Wednesday, 20 February 2013

What Makes Batman #17 A 10 out of 10 Comicbook?: A Guest Blog By Forrest Helvie

By Newton, Conway, Alcala et al, from Detective Comics #526, 1983
One of my fellow bloggers over at Sequart is Forrest Helvie, who also writes for Newsarama. As I've recently said on TooBusyThinking, Forrest's an undeniably good egg with a sharp mind, and I enjoy his point of view even when the two of us disagree. These are daft, and often far worse than just daft, days in the blogosphere, with the very fact of a disagreement so often coming across as the equivalent of a blood feud. I very much appreciate how Forrest and I don't seem able to bring ourselves to either dislike each other or dismiss each other's work. Even when our opinions appear diametrically opposed, it doesn't seem to matter, and that's because, of course, it doesn't.

I suggested to Forrest that he might contribute a list of his favourite Joker stories to TooBusyThinking. It struck me that it might help me understand more of what he saw in Snyder and Capullo's work. You can find that list in his piece below. But Forrest also took the opportunity to work through his case for giving Batman #17 such high marks, and I'm very glad to have the chance to post what he has to say.

But first, why not pop over to Newsarama, if you've not already, and take a look at what Forrest originally wrote. Then, you ought to know that Forrest describes what follows as an off-the-cuff piece, which developed as he thought about how to define what a great Joker story might, or might not, be. Off-the-cuff or not, it certainly raises issues which, quite frankly, this blogger has rarely had the sense to consider. For example, there's a focus on matters such as inter-textuality and fresh, daring spins on well-established conventions which helps to explain why our two opinions of Batman #17 are so different. We are, it seems, starting from such different positions that we're barely seeing the same comic at all. And why not? Let a thousand flowers bloom, etc, etc ....

Variant cover for Batman #17, 2012, by Tony Daniels
                                  Reviewing Batman #17  

Recently, I’ve wrote a review of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #17—the much-anticipated finale for the “Death of the Family” story arc, and I gave it a solid “10.”  I’ll spare the details as the review is available here on Newsarama.  This week, I also had the opportunity to share a conversation about this particular issue of Batman with my fellow comic-file, Colin Smith, whose opinions I enjoy following on his blog, Too Busy Thinking About Comics, and at Sequart too.  One question that came to mind after talking about our approaches was,  “what makes a 10 when it comes to a comics review?".

So what does it mean to assign a comic a "10" as opposed to a "9"? Can I confess something? I'm not entirely sure. It feels kind of arbitrary to me in some ways. Is there really a difference between an "A-" and an "A+"? Sure, but at the end of the day, we're still looking at an "A" level product. Am I not being critical enough? It's perhaps the one place where I freely admit my review is weakest. That said, I still feel the content of what I wrote has merit, but I think it's going to take a few more times working through the rating scheme to truly get a handle on quantifying quality in this regard. What I hope my review expresses, however, is that within the context of the current series, this book delivers the capstone to a memorable, contemporary Joker story.

This notion of Btaman issue 17 as a capstone to the "Death Of The Family" story led me to yet another line of thought. What makes for a truly memorable story? There are essays and books that need to be written about this, and perhaps there are already. For my part, it's all about how well a comic delves into the psyche of the Clown Prince Of Crime and how integral he is t the Batman mythos. Moreover, I'd argue that a comic that contends to be a true contender for any sort of "Joker Hall Of Fame" needs to do more than just tip the hat to these themes and issues. It also needs to add something to the discussion which previous creative teams had not considered. The questions did not fail to end here, however, as I began asking myself: What are some of the most memorable and significant Joker stories out there?

Copyless cover for Batman #17 by Greg Capullo
 

First off, I make no pretensions to offer a definitive list of any sort. I find them to be exercises in futility and attempts to offend someone or marginalise an otherwise viable but overlooked subject. All the same, I do believe that there are a handful of quite memorable and mythically significant stories fans of the Joker would do well to know (if they don't already). In no particular order;

·         Batman Issue #1, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
·         The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.
·         Batman Issue #251, “The Joker’s 5-Way Revenge” by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams.
·         Batman Issue #s 426-429, “A Death in the Family” by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo
·         Detective Comics #s 475 & 476, “Joker Fish / Sign of the Joker” by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.
·         The Batman Adventures: Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm

By Alan Davis, Mike W Barr, Paul Neary et al, from Detective Comics #570, 1987

Honorable Mentions:
·         Arkham Asylum and Arkham City—the video games. 
Note: I’m going to do a seriously anti-academic and uncritical thing at this point and simply state that if you don’t know why these entries deserve recognition, go do your homework! :-)


         The question remains: Does my rating Snyder and Capullo’s Batman #17 a “10” somehow earn it a place of equal standing alongside the issues I've just listed?  I’m not sure it does. I found much of Steve Morris’ critique on The Beat to be quite fair and well said.  However, I would contend that it is an issue that is worth looking at within the context of the aforementioned issues, and most notably for the psycho-sexual tension this creative pairing attempt to draw out of the Batman-Joker relationship—something Snyder and Capullo do add to the collective conversation that few others have so successfully brought to the forefront.  It’s hard not to notice the constant reiteration of “love” Joker feels for Batman and his jealous desire to remove the competition for Batman’s attention.  There have been constant references to the “dance” these two entities are locked into and the cover to this issue plays upon this convention—one that is explicitly raised in The Killing Joke—and it is consummated in a macabre and hellishly deranged feast “lovingly” prepared with the best intentions (and we all know where those lead).  In fact, the final panels with Joker and Batman portray them locked in this dance, drawing one another close, and whispering secrets into the ear of the other—secrets to which only they are privy.  


          It's also worth noting there is a nod to the Joker-Harley relationship within the story arc as a whole - and her absence at the end of it speaks to the absence she feels in Mad Love. In fact, Joker's use of Harley Quinn in the first issue was perhaps one of the more disturbing elements of the entire "Death Of The Family" arc, and I'm continually surprised this is often left unexamined by and large. There is a relationship Joker has devoted himself to, but it isn't the one he's had with her. That Joker rejects Harley in favor of his pursuit of his latest and "greatest" scheme centred upon elevating Batman to all new "heights" speaks to the psycho-sexual tension Snyder is weaving into this story. Harley is used and cast aside, a mere pawn to help the Funnyman Fatale consummate his nefarious designs against the Batman. This is certainly an even darker re-imagining of the degradation which she subjects herself to in order to please "Mr J", and it's one of many examples that highlight the depravity and inhumanity of Joker. And while I am hesitant to say the Joker gets what he deserves, and brand myself the "Hannibal of comics criticism", it is hard to feel bad for the beating the madman finally receives from Batman in light of his demeaning treatment of one who he ought to have treated with at least some .. modicum of decorum if not deranged affection. But then, would he would still be the Joker if he did? After all, what does finally happen to Harley, and Joker clearly does not care.


      While the "death" that takes place is seemingly the trust between Bruce and the Bat-Family, there also seems to be a problem of trust between Batman and the reader; after all, why aren't we in on the secret? And when we lose just a little faith in our heroes, even if only for a short time, don't we also experience a sense of loss?  Maybe I’m guilty of reading too much into this issue.  On the other hand, the grotesque tapestry Capullo creates in the banquet hall invites us to read into this series. It encourages us to consider the different ways in which this pairing have tried to pay homage to the past history between the Batman and Joker, and to note that they've done so while spinning the tale in a way that gets contemporary readers to respond, pushing the discussions initiated in earlier comics to new and transgressive levels. Are there flaws?  Sure.  But there are flaws in even the best Batman and Joker stories; yet, in spite of these flaws, they are still the ones readers remember to this day and creators continue to grapple with in their four-colored funnies.  

So with that, I’ll end my defence of this issue and my thoughts following Colin’s kind invitation to join him in a discussion of what it is that makes for a truly great Joker story.
By Denny O'Neil, Ernie Chan, J L Garcia Lopez et al, from The Joker #3, 1975

My thanks to Forrest, and of course, your feedback to this as well as your own nominations for the best ever Joker stories would be most welcome.

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15 comments:

  1. Back when I was doing consistent comic reviews (the good old days of... last year) I would never give a perfect 5/5 or 10/10 or whatever. I'm a romantic that way.. a 100% perfect comic is a sublime goal that just ain't happening.

    But that's me, and it seems I'm in the minority on that one.

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    1. Hello Isaac:- I've had the chance of writing for Q for the past year and there's only been two comics/graphic novels that I've felt confident deserve the full Q 5-stars.

      Which means I'm still less of a comics-reviewing romantic than you are!

      But Forrest does argue that "10/10" doesn't mean that he thought the comic was blemishless. And in the terms of the criteria he discusses, I can understand why he gave the rating he gave. The blogopshere's full of reviews and yet somewhat lacking in reviewers who explain what guides their judgments in any transparent fashion. Thumbs up for Forrest doing so.

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  2. First, let me thank Colin again for inviting me over to share some of his space. (I really enjoy TBTAMC)

    Isaac, I agree with you about what a true perfect score should represent. As I suggested above, my numerical rating is certainly questionable and I can only plead that I'm working out the kinks in that regard. I do hope, however, that whether you agree or disagree with my assessment of the issue, you'll find I've done due diligence in laying out a critical explanation for why I found this to be a highly recommended reading.

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    1. Hello Forrest:- "Due diligence" has certainly been done, though as we were saying, I'm still unconvinced that it needed to be done; I see nothing wrong with a shout of publish and be damned. Or damn the torpedoes. Or any number of possibly-relevant cliches which express the belief that you needed worry about hammering out your case for your own opinion. But, as again I said, I'm REALLY glad that you did, because I found it a real eye-opener. It's so easy to read someone's reviews and assume that they're writing it using the same conceptual toolbox as I would. Seeing your response helped underscore how this just isn't so.

      Thanks for your thoughts, and for being such an egg about the whole process :)!

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  3. 1/2

    "For my part, it's all about how well a comic delves into the psyche of the Clown Prince Of Crime and how integral he is t the Batman mythos. Moreover, I'd argue that a comic that contends to be a true contender for any sort of "Joker Hall Of Fame" needs to do more than just tip the hat to these themes and issues. It also needs to add something to the discussion which previous creative teams had not considered. "

    I can't say I can't really comment in depth about the joker character, I'm familiar with hardly any of Colin's recommended Joker stories and only with a good deal of the above via the marvelous Batman animated series. However I do think the above is something I can tackle.

    (With apologies for the if this comes across as too harsh/arrogant, but I'd have to strongly disagree with this.)

    Firstly the Joker's psyche and if it is interesting or not. To my mind the Joker is interesting not because of what he contains but of what he projects. The great Joker stories both of you allude to seem to involve some kind of manifestation of the Joker's will through a scheme. Jokerised fish, Jokerised jury, elaborate, chaotic schemes that define the inherent greed, weakness, of society and people. But in order for this to be it's most compelling there must be a balance, the joker must be a cavity.

    Case in point in the storyline of the laughing fish you have an excellent example of this, the Joker's will is manifested in a horrific stomach churning way by jokerising all the fish of Gotham, but his motivation (if you can even call it that, it's just as likely the idea of turning the fish came first with the Joker, which also kind of makes my point) for this comes from a gap, a misunderstanding of how copyright works, thus the fish idea has emanating from a child-like void, making the crime seem almost innocent and by extension even more horrific and compelling. When you try and shine a light on the inner workings of the Joker you invariably cast his deeds in shadow.

    Batman has a deep personal motivation, that commitment that personal tragedy has elected in Bruce Wayne is the key defining trait of Batman and his mythos, it's his superpower, his inner magic, it's why despite not having anything even close to the Godlike powers of other DC characters he is still depicted as being capable toe to toe with Super being who can even cripple the likes of Superman, such as Dark Seid, and the reader accepts this because of our intuitive psychological belief in the power of sacrifice. An example of this can be found in the terrific book influence by Robert Cialdini, there's an entire chapter that deals with rituals, in particular manhood rituals for tribes, universities or the military and how studies have shown that the harsher the ritual the more people will think fondly and behave loyally to their tribe, fraternity, or fighting force. The sacrifice of Bruce Wayne’s parents resonates similarly as a potent ritualistic symbol. This is strengthened a highlighted then by the fact the Joker has nothing of the sort, Batman comes from Bruce Wayne, the Joker has no alter ego.

    In much the same way Wittgenstein said if a lion could speak we wouldn’t understand it, so too I feel the same should be true of the Joker and so any attempt to add to his psyche is a destructive and futile one.

    That being said there’s a lot to like about Batman’s sudden realization that the Joker loves him. The main one being that it could all be in Batman’s head, after all pupil dilation doesn’t just happen when you love something, your pupils may well dilate at the sight of a tasty looking dinner, but I’ve never seen anyone ask a steak for it’s phone number. I’d have to re-read the issues to see if that reading fits.


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  4. 2/2

    As for psychosexual implications to the Joker, the message from Death of the Family is confused. If we take it as given that the Joker is indeed in obsessive love with Batman and if this is to be taken as an important accentuation to the mythos of their relationship, then what is the outcome? The joker put all the family through some horrific ordeals, but stops shorts of delivering a killing stroke. The Jokerised bat clan coup de gras turned out to be a damp squib, the outcome feels less like a schism and more like an opportunity to rebrand certain characters, Nightwing now conveniently free of his circus managing duties ups sticks and heads to Chicago, a very mild kind of death. If the Joker was a jealous, scorned, lover, determined to have Batman to himself, the opportunity to damage the bat clan to a degree that his wish would come true was there for the taking, if he deliberately held back in compassion for Batman then there’s nothing to my mind in the script that indicates this. I know that I’m asking for what I spend most of this post arguing again, but really what I’m arguing for here is for some real consequence.

    The in the balance between “adding something to the discussion”, and disturbing the dynamic between the Joker and Batman, is a crucial one, I don’t think adding something to the discussion in and of itself is a worthy enough merit. The visual remaking of the Joker and his facemask was exhilarating, but as a rule and for pretty much the reasons I outlined above adding to the discussion has risks associated with it, which is why very often it doesn’t stick. Has Snyder added anything for all his showmanship as compelling as the addition of Harley Quinn (which was pretty much an accident, a case of a cameo character who became enormously popular straight away)? The hinted at debauchery between the Joker and Harley Quinn in the animated series implied without illuminating, in the Laughing fish episode, when Harley Expressed her distaste for fish the joker dumps a fish head on her (to which she replies, “you’re really sick Mr. J”) turning her at once into a reverse mermaid, whereas a mermaid is the manifestation of the lack of consequence for the sailor’s sexual exploits (STDs withstanding), the implications of that image and what it hints at for the Joker and Harley’s sex life, well are so frighteningly perverse that you really have to applause the chutzpah to put it into what was a children’s show.

    Maybe I’m being a bit pedantic and harsh here and taking Forrest far too literary in his reasoning, but I think the question “what makes a good Joker story” is a very interesting one, so hopefully at the very least this adds to the discussion.

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    1. Hello Seanán:- First off, thank you for making such a splendid contribution to this post. And as with Forrest's piece, it really helps me in thinking about my own reviewing. (A selfish business, I agree, but I'm grateful for you making me thinking about things I previously took for granted.) For example, I find myself ashamed to admit that I would never think to even consider whether a Joker story did or didn't add to what had come before in the character's history. Now, I do agree that if such a question is asked, the important issue is not whether something new has been added, but whether it adds something of worth. (I have a vague memory of Galactus falling in love with Frankie, the Torch's old girlfriend. If that's not a fever dream, it would certainly be a new spin, but sadly one which diminished the sense of the G as a force of nature rather than a big bloke dressed in purple.)I'm not even sure that I would have the nous to register the "fish head" scene you mention from BAS in the way you mention. (I wish I would have.) Now you've got me wondering about a point you've inspired even though I'm not suggesting you stated it yourself; could a comic full of smart arresting images dropped into a confused tale ever qualify for classic status? Because that's how Batman #17 sometimes reads to me. A host of MOMENTS which seem strung together for effect. Should I be up for considering such a tale to be a classic?

      You see. It's not just the many points you and Mr F raise. It's the one you trigger too ...

      By which I mean, my starting point would always be one that's rooted in how the storytelling functions. Is the combination of art and script clear and yet imaginative? Is it internally consistent? What meaning/s does its sub-text transmit, and does there appear to have been a well-crafted effort made to control and direct that? To what degree is the book welcoming readers who aren't die-hard fans? Are the contents concerned with little but fan-boyishness, and so on?

      As such, several of the Joker stories from the 50s which I choose cover similar ground and add little by the way of innovation. Yet they are solid, welcoming, imaginative and, most of all, laugh-out-loud funny.

      I suspect that Forrest, should he have the time in what seems like a ridiculously busy schedule, will pop in here. What I think I'll do is pause and wait for his response. That will give me a chance to think through much of what you mention. For example, I do agree that the great Joker stories tend to feature a beguiling and yet askew scheme on the character's part. (And I do feel that Snyder didn't provide a scheme which either made sense or at the least resulted in an impressive finale. In fact, I fear that a Snyder script tends to focus on golly-wow moments without often making them make sense, either in their own terms or in combination with what happens elsewhere.) Yet one of the stories which I didn't add in my baker's dozen, but was sorely tempted to, is by Dini and Byrne, and features a Joker who is simply randomly bouncing around Gotham. No scheme there at all, and that was very much the point, I suspect.

      But then, I guess that that IS innovative, in that it's a different take on how the Joker's stories tend to be told.

      (By the way of nothing; my working knowledge of Batman The Animated Series is limited. But the way that the sex life, and lack of it, was used in the comic Mad Love, for example, was wonderfully enlightening.)

      What I'm really saying is that you've given me a great deal of food for thought. And after owning up to that fact, I must go and start the chin-stroking, rather than chin-stroking as I type ....

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    2. Seanán--First, thank you for such a thoughtful response. In some regards, I don't think we're on too different side. I really like and agree with much of what you discuss with the ideas of Joker's projections and his lack of an alter-ego. In fact, Snyder addresses this in his lack of interest in Batman's alter-ego--he will only address Batman because unlike Batman/Bruce Wayne, he recognizes no other facet of his identity other than his Joker self. Moreover, I think this is part of what makes Moore's Killing Joke (I know many do not hold this book as highly as I do) as it attempts to provide a more three-dimensional view of Joker alongside the depraved scenes Moore & Boland present. We get some ideas as to who he used to be before subsuming this "civilian" identity to his murderous clown persona.

      So, I think there's a LOT of credibility to your point. I found it more informative than argumentative; nor did I see it as actually being exclusive from my own ideas... but perhaps I missed something. :-)

      I do think the point you raise about there being a lack of a strong "left hook" being delivered is relatively fair as well. As I said in my original review as Newsarama: "...critics of this issue are partially correct. The conclusion to this story does not deliver the popularly expected results, nor are the effects of this story immediately evident. Some readers might find themselves asking how the ending of this issue was any different other story arcs of the past where good seems to triumph over evil. Was this all one giant cop-out?"

      But I think it's the long-term that Snyder is playing to here. You also raise some fair points about why Joker--if he was madly in love with Batman--wouldn't have flat out killed SOMEONE out of jealousy. Here's the only thing that comes to my mind: What's better? To force someone to choose you (and thereby risk a forced relationship and not true love) or to get them to come to you on their own--indicative of free choice. First he drives the family away, and what else does Batman have left but to continue the "dance" with the criminals of Gotham, most notablly Joker. Who really knows who's right. At this point, we're simply going to have to wait and see how the story bears out.

      I do have to confess you lost me a bit on your discussion of Harley, Joker, and the Jokerfish.

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    3. Colin-a few points. First, you point out some of the stories from the 1950s simply reinforce the chaotic and playful nature of the Joker. I'd say this makes them worthwhile as a whole as they've created & helped establish the trend. Maybe not innovative, but they do help reinforce the foundation that made the character so definitive. But I don't think this makes them worth bypassing one bit!

      Second, you point out the distinction between something "new" and "something of worth." This is one well-worth making. Many creators have tried introducing new material or spins on characters, but this alone does not create a space for them in the "Hall of Fame." On the other hand, I might argue that if someone is taking an old idea and delving even deeper with it, in helping expand our understanding/appreciation of a character, they've added something new. So, perhaps we're more in agreement than not :)

      Finally, you ask an absolutely relevant question to the medium as a whole, and one I suspect the Big Two truly need to deal with: "To what degree is the book welcoming readers who aren't die-hard fans?" Marvel includes a one-paragraph summary recap on p. 1 of their new issues now, but really.. is that enough? I'm not so sure.

      And yes, I'd say the Batman issues are guilty of this too--lacking context of the past issues, I could see them being somewhat exclusive. On the other hand... is it wrong to allow a writer to stretch a story out over a few issues? I'm torn. Truly. Seems there are two balls a writer needs to juggle: Inclusiveness and continuity.

      Okay... as Colin intimated, I'd best be off!

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    4. Hello Forrest:- It's always hard to discuss such things without fearing to give the wrong impression. My intention in mentioning those 50s tales wasn't to suggest that your approach was wrong, but to use the chance to, if you will, explain to myself what my own approach was. Because I've never really considered in such a way what my "approach" is, for want of a better word, and it wasn't until it registered how in some ways we were looking at things differently that I thought to wonder about it.

      My feeling on the new/something of worth issue is that there doesn't need to be anything new at all added for an issue to be a classic. Simply by seeing aspects of storytelling which have been used before used by different craftspeople creates a sense of difference and uniqueness. It's certainly a laudable and important business to note that work pushes the boundaries and develops what already exists. But that seems to me to be one more thing to note rather than a core issue in deciding whether something is a classic or not. The history of 20th century art and music is crowded with examples of artists pursuing the new, and establishing themselves with critics through Not-Being-What-Came-Before. Since that was often clarity, tunefulness, and so on, I suspect that the search for the new itself can be as pernicious as it's essential.

      On the matter of the unit in which we consume comics being the context in which they should be considered; my favourite creators are those who can write for both the issue and the collection. Cornell, Gillen, Simone, Waid et al all manage to do this without sacrificing quality. It is a much-ignored skill and I think it's absolutely vital in a market in which the Big two rely on monthly titles so much. I do understand why you want to - and enjoy - relating what the Joker does is BM17 with what happens elsewhere in Suicide Squad, but for me, that has nothing to do with Batman #17 itself. It's not mentioned in any way, which means that you're doing the heavy lifting there. Now, I think that modern comics often works by giving smart readers a canvas which they can interrogate and improvise with. It seems to me to part of many of Grant Morrison's works, for example. And that's another approach and I have no problems with it existing, if exist it does. Yet I think that's again an approach which both excludes readers and at times excuses poor storytelling. Obviously the best of Morrison's work both entices the audience which loves the gameplaying, the reference-spotting etc etc, while welcoming a broader audience. And that too is a key skill; not just "does this make sense as a unit and as a collected edition", but "does this involve the reader who wants to interrogate the comic as much as those who are content to rest with an emphasise on experiencing it".

      Is it wrong to allow a writer to stretch out a story? Not at all. But it is to my mind a mistake to allow that ambition to excuse aspects which don't make sense, plots which have carelessly constructed, and the spectacle elbowing out the substance.

      Or so seems the lay of the land from the frozen East Of England :)

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    5. Glad it didn't come across as I was worried it would.

      Forrest - I agree with what you say vis a vis the logic of pushing the bat family away from batman, but from the Joker's point of view is that almost too rationale?

      Here's a link to the scene I was referring to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP3TdvOlzTM&t=0m53s maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I saw it as the joker turning Harley into a reverse mermaid, whereas the mermaid may represent a metaphor for how the sex life of sailors is free of consequence (due to lack of suitable genitalia in a mermaid and the lack of staying around for the sailor) and the seaborne life is free of (hetro-sexual) intercourse, the mermaid is a symbol of lust for women, putting the fish head onto Harley communicated the opposite, a revoltion at the thought of sex. The reading comes with the unusual forcefulness and bitterness which the line "you're really sick" is delivered with.

      Colin - With regard accessibility versus authenticity I wonder if the violence and brutality of many of the main titles is down to the floating voter issue? Floating voters dictate election results because they're the only one's who change their minds. The casual audience, who comes to comics through first experiencing them in other media perhaps also dictates the comics book form? In order for the comic to be more authentic and establish it's identity as the definite format, it must be more real, and a generation that has grown up watching casual murder and sex on TV and now online, both writes comics more violently and wants more violent material, because that is their picture of reality as expressed through the media.



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    6. Hello Seanan:- Firstly, my sincerest apologies for the lateness in this comment appearing. It was placed in the Blogger "spam" file and since nothing ever gets stuffed there, I didn't think to look. My bad, and I hope that that has offended you. Mea culpa.

      That BAS clip is .... amazing. If there's not a conscious sub-text operating there, there's a quite legitimate case for pointing out a range of things that it seems to suggest. I'm actually quite amazed by how funny and daring the whole scene is, and yet done in a way that wouldn't alienate a younger audience while fascinating an older one. Which for me is the exact opposite of the worst in the Death Of The Family crossover. I'm grateful to you for suggesting it.

      From what I recall of the audience studies - such as they are, anecdotal and not - of the Nu52, the mass of new readers are either returnees or young men. I fear that I don't know whether there actually are any "floating" consumers hanging around anymore. I have a picture of a relatively constrained niche of blokeish readers for DC Comics who quite obviously can't buy all 52 comics and have to be dragged to THIS title or THAT by more and more SHOCK!!! I can't say that's true, of course. I wish I had the considerable dosh to fund a proper study of the while process. What concerns me is the number of posters on the net who seem to associate SHOCK/SKEWERING with their own identity, as if they were creating an outsider role, or legitimising, with referencing to a particular type of content.

      As you say, it's not as if the culture doesn't pump such stuff in excess anyway. Sometimes, of course, it's all to a good purpose. Most times, it's just working on the rubes, I fear ....

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  5. Thanks for putting your case, Forrest, it's much appreciated.

    'So what does it mean to assign a comic a "10" as opposed to a "9"? Can I confess something? I'm not entirely sure. It feels kind of arbitrary to me in some ways. Is there really a difference between an "A-" and an "A+"?

    I think the analogy is a tad skewed, Forrest - you're rating the book as a perfect 10, and while I can see that equating to something in the A range, surely a 9 score would be a B?

    I hate having to assign star ratings because they're so difficult to defend - as you note, there's an element of gut-feeling. But if I was plumping for a perfect score, saying that this product could not be better, I feel I'd have to be able to explain why, for me, that's true. Gut alone wouldn't cut it.

    So I avoid stars and think about Sally Brown, coathanger art and squeaky wheels!

    Anyway, nice one, Forrest.

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  6. This isn't really my kind of Joker. I know everyone has different views about what he should be, but Nu52 Joker is just too morbid in concept for me. My favorite Jokers are always the ones who are funny and kind of clean to the point where you don't even notice the violence until you think back on what he's actually done.

    That's why I like the animated series and Burton movie versions so much. They're scary guys, but you don't even notice it at first. Nu52 Joker is much to direct in his approach for my taste.

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    1. Hello Alex:- As you say, everyone has their opinion on the matter. My own objections are less about the Nu52's Joker and his character and more about (1) the lack of sense in the stories matched to (2) the oh-so-familiar serial killer riffs. Like you I have my own preferences. Luckily there's been a good few stories which fulfill them. I'm happy for each new cadre of creators and editors to have their own take. (Which is big of me, given that objecting would hardly do any good :)) It's just that I'd rather a character which was less cliched, and plots which were better worked.

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