Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Playing Favorites excerpts, pt 12

Every Tuesday, I post excerpts from my best-selling at not-selling super blog, Playing Favorites

I haven't brought up Batman yet for two reasons; I expect he's a huge commitment in terms of subjects of study and I'm quietly afraid that he just won't hold up to close analysis, an irrational concern only heightened by his resurgence in popular culture. This is an irrational fear; some sort of chiroptophobia with the twist that it's about a man who dresses up as a bat and he's not as cool as I think.

If there was a scale of irrationality, it would be pretty high because, as much as an opinion can be an objective fact, I love The Goddamn Batman. I'm not just looking at him as a series of characters with similar themes, behaviors, and histories written by several dozen writers over the years, but as a cultural facet that may as well have rewritten himself into the fabric of the universe for his multiple iterations which can find a chord with any but the most dogmatic canon fanboy (canboys, from this point forward).

When Grant Morrison wrote All-Star Superman, people were wowed by the simplistic retelling of Superman's origin in just one page(!):
“Doomed planet.
Desperate scientists.
Last hope.
Kindly couple.”
It was brief, but if you didn't know who Superman was, that page did an awe-inspiring amount of jack shit for you. Luckily, even if you're reading this from data pulled off of a destroyed server in the post-apocalyptic remains of the human race, you already know Superman's origin story (Yes, he will likely outlive our culture itself so long as intelligent races grapple with the disparity between the ease of wrongdoing and the elusiveness of justice). The one page 'retelling' from All-Star Superman is less an introduction and more a recap. I'd like to say that it's the most hyped recap page in the history of comics and probably the best one that doesn't include Deadpool (All-Star Deadpool written by Alan Moore. Do it comics. Do it now.)

Now there was--and you don't have to be the world's greatest detective to figure this out--an iconic superhero who did get a one page introduction which successfully introduced him to readers who hadn't ever heard of him before. It was The Goddamn Batman in his first comic:

Any questions? I believe Superman may outlive us all, but there is no doubt in my mind that if he doesn't, Batman will continue to exist beyond our civilization and possibly our species itself. There's an old zen story; a man asks a Zen master about the secret of happiness. The master says, “Grandfather dies, father dies, son dies.” The man is stupefied; death cannot lead to happiness. He says as much to the master and the master replies, “Any other order cannot allow happiness.” Batman's origin begins with a break with that fundamental order of life itself; the father dies before the son. What follows is sadness, anger, and resolve. Despair giving way to righteousness and the desire to make the world make sense (acknowledgments to Frank Miller); to outwit, outfight, and out-resource the chaos and smallness of the universe that causes these breaks. So long as there's chaos that injures life, life will strike back and Batman will be its instrument.

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