DC Comics Relaunch: Batman Family Atmospheric Continuity: Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Justice League, Etc.?


WARNING: This column contains SPOILERS for recent Batman issues.


We’ve written before about the logic bombs in DC Comics continuity concerning Batman three confirmed ex-Robins (Nightwing / Red Hood / Red Robin) and even Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Spoiler, (maybe) Robin, and Batgirl.

Batman is one of DC Comics most successful franchises pre-DC Comics Relaunch / New 52 and post. As such, a lot of the old elements still exist, despite causing one headaches if we think too hard about them. However, that’s just related to the past. It doesn’t impact today’s stories too much in terms of enjoyment. So, we can give DC is a bit of rope on the continuity challenges concerning at least 4 Robins in 5 years, during which a Robin graduated to Batman at least once (although you’ll note Dick Grayson was technically Batman at a point after Azrael relinquished the mantle during Batman’s spinal issues, plus Dick’s most recent role after Bruce Wayne’s presumed death).

Detective Comics #1 cliff-hanger (September 2011)So, I’m wondering based on today’s Bat-books, whether DC is letting the writers just plain old write without any sense about how each book’s portrayal’s fit with the broader Batman narrative. It would be great if Batman sneezed in Detective Comics, that he’d have a cold in Batman, and perhaps eat chicken soap delivered by Alfred in Batman and Robin. However, I do “get” that once a story starts, the pace may be different from one to the other in this era of decompressed story-telling. Detective Comics’ first arc could be over a span of a few days, while Batman could be a few weeks, etc. So, I do know tales need to unfold at a reasonable pace letting the story roll out in an organic way.

However, when in issue #1 of Detective Comics we have a facial scalped Joker as the key hook in the book, why exactly would the Joker be hearty and hale in Batman: The Dark Knight #2, one month later? While some editorial gaffes might help advance Bruce Wayne’s playboy persona, namely all of the women he had sex with and/or made dates with in September 2011, the Joker plot point / misstep seems a bit glaring. Why do the writers all have to feature Joker and Two-Face in some capacity in their books? Batman has the best Rogues Gallery in comicdom. Its not like there aren’t other characters that could be used that would have almost as much of an impact as Batman’s numero uno nemesis.

Three scenarios come to mine: Either (1) Batman editorial are having a deliberately loose editting style that contributes to what I would term “atmospheric continuity”, namely that the key elements of the Batman Family lore / atmospher are consistent, e.g. Batman is Batman, no major injuries, etc. Alfred is the butler, etc. while everything else is up for grabs in the efforts to tell a good story… or (2) Batman editorial are making mistakes by not cross-reading books and these Joker missteps should not be happening… or (3) the role of Batman editorial in the New 52 are as spell-checkers and grammar police only. 😉

(Now, there is a possibility that the ending to Detective Comics #1 didn’t happen as we believe it, but if that’s not the Joker’s face, then I think readers will feel cheated.)

Batman: Dark Knight #2 cliff-hanger (October 2011)Putting that niggling, cheated feeling aside… I’m not a continuity czar by any stretch of the imagination, but the Joker plan / gaffe IMHO, is a bit distracting when one reads that the New 52 are being heavily managed and manicured. It would seem the Joker is playing a KEY role in Detective Comics arc while seemingly a plot footnote, like Two-Face was, in a broader White Rabbit story in the Dark Knight. If that’s the case, as an editor IMHO, Detective Comics takes precedence. It gets Joker.

To be fair, the Batman Family of books are the strongest all of the DC’s New 52 families, so some latitude makes sense, but I think greater efforts to ensure a more consistent portrayl of Batman and key rogues and key supporting characters would go a long way. Or, if we must, why not use those old blurbs from the editor to say “This takes place before/after/whatever the events of issue #X of Detectice Comics #Y” when a head-scratcher emerges. If not on the issue’s cliff-hanger page, perhaps in the next issue’s opening scenes that continues from said cliff-hanger?

With all that considered, many of these elusive new readers and lapsed readers may not be as well versed in comic book time or comic book logic as us grizzled veterans, so every little bit will help to make as many of DC’s books as accessible as possible going forward.

The problem can be exacerbated with a character like Batman who is a regular in several ongoing titles in the New 52:
– Justice League
– Justice League International
– Batman
– Batman and Robin
– Batman Incorporated
– Batman: The Dark Knight
– Detective Comics

That’s a minimum of seven books that Batman is guaranteed to be in. That doesn’t include books he will visit like Batwoman, Batgirl, etc.

Ensuring some level of consistency across his appearances, including his rogues, would only help readers appreciate and understand the new DC Universe and Batman’s important place in it.

Happy Halloween.


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