Who’s Who in the DCU: Special Edition

As The Dark Knight celebrates its second weekend of trouncing the competition, Who’s Who in the DCU looks back at over five years of Bat-related questions, answers, and opinions.

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Over the five years that I’ve been writing this column questions about Gotham City’s various citizens have pretty much been a column mainstay.

With that in mind, what we have here is a Greatest Hits of Gotham, covering the best of the best of Bat-related trivia from Day 1 of this column. As such, Editor Emeritus Ben Morse does show up, writing in red. So please, sit back and enjoy this trip down memory line. And for goodness, go right out and see the Dark Knight again after this. It is just that good.

DISCLAIMER: Given the copious amounts of information in this column, we here at Who’s Who recommend taking breaks to collect yourself, converse with people, drink some water, eat something nutritious, and listen to at least one piece of music unrelated to Batman.

DISCLAIMER II: You are looking at five years worth of info here. Some of it is out of date as result. Please, please, please don’t write in to point out that Gordon is Commissioner again or that Jason Todd is alive. We know…we just didn’t when we wrote that particular answer.

M.G. is watching a Biography on a certain Gotham playboy

If I wanted to read the Batman biography in one sitting, what 10 or so trades would sum the life of the character? Using the existing catalogue of Batman trade paperbacks, create your ideal, readable timeline of Batman’s life. For example, you might start with Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, have Grant Morrison’s current Batman run in the somewhere in the middle and end with Batman: Year 100.

First off, 10 trades does not equal one sitting. I don’t even think I could read 10 trades in one day, much less one sitting.

This really is a great question. It makes me wish that DC had a line of books like Marvels “The End” series, so that we could do this with other characters. Oh well, it’s time to get to the quintessential Batman.

Batman: Year One – Obviously this is the place to begin. This is the one that really made me a Batman fan and made me forget all about the corny tv show. Easily one of my favorite Batman tales ever.

Batman: Ego – This is a brilliant but brief look at Gotham’s protector. But it’s 100% Darwyn Cooke goodness, and you can’t go wrong with that. Plus it’s a peek into the mind of the character.

The Killing Joke – A great look at both Batman and the Joker. Have I mentioned how stunning the new deluxe edition is?

Death in the Family – This one doesn’t hold up nearly as well as anything else here, but it’s still a pivotal moment in the life of Batman.

Arkham Asylum – The Dark Knight lives up to his name in this book. It’s a dark and moody tale, but it gives it gets you into one of Gotham’s most famous locales.

JLA: Tower of Babel – Batman is all of his superhero-y glory. This is the story that illustrates how well Batman plays with other heroes.

Hush – I’m not the biggest fan of this story, but in terms of villains this story gives you the most bang for your buck, which is why I’m including it. It’s flaw (that it’s a fanboy’s wet dream) is what makes it perfect for this list.

Face the Face – I really liked this story. It’s Batman and Harvey Dent and James Robinson with some stellar artists. It’s just quality.

Batman: Detective – This collection of Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics is a nice throwback to stand alone issues that focus on Batman’s brain. It’s got some excellent characterization and some really nice looking art.

Dark Knight Returns – This is how my Batman journey ends. It’s a classic and while it’s dated to a degree, it still holds up pretty well.

I’d really have liked to put Batman: Black & White on my list, but the anthology features stories set at various points in Batman’s career and even out of continuity, so it didn’t fit with the “chronological” part of the question.

Tim, how does your Batman chronology work?

Hmm…well, you hit a ton of the highlights, no doubt about that. But, I’ve got some alternate suggestions.

For one, I’d ditch Hush. Oh boy, would I! While I don’t despise it like some (it was fun and pretty), if one’s looking for a villain extravaganza with great art, they can do better. And they don’t even have to look under a different author’s work! Long Halloween gets that spot.

I’d also lose Face-the-Face for, while it is good, there is nothing definitive about it. Even it’s setting up of the new status quo is more a return to a previous one and if someone is just looking at Batman’s history in slices, they are unlikely to even know that a new status quo was needed to return to the old one.

Similarly, Batman: Detective goes by the wayside. I like all the stories a whole bunch, but there is nothing about it that makes it any more necessary than, say, Rucka or Brubaker’s runs and I wouldn’t include them in this crowd either.

Instead, I’d add Batman: Dark Detective in the first slot for presenting what some consider the “best” version of Batman, the one that provided the basis for the Animated Series version of the character. It is a natural bridge from the Year One Batman to the modern day one as well. Plus, it has that awesome Joker fish story.

In the second slot, I put Batman: The Last Arkham, the first arc from Shadow of the Bat. It presents a different take on Batman’s psyche than Arkham Asylum does and I think is a nice counterbalance to that story’s “Yo, Batman is one CRAZY guy!” approach. Putting both on allows a reader to draw their own conclusions about what kind of shape his mind really is in.

So, my final chronology goes like this:

Batman: Year One
Batman: Ego
The Long Halloween
Dark Detective
The Killing Joke
Death in the Family
Arkham Asylum
Batman: The Last Arkham
JLA: Tower of Babel
The Dark Knight Returns

Now Bill C is just pushing his luck

Batman is actually the only bat-title I’ve ever made it a point to check out. Could you recommend any definitive arcs from other bat books to pick up? Any Minis, GNs, or Elseworlds you liked would work here also.

I dig Batman. But until recently I stayed out of Gotham. Back in the day, when Norm Breyfogle was doing the art I read Bat books on the regular. I fell out favor with the books right around college, so there are some lapses in my Bat knowledge. But I can give you some of my favorites.

Allow me to get the obligatory out of the way; Batman: Year One yadda yadda yadda, The Dark Knight Returns yackety smackety The Killing Joke blah blah blah.
Now that that’s done with I’ll do my best to give you some pretty solid Bat reads.

Arkham Asylum – This recently got the deluxe anniversary treatment and it’s quite the read. Basically the inmates are running the asylum, and they force Batman to run the gamut. It’s a bit on the dark side but it’s very well written. And the extras in the anniversary edition are very nice.

Batman: Ego – This book has amazing art by Darwyn Cooke and has a compelling premise; Batman vs Bruce Wayne. It’s one of those rare books that is flawless. You’ve got to buy this one.

Holy Terror – I’ll admit that I’ve not read this one in years, but I recall it fondly. Breyfogle art, interesting story (this Elseworlds takes place in a world where church and state aren’t separated and Bruce is about to become part of the church) and it’s a single issue. Plus there are some cool cameos by other DCU characters.

Gotham by Gaslight – This was the first official Elseworlds. It’s a classic book. Just check it out.

Birth of the Demon – This is the origin of one of my favorite characters ever; Ra’s al Ghul. It’s an oversized book and it’s got painted Breyfogle, what more could you ask for?

Son of the Demon – This story has been retconned as an Elseworlds, because it features Bats and Talia conceiving a child. It’s still a pretty good read.

Batman: Black & White – This was originally an anthology miniseries featuring Batman stories by various artists and writers. It had some beautiful pinups and great covers. This basically shows every facet of the Bat.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4 – This was a way cool arc, which starts with Batman an inmate in Arkham. The new asylum director, a descendant of the original Arkham is quite a character, and this is his debut. It also features the debut of Mr. Zsasz.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10 – In this arc Batman confronts a ghost from his past. We also see what role Bruce Wayne may have played in the death of his parents. Possibly.

JSA: The Liberty Files – Sure, this Elseworlds doesn’t just focus on Batman, but it’s a cool look at the character in another setting. Plus it makes Batman look cooler than he’s been in his own titles in forever.

Tim, I gave ten of my favorite Bat tales, how many are you going to offer? And don’t forget to include War Crimes.

Oh Mathan, you cut up! Hahaha. I swear to you, one day I will make you pay for your impudence. PAY! Anyway, I am a huge Bat-fan so there is just a ton of stuff that I have dug over the years. However, I’m focus on a few random favorites so as not to overwhelm you.

Batman #417-420: Batman with a heavy dose of Cold War paranoia. KGBeast is a joke these days, but here, in his first appearance, he was the real deal. He cut off his own hand at one point rather than let Batman catch him! The real thrill though comes from how a wiser Batman defeats the Beast. It is a great example of how far Batman can go without crossing that “will not kill” line.

Cosmic Odyssey #1-4: This isn’t a Batman story alone, but he really shines in this. He blows a giant hole in an alien, outsmarts Darkseid, and almost thrashes Orion for a fallen comrade’s honor. It is a great showcase for how useful Batman is even in situations where, by all rights, he should not stand a chance.

Batman #477-478: “A Gotham’s Tale”. Batman, a man, and a woman are stuck inside a museum vault with only enough air for two of them to survive. They come upon the idea to trade stories and whoever’s story is “worst” will sacrifice themselves for the good of the rest. It is simple, but a great example of how much smarter Batman than, well, everyone else.

Legends of the Dark Knight #0: A rich man pays several authors to come out to his mansion and solve the mystery of who or what Batman is. Delight in the differing visions, none of which are entirely right or wrong, and, of course, how Batman derails the whole shebang in the end.

Batman: Long Halloween and Batman: Haunted Knight: Two excellent collections of top notch Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale work. Between these and Superman: Man for All Seasons, this duo has secured a place in the Comics Hall of Fame no matter what else they do.

Superman: Speeding Bullets: This book is essentially “what if you merged Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne’s origins” and does a nice job of exploring that very idea.

Batman: In Darkest Knight: Batman as a Green Lantern. Just as fanboy fan as the idea implies.

There is still tons more, but I will stop there for now. Consider it a primer and check back with us when you need some more Batman in your diet.

Chase, I know you have something else on your mind.

Hey. I’ve heard that Batman once defeated the entire Justice League himself. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask why he was fighting them and how did he defeat them all? He’s really smart and I understand he prepares well, but he’d have to have one hell of a plan to beat them all!

(I was going to use this question for my monthly Batman column, or my column of the most frequently asked questions.)

Batman didn’t actually beat the entire Justice League. Someone hacked into his computer and stole the plans that he had to take care of his teammates. Wonder Woman was placed in a hyper realistic Virtual Reality where she fought a competitor who was every bit the warrior that she was. Evenly matched they would fight until one died (I’m betting the first one to die is the one who was actually alive.)

Green Lantern was blinded. Being an artist, Kyle was pretty reliant on his eyes (but who isn’t.) Since his peepers were out of commission his constructs were pretty funky. Plus he couldn’t defend himself.

Flash was shot with a neuro bullet, which paralyzed him. How do you shoot a guy who can vibrate through a bullet? With a vibrating bullet, of course.

Plastic Man was destabilized molecularly, becoming just a puddle. (Actually, he was frozen and then smashed to bits by a hammer. B)

Speaking of puddles Aquaman was doused with a fear toxin making him afraid of water!

Martian Manhunter had nanites attached to his skin that burst into flames.

And good ol’ Superman was exposed to synthetic Red Kryptonite, which made is skin transparent. The thing about transparent skin it that it’s unable to process solar radiation needed to make a Kryptonian, well, relevant.

And I suppose you are wondering where Batman was during all this, he was chasing after his parents. Someone had robbed their graves and was taking them on a trip across the globe. The same someone stole the files from the Bat computer and took out the JLA.

Who was that someone? None other than the one and only Ra’s al Ghul. And that is why he’s my favorite villain in the DCU. How did the story end? What was Ra’s master plan? I’m not giving everything away. So if you haven’t burned down you local bookstore you may want to pick up the Tower of Babel trade ASAP. B, have we been asked more about Batman taking out the JLA or about Batman beating Superman? (Pretty sure this is the first time we’ve been asked the former. Ditto on the recommendation to pick up Tower of Babel, by far the highlight of Mark Waid’s far-too-short JLA run. B)

Brian, got another Bat-query?

Superman and Batman supposedly fought many times. How did this happen? What I mean is, what exactly did Batman do in these various encounters? I’m sure he didn’t go toe-to-toe with Supes… did he?!

D’oh! (I was going to use this question in the same aforementioned column.) Back in The Dark Knight Returns a geezer Batman beat up a pretty old Superman. Superman came to Gotham looking for Bruce. Bruce met him in an alley. They fought for a minute. Then Green Arrow shot an arrow with some Kryptonite into the fray. Well that made Clark pretty weak. At that point Bruce kicked the snot out of Kal. It wasn’t pretty at all. So Batman beat Superman with an assist from Green Arrow.

In the recent Hush storyline over in Batman, the two had an in continuity fracas. Superman was being mind controlled. Superman and Batman fought in close quarters (a sewer) and Superman had a pretty severe electric shock. Did I mention that Batman was wearing a Kryptonite signet ring? Batman held is own and won the fight.

Superman and Batman also fought in the Elseworlds Red Son. In that story Batman lured Superman to a bunker underground. Then he turned on some red solar lamps. The red solar lamps made Superman just a normal guy. Score another for Batman.

B, those are all the fights that I can think of, any more coming to you? (I feel like there are more, but none are coming to me. B)

Now unless your corner bookstore is a pile of smoldering rubble you should be able to find The Dark Knight Returns, Hush and Red Son in various collected editions on their shelves. B, which one should he pick up first? (I don’t own any of those trades, though I own Hush in comic form. I guess I have to say Dark Knight Returns just for historical significance. B)

Brian do you have a question that has been keeping you up at nights?

Was it ever revealed who killed Batman’s parents?

We don’t know who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. And I’m not saying that like a stoolie holding out for a bribe. No one in the DCU knows who killed the Waynes. Back in Superman/Batman #1 it was implied that John Metallo Corben had something to do with it, but that turned out to be a false lead. This is one of those tidbits that came out of Zero Hour.

Personally I like it. In my mind I think that Batman’s drive to go out every night to fight crime might be somewhat diminished if he actually caught his parents killer. Maybe he’d be like Phew! I’m glad I finally brought my parents killer to justice. Now I can finally get a good night’s rest.

Instead we have a Batman who pushes himself to the limit every night, because his parents were killed and because the killer is still out there. On some level Batman is still trying to find that guy every night. This is why he’s different from Nightwing and Robin, who both have a sense of closure. Batman has a sense of urgency. B, how do you like your Batman; sense of closure or longing for justice? (Longing for justice. You already summed it up perfectly, partner. B)

I’m going to start the column off with a question about Batman. Everyone loves Batman, right? You can’t go wrong with Batman. Nexus’ own Kyle Litke, want to start things off?

Who knows Batman’s secret identity?

Ok, lets get the big guns out of the way. Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter all know who Batman really is.

Now on to his confidantes. Nightwing, Robin, Azrael, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Oracle all know. Alfred, Leslie Tomkins and Sasha Bordeaux know as well.

Want some other good guys? Man-Bat, Green Arrow, the original Outsiders, The Teen Titans (Raven, Cyborg, Starfire, Wonder Girl, Speedy), Wildcat, Plastic Man, and Zatanna all know that B.W. is Batman. (I’ll go with Elongated Man probably having figured it out at some point if he wasn’t outright told as well. B)

Some notable dead folks know Bats is Bruce as well. Zatara, Harold (Bats turncoat handyman) and Tsune Tomo (guy who trained Bruce) all know and all are dead.
Geez those are a lot of good guys. Now onto the bad guys.

Hush, Bane, David Cain, Ra’s al Ghul, The Riddler and Nyssa all know and have used that info to their advantage.

Deathwing, Lady Shiva, and Hugo Strange know where Bruce spends his nights.

It is implied that both Deathstroke and The Joker know that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one and the same. But I don’t think that it’s been stated implicitly anywhere.
B, did I miss any? (I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s probably reasonable to assume Starfire knows ¦she showed up looking for Dick at stately Wayne Manor in one issue of New Titans. B)

InsidePulse Wrestling’s own Andy Campbell do you want to start the column?

I know Batman received training from Wildcat and Lady Shiva. Who else trained him?

Dude, lots of people have trained Bruce Wayne. That’s why he’s the best at what he does‚ or is that that Marvel guy?

Anyway, a young Bruce Wayne learned about the ways of detective work from one of the greatest detectives ever, Harvey Harris. Bruce also learned some detective tricks from Henri DuCard. He got his martial arts skills from David Cain, who later framed him for the murder of Vesper Fairchild (perhaps Bruce’s check bounced?)

And Mr. Cain is of course better known as the father of the current Batgirl, Cassandra Cain; Batman stealing Cassandra from David is a big reason why he helped Lex Luthor to frame him for murder. B

After that whole “back breaking” incident Lady Shiva trained with Bruce to get back into vigilante shape. Allegedly the tale of Richard Dragon training Bruce Wayne is still in canon, since Bronze Tiger alluded to it in the current series. Tsune Tomo not only was one of Bruce’s teachers but also was Yakuza.

Ted “Wildcat” Grant taught Bruce the sweet science. On the Batman cartoon Bruce learned a few things from Zatara, like concealing things (weapons, tools) the art of escaping and sleight of hand. For even more of Batman’s trainers pick up “The Many Deaths of Batman” (Batman #433-435) in which Bruce’s teachers are marked for death.
Interesting fact: Harvey Harris’s niece is none other than Wendy Harris. Y’know from “Wendy & Marvin” fame?

B, if Bruce Wayne came to you for training what would your field of expertise be?

Definitely Ultimate Frisbee. Sure, Bats can whip any cadre of generic thugs into shape and betray the JLA with the best of them, but can he recklessly dive into a face full of grass in pursuit of a plastic disc? I thought not.

Jamie brings us a bit of info on a question from last week and it leads to MURDER.

If you check out the mini series where Batman faces Manbat and his family over genetically mutated locusts, you’ll see the girl (Marilyn) Batman is teamed with takes note of his scent.

“Until Joey, she’d thought that all men smelled of after-shave. Joey didn’t use deodorant. Nor does Batman. Marilyn likes that. Pheromones again”

This series leads me to my question. In part of the story, Batman is fighting with one of Manbat’s sons, called Virgil. When the second son tries to help too, they fall awkwardly and Batman breaks Virgil’s neck.

He justifies killing the by saying “It was unavoidable. My life was threatened”.

In several other stories, Batman has killed or allowed people to die and yet still acts totally anal about other people doing the same things. So the question is: How many people has Batman killed? I’m curious about this answer since a big part of his character has always been to never kill another person.

I know for a fact that Manbat is an Elseworlds, so the killing doesn’t really count. But thanks for reminding me, because I really did enjoy that mini. It was like the darkest Batman since Arkham Asylum.

As for Bats history of killing here’s what I wrote awhile back:

This isn’t the first time we’ve attempted to answer this question in this column.
Way back in the 5/15/03 column I answered the question of whether or not Superman or Batman has killed by saying;

The only case of Superman killing someone was in Superman #22. That was the only instance of Kal crossing the line that I know of.

Batman is another story. Bruce almost killed Joe Chill in “Batman: Year Two.” What stopped him you ask? The Reaper killed Chill first. Batman also left the KGBeast locked in the Gotham sewer, which is kind of like sentencing him to death. Most recently Bruce was willing to kill the Joker for all the pain and suffering he caused. So we can see that Bats is willing to cross the line. I’m sure that there are more incidents like this, but the only time I was a heavy Bat reader was for like five year, in the late eighties to the early nineties.

Man, what a crummy answer. There was some debate about an incident with Shiva and a ninja, but it boiled down to the fact that Bruce has never taken a life. KGBeast ended up alive. Joker is still breathing. Batman doesn’t even know who Joe Chill is.

Want further proof? Pick up Death and the Maidens miniseries. In issue #2 Ra’s al Ghul gives Batman a potion that will allow Bruce to speak with the dead, more specifically his deceased parent. The only catch, in order to meet them you have to meet every person that you’ve killed. Ra’s tells Bats “you have no dead to claim.” And who knows more about Batman than Ra’s al Ghul? So there you have it. Batman has never killed.

Y’know what? I’m sticking with this answer. Mostly because Ra’s is a man of his word and no one knows Batman like Ra’s does. He knows Batman better than he knows himself.

Batman is willing to cross the line, but he hasn’t yet. He can see a situation where killing might be necessary, but he’s just not gotten to that point yet. During Hush he was almost driven to killing Joker, but he didn’t. It’s very much a part of his character; this discipline. He restrains from crossing the line, because he knows there’s no crossing back.

Just like Angelina Jolie wouldn’t break up a marriage because of her childhood, Batman doesn’t dig killing because of his childhood. He always sees the “other” option. It’s just who he is.

Tim, you’ve got all that fancy book learnin’ get inside Batman’s head on the subject of killing.

I’m not sure if you need book learning for this or not, but here it goes. Bruce’s trauma is from his childhood and, in some ways, he has never moved from that era. Joker hits on this in, of all things, Punisher/Batman, when he mentions that Batman reacts like a child to crime, with toys and gadgets, not guns and ammo. Batman’s morality is much the same. As a child, he was taught that killing is never right and that was reinforced, rather starkly, by the death of his parents. Thus, even as an adult, he is unshakeable in this belief. He often flies off the handle and contemplates it, but, much like a child, his fear and guilt about crossing that line rein him in, more often than not. And if not, typically, the voice of a mentor (Commissioner Gordon, mostly) or father figure does so.

All that said, in the earlier mentioned Cosmic Odyssey, Batman does, with very little hesitation, does put a rather sizeable hole into an alien. So, perhaps, the no killing thing is a human only rule.

Matt do you have a follow up?

What other significant love interests has Batman had, and what were their fates?

Well back in the day Bruce was engaged to Julie Madison. But she broke it off. Silver St. Cloud and Bruce were an item, but she found out Bruce was Batman, and broke it off and left Gotham. Catwoman and Bruce had a fling, but he felt he couldn’t trust her, and he broke it off. He was also involved with Vesper Fairchild. What happened to her? Oh that’s right, she was murdered and Bruce was framed for it. B, can you think of anyone I’m missing? (Shondra Kinsolving was Bruce’s physical therapist during his post-Knightfall rehab and also a brief love interest. I think she was written out of the picture because she had dark secrets in her past or something. Bruce’s bodyguard before the whole murder frameup, Sasha Bordeaux, was interested in him, but she’s with Checkmate now and he has no clue. And of course there is always Talia, Bruce’s beloved and daughter of one his greatest enemies, Ra’s al Ghul. B)

ParallaxNero you want to ask the next logical question?

None of my friends like Batman, as they say he is a loser without superpowers. That he’s not even in the same league as Superman. I try to argue that Batman is potentially the most dangerous man in the JLA, but I have no argument. I know he can be dangerous and has defeated the JLA (somewhat in Tower of Babel) but other than that i have no idea. What makes Batman so dangerous?

Batman is so dangerous because he is so driven. Most heroes are who they are out of luck. Bruce is who he is out of fear and pain. He never want to be as powerless as he was when his parents were killed. As a result he is prepared.

Bruce sees the worst in people and expects the worst. He has trained ever aspect of his being, from an early age, for this moment right now. His gifts aren’t natural, he had to hone them and keep has to keep them in shape. And it’s that determination to be better than everyone that makes Batman dangerous. Is that the same stuff that makes you so dangerous, Ben? (That and boy band good looks on par with 411 head honcho Jonathan JC Widro. Ben)

JohnBritton got another?

Don’t Bruce Wayne’s lovers ask him about all the scars and bruises? He must be a mess by now.

One of the few good things to come out of the Hush storyline is that it added Bruce Wayne’s terrible car crash to Bat continuity. The accident was so bad that a specialist had to be called in. Bruce can use this accident to account for some of his scars. In the past he’s had other car accidents, skiing mishaps and what not. But if she’s in bed with Wayne do you really think she’s going to be asking a lot of questions? Personally I think that Bruce is the lights off curtains closed type of guy.

Hanes00 misses the good ol’ corrupt days of the GCPD

What happened to Detective Flass or former Commissioner Loeb from Batman Year One?

Renato asks the similar themed

What about Jim Gordon, and his ex-wife and his son? I didn’t hear about them since maybe Year One and that story about the origin of Two-face.

Loeb turned up in Dark Victory written by Jeph Loeb, coincidence? (Mmm, I think not. After all, Dark Victory and Year One are set in relatively the same time period in Gotham’s history. Wait…that isn’t what you mean? I’m confused then.)

As for Barbara and James Jr. they are actually hanging out in Chicago. After she left Jim, she moved back to Chicago and lived happily ever after with their son.

James Jr. actually proved pivotal in Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2 where the disgraced Flass kidnapped the boy on Jim Gordon and Sarah Essen’s wedding day. But that’s about it for them. They should be allowed to live happily ever after.

However I’m betting that someone will try to make James Jr. a villain, perhaps an anti- Robin? Given that there’s probably only a few years difference I’m guessing that this is the fate that James Jr. has in his future. Unless…

That’s right, I’m pretty sure that James Jr. is indeed Mockingbird.

Tim, do you have any thoughts on James Jr?

I’d like to see James Jr. again, but not in the role of a villain. Maybe as a cop trying to live up to the tremendous ideal set by his father. You could even do a story where James Jr. trying to be a good cop worthy of his father’s legacy while still being his own man dovetails nicely with Nightwing trying to be a good vigilante worthy of his “father’s” legacy while still trying to be his own man. Or, you could go in a completely different direction and have him be just one of the work-a-day Gotham types who we just happen to see every now and again. Perhaps he interns for Wayne Enterprises or strings for one of Gotham’s local rags. I don’t know, just throwing out ideas here.

Soul On Fire wonders if Jim really knows Bruce

Ok, I just finished reading the No Man’s Land novel and I was wondering something.
To prove his friendship, Bats unmasks in front of Jim. Gordon looks away, but tells Batman that he could easily find out who he is and may have already. So I’m wondering, does Gordon know Bruce is Batman? Have they ever-made mention of it?

This is a huge gray area in Gotham. It’s not explicitly stated that Jim Gordon knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman. But Gordon is a good cop and a smart one, so the notion is that he probably does know or at least has his suspicions.

The way that I see the Gordon/Batman dynamic is like a romantic relationship. Now suppose that the person that you’re with is very “adept” or “skilled” in certain areas. Some folks might want to know details about the past at the risk of ruining the relationship, while others are content to just have what is and not worry about what was.

Jim is the latter, he’s secure enough to live with the knowledge that he’s got without needing to know the specifics. He doesn’t want to risk losing whatever magical element his dynamic element is with Bats by having cold hard facts.

I respect his decision. I know that there are quite a few things that I’m “pretty sure about” but knowing the actual truth would probably alter things a bit, with is how I imagine Jim looks at the situation.

Tim, Gordon…canny or not paying attention?

I’d lean towards canny. I’m not sure if Jim knows or has his suspicions or what. But I do think there was a moment, early in their relationship, when Gordon decided that he was not going to look under that stone; that who Batman was behind that mask was not of a concern to him. Gordon respects Batman and respects Batman’s right to conceal his true identity. If he wanted to, yes, I think Gordon could figure it out. But, much like Joker, I suppose, Gordon has decided he wants no part of that.

Soak1313 reminds us that even heroic lawmen are flawed

Can you give me a history of Jim Gordon and his family?

What kind of history? A medical history? Are you looking for some kind patterns in regards to health issues the Gordons might have? You work for the insurance companies like that guy in Sicko don’t you? You want to deny one of the Gordon’s health insurance because of preexisting condition.” Well I’ve got news for you buster: those records aren’t something that I can share without a court order. I mean the columnist/fictional character confidentiality agreement when it comes to medical history very seriously.

Believe me when I say that if I told you what I knew about Bruce Wayne the only way he’d be able to get insurance was if he bought an insurance company.

But I guess I can give some basic info on Jim Gordon and his fam.

Jim Gordon was a good cop in a dirty city. That city was Chicago. After uncovering the rigging of the mayoral election implicating police officers, Jim gets recommended for a transfer to Gotham.

Once in Gotham, Jim finds yet another corrupt police force. He falls in love with Sarah Essen, despite being married to Barbara Eileen Gordon who has son James Jr. Since both he and Batman are trying to clean up the city, they become allies.

Shortly after this Jim’s brother, Robert Gordon, and Robert’s wife, Thelma, die. (No word on Louise’s fate.) Thus Jim and Barbara have to take in Jim’s niece also named Barbara. Eventually Jim and Barbara divorce and she takes James Jr. Jim adopts his niece. However his niece might actually be his biological daughter because, the class act that he is, Jim had an affair with his sister in law, Thelma. So not only did he cheat on his wife, but he did it with his brother’s wife. Cruddy.

Um, yeah, I don’t really know how to follow up on that. That’s really, really greasy. Though I’d really love to see Gary Oldman in that storyline on the big screen. I think he’d do a smashing job.

Tim, is Jim Gordon a decent guy or a skuzzy chap?

As tempted as I am to simply label him skuzzy chap (if, for no other reason than I just like the way it rolls off the tongue), I can’t.

I think he was a pretty lousy husband and a not so hot dad though. However, over time, he proven himself to be a good husband (he eventually settled down with Sarah Essen and they made it work until she was killed) and an excellent father (with second chance offspring Barbara). He’s no ideal, but like so many, after contributing directly to the dissolution of one relationship, he was able to see his role in its failure, change those things and bounce back.

I, personally, applaud him.

Aaron has very high highs, but very low lows

I am NOT making this up. But, I read somewhere that Harvey “Two-Face” Dent’s personality disorder had been re-written (by Frank Miller?) to be attributed to bi-polar disorder. Come on, is this possibly true? And, if true, is this in continuity or was this all tied to Miller’s “Dark Knight” graphic novels? This can’t be true.

Ok, it is kind of true.

Y’see, in The Dark Knight Returns (set in the future) Harvey Dent has gotten treatment and been cured of his physical scars. However since he’s “Harvey Dent” on physically, he’s “Two-Face” mentally. He returns to his old ways.

Since this book came out in the mid 80’s, in an attempt to be realistic Harvey was diagnosed as bi-polar. After all, you can’t cure something that hasn’t been diagnosed.
It’s not quite true, despite how often it’s been reproduced on reproduced on the web (seriously, google “frank miller” “bipolar” and “Harvey Dent”, it’s crazy.) It’s not really in continuity, but it’s influenced fans and writers in some regard.

Harvey also had a tough childhood (as witnessed in a story not written by Miller) involving an alcoholic and abusive father. And in Batman: Year One Miller really did make Harvey a likeable honorable character, which makes his fall that much more tragic.

Tim, you’ve got a degree in head things, how would you diagnose Harvey Dent?

I would say that it is pretty clear that those future doctors in Dark Knight misdiagnosed Mr. Dent. Bipolar disorder can provoke some pretty erratic and “crazy” behavior from its sufferers. People who are in a manic phase can spend money like crazy, be markedly more promiscuous than they usually are, attempt feats of strength as intense as pushing a car uphill by themselves, not sleep for days and so on. People in a depressive stage will often lose all interest in everything. They won’t get out of bed, won’t eat, won’t want to associate with close friends, can’t motivate themselves to do any work, etc. An intense illness (untreated) to be sure.

But none of Dent’s symptoms fit. He does not cycle. He never has problems (except for Batman’s interference) planning or executing those plans. His behavior, while bizarre by “normal” standards, is consistent. He makes all his decisions passed on the flip of a coin. Every day. All day. Be it a week from now, three months from now, a year from now, he can be counted on to follow that pattern. The same would not be said for a bipolar individual.

If there is any true diagnosis to give Dent, it is dissociative personality disorder (more commonly known as “multiple personalities) and anti-social personality disorder (sociopathy). This is especially the case if we are talking about his Animated Series incarnation. However, a lot of Two-Face’s behavior fits into the large expanse of comic book psychology. In other words, he’s crazy. No one in “real” life would ever exhibit the plethora of symptoms he has, nor to the extent he has. Therefore, there are no true diagnoses. Again though, the closest would be dissociative with a general helping of anti-social personality disorder.

Ryan values silence too.

One subplot in “Hush” that really interested me was that Harvey Dent’s physical scars were repaired and he somehow managed to become an attorney again. I kept looking through the solicits after that, waiting for some Bat-writer to follow up on this, and if anyone ever did I must have missed it. I remember a Two-Face miniseries last year, but it looked like that took place sometime before “Hush”. Has Harvey been seen at all since “Hush”?

Sadly Harvey’s been laying low since Hush. He’s been tied up in the Gotham court system, because Two-Face had some outstanding warrants. He’s got a few parking tickets and some child support issues due to Duela Dent.

He’s made the occasional cameo (in Gotham Central for instance) but he’s had no appearance of importance to note.

But good news is that James Robinson will be featuring Harvey Dent in his upcoming stint on the Bat books, setting up the OYL status quo.

Tim, are you excited about the upcoming storyline?

You know it! I love me some Harvey Dent/Two-Face. When he’s written well, he’s just excellent

Jag has a future as an echo chamber.

What happened to Harvey Dent? It seemed at the end of the storyline, he was primed to be a big time player in Gotham. Now he’s gone. What’s the deal?

I’ve got a couple of theories about this one. First off, I seem to recall there being speculation about a Hush sequel of sorts, where Lee and Loeb would reunited someways down the line and tell another tale. It did seem that Loeb was setting Dent up for some type of evolution as a character, but sadly that tale never came to pass (or at least won’t for awhile as Loeb’s now Marvel exclusive.)

My other theory is Two-Face is just gone.

It’s really not that unrealistic if you think about it. Think about the aspects of the Bat mythos that are no longer around. Commissioner Gordon is gone. Harvey Bullock is gone. Poison Ivy is dead. Barbara Gordon abandoned the role of Batgirl. Even Leslie Thompkins is no longer on the scene.

These were all established aspects of the Bat community. And they’re all gone. The Bat books aren’t afraid to alter the supporting cast, to shake up the status quo. Perhaps Two-Face is “fixed” and will be an upstanding member of the Gotham community. Or maybe Harvey will team up with Batman in an attempt to atone for the crimes he committed against the people of Gotham. Personally I like that.

Actually the more I think about it the more I’d like to see Bruce Wayne set up and be a champion for Harvey Dent. It’d be nice to see some of the inherent optimism that Bruce does have (he’s trying to make Gotham a better place, what’s more optimistic than that?) by having him aide in Harvey’s reestablishment has an upstanding citizen in Gotham. It would also work as establishing “Bruce Wayne” as more than just a mask for Batman, but as a person who viewed Harvey as a fallen friend who needs helping.

Of course in order for a tale like that to be told, DC would have to allow a writer to stay on a Bat book for more than a year, thus I don’t really see it happening.

Tim, what do you think happened to Two-Face?

I think that, sadly, erasing Two-Face’s scars would fail to erase his disease. The scars gave him the excuse to lose his mind, but there was always something in him that he was trying to keep in check (especially in modern continuity). I honestly think that it just took the Bat books longer to get around to resolving that hanging plotline than they thought it would. That happens sometimes. I’m just glad that they are getting back to it at all.

I do like your “Bruce Wayne fighting for Harvey Dent” idea though.

If Jag thinks the Bat books have lots of loose ends, he should try the X-Men.

Two-Face. One of the things that’s really starting to bother me about the Bat-books is loose plot threads. Batgirl is one but Two-Face’s treatment over the past few years really irks me. For example, he shows up in Hush, has his face healed and disappears for a year or so. He shows up during/after Infinite Crisis and Batman trains him and he goes back to scarring himself (how many times has the guy done this?! So predictable!) and takes off.

Why the bad treatment for Harv?! Are we not going to see him again until The Dark Knight comes out (allegedly he makes an appearance in that so the comics would do a tie-in, obviously). I personally would have wanted a longer build up for regular Harv to turn into Two-Face again or something or even a new persona, because the Two-Face persona in him isn’t primarily a physical manifestation either. Plus, with Batman’s training of him, Bruce has, in effect, aided him into becoming a better killer so you know there’s a guilt thing there. What do you guys think?

I can completely understand why you’d feel that Harvey Dent was mistreated. When you look at his being “cured” in Hush and then showing up as Batman’s replacement in Gotham during the “missing year” it looks pretty sketchy.

But here are some things that you may want to consider. First off, Hush was supposed to have a six issue sequel by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, which would wrap up some of the loose ends, most likely Harvey Dent. This is all the more likely when you look at how prominently Dent was featured in Loeb’s previous Batman works.

And when you realize that Loeb’s contract with DC ended right around OYL, you can sort of see how editors and other writers were probably leaving Harvey Dent hands off for Loeb to come back to. He clearly was clearly setting up to tell a Harvey Dent story and he’s got an affinity for the character. Plus Hush was wildly popular so creators and editors were more than likely making sure that sequel could happen.

But it didn’t. So James Robinson was called in for the return of Two-Face.

Was Harvey Dent squandered? Sure, but only with the best intentions in mind.
I’ll echo your desire to see a new more dangerous Two-Face. Of course I’m sure that it might be hard to use Batman’s training in a dapper suit like Harvey is usually sporting, but it would be great to see a much more physically formidable Two-Face wreaking mayhem in Gotham.

Tim, did DC drop the ball with Harvey and what do you think his future should hold?

I think they did a bit because Harvey as good guy could’ve been an interesting, if still finite, affair. Instead, he was good for like an issue worth of story before falling apart because Batman didn’t like him enough or something. A nice, slow slide back into his old ways would’ve been more fitting. But OYL was what it was, so Harvey had to convert in a hurry. Still, it was a story that employed Orca the Whalewoman and we are all the better for that.

As far as what the future should hold, I’d be interested in some of that guilt Jag mentioned being explored. I also wouldn’t mind seeing how being good for a time changed Two-Face ever so slightly, introducing a true air of randomness to him. You truly wouldn’t know if Two-Face was going to kill you or save you when he showed up and neither did he. The flip of the coin would, truly, be the deciding factor.

Brian you look perplexed, have you something on your mind?

I have a question regarding the Joker. Is his skin painted white? Or is it like that from the chemicals? Is all his skin the white color? Also what is his origin? Finally, is there a link between the clown prince of crime and good ol’ Bats?

Ah the Joker. His skin is indeed that pasty chalky white. As to his origin the only thing we know for sure is that he was once the Red Hood the leader of a gang who were committing crimes in Gotham. They were robbing a chemical factory when Batman showed up. A fight ensued and the Red Hood fell into a vat of chemicals. When he emerged he looked like guy we know and love, and fear the Joker.

But perhaps his story is deeper than that. He has told lots of origins over time, he has a fuzzy memory so who knows what really happened. I urge you to pick up The Killing Joke for one look at what may have driven an average guy to put on the Red Hood. Granted it is only one possible explanation for how he became the Joker, but it is essentially accepted as gospel, since Alan Moore wrote it. You want more. Brian Bolland, cover artist extraordinaire did the art chores. Need another reason? It was a turning point into Barbara Gordon becoming Oracle. Get the book already!

The Nexus’ own Kyle Litke do you have a question?

Who do you feel are the top 5 Batman villains?

I really got to thinking about this question and I have to admit that I came up short. I’ll start with who doesn’t make the list.

Bane– Yeah they guy broke Batman, once, and only after biting a plan Ra’s al Ghul had years ago (Batman #400.) He’s pretty much a joke of a character now. Since he beat Batman, Batman had to beat him back and make it decisive thus negating his threat. Boo. I hope someone can redeem this guy.

The Riddler– Sure he’s supposed to be a mastermind now, but he’ still a joke. He’s bright but not really a threat. He’s like Baron Tyrano. At least he’s’ not wearing those green tights anymore.

Black Mask– He was a major threat, to Catwoman.

Hugo Strange– Has anyone seen this guy lately?

Croc– of baloney. Yet another joke. Does anyone remember when he tried to take over Gotham’s underworld, back when he had a mind? That’s the Croc that would be a threat. The current Croc seems to take his direction from that episode of the Batman cartoon “Almost Got Him.”

Penguin– He works with Batman half of the time. He’s not a threat.

Poison Ivy– She should be freed from the Batman gallery of losers. She has such potential as a villain in the DCU that keeping her in Gotham is pointless. She should have greater ambitions beyond Gotham.

Ventriloquist– Interesting concept, but he’s not really a threat, just a gangster with a gimmick.

Mr. Freeze– Why is this guy still in Gotham? He should be striking elsewhere in the DCU.

Clayface I or Ultimate Clayface– This guy could be cool, if he showed up more.

Mr. Zsasz– If he lived up to his potential he would rock! “The Last Arkham” is one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. But he’s not portrayed as intelligent anymore, which makes him less threatening.

So who does that leave?

The Scarecrow– I really debated putting him on the list. He not really a physical threat, but he manufacturing of fear gets him a slot. The scene in Batman #629 where Bruce is scared out of his wits, was way scary. Batman frightened, that’s never good.

Hush– Sure the guy is new to the crew, but he’s made quite the impact. He toyed with Bruce/Batman’s head, has a vendetta against Bruce and knows the two are one and the same. That three-way combination makes him a serious threat. Plus Batman hasn’t really beaten him yet. Anyone who can make Batman try to reason with them instead of fighting them is a force to be dealt with.

Joker– I didn’t want to put this guy on the list. He’s such the cliché answer. But he did cripple Batgirl, kill Robin and James Gordon’s wife, and committed lots of other crimes. Plus Batman is kind of responsible for making Joker the Joker. He’s higher than Scarecrow for his acts, and higher than Hush because of Hush’s inexperience.

Two-Face– Harvey Dent and Bruce used to fight the good fight together, which makes Harvey becoming Two-Face all the more tragic. Visually Two-Face is my favorite foe. The bisecting of the outfit is killer. Man this guy rocks! He looks sharp and he’s got a past with Bruce/Batman. He’s also got a half way decent gimmick. There’s a fifty/fifty chance if you’re on Two-Face’s bad side that you’ll walk away unscathed.
And finally;

Ra’s al Ghul– This is guy who can match Bruce on every level; money, skill, intellect, resources, and drive. When Ra’s makes a move against the Bat, it’s usually to distract him from what Ra’s is really doing. The reason why he’s the biggest threat to Batman is because Batman is the only threat to Ra’s. Plus Ra’s and Batman see themselves as equals. That is why Batman allows himself to be tempted by Ra’s in Death and the Maidens. Ra’s al Ghul is no joke.

Honorable Mention

While he’s not really a villain, Batman is a threat to himself. His drive can cause him to distance himself from others (as witnessed in No Man’s Land and Bruce Wayne: Murderer.) His need for control got him ostracized from the JLA (in a plan masterminded by Ra’s.) He’s also been known to push himself too far (Knightfall.) If you want to see a good battle between Batman and Bruce Wayne pick up Batman: Ego, which is one of the best and definitive Batman tales out.

Mike Z (who’s still unstumped) asked the following question.

What can you tell me about Black Mask (the Batman villain)?

Ah, Roman Sionis. When his parents died in a fire he gained control of Janus Cosmetics. Now this guy loved masks more than Dumas, so being newly rich he bought a lot of them. Too bad he wasn’t a better businessman, because he drove Janus to the ground, at which point Wayne Enterprises bought it up.

Of course Roman vowed revenge. So as anyone in his situation would do he carved mask from his pop’s ebony coffin. He christened himself the Obsidian Facade. Oops, I mean the Black Mask. He offed some Wayne employee, which as usually happens, attracted the attention of a certain Dark Knight Detective. Bats cornered him in the Sionis house. Oh yeah and there was a fire that kind of burned the mask onto Roman’s face (a disfigured Bat foe, imagine that.)

Roman did the whole Arkham thing, and has now abandoned the mask, because women dig scarred faces (see Brad Pitt.) He’s now one of the most ruthless bosses of Gotham’s underworld, and he’s really big on torture (ask Selina Kyle’s kin.) In case you haven’t guessed, he is a major antagonist of the one and only Catwoman. Ben you had a few run-ins with her too didn’t you? (If by Catwoman you mean Halle Berry then no -Ben)

JohnBritton needs to know

What are the best Zsasz stories? I read a great one from No Man’s Land recently, and wondered if he had been handled well elsewhere.

You want at great Zsasz story pick up Batman Shadow of the Bat 1-4. Great story, and great art. Norm Breyfogle is like my personal favorite Batman artist.

Ocareyinfluence is a big fan of high consonant to vowel ratios

Zsasz is one of my favorite Batman villains. I just think he’s really cool even though he’s never used. What are his appearances because they are few and far between? I have his first appearance and I know he showed up in Knightfall and War Games. Where else has he popped up to cause trouble? I’d like to get his appearances.

I too dig Zsasz, but I don’t mind that he’s rarely used, because the alternative is a character that’s overexposed.

Here’s what I came up with in terms of appearances.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4 was his first appearance and it features sweet Breyfogle art. It’s also a pretty good tale. Clearly every new Batman title should start off this way.

Next he shows up in Batman #493 and Detective Comics #660 as part of Knightfall. After that he appears in Showcase ‘94 #3, in a minor role.

Zsasz’s origin is told in Batman Chronicles #3. He also appears in Shadow of the Bat #80 and Creeper #8, but he’s just there, not doing too much. He’s the star of the back up feature in Gotham Knights #8.

In Joker: Last Laugh #5, Robin #95 and Detective Comics #775 he appears, but it’s nothing special. He’s featured in Detective Comics #796 and shows up in Villains United #6, along with many other criminals.

Most recently Zsasz turned up in Detective Comics #815 & 816, which featured some great looking art by Cliff Chiang.

Tim, do you think that Zsasz is underused, like butterscotch or used just enough, like tapioca?

Tapioca just existing means that it is overused. That stuff is awful. AWFUL!

I do love butterscotch though. Mmmm..

Anyway, I’d lean towards used just enough like butter pecan ice cream. You can’t have it all the time, nor would you want to. But the two to three times a year you might taste magnificent. Life affirming even. So Zsasz like that.

Shh, keep it quiet for Jag

What the hell happened to Hush? I haven’t read Gotham Knights in a while since Clayface 10 or 15 showed up. Tommy Elliot? That’s kind of lame. A new character is ok, but one who hates Bruce’s dad so he wants to destroy his son’s heroic career? Man, that Hush storyline sure does suck a couple years later…

I wasn’t too fond of it as it was running (check out the columns from that year and witness as I take subtle swipes at the story.)

Let’s face it; Hush was a book for fanboys. It featured an identifiable Bat Rogue every issue and had everything you could ask for in terms of fanboy moments (Batman vs Superman! Jason Todd alive!! A ferocious Croc!!! Batman and Catwoman hook up!!!!)
Much like what happened on Nip/Tuck I was hoping against hope that Hush wasn’t going to turn out to be Tommy Elliot, because it was so obvious that’s who he was.

Hush was actually seen just last week in the final issue of Gotham Knights. The Joker managed to implant a pacemaker (that he could control) in Hush as an act of revenge for the brutal beatdown he received when they first met. Batman promised to remove the pacemaker if Hush imprisoned himself. Hush gave himself up, but escaped after the surgery.

Hush and Bats met up on a rooftop where Batman revealed that Hush’s pacemaker didn’t get removed. Furthermore the Joker arrived to settle the score with Hush leaving Batman with the tough decision of deciding to intervene or let things play out. And the story ended with, ah how do you think it end?

No, seriously that book ended with Batman torn about what decision to make. The “next issue box” said, “so, what do you think Batman ended up doing?”

Tim, what do you think Batman ended up doing?

I think Batman crawled off the page and gave the writer a good dressing down for the worst/laziest ending ever. Twenty one pages about how Batman does not kill and will not let others kill either ends with Batman possibly leaving the life of Hush in Joker’s sociopathic hands? And worse, they cannot even give a definitive answer. Boooooooooo to all involved. Booooooooooo.

JohnBritton just doesn’t know when to stop

Hugo Strange seems like such a great old Batman foe, but he doesn’t really appear that much, and certainly isn’t considered among Batman’s greatest. Why not?

Honestly he’s not because he doesn’t deserve to be.

I hate to break it to you JohnBritton, but the only reason Strange gets any props is because he was one of the first (if not the first) to nail Bruce’s dual identity. That’s it. That’s his claim to fame.

I dig the guy. I hope he’s Hush but, he’s not really that impressive. He’s a shrink who got to the meat of the Bruce/Batman connection.

Tim, do you give two hoots about Professor Hugo Strange?

A man representing my craft in comics? Of course I care about him. I agree though, he’s never been a consistent enough villain to make the upper echelons of Batman’s gallery. It’s a shame, I think there is a lot of potential there. But, dealing purely in what he’s done, not what he’s capable of, he can’t be considered Batman’s greatest foe.

To illustrate my point, look at Bane. Bane knew Bats identity and he used it to break Bruce. What did Hugo do with it? I think he tried to become Batman once in the pages of Gotham Knights, but beyond that…not too much. The potential for mind games is massive, especially considering he’s a psychologist (we do exist just to mess with and manipulate all of you, you do realize, right?), but he’s never delivered on that.

Colin is anxious to mess up a good thing

What do you think of the idea of inserting Robin into the new Bat-franchise? I think the idea of having a Robin somewhere down the line is imperative. Everyone knows the all-time duo is Batman and Robin, a dynamic which is sorely lacking in the comic world these days.

Anyway, I was watching a commercial about the kid from Shark-boy and Lavagirl, and thought he would make a terrific Robin in a few years. He has all these wild flips and kicks and whatnot, something a Boy Wonder ought to have; not like the mid-30s Wonder of Chris O’Donnell. Batman could continue to be the straight-forward head cracka, but Robin could be bouncing all over the place, hitting the bad guys from every angle; not unlike a Yoda beatdown. I imagine a lot of fanboys might not be too keen on the notion, because they need Batman to be all dark and serious, so that they feel like it’s a legit movie; not a “comic movie”, with a brightly-coloured Robin. Thoughts Math? Tim? Do you want a Robin in the next Bat-movie or two?

Color me “fanboy.” If I wanted Robin I’d watch “Teen Titans.” I don’t like the thought of Robin being in a Bat flick. In fact I almost cringed when that kid showed up “Batman Begins.” I thought to myself “please don’t let this be the groundwork for Robin.”

I don’t want to see Robin on the big screen with Batman. So what if “everyone knows” Batman & Robin? Everyone’s also pretty familiar with “Pow!” and “Zap!” Contrary to what you believe; the majority isn’t always right.

Now I will say that I’d appreciate a Robin movie along the lines of Robin: Year One, or The Gauntlet. I feel that Robin diminishes Batman, but I’m not opposed to Robin being in the spotlight. I think that Robin is a strong enough character to hold a movie on his own, with the occasional cameos by Batman. Think of it like this; somewhere in the back of our minds we believe that Batman Begins and Superman Returns exist in the same universe. So let’s have Gotham be a similar universe, with nominal interaction between Batman & Robin.

Tim, do you want to see Robin on the big screen?

First of all, I just have to object to your thesis that Robin somehow diminishes Batman. I call bollocks on that. They are both excellent characters and neither hurts the other merely by existing. In certain stories, certainly, a Robin appearance can prove a hindrance. I would never say one diminishes the other, however.

Movie wise, the big reason I’m opposed to a Robin onscreen is that it is another character vying for screen time. Batman Begins was the best installment of the Bat franchise in making Bruce Wayne/Batman the central character. It wasn’t “The Joker/Riddler/Penguin/etc Show with Guest Appearances by Batman” and I thought that was excellent. Throwing Robin into the mix would alter that formula and most likely hurt Batman’s centrality to the story.

It could be done without causing that problem, I guess, but I’d like one more movie of Batman solo before we find out about all that.

Vincent, do you have a semi related question?

How did Batman break his back? Specifically, what did Bane do? Throw him at a wall; hit him with a baseball bat, backbreaker? And why was he fighting Bane that time in the first place? Also, how is he able to walk again now?

Bane was one bad penny. He wanted to make a name for himself, as the guy who broke the Bat. So what he did was break everyone out of Arkham. Batman had a doozy of a time trying to wrangle everyone up. When he finally finished, Bruce was pretty tuckered out. That was when Bane struck.

Having deduced Batman’s identity, Bane was waiting at Wayne Manor for Bruce to arrive. Bats came upstairs. Bruce and Bane tussled. Batman exhausted and far from peak form, was beaten senseless by Bane. Bane then lifted him up and snapped Batman’s back over his knee.

Batman was ambushed and broken. Jean Paul Valley took over for him. Bruce was helped in his healing by Shondra Kinsolving. All of this happened in the stories Knightfall and KnightsEnd.

Tim, what are your thoughts on Bane?

When Knightfall came out, I definitely dug it. I liked that Bane, this huge guy who you’d typically expect to be low on brains, turned out to be a master strategist. His victory over Batman was brutal and his own eventual defeat at the hands of Azbats (undone by his addiction to Venom) was similarly so. However, as time went on, DC kind of ruined the brand name. Bane popped up too often and the limping transition to anti-hero and almost brother to Bruce Wayne was awkward and unconvincing (one recalls Venom’s path in the 90’s, although not with that level of overexposure). In the Bat villain stable, I would compare him to KGBeast. A physically large but mentally nimble character who had a splashy debut and then became less impressive with every subsequent appearance. Bane, however, has yet to become the joke that KGBeast has.

JohnBritton do you have a question that you asked a long time ago?

If time passed in the DCU, does Batman’s war on crime ever end? Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg have made significant changes in NYC, so why couldn’t Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne pull it off, given enough time and a little reality in incarceration and sentencing?

(In regards to Rudy, sure crime when down on his watch, but I think that there were also several highly publicized incidents of cops crossing the line during the same time. Which makes ask is a dramatic decrease in crime worth any price?)

I don’t think that Batman’s war on crime would end. A war on crime couldn’t just be about punishing the act, but also preventing an environment that makes crime an option. Gordon and Batman could clean up the streets, but I don’t think that would keep them clean. It would require Batman to actually invest some time as Bruce Wayne to make conditions better.

Bruce Wayne is basically trying to prevent a kid from watching his parent’s get murdered. Think about it like this; suppose Batman had confronted his parent’s killer and found that the guy had gone down the slippery slope of crime after having to drop out of college because of a lack of money. I believe that Bruce Wayne would have set up a fund to provide financial assistance to any college student needing such assistance in Gotham, if only to put his mind at ease that that situation would never happen again. He’d probably still be Batman, but that fund would still be in place.

I think that Bruce needs to invest more in Gotham. What does the Wayne Foundation do in terms of crime prevention? Does Bruce invest anything into The Hill? If Bruce Wayne spend as much time trying to prevent crime as he does apprehending criminals I think that he could actually be fighting a winning battle.

As for the issue of incarceration and sentencing, again that only affects current criminals and not future ones. Any lawyer would have a field day with a client who was apprehended by Batman. And would sentencing really matter when Ra’s al Ghul and Bane have created breakouts to get back at Batman?

So basically Batman’s war on crime would be about as successful as this country’s war on drugs or terror. B, agree or disagree? (Agree. Your points are valid. So long as the potential exists for crime to re-emerge even if Batman & friends have squelched it, the war is never over. B)

Here’s a question that Warrior Prophet posted

I’ve just reread Batman: Man Who Laughs which is supposed to be in continuity and there are some time discrepancies with Year One. Also, I’ve read that Catwoman’s prostitution has been erased from history. I’ve also heard it hasn’t but in any case I hear that her origin is now very muddy (much like Joker’s.) So what of Year One can we still say is in continuity?

The discrepancies between Man Who Laughs and Year One are pretty few. The general belief is that Man Who Laughs takes place behind the scenes of the final few pages in Year One.

Y’see Year One was devoid of Bat Villains as part of its design. The idea is that costumed folks didn’t start showing up until Year Two. Thus Batman encounters The Red Hood “off panel” during the final pages of Year One which corresponds with Gordon’s remark about “The Joker” at the end of that story.

However how Gordon jumped from Lieutenant to Captain isn’t quite as clear. In the official Batman Timeline, found in Batman Secret Files & Origins, it states that Gordon didn’t achieve the rank of Captain until Year Two. But aside from that I don’t really see anything that warrants and major disregarding of Year One

Tim, do you think that the discrepancies between the two books take anything away from either one?

Absolutely not. I think Year One is amazing (especially the art, which never gets enough of a shoutout for my tastes) and I really enjoyed the sense of panic that Brubaker brought out in the book. While Joker attacks may be old hat for Gothamites now, it would have been terrifyingly alien then and the script does a great job of reflecting that.

As far as discrepancies, if costumed folks didn’t start appearing until Year Two and Gordon didn’t get made Captain until Year Two and this story concerns the Joker’s debut on the villain scene, where is the discrepancy?

As for Catwoman, things get a bit less clear.

In Batman: Year One Selina Kyle is definitely a prostitute, about that there can be no question. DC further nailed this point hope with the 1988 miniseries Catwoman: Year One which filled in some of the blanks of Catwoman’s origin.

Everything was all well and dandy. But then Catwoman got her own title and became successful. Thus DC was at a quandary; they have a popular title featuring a character who was a former prostitute. What to do?

Luckily a little thing called Zero Hour happened. One of the little known changes from Zero Hour is the wiping of prostitution from Catwoman’s origin. And there you have it, everything was perfect, right?

Wrong. When Ed Brubaker relaunched Catwoman he reintroduced two characters from Catwoman: Year One Madeline Kyle and Holly. This caused many to speculate that the prostitution was back in continuity. However this was all cleared up when Catwoman Secret Files & Origins stated that when Selina hit the streets she was a thief or cat burglar who adopted the role of prostitute to separate marks from their valuables.

Tim, which do you find more damaging to the character; the idea that she used to be a prostitute or Jim Balent’s, um, “endowed” vision of the character?

While everyone appreciates a giant set of breasts, bigger than the one who possesses them’s head, I’d have to point to Balent. The proportions were ridiculous and did a great job of reinforcing the “fanboy as horned up nerd boy” stereotype.

The prostitute angle, on the other, I could merely take or leave. I used to find it very disconcerting, but I have come to realize that that has a lot more to do with the other “Catwoman as prostitute Batman redefining story written by Frank Miller” called The Dark Knight Returns. The scene of her all beat up in the Wonder Woman costume… ugh…I hate it. For me, for whatever reason, it is the only misstep of the series. Completely took me out of the action.

Aaron wonders aloud when Bruce Wayne got so teenager-esque sullen.

When did Batman become the brooding sourpuss that we all know and love today? Of course, I remember the campy comic books and TV series from the 1960s, but during the 70s did a team of new writers just swoop in and say “let’s angry him up a bit”? To that end, who was the writing team the essentially created the Batman of today? And, what was the motivation for the change: a cynical America (Vietnam, Dick Nixon) or an attempt to fluff up sales?

It’s funny that you should ask that. I actually got into a discussion with a guy at the comic shop I frequent last week about this very topic. He seemed impressed that I know that Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil returned Batman to the “creature of the night” root of the character (I tend not to boast about my knowledge of the DCU when I shop).

Adams and O’Neil didn’t really “angry him up” they just made him more realistic. Adams and O’Neil were the same team that introduced Speedy to heroin over in Green Lantern/Green Arrow and were known for a realism that wasn’t too common in that day and age. It was that creative team that also created Ra’s al Ghul, who happens to be one of my favorite characters ever.

Their Batman was more of a detective. He was more serious and also a bit more agile. He was just a great character, which is what they intended to do with him. Batman had been cursed with a corny stigma attached to him from the “bam, pow” TV show. They just returned the luster to the character. The motivation was nothing more than love.

The Batman that they revitalized is essentially the same character that exists today. I suppose, technically, the current incarnation can be more closely linked directly to Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One (which was edited by Denny O’Neil). And that’s how the convo in the shop got started. He was trying to trick me into saying that Frank Miller was the guy who made Batman “the Dark Knight” again.

Anyway, Batman: Year One was basically the birth of the current character, while O’Neil and Adams created the modern tone.

Tim, do you have a favorite Batman creative team?

I don’t think I have just one, but I do have several favorite creators on ol’ Battsy. They would include Aparo, Breyfogle, O’Neil, Dixon (yes, Dixon, what of it?), Rucka, Brubaker, Grant, and Burchett.

I’m sure there are several that I’m missing, but those are the ones I can call to mind right off the top of my head.

Andrew is judge, juror, and executioner

How do you feel about the argument that Batman allowing Joker to live discredits him as a crime fighter? I’ve heard that posed from a lot of people, and I’ve pretty much made up my mind, but I thought I’d pick your brain.

You have to respect conviction. There are plenty of factors that go into why Batman doesn’t cross “that line.”

I think that Batman has faith in the system. The system works most of the time, it’s just the Joker seems to find the few glitches the system has, be it using mental illness as a defense or lax security. But by killing the Joker he’d basically be saying that the system doesn’t work. And once he crosses that line, where does he stop? Doesn’t he have to kill any criminal for fear that they’d escape justice because of a flawed system? Batman, deep down, is an optimist and he’d never give up on the judicial system. Remember Batman might operate outside of the law by he still uses it as a guideline.

I also think that Batman killing the Joker wouldn’t be justice so much as revenge. It’s like in Se7en, John Doe doesn’t hurt the detective, he hurts someone close to the detective, and thus the cop became Wrath, a deadly sin. So by killing the Joker, Batman wouldn’t be an agent of justice he’d really just be as guilty as the Joker.

Let’s also remember that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed. Bruce has a problem with killing. He didn’t like it when Joe Chill did it, he didn’t like it when Wonder Woman did it. He doesn’t dig killing in any context. It goes against his personal conduct code and you have to respect that.

To me he’s not discredited as a crime fighter by his not killing the Joker. No one faults Batman for not locking up criminals in the Bat-Cave or issuing tickets, because that’s not his job. And in punishing criminals isn’t part of his job then no one should criticize him for not killing the Joker.

Where do you stand on this one, Tim?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it here. Batman should not kill the Joker. Ignoring the economic factors involved (killing one of the most recognizable villains in history), it still does not fit the character. Batman views justice as the great equalizer and would do nothing to undermine that process. That’s why he does not kill Joker, that’s why he defends the Joker when he’s falsely accused, that’s why he develops ways of dealing with his heroic peers should they go crazy, that’s why he puts on the cape and cowl every night. He believes in the possibility of a just world and sees murder, whether random, calculated, or done for vengeance, as having no place in such a world.

Brian do you have a question for a column that is really lacking in the Batman department?

How does Batman see himself? Does he blame himself for his parents’ death?

Without a doubt Batman blames himself for his parents’ death. If you read the story Gothic from Legends of the Dark Knight you will see how a young Bruce Wayne feels directly responsible for their death. And man, that Mr. Whisper is a creepy fellow.

If you want a more recent example just pick up Batman #625. Brian Azzarello puts the latest (and greatest, in my opinion) spin on the events that leads up that fateful trip to the movies. Some folks didn’t dig the story, but I loved it. It had real depth.

Here are the basic indisputable facts. The Waynes took Bruce to see The Mark of Zorro, be it because of what happened at school or to make amends for a promise unfulfilled. They went to the movies for him. The rest is tragic history. Now wouldn’t you feel a bit guilty if you were in his shoes?

Brian with another Bat query

Does he consider himself cursed for having to be Batman… and for possibly creating a maniac like the Joker?

Um yeah, Batman is most definitely cursed, and he knows it. He has to know it. Let’s just play 2 Degrees of Batman; it’s similar to 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon only usually with tragic results.

Jason Todd, partner of Batman- Beaten to a pulp by a crowbar (with an assist from the Joker.) Said pulp is then torn from existence by an explosion. Check out the trade for A Death In the Family.

Vesper Fairchild, Bruce Wayne’s ex- Murdered in a plot to destroy Bruce Wayne’s credibility. Peep the Bruce Wayne: Murderer Trade.

Barbara Gordon, FKA Batgirl associate of Batman- shot, paralyzed, and abused by the Joker (who Batman helped create) in an attempt to drive then Commissioner Jim Gordon insane. If you haven’t read The Killing Joke shame on you.

Sarah Essen-Gordon, Jim Gordon’s wife and fellow Police Officer- Shot in the head and killed by the Joker. This tragedy can be found in No Man’s Land.

Jim Gordon, former Commissioner friend of Batman- Jim was shot, but most importantly he lost his wife and had his daughter paralyzed by the Joker.

Harvey Dent, former District Attorney friend to both Bruce Wayne and Batman- Harvey had his face scarred by acid. He became the villain Two-Face. I really like Batman Annual #14 for it’s version of the origin.

And that is just off the top of my head. What’s that you say? You want more examples that aren’t necessarily in canon? Well then how about;

Kathy Kane, former Batwoman- Killed by the League of Assassins.

Selina Kyle, Catwoman, girlfriend of Bruce Wayne and Batman- Tortured and brainwashed by Dr. Moon, because the Joker wanted to get revenge on Batman.

Talia, mother of Batman’s unborn child- She suffered a miscarriage. Ok she didn’t really but Batman thought she did, and that is really the point. The Son of the Demon is where you can find this infamous tale.

So based on the evidence I’m saying that Batman is cursed and knows it. B, are you still going over to stately Wayne Manor this weekend for that shindig? (Did you know that 411’s resident DC News guru Tim Stevens refers to his home as stately Stevens manor? Strange but true! B)

Joe Mama has got a great one;

Does Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s brilliant if disturbing “Arkham Asylum” take place within official Bat-continuity? I just read it for the first time and am curious as to whether the Joker’s disconcerting flirtation with Batman and Harvey Dent being re-trained to use tarot cards (ingenious) for a while “counts”.

Sadly it doesn’t really take place in Bat-continuity. Y’see back in 1989, there wasn’t such a thing as “Vertigo.” Had there been, this book would have most likely been classified as on the Vertigo side of things.

It’s a very dark and “mature” look at Batman and his foes. And while it may have had some influence on that Bat universe, it’s not really considered in canon.

When you factor in how Bats mutilates himself and the language used, this clearly isn’t to be read by everyone. And DC tends to keep books like that out of continuity. So while Arkham Asylum was based on the then current continuity, it’s not really in continuity.

Tim, care to share any thoughts on Arkham Asylum?

I think it is a fascinating, if ultimately flawed, look at the Dark Knight through the prism of “who’s really crazy here”. The one part that I will never get out of my head is poor, poor Harvey Dent and his deck of decision making cards. As an individual on his way to being a psychologist, it seems silly to say, but that always stands out to me as a warning about the very real possibility of doing harm while attempting to undo years of damage. Certainly Harvey was not better of “as is” but that was no solution either.

RatCat has a very sensitive olfactory nerve

Have they ever addressed if Bruce Wayne wears a different aftershave when he is Batman? You figure that someone who goes to such great lengths to hide his identity would also mask his scent. I guess this would also apply to soap, deodorant, mouthwash, etc…

I know it’s a stupid question… It’s one of those stupid things you think of as you’re drifting off to sleep.

He wears bear urine.

Oh wait, that was Nightwing.

It’s not a stupid question. Y’know I don’t know if this has ever been addressed. I think it’s kind of a given that he does. This is a guy who has set up fake companies to order everything for his Bat needs and has secretly planned how to take down takedown his contemporaries, I don’t think he’s going to get tripped up by wearing the same aftershave he does in his secret identity.

I think that’s pretty much Secret Identity 101.

And you’ve also got to figure that Bruce Wayne doesn’t really make that many appearances. Sure the guy makes headlines, but Bats is usually Batman not Bruce Wayne.
I’m also guessing that there are only a handful of people who have encountered Batman and Bruce Wayne who don’t know the two are the same.

Two more things to ponder; Batman probably smells like BO. He’s a very active guy. And when Bats responds to the Bat signal, he’s been traveling rooftops for blocks, which tends to build up a sweat. So he’s going to have a bit of a more “natural” aroma than Bruce Wayne, who quite possibly will smell of booze and cheap perfume (from his date). Actually Bruce would probably smell like a very exclusive cologne giving Bruce the smell of success while Batman just stinks.

The second is that anyone who’s unfortunate enough to have enhanced sense of smell as their power, is going to be pretty hard to fool and will probably be able to detect subtle nuance and signatures of individual scents, making any attempts to disguise scents moot.
Basically I think that it’s assumed that Batman does something to distinguish himself from Bruce Wayne.

Tim, you want to stick your nose in the middle of this one?

With a brilliant pun like that, how can I resist?

I would second Mathan’s guess that this has not been discussed in a Batman comic. Not about Batman anyway. During No Man’s Land, Superman visited Gotham as Clark Kent (his first time visiting, as Superman, was a bit rough). He was wearing beat up clothes with some stains and scuffed shoes, etc. to fit in with the rest of the poor left behind Gotham folk. One thing he did forget? He had recently bathed using soap. According to Batman, this made it clear that he was an outsider (lower case) right off the bat (forgive the pun). However, this is the only smell related outing in a Batman comic that I can recall, at least in recent times.

Sly Reference cannot leave well enough alone

To ask the question another way, what have they said and shown Batman doing to make sure people think that he’s not Bruce Wayne? I was reading an old issue of Batgirl the other day and she ran into Superboy on a cruise ship and she recognized him by the way he moved. I know I’ve recognized people from behind, from certain gestures, and from ways of talking. I can’t imagine secret identities realistically lasting for very long, especially in the case of someone like Lois/Superman.

I think that Bats plays Bruce as slightly aloof and occasionally clumsy. Bruce Wayne truly relishes the playboy lifestyle. He’s been known to be reckless (totaling cars, skiing accidents) and a bit of cad. Let’s look at it like this: Bruce trained to become Batman. He created Batman, and in doing so refined “Bruce Wayne”.

Bruce Wayne has an aura is very much like Batman in the fact that he’s exclusive. He may be like Paris Hilton, in the fact that he’s omni present, but he’s still only seen in the same environment and setting. You really aren’t going to see Bruce running. Frolicking on a yacht, perhaps, but running, not really. By the same token, you aren’t going to see Batman, in full lighting or in a non menacing pose.

Now some people may have concluded that Bruce would have a viable motive for avenging his parents (ie becoming Batman), but Bruce Wayne is too much of a celebrity to be Batman.

In regards to Batgirl recognizing Superboy, that’s a very unique situation. Superboy had to become Conner Kent and he’s relatively new at it. Batgirl is an expert at “reading” people, so she’d be able to pick out people very easily.

And it should be noted that Batgirl herself, as I just pointed out an expert at reading body language, didn’t realize that Batman was Bruce Wayne until Batgirl #24, which should show how well Batman conceals his identity.

As far as the whole Superman/Clark Kent thing goes, I’m a fan of The Man of Steel’s slouching Clark (as brilliantly illustrated by Frank Quietly in the upcoming All Star Superman). I think that body language is very important to keeping the dual identity secret. I think that Clark tends to blend in, while Superman is more assertive and stands out. I’m also more apt to believe that Supes hovers a few inches over the ground to make himself seem even taller.

Tim, how do you think that heroes maintain their secret identities and do you think it’s plausible?

Does it stretch credibility from time to time. Yes, I would think so. Superman’s “You can’t tell it is me, I’m wearing glasses routine” is the best example of that, of course. Even with the slouching, he still should remind people, at the least, of Superman’s schlubbier, nerdier brother.

However, it is also absolutely essential for the superhero story that the heroes be able to obfuscate their identities through all means of deception be them sensible (the Bruce Wayne fop persona) or silly (glasses!!!). That way when a villain (or hero or bystander) does discern the real identity of the hero, there is a wallop to that revelation. It might not always be realistic that a hero identity remains secret (how many people with blond hair sport Green Arrow’s particular brand of facial hair) but the opposite idea, where only “realistic” means of protecting one’s identity could be used would prove boring (because they need to be explained in much detail) or gruesome (kill ‘em all!).

Retrospect? Over! The future? We embrace it next week. Don’t feign disinterest…you know you’re excited.

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