Everything you’re going to see today and tomorrow leads to a single conversation between Superman and Batman – all 40-ish pictures involving explosions and OMACs and betrayal and spying and mind control and missiles and everything else. We’ll weave five separate stories together in a coherent knot that eventually ends up on the complicated idea of personal responsibility. I know that’s not as exciting as missiles, but it’ll be more satisfying. Probably. Most likely. Let’s start with a scene from Superman #217, written by Mark Verheiden and drawn by Ed Benes. Superman and Lois are currently hanging out in Peru, helping people and reporting news and whatever else. Terrorists, already once foiled by Superman, threaten to blow up the local village’s dam. I want to proclaim that this looks like a job for you-know-who, but I cringe every time I start to write that.
It’s an OMAC! Shortened for Omni Mind And Community, they’re crazy powerful robots/cyborgs. We like to think of a superhero’s job as beating up supervillains, but a more accurate description would be saving people from supervillains. The bad guys only exist as obstacles to prevent a superhero from accomplishing his chosen bloody career path. So think of OMAC as the jammed printer that’s preventing Superman from submitting his report on time. And then think of that printer being kicked repeatedly.
I know we don’t like mopey Superman. Batman doesn’t cry or be emotionally vulnerable like the Man of Steel. But, because Superman’s perfect, he must be as sensitive as he is masculine. A real man wouldn’t be ashamed to shed tears or sit in the dark sadly when he fails since a real man has no need to impress anyone. Hence for all of Superman’s embarrassing weeping, of course he cries. It’s just one more thing he’s better at than we are.
I’m upset too. We’re moving on to a scene from The OMAC Project #2, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Jesus Saiz. Don’t worry, Batman doesn’t fail in this scene as that would be too difficult to believe. To understand the importance of what’s upcoming, we must jump back to the greatly hated DC event Identity Crisis. If I can be honest, while really dark, Identity Crisis wasn’t that bad. When Batman stumbled upon Zatanna and other members of the Justice League mindwiping the supervillain Dr. Light (to erase his knowledge of the superheroes’ secret identities), Zatanna had no choice but to mindwipe Batman as well. The Dark Knight only deals in black and white, y’know because he refuses to operate in that logical gray area of morality. In response to his friends’ betrayal, and in a move that’s a huge gray area, Batman builds a giant satellite that can spy on everything and everyone in the world, basically wiping out privacy.
Max Lord, psychic supervillain, stole the satellite. He also killed the Blue Beetle, hence why Booster Gold’s a bit upset. Note that before Blue Beetle died, he went to Batman with this information and Batman brushed him off, thus forcing Blue Beetle to confront Max Lord by himself. And Max Lord shot him, something he wouldn’t have been able to do if any of the Justice Leaguers had accompanied Blue Beetle. It’s complicated. But most importantly, Booster Gold makes a poignant observation:
It’s a strange double-edged sword. Since we as readers get a full view of Batman’s life that the other superheroes don’t, we know that of course Batman takes blame for his mistakes. He takes all the blame to the point where it’s unhealthy (ex. Jason Todd’s death). But Batman also doesn’t have the emotional capability to show vulnerability. Or show emotion or have normal human feelings or trust others. Even Superman – arguably Batman’s best friend – doesn’t get the heart-on-the-sleeve Bruce Wayne. But also, of course Batman doesn’t take blame with the others around. He doesn’t have superpowers. He’s a normal dude hanging out with gods. So the first time he admits his mistakes, he acknowledges that his contributions to the Justice League (almost entirely his detective skills and information network) might not be perfect. And then Batman’s just a normal dude in a Bat costume and certainly not the perfection incarnates (Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter) or powerful meta-humans (Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman) that he has to always competing with.
But today’s connected by a single thread: OMACs. Brother Eye (Batman’s hijacked satellite) creates OMACs, and Max Lord controls Brother Eye, both of which are the pillars of despair that will define Friday’s article. It’ll make sense, I’m pretty sure.
To be continued indeed! My convoluted conclusion next time!
We can fight our evolving pop culture as hard as our desperate little hearts can manage, but technology has caught up and surpassed comic books. The limitations of the static medium of pictures and word bubbles can’t compare to a CGI fight scene or romantic interlude or musical number or whatever TV/movies want to accomplish. Still, that’s no reason to give up. With the correct writer and artist, our chosen artistic form can create marvelous fight scenes, powerful romantic moments, and everything else you so deserve and desire. I present to you proof of that with the incredible archery fight in Green Arrow #20, written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino. You want two dudes shooting arrows at each other with the same suspenseful build up you get from watching what I assume would be a very awesome new Olympic sport? You have it. You’ll love it.
We’re in the New 52 – note Oliver Queen’s lack of Van Dyke facial hair. I’m skipping all important set up. All you need to understand the story is that the supervillain Komodo – an evil Green Arrow – is trying to kill Green Arrow. There. Comic books are pretty to understand sometimes. But these next four pages truly showcase what simple drawings can accomplish. As Green Arrow and Komodo shoot arrows back and forth at each other, you’re witnessing two vital ideas: first, in the hands of a skilled artist, a fight scene can flow just as brilliantly as any movie, and two, Green Arrow looks so much better shaven. He already has his Robin Hood gimmick; the mustache and goatee combo is a superfluous gift much better suited to a boring or non-descriptive superhero. A Van Dyke is a powerful present given to the correct face.
Have you noticed that every hero in the New 52 wears armor instead of spandex? Superman, who’s immune to everything our pitiful Earth brains could ever conceive, wears a full suit of armor. Batman’s protected by armor. So is Aquaman and the Flash. And good! If, say, our beloved Superman is going to be punched by Doomsday hard enough to slam into our moon, he should absolutely wear something beyond a thin layer of underwear. If Green Arrow, who has no powers to begin with, wants to wear protection (though sleeves for wussies, I guess), he darn tootin’ should.
Superheroes gain an unfair literary advantage in the rain. Since rain always symbolizes hopelessness or depression or frustration, our superheroes automatically enter the battlefield coated in the gloomy downside of a hopeless, depressive, or frustrated fight. So of course good triumphs over evil. The more “dark” the setting, the more victorious our superheroes’ actions become. When Green Arrow takes down Komodo with an arrow in the eye (which isn’t a spoiler as you can clearly see it below), oh, how powerful the moment becomes. It feels good. Good rocks, evil sucks.
In summary, the New 52 is awesome. I mean that with every fiber of my heart.
A year ago, I used a new banner for every new article instead of that eight page masterpiece from Ultimates 2 I’m currently using. Here they all are! Use them! Steal them! Brag that each one was your idea! If you click the banner, it’ll open a new tab to the full size (900-ish pixels by 200-ish pixels). They’re much prettier at full size. Real articles resume on Friday!
Teenagers are a giant mess of sweat, insecurity, and mistakes. That’s not even opinion; I imagine science could back me up on that. And like all non-adults, teenage superheroes – aside from still being perfect physical specimens, going through puberty with relative ease, and attracting more of the opposite sex than the school they attend combined – make terrible errors in judgement. Such as Robin today in Robin #4-5, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Tom Grummett & Ray Kryssing. He breaks up an attempted robbery, except he didn’t think through the bad guy’s full plan.
Y’see, the money’s hot, right? The cops’ll be looking for the stolen cash and armored car, so the supervillains decide to bury it in concrete for a few days before excavating it, thus losing the evidence if they get caught or whatever. So our whole story takes place in the five by ten foot enclosed square of an armored truck with Robin and Cluemaster (Spoiler/Batgirl/Stephanie Brown’s father) stuck together. It starts off pretty much how you imagine it would. Badly.
This is why superheroes are only applicable in a fictional universe. Superboy and Wonder Girl in a single punch would have been back home sleeping soundly in his barn by now. Beast Boy would have slipped out before the concrete came down. Starfire could blast her way out. And Cyborg must have dozens of methods to escape or call someone or he might not even need to breathe at all. But poor Robin has to rely on luck. His utility belt has many gadgets, but none of those pockets contain miracle guns or divine intervention lasers.
The clock indicates what time it is. It builds suspense while Spoiler runs around on the surface in the sub-story I’m not showing you. And poor Cluemaster, getting lectured by a high school sophomore. No one takes Cluemaster seriously rocking a ponytail like that. Hairstyles for supervillains must be short, normal, or outrageous, not a style blaring Nostalgia for the ’80s. But luckily as you’ll see below, Robin has learned the most important lesson one could under Batman’s teachings: blame yourself for every little thing you do wrong no matter what the situation or uncontrollable variables because you should know better always and forever.
We all know Robin isn’t going to die. It’s only issue five of his series, and DC usually waits until sales get low before they kill off their series’ main characters. Dear Robin gets saved entirely by the chaos of the comic book universe and not his own abilities. It’s an acceptable method of storytelling as having the superhero lose once in a while raises the stakes for their next battles. That’s why Superman usually battles dudes stronger, faster, and tougher than he is. Though I imagine this is a story Robin won’t be telling Batman about when he gets back to the cave.
This moment marks more than Robin’s embarrassing rescue. You’re about to witness the beginning of the Robin/Spoiler romance, despite Robin having a girlfriend and it taking thirty-ish issues before they actually become a couple – and even then, Robin won’t tell Spoiler who he is although he knows Spoiler’s real life identity. It’s a slow, drama-filled burn, like all high school relationships should be.
Four months after Batman and Punisher’s first team up, they get another shot, and Punisher even gets top billing this time. But unfortunately for our dear Frank Castle, he’s not dealing with the raving craziness of pseudo-Batman/Azrael, a man who does not prepare for everything no matter how inane and weird. But despite the real Dark Knight jumping across rooftops, the Punisher’s still hanging out in Gotham City. His only supervillain Jigsaw teamed up with the Joker to do evil stuff, so he’s going have to stay for a while. In Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knight, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson, the issue goes pretty much like you’d expect.
Batman and Punisher, each not fond of the other, get two short fights. It’s bound to happen, y’know, because the Punisher shoots people once while Batman prefers instead to have bad guys get jump kicked over and over again for decades. More importantly, without all of Azrael’s armor and claws, we’re going to get a fair fight – at least as fair a fight from two fictional characters each with rabid, loyal fan bases who’ll rise up against the opposite comic book company if their boy loses.
Look, let’s be honest: the Punisher has probably saved far more lives than Batman has. Not in terms of catching civilians from burning buildings, but just in the sheer thousands of mobsters and criminals the Punisher has taken off the street. And it is in the thousands. Every issue he mows down at least one crowded restaurant or party full of bad guys. So with the climax of the book over complete, and all Punisher has to do is clean up whatever trash remains – you know what’s going to happen in the next three pages as soon as you take a look at the first. Of course Batman’s not going to let Punisher kill Joker, and of course it’s done in a very non-Batman way, but what else could possibly happen? The end result always ends with the status quo. That’s good business.
You’re about to witness a punch so full of rage and frustration that it needed a two-page spread. But rest easy knowing that you and the Punisher likely have the same opinion of Gotham City: it’s an insane, illogical, mess of a widly broken city filled the most insane, illogical, and definitely broken people. Plus, in New York City, superheroes dress as spiders instead of bats, the way a civilized society should be.
On Friday, we’re delving into some of Iron Man’s daddy issues!
Finally, right? You know you’ve been clamoring for it – Batman does many things, but fighting non-powered dudes who shoot guns isn’t one he does often. By that I mean every ten pages as opposed to the entire issue cover to cover. But this team up carries a far different weight than the last article, due to the whole Batman and Punisher disagreeing violently over their very moral cores. So when they have their inevitable fight, it’s for real. No genital measuring contest here. Except in Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson & James Pascoe, you might notice something different about this Batman. Hint: this comic came out in 1994.
That’s right, my friends. It’s Mecha-Batman. The lunatic Azrael still reigns over Gotham City as their forced caped crusader since Bruce Wayne’s back remains still broken by Bane. Azrael’s cult brainwashing and inferior complex to the real deal drives him further into those insanity depths he jumped in long ago. But since I introduced Azrael, I’ll give you Punisher’s intro as well. Spoiler alert: religion doesn’t come up as often with him.
I know that going into “stats” or superpowers is a useless discussion. The writers determine many of the imaginary limitations for the imaginary characters, but it won’t stop me from attempting it – it’s very late, and I have space to fill. Azrael’s suit makes him stronger, tougher, and faster than Punisher. But Punisher, usually armed with only silly weapons like guns and bullets, takes on Marvel supervillains frequently enough for that to negate all of Azrael’s benefits. Plus, the Punisher fights dirty. Don’t go expecting a long drawn out ordeal – it’s a six page fight – but I hope it’s bloody enough to satisfy your superhero bloodlust.
Punisher isn’t cheating. He thinks he is, but he’s not. If Mecha-Batman can use super strength and giant claws to fight a man clad in just spandex, it’s not against the rules if the Punisher pulls out a pistol. Actually, the fight should have probably started this way. And also, since when is the Punisher against cheating? The only reason the team up had to include Punisher’s baddie Jigsaw is because Jigsaw is the only bad guy Punisher has. He has a rogue gallery of one. His oppenets tend not to last more than single issue when Punisher’s modus operandi is to murder them. Almost always by cheating.
Good news. There’s a second team up, and Punisher fights the correct Dark Knight next time. We’ll read it next time to finish up our crossover articles, as it’s hard to find enthusiasm for all those Silver Surfer team ups.
[Ed. Note: I’m feeling better. I promised myself I would get to 500 articles, so I hope you’ll enjoy the final fifty articles as much as I’ll enjoy writing them! Until I’m back to 100%, I’m going to cut down to two articles a week – I appreciate your support far more than you would ever imagine.)
Last time the Man Without Fear and the Dark Knight crossed pathes, they basically spent the entire issue seeing who had the bigger wiener. We all know the winner: Superman. His perfection doesn’t end at the belly button, my friends. In their second team up, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York, Daredevil begins our story by traveling the mysterious dimensional gap of DC/Marvel cities to Gotham City. I know the story’s called King of New York. Just go with me here.
Daredevil’s following Catwoman, who stole something valuable or whatever. But because all good team ups must begin with fisticuffs, Batman’s going to show up to wreck whatever information party Daredevil hoped to figure out. Cue the initial brawl:
These two constantly seem to forget that they’re normal dudes who can’t do stuff like fly or land safely on the ground without transforming into superhero goo. And while I know Daredevil attempted to interrupt Batman, the crooks are going to figure out who’s on their tail when Daredevil tackles his superhero counterpart in clear view while they both fall to their deaths. Truthfully, Daredevil’s actions only serve for us to witness a cool acrobatic free-for-all between Batman and him. And it’s awesome. I never need context for stuff like that.
Thus begins round two of their big wiener contest. The stakes are just as high as last time (nothing). But here’s the summary of their current squabble: both Gotham City and New York City are awful places that create the most unnecessarily toughest people to ever walk the comic book universe. But it’s their super awful places.
The story takes Daredevil’s bad guy Kingpin and Batman’s bad guy Scarecrow to New York City where the Scarecrow plans to unleash a mega bomb of fear toxin that will destroy the tough people of New York City. Earlier, Kingpin betrayed Scarecrow – y’know, because they’re both supervillains and that’s why every time the Injustice League gets formed, it eventually dissolves into infighting and misery – and now Kingpin’s getting his revenge. These next two pages aren’t important to the story, but they’re important for my heart and soul.
As required in a team up, our two superheroes face their buddy’s supervillain. I’m skipping Batman versus Kingpin, but only because the Daredevil versus Scarecrow fight is so much better. The baddie can’t beat Daredevil in a fistfight, so he has to use that magical fear gas of his. But Daredevil’s the Man Without Fear, right? See? I told you their fight was better.
Victory for our heroes, who never meet again. Luckily, I found a bunch of other crossovers, so next time we’ll have Batman team up with another Marvel superhero. Hint: this one doesn’t banter or smile. He only wears shirts with white skulls. His name starts with “P” and ends with “-unisher.”