Monday, October 13, 2008

Classicos DC - The brave and the bold tangent - Holy utility belt !

Now before going off and writing about things like the possibility that Erik Larsen may not be as gay as Warren Ellis and other things Dragon I was still writing of the spanish editon of Jim Aparo's issues of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD that Planeta DeAgostini published in black and white.

I have just re - read the first two entries about this topic and have spent a lot of time correcting some mistakes I made. And there were a lot of them because I normally tend to type everything real fast. It's like my fingers are trying to match the speed of my thoughts before I totally loose track of my train of thought before it reaches the station. And since the days when I started using a typewriter I have stopped actually looking at what I'm writing while I'm writing. I'm just happily typing away hoping that it will make sense when I read it later. That way I get what I set out to do with this blog - which is my kind of telepathy that projects my ideas directly into your brain using this blog. But it also means that I have to get back later and correct all the i's that should be I's and the o's that are p's and such stuff.

So the good part is that I just corrected all the mistakes in the first two parts of this series. But the bad part is that I probably won't get to finish this post today so I have to save this as a draft ( which I'm doing more often now thanks to my mother's houseguests constant sabotage of our electrical installation ) and when you can finally read it it will already be Tuesday.

Now although this has to do with the series THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD I have titled it tangent because while it was inspired by reading the issues of Brave and Bold it is it's own topic. Last Monday I wrote about continuity and alternate realities and all the ELSEWORLDS stuff.

And how every continuity counts and all versions are true. But now I have to take a complete 180 degree turn and put in my Veto. There's a german expression that says : " What do I care about the bullshit I said Yesterday ? " and that's what this post is about.

Because some things should never change no matter what. I can understand that companies want their characters to evolve and change and be always fresh and new. They want to attract new readers and because they can't think of anything better to do they give the characters an overhaul. Which may bring in new readers for a few month but on one side it's not going to last very long and on the other side you are going to lose a lot of old readers. Just wait till all the fallout from BRAND NEW DAY has come to the surface. Change just for change's sake has never been a good thing especially in comics.

Now the reason why I'm writing this is that when you read Jim Aparo's issues of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD you start to realize how much is wrong with today's version of Batman. And I'm saying " version " because that's not the real Batman and that are not the real Bat - family that you read about in the actual comics.

Over the course of the last few years comic companies have tried to bring a younger reading audience to comics and one of the main tools to do this was making the heroes younger and younger and younger. Now this can work out fantastic like in Marvel's ULTIMATE SPIDER - MAN book but when they try to give you two versions of the same turning the regular Peter Parker into a second version of the ultimate Peter Parker.....this doesn't work.

Because then you put all your money on one horse and while the new readers have a bigger selection of what to read there are no books left for the readers you already have. Or had. One of the business rules ( and it may even be one of the Ferengi Rules of Acqusition ) is that it is always easier to keep the customers you already have than it is to gain new ones. You would think that we all learned that from the fiasko of NEW COKE. Somebody should have told Marvel.

One of the consequences of this trend that makes every new incarnation of known caracters younger and younger is that Batgirl is now smaller and younger than Robin. Not in actual continuity but....yes, also in actual continuity I think. Because while the character Oracle is the old Batgirl every body knows and loves DC had to retcon her in the otherwise brilliant miniseries BATGIRL : YEAR ONE written by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon with art by the incomparable Marcos Martin.

From the wikipedia entry about the changes made in the story :

Barbara's age and height are significantly changed. In the Silver Age origin, Barbara was 21 years old and stood at 5'11. She was generally depicted as an empowered and independent woman. In Batgirl: Year One, Barbara is at least 17/18, having graduated from college (early) and applied for field duty with the FBI, which rejected her application on the grounds that she was too short (the GCPD rejects her on the same grounds). She is portrayed as a constant victim of sexism, which in itself plays its part in her developing an interest in vigilantism, to prove a point.

Because it seems that it's not enough that they supplanted her Batgirl persona with a little ninja manga also had to retcon the real Batgirl's story. And don't get me wrong, I have nothing against new takes on the origin stories or stories thad shed new light on the beginnings of certain superheroes like ROBIN : THE GAUNTLET. But there are three kind of YEAR ONE stories. First up are the really great ones like BATMAN : YEAR ONE, JLA : YEAR ONE or SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS. These are great re - tellings of the original stories that keep the spirit of the characters intact and become part of the official continuity. Then there are the stinkers like John Byrne's SPIDER - MAN : YEAR ONE or the new DR.STRANGE mini by Straczyinski that are so bad that everybody just ignores them like they never happened. And we're all better off without them. And then there is the rest.

In this category fall all the YEAR ONE stories that are not overwhelming or that could have been brilliant if there was not this ONE tiny little detail that totally kills the suspension of disbelief. And in the case of BATGIRL : YEAR ONE that tiny little thing is that Batgirl has now finally becoma a tiny little thing herself. I don't know how DC's new continuity explains how this slip of a girl grew into the grown woman Oracle is - maybe a sudden growth spurt. But it just doesn't make any sense.

I don't know why DC thinks it's a good idea to change a character that even in the tv series ( were it was originally created ) was taller and older than Robin and make her younger. What is the message here ? I mean in the original story Batman took Batgirl under his wing because she was not a small kid and she could take care of herself. Otherwise he would never had bothered with her. And now we have to believe that he finally comes to see this Powerpuff Girl as an equal. It makes no sense. I know that the writers wanted to write a story about Batgirl's battle to get Batman to accept her as an addition to the Bat - family. But did they have to go to such ridiculous lenghts and make her smaller and younger than Robin when it totally takes you out of reading the comic ?

I mean the story is great and the art is wonderful as always but the whole time I'm watching Lisa Simpson trying to be Batgirl. Sorry but Batgirl should not be younger and shorter than Robin. She never was and she never should be.

And to take it even further in the book ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN ( and here you thought I would never say anything bad about the book ) she's even younger. Why do Batman's sidekicks get younger and younger when his attitude in the comics has always been that he considers most sidekicks ( especially the ones of other JLA members ) as much too young to join the fight.

But who cares ? Nothing makes sense anymore - least of all Batman. Because here's where the apple really is rotten. Okay, let's start with the name : its Batman. BATman. And not RATman. So why does Batman have this itty bitty ears that look more like a rat than a bat. Wasn't it the general idea to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers by dressing up as a bat ? Well, this doesn't work if you look more like a rat than a bat. And here he always was wondering why they called him a flying rat. Because that's what the new Batman looks like.

You could argue that it's to confuse his opponents. Picture the following scene :

Thug a : " Oh, look, it' that Batman ? "

Thug b : " Looks more like Ratman to me. "

Thug a : " Ratman ? Don't be ridiculous. Who ever heard of someone called Ratman ? "

Thug b : " Well, Batman is not much better. Why is Batman better than Ratman ? "

Thug c : " I think I heard of a Ratman over in Chicago. "

Thug a : " That was the Ratpack you moron ! "

BIFF ! POW ! WHACK ! KLUMP ! ( sounds of Batman pummeling them while they discuss )

Is this what it has come to ? Batman's oufit was supposed to strike fear but how does it work when he's not Batman but flying - something - something - Man ? ( And don't even try to steal that name )

Another thing that makes no sense is that they have taken away the yellow ring around Batman's chest emblem. Now I know that some creators ( Frank Miller especially ) found out that the only reason why they put the yellow around it was that the company DC comics could not trademark a black bat. But what they COULD trademark was a black bat in a yellow circle or oval to be more exact.

Now all the artist were soo furious about this that they never thought twice about it and quickly changed it back. Nobody took a minute to ask himself if that is just the artists vanity at work - fighting against the evil and opressive company that pays their rent - or if that does really improve the character and the comics. Because no matter where the yellow ring had originated it made sense . It worked. And it improved the character.

I don't know but have they ever heard of something like " If it ain't broke don't fix it. " at DC ? I mean is it that much work to draw a circle around it ? And it wasn't as if it was bothering the readers. I never read any letter in the letter column ( back then they still had them ) that said : " Hey, what the f - word is up with the yellow circle around the black bat on Batman's chest ? Am I the only one who thinks it lookes stupid ? " Because it made sense.

Batman was always called the Dark Knight and he always was on some kind of crusade against crime. And every knight must have a crest. It's to let all know who he is and it is something that must be bright and shiny and visible for miles. Now there are people who argue that as Batman works at night it would be foolish to wear something so bright and shiny. And you would be right.....if we were talking about the Punisher or some other lurking vigilante. But Batman doesn't lurk or stalk. He walks tall and proud and gangsters scatter as soon as they see him. And it's not that he can't put his cape above it when he doesn't want to be seen.

It's not some glow - in - the - dark emblem that hovers above his chest - like the new emblem of Green Lantern for instance. And the yellow circle also has other things going for it. For one Batman already knows where the bad guy is going to shoot. That's right. Nobody can resist that target. So all Batman has to do is put a double layer of Kevlar on it. And there are even more smart uses for it. Sometimes when it's pitch black the only thing you can see is Batman's yellow ring with the bat. Well, what you don't see is if Batman is really wearing that thing or if he just put it on a stick. You could shoot at it and waste all your ammunition on some stupid yellow circle on a stick while Batman is sitting right behind you.

He could even put four or five of them all over the walls so the bad guys would think that a legion of Batmen has surrounded them. The strategic possibilities are endless. But not if the bad guys have to put a flashlight directly on Batman's chest to see it. You know the bad guy is too near if he can put a flaslight on your chest....or a gun. No, the new batsymbol on the costume doesn't really improve the character. Contrarywise it makes Batman even less believable to non comic readers ( do we have a term for comic - muggels ? ).

Another thing that makes no sense anymore is Batman's utility belt. Well, it USED to be an utility belt. Now it's the new Binford's tooltime 2010 sponsored by Tim Taylor. And it's just ridiculous. Back in the pages of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLT Batman really has an utility belt that's like a mini - batcave when he's on the road. It had anything you needed like a flashlight, breathing apparatus, shark repellant.....whatever useful tool you can think of that was in there. And not just any tools but the most sophisticated and powerful mini - tools.

Which brings us to his actual futility belt ( and that's no misspelling ).

Remember that people said that it made no sense that in the new STAR WARS movies - which are supposed to take place before the original trilogy - the tech is more advanced ? And how it was explained that because of the fallout of the big war that came before the original trilogy most of technology got wiped out ?

Well, the thing with Batman's new belt makes even less sense because his belt was more advanced in the 70s ( when the tech involved was not possible in the real world ) than the belt he now uses. And now we have all the tech that Batman used in his old belt and more stuff like nanotech. But his belt was more high tech and futuritic back then. And there has been no big war that wiped out all the old tech and mankind had to start over from scratch like in the Kamandi comics.

They have explained that Batman donned the new belt in NO MAN'S LAND ( which really wasn't a Batman - story ) because his old one was broken and because he had no access to the Batcave he couldn't fix it. Well, it looks to me like the Batcave is fine again. Anyone ever explained why he's still using the relic instead of getting the newest version of the new and improved original ? You can't tell me that he likes to carry the extra weight around. And it also is more difficult to use some big heavy flashlight than a light small one. And it's not as if those new giant pouches are more practical than the small tubes the belt had.

What if Batman has to work while he's upside down ? If he opens the pouches all the stuff just falls right out. With the tubes they are so small that he can cover it ith his finger and only the tool he needs at the moment comes out. With the pouches he is just showering the whole scenery with it's contents alerting all the bad guys that Batman has entered the building. Makes no sense either.

So there you have it. Thanks to a few crazy ideas and creators putting their pride above the needs of the readers we have now the most impractical version of Batman ever and a sado - maso - latex - ninja smurfette as Batgirl.

Is it any wonder that readership of the Battitles is declining ? And that is the end of my little rant of how Batman should be. In the next part ( yes, there is going to be a next part ) we will come to the contents of volume 4 of the spanish edition of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD which will take us back to a time when Supergirl was really worthy of the title and Lois was getting along fine without Superman.

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