Monday, October 17, 2011

J. Jonah Jameson would've had headlines like "Batman: Fraud, or Hoax?"

As usual, I swear I was looking for something else, but stumbled across this issue, and I had a question anyway that I may as well bring up here. Today, we're checking out The Batman Chronicles #10, starting with "To See the Batman" Written by Bob Gale, with art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

This was a text story with illustrations by Sienkiewicz, something seen every once in a great while for Batman.* It's the story of a fourteen year old boy and his quest to see Batman, in order to impress his classmates. And girls. Instead of doing anything aggressively stupid like staging a crime or, god forbid, putting on a costume; he goes about it methodically, logically deducing what would or would not work.

He also points out that although some conspiracy theorists don't believe in Batman, and argue that the Bat-Signal is just a smokescreen; the cops are not going to be that clever. ("I'd believe Batman was an alien before I'd believe the Gotham P.D. was smart enough to pull off a hoax like that.") Which brings me to my question: in the earliest Batman stories--think anything set in Year One--Batman is not seen. He's a shadow, a ghost, an urban legend.

Then, at some point, the secret is out. While still not widely seen, Batman's existence is known behind reasonable doubt. Remember, in Tim Drake's origin, he saw TV news footage, of Batman and Robin, spliced from several angles! And presumably after that, Bats is seen with the Justice League. (Some incarnation of the Justice League, anyway.)

I don't have a problem with Bats being exposed as real--I think there's only so far to go with urban legend Batman, and there's a reason why that status quo only lasts maybe the first hour or so of Burton's Batman or even Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. But I wonder if in any comic continuity, there's a dividing line: Batman was an urban legend, then this happened.

For good measure, here's a Gary Frank page where Bats is obviously a guy, but still a guy that will make thugs crap themselves.

Milestone briefly had a book called Kobalt, about an urban vigilante who had built his reputation up until Dakota's criminal underworld believed him to be a demonic force. Unfortunately, when forced to take a kid sidekick (favors were owed...) and said sidekick then caught on video, Kobalt's rep is completely gutted. I've only read one issue of Kobalt, so I'm not sure how that worked out; or if Batman would experience something similar, but I'm curious.

Hmm. I haven't read all of Batman Chronicles. We mentioned the staggering awfulness of Batman Chronicles #21, and it gnaws at me that I can't positively say that was the worst of the lot...

* I want to say there's a Jim Starlin prose story with illustrations--or maybe Michael Golden? No, Denny O'Neil and Marshall Rogers! "Death Strikes at Midnight and Three"--that I thought we'd see on 80-Page Thursdays sometime. If it isn't a figment of my imagination. EDIT: It is real, but I thought it was in an issue of Batman Family, it's from DC Special Series #15 and reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.

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