Hating Knightfall — and a New Year’s Resolution
Yes, it’s that time of the year for making resolutions that we will in all likelihood not be keeping. This year I’m not even going to bother with the usual – they’ll all be ditched by roughly January the 2nd in any case –so instead I’ll go with one that at least stands a bit of a chance. I’m going to make an effort to start keeping up with what is happening in the comic-book world.
The thing is, back in the day I used to be quite a serious collector. For a while I was even one of those guys who would slip his comic into a little clear baggie in order to keep it nice and pristine. This would have been maybe the eighties through the early nineties or so. Then I went through a period of moving addresses a lot and it seemed much easier to just gradually sell them off. As an aside, if anyone reading this is thinking along those lines then think harder –because boy, do I regret that!
Some of the stuff that I could take a tazer to myself for selling off included a lot of Will Eisner’s The Spirit comics, not to mention a complete run of the short-lived Eisner’s Quarterly. Then there were complete collections – oh God! – of the Hernandez Brothers’ brilliant Love and Rockets as well as Peter Bagge’s wonderfully anarchic and hilarious Neat Stuff. And Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg! and Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor and William Messner-Loebs’s Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire. (The 19th century frontiersman, not the other fella.)
Ah Jeez, why torture myself?
I was also there when the superhero (not a big interest of mine) was being changed dramatically by way of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil: Born Again. And of course I would buy anything by Alan Moore, the one guy I still reread regularly.
I have of course been keeping up with what happens in the world of the cinematic comic book hero — and hasn’t 2014 been another great year? Just to mention two: Captain America: The Winter Soldier impressed me as one of the more thoughtful and adult of these films that I’ve seen, whilst remaining accessible to a younger audience [see elsewhere on this blog]; and Guardians of the Galaxy was surely one of the post purely entertaining movies of 2014.
Can You Ever Go Back…?
Well, apart from the occasional foray into Galway’s excellent and friendly Sub-City Comics, where I find myself lost at how different all the characters of my early years now are (Thor is a woman? WTF?) I’ve been pretty much hopelessly out of the loop. A couple of things happened recently to arouse my interest again, though.
First off, my ex-partner (who inexplicably turned into one of my best friends) asked me to get the Christmas tree and decorations down from the attic. Whilst up there I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn’t quite gotten rid of everything and came across a few golden goodies like Eisner’s A Contract with God and Loeb’s Tall Tales.
The second thing was that my neighbour Darren loaned me two animated Batman movies as well as a massive comic-book collection entitled Knightfall: Volume One.
It was a shock to discover that the whole ‘Bane cripples Batman’ storyline was over twenty years old. I never read it at the time so I opened this with a lot of anticipation. I hadn’t thought much of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, but as played by Tom Hardy I did think that Bane was a fascinating character. Since this was from the period that I associate with the comics form as growing up a little I was keen to read it.
On top of that I noticed that Doug Moench was one of the writers and I have good memories of him. Now, I am writing this off the top of my head so I may be wrong here, but I recall a Batman comic by him where a beautifully-rendered (can’t remember the artist) and windswept Dark Knight is talking to Commissioner Gordon and says something like: “Why would the C.I.A. want to speak to me? They’ve never even acknowledged my existence”. It struck me that if there actually was a Batman that would be about right.
Then –and again I’m open to correction—he did a stint on the excellent Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu during a great period where the pacifist-but-deadly son of Fu Manchu was drawn to look like Bruce Lee. Again, one line of dialogue sticks with me and obviously comes from a woman not to be trifled with: “I hear that whilst I was with Velcro, you were with Mordillo. That alone is enough to cause me to destroy your face”. *Gulp*
Well, after all that the Knightfall collection came as one hell of a shock. I mean, this is awful. Awful art, awful concepts, awful writing as well as the pure minimum of character development. It’s as if Time has stood still. Same old Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy. Same ridiculous, utterly unreal-looking muscles. Hell, even a comic book character deserves some kind of realism. Here there is a savage scene where the Batman beats the Joker to what should be a pulp as hammer-blow after mutilating hammer-blow smashes down on the Clown Prince…couple of panels later and he’s wandering around with two or three band aids and right as rain.
Jeez, give me a break.
The other surprise was how good the animated stories have become since I last looked. The two I have at hand here are Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Assault on Arkham, both excellent pieces in their way.
So… for all that I hated Knightfall I have to say that my interest in the medium is somewhat revived and my New Year’s resolution for 2015 is to check it out.
Now, the first thing that I have here is The Death of Wolverine. What can go wrong…?
*** Many thanks to Darren Weir for lending me the above items – and also for the interesting information on the Comics Code of old.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman : Assault on Arkham