…Happy Birthday to me.
I’m behind on my reading.
Picked up a few things, got a few more on order: however today I did remember to visit the LCS to pick up a Batman And Robin. From a cursory scan of the blogoverse, people like it well enough, but feel a bit disappointed by it. Not enough action.
Of course where Morrison and Quitely combine, there’s always action: it’s just stored in a non-standard location.
It’s been a long time since I gave a damn about a Batman comic. I like Batman fine in the abstract, naturally — just like all the other underwear-clad superpeople of youth — but it’s all the CRAP swirling about those characters’ heads, that has nothing to do with me, that makes me shun the world of floppies. Today I browsed the racks looking for Seaguy (wasn’t there — gotta order it), and it truly is remarkable how many comics there are that I don’t want to read. There’s just nothing in them that attracts me: they’re empty. And it isn’t like they have to be monumental works of world literature: the inner eleven-year-old living behind my eyes has very specific needs, but they’re not difficult ones to satisfy. Batman comics: I want to care about them. Just give me a reason.
I liked this one. Having missed Morrison’s Batman run in its entirety, and not knowing Damien Wayne from a hole in the ground (barring Amypoodle’s wonderful Batman #666)…nevertheless the little punk interests me. Snot-nosed Robin. Here my vision splits into two frames: in the first, I am an eleven-year-old boy looking for identification figures, and one of the notches on that key is definitely snot-nosery — and trust two Brits to remember that so-important element of children’s stories! Which is, of course, just what this is. I mean, just look at it. Look at the title, for goodness’ sake. “Batman And Robin”. That’s a kid’s book, though you the experienced comic-reader might be forgiven for missing that fact, due to the look of the thing…but it’s been an awful long time since we’ve had captions and thought-balloons in superhero comics, and although a lot of people seem to regard that as some sort of technological advancement, it isn’t: it’s just a stylistic choice, and its merits are all site-specific. Sometimes the merits aren’t particularly in evidence: a given story might be worse with captions and thought-balloons, but it isn’t really better just because they’re not there. But this one’s better, because the technique serves the purpose: that I’m not subjected to Damien Wayne’s inner monologue here is a positive pleasure, because I don’t want to hear what he’s got to say — at least in this first issue, I already know everything I need to know about him. He’s a little puke, just like me. And likewise…
…The other frame of my vision is the guy in his forties who’s been buying comics all his life, and that guy isn’t fixated on Robin, but on the Batman who used to be Robin, and then went and did all these other things for a while. Identification is there, too, and so deeply embedded that it’s hard to think of anything that could ruin it…
…Unless it was being subjected to Dick Grayson’s inner monologue, which I tell you quite frankly is something up with which, after more than three decades now, I will most certainly not put. Here’s a character who outgrew himself long ago; outgrew all his own secret thoughts, too. Honestly, I don’t care about that stuff anymore, and I don’t need to see it. Really and truly. Dick and Damien talk to each other, because they have conflicts; thus, we can actually see the conflicts right there on the page. And, guess what? Those conflicts are kind of interesting in their own right. One identification is a brilliant, stunted child with far too high an opinion of himself — a little aristocratic prick. The other is a character who’s moped and brooded his way through the last two decades in a way exactly like a brilliant, stunted child with far too high an opinion of himself, who isn’t an aristocratic prick…
…Who’s at last gained a measure of adult self-knowledge, right along with a big fat aristocratic inheritance. All the Nightwing, Nightwing-and-Robin, and replacement-Batman and Robin stuff we’ve had over the last quite long while now has always seemed a bit…perfunctory, if you were inclined to be generous. Why doesn’t this guy just get on and do something? Who the hell is he? Why is he forever popping up, threatening to be interesting or relatable, only to disappear again two seconds later? Always a very special guest-star…but then always going off somewhere to play St. Elmo’s Fire with the other Young Adults, every day drawing straws to decide who’s gonna be this story’s Emilio Estevez, who’s going to be the Kiefer Sutherland this week. But, good heavens, the Seventies are a long way back, now, and so are the Eighties…for most of the time since, this character’s been unable to hold focus effectively for more than ten minutes. And there’s no reason for that. He’s just lines on paper, he’s just letters on a screen. It should be easy to write and draw him well.
But Robin is a character belonging to the 1940s, and Nightwing — “Robin, all grown-up” — is a character belonging to the 1970s. You can do a couple things with Robin by riffing on what’s gone before — different versions of Robin, reflecting changing times. But with Nightwing there’s no “what’s gone before”, so there’s no riffing possibilities available. Once he’s “all grown up”, what’s left for him to do except “grow up some more”? And yet there’s really nothing there, to hold anyone’s interest for long. You can do ten years of it. Maybe fifteen. But then eventually that well’s going to go dry.
Well, it is, and it did, and yet here I am actually interested in what Dick Grayson has to say again, and that’s a remarkable achievement…not least because it ought not to be a particularly remarkable achievement. One thing Morrison and Quitely never do is skimp on what’s thematically necessary, and they haven’t skimped on it here either — so this is your basic Summer Comic, it practically shimmers with it, and what a relief that is. I’ve gotten so damn bored with the grim perfection of latter-day Batman, I’ll tellya, folks. Give me a little Quitely-as-Neal-Adams for a change. Let’s break a mould, here. See if this all can’t be made fun again, like it was when we were kids. A kid’s comic book, by God! You know, they told me these couldn’t be made anymore.
Now pardon me, I must go and try to get this water-taxi company I know of to take my money. I think you’d be surprised how reluctant they are to do it! God knows why.
Or, maybe I should just chuck it, and let somebody take me out for a nice dinner instead?
You know, the older I get, the less time I have for dealing with other people’s procedural bullshit. That ocean water is calling me, and there’s no doubt about it; but they’re telling me you can’t get there from here just because it’s where you want to be, and somehow I don’t feel myself in much of a mood to say “I believe you” just because it’ll make their jobs easier. What about my job? Which just for today is to not have to buy a pig in a poke if I don’t want to.
The ocean. I’ll get there tomorrow. But for today, I’ve got Batman And Robin…
…And a fridge full of goodies.
So maybe I’ll just stay home today, and catch up on that reading of mine.