Years ago, while I was still adding to the thousands of comic books in my collection, DC decided to re-boot the Batman series after a year-long narrative arc called “No Man’s Land,” Gotham recovering after a devastating earthquake. They brought in new writers, even started a new title, called Gotham Knights, that focused on the inter-relationships between Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, the original Robin who had gone on to be a hero called Nightwing, Tim Drake, the third Robin, the second having met a gruesome death at the hands of the Joker, Barbara Gordon, former Batgirl and, since being paralyze,d a cyber-hero called Oracle, and a host of other minor characters. In the series’ first issue, the first major Batman work written by a woman, Batman is investigating the murder of parents who left behind a young son, so similar to Batman’s own origin story. The other characters wonder why he can’t see what they see, that the boy was not the traumatized orphan Bruce Wayne once was, but was in fact the killer.
It is the sort of gritty realism that took hold in the Batman family of comics in the 1980s. In fact, many comic books took on a gritty realism. They even tried it with the Superman series, but it just wouldn’t stick, for like a bar of soap dropped into a puddle, Superman is self-cleaning, the ultimate Boy Scout goody-two-shoes. Which is okay. Sometimes we need that sense of unblemished good, hope and purity in a time when everything feels a little too real, even if that unblemished good is in the form of a resident alien from Krypton. Continue reading →