Are you Beginning Again?
Did I ever mention that I hate origin stories?
I must have–in a blog post long ago and far away–but, after seeing Batman Begins (along with the atrocious trailer for The Fantastic Four) last night, I am rarin’ to reiterate this point. It’s not enough that we’ve gotten nothing but endless corporate “reboots” from Marvel and DC for the past decade or two–now there’s a second Hollywood Batfranchise to deal with (it’s like a cinematic “Crisis on Infinite Earths”… too much backstory? get rid of it! the psychopath’s mantra… although, to be fair, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s respective works weren’t nearly as dear to me as Krypto and Earth-Two had been before they were sacrificed upon the altar of Millerian “seriousness” in the mid-1980’s)
Then again, the reason that Batman is my least favourite superhero is that he is, basically, all origin. I’ve written enough about “dynamic stasis” to bore even my own narratologically-fixated self, and I’ll try to avoid that pitfall today, but the crux of the matter has always been that I am most interested in the existential “middle passage” traversed by superheroes like Spider-Man, Animal Man, Captain America, Dr. Strange, etc… Of course, each of these guys were assigned “origins” (although, interestingly enough, Lee and Ditko tried to get away without laying bare the good doctor’s roots–if only J. Michael Straczynski had shown similar restraint!), but none of those tales (not even good ol’ “with great power comes great responsibility”) can be described as the “last word” on the character. The Batman story is too airtight (and there’s nothing I hate more than a tidy story)–the unreasoning fear of bats + the murder of the Waynes always adds up to the same thing–and once Bruce dons that costume, all he lacks are the foes/confederates (and they’re not hard to find) that will enable him to reenact his origin story until the end of time. Spider-man’s origin, on the other hand, provides a crucial break with the character’s past that serves as a foundation (rather than a narratological morass) for the story proper. “Dynamic stasis” cannot be consubstantial with the origin–it sets in later, emerging out of the conflict generated by the encounter between (always-)already empowered characters and the world. Otherwise, what you get is a “person” that is incapable of recognizing the world at all (i.e. “stasis, hold the dynamism”)…
So, yeah, I think Batman Begins gets the character exactly right–and all it manages to prove is that this character sucks (sort of helps to explain why everyone that works with him winds up turning, in desperation, to Robin–the only person that Bats could ever get close to would have to be a mirror-image of himself)
I did find the film’s valorization of welfare-capitalism interesting–i.e. Neeson’s Marxist assumptions about a truly “free market” are not questioned, which kind of implies, if you think about it, that the “good people”, like daddy Wayne (not to mention Bruce himself), are really only saving themselves and their ancestral holdings.
For a different take on all of this, see Mark K-Punk and John Pistelli’s reconsidered entry. I do like Mark’s decisionist/excess-of-good interpretation, and I would recommend that he give the Squadron Supreme a try sometime! (now that would make a great film–and no origins necessary!)
As for the FF–well, I’m actually considering not going to see it… Why the hell didn’t they do the Silver Surfer/Galactus story?
Cerebus? I’ve decided to read the whole thing before I make any more posts… I am now at issue #194, and I have to say:
1) Mothers and Daughters is even crazier than I expected it to be, and
2) I am more sold than ever on my own Cerebus/Pierre, or the Ambiguities analogy… this is the incredible record of one frightened and unbelievably prideful man’s attempt to stand in the eye of a storm of romantic, social, political, and aesthetic pressures that no human being could (or should want to!) withstand… “the baker and the bread”….wow!!!!!
more on this later–obviously!
good evening friends!