Category Archives: Comics

Godzilla in Hell: Review and Analysis

There are few things in life that equal the ridiculous concept of Godzilla in Hell. Yet, this concept is the foundation of a wonderful comic miniseries that tells the story of Godzilla as he traverses through the different circles of Hell. When I first heard about this series I immediately was intrigued and wanted to learn everything I could about this comic book series.   When Christmas came, I finally got the chance to get the complete volume as published by IDW. And the result? I love it. It wasn’t what I expected and that’s what makes it good. Godzilla in Hell’s risky departure from the normal, Monster-of-the-Week formula, makes this series a must read for fans of the Big G.

Image from issue 1. Art done by James Stokoe.

Unfortunately, those looking for a straight-forward narration similar to Godzilla and the Fifty Year War (done by James Stokoe who also penned the first issue in Godzilla in Hell) will be disappointed as narration is kept to a minimum, if at all, and some issues have many pages completely devoid of dialogue. As such, the reader shoulders a great deal of interpretation that would otherwise be spoon fed to him. This lack of exposition makes the series strong as I feel a word-by-word explanation of Hell would only detract from the experience and not enhance the other worldly feel of this abysmal world.

Each issue is also done by a different artist and as such we see radical shifts in styles throughout the series.   The aforementioned lack of dialogue means the artists are given almost free reign over the pages without worrying too much about spacing problems. Whole pages are dedicated to scenery and battles and it’s amazing. Stokoe’s Godzilla still looks good as usual but I have to give a hand to Eggleton’s Godzilla as his issue is entirely painted and he makes a damn fine looking Godzilla.

Image from Issue 2. Art done by Bob Eggleton.

The multitude of artists leads to the most interesting thing about Godzilla in Hell and that’s the self-contained stories in each issue. Rather than one continuous arc, the miniseries is comprised of many tales that you could easily interpret as stand alone rather than interlocking. It strikes me as the old epics in literature like the Odyssey; here is another tale of Godzilla and his never-ending journey through Hell. This further lends fuel to the reader’s interpretation fire and allows us to enjoy Godzilla in Hell in a variety of ways.

With only five issues, I can’t help but analyze each of them and try to understand what the artist was trying to convey to the reader and what it means overall. In issue one, we are given a snapshot of Godzilla’s initial fall to Hell. The silence of the fall and the impact lends to the eeriness of the setting. Philip Glass’ opus Koyanassqui plays in the background in my head as I watch the King of Monsters recover and set forth. After Godzilla blows up Hell’s famous entrance sign, he encounters an avalanche of naked people who swarm him like an immense tidal wave. Are these the souls of the damned? Or souls whom Godzilla has killed in the living world? I think it’s the latter as they form a splitting image of Godzilla himself before transforming into a demonic-being that is a cross between Godzilla and Biollante. In a way, this weird monster reminds me of Shin Godzilla and how the collective power of Humanity was able to stop him and not some giant monster. Unfortunately, for this monster, Godzilla destroyed it with one mighty blast and moved forward on his journey.

The return of Rodan, Ghidorah, Anguirus, and Varan highlights the painted issue two. Demons now posses Rodan and Anguirus who now reside in Hell for eternity. Eggleton cleverly references their origin stories as Rodan first appearance was from a volcano while Anguirus’ was trapped in ice. Since Godzilla did not kill either of them (or Varan) I would wager he recognized them and did not want to kills their incarnations

image provided by snappow.com

image provided by snappow.com.  From Issue 3, art done by Buster Moody.

Issue three reveals how Godzilla fell to Hell in the first place and it’s probably the most fascinating chapter of the five although the other chapters give it a run for its money. I had to read the chapter twice before I realized that Godzilla actually went to Heaven first before he rejected it and was sent to Hell in response. In fact, it took me awhile to realize that the angel’s wings were similar to Mothra’s! In Godzilla lore, this makes a lot of sense considering Mothra is basically the Earth’s Guardian.

There’s a quote from the epic poem “Paradise Lost” that I’m sure issue three parodies which goes “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.” Unlike virtually all mortal beings, Godzilla has the power to reject Heaven and in response, Heaven sends Godzilla down to Hell. Yet after he defeats Space Godzilla, he rejects ruling Hell as well. As such, Godzilla takes a third, unscripted option that stuns the denizens of both worlds. Better to live on Earth.

I just love these issues as they are all so different in style and tone. Wonderful as they are, issue four stands above the rest as Godzilla finally meets his match through his arch nemeses King Ghidorah and Destroyah in a Hellish version of Tokyo. As much as I love the previous issue, Godzilla never faced a total sense of doom, depression, hopelessness and torment. Sure, he may have had problems with the Lust monster or Space Godzilla, but he prevailed nonetheless in relatively short battles. Issue four changes that and gives us scenes of constant battle. Scenes of Godzilla fighting and killing Ghidorah and Destroyah again and again. Scenes of Godzilla killed again and again. And scenes of Godzilla trying to break through the wall in vain again and again. We have seen Godzilla in Hell but never Godzilla in his own Hell.

Godzilla is truly a force to be reckon with but to finally find something that stops him is unbelievable. I would argue that this issue, and not issue five, truly tests Godzilla’s spirit. With no narration, we are unsure how long Godzilla has suffered. Months? Years? Godzilla’s eternal damnation may be similar to Dante’s version of Hell where the passing of time is inconsequential; it’s happening for now and forever. As such, I can’t help but applaud Godzilla’s escape; he broke through eternity. And as Godzilla leaves his Hell, Destroyah and Ghidorah, mere tools of his damnation, slowly disappear along with the faux-city of Tokyo.

Image from Issue 5.  Art by Dave Wachter

Image from Issue 5. Art by Dave Wachter

In the final issue, Godzilla has to climb an incomprehensibly steep and tall mountain where he can finally escape Hell. Out of all the issues, this one is the hardest to interpret. Why does Godzilla’s atomic breath fail? What is the giant monster on top of the gate? Why do the winged demons reform into Godzilla after eating him (and why do they all now have eyeballs) and why can they now release a full atomic blast? Although I can’t answer all of these questions, what I can suggest is that Godzilla’s indomitable spirit and will to succeed has brought him back from the dead and made him stronger.

Questions aside, this is a gorgeous looking issue. I love the lighting effects and the predominance of black and red. I feel like issue five’s Hell is like an abyss, devoid of light but not devoid of action. The lightning in the clouds was done rather well and the formidable mountain looked foreboding. This contrasts amazingly well with the last panel of Godzilla escaping Hell and he’s released onto the surface of the Earth, breaking through the ocean and taking his first breath of freedom. Godzilla never looked so content.

Overall, Godzilla in Hell is a great comic and I recommend all Godzilla fans to read it. It’s a different take for the King of All Monsters and it works well. Check it out.

The Many Incarnations of Bane

Throughout the history of entertainment, mankind has seen their favorite characters told again and again through different voices, different media, and different times. Such stories as Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, and Wizard of Oz are great examples of how these characters have been interpreted for more than a century. In particular, Batman, and his gallery of foes, have probably seen the most iterations out of any character in human history.

The irony of it all is that while Batman remains (relatively) unchanged, his foes can vary wildly. In some universes, Poison Ivy is an ordinary person and in others she has supernatural powers. Oswald Cobblepot is a rich underworld boss or a poor thief and Killer Croc’s disease ranges from mild to severe. These changes neatly reflect each incarnation’s universe whether they be realistic (Christopher Nolan), goofy (Adam West), or ridiculous (Gotham).

As such, I wanted to explore these different facets of the same character and understand their transformation throughout the years. What has stayed the same and what has changed. What makes that character who they are and ultimately which is the best incarnation? With so many versions, I decided to just stick to the ones that I could readily access and were featured prominently in their respective media.

For my first character, let’s explore the man that broke the Bat.


Bane

Despite being a relatively new foe (~25 years), Bane quickly found himself in Batman’s top rogues gallery since his debut in the infamous comic, Knightfall. In this comic, Bane had systematically broke both Batman’s spirit and spine in a long series of issues that led to a climatic battle in the Batcave. If there was a Top 20 moments in Batman’s history, this would surely be in there.

The thing is, Bane has something that few of Batman’s enemies can bolster, mainly, a high intelligence matched with brute strength and an uncomfortable calmness. And I would be reprimanded if I didn’t talk about Venom. Bane’s Venom probably attracts a lot of fans to this character as it makes him all the more menacing to the point of ridiculous. Even without Venom, Bane is an incredible foe and can (almost) match Batman in hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately, after Knightfall, Bane had reached his apogee. From there, Batman recovered, triumphed over Bane and Bane went into hiding, never achieving his former glory again.

Unlike Batman’s other foes, I honestly think the best Bane incarnation is his first one in Knightfall. Everything that makes Bane great was spelled out magnificently in those comic pages. From there, other creators have only tweaked, and sometimes downgraded, Bane into a shadow of his former self. There has yet to be, to my knowledge, a major character upheaval similar to Two-Face or Mr. Freeze. As such, any new interpretation of Bane harkens back to this Knightfall which leaves Bane’s character evolution almost stagnant.

The Tried and True Dance

One overarching theme between the many incarnations of Bane and Batman is the formulaic dance of Bane beating Batman then Batman making a triumphant return and defeating Bane. During these bouts, Bane would comment on breaking Batman’s spirit or back but never succeeding in either of those. These can be seen in the Animated Series (tAS) and The Batman (TB). In the Dark Knight Rises (DKR), Bane actually does succeed in both of his boasts making the DKR version one of the most effective Banes to date.

Some interpretations acknowledge that Bane had once broken the Batman’s back and that he will do it again. This can seen in the Arkham video game series and Justice League: Doom. I like both of these incarnations as they retain Bane’s competence and his fighting skill perfectly. Doom was particularly brutal as he threw Bruce Wayne into his parents’ coffin and buried him beneath it. That’s savage but man that pissed the hell out of Bruce.

Menacing

Bane, unlike many Batman villains, can successfully pull off a threatening . Although some interpretations drop the ball on this (Batman and Robin mainly), there are a few that outright nail it. The two best ones, not counting Knightfall, would be DKR and tAS. Dark Knight Rises Bane is menacing from the getgo as he hijacks a plane in one of the most awesome heists in film history. He breaks Batman, isolates Gotham from the rest of the U.S., and has his own army. This makes Batman’s victory over him that more triumphant.

The second incarnation of the Animated Series also brought a more menacing Bane, replacing his luchador mask with a gimp mask that strangely works. Truth be told, I don’t know what to think about this Bane as his major appearance in the second Animated Series was in Barbara Gordon’s dream. Nonetheless, this Bane is sooo great as he basically kills Batman and James Gordon even when he’s Venom-deprived. This was one of the best episodes in the series and it doesn’t hurt that his voice is so kickass too.

Defeating Bane

With such a ferocious juggernaut, Batman would have to defeat his opponent through cleverness instead of brute strength. Most of the time, this involves messing with Bane’s Venom system by either overdose or cold turkey. Batman usually solves this with his batarangs (though in Batman and Robin they just simply kick the tubes out). This can be seen in Arkham, tAS, and Doom. The Batman, however, finds a different solution via the Batbot, a giant Batman robot which Bruce pilots. Though Bane has the upperhand for most of the fight, Batman wins by electrocuting Bane’s Venom supply which malfunctions him back to his original state. Since Bane in the DKR doesn’t have Venom tubes, Batman defeats him on sheer dominance rather than strategy.

The Worst Interpretations

I think most of everyone would agree that the worst Bane interpretation is in Batman and Robin. Before I divulge my reasons why, let’s count off the five things that define Knightfall Bane. First off, Bane is a strong, highly skilled fighter which Venom (second) enhances. Third, Bane is intelligent and even cunningly smart. Fourth, he’s from the Caribbean. Fifth, his tranquility focuses his strength and mind to be an effective strategist and fighter.

Batman and Robin’s Bane fits just two of those (Venom and Caribbean) while everything else is thrown aside. There’s no intelligence or acumen and he’s just a lackey to Poison Ivy. Hardly a criminal mastermind. All he does is just grunts and moans. Never really contributing the plot and never instilling the same sense of fear that Knightfall Bane imposed.

I would say the second worst interpretation I’ve seen is TB version as although this Bane is from the Caribbean and is a decent fighter without Venom, he lacks the intelligence (again) to take down Gotham once he defeats Batman. All he does after his first fight is smash cars and cause havoc. Bane in this version is also a one-man-show as he basically shows up for one episode (and that’s the second episode of the first season) and that’s pretty much it besides a few cameos.

The Best Interpretations

Obviously besides the Knightfall version, there are two Banes I appreciate. The DKR version is great as it retains all the characteristics of Knightfall with the slight exception to the modified Venom (although it works rather well). I love this Bane, he has a kick ass voice, great style, and actually broke Batman’s back and spirit and that was awesome. He brought Gotham to its knees and ruled the city with an iron fist. This is a fantastic Bane and truth be told, this would be my favorite Bane had it not been for one conversation I had with a friend several years ago. After I praised Bane in DKR, my friend commented how she thought Bane was a rather weak character after it was revealed that he was just serving Taliah Al Ghul. Bane wasn’t the mastermind, she was. After the reveal, and after Batman gets his shit together, Bane becomes a stepping stone to the grand finale and loses all his composure and intimidation. Ooooh, I dislike this. Bane should be an intelligent crime lord yet he’s just a façade in the movie! Regardless, Bane is still a memorable antagonist and one of the best in comic book film history.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Secret Six Bane. Secret Six is canon with Knightfall so we see a Bane that’s both similar, and not, to that version. One thing that I respect about this Bane is him swearing off Venom despite losing his superhuman strength. Unfortunately, this makes Bane a prime punching bag which makes him somewhat of a joke but he does have some badass moments in the comic. This Bane is probably the most chill out of all the Banes as he’s stoic, kind, and can be a source of humor at times.  Probably the best thing about this Bane is his fatherly love and affection for Scandal Savage which at first was played for laughs but then developed into an actual effect on the storyline.

This Bane also shows his obsession for Batman which harkens back to Knightfall. In Knightfall, child Bane develops a fear of bats which soon transforms into a lust to defeat Batman.   After Batman defeats Bane, this lust morphs into an addiction to conquer Batman. In Secret Six, after Bane breaks his vow and temporarily uses Venom to save Scandal, we see from Bane’s Venom view that everyone looks like Batman and that his rage drives him to kill the Dark Knight.

As such, what Secret Six does, which no other interpretation even come close to, is respecting Bane not in the form of strength but in mind. His dual addictions to Venom and Batman are what both fuels and hamper him while his tranquil, intelligent mind is at odds with both. Perhaps future Banes should take note from Secret Six and transform Bane further into a man fighting addiction. To further complex a man that people simplify to his Venom gimmick. This was actually touched on in, of all things, Batman Beyond, where an elderly Bane is confined to a hospital bed where he’s given a steady dose of Venom to keep him alive. His addiction has become an outright necessity that without it he’d be dead. This is what I’m talking about! Someone needs to take this concept and run with it. Bane is on the verge of a rebirth, we just need a push from a Bruce Tim or a Christopher Nolan creator to make that happen.

 

What about you folks? Which is your favorite Bane interpretation? Any Banes I missed that you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

The Brotherhood Treatment

The Fullmetal Alchemist anime debuted in 2001 and was based on the hit manga series of the same name. The anime was a chapter-to-chapter retelling of the story, staying true to the original source material. However, once the anime caught up to the source material the story soon divulged and took a direction all on its own like an alternate universe. Characters that were minor in the manga were important in the anime and vice versa; some were given completely different back-stories and others simply never existed before. Although the anime itself was good, it wasn’t faithful to the original source material. This wasn’t rectified until 2012 when a new Fullmetal Alchemist anime, this time called “FMA: Brotherhood,” came out that gave us an anime that was completely true to the source material.

“Brotherhood” was amazing and I can’t help but think how other stories should get the same treatment as Fullmetal Alchemist. These stories were blessed with a good adaptation but were not completely true to the source material. And I honestly think they should get a chance to achieve that adaptation.

Take, for instance, Elfen Lied. Like Fullmetal, it was a manga series that produced a decent anime adaptation that strayed from the original source. Again, this was the case where the anime was simply produced too quickly for the manga to stay ahead of. Unlike, Fullmetal, however, this anime adaptation abruptly ended leaving an unsatisfied taste in my mouth. And it’s a real shame too! The anime has a great soundtrack (the intro is especially poignant), the art direction is well executed, and the voice work is very convincing. Unfortunately, many characters’ arcs are either brusquely shut down or lack a real transition thanks to the anime’s sudden ending. We missed out on what could have been an engaging alternate universe that would have been as satisfying as the original manga’s source.

If there was a readaptation of Elfen Lied (we’ll call it “Elfen Lied: Evolution”), many of the characters will achieve a satisfying progression in their story development. And if we were to keep the original soundtrack (a tall order, I know) and combine it with modern animation, we can create a beautiful, and haunting, telling of this controversial manga. With the popularity of the gruesome “Attack on Titan,” upon us, now is a great time to reintroduce this story to a modern audience.

Shifting gears to a lighter story, the “Scott Pilgrim” comic series is an excellent candidate for a reimagining. The movie, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” is a great adaptation and I can’t praise enough how tight and well done the first half of the movie is. The second half, I feel, suffers from a condensed story line and character motivations that seem questionable. Like Fullmetal, the movie was being produced at a time when the comic series hadn’t even finished yet. As such, they made up their own ending, which worked for the most part.

I think the “Scott Pilgrim” series has a very high potential for a remake. For one thing, it can be adapted into a television miniseries instead of a movie. This miniseries can really bring into light so many things that the movie either skimmed over or dropped. In the miniseries, we can see the badass, three-way fight between Scott, Roxie, and Knives’ dad. We can learn more about the Katayanagi twins. We can dive into Scott’s past and his previous relationships. And we can bring Envy to the foreground and really develop her character.  Scott Pilgrim can also flourish as his own being rather than an another Michael Cera character.

I think though the thing that will really make this miniseries stand out is the use of animation as a storytelling device. The movie was live action, and thus, this can be animation. The artist and author Bryan Lee O’Malley original work can now move and jump around like a Justice League or Spiderman cartoon and this can be amazing. We have even been given a taste of what this miniseries could be like as seen here:

I think it would be awesome

Of course, there are many series out there that deserve a remake (Nasauca: Valley of the Wind anyone?) and I’m not surprised! Given the nature of a source’s adaptation to a movie or television series, there are bound to be changes, especially if the adaptation surpasses the original source material. Game of Thrones has done this already with the advent of Season 6 so we might get a retelling of that story 30 years from now!  And I’m totally fine with that.

Poison Ivy, Harley and Ivy

So….what does Poison Ivy Eat?

In the pre-Batman television series, Gotham, we were treated to a small but amusing scene between teenager Salina Kyle (Catwoman) and street urchin Pamela (Poison Ivy). Despite Pam’s starvation, she will only eat vegan food even when she and Salina are raiding Barbara’s bountiful pantry brimming with food of all kinds.

I found the scenario quite funny but as Mary pointed out to me, why is Pam eating just vegan food if she’s a plant lover?

At first I was able to justify the situation but the more I think about it the more it was bothering me. Shouldn’t Pam, and in general Poison Ivy, eat meat if she’s a lover of plants? This question is harder to answer than you may think because we rarely see Pam eat, if she does at all, so trying to find direct evidence of her diet is pretty difficult.

Asking this question did not prove very useful...and was probably a bad idea

Asking this question did not prove very useful…and was probably a bad idea

This question can easily be answered if we are in a more fantastical version of Batman’s world such as the DC Animated Universe or the Arkham video games. In those magically inclined worlds, Poison Ivy’s relationship with plants is so extreme that she becomes part plant herself. Her green tinted skin and her love for sunlight propagates the idea that she may be photosynthesizing energy from the sun.

But Pam’s diet in a real world setting like Gotham or Nolan’s Dark Knight is bit trickier to discern. How can a bioterrorist, who goes stark raving mad when she sees someone pluck petals off of a flower, justify eating a salad? She could go all meat but I couldn’t imagine her justify a carnivore lifestyle since it would support domesticated crops for livestock use.

Poison Ivy, Batman, Salad, Poison Ivy's Diet

From “Harley and Ivy” in the Batman: The Animated Series

Thankfully, we witness Pam’s diet in the original Batman: The Animated Series. In the episode “Harley and Ivy,” we see Pam eating a bowl of salad with beet juice.  She serves a plate filled with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and what looks like the top of some peppers to Harley.

Okay, she eats vegetables, but why?  Again, I say, doesn’t she hate the destruction of anything plant related?

Let’s take a step back.  What I want you guys to do is separate all sense of logic from reason.  Let’s think like a Batman villain.  Let’s think like Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy believes she can communicate to plants.  Whether or not this is true is hard to say but one thing for sure is that she believes it.  I believe she has found plants, by communicating to them, who were willing to be eaten by her.  Her goal in saving plants from humanity can only be sustained if she eats other organisms.  I think she has convinced herself that her diet is for the greater good.  She can fuel herself by sacrificing a small amount of plants in order to save the greater biosphere.  I think in this case, when she eats plants she knows they don’t mind being eaten by her because they have accepted it.  A rose with its petals being pulled out, on the other hand, is unnatural and has no overall purpose.  It’s similar if you were to slaughter a cow for the hell of it and not for the nutrients it can provide you.

Does she feel bad?  Very likely.  It’s probably the main reason why she’s trying to become a fully photosynthetic organism.  She wants to eliminate that final connection to her humanity and embrace that final step to plant hood.  In doing so, she will no longer have to sacrifice plants, by eating delicious salads, to complete her quest of plant domination.  And when she does, she and us will no longer have to ponder and worry about her unusual diet.

Ms. Marvel More than Satisfies the Hype

When a certain movie, TV show, or in this case, comic book, is hyped up there’s a certain amount of expectation you have for it. Sometimes, the hype can be to such an extent that no matter how good that thing may be, it still is not as good as you hoped it would be.

Ms. Marvel is thankfully not that.

The amount of hype surrounding her release was astonishing during 2015. First, when it was announced that there would be a new Ms. Marvel and she would be played, of all people, a Muslim-American teenager, the amount of press this got was crazy and for good reason too. This would be Marvel’s first Muslim superhero that starred in her own series. As such, this was a pretty big deal.

After the initial release of the revamped Ms. Marvel, a new hype took over the first one as people began to realize that the comic series was actually pretty good! For months, I would hear or see little things here or there, maybe a few pages from her comic or a few responses from people who read the series and it gradually took my interest. It wasn’t until I saw her humorous interaction with Spiderman that I decided I wanted to check her out and see what all the fuss was about.

Let me just say that after buying and reading volume 1, I’m already looking forward to volume 2!

Kamala Khan is climbing fast to be one of my favorite superheroes. She’s likable, she has emotions, she has goals, and she has self-doubt. Both her good and bad traits make her a well-rounded and relatable character. I just like how dorky she is in general. She definitely has a modern vibe about her and that’s pretty relieving actually.  And oh my God is she funny!  She has this attitude about her that’s just so likable!  She’s not grim or depressing, she’s funny and uplifting!  I adore that.

I was wondering about her Muslim identity. How much will that come into play for her story? Thankfully, I was surprised how natural it felt. Her and her family’s religion was treated pretty normally and they could have easily been a Christian or Jewish family. Just because she was Muslim doesn’t mean that’s all she is. She has interests and hobbies such as idolizing her superhero Captain Marvel.

That’s the second thing I like about this comic. It’s very feminine driven. Her idol is a well-respected heroine and there’s not an over reliance of a man to help her out. Instead, she has friends of both sexes to support and give her advice. I kinda like how natural her friends are and how non-hokey or problematic they are. But again, her identity as a woman is just like her identity as a Muslim, it’s there but it does not fully define who she is. She has many parts that make up Kamala.

Also, her fangirling is one of the best parts about this comic.  I don’t know if it’s the way Kamala is interpreting the world or if that’s how the world actually is but random things have an element of cuteness to it like her visions or her fighting that trash monster.  It’s great.

The only problem I have so far is that since I only read volume one I have to go through all the introductions and backstory. Who she is, what her problems are, her powers, her awkward reaction to the powers, her first crime-busting scene, and so forth. It’s very formulaic and has been done many times. A lot of it is necessary but nonetheless you see all these awesome issues covers with her in costume and you’re really hoping she’ll kick butt in this issue but it doesn’t happen. I’m hoping that once I read volume 2 that Ms. Marvel will pick up and continue to carve out its own storyline.

As a final note, whoever Marvel has hired to do marketing for them should get a bonus. Not only was I enthralled with Ms. Marvel, it made me want to learn more about the Marvel Universe such as the Inhumans and Captain Marvel herself. I’m looking forward to her movie and what’s more, I hope they reference, in one form or another, Kamala Khan. Now wouldn’t that be sweet?

What is the Source of Batman’s Villains: Gotham or Batman Himself?

I’ve been doing research on a major upcoming article on Batman but unfortunately it is not ready.  However, while I have been combing the literature, films, video games, and TV shows, I came face-to-face with an interesting question that has pondered Batman fans and creators alike for the past 30 years or so.

What is the source of the Batman’s crazy villains, Gotham or Batman himself?

To the casual person, this may be surprising; Batman, one of the most famous superheroes of all time, is the source for his own antagonists.  But to anyone who has been exposed to Batman before, this idea is not farfetched.  There have been times where he not only causes a supervillain to be born but he actively encourages their existence as well.  Many of the supporting characters in Batman’s world, such as the Gotham Police Department, psychiatrists, hell, even Hugo Strange accuse him of making Gotham worse because of his supervillains.

Opponents to this argument, however, firmly believe that Gotham City is the source of madness.  This is perhaps a more recent argument though I could be wrong here.  While growing up, I always assumed Gotham was just like any other big city; yeah, it may have its fair share of problems but it’s still a place many people would call home.  This is further highlighted by the rest of DC’s cities as Metropolis, Central City, and so forth have their supervillains as well.

But Gotham’s status as a truly messed up city was not brought to my attention until Nolan’s Batman Begins where Ra’s al Ghul wanted to purge Gotham of its sin by killing everyone in it.  You might think this is an overreaction to how bad Gotham is but if you go through the literature, you begin to realize how right Ra’s was (except for the genocide, that’s bad).  Gangs own the city, police officers look the other way, city leaders are corrupt, and simple necessities like safety are just non-existent.  And through this corruption, normal people become corrupted and turn into the supervillains that we know and love today.

Both of these arguments have some merit of truth but which has the stronger influence?  Let’s dive in and find out.

Spoilers for Arkham Asylum and City, Gotham as well as a host of other Batman universes.

Batman initiates and encourages his own supervillains’ existence

Let’s start off with a controversial subject, the Joker.  I think the Joker is probably the best example for this argument.  In some interpretations (such as the Burton movies or the Killing Joke) Batman is indirectly involved in creating his arch-nemesis.  To me, I’m totally fine with that as it makes the rivalry that much stronger.  But many people like a Joker that has no background, one whose origins are as mysterious as his motives.

Even so, some people interpret Joker as the living embodiment for the force of Chaos with Batman as the symbol for Order.  Joker knows that Batman has a strict code of honor and he tests, goads, and pushes Batman to his limits.  I first became aware of this symbolism in the Dark Knight where Joker’s actions eventually came to experiments Batman and wondering if he can break him (“an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object”).  These two opposing forces, which have rarely been equaled, make them the most famous superhero and supervillain combination ever.

I think the best example of this comes from Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.  When Batman retired, the Joker became catatonic and could barely function.  He had lost his purpose, he had lost his drive.  But when he saw that his best friend had made a return, he fully recovered.  It was like nothing had ever happened.  And their rivalry and battles in the comic I think is among the best in Batman history.  Of all the sources you can use, this is probably the pristine example of Batman promoting his enemies.

The Riddler is another fine example of Batman promoting his enemies.  This guy’s ego is something.  He yearns to prove his intelligence.  He wants to be three steps ahead of everyone else and laugh at them for their stupidity.  Only Batman can match his riddles and put a stop to his crime.  This only further stokes the Riddler’s ego as he wants to find that Riddle that can even outsmart the Batman.  I assume that if Batman decided to not even play Riddler’s game and leave him alone, the Riddler would go mad and not know what to do with himself (he would probably go into a catatonic state such as the aforementioned Joker in the Dark Knight Returns).

Bane is another villain that Batman inadvertently creates.  Bane’s nightmares as a child always took the form of a bat.  When he heard about Batman’s control over Gotham through fear, he realized it was his destiny to conquer his childhood fear by conquering Batman himself.   Much to Batman’s displeasure…

One of the most famous episodes in the Animated Series, “the Trial,” actually confronted this topic.  In this episode, Batman’s supervillains kidnap him and accuse him of making them who they are today.  Representing Batman was Gotham’s new district attorney, Janet Van Dorn, who herself accused Batman of promoting the supervillains and preventing them from facing true justice under the law since they were captured by a vigilante.  This accusation initially seems well-founded but…

Gotham is the source of Batman’s psychotic supervillains

…Janet Van Dorn defends Batman and breaks down each of the witnesses’ accusations by saying they were the cause of their insanity and crimes, not Batman.  Jervis Tetch would have still kidnapped the girl he pined for and Poison Ivy would have still been the Bioterrorist she is today.

Even so, the Animated Series does not support this side of the argument that Gotham causes supervillains, to find proof, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

I want to get the TV show Gotham out of the way first.  I think it would be cheating to use this as a source to prove that Gotham makes its own villains.  Mainly, when you see a Batman-prequel, you want to see all the bad guys and what they are up to.  As such, many of them are already messed up.  Zsasz, Penguin, and even Ivy are already sadistic, cunning, or just plain odd.  And Harvey Dent is…errgh…let’s not go there.

Regardless, there is one scene I want to talk about from Gotham.  In episode 8 of Season 1, “The Mask,” Gordon and his Captain were musing why Gotham had a sudden surge in crazy people.  They then supposed that the source was from the death of the Waynes.  Their deaths caused the city to lose hope and begin this spiral of insanity.  I kind of like that, it points to why we see these weird people coming forth and doing awful things.

I think one of my favorite explanations for crazies in Gotham, surprisingly enough, comes from the video game Arkham City.  Now, this is subtly imply so take this for what you will, but if you solve some of Riddler’s riddles, you are revealed the story about Wonder City and holy crap I love it.  In old Wonder City, Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit had caused all of the city’s inhabitants to go insane and be transferred to Arkham Asylum.  And guess what?  Lazarus Pit is directly beneath Arkham City!  I love it!  The Pit could be the reason why so many people just go insane in Gotham.

Real direct proof does come from Arkham City though.  In the Victor Zsasz side mission, he explains to you over a series of phone calls how he became the wonderful person he is today.  When he was financially broke, he decided to gamble his last bit of money at the Iceberg Lounge.  Eventually, he came to the final table with the Penguin himself.  However, the Penguin and his goons had scammed poor Victor and he lost everything he had.  Defeated, he walked through the streets of Gotham and found his first victim and…er…relieved him from his sorrow of this world.  This is pretty good proof how Gotham’s messed up nature can lead to its supervillains.

I think by far the best example of Gotham creating its own supervillains come from none other than Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  Here is a man who fought against the corruption and cowardice of Gotham.  Elected on a fair campaign of a promise for a better tomorrow, he fought tooth and nail to clean the streets of Gotham.  His do good attitude had even made him a suspect in many different universes that he may be Batman himself.

But his obsession and his passion drove him to a breaking point.  When the acid was flung to his face, he had changed.  A change that was driven by the incomprehensible evils of Gotham.  And through this change, he split.  Half still retaining his do-good attitude, and half mirroring the ugly city that had created him.

What do you think?  Both have their elements of truth but which do you think has the stronger influence?  The Caped Crusader or the Worst City Ever?  I want to hear what you have to say!

A Second Chance: Batman the Brave and the Bold

Batman the Animated Series (TAS) is kind of like the Ocarina of Time of Batman cartoons.  It’s from the 90s, it’s hella nostalgic, and it’s been showered with praise.  Also, and in a more negative sense, everything else that came after it will forever be compared to it.  With such a massive appeal, it’s hard not to look down at its sequels and say confidently they are inferior to the original.

I was unfortunately one of those uptight nerd boys.  My stick-in-the-ass attitude towards following Batman cartoons can be credited to my love for Batman TAS.  As such, when Batman: the Brave and the Bold (BatB) came out, I was offended by the nature of the cartoon and did not give it a second chance.

It wasn’t until my girlfriend forced me to watch BB that I slowly but surely came round to it.  At first I watched maybe an episode here or an episode there, but soon we would watch several in a row and then I would watch them without her around.

What happened?

This was a series I should have hated.  Campy, with a pooooor focus on villains (especially on Two Face and alike), and a carefree attitude.

Yet BatB’s approach to the Batman formula was so breath freshingly different that it won me over.  I guess in this case if TAS is like Ocarina of Time then BatB is like Windwaker.

Here’s what I like about it, the characters.  I love how DC flexed its superhero catalogue and gave BatB a whole host of them.  It’s like someone at DC was like “Who’s going to be in BatB?  Well, who was in Justice League?  Uh huh.  Uh huh. Uh huh….hmm…okay…how about fuck all these guys…LET’S GET BLUE BEETLE AND B’WANA BEAST.”

Oh yeah, and Blue Beetle?  Nice.  Love him and his previous incarnation.  I love it how the second Blue Beetle was voiced by Wil Wheton.  I also loved how he and Batman were just the best of buds, it’s great!  And they brought him back for another episode with Booster Gold!!

Red Tornado is also a plus.  I had never heard of him before until this series.  I like him, he’s kind of a unique superhero.  The episode featuring him and his son was good.  He was certainly treated better here than in Justice League: Unlimited where he was blown up and nobody batted an eye.

Some of the best episodes are when Batman teams up with a rather dubious partner.  Plastic Man for instance acts as a great foil to Batman’s do good attitude.  He is also animated so hilariously that his elasticity rivals Jake the Dog from Adventure Time.  Guy Gardner is another good example and I also have to give the writers credit for mainly using him to represent the Green Lantern Corps and not John Stewart or Hal Jordan.  Booster Gold is probably the best example as his greedy attitude usually causes more trouble than it fixes (also bonus points for BatB reusing Dee Bradley Baker to voice Booster Gold’s robotic comrade Skeets).

Favorite episode by far…Mayhem of the Music Meister, there’s just no other episode!  Neil Patrick Harris just nails it with this one note (heh) villain and his songs are hilarious with the bonus of being catchy.  I sometimes can’t help but sing these songs, especially the “World is Mine.”  This was the first time I saw Brave and the Bold and I couldn’t believe it, I found it way too campy.  But now, being the changed man that I am now, I find it great and it works so wonderfully well in this kooky universe.

There are a lot of other episodes to talk about or mention but that would take too long.  I want to end this article by saying, I’m glad I gave BatB a chance.  It really kind of broadened my narrow point of view on who Batman was.  It really showed that not only can you appreciate dark Batman but light Batman as well.  And not only that, you can apply this lighter shade of grey to other superheroes as well.  The recent Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers movies are great examples of that.  It just feels so nice to just kick back, munch on some popcorn and enjoy these fun movies.  And the best part is we will see another light interpretation of Batman via the Lego Batman Movie!  I’m super looking forward to it.  That Batman was awesome.

But until then…

“The Music Meister sings the song that we all want to shaaaaaare…”