Month: July 2005

Bats Behind the Wainscoting

Bats Behind the Wainscoting

I’m enjoying Tim O’Neil’s BatRoast over at the Hurting… (I’m also loving the comments by Cole Odell and Rasselas)

As usual, I concur with Tim’s gut reaction, whilst disagreeing with his analysis of said judgment…

Near the end of the first comment-section, I added this:

my opinion of Bats is very similar to yours, Tim… but, in my own case, the antipathy has nothing to do with a dislike of hard-boiled crime writing (in fact, this is my favourite type of “genre” writing)

my objection to Batman is that (as Cole states) he’s a Shadow clone that has been (unwisely) given a suffocating origin story and too much of the spotlight… the great thing about the Shadow, the Continental Op (all of Hammett’s main characters–as opposed to protagonists– actually), Hawthorne’s Coverdale, etc. is that they don’t HAVE origins and we aren’t supposed to understand or relate to their behaviour–they are pure literary devices…dramatic catalysts , not people… that’s where Batman, the Punisher, etc. go wrong, in my book…

It does all come down to Robin, but not because the little guy’s antics damage the Bat-world’s “realistic” cred. Readers have pointed out that, in the first few Bat-adventures, the character was free of the origin that I despise so much… The explanatory moment (which comes in ‘Tec  #33) wasn’t so damaging in itself, I suppose (future writers could have ignored it, continuing to treat Bats as an inscrutable melodrama-generator)–but when Robin came bob bob bobbin’ onto the scene, the game was over.


Because the whole point of Robin is that he serves as a bridge between the reader and the title character. When Dick’s parents are killed, the young reader is practically forced to think–“oh no! this isn’t just a story–this could actually happen to me–and how would I react?” And, of course, the only answer the story offers to that hithertofore extraneous question is Bruce’s own caped coping mechanism…  At which point, the narrative becomes trapped in the Bat-Jar, effectively foreclosing upon all possibility of future narrative development (as opposed to “progress”.. think of Peter Parker–who may not really age all that much, but who does have a very definite post-origin life history)

In other news:
Cerebus is really pissing me off.

good afternoon friends!

I liked Dave Sim better when he thought he was God

I liked Dave Sim better when he thought he was God

wow…until a couple of days ago, I truly believed that I could handle this Cerebus thing (reading all 300 issues I mean)… I was doing fine too (the lettercol shenanigans/advent of strident anti-feminism that originally alienated me back in the late eighties still don’t convince me, of course, but I was able to get into it, as performance art + the metafictional elements remained fascinating), going through the series(including all of the lettercols and text pieces at the back of the issues) at a record pace–until I reached the Hemingway storyline (“Form and Void”)… since I ran headlong into that atrocity, I’ve been reduced to taking two/three hour breaks between issues…and, you know, it’s not the misogyny (Sim calls it “anti-feminism”) that ruins it (“Reads” is as anti-feminist as it gets, and it’s still interesting–even though Sim really isn’t much of a prose stylist)…it’s the way this zealous new convert has yoked his feelings about gender (and everything else–from economics to literary criticism) to his “daddy’s boy” metaphysics that has transformed him into a droning bore…


the thing that set me off, more than anything (because I wasn’t prepared for it) is the “writer” vs. “typer” distinction that Sim introduces in order to voice his (“brave”) dissent from the consensus that Ernest Hemingway was a master prose stylist (well, colour me “duped” Dave–I’ll bet you think Dashiell Hammett “phoned in” his novels too!)… if you’ve read this stuff (“To Ham or Not to Ham”), you know what I’m talking about–if not, well, I’m tellin’ ya, the argument is roughly analogous to the ol’ “my child could’ve painted that piece of modern art” chestnut (in fact, Sim makes this association himself, opining that Norman Rockwell is a far greater artist than Picasso)… As I say, I was NOT prepared for this… Sim’s tendency to conflate “floweriness” with “prose artistry” has been evident from the get-go…which is why his comics tend to work better when he lets the pictures and the dialogue do the talking…but, in terms of narrative construction, he is–or was–one of the greatest… the craziest thing–to me–is that he seems to have been headed toward a moment (Jaka is the “perfect” woman for Cerebus–and yet–perhaps for precisely this reason–they can’t live together) very similar to the one that I placed at the center of my novel… Who knows where Sim the secular humanist would’ve gone from there? One thing’s for sure–he wouldn’t have blamed Jaka for distracting Cerebus from the “one true path” to God… Maybe–just maybe–he would even have allowed his protagonist to recognize that the fact of intersubjectivity (as opposed to the lurid result of ontological speculation) is the only reasonable (as opposed to “rational”) ground upon which to base one’s ethical (not to mention aesthetical) decisions… which makes it all the sadder (again, to me) that, five sixths of the way through his opus, Sim traded in his “writer” gig for a job as “God’s” “typist”…

more later (I’m not going to stop reading at #270, no matter how much I’d like to!)

good afternoon friends!