Book Review – Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder

  • Title: Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing, and Batman
  • Author: Kristen L. Geaman
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/09/2019

Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder is an excellent essay collection about Dick Grayson – Robin, Nightwing, Agent of Spyral, and the heart of the DC Universe. Some of the essays in this collection take a strictly chronological approach – summarizing different eras in Dick Grayson’s career from his earliest days as Batman’s “young sidekick” to the New 52 Era of Grayson. Other essays use a particular lens to examine the character from Freudian psychology to Feminism. Grayson’s relationships with other important characters in his life including Alfred and also the Teen Titans are examined. Finally, the book concludes with interviews with some of the more influential writers of various DC Comics.

I really enjoyed this book, though it took me a while to read parts of it (I never was a fan of Freud and Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin left me cold. So the chapters devoted to those topics were tough going. But, on the other hand, the essay on New 52 including Grayson was very interesting – and I’m not a fan of New 52 either.) I also learned a lot about the history of the character and of DC Comics. I highly recommend this book to Grayson’s many fans, and to anyone who would like to learn more about the character and the history of DC Comics. Each essay is meticulously researched and documented with footnotes.

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Book Review – Batman 66 Meets Steed and Mrs Peel

  • Title: Batman ’66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel
  • Author: Ian Edginton
  • Artists: Matthew Dow Smith, Wendy Broome, Jordie Bellaire, Carrie Strachan
  • Collection Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics and Boom! Studios
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/07/2019

This is an excellent crossover. Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs Peel manages to stay true to the feel of both of the TV universes it is based on: the 1966 Batman television series and the British The Avengers series which featured Patrick McNee as Steed and Diana Rigg as his best-known companion, Mrs. Peel. Other partners for Steed included Cathy Gale played by Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson as Tara King. But this volume has Batman and Robin meeting Steed and Mrs Peel. The graphic novel includes rhyming couplets for each chapter, just like the Batman television show, and alliterative narration at the beginning or end of chapters.

The story opens in a Gotham art gallery where Bruce Wayne is mixing business and pleasure by showing around Michaela Gough. Miss Gough’s company is soon to enter into a partnership with Wayne Enterprises, so Bruce wants to get to know her a little bit. And the gallery is displaying the White Star Diamond on loan from the British Royal family. It’s one of the largest and most pure diamonds ever discovered. While admiring the diamond, Catwoman arrives with her “cat-men” henchmen. The Cat-men wear tiger stripe jackets and hats with cat ears and have the names Whiskers, Fluffy, and Tibbles. Arriving soon after Catwoman is Steed and Mrs Peel. They help foil the robbery and help to arrest Catwoman. Bruce also activates his signal watch – and Robin and Alfred (dressed as Batman) arrive, but not until after Steed and Mrs Peel stop Catwoman.

Catwoman is taken to GCPD headquarters and put in a cell. Batman (now Bruce Wayne) and Robin formerly meet Steed and Mrs Peel. Commissioner Gordon introduces them as British agents, known by his cousin, Chief Inspector Gordon of Scotland Yard. Batman and Robin discuss a series of robberies of exquisite jewels of unparalleled clarity and value. They decide to interview Catwoman to find out more about who hired her, only to discover Cybernauts are attacking Catwoman. Batman used Bat-anti-oil to rust the Cybernauts, while Robin lures the Cybernauts into fighting each other. Once the metal men are defeated, they interview Catwoman and discover she doesn’t know anything – not even who hired her.

It is revealed that the diamond on display in Gotham was a fake, with the real one still in the Tower of London. Our four heroes attempt to follow the Cybernauts back to their controller but are confused by a bank of fog released as cover by Lord Marmaduke Ffogg. Batman does ask Steed and Mrs Peel to come to the Batcave but knocks them out with Bat-gas so they won’t learn the secret location.

Yet, no one notices that Steed had a homing beacon pen slipped in his pocket by Miss Gough when she fainted at the art gallery earlier. Cybermen attack the Batcave and our four heroes inside but Batman, Robin, Steed, and Mrs Peel manage to fight them off. Batman figures out a way to track the Cybernauts tracking signal from the pen slipped into Steed’s pocket. Ffogg and Michaela head back to the UK in a dirigible but it’s slow. Steed and Robin take the Bat-copter and Batman and Mrs Peel take the Pat-plane in pursuit. It’s a lively chase, and some of the Cybernauts are defeated, but Micheala and Ffogg escape. She’s also working with Mr. Freeze.

Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson travel incognito on a commercial flight to England, where they meet Steed and Mrs Peel at the airport. They head to the Tower of London where the White Star diamond should be on display. But the display room is cold in spots. Mrs Peel discovers a refrigerator unit under the diamond display case. Bruce Wayne opens the case then smashes the diamond – it’s ice. the Cybernauts attack again, but the Bat-Anti-Oil no longer works, they’ve been upgraded with a polymer coating that resists the anti-oil formula. However, our heroes use the freezer unit to freeze them so the Cybernauts no longer work.

Escaping the Tower of London, our four heroes head to Ffogg Manor. Batman and Mrs Peel meet a deathtrap where they nearly fall into boiling split-pea soup. Robin and Steed are nearly dropped into liquid nitrogen. But both escape. They confront four Cybernauts disguised as young women (apparently from a previous adventure Batman and Robin had with Ffogg). They defeat the Cybernauts, Mr. Freeze, and track down Michaela. It turns out she blames Steed and Emma for the loss of her father. She’s also planning on using the stolen diamonds (including the White Star diamond) as storage for computerized information to resurrect her father as an independently-thinking Cybernaut, with his own thought patterns and memories. But it turns out Michaela is actually a “thinking Cybernaut” because Gough didn’t have a daughter. She was the experiment in a more-advanced Cybernaut. Our heroes stop her together. She’s shut down, but mention is made of bringing her back in more controlled conditions.

I enjoyed this book very much. As I stated before both the Batman and The Avengers TV universes are handled well, and they mesh perfectly. The plot moves along, and although we see little of Catwoman (she basically disappears after the first few chapters) we do get Mr. Freeze and Lord Ffogg, whom I’m assuming is from the Batman ’66 universe. For The Avengers, we get their best-known villain, The Cybernauts. The artwork reflects the style of both universes, though in my copy I thought the colors weren’t quite as bright as they should be. Still, I highly recommend this book. It is an enjoyable, light, fun, read.

The Lego Batman Movie

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title: The Lego Batman Movie
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Date:  2017
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Siri, Conan O’Brien, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Izzard, Channing Tatum, Mariah Carey
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Black. All important movies start with a black screen. And music – edgy, scary music, that would make a parent or studio executive nervous. And logos, really long and dramatic logos.” – Batman

“Whoa. Let me tell you something, J-bird. Batman doesn’t do ‘ships.” – Batman
“What?” – Joker
“As in ‘relationships’. There is no ‘us’. Batman and Joker are not a thing. I don’t need you. I don’t need anyone. You mean nothing to me. No one does.” – Batman

“Sir, if you don’t mind my saying, I’m a little concerned. I’ve seen you go through similar phases in 2016, and 2012, and 2008, and 2005, and 1997, and 1995, and 1992, and 1989, and that weird one in 1966. Do you want to talk about how you are feeling right now?” – Alfred
“I don’t talk about feelings, Alfred. I don’t have any. I’ve never seen one. I’m a night-stalking, crime-fighting vigilante, and a heavy metal rapping machine.” – Bruce Wayne

The Lego Batman Movie is one of the best Batman movies ever made because it gets to the core of the Batman character, and it revolves around both as a plot point and as the emotional core of the movie the fatal flaw in Batman’s character. The film is also a ton of fun, funny, packed with action, full of references to every previous version of Batman and quite a lot else besides, and one of those movies that one can enjoy over and over again. The Lego Batman Movie is funny and colorful but it is not a parody of Batman, something that also makes it a great Batman film.

The film opens with “McGuffin Airlines” flying over Gotham City in a plane loaded with a ton of weapons and bombs. Joker attacks the plane, and plants bombs that will blow-up an energy plant causing Gotham City to fall into an endless abyss. The attack itself resembles the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, while Bane’s later plan results in something akin to the No Man’s Land storyline from the comics. But Joker also, in a conversation with Batman, references the two boats from The Dark Knight and the “parade with Prince music” from Tim Burton’s Batman. In other words, within a few minutes, this movie is acknowledging its predecessors. Joker also isn’t working alone, he has a number of B-grade Batman villains, all of whom did appear in the comics at some point, and Harley Quinn helping him. Yet when Batman catches Joker he has to let him go – so he can stop the bomb Joker and his gang planted earlier. It’s when Batman catches then releases Joker that we get their conversation with Joker insisting he is Batman’s Greatest Enemy and Batman insisting he doesn’t do ‘ships with anyone.

Once he releases Joker, stops the bomb and celebrates his win, Bruce heads home. He changes into a comfy robe, eats a meal made by Alfred and heated-up in the microwave, and then watches a sad, romantic movie in his home theater. He is very alone. Bruce stands before the picture of himself with his parents at the theater and asks if they would be proud of him. At this point, Alfred arrives. Alfred is worried about Bruce, stating he’s gone through these stages before. But Bruce insists he doesn’t talk about feelings. Alfred then reminds Bruce he’s to attend a gala retirement party for Police Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce objects, but finally reluctantly agrees.

At the party, he meets Dick Grayson but doesn’t really pay much attention to the young orphan, as he also sees Barbara Gordon and has one of those “love at first sight” moments. Barbara is the new police commissioner, having already cleaned-up Gotham’s “sister-city” of Blüdhaven (and graduated from “Harvard for Police”). Barbara’s plan for Gotham? It takes a village, not a Batman, to truly reduce and eliminate crime. But Barbara also wants there to be a partnership between the police and Batman. Bruce isn’t having the no Batman idea, though he’s intrigued by Barbara. Still, Bruce, being distracted at the time, agrees to adopt young Dick Grayson, as we find out later.

Joker hangs out with Harley Quinn and his B-grade villain friends, plus a few well-known ones like Bane, Clayface, and Scarecrow. He sees a TV interview with Superman, where he’s talking about banishing Zod to the Phantom Zone. The Joker gets an idea and he and the other villains attack Gordon’s party. But once chased back outside, they all surrender. Every one of them, including Joker. Batman is confused – without crime, what is he to do? Barbara and her police department organize arresting everyone and taking them to the prison.

Batman then gets the idea of using the Phantom Zone projector to send Joker to the Phantom Zone. But when he returns to the Batcave he finds a parental lock on his computer. Alfred, who is reading, Setting Limits for Your Out-of-Control Child, tells Bruce he must raise Dick, whom he adopted last week at the orphanage. Alfred shows clear affection for Dick already and tells Bruce that he and Dick have a lot in common. But Bruce cruelly tells Alfred he “knows nothing about raising a surrogate son”. So Alfred lets Dick into the Batcave. In what becomes a running joke, Dick says, “Wow, Batman lives in Bruce Wayne’s basement?” Bruce points out that Bruce lives in Batman’s attic. But with the parental lock released, Batman makes a plan to steal Superman’s Phantom Zone projector, and he takes Dick along because he’s perfect for getting through the death traps protecting the projector that Batman himself would never be able to negotiate alone.

They arrive at the Fortress of Solitude, Batman tells Dick that all superheroes are brooding, serious people who need a quiet place of reflection and solitude, then rings the doorbell – which plays the theme to Richard Donner’s Superman film. Superman sticks his head out of the crack of the door and reluctantly lets Batman in. There is literally a party going on. The entire extended Justice League is there, celebrating the 73rd anniversary of the Justice League. Superman pretends Batman’s invitation was lost in the mail. While Batman encounters the Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, and many others in the League and gives instructions to Dick Grayson over a communicator, Dick negotiates a series of intricate death traps and successfully borrows the Phantom Zone projector. Then he and Batman leave the Fortress of Solitude for Gotham.

Batman and Dick attempt to sneak the projector into the prison and Batman, after getting caught, manages to obtain the Phantom Zone projector and use it on Joker. Barbara, very disappointed in Batman, arrests him and Dick for what they did. Meanwhile, Joker ends up in the Phantom Zone, is greeted by Phyllis the brick, and starts to prepare a long speech to the villains in the Zone about getting out to wreak havoc. The villains don’t even let him finish his speech, before agreeing. The villains include: Daleks, Sauron, Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West, a shark, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, those guys from The Matrix, King Kong, Medusa, Godzilla, etc. Joker releases them all after Harley Quinn gets Joker out.

The villains and Joker attack Wayne Manor and they take over the Batcave (he also assumes Bruce Wayne is Batman’s roommate).

Barbara releases Batman and Robin, and the three work together with Alfred. At Arkham, the B-class villains who are still incarcerated offer help to Batman, Robin, Barbara, and Alfred (in a 60s Batman outfit). This allows Batman to remark on the “stupidity” of the idea of getting criminals together to fight criminals. Joker turns Wayne Manor/Island into “Joker Island”.

Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara are squeezed into the Batwing, but one by one their engines fail. Batman goes to the outside of the plane to fix the engines and is joined by Dick and Alfred. Flying monkeys attack and Dick falls off the plane and through the sky. Batman barely rescues him, but Alfred falls. Bruce is really upset and freaking out when Barbara flies the Batwing and rescues Alfred. Batman realizes he would have lost Alfred without Barbara and the four begin to work together. They defeat Sauron, and Godzilla leaves. The Batwing lands. But when Robin takes a picture of everyone together to celebrate, Batman looks at it and is reminded of the picture of himself with his parents when he is younger. He tricks everyone else into getting into the Scuddler and sends them off to get burritos on the edge of town. Now he is doing this to protect them, but at the same time, his friends don’t want to be “protected” they want to help. Once more, Batman wants to work alone.

Batman arrives at “Joker Island” and confronts Joker, who again brings up their “relationship”, including a heartfelt, “I hate you”, before sending Batman to the Phantom Zone. In the Phantom Zone, he meets Phyllis (the brick) who thinks he’s a villain. There’s a series of flashbacks, showing Batman in his worse light, hurting others. He agrees that if Phyllis releases him for 24 hours, he will bring back all the villains. Phyllis agrees – and emphasizes that Batman must return all the villains.

Batman gets back just in time to rescue Alfred, Barbara, and Dick – but they are all angry at him for sending them away in the first place. Batman admits he was afraid and even says he’s sorry (barely). He then shows the Babs-signal, as well as signals for Robin and Alfred to Barbara and everyone. They agree to work together again and even go to Arkham to release all the B-villains to get them to help in rounding up the villains from the Phantom Zone as well as Joker.

There’s a massive, complex, fight scene between the Gotham family and the Evil Army. At one point, Batman tells Robin, “Okay Robin, together we’re going to punch these guys so hard words describing the impact are going to spontaneously materialize out of thin air!”, which they do, in true 60s-Batman style. Voldemort is sent to the Phantom Zone. Other bad guys are sent to the Phantom Zone. Robin actually uses the shark repellant which came up earlier (another 60s reference as well). But the bombs that Joker and his evil gang have placed around Gotham City go off and, as mentioned earlier the city is cut off and heading for the abyss.

The only way to save Gotham is to “stick together using [their] heads”, they build a bridge. Batman admits his connection to Joker to save Gotham and they stick together creating a bridge. With a click, everything comes together. Citizen bridges, um, bridge the other gaps, and again with a click – Gotham is saved. Batman tells Joker, with a sunset behind them, “I hate you, Joker.”

Batman gets ready to go to the Phantom Zone. He lets Dick call him Dad and, and reveals he is Bruce Wayne. Bruce talks about what he’s learned. Bruce and Dick even hug. But when Bruce tries to send himself to the Phantom Zone he hits a wall and bounces back. Phyllis points out that Batman has changed for the better. The movie ends with a white screen (and a montage of Bruce with his new family).

The Lego Batman Movie is a great film. Yes, it’s funny and smart and references all the previous Batman films. Yes, the idea of Batman and company fighting famous movie (and television) villains from Voldemort to “British Robots” as the Daleks are called is amusing. But what makes the movie re-watchable is that it tells a very moving story. That story is of a man, finally, facing his demons and moving on. It’s a story of a man putting aside his loneliness and creating a new family. Dick Grayson is central to this story. And in the comics, Dick was introduced for three main reasons. First, narrative necessity – giving Batman a partner gives him someone to talk to, this improves the story because it becomes reliant on dialogue instead of the main character’s monologue. As well as someone to talk to, a sidekick, partner, or companion also gives the main character someone to worry about and rescue when they get in trouble, this, in turn, humanizes the main character. Second, Robin was a lighter character. After Robin was introduced in 1940, Batman introduced his famous “no kill” rule, and Robin’s Joie de Vire lightened up the Batman comic books considerably. Finally, Robin as a young character was meant to give the children reading the Batman books a character they could identify with who was their own age. In many ways, by introducing Robin, The Lego Batman Movie is the first time we’ve seen this transition in Batman on the screen. Yes, we don’t see the dark, brooding, willing to kill, stalker vigilante of circa 1938 Batman or solo adventures like Dark Victory, but by constantly referencing the entire Batman canon, The Lego Batman Movie is using a shorthand that both trusts the audience hasn’t been living in a cave for the last ten or twenty years and that they know who the Dark Knight is or was. Additionally, the film itself shows you the lonely, desperate for approval Bruce Wayne in the scenes in his mansion where he heats up the dinner Alfred made in the microwave and watches sad movies – alone.

Needless to say, The Lego Batman Movie, is one of the best Batman films ever made and I highly recommend it. And, there is a considerable about of action and humor too. It’s not grim. It just gets to the core of just who Bruce Wayne and Batman is, alongside his Bat-family of Alfred, Dick Grayson, and Barbara Gordon.

Recommendation: A must see!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

DC Comics History – Catwoman, Joker, Red Tornado, Robin

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This Month (Season) in DC History

The Joker and Catwoman were both introduced in 1940 in the first Batman title. The Joker was in two of the books stories. The first one included a killing spree with knives, guns, and, of course, Joker gas. In the 2nd one, Joker was stabbed in the heart and apparently dead but made a recovery in the ambulance. Catwoman, who was just known as “The Cat”, was aboard a yacht disguised as an old woman so that she could steal some jewels. Although Batman did see through her disguise, he didn’t keep her from escaping, sparking the romance between the Bat and the Cat.

What else happened in 1940?

  • Captain Marvel was introduced but not by DC Comics. Fawcett Publications introduced him to rival Superman. The alter-ego of Billy Batson attracted many readers but also attracted DC Lawyers…
  • Red Tornado was introduced but not the android you’re probably familiar with. Inspired by the Green Lantern, Ma Hunkel dressed up in red long underwear and used a cooking pot for a helmet. This working mother fought crime in New York and became very popular.
  • Robin was also introduced in this year, in this month even. We all know the story, a circus boy, who’s parents killed and was taken in by a millionaire. All that happened 73 years ago. You have to admit that Dick looks really good for his age.

Fascinating FACTS!!!!