Monday, August 15, 2011

Blogathon 26: Put on Your Tights and Give Them Hell Part Five

[Continuing my discussion of The Dark Knight Strikes Again.]

Seeing where The Dark Knight Strikes Again differs from The Dark Knight Returns brings to mind the influence of the series on All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. How does one reconcile the role of Dick Grayson in the two? Or even Hal Jordan? What's funny is seeing how Miller's take on the other heroes' reactions to Batman when they first learn about him to how they all follow his lead in the future. It's a shift from Superman and Wonder Woman to Batman. They begin by following raw power and, eventually, follow brains and skill. Or, at least, that's the way that Miller sees it.

The Dick Grayson question is harder to pin down, because we haven't seen where All-Star Batman ends. (Will it ever end?) He follows up a book where Dick Grayson is a grotesque Joker-looking unkillable man that slaughters his way through heroes to get at Catgirl and Batman with a book exploring Batman rescuing and adopting Dick Grayson? Anyone who wondered about Frank Miller's sense of humour look no further than that juxtaposition. More than that, he insisted that the title not just be All-Star Batman but All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. That could point to the Dick Grayson in DKSA being the biggest middle finger of the book. More than Superman getting beaten down in the exact same way, more than the art or utter willingness to 'spit on the grave' of DKR. He fucked up Dick Grayson for a laugh. Hell, he fucked up Dick Grayson for a gay joke. In DKR, the Joker was hinted to be in love with Batman, so, in DKSA, the same is implied with Dick through the Joker look and the way he attacks Catgirl and speaks to Batman. But, Miller being Miller, takes that Batman/Robin gay thing and twists it by having Batman basically shout "I ain't no queer, faggot!" (pardon the language) and kill him. The ultimate declaration of his masculinity. He wasn't creepy for keeping a young boy in tights in a cave; he was just a misunderstood good guy who is too damn sexy to resist. Does one read All-Star Batman and think of DKSA? Do you see that little boy as a twisted freak falling into a pit of lava?

The jump from the Hal Jordan of All-Star Batman to the one of DKSA is dramatic. It's almost like All-Star Batman #9 is the beginning of the reeducation of Hal Jordan where he sees just how good Batman is and starts to listen and learn. After all, in DKSA he's practically a god that leaves his home just to do Batman a favour. That's a far cry from the idiot that got beat up by a little kid.

Of course, there's the idea that these books don't exist in a continuum. I think that's hard to argue given the depictions of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Those are very consistent. They're the only characters (aside from Plastic Man, I guess) who don't change. They are who they are. The only sense of change you get is Superman towards the end of DKSA when he finally begins to embrace his potential and differences. I was always curious about Miller's promised/mentioned Superman project, but no more so than after that final shot of him with his daughter, wondering what to do with their planet.

In 30 minutes, I'll possibly finish off my thoughts on The Dark Knight Strikes Again, but who knows.

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