Saturday, July 31, 2010

Frank Miller Won't Be Writing a New Batman Story?

That's the best news I've had all day. Granted, it's still early and this is pretty easy to top. My favorite quote:

I pushed Batman as far as he can go and after a while he stops being Batman.

True. But that was around 1985 or so when you first started writing Batman as a twisted, fascistic psychopath, Mr. Miller.

Really, this idea was horrifically misguided in the first place. As Miller says, having the Riddler running around is "silly compared to what's going on out there," but how less silly is it for a DC superhero to take on a real-life situation that doesn't seem to lend itself to any kind of heroic, climactic solution? I also think a story where Batman cleans up our mess is pretty disrespectful to the actual men and women attempting to do it with their own very real blood and tears, through their own sacrifice of life and limb.

Generally speaking, unless your superhero character can handle existing in a setting full of nuance and survive open-ended, inconclusive narratives, you need to stay away from real-life social issues. The occasional "stay in school, stay off drugs, racism is a terrible thing" moral is perfectly okay within the rather limited realm of the mainstream heroic story, but if you have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman around-- well, how in the hell would there have been a "War on Terrorism" in the first place? Before you've even set down word one, you're already operating from a seriously flawed premise. These kinds of heroes deal in solutions, the slap on the back for a job well-done at the end of the day. Their milieu demands clean resolutions, or if not, a follow-up story a few years later where some continuity-minded scripter ties up the loose threads.

Imagine DC's biggest fictional asshole-- made that way by Miller himself-- running around in his gray underwear grinding his teeth, spewing "gritty" first-person narration where he makes Frank Miller's simplistic political points for him and punches out symbolic strawmen. And when you close the book feeling all badass by extension, you still have to turn on the evening news or check your email and see what went down and who continued to fight and die in the time it took you to read this silly Bat-bullshit.

Because meanwhile, in the real world, people continue to be raped and murdered, drugs are cheaper and more available than ever before, the Gulf of Mexico is full of oil, and bombs still explode in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tossing Batman into that kind of quagmire can only serve to remind us that there are no Batmen or Supermen in real life. Solutions don't come easy and some problems don't have faces to punch and make go away. It's better for DC's superheroes to stick to what they do best: beating the shit out of equally ridiculous villains and thwarting their inane schemes for world domination. To present a clean fantasy escape where the heroic ideal holds true and has value.

So I'm extremely glad Miller belatedly came to his senses... somewhat. I really can't see the original story doing much more for the rest of us than letting DC cynically generate sales via controversy and ultimately trivializing this ongoing conflict. I don't know what the new, non-Batman version will do and I don't really care.


許泓v辛 said...

Learning makes life sweet.

秀吉秀吉 said...

Learning makes a good man better and ill man worse.............................................................

Nathaniel said...

I thought he was trying to hearken back to the propaganda comics of yesteryear, wherein Captain America would punch out Hitler on a regular basis, and Batman and Robin would ride giant bombs aimed at Tojo while encouraging readers to buy war bonds.

But I think Miller gets a kind of bad rap, especially when it comes to Batman. Year One, the only one of his Batman books written to be in-continuity, portrays a very sane, compassionate Batman, especially compared to a lot of other writers' portrayals. And Dark Knight Returns is basically "what if Batman was old and crotchety." All-Star certainly portrays him as you describe, but I definitely don't think it's meant to be taken seriously. I haven't read DKSA, but it seems to be in the same vein from what I've seen.

I don't disagree that it's probably a good thing that he's not writing Batman in the story, but comics have been doing ham-handed social and political commentary since forever (I was just recently reading Judd Winick's run on Outsiders, which has a Very Special Afterschool Episode-esque arc about the evils of child slavery). It's just that Miller gets a lot more press than most of the other terrible stories.

Joel Bryan said...

The quote I read from him simply stated he wanted it to be "propaganda." Those old comics are pretty fun (even if the ones set in the Pacific tend to be unabashedly racist as well), but they were silly stories written for children; even the creators felt they were producing disposable stories.

I can see someone doing a parody of them given the recent political climate in the US, but I doubt that's what Miller has in mind. And even so, the results could be gruesome.

So I'm going to have to side with Grant Morrison on this point. But Miller's dropping of the Batman angle reduces it from an idea that actively revolts me to one that merely disinterests, like Sin City. Yawn...

On the other hand, yeah, he does get unfairly singled out. It's just that this one idea is so spectacularly bad it bears comment.