Board Simple

Yep, I admit it, I caught the fever on the Comics Journal Messageboard. But can ya blame me? Take a look at what happened here… That’s no excuse though, is it? As Eli Bishop has noted: “You’re making an ass out of yourself [, Dave]- not that you’re the only one, but you’re putting an unusual amount of energy into it.” No question about that. He’s right. Anyway, as Wilford Brimley says in The Thing: “There’s nothin’ wrong with me–and if there was, I’m alright now…”

Now, on to better things!

1. Don’t miss Rose Curtin’s piece on Animal Man!

2. Babar, at Simply Comics has come up with a great way for people to keep track of what’s going on in the Blogosphere. Thanks man!

3. Okay–we ain’t done with the Dark Knight here–not by a long shot!–but I’ll admit I’m having a tough time with it (have I been avoiding Frank Miller by battling the likes of R. Fiore? Shades of Woody Allen in Annie Hall, using conspiracy theories to fend off Carol Kane? Sadly, there may be some truth in this…)

One interesting idea that’s come up (via yesterday’s commenter, Marc) is that Bruce Wayne himself (as distinct from “Batman”) is the Marlow/narrator, dealing with the sublime fact of his own madness… It’s a good theory, one which really plays up Miller’s book as a precursor of Palahniuk/Fincher’s Fight Club (another apocalyptic work that I have trouble with), with the Dark Knight as Tyler Durden…

Still, I don’t think I can go along with Marc on this one… I don’t see any evidence of a split personality here. I mean–Bruce/Bats is more notable for the absolute single-mindedness he displays from beginning to end: right down to the first-person “call-and-repsonse” of “this would be a good death…but not good enough”/”this will be a good life…good enough”.

A little while back, at Peiratikos, Steven and I kicked around the idea that, while Spider-Man’s origin/conversion precedes the trauma of of Uncle Ben’s murder, Batman’s power derives from trauma itself… After re-reading DKR, I’m not sure if I’m down with that proposition… Bruce’s childhood encounter with the bat appears to be the true source of his obsession–and, yes Marc, the creature definitely partakes of the sublime: “eyes gleaming, untouched by love or joy or sorrow”… but there’s a strange gap between this experience and the decision to become Batman. The kid sees the Bat, and he wants to be like it–be sublime–but, of course, as a subjective being, this constructed non-self is inaccessible to him… It’s as if the kid reaches a bizarre variation of the “mirror stage” in that cave–he thinks he’s the bat, but he also knows what his own terror-stricken face must look like…and this leaves him at an impasse!

Read this way, the book becomes the record of a sick man’s search for mirrors that reflect both his own (ersatz) sublimity and the fear it evokes, which brings him back, always, to that initial encounter with the true–the unreachable–sublime… that crazy Bat! By adding this piece of backstory to the Batman origin, Miller changes it completely! Bruce doesn’t become radicalized by the murder of his parents… he merely uses this event as a bridge across the abyss between his child-self in the cave and his Bat-self.

The key to all of this is the killer himself, who is both sublimely terrifying and (as Miller takes pains to emphasize) terrified–he’s the boy and the bat all rolled into one… and he is the source of Bruce’s epiphany!

Throughout this story, Batman needs the fear he inspires in others–when he doesn’t get it, he has to anesthetize himself with booze… He will always be that scared child–but when he’s facing down a criminal, delivering his best impression of the sublime, gauging the performance that he finds reflected in terror-stricken eyes, he can be the Bat too! It’s not schizophrenia–quite the reverse: it’s the weirdest sort of “integrity”–an overcompensatory fusion of diverse selves; an unnatural dropping of the anchor into the flux of identity…

more on this over the weekend, obviously!

Good night friends!


  1. I don’t know, sounds like an elaborate and hedged way of saying he’s going through the process of becoming the abyss, or aspiring towards that becoming. A manichean, oedipal apotheosis.

    Sounds like nihilism to me.

    In this view, Miller’s version of Batman is just another fascist or new leftist – conflating “justice” with the unrestrained force of the ideology of action. The emphasis on irrational understandings definitely points in that direction.

  2. Blonfonte,

    You’re right–if we reduce Miller’s work to a paraphrasable political statement, then (as a self-described non-believing Calvinist liberal democrat) it’s definitely a statement I vehemently oppose! ( I think we can say for sure that Miller hates “liberals”, the rest is conjecture…)

    But DKR isn’t a stump speech and I don’t want to treat it as one–I’m kind of getting into it, as a text… Although, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m sure my instinctual revulsion to it is politically/culturally based; just as my instinctual attraction to a book like Animal Man is…


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