Saturday, December 06, 2008

The moth, the snake, and the stingray

Batman #682 by Grant Morrison and Lee Garbett includes in passing an understated sequence in which Alfred speculates on other guises Bruce Wayne might have taken had something other than a bat come through his window that fateful night long ago. Had a moth flown in, we might have a Mothman instead of a Batman. Or Bruce might have mused "My actions must be swift and decisive, my approach silent and undetected...' just before his eye was caught by the stuffed and mounted snake on his bookcase. "That's it! I shall become...a serpent!"

This plays on an idea Morrison has toyed with during his run on the series: the idea of Alfred as a Batman fan, someone who delights in the character to the extent of writing his own Batman fan fiction and imaginary stories...and who might even be vicariously living out his own desire for two-fisted action through the travails of his employer. That idea certainly didn't originate with Morrison, but he's used it to good effect.

Another thing Morrison has done is to incorporate bits and pieces from every era of Batman, taking the position that no story is so ridiculous or inappropriate it needs to be written off completely; that with some judicious reinterpretation, the entire 68 year history of the character can be read as the internally consistent life experiences of one individual. Use every part of the animal: Bat-Mite, Kathy Kane, Man-Bat, Ras al Ghul, it all goes into the mix. And the above sequence reminded me of the following item from Batman #256 (May-June 1974), written by Martin Pasko (with considerable snark, one feels) and drawn by Pat Broderick.

One can only ponder the crime-fighting effectiveness of the Iron Knight. (Full marks for intimidation value, but how many getaways would have been aided by the armored hero clomping towards them very...very...slowly?) And Aquaman would probably have been pissed off at the Stingray horning in on his turf. Anyway, I'm sure GM remembered this mini-featurette and I suspect he knowingly alluded to it with the above scene.

Thanks to commenter Frank at Final Crisis Annotations for providing the issue number, enabling me to track down the issue and present these scans here. I thought non-Korean readers might want to enjoy it for themselves. (Props also to Jidol for making it available to Korean readers...)


  1. Wow - what fun!

    But why is GM hailed as such a genius when he's merely recycling Pesky Pasko?

    And does that Moth-Man remind you at all of this guy?

    And is the superhero genre just eating its own tail now?

    And are we sorta sad for digging this all so much?

  2. I really liked this featurette when I had this issue, back when I was a teenager. I especially liked the Shooting Star idea, and would draw little pinups and adventures of that character. When I read others' reviews of #682, this was the first thing I thought of.

    It was Broderick's first published art, I do believe, at least in a DC comic. He didn't get any better, I'm afraid.

  3. Walaka: I thought of the Tick and Arthur first, but I see exactly what you mean.

    Johnny: that's really cool -- and yeah, Shooting Star with his luminous outfit is definitely the one who seems most viable as an actual character. (Other than The Owl, but I knew perfectly well back then Owlman was already in the Crime Syndicate of America. And also a Daredevil villain.) Looking back, I'm almost surprised James Robinson didn't work Shooting Star into Starman...

  4. So, what do you suppose would have happened if Bruce Wayne's windows had been SHUT, and a robin had smacked into 'em? ;-)

  5. "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so my disguise must be a bad omen to them! I must be a thing from which they recoil, something they never want to see on their doorstep...a...a..." thud! "That's it! It's an omen! I shall become...the Dead Robin!"

  6. Be careful, RAB - you seem to be on the brink of creating a meme...

  7. That whole parody "motivational poster" thing has started to wear out its welcome, so maybe this meme could take over from that one.

    But why should I be hailed as a genius for creating a meme when I'm just recycling Marty Pasko? ;-)

  8. "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so my disguise must be a bad omen to them! I must be a thing from which they recoil, something they never want to see on their doorstep...a...a...a dirty smudge? Alfred!"

    "Yes, master Bruce?"

    "Did you clean this windows?"

    "This morning, sir."

    "You're fired"

    "Very good sir"

    And thus the legend of the DICK was born!


    But alternately...

    "Criminals are unruly and reckless, so my disguise must be a symbol of order and discipline! I must be cool and impartial, a symbol of control and order, a servant of the law...a...a..."

    "Begging your pardon, sir, but is there anything else you shall require this evening?"

    "That's it, Alfred! It's an omen! I shall become...The Butler!"

    "Sigh...very good, sir."

  10. I think you'll like this...


  12. I used to draw the adventures of The Owl myself. It was only recently that I learned there was a Golden Age hero of the same name...

    So does that mean Grant Morrison is recycling Martin Pasko (an underappreciated creator in my book) who was recycling somebody else?

    The beat goes on!

  13. Places Batman could have been brooding instead of alone at home: a nice boat trip! the local observatory! Crawford, Texas!

    Jay Pinkerton, the guy who did those rewritten Spider-Man strips, also has a Batman origin story mish-mash playing off the idea of "it's pretty lucky a bat flew in at that point".


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