Adam Graham's Blog: Christians and Superheroes - Posts Tagged "batman"

The Justice Introverts, The Fantastic Extroverts, and The Avengers

I've been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking which focuses on introversion and the power of Introverts. I always score very high on Introversion tests, so I find it interesting.

As I thought about this topic, I wondered where my favorite superheroes would lie on this Introversion/Extroversion Axis.

Of course, Superheroes can be tricky to pin down. The nature of the Superhero business requires characters to do things that are more naturally introverted such as keeping few close relationships less someone learn your secret identity. It also can require some more public outgoing behavior.

In addition, Superheroes are often dualistic with two identities with two very different identities. Where does Superman begin and where does Clark Kent end?

Introversion doesn't have to do with selfishness or necessarily shyness. It has to do with what energizes you. For introverts, it's time alone and in thoughtful activities like reading. For extroverts, it's time with people. Introversion can be accompanied by other traits such as thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

Thus, it's quite possible to be a Superhero AND an introvert. I'd say many of the DC heroes definitely fit that bill because their origins go back farther and original comics drew from an earlier time in what Susan Cain calls the culture of "Character." Oftentimes, early comic books didn't have our characters with a lot of flashy personalities and identity problems. We loved the original superheroes because of their character, their quiet strength and humility, and much of that has carried over to the present day.

One final challenge is that there have been so many versions of these characters and writers have changed personalities. I will only write about the characters as I know them, so no "New 52" stuff or other recent comic innovations.

The Justice League: Animated Series

Batman (Introvert): The coolest and most popular Superhero of the modern age is probably one of the most introverted in his modern version. The Justice League Animated Series makes this clear. Sometimes the other heroes will go about flouncing around, jumping into action with little thought or consideration. In the middle of all, Batman sitting down in the batcave, with an actual solution. Batman can hold his own battle, but he is the clear brains of the Justice League series. Like many introverts, he wears a mask (named Bruce Wayne) who does all the smiling socializing necessary to maintain a secret identity, but Batman is at ease and happy down in the Batcave figuring everything out.

Superman (Introvert): There's some debate over this, though perhaps it stems from a misunderstanding of Introversion/Extroversion. Someone on a comic forum argued Superman Adores his wife (that's back before DC made Superman unmarried so they could pursue a relationship with Wonder Woman)." Many introverts adore their spouses. That's not the point. There's a difference between an introvert and a misanthrope. I tend to think Superman is an introvert, partly due to nature (Krypton seems a place that valued personality less than Earth.) and nurture (being raised on a farm miles from others.) Superman's always been a bit of a loner and so has Clark Kent, even from childhood with few close friends and this has continued to adulthood. I mean Batman may have the Batcave, but when Superman needs to recharge he flies up to the North Pole to a place called, "The Fortress of Solitude." I rest my case.

Martian Manhunter: Maybe, he'd be more sociable if there were other Martians around, but he's a very quiet and thoughtful person who rarely says anything that's not important and is more given to contemplation than chattering conversation.

The Flash (Wally West) (Extrovert) : Ultimate extrovert, always joking around and having a good time, though it was once suggested by Unlimited hero that his jovial attitude was only a mask. I hope not because the Justice League needs some balance.

The rest: Green Lantern (John Stewart) (Introvert), Hawkgirl (Slight Extrovert), Wonder Woman (Extrovert).

The Fantastic Four

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that the team of Superheroes that forsook secret identities would be majority Extroverts (with one key exception).

Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), ever the outgoing lady's man who thrives on public speaking, social interactions, and public performances is the obvious Extrovert.

Sue Richards (the Invisible Woman) is far more outgoing than her Introvert husband and always up for going out and social occasions.

Ben Grimm (The Thing) may be self-conscious about his appearance, but when he gets out, he shows all the boisterous enthusiasm of any Extrovert.

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) is the team's only Introvert. He's the guy that the rest of the team has to pry out of the lab. It is true that in one early issue of the Fantastic Four, he did encourage the Four to go to a reception held for them by Congress. But this was more out of a sense of duty and patriotism rather than excitement about a social outing. Ironically, it's the Introverted Reed who rises to leadership.

The Avengers

Here we base our perceptions on the two or (in the case of Iron Man) three movies containing the most popular characters as well as the other bits about them we've picked up from the Marvel Universe:

Iron Man (Ambivert): Tony Stark is kind of hard to figure out. On one hand, he's a party animal in social situations and loves being the center of attention and can be recklessly spontaneous such as blowing his secret identity at the end of Iron Man. On the other hand, he handles solitary activities and works well alone. He's not only a combination of man and machine, he's a combination of Introvert and Extrovert. He's an Amnivert (and that's a real word.)

Thor (Extrovert): Thor is not one for quite reflection. He's the pure man of action, ready to march into war. He's not stupid, not reckless, but he is a social leader, much more comfortable with comrades by his side than alone.

Captain America (Introvert): The Marvel heroes have huge respect for Captain America, but it's not because he's the most outgoing people person. It's once again that quiet strength of character and dedication to duty. He first appeared in 1941, and is come from the same cloth as Batman and Superman. He's not the life of the party, but its quiet strength and inspiration.


Due to the sheer volume of material I've read, I've got to offer an opinion on a couple of characters not usually included in any team.

Spider-man (Introvert): There have been some conflicting portrayals of Spider-man, whether this is due to him being an amnivert or him being an "Extrovert wannabe," or whether the writers have had trouble writing him consistently is a fair question. There are several things favor him being an introvert. His geekiness, his quiet enjoyment of science and solitude loom large. On the other hand, Spider-man can be somewhat impulsive and reckless in battle. While humor or comedy is not the sole province of extroversion, his flip, wise-cracking comments to all-comers may suggest extroversion to many.

I think Spider-man's extrovert traits are proof of a concept that Cain shared in the book. No one is a complete extrovert or introvert. Anyone who fell into either category according to Carl Jung would be in an insane asylum. Spider-man's multi-faceted personality makes him such a fascinating and engaging character and also keeps him sane.

However, I think the evidence is quite clear on Spider-man's introverted tilt. While Spider-man may be wisecracking with the bad guys, if we watch cartoons or read the comics, we see him having deep introspective sensitive thoughts in his private moments. And when Spider-man
has had a bunch of drama (either in or out of costume), there's nothing he enjoys more than swinging across the Manhattan skyline, enjoying the pleasure of peace and quiet above the maddening rush of the city.

Daredevil (Extrovert): Superman may retreat and enjoy the tranquility of the Fortress of Solitude but not Daredevil. As a blind man, he's expected to weak and helpless and it drives him nuts. In Daredevil Vol. 1, #25, he declared that it felt like being Matt Murdoch was a mask. At his best, he's a swashbuckling adventurer and outgoing lawyer. The limits of his handicap and the requirements of being a superhero notwithstanding, Daredevil is an Extrovert at heart.

So, of the seventeen heroes I looked at, eight are extroverts, eight are introverts, and one is an amnivert. With these diverse personalities, they all play key roles in keeping the world safe from evil.

In that way, superheroes may set an example for introverts and extroverts in the real world.
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Published on November 01, 2012 22:38 Tags: batman, daredevil, spider-man, superman

Review: God on the Streets of Gotham

God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach Us about God and Ourselves God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach Us about God and Ourselves by Paul Asay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What does Batman have to do with Christianity? To many cynical modern Batman fans, the answer is, "Nothing." Batman is a lapsed probably Episcopalian, maybe lapsed Catholic, with no religious underpinnings. For such fans, Paul Asay's God on the Streets of Gotham will seem like an absurd concept.

However, writers borrow from the culture around them, either intentionally or by accident. Of Shakespeare's thirty-six plays, thirty-five were based on some other work or story. If Shakespeare had to borrow, the writers of Batman have to do even moreso. In addition, God's truth is so woven throughout creation and good fiction reflects these truths. It is possible to extrapolate some truth from anything whether it's the Rocky movies or superheroes.

The point of such a book is not that it necessarily explains some amazing heretofore unknown spiritual truth. Rather, it makes spiritual truths more real and causes us to look at them in a different way. It's a bit of a Mars Hill device in explaining truths about God through something that is known and recognizable to the reader.

By that account, Asay's book works. It delvers a theologically sound examination of themes from Batman that tie into the Christian view of life. One thing that I like about Asay's treatment is that the Batman character affords an opportunity to discuss difficult issues that Christians can tend to gloss over such as pain and suffering.

What makes this sort of book work is the knowledge of the writer of the secondary subject matter (in this case Batman), Asay is a long-time Batfan, so while he cites extensively from the first two Batman movies, he also reference both golden and silver age incarnations of Batman as well as more modern works such as the Knight Fall and No Man's Land comics. Asay knows his stuff and that makes the book worth reading, particularly if you're more familiar from Batman from his large and small screen incarnations.

At times, Asay does stretch a bit to make a point and his chapter, "Tools" in which Asay creates an analogy between Batman's costume and the full of Armor of God listed by the Apostle Paul seemed a little corny with "The Utility Belt of Truth" but mostly came out okay. Also, because these were written before Asay saw the final Nolan Batman film. At least one of his points was negatives.

Overall, if you're a fan of Batman who'd like a different way to think about the Christian life, this is a good book for you.

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Published on November 20, 2012 06:32 Tags: batman, god, theology

Review: Batman: The Dailies

Batman: The Dailies 1943-1946 Batman: The Dailies 1943-1946 by Bob Kane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While Batman has had a long career in comic books, he also had a much lesser known turn in the comic strips from 1943-46.

The Batman Comic Strip appeared for a small newspaper syndicate and was wrought with challenges. This book collects all the daily strips (with the Sunday strips being in another book.)

For my money, the first six strips are fantastic. They feature great stories that are packed with mystery, action, and poignant moments. In one strip, Batman is shot and lies near death's door in his battle against racketeers. In another, Batman and Robin are seemingly rescued by a private detective but there's more to this story than meets the eye. Then there's Batman and Robin travelling to take on a small town corrupt official who hires a Peter Lorre lookalike as a hitman. And of course, the Joker shows up (the only regular Batman rogue to appear in the Daily Strips) with a series of symbol crimes. There has to be nothing better than seeing the Batman and the Joker duke it out day after day, week after week.

The latter strips are much more of a mixed bag. The writing was still generally okay but we went days and sometimes weeks at a time without seeing Batman and Robin in costume. There was the "Karen Drew Mystery" which saw neither Batman nor Robin in costume for it's five week run. Another strip I counted and there were 50 daily strips run during one series with Batman or Robin only showing up in costume in three.

This isn't to say there weren't highlights. In the wake of a World War II housing shortage, Batman and Robin took on "their toughest assignment"...finding someone an apartment. Great comedy. And then there was "The Warning with the Lamp" with one of the most amusing characters with great lines such as, "Dash My Shoelaces." "Affair with Death" was also a fairly robust story. However, mostly middling storylines seemed to dominate the last sixty percent of the book.

However none of this should reflect on Joe Desris who lovingly compiled these strips from a thorough search of newspaper and interviews with Batman creators. Who truly made it happen. I also appreciated how he wrote a great commentary which provided plenty of historical context. If you're a fan of the Batman, you owe it to yourself to pick up this volume either used or through your local library.

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Published on December 08, 2012 09:44 Tags: batman

Three Golden Age Batman Book Reviews

Here are reviews of three different Golden Age Batman Books I read:

The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 1 The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bill Finger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Batman Chronicles Volume 1 marks the Batman's first appearances in Detective Comics in Issues 27-38 and the first big 64-page Batman Issue 1.

The character in the first eleven stories is barely recognizable as Batman with those huge ears on the costume. The original Batman is a character right out of the same pulp fiction tradition as characters like The Shadow and Doc Savage. He's a vigilante who often carries a gun. In these early issues, Bruce Wayne lives in Manhattan and has a fiancée.

The first two stories have very little of that Superhero feel to them However when Gardener Fox takes over in Detective Comics #29, the villains get more interesting. Batman battles Dr. Hugo Strange, Dr. Death, saboteurs, and even vampires. On the vampire plot, they got a little confused as Batman killed the vampires by shooting them with a silver bullet.

The amount of killings and the darkness of the early stories has been exaggerated somewhat by people who defend the dark turn of later issues of the comic book. The killings that happened were all in self-defense and bloodless portrayals. Anyone claiming they're taking Batman back to his root s by including a lot of bloody violence is full of it.

Of course, this comic also marks the first appearance of the Joker as Batman's prime villain in Batman #1. This Joke is pretty much the homicidal maniac we've all come to know. The Joker dies at the end of the issue, but of course there was no way he was going to stay dead.

The biggest change in this book as far as I'm concerned was the appearance of Robin in Detective Comics #38. Really, this changed the tone of the comic book and maybe . The original Robin, Dick Grayson, was trained by Batman after his parents were murdered at the order of a local mob boss named Boss Zucco. Robin was a real swashbuckling, wise-cracking hero that really brought fun to the comics and it did seem to make a positive change for Batman.

Robin was intended as a bit of model for youth living in tenements were crime dominated. In Batman #1, In one scene, Batman takes the guns from four criminals and Batman allows the four of them to take Robin on. Once Robin cleans the four with them, Batman speaks directly to readers, and delivers a special message. Kids were encouraged to be one of Robin's regulars by practicing Readiness, Obedience, Brotherhood, Industriousness, and Nationalism. It may have sounded cheesy today, but modern kids could do worse.

It's really hard to imagine that Batman would have endured as long as he had if Robin hadn't come along. While some of the stories are problematic and too short. The introduction of Robin, the Joker, and Catwoman make this a great read for Batfans everywhere.

Batman: The Sunday Classics 1943-1946 Batman: The Sunday Classics 1943-1946 by Bob Kane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Batman Sunday strips is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, they avoided the low points that the daily strips suffered where Batman and Robin would not be seen for months in costume. On the other hand, the stories were not nearly as complex and a few stories were disappointing particularly the first storyline and the last two.

However, this book does have some worthwhile features. It features early appearances by the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and an early version of Two Face. In addition, Batman has all kind of adventures away from Gotham City including at oil wells, at New Orleands during Mardi Gras as well as several other rural adventures.

In addition, this collection includes snippets of rare Batman comic strips from 1953, 1966, 1978, and 1989 which are sadly unavailable collected form, so this is a treat for Batman fans that's definitely worth reading.

Batman in the Forties Batman in the Forties by Bill Finger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book takes 192 pages to give readers view of the best Batman stories of eleven years of Batman stories from 1939-50. We get a pretty solid sampling. There's the first Batman story, Robin's first story and solo stories with Robin and Alfred.

Included are the introduction of Vicky Vale in Batman #49. There's a great Joker Story, "The Joker Follows Suit" in which the Clown Prince of Crime carries off an imitation of Batman intorducing the Jokermobile and the Joker signal for criminals in trouble. There's also a somewhat odd Catwoman story where she falls in love with Bruce Wayne and tries to reform only to reverse intentions when she finds out Bruce is leading her on (for some reason.)

The Bat Cave is invaded in a "1,000 Secrets of the Batcave" in which a fleeing criminal finds his way into Wayne Manor and eventually the Batcave and the Dynamic duo and the tough battle it out in the midst of all Batman's props and trophies.

My favorite story in the book had to be "Bruce Wayne Loses Guardianship of Dicky Grayson." Bruce Wayne/Batman is clearly emotional about the loss of the person he "loves most." Batman also is more quietly emotional in Batman #47 when he comes face to face with his parents' killers.

This early Batman is far more emotive, and the stories are even open to the occasional happy ending as happened to the original Two Face story in Detective Comics #80.

There are a few weaker entries in this book such as the "Clayface" story and Batman was not nearly as fun a character as Superman in the same era, but it's still a worthwhile read for any superhero fan.

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Published on January 07, 2013 23:29 Tags: batman, batman-and-robin, golden-age-of-comics

Robin Changed Everything

There were some superhero characters that I would have said were cool when growing up.

Robin was not one of them.

There were two version of Robin I was familiar with.

Version #1 was Dick Ward's robin from the 1960s TV series with his slapping his hand into his fist and saying, "Holy roller coaster ride, Batman." Funny? Yes. Cool? No. Particularly useful? Not really. I mean I could hand Batman the shark-repellant Bat Spray.

Then there was the Batman: The Animated Series version. In the first 85 episodes, Robin appeared in only thirty, and some of these were cameos or more of a hostage than a partner. When I saw the Robin episodes, it really felt most of the time that the writers were job to shove Robin in even though Batman could manage quite well on his own.

Of course, without Robin, Batman may have been all but forgotten. Batman enjoyed some success, but he was hardly alone in the "dark and dangerous avenger" category. Batman's whole tableau was dark and very pulpish, and at times disturbing as he seemed barely human as he went about as a bit of a crimefighting machine, skulking in the darkness and talking to himself as the villains did themselves in during their battles. Robin was grim, dark, and like way too many other pulp and comic heroes of the era.

However, in Detective Comics #38, Batman's world changed forever when the introduction of Dick Grayson as Robin, the Boy Wonder. Like Bruce Wayne, Dick's parents were killed by criminals. This gave the two an uncommon bond. It led to Rruce training Dick and to become Robin, the Boy Wonder.

The change in the comic was instantaneous. The Golden Age Robin was the definition of cool. He was wise-cracking, swash-buckling, and an asset to the team. Batman was protective of Robin, but Robin showed he belonged as a crimefighter time and time again.

In Batman #1, having captured four criminals, Batman says they're not so tough without their guns and he challenges them to take on Robin. Robin beats the four grown men single-handed. Batman told the comic reading kids that this proved they shouldn't look up to gangsters who were nothing without their weapons. At the end of Batman #1. Kids were invited to become one of Robin's Regulars with the panel portraying a boy walking an old man across the street. R.O.B.I.N. was said to be an acronym meaning Readiness, Obedience, Brotherhood, Industriousness, and Nationalism.

Whether kids took the code seriously or not, Robin helped firmly establish the Caped Crusader and his books. Robin was so successful, he was quickly mimicked by the National Comics publication More Fun Comics. Green Arrow made his first appearance in More Fun Comics in 1941 with boy sidekick Speedy. Over at Timely Comics, Captain America emerged with a boy sidekick Bucky, and the original Human Torch got a young sidekick named Toro. And it all began with Robin who rightly emerged as a leader of the Teen Titans.

Over the years, the relationship was often misunderstood and twisted by sex-obsessed psychologists and attempts to negate these unfounded concerns probably hurt the book.

In 1970s, it was decided to take the comic in another direction and Robin began to disappear from Batman titles and the character of Robin became darker. The Batman live-action movies of recent years have mostly excluded Robin. Five of the seven Batman films released since the original 1989 Movie have not featured Robin and the two that have are among the less regarded ones.

And largely Robin is thrown in to many Batman productions because well-Robin should be there, but writers have little idea what to do with the character and how he can impact the series. Robin of modern day is definitely never someone who changes the dynamic of Batman's crimefighting action.

That's not to say that this modern interpretation of Robin isn't without some merit. What young man can't identify with a twenty something year old Robin's struggle to redefine himself in the shadow of the Bat? Any man who has struggled to relate to a father figure as an adult will understand this struggle.

Yet, there's something to be said for the old Robin story. Of a boy who needs a father and a man who needs a son, of a deep bond formed by common pain, and the pure fun and joy of adventure. The Golden Age Robin is a cool character who saved Batman from sinking from the public imagination like characters such as the Black Hood. Maybe, it was more idealistic than realistic, particularly as more turbulent times came, but sometimes a little idealism can be a good thing.
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Published on January 09, 2013 22:23 Tags: batman, robin

Review: Batman Adventures: The Lost Years

Batman Adventures: Lost Years Batman Adventures: Lost Years by Hilary J. Bader

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happened between the end of Batman and Robin Adventures and the new Batman Adventures television series as well as the Gotham Knight Adventures comic book series? This book has the answer.

Dick Grayson is approaching college graduation and increasingly, he's locking horns with Batman. He's questioning Batman's judgment and decision making processes. Meanwhile, Batman is feeling more frustrated and less confident in Robin's ability to be there. This leads to the eventual break up of the team as Dick Grayson sets out to find his way in the world.

The story can be, at first, hard to wrap your mind around. One simply doesn't question Batman's judgment. Yet, there's a bigger relational context going on here. Batman is still treating Dick Grayson the way he did at the beginning of their partnership when Grayson was a young teenager. Now, he's a man, a man who is an experienced crimefighter thanks to his years with Batman and Batman can't cope with it.

He's uncertain of Robin and takes Batgirl on as a partner because Batgirl respects him and his decisions. (As an aside the book's treatment of the Batman-Batgirl relationship v. the TV show's which seemed to suggest a romantic interest that began while she was dating Dick.)

At the same time, Dick has to find his own way in the world. In Book 2, he lays down the Robin colors and says that the Robin colors are for a boy, not a man. So, he sets off to find himself leaving Bruce Wayne behind without even saying goodbye and using his Grayson trust fund money to finance the trip.

The journey abroad is only somewhat interesting. Dick is shown as a quick learner who travels from one corner of the globe to the other seeking to learn new skills and quickly exhausting the knowledge of one teacher after another who warn him that he needs to learn about himself. The stories abroad are interesting but not amazing.

Issue 4 has a bit of a break as Batman gets a new Robin in Tim Drake who Batman rescues and takes to the Batcave. Drake quickly uncovers Batman's identity and then puts the old Robin suit on to avenge his father's death. The story seemed odd as the other four books in the collection focused on Grayson, but this was necessary.

The book rises to a higher level because of the pathos of the story. This isn't Marvel where characters are very vocal about their emotions. But there are subtle touches. In Book 3, Dick realizes it's been a year since he left and wonders if he's missed. The comic cuts to Bruce Wayne sitting by the fire and when Alfred reminds him it's a been a year, Wayne feigns ignorance, all while staring at a picture of Grayson. He has a decidedly negative reaction when first seeing Drake in the Robin costume.

Grayson also has these reactions. When he finally returns, Alfred interrupts with word that the Batman signal has been flashed. Grayson responds, "That's all right Alfred. Business always comes first, doesn't it?" Wayne answers yes and they're off. Though in that moment is the great tragedy and sadness of Grayson. He wanted and needed more than work, more than a partner in crimefighting. He needed a deeper father-son relationship that Wayne could never provide.

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Published on January 10, 2013 18:24 Tags: batman, robin

Book Review: Batman Archives, Volume 2

Batman Archives, Vol. 2 Batman Archives, Vol. 2 by Bill Finger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book contains nearly 300 pages of Golden Age reprints of Batman stories from Detective Comics #51-#70 with each story being 12 pages long.

The book features a great introduction by crime writer Max Allan Collins who breaks down the history on each comic and what it's going for. Collins is also able to offer some cogent comparisons with Dick Tracy.

Then we're for a total of 20 different stories which are solid quality. Of the twenty stories in the book, we have the first two stories with Two Face, three stories with Penguin (including the first two), and three with the Joker.

And the rest of the book is no slouch either. There's a great amusement park story which is plenty of fun: pirates, a story featuring black marketeers with a fight on board a Nazi Zeppelin. There are some strange crime tales like a man who has 24 hours to live and starts killing off his heirs, a criminal gang hijacking police radio to send criminal messages, and a phony mentalist that actually gets the ability to read minds. I also loved, "The Three Racketeers."

The war rhetoric stars to heat up. Batman wants everyone to do their part, urging criminals shooting at him to conserve on bullets and the Joker flies away in a stolen bomber but assures Batman, "I'll send the Bomber back so it can drop a few eggs on the Japs." The Joker may be a homicidal maniac, but he's a patriotic one!

Robin continues to be outstanding, less of the traditional sidekick and more of a true partner. The villains put Batman to the test and Batman comes through every time.

These are simply superb stories. There are minor points to critique. The second Two Face Story is a little too over the top. The story featuring a Raffle Rip off named Baffles is merely okay. And the gesture of having the entire city conspire to deceive the parents of an understudy actress is sweet, but comes off as more of a Superman thing to do with an ending that's a little forced. It's interesting to see someone argue that Gotham City isn't so bad though as we live in the "Gotham is hell" age.

Overall, these stories are absolute fun. The rough edges of the early comics have been cleaned up and what remains is one of the best Golden Age characters of them all. Whether in the Archives or the Batman Chronicles, these are must-read stories.

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Published on October 17, 2013 23:00 Tags: batman, golden-age

Book Review: Superman Batman Generations

Superman & Batman: Generations, An Imaginary Tale (Elseworlds) Superman & Batman: Generations, An Imaginary Tale by John Byrne

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

John Byrne comes up with a truly great concept for an imaginary story: Superman, Batman, and their associated cast aging normally from their origins in the 1930s to the present.

There are eight stories collected in this edition beginning with 1939 and continuing on to 1999 and then taking a jump into the distant future. There's a lot to like about this mini-series particularly in the early going. The 1930s and 1950s tale are the best.

While most modern incarnations of Superman and Batman imagine Superman as good cop and Batman as bad cop. The 1930s Superman was quite as aggressive as Batman and the two hit it off quite well. The 1950s story of Batmite and Mxyzptlk battling to prove whose hero was the best was a classic Silver age pastiche.

The serial began to go downhill with the 1960s story and the injection of anti-war politics as superheroes declined to win the Vietnam War for Richard Nixon because Vietnam was different than World War 2 and less clear cut. However, the heroes hadn't won World War 2 for the U.S. either. Byrne delves deeper by portraying Superman's non-superpowered son as a war criminal.

The 1979-89 serials were the worst as Superman is defeated by the bad guys in a way that's ignominious at best and really dark and depressing. Then the 1999 and 2919 (yep you read that right) basically turns the two into demigods, although a flashback to 1929 showing Bruce Wayne as the first Robin fighting along Superboy in Gotham city was actually pretty good.

Overall, it left a bad taste. The anguish inflicted on Superman was extreme. The success of Luthor against Superman was almost complete vengeance. We get to see the this happen but Byrne fails to create any emotional space for readers to actual feel anything about it one way or another except to feel down about our heroes.

Then the end with Superman and Batman still living and in good health after everyone passed away suggests that the point of a generations story was missed. This type of story should be about the passing of the torch and how the principles that Batman and Superman believe in and the example they set blazes a trail that their descendants follow. Instead, they become the point and live on, but both as compromised heroes. Both survive only because of technology from some of their worst enemies. In the end we're left with an imaginary tale that at best suggests that there's less to the imagination of John Byrne that meets the eye.

In addition to the story elements, his drawing of Lois Lane was horrible. She's never looked worst than in this serial which emphasizes her smoking in a way that is far from attractive for whatever reason.

Byrne's project could have been great, but in the end it fails on an emotional level, it fails to inspire, and instead we're left with a soulless pointless story that never takes enough time or space for its readers to feel anything. The result is a mess.

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Published on November 01, 2013 17:32 Tags: batman, superman

Book Review: Superman-Batman Generations II

Superman & Batman: Generations 2, An Imaginary Tale (Elseworlds) Superman & Batman: Generations 2, An Imaginary Tale by John Byrne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a great concept. Imagine Superheroes aging like normal passing on the mantle to the next generation rather than magically remaining artificially young to hold a fickle reading public and corporate executives who love having established commercial properties.

Apparently, this was a sequel to the original Generations book and it attempted to focus on other heroes such as the Green Lantern, the Flash, and Wonder Woman as well as Superman and Batman. The book eight stories set eleven years apart each beginning in 1942.

The first three stories work pretty well but by the 4th some of the weaknesses in concept begin to show. First of all, while the first two stories did pretty well with the concept particularly as we saw Wonder Woman having a child in 1953, the attempts to pay attention to other Justice League characters becomes sporadic at best after the 1960s story. Superman, Batman, and their families take up so much space.

The other big problem was that it felt like, he just didn't have space to do this story right. To do this right, I think you'd need a whole book dedicated to each decade. The way it was, it felt like I'd picked up a book that collected eight random comic books, many of them taken out of the middle out of other story lines. That makes for some frustrating reading.

The last story too is a bit of a cheat as it "happens" at the Fortress of Solitude in 2019 but it's Batman and Superman viewing a video of an attempt by Jonathan Kent to prevent the murders of Martha and Thomas Wayne. The story was moving at the time, but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes from a pure human perspective.

In the end, it's a mixed bag. Worth a read from the library or as used book, hard to imagine shelling out coin of the real for a new copy.

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Published on November 02, 2013 22:59 Tags: batman, john-byrne, superman

Book Review: Batman Chronicles, Volume 2

The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 2 The Batman Chronicles, Vol. 2 by Bill Finger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 2nd Volume collects Batman stories from Detective Comics #39-#45 which were relatively short 13 page stories as well as stories from Batman #2 and #3, which were larger magazines dedicated to Batman and contained 3-4 stories each and then a Batman and Robin story from New York World's Fair Magazine.

It's worth noting that these are truly Batman and Robin stories. The Boy Wonder continues to bring color, life, and fun to each adventure, saving Batman's bacon a few times with the Dark Knight returning the favor.

The stories themselves are mostly okay. The first concept for Clayface appears in Detective Comics #40. Batman and Catwoman make a couple of appearances each including one joint appearance in Batman #2 which features the Catwoman and the Joker. The other stories are a mix of pulp fiction style stories with a few mysteries thrown in complete with list of clues and suspects for young readers to solve.

A big focus of Batman in these early years was to teach kids that criminals were not worthy of admiration, which is why Robin routinely beats several older criminals at a time as he did when Batman and Robin took on a crime school set up to teach boys the ways of crime. This message was never more clear as the intent than at the end of Batman #3 when a written statement from Batman appears encouraging readers to eschew a life of crime.

The sad irony in this is that many Batman stories with their focus on cool villains may almost seem to cut counter to this old fashioned message. However, in this book, the message comes through loud and clear, and thanks to the plucky boy wonder, it comes through with style.

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Published on December 04, 2013 18:00 Tags: batman, golden-age

Christians and Superheroes

Adam Graham
I'm a Christian who writes superhero fiction (some parody and some serious.)

On this blog, we'll take a look at:

1) Superhero stories
2) Issues of faith in relation to Superhero stories
3) Writing Superhe
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