The Not-So Great Debate – part 2: Alternate Batmen?

Click here for the First Great Debate: Battle of the Rogues!

Alex Ross - Batman

One of the go-to moves for editors in comics that want to bring a lot of attention to an established property is to replace your main character with a new version of that character. For instance, Hal Jordan was replaced as Green Lantern by John Stewart, then Guy Gardner, then Kyle Rayner, and most recently Simon Baz. Barry Allen was replaced as the Flash by Wally West. Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by John Walker (aka USAgent) and Bucky Barnes, Tony Stark as Iron Man by James Rhodes, Peter Parker as Spider-Man by Ben Reilly… hell, for when Superman ‘died’ it took 4 (!!) people to replace him.

This really hit a head in the 1990’s, when Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Flash, Superman, Batman, and a host of others were replaced by newer versions. Even Wonder Woman!

For the sake of this column, we’re going to be focusing on Gotham City’s dark knight: Batman.

Battle for the Cowl

It goes without saying that Bruce Wayne IS Batman. That said, there have been a surprising amount of times when someone else was wearing the cape and cowl. Hell, Dick Grayson has been Batman twice!

So, who is the best replacement Batman? Is it Dick Grayson, Jean Paul Valley, Tim Drake, Terry McGinnis, Damien Wayne, Thomas Wayne, or someone else?

 

COMICZOMBIE: For my money, the best replacement Batman is Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, an assassin for a holy order descended from the Knights Templar.

Azrael as BatmanHe replaced Bruce Wayne when he was taken out of commission by Bane during the “Knightfall” trilogy. Jean Paul has a complicated past, to say the least, and his grasp of sanity was tenuous, at best. A man that was just beginning to understand his inner demons, let alone conquer them, he was given this humongous responsibility and tossed into the deep end: a Gotham overrun by half of the inmates of Arkham Asylum, plus Bane and his goons. Yes, the weight of the mantle of the bat caught up to him quicker than he would have liked, and he went crazier than hell,  but while he was Batman it was incredibly interesting to see him slowly, and yet all too quickly, crumble under the weight of the conflicting missions of Batman and Azrael. Both dark avenging creature of the night types, but Azrael’s role was as a destroyer, and Batman’s role has always been a protector. The dichotomy made him very intriguing, even if he never felt like the ‘real’ Batman. That said, he existed in Bruce Wayne’s Gotham. He argued and fought with Tim Drake as Robin, he strained the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon, and he fought guys like Bane and the Joker.

Jean Paul Valley: best replacement Batman.

ERIK SMASH! : Bruce Wayne is and always will be Batman. Even in 95% of the Elseworlds tales Bruce is still Batman. He’s one of those character-archetypes that simply transcends the decades. That said, there are plenty of kick-ass, Batarang-throwing, Bat-replacements.

When looking at a line-up of potential Batmen, Terry McGuiness is the natural choice for Bruce Wayne’s replacement. Why? Well, part of it might be because when Bruce retired and put up the cowl for good, it was Terry who he finally deemed worthy of the mantle, the other reason might be because it was later revealed that Terry McGuinness was in fact Bruce’s illegitimate son/clone via Amanda Waller (long story…)

Batman Beyond intro clipsFor those of you that don’t know (hand over your nerd cards, you know who you are), Terry McGuinness was the main character in “Batman Beyond”, the sequel series to Bruce Timm’s 1990’s “Batman: The Animated Series”. “Batman Beyond” picked up decades after Bruce Wayne gave up crime fighting when he was nearly killed by a couple of low-life crooks, and was forced to use a gun to defend himself, something he swore he would never do. “Never again,” he states coldly as he shuts down the Batcave forever (it’s really an amazing and emotional scene).

Then in the somewhat far-off (unspecified) future, where Bruce is an old fogey, Gotham looks more like Neo Tokyo from Akira, and the legend of the Dark Knight has been reduced to urban myth, rebellious teenager Terry McGuinness picks a fight with a pack of ‘Jokerz’ (gangster punks ripping off The Clown Prince himself), and gets cornered at the front gates of Wayne Manor where Bat-hermit Bruce ironically happens to be taking a stroll outside for the first time in apparently ever. Bruce then manages to fight off the wannabee thugs with his cane. After helping Bruce back home, Terry accidentally stumbles upon Wayne’s secret, which leads him to stealing the Bat-suit, and then eventually realizing the error of his ways and convincing Bruce to train him to become Gothams’ new protector. (‘Mask of Zorro’ style)

Now I do realize that Terry is very different from Bruce in several aspects. He’s a much more flawed individual, and his personality more closely resembles a cross between Nightwing and Spider-Man in a bat-suit. However, part of that is because he is still young, and never experienced the kind of psyche-shattering tragedy that Bruce was unfortunately subjected to. Instead, Terry’s inner demons compel him to make up for past mistakes.

You get to see Terry struggling with the duel lifestyle in a way that Bruce never had to face, because let’s face it, for Bruce, Batman was his life, and for Terry, he still has a chance to have a life of his own, and carry on the never-ending war on crime. Regardless of the mistakes he makes, you can tell from the get-go that Terry has it in him, he has the potential to one day live up to Bruce Wayne’s standard, and eventually impart the way of the Bat to his apprentice and so on.

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Unlike Jean Paul Valley, Terry possesses the perfect mix of badassery, and a good heart.

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Comiczombie’s Top 5 (Bottom?) Worst Comic Book Movies

There’s no getting around it: there have been a ton of truly awful superhero/comic book adaptations. I’m looking at you, Punisher. There are a lot that were made for next to no money, and were made only so that a company could hold onto film rights, like the 1994 version of Fantastic Four, or the Captain America movies that starred J.D. Salinger’s son as Cap, had an Italian Red Skull, and Cap’s ears on the side of his mask were rubber. Rubber! There are also some that are really bad adaptations, but not terrible movies, like Constantine. But for the purposes of this list I am looking at the comic book movies that were made by big studios for at least reasonably large budgets. So you won’t see Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four on my list. Also, I haven’t seen the Halle Berry Catwoman, so that won’t be making the list. However, you will see….

5. Superman Returns

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What We Wanted to See: A movie that reinvigorated the franchise and moved Superman into the 21st century

What We Got: A sequel/prequel that satisfied nobody

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Erik Smash!’s Top 5 (Bottom?) Worst Comic Book Movies

5. HULK (not to be confused with ‘The INCREDIBLE Hulk’)

What we wanted to see: HULK SMASH!

What we got: HULK Sad…?

This movie could’ve been awesome. The teaser trailer blew me away! However, the director (Ang Lee) and the studio (Universal) both wanted something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from this film, and what we got was mismatched disaster 😦

Top 5 “Cyclops is a badass!” Moments

Growing up, all of my friends liked the X-Men. We loved pretty much all of them, even Longshot and the Dazzler (I know. Shut up). Everyone loved Nightcrawler, and Iceman, and Colossus, but it seemed like everyone’s favorite was always Wolverine. While I think Wolverine is cool, I always thought Cyclops was way cooler. I dunno, maybe it’s because I can’t help but think that a really short, hairy Canadian shouldn’t be the star of the show, but I digress. There were always a few writers who portrayed Cyclops with the respect he is due, like Louise Simonson, Joss Whedon, Chris Claremont, and maybe Scott Lobdell. Too often he was written as this stiff, do-gooder with a stick up his ass; always the buzzkill.

Anyway, I wanted to take a quick moment to show people what pretty much every telepath in the Marvel universe knows: Cyclops is a badass.

(Seriously, think about it. The most powerful telepath in the world (Professor X) decides he’s the one worth building his life’s dream around, the most powerful telepath in the UNIVERSE (Phoenix) just can’t stay away from him and even married him, Psylocke wanted him for years, and he’s currently sleeping with Emma Frost, another of the most powerful telepaths in the world. Also, Sinister, an incredibly powerful telepath himself, spent years manipulating and testing him).

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Top 10 Scariest Marvel villains

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There are a TON of villains in the Marvel universe. Some are jokes, some aren’t really villains at heart, some are pretty bad, and some are straight up evil. Then there are the ones that are just scary, because of what they’re capable of, or how far they’re willing to go to get what they want. There are some that didn’t make this list that might belong, like Magneto, or the Green Goblin, but in the end I think it depends on how you define scary. If you disagree with my choices feel free to leave your own top 10 in the comments. Here are my top 10 scariest villains of the Marvel universe.

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Top 10 X-Men Villains

The X-Men have one of the widest ranging rogue’s galleries in all of comics. A ton of them are really great villains, and a ton of them…. not so much. Anyway, here are my top 10 X-Men villains.

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – COPPER AGE? (4 of 4)

Continued from Part 3: The Bronze Age

THE COPPER AGE (1985 – ?)

— “I know pain. Sometimes, I share it… with someone like you!” – Batman (Batman: Year One)

Also referred to as the ‘Modern Age’ of Comics, and is seen as a continuation of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics. I like to say we’re in the Post-Modern Age, since the current comics barely resemble the comics of the 90’s and it’s been long enough to establish a New Age. This ‘Modern’ Age is often classified with works like Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns.

During this time leading up to today comics evolved into graphic novels. Comic issues were intended as single episodes in a greater story, and usually collected into larger volumes to be sold at book store chains. Many acclaimed, award winning graphic novels came about around this time including: V For Vendetta, the Sandman, Hell-blazer (Constantine), 100 Bullets, ‘Maus’, Fables, American Splendor, Kick-Ass, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wanted, Red, the Losers, Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, Y: the Last Man, and Grimm Fairy Tales, among others, most of which have been turned into blockbuster films along with a majority of super hero comics.

The Copper Age also covers the mixed bag of comics that was the 90’s when the X-titles reigned supreme, and cross-overs galore flooded comic shops with overprinting and variant cover marketing gimmicks. Comics of this decade were marked by unnecessary (and meaningless, non-permanent) deaths, constantly confusing title cross-overs, ridiculously out of proportion body-types (either steroid muscles, or DDD size boobs), and pointless violence coupled with raging CAPS and EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!! Now regardless of all the negatives, there were some pure gold tales that came out of this mess like: The Death of Superman, the Knightfall Saga, etc… This was also the rise of other comic company giants, like Image and Wild-storm, but that’s for another article.

During the 80’s and 90’s the status quo was significantly changed. DC took a page from Marvel when they revamped their entire line of heroes. Some were altered more drastically than others, like Superman. In John Byrne’s ‘THE MAN OF STEEL’ miniseries (1985), Superman’s origin was completely revamped from the start. Superman himself was significantly depowered compared to the god-like Silver Age version and he was made more relatable and down to Earth. His entire cast of supporting characters were also given updates. Most notably, LEX, the original criminal-mastermind was no longer a crazy-ass mad-scientist with desires for world domination, instead he was a ruthless business man who had already conquered the world and had practically built the city of Metropolis! Lex became insanely jealous when this new hero of tomorrow overtook his own spotlight, and vowed to destroy him.

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – BRONZE AGE (3 of 4)

Continued from Part 2: The Silver Age

THE BRONZE AGE (1970 to 1985)

— “I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am PHOENIX!!!” – Jean Grey (Dark Phoenix)

This is considered to be the start of the ‘Dark Age’ of Comics, and with good reason, which continued into the late 90’s (the Copper Age). Some very dark twists to many popular characters backstories were first established during this time such as: (Retro Spoiler Alert!) the Green Goblin killing Spider-man’s girlfriend (Gwen Stacy, not MJ), the demise of Jason Todd (the second Robin) at the hands of the Joker, Elektra’s murder by Bullseye, etc… (BULLSEYE was introduced in Daredevil #131 – 1976, and ELEKTRA in #168 – 1981)

Often disputed between comic fans / historians, this Bronze Era is typically said to have occurred sometime between 1970 and 1985 give or take a couple years. This was a time when comic books became more socially conscious and began featuring real-world issues. Comic books were no longer just an escape from reality, but a mirror of it. This is when the legends behind the most acclaimed adult-themed comics started to creep onto the scene. Writers and artists like Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, George Perez, Joe Quesada, and countless others who are still relevant today, most of whom are still actively in the comic industry today!

The Bronze Age was when there was a resurgence in interest for super heroes in general. Following the cheesy campy spoof that was the Batman 60’s TV series was the first serious, live action, depiction of a comic book, on the silver screen with Superman: The Movie in the late 70’s, and in the 80’s there was the Wonder Woman show and the Incredible Hulk became a Smash Hit! (pun-intended)

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – SILVER AGE (2 of 4)

Continued from Part 1: The Golden Age!

THE SILVER AGE (1956 – 1970)

— “With great power comes great responsibility!” – Ben Parker (Spider-man comics)

This period from around 1956 to 1970 was a huge shift in the world of comic books. Prior to this comics were in decline, mainly because of the Comics Code Authority banning all the awesome shit that was actually selling, because they were afraid it was going to create a generation of delinquents, you know like rap music and video games! Thanks to douchebag of the century, Fredric Wertham, many comic books and pulp magazines were burned in massive bonfires around the country.

So the Silver Age is considered the point at which comics were rejuvenated after a lame stint of pure camp in the Atomic Age of the 50’s. It was the beginning of many a Marvel hero and was marked by a much more sci-fi focus than ever before. This was also notably the introduction of some of the industry’s best talent to date, both artists and writers, including Neal Adams, Denny O Neal, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr., and of course Stan Lee. Comics of this era are seen as an extension of the Atomic Age, and are often heavily influenced by B-rated Science Fiction films of the time where flying saucers, and giant radioactive monsters ran amok across the silver screen. One of the earliest instances of this was with the devious BRAINIAC first invading Action Comics in issue 242 (1958). Much like the Children of the Atom (the X-Men), Comics began to evolve.

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RETRO SPOILER ALERT! – First Appearances Can Be Deceiving – GOLDEN AGE (1 of 4)

“First Appearances can be deceiving…” (Spoiler Alert – #2)

Click here for Spoiler Alert – Issue One: 7 Awesome Changes to the DC Universe!

“In the beginning there was the word, and the word was <SHAZAM!>” – John 1:1, New Testament, Biblical quote (altered, obviously)

One of the things I absolutely love about comic books is the intricate history, not just the current ‘in-cannon’ history of the stories themselves, but the history behind the stories, the history of the characters, and their creators. What started in newsstands and drug stores eventually evolved into bestselling graphic novels, and smart phone downloads.

In this (retro) installment of ‘Spoiler Alert’, I (ERIK-SMASH!) will be discussing the initial appearances of many of the world’s most famous super heroes between both MARVEL and DC comics! Furthermore, I will be delving into the differences between their initial appearances and today.  One big difference between DC and Marvel over the years is that DC characters almost always started out in their own separate worlds and eventually crossed over into the same continuity, whereas Marvel characters have always been a part of the same world from day one. However almost all these characters started out in a series that was not titled after them.

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for single comic issues to have Multiple (complete) stories rolled into one, whereas today you’re lucky to get One story in a single issue, since most stories are stretched between several issues and later collected into a trade paperback, so most of today’s comics are the equivalent of a chapter. Anyone who already knows a bit about comics knows that Superman first originated from Action Comics 1 (1938) and Batman made his debut in Detective Comics 27 (1939), while Marvel’s Spider-man (created by New York comic gods STAN <the man> LEE and Steve Ditko) first swung into the pages of ‘Amazing Fantasy’, Issue #15, in 1962. But did you know that Wolverine first appeared in the Incredible HULK?! (Issue 180, 1974)

Real quick note about DC and Marvel. The two competitive companies are akin to Microsoft and Apple in that both are very similar in a lot of ways, both have been known to copy one another, there are a few differences in the way they get things done, but it all comes down to the fact that both of them pretty much do the same basic shit. A key difference right now would be that Marvel’s live action films are kicking ass left and right (Iron Man, Spider-man 2, X-Men: First Class, Daredevil, THOR, ‘The INCREDIBLE’ HULK, etc), in comparison to DC’s few and far between with a few notable exceptions (The DARK KNIGHT Trilogy), even though they have just as much potential, but take their animated films and DC is far superior in quality thus far with their new line of PG-13 movies directed to an older audience (Superman Doomsday, Wonder Woman, Batman: Under the Red-Hood, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Doom, etc), also, obviously, with a few notable exceptions (Hulk vs Wolverine).

Also, one cool thing about all these first appearances is that if you can get your hands on one of these issues, (I’m talking first printing) especially the older stuff, it’s going to be worth a lot more than your average comic. For instance, Action Comics #1 recently sold for a whopping $2.6 MILLION!!! It originally only sold for a measly 10 Cents (talk about inflation). But that’s a rare case seeing as it’s not only one of the rarest comics of all time, but it is the original super hero comic of all time! So yeah, if you’re ever perusing a vintage collection of comics in a random flea market keep your radar out for these diamonds in the trash.

Now that we’ve got those honorable mentions out of the way let’s buckle our seat-belts and set our Flux Capacitor for the 1930’s because when it comes to history I like to go chronologically. We’ll be skipping the Victorian and Platinum Ages that led into…

THE GOLDEN AGE (1938-1956)

—“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”  – Superman narrator / radio announcer (from the 50’s TV series)

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