Monday, April 04, 2016

HERO OF THE WEEK: BATMAN (DC)
Real Name: Bruce Wayne
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939)
Fight Club Ranking: #1

Featured Fights:
- vs JOKER: The Dark Knight Returns #3 (May 1986)
- vs SUPERMAN: The Dark Knight Returns #4 (Jun 1986)
- vs TWO-FACE: Batman #442 (Dec 1989)
- vs BANE: Batman #497 (Jul 1993)
- vs BULLSEYE: DC versus Marvel #1 (Feb 1996)
- vs CAPTAIN AMERICA: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
- vs SUPERMAN: The Dark Knight Strikes Again #1 (Nov 2001)
- vs KILLER CROC: Batman #608 (Dec 2002)
- vs SUPERMAN: Batman #612 (Apr 2003)
- vs JOKER: Detective Comics #781 (Jun 2003)
- vs JOKER: Batman #614 (Jun 2003)
- vs SLAM BRADLEY: Catwoman #22 (Aug 2003)
- vs HUSH: Batman #619 (Nov 2003)
- vs KILLER CROC: Batman #621 (Jan 2004)
- vs CAPTAIN MARVEL & HAWKMAN: Superman/Batman #4 (Jan 2004)
- vs SCARECROW: Batman: Gotham Knights #49 (Mar 2004)
- vs HILL STREET CULT: DC: The New Frontier #2 (Apr 2004)
- vs FATMAN & LITTLE BOY: Batman #624 (Apr 2004)
- vs SCAREBEAST: Batman #628 (Jul 2004)
- vs ROBIN: Batman #629 (Aug 2004)
- vs MR. ZSAZS: Detective Comics #796 (Sep 2004)
- vs CATWOMAN: Solo #1 (Dec 2004)
- vs GREEN ARROW: Superman/Batman #14 (Jan 2005)
- vs WONDER WOMAN & FREEDOM FIGHTERS: Superman/Batman #15 (Feb 2005)
- vs ULTRAMARINE CORPS: JLA: Classified #3 (Mar 2005)
- vs AMAZO: Batman #637 (Apr 2005)
- vs ATOMIC SKULL: Superman/Batman #21 (Sep 2005)
- vs CATWOMAN: JLA #118 (Nov 2005)
- vs SUPERMAN: Superman/Batman #23 (Nov 2005)
- vs MONGUL: Infinite Crisis #1 (Dec 2005)
- vs THE SOCIETY: Batman #647 (Jan 2006)
- vs CATWOMAN: Batman: The Mad Monk #1 (Oct 2006)
- vs O.G.R.E.: Batman Confidential #2 (Mar 2007)
- vs JOKER: Batman #663 (Apr 2007)
- vs DARKSEID: Superman/Batman #42 (Jan 2008)
- vs DR. LIGHT: Superman/Batman #43 (Jan 2008)
- vs SUPERMAN: Justice League: The New Frontier Special #1 (May 2008)
- vs ALPHA LANTERN KRAKEN: Final Crisis #2 (Aug 2008)
- vs HUSH: Detective Comics #850 (Jan 2009)
- vs SUPERMAN: Superman/Batman #78 (Jan 2011)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has come and gone. The Twitter hashtags don't have the cool little promotional icons any more. There are no new trailers or photos to keep websites talking. The digital noise is quickly dissipating, leaving only committed theatre stragglers and critics to agree upon the weaknesses, and search for reason amidst the rubble.

Indiewire notes the film's sharp drop from its initial record setting $166 million dollar opening, to a $52 million second weekend. Their rationale stops short of admitting to a search for humanity in the audiences who defiantly flocked to the critically hobbled mega-blockbuster. I dutifully mark the moment by finally making Batman our Hero of the Week. His importance to the day is too big to ignore, even if Wonder Woman pipped him on film's release [03/28/2016].

They say time heals all wounds. When Batman v Superman finally lumbered onto screens, it hung stale in the air. There was a grim sense of foreboding about it all. Batman and Superman were finally meeting on screen, and the actors were whole heartedly committed to spitting impassioned resentments through gritted teeth. They were acting as if it all mattered. As if there was a reason to believe in what was happening. This level of commitment should've been something to celebrate, but it wasn't. Under Zack Snyder, these pulp legends of the nineteen thirties finally seemed like two old men fighting for reasons they couldn't even remember. Time hasn't healed the wound. It's just given us permission to forget about it for a while. Snyder's Justice League is coming in 2017. We'll check the bleeding and redress the wound when it does.

"Bloated and collapsing" was the phrase I couldn't shake-off last week. Under the weight of their own legend, the implication. It was exciting to see Ben Affleck's Batman so physically large, but it was an ugly metaphor for a bittersweet carnival.

Affleck's Batsuit is an obvious acknowledgment of Frank Miller's Dark Knight [pictured above], itself inspired by the art of Dick Sprang. If I thought Netflix' Daredevil was being cowardly in its design choices [03/21/2016] - The Bat of Dawn of Justice is the larger-than-life kick in the teeth I was looking for.

For better and for worse, Zack Snyder is unafraid. When there's a story to tell it's a recipe for embarrassment, but when it comes time to designing an image -- Snyder clearly has some talent. He fought for Miller's Batman and got it on screen, more or less. He deserves credit for that.

Batman, maybe more than most characters, has had an uncanny knack for attracting some of the most fantastic talent of the modern day. I speak of comics, primarily, but even after a somewhat flawed third outing: the likes of Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale and the rest of their technical and creative cast are to be commended for their works. Their contributions loom large within the canon of seventy-plus years of good Batman. Generations of good will, as it were. Generations of anticipation. Many hundreds of thousands of tickets sold to Batman v Superman on name alone, I suspect.

"Pre-judgment" was ironically one of the first excuses used to dismiss harsh critical response. A convenience of an era so utterly saturated with mediocre licensed franchising, you could actually be forgiven for forgetting that licensed adaptations are by their nature designed to foster and capitalize upon "pre-judgment". Another dismissal used by those close to the film was the separation of the intended audience: "the fans". You may notice a conflict of logic between the two.

It's all a bit familiar, to be honest. In 1997, Joel Schumacher was casting similar aspersions regarding criticism for his then-upcoming movie: Batman and Robin. He had particular disdain for internet pundits of the time. While speaking to Variety, Warner Brothers Marketing Chief Chris Pula questioned the credibility behind such barbs: "Now anybody with a computer is a newspaper." He was a little ahead of his time in his assessment, to be honest, but I digress...

Batman and Robin was a cultural phenomenon, and still took $238.2 million when all was said and done. There was the big second week drop-off after a strong-ish #3 open in a competitive '97 market. Warner Brothers pointed to strong overseas box office. Pretty much the same song and dance we've seen for Batman v Superman. Only there wasn't ten years of sequels already announced and a stubborn resolve to push ahead in spite of what went on the screen. The audience wasn't dependant enough to apologize for the project. Even those responsible now wave the white flag of failure for their film. Schumacher has thrown himself on his sword too many times to count. Batman & Robin was dubbed the killer of big screen Batman and we all moved on and hoped for better. Granted, Warner Brothers famously had several production attempts before 2005's Batman Begins, but I can't help but feel nostalgic for a time when the studio was na├»ve enough to think it could all fail. No longer. The inevitability of Hollywood mediocrity is the most souring pre-judgment of all.

Ben Affleck has reportedly written a script for a solo Batman film, which he may or may not direct. He's contracted for two Justice League films. Prophetic sequences in Dawn of Justice forecast a battle with Darkseid and a potentially crazed Superman. Crazed, villainous, old. Bloated and collapsing under the weight of his own legend. If only that legend could ever be adequately told on screen. At least Batman got a few good films. I hope he gets a few more, but I'm beginning to wonder if the rebel spirit the corporate owned Batman once represented died with the rest of the DC Universe [in 2011]. Superman never stood a chance.

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