmosphere found within most stores, killed off comics more than anything else. I also don’t think the love kids have for superheroes is going to translate into comics readers. The comic reading audience is between 300,000 to 360,000 people – that’s all. Unless a million kids suddenly become comic collectors tomorrow, that number is going to continue to erode through attrition until it’s too small to remain profitable to have Direct Market stores. Further, the kids who love Batman and Spiderman now have movies, video games, and TV shows to give them their fix. They’re not going to go look for comics, If anything, the sales have been showing that the same kids who loved Batman when they were six have moved on to DragonBall Z or Naruto or whatever manga. Manga is the new mainstream comics. In fact, most regular, non-comic reading people grow up into adults who don’t read comics. Most grown Batman fanboys read superhero comics and *only* superhero comics and will never read a non-superhero comic or a book or anything else.

    I’ve long held that fanboys in their 30s and 40s love Batman more than anything else in life and they’ll willingly turn a blind eye to anything else if Batman is involved. Let’s not forget the comic that spurned this article and subsequent discussion has Batman painting himself in yellow. sprouting tough guy lines about lemonade, and having a group cry at the end. That’s just an inherently shitty story from a writer with a long track record of writing shit. But, he also wrote the best Batman story ever, Dark Knight Returns, so eventually Batman fanboys will give him a free pass.

    Comment by Kenny — March 4, 2008 @ 8:03 am

  7. Ok, so I was thinking this over on my drive to work, and while I don’t care what some Frank Miller cocksucker or what some guy named “newagemillhouse” thinks, I don’t want to disrespect a website I love, Funny Book Babylon. So, I apologize to you, Chris, and your fellow editors for writing in a trollish fashion.

    I didn’t even make a point in that last diatribe. The reason why I think Batman and his ilk are doomed is because I think it’s evolution. Westerns were once *really* popular, then there was a shift in technology and the same characters that once appealed to kids were passed on in favor of superheroes. I think that’s going to happen again. I think this because the comic readership is in the low end of the 300K range and shrinking. I think the kids who love Batman and them now don’t even think of him as comic book characters, they think of them as movie characters. I think the kids who are reading a Spiderman comic today are going to grow into reading manga. I think manga is the new mainstream because it sells like crazy and it’s easy for kids to go into Barnes & Noble, plop down on the floor, and read manga to their heart’s content. I think the direct market was a reaction to the comics boom of the 70s and 80s, but I think the same conditions that made the direct market relevant no longer exist thanks to the internet. Like, once upon a time, going to a direct market store is how you learned what book a certain creator was on or that there was such a thing as a Love & Rockets or whatever. I think those days are over. I think the direct market has largely transformed into a smarmy clubhouse where grown men who read superheroes and *only* superheroes can congregate to indulge in shop talk about their fetish. I think that’s a great thing. I think people should be able to congregate to discuss whatever they want, but I don’t think just because grown men today do that means kids will follow the same path.

    Superheroes aren’t dying, they’re already dead. Superhero comics aren’t dying, they’re also already dead. Discussing a book in context of the book making a character more iconic is like having a discussion on the deck of the Titanic about the significance of the song the band was playing. I think the people who think Batman is an icon of some sort confuse their love of the character with the cares of the outside world. So, yeah, people who have bought every issue of All Star Batman are going to love it, because if they didn’t, they’d have to admit to buying a terrible book out of love, and that makes no sense.

    Also, I’m not surprised people who love All Star Batman have begun to come out of the woodwork. No one is capable of reading a serialized story for two years without loving it. If they did, it would be cognitive dissonance and they’d drive themselves insane. I also think that Frank Miller, the writer of the best Batman story ever, gets a free pass by Batman fans because he’s Frank Miller, writer of the best Batman story ever.

    Comment by Kenny — March 4, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  8. Kenny,

    Just one point. We post a lot of articles on this website that one or more of the editors disagree with. As long as the article is coherent, the writer adequately defends his/her position, and doesn’t advocate murder (I’m looking at you, Jon and Pedro), we will publish it. There is no single unified FBB editorial voice.

    Comment by Jamaal Thomas — March 4, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  9. Holy shit, I think we found the Red Hulk.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — March 4, 2008 @ 9:21 am

  10. Jesus Christ, you guys should be careful, I can see Kenny shooting one of you out on the steps of your apartment, rolled-up Marvel Classics copy of Catcher in the Rye all in his back pocket.

    Comment by Bill Nuttycombe — March 4, 2008 @ 9:59 am

  11. Yo FBB Hangers On Crew, stop piling on Kenny, dude has been with this shit since day one

    That said, Kenny, this is like, the least intentionally condescending/trollish article I think I’ve written for the site (I even said so in the title!), and I apologize if it seemed to you like I came off hatin’. That’s Chris’s job, anyway. I will say that outside of his Batman work, I think Frank Miller’s got a much, much more mixed resume (I’m not a huge fan of either of the books of his that got made into movies, especially 300), but his Big Two urban vigilante shit — Daredevil and Batman — has not only been, in my opinion, of the highest quality of objectively, but really, really influential at all turns. Just about every time he touches those characters, he moves them forward. On most of the other points, we just have irreconcilable differences of opinion, I guess. Sorry!

    Comment by Jonathan Bernhardt — March 4, 2008 @ 10:14 am

  12. I think my apology got buried in my condescending tone, proving that I’m a hypocrite as well as an asshole! lol

    Anyway, I’m sorry. I was pissed off over something else in my life and brought my anger to this site. Yes, David, it was a Red Hulk move. I took my anger out on the wrong venue.

    Jamal has a good point. I wasn’t aware there wasn’t a cohesive editorial voice on the blogs. I thought you all hated Countdown! lol No, seriously, it was a dickish thing for me to say.

    Bill, Catcher in the Rye? I would probably have the Marvel Classics version of Franny and Zoey in my back pocket! lol (Bad joke, I know….)

    Jonathan,

    I owe you an apology most of all. I think I read a tone into your article that wasn’t there. I think your article was the first thing I read after that thing in my outside life that got me all pissed off, so I think I brought what I was angry about into your article and went off on you as a strawman for what I was actually angry at. I’m sorry. It was wrong of me. I disagree with your assesment of Frank Miller, but I think your point is valid and I won’t stop reading your article or anything.

    Thank you for sticking up for me, too. I’m sorry for being an asshole to you guys.

    Comment by Kenny — March 4, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  13. Wow, that was dramatic…

    Um, anyways. Hi everyone! I’ve been reading the site for a while now, came for the Countdown snark, stayed for the interesting thinky pieces like this one. I don’t know if Jonathan has entirely turned me around on the subject of Frank Miller, but this was a great read, and I think his observation about the context of the Robin Memorial Display was very illuminating.

    Nice work, FBBers, and keep it up!

    Comment by Mark Simmons — March 4, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

  14. You know, this series is one of the better uses of the periodical format that I can think of in the past few years. Now, admittedly, it would be more effective if the title came out at least SEMI-regularly, but using the first eight issues to make it look like ASBAR is about a psychotic, cartoon asshole Batman uses the time between issues to reinforce that message. Then, in issue #9, Miller shows that the actual point of the story is how that crazy guy learns to be a human (and possibly a hero). I like the bait-and-switch aspect of this title, and I think that it plays much better on an issue by issue basis than it will in the trade. Reading the individual issues, the reader has time to form a definite opinion on the title (as so many clearly have) only to have the ninth issue change the whole premise of the series.

    Of course, the next issue (due November, 2014!) could prove me wrong.

    Comment by moses — March 4, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

  15. I hated ASBAR, but I like it now. They just need to get over the idea of every super hero being a swearing lout, and they did a decent job of portraying Green Lantern as actually nowhere near as bad as Miller’s Batman thinks he is.

    Comment by Jbird — March 16, 2008 @ 10:52 pm

  16. If ASBAR does end up being a successful story, in terms of being an important part of comics as literature, it’ll probably end up as one of those works that’s important, but nobody ever really reads or enjoys. It’ll probably never really shake the reputation of “Frank Miller’s insane rantings.”

    Comment by Andrew — April 1, 2008 @ 3:54 am

  17. I had to double check when this was posted because I was convinced it was an April fools gag.

    Honestly? ASBAR(tbw) can only be interpreted as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to lampoon the ultra-violent-without-consequences modern take on the character. In this, it fails.

    Let me reiterate: It fails.

    Even if you come into the comic, attempting to interpret it in this manner, it takes itself far too seriously, and holds a straight face for far too long for you to think it’s anything other than the Frank Miller “whoreswhoreswhores” sensibility.

    This is a book after DKSA’s own heart… an interpretation of Batman in which his condition is not deliberate, but, much like the Ted Bundy of Gotham, is subject to a “pressure, that must be relieved or becomes murderously strong.”

    Batman is not a serial killer because… well… Frank never gives us any reason as to why he is different from the Joker. The only difference between the two? The Joker apparently acts deliberately, while Batman is almost random in the way he moves.

    Comment by Neddy — April 8, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  18. ASBAR(tbw) can only be interpreted as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to lampoon the ultra-violent-without-consequences modern take on the character.

    The essay above seems to prove this false. It can be interpreted any way someone likes, and Jon backs up his assertions above.

    Batman isn’t a serial killer because he hasn’t killed anyone in the pages of ASBAR.

    Comment by David Brothers — April 8, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  19. […] and exists solely to provide income for Batman, it is definitely untrue. As Jon Bernhardt says in this piece for Funnybook Babylon, Bruce Wayne as Mask is a drastic misreading of Dark Knight Returns, and antithetical to the idea […]

    Pingback by 4thletter! » Blog Archive » Batmanual — July 11, 2008 @ 11:31 am

  20. […] All Star Batman. As for my personal views on the book’s artistic merit, our own Jon Bernhardt articulated his love for the book far more eloquently than I ever could, and having read the oh so naughty […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon · Archives · Sunday Morning Thoughts and Linkblogging: For Immature Readers Only? — September 14, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  21. I hate posting online because Im terrible at debating but I do feel strongly about this (pathetic as that makes me!).
    I have to say I really agreed with Kennys initial points. I think ASBAR is a terrible title and I have not enjoyed a DC book in three years, which kills me because I love the characters so much.
    Yes, I am very much a product of DKR in my tastes but Im not convinced I misunderstood that work, and if I did then Miller should share the blame for miscommunicating his message to so many who agree with me.
    Ive been reading the title in stores and buying a random book each time because I dont want to add to the sales to sate my curiosity (which I think accounts for alot of its figures). I hate that Miller is being rewarded for what I see as lazy writing which was becoming very evident towards the last few books of sin city in my opinion.
    I believe that like the dozens of carbon copy low quality bands on MTV Miller believes he has found a formula in his Clint Eastwood dialogue and Raymond Chandler asides and that he is now trying to milk it for all he can while his name is a hot property through other media.
    I think editing is like food. Too much or too little is always bad and Miller has too little. The recent recall of issue 10 seems to prove that.
    I delight in introducing friends to our hobby by giving them a good graphic novel and most are pleasantly suprised. Invariably though I get an e-mail a couple of months down the line telling me that the monthly releases they have read were terrible and asking me to recommend some grittier older stuff. Even though more people than ever are openminded enough to try new media these days, comics will die out if they cant attract and >hold< new readers.
    Less crappy cross overs and more faith in writers is a must.
    Also for the record I think Grant Morrison though usualy great is performing terribly on his Batman work.

    Comment by Gaz — September 27, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  22. On re-reading that post my comment on faith in writers seems contradictory to my point on editing. Just let me clarify.
    I feel like alot of editing at the moment is based around set pieces and tie ins that the company as a whole wants to happen to boost sales instead of focusing on the actual quality and tone of the work.
    I may be wrong on that but it is the impression I have been getting from writer interviews and my own perception of a drop in quality across the board. ASBAR being the prime example to me.

    Comment by Gaz — September 27, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

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