Monday, March 27, 2017

Writer Paul Dini uses 'A True Batman Story' in his healing process

DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY isn't your typical graphic novel.

(A quick educational moment: A graphic novel includes a self-contained story, which often — but not always — is published in hardcover. That's not to be confused with a trade paperback, which is a collection of a run of comics in one or two titles.)

Simply judging from the subtitle, it sounds like a story about Batman in non-fiction. Not accurate — more on that in a bit.

Read the main title DARK NIGHT again. Notice there's no "K" in the word NIGHT. So the story isn't about Batman, known as the Dark Knight. The title is a clever twist on the nickname Batman has had since the late 1980s.

The DARK NIGHT title refers to writer Paul Dini's real-life dark night when he was brutally beaten during a random mugging. As he says in the opening lines, he sustained a shattered "left zygomatic arch, … my nose fractured, multiple bruises to my face, upper body and left thigh." He got the crap beaten out of him, a vicious, random crime that was never solved.

Dini's story isn't just about the way he heals physically from his injuries. DARK NIGHT is a story of psychological healing.

As he recovers from his physical injuries, Dini must come to face the reality that the gorgeous woman he was dating had no interest in their relationship or taking anything any further; she was with him to be seen and further her possible, if very negligible, acting connections.

Also, Dini realizes his drinking is alcoholism and in an attempt to avoid awkward questions, reactions and sympathy from co-workers, he puts off returning to the office and spends time at home playing video games. He even cuts himself with one of his Emmy statues and basically shuts down emotionally.

During this journey, Dini is "visited" by Batman and his Rogues Gallery of Villains. The characters call him out and/or challenge his own ugly life.

Dini, in the graphic novel, treats the interactions as intimate conversations, sometimes while he's in public and sometimes not. These incidents allow him to get to the depth of what he has gone through and gives him proper perspective on his life.

Whether he had these imaginary conversations in his mind or visions in real life. is unimportant. What's significant is Dini uses the entire process — his interaction with friends, co-workers, police officers and of course, the Batman characters — as a way to find complete healing. Writing this story, published in 2016, had to be a bookend and his final say on resolving his entire ordeal from the 1990s.

DARK NIGHT is painful and tough to read. Dini pulls no punches; he bares his soul in brutally honest ways that only be done by someone who has taken the time to consider and analyze every moment he has experienced. For most of the story, Dini is falling apart and his life spins out of control. That makes for powerful reading. Can you imagine how challenging it was for Dini to write?

This graphic novel isn't a Batman story; it's a Paul Dini true story. Grade: A

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