Amateur Batfan: Vol.14 – Prey

Hello and welcome to the fourteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

About two weeks ago I bought Prey on a whim online, without much knowledge about it save for that Hugo Strange was the villain. Afterwards, I sent my friend a txt asking if it was any good. The answer was a negative. Woops.

Well, then I looked it up online afterwards and found out that it came packaged with an extra story too, a sequel called Terror. Well, at least it would be value for money. Year Two: Fear The Reaper came packaged with a sequel (Full Circle) and A Death In The Family came packaged with a sequel… or at least packaged with another story (A Lonely Place Of Dying), and it always feels good as a consumer to get the extra equal length, equal quality story as a bonus. If it was bad, at least I wasn’t ripped off.

You know, Hugo Strange wasn’t a villain I’d ever heard of before playing Arkham City. I think I had to look him up on Wikipedia when I played that game to see if he was real or made up for the game. (Real as in “existed in the comics” and not real as in real in the real world). I watched The Animated Series as a kid, and I had Batman Cartoon Maker, but I don’t recall Hugo Strange being in either (he probably was, but I might have not noticed, seeing as how children’s minds are weirdly blurry, like a drunk adult’s).

Since getting into comics properly, I’ve only come across one, maximum two stories with Hugo in it. Those are Batman & The Monster Men and then possibly Knightfall (I don’t remember, he could’ve been one of the ones in the Arkham breakout). Monster Men is one of my favourite Batman books so far, but to be fair it wasn’t really because of Strange himself. I don’t really know how to feel about him as a villain. Certainly he’s not on my “I don’t like them” list, like The Mad Hatter, but neither is he on my “I have a special interest in them” list, like Hush and Mr. Freeze.

Batman

Batman – Prey:

– Writers: Doug Moench
– Art: Paul Gulacy
– Colours: Terry Austin (Prey), Jimmy Palmiotti (Terror)

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era (Prey), Early Career (Terror)

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains (Prey): Hugo Strange, Night-Scourge
– Villains (Terror): Hugo Strange, Scarecrow

– Allies (Prey): Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Catwoman
– Allies (Terror): Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Catwoman

– Cameos (Terror): The Joker

– Bystanders (Prey): Harvey Dent, Sarah Essen, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr.,

– Bystanders (Terror): Brad, Charleene

– Tone: In some ways its fairly wacky, in some ways its trying to be realistic. There’s plenty of street thuggery, but there’s also outlandish ideas in the mix as well. I feels cold. I’m not sure if that is because of the graffiti and the night-time stuff. (Hmmm… isn’t all Batman full of night-time and graffiti?).

– Art: I really like the art style here. After being given Year One and Man Who Laughs early one, this is sort of the general sort of style I expect from old Batman. Its sort of similar to Venom and the Vengeance Of Bane backstory that was packaged in with my edition of Knightfall. I guess that is sort of the baseline for late-80s to early-90s Batman. I like it.

One fairly major flaw with Prey is that some of the text-boxes are pretty illegible. Its really difficult to read what they say at times.

Terror is interesting, because in some, nay most, of the pages it looks even better than Prey… but then pictures of Dr. Crane and The Scarecrow look very silly and cartoony, and his dancing looks really odd and it throws the whole thing off. I could see people saying it was bad looking because of it.

This whole book is also printed on that old newspaper paper and not the modern glossy stuff. I’m not sure if I’m beginning to like it. Finding it charming. Like when as a Nu Metal fan, it took me a while to get used to the production on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin albums. I think I’m beginning to like the non-glossy look now.

– My Thoughts: Hugo Strange is quite different in this story than in Monster Men.
Not so much the mad psychiatrist as a straight up cartoon-madman who talks to a mannequin dressed in lingerie. Becuase Mad. I’m not sure which version I prefer. This or Monster Men?… I mean Mad Scientists are cliched too I guess. I think I may prefer the version in Arkham City, but maybe that’s just because it was what I seen first. Or maybe it is better. I don’t know. Maybe I should talk it over with a psychiatrist?

The little touches here and there are rather good, like the disgruntled lawyer, adding a little of that Year One style TV Cop-show depth.

The Night Scourge storyline reminds me quite a lot of The Reaper … y’know… more violent vigilante comes along, Batman disapproves, public look down on vigilante violence including Batman. I guess its also not unlike The Red Hood many years later too. Its a reasonable plot I guess. I really like it when ‘Todd is doing it, so why not here?

I like Jim Gordon in these stories. But then, when do you ever not like Jim Gordon. No Man’s Land is the only example I can ever think of. Heck; Even when he cheats on his wife in Year One he’s likeable.

Another thing that reminds me of the Reaper story is the fact that in Terror, Scarecrow says the word “bullies” way, way too often. Just like how Reaper says “Fear The Reaper” every other sentence.

In a lot of the reviews I’ve read, people who enjoyed Prey didn’t seem to like Terror. I liked both. Both are flawed, neither are awful. I found them both to be pretty entertaining in all honesty, although I’m not sure how much I’d recommend them either. I think a solid 6/10 score would be warranted in a review. It’s the kind of thing you don’t regret buying, but wouldn’t rave about.

Amateur Batfan: Volume 13 – Year One

Hello and welcome to the thirteenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

In previous recent entries, I mentioned how I’ll now try and cover some of the more famous Batman books like Dark Knight Returns, Arkham Asylum, The Long Halloween etc. and so this time I’ll be covering Year One, which is perpetually featured in list of best Batman books ever, which helped inspire parts of Nolan trilogy movie and which is always mentioned as a brilliant book for beginners. Other writers seem to always reference it, or work off of it, or find ways to link their story with it (flashbacks etc.). They even made a straight-up cartoon movie adaptation of it, with Bryan “Walter White” Cranston in it. (Which was actually really good!).

Apparently, this was a reboot. You know the way that there were was a Batman movie in the 60s with Adam West? Then in the 80s/90s there were four more films without Adam West, and the events in the Adam West movie didn’t “count” in the newer films? Yeah? …and then recently there’s been three even newer films directed by Christopher Nolan that ignored the events of the previous four (make that five) Batman movies? Yeah? Well, that’s like the comics industry (Read about it, by someone more qualified, here).

Here’s the quick version: There were stories before Year One. That’s apparently called “Pre-Crisis” nowadays (With “Crisis” referring to a landmark story called “Crisis on Infinite Earths” where they wrapped up their decades long storylines so they could started over). Also you’ll see the terms “Golden Age” and “Silver Age” for even more specific time periods.

Then all of the stuff from 1987-2011 was another thing. When I write “Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint” in the continuity sections in these articles, that’s what I mean. That’s where the biggest Bulk of Batman stories I care about take place. I think that’s what most people care about to be honest. When that first 80s Batman movie landed and got people interested in Batman, when that brilliant 90s Batman cartoon was going and got people interested in Batman, When the movie Batman Begins came out and got people interested in Batman again, when the first Arkam videogame came out… yeah, you get it. When all of those big jumping on points of the last 30 years happened, the “continuity” that was relevant was this one. And for that whole period, Year One was considered to be the definitive comics version origin story of Batman.

Then as of 2011 there’s been another reboot. That’s Post-Flashpoint. Or “The New 52.” There’s a story being put out at the moment called Zero Year which is the modern equivalent of a story set in the Year One era.

Yeah… Comic Books are annoying in that way. Can’t help that, since they’ve been going for 75 years. Just think of it like the movies. Every so often, they’ll start over again to keep things modern and fresh and get new people interested.

It got me interested. Now look what’s happened, I’ve been reading them for a year and now even write a bloody Blog about them. The idea of Reboots and retconts and stuff like that was one of the things that originally stopped me from reading comics in the first place. Weird isn’t it?

Anyway; Last week, I wrote about enjoying the “Year One” era, or setting, for Batman stories. This is the first year (or couple of years, depending on the writer) that Batman actually works as Batman, with no Robin or Batgirl or any of those guys in it yet… and he’s not yet become the world’s greatest detective, or perfected his fighting and stealth and acrobatic skills yet and is therefore more prone to mistakes and defeat.

Part of the reason for that may be the streamlined “Just let me see Batman and don’t worry about that other stuff” attitude. The biggest part of it though is probably because of the book Year One itself…

I’ll save you having to skim down to the conclusion… I love this book. This is an excellent book. One of the best. Possibly the best. Its not just important, its not just famous, its actually good too.

So… Game changer. Reboot for the line. Considered a classic. Actually good. (Oft imitated rarely bettered). I guess the musical equivalent might be The Black Album.

Batman

Batman – Year One:

– Writers: Frank Miller
– Art: David Mazzucchelli
– Colours: Richard Lewis

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era (Duh!)

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Arnold Flass (Police), Branden (S.W.A.T), Commissioner Loeb (Police), Carmine Falcone, Carla Viti, Catwoman

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police),

– Bystanders: Harvey Dent, Sarah Essen, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr.,

– Story: [/Spoilers] It starts with James Gordon moving to Gotham, meeting his new Police Co-Workers who are less than ethical. There’s also scenes of Bruce Wayne clearly training to fight crime, but not yet Batman. Gordon’s co-workers start to dislike Jim’s incorruptibility. Bruce goes out dressed as a crazy veteran looking for a fight, but his plan backfires – when he is fighting a Pimp; a Prostitue, despite being a victim themselves, defends the Pimp and stabs Bruce in the leg. Gordon’s colleagues don balaclava’s and beat up Gordon with baseball bats in a car park, threatening him to be more corrupt like the rest of them. Bruce makes it home, bloody and defeated, he knows if he doesn’t get medical help he’ll bleed out and die, he doesn’t want to live in such a horrible world, a world where a criminal could murder his parents (which we see in flashbacks), but then a bat crashes through his window, which gives him the idea for Batman. He then rings a little bell, signaling Alfred to come and give him medical attention. Jim Gordon follows a drink driving co-worker called Flass runs him off the road, and beats him up in the woods as payback for what happened in the parking lot and so they know not to mess with his family.

A mentally ill man creates a hostage situation and Jim solves it with people skills. Batman makes his first outing, he tries to beat up some teenage thugs but its really clumsy. A Batman myth starts brewing. Flass was beat up by Batman while he was taking bribes off criminals. Flass acts as if Batman is a monster not a man, and becomes a laughing stock. A new cop called Sarah Essen is appointed to the anti-Batman case. Jim starts cheating on his wife with her. Batman leaves mafia boss Carmine Falcone handcuffed naked in bed.

Batman gets trapped in an abandoned building by a swat team and is shot. He escapes using a sci-fi style device which summons bats, but not before saving a cat’s life. Catwoman gets inspired to dress like a cat. Also during his escape he breaks into a clothes shop, but actually leaves money for the clothes he disguises himself with.

Gordon arrests a druglord named Skeevers, who flips on the corrupt Flass and Loeb. The police think Batman might be Bruce Wayne. Jim goes to visit Wayne but his wife Barbara Gordon tags along too. Bruce acts like a chauvinist pig. It fools Barbara but not Jim, but at that moment, Jim admits to his wife that he’s cheating on her. Essen moves away. Barbara (who was pregnant this whole time) has a baby.

Catwoman goes out on a few crimes. She steals from Mafia guys. She and Batman fight and flirt, they haven’t quite figured eachother out yet. The media think she’s Batman’s assistant and that upsets her sensibilities. The mafia are plotting to target Gordon’s family.

Bruce figures out about the mafia plan and goes to Gordon’s building (out of costume), just as Gordon is dragged out to work by a phonecall. When Gordon sees Bruce speeding to his house on a motorbike he figures something’s not right and turns around. Back at his building, mafia men are trying to kidnap his wife and son. Gordon saves his wife but not son, and knocks Bruce off his motorcycle in order to chase after the escaping kidnappers. Bruce follows by stealing a bicycle. Gordon confronts the kidnappers on a bridge but his son falls over the side, Bruce saves him in the nick of time. Gordon thanks him, saying he can’t see who it is without his glasses.

There’s an epilogue that sort of shows what’s going on in Gotham after all this shake-up, which sets up The Man Who Laughs and The Long Halloween.

– Tone: The level of realism is higher than any other Batman book I own. Aside from Catwoman’s athletic skills and costume, there’s nothing in this story that’s all that implausible for The Wire. Apart from one scene with a cloud of Bats attracted by a Sci-Fi device. But that’s it. Its otherwise pretty much a cop show. Its more realistic than The Long Halloween, and much more realistic than Dark Moon Rising.

To be fair, this tone is very impressive and I love it. However people trying to copy this tone usually fail to capture it, and usually the stories aren’t as good.

A turning point for me, as a new reader of comic books was when I came to feel that there’s nothing wrong with being a riot of fun (Note – that’s not a riot of violence, but a riot of FUN!) like Morrison’s three Batman & Robin books. There’s nothing wring with being colourful and interesting if you do it right. Sometimes realism is very good, like here, if its done well, but just being in love with Frank Miller and stealing his ideas isn’t always as successful. Much like learning to ignore all the rebooting nonsense and terrible, terrible lack of curatorship the medium seems to have, learning that I can like multiple types of Batman and not just Nolan-esque stuff was interesting. I guess the musical equivalent is going from hating clean singing to enjoying it.

– Art: The art is superb. The colours make it feel kind of old-fashioned, but I hear that they made a recoloured version and people didn’t like that. Anyway, the actual drawing and shading are excellent. Character design too. It looks better than Long Halloween, Knightfall and Death In The Family which are the three nearest comparisons I have read. (Oh yeah, and than Fear The Reaper). Obviously it doesn’t match up to modern, glossy, super impressive stuff but it is brilliant. Its kind of like Megadeth’s Rust In Peace or Countdown To Extinction albums in that even though you can tell they weren’t released recently, they sound faultless. Age is apparent due to comparison with newer releases, but age is not a detriment. Its one of my favourite looking books ever, even if its not technically the absolute best (I am shallow and love Jim Lee and Greg Capullo).

– My Thoughts: I really, really enjoy this book. Its interesting, its succinct, and the Jim Gordon infidelity plus bad co-workers story is more interesting than even the Batman story. Its more interesting than most Batman book side plots. I care more about this than Jason Todd’s search for his biological mother, or Tim Drake’s Dad being kidnapped. They’re equally interesting human stories on paper… but this one just has a lot more depth and heart.

I also like that there was a memorial named after Bill Finger. It could have been the Kane memorial, but no. Nice touch.

One interesting point, which I didn’t know until this week when reading about this book online. When I read this book, its quite clear that Catwoman is a prostitute. It is so obvious I would never question it. I’ve saw people fighting about it online though “She’s not a prostitute, it in no way says that” etc. Then a second bunch of people who are like “She is a prostitute, but I wish she wasn’t” and an even more mysterious third party “She’s not a prostitute, she’s a dominatrix – learn the difference!”

Now I don’t think that if she was a child prostitute’s roommate that she’d just be dressed as a dominatrix for fun, so I’m not even going to give that one the benefit of the doubt. But come on; in what way is she not a prostitute? Does it have to have a drawing of her performing a sex act with a fist full of cash and a speech bubble saying “I’m only doing this for the money” ?

I don’t know why you’d wish she wasn’t either. Personal taste I guess, I can accept that. Just has a bit of a whiff of victim blaming about it… but then, I dunno, maybe you just wish she was an actual cat too (like those cat dudes in Skyrim who’s name escapes me right no…”Kajiit?”) and it has nothing to do with anti prostitute sentiment and I’m just making assumptions. What do you think?

I guess the musical equivalent is… um. No. I don’t have one for this section. You?

Amateur Batfan: Volume 12 – The Long Halloween

Hello and welcome to the twelfth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

In previous entries, I mentioned how I’ll now try and cover some of the more famous Batman books like Year One, Arkham Asylum, Dark Knight Returns etc. and so this time I’ll be covering The Long Halloween, which is perpetually featured in list of best Batman books ever, which helped inspire parts of The Dark Knight movie and which is always mentioned as a brilliant book for beginners.

I had it in my mind that The Long Halloween was released either late 80s or very early nineties, as it is a sort of follow-up to Year One, and I assumed that it was the next Batman story after Year One, but apparently there was almost a full decade between them, and that this didn’t even start until 1996.

I also thought that the much discussed Hush, (created by Jeph Loeb, who made The Long Halloween), was made long, long after his other work. But this ran from 1996-1997 and its sequel Dark Victory ran from 1999-2000, so Hush running from 2002-2003 is completely normal. I had it in my mind that Hush was a sort of return of Loeb after ages away, in the way that The Dark Knight Returns coming out in 2003 was a return for Frank Miller after about 20 years. Yeah… my knowledge of this stuff is pretty blurry to say the least. I don’t really know where or why I got that “return” impression.

Either way, as a rule, I generally enjoy the whole idea of the Year One sort of period, where Batman isn’t fully developed yet, where all his inventions and vehicles aren’t invented, where the bat-family like Robin and Batgirl and all that lot aren’t in it yet, when some villains haven’t even showed up, or turned evil yet. When I was first introduced to comics again as an adult, I thought “Good. I don’t want any Robin or Superman or Magic or Aliens, all that stuff is stupid and diminishes what’s cool about Batman.”

Having said that, the more I’ve been reading Batman, the more I’ve grown to appreciate just the opposite of that. I’ve began to really love seeing Nightwing and Oracle show up, and after his smug-shite attitude in Batman And Son – I thought I’d hate Damian Wayne, but then as he developed as a character, I really began to like even him. Its therefore kind of an old-opinion of mine that the Year One stuff is what I care most about, now I want to learn about Huntress and Cassandra Cain and whatever else. Even with this new attitude though, it didn’t stop me re-reading and enjoying The Long Halloween…

Batman

Batman – The Long Halloween:

– Writers: Jeph Loeb
– Art: Tim Sale
– Colours: Gregory Wright

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Year One era

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Holiday, Calendar Man, Joker, Two Face, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, Solomon Grundy, Sal Maronie, Carmine Falcone, Vernon Fields, Carla Viti, Johnny Viti, Sophia Gigante,

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Harvey Dent (Pre-Two Face), Catwoman

– Bystanders: Gilda Dent, Barbara Gordon, James Gordon Jr., Richard Daniel (Gotham Bank)

– Story: [/Spoilers] Batman, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon form a pact to bring down the crime empire of Carmine Falcone, a mafia boss. Catwoman seems to have something going on with Falcone. Somebody starts killing Carmine’s family and men over the course of the year on public holidays. The press dub them the Holiday Killer. Batman suspects Calendar Man as it fits his M.O. of Holiday-themed crime, Carmine suspects his mafia rival Sal Maroni. Everyone suspects eachother, maybe its Batman, maybe its Harvey Dent, maybe its Gordon, maybe its Catwoman, maybe its one of the many mafia characters in the story. The mafia want to deal with Gotham bank to launder money. Bruce Wayne’s vote on their board-of-directors meeting stops that deal from happening. The mafia have no choice but to just keep their money in a huge pile in a warehouse, and Batman along with Harvey sets it on fire.

Harvey’s wife Gilda finds a gun that makes it look like it was Dent doing the Holiday killings. Catwoman flirts with Batman a lot. Carmine hires a Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and Riddler to deal with his problems – Fighting the Bat-freak with freaks of his own, much to the distaste of other mafia members. Riddler almost gets killed by the Holiday Killer and is distraught about it. Poison Ivy uses her mind control powers to trick Bruce Wayne into reversing the vote with the bank, then Catwoman breaks Ivy’s spell over Wayne. Joker on some ego trip wants to know who Holiday is, and breaks into the Dent’s house frightening Gilda and angering Harvey. Joker steals a plane and threatens to kill people until he finds out who Holiday is. Batman stops him. Harvery’s death is faked and this helps him arrest some criminals. Solomon Grundy is in the Gotham sewers, Batman is nice to him. During a court case against a mafia guy throws acid in Harvey’s face turning him into Two Face. Carmine’s undervalued son is revealed to be the Holiday killer. Two Face kills some mafia guys then hands himself in at the end, stating that the justice system will fail as usual. Batman and Catwoman flirt. All the super villains gang-up on the mafia boss. There’s an epilogue where Gilda is destroying evidence to protect her husband and reveals she killed some people too.

– Tone: Its in part, a very serious and realistic take on Batman. In some ways, it’s a colourful tour of the rogues gallery including magic tree women, madmen in dodgy costumes and a zombie. Its probably symbolic of the transformative effect Batman’s presence had on the criminal landscape that it starts off with Mafia guys and ends with supervillains, but I don’t feel like somebody’s desperate to give me a message like when Smith or Snyder do their Joker conversations at the end of their books. I just feel entertained. Its good to have a little more humanity and grey area to Harvey Dent, instead of him being super-perfect then instantly super-evil. This makes it more like its two sides of his personality. The mixture of realism and supernatural ideas reminds me of Dark Moon Rising.

– Art: I’ve read this twice. Once about a year ago, and once in the last two days. Right up until re-reading it, I had it in my mind that this was a really fugly book. I don’t know why I thought this. I’ve just read it again and some of the artwork is absolutely gorgeous, any of the moody film-noir looking shadowy scenes in Gordon’s office look incredible. The only things that really look bad are Joker and Poison Ivy. During the normal scenes with humans, or in people’s offices and houses, this is an excellent looking book with a lot of attention to detail and it feels really good on the page.

– My Thoughts: I really, really enjoy this book. I don’t accept the idea that this is poorly designed or only exists to show off some different villains, plagiarizes The Godfather too much, or has a bad mystery (see here). I do agree that some of the character designs are not the best (I don’t like scarecrow) and do concede some of the villains are slightly unnecessary (I don’t understand Joker’s motivation even now… if he is jealous of other freaks, why does he do the team-up at the end?).

Its good having the whole Gilda and Barbara thing, it adds extra depth. I like when there’s people in Gotham besides the Bat Family, The Cops and The Villains.

I was surprised to learn, while reading about this online afterwards, that Carmine Falcone was only introduced in Year One. I thought he’d be one of the earliest villains going. When I’ve seen historical bat-stories from the 50s they’ve usually involved gangsters, and you could easily imagine one being called Falcone or Maroni.

This isn’t so much about Long Halloween but rather all Batman in general – Do you know what I dislike? Mad Hatter. I am a) sick of him due to a coincidental over-exposure and b) I dislike him to begin with, he is just something I don’t get along with. I never liked Alice In Wonderland to begin with, and it seems to grate at me. I also think it’s a bad gimmick for a villain. As far as I’m aware Spiderman doesn’t fight a Gandalf-themed Lord Of The Rings-obsessed character, and Spawn probably doesn’t fight a Ron Weasley based villain.

I do like that Loeb teams him up with Scarecrow though, if he has to be included, this is better, he can’t sustain a whole story of his own in my opinion. Even in the Arkham games, the Mad Hatter psychedelic missions weren’t as good as the Scarecrow one, (probably just because Alice In Wonderland seems to annoy me for some reason admittedly). I think adding in Hatter adds a bit of value-for-money as the list of villains included is longer, but letting Scarecrow do the heavy lifting is just better for my individual personal tastes (heck, throw Cornelius Stirk in there too and have a team up of mind-bending villains.)

So yeah, Mad Hatter… tolerable in small doses or as a silent part of a team, but I’d hate a game, comic or movie where he was the main villain. I’d almost prefer The Carpenter or Tweedledum and Tweedledee… at least their voice isn’t annoying. I was going to start a list of villains that I prefer to Mad Hatter, starting with Mr. Freeze and going onwards, but I thought it would just be pointless, you get the point. I don’t like Ventriloquist or Mad Hatter all that much. Doesn’t matter, just personal opinion.

That ‘Hatter observation aside, I only really have positive things to say about this story. It is long, weighty, has a good tone, keeps you reading till the end it also looks good for the most part (Jim’s office particularly). I also like how they hint at duality instead of ramming it down your throat every five minutes. What more could you want?

[Oooh look. A whole Batfan article where I didn’t bring up Heavy Metal. What’s going on? Ummm…. “listen to Megadeth.” Phew, close call!]

Amateur Batfan: Vol. 6 – Batman Faces

Hello and welcome to the sixth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

When I first decided to get into Batman, it was with a view to read Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Knightfall and No Man’s Land. I had read about those on Wikipedia and they were my real “to do list.” Well, those and The Court Of The Owls thanks to Paul’s recommendation.

I borrowed and read Year One, The Dark Knight Returns & The Killing Joke fairly quickly, and then made my first purchase in the form of The Court Of The Owls. Yeah, that made me more comfortable reading comics for sure. Afterwards I moved in a few different directions. I discovered a few different things, like Kevin Smith’s Batman run, the Judge Dredd Crossovers, The Grant Morrison run, and books I heard about on the Fatman On Batman podcast like Madlove and The Black Mirror.

So its taken almost a year, but I’ve finally got around to buying No Man’s Land and Knightfall. At the minute I’m deeply entrenched in Knightfall, at about the halfway point of the second of three big, thick books. Its too early to really talk about that though, but right before I started Knightfall I also found another Batman book I really wanted to read. That’s what I’m going to be discussing today.

Back when I started branching off in different directions from my original plan, I found Matt Wagner’s Batman And The Monster Men & Batman And The Mad Monk, which I absolutely loved. I loved the art style, the depth of the story and the mixture of realism and fantasy. All in all they really nailed exactly what I want from a Batman book.

Turns out Matt Wagner had made more Batman books, including crossovers with other comics (Trinity – with Superman and Wonder Woman, and then another one with Grendel). He seems like a notable guy in the field. I also found and have now bought and read another Batman-only trade paperback he made, called Batman Faces, which is about Two Face.

Up until buying Knightfall I haven’t really read any stories with Two Face in them as a major character (except when I got a lend of stories, such as in The Dark Knight Returns, and in the excellent The Long Halloween). I think on the first page of ‘Owls he’s there in a Cameo in the scene where Batman just brawls with almost all his main villains, there was a Two Face in there, but its not part of the story or anything, just a quick cameo.

I feel like I’ve read more stories with Calendar Man, Mad Hatter and Maxie Zeuss than I have with Two Face in them.

In my current collection, there is a surprisingly big representation of The Ventriloquist for some reason. I own more stories with him in it than I’d ever plan or expect to. I remember the first time I played Arkham Asylum, I scanned the Scarface doll and learned of the existence of The Ventriloquist and thought to myself “that’s a bit too silly for me” – now I’m inundated with Ventriloquist stories! There’s also a decent amount of The Joker, Hush, Catwoman and Poison Ivy in the books within my current collection; but for the most part, excluding The Joker, my collection seems to be mostly featuring books about one-off, less famous villains like The Court Of Owls, The Architect, Onemotapia, James Gordon Jr., The Reaper etc. whereas villains that I always thought of as Batman’s “main villains” like Penguin, Mr. Freeze, The Riddler, Scarecrow and Two Face are surprisingly underrepresented.

So, Matt Wagner plus Two Face, that seems like a recipe for success right?

Batman

Batman Faces:

– Writers: Matt Wagner
– Art: Matt Wagner
– Colours: Steve Oliff

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Ambiguous (Post Year One, possibly Pre-Robin)
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Two Face, Manon, Romulus & Remus (Two Face’s Goons), Snake Eyes (Two Face’s Goon), Nelson Wren

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police)

– Bystanders: Paul Durberville, Donald Tremaine, Everette Baker, Charles Anerson, Violette Fournier, Anton Ecole, Joseph Auger, Frances Devere, Antonio Patrillo, Alain Rachins, Renee Machon, Rudolph Petruchka, Herve Pierre, Dora Lang, Booshka Granger, Etienne Frazier, Charles Berger, Paulette Bernhard, Mario Lopez

– Story: [Spoilers Ahoy:] Bruce Wayne wants to buy an Island property from Mr Paul Durberville. Two Face escapes Arkham at exactly 2:22, and goes on a series of duality based crimes such as stealing Zebras and a giant Ying/Yang sculpture, and organizes the murder of a number of plastic surgeons.

Two Face also kidnaps/recruits a circus freakshow to become his Nation Of Freaks, and reveals he has been killing plastic surgeons so that freaks cannot be “fixed,” and wants the Island as a physical location for his freak nation.

A cowardly, weasely-type character called Norman Wren in convinced with the promise of sex by Manon, an attractive fem-fatalle type, to spoil Wayne’s business deal. When Manon disappears, Wren tracks her down and confronts her, but is kidnapped in the process. It turns out Durbeville was Kidnapped too and is being blackmailed because he too is a “freak” due to a deformity of having extra hands on his stomach (he lives in snooty social circles and wouldn’t want anyone to think of him as a freak), and so Wren’s help is nolonger needed for Two Face to get his Island. Manon is revealed to be a bearded lady, and Norman Wren feels disgusted.

Wayne’s deal is spoiled, and Batman investigates. He finds Two Face’s whereabouts in a Zeppelin hangar, where Two Face is trying to launch a maiden voyage of a Zeppelin to take his Freaks to his Island. Batman is briefly captures but promptly escapes. He finds the imprisoned Wren and Durbeville, fights off Two Face’s goons but is knocked out and tied up by the Freaks. Two Face flips a coin to decide if he’ll murder Batman or Wren. Wren looses the toss and is thrown from the Blimp to his death. Batman infiltrates the blimp and before being shot, the freaks realize that Two Face’s plans and attitude are not what they want or believe and in the distraction of their disagreement, the Blimp crashes into a circus, where Two Face tries to flea, but is talked down by a freak called The Man With Two Faces, who calls Two Face a disgrace. Batman is able to apprehend Two Face and he is sent back to Arkham. Back in Wayne Manor, Bruce and Alfred reflect on the events and discuss Justice and Fate.

– Tone: I have no problems to report with the tone. It isn’t too silly, it isn’t too dark. Its kind of somewhere in the region of the other two Wagner Batman books I discussed.

– Art: The previous two Matt Wagner books that I had read were absolutely excellent looking. This book isn’t really very good looking at all. Its quite rushed looking, low on detail, a bit “cramped” looking. There are several great looking images, but for the most part its nowhere near as good as the other Wagner books I’ve read. I definitely wouldn’t say “you have to see this just for the art alone.” When comparing it to the other Wagner books, its kind of like what Soul Of A New Machine is to Demanufacture (the universal analogy for a dramatic difference in quality between an artist’s work).

– Overall: Batman Faces is a difficult book to recommend. Not because its bad, but just because its really lite and unsubstantial. There’s nothing as interesting as the Norman Madison emotional breakdown in there. It is kind of cool when the Freaks disagree with Two Face to be fair, but that’s one page. There’s some nice hints of Batman doing detective work and failing, but briefly. The two main thrusts of the book are Two Face’s bad attitude and Wren’s lusty backstabbing. “Weasley character is manipulated by sex” isn’t really anything special. Nor is “Two Face mentions Fate and Duality” unless they’re handled in a new or special way, which they aren’t especially (again, I’m not trying to be rude or anything, its just, not particularly good).

It’s a very short story, its not particularly visually impressive and it just kind of comes and goes without doing or saying anything massively noteworthy. Its not awful by any stretch of the imagination, but in a world where there are far better Batman books out there, I’d be tempted to advise that this one be given a miss if time or money are limited for you. Try out those other two Wagner books I mentioned instead, they’re much more satisfying.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Vol. 3. Day 52 – The Memory Remains

Its day 52 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. There’s ten days left. Even though it got extended to be an extra month long, I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken it yet thanks to the Christmas gifts I discussed last time, which have taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while. I’ve been working through it. I’ve watched Sound City, I’ve read Joey Shithead’s autobiography, I’ve been heavily listening to Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing and Tesseract’s new album. I’ve been playing Arkham Origins. The entertainment part of my life is pretty well serviced.

I’ve also finished the comics that I got for Christmas from my friend Magnum, and am in the mood for more. Which leads us to the part of the article where I discuss what I would buy if I wasn’t on the challenge not to buy things:


I remember when I first planned to buy comics, I wanted to read three stories. Year One, Knightfall and No Man’s Land. This was due to reading the Wikipedia page for The Dark Knight Rises movie.

I got given a lend of Year One by my friend Magnum straight away. I have never gotten around to reading the other two. After having played the three Arkham games, and just recently finishing the campaign mode of Arkham Origins, I really want to get around to reading them now.

There’s two problems with that though… first off, postage and packaging. Second off, Knightfall is three books and No Man’s Land is five books. So; in order to read these two stories, I need to buy eight books, and eight sets of postage and packaging. You add them to your basket and then think…oooh that’s a bit too much for me right now, and then the postage comes on top and it’s like…hmmm, definitely not now.


The same thing happens in a value for money way. I have a weird notion that I want to buy the first three Poison albums, but for under £1 each. Which is possible on amazon at times, but then the postage for three albums is about six quid, and then suddenly its not worth it anymore. I worry that it’ll be completely terrible but I’m kind of fascinated. I think that people will feel the same way about Limp Bizkit in a few years (Nu Metal is very much the Hair Metal of my generation and Emo is the Nu Metal of the next generation after me, and I’m sure there’ll be some Dubstep-infused-Post Hardcore movement starting to take off soon that will be the one for today’s twelve year olds).


Y’know what else I’d like. More Son’s Of Anarchy. I watched the first four seasons which are available on Netflix over the Christmas break and now I want to see the next three seasons. At first I wasn’t actually keen on the show, but I really got into it and now I really want to see more. I can’t decide if I should buy a boxset or wait until its all finished and buy a complete set or wait until more goes up on Netflix. I don’t know if that’s a thing that happens. Is it? Tell me in the comments if that’s likely to occur.

But I’m trying not to buy those things; so instead, I’ll use the things I already have. Money for comics and campy Hair Metal songs would be much better spend on rent, electricity, food and other essentials, right?

With that in mind, here is the section where I discuss the things I listened to that I already owned:

So onto the aforementioned listening-for-distraction stakes; I’ve put on Fair To Midland’s proper debut album (or third album if you count independent releases), the lengthily titled Fables From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True.

I got their follow-up to this, Arrows & Anchors because the internet buzz was that if you liked Rishloo or Coheed & Cambria, then you should check out Fair To Midland. I do like Rishloo and Coheed & Cambria. I like them a lot. So… I checked out Arrows & Anchors and really enjoyed it. It took me a while to get around to picking up this one.

Its less instant than Arrows & Anchors. Its less driving, less powerful. It takes a lot more time to soak in. Its an album you have to give a lot more time to, in order to get the same sort of return back from it. But the return is definitely there to be had.

It feels a lot longer than it is though, at forty-eight minutes it feels like its about an hour and a half in duration. Not because its bad or anything. I guess, in a way, its kind of dense. Not Neurosis dense. But still… there’s a lot to it.

I like this album a lot, but its more of an whole-album-in-one-sitting affair than the other one, it’s the kind of thing where you have to put on the whole record and pay attention to it, rather than knowing the song titles and having a favourite song. Its just as good, but its less fun, if that makes any sense.

I’ve also been re-listening to Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill album a lot recently. Its one of those albums that you always read is absolutely brilliant, but which I’ve sometimes had a bit of a grudge against.

I know that Kreator’s next three albums are brilliant, well-written catchy Thrash records with many parts that sound like Forbidden, Anthrax and Megadeth and not just grim, heavier versions of ‘Chemical Warfare’ by Slayer on repeat. For some reason though, that’s exactly how I find myself thinking about Pleasure To Kill. I think its just a constants stream of d-beats over one buzzy riff and some ’80s death-vocals, with no variety.

I think this may be because the kind of people who told me Sodom’s Obsessed By Cruelty or Sepultura’s Morbid Visions were good, were the same people who recommend this. (Two albums which I find incredibly dull, repetitive and not to my tastes, by the way). Naturally, I’m suspicious of it. It also doesn’t help that the first song (excluding the intro) is the sort of high tempo, frantic pounding sort of thing that confirms this suspicion. Also, its just one of those things were you made your mind up about it once, years ago, and it never occurred to you to challenge the notion until just now.

Recently though, I’ve been listening to it over and over, and noticing parts that don’t sound like Obsessed By Cruelty. Lots and lots of parts. Over half the damn record. It’s a really good, creative Thrash album with lots of tempo changes, breakdowns, Anthraxy parts and all that good stuff that the next three Kreator albums that I don’t write-off all have.

Woops.

Oh well; at least I know now. I paid for it, it’s a good job it turned out to be good. Even if I was late to realize it.

Maybe I’ll go back and listen to Obsessed By Cruelty and find out its just as fresh and fun as Among The Living and that this whole relentless pounding thing was all a bad dream.

You know what else I did? I listened to Dark Side Of The Moon again. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but I can’t actually remember the last time I listened to it. When I first got into Pink Floyd I listened to them so, so, so much, and watched their DVDs so, so much, that it kind of feels like, I don’t need to listen to them again sometimes. Like, I’ve listened to them so much its just imprinted in my brain forever and its redundant to listen to them any more.
Its kind of such an obvious thing to do, that I don’t even think of it anymore. Should I listen to Pink Floyd? – Well, are you alive? – Yes, I am alive – Then of course you should listen to Pink Floyd. In fact, you are probably already listening to Pink Floyd, just pay more attention.

Maybe all the Porcupine Tree and Riverside had been filling my Floydism receptors in my brain and I didn’t realize I was missing any. Anyway; I remembered to listen to them again.

What a good album. You don’t need me to tell you that. Nobody ever has to say it again. Yes; this and Led Zeppelin 4 are good albums. We know.

I enjoyed myself. I must remember to listen to Pink Floyd again. Sure, it may be for the thousandth time, but its always going to be good.

You know everything I just said about Pink Floyd? Well yeah, that again… only for Pantera. This album is so good, so fundamental to what I like about music, has so many of my favourite songs on it, that I absolutely forget to listen to it.

I’m not sure whether this, Master Of Puppets or Reign In Blood would be considered the Dark Side’ of Metal by the public, but for me, its definitely up there. I was going to start listing the things I like about this record, but it ended up being every single one of the things about this record. The only thing at all wrong with this is that ‘By Demons Be Driven’ has one chorus too many. Otherwise this is a flawless, perfect album. Every riff, every solo, every vocal line. The charming production. The performances. The variety. Its all exactly what I want out of music.

How good is the And Justice For All-sounding clean bit at the start of Hollow? How good is the heavy bit of Hollow? How good are Phil’s clean vocals on This Love? How good are Phil’s grunts, growls and screams on Fucking Hostile and Regular People? How good are the drum fills? The guitar solos?

I guess the take home message is, remember to listen to your favourite albums. They are your favourite albums, remember?