Letter From The Editor: Jeremy S. is the Pope of The Geek Orthodox Church, a 300+ member group focused on all things “NERD.” This post is dedicated to his love of Batman. When asked what he liked about Batman, Jeremy said:
“To me Batman is the perfect mix of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, a Ninja, and a Vampire. All of these characters or archetypes are awesome in their respective ways but when you combine them… you get a character that owns awesome.”
Jeremy went on to further elaborate on The Geek Orthodox Church. When asked about it, he said:
The Geek Orthodox Church started out as a joke. I have a lot of friends that love sci fi, fantasy, and comics so I thought it would be fun to “start a church” on Facebook that catered to our interests. 347 members later, it’s taken on a life of its own. I used to consider myself an “insider” in terms of sci fi & fantasy trivia, movies, behind the scenes facts, rumors, etc. but I learn something new every day on the GOC. Most mornings I can’t wait to log in…
Comical Musings is very thankful for our association with The Geek Orthodox Church. Without the Geek Orthodox Church, we would not have met as many cool readers as we have. It is in that vein that JK Leo created, Bats On Bats On Bats.
Greetings, gracious guys and gals! I’m your host, JK Leo. Many of you know me as ComicalMusings.com’s resident creepy hooded figure who sits in the back of the site and mutters sexual puns and inappropriate spoonerisms in Scott’s ear. What you possibly (and likely – I mean, who can pay attention to me when you have the Kardashian sisters all over the TV and in my nightmares, and in my nightmares they’re wearing clown shoes and bikini tops – only the tops, I have no idea why – and they’re chasing me with chainsaws, so maybe I should –
Editor’s Note: Please forgive this introduction. JK Leo has been killed and replaced by a sane person who is also named JK Leo.
We all love Batman. I love Batman. Your hot sister loves Batman. [I love your hot sister.] Jeremy Smith loves Batman. Jeff Bridges probably likes Batman. My point is, we all love Batman. We love him so much that we’ve written stories about him for years. We’ve made comics, both great and terrible. We’ve made TV shows, we’ve made movies. There’s a live show. I haven’t seen it, but my friend Ricardo who loves everything said it was amazing. But a question has been bubbling in my mind like a soup made out of pygmy brains in a sexy witch’s cauldron. [I mean the witch, who is sexy, owns the coffin. The cauldron is not sexy. I suppose it could be – far be it from me to say there are no sexy cauldrons out there – but this cauldron is decidedly not sexy. Like the ugly Kardashian sister.] And the idea that’s been bubbling in my head is this: what if a bunch of the different versions of Batman got together and had a big ol’ fight?
I imagine this Bat-match to the near-death would look something like a bracket that cool people who drink cheap beer might put basketball teams on. But I’m not cool and I only drink whiskey, so to hell with it. I’m putting together a bat-bracket.
Each matchup will be rated on five criteria: Endurance, Fighting Skills, Detective Skills, Challenges Faced, and Awesomeness
Matchup 1: Grant Morrison’s Batman (circa Return of Bruce Wayne) vs. George Clooney’s Batman (circa I don’t remember this movie existing. Perhaps I’ve wiped it from my own memory)
Endurance. Morrison has been writing Batman since 2006’s Batman & Son, and he’s still going hard as Batman Incorporated builds to its shrieking, orgiastic conclusion. That’s six years and counting, chump. In contrast, George Clooney seems to have played Batman for approximately two hours.
Fighting Skills: Morrison’s Batman is well-trained enough to take down a considerable number of members of the League of Assassins. When most of Batman Incorporated is mind-controlled by the evil Dr. Dedalus, Batman beats them up. Yes. In contrast, Clooney doesn’t even do a good job fighting Mr. FreOH GAWD THE PUNS ARE COMING BACK TO ME.
Detective Skills: In the pages of Morrison’s work, the Joker diagnoses Batman as suffering from apophenia, which is the compulsive need to find patterns and draw conclusions. Batman overthinks things to the point of finding patterns that don’t even exist. In the meantime, Bat-Clooney waits around for Uma Thurman to brag about killing Mr. Freeze’s wife, and then he shows Mr. Freeze a video-tape of it. While this is kind of a close one, I’m still going to award the point to Morrison-Bats.
Awesomeness: Over the course of five issues in Morrison’s run, Batman was a cave-man, a witch-hunter, a pirate, a cowboy, and an old-school noir detective. On the other hand, Bat-nipples.
Challenges Faced: In issue six of The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman stares down the literal heat-death of the universe, in which the whole of existence is snuffed out. In Batman & Robin, Bat-Clooney survives Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terrible puns. Point, Clooney.
Ruling: At 4-1, Morrison’s Batman moves on to the semifinals, while Clooney and his Bat-Nipples burn in a silent hell for all eternity.
Matchup 2: The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller vs. Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller.
It may seem counterintuitive to pit two works by the same author against each other, but everybody knows that Frank Miller is his own worst enemy.
Fighting Skills: In the pages of this book, Batman manages to defeat the Mutant Leader in physical combat – this dude, who is so enormous and brutal that the entire city is terrified of even being near him, is put into a nasty sleeper hold and rendered thoroughly unconscious. Superman is beaten like a red-headed child of Krypton. Old Batman gots the moves. Young Batman really doesn’t do much in the way of fighting. He does, I’ll concede, kick a tree in half. That is pretty banging. Still, point Old Bats.
Challenges Faced: In DKR, Batman stares down Superman, the Joker, Two-Face, and an entire gang of Mutants. Not only that, but he owns every single one. [Except kind of Superman, who kind of kills him.] In B:Y1, he…gets stabbed by some nameless thug, then goes to a dinner party. And according to Kevin Smith (who I don’t trust a damn bit), wets his pants. Urination aside, Old-Bats still clinches the point.
Awesomeness: He punches a guy through a wall. He drives a race car. He’s drawn by Frank Miller in all his hulking, seething glory. Young Bats, let’s not forget, kicks a tree in half. These are both awesome, but I’m going to give it to Old Bats.
Endurance: Young Bats doesn’t have a heart attack in this book. Point, Year One.
Detective Skills: It’s not so much that Batman demonstrates considerable detection skills in this book. In fact, he detects so few things that he gets stabbed for his efforts. At least in this book, Batman goes out of his way to do things that are slightly less violent than punching people in the face.
Ruling: At 3-2, this was a close one. Old Batman, of The Dark Knight Rises, manages to score a win despite his nearly career-ending heart attack. That may prove to be a tough hurdle in the next round.
Matchup 3: Adam West, of Batman ’66, vs. the comics by O’Neil and Adams. This match highlights a certain contrast in the different interpretations of Batman. In the 1966 television show, Batman had campy adventures and everybody looked like a porn star. In the Bronze Age comics, however, Batman was a brooding nightwatchman who had a number of prominent psychological flaws.
Endurance: That bomb looks impossibly heavy, and he’s been carrying it in the same .gif for years now.
Detective Skills: “Seaplane. Sea. C. C is for Catwoman!” Batman’s logic is flawless, and you cannot even come close to being close to being able to handle it.
Bronze Age (O’Neil & Adams)
Fighting Skills: In ’66, we never really get to see Batman fight people – all the action is usually covered up by those oversized sound effect balloons. I appreciate a good ZOW! As much as the next guy, but don’t throw it in my face. In the Bronze Age, however, especially during storylines involving Ra’s al-Ghul, there was plenty of awesome sword-fighting. Point, Bronze Bat.
Challenges Faced: Let’s face it: Batman ’66 had a really easy life. He just kind of hung out, slid down a bat-pole every now and then, and stood around with really beautiful women in skintight outfits. When ’66 had a run-in with a shark, he sprayed it with a ready-made repellent. Bronze Batman found himself matched up against a shark during “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge.” You know what he did? He punched it.
Ruling: In another 3-2 matchup, the Bronze Age Batman has defeated Adam West’s kooky caped crime-fighter, mostly through the use of a sword and being a badass.
Matchup 4: The Animated Series vs. Bat-Bale
This one should be interesting. The most popular depiction of Batman OF ALL TIME, or the critically-lauded show that got almost as much attention in the 90s. Artistically sound depictions both. But how will it pan out for the caped crusader?
Endurance: In The Dark Knight Rises, we see that Bruce Wayne has been reduced to a hobbling, physically disabled and mentally iffy hermit after serving Gotham for a couple of years, at most. The show ran for close to three years exactly, and by the end of it Batman is still looking shipshape and not sporting a terrible beard.
Fighting Skills: If you think about it, Batman doesn’t do very much hand-to-hand combat in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. The most notable fight in all three is likely his first matchup against Bane, in which he is re-crippled and put thoroughly out of commission in a good 50 seconds. On the flipside, we get to see Animated Batman in action quite a bit, and thanks to the fluid animation work, the audience gets a great sense of the fluidity with which Batman moves.
Detective Skills: We get a sense of Bruce Wayne’s so-called “detective skills” in The Dark Knight, in which he does some great forensics work. Cool. He does a good job there. In The Dark Knight Rises, his game seems to have slipped, as sleeps with Talia al-Ghul and accidentally allows her to rob him blind, and he works under the gendered assumption that it was Bane who escaped from the enormous secret prison. In contrast, the Animated Series does a pretty solid job of walking us through Batman’s analytical processes, and in episodes like “The Man Who Killed Batman,” he consistently proves himself the smartest guy in Gotham.
Challenges Faced: Both of these Batmen have faced myriad challenges, but here’s the rub. Essentially everything Bat-Bale has come up against, Animated Batman has done too. Fought Scarecrow? Two-Face? The Joker? Ra’s al-Ghul? Talia? Bane? They’ve both done it – but Animated Batman has done each of those, and so very much more. He showed up against Mr. Freeze, he tussled with the Mad Hatter, he outwitted Poison Ivy, and he turned into a damn Cat-Person [That happened, right?]. The point goes to the Animated Man in the Black Mask (that’s called consonance).
Awesomeness: While each of these categories has been fairly close (with the exception of Endurance), this is the closest yet. Both these pieces of work have high ups and low downs. Both are artful and expansive in scope, yet intimate in depiction. However, I have to hand it to Christopher Nolan and his Bat-Bale, solely for flipping that semi in The Dark Knight. That’s one of the coolest stunts I’ve seen in my gold-darned life. Point, the crazy Welsh Batman.
Ruling: At 4-1, this is a decisive victory on the Animated front. If you’re upset, blame Christopher Nolan for making The Dark Knight Rises. Most of the problems in the trilogy are magnified several times over in that flick. Some more gracefully choreographed fight scenes, or some examples of Batman being the world’s greatest detective, would have gone a long, long way in this fight.
Now, let’s move on to the semifinals, where the Bat-Boys become Bat-Men! Where the Bat-Mites become Bat-Mighty! Where the Robins become Red Robins because it was time to introduce Damian!
Matchup 1: Morrison vs. The Dark Knight Returns
We’ve come to an interesting cross-section here. When it comes to The Dark Knight Returns, we see Batman at his most cynical. He’s a bitter old brute of a man who’s used to punching his problems into submission, but he’s damn good at it. On the flipside, Morrison depicts Batman as the ultimate family man (much to Scott Snyder’s seeming consternation). He’s surrounded by sidekicks and pets and friends from all over the world. He seems to focus on the good in humanity – Miller’s focuses on the filth. Where that will leave us, and which of these paragons moves to the finals, I couldn’t say.
Endurance: I told you that heart attack would come around and bite Old Bats in the rear.
Detective Skills: Morrison’s stories involve a lot of legwork for the reader, as well as for Batman himself. People have spent a good, long while trying to figure out just who in the hell Dr. Hurt is, who is The Heretic, what is Damian’s mysterious destiny, why is Jezebel Jet such a *****, and what kind of drugs has Grant Morrison been smoking. The central mystery in TDKR is…how is Batman going to beat Superman in a fight? The answer, of course: kryptonite gloves and nuclear bombs. Point, Morrison
Challenges Faced: Remember how I mentioned in Matchup 1 that in The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman survives the literal heat-death of the universe? Well, that’s a pretty colossal challenge. Its enormity dwarfs the somewhat personal struggle of depression and self-destruction presented in TDKR. As much as both of these stories approach extremes, Morrison finds a more poignant way to take Batman to his conceptual limit.
Fighting Skills: While Morrison has put Batman in dozens of life-threatening situations over the years, many of which involve mortal combat, none of those arcs convey the same sense of Batman as bulldozer that Miller does. Point to the grey Bat.
Awesomeness: I’m just going to keep coming back to Miller’s art, which depicts Batman as an unstoppable force of seething rage and coolness. This comic was my Awesomeness 101. It is the end-all, be-all action story, and in that sense it nearly breaks the Awesomeness scale to force a tie.
Ruling: Sadly, in the closest matchup yet, TDKR stumbles – especially in the endurance category. While it’d be hard to beat Morrison’s Batman in any category, some detective skills might very well have tipped the odds in Old Bat’s favor. As is, Morrison’s Batman takes the cake to the finals.
Matchup 2: Bronze Age Batman vs. Animated Series Batman
And here we are, the last round of the semifinals. Can sword-wielding, hairy-chested Batman beat the Cartoon Caped Crusader? Let’s find out.
Fighting Skills: When it comes right down to it, this is a Batman you don’t want to mess with. He’s a master combatant, as highlighted beautifully in the issues in which Batman faces off against the League of Assassins. Don’t get me wrong – Animated Batman has the chops as well, but come on.
Awesomeness: As awesome as Animated Batman is, this is pretty much the one who defined it for him. The operative definition is the ability to perform exceedingly cool acts that make me feel happy or invigorated. The shark punching, the screaming, the sword-wielding and ninja fighting…awesome.
Endurance: This may be the toughest call yet. The enduring value of these different works is so immense that I would feel comfortable suggesting that every single iteration of Batman to come out since the late nineties has been influenced in at least some way by both of these. Both of them are winners. However, I have to award the point, and that point goes to the show that features what is likely Batman’s most enduring icon – a silhouette with billowing cape, standing atop a building in an urban cityscape, and backlit by a flash of primordial lightning. Admit it. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Detective Skills: In the Animated Series, we see a lot of Bruce in his crime lab, mixing things together and running details through the Batcave’s computer systems. That’s detective work, right there. That’s the skills that are gonna keep Animated Batman one step ahead of Hairy-Chested Warrior Batman.
Challenges Overcome: So far, the previous rounds have been a good indicator of what will happen in the semis, and this is no exception. Animated Batman has seen (hands down) the most wildly variant challenges, most of which have been perilous and awesome. Bronze Bat saw his share of struggle, but the key here is versatility. Animated Batman has this in spades.
Ruling: So that’s the semifinals, folks. Batman of the Animated Series has beaten Batman of the Bronze Age by about a hair and a half, and we’re ready to move on to the finals!
Final Match! Morrison’s Batman vs. Batman of the Animated Series!
Excitement! Daring! Exclamation Marks! Can Morrison’s New-Age Hyper-Adapter put the cartoon to rest? Can Billowing-Cape Animated Batman discorporate Batman and his Incorporated Pals? Find out!
Fighting Skills: This is the Batman who walked up to Darkseid, who is a God, and shot him stone-dead in his stone face. Animated Batman has never gone up against such a powerful foe, and if he tried…the cartoon might not have run for quite so long. Point, Hyper-Adapter.
Detective Skills: One of the big hallmarks of Morrison’s run on the Bat-titles has been Bruce Wayne’s prescience. He is such an adept planner that he can actually anticipate the future. After visiting the end of the universe and enduring the Thogal ritual, Bruce is capable of identifying threats long before they even manifest. No matter how well, Animated Batman plans, he still functions as a predominantly reactive character.
Challenges Faced: See above. This Batman shot down Darkseid, he singlehandedly managed to thwart a group of White Martians, and at the last moment of the entire universe, he chased a Lovecraftian monstrosity through a timespace portal so he could go back and rescue Gotham from Dr. Hurt in like an afternoon. While Animated Batman has seen some mean business, nothing he’s gone up against compares to that.
Endurance: While Morrison has been writing Batman for longer than the show itself ran, Bruce Wayne himself takes a long hiatus in the middle of the run to go be a cowboy and visit the end of the universe. Animated Wayne never takes a break, and thus I award him a point for exceptional endurance.
Ruling: So there you have it, folks. While all the contenders put up an excellent showing, and some of the matches could have gone either way, it seems that the current reigning Batman is also the one you can still read in the pages of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Batman Incorporated.
Now, as a little bit of fan interaction, I would LOVE it if some of you would pick your favorite matchup and write your own outcomes. They can be options from the brackets, or you can come up with your own – How would Batman of the Arkham Asylum games hold up against Val Kilmer? Throw these in the comments section for the enjoyment of all.
Thanks for reading! Join us next time for GREEN LANTERN ON GREEN LANTERN ON GREEN LANTERN ON GREEN LANTERN!
~ JK Leo ~