You know, it’s very rarely that I have a reason to make a retraction in a previous article, more so within the same 24 hours of posting it. Typically I’ll just go back and rewrite the sections of the article that are inaccurate or erroneous and thank the people that pointed it out. This time though, it was much more terminal.
Shortly after I posted my bit on The Scarlet Pimpernel I was taking a trip to Toronto with a friend during which he discussed the upcoming Batman storyline Death of the Family. After that discussion I felt the need to write this.
You see during my journal entry wherein I discussed the relationship between the Pimpernel and his wife it was mostly me settling my own emotions about the Spider-man story One More Day and the lackluster and rather asinine excuses given for it. If you don’t know One More Day is a comic story where Spider-Man eventually makes a deal with the devil to save his dying Aunt May by sacrificing his marriage. It was done as an attempt to freshen up the character. Everyone hated it.
Now, when my friend had told me this storyline surrounding Death of the Family he hadn’t done so as a response to my earlier journal entry, nor had we been discussing the problem of evolving storylines in comics. He was simply a fan talking about a storyline he enjoyed.
Now I know my article mostly dealt with superhero storylines evolving in terms of relationships and some might give me a mulligan on that. I don’t, because despite my arguments having some validity with the infamous “girlfriend in the fridge” syndrome, there is still evidence of evolving storylines in comics and it’s not fair of me to simply speak in generalities about the whole industry.
Especially if one of the big boys does stuff like this.
Batman: Death of the Family is a culmination of several months of early setup and arguably Batman’s entire history with his infamous nemesis The Joker. Its pages are hinting at a series of events that have already dealt irreparable harm to the status quo of their enmity to one another and may be leading up to a conclusion more satisfying then that seen in the Batman: Arkham City game.
In the events leading up to this a villain in the DC comics called Dollmaker was apprehended by the police and put into Arkham Asylum. His trait was that he would cut off parts of people and sow them back together to make dolls. In the asylum he met with the Joker who had a task for the man.
To cut his face off.
Yeah, that was my reaction too.
Joker left his dismembered face within the jail cell for some unknown reason. For a time it was believed that he had died and that Batman had done something to cause it.
Then the Joker came back.
Oh, no part of this will end well.
He took his face back from where it was kept in the Gotham Police Department (murdering many, many guards along the way) and proceeded to fasten leather straps to the skin so that he could wear it like a mask on his own face. He’s now begun a campaign of terror against Batman, highlighting in his extreme acts re-enactments of moments in their history with the promise that he deal permanent, lasting damage to his friends and family all while hinting he has at last learned the Dark Knight’s true identity.
So… yeah things are ramping up a bit aren’t they?
Now at this point you, like I probably got the idea into your head that there may be a reset down the line where the Joker returns to his typical self but then the normal Joker for DC executives isn’t the comical Adam West version, it is the messed up murdering psycho with a smile who thinks his own maligned perspective of the world is the right one. It’s not surprising since those are the stories that have always sold well and become iconic parts of the tale like Arkham Asylum, Death in the Family, The Killing Joke, etc.
Plus, the big Joker stories tend to have lasting effects on people. Jason Todd was killed by the Joker and his revival was a major plot element for DC. Barbra Gordon was paralyzed by him and she has never recovered despite the incredibly advanced technology in the DC Universe including stuff that’s within Batman’s easy reach like the Lazarus pits.
Barbra Gordon, it’s been argued, was kept paralyzed because it made her character more diverse and interesting. Not sure how offensive that statement is but I tend to ignore it. For me her staying paralyzed showed that there was lasting damage that could be done in the DC universe. It was almost as if guys like Doomsday, Darkseid, Sinestro, and the Anti-Monitor were the cosmic level threats but you learned to heal from them. Superman was revived, Darkseid’s been beaten back, the Sinestro Corps war was repelled and the Anti-Monitor, who destroyed all of reality had his work undone by a new universe that had never felt his touch.
But it’s the Joker who is the one villain you just don’t walk away from. That’s good. That creates history within comics by having a character that can do lasting harm. The annoying part is the fact that I, and I’m sure many others, didn’t know about it.
I mean, the internet knew when One More Day broke out of the pit of the abyss from which it was spawned, it knew when the new 52 was having trouble, all of that. But the good moments in comic book history are getting overlooked in recent years.
And really, I think that might be because we don’t have anyone really reviewing good comic storylines. I refer back to my argument of not having a good book review site aside from the community based Goodreads but I think that extends to comics. I think it’s a real problem that a lot of the comic reviewers out there haven’t banded together and formed a site where we can get multiple perspectives on comic issues and storylines.
There needs to be this conglomeration, otherwise comics will only be seen as vehicles for movie adaptations rather than artistic mediums in their own right.
So too does this work exist.