Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Bat-Family

I was a huge Batman fan during my years in Ipoh. Actually studied Batman's history in depth from the Golden Age up to Jeph Loeb's "Hush". My wife and kids joined me in the venture and we had many hours of fun dissecting the characters, laughing at the Schumacher films, watching the Dini-Timm cartoons in awe and discussing who was the best Batgirl – Barbara Gordon or Cassandra Cain. The O'Neil / Dixon / Grant / Moench / Rucka / Brubaker / Grayson era remains our favourite Batman era (pre-Knightfall to No Man's Land). The Batman books of that period were about family. We started with A Lonely Place of Dying (with the introduction of the new Robin III, Tim Drake) and Robin: A Hero Reborn (Tim's initiation) to Knightfall / Knightsquest / Knightsend (Tim's biggest test, the coming of Azrael and the return of Nightwing). Then we moved on to the catastrophic storyarcs: Contagion / Legacy / Cataclysm (the Bat-Family together) that culminated in the year-long epic No Man's Land (restoration of Gotham). At the same time, we picked up the other related titles like Nightwing (I have the complete Dixon run), Catwoman (the Jim Balent version), Robin (again, Dixon run), Birds of Prey (once again, Dixon) and Batgirl (complete Kelley Puckett / Damion Scott run). Along the way, we also had the pleasure of reading such gems as Robin: Year One, Batgirl: Year One and Nightwing: Year One (all by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty). It was the best time to be a Bat-fan! It was the most dysfunctional and quirky family this side of The Simpsons!

Batman was the jackass dad with all sorts of emotional issues who's brooding all the time. Alfred was the doting "mum" who takes care of the dishes and made the best pies! Nightwing was the cool older brother who takes you out on train-rides (actually, hopping about above a fast-moving train is more like it!). Jason Todd is the dead brother that nobody talks about much. Nightwing was going out with Oracle, the big sister who's hot as hell but stuck in a wheelchair. Black Canary comes around once in a while to tease Oracle (so she's like older sister's best friend who wears really hot fishnet-stockings!). Tim Drake is the rookie kid learning the ropes. Azrael is the black-sheep of the family (who's also a member of a doomsday cult) and who comes along once in a while during family gatherings. Batgirl-Cassandra is the youngest sis with all sorts of issues (and she's a goth-chick who kicks ass). She doesn't talk much but she's got more kungfu than Batman and Lady Shiva combined! Also, her biological dad is David Cain, who also trained Batman and later conspired to slap a murder charge on Bruce Wayne by killing one of his girlfriends.

Catwoman is the slutty stepmother who's also trying to seduce older brother, Nightwing. Huntress is another black sheep of the family who slept with older brother, Nightwing. Spoiler is Tim's girlfriend (but she's really interested only in Robin) and Tim is also dating Arianna (as Tim but not as Robin). Jim Gordon is the stepdad who's the voice of reason but he's got his own skeletons in the closet (namely his adulterous fling with Sarah Essen, now his dead 2nd wife – and his abandoned son, Jim, left with his first wife!) There were also those folks who worked for Gordon. Renee Montoya is a closet lesbian (and Harvey Dent is nuts about her), Harvey Bullock loves donuts and Crispus Allen is the new Spectre! Batman’s other wife, Talia Head (note that last-name) is also in bed with Lex Luthor but claims that her son, Damian, is Bruce's. Grand-daddy Ra's Al-Ghul is trying to possess the body of Damian to come back to life. He's also got a thing or two for sister Oracle's friend Black Canary – even allowing her to dip in his pool of living water (Lazarus Pit).

Then there were the "Elseworlds" stuff. In Thrillkiller, Barbara-Batgirl was the rebellious socialite who was trying to get on Jim Gordon's nerves by banging a circus kid, Dick-Robin. What Dick-Robin didn't know was that Barbara-Batgirl was also banging Bruce-Batman, her dad's assistant. This led to Dick-Robin's death after he was poisoned by a kiss from Joker (who's actually a white-skinned Sharon-Stone lookalike woman). Then in the Gotham By Gaslight stories, the Victorian Batman faced Jack the Ripper and prevented the destruction of the "World's Fair" that ushered in the new century.

It was the best of times. More soap opera than anything on TV. [And La Tey, if you're reading this, it was more twisted than anything in Nip/Tuck - now you know why I didn't think Nip/Tuck was such a big deal after all?!? Everything there was in-your-face. With the Bat-books, you gotta read between the lines to see the crankiness!]

For years, this was my vision of what the dysfunctional Bat-family was like. Now you understand why I found the recent movie, "The Dark Knight" to be so unsatisfying?

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