Sunday, February 21, 2010

Batman and Robin: Questions

In my last post, I offered a baseline explanation for a large part of what's going on in this first year of Batman and Robin. I'd like to add to that explanation an additional observation about the likely role of the domino theme, on an artistic level.

The title of issue #1 is "The Domino Effect". That term refers to a chain of causality, as when a line of dominoes fall, with each one setting off the next one. That is how this story has been structured: Pyg's work turns an ordinary girl into Red Hood's sidekick. Red Hood's remark sends Dick to the UK where he accidentally resurrects an evil Batman clone. That clone goes to Gotham where his attack on Damian is likely to help lead to Damian battling Dick in the fourth arc. And if Doctor Hurt / El Penitente attacks Batman while Robin is already occupying his attention, the attack might succeed, resulting in the kinds of things we saw in Batman #666 -- an anguished Damian as Robin kneeling over the bloody Batman. Which might even lead to Damian selling his soul to the Devil to make up for the loss of Batman. Which would fulfill what El Penitente said in #6 (and Morrison said in interviews), that by beating Dick Grayson and Damian, Doctor Hurt would have thereby settled his score with Bruce Wayne.

That is likely the sense of "domino" intended outside the story, by the writer. But that leaves the explanation of what's going on inside the story, which still has some blanks to fill. Here's where it gets interesting, and interactive: The rest of the story, broken down into multiple choice.

Who's Who

1) What is Oberon Sexton's secret?
1A) He is really Mangrove Pierce
1B) He is really the Joker
1C) He is the last life that Bruce Wayne is living in the Omega Sanction
1D) He is Grant Morrison, who is writing the same story that he's in
1E) He has some superhuman ability

2) What is the Joker's role in this story?
2A) He is Oberon Sexton
2B) He is the killer of Cardinal Maggi whom Sexton is tracking
2C) He lent his circus from The Killing Joke to Professor Pyg
2D) Nothing we've seen yet; he'll arrive later

3) What is Bruce Wayne's role in this story so far?
3A) He is the soul inside Oberon Sexton
3B) He has arranged the appearance of the dominoes through actions from his past lives to communicate something to Dick Grayson
3C) He has not played a direct role

Suspicious Moves

4) Is Toad actually dead?
4A) Yes
4B) No

5) Was the antidote Dick found real, or a trick?
5A) Really an antidote to the contagious addiction
5B) "Meant to be found", and to trick him

6) Who was the recipient in the drug deal before #1?
6A) A representative of or friendly partner of El Penitente
6B) Someone who wants to work against El Penitente
6C) It doesn't matter


7) Why did Pyg says that Niko betrayed him?
7A) The entire deal run by Toad was not authorized by Pyg
7B) He expected cash, not dominoes
7C) Because Toad, Niko, and Lev failed by being captured
7D) No reason; he's crazy

The Dominoes


8) What is the physical nature of the dominoes?
8A) They are totally ordinary dominoes
8B) They can spread the contagious addiction
8C) They have a regenerative healing power for those who hold them
8D) They are something horrifying, such as human bone

9) Why are the single dominoes showing up?
9A) They are a calling card, brag, or a taunt, counting down to something bad
9B) They are going to spread the contagious infection
9C) They were talismans or instruments of healing for El Penitente's underlings
9D) Bruce Wayne is trying to tell Dick something
9E) They are symbols in a story by Oberon Sexton / Grant Morrison

10) How were the dominoes delivered?
10A) A metahuman snuck in with speed or invisibility, or teleported them
10B) Damian did it
10C) Multiple agents on-scene, like Tony Li, did it
10D) The writer, Grant Morrison, made them appear
10E) The people with dominoes had them the whole time

11) Given the planted dominoes, why did Pearly also have dominoes?
11A) No reason; coincidence
11B) Someone is spreading dominoes far and wide
11C) Someone made a point of planting them to confuse Dick into thinking they are part of the sequence, but they are not

12) Why is the secret of the dominoes "terrifying"?
12A) They are counting down to Dick's death
12B) They are counting down to massive numbers of deaths
12C) They are composed of human bone
12D) They are associated with the deaths of the Waynes or Graysons


I'm not even asking who the Domino Killer is! That's implicit in the answers to the other questions.


Plans

13) What did El Penitente ask of Oberon Sexton?
13A) To offer the results of his investigation to El Penitente
13B) To play a part in an upcoming attack on Dick
13C) To rewrite the story and thus plant Pearly's dominoes as a false clue in front of Dick
13D) To rewrite the story in a way that will attack Dick in an overwhelming fashion

14) Are the financial irregularities at Wayne Enterprises related to the main plot?
14A) It's a totally separate plot
14B) It's part of an attack by El Penitente
14C) It's part of an attack by Talia
14D) It's part of an attack by the Joker

15) How will the fourth arc tie into Batman #666?
15A) Dick will be the Batman who dies; Damian will deal with the Devil to bring him back or defend Gotham
15B) The clone will be the Batman who dies; Damian, not realizing that it's a clone, will deal with the Devil
15C) No Batman dies; Damian will deal with the Devil to save Gotham
15D) Damian doesn't actually deal with the Devil, but meets him

16) How will the fourth arc tie into Detective #235?
16A) We'll finally find out about the Waynes' involvement with the Black Glove
16B) Not at all
16C) We'll see some scenes that speak to this, but they will be ambiguous

I think it's safe to say that the answers to most of these questions would wrap up just about any remaining mystery. Now -- what are the answers? There were some very leading questions among the bunch. I don't think I see the whole picture yet, but I think many of the questions can be narrowed down to a much smaller range of possibilities than the full set I listed. Yet, there may be some correct answers I didn't list. I invite people to give their answers. I'll offer mine early next week. Of course, there'll be opportunities to revisit the questions after every remaining installment of the story.

50 comments:

  1. To me its kind of ironic that after a batman dies, Damian makes a deal with the devil to help the dead batman or carry on batman's mission. This is ironic because the dead batman will most likely be a result of something Dr. Hurt (el penitente) did, and Hurt is the devil. So basically, after Hurt's plan succeeds, Damian makes a deal with Hurt. Maybe Damian doesn't know Hurt's the devil (although I'm pretty sure Bruce Wayne does). And also Rikdad, I'm really confused as to how Morrison could be Sexton because if Dick finds out Sexton is Morrison, how would that make any sense?

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  2. Also, maybe the reason Hurt always says I've been there since the beginning is rooted in detective 235. Maybe he knew the Waynes so he knew Bruce since Bruce was a child. Also, since Hurt is the devil, I think it's not to much of a stretch to say he could have known that Bruce would become Batman.

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  3. I'm wondering if the recurring allusions to "Killing Joke" bear some significance, as they are present in a manner similar to dominoes. Off the top of my head - we've seen Joker's circus, Red Hood persona, Jason Todd's speech resembling that of Joker's and scene with Pearly King reminiscent of the fake Joker's interrogation scene. There's probably more.

    Is it just foreshadowing of Joker's inevitable return or a clue leading to Joker's involvment in... well, I'm not sure in what actually. Domino killings? Oberon Sexton's true identity? Something else entirely?

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  4. Also... (WARNING: major spoilers from some of Morrison's comics are coming)

    Morrison's motifs have a tendency to reappear throughout his whole body of work. For example - character's 'death' as a means to a victory. See: Jean Grey in 'New X-men' - killed by Logan only to release Phoenix Force and save the day. See: The Hoaxer in 'Flex Mentallo' - hoaxing the moon-faced villain by appearing to be defeated. See: Batman in 'RIP' - rising from the coffin and revealing that he'd been prepared for everything.

    If we apply this logic to various aspects of 'B&R', we may get something interesting, if not necessarily correct. I just thought about similarities between Xorn from 'New X-men' and Oberon Sexton. They're both mysterious, masked characters who suddenly appear out of nowhere and seem to be the good guys. If that's the case - and, as some of you may know, Xorn turned out to be Magneto - Sexton must be the Joker.

    Of course, such analogy method may not just be the one essential to figuring out Sexton's identity.

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  5. I am really starting to believe the 4th wall is being broken by Morrison.

    In issue #4 Oberon Sexton talks about the "riddle of the Corn Dollie". A corn Dolly is A place for the spirit of the corn to live between harvest and the new ploughing. Anyone know anything about that? could that be symbolism for Bruce some how? Is Oberons body a place for Bruce to dwell between worlds or something to that effect?

    I think the Clone is gonna die and Damien will make his deal with the Devil (Hurt) and it is gonna set him against Dick somehow.He might think its his Dad and think that the Lazerus pit drove him to insanity. He may well blame Dick for doing it. Not sure of all the details but I think its gonna be something in that ball park.

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  6. navras: Regarding the Killing Joke allusions in B&R, take a look at this article if you haven't already: http://www.4thletter.net/2009/11/batman-robin-the-facets-of-the-joker/
    There've been some more Killing Joke (and Joker) references in the last few issues as well.

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  7. @DAL wow that link was great. The Jason Todd Joker stuff in the panels can't be a coincidence.

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  8. Thanks, DAL - good article there.

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  9. I think Damian's spine being surgically replaced is a shot by Morrison at the people who prefer to keep Barbara Gordon in the chair, too. You could give Damian any number of debilitating injuries which his mother's surgeons could then repair, but only shooting the base of his spine directly parallels a Bat-clan member's condition and a fairly controversial position in comics. Clearly his opinion is that it makes no sense for her to be in the chair when rescue is so possible (and we won't go into the arguments of what she might represent to readers).

    Question - Damian is TEN now and he makes a deal with the devil at 14, he says. Of course, he also portrays Bruce and Talia's coming together to result in him as a loving and passionate union, while Bruce essentially he refused to give her any babies so she basically stole his semen (to which she made a crude date-rape sort of joke). So is Damian an unreliable narrator? Or is the deal with the devil something that doesn't get finalized for awhile.

    /taterpie

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  10. @ A.C.K. i bet the Devil doesnt come to break Damians legs till hes 14.

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  11. One of the main things I'm looking at that I haven't mentioned yet is the erroneous solicit for issue #1. I think it indicates that Dick is wrong about there being a Domino Killer; a domino shows up in a dead man's hand (no reference to DC Universe #0 intended), and Dick presumes that's a calling card. The solicit for #1 says that the abducted child (must be Sasha) was abducted by the Domino Killer. But we know (and even the solicit for #2 says) that she was abducted by Pyg. I think Dick is simply incorrect about interpreting the domino as a calling card, and that part of the upshot will be to show that he's not the detective that Bruce was. (The finanical irregularities help make that point.)

    It also seems awry that he believes that the domino in Pyg's lab was "meant to be found", but doesn't conclude the same thing about the test tube marked "Antidote" right next to the domino. Obviously, if anyone thought that the domino would be found, they would also think that the Antidote would be found. So I suspect that he's failed to solve (or perhaps made worse) the contagious addiction.

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  12. If it's really 16 issues just to go 'and see, Dick's just NOT the dude Bruce is', what a vast waste of my time.

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  13. Rikdad, I think you've said something like this before but maybe the horrifying truth of the dominos is that they are the drug. Maybe all the people who had dominos already had them before they were killed or hurt. Maybe in 1 (and I could be wrong) toads drug deal hadn't happened yet and he was dealing dominos not being paid in them.

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  14. Mxy, that's an interesting take. Ie, that perhaps the trunk was the other half of the drug deal. DAL suggested something different earlier, that maybe the dominoes were the payment, but were *meant* to be the payment (ie, they have some great value that ordinary dominoes wouldn't). Whereas I was stuck at that time on the idea that the dominoes were just a rip-off, a "dud" in the place of payment. Your idea and DAL's share the notion that the dominoes are valuable, but with a different take on the mechanics of the deal.

    I should add that this resembles the plot of "Halloween III", in which harmless children's Halloween masks are used to spread an evil contagion of some sort.

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  15. Also I was just wondering what is that orange square next to peoples comments?

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  16. <

    Mxy, the trick of having an author inside his own story has been done many times before, with various explanations or lack thereof. And Morrison has done it more than once. This is one way to "break the fourth wall" (as in, if someone inside your television broke out of the screen and climbed out into your living room).

    The early JSA stories around 1940 did this numerous times. The first JSA story is absolutely packed with Fourth Wall phenomena. The story never mentions Gardner Fox, the writer, but the characters frequently refer to themselves as comic book characters. At one point in the main action, Johnny Thunder says that the editors aren't going to give him a full story, then the issue has a text-based story, then comes back to illustrated stories.

    An early Hawkman story ended with him sitting down to read a comic book with himself on the cover. (TOTALLY outside the tone of the rest of the series.)

    I've written a post largely about the start of the JSA (and thus, the DC Universe) that I'll post later when I polish it. Sort of putting that on hold until I get through this span when B&R is biweekly.

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  17. While I think that the 4th wall dimension is entirely possible, I for one would be dissatisfied if that is who Oberon Sexton turned out to be. I need to think about why, but there is something with that which doesn't sit that well with me.

    Navras - just reading New X-men at the moment. Gutted that that's who Xorn turned out to be, as in I haven't started that book yet, but hugely interesting in relation to this. My bets on the Joker.

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  18. millerfrankfan said
    grant morrison is an asshle to bring supernatral element into world of batman. final crisis and rip all were shit.

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  19. Guatam, Batman has had supernatural elements since 1939. There were only four Batman stories before supernatural elements became part of his world. And those first four stories aren't particularly good, IMO.

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  20. I mean to say that bringing THE Devil just weakens the very base of THE BATMAN which is base upon logic and reasoning. If Devil is being involved then all of the crimes could be attributed to it. It just takes the fun when one finds a flesh and blood person using his brains not supernatural power to create a masterful setup for batman.Also my name is GAUTAM not guatam.

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  21. Some more comments on the gangsters' names from #4 and #5:

    One of them is named "Aitch-Eyes". If you read that out loud, it's "H.I."s. So "high", or "HI HI", perhaps, reminiscent of the "HAHA" coded into the Dead Man's Hand? Another has the last name Romero, like Cesar Romero, the actor who played the Joker in the TV series. So those are two possible pointers to the Joker in that scene. But Tony Li is the one who went unaccounted for. "Li" is a very common Chinese name -- not much to go on there.

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  22. Gautam, there are many, many posts about RIP on this board. This post is about Batman and Robin. People reading these comments are looking for comments on the topic. Let's help them out.

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  23. I hope someone reboots the whole morrison series.
    Make it look like as though bruce was in an virtual reality to see how the world would be without him?And how does one match up with The Devil itself? It may be set up in a world where the law and order prevails and there is no need for batman. Therefore he satisfies his urge of becoming batman by living it in a virtual reality.

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  24. You are right the topic for discussion is batman and robin.Can El Penitente be Ra's al ghul as he fits the profile of devil perfectly. His grand plan be replacing the real batman by a person of his bloodline. He can be metaphorically be termed as THE Devil.And it is his way of distroying gotham and the whole world.And to prevent him from doing it Damian makes a deal with him.He has the brain and money to carry out the whole plan.He has already tried to spread a virus. What do you think of it? Also it all begin from the resurrection of Ra's al ghul.

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  25. I couldn't understand whether the Black mask timeline is running parallel to it or before it?

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  26. Gautam, the figure we saw in B&R #6 looked exactly like Doctor Hurt. He had the same hairline, and the same mask. We also see a similar-shaped figure in photos on Oberon Sexton's bed with an inverted pentagram. Keep in mind that Morrison said that some of the things we saw in #666 with "Damian selling his soul to the Devil" (Morrison's words) might give us an indication of how things will go at the end of this run in B&R.

    The Black Mask was mentioned in B&R #4 and #5, so that is going on at about the same time. Other timeline information we have is that B&R #7 happens after Blackest Night. B&R #1 happens before Blackest Night. I don't think Morrison's story will engage with the events of other stories except in the loosest sense.

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  27. Thanks! will look into your other suggestion about dr.hurt too.

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  28. I would like to know about the supernatural elements you were mentioning in your earlier comment. Imo,
    year one, hush,the long halloween and dark victory,killing joke, etc. didn't have the supernatural elements. And they are the best Batman comics ever written.

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  29. Please mention the supernatural elements about which u were talking about. Also the story arcs whic had them.

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  30. Another great post, and if I had more time I'd take a stab at some of these questions. I am a bit curious about the Detective Comics #235 question, though. Has Morrison made any specific mention about that issue since RIP? I know that one of the solicitations for an upcoming B&R issue (the number slips my mind at the moment) mentions something about Bruce's family, but I wasn't sure if Grant said anything about DC #235 when elaborating on the Waynes.

    From my end, I'd love to see that issue directly tied-in to B&R. I think that this current series needs an anchor to the rest of the Bat-Universe, because SO much is different: a new Batman (and Robin), new villains, the super-modern approach, etc, and I think that a story about the Waynes will help me look at this title as one that is without a doubt part of Batman's legacy, even if the person wearing the costume isn't Bruce Wayne. I'm not sure if that makes much sense, but hopefully you can see what I'm getting at.

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  31. Gautam if you really don't like Morrison's Batman, why not just read Streets of Gotham and Detective Comics? It deals with street level crime with rapists, mobsters and whatnot. :) It's obvious you're not a big fan of Morrison's arc so why frusfrate yourself with buying the issues? It's best for you to spend your money on comics you can enjoy to the fullest.

    Anyhow love how the discussion has gone. I do ponder is Oberon Sexton the Joker, i really do wanna believe so, i just can't buy the whole 4th wall thing. =/ Tho there is the argument "how can anyone black mail the Joker? He'd kill ya!" but lets remember the Joker does recreate himself... It's a really interesting thing how this will play out, also liking what the dominos might represent... We learn the true meaning in #12 and #13 does start off the "Batman and Robin MUST DIE!" arc which Morrison says is like R.I.P 2.0 except it's a farce. :D But i mean... It seems the last arc for Season 1 is pretty much the RIP villains and so forth. =) And hey that one will be a 4-issue arc, right?! :D

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  32. Drazar, I think "Batman and Robin Must Die!" is what he called the fourth arc, but isn't its official title. That's the one when the El Penitente / Domino Killer / Joker stuff all comes to a head. There'll be a fifth arc which is after that one, and we've gotten no word, AFAIK, on what it's about, except that it was an idea Morrison came up with unrelated to the rest of the year.

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  33. http://comics.ign.com/articles/106/1063765p1.html

    This is a really good article that explains some of these questions

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  34. Rikdad it's no problem my words alone can't hold an argue but check dccomics.com for the May comic and you can see the arc is called "Batman vs. Robin" then read to IGN comics with the Morrison interview and he spills the news the 5th arc, the finale for season 1 is called: Batman and Robin MUST DIE!

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  35. Drazar, maybe the change in plans invalidates some of what he's said, but the IGN interview says that the mysteries of the dominoes and El Penitente end in "Batman and Robin Must Die!". The solicit for #12 says "All is revealed in this final installment of 'Batman vs. Robin' - the identity of the Domino Killer, the terrifying secret of the dominoes, and the shocking truth behind El Penitente!"

    If those things are revealed in "Batman and Robin Must Die!" and that ends with issue #12, then "Batman and Robin Must Die!" is referring to the arc ending with #12.

    The question is: Was the add-on the fourth arc (with the original fourth arc pushed out to fifth) or was the add-on the fifth arc? I don't think we have enough information to say. He uses two different names, so your reading may be correct, in which case we'll see the solicit for #12 actually match #15 or #16 (and tick people off for people 100% inaccurate). On the other hand, he may be using the arc names informally, and the solicit for #12 may be accurate, which would mean that #13/(or #14) through #16 is the add-on, and has not been described for us in any way.

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  36. I'm really looking forward to finding out what the deal with issues #13-16 will be and who will be the artist(s). Will this be a four-issue arc, breaking the pattern of three-issue arcs? Or, if Quitely is set to come back on issue #16, then will that issue be sort of like a stand-alone finale-to-the-finale?

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  37. As it is now, I think we'll get some answers in issue 12, as the solicit says, but we won't really get closure until the "season" ends with issue 16. As of 12, Dick will finally know what he's up against--sort of like Bruce realizing that the Black Glove is real--but then the battle actually has to take place. I mean, if Dick vs. Damian is going to be the focus of the next (fourth) arc, then that doesn't leave much from for Penitente and the Joker to come in as direct antagonists until the following (fifth) arc.

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  38. Good points Rikdad! Sorry for the confusion. I did hear a rumour Dal that Frazen Irving is doing the last arc, but theres so much new info flying around it's really hard to figure out what was officially and what were plans, since Quitely was suppose to do the 4th arc originally.

    Still we'll find out in 3 weeks or so. :) And ya Batman and Robin #9 tomorrow! :)

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  39. Oh, I forgot about Frazier(?) Irving. I've actually never seen any of his art before, so the name slipped my mind. I thought I heard that he's actually going to be doing some of the Return of Bruce Wayne mini instead? Or maybe he'll do the fourth arc of B&R AND an issue or two of the mini?

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  40. Yeah he's doing issue 2. He's done 16th century stuff with Morrison before infact. :) He can draw really good faces with emotion, but i haven't seen much fluid action from him, but i'm sure Morrison can pitch him to make the most awesome action ever.

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  41. Oooh, he's the guy who did the Klarion series. I have seen his stuff before then, just didn't remember the name.

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  42. I wanted to know if there is a relation b/w BATMAN JONES mentioned in BFTC#3 and oberton sexton?

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  43. Thanks DRAZAR for ur suggestion but you know reading a mystery is like the domino effect. You can't stop urself until the final piece is allen into its place.

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  44. In isssue #1 B&r toad's partner screams,"Now we die,".And toad says YES, yes.Why did he say so?

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  45. At the end of issue 3 in B&R professor pyg makes a comment implying that his plan is still in work.Can anyone throw some light on it?
    Morrison has mentioned his idea of not divulging the complete secret regarding Dr. Hurt and making his origins ambiguous as of JOKER. Like to know you views on that point.
    A certain aspect is still not clear what happens if wayne during his timetravel prevents his parent's murder and finally unravels the secret of joker by capturing the red hood. How will it affect the present time frame?
    Why the presence of black mask is not felt in the stories?
    Why El pentite is not forming an alliance with the black mask?
    How can everyone involved in the helicopter explosion survived?
    What is the meaning of the W like scar on the body of dr. hurt signifies shown in the issue#6?
    Where is the third ghost of The Batman?

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  46. The symbol of Ra's al ghul organisation the DEmon's head is similar to the symbol of jason's costume. does this convey something about ra's being behind all of this. Dr. Hurt can be an agent or head of the gambling arm of Demon's head ,a way of sucking wealth out of corrupt rich people.
    He can even be the new body in which now ra's al ghul now dwells.

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  47. Good question about why Toad says "Yes!" when they say "Now we die." On the surface, he might just be enjoying his driving and/or thinks he's going to get away. But he might also get "free" when he dies, whether it's on the road or in the jail cell. See Question #4.

    Morrison has implied that Pyg is no longer in the rest of the story. However, he was probably working for El Penitente, so the plan Pyg was involved with is still going. Also, Pyg is crazy.

    I'm not sure that Morrison has specifically said that he *won't* give an origin for Hurt, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. But he could say what was behind the newspaper in #678 that said "Gotham's Hurt Missing".

    I doubt if the story will touch on time travel paradoxes that have been done before. Also, Bruce may not visit the specific eras that impact his life. If he does something drastic in the 1600s, it would more likely prevent his parents from being born rather than prevent their deaths.

    Re: Black Mask -- The different writers in this case do not mix their stories as much as events in real life mix. They pay minimal lip service to the other stories. The Superman titles, for example, are more tightly coordinated.

    In comic books, people survive a lot of things that people in real life are unlikely to.

    I think the W probably stands for "Wayne" and is Dr. Hurt doing penitence for having failed against Bruce Wayne. There are religious zealots who whip themselves for the sake of suffering and a "Penitente" is one of those. Compare the drawing here with the outfit on Santo in B&R #4:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellant

    Lane, the Third Ghost, is the star of the monthly series Azrael. It doesn't seem to connect with Morrison's story anymore.

    R'as is not behind this. Again, the different writers' stories do not connect that much.

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  48. You didn't mentioned about the relation b/w BATMAN JONES mentioned in BFTC#3 and oberton sexton?

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  49. Oh and on the wikipedia page if it means anything those whips look exactly like Hurt's. Also, I don't think Hurt has an origin. If you're familiar with Hinduism at all, the G-ds have human avatars, and maybe Hurt is the devil's. He could have been corrupting people since the dawn of time... That sounds like a devilish thing to do.

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