Thursday, September 9, 2010

Batman and Robin 14

With bazookas, poison makeup, drug addiction, slaves, and a crowbar, so begins a three-sided war. The hallucinatory, nightmarish, David Lynch-inspired quality of Batman and Robin #14 is as intense and disorienting as anywhere else in Grant Morrison's sixteen-issue "first season" of the title. It is a carnival of death, debasement, victimization, and not infrequently, of comedy. Nearly nothing goes well for the heroes, at least not on-panel.

The three-headed nature of the struggle means attacks come from every direction. Robin beats, and is beaten by, the Joker, who uses the devices from the utility belt against the police. Dick and Jim Gordon are swarmed by Dollotrons. The Joker blackmails Dick into working with him. Doctor Hurt is caught off-guard by a chemical attack by the Joker at the same time that Batman swoops in, once again forced to fight a swarm of enemies who are dangerous due to sheer numbers. Then an enslaved Jim Gordon hits Dick from behind, showing the total control that Pyg's contagious addiction exerts on its victims. Finally, the Joker plans to use Damian as a weapon against Hurt.

That's a lot of action -- none of it terribly unexpected, at least given the preview that showed the Joker's escape in progress. The story is rich, however, in themes and tone, with a few lines carrying particularly important implications for where the story is going.

The horse/knight theme I mentioned earlier has crept out of the artwork and into the dialogue. The first image in the story is the horsehead in the Wayne Manor library, seen when Alfred goes either to check on Dick or to perform some other important chore in the Batcave. The final words of the issue are the title of #15 -- "The Knight, Death, and The Devil", with the words cleverly laid over the characters they represent: Dick, the Joker, and Doctor Hurt. In between, we see Hurt yell to his adversary, in a chess metaphor, that his knights have been beaten. But who is the audience for that line -- Dick or the Joker? Given that Dick is a knight, the Joker may be the one Hurt is addressing, even though his mouth is close to Dick's ear. It remains unclear if the horsehead on the mantle is a mere symbol or has some real power. Alfred may be looking at it as he passes by. Soon enough, it will be a silent witness to Hurt's gunshot aimed at Dick.

Hurt is getting a lot of practice for that shot. He fires at a pumpkin for no clear purpose early on, and later, we cut to a shot of him holding the smoking gun as a series of watermelons have received similar shootings. This is an intensely odd display of Hurt's behavior, seemingly for no purpose other than to enjoy in anticipation the shooting of Dick Grayson. He's chosen fruits that are roughly the size and shape of a head. That he seems to expect to undertake that specific manner of execution suggests some sort of ritualistic significance, either to fulfill some mystic requirement or because he will derive pleasure from it. It is a divergence from the otherwise stolid behavior we've seen him conduct as he goes about his business, and together with the wearing of the old bat-cowl and hitting Alfred with the champagne bottle, tells us more about Hurt's personality than all of his evil hand-wringing.

There is, however, plenty of that. In describing Pyg, Hurt tells us once again, that he enjoys corruption for its own sake. He describes with "might makes right" a vision of Gotham that matches the vision Lane has in Batman #666, with Lane "praying for a world where the strong are free to exploit and abuse the weak". Speaking to criminals, he celebrates crime, and plans to act on his contempt for the incorruptible, describing it with Hitler's term for a "new order" much as Lane, the Devil's messiah -- at least in his own mind -- dreamt of his version of a "better world". His vision is well underway, with the Mayor, who was shown to be working for Hurt in Morrison's Batman run, in attendance along with criminals and the media.

Other details in this issue point to #666. We see Batman fighting Dollotrons and Professor Pyg hanging upside down in a human inverted crucifix. Hurt's ceremony takes place in Crime Alley, which is apparently the scene of one Batman's death in #666, "the crossroads" where Damian chooses to deal with the Devil. The promised interaction between this story and the potential future of #666 is drawing near, and it is likely that the places where the details don't match (e.g., Damian is now ten, but fourteen when he makes the deal in #666) are to be considered dust swept under the carpet. This probably isn't a dress rehearsal for the real meeting between Damian and the Devil four years from now, but the in-continuity version of those events with, probably, a different outcome when it comes to whether or not Damian agrees to deal.

The ceremony itself, with Jim Gordon as a hostage, resembles the classic Joker story "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker!" from Batman #321. But this time the Joker is, if not a hero, an enemy of the villain. Senator Vine, whom Hurt seems earnestly to try to protect, gets Jokerized by a "golden domino" in a reference to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of many references to children's literature in the run to date. Vine's earlier concern that Hurt told him that he would keep the Senator "outta harm's way" echoes the lines Black Glove members spoke when things went sour for them in Batman, R.I.P. Meanwhile, that Hurt uses drug addiction to flip Jim Gordon to his side is reminiscent of the very first page of Morrison's run, with a Jokerized Commissioner Gordon falling through the air, and also makes good on Lane's information in Batman #674 that Doctor Hurt makes slaves of good men. And for Jim Gordon, in an act of betrayal that at once suggests Odysseus and the sirens and Jezebel's betrayal in RIP, to succumb shows that virtually no man is too good to escape his grasp.

We get almost total assurance from Hurt's quest for the casket -- and chagrin that opening it will destroy the contents -- that Hurt is, basically, the same entity we saw as old Doctor Thomas Wayne in ROBW #4, and he uses now as then, the line "in the end". Back then, he wanted it to provide him with true immortality -- the mere centuries of life prolongation that Doctor Hurt has already enjoyed may be something short of eternal life. We know from Alan Wayne's estimate of OTW's appearance that Hurt has aged in appearance since c. 1880, so he may be aging at some reduced rate, but still on a path to die eventually. The key point is that his continued quest for the casket is a very important piece of information about Hurt's nature. While it had been surmised earlier that Hurt may have achieved immortality and true devilish nature between the events of ROBW #4 and RIP, the fact that he has the same goal now as then -- along with his aging -- suggests that he is not so very different, experience aside, than he was 130 years ago. It may explain why he exclaimed "Not like this!" at the time of the helicopter crash -- not that the crash itself would kill him, but that it might keep him from finding the casket and thus doom him to an eventual death of old age, or when his Manfred-like deal with the devil ran due.

Meanwhile, as much as those implications make Hurt seem more like an evil man with a dose of immortality than the Devil himself, Pyg bestows the devilish label of a "goat" in Gotham upon Hurt, suggesting Baphomet, a character associated with Satan. Pyg's rants reinforce that he was broken, like an animal in the experiments of Harry Harlow, to become a more perfect servant to Doctor Hurt, as part of a larger pattern (along with Flamingo and the three replacement Batmen from the GCPD experiment) to enslave good men to do evil. Pyg, eager for a PCP fix and to destroy reason, rambles on about his captivity, mentioning the rats in "Rockville" as a possible turn of the fictional asylum Rockland referenced in Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl".

Meanwhile, the choice of Crime Alley as Hurt's chosen location resonates with the Wayne Murder itself, an event whose centrality to the Batman mythos cannot be overstated. Clearly Hurt knows about this event. Quite likely, he ordered it. But with Bruce Wayne absent, it hints at a larger agenda for Hurt to stage an event here, the same location where the event/fantasy that opened B&R #13 took place.

While Hurt goes about his plan, the Joker plans to strike at Hurt, even though the Joker is convinced that he cannot stop the dominoes from falling. The mystery of why dominoes were name-checked by Hurt and used by the Joker continues, although it seems that the Joker is using dominoes to mock Hurt, for whom dominoes seems to have some other role, larger than the plague already sweeping Gotham, which shouldn't bother the Joker all that much, save that he doesn't get to carry it out, since it is similar to his own vision of mass casualties. The Joker's first casualty in this story is Damian, who falls prey to toxins on the Joker's eyelids and/or fingernails, and has his turn interrogating the Joker go terribly sour. Damian ends the issue upside down, much like Pyg, but with his arms at his sides, with an ironic smile painted onto the tape across his mouth. At issue's end, the Joker plans to use Damian as a weapon against Hurt. Clearly, Robin will not resist that idea, although the Joker will have to distance himself from the freed Damian. Later, the Joker uses toxins to attack Hurt's audience, using popcorn (the "catering" he referred to in his call with Dick) as the delivery vehicle.

If there is a single line in the issue that packs more meaning than it seems to, it is Alfred telling Dick that he has prepared the mansion and the cave as Dick had requested. This has enormous implications. Whatever those preparations are, it means that Dick expects the confrontation to move from Crime Alley to Wayne Manor and even down into the Batcave. As we saw in the flash-forward last time, he is of course right. When he hisses to Hurt "You don't get it do you? You're finished." Dick is speaking of those preparations. That line, in reduced lettering that suggests a whisper, is Alfred telling us that Dick, for all his affinity for timing is going to end this scheme with no more help from Bruce Wayne than in having taught his friend that victory lies in the preparation.


  1. With the massive playing card behind Joker, it seemed like he and Damien and the bomb were somehow in the Batcave, although perhaps Joker has more massive playing cards.

    If he is there, however, it adds some interesting angles on how Dick "being shot" plays out. We know that Damien is also captured at that point, but what about Joker and the bomb?

    And come to think of it, is it really a bomb, and if so, what kind of bomb? The "Have a Nice Day" written on it kind of reminds me of Joker's prank "BANG" guns.

  2. It's panDEMONium!

    Very nice assessment.

    I found lots of little possible bits and pieces of meaning, but overall it's pretty straightforward, and fits the theme of Grant's usual style of "middle chapter" as being more action and less informative (but no less integral).

    I also thought the color scheme was lovely. Mainly black and red ... except where Joker-toxin was concerned splashes of green. Like a Dead Man's Hand with a twist ...

  3. DRL,

    The seeming atomic bomb is an interesting prop to say the least. (As is the coffin that the Joker is sitting on.) "Have a Nice Day!" is similar to the "Hi There!" painted on one of the atomic bombs in Dr. Strangelove. Overall, note that while Dick seems to have Hurt figured out exactly (Hurt's return to Wayne Manor is actually him walking into Dick's trap), he didn't have the Joker figured out at all.

    The Joker said that *he* started the trail of death with the first domino. Which has led me to wonder if the "everyone dies" that he can't stop isn't actually Hurt's plan at all, but his own! And that, being differently sane, he regrets the atomic bombing of Gotham, but he can't stop himself from doing it.

  4. Wow, okay, so I was just re-reading and came across something. During the "interrogation" scene- Joker says: "...So what if I'm telling the truth this time? But there's nothing anyone can do to stop the dominoes from falling...?"

    and it was that last question mark that caught me. That has to be intentional, right? Is it a trick? Is it a lie? Does he truly not know? Is he actually asking a question? because it certainly isn't framed as one.

  5. oh man.. that puts his next lines into total question.

    "Not even me. Why can't I see? TURN on the Lights! Help! Help! I'm Blind!"

    He is both tricking Robin and saying the truth. There is something he can't figure out. Damn this is a good comic book.

  6. I can only wonder if Bob Kane ever visualized a day in which a line like "Lazlo was a species of circus performer who ate lightbulbs and nailed his private parts to mahogany planks, senator Vine" would appear as dialogue in a Batman comic book!

  7. Does anyone find it odd the way Damian head is holding him up? After joker blood affects him.

  8. DRL,

    Good question on the tiny matter of punctuation. But I think the way to take it is that the second sentence/question is still under the scope of the first "What if". So you can imagine the second rhetorical question also starting with "What if". He knows, but he's still dangling the truth/falsity before Damian, without giving the answer.

    I think it remains more likely that the "everyone dies" pertains to something Hurt has planned. But the logic is something tricky to work out. Perhaps that's a real atom bomb, but is Hurt's. Maybe Hurt wants everyone to die corrupted. And the Joker and Damian are atop Hurt's performance, in the rafters of the theatre unseen.

    FWIW, this is possibly the same theatre where the Waynes watched Zorro.

    This may be as much Gothic as a farce as it is RIP as a farce.

  9. Retro,

    Quite true about the pattern. I found the issue very entertaining, though. For me, Hurt shooting at fruit for fun is actually a major revelation. He's whimsical?

    I agree on the art. I don't know if that caused the delay, but if it did, it was worth it.

  10. Sypha,
    I know that many of the old-time writers were often a pretty avant garde bunch. At least one artist who drew some of DC's characters in the Golden Age went on to do some stuff no less wild than what is in Lazlo's past. Kane himself... I don't know.

  11. Oddball,
    Yes, that's got to be some muscle contraction just short of death. Pretty creepy.

    But I don't think it was the Joker's blood that was poisoned, but rather his eyeshadow and/or nail polish. At least, that's what he mentions, in a panel that highlights his eyes.

  12. Great post as always rikdad. My favorite part is when Batman greets commissioner gordon with a smile that's a moment I won't forget and what the knight said “when you were robin this rough and raucous little demon, always somersaulting around cracking wird joke I was right to think you were a bit mental wasn't I?” the joker did say his own version to Damian. “A smiling robin a laughing young daredevil”

  13. Great poast as always. Lots of parallels to RIP, the Batman comic past, and the Batman films (interogation in the DK and the poisoning of all of Gotham in BB). Morrison really set up the whole devil thing well--Hurt literally is forcing everyone in Gotham to "sell thier soul to the Devil" (not literally, but conceptually).

    Hurt has basically accomplished some of the Joker's famous schemes -- In the Killing Joke, the Joker tried to drive Gordon insane with less results than Hurt's addiction. During his modern age "debut," he tried to poison all of Gotham (via the resevoir). Also, the first Joker appearences dealt with him poisioning reach people and stealing thier stuff (similar to this set up).

    It's funny because I had no clue what to expect for the Batman confrontation in Arkham (would Batman have to choose between saving Jet or Dick or what else would happen) and I had no clue what would happen in this issue.

    Also, the most dialogue we've ever gotten from Hurt?

  14. Awesome as always Rikdad. I thought this issues was incredible, the art really conveying the absolute madness of what is happening, more so than RIP, partly because RIP was not about the destruction of Gotham but of Batman.

    I wondered then if Hurt's line, might be aimed at multiple audiences, the Joker, Dick, put perhaps more so Bruce, especially if Hurt is (pretty clearly it seems) old TW. It is Bruce's knights after all that have fallen, not the Joker's. But also Hurt might be referring to the destruction of
    Gotham as the fall of another knight. What made me think of this was
    the line in RIP about Gotham being a machine or something similar made for Batman. Granted that I think it was the Zur en Arrh Batman who said that, but it would fit with Hurt's plans that the destruction of the "last" or "best" good man, Bruce, would also encompass the destruction of his beloved city.

    It seems clear that Dick is planning for Bruce's return with that line of Alfred's. Dick said in #12 (when he comes out and is attacked by
    Damian) "I got it" or something like that, referring to the casket, clues to where Bruce is and how he can return? He has been through an amazing experience down in the secret cave, so he knows a lot about
    Hurt and Bruce and how it will all go down, or so it seems to me.

    And I agree with you he had not figured out the Joker before this issue, but he has now. He knows the clues, the dominoes were not about him, but about Hurt. Which is why he agrees to help the Joker.
    I think he is setting up Hurt.

    Interesting as well the planning and preparation, given his affinity for timing. I picked up on that and saw it as Morrison's great way of doing character development subtly and powerfully throughout the series. Making Dick grow into a different but powerful Batman.

    Loved Joker's line about the inadequacy of Damian as Robin, letting himself be manipulated into a locked room situation, his own crowbar.. lots of nice little nods of the head to Dick and Tim as Robin and even Jason. One odd thing, did the Joker start talking because Damian threatens him with severe brain damage? He values his mind more than anything else obviously. And he is not so different than Pyg, enjoying pain.

    One last thing, the scene in the theater, the performance, seemed to me to recall the last issues of RIP and perhaps one of the twisted parties of the Black Glove. Is there more significance to the theater
    then than just where Zorro was shown?

  15. Don't know if this was mentioned before but could it be that joker's blood becomes poisonous (even more than it already is)when interacted with the black nail polish? Just like the black and red rose petals in RIP, by themselves not dangerous but when the red and black touch Joker poison is released?

  16. The timing comments got me thinking. During RIP lots of people were upset that Nightwing got captured so easily and brought to Arkham. I always thought it was on purpose and dy 681 it was clear from NW's actions and Bruce's comments ("perfect timing") that was Morrison's intention so that he could have Bruce's back. Morrison I think has made this clear in BR, during the clone story.

    Is it possible that mutatis mutandis Damian is doing the same thing? A way for Morrison to subtly point out that they are Batman and Robin as much as Bruce and Dick were? Perhaps not, but I love that conceivably the story could be read this way. It is what I love most about Morrison's stories, the depth, the layering and the interpretation. One big drawback however, I am finding it impossible to truly enjoy anything else (no, I don't read Vertigo or independent stuff).I can read them, but everything else seems so uninteresting by comparison.

    On a completely unrelated note. The theme of looking at yourself in the mirror and that resulting in the shattering of innocence, the self and consciousness in in my opinion an allusion to the greek myth of Dionysus toy mirror. Not impossible that Morrison is aware of it as I think it is in Freud and certainly likely that Carroll was aware of it.

    And while I am at it, of course everyone can advance their own theories, but how can anyone possibly take seriously all that Mad Hatter nonsense on the DCMBs?

  17. I am in awe of this issue. It blew me away. Well worth the wait, the art was incredible. The Joker steels the show, and Grant writes him so perfectly.
    I cannot wait to see how this all wraps up and find out the secrets of Doctor Hurt.

    Thanks for another great article Rikdad!

  18. Ok, I posted these thoughts elsewhere, but I wanted to add them to the discussion.

    Someone was questioning the significance of the "White Knight" chess piece on the mantle, and it got me thinking.

    While I had been loving the chess allusions and references, and all of the red/black imagery, I never actually thought about the colors of the pieces themselves.

    One would assume that Black Glove/Hurt was playing the black side of the board... and our main man's alias is ... that's right, the Dark Knight. So in many ways, Hurt has been PLAYING Batman.

    Dick, however, is anything but dark. He's our friggin' white knight, right?

    So - Does that mean Joker is playing the white pieces (or is he playing some other game entirely)? He has pasty skin. The White/Death connection can be made (skeletons and all that). White also goes first, and Joker was the one who "started the dominoes falling." Oh man.... I have some further thinking about this to do, but I thought I'd add this grist to the mill.

  19. I just wanted to add that Dr. Hurt seems to be gleeding of joy now, as he was very hyper, active and joyful pranskter in RoBW #4, wheres his modern approach has been very cold and calculating. Now he's shooting at things for the sheer joy and pretty much being: Yeah i'm a winner, i am so happy. Yet this might be his downfall, his evil pride and all that stuff getting one more mock by Joker and Dick, as Dick is preparping for the Wayne manor event and whatnot. :) Pride is what will always defeat the devil. :) :P

  20. One thing regarding Hurt's practice shots at fruit. It appears that he is getting more accurate and making less of a mess. I believe the last watermelon has a precise small bullet hole, which might be a clue to how Dick doesn't automatically die from a gunshot to the back of his head in next issue.

  21. darkside, I explicitly thought about "Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker" as a model for what would happen in RIP. Hurt had Nightwing, Gordon, Alfred, and Jezebel hostage. It turns out they just used Jezebel.

    Hurt had 472 words in Batman #681. I haven't got B&R #14 transcribed to count them, but I don't think he says nearly so much in this issue.

  22. Wanted to (echo dmingoia it seems) say that Hurt's not shooting fruit for fun, he's practicing a particular shot. One which doesn't shatter the head.

  23. andywattbulb,

    I'm not sure if we can tell if the poison came from the eyeshadow, the nails, or the combination. I guess the nails or the combination, because that is what he brought into contact with Damian.

  24. The possibility seems remote but it would be interesting if Hurt's shooting practice is to remove or damage a part of Dick's brain like he did with pink flamingo.

  25. In the past (many months ago) I made some associations regarding all of the religious associations of Hurt/el Penitente and a new religion as well as some catholic (or anti) subtext from Morrison. At the DCMB someone mentioned that watermelons are associated with the day of the dead in Mexico.

    So, thinking along those lines, I was wondering if there is not more meaning than whimsicality to the pumpkin and watermelon shootings. Pumpkins are associated with Halloween, which falls on October 31st, and it's a corruption of All Hallows Eve (All Saints Day, always November 1st for Catholics). If melons are associated with the Day of the Dead (always November 2nd), then perhaps there is a deeper message in the shootings. Catholicism had those two days to celebrate martyrs and remember the dead, but in Mexico the spanish merged it with the indigenous celebrations for the dead (particularly children). The celebration is meant to bring back at least for a day the soul of the dead and you prepare an altar with offerings to welcome them.

    So, is there some hidden meaning there? The literal train from Mexico (that you mentioned in the DCMB rikdad) intended to bring death to Gotham on those days. But somehow subverted by the figurative Mexican train of the dominoes (by Joker? by Dick? combination?) to bring back the dead (Bruce in this case).

    Problem is, I am not sure that watermelons are particularly associated to the day of the dead in Mexico. I looked up some traditional offerings, and while fruits are among them, not watermelons. Although it does vary by state.

    Release dates for BR 16 and RoBW 6 are close to October 31st...

    Fanciful, but always fun to try to extract hidden meanings from Morrison's stories. It must be said that it is a more interesting exercise when the art matches the story like in this case. It seems
    key to Morrison's vision to have the right artist.

  26. I see reading the DCMB that freedumbdclxvi has made the same point.

  27. I see a potential twist coming:
    I recall that when Dick found the 'antidote' in Pyg's lair back in B&R #3 there was a domino next to it.
    Perhaps this is connected with the repurposed canister (marked with the radiation symbol) in the Joker's possession at the conclusion of B&R 14?
    Could the Joker have retooled Pyg's virus to have some other effect when mixed with one of his own concoctions?

    In any event, I'm loving Morrison's run, and in particular this "RIP as farce" arc, which is just fantastic.

  28. By the way, I am waiting to see how the missing funds from Wayne Corp referenced in B&R 10 etc tie into all this.

    I absolutely loved the moment when Dick realized his arrogance in thinking that the clues and Dominos were about him (p.16)
    As this is indeed RIP as farce, it is clear that many of the roles have been switched, and deliciously at that:

    The Joker plays Hurt
    Hurt plays Batman
    Batman is like the Joker?
    Damian is like Jezebel?

  29. Rikdad, I enjoy how you track down Morrison's literary allusions throughout this series. It's getting to be like Elliot's "Waste Land" where every line seems to have a secondary even tertiary meaning. Pyg's ramblings seem random, but always resonate with some deeper meaning that it difficult -- thus far -- to cohere into a pattern. The reference to "rockville" reminded me of the REM song, in which Stipe writes, "don't go back to Rockville." I doubt there's any connection but we'll get there ;-) can't wait to re-read this series in its entirety.

  30. I'm also of a mind that Joker has tampered with the antidote. The domino was right there, and Grayson referenced it directly, and that it felt like it was "meant to be found".

    Perhaps in Joker's twisted way, (and in full "Death" personified mode) he thinks that murdering the entire city of Gotham would be a mercy killing compared to letting them be enslaved by Hurt's drug.

    Hurt's methodology, by the way - enslaving the entire population of Gotham ... is very "Darkseid-lite". The hole in things is Darkseid shaped, after all ... and anyone trying to fill that hole would need similar style.

  31. (And just to further my really wishful "Red Hood joins the party" scenario ... it wasn't until toward the end of Batman, R.I.P. that "allies started showing up". It would make my day if Joker is the one to call in the cavalry, including Red Hood.)

  32. Continuation of previous comment

    4) Rereading Batman 700, Batman(Bruce) tells the Joker something not dissimilar from Dick's line to Hurt about Hurt being finished. He tells the Joker (paraphrasing) "...... I will be out of these restraints in two minutes and then it is ALL OVER". You are done, or at least that's the message I got. And any significance to highlighting the words ALL OVER as in the all-over of the Miagani?

    5) I remember DAL bringing up freemasonry and the dark legends associated with them. Perhaps then not out of place to mention that Freemasonry started out as a gild of masons and there might be some affiliation to Gotham architecture. Jefferson and Washington were Freemasons and Savage refers to Jefferson. These elements are also in Dan Brown's novels, which Morrison mentioned in interviews. The Lesser keys of Solomon and elements of freemasonry are also related to the Order of Golden Dawn and Rosicrucians. There is something here, but how exactly it plays out given the intricacy of the plot unfolding over several comics, is hard to know.

    I thought I would share my weekend musings.

  33. Don't know if you are still reading these comments, but here go some somewhat random observations.

    1) The titles of the individual issues of BR 13, 14, 15, which are all titles of paintings. Martin van Derm is a flemish painter in ROBW2 (like Bruegel). Dürer's painting (15) is part of the master engravings or so called, a series of 3. I looked at the other 2 and one could stretch to see "clues", St. Jerome (Jerome van Derm) in his study, the appearance of a magic square in Melancolia. But none of my research proved fruitful here. It still seems that it cannot be coincidence, the van Derms, dutch painters, Gotham (New York, once called New Amsterdam). Something is up in Morrison's construction.

    2)The train of thought made me think of Solomon (Wayne) but as in tied to the Lesser Keys of Solomon and Barbatos. It is hard to tease all the ins and outs of how the book is tied with the clues in Morrison's run. However, the demons are not always bad spirits in these grimoires, they can be for good or bad depending on the invocation, which I thought might tie in with the Joker's role in the present arc. And here is one of my first wild speculations, perhaps Barbatos is not tied to Bruce but to the Joker. Barbatos is a Duke in the grimoire, and in RIP, Morrison referred to the Joker by David Bowie's moniker "The thin white duke (of death)". And his Baron Samedi appearance perhaps is an effort on Morrison's part to tie voodoo and western occultism. But this is all very thin.. Far more likely that Barbatos is related to Bruce or to Orion (the hunter).

    3) There is perhaps a connection that is more than symbolic between the string of pearls, the hole in things, Orion and Darkseid. Not having really read FC properly, I can't make much of it. But here it goes. The stars on Orion's belt have arabic names, which mean from west to east (I think that's the right orientation in the N. hemisphere), "belt", "string of pearls" and "girdle". A line drawn through them points to Sirius, the brightest star coming from the East. Might one then reinterpret Hurt's line in BR12 "he is coming at us from the East" in that light? Might it refer to Bruce and not the Joker (although pretty clearly it does seem to refer to the Joker). Is it possible that when Bruce gets hold of all three of the elements in Orion's belt, the belt (utility belt), the string of pearls (he had it last issue and gives it to Catherine), and a girdle, then perhaps he can come back? Probably more thin speculations on my part.

  34. Apologies for the wrong order of comments. Blogger would not let me post... Anyway since I am having fun a bit more astronomical mythology and some demonology

    1) Barbatos is a duke. Hurt refers to himself as King, return of the King. The demons summoned in the Lesser Keys of Solomon are Kings, Dukes Marquis, Earls. All point to demons and the devil. Here are some quotes from Johann Weyer's book Praestigiis Daemonum meant as a rebuttal of the witch-hunter manual (Malleus (take note!) Maleficarum... so does that mean that Malleus is the original Dr. Hurt?) and the Goetia.

    "Barbatos, a great countie or earle, and also a duke, he appeareth in Signo sagittarii sylvestris, with foure kings, which bring companies and great troopes. He understandeth the singing of birds, the barking of dogs, the lowings of bullocks, and the voice of all living creatures. He detecteth treasures hidden by magicians and inchanters, and is of the order of vertues, which in part beare rule: he knoweth all things past, and to come, and reconcileth freends and powers; and governeth thirtie legions of divels by his authoritie."

    "The Eighth Spirit is Barbatos. He is a Great Duke, and appeareth when the Sun is in Sagittary, with four noble Kings and their companies of great troops. He giveth understanding of the singing of Birds, and of the Voices of other creatures, such as the barking of Dogs. He breaketh the Hidden Treasures open that have been laid by the Enchantments of Magicians. He is of the Order of Virtues, of which some part he retaineth still; and he knoweth all things Past, and to come, and conciliateth Friends and those that be in Power. He ruleth over 30 Legions of Spirits. His Seal of Obedience is this, the which wear before thee as aforesaid."

    "Sun in Sagittarius" Sun (related to the eclipses?) Sagittarius appeared in Batman 701. Scorpius is between Sagittarius and Libra (!) and is often affiliated with the myth of Orion, known as the great hunter.

    Or it could all be apophenia...

  35. The image of Martha Wayne's pearls falling is one of the most iconic in the Batman mythology.

    In a number of the ROBW stories so far we have seen a necklace - which indeed looks like a string of pearls. If this is indeed the same one that Martha was wearing - perhaps passed on by a time-travelling Bruce then they may be very significant indeed.

  36. Patrick, yes, of course. Didn't mention it, but it was part of why I thought the string of pearls and the name of the stars was significant. The title of Batman 701 is The Hole in Things over the gun and string of pearls. Batman 702's title is also over the gun and string of pearls. The hole in things, the pearls and his time travel seem related to his origin and his parents murder.

  37. Retro Warbird: I suspect that's exactly what Joker might be doing; that he intends to kill off the entire Gotham population in a twisted variation on a mercy-killing. The hallucination at the start of RIP, where he imagines killing the entire world with Joker-toxin, might be a clue to his actions.

    He might have managed to seed Pyg's drug with his own Joker-toxin, or he's going to use the nuke. Therefore denying Hurt his victory. The Joker is trump and all that.

    Or maybe the nuke is insurance. If he's planning to perform the Barbatos ritual in order to resurrect Bruce, and it doesn't work, then to his mind there'd be no point going on without 'his' Batman. Blowing up the entire city and taking everybody out - including himself - might be his hypothetical Plan B in the event Bruce doesn't come back.

  38. Rikdad, don't know if you're still replying to posts here but: do you think there's any significance to all the hanging-upside down? Bats hang upside down, and I find it a bit odd that the Joker chose to tie Damian up in this manner. Then there's Professor Pyg, who hangs upside down on that wire contraption thingy.

    Also: could the 'goat' Pyg keeps referring to be Batman rather than Hurt?

    Anyway, excellent post as always. :)

  39. joanna,

    Getting too busy to comment for the next few days, but hanging upside-down probably isn't a story theme but rather a Morrison theme. He has people hanging upside-down in several places in his Batman run, and in other stories, too.

    We also see people hanging upside-down in #666 and #667, and in Gothic. This is an example of why we can't easily use obvious signs as symbols telling us where the story's going. Morrison likes to have people hanging upside-down. It's not a plot point, but a mood-setter.

    Per the antidote, note that Hurt's crew already had a double-switch, chemically, using the antidote as a Trojan Horse for the same infection that it was meant to cure. That'd be some busy chemistry for the Joker to triple switch it. Possible in the comics, of course.

    Thanks for the comments!

  40. While I was doubtful at first, I went back and had a look at when Dick first finds the antidote in Pyg's lab (B&R #3). There are some test tubes missing and a domino on the lab desk. But the main clue is in the next panel. A great big grinning clown mouth on the side of the wall with letters that look like they read "Love -J".

    Or more Morrison/Quietly brilliance?

    I think the Joker has the antidote. He's not too shabby with chemical compounds.

  41. er... not too unshabby...

    er... he's good with them. yeah.

  42. In the last issues of R.I.P. joker tells batman(bruce) that this is not the part where they team up to defeat the common enemy. I think joker wants to prove that he can defeat Hurt himself or by pulling the strings, using Batman(Dick) and Robin to do his dirty work. That said, i also think that he has the antidote and will probably use it to meet his own ends, but with joker he might just suprise us and save the day. Can't wait for the next one! It can't come too soon!! And thanks for the interesting thoughts Rikdad!!

  43. It's a strange, upside-down world where the Joker using the antidote to save EVERYONE from a more serious enemy would feel dirty and awful.

    The value of people "hanging upside down" is very important when you factor in Morrison's constant use of Tarot in your readings. The Hanging Man card represents a person in "flux", or in transition. Bruce, right now ... is the ultimate "Hanging Man", but there's lots more to glean.

  44. Rickdad,
    If you notice the gun Hurt is practicing with on the fruit seems to be an air pistol. In all the panels where hurt is holding the gun you can see the knob you twist into the handle for the Co2 cartridge.

  45. ehepd -- Lots of interesting points. "Orion" keeps coming up, for sure, and with the New God as well as the famously belted hunter, there's an overflowing number of possible connections. Others have noted the eclipse symbol resembling his helmet. That's great legwork tracking down the stars' names. I don't know how much of this Grant can fit into one set of answers. I suspect that Bruce might turn out to be the inspiration for the constellation, but that's just a guess.

  46. dancing_jerry, that's a great catch! I don't quite find the word legible, but it could be "Love". That's certainly a "J" after it. And this is the same page with the "devil" image surrounded by two or three bats. I recently re-read #663 and it reinforces that the part of The Killing Joke where the circus was the setting of Gordon's ordeal is in continuity. All told, the Joker hints are everywhere. Is that his signature? I think there's a good chance it is; in any case, we know he had his hands within inches of the antidote.

    As Retro notes above, the Joker *is* killing people who might otherwise be Hurt's victims, and Hurt doesn't like it. The Joker says in #13 that everyone dies "in the crossfire". That is an indication that the deaths will come from an exchange between him and Hurt. So far, it looks like the Joker intends to inflict those deaths, and Hurt does not. This supports the idea that the"everyone dies" in ROBW is a separate plot, and indirectly downplays the notions that Hurt might be in with Darkseid.