Funnybook Babylon

October 2, 2008

Batman #680 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 5: The Thin White Duke of Death”

Batman #680

Batman #680

I dunno what kind of overview to give here other than “holy shit, this issue was incredible.”

So holy shit, this issue was incredible. Annotations below, and Tim Callahan‘s got his take up on his site as well.

Page 1: Le Bossu’s gargoyles and Charlie Caligula’s gladiator henchmen stand watch over Arkham Asylum as the Black Glove’s patrons arrive for Hurt’s presentation. The title, “The Thin White Duke of Death,” is a clear allusion to 1970s era David Bowie, and is a line from the prose issue #663 used to describe the Joker.

Page 2: “…to play a GAME with human lives.”

From Batman #658

From Batman #658

Batman doesn’t think so! The only named member of this troupe is the priest, Cardinal Maggi, so the others I’ll dub (for now) Saudi Prince, Texas Oilman, the Politician and the General. (These are just guesses as to their actual roles/functions, but let’s go with it for now.) The middle monitor is Caligula’s soldiers keeping the actual Arkham staff contained while the Black Glove sets up shop.

Note that once again you have the entire concept of class associated with wealth being tantamount – Hurt mentions that these are the richest people in the world. They aren’t just powerful or famous, they are wealthy, and that’s reminiscent of Joe Chill’s whole rant about class divisions and class warfare justifying his crime back in #673.

Also, Hurt mentions they meet once a year to do this – I guess last year was Mike Mayhew’s little shindig. The domino mask and old Batman costume bring to mind the original “The First Batman” story from Detective Comics #235, also the first appearance of the costume Hurt’s wearing, where Martha wore a moth costume with masks reminiscent of those worn by the patrons here. And, of course, all the colors in the room are red and black.

Page 3: Good versus evil being the basic bet is the same as it was in the last Black Glove arc.

Page 4: Le Bossu’s extended, pathetic plea for attention/origin story almost reminds me of the kind of sob stories villains in Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein would spout before Frankie would shoot them point blank in the face with a mystic sawed-off.

Page 5: I actually figured Dax was the disguise, not Le Bossu, but I guess this is certainly easier. What we’re seeing here is the release of the Joker to tower over the Club of Villains much like Batman towered over the Club of Heroes.

Page 6: Maybe I don’t see it, but how is the bat-signal glowing? Unless that’s just Bat-Mite making fun of his idea of stealth gear.

Page 7: Obviously, the Joker didn’t seem particularly impressed by Le Bossu’s speech, and he’s about to express his contempt for El Sombrero.

Page 8: Bat-Mite continues to be Batman’s voice of strategy. Explosions!

Page 9: “What’s NEXT, soldier?” A clear reference to Frank Miller’s take, sort of affirming Zur En Arrh Batman as the extreme of the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns. As for the answer to the Bat-Mite question, Morrison has, I think, managed to keep it ambiguous while making it clear that it really is up to the reader how to interpret it. It can be a crazy DC Universe sci-fi tie-in, or it could be a psychological aspect of a down-to-earth Batman story. It can stand as a set, or apart. Your choice.

Page 10: Look at these four dudes on the top row. Compare.

From Invisibles v1 #7

From Invisibles v1 #7

We’ve got a dude in a suit (judge), Saudi Prince and Texas Oilman (bankers), Cardinal Maggi and a general as the Duke. And they’re here to engage in the murder of a noble spirit. Saudi Prince’s comment about actors is particularly telling about the Black Glove’s methods, and again brings Alfred to mind considering his acting pedigree. This could be referencing the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom; the above panel is from Morrison’s previous reference to it in The Invisibles.

Page 11: Thin White Duke of Death indeed. “How extraordinarily… inevitable you are” brings to mind the chapter “Unbearable Inevitability of Batman and the Joker” from #663. Robin’s inclusion in the pattern implies that the red (Robin)/black (Batman) duality was intentional, and the rest of the page is Hurt’s ignorant/bizarre used-car-salesman pitch to the Joker.

Also, it’s really striking how different he looks here from every other appearance since he was shot in #655. Why did DC even use the Joker in that time span? It’s like if Magneto appeared in, like, Avengers, Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man between Genosha getting blown up in New X-Men #116 and his return in #146.

Page 12: I don’t see how Bruce’s identity can survive this – I mean, why the Hell would there be a red telephone with a hotline to the police station at Wayne Manor?

Page 13: Yeah, there goes any chance of Gordon not knowing who Batman is. The last time we saw Damian, in #675, he was practicing his archery.

Page 14: Again, the wealth/class element. It’s also now clear that Joker knows Batman’s identity as well, although that was implied in the prose of #663 when his thoughts showed he knew Batman was an orphaned boy. I can’t see it being knowledge he’d ever act on; it’d take the fun out of the game.

Page 15: Again, references to the Dead Man’s Hand from the story in DC Universe 0. Love and death, the build-up and the tear-down, how we love to treat our celebrities and heroes and the treatment Batman is about to get.

Pages 16-17: “And THEN I found out who DOCTOR HURT is and why he hates YOU.” So Hurt is somebody – somebody with a real reason to hate Batman. Someone who’s obsessed with class and wealth. I think this is Joe Chill’s son, mentioned in #673. The son he “lost.”

This all ties back to the “First Batman” story in Detective #235. In it, it was revealed that at the masquerade ball Thomas Wayne went to in the Batman costume, he was captured by Lew Moxon to perform emergency bullet removal and Wayne straight-up foiled their plans. Ten years later, Lew Moxon gets out, and:

From Detective Comics #235

From Detective Comics #235

I’m not sure what it signifies yet, but it’s an indirect link from the original masquerade party to Joe Chill and the hit taken out on the Waynes.

Page 18: “Love really IS blind”, setting up the climax of the issue. Again, “very bad, very RICH.” Joker then proceeds to lay a brutal beatdown on first Batman and then me for having the gall to think Morrison is using symbolism, structures, hints and clues. (I still think he is!) Le Bossu’s clearly gotten mutilated by the Joker, who was less than impressed with his self-pitying monologue of monstrosity and, it seems, went ahead and fucked up his face to make it more like the mask he wears.

Page 19: Just as in #663, the Joker just wants “the goddamn Batman to finally get the goddamn joke,” something he seems to be almost successful at considering he’s now got ZEA Batman threatening death. I’m totally unclear as to the significance of the Cardinal pouring out the wine on the table with El Sombrero’s body – is that just like pouring a 40 out for a dead homie?

The Joker’s role in this is also surprisingly reminiscent of the Moore/Bolland Killing Joke, where he orchestrates a similar soul-crushing disaster for Commissioner Gordon, whose mind survives.

Page 20: Jezebel Jet’s pleas seem to trigger Bruce to start returning to normal, since his word balloons are restored in the final panel. (Where, oddly enough, it seems like he has a black right eye and a red left? Or is that just Major’s coloring being weird again?)

Page 21: The red petal falls, and the neurotoxin activates, apparently an advanced form of Joker gas. The roses were used previously in the prose issue, #663.

Page 22: I’m pretty surprised Joker didn’t stab Hurt in the face right there, especially with Hurt condescending to him as a “servant.”

Page 23: Realization begins to dawn…

Page 24: …and the reason for Jezebel Jet’s name and color scheme become readily apparent as she literally puts on black gloves. Obviously, this ending is more than a little bit vague, so let’s go through the possibilities:

  1. Jezebel Jet is the Black Glove, and she’s been orchestrating the entire affair. This doesn’t seem like that big of a revelation, and the entire “introduce new character who is later revealed to be evil at the end of the big mystery” thing reminds me way too much of Tommy Elliot and Hush.
  2. Simon Hurt, as Joe Chill’s kid, is the Black Glove. Jet’s an associate.
  3. The Joker is the Black Glove and he’s feigning servitude, but that doesn’t fit in at all with the class warfare aspects.
  4. It’s still Alfred, the ultimate actor, coordinating the ultimate play. After what happened to the Club of Villains, it’s fair to say that they’re low enough on the totem pole to justify the beating-up-Alfred charade.

Obviously, you know where I lie. What ’bout you guys?


  1. Check out another couple of clues left in the issue:

    One of the guys at the party asks ‘dr hurt’ if batman was just ‘another one of his actors’ that has to mean something.

    I think the joker’s line right after the ‘i found out who doctor hurt is’ line is pretty telling. ‘oh you’ hummm…. the joker also keeps saying that batman shot him even though he knows it was an impostor and batman told him it was the black glove that trained the guy… maybe this is all still just a big experiment set up by bruce to get into the mindset of the joker.

    Comment by kidmidnight — October 2, 2008 @ 3:30 am

  2. I’m amazed d00gz didn’t get one of the most obvious references in the book!

    Matthew 25:21: His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

    Bible references! It’s from the parable of the talents, where some are faithful stewards and others are not.

    Also, Jezebel Jet– Jet is a flavor of black. Isn’t a woman in red generally considered to be one of ill repute… perhaps even a Jezebel?!

    Great annotes, as usual.

    Comment by david brothers — October 2, 2008 @ 4:39 am

  3. This is the first time we’ve seen El Sombrero actually wearing his namesake, isn’t it? Oh, poor Sombrero. Obviously Maggi is expressing his profound sorrow at the loss of the Sensational Character Find of 2007.

    Daniel has gotten lot of well-deserved flack for his pencils in this arc, but I really do love the Black Glove’s group reaction shot after the Joker enters, with the woman taking a picture with her phone.

    On page 14, with Batman fighting various henchmen in the stairwell, it looks like he’s kept Charlie Caligula’s laurel wreath on his belt.

    The Joker’s line “See, it’s everything…mom, dad, the job…” seems quite significant. Not only does it seem to lend credence to the Joe Chill theory (to my mind, at least), remember that Jezebel Jet has claimed her parents were shot in front of her as well. Maybe tying into the theme of parenthood throughout Morrison’s run?

    Comment by Ryan — October 2, 2008 @ 4:42 am

  4. Er, page 13, that is. Another minor note- the bag at Dax/Bossu’s feet on page 4 contains the straight razors we see the Joker with later in the issue. Presumably Dax has brought them to him as a gift of sorts, not realizing what a fantastically bad idea this is.

    Comment by Ryan — October 2, 2008 @ 4:51 am

  5. Oh yes, one last little detail- on page 8, take a look at the trays the gladiator henchmen were carrying- it looks like they had alternating place cards reading “red” and “black.” Probably of little significance, but worth noting nonetheless.

    Comment by Ryan — October 2, 2008 @ 4:53 am

  6. Dr. Hurt asks in the book: “Can the ultimate noble spirit SURVIVE the ultimate ignoble BETRAYAL?”

    The phrase “ignoble betrayal” fits in with the allegations that Alfred is a lower class actor who weaseled his way into his positions with the Waynes.

    As much as I don’t want it to be Alfred, I really don’t want it to be Jet, as it would disappointing for the new character to be the villain. But then again, reading through the beginning of Morrison’s run, you can find very good arguements for both Alfred and Jezebel Jet.

    Oh, and for the record, I’ve had claim to the moniker “The Thin White Duke of Death” long before #663 came out.

    Comment by Jeff Michael Galperin — October 2, 2008 @ 5:07 am

  7. anyone catch Batman’s pronunciation of Bat-Mite’s name on page 8? reference to how he views the little fellow? inner strength? and when exactly did Batman begin relying on the imp? he was always a pest, right?

    Comment by blacklamb9 — October 2, 2008 @ 6:40 am

  8. You missed a big clue for the Hurt as the Devil theory- right after the Joker mentions knowing who Hurt is, he cuts his tongue in half like a snake. In light of all the not-so-subtle clues Joker was giving Batman about Jezebel, I think this means Hurt is Satan. Who else could order the Joker around, after all?

    Comment by Bogans — October 2, 2008 @ 9:49 am

  9. Jezebel Jet must be just a minion. It would really be disappointing for her to be the vilain.

    The satan theory would suck even more.

    Joker hints Black Glove is someone he knows. Does he know Alfred?

    My current guess is: Black Glove is Robin. That would be a nice ignoble betrayal. I just don’t which Robin yet.

    Though there’s no symbolism to Joker’s mind, the black and red pattern might still be a clue for the reader. red=robin / black=nightwing? That would make Dick the Black Glove. He was Robin by the isolation chamber experiment time. And he’s already inside Arkham.

    On the other hand, Tim dons a black and red costume. And he hasn’t been delivered to the Joker at midnight.

    If i’m right, i hope it’s not Jason.

    Anyway, none of this fits with Final Crisis (unless Damian becomes Robin), but i felt like making a new theory.

    Comment by Thiago F. — October 2, 2008 @ 9:53 am

  10. Page 12: I don’t see how Bruce’s identity can survive this – I mean, why the Hell would there be a red telephone with a hotline to the police station at Wayne Manor?

    In the TV show with Adam West, Bruce Wayne had a red phone that connected to the commissioner right on his desk in Wayne Manor if I recall correctly. Maybe it’s just a nod to that.

    Comment by Shookies — October 2, 2008 @ 10:34 am

  11. I started reading the commentaries with Final Crises and Batman RIP. Thank you very much.

    There seems to be a running thing of glass and broken glass in the arc. I don’t have the previous issues in front of me, but there were the ghost’s glasses which were broken and showed an eye in one frame, and a broken city in the other. There was the mirror where Batman was washing up (talking to the Mite, in the theater), and where the mirror is broken, a heart-shaped piece is missing over Batman’s heart. There is the glass wall the Joker was behind. There are all these computer screens with pictures. There is the broken face of the bat-radia in which Batman finds meaning. (I don’t know if the movie screen with the Zorro movie counts for this.) That Bruce tears down the drape and breaks through a glass wall at the end seemed significant to me.

    Now for the conjecture: Batman is learning to experience what is there rather than see what should be there? He’s going to relive his commitment to be Batman because he is experiencing devastation, but as an adult this time? The glass was symbolic (even if not everything is symbolic) of how far Bruce was from the reality he was considering?

    Comment by broken glass — October 2, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  12. oh, to the question:

    My guess is that Hurt is the Black Glove.

    The Joker and Alfred are working together in order to deal with Hurt, who neither of them liked getting the upper hand over Batman. I have no proof, but it would answer the question of why is Alfred’s past as an actor significant, and what is the Joker up to now.

    Comment by broken glass — October 2, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

  13. the pouring of the wine on El Sombrero is an act of shaming…he failed. The Bishop is showing his disdain for failure. Much like Alred had champagne poured on him…it’s just to show disdain I think.

    There are some symbols of Jezebel Jet being fallen as well….The gimp ball and straight jacket. She was once noble, in this case a pretty girl with a dad who ran a country, she also wanted to help the poor but she’s swapped that for a job and self degredation for the sake of the service of evil. So from royalty and beauty in the moral and literal sense she is now nothing but a depraved plaything, torn to shreads, kept behind glass, and using her wealth and prestige to hurt those that once loved her.

    Super Rich…she’s an heiress/super model. i think she fits the black glove title perfectly but in the end will only be a minion

    Comment by Evan — October 2, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  14. Every guest at the Black Glove’s party wears black gloves. Jezebel isn’t necessarily the ringleader, just another associate.

    Bat-Mite’s comment that he’s from the land of imagination seems to affirm my comment on an earlier annotation regarding the nature of Batman’s breakdown.

    Maybe I’m giving too much credit to Daniel’s skills, but Hurt and Bruce seem to have conspicuously similar features, notably the strong jaw and square chin. That’s most obvious in 673, the page where Bruce is moping about keeping Robin at arm’s length, and in shots from pages 3 and 13. With Bruce’s parentage being questioned in 677, maybe they’re all clues that Bruce was like Chill’s own boy… in more ways than one! He created the Batman… in more ways than one!

    Probably not, but it would give Joe Chill in Hell a nice twist.

    Comment by Jum — October 2, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

  15. 1. If we’re looking at similarities, why not take a look at Gordon traveling through the mansion and walking past the picture of Silas Wayne…who seems like a dead ringer for Simon Hurt.

    2. I don’t know if this has been mentioned before, but if Morrison is going with his 70s love-god Batman then I don’t think he’s forgotten that there was a Thomas Wayne Jr., the older brother of Thomas and Martha Wayne, who seemed to have died in a car accident, but who grew up and later became a serial killer. What if this is Thomas Wayne Jr. taking up the reigns of his “father’s house.” That might make Batman quit in order to take care of his brother.

    3. Does any of the “club of villains” remind anyone of Eyes Wide Shut? I know that Morrison has a thing for Kubrick (his entire X-Men run is more of a homage to Stanley Kubrick’s movies like 2001 (E for Extinction/Days of Future Yet to Come), Clockwork Orange (Riot at the Mansion), Dr. Strangelove (Weapon X), and Barry Lyndon (Weapon XII). Maybe this is Morrison channeling both Kubrick and possibly David Lynch?

    Comment by gary ancheta — October 2, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

  16. There’s a certain irony to all this discussion, speculation and picking over of “clues” in the wake of the latest issue.

    “No, Batman, that’s just Wikipedia”

    Comment by Zom — October 3, 2008 @ 5:18 am

  17. Page 22: The first on-panel appearance of the Black Glove, with face unseen, watching Bruce and Jezebel in Paris. This page effectively absolves Bruce, since he can’t really watch himself make out with Jezebel, and it absolves Jezebel from being the Glove herself (although she could definitely be working for him).

    from this sites very own annotations of some issue i cant quite recall

    Comment by fudgee — October 4, 2008 @ 5:09 am

  18. Interesting stuff.

    Some things I’ve been thinking about:
    1. Cardinal Maggi. Is his name perhaps a reference to the Three Wise Men of Christian myth (known also as the magi)?
    It might just be Morrison being clever, but it could be more than that. The Wise Men, after all, travelled to Bethlehem to commemorate the birth of the new Messiah, so could this be a hint towards the ‘birth’ of a new Batman?

    Also, more interestingly, I am reminded of T. S. Eliot’s poem “Journey of the Magi,” which deals with death of old things and birth of new things (and also the way that the birth of Christ already foreshadows his death; and many other things too, this is Eliot, after all). The last stanza reads, in part: “…were we led all that way for / Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly, / We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, / But had thought they were different; this Birth was / Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death” (lines 35-39).
    Birth and death, that does fit “Batman R.I.P.”, doesn’t it? Perhaps the Cardinal’s name foreshadows what he and the other men will witness.

    2. Has anyone else noticed that The Joker’s color scheme is the opposite of the red and black color scheme that dominates the story? The Joker’s skin is white (opposite of black, obviously) and his hair is green (the opposite, in some ways, of red). His pants are purple, but those are not emphasised visually in the way that his skin and hair are. But what can this mean? Perhaps it suggests that The Joker doesn’t owe allegiance to either Batman or The Black Glove (which makes sense, when considering his actions in this issue).

    3. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for some time now. I’ve noticed that Doctor Hurt’s name suggests a basic duality between good and evil. There’s ‘Doctor’ (read: healer) and ‘Hurt’ (self-explanatory). Another form of the red and black motif of the story that can be found in the character? But this mixed allegiance doesn’t make sense, does it? Hurt seems to be firmly in the camp of evil.

    4. The Joker as David Bowie. Haha. There are quite a few similarities between Bowie and Morrison’s Joker, aren’t there? The dilated pupil, the identity-shifting, the androginy, and the (suggestion of) bi-sexuality (these last two things are best observed in Arkham Asylum and the early stages of Bowie’s career, but still). Hm, perhaps a close-listening of Station to Station (the record on which Bowie assumes the persona of The Thin White Duke), may yield some insight into what Morrison is doing with The Joker.

    Comment by Derk van Santvoort — October 4, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  19. We let doctors in when we’re at our most vulnerable, therefore a doctor dedicated to hurting, who brings all his skill to bear in an effort to inflict pain and suffering is a profoundly uncomfortable concept.

    Sure, we could view the name as another tedious riff on duality, but I would be inclined to point anyone interested in doing that in the direction of the quote from the Joker above.

    Comment by Zom — October 4, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  20. Sure, we could view the name as another tedious riff on duality,

    Oh, lord, I’m flashing back to Tim Callahan’s chapter on Doom Patrol in his Morrison book. makeitstopppp

    Comment by Duncan — October 4, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

  21. I’ll tedious riff you, Duncan!

    (I don’t even know what that means as a verb. But it won’t stop me!)

    Comment by TimCallahan — October 5, 2008 @ 12:44 am

  22. It probably hurts, but in a really slow boring way

    Comment by Zom — October 5, 2008 @ 5:29 am

  23. (Agh, in the flat contextless space of a comments thread that sounds really snarky. Not meant to be!)

    Comment by Zom — October 5, 2008 @ 7:46 am

  24. In fairness, I did really like the chapter on Arkham Asylum, Tim, which benefitted from particular focus and close-reading but the DP chapter suffers from you taking Morrison at his word that the comic was just as it was, symbolising nothing. I really didn’t like reading it at all.

    Comment by Duncan — October 5, 2008 @ 7:54 am

  25. Ah well, the DP chapter is my least favorite in the book as well. Can’t win em all.

    Comment by TimCallahan — October 5, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  26. No, well, it was a bit nasty of me posting that in the first place; I was drunk – I do like your blog for the most part, too.

    Comment by Duncan — October 5, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  27. […] a couple of things before we dive in: keen minds have already pored over this issue, so I don’t intend to cover all the bases, instead […]

    Pingback by Batman 680: the annotated adventures « Mindless Ones — October 6, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  28. those red and black floor tiles match the checkered scarf Honor Jackson had the bat radia in: is it possible the city is trying to talk to Batman, in part now through the Joker? the grid of the city and the chatty gargoyles would suggest that the city is alive and possibly sentient.

    Comment by broken glass — October 6, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  29. David, I’ve been struggling to find anything that looks like a contact form on your website, so I might as well ask here: are you guys (all or some) up for being interviewed? If so contact me here

    Comment by zom — October 7, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  30. I can’t believe we’ll get to the end of this arc without meeting Spring-Heeled Jack. He is the only member of the Club of Villains we haven’t seen yet. I think this may be another identity of Dr Hurt. Spring-Heeled Jack killed the original Knight with a bomb in the stomach. Maybe a hint at at medical skills? SHJ is also often portrayed with a satanic, devilish look and a bat-like cape.

    I wish I could post sooner but new comics arrive in Swansea, Wales a week later than the US.

    Comment by Pete Taylor — October 8, 2008 @ 9:46 am

  31. Wasn’t a reformed SHJ in GM’s JLA Confidential?

    Comment by Zom — October 8, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  32. Could you please tell me what font is used in your header?

    Comment by Jay — October 8, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  33. Zom, are you thinking about Jack O’Lantern? Spring-Heeled Jack has never been seen, but he was alluded to in JLA: Classified.

    Comment by Mike Barrett — October 9, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  34. I think I’m thinking about Jack O’Lantern, yes.

    Comment by Zom — October 10, 2008 @ 4:58 am

  35. My theory for the next hour is that just as the Joker is Batman’s reflection so Jezebel is Bruce’s. I’m happy to accept that most of what she’s told Bruce is true and that her parents were killed, just like his, but it somehow turned her to evil instead, maybe she funded the Black Glove as an attempt to take control over the craziness in her life? I’ll probably think something different in 59 minutes…

    Comment by Loz — November 1, 2008 @ 6:01 am

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