Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bat-Pope Week: "Broken Nose"

Batman: Black & White was a really good idea. This four-issue 1996 miniseries was an anthology series featuring short Batman stories by a bunch of big names, all presented in—as the title says—black and white.

There were familiar Batman creators like Dennis O’Neil, Brian Stelfreeze, Matt Wagner, Chuck Dixon, Klaus Janson, Brian Bolland and Bruce Timm; there were big names not normally associated with Batman, like Walter Simonson, Richard Corben, Bill Sienkiewicz and Neil Gaiman; and there were “Holy fuck, they got this guy to do a Batman story?!” creators like, well, just Katsuhiro Otomo. Covers by Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Barry Windsor-Smith (!) and Alex freaking Toth (!!!).

It was apparently successful enough that DC continued soliciting Batman Black and White stories from creators, which they ran as back-ups in then-third monthly Batman: Gotham Knights.

Running from 2000-2006, Gotham Knights came out of the more structured, post-“No Man’s Land” Batman line. Each of the books took on a particular focus distinct from the others. Batman became the Batman-as-as-superhero book, Detective was the Batman-as-a-detective-and-crimefighter book, and Gotham Knights focused on Batman’s relationship with his “family” members, playing to writer Devin Grayson’s strength with characterization and interpersonal drama.

Gotham Knights was further distinguished by its eye-popping Brian Bolland covers, and the presence of the black and white back-ups, from such creators as Kyle Baker, Warren Ellis and Jim Lee, Dave Gibbons, Chaykin and Jordi Bernet, Grant and Enrique Breccia (which I really should have written about during Scarecrow Week, as Breccia does a mean Scarecrow), Mike Carlin and Dan DeCarlo, Paul Dini and Ronnie Del Carmen and so on. The original series and most of these back-ups can be found in the three volumes of trade collections DC has published.

Since this is Bat-Pope Week, then you know which one I’m going to talk about once I finally get to the point of this post, right? In Gotham Knights #3, Pope’s next Batman story appeared.

It was entitled “Broken Nose” and is about Batman getting his first broken nose.

What kind of foe could actually break the nose of one of the world’s top martial artists (and all-around badasses)?

Well it wasn't necessarily a better fighter; but it was a guy in a robot battle suit.

You don’t have to be that fast, strong or schooled in the fighting arts to break a man’s nose, provided your arm is encased in pounds and pounds of metal, after all.

The story opens with Alfred patching up Batman after round one with the guy in the robot suit, Alfred noting that it is Bruce Wayne’s first broken nose, which, for a vigilante hero is perhaps something like losing one’s virginity.

Batman isn’t amused.

Since it only hurts when he smiles,

Alfred advises Batman not to smile. That shouldn’t be too much trouble for Batman, the ever grim, ever dour hero who doesn’t even find Alfred’s dry wit the least bit amusing.

In fact, there’s only one thing that makes Batman smile, and t hat’s causing physical pain to criminals.

And that’s just what happens during round two, when he brings a can-opener into battle, gets in close enough to tear off the robot suit’s face plate and, ignoring his now vulnerable foe’s panicked surrender, proceeds to break his nose, and suffers the consequences.

Oh Baman, you lovable sadist you!


Anonymous said...

This was the first Paul Pope story I'd ever seen, and I remember being distinctly unimpressed with the way he drew Batman. I thought the weird sweater and the lace-up boots were some sort of on-the-cheap costume, and the dingy ER in the Batcave furthered that impression.

I did like Batman whipipng out a screwdriver and taking that guy apart, though. Why doesn't anyone ever try that when they fight Iron Man?

Eumenides said...

I've been loving your Bat-Pope Week, Caleb! And seeing Batman smile after breaking a crook's nose also gave me a smile.

Funny that the villain is called Mabuse: that's Fritz Lang's criminal mastermind. First Berlin Batman, now this: Mr. Pope sure likes his German culture.

SallyP said...

Now that's funny.

Matthew J. Brady said...

I don't know if you mentioned this already, but there's also a statue version of the Batman from this story. It's one of the pieces of memorabilia that I would try to own if I was made of money.