Batman #47

comiXology summary:
Batman #47. While Jim Gordon is in the fight of his life against Mr. Bloom, Bruce Wayne discovers a shocking secret about his past that will change everything in Gotham City!

This Alex Ross cover was actually an alternate for a relatively recent* issue of Batman. Because it wasn’t the main cover I wouldn’t consider Batman #47 a “bait and switch” on characters in the same way I criticized All-New Inhumans. This is beside the fact that Batman isn’t even Batman in this issue (a moustache-less Jim Gordon was filling in for an amnesiac Bruce Wayne at the time).

But what makes this a noteworthy cover? I mean, there are alternate covers to some book or other essentially every week, right?

The first reason is just that this is an Alex Ross, and any mainstream Alex Ross is probably worth a second look, even if we don’t end up lingering on it. That’s not the real reason, though; at least not for me.

This Batman #47 alternate, with it’s “Harley’s Little Black Book” titling, is a sequel of sorts. One of the best — or at least most famous — depictions of Harley Quinn was done by Ross back in 1999 for Batman: Harley Quinn #1. Though Harley’s entire character arc had essentially been played out between her first appearance on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992 and its last episode (months earlier in 1999) she had never — never — appeared in a mainstream DC Universe comic before Batman: Harley Quinn #1!

So bringing Harley (who would ultimately become one of DC’s most famous and popular characters) to comics was kind of a big deal. DC tapped Ross for this classic:

Batman: Harley Quinn #1

When I first started working, and first figured out how to change the desktop background on my PC, this is what I chose.

So what did I love about Batman #47? Check the white flower over Mr. J’s left breast; the tux… all of it. This is the direct sequel to the classic.


* “Relatively recent” being about Christmas last year, given a stated print release date of December 9, 2015. With DC’s “Rebirth” event Batman has since been renumbered at #1 under The Vision scribe Tom King.

The Batman Adventures #7

comiXology summary:
A new mobster enters Gotham City looking to make it big. But when Batman tracks this fugitive from Chicago underground, he encounters something else lurking in the depths: Killer Croc!

So Suicide Squad came out yesterday.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I know one thing… It’s got Killer Croc!


Killer Croc

Poor Croc. Is he a super human freak? A regular fellow with an unfortunate skin condition? A cannibal? A pretty nice guy who happens to live in the sewers? “Throw a rock at him [Batman] once”? In the comics and cartoons he’s been variations on lots of those things; but what crime did Croc commit to make it into Amanda Waller’s eponymous ‘Squad?

I don’t know either.

But they sure made him bumpy for the movie.

Anyway, in honor of the movie opening (featuring Croc) I decided to peel back the veils of years to a 1993 cover by Kelsey Shannon. 1993! I was in high school! Taylor Swift was four! Killer Croc was strangling the World’s Greatest Detective on the cover of The Batman Adventures #7!

I love this cover.

It is so g-d unpretentious.

Has Croc got scales? Not on the cover of The Batman Adventures #7 he doesn’t (explicitly). Shannon kind of lets you use your imagination on this one. Croc certainly has bumps on the top of his head; and the name “Croc” probably signals you that he is kind of lizard-y, skin-wise. Certainly his coloration is unusual.

The “acting” on this cover is also great.

I am so So SO a fan of form over detail. Shannon used minimal lines on this image. There are probably fewer lines on the entirety of The Batman Adventures #7’s cover than are contained in one square inch of the average Rob Liefeld pinup. But it doesn’t matter! With minimal lines Shannon is able to deliver so much drama.

We know Croc is strong. How can we know without infinitely rendered pectoral-deltoid-rectuses? Because of the pose, the angle on Batman, the implied bulge of tendons across Croc’s forearm.

We know Batman is desperate. How can we know without a bunch of narrating first-person word balloons? Because his teeth are grinding together, and his face is being compressed, and he is futilely trying to pry that left Croc-arm from around his esophagus.

The color is mostly flat. It’s not exactly flat; there are some gradations and implied shadows… But it’s pretty flat. I am a fan of flat color over “computer coloring” (or at least the look of what was called computer coloring in the early 1990s)… I point it out here because in 1993 it would have been really easy to fall into the garish trend coming out of Image and the X-Men books; but Shannon didn’t.

We thank you.

Batman thanks you.

And 23 years later, so does an immortal Killer Croc.


Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Like the title says, this is a post about things I didn’t like about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Like anything I do, say, or write about comics and comics-related media it will be almost annoyingly detailed; TLDR: spoilers Spoilers SPOILERS. Consider yourself warned.

1. The violence was genuinely (and needlessly) over-the-top


Adapted work is its own thing.

That’s one of the things die-hard superfans sometimes miss. There have already been innumerable comics about Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The fact that this movie got made is its own thing, the same way The Lord of the Rings films were their on thing, or the Game of Thrones HBO show is its own thing. The original work, the source material, is in a sense limited (and targeted to a limited audience)… Bringing the page to small or big screens is at once a compliment and a compromise.

A compliment in that these characters (that some of us die-hard superfans love) get to be exposed to more people, in more consumable contexts… But compromise because expectations for movies and tv shows and what the average viewer will like can be very different. So I get the idea that you want to modernize Superman (or Batman). I get when you make a movie that costs hundreds of millions of dollars you’re going to want to have a lot of explosions. You might not be willing to dwell on the specific ethics of these characters that have been developing for seventy years for very long in a film that has to cram a lot of stuff in; cutting such a perspective into a single sound byte might make sense as a filmmaking choice.


… At some point adapting, “modernizing”, and reducing down too much can betray the essence of a character; what makes the character [special], or worth a movie (or a movie franchise).

Case in point:

In the opening action sequence a terrorist has Lois Lane at gunpoint. Superman is staring him down. Superman can do a lot of different things here (this is a movie, by the way, that acknowledges the work of John Byrne in the credits). He can melt the terrorist’s gun with heat vision. He can fly so fast that he can stop the hammer of the gun on the way down. Even if the gun is to Lois’s temple he can move so quickly he can catch the bullet before it hits her. All of these things, by the by, are well within the abilities Superman shows in this movie.

Zach Snyder has Superman torpedo into the terrorist and slam him through the wall behind him. Not only is this way more risky than anything I suggested above… It would almost necessarily result in the terrorist being liquefied. There is just no reason for it… Though it does set the tone for the next two hours and their nonstop over-the-top violence.

2. Superman’s complete lack of conscience or consequences


Superman has many super powers… Heat vision, super strength, resistance to injury, lightning speed to the point of interplanetary flight. That last one has, over the years and different writers’ interpretations led to super-learning and super-strategy. Superman’s brain just works super fast; he is a super scientist sometimes, a chess master, a prize winning writer.

The difference between Superman and Batman is that Superman is always tempered by his humble roots and moral grounding.

So why in the world (beyond the fact that he is more than willing to fly humans through brick walls) would he trade Batman’s life for Martha Kent’s? We know why Batman wants to fight Superman… But at the climax of the film, Superman consents to Lex Luthor that he will trade the head of the Batman for his own mother’s life.

Let’s think about this for a moment… If Superman wins, Batman dies; if Superman doesn’t win (or doesn’t fight), Martha dies. It’s a life for a life in either case… But in one Superman isn’t the murderer himself. Where is his moral compass? What would Martha have wanted for him? In the universe set up by Man of Steel Clark let his father die for less.

Besides which, super-brain for a second, if Lex knows who his mom is and can blackmail him this one time, what is to stop him from doing the same thing the next time?

3. Batman seemed to have no problems killing people… With guns


In comics and most related media, both Batman and Superman have gone to extraordinary lengths to preserve human life, even of their archenemies. A lengthy plot line in the Justice League cartoon is about Bruce thinking about killing the Joker (but not) when Clark thinks about killing Luthor and going down a dark path. Only the alternate-universe-death of Lois Lane is ever enough to have Superman do stuff like punch out the Joker’s heart; less than that and he will turn the other cheek. It was a huge deal at the end of Final Crisis for Batman to use a gun to beat Darkseid; but Grant Morrison’s use of Batman, the gun, and the conclusion of that story was perfect poetry. And Darkseid is a god.

In Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Bruce strafes cars and trucks from his Bat-Wing. I guess the guys in the aforementioned cars and / or trucks could conceivably have walked away… But those were some big explosions. Bruce didn’t blink an eye. In the pivotal scene where Batman saves Martha Kent from the KGBeast (armed with a flamethrower) he, like Clark and the unnamed terrorist in the opening sequence, could have done a lot of different things. He chose to shoot the gas tank with a gun (blowing it up and lighting up the kidnapper) tackling Martha to the ground under a presumably flame retardant cape. It wasn’t just un-Batman; it was common.

4. Batman had no control of his emotions


Bruce has Clark by the throat, kryptonite lance etching his cheek, getting ready to monologue.

Lois bursts in and stops the scene.

Bruce throws down the kryptonite lance and runs off to save Mrs. Kent.

Bruce throws down the kryptonite lance and what now?

He spent the entire first half of the movie doing nothing but trying to get the kryptonite and then just discards it? Forget about the fact that it would be an important plot element later… Why would the most competent man in the world possibly do that? HE SPENT THE ENTIRE FIRST HALF OF THE MOVIE DOING NOTHING BUT TRYING TO GET THE KRYPTONITE.

The entire plot of the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us is Bruce getting access to kryptonite. This is not just a smart guy acting stupid, this is the smartest guy acting extraordinarily emotional instead of rational. In the final scene between Batman and Luthor, Bruce pulls off the first half of “something super cool in a movie”, sneaking into Luthor’s jail cell when the lights go down. He is going to brand Lex with the bat to mark him in prison. It’s going to be awesome. Lex starts ranting, Bruce grunts loudly, punches the wall, and leaves. It’s inexplicable. It’s un-Batman.

5. Wonder Woman’s wildly inconsistent defensive capabilities


After two hours of teasing us in evening gowns Gal Gadot makes her Amazonian debut jumping in front of Doomsday, bracelets defending a hapless Batman from certain eye beam. Cool. Aegis bracelets, Hephaestus sword and shield, Magic… check, check, check. Cool.

So Wonder Woman is tough, ageless, etc. But she does seem to need her bracelets or shield to defend her from superhuman attack. We see them light up when she is blocking heat vision, or channel explosive bursts of energy. So tell me how this defends her from an omni-directional nuclear-esque explosion, or even just construction debris?

Doomsday is shown knocking down multiple buildings in every direction with his energy attacks. Batman has to take cover. Wonder Woman can’t actually block all of that with either bracelets or shield. But we just saw that she has to use the bracelets and / or shield, didn’t we? She’s super… But she’s not Superman. If the building she is in is getting incinerated I totally get that she would have perfectly preserved wrists, but the rest of her shouldn’t logically be Maxim cover-ready for the next frame.

6. For that matter, Wonder Woman’s wildly inconsistent offensive capabilities


We know Superman killed Zod by snapping his neck in Man of Steel. Wonder Woman cuts off Doomsday’s hand with her magic sword. She breaks his armor on multiple occasions, hamstringing him, as they melee… She’s clearly well trained and agile enough to land cuts without getting hit back. Why doesn’t Wonder Woman just behead Doomsday? She could: WE JUST SAW HER CUT OFF HIS HAND.

7. For that matter, what exactly can kill Superman (or Zod / Doomsday)?


Let me get this right: A nuclear explosion not only doesn’t kill Superman, it doesn’t damage his uniform. Being stabbed by non-kryptonite, though, kills him to death? Keep in mind he was not stabbed by kryptonite. He was just near kryptonite. By this logic, when Batman poisoned Superman MULTIPLE TIMES with direct hits with his kryptonite rifle, shouldn’t he have been weak enough to die by all the bathroom sinks, multiple-story falls, and building breaking blows that Batman levied on him? Any of those — which included multiple head and neck blows while actually choking on kryptonite fumes — should have been more lethal than a random stab wound that happened to occur while he was merely near kryptonite.

8. Anything and everything having to do with Lex Luthor


Lex is the smartest man in the world, who by the end of the film commands the sum total of Kryptonian scientific knowledge between his ears. He outsmarts Batman and figures out Superman’s secret identity. What is his motivation? Why would he make Doomsday with apparently no fetters or fallback plan? Just to kill Superman? Lex didn’t actually have a kryptonite weapon. Would Doomsday have stopped nicely after killing Superman? Doomsday’s first move was busting up Lex’s own office building! Why did Lex kill his own assistant in Washington? (Mercy is one of the few characters Lex ever seems to have a genuine respectful relationship with in comics and cartoons.) Why in the world is it the end of the plot line to put him in prison. Does he suddenly no longer know who Batman and Superman are in street clothes if you put him in prison? We know he can stop Batman from branding him with a rant… What if he starts ranting about billionaire Bruce Wayne?

Not that I didn’t like lots of things about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I teared up early when Bruce Wayne in his Gucci vest rushed towards danger to save a little girl. I thought Wonder Woman was badass. But in an environment that includes movies like Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers, or X-Men: Days of Future Past we are simply no longer in a place and time where comics movies can be mindless and inexplicable. Comics movies can be brilliantly executed like Stardust, hilarious commentary like Kick-Ass, or just great movies (not just great “comics” movies) like Captain America: The Winter Solider.

Zach Snyder had a great opportunity on this one. Sadly, it could have been a lot better, for both superfans and regular-fans.


Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #18 by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

ComiXology excerpt:
Batman’s fighting off the effects of the strength-enhancing drug, so he’s locked himself away in the Batcave and instructed Alfred not to open it–no matter what Alfred hears! Now, The Dark Knight faces the monstrous challenge of battling his own nightmares.


That is what I see when I look at this Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover.

Desperate. Pathetic. Wasted.

None of these are words that we typically associate with The Dark Knight.

By default we think of Batman as being confident, self-assured, and powerful. In the face of not just danger but near-certain death he holds his head up straight and stares enemies many times more powerful than he is straight in the eye… Right before spitting in it. Probably with kryptonite gum.

But what does Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez give us here?

Not just desperation; not just that unkempt mop and unshaven chin (neither being signals for “billionaire” or “playboy” for the cowl-less Caped Crusader); but a lazy slouch. Bruce in this shot is barely able to stay in his chair (let alone spit in the eye of an angry Kryptonian).

My longtime collaborator (and onetime comics editor) Brian David-Marshall loves to talk about comic book art as more storytelling than “mere” portraiture; and this cover does a great job of telling a story.

Why is Bruce falling out of his chair?

Why is Bruce out of control of his hair?

Mayhap he should have enrolled in D.A.R.E.

Do you see what is falling out of our hero’s hand?


This is what comes of pills. Not even The Dark Knight is immune to their insidious effects. They can reduce a straight-backed superhero to a slouching scamp.

Neither will you, child, be able to walk away unaffected (if even you can still walk at all) (see not even Batman can).

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez communicates a shocking amount of emotion into this image, layers upon layers of meaning, without a single speed-line. His story is not reliant on a single word balloon or stray line of detail. Through body language he can give Bruce’s ripped abs a sense of desiccation rather than core strength; and the same kinds of lines that typically communicate a lack of fat around the rib cage here seem more like a lack of oxygen or nourishment. Along with the shag and beard, Garcia-Lopez’s hands tell a tale (two tales actually): the left is warily weary but the right completely exhausted. Though we see essentially only two pieces of furniture (a pretty stock, if normally luxurious, captain’s chair and a pretty cool wicker cowl-perch), the non-furniture spiderwebs in the top-left give us a setting of disuse, even ruin. One of the sharpest, fittest, most on-the-ball billionaires in the DC universe — on top of every other negative emotion already communicated — is living, or at least sitting, in a zone of neglect; abandonment.

Overall, this is just a great cover. Technically it’s really well composed; I’m fine with the inks but it’s the combination of flat color and negative space that really do it for me. I’m just such a sucker for flat color.

In case you’re wondering what you’re reading, this is Superficial Saturdays — a column I am carrying over from my original blog Five With Flores — that talks about comics covers (as in “superficially” judging a book by its cover), you know, on Saturdays. If you liked this, you can check out the previous sixteen installments over at Five With Flores.

I do hope you liked this! Thanks for checking our comics content out here at Fetchland.