‘The Weekly Bat-Signals’, Episode 19: Year End Wrap-Up

Greetings fellow Gothamites and welcome to the final episode of The Weekly Bat-Signal for 2013. The city is abuzz getting ready to ring in the New Year Gotham style which means lots of garish pageantry and drunken disorderly conduct in the streets, from the lowest of Crime Alley miscreants to the stratosphere of Gotham’s high society the parties will rage on well into the first morning of 2014. Rest assured our Caped and Cowled Crusader, our Prowling Protector of the Proletariat will be watching, ever-vigilant, waiting and ready when the need arises.

This special year-end edition of The Bat-Signal is going to focus on the top five Bat-related stories of the past year, the stories that had the most lasting impact on Batman and how he will be perceived by future generations of Bat Fans. There was lots going on around Gotham in 2013 not only in the pages of all the various Batman comic books but in film news, video games and animation as well. Batman has indelibly placed his mark upon popular culture in a way no other super-hero has, not even that tall, good-looking Kryptonian guy with the “S” on his chest, by the way did anyone bother to tell him “hope” is spelled with an “H” on this planet? Anyway one of the biggest stories of the year involves the announcement of the Dark Knight Detective co-starring in a film with this guy. There were new characters introduced into the Bat-Universe while a true son of Gotham gave his life for the cause, a new animated version of the Caped Crusader made its debut on Cartoon Network in 2013 unfortunately it also aired for what could be its final time and while all this was going on, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo turned out some of the best Batman stories ever, bar none. So overall 2013 wasn’t a bad year at all for our beloved Batman, let’s begin counting down our top five Bat-related stories with number five, the release of Arkham Origins.

Arkham Origins followed up the two previous Arkham games with a solid fighting game, inheriting the superior combat system of its predecessors and adding a twist to an engrossing yet very traditional Batman plot, a $50 million bounty on The Dark Knight’s head. The graphics are top notch, meticulously detailed and nuanced, rising to the standard of excellence these Arkham games have set. As far as the new talent taking on the voices of the Batman and Joker, Troy Baker does a fantastic job as The Joker as does Roger Craig Smith as Batman. Where Arkham Origins shines is in the “Boss Fights” which are very direct and physical events each with unique animations. All things considered Arkham Origins delivers pretty solidly on every level earning it the number 5 spot on our year end round-up.

The fourth spot on our list belongs to Cartoon Network’s debut of Beware the Batman; the computer generated animated series set during Bruce Wayne’s early years as The Batman. The series premiered on July 13, 2013 replacing Batman: The Brave and the Bold as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation line up of shows. Since then the show has been pulled from the current schedule without much in the way of an explanation however sources say the series will return in 2014.

The inaugural season focused on Batman’s initial conflicts with organized crime figures in Gotham but the show’s writers wanted to avoid villains that may have been over used in past shows. So The Joker was off the table for the foreseeable future making plenty of screen time for the likes of Professor Pyg, Mr. Toad, originally introduced by Grant Morrison as part of his Circus of Strange organization in Batman and Robin, Magpie and Anarky to name a few of the villains slated to appear in early episodes. Another familiar face that is conspicuously absent is Robin in his place is Katana, a martial artist and sword master she is hired by Alfred to act as Bruce’s bodyguard but becomes more of a partner in his war on crime.

The series is good however it pales in comparison to Bruce Timm’s work on the animated world of Batman. Beware the Batman has a completely different feel and dynamic than any of the other animated endeavors related to Batman but it captures enough of the essence of the character to earn it the fourth spot on our list of important Batman related events of 2013.

Moving on to the third position we turn our attention to Hollywood for the big Batman/ Superman movie announcement. However that is only part of this bombshell revelation, the part that makes our number three spot is the news that Ben Affleck will be donning the cape and cowl of our much-loved Dark Knight. I will be the first to admit that my initial reaction to this news was not positive however since that moment of surreal disappointment I have reluctantly re-evaluated my opinion on Affleck’s being cast as Batman. I went back and watched a selection of his work both in front of and behind the camera including; Gone Baby Gone, which he directed his brother Casey in, The Town, Argo, both of which he directed and starred in and even (gasp!) Daredevil and you know what? This guy can not only act his tail off but he is one heck of a director as well. The Town is an engrossing crime drama with some of the best dialogue I’ve heard in quite some time, it’s action-packed yet character driven and completely entertaining. Argo is simply amazing start to finish due in large part to Affleck’s stellar performance and even Daredevil was not as bad this time around for some reason. Suffice to say I now feel totally confident that Ben Affleck will make a solid Batman moreover I would not be at all surprised if he knocks it out of the park. If you have any misgiving at all, like I did do yourself a favor and watch these films, especially Argo and The Town and I am absolutely positive your apprehension will at least begin to fade. I still think that either Jon Hamm or Josh Brolin would have been an obvious choice but Ben Affleck clearly has the chops to change a few minds or at least open some of them like he did mine.

That brings us to the second spot on our list which goes to the death of Robin, Damian Wayne. This was one of the most poignant moments in all of comics, not just for Bat Fans but comic book fans in general. Grant Morrison introduced Damian Wayne to the world in 2006, in 2009 Morrison made young Damian Robin and in 2013 we said goodbye as Morrison brutally killed off the plucky and divisive Robin. Not since Jason Todd has there been a Robin who polarized the readership as much as Damian Wayne, you either loved him or hated him but you definitely had an opinion on him. Morrison says he had planned Damian’s demise since the beginning; in fact his series pitch of April 13, 2011 contained the death which was to originally occur in the first four issues.

According to Morrison himself, Damian ”was created to be kind of unlikable” although the writer always liked the character, admitting to a love of “bratty kids, fighting against authority”. Morrison went on to say,”Damian was created to be difficult. He had a bad attitude, but the reason was always to turn him into the son of Batman”. Morrison loved the idea of Damian’s parents being “Batman and the daughter of the world’s greatest super criminal”, claiming such diametrically different parents as the reason for Damian being so conflicted. It was always Morrison’s intention to have Damian eventually realize the importance of his father’s contribution to his” genetic heritage” and then desire to live up to that exceedingly high expectation that came with the Wayne birthright. The story practically wrote itself according to Morrison who considered Damian a great character from the very inception however he understands why it took fans some time to warm up to Damian, the “horrible, snotty kid” who turned into something great. “I think he was really lovable by the end”, Morrison said and it seems most fans would agree as is evident by the outpouring of approval for the character and sadness for his untimely demise. It is Morrison’s sincere hope that Damian will be remembered for “being the kind of Robin that the 21st century wanted, this little ninja-trained kid who could do anything and had a problem with authority but a desire to do the right thing.”

Following Damian’s death in Batman Inc. the other Batman titles had a Requiem month for the young fallen hero during which Peter Tomasi wrote one the best single issue stories of the year in Batman and Robin. The other titles had poignant moments as well as the Bat-Universe came to grips with such a tragic loss of potential good in an awful world. Tomasi seemed to make Damian much more likable as the end approached, lending an even deeper sense of loss, enhancing our grief over the tragedy.

The farewell we collectively said to Damian Wayne, as sorrowful as it was, was dwarfed by the heart-felt sadness we endured as Grant Morrison wrote his final issue in his seven year run on Batman earlier this year. Yes our number one most important Batman moment of 2013 is the ending of Grant Morrison’s brilliant work on a character he very much made his own, Batman. More so than perhaps any other writer to pen Batman over the years, Morrison has transformed the Dark Knight from vigilante to transcendental crime stopper. Morrison’s Batman was as much a thinker as a doer; he could go places inside himself to be secure from any physical or mental pain that could be inflicted on him, making him all but unbeatable.

It all started in Batman #655 and would go on for seven years to become Morrison’s longest running tenure on a franchise including three successive on-going books, a DCU-wide crossover event, a franchise-wide crossover, a mini-series and two one-shots. The run has feature an array of the industry’s best artistic talent including such varied creators as Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, Tony S. Daniel, frequent collaborator Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette and finishing the run with the innovative Chris Burnham. Along the way Morrison has introduced us to some truly unique characters ranging from the hideous Professor Pyg , Toad and Doctor Hurt to the dearly departed Damian Wayne, while making brilliant use of such Gotham City mainstays as The Joker, Commissioner Gordon and of course, Batman during Bruce’s extended absence Dick Grayson. Morrison’s voluminous work on Batman will undoubtedly go on to be the definitive work on the character. His tenure covered everything from origin to death and re-birth, in its entirety as a single narrative Morrison’s Batman story is the largest in scope and aspects of personality examined ever undertaken. It is a work staggering in its imaginative and innovative subject matter as well as its approach to storytelling. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that Grant Morrison is more than my favorite writer, he is a guru, a role model and over the years he has become like a trusted friend who opened himself up for us and allowed us to know him through his work. It has been something of a double blessing that he has done such stunning work on Batman who happens to be my favorite character of all-time. Morrison gave 100% on every issue he wrote in this run, there were no filler or fluff stories; it was all gold, each issue revealed another integral part of this amazing portrait.

It all ended this year in Batman Inc. #13 where Morrison brought to a conclusion his singular work of genius and undeniably changed the most iconic super hero of all-time for all-time. Much like Bruce Wayne, who refuses to give up even in the face of certain death, Morrison is sure to return to place his incomparable mark upon another of comic book’s most hallowed heroes but there will never be another run like this, this is comic book history and even more this is modern history. Batman is a symbol, a metaphor for that attainable potential that exists untapped within us, waiting to be called upon in our defining moment, in that split second when we decide to do the right thing against all odds and in the face of popular opinion. That’s what Grant Morrison’s Batman means to me, doing what is right and true and good even if it costs you the ultimate price, character doesn’t come cheap and characters like Batman come but once in a lifetime. Thank you Grant Morrison for seven years of comic book perfection, for stories that will live forever not only on the page but in the hearts of all the readers you have touched with your brilliant words. Number one on my list for 2013 and for all eternity is Grant Morrison’s legendary run on Batman and its ultimately satisfying conclusion.

Well that’s going to do it for this last edition of Weekly Bat-Signals for 2013. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed reading them these past months as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing them. It is the very definition of a labor of love as is all the work we do here at B&B. So in closing I hope you have a happy and safe New Year and that you come back and join us here next year, same Bat-Time, same Bat-channel.

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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