Batman Knightcast 10: BATMAN #405

Batman Year One continues! Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin review Batman #405, the second chapter in the epic retelling of the Caped Crusader’s origin story. Plus, listener feedback, and gifts from our wonderful listener(s).

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Land of Confusion” by Genesis.

Thanks for listening!

34 responses to “Batman Knightcast 10: BATMAN #405

  1. At first I was irritated by this episode’s lateness, couldn’t Thelma Schoonmaker here get off his butt and finish editing it on time? But it ended up working out because it dropping in the evening meant I had to listen to when I went on this morning’s run. So thanks for coming along with me.

    After the debacle of BATMAN AND ROBIN, there was a rumor that Darren Aronovsky would be helming a BATMAN YEAR ONE movie. I remember thinking that the “None of you are safe” sequence would have made a perfect trailer for such a movie–you wouldn’t need to show anything else, just this scene, in full, ending with Bats putting out the lights. Cut to a title card: BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Who wouldn’t have seen that movie?

    Speaking of, I truly believe that scene is one of Batman’s finest, coolest moments, in a career full of writers and artists trying to deliver such signature moments. It’s not Batman breaking anyone’e face, or chasing the Joker or Penguin (which are, after all, merely symptoms of Gotham’s corruption), but instead the Dark Knight going after the powerful and “untouchable” elements of Gotham society. He scares the living guano out of them, which is 90% of Batman’s job. The rest is just finding the evidence and leaving the baddies tied to the lamppost outside GCPD headquarters.

    I loved that shot of Batman stuffed under Harvey Dent’s desk; Miller doesn’t bother showing us they are in chaoots but it makes perfect sense; it also gives Batman a moment of looking less than imposing. It’s not all standing in front of the moon looking like a demon.

    I love the notion of Batman buying his gear at Lowe’s, I’m sure he was happy when they installed self-checkout. I genuinely laughed out loud at the mini-play you two performed, which, had anyone been around while I was running in the dark of night, might have seemed really creepy.

    Chris’ imitation of Minnie Mouse ala the Killing Joke was deeply upsetting.

    Regarding the feedback, I mostly disagree with the notion that the Scarecrow story from ‘Tec 571 should have been two issues. If anything, I think MOST Batman stories should be one and dones, these villains are all gimmick based and I think giving them multi-issue “arcs” stretches their respective premises (premisi?) too far.

    Also, if Frank is looking for other great/memorable Scarecrow stories, I point him to B&B #197, by Ala Brennert and Joe Staton. A classic (of course it is).

    Great episode, you guys have been on a real run lately. Of course, you’ve had superb material to discuss.

    1. I was really hopeful for Afronsky’s Batman Year One movie. When it died I was sad. Of course Batman Begins was a similar idea, but I was hoping for a more straight-up adaptation.

      Of course I love B&B #197, but I think that fits into the category of the Scarecrow stories where he’s almost more of a plot device than a character.

      Chris

      1. If you were hoping for a straight adaptation then you should be counting your lucky stars that Aronofsky’s version didn’t get past the scripting phase. Though it was going to be called “Batman: Year One,” it had MASSIVE differences from pretty much any version of Batman up to that point. The biggest ones included the facts that after his parents’ death, Bruce loses his fortune and becomes homeless, and Alfred is reimagined as an African American who runs an auto-shop and takes Bruce under his wing. Also the Batmobile was going to be a Lincoln Continental.

  2. I feel like Gordon in Dark Knight Returns when I try to write coherent comments about this book. ‘It’s just too big.’ How do you comment on a book that basically is perfect?

    So thank you guys for doing a great job reviewing this.

    Like Rob, I think that ‘your feast is over’ scene is THE scene from this book. And yes, it would be a perfect trailer. That is who Batman is. But there is that humanizing by seeing him take out the chauffeurs and set up the fog lamp. Brilliant.

    Mazzucchelli is just masterful here. It is funny that Chris brings up the panel with Batman being shot in the leg. There are almost no lines in that panel but you feel Batman stumble from that. So much action is just implied in the art that makes it just incredible. The same with Batman diving to save the bag lady.

    As you say, there is a feeling of hope and rising above the grime in this whole series. Gordon not killing the maniac. Batman grabbing the young thief that was going to fall over the fire escape even though he opens himself up to a beating. Even later when Batman singles out the cop who wanted to shoot the stray cat. It shows that these two are trying to elevate the city which is sinking.

    Love all of this book.

    1. I’ll be honest Anj, when I first sat down to read issue one to review, I felt the same way. But once I made peace with the fact that I was just going to gush about it unabashedly, the deeper thoughts just flowed.

      I love the cat scene, and we get to that next month, so I’m all kinds of excited.

      Chris

  3. For real, Ryan Daly? Batman left Time Drake clues so he could become Robin? When did this happen? This is some midichlorian bullshit.

    The best part about Gotham is that the Rogues will be so old by the time Bruce Wayne comes of age to become Batman, that the ravages of time will do more physical damage to the Rogues’ bodies than Batman ever could. It’s not so heroic to rough up a bunch of AARP members is it, old chums?

    Do you guys like Vicki Vale? Who’s the least interesting love interest: Vicki Vale or Julie Madison?

    1. I believe the retcon with Tim only learning Batman’s identity because Bruce *wanted* him to find out was told in TEEN TITANS #0 from the New 52 era.

      1. As much as I love Alex Ross, I curse him coming up with the Red Robin moniker, and them saddling Tim with it. Every time his name is uttered, I have to respond “Yummmmm!”

        Chris

          1. Insisting Plastic Man and Captain Marvel were in the classic JLA, but Firestorm wasn’t is another one. I’m obligated to mention that one by my F&W contract. 😉

            Chris

  4. Chris, I loved your Kevin Smith comments! Ryan, yeah, I didn’t realize the BTO connection to the rock band until later; wasn’t sure if anyone else would notice. Yes, I like the band! Fine stuff, gentlemen!

  5. Thanks to this episode, now I’ll be hearing Bobcat-man reciting the “I want you to remember this, Clark” speech from DKR. And trying not to imaging a Killing Joke pantomime w/ Minnie and Black Pete in a Hawaiian.

    Begins is my favorite of the Nolan trilogy despite its imperfections. You touched on one of them when you credited the equal footing Gordon and Bats have starting out in Year One. In the film, Gordon wasn’t getting the right people angry so much as resigned to the status quo until Batman uplifted him.

    1. Maybe I’m alone but I kind of like the idea of a resigned Gordon, for a couple of reasons. The first being that I’ve always just liked the idea of somebody who knows they can’t fix the screwed up world they live in but is just going to try to be the best person they can within that screwed up world. I just enjoy that as a character dynamic in general. But additionally I like the idea of Bruce refiring a passion that Gordon probably once had but has lost. The one thing I will say is that having Gordon put the coat on young Bruce is a step further than I care for, because it’s the kind of unneeded connection that makes the world feel smaller.

      1. I see where you’re coming from. Reminds me of seasoned beat cop Malone in THE UNTOUCHABLES, who looks back on younger years when Elliot Ness tries drafting him.

  6. Great job, guys. I responded to your previous Year One review, in order to express my thoughts about what I see as the weakness of the story. I stated that it is a great comic book, but not a great Batman story. I have been thinking about it since then. What I dislike about this particular story is the amount of time Bruce is absent from Gotham. The more that I thought about it, the more I think that Bruce needs a person in his life to be his moral guidepost, who is not Alfred. We are shown in this issue that Batman takes pains, literally, to not kill, and to save lives. This is above and beyond the easy-description of “revenge-seeking costumed vigilante.” In the story Gordon recognizes this, and it is crucial for the development of that relationship. What I, the reader, miss is the background. Ever since 1988, the Batman’s origin stresses his travels and his fighting training. Not his moral and humanitarian education. In my previous letter, I lamented the absence of figures from previous continuities, like Leslie Tomkins, Mrs. Chilton, and Uncle Phillip. I only know of Uncle Phillip from the brief mention in Untold Legends of the Batman, but I have been thinking about what a great character he could be in Bruce’s development. He could be someone who may not be terribly emotional, so there is always a kind of distance between him and Bruce, but eminently practical as well as a bit jaded. He is the one who teaches Bruce how to present himself in public, at formal events, as an heir to a great fortune, while also letting Bruce know how much of an act it is. How one speaks and how one dresses is how one will be judged in many places. Perhaps he is the one who starts Bruce questioning the value of organized crime-fighting. Not that he would openly deride the police force or FBI, but subtly get Bruce to question where he would fit in such organizations. Uncle Phillip could show Bruce the value of morality, the importance of honor, and having a moral code, with, perhaps, a healthy skepticism to organized religion and other such institutions.
    I think this is what is missing from the Batman origin. (I have not watched any of the Gotham TV show. If there is a non-Alfred role model at Wayne manor, let me know.) Soon, in the story under review, Gordon is going to meet Bruce Wayne, and not be impressed. But, how does Bruce know how to act the fop? Convincingly? He still needs to know what champagne to order, which labels to wear, as well as which stocks to buy. That’s what he learns from staying in Gotham with Uncle Phillip. He susses out early on, once he has determined he can’t fulfill his mission from within the system, that he needs to have some sort of built-in alibi to cover his crime-fighting work. He then begins to construct “Bruce Wayne, billionaire” to be that cover.
    That’s what is missing from this story. Bruce Wayne, Year One.

  7. I had to watch a great spoof that College Humor did where Batman was choosing his voice, because I didn’t remember if Bobcat Goldthwait was one of them he tried out. It’s not, but the fact that John Malkovich is one he tried makes it worth seeking out if you haven’t seen it yet!

    It was nice to hear the love for Michael Bradley’s Superman and Batman Podcast. I also hope that returns! He also co-hosted a great show covering the golden age adventures called Legends of the Batman, which covered year one, as in 1939!

    You’re killing it with the songs you’re choosing! Part of me hopes you play at least one Exodus song when you get to your Year Two coverage!

    1. Was that the same sketch where he started out with a squeaky voice because it sounded more like a bat? College Humor had a whole running thing with their idiot version of Batman in the wake of Dark Knight, and they used that voice as the leaping off point.

  8. What is there to say about this issue? It’s great, so I don’t have much to add. Instead I’m going to latch one something you only talked about briefly and springboard into a tangential rant (see? I’m self aware so that makes it ok.)

    I’m going to do something that’s become a bit of a pastime in the last couple of years: defend the show Gotham. But I’m taking a different tact this time from my usual line of “for crying out loud, it’s a straight up elseworlds, stop bitching about how it doesn’t fit any existing continuity,” and instead fight you on the idea that Batman’s villains existing before he does doesn’t work.

    The thing is, not only is the “did Batman create his own rogue’s gallery?” thing played out to death at this point, it actually gives rise to one of the issues I’ve seen you both and many other fans have with the character and how he’s been shown in recent decades. I’ve heard plenty of fans bitch about how these days Batman amounts to more of a psychotic thug when he’s not being the world’s richest paranoid. The thing is, him existing before his villains feeds into that and I feel is part of why the character can’t seem to shake it off. Because, to put it simply, no rational person looks at the affects of corruption, organized crime and urban blight and thinks “what this city needs is a giant bat.” That’s the thinking of a crazy person. You can try to back it up with backstory about theatricality and trauma all you want, but that is an insane conclusion no matter how you spin it. BUT, if the city has already given rise to a criminal element that is patently insane, theatrical and over the top then a person stepping up to that but as a force for justice becomes a more reasoned response to the world they live in. It makes Batman less crazy.

    Now, is this the angle Gotham is actually going for? Hell if I know, I’m not caught up on the current season. But I’d like you to at least consider the possibility that shaking up Batman’s timeline in terms of when some things happen in Gotham could have a net positive affect on the character.

  9. Ok, soapbox back out. Let me just get up on this thing. Sorry, takes me a second. It’s the heels. Ok here we go. Wait, bullhorn. Ok, got it. *clears throat* FUCK that “no, Selena was never a sex worker” retcon.

    Thank you for your time… oh, maybe I should explain that sentiment? Alright then. I mentioned in my comment last time that I’m kind of two minds on making Selena a sex worker, so understand that I’m not defending it as some kind of brilliant move. So why attack the retcon? Because of how it demonizes the sex work profession and female sexuality in general. Even if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of Catwoman being a sex worker (notice, I’m not saying hooker, you can see my comment on the last episode for the reason behind that) the idea that it’s so egregious as to require being retconned infuriates me. Why? Because nearly any other past transgression is forgivable for superheroes. We have substance abusers in the forms of Tony Stark and Speedy. So drug addiction in the past is fine. We have thieves in the form of Black Cat, Catwoman herself and so many others. We’ve got rapists either borderline like Daken (thanks to pheromones affecting those around him,) or the full on genuine article like Talia al Ghul. And that’s not even getting into all the straight up murderers who are counted among the good guys. All of these are things which are seen as either acceptable or redeemable.

    But a woman engaging in sex work? Using their sexuality to advance or survive? Even if so much of that character’s look and appeal has been built on BDSM imagery and dynamics for years? Even if they’re an anti-hero at best? Nope, there’s no coming back from that kind of history. It’s the ultimate stain. Better to erase that altogether. Yeah sure, Tony Stark killed an ambassador and drank himself to the point of becoming a danger to himself and all those around him, but he felt REALLY bad about it guys! And maybe that’s the thing. Selena would never apologize for her past, and maybe when DC realized they couldn’t ever spin an after school special out of her sex work background they decided to scrub it. Or maybe it was just a knee-jerk reaction to whiny fans. But regardless of the reason, fuck them for doing it. If they decided they didn’t like the backstory anymore they could have just not brought it up again.

    Ok, I think I’m done now. Oh, damn almost forgot my soap box. I never know when I’m going to need it again.

  10. Hi Vera, I can’t speak for others but I hated Selina as sex worker because she had an incredibly well established history. Tony as alcoholic, Speedy as drug addict… they didn’t stem from a rebooted continuity, they were progressions of the existing characters. But Selina as whatever the heck she was (and ‘prostitute’ was how I read it)? Nope, I like that about as much as I liked Jason suddenly being a juvenile delinquent, Lex Luthor as Perry White’s childhood friend rather than Clark’s, Steve Trevor as much older than Diana and Tim Drake not discovering Batman and Robin’s secret IDs for himself. Nothing to do with her being a sex worker.

    Anyway, great episode as ever, chaps. I actually like the original magenta on that splash page, there has to be some colour in Batman’s world, elsewise the darkness has no meaning.

    I know it’s fundamental to the Batman identity but I can’t believe that even in 1939 any criminal would mistake a guy in tights with a cape for a giant bag. Now if he had fur and a scary mask and actual wings… yeah, Man-Bat would do it. We just have to accept it.

    1. Martin,

      I get the fan disappointment with the change, and if I came off as railing against the fans that wasn’t my intent. I was railing against the creators for the retcon of the new origin. Part of it’s a pet peeve. It just bothers me when creators make a change fans don’t roll with, but rather than finding a way to make it work they just re-write history instead. It’s the lazy solution and speaks to a lack of conviction in the original idea. Rather than make lemonade out of lemons they’d rather storm back to the store and yell at the clerk going “I didn’t really want this lemon! I demand my money back so I can buy a Mars bar instead!” It’s childish. You made the call, now figure out how to make it work or how to use it as a leaping off point for forward progress. And yes, I know revolving door creators complicates the issue, but just the practice of “no worries, we’ll erase what we don’t like” gets to me in general.

      So when you add to the fact that the retcon speaks to what I feel are misogyny issues as well, then you’ve got a perfect storm that demands the soapbox and the bullhorn. Well, maybe not demands it, but I’m busting them out anyways. Again, for fans who didn’t like the initial change: I feel for you. I get it. But for the writers who took the lazy “solution” and didn’t consider the bigger implications of what they were doing: I stand by my original “fuck this retcon.”

  11. I go on for paragraphs about how great Batman #404 was, and not a word of that gets into the podcast. Doesn’t play into your Negative Nelly narrative, huh? I am whatever you say I am! Fake news! Remember Bowling Green!

    So I’ll try again with #405, which begins with a tense, engaging, satisfying Jim Gordon hostage situation mini-story spanning just three pages! Jump to the fire escape sequence, which runs only two-and-a-half pages, but offers a conflict so engrossing that the reader is there feeling the blows and strain before sharing the relief in the encounter’s resolution. The economy of storytelling here is amazing! Barbara Gordon and Sarah Essen are a few well placed lines on a piece of paper, yet they live and breathe and are beautiful and intoxicating (and goddamn supposed feminist Greg Rucka for killing off one of them to play out a retread of Se7en to wrap No Man’s Land with a damp squib of a bang.)

    I love the shot of a bullet passing through Batman’s cape being perceived as a point blank to “its” chest by Flass, selling the fantasy as a believable reality. I really appreciate the scans from the original comics, which features a jarring but still valid and interesting take on the colors. That said, they’re rooted very specifically in the 1980s, while the watercolors in the collections are perfect and timeless. I especially adore the chemical spill across Gill’s dinner party, suggesting the altered consciousness of the glutenous rich in their element before the Dark Knight’s black shadows and grays crush their high.

    The second chapter isn’t quite as good as the first specifically because of the last six pages, which feel gratuitous compared to how impossibly tight the rest of the script was, and ends of a cliffhanger besides. That said, those six pages are still better than many whole trades I’ve read this year, so let’s keep perspective on their “fault.”

    One of my pet projects/thought experiments has been the notion of a series of weekly maxi-series ala 52 telling the beginnings of the DC Universe in a modern/timeless context, initially from the perspective of the DC Trinity. Batman has tended to be my sticking point, because of my strong dislike of the character, especially in the post-Year One environment (with its dense exploration in titles like Legends of the Dark Knight.) However, I found that emphasizing the role of Robin and figuring out how that character could conceivably function in a contemporary setting reflects the opinions stated here by Nathaniel Wayne and Ward Hill Terry. Gotham has to already be crazy enough to birth a Batman, and raising Bruce Wayne requires a village so that no one person (poor Alfred) takes the blame for how he turns out. Who lets the butler raise their kid alone? Who lets a playboy and his butler raise a newly orphaned child? You need characters like Leslie Thompkins and Lucius Fox to make sense of all that. We need to spend less time with Batman and more time with Bruce Wayne.

    I did a whole podcast on Killing Joke, and yet just now realized that I may have missed a major point in its favor. I’ll have to re-listen, and then possibly wait anxiously for your coverage to comment.

    I’m mostly with Vera Wylde on the sex worker angle. I’ve known my share of people who’ve been in the business (and while I wouldn’t agree, a more prudish person might have lumped boring old me into the periphery of that field.) Many a domme would take serious issue with being labeled a prostitute, and if you never lay a finger on a client, it sure sounds like a reach as a practical matter of mechanics. All of which is besides the point, that whatever issues Frank Miller seems to have with women, there’s a fair amount of key material pointing toward Selina Kyle having done something strongly resembling sex work. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and it certainly suits and layers the character. I agree that getting hung up over that can come down to patriarchal bullshit, and it’s okay if a creator just doesn’t want to explore that material, but more questionable if they actively expunge it. The retcon is there if you want to aggressively negate the issue in your head cannon, but it may be wise to take a moment to figure out why this is such a big issue for some fans. I won’t lie and say I don’t have my own problems with it, given my acceptance of so many high crimes being peddled as kids fare in Batman funny books. I just hope they come from a place of character and canon as opposed to some puritanical element in my brain that I wouldn’t want to take ownership of. But also, speaking of the previously referenced Leslie Thompkins, some creative mistakes are just too egregious and need to be eradicated from any form of continuity.

    I saw Batman Begins theatrically, then years later bought it on DVD at a garage sale for $2. I have yet to successfully rewatch the movie without falling asleep or otherwise tuning out. It is not Year One.

    There are enough super-heroes with reporter ladyfriends. Just say no to Vicki Vale. Also, Captain Marvel and Plastic Man have no place on the Justice League. Go form your own club!

  12. Forgot to say thanks for running the Diana Prince promo. This show’s commercial was in a cut of the first episode of Spawnometer (it went through three distinct edits) but was ultimately dropped to keep the show under an hour. Confident Knightcast will get a shout out in 0:0:0:2, though!

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