Just this past weekend, a friend of mine asked me to explain the essential differences between the Marvel and DC universes. Before attempting to explain, I validated my knowledge by saying that I primarily read Batman comics, which means that I read most of what’s going on in the DC universe. After saying this, I spent the next few days considering how DC has been handling Batman in the last four years. After giving it considerable thought, and reading eleven issues from DC’s “New 52,” I’ve come to the saddening conclusion that the continuity of the DC universe is far too dependent on the caped crusader.
Almost simultaneous with the debut of The Dark Knight in theaters, Final Crisis was released in comics. In what I assume was an attempt to ride out the hype of the movie, the release involved the death of Batman and a heart-wrenching panel showing Superman carrying the smoldering corpse of his partner out of the wreckage (Image Here). What followed in the DC universe was a long shopping list of comics plot-lines dealing with the essential question of “What in the hell are we gonna do without Batman!?” My favorite of the plot-lines was the first post-crisis series Battle for the Cowl, in which all of Batman’s allies join forces to fight crime in Gotham City, and Dick Grayson (the original Robin who operated as Nightwing at the time) is faced with a heavy decision as to whether or not it is his duty to take up the mantle of the Bat. The entire DC world seemed to be reflecting on how essential this mortal man was to the super-community. They were so crushed without him that someone had to pretend to be him just to keep things functioning.
This was a great time to be a Batman fan, not just for the hype, but for the profoundness of the material that worshiped the aesthetic of the man. The inevitable surfaced though, when a series called Bruce Wayne: The Road Home came into play. Batman isn’t dead! He’s lost in time! We all knew this would happen, but what we couldn’t predict was what he did when he got his old life back. Dick Grayson and his new Robin, Damian Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s ten-year-old son), were doing a wonderful job in Gotham, so Bruce told them not to stop. That wasn’t enough though. In a touching speech that he gives to the entire bat-family in the bat-cave, Bruce explains that he wants there to be a Batman in every country of the world. Thus began the series Batman Incorporated.
This was the beginning of my frustration with DC, and my dislike of using the bat insignia as a crutch for the company. First, we learned that one mortal man was irreplaceable. Then, we are told that he should exist everywhere on Earth. It was a short-lived series due to the recent reboot, but it involved Batmen sprouting in several countries, including France, Africa, Mexico, and Japan. My theory was that the death and resurrection of Batman was an opportunity for DC to sell as many comics as they could and get the most out of the hype. What I’m realizing at this point, however, is that there is no telling when this “opportunity” will be over.
“The New 52” released fifty-two titles. Out of those titles, Batman is essential to at least thirteen. I own eleven and he appears or is mentioned/discussed in all but one. The clean slate that the “The New 52” provided shows no evidence of the Batman hype ending. It’s even said in the series that although super-humans have only been public for five years, Batman has been operating for six. As I said to my friend, reading Batman comics means reading DC comics. He’s my favorite hero, but I feel DC is taking things a bit too far. He’s an amazing man, but not even Superman or the Flash, who have mind-blowing super-speed, appear in that many places at once. My question to DC comics is, “Are you that stuck for ideas?”