Batman Knightcast 8: BATMAN #404

Batman Year One beginsRyan Daly and Chris Franklin review Batman #404, the first part of the groundbreaking reimagining of the Dark Knight’s origin by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins; “In the Air Tonight (Live)” by Phil Collins.

Thanks for listening!

42 responses to “Batman Knightcast 8: BATMAN #404

  1. All right starting year one
    First thing glad that se you enjoyed the lego batman movie definitely my favorite can’t wait to buy it on DVD abd see more characters do the stuff in the background

    Year one I remember when after reading dark knight returns that year one was advertised on the back of the book I wanted the check that out when I did i remember not liking it as much
    Felt to wordy and it kept changing focus to Gordon of course when i reread it a couple years later I got what miller was going with
    It definitely feels like a early preview of what he would do with sin city
    When reading my mind went to the bits from mask of the phantasm when Bruce gose out in a ski mask to stop some criminals which looking back must have been the first attempt using some of the year on aspects in another media

    The catwoman bits with her new orgin
    It’s really a product of its time I can see the whole sex kitten thing and with Bruce being stabbed abd beat was to show that things were not as simple as just beating up the pimp and things were going through be ok.
    I’m not that big a fan of it but I don’t really mind it too much though I feel it should have probably stayed in this book but like all things that get popular it found it’s way into the other books
    Holly I think was brought onto the comics as a replacement catwoman at one point later on in the comics but don’t think she ever became that popular kind of intersting with what they tried to do with her.

    The book is very cinematic which is probably why so many of the movies cribbed from it
    There is so much good stuff in it
    Though my favorite has to be the beat down Gordon gives flass the way Is lit and the how it’s shadowed is really great definitely reminiscent of millers ronin.

    Also good choice with Phil Collins definitely set the right mood especially when the bat crashes in

    Another great episode.

  2. Of COURSE, Gordon is the protagonist, and it was more important to him as a character than it really was for Batman himself. Without Year One, would there be a Gotham TV show? Would there have been a GCPD comic? If you’re trying for an” urban myth” Batman, then you could do a lot worse than show the bat through someone else’s eyes.

    I agree Year One is better than The Dark Knight Returns, and not just because the latter was copied for all the wrong reasons. A much more sophisticated work.

    Catwoman’s new origins as a sex worker are part of Miller’s interest in film noir and pulp, but is unfortunate especially with hindsight. Another trope that was copied and caused damage to many many female characters was to put a sexual trauma in their background. Miller, like Moore in Watchmen, was a groundbreaker, but some of that ground they broke needs to be fixed.

  3. I love Year One. This was a mature look at the origin and Mazzucchelli’s art is perfectly suited for it. It is noir at its finest. And I think that somehow, with few lines, Mazzucchelli conveys so much.

    Like Siskoid, I think this is Gordon’s story primarily. We see how the two become a team. But really Gordon is the axle this story revolves around.

    I know it isn’t all seen in this first issue but we see stuff in here which is pulled forward into DKR. From Sarah to Batman saying ‘lucky amateur’ (he says ‘lucky old man’ in DKR). They feel like bookends.

    As a younger reader, I loved DKR more. But now I find myself rereading Year One much more.

    Looking forward to the rest of the chapters.

  4. I bet this episode gets extra listeners, one of the most famous comic stories of all time discussed by two of the smartest, most affable chaps in podcasting – just told!

    Given how many times creators have gone back to the Year One well, has anyone ever told us what Alfred was doing for the 12 years Bruce was away, given this is the first time Alfred is the family butler rather than the butler’s son who gave up his acting career after Robin came on the scene. Dark Knight school courses?

    Well done on timing the In the Air Tonight beats, I take it you don’t have the chocolate bar TV commercial with a gorilla playing the drum part in the US? That’s all I could picture!

    Chris blew my mind with his observation about the three cover figures making a bat signal. Not seeing it, but well done

    I love the art but Commissioner Loeb was a tad overripe in his design, looking like a hairy arse wearing a pair of glasses. Hang on, sorry, art talk next time!

    I always hated the bit about Selina being a prossie, it seems to be more about Miller than Batman and Catwoman.

  5. I loved Year One. It was heartbreaking and a wonderful cousin to Daredevil: Born Again. I think it also cemented Mazzuchelli as THE Batman artist for me.

    It also made me see how vital Gordon was to everything.

    But the Catwoman as prostitute thing was not something that ever sat well with me. It “fit” tonally, but completely negated the “thrill seeking cat burglar” role she filled for so long. I get that Miller was using noir archetypes, but surely he could have treated one one of the oldest rogues in Batman’s history better than that. I suppose Selina’s treatment in DKR just cements Miller’s attitude toward this character. Kind of shameful and huge black mark on an otherwise amazing miniseries.

  6. Hi guys! I have been binge listening to the Knightcast and am loving it! I am now all caught up. These issues are right in my wheelhouse. I started picking up Batman and Detective Comics at my two local grocery stores (only places in my little rural town to buy comics) right around the time of the Crisis on Infinite Earths and I remember the issues you have been covering fondly. Some in the very near future, maybe not as fondly – one in particular.

    Anyway on to Batman #404. Several random thoughts and a question follow.

    Loved Mazzucchelli’s art. Looking at in now, 30 years later, I love it even more. As Chris stated several times, it was really different and groundbreaking for the time. I remember that it looked very different than anything else I was then reading.

    I was interested in your discussion about the fact that there is no super-villain in this story. Very true. Though maybe not an overt “super-villain”, I always thought of Gotham City itself as the villain of this piece. The culture of the city is one of crime and corruption and that overriding culture in many ways permeates the Batman mythos to this day. Changing or correcting that culture is, I think, one of Batman’s ongoing motivations. In fact, it might be said that that culture (along with maybe Batman himself?) was what bred the local super-villains. Because of how ingrained in the stories its dysfunction has become, Gotham City may be the one villain Batman would never be allowed to truly defeat (from a pure story perspective, not marketing or sales – long live the Joker!).

    Being in 80’s mode, when looking at the very last panel on page 20 (where Bruce is sitting in the chair looking at the bust of his father just before the bat flies in), I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Maxell “Blown away guy” advertisement.

    About the idea of Batman using lower level criminals to get information. I have always thought he would do that, as well as use some regular people on the street in Gotham as sort of an information gathering network. Those people would just sort of blend into the background and wouldn’t necessarily attract undue attention (where a guy dressed up like a bat certainly would). Sort of a group of “Gotham City Irregulars” akin to Sherlock Holmes’ “Baker Street Irregulars”.

    On Oracle becoming the detective for Batman. I think that was probably very true at least in the eyes of the writers. But in real detection, I think there still has to be ground work. The computer work can give context and lend background but I don’t think it would be able to totally replace on scene investigation, deduction, and the fluidity of following up on subsequent leads. The Sherlock tv show does a great job of showing the use of the information superhighway in detection while combining it with great ground level detection and deduction skills. If I am remembering correctly, I once heard Michael Bailey and Andy Leyland discuss something similar regarding the long absence of the Riddler in comics. They surmised that it just became too difficult for the writers to come up with clever riddles and then clever ways for Batman to solve them. Or at least only very special writers could do it well. Maybe the same could be said about writers trying to write about Batman as a detective month in and month out. It just became a challenge they didn’t feel they could meet so Oracle became an easier way to write the detective work. Then they could focus on other aspects of the story. I mean no offense to the writers by saying that. Meeting a monthly deadline like they have and trying to keep up with the pressure that there has to be to keep up quality and sales on a Batman book can’t be easy. All that being said, I really like Batman being the world’s greatest detective and I really wish we could see him flex those muscles more often.

    Catwoman as a prostitute. My thoughts mirror David Gutierrez above. Though I understand where Miller’s character change came from, I just prefer, as David articulated, the “the trill seeking cat burglar” version of the character. In many ways, I would like the thrill seeker version even more in the world that Miller created here because that version would be such a decided contrast to all the other characters we see and get to know in this story.

    My question: Why was the Batman Year One story not published in a separate mini-series?

    As much as I LOVED this story, it just seemed to struggle to fit in with the other stories that were published in Detective and Batman since the Crisis up to that point. The updated Superman had the Man of Steel, a separate mini, as a launching pad. The updating of Wonder Woman was in her ongoing series, but it started with a new number one. This story was great, but I kind of feel that it would have been less confusing (characterization wise) if Detective and Batman had finished up their story arcs then been put on hold for a couple of months while Batman Year One was published as a mini-series. From there, move forward with Detective and Batman telling stories that fit in with the new origin and with a more definitive and unified direction and characterization. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. Honestly, I really had no such issues at the time!

    Yikes! Sorry, I just realized how long and rambling this post got. I really got in a groove there. After re-reading Batman #404 for the first time in many years and then listening to your awesome discussion, I really got fired up I guess!

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Don’t apologize Scott. We love the comments! I’m guessing one of the reasons Batman: Year One ran in the regular Batman title was just scheduling. O’Neil seemed to be struggling with content to fill the books, so he had this project going for four months…that’s four months of the Batman title he didn’t have to worry about! It does seem odd now, but it did help birth the “mini-series within a series” which eventually became what we no call a “story arc” which of course is what fuels all the TPBs we get today!

      Chris

  7. Exceptional episode, Ryan & Chris! A huge feat to tackle this story and y’all did it justice. Great job!

    Such an amazing story! Probably my favorite Batman tale of all time! Very quick random thoughts on issue #1:
    – To this day, when I see cough drops with Eucalyptus, I still think of Commissioner Loeb. *shiver*
    – Bruce Wayne kicking through a tree and punching through bricks. What?!? Effective visual, but what?!?
    – Selina as a prostitute never sat well with me, but probably more because of my age when I read this. Now I’m not really bothered by the reimagining of Selina at all.
    – The image of Bruce’s bloody hand and the bell freaked me out when I was younger. Maybe because it represented just how hurt Bruce was, and how close he was to death. Still gets me.
    – You mentioned how Frank Miller ramped up the Bat crashing through the window (originally just flew through the window, but here it crashes through the window). Batman’s origin first appeared in Detective Comics #33 (November 1939). Doctor Mid-Nite’s origin first appeared in All-American Comics #25 (April 1941). While Batman’s origin was published first, Doctor Mid-Nite’s origin featured an owl crashing through the window (rather than flying in). I wonder if Miller was influenced by Doctor Mid-Nite’s origin. Mid-Nite was a rip-off of Batman, so it would be like a snake eating it’s own tail. Sort of like Rorschach was a rip-off of The Question, but The Question eventually became a rip-off of Rorschach.
    – Wow, the color palette in the collected edition really does seem very Zack Snyder like!!
    – I’m glad you touched on YEAR ONE being embedded within the ongoing Batman series, as opposed to MAN OF STEEL and the relaunch of WONDER WOMAN. Nowadays that’s almost impossible to believe that DC published it this way. However, it certainly was a great way to boost Batman’s monthly sale figures!
    – Any plans to discuss the animated movie of this story?

    Now, gotta brag. One of the first collected editions I ever got was the First Printing of YEAR ONE hardcover. It was a gift from my mother. She knew I liked Dark Knight Returns (another early trade purchase) and bought this for me based upon the comic shop owners recommendation. She thought the $12.95 cover price was insanely high, but bought it anyway. Then in the mid-90s I met Frank Miller and got him to sign it. One my treasured comic collections!

    Again, great episode! You really are helping me relive my Batman Phase. Thank you!

  8. One more thing… Somewhere I picked up this sticker around 1988. It remained stuck (and displayed proudly) on my dresser mirror for nearly 20 years. It was only removed from the mirror when my daughter was born and the dresser was put in her bedroom. Damn kids ruin everything.

    1. You’ve made a lot of progress today Shag. Sharing these things with us today is getting you one step closer to realizing your “Batman Phase” theory is mere delusion.

      But seriously, I’m insanely jealous. I remember seeing that sticker somewhere…but I can’t seem to place it. Fantastic stuff!

      Chris

      1. Well, it was a very LONG Batman phase. And it’s still a cherished time for me!! 1989 thru around 1996. After I dropped Batman/Detective, I continued with Robin, Nightwing, and Birds of Prey for another 10 years (finally giving out around 2006). I did drop back in for the occasional storyline, like the amazing NO MAN’S LAND.

        1. SPOILER WARNING: I’m not a big fan of No Man’s Land. COLLECTIVE GASP.

          I just couldn’t buy it in the DCU. I know they played lip service to WHY the other heroes didn’t help out more, but I still call B.S.

          Chris

          1. I agree with you (again???), Franklin. NML doesn’t make any sense in the context of the greater DCU. The idea that just because it’s “Batman’s City” and under his care doesn’t discount the fact that people were unsheltered, starving, and dying. But the complicated shared universe nature of comics has always made this sort of thing a problem. I know this is maybe a bit off-topic – or maybe you guys will get to this when Ryan’s son turns 30 – but a reader’s suspension of disbelief really gets stretched during these sort of storylines. There was that one story where Clark Kent visits NML and gets the usual “I got this” from Batman and leaves. Then there was that JLA story that has the League stopping Locus or some villain group from taking over NML. Big help, but what about feeding and clothing those Gothamites? Then, there was that Huntress story where she asks where the JLA is in all this NML nonsense, and some League member tells her she’s representing the League! Solves everything.

            This isn’t to say I didn’t like NML. I think it had its moments, but was stretched far too long. And I can’t say I was a big fan of that ending, nor of its treatment of the Huntress. For such a strongwilled character she often cows to Batman a little too easily. Never bought it.

          2. I don’t hate No Man’s Land. There are some good stories there. But to me the concept is flawed, and it’s not the be-all-end-all to me that it is to other folks. I really wish the crossovers had just ended by this point and they basically let Chuck Dixon do his thing across his many Bat-titles.

            Chris

    2. Shag, I’ve never seen that Year One hardcover, and I’d like to have it much more than the stupid Chip Kidd number I bought a few years ago with the useless goddamned die cut slipcase that has only survived because that edition has never left a bookshelf to be read. I remember the Joker and Complete Miller hardcovers turning up at cons in the early-to-mid ’90s for about a Benjamin & Grant. Too rich for me, and I was past my Batman Phase (soon to be recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.) Hopefully you’ll catch D-Mazz at APE or something someday.

      No Man’s Land was stupid, and I’d expect a defender of John Byrne’s Wonder Woman run to support it. That said, it boosted sales of Batman titles in my shop for the duration and even brought some cute girl readers into collecting that run (but not past it, aside from a Bruce Wayne: Murderer sampler.)

  9. Oh! And I also learned about prostitution and low-level street crime from Night Court. In fact, I asked my second grade teacher what a streetwalker was. She said I should ask my parents questions like that.

    1. Night Court was probably my favorite sitcom growing up, and I enjoyed revisiting the few seasons that made it out on DVD. Give the Moral Majority points for accurately assuming that early exposure instilled a lifelong apathy toward vice crimes. I’m actual a proponent of legalizing prostitution and decriminalizing most narcotic offenses without personally indulging in either.

        1. I do have a list made up already, but it’s gotten rather ambitious since last November. I don’t think 62,979,879 is an achievable personal goal. But on the plus side, every day makes the legalization of The Purge that much closer to a reality, so…

  10. Never a fan of Miller’s dominatrix / prostitute / escort madam but I really dug Selina originating below the poverty line. It made this criminal and antihero a lot more sympathetic than if she were just a socialite in for the thrill, and complemented her relationship with Batman, the knight who came from Gotham’s nobility. It also appealed to the Highlander series geek in me where warrior and honor-code raised Duncan MacLeod would often be vexed by the thieving Amanda who originated from the dregs of the Middle Ages.

  11. Was just listening to an episode of Views from the Longbox (the one on Shazam: A New Beginning) while doing paperwork at work. At the end of the episode Michael Bailey was reading listener feedback and one commenter alluded to the fact that Mazzucchelli was not Miller’s first choice as artist for Batman: Year One. The first choice being…Trevor Von Eeden. What?! You guys probably already knew this fact, but I don’t recall having heard it before. It’s hard for me to imagine this story without Mazzucchelli’s art.

    I did a little digging and found this article that talked about the subject:

    http://ohdannyboy.blogspot.com/2009/06/original-art-stories-batman-year-one.html

    Here is an excerpt from the article:

    {From there Trevor worked sporadically on the character of Batman, both in the Batman title proper and in other DC comics. Personal circumstances saw his life intertwine with Frank Millers though and it was after Von Eeden turned in yet another sterling job on Batman, this time in issue #401, that Miller approached him with the offer to pencil Year One, which would begin in Batman #404.

    “Frank had called me in person to offer me the Batman: Year One job, before giving it to Mazzucchelli. I said, ‘No.’,” says Trevor, “And I have no regrets – Dave did a beautiful job. His wife [Richmond Lewis] colored it, too.”

    Sadly we may never know what would have been if Von Eeden had accepted the Batman: Year One job, certainly his art at the time was head and shoulders above other artists, and he’s been cited as an influence on artists that have come since. Even Mazzucchelli has sang his praises, recently he had this to say about Von Eeden’s 1980s work, “…I’d like to think that something of what excited me on those pages found its way into Batman: Year One, but my own work from back then seems mighty tame next to Mr. Von Eeden’s.” Norm Breyfogle, who would soon be drawing his own unique vision of Batman, had this to add recently, “I’ve been a fan of Trevor’s work since his first Batman Annual job. So much so, that I’d say he’s one of my influences.”}

    I would love to hear you guys’ take on Miller’s first choice being Von Eeden in your next episode. I know you intend to do a creator profile on Mazzucchelli next time and maybe you already have planned to address it there.

    Thanks!

    1. Keep your ears peeled for the next chapter, Scott. And there is one panel in Batman #405 that I think looks like Von Eden snuck in and drew it! I know he didn’t, but I can see his influence there!

      Thanks for the link!

      Chris

  12. Excellent episode, maybe my favorite so far. Maybe that’s because you’re tackling what’s probably one of the top 5 best Batman stories ever done!

    I never thought about how the handwriting styles of Bruce and Gordon reflect their different upbringings, nice observation Chris. It also never occurred to me that this is a Batman comic without Batman!

    While I still feel that Dark Knight Returns holds up as just as much of a masterpiece, YO has none of the downsides to that work. It’s quite literally perfect.

    That’s weird that Miller retired after this, I didn’t know that. But I trust Ryan.

    Great, great episode gentlemen.

  13. Dammit, that “rise of Oracle as detective/Batman as bruiser” parallel was insightful. I don’t know why Ryan doesn’t like me, but I can admit when he’s made a really good point.

    I wonder if the writers amped Tim Drake’s detective skill to make up For Batman, too.

  14. Another great show. Year One was probably one of the first trade paperbacks I ever got, after Justice League: New Beginnings and Batman A Death in the Family. I do believe it is one of the best Batman stories out there, the story and art a revelation from what had gone before. It was, as was pointed out in the podcast, a mature book without nudity or bad language, often the crutch to most “mature” books that came subsequently.

    I am glad you mentioned the colourist as the colours on this story really are stunning compared to the normal colours that was out in comics at that time. Look forward to hearing your more detailed comments on the art next time out.

    Looking back, I guess Miller’s revision on Selina’s origin probably stemmed from his work on the character in the Dark Knight Returns, where she was the owner of an escort agency. Indeed, the concentration of Gordon’s viewpoint (which I enjoyed greatly, as it really fleshed out the character of James Gordon, and we got a more rounded, competent character as opposed to someone who’s main function was to light the Bat Signal) probably grew from his work in the Dark Knight Returns also. I had meant to ask you both previously whether you had considered covering the Dark Knight Returns in your podcast, given that it influenced a lot of what subsequent post-Crisis Bat Writers did with Batman. And, as Ryan pointed out, it was the only work Miller ever did on Batman so it would be good to cover another Miller story! 😉

    Great show as always, you continue to hit it out of the park and I look forward to the next show.

  15. Another wonderful episode, gentlemen. This is one of those great works of literature (like Moby Dick) that I know I should read, but just haven’t gotten around to yet. To be fair, I was cavorting in the Marvel universe during this era. I look forward to getting a heaping helping of this story in future episodes.

    1. P.S. Whenever I hear “In the Air Tonight”, I think of a David Copperfield TV special that I watched over and over again on VHS as a kid, in which he performs a magic trick to this song. David Copperfield makes me think of another great stage magician, Zatanna. Of course, Zatanna makes me think of Ryan and his Power of Fishnets podcast, which makes me think of Ryan’s other podcasts, especially Knightcast. A very clever song choice, indeed.

  16. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t enjoy reading along with indexing shows, but I make exceptions where I feel compelled to. I debated about whether to join you on this Year One reread, but I bought the hardcover in 2005 and never cracked it open, so it’s been at least twelve years since my last pass. Might as well sharpen my knives and dive into another sacred cow…

    …except based on the first issue, I have no cause for complaint. “Year One” is just as engrossing, cinematic and novelistic as my best memories of my first read around 1989 or ’90. I only read one of the four issues off the newsstand, so I know it best as a collected edition, and that seems to be the ideal experience. Gazing at the scans from the floppies, it looks like a reverse Turnerization was done; taking a dayglo & pastel hot mess of ill-considered coloring and turning it into an appropriately muted masterpiece. Even thirty years ago, I wasn’t keen on an expanded retread of Batman’s origin, but the new noir Jim Gordon material made the character and story come alive for me. There’s a lot of proto-Sin City here, but I prefer Miller veering toward Chandler & Hammett over the more lurid Spillane and neo/tech noir of the latter work. As much as I adore period Trevor Von Eeden, his work is also better suited for the latter, and you needed the more earthy minimalism of David Mazzucchelli to fully realize this piece. I just finished the first issue after willing myself to stop from progressing, and I saw no blatant references to TVE.

    I read Year One after Dark Knight Returns and before The Cult, both of which I preferred and had a greater impact on me at first blush. I used the reread DKR once every year or so, and Year One every 3-5, which tapered off with my ability to appreciate Batman as a character in the ’90s. I’ve still got my first beat-to-fug printing of The Cult, last read who-knows-when. The only other time I’ve reread Year One in the 21st century, I was surprised to realize that I had reversed my order and now enjoyed it the best. I believe I revisited DKR last ahead of the release of the fecund The Dark Knight Strikes Again. I must confess, I’ve enjoyed the fleets of “Year One” copycats (including an entire year’s worth of DC annuals) more than the multitudes of awful DKR-turds that took what was a distillation of all of Frank Miller’s influences and diarrhea blasted pastiches of just that one work’s style. I want to defend DKR, and it was certainly the more revolutionary work, but I suspect my personal evolution and painful recollection of Miller’s devolution will only expose an ever widening chasm between what that work was in 1986 versus what it no longer is in 2017. Also, Marshal Law: Fear & Loathing has always been higher in my personal canon than DKR and Watchmen combined, with themes that remain as relevant as ever, so I’ve still got that early idol to cling to.

    I love that this podcast began with the “lost” epic #400, so I both understand bypassing DKR and recognize that you guys need to tackle it inevitably, since it casts a long shadow over every Bat-book published since. Perhaps you can do anniversary/annual shows for that type of extant material?

  17. Hi Ryan and Chris,
    I was getting ready to write a note of apology to you, as I was listening to most every other podcast except this one, and I felt I was letting you down! However, when I saw that you were dissecting/discussing Year One, I tuned in. I hadn’t been listening because this was when I stopped buying Batman books regularly. I’m pretty sure I’ve got all the issues of Batman and Detective you’ve already reviewed, but I have little desire to re-read them because I did not enjoy them. This was part of the confluence of my dis-like of post-Crisis continuity, and decreasing comics purchasing.
    Batman: Year One I remember. This is a very good comic. This is a very well-done comic. It is not a good Batman story. This story, though superbly presented, makes too many changes to Batman’s backstory for my taste. I realize that changes were always being made and I’m not so wedded to previous continuity that I’ll refuse to accept any Batman that doesn’t reference Leslie Tomkins, Mrs. Chilton, and Dr. Dundee. However, this story was too much for me. 1.) Bruce’s absence from Gotham. I don’t like it. Nos he is a stranger to Gotham. He knows nothing of it’s geography, topography, infrastructure, or citizenry. He’s starting from scratch with no visceral or emotional connection to Gotham. Don’t like it. 2.) Bruce’s age. The text says he’s 25. I think that’s too old. It means he’s been suppressing the hunt for his parents’ killer for that much longer. I prefer to think of Bruce putting on a costume about about 20-21 years of age. 3.) Alfred the permanent fixture since childhood. I don’t like this. What’s he been doing while Bruce was away? Commissioning portraits of Thomas and Martha at Bruce’s request? Making Christmas dinners just in case the Master shows up? Without Alfred, Bruce has no ready Father-figure, which I think works better. Also, having Alfred there makes Bruce a passive character, especially in the final scene. It is a powerful and dramatic scene, but it’s Bruce being Hamlet, wondering whether or not to die, secure in the knowledge that Alfred can save him. The rich man rings his bell, and is waited upon immediately. The hero would confront his mistakes and his options and act upon them! 3.) Gordon the outsider. This works beautifully in this story, but I prefer Gordon the Gotham-ite. Gordon the career cop. The clean career cop. A Gordon who has, like Bruce should have, a deep connection to Gotham. I also miss Barbara as his daughter. Having a younger Gordon, just having his first child, and an older Bruce, makes for a good story, but not what I like in a Batman story. 4.) Gotham as a failed city. This is great for this story. My problem is that ever since this story, that has been the go-to depiction of Gotham, which means that Batman and Gordon have failed! If Gotham is still a failed city after years of Bat-progress, then he has failed. 5.) Selina Kyle. She has probably never had a good origin (amnesia, falling out of buildings or airplanes,etc.), and this one continues the trend. Why a sex worker? She seems to be an independent operator. Why become a thief? Why not a veterinarian or animal-shelter volunteer who is frustrated at the lack of funding and needs dough to help her cats? THAT’S her motivation! The costume is a gimme, because in this universe, people wear these costumes! 6.) Violence. Frank Miller’s super-hero stories always have violence in tremendous detail. Written descriptions of internal injuries, depictions of bloodied combatants, etc. In this story Bruce is prepared for violence. The men are all adept at it. To the exclusion of almost everything else. I’m glad that you guys talked about this. Where is the detective? Bruce’s narration says he is ready to fight. It doesn’t say he is ready to learn. I like a smart Batman.
    A smart Batman is one who has spent many years learning the terrain, studying all the players, preparing to hunt for his quarry. He has practiced disguising himself in many different ways. He has had to do it on his own. Eventually, he realizes that he can do more with cooperation, with the police and his household, and even other costumed vigilantes. The Lego Batman movie got this so right!
    I’ll stick with you for the next three chapters, but…Oh, I don’t know. You guys are great podcasters! I love listening to you. Thanks for indulging me here.

  18. I can only guesstimate on Batman & the Outsiders’ sales numbers based on Capitol City orders and circulation statements for similar selling books. Batman was selling about 6K through Capitol with a total circulation of 75K versus BATO’s being just a smidge under 10K. Tales of the Legion was breaking 10K and getting total circulation of 110K, while Tales of the Teen Titans was over 20K and circulation of 182K. So BATO was probably in the neighborhood of 100K, which was solid by DC standards, but no great hit and a target for cancellation if it was at Marvel. Also, circulation on all of these titles except Batman fell off a cliff in 1986. The Baxter format/newsstand reprint scheme was an unmitigated disaster. Titans’ circulation plummeted to 70K within two years, so Adventures of the Outsiders was probably doing less than 50K by the end.

  19. Still catching up and late to the conversation, but let’s talk about Selena and how every other commenter appears down on the revised origin. Before I start, I’ll put out there that I’m of two minds on it overall (it admittedly bugs me that the only female characters of note in the story are a nagging wife, the subject of an extra-marital affair and a sex worker and personally would rather they just had no women and made it a MAN story through and through.) But for today I’m taking up the defensive position as I put on my educator hat and go to bat for Selena.

    So, I get the distinct impression that part of what is making people down on the idea of Selena as sex worker is all of the baggage that comes with the pop culture stereotype of the “hooker.” However, we have no evidence that Selena is a prostitute. What she very clearly is depicted as is a dominatrix, and while both can be correctly labeled as “sex workers” they are NOT the same thing. A prostitute has sex in exchange for money. A dominatrix need not have sex with her clients, nor indeed engage in even a single instance of genital or skin to skin contact at all. And I think if people understood that better they wouldn’t be so down on this development.

    Because the modern stereotype of the prostitute (as I talked about in my last comment) is the down and out girl, probably on drugs, possibly tricked or forced into the trade. I’m not going to go into how accurate or representative this is, because regardless it’s still the pop culture stereotype. So when people process the new origin as “Selena is a hooker” they have to contend with the ideas that she isn’t the in control “thrill seeker” that so many claim to love, because the stereotypical hooker isn’t those things. However a professional dominatrix very cleanly fits into these notions. A prostitute can be a drugged out passive victim. A dominatrix can’t. They HAVE to be in control (of both themselves and the situation,) that’s literally what they’re being paid for. And I shouldn’t even have to explain how thrill seeking plays into things. And it also requires a level of commitment that is deeper than a stereotypical “street walker.” You can’t just slap on a skirt that you went at with a pair of scissors to make it shorter. You need appropriate looking clothes, consistent, dominating, you need gear that’s well made so it can stand up to repeated use, you need to be prepared to sink money into your business so that you can continue to do it. It takes a level and dedication and desire seen less often in prostitution (especially stereotypical pop culture prostitution.)

    I don’t know if Miller himself properly understood or appreciated the differences I’m laying out, given his later blending of dominatrices with hookers in the noir stew that is Sin City. However, it’s a distinction that is important because Selena being a prostitute and Selena being a dominatrix say potentially polar opposite things about her as a character at this point in her life.

    And I’ve just realized that between this and my thoughts on Rhonda in the last episode I may have just inadvertently become the unofficial sex work educator of the podcast.

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