Tag Archives: Batman

Geek Nerdery Podcast: Justice League

My co-host from The Midnight Drive-In Podcast Noah drops in and we sit down to talk some Justice League.  What’s good?  What’s bad?  What just all around doesn’t make sense?  After that we do talk some comics.  There is a spoiler section so feel free to listen until the spoiler warning goes up if you are wanted to avoid spoilers.

Music provided by The Fantastic Plastics.

Pushing the Button: A DC Rebirth Update

Last time we talked, we looked at the recently-wrapped Superman Reborn storyline and what it meant for the ever-evolving post-Rebirth DC Universe. Now that the Batman/Flash crossover The Button has wrapped, now that even more things have changed, it’s time to do it again. I’m going to discuss and build on some of the theories and threads I mentioned in that first piece, so if you haven’t read it, give it a peek. And once again, be prepared, because spoilers are coming for The Button, but also for other stories across the DC Universe.

So That Just Happened

Let’s look at exactly where we are, shall we? In The Button, Professor Zoom attacked Batman in the Batcave, ultimately dying in a spark of blue. Batman and the Flash then used the Flash’s cosmic treadmill to try to trace the mysterious radiation signature on the blood-spattered button Bruce found in DC Universe Rebirth #1. Eventually, the two landed in the Flashpoint universe, where Bruce Wayne got to meet that world’s Batman, his father Thomas Wayne. That universe vanished, seemingly destroyed. Zoom — who can only ever be “mostly” dead because time travel — continued on his race to find those behind the power of the button. He was wiped out again, by still more blue flame, and Bruce and Barry were rescued from the timestream by the timely (get it?) intervention of Jay Garrick, who was only there for moments before the flame got him too. The button itself, judging by the epilogue, seems to have been retrieved by Dr. Manhattan, whom Geoff Johns has told us has a particular interest in Superman. He’ll be telling that story in the recently-announced Doomsday Clock event.

But that’s the Reader’s Digest version of The Button, there’s an awful lot to unpack here. What is it all saying? What does it mean? And how does it play into the DC Universe going forward?

The Manhattan Project

First of all, let’s talk about the Dr. Manhattan connection. Although the fingerprints of Watchmen were all over this story (right down to the first chapter, Batman #21, mimicking Dave Gibbons’s famous nine-panel grid in the artwork), it gave us precious little in the way of revelation. We still don’t know exactly why the button wound up in the Batcave, and although Zoom claimed to know who was responsible, his eradication at the end of the story will make it difficult for Barry and Bruce to interrogate him. In fact, as far as a direct link to Dr. Manhattan goes, the clues can be boiled down to one word: “They.”

Zoom claims to know who is responsible for what’s happening to the universe and, in his own words, “They’ve never faced someone like me!” Granted, it’s becoming more acceptable to use “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun these days (something that makes the English teacher in me shudder — I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a gender-neutral pronoun, just that I wish there was another word that didn’t dilute the meaning of the word “they”), but it’s hard to imagine that’s what Zoom meant. If he’s seen Dr. Manhattan, especially if the latter is walking around without his bikini bottoms again, it’s fairly clear that he’s male, and I doubt Zoom is the sort to walk up and ask him his preferred pronouns before engaging him in battle. If he hasn’t seen Manhattan, his claim to know who’s responsible becomes much more specious. All of this is to say that this one word may support something I suggested last time: whatever is happening, it doesn’t look like Dr. Manhattan is the sole person responsible.

Homecoming

Next up, let’s talk about Jay Garrick. Much like Wally West did in the original Rebirth special, he appears and helps save the day. Unlike Wally, Jay doesn’t stick around. The question, however, is why did he vanish? He disappeared in a nimbus of blue flame, much like Pandora did in the first special, much like the Flashpoint universe did earlier in this story (more on that later). But it’s very hard to imagine that means he’s dead. DC has teased the return of the Justice Society really hard here, not only with Jay but with another appearance by Johnny Thunder in chapter one of The Button. Would they have brought him back just to wipe him out?

Barry recognizes the circumstances of Jay’s appearance as being similar to Wally’s, and when Wally appeared, he needed his emotional connection to Barry to re-ground him in reality. It doesn’t work for Jay. Barry even says that he doesn’t seem to be Jay’s “lightning rod.” Who then, would it be? Who else has a strong enough emotional connection to Jay Garrick to return him to reality?

The immediate and most obvious answer is his wife, Joan. She hasn’t been seen in Rebirth, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t in the DC Universe somewhere: alone, sad, possibly confused by a gaping hole in her life. But Wally West’s lightning rod wasn’t his wife, Linda Park. Who else could anchor Jay? Besides Barry, his best friend has historically been original Green Lantern Alan Scott, but Alan is MIA along with the rest of the Justice Society. All of Jay’s contemporaries are missing.

Everyone except for Johnny Thunder. Johnny, who in Rebirth #1, seemed to imply that he was responsible for people forgetting the Justice Society. Johnny, who in Flash #21 screams at the skies, consumed with guilt. Johnny, who is currently locked away in a nursing home, with everyone assuming he’s a raving old man. In fact, why don’t we take this a step further? What if Johnny is, unwittingly, one of the people who helped Dr. Manhattan remake the universe? He certainly wouldn’t have done it intentionally, but he was never the brightest bulb to begin with. The only reason he was in the JSA is because he commanded a Genie with Mxyzptlk-level reality-warping power. Could he have been tricked into using his Thunderbolt’s power to change the timeline? Or could he have done it independently of what was going on with Dr. Manhattan, and could Manhattan have simply taken advantage of Johnny’s mistake to further his own goals?

Lost and Found

Let’s take a moment to do a little census here. A lot of fan-favorite characters were missing at the launch of the New 52 universe. Some of them have returned: Wally West, of course, but also Stephanie Brown, Donna Troy, Cassandra Cain, Ted Kord, and probably several others I’m forgetting at the moment. Others, like the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Ray Palmer Atom, were there for the New 52 launch but have gone notably missing since then. Still others have been taken away on-panel. Doomsday, Prophecy, and Tim Drake have all been “removed” from action, and we know they’re in the clutches of Mr. Oz. Of those still unaccounted for, the Justice Society has been particularly notable in its absence. And with its absence came the absence of other characters derived from the JSA: Alan Scott’s children Jade and Obsidian, for example. If the JSA returns, can they follow suit?

And there’s one other big one that needs to be mentioned. After he was “Reborn,” Superman needed to give the readers a rundown of what his history was in this world where the older, married Superman merged with his younger New 52 counterpart. Action Comics gave us two issues where he asked his little robotic buddy Kelex (and who wouldn’t want a Kelex as their own personal assistant?) to go over his past with him. It was kind of odd, in a meta way, for Superman to essentially ask the robot to read him his diary, but it worked. The big questions were answered: Jonathan and Martha Kent are both dead in this continuity, Superman never had a relationship with Wonder Woman. He did fight and was killed by Doomsday…

…but that’s where it gets odd.

As we all know, after Superman’s death he was replaced by four different people claiming the name. John Henry Irons, Steel, is part of the cast of Superwoman these days. The Eradicator and the Cyborg Superman are both in the Superman books right now in villain roles. The fourth? Connor Kent? Superboy? Nowhere to be found, even in the history that Kelex relates to us. Superman himself notes, as he listens to his own history, that something doesn’t feel quite right. Is Conner going to be lost to the void, or is DC planning to give him his own Wally West moment, bringing him back in triumph? If, as Geoff Johns promises, Rebirth is about restoring hope and legacy to the DCU, wouldn’t Doomsday Clock be a hell of a place for Connor to come back?

Of course, Jonathan Kent the second is Superboy now, but I’d be fine with changing Connor’s name and moving him into sort of a Nightwing-type role in the Superman family. Superteen? Superkid? Ugh, those are terrible. Superguy? Sequel? Okay, maybe we have to look beyond the letter “S” for a new name.

I hear “Valor” is available.

The Dark Knight Redacted?

Anyway, let’s talk about what this story has done to Batman. Back in Flashpoint, when Barry Allen was (he thought) restoring the timeline he had damaged, Thomas Wayne gave him a letter to deliver to Bruce. It was one of the high points of that story and created a grand emotional link for Bruce to his past. In The Button, that link was made even stronger as Bruce had to face a version of his father who chose the same path he did, that of the Batman. Thomas’s Batman was darker and harsher than Bruce’s (not surprising, as Flashpoint was a darker and harsher world), and as Bruce leaves, Thomas asks him to give up being Batman, to put this life behind him, because no father would ever choose a life like that for his child. As the story ends, we have a very pointed moment where the Bat-signal blazes across the sky of Gotham, and Bruce ignores it.

What does this mean?

Well, it doesn’t mean that Bruce is hanging up the cowl, let’s start there. There have been plenty of post-Button stories solicited already where he’s still Batman. (Heck, Batman #23 came out on the same day as The Button ended). There are also two other strikes against this notion of Bruce giving up. First, they did that story just two years ago with James Gordon taking over as Batman (not to mention the countless times in the past when Dick Grayson, Jean-Paul Valley, etc. have worn the cowl). Second, Rebirth has been all about bringing DC’s heroes back to their purest, classic form. Does anyone really think that means shelving Bruce Wayne? Certainly not for any length of time.

So what does it mean?

For that, let’s take a step back and look, once again, at the apparent meta-message of Rebirth Geoff Johns (I’m assigning this thesis to him, as he seems to be the architect of the story and is the author of both DC Universe Rebirth #1 and the upcoming Doomsday Clock) seems to be arguing that the darkness that has infected the DCU started not with Flashpoint, but could be traced back to Watchmen. Last time, I argued that this is only partially true, and that there are other culprits as well, but I didn’t mention one of the bigger ones, as it didn’t appear to be relevant at the time. Now it does. I’m talking, of course, about The Dark Knight Returns. Frank Miller’s magnum opus was a masterpiece of the form, like Watchmen. Also like Watchmen, people took entirely the wrong message from the story and, for years, turned the mainstream Batman progressively darker, gloomier, and more brooding than ever.

Perhaps part of the purpose of The Button — that part of it, at least — is to do specifically for Batman what the larger Rebirth story is doing for the rest of the DCU. I’m not saying that we should go back to the days when Batman was cutting ribbons at supermarket openings or encountering aliens with huge insect heads on the main street of Gotham, but there has to be a middle ground. For much of the Bronze Age, in fact, we lived in that middle ground. Go back and read some of those great Dennis O’Neil/Neal Adams Batman stories. You’ll see a character who lives in the darkness, but carries a spark of light within him, a Batman who was not above making a joke. (Indeed, in the years since The Dark Knight Returns pretty much any time Batman has displayed a sense of humor, it’s come as a total shock to whoever he was talking to at the time.)

Bruce Wayne, we know, will never quit. Not forever, anyway. But that doesn’t mean he has to live a life totally devoid of joy. Tim Drake (who himself was thinking of hanging up the cape to go to college when he was abducted) was often living proof of that. Maybe that’s  another reason he, as Mr. Oz put it, had to be “taken off the table.”

It’s a long way until November, guys, and there are plenty of things that could happen between now and then that could cause me to adjust these thoughts (I’m looking at you, The Lazarus Contract). But for now, at least, I think I’ve tackled all the big concepts, and we’ve got an awful lot to chew on while we wait for the next course.

Geek Nerdery Podcast: Top 5 Animated Batman Films

I am once again joined by Sometimes Co-Host Mike and Michael from the Awesome 80s Podcast as we’re breaking down our Top 5 Animated Batman Movies!  Some claim to have the best list of everyone, some made their list just before we started.

After all that we chat about Wrestlemania 33.   Is it really Undertaker’s final match?  And the guys give their reactions to the new trailer for Stephen King’s IT.

In usual podcast chaos Sometimes Co-Host Mike and I knock equipment around and my cat seems to ring its bell a lot which I did not noticed while recording.  We aim for high quality here!

Music provided by The Fantastic Plastics.  Catch them this summer at Warped Tour.

Post-Superman Reborn: What’s next for the new DCU?

With the Rebirth era of DC Comics approaching its first anniversary, recent issues of Superman and Action Comics seem to have reset the playing field. This seemed like a good time to discuss the new status quo for Superman, how it reflects the greater DC Universe, and some wild speculation as to what’s really happening in the larger Rebirth mystery. Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Superman Reborn story arc, as well as other stories across the DC Universe.

A Reborn Man of Steel

As promised, the four-part Superman Reborn storyline has answered some major questions. We know now that the false Clark Kent was, in reality, Mr. Mxyzptlk, having recently escaped the clutches of the enigmatic Mr. Oz. We also know what Mr. Oz meant in DC Universe Rebirth #1 when he told the Pre-Flashpoint Superman that neither he nor the New 52 Superman were what he thought. In fact, they and their respective Lois Lanes were two halves of the same whole, split in Superman Red/Superman Blue fashion. Now the halves have been rejoined, and all is well in Metropolis. Except, of course, for the new question raised here: who split them and why? Not to mention, of course, how this impacts the rest of the DCU.

Action Comics #976 reveals that not only the characters, but also their respective histories have been merged. Presumably, this means that when they return to the Daily Planet they’ll encounter a Perry White who remembers attending their wedding, a Metropolis that knows all too well the destruction of Doomsday, and a Supergirl who once again recognizes her cousin in this man. But what about some of the elements that are harder to reconcile? Wonder Woman has already moved past her romance with Superman, but will those characters still remember it? Will the Teen Titans have memories of their former teammate, the time-tossed Superboy cloned from Lois and Clark’s son? And what about Martha Kent? In the Post-Flashpoint New 52 Universe she was dead; in the DCU that existed prior to Flashpoint she was still alive. If Clark goes back to the family farm now, will she be waiting for him?

Not all of these questions can simply be handwaved away, but more and more it’s feeling like this is by design. DC has been attacking discrepancies head-on in books like the Superman titles or Wonder Woman. Diana has learned that she’s been manipulated for years, sent to a false Paradise Island whenever she attempted to return home, and as a result her entire history is suspect (Wonder Woman #11). In another huge contradiction, the original Wally West has returned. Rather than attempting to eliminate the New 52 Wally West, a solution was found to keep them both. And all of this, of course, seems to connect back to the central mystery revealed in the first DC Rebirth issue: someone has “stolen” ten years of time from the DC Universe, and as a result, everything is off-kilter. Now, the Rebirth story appears to be accelerating. Superman Reborn was the first part of that. The next part, the Batman/Flash crossover “The Button,” begins in April.

Put a Little Love In Your Heart

After the two Superman families merged, Mr. Oz ponders, “That family has done the impossible. Proven that true love really can conquer all… Is it over? Or is there more?” The question here seems to be if “love” truly can repair the damage done to the DC Universe when whoever did whatever it was they did. I would argue that this is already happening, both literally within the DCU and in a more metafictional way. Rebirth has largely been about restoring the lost sense of hope and love to the DC Universe. DC Universe Rebirth #1 began with the return of Wally West, a character who literally uses his love for others as the anchor to keep him in reality. Immediately the romances between Aquaman and Mera, Green Arrow and Black Canary, and Barry Allen and Iris West were all pushed to the forefront of those respective books. We’ve also seen Batman working with his “family” in a much closer, less secretive way, even revealing his identity to his cousin, Batwoman (in Detective Comics #934. She already knew, it turned out, but the moment it creates between the two of them is both funny and inspiring.) That’s not all, though: he’s taking an active role in the rehabilitation of several criminals and killers: Clayface, Killer Frost, and Lobo (the former in Detective Comics, the latter two in Justice League of America). He refused to believe it when Catwoman was convicted of murdering hundreds of people and finally, after decades of dancing around it, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle professed their love for one another (Batman #15).

Love – or at least mutual admiration – is also in the air in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. If you thought Batman was a mensch for trying to rehab three bad guys, the Green Lantern Corps has actually partnered up with the entire Sinestro Corps, trying to turn the yellow Lanterns into partners in policing the universe. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan has told Kyle Rayner that he sees Kyle as the greatest Lantern of all, just before Kyle dropped his New 52 Status Quo as the White Lantern and rejoined the Green Lantern Corps (Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #17). Oh, and did I mention all of this is set against the search for Saint Walker and the restoration of the Blue Lantern Corps – the DCU’s embodiment of hope?

It can’t be a coincidence that all this is happening now. One of the most consistent and justifiable criticisms of the New 52 era was that the world had grown too dark. A pre-merger Superman even pointed this out when comparing notes with Nightwing, declaring the villains of this world to be far grimmer than the ones he remembers (Nightwing #9).

Who’s Watching the Watchmen?

This, of course, leads us back to the biggest question of Rebirth: who, exactly, is responsible for the 10 missing years of the DC Universe? For the first year of the storyline, the evidence has overwhelmingly pointed in the direction of the characters from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen invading the DCU. Both the Rebirth special and Superman Reborn ended with knowing glances towards the planet Mars, which played a large part in that story. Also in the special, Batman found the Comedian’s blood-stained smiley face button embedded in the wall of the Batcave. The Titans even located their new headquarters in New York because Omen received a psychic impression of the word “Manhattan” (Titans #6).

Then there’s the mysterious Mr. Oz, he whom the comic book media has declared to be Watchmen’s Ozymandias. He’s been watching Superman for some time, he seems to know who’s really behind everything, and he’s taken some major players “off the table.” Red Robin, for instance, was captured early on in Rebirth (Detective Comics #940, specifically), leaving Batman and the others to believe he’s dead. Why Red Robin? Because he somehow was helping other people make connections that Mr. Oz didn’t want made.

This is where I think the wheels start to fall off the Ozymandias theory. Ozymandias was, of course, the smartest man in his world, but that was a world where only one person had super powers, and it wasn’t him. I can believe Ozymandias would be able to imprison Tim Drake. I can even believe he could think of a way to contain an ultra-powerful tank like Doomsday (as in Action Comics #962). But how could a man with no powers capture a fifth-dimensional imp like Mr. Mxyzptlk?

(Yes, I know that this is a comic book, and therefore some nonsense technobabble ass-pull is always a possibility, but I’m building towards a point here, so bear with me.)

This feeds a nagging doubt I’ve had for a while regarding Watchmen and its involvement in Rebirth. It feels… well… too easy. Too well-constructed, especially for a story that is ostensibly only approaching the halfway point. And it doesn’t exactly work, in my opinion, with DC’s meta-message here. The Rebirth special was, in many ways, DC’s mea culpa. Through the characters, writer Geoff Johns basically told the reader that DC understood where things went wrong and that this is the story that’s going to fix it. However, by capping this special with the reveal of the button, Johns essentially seemed to make the statement that DC’s problems weren’t recent (true), that the roots of the darkness Superman would later comment on go back well before Flashpoint (also true), and that in a way, you can trace it all back to when Watchmen changed the comic book landscape in 1987.

Sort of true.

The thing about Watchmen is that it was the book that proved to countless people comics could tell deeper, more sophisticated stories. But like any success in entertainment, it spawned a wealth of imitators. It never should have become the template for other comics that it did, but it’s not the fault of Watchmen itself that so many subsequent writers treated it as such.

So the notion that the meta-message of Rebirth is “It’s all Watchmen’s fault” has three problems:

  1.       It’s only partially and indirectly responsible, if at all.
  2.       I think Geoff Johns is far too good a writer to cast that aspersion in such a simplistic way.
  3.       Even from a business standpoint, it’s hard to picture DC devoting two years of publishing towards denigrating their best-selling graphic novel of all time.

All of this is to say that, while the Watchmen characters are almost certainly involved in the rebirth mystery, I’m almost equally certain that things are more layered than “Dr. Manhattan messed with the world.”

Crazy-Ass Speculation

We’re about to get into some wild and almost totally unsupportable theories here, friends, so buckle up. The last major element we haven’t discussed yet is the DC Multiverse, which is still following the rules established in Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity and was central to the most recent pre-Reborn storyline in Superman. That multiverse contains 52 worlds and a hell of a lot of metatextual commentary, including a world where the former Charlton characters are more like their Watchmen counterparts. (Watchmen, for the three people who didn’t know it, began as a pitch to DC utilizing the recently-acquired Charlton Comics superheroes. Alan Moore reworked them into original characters at DC’s request.) One may wonder if it’s those characters from The Multiversity: Pax Americana– and not Dr. Manhattan and company – responsible for the missing decade. However, I think we can throw that out as it doesn’t account for the presence of Watchmen’s most iconic image: the smiley face button.

There’s an aspect of Multiversity, though, that has rarely been brushed upon since. The DC Multiverse has 52 worlds, that’s true, but it’s also true that there is more than one multiverse, each with its own Orrery of Worlds. In fact, DC even announced stories from the “other” multiverses would be told in a series of yet-unproduced original graphic novels by Grant Morrison.

Here’s how, metatextually, DC can have its cake and eat it too. Let’s say the Watchmen Earth is in one of those other multiverses where the worlds (as in “our” multiverse) are to some degree or another derivative of each other. If – in the real world – it’s Watchmen’s influence that tainted everything that came after, what if in-story the true threat comes from a Watchmen derivative world that drew on the original world in the wrong way, just like so many writers did?

Or, in simpler terms, if Watchmen is its multiverse’s Earth-1, what if the real bad guys of Rebirth are from their multiverse’s Earth-3?

It’s just a theory, of course, and probably completely wrong, but it’s awfully nice to be pondering and analyzing DC Comics again, and to a degree that hasn’t been possible for years. And if nothing else, we can look forward to “The Button” next month in the hopes that the clues it gives us will keep us going into Rebirth Year Two.

Blake M. Petit has been nerding up the internet for over a decade. You can nerd along with him at BlakeMPetit.com or at his Facebook page.