Saturday, June 24, 2006

Frank Miller's Batman-Spawn Crossover

As a side note to my discussion of Frank Miller's double reinvention of Bamtan in the 1980s and in the new century, I want to say a quick word about his Batman-Spawn crossover. (Joglikescomics has a pretty good discussion of the thing if you want to check it out). Realizing that there are two squarely defined Miller Batman periods -- the hyper-masculine Batman of the 1980s and the grotesque Batman of this decade -- I now finally get how his 1994 Spawn/Batman crossover fits into his artistic development. I always considered it a fluke. Now I see that it is the transition between the 80s Batman and the present one (it falls right in the middle of the timeline); and what better way to work on making Batman grotesque than with one of the artists famous for drawing grotesque out-of-proportion bodies, Todd McFarlane. McFarlane's cartoon loony-ness heads straight into DKSA. The little green note on the inside cover makes sense after all: "Spawn vs. Batman is a companion piece to DC Comics The Dark Knight Returns. It does not represent current DC continuity." If my comparing Miller's All Star Batman story to Jack Kirby's art seems superfluous -- Spawn/Batman is dedicated to Jack Kirby who died the year it came out; there is a full page picture of him on the inside cover. The ghost of Kirby hovers over the whole thing.


Troy Wilson said...

I remember a lot of people getting their knickers in a bunch over the fact that Bats repeatedly called Spawn "boy", which, given the fact that Spawn's actually a black man, could be seen as a racial slur. Maybe he knew Spawn's ethnicity (they did do some mind-meld thing, if I recall) and maybe he didn't, but, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't really matter either way.

Let's face it, Miller's Batman has never been very politically correct. And I buy that. It works for me. Miller's Batman doesn't tippy-toe around, looking for the least offensive word to use as he's making an evil-doer cough up a lung. He's no nancy boy looking for public approval. He's the goddamn Batman, and, if calling a black opponent "boy" helps get the job done, he'll do it. He might not drop the n-bomb, because "boy" goes one better by slyly covering two bases for the price of one(ethnicity AND inexperience). And even Miller couldn't get away with going THAT far. But, make no mistake, Miller's Batman fights dirty, I don't mind one bit.

I know most people panned Spawn/Batman, but I thought it was fun. Is it Miller's worst Batman story ever? Well, yeah. But look what it's up against.

And I loved that last page. Not one iota of the grudging respect that is traditional in these things.

Geoff Klock said...

It is Miller's worst Batman story but I used to think it was just bad period. Now in the context of DKSA and ASBARTBW I like it; it makes sense, in a weird way.

And yeah, that's a great point about the total lack of respect. Miller's Batman can't have respect for anyone. He's the goddamn Batman. (That phrase is never going to get old to describe Miller's Batman -- it's the character in a nutshell, in a sound-byte).

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