Tuesday, August 6, 2013


The central motif of Batman, Incorporated is the Ouroboros, the self-swallowing snake, a symbol that goes back to Egyptian antiquity. Beyond the visual imagery of a ring, the theme it represents is a cycle in time, things that occur in repetition, endlessly. A cycle is suggested at the moment the Batman, Inc story begins in the epilogue of Batman and Robin #16, when Bruce tells Damian, "Batman and Robin can never die" and it appears visually in the lower right corner of Inc #13's final panel, as shown here.

Cycles as a theme are a common motif in Morrison's stories. His Superman stories All Star Superman and Superman Beyond end with references to, respectively, a Superman 2 and "To be continued..."
The first panel of Batman, RIP shows Dick Grayson saying "Batman and Robin will never die" in a flash-forward which answers a comment made by Le Bossu in RIP's epilogue. Final Crisis has a platonic time-traveling bullet that goes back through time, then ends up in Darkseid's possession so he can fire it again. In like fashion, Bruce Wayne becomes part of his own inspiration when Darkseid fires him back in time.

Ouroboros as the "never-ending ring" is first mentioned explicitly in Inc vol 1 #3, when the Knight survives battle with Dedalus. This Knight is the second of three, with Morrison promoting one sidekick to replace the main hero in his earlier works, then promoting the sidekick's sidekick in this one. Things advance, but remain the same. A Knight followed by a Knight followed by a Knight.

We first see the Ouroboros later, a ring on Scorpiana's finger that Bruce Wayne steals while dancing with her. In this scene, Bruce Wayne performs super heroics, but he's not giving up his identity: Gaucho believes that it's Batman posing as Bruce Wayne, whereas unbeknownst to him it's actually Bruce Wayne posing as Batman posing as Bruce Wayne. This cycle of purpose and identity is immediately repeated in the Buenos Aires adventure that Batman and Gaucho undergo. They are given clues which lead them to a house. The situation seems to give away the criminal's location, to lead the heroes there. In reality, it's intended to lead them there, as a trap. But knowing it's a trap, they go anyway, confident they can prevail: A cycle of what the villain's plan seems to be, and what the heroes think of it, and what the heroes think of what the villain thinks of it.

It is here that Morrison's Argentina portion of Inc. becomes truly ingenious, if the complexity of a ring turning within a ring is not too dizzying for the reader. Batman and Gaucho realize that they are led to the house by a mystery resembling one in fiction, and Batman recounts a literary detective Espartaco Estraño who is led to his death by a similar trap. Espartaco, Batman recalls, was a fiction created by Jorge Luis Borges and other writers: A fictitious author created as a hoax by a real author, resulting in a real book, with a plot that resembled the one Batman and Gaucho were experiencing.

But there's another twist off the (comic book) page: The Espartaco hoax did not exist. Morrison has taken the plot of an actual Borges story, "La muerte y la brújula" (Death and the Compass), which is similar to the one that Morrison describes, and in that story, too, a fictional detective is led to a trap while working on the case of a serial murderer. Another twist? In that story, the fictional detective, Lönnrot, believes he finds a pattern in the murders committed by his nemesis, Red Scarlach. Actually, the pattern was coincidence, but Scarlach realizes that Lönnrot believes there is a pattern, so Scarlach sets a trap in the location he thinks Lönnrot will expect the next murder to occur.

It is almost painstaking to unwind the cycles that Morrison has built on top of Borges' original story. Borges' story itself is patterned on the dynamic: "he thought that I thought that he thought..." Morrison creates a fictional story, about Espartaco Estraño, that is almost the same as the original story, but is a hoax that exists only as a story. And this resembles the Batman-Gaucho adventure in Inc. The nested stories, in summary:

Story 1 - Writer: The actual Jorge Luis Borges. Detective: Lönnrot. Villain: Scarlach.
Story 2 - Writer: A fictional Jorge Luis Borges. Writer/Detective: Espartaco Extraño. Villain: Doctor Dedalus.
Story 3 - Writer: Grant Morrison. Detectives: Batman/Gaucho. Villain: Otto Netz using the alias Doctor Dedalus.

In each of these stories, the hero is led into a trap by the villain. But only in Story 3, does the detective, Batman, realize that it is a trap.

More twists: Daedalus, in Greek mythology, created the labyrinth the Minotaur occupied. Borges, in real life, wrote a story about a labyrinth called "El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan" (The Garden of Forking Paths).

At this point, it is useful to note that Borges wrote a story called "El inmortal" (The Immortal) about a man who, as an immortal, finds that owing to his vast quantity of life experience, his memory is confused into a mixture of true and false recollections that he can no longer sort out. Back in Return of Bruce Wayne, Morrison has Vandal Savage, an immortal, say that this is also his experience, so that immortality becomes a kind of non-pathological senility.

This, too, surfaces in Inc. Otto Netz (very old, but not immortal) suffers from severe memory loss and, though brilliant, is confused and experiences things in sequence that may not be occurring. Later, in Leviathan Strikes, Netz uses a mind-control gas to defeat Batman by inducing the same condition in him, and a temporarily confused and addled Batman has his apparent victory over Netz turn to defeat and a humiliating realization that he has repeatedly, in a short space of time, believed that he's defeated Netz, then forgets both the victory and the defeat.

Once Batman and Gaucho arrive in the trap, they are required by Sombrero to fight to the death. Of course, Batman is no killer, and no loser, so he and Gaucho pretend to fight to the death while Batman works to rescue Sombrero's hostages. Yet, the false fight has some real punches thrown to hurt, because Batman is enraged when he learns of a past association between Gaucho and Batman's former lover, Kathy Kane. So, the Batman-Gaucho animosity is again: Reality within a fiction posing as the real thing.

Morrison's use of the works of Jorge Luis Borges as a story-within-a-story is perhaps his finest accomplishment in comics. Its almost horrifically complexity, and the paper trail through other fictional works (I almost cringe to note that Batman also references, in Inc vol 1 #3, another literary hoax by Thomas Chatterton) may leave few to appreciate it. In fact, I would suggest that virtually anyone who tries to decode this may find a bit of the same confusion creeping in that Otto Netz lives with and Batman suffers in Leviathan Strikes.

The Argentine subplot of Inc. thus introduces and brilliantly utilizes the Ouroboros idea which goes on to surface in other subplots.

In Inc. vol 1 #6, Batman helps cover his identity as Bruce Wayne by assuming an online identity of an amateur detective who argues that Bruce Wayne is Batman -- precisely the sort of inference that someone would make, incorrectly, if it were false. So that attempts to solve his secret identity is "lost in a blizzard of rumor, denial, and misinformation." The message board where this false chatter takes place resembles, probably not coincidentally, the forums where Morrison's stories are discussed online, and so yet another pattern encloses itself.

The Spyral plot with The Hood and Kathy Kane at its center is also full of reality within appearances seeming to be another reality. The Hood seems to join Inc, but has actually infiltrated it as a double agent, but must actually defeat his Spyral boss in order to serve Inc. As an ongoing bit of deception, Inc. stages the deaths of several agents, and we suspect that some of these deaths are real, but they actually hide the full strength of Inc's assets from Leviathan so to gain an advantage later. So early in volume 2, we see Damian's death faked. It turns out he is alive. But then later actually dies. Reality hidden in deception.

In Leviathan Strikes, Bruce and Lucius Fox discuss metamaterials, the substances which appear in the story as Talia's metabomb and the photonic crystal that Batman stole from Sivana. When shown the Ouroboros symbol, Fox notes that an exotic molecule with an interlocking ring structure might have remarkable properties. Here, Morrison references some impressively recent actual chemical research, working this, also into his pattern.

The Ouroboros pattern is visually apparent in the manner in which both Leviathan and Batman, Incorporated operate around the world, with the Earth's sphere creating a ring wherever Leviathan/Inc assets happen to approximate a great circle route around the globe. Netz refers to this as a "necklace of deadly meta-bombs places around the world like precious pearls." The location of these bombs becomes focal for the Leviathan/Inc war, and so a ring becomes a visual element in a literal circle. Of course, Netz' metaphor also recalls a circle of circles: a pearl necklace, only pages after we'd seen Batman hallucinate a broken pearl necklace on Professor Pyg's "mommy made of nails", two of many references Morrison has made to Martha Wayne's pearl necklace, a visual motif of profound importance for Batman's origin.

And it is in this respect that Ouroboros has its greatest relevance for Morrison's story, the payoff towards which this sprawling two-and-a-half-year, 25-issue, epic has endeavored. Morrison brings, eventually, his entire Batman plot back around to its beginning, and more importantly, brings the entire Batman plot back around to its beginning.

As we get closer to the end of Inc, Morrison brings back elements from early in his own run. The minor character Ellie has surfaced once before each season of Morrison's Batman epic has reached its climax. She was there when Batman was about to fight the Bane Batman, when he emerged from the Gotham River between RIP and Final Crisis, and appears late in Inc vol 2 before Damian meets his fate. Repeated patterns become ominous as Dick Grayson and Damian fight one last battle together, going into it cheerfully and with great mutual admiration, throwing their signature double-punch before the battle turns grim and deadly.

But the most important return to a previously-seen theme is the overarching one of Batman's whole legend. Inc began with a seemingly-unrelated story, a prologue to Batman: The Return that tells the story of the bat that flew into Wayne Manor's study one night to inspire Batman. Morrison almost whimsically makes drama of the bat's life, but why does he choose that occasion, in that issue, to tell that story? Batman, Inc., aside from its particular plot points of bombs and international spies, Inc is the story of Batman. Morrison includes such key details as the pearl necklace and the bat in the study because, just as RIP was Morrison's bid to tell the ultimate Batman story, Inc is Morrison's bid to create a recapitulation of Batman's entire story. The Return, tellingly, was published with a page of the script that provides a detail not in the illustrated story: That this was the same bat that frightened young Bruce decades earlier when he fell into the future Batcave. This seemingly random time to recall this event comes at the beginning of Inc because the entire series is a return to the making of Batman.

Jim Gordon has a central role in Batman, Inc #13 in order to close the circle of Morrison's run. Gordon is the first familiar character to appear in Morrison's run back in Batman #655. Like Ellie, he appears to recall a seven-year run by Morrison and bring it back to its beginning. But the issue as a whole serves to recall a seventy-year run by everyone from Finger and Kane to Christopher Nolan and Scott Snyder, and the details in #13 do so very deliberately.

The final five issues of Inc bring Batman back where he started. Bruce Wayne stands looking at two headstones, and he is overcome with grief, a sense of defeat. A family of three has lost two, and now Bruce stands alone, in sorrow. The connection between this graveside scene and the death of Bruce's parents is not obscure: It has been duly noted by most who have commented on the story. But it is also essential context for the grimness, or bleakness that some found off-putting. The seemingly invincible hero who arose triumphant from battles with the Devil and Darkseid was sunk into despair and defeat in #13... why? We may look at the character and psychoanalyze his grief and ask if it seems true to the character. We can ask what relationship Talia and Damian bore to him, certainly not a traditional wife or traditional son. We can weigh the steely, almost supernatural resolve that Batman has shown in earlier work, including Morrison's. But the bleakness and sense of defeat that Bruce feels in #13 is absolutely essential because that's what young Bruce Wayne felt when his parents died, and this story about the Ouroboros has to bring him back to that. Once again, Jim Gordon is there as he was at the beginning (in a detail borrowed from the Nolan films). Once again, Bruce is grieving, and for some limited time, he is not Batman. He is not ready to go on. And then, feeling once again what Morrison once called "a miracle in Crime Alley", he becomes Batman again. The Finger/Kane era is quickly brought up to the immediate reality of the summer of 2013 with a reference to the ongoing Zero Year story, much more a link to the immediate present than a dose of marketing schlock. And the Batman story is rebooted, reinvigorated with power. We see a villain whose very identity is, like that of Borges' character, immortal, and he's the perfect villain for this moment, more appropriate than, say, the Joker, because this is the moment that celebrates Batman's immortality.

Morrison's two aforementioned Superman stories ended, emphatically, on the note of continuation, that Superman is eternal, and inherently serial, and has a message of hope that will never end. He devoted only a panel or two each time to convey this message, boldly, and suddenly surprising the reader with it. His Batman run approaches a similar message through exquisitely more elaborate means, a story that comprises a not-negligible fraction of Batman's whole history. We see it all again. The bat from the cave, the moment in the study, the pearl necklace, the gun, all the past eras diced and sliced and respliced. Doctor Death, Axis Chemicals, Professor Milo, Batwoman, the International Club of Heroes, the Seventies and Ra's al-Ghul, the Eighties and the Killing Joke, the Wayne deaths, Joe Chill, Hugo Strange, Jason Todd, and everything. For it all to come back around, there had to be a moment of grief, a dark night of the soul in order to create a Dark Knight of the soul. It breaks Batman down and then rapidly, in a few panels, builds him back up. As the ring turns full circle it is, in some sense 2006 again, with Morrison's successors able to pick up where Morrison's predecessors left off, but with a character and fictional world greatly enriched by these past seven years.


  1. Fantastic post. I was a little sad to see that Dr. Hurt and the Joker didn't get any real call backs in the Inc (Hurt pushing the President to drop the bomb didn't really count for much, to me). Maybe The Joker didn't need one, since we know he'll be back in a Batman story, soon (and was just in Death of the Family), but I'm not sure anyone will use Dr. Hurt again soon.

    If you have the time, I was wondering what you thought of Bruce's vision at the end of time? I have a lot of disparate thoughts on the topic that I can't quite turn into a cohesive whole. It seems like, had Inc not been around, Talia would have fulfilled Bruce's "prophecy" and he'd have been the Batman who let the world burn. Not that he had done something foolish (making a deal with Dr. Hurt), but that he was the Batman present when Gotham was destroyed. Her destruction of Wayne Tower seemed to call back to the scene in Inc (V2) #5 when Gotham was destroyed (top panel on the second to last page).

    Two quick typos - you refer to "The Hood" as "The Cross" (or George Cross), and in the penultimate paragraph, you reference Zero Hour, not Zero Year.

  2. Thank you, Bob. Both errors gratefully corrected! I'll respond more later today.

  3. This was so awesome. Grant said recently that there was a lot of stuff no one has noticed yet, this was surely one of the things he was talking about.

  4. as an argentinian, I much appreciated the references to Borges' work. His books of essays like "other inquisitions" and "Historia de la eternidad" (which I don't know if it has been traslated to english) are amazing, even better than his short stories, IMO.

  5. Bob, a few quick thoughts about the future:

    We've seen a general Damian-as-Batman future in three stories, which are not strictly contradicted by each other or by the story we saw in the present, although one has to perform some intricate maneuvers, most obviously reviving Damian from death, to bring them about. In Batman #700, Morrison shows us at least five future Batmen, four of them after Damian, and his intended message is that Batman will go on forever, with Bruce Wayne inevitably being replaced at some point in the future of the DC Universe.

    The future shown in Inc #5 could logically be the end of Gotham, and while Damian's death seemed to prevent it, there are certainly workarounds that could allow it once more. For what it's worth, the Joker plays a key role in that outcome, so he did surface in Inc in an important way.

    Bruce seems to have gained knowledge of this apocalypse in two ways:
    1) In Batman #665, he says that one night he met three versions of himself and the third sold his soul to the Devil and destroyed Gotham. This is presumably either Lane or Damian; it fits Inc #5. But this knowledge seems to have come from Doctor Hurt having pitted the Replacement Batmen against Batman, with his memory of the event perhaps having been wiped out by some psychological command that Hurt placed during the isolation experiment. If so, this vision would not have any particular reason to be true except by coincidence or if Hurt has some prophetic powers as implied by, but not proven by, the curse he placed at the end of RIP.

    2) In the vision Bruce obtained through more scientific means when he visited the end of time (perhaps retconned by Flashpoint into having been a vision from Thogul, but Bruce believes the vision is an accurate warning of the future).

    Bruce seems to believe that once he's back in his own time he can alter that future, but not all of it. This is a bit curious, but I'm not sure that Morrison committed to a deeply logical explanation of how the rules work.

    I'm thinking it may be worth a post to try to examine the various facets of the possible futures. In particular, I thought the scenes in Inc #5 that showed a smiling Doctor Hurt encountering Damian before the destruction of Gotham (a flashback from a flashforward) were intriguing, and seemed to indicate a soul-selling deal that finishes what Hurt sought in Batman and Robin #15 -- a plot that Morrison said that he would have written as a story if the opportunity had been there.

    Overall, I think there's an important summary in order for Doctor Hurt. Although he barely appeared in Inc, the brief mention was a significant addendum to the way B&R / ROBW ended.

  6. Marco, glad to get your input. It's obvious that Borges has been one of Morrison's biggest influences in this run. Other elements from "La muerte y la brújula" that I noticed:

    1) The pattern that leads Lonnröt to the trap is a regular shape on a map. In Batman and Robin, Oberon Sexton (the Joker) informs Dick Grayson of a pattern on a map showing the movement of the Domino Killer.
    2) Scarlach speaks derisively of Lonnröt's efforts to find patterns. The Joker says this to Batman during the scene in Arkham Asylum in RIP, which is what inspires the red-and-black color clues that go nowhere.

    1. "apophenia" if I recall correctly. God, am I gonna miss this run!

    2. Exactly right, marco! I wonder now if Borges used that word.

  7. Norex, thank you. I saw the Borges connections in 2011, but wasn't blogging Inc then. It makes still more sense in light of the central role of Ouroboros in the whole run. The Google searches I've done suggest that absolutely nobody had yet made the connections with "La muerte y la brújula", which is clearly an influence. It was happenstance that I read it, many years ago.

  8. Excellent post. Glad you finally tackled the Argentine issues, in an analysis that really puts the capper on what Inc. #13 was trying to accomplish. Morrison's reasoning for the bleakness is made clear. Thank you.

    Selfishly, I'd like to see a run where Dr. Hurt climbs out of the grave and creates new mayhem, and another run in which the Damian clones do, indeed, rise. It suffices that those possibilities remain in the realm of imagination (or, as Bat-Might would say, in our own Fifth Dimension).

  9. Great analysis, as always. I think that the Borges references gave a greater depth to the fact that those issues were set in Argentina (Where I come from). I found the fact that Bruce decides to return after he finds out that Damian and Talia might be alive quite important, as it means that this new beginnig for the Batman comes with some new found hope (aside from all of the past learning experiences Bruce goes through in this run), that wasn't there the first time he decided to be Batman when he was eight years old. Maybe this is supposed to add to the "healthier Batman" Morrison has always sought to make Bruce into.

  10. bravissimo!

    I'm sure Morrison spoke of putting all the toys back in the toy box and bring Batman back to how he found him. At first it seems that that is said to negate what has gone before. But, on closer analysis we find there are new toys in the toy box and that Batman though appearing unchanged is almost doubly the tragic figure and emphatically more resolute.

    Will future DC writers be able to handle the dormant potential of these new elements or will they, like the future Damian, sell their soul but end up destroying the franchise?

    Borges wrote of an immortal protagonist with a foggy memory of time echoes. In a way is this not how a nigh on immortal Batman might be like? Only rather than a senility he is consumed by the mission which drives him. The Zurr En Arrh persona stretched across the fabric of infinity?

    Is this not how Bruce might've felt after Thogal or the isolation tank? Is the whole run some epic and vivid hallucination tinged with premonition?

    Could in fact the noir romantic tragedy of Talia and Bruce be the plot of that mystery within a mystery The Black Glove?

  11. I think we will be baking our noodles over the Morrison run for many, many years to come. To the point of our immortality or senility one hopes.

    I just tickled myself with this thought. Superman had/has Superboy but we've never really had a Bat-Boy until Damian. Sure we've had Robins but never that quintessential archetype in a younger form, born of or being the same flesh.

    Also, Damian being impaled by the Heretic, in a way is a form of Seppuku.

  12. ManWithTenEyes,

    I have visions of mediocrity concerning future Doctor Hurt stories. This is pessimism: Of course such a story could be done well or poorly, depending. But I feel like the true majesty of Hurt was the scope of his One Big Plan against Batman. To see him put his resources together for One Medium Plan, lacking the total mystery that Hurt was as of RIP will comprise a diminished villain.

    It's a question I have about the B&R run, how Hurt was almost totally demolished as a character by the end. Not just defeated, but explained. We've seen before characters of great mystery, including the Joker, the Phantom Stranger, and once upon a time Darkseid and Doctor Hurt. Removing the mystery has never been a good move, in my opinion.

    I'm sure some writer, eventually, will use Doctor Hurt again. (His only non-Morrison appearance so far was in the Outsiders RIP crossover by Frank Tieri.) I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to it or braced for disappointment.

  13. The beauty of Hurt lies in the fact he appears to be someone of no great consequence, a fact he no doubt is aware of and utilises, but this belies someone of considerate gravitas.

    If he were indeed to just pop up out of nowhere in the future with a medium scheme or even as a rank and file cronie it would really be quite an injustice.

    That said I could quite easily see him at the behest of Darkseid, an earthly agent of Apokolips.

  14. Rodrigo, me hace feliz que otro argentino lo ha leído este post. I think Morrison certainly succeeded in creating a Batman with an emotional range that has more ups than some of his previous writers allowed for. I'm reminded in particular of the scene in Last Rites when Dick compares Batman to Hamlet and Bruce cracks a smile.

  15. David, in response to your first comment, and also on the "Doctor Hurt comeback" idea: If there's a terrible cycle in Batman, or other comics, it's the almost mindless repetition that we see spanning maybe half their stories, stories where it seems like the writer "mailed it in", created a villain like a thousand others we've seen and a 1-2-3 plot like a thousand others we've seen, and that's the work. That's the repetition that kills my interest, and no new overall direction by the previous writer can forestall it. I'm looking to see which runs now in progress will be worth following. Which writers are up and coming stars. I haven't been much thrilled by anyone new since Paul Cornell.

  16. David, I agree with everything you said about Hurt.

    Early in my comic-reading, I read the first series about Darkseid and the Fourth World post-Kirby. It bored me to tears and I came to dislike the characters. In 2008, I finally went back to read the original Kirby stories and they're some of the best comics I've ever seen. It was the nonstop surprise, the plot ever-rising from one cliffhanger to another. For Darkseid or Doctor Hurt to become a known quantity, a synopsis on the back of a Pokémon card (here are his powers and here are his weaknesses) takes away most of what makes these characters great.

    I'd like to think Doctor Hurt has a future that turns upon him being bigger than what we saw at the end of Batman and Robin. The idea, opened up by the apocalyptic vision in Inc v2 #5, that no matter his past, he may have a cosmic importance and powers in his future. I hope that's how he's used, and not a mere guy with a particular mask and a particular sneer.

    1. Plagiarism does seem to be a contentious issue in comics right now. There is knowing tribute and then there is just plain uncreative regurgitation.

      I have to say reading Supergods reveals a lot about Grant's own work.

      His passion for the scope of Kirby's original New Gods stories is definitely something that went into Final Crisis and to some extent Hurt, and it saddens me that a lot of that is essentially now retconned.

      I'm not sure how the New 52 is treating the New Gods, I know Darkseid has cropped up in Justice League and Earth 2 and will be appearing in Superman Batman where as Orion et al are appearing in Wonder Woman.

      I think no one should touch Doctor Hurt for at least three years, except Grant and Kubert, he's just too damn complex beneath that unassuming facade.

  17. Reading up on Zero Year yesterday and kind of wish I didn't.

    I had developed a fan theory/timeline to allow for all prior Bat-continuity, which I'm sure we were being told still happened, within the 5-6 year period the world has been aware of superheroes.

    My theory was that although superheroes had been in the spotlight and part of the zeitgeist for 5-6 years Batman had been active at least another 5 more. But due to his dubious legal nature in the beginning of his career, no one outside of Gotham, which in itself had a certain stigma, had really heard or spoken of him.
    Sadly, it seems Zero Year will be set six years prior to current events which can only mean Damian was either conceived four years prior to Bruce creating the mantle (huh) or Talia speeding up his aging process (double huh).

    I think it's kind of careless for DC to do things like this. How hard would it be to have some kind of brand bible? Some kind of correspondence and agreement on certain issues of canon between writers? Hasbro did this when they created their Aligned continuity for Transformers.

  18. David,
    It may be that the cost of including Inc into the DCnU is the time crunch in Batman's timeline which might, perhaps, have otherwise be made neat and clean.

    Even before Flashpoint, we had the following eras in Batman's life:
    1) Solo
    2) Dick Grayson
    3) Solo
    4) Jason Todd
    5) Solo
    6) Tim Drake

    If we allow 15 years for that, then the average of those 6 eras is only 2.5 years. Clearly, they don't need to be evenly distributed, and the Dick Grayson era has to be much longer than that, compressing the rest of them into shorter durations.

    Flashpoint might have made Damian and even Jason and/or Tim never have existed. As is, there's no reasonable accounting for the timeline. Dick's stint as Robin alone should take more than half of the 6 years. That leaves mere months for some or all of the other phases.

    A similar surprise was in the Green Lantern title: By sticking to the timeline that Hal has gone through the Parallax experience, it gets quite hard to piece together the GL timeline. What do we make of, say, Kyle Rayner's career? When did that happen? Was there an era where Barry Allen was the Flash and Kyle was GL? Was Barry single the whole time he and Hal were friends?

    After COIE, DC had similar inconsistencies, and the Teen Titans were chief among them. Instead of trying to work them out at the onset, they tried to work some of them out later. This time, I'm not sure what they'll do. They've swept a lot under the carpet by not trying to make the titles interlock in time. At some point, they'll have a mess to clean up.

  19. *nods*

    As far as I (used to) comprehend things Dick becomes Robin in year two, so maybe give them 4-5 years together? A year solo post Dick? Two years for Jason? Another year solo, with 2-3 years for Tim?

  20. I wish they never brought this "five year" conceit into play post-flashpoint, it just serves to complicate things way more than they need to be. All the popular Batman stories to come post-flashpoint actually work a lot better in the context of Batman having been in operation for at least a decade or more. The storied history between Batman and the Joker that forms the crux of the "Death of the Family" storyline gets really undercut by saying he's been fighting crime for only about five years.
    I have an idea for a New52-Crisis that could help save DC Continuity, but that's a subject for another blog ;-)

  21. I've been reading solicits for future Bat Family books, particularly regarding Zero Year, and I have to say it does seem like the statement about past continuity being valid was a fickle attempt to keep writers and readership on board.

    The entire continuity for this whole five year plan seems to be being written now and I very much doubt it'll be anything like the pre Flashpoint universe.

    Which in a way, I guess, is fine. I just feel slightly dirty, used and that Grant's work is invalidated.

  22. David,

    As I see it, Grant's story was always set in the New Earth continuity, and I expect that as a matter of DCnU continuity, it's going to be more undone than fact. Even when his Batman run was at its prime, he and some other writers virtually ignored one another, and in small ways, he ignored the continuity that was seemingly established.

    The Dark Knight Returns had a huge impact on Batman without ever, necessarily being in continuity. The tone carried over to other work. So that's the sort of impact that Morrison's run may have. And I think his real contribution was in telling a long story without explicit advance notice to the reader that the story's larger structure was beginning.

    Beyond what I'll going into detail on here, he was himself very much influenced by Steve Englehart's runs on Detective and JLA. But he took Engelhart's techniques further. Maybe someone else will pick this sort of storytelling up again, which is more interesting to me than whether or not, say, Le Bossu is in continuity.

  23. *nods*

    Sorry, I was kind of nerd raging and feel I may have sullied your work.

    I agree with you on the whole idea of hoping certain styles and motifs will ever be indulged again rather than the canonical validity of this and that.

  24. On Entertainment Monthly, Chris Burnham was asked: "In The New 52, Batman’s only been active for six years or less, as according to Batman Annual #1, Bruce returned from his trip around the world six years ago. There have been some concerns about that: how Damian is ten and how Bruce has gone through all the Robins. Do you think this has impacted the story at all?"


    "Only if you let it. I think tying long term comics down to a specific timeline is a stupid idea. I think [the editors] already regret it. I don’t know why they didn’t just say “years ago” and just leave it at that. We try our best to ignore whatever continuity screw ups happen, because it’s all fun."

  25. A blog post I've long had dancing around my head and in drafts is about the history of DC continuity. It's a big challenge to try to tie a few different writers' efforts together, to eliminate continuity errors, and tying 25+ together seems almost impossible.

    A revelation for me when I read as much of the past history as I could was that DC didn't really have a broadly shared continuity until the late Sixties. I went looking for Superman covers featuring characters from outside the Superman or Batman "sandboxes" and was surprised to see that a 1974 issue with Batgirl was actually one of the first. The shared continuity that ended with COIE was only about 20 years old - not 48 - although the shared and separate continuities of Superman and Batman specifically were considerably older.

    Morrison was riffing off of Steve Englehart with the idea that all of the past stories happened, and I don't think Flashpoint changes that vision.

    When the Club of Heroes was trapped on Mayhew's island, why couldn't Batman just call Green Lantern on his JLA signal device? When Bane had Batman on the ropes, why didn't Batman summon the Flash to beat the hell out of Bane? We ignore what doesn't make a story work.

  26. Rikdad,

    Agreed. The most innovative approach I ever saw to "why the Justice League doesn't always save the day" was during No Man's Land, when two Superman visits to Gotham and one issue of JLA raised the issue directly. In short, Superman's powers weren't the right tool to deal with the depths of despair into which Gotham had sank, while the JLA kept itself busy fighting outside threats to Gotham while trusting then-member Huntress to represent it inside the cut-off city.

    As for continuity, Superman and Batman teased at it in the 1940s (Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson show up in one panel in a Superman story in one of the archives, and all three characters would be featured on cover of World's Finest even though their stories inside were separate). Sandman, Newsboy Legion and maybe the Boy Commandos -- all Kirby creations -- were in one Sandman story. Wildcat was inspired by Green Lantern. But otherwise, the only continuity existed within each feature.

    The 1950s brought actual Superman-Batman teamups, some of them remarkably inventive. But most Golden Age heroes had been put on the shelf by then, so the very concept of a larger universe wasn't something even contemplated.

    It was the early Silver Age in the '60s that started bringing Flash and Green Lantern together for teamups within their own titles. Atom and Hawkman had several, too. Brave and the Bold would bring together, say, a Green Arrow and a Martian Manhunter, and eventually issue after issue of "Batman and (fill in the blank hero)." For maybe a year in 1971 World's Finest even took a B&B approach to Superman, joining him with GL, GA, Dr. Fate and even Robin.

    I think the concept grew so slowly in large part because certain editors ruled with an iron hand in their own comics universe. Mort Weisinger, a true creative genius, was unyielding in that regard, and I suspect others were, too. I don't think it's a coincidence that Marvel started eating DC's lunch for this very reason in the 1960s -- a much more fully-formed Marvel universe came into existence as Spider-Man met the Fantastic Four and villains such as Dr. Doom showed up in various titles. Read stories from that era, and you always find yourself curious about related stories in other Marvel books. DC just didn't go that route and suffered for it.

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    1. Been reading your blog since I was in 8th grade. Now I am in college... Thankyou for proving to me that comics can have depth and giving me something interesting to read every blue moon