Frozen Pear Yoghurt, Cherries, Guava Juice, Tuna Sandwiches And Cold Beet Soup…

…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.

Isn’t it?

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.

10 responses to “Frozen Pear Yoghurt, Cherries, Guava Juice, Tuna Sandwiches And Cold Beet Soup…

  1. I agree with pretty much everything here, but I have the strange feeling something important has been said that’s being overlooked.

    Aha, I’ve got it: frozen pear yoghurt! That sounds really good!

    Come to that, so do chicken and jalapeno sandwiches. (See what I did there?) That was probably my favorite bit in the story — mainly because of the same foodie tendencies that make me seize on random food references in a blog post, but also because it’s so well played. Noticing and taking pleasure from food could be read as a sign of being alive, of engagement with the material world…which in turn makes me wonder if Morrison’s earlier repeated depictions of an ascetic Bruce Wayne avoiding food and drink might have been a way of signalling that he had one foot in the grave already.

    And look who’s trying to be just like dad, not indulging in the pleasures of the senses? “You can leave it down by my toolkit, Pennyworth.” Hmm…

  2. How strange, RAB, I thought you were going to say that your favourite part was Dick Grayson saying he’d always known what he was going to do when Bruce Wayne died. I admired the economy of that more than I can say; that’s when I knew I was in good hands. A thing that gets forgotten too often is that Dick Grayson was never Bruce Wayne’s son, but his partner

    …Pardon me, I think I should just add some of the guava juice to this Prosecco I’ve got right here by my elbow…

    …And if you want to really look at it, I think you could say: all right, maybe Jason Todd was the child of Bruce Wayne’s desire, and Tim Drake was the child of ours

    Such a great reader-identification character in his day, that Tim Drake! But no one at the Big Two can resist breaking the toys, it seems…

    …So then Damien Wayne becomes a different sort of child, the child of his character perhaps? But Dick Grayson was never any of these things, never mind that maybe it seems implausible that he wasn’t, but he wasn’t. You get the sense that there goes a guy the whole world has forgotten to ask questions of: “what do you think of your life, Dick?” I don’t know when we’ve gotten an answer that makes much sense, except in the most gushingly sentimental way. “His own man”…it was a good idea, and sometimes it was even used very well, but it ran out of road for some reason. Now, this is just that again, only this time with feeling…if someone could’ve really made moves with the old rendition I would’ve been quite pleased, but they didn’t, however now that I get to have this, I’m not going to complain. Engagement with the material world, you’re on top of it — this character was always a bit of a sensualist, right?

    And Batman, too, has been through the bloody wringer a few too many times in the last few years for my comfort. So suddenly giving him a good long rest seems like a fantastically clever idea. Even though it isn’t exactly 100% new…but screw it, I can’t read any more stories about Godlike Batman anyway, maybe if Dick Grayson manages to do a good imitation of the Batman I do want to read more about, then when Bruce Wayne finally returns it’ll be like OYL done right: properly freshened-up.

    Christ, it’s hot in here.

    But, that’s how come the Prosecco…

  3. Also the Dubliner cheese goes well with it (the guava, I mean)…perhaps the wine gums and the Prosecco?

    Well, now I’m just babbling.

    There’s this place near my house, serves the greatest frozen yoghurt I ever tasted. Not the pear stuff: that’s out of a grocery store freezer section, and Lord it’s tasty, but the stuff I’m talking about is some kinda weird Euro-soft-serve, and amazingly it tastes exactly like plain yoghurt. Um, with sugar added. And it’s in the form of soft ice cream. Right by the LCS, too.

    Now I’m just having celery and water. Bed soon, I think; big day tomorrow…

  4. It’s upsetting when – you know, you’re trying to write a review and then you find someone else has done yr angle vastly better and more (I can’t believe I’m saying this of you, plok) succinctly. Drawing board – back to!

  5. You know, it’s ironic — every time I run out of blogging topics, I joke that I can always write about Dick/Nightwing; and now that he’s Batman, I will have to write about him at some point.

    I had also been working on a Christopher Bird-esque “Why I Should Write Nightwing” series, which obviously is on hold now because Dick’s new gig may actually accomplish some of my suggestions.

    Anyway, I liked B&R #1 pretty well. Here’s hoping Dick assumes Bruce’s billionaire-playboy role too, and thereby gives his life some direction.

  6. Really need to get to the shop to pick this up. From everything I’ve read, it sounds like what I was hoping for but didn’t get out of Grant Morrison when he first took over Batman: Morrison comes up with bizarre and innovative forms of crime and sends Batman and Robin against them. Not that the dissection of the Batman mythos wasn’t interesting in its own way, but…

    I am also looking forward to seeing the less-wretchedly-grim Batman DC has been promising ever since, oh, Infinite Crisis or so. Interesting that they never managed to get Bruce Wayne to “lighten up” despite that being a quasi-official mission statement, but I’m totally glad Dick Grayson’s getting something to do. He’s been played as Batman-lite for so long, he might as well *officially be* Batman-lite.

  7. Ooh, a quick thought about Dick Grayson while my wife is on the phone and the movie we were watching is paused.

    So the thing about Dick Grayson as Robin is that the character’s all about potential, right? His origin doubles Batman’s, but Dick isn’t *alone* the way Bruce Wayne was. He’s still able to laugh and wear bright colors whereas Bruce had his whole worldview warped by the experience. The understanding in the character of Robin is that one day Dick Grayson is going to be a *better* Batman thanks to Bruce’s mentoring.

    The problem is, now that he’s grown up, writers and editors have been hesitant to show this, probably because it means that Nightwing would be a *better* superhero than Batman, and that’s not something DC might want to admit, right? That this second-tier guy is actually superior in so many ways to the company’s No. 1/No. 2 character? So he gets portrayed as a superhero who does the Batman thing but doesn’t have the Batman cachet. A not-quite-as-good superhero who’s lacking some essential ingredient Bruce Wayne has.

    That’s why I’m intrigued to hear that Morrison may be putting Dick Grayson out there as a healthier Batman, and I’m hoping this doesn’t end in a lesson about why only a grim, brooding loner is fit to protect innocent people.

  8. Pingback: Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Bat/Rob #1 - the highwire·

  9. Totally forgot this before but just came across the link again: it was Chris Eckert who first made the point about Morrison’s Batman having an odd relationship with food. I hate to unwittingly plagiarise someone else’s insights…but with the number of blogs I read, it happens every so often.

  10. Pingback: Emma Peel Sessions 11 – BATMAN! I mean LEADER! I love the leader! « supervillain·

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