Don’t Change That Bat Channel and The Bat Host With the Most
Written by Gabriel Soria
Art by Dean Haspiel
Colors by Allen Passalaqua
What better way to celebrate Batman Day (or “everyday,” as I like to call it) than with a great comic?
Gabriel Soria and Dean Haspiel sit in this issue to craft a story about a Batman television series within the Batman television series, and I’ll say this right now: it’s one of the most fun comics I’ve read in ages. Or at least since the last time I said that.
Whether they intended to or not, the creative team have crafted a pretty funny satire here. Batman and Robin are shocked to find that a television show based on Batman is being developed. Robin is straight-up aghast, but Batman decides to give it the benefit of the doubt, stating that their “heroic exploits have inspired the citizens of Gotham.” If that reasoning isn’t a perfect example of this incarnation of Batman’s character, I don’t know what is. Right off the bat (…yeah, that wasn’t intentional) Soria demonstrates a true understanding and love of both the character and tone of the series. If this book had a rotating team of Jeff Parker, Kevin Smith, Ralph Garman, and Gabriel Soria, I’d be more than happy with that.
The show-within-the-show itself provides the bulk of the humor, as it’s a hyper-violent, ultra-gritty show called The Dark Knight Detective, and if it isn’t supposed to satirize the “dark and gritty” Batman that’s been at the forefront of the public conscious for the past 25 years, then it’s still a great unintentional parody. With hard-boiled dialogue like “this city’s sick. It has a disease called crime. But I’ve got the cure” and the signature catchphrase “I’ll give you the Bat-business,” Bruce is obviously less than thrilled with his fictionalized counterpart’s characterization (Aunt Harriet, however, loves it).
It’s not exactly subtle, but the obvious parallels to real-life backlash against “campy” Batman in favor of “serious” Batman provide some great laughs and drive the story forward. I’ve long felt that Batman is one of the very few characters in pop culture that can be used in almost any circumstance, from gritty drama to science-fiction to goofy Silver Age stuff. The character is incredibly versatile, and you can keep the core foundation there while adapting the presentation and characterization to whatever the story needs: the ’66 Batman is dry and tongue-in-cheek, steadfast in upholding the law; a Denny O’Neil-esque take on the character, grounded in reality with street-level crime and globe-hopping adventures, plays up the characters’ desire to rid all crime everywhere, not just Gotham City; and Grant Morrison has a little bit of everything in there that blends one extreme to the other and still manages to make sense in the context of Batman.
The thing is, though, each and every one of those takes on Batman are obviously Batman, completely valid and true to the character, but not every type of Batman will work in every situation. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s interpretation, which is obviously what “The Dark Knight Detective” here was at least partially inspired by, worked in its own movies (sort of, but that’s a completely different topic for another time), but he wouldn’t work here. The same is true for the reverse: Adam West chastising the Joker in an alliterative sense wouldn’t gel with Jack Nicholson’s performance, even though it would be pretty incredible to see that.
My point being this: Soria gets that you might want a dark and gritty Batman, which is perfectly fine, but Batman ’66 isn’t dark and gritty. It’s light-hearted, fun, and as silly as it is, it’s smart. Watch one episode of the show and notice how straight-faced all the actors are. They know it’s a joke, which is why it works.
Anyway, going on with how smart this issue is, there are lots of terrific one-liners (particularly an acid-soaked takedown of television producers) and some nice nods to other DC characters thrown in for good measure. Even the villain they chose to use, who usually elicits an exasperated sigh from me at best, is handled well.
Haspiel’s art is the weakest thing about the book, but it’s in no way bad. The sketchbook-like drawings are a unique stylistic choice, setting it apart from other artists, and even with some jagged lines and rough edges the panels still flow smoothly. Never once was I lost in the action or confused about who was who or what was happening. It’s good art, to be sure, just nothing groundbreaking.
The more I think about this book the more I love it, which can be used as a cover blurb. I don’t mind. When I went back through it to write the review I kept catching myself reading a few more pages just to take it all in again. Seriously, this is one of the best single issues to come out this year, and I’ll stand by that statement.
Overall: A remarkably funny and incredibly smart single-issue story. It gets better the more you think about it, and represents all that’s great about Batman.
- You’re breathing.
- The idea of Batman working in all sorts of situations is a concept that you’re at least intrigued by.
- Seriously, read this book, then go back and read the whole series from the beginning if you haven’t already.
- Everybody needs the Bat-business every now and then.