Thursday, June 8, 2017

Flashback: Bruce Wayne takes team approach to fighting crime

The new cinematic Commissioner Jim Gordon (J.K. Simmons), in the "playing well with others" trailer for "Justice League," makes a crack at Batman (Ben Affleck) that "it's nice to see you playing well with others again." Indeed, the Dark Knight has the reputation for being a loner -- yet he has one of the greatest collection of supporting characters in the history of comic books.

Remember when Batman really did play well with others and had a network of sanctioned crimefighters handling missions across Gotham City and the world? That started happening in all of DC Comics' Batman titles at beginning of 2011, a time when there were two distinctive Dark Knights, each with his own costume. 

Enjoy this CCC flashback column (originally published in my "Cary's Comics Craze" column in the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper) when I really dug having both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson donning the cape and cowl ...

January 2011 -- One of my online buddies, Jill "The Nerdy Bird" Pantozzi, once wrote that "too many Batmen could spoil the cowl."

Another one, Bill "Jett" Ramey -- the founder of my favorite website, -- has said he won't buy any more Batman comics until Bruce Wayne is the only Batman around.

Well, gang, for the time being there will be two men donning the Batman persona. Dick Grayson took over for his mentor after the original Batman, Bruce Wayne, "died" at the hands of Darkseid's Omega Beam and then traveled back through time.

Grayson's version of Batman will remain the focus of the BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS series as he continues to protect Gotham City. The original Batman will be featured in the just-launched ongoing series, BATMAN, INC.

There, writer Grant Morrison has Bruce enlisting international crime-fighters in his war on crime. Appropriately enough, the original Dark Knight also will be in the upcoming BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT series, written and drawn by Canadian artist David Finch, which comes out this month.

I can see where "too many Batmen could spoil the cowl."

Quite simply, it's confusing to have two men with the same secret identity. Since the original Batman's costume now has the Batsymbol with gold oval around it and Grayson's won't, it will be easy for readers to tell the two apart.

But for characters in the DC Comics universe, won't it also be equally simple to discern there are two different Batmen? (Yes, that sounds weird ...)

There's no doubt the true spirit behind Batman comes from Bruce Wayne, who as a child saw his parents gunned down and dedicated his life to fighting crime so no other person would ever have to witness such an atrocity.

But I gotta say, it's been a pleasure these last bunch of months reading about Dick Grayson as the new Batman. 

The original Robin hasn't spoiled the cowl; he's been making the Batman persona his own by using his gifts of compassion, drive and insight to be a worthy successor. And in BATMAN AND ROBIN, Grayson has been teaching Bruce's biological son, the ever petulant and impulsive Damian Wayne, what it means to be a superhero and sidekick as the newest Robin.

Grayson has proven he's man enough to realize that the Batman legacy is bigger than just one person. 

Fittingly, Wayne now envisions crime-fighting as a team concept -- a return to the "Batman family" of yesteryear, as it were.

In Morrison's one-shot, BATMAN: THE RETURN, the original Dark Knight brings Grayson, Damian, Red Robin (Tim Drake Wayne, the previous Robin and Bruce's adopted son), Barbara Gordon (aka the computer genius Oracle) and her protégé, Batgirl (Stephanie Brown), to the Batcave to share his overall plan. Dressed in his revamped Batman costume, Bruce tells the group the "idea" of fighting crime will be addressed by the "idea of Batman."

"From today on, Batman will be everywhere it's dark, no place to hide," he says.

Grayson later tells him: "There's only one Batman and we know it."

But Bruce Wayne says that's not the case anymore. Wayne, the long-time control freak -- who now shockingly has transformed into the ultimate team player -- realizes he can't fight crime alone and is empowering his "closest crime-fighting associates" to do so the most effectively.

Morrison obviously has big, global plans for Bruce Wayne. Judging from Bruce and Damian testing out military robots at Wayne Tech and Wayne ordering jet suits modified to resemble the Dynamic Duo, there'll be even more high-tech toys in Batman's war on crime and "more Batcaves" set in international cities. Life definitely will be different in the Batman universe.

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