Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Whah? Batman's against guns? I thought he loved them!
Take the good advice from Robin now, not later in the issue when he tries to look 'street.'

Since there's no official list of Batman issues that are (or aren't) in the current continuity, it's left to writers and fans to piece it together themselves. It's like editing years of film to put together the best cut of a movie possible, removing stories that have become dated, overly campy, or that just don't fit in.

Out of the hundreds of Batman stories, there is a short list of the essentials, the ones everyone is in general agreement on, like Detective #475, "The Laughing Fish!" These are the issues that may always be part of the continuity, regardless of any changes made today. (Or little dated details, like changes in cars or phones or hairdos.)

On the other hand, A story like "The Lord of Batmanor," (Detective #198.) is probably going to be cut, and not just because no one wants to see Batman swinging down at them wearing a kilt. Seriously, not something I expected to see this morning. The vast majority of the fifties stories did not age well, like at all. Then again, no official list, so if it's an integral part of Batman's history for you, or maybe just a personal favorite, you can shoehorn that one in there. Just like in my head, where this one fits in nicely:

They call him Ananze, 'the spider,' because of his tattoo, not his mustache.Batman: Seduction of the Gun #1. Huh, Dave Dorman cover. Although I still think he's done a ton of cool stuff, this one doesn't really do it for me. Anyway, written by John Ostrander, art by Vince Giarrano. It's from 1992, and sweet Christmas, does it show in places. Have you ever thought the mutants in Dark Knight Returns look dated? Well, they have a timeless, classic look compared to some of the outfits in this one.

Also, the gang leader calls himself Shaka Zulu, and while the character probably wouldn't have any idea what that name really means, it might've been nice for Ostrander to maybe point it out. For instance, I'd think maybe a gang leader would think twice about naming himself after a king assassinated by his half-brothers, and possibly having a rather pronounced mother fixation. (I had to look up Shaka Zulu myself, but check it out.)

The story has the framework of a standard Batman tale: to take down a street gang of gunrunners, Batman goes undercover as their buyer, while Robin does the same at a high school to protect the buyer's daughter. But Ostrander beefs it up a bit with comparisons of guns in popular culture to 'real life,' what kids should do if a friend even shows them a gun, why guns are marketed to the public as 'resistant to fingerprints', and the Batman's feelings on guns (Hint: he doesn't care for them.).

When Robin, Tim Drake, is hanging out with his friends, and one pulls out a gun he intends to scare off a bully with; Tim pulls his other friends up and bugs the hell out. I've given the same advice to my son, and it's sound: if a kid (or, hell, most 'adults') shows you a gun, leave. Leave right then. Don't worry about your things, they can be picked up later or replaced. Don't say anything, just go. Don't try to take the gun, and don't believe anyone who says it isn't loaded. It's not about being afraid of guns, or your friends, it's about getting out of the way of stupidity, accidents, and bad decisions.

Batman on his dad:
Of course, if Joe Chill had killed Batman's dad with a rock, maybe Batman would've fought the roots of poverty instead of crime, but who wants to see that?
That is a great line, and pretty telling about why Batman works the way he does.

It's a good issue, especially for something that could potentially have run into PSA territory pretty quickly. Now, feel free to skip my rant about firearms:

I still own a hunting rifle from when I was a kid, although I keep it at my parents'. I am personally, if not gung-ho Ted Nugent crazy pro-gun, at least not anti-gun. But is it my imagination, or is this not as hot button an issue as it was ten or so years ago? Except of course when something terrible happens, then it's discussed and dissected and bitched about and maybe if you're lucky a loophole that probably should've never existed is closed, and then nothing. Until the next time.

Look, despite everything that's happened the last few years and all the evidence to the contrary, I still think America can accomplish anything it really wants to, if it sucks it up. I can think of at least one way to reduce gun fatalities by a guestimated 90%, without taking guns away from anyone: change the bullets. The technology to tag each new bullet sold with the DNA of the buyer, or maybe an RFID tag, is eminently feasible, and knowing each bullet is a potential personalized invitation for the cops to come right to your door, would shut down a lot of crimes right there. (Also, I think a lot of gun-owners would be a lot more careful how their guns were stored and keeping tabs on their bullets, to prevent a gun being stolen and used in a crime.)

I will freely admit, it's not a foolproof plan: it would probably create a huge black market for older, untagged ammo. Maybe even a surge of homemade bullets. Probably other problems I can't imagine yet. And I'm probably buying into a logical fallacy, like saying if driving fatalities are lowered by reducing the speed limit from 65 to 55, so the limits should be lowered to 45 to save more lives. But it would be a deterrent, and it's doable. And it'll never, ever happen. It would be an inconvenience, possibly considered invasive, and expensive to set into motion. And the gun lobby and gunmakers and N.R.A. would throw money at Congress until the idea went away.

My point is, America (meaning Americans, the people, the great unwashed masses) could do something about a lot of gun violence; if they really wanted to, and were willing to make sacrifices to do what it takes. I'm no Constitutional scholar, but I don't think making bullets directly attributable to those that purchase them would violate the Second Amendment. It could be done, but it won't be, just because however many gun-related fatalities there are a year are considered acceptable losses, even if by silent assent.

There's probably a better way, a fair compromise between the lawful gun owners who deserve to continue packing heat, and the naysayers. But it would have to overcome a lot of inertia just to get started, then beatdown a myriad of forces resistant to any change. End of rant.

One more thing? There are a couple of similarities between this issue, and the landmine awareness story Death of Innocents. Not just the social awareness thing. In both, the heroes fail against a real world problem. It does occur to me the last big problem I remember Marvel going after resulted in those hamfisted Fast Lane inserts...unless you count Nick Fury not being able to light up anymore. Which I don't.

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