Sunday Morning: Deconstructing Batman
The whole concept of “Elseworlds” is one heck of a brilliant workaround.
Part of the problem with comics is the problem of stasis. People like reading stories about the hero. So you can’t kill the hero. People like reading stories about where the hero fights the antagonist. So you can’t kill the antagonist. People like reading stories where the hero is still in high school. So you can’t have the hero graduate high school.
Sometimes the comics do some *MAJOR* shake-up. Like, Peter Parker and Mary Jane got married! That was *HUGE*. This allowed them to tell stories about being married and where Mary Jane knew that he was Spider-Man. Like, for another example, Spider-Man unmasked himself as part of the Civil War storyline back in the mid-oughts. Like, that was *HUGE*. Spider-Man! Unmasked! There was a really good issue where J. Jonah Jameson gives his opinion on that (dude felt stabbed in the back, he treated Parker like a son, etc.) and then there were some really good issues where they dealt with the fallout of Spider-Man’s secret identity being common knowledge… but they wrote themselves into a corner pretty hard.
So they had a storyline where Aunt May got shot and Peter Parker made a deal with Mephisto where Aunt May would live in exchange for Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage to have never happened. Instead of Deus Ex Machina, Infernus Ex Machina, I guess.
And so we returned to the original baseline. Stasis.
Well, Elseworlds allows for interesting spaces to be explored. Want Jor-El and Lara to say “hey, there’s enough room on this ship for us to go to Earth too!”? Done. Want the Green Lantern ring to pick Bruce Wayne instead of Hal Jordan? Here you go. Want the baby Kal-El to be found by Bruce and Martha Wayne instead of Jonathan and Martha Kent? Dude. That sounds awesome.
Anyway, this allows you to write an awesome story that would leave you written into a corner after a year or so but then say “hey, Elseworlds.” The main continuity can be the main continuity, the Elseworld can be the Elseworld. Stasis in one bucket, change in the other. (Though there is kind of the problem where there is an assumed essentialism for these characters. Kal-El somehow always manages to evolve into the person we know as Clark Kent… even when he’s raised by Thomas and Martha Wayne. So there’s stasis even in change.)
Well, in that vein, there was an *AWESOME* Batman story that came out this year and it’s finally been collected into TPB form. Batman: White Knight.
Here’s the basic conceit: Batman is the Bad Guy. Joker is the Good Guy. I mean, let’s face it, Batman goes around, destroying property, beating people without benefit of a trial, acting like a total outlaw… and he’s celebrated? We see a guy in a suit dressed up like a flying mouse and we see him beat people senseless and we feel *GOOD* about this? That guy oughta be locked up!
And so they explore what happens when Joker gets the help that he needs, gets cured, and finally is able to explain his side of the story to Gotham.
If you like the Elseworlds exploration, you need to get your hands on this book. (Though, technically, it’s not “Elseworlds” but “Black Label”. It amounts to the same thing. Stories that didn’t happen. But, dang, are you glad they got told.)
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Joker” by Bart Everson. Used under a Creative Commons License.)