Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fear and Loathing in the DCU

I just watched the fourth season Batman episode "Never Fear," where the Scarecrow develops a gas that inhibits fear. Bruce Wayne gets hit with it, and while he claims he is able to handle it, he begins taking unnecessary risks and acting reckless.

But that's not the interesting thing. What's interesting is that he starts acting like Frank Miller's Batman. He dangles a criminal out a window and begins cutting the batrope. He tells Batman that the Scarecrow will kill him if he reveals the plan; Batman replies "death is death. Does it matter who administers it?" The line sounds unnatural coming from Kevin Conroy's voice, but it sure sounds like something you might read in a narrative caption in The Dark Knight Returns to me. Anyway, Robin catches the guy when the rope finally snaps, then confronts Batman about his behavior. The hogtied Dark Knight initially tries to trick Tim into releasing him, and when rebuffed, he sputters and shouts at his young protégé: "Untie me, you little--! Untie me!" He's about a hair's breadth from asking Tim if he's "retarded or something."

Naturally, Tim eventually gets Batman the antidote (after Bruce smacks him around a little), just in time to keep Bats from killing the Scarecrow.

So, for a brief moment (outside of the full-on Miller-homage in "Legends of the Dark Knight") the animated Batman assumes all the gruff, cold, manipulative brutality that characterize his portrayal in books like "All-Star Batman and the really long title." What's interesting about this Batman is how many mistakes he makes. When Batman lets loose and takes stupid risks, he ends up almost getting shot, almost killing several people, and almost crashing the Batplane...repeatedly. Without Robin, he'd have been dead several times over, with a string of bodies left behind him. He's not calculating, he's reckless. A Batman as violent and sadistic as Miller's generally is wouldn't be the effective, precise hero we all know and love.

This is, of course, ignoring "Year One," in which Batman acts more or less like Batman.

Okay, so we have the Green Lanterns, whose weakness is fear, right? We also have the Scarecrow, whose schtick is making people afraid. While I realize that the GLs operate on something of a different scale from Prof. Crane's usual turf, the pairing is too obvious, too perfect, to not lead to a great story. The Society provides the rationale and means for the plot, and suddenly Scarecrow (and Phobia, just for good measure) have crippled Earth's three Green Lanterns. To what purpose? Oh, I don't know, but infiltrating Oa and leaving the Corps vulnerable to a Sinestro Corps attack would be a nice start, don'cha think?

Speaking of Scarecrow, I don't think I've ever seen him portrayed better than in his brief appearance in Sandman. I'd read a freakin' series devoted to that Scarecrow. Why doesn't anyone else pick up on that characterization?

Speaking of Batman, something in the latest issue of Morrison's Batman caught me off-guard. Batman got captured. After so many years of the God-Bat, fourteen steps ahead of everyone else (much of which was Morrison's doing), it really took me by surprise to see him tied up and at Talia's mercy. Granted, I don't want to see Batman fall prey to "Oh no, I suddenly got stupid" syndrome, with every thug, goon, and henchman hogtying Bruce, but with Talia it's believable, and it's nice to see that he's fallible again.

That's it!


Unknown said...

Good point about "Never Fear," I hadn't noticed the Miller touch before. I'll have to look for that next time. I really liked the Scarecrow's hangman design in that one, too.

My verification word is an imp-summoning hkzxtpm.

SallyP said...

Oooh, I find your concept concerning the Green Lanterns vs
Scarecrow to be quite fascinating!Of course I find anything about the Green Lanterns to be fascinating, but that's just the way I swing.