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Batman - Year One

 
 
moriarty
04:13 / 06.12.02
Preamble

Persephone is making me go first.

The two of us have been exchanging lengthy emails about the history, business and art of comics for some time now. Recently, we decided that it might be fun to purchase a graphic novel once a month and chat about it late-night-under-the-gazebo-with-your-pals style. Everyone and anyone is invited to jump in.

Batman - Year One

Released within a year of the publication of Dark Knight Returns, Year One is often overshadowed by that work and what is considered by many to be the best Batman story ever, Killing Joke by Alan Moore which came out a couple years later. I took a quick look around my print resources, through interviews with the creators and even over the net, and there is considerably less written on Year One than the stories above. Even Miller and Mazzucchelli's Daredevil run gets more press.

Comparisons to Dark Knight Returns are inevitable. The contrasts are amazing. Where Dark Knight is operatic, larger than life and details the end of Batman's story, Miller draws back and let's us see exactly how that story began. Where Dark Night was a deluxe format mini-series, Year One was printed in the regular Batman comic. Mazzucchelli's art makes Gotham a real place, without the chaos of the future presented in Dark Knight. People live here. The fear has only begun to seep into their lives. The sense of urgency in Dark Knight hasn't yet started. This young and inexperienced Batman is able to make mistakes in an environment that allows them. It's as if Miller has created two perfect bookends to every other Batman story ever written.

This was, I believe, Mazzucchelli's final major work for one of the big two before going into exile and self-publishing. He is easily one of the great cartoonists of our time, and it's a shame that he doesn't produce more work. "Batman-Year One is as close a perfect comic book art job as you could ask for." - Frank Miller, speaking of Mazzucchelli's contribution, not his writing. I'm not sure if I'd go that far, but my well-worn copy still manages to take my breath away. In this, and their run on Daredevil, it's obvious that Mazzucchelli had a great deal of say in what was presented, both storywise and in design. Most of Frank Miller's excesses are kept in check.

There are a number of odd things about Year One. It's emphasis on Officer Gordon, the atypically beautiful colouring by Richmond Lewis, Miller's subdued resuse of television screens as panels, the abrupt time passages, repetition of panels (as seen in the use of the Comissioner's office as the start of new dates in the storyline), lower-case lettering, and the small, silent panels used as slight pauses in the action.

Two of my favourite pieces of business in the book use that last trick. At the end of the first chapter, Bruce is sitting in his study, debating the worthiness of his cause. He's just tested out the skills he has honed over the years and has had his ass handed to him. He's bleeding to death and holding a bell that will summon Alfred who can save him. He doesn't move, just sits there and wishes for something to give him the focus that will help him in his crusade. A bat comes crashing through his study window, and the very last panel is a small close-up of his hand and the bell being tilted to be rung. No sound effects. No dialogue. One tiny action that seals his fate.

The other bit is our first look at the Batman. A few pages into the second chapter, in an enclosed panel with white gutters surrounding it, Officer Gordon is contemplating his family's fate in Gotham, "in a city without hope." The very next panel spreads horizontally to the edges of the page, cutting off the white gutters and forcing the reader to stop and study the silent panel. It's not much bigger than the one before it. It's of a black cityscape with a dark blue background. And a tiny figure, silhoetted against the night sky, running across the rooftops with wings spread. Most artists would show Batman in a full-on splash to show how powerful or how much of a badass he is. Here, it goes back to the Golden Age, when Batman was a genuinely scary figure seen from afar, frightening innocent and criminal alike.
 
 
fluid_state
04:47 / 06.12.02
Funny, I was just ranting to some friends about how Year One is the Only Batman Movie That Should Be Made (at least, right now). It's at least one half Gordon's story, and a damned near-perfect piece of pulp thanks to that. The heroes are so... fallible, from the aforementioned idiot B.Wayne getting his ass kicked (lucky amateur, indeed) for all the right reasons; to Gordon's mounting horror at the situation he's thrust his family into, just by trying to do the right thing.

Each character, no matter how incidental, seemed pretty well-crafted, from Flass to Skeevers to Selina(and even the cipher of Merkel... guy has a looong career finding the Comissioner's cigars for him). I'm surprised it took so long (15 years, i think) for any other Batman writer to play with them.

Hmmm, I can rant for days about this, it seems. I'll come back, I'm sure. (good idea, moriarty).
 
 
Persephone
06:23 / 06.12.02
It's of a black cityscape with a dark blue background. And a tiny figure, silhoetted against the night sky, running across the rooftops with wings spread.

Ah, yeah... I like that a lot. Remind me of that again when we get to Hellboy.

Having just read Cameron's Catwoman, I actually got a thrill of recognition from seeing Selina and Holly again. I think that my favorite thing about comics could be characters existing in parallel universes... this Selina and Holly are perfectly recognizable as the same characters in Cameron's book. But this Holly stabs Batman in the leg! I love theme and variation. I touched on this once, talking about New X-Men --how I wish that characters could be open-source or public domain. And glassonion said, "these characters are in fact public domain. if you want to tell batman stories invent a character like batman but change his name to midnighter or somethin. everyone'll understand what you're getting at." Which I think I understand what he's getting at, but ...isn't it more fun if the character is called Batman, id est is Batman? And if someone totally fucks up the character or the story, then you simply ignore that version --which is what I did for the Alien movies 3 and 4, actually.

Is Midnighter a comic, by the way?

I love the Commissioner's office. I love how you can just make out Charlie Brown and Lucy on the lamp, and the statue of The Thinker sitting on a toilet...

Aaand the other thing that I noticed on my own are some of the textured backgrounds, which are really fantastic. Like the rainbow marbleized stuff at the rich people's dinner party --that grey-haired woman in the strapless black evening gown is just awesome, by the way. And not to be trivial, but the Gordons have really gorgeous sheets --that's at the end of Chapter 3. Who does that stuff, the illustrator or the colorist?

I'm going to take a better look at the panels that you describe. Did I mention to you that my sister was over for Thanksgiving & went wild over my comic books? Although I had to help out with what order she was supposed to read the panels in.

And solid_state, moriarty says that there is a Year One movie in the works. Did you already know that?
 
 
Dan Fish - @Fish1k
10:39 / 06.12.02
The Midnighter is a character in The Authority/Stormwatch. Apparently, there was a year one film in the works, to be directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream).

I have the book of Year One - it always amazes me that it was ever in the regular comic, I can't imagine the superb subtle colouring on newsprint. The hand-written diary extracts would have been even harder to read under thumb smudges!

On re-reading the book, I feel that there is not enough of a dramatic denouement to give a satisfying ending to a film, but as a graphic novel, it works perfectly, especially as a Godfather 2 style flashback after Dark Knight Returns. I haven't read the new DK2 book, I wonder if reading these together is complimentary or not?

Great idea for this discussion by the way.

Dan
comics 4 sale @
www.fish1000.freeserve.co.uk
 
 
sleazenation
11:21 / 06.12.02
Yes, comic book club- great idea.

I remember picking up the trade of year one in a secondhand bookshop for a few pounds and being blown away by it.

Mazzucelli's artwork, layouts and pacing are close to perfect, when you see Gordon arrive on the train you can feel weight and the sweat of his fellow commuters, feel the dirt that colors the rain. A lot of praise needs to go to the colorist here and the choice of paper for the trade (i have no idea what the comic looked like on newsprint) Whereas the trades for Miller and Mazzucelli's daredevil run are garish and ugly here the colors are subdued and go a long way to portraying the drabness of Gotham city...

Panels that stand out for me are the one of bruce wayne, pre-badman costume, walking down a rain-soaked vice street. It just screams Taxi Driver. And there is an element of Wayne that very Travis Bickle - self appointed, and somewhat delusional guardian of the streets. In a single panel mazzuchelli has managed to convey more about Bruce Wayne than many other artists have managed in years.

The other is the large panel of Gordon siting on his bed cleaning his gun while his pregnant wife sleeps. The isolation and sense of guilt/duty Gordon feels permeates the page. In his work and relationships he is alone, even his wife can offer him no comfort.
 
 
DaveBCooper
11:24 / 06.12.02
Glad to see that Year One’s getting some coverage here – couldn’t agree more with Moriarty’s assessment of Mazzucchelli’s contribution – the pacing’s spot-on.

The colouring’s probably a subject of some variation – as Dan says, the subtle colouring’d be lost on newsprint, and indeed there was some recolouring done for the collected version, I believe – I don’t think it was entirely redone, but (for example) the bedsheets at the end of (I think) chapter three (Gordon sitting on the edge of the bed while Barbara sleeps, the gun heavier in his hands etc) was just a solid colour in issue 407 of the comic, but becomes a rather nicely painted patterned set of bedclothes in the book. Not knocking at all, but there were some changes made, IIRC – possibly to play on the upgraded paper stock and production values of the TPB, I guess.

Am I right in recalling that Richmond Lewis, the colourist, is David M’s partner ? Or is that just my memory being wonky?

It is fairly remarkable that this story was published in the regular monthly, and it was an interesting change of tone from the stories that came before and after it – Max Allan Collins’s brief run on the title, and much more conventional in both story and art.

But B:Y1 is a great read, and for me part of this is because of the way it spends so much time fleshing Gordon out. And the chapter headings are, I think, very effective – reminding me of film posters, come to think of it.

I seem to recall Miller’s expressed some regret after the fact about his characterisation of Selina Kyle, some of which I gather was undone in ‘Her Sister’s Keeper’, the Mindy Newell Catwoman origin which interpolated some of the B:Y1 scenes, but I could be wrong in my memory of that – can anyone advise ?

DBC
 
 
deja_vroom
13:23 / 06.12.02
Re: Batman year One being the only Batman movie that should be made:

I believe it's being made. Miller and that Aranofsky twat are writing it together, aren't they?
 
 
FinderWolf
16:34 / 06.12.02
Richmond Lewis is indeed (or was, last I heard) Mazz's partner. Thus continuing a long tradition of great comics artist's wives/romantic partners being brilliant colorists (Frank Miller/Lynn Varley, Mike Allred and his wife, Laura Allred).

The movie of BATS: YEAR ONE seems to be stuck in production hell at the moment. Miller & Aronofsky wrote a few drafts, that's the last anyone's heard about it at all.
 
 
CameronStewart
16:47 / 06.12.02
Year One is one of the few books that is ALWAYS within reaching distance from my drawing table. Always. I find it a source of endless inspiration.

I expecially love the way Mazzuchelli draws Batman - not as the ripply-muscled, bodybuilder "superhero" type, nor as the big black supernatural force (as in McKean's Arkham Asylum) - he simply draws him as an ordinary man in a costume. By removing these exaggerated elements of the portrayal he makes Batman, for me, a hundred times more effective - it's a reminder that he's just a man.

I did a small nod to Mazzuchelli in my drawing of Holly in the Catwoman Secret Files - in the collection of photographs there's one of her as a kid, taken directly from Year One. Unfortunately it was cropped so it's not too visible...
 
 
Persephone
17:05 / 06.12.02
my drawing of Holly in the Catwoman Secret Files

Oh I love stuff like that. Is Catwoman Secret Files something different than Catwoman #12?
 
 
CameronStewart
17:14 / 06.12.02
Yes. Prior to issue 12 there was a "Secret Files and Origins" special issue - they do one for each of the DCU books. A triple-sized book featuring several short stories designed to introduce the characters to new readers. Our SF&O served as a prologue to the current storyline, setting up some plot threads that will be explored later...

I drew two stories in it, and a couple of the pinup pages.
 
 
moriarty
22:54 / 06.12.02
"Each character, no matter how incidental, seemed pretty well-crafted, from Flass to Skeevers to Selina(and even the cipher of Merkel... guy has a looong career finding the Comissioner's cigars for him). I'm surprised it took so long (15 years, i think) for any other Batman writer to play with them."

Solid State, where have they appeared recently? I'm a little out of the loop when it comes to current funnybooks, though I am considering adding Gotham Central to my ever increasing list of monthly titles.

(good idea, moriarty).

Thank Perse.

"Isn't it more fun if the character is called Batman, id est is Batman?

Perse, I agree completely. In fact, a variation of this idea has popped up time and again in the various discussions on fanfic. Why else would fanfic and slash authors use copyrighted characters if not for the resonance that those characters possess?

"I love the Commissioner's office. I love how you can just make out Charlie Brown and Lucy on the lamp, and the statue of The Thinker sitting on a toilet...

The Commissioner disgusts me. That pasty, eucalyptus-gobbling troll surrounded by his kitschy, juvenile artifacts. It's like Gordon is workign for John Wayne Gacy. "So by the time I was doing Batman I was very interested in Chester Gould and Herge, and Alex Toth." - David Mazzucchelli. You can see the Gould influence on the freakish appearance of most of the corrupt characters in Year One. That lady in the black, strapless evening gown as an example(who you only really see in one panel, but is so ghastly with that grin of hers that it obviously remained with you, Perse). Even some of the better looking people have bad haircuts. Mazzucchelli seems willing to populate the whole city of Gotham with an ageing elite that seems to be sinking in its own inbreeding. It may be the beginning for Batman, but it seems to be the end for this brand of villainy and the beginning of a new era with the Joker, the Penguin and more overt types of freaks about to make an appearance. "Your Feast Is Nearly Over."

Speaking of which, one of the things I noticed on rereading the book is the influence Batman has on the creation of his own Rogues Gallery. I've read many comics where the populace blame the superheroed for providing a target for super villains, with the city getting caught in the crossfire. Catwoman dons her outfit in imitation of Batman. One gets the feeling that many of Batman's foes wouldn't have appeared with so much regularity if it wasn't for the proximity of the Bat himself. In fact, Batman may have been responsible for a large portion of the weird crime that has assailed Gotham.

"Who does that stuff, the illustrator or the colorist?

I have no idea, but it is a really nice touch. I wasn't aware that the print on the sheets were different from the newsprint edition to the collected work. I did know that the entire thing was recoloured by Richmond Lewis for the trade.

"But Richmond did colour the newsprint version that was published first. In fact, I recall people asking about that. "Is she using the same chart as everyone else is using? Did they give her some extra colours?" "No, she's using the same as everyone else. She's just making some choices that other people don't make." Richmond actually colored an issue of Daredevil that we did. The regular colorist was on vacation and I asked that it be given to me. It says that I colored it but that's only because i didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to convince people in one week that this woman who had never colored a comic book before was going to do a great job on it. So I said, "Let me color it." And apparently when that book was published I remember Jim Shooter walked around the office with it in his hand, showing the book to people as an example of good comic coloring. "Here's what I mean. All that stuff I've been telling you? This is what I mean." So when I was going to do Batman, my approach to drawing in general was changing, and for this particular project I knew I wanted it to look a certain way. By having a colorist who I could trust, it allowed me a certain degree of freedom to leave aspects of the rendering for the coloring stage that, when I was working on Daredevil, I would not necessarily have done. Newsprint being what it is, and the production line process of turning things over so quickly beign what they are, I did not want to leave anythign up to chance, as much as I could, so i tried to make sure the artwork for Daredevil worked in black and white no matter what was goign to happen in the coloring stage, although I think I got some good coloring in general. With Batman, I knew I'd have a greater degree of control over what would happen. And so, working with a colorist as good as Richmond, I wsa able to let the color become a greater part of the art." - David Mazzucchelli.

I haven't read the new DK2 book, I wonder if reading these together is complimentary or not?

I was thinking the same thing, Dan. But I'm too scared to find out.

"Panels that stand out for me are the one of bruce wayne, pre-badman costume, walking down a rain-soaked vice street. It just screams Taxi Driver. And there is an element of Wayne that very Travis Bickle - self appointed, and somewhat delusional guardian of the streets. In a single panel mazzuchelli has managed to convey more about Bruce Wayne than many other artists have managed in years.

The other is the large panel of Gordon sitting on his bed cleaning his gun while his pregnant wife sleeps. The isolation and sense of guilt/duty Gordon feels permeates the page. In his work and relationships he is alone, even his wife can offer him no comfort."


Upon rereading, I wasn't so sure that the emphasis on Gordon was such a good idea, but you may have convinced me otherwise, Sleaze. I love the way these two mix. Batman, driven by rage, freed by his status and delusions to bypass the law of the land and strike. Gordon, secretly envious of the Bat, grounded by his other responsibilities and a sense of duty as opposed to vengeance. Batman has wings while Gordon can only dream. What made Gordon take up crimefighting? Would Bruce have pursued his calling without the fire in his belly? Who's the greater hero?

Every once in awhile I'll pick up a random, stand-alone superhero comic to see what's happening. During that whole "No Man's Land" deal, I purchased Legends of the Dark Knight #125 by Rucka and Burchett. Good solid Batman/Gordon story, here. I later found out it was reviewed in the Comics Journal #219 by Rich Kreiner(take that, anti-TCJ folk). They sum it up better than I could.

"A kind of genre jujitsu is performed and an opposing tack from the usual hero fiction is taken: the book makes use of the trappings of the romance comic. Roses serve as a coversation starter, a garden as a metaphor for endured turmoil. Awkward silences constrict the the already tight quarters. Looks are meant to speak volumes. And when the couple does speak, they talk bluntly of their relationship - of reciprocal regard, difficult disclosure, and mutual commitment - using a language less often employed in funnybooks than within long-standing marriages. For several pages running, each successive speech balloon adds a cutting jab, opens up a new wound, reveals an unforseen feeling. Finally, when talk has demonstrated its limitations, Batman, driven to last resorts, decowls in Grodon's presence and bares his civilan identity. This for all the world is the superhero correlative to giving oneself up to one's lover, standing naked, dropping all pretense and guard, revealing all, offering all."

I highly recommend it.
 
 
Imaginary Mongoose Solutions
05:50 / 07.12.02
"I haven't read the new DK2 book, I wonder if reading these together is complimentary or not?"

No.

No. No. No. No.

No.

Don't get me wrong, I liked DK2 for it's insane, over the top, "c'mon kids, let the old fuckers show you how to party" vibe. However it dosen't even compliment DK1, much less Year One.

It gladdens my heart to see all this talk about Mazzucchelli on here. I just re read Daredevil: Born Again after seeing the trailer for the new Affleck-a-licious DD movie. Wow, there are parts of that book that take my breath away every time I read it.

It's also worth mentioning that R. Lewis gets the credit for her issue in the Born Again TPB, and it happens to be the first issue of Daredevil I ever read. But I figure the Born Again love-in, should be another thread.
 
 
Persephone
05:27 / 09.12.02
Mazzucchelli seems willing to populate the whole city of Gotham with an ageing elite that seems to be sinking in its own inbreeding.



I do see that how these people are drawn is a pretty savage critique. But do you know I saw this woman as sort of beautiful, too. No one who's old wasn't young once. I look at that old woman, and I see the young woman that she was and that --sort of, inside-- she still is. I think that I get this impression because she's tan and the other woman looks like death warmed over. I just feel like there's a whole story in that woman. Like if you could talk to her, you wouldn't be able to just write her off and cheer when Batman steals her car and stuff.

Because whose eyes are we seeing these people through? I was thinking something like this in the Schindler's List thread; there I think that Spielberg wants you to see things the way he sees them, like he's got his hands on your head and is making you look straight ahead --don't look left! don't look right! Here I feel like it's much more open. It's being presented as truth, but not objective truth. We're not seeing this scene through objective eyes; we haven't been hearing this story from an objective voice. It's been Gordon and Batman telling the story; and it's Batman in the scene, and if anything he's the less trustworthy one of them --and the story lets us know it. As opposed to SL, which insists that we take Schindler seriously in the most bogus scene of the movie. That's why I love that "shot" of Bruce Wayne's back when he's walking through the red light district --and whoever said that he looks like Travis Bickle, yeah totally. Because you know at that moment that you're seeing Bruce Wayne through someone's eyes who isn't Bruce Wayne. Because he can't see himself from the back, obviously.

That just opens things up to let you read scenes like this on a lot of levels. So the picture that you're seeing is totally layered, a really good "text" to look at. It isn't just that "these people are corrupt," or just that "Batman's a little insane."

I also like this line of Gordon's: "He's a criminal. I'm a cop. It's that simple. But--"



Which is a little cheesy, if you think that the story is simply going to turn on Batman being a hero and Gordon being smart enough to realize that. But it's not even that simple, and that's not something that Gordon comes to know in this book.

Aren't these sheets incredible, too? And you can see the marbleizing I was talking about in the other picture.
 
 
sleazenation
00:46 / 12.12.02
just re read batman year one - thanks to this thread -

new stuff noticed - the coffe bar the gordon an essen meet in is called hoppers amd it appears in a panel layout reminicent of hoppers famous diner painting (which itself is not so famous that i know its title...)

new questions
I figured all the forshadowing of the birth of gordon's kid - how he wanted it to be a boy to survive the tough city was going to come to fruition with the birth of that gave gordon his daughter- does/did Goron ever have a son?
 
 
Solitaire Rose as Tom Servo
01:04 / 12.12.02
In too many ways, Batman: Year One was far more influential than it is remembered as. Before it, Dark Knight was a Big Special Event by Frank Miller's whose star had waned after the sales disaster that was Ronin. For proper historical context, you have to remember that Batman had become a long, drawn out soap aprea by Doug Moench, well done and interesting, but still, a soap opera that was treading water.

Miller brought the character back to roots that looking at the early Batman Archives, it never really had: Hard boiled crime drama. It wasn't drawn in a flashy style, but a dark gritty style that used a different color pallatte than other comics at the time.

4 issues.

That's it.

That's all.

And then Miller moved on, but the seeds he planted in the story itself too a while to grow...Max Collins was brought in, mostly because of his very Mickey Spillane prose writing and the way he brought hard boiled detective fiction to comics in Ms. Tree, but his attempt failed. Other creators got the "dark" part right, but didn't really grasp the idea of the crime fiction until the editorial reins were taken from Denny O'Neil.

Look at Catwoman and Detective (before Rucka left) and you'll see that they use the same elements at Year One...dark yet simple art the serves the STORY rather than being flashy art that looks like a poster. Yeah, I REALLY fucking hate the Jim Lee stories and they almost feel like a 80's nostalgia comic...a one hit wonder coming out for one more jump up the charts to get enough money to go back to living off his reputation.

Mazzucchelli's art had PERSONALITY in each and every character he drew...and his work is deceptively simple, fewer lines, simple layouts in a easy to read grid that served the story by adding personality and mood and then GOT OUT OF THE WAY.

Miller went on to do pure crime fiction at Dark Horse, Mazzucchelli left mainstream comics all together and did brilliant but ultimately ignored comics work. Batman sold very well for a very long time and for about the last 2 years has started to work on the ideas in this "relaunch" of the character.

Why aren't I writing about the story itself? Because you magnificent bastards are doing it so well without me.

What's next on the book club list?
 
 
fluid_state
06:36 / 12.12.02
This thread got FAT while I was gone, and it looks good. Thanks for posting that image of the bedspread, Persephone. WOW. I'd never noticed it... it feels like one of those "it was amazing what they could do before computers" moments until I realize that just meant people actually had to TRY. And damn if it doesn't look better than most of the Photoshopped texture fills I see now.

Many of those bit players were used in Long Halowe'en, and Dark Victory, moriarty. The former used the crime bosses (the Roman, the Marconis) to show the changing of the guard (new psychos versus old scum); the latter just killed a lot of said bit players (Flass and the like, and mostly off-panel, IIRC). Which brings me to a slightly off-topic observation. Both of Loeb's aforementioned works borrow, beg and steal from Year One, and them proceed to add to that slice of Batman's world really well. The conflict between Gotham's psychos and crimeScum takes some of the weight away from the "Batman as criminal enabler" idea; the new psychos were moving in, regardless... they were the only ones capable of taking over Gotham from the families. Then came Batman, and became the new family.
 
 
moriarty
08:48 / 12.12.02
Perse and I were just saying that it's probably all up to us now. Nice to see people still chiming in.

It's also worth mentioning that R. Lewis gets the credit for her issue in the Born Again TPB, and it happens to be the first issue of Daredevil I ever read. But I figure the Born Again love-in, should be another thread.

The issue of Daredevil coloured by Lewis and credited to Mazzucchelli appears to be #228. Nice to know they credit her work in the trade.

A thread on Born Again would be pretty nifty, but if you don't feel like starting one, go ahead and muddy up this thread. It was made to be muddied up. Perse and I both agreed that it would be fun to go off on tangents. Or even, as Perse just reminded me, just to spout off whatever comes to mind. Less stuffiness, more fun.

I just feel like there's a whole story in that woman. Like if you could talk to her, you wouldn't be able to just write her off and cheer when Batman steals her car and stuff.

I can appreciate what you're saying, and it did make me take another look at the pages in question, but I'm not sure I agree completely. Yes, this woman may have a story and a personality beyond what I can perceive. But so would everyone else in that room. But, a large part of their character is that they all have ties to corruption in Gotham. It's a roomful of city officials having a dinner with the head of organized crime and listening to him talk about his criminal concerns in open view, without flinching, as if they're used to such talk. I have no doubt that most of the people in the dining room feel that they are so far removed from the actual crimes to believe that they are innocent, and that they shouldn't be persecuted by the Batman. But that doesn't mean they aren't implicit in the troubles in Gotham City. If anything, it should be a reminder to the reader of their responsibility to examine their influence on their own environment and not just assume that they are a good person and that their actions may not indirectly affect others. Which is probably way off the mark of what you were saying, but there you go. Basically, just because they may have a history doesn't mean that they haven't made bad choices, or that they should be forgiven for those choices without restitution.

I agree with you on the objective stance of the book, which I think is partly due to the mixture of Miller and Mazzucchelli. In talking about their work together on Daredevil, Mazzucchelli pointed out his insistence that the story not end in your typical superhero fashion. I won't ruin it for you, but they wanted to turn the idea of the "hero comes back from ruin better than ever" cliche on its head. I'm not sure if Miller would have done that on his own. Mazzucchelli was a nice influence on Miller. That same level of objectivity is probably the reason why we can disagree on the woman in the black, strapless dress.

the coffe bar the gordon an essen meet in is called hoppers amd it appears in a panel layout reminicent of hoppers famous diner painting

Nighthawks.

I figured all the forshadowing of the birth of gordon's kid - how he wanted it to be a boy to survive the tough city was going to come to fruition with the birth of that gave gordon his daughter- does/did Goron ever have a son?

I don't understand. The Gordons give birth to a son in Year One. Soon after, Gordon's wife and child leave him. He then adopts his niece after her parents are killed in a car accident. That niece is Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl/Oracle.

Look at Catwoman and Detective (before Rucka left) and you'll see that they use the same elements at Year One...dark yet simple art the serves the STORY rather than being flashy art that looks like a poster. Yeah, I REALLY fucking hate the Jim Lee stories and they almost feel like a 80's nostalgia comic...a one hit wonder coming out for one more jump up the charts to get enough money to go back to living off his reputation.

Agreed. Still, i can't get too upset. If people want Jim Lee, they're welcome to him. Me, I'll read Catwoman. And, judging by what I've seen around, a great deal of people are making that title quite the word-of-mouth phenom. I've seen a great deal of comments that suggest that people who would never have picked up Catwoman previously are citing it as their current favourite mainstream title. I agree. It's the only monthly I still read.

Mazzucchelli's art had PERSONALITY in each and every character he drew...and his work is deceptively simple, fewer lines, simple layouts in a easy to read grid that served the story by adding personality and mood and then GOT OUT OF THE WAY.

Honestly, looking closely over Year One it's not so much that he didn't mess with panel structure as that he did it so subtlely. Whenever he breaks from standard panel structure there's always a reason, and though it might be a small change, it affects how you read the comic by virtue of being surrounded by more static panels.

Why aren't I writing about the story itself? Because you magnificent bastards are doing it so well without me.

Meh. One of the things I've noticed about the Barbelith comics forum is that many of the participants are focussed on the writing and the story, and not the language of comics itself. The art seems to only be mentioned when it's bad. Otherwise, it's practically invisible and of no relation to the story. Nothing wrong with this view, but it's not one I have myself, and this makes it difficult for me to appreciate the same stories that most people here love dearly. And vise versa. In short, Solitaire, I think you said quite a bit about the story.

What's next on the book club list?

Well, Perse and I will be reading a few kind-of-hard-to-find works, but they'll be alternating with stuff that can be found at the shop. I sent her part of a list of about 50 titles. Right now, I think we're steering towards Hellboy as our next "major" book (specifically The Conquerer Worm). We'll let you know by tomorrow.

Thanks for filling me in, Solid. I kind of suspected from reading a couple issues that you may have been talking about Loeb and Sale's work. I'm tempted to try them out. In my English class a guy presented "Long Halloween" as one of his favourite stories. He was very enthused. I should have teamed up with him, but I chose "Hey, Wait..." instead.

“I would have thought, ordinarily, that if you simplified your drawing – that is, did larger shapes – that somehow or other, when it’s reduced, it would be clearer. But it doesn’t work out that way. The way it works best, for clarity is when people like Roy Crane or Hank Schlensker or Dick Moores, when they draw, they draw very small figures with lots of air around them. They do whole scenes, with deep-space perspectives and so on. And you never get a feeling of being crowded or congested. I would have thought that it would have worked out the other way, that larger shapes would have made the reading and the looking at the strip easier.” - Gil Kane, in an interview with Noel Sickles.

That bit really affected the way I draw and the way I look at comics. I'm bringing it up not because Mazzucchelli uses it thoughout Year One (he seems to have more of a crowded urban Eisner look and/or the closeups in static panels of Alex Toth), but just from that one panel I mentioned before. The one of Batman running across the rooftops. Like I said, he doesn't use this technique in most of Year One. In fact, the only other times you really see it in play is from outside Gotham, like when Bruce is training in the snow. It would potentially ruin the multiple scenes of urban density. But in that first shot of Batman we not only see him as just a shape, but also as a person who has taken control of the only open space in all of Gotham. The roofs. He doesn't need to descend on Gotham. He chooses to.

Off-topic - The other reason I bring it up is because the more I think about it the more I believe that this is one of the main appeals of Frank Quitely. His figures are tiny. There's a lot of negative space in his compositions. The detail is in all the right spots, and is usually confined to a few select places. I keep thinking back to a scene where Wolverine is attacking Cassandara, pushing her back against a wall. Almost any other artist would have gone close-up almost immediately, to get you right in there with Wolverine's ferocity. Instead, from a distance, the two characters look like they're dancing, like they're Fred and Ginger. It's shocking because that's not how we normally view Wolverine. It's practically Anti-Kirby.

I dunno. I just really like that technique and I think it's used to great effect in Year One.

This is a fat thread.
 
 
bio k9
08:58 / 12.12.02
Anyone interested in Mazzucchelli's work should check the back issue bins for Marvel Fanfare #40 and The Comics Journal #194.
 
 
moriarty
09:11 / 12.12.02
Most of my Mazzucchelli quotes are from that issue of the Journal. It's one of my favourites. That Angel story in Marvel Fanfare is good, but I've never liked Nocenti and the colours are terrifying. As long as we're making recommendations, if you ever see an issue of Rubber Blanket, snap it up. I have number 3, and it's a gem. Be warned, there have been rumours of a potential collection of the Rubber Blanket material.
 
 
Persephone
14:45 / 12.12.02
I have no doubt that most of the people in the dining room feel that they are so far removed from the actual crimes to believe that they are innocent, and that they shouldn't be persecuted by the Batman. But that doesn't mean they aren't implicit in the troubles in Gotham City. If anything, it should be a reminder to the reader of their responsibility to examine their influence on their own environment and not just assume that they are a good person and that their actions may not indirectly affect others. Which is probably way off the mark of what you were saying, but there you go.

No way, that's right on the mark of what I was saying. I don't want to ignore their criminality, but I also don't want to ignore their humanity. If you don't have their humanity in mind, you can't connect to them and you can't examine your influence on your own environment and not just assume that you are a good person. It's tricky, actually. It's like two sides of the the same coin, only you want to look at both sides at the same time. (Or flip it back and forth really fast --forget it, this is a dumb metaphor.) But you know what I mean? Think about how three-dimensional vision works --you actually see two slightly different pictures from each eye, and your brain resolves the two pictures & that's how you get depth. In a story, if only the criminality is presented ...or only the humanity, as in --oh, I don't know-- say, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman... then you get a flat, two-dimensional character. Probably a better example of this is Tony Soprano.

Oh my God. Batman vs. Tony Soprano.
 
 
moriarty
17:46 / 12.12.02
It's about time someone brought up the Julia Roberts/Batman - Year One connection. I was afraid to be the first to bring it up.

Persephone has spoken. Hellboy it is. The discussion will centre around The Conquerer Worm to keep expenses down, but will include Hellboy and Mignola in general. We'll start up the beginning of January to avoid the turmoil of late December.
 
 
Persephone
21:58 / 12.12.02
*doing cartwheels*

Yay Hellboy!

It's about time someone brought up the Julia Roberts/Batman - Year One connection. I was afraid to be the first to bring it up.

Well. If moriarty is being catty, I think that gives us the perfect segue to ...Catwoman!!!

*more cartwheels*

Well, I think she's great. I don't know if I should think she's great, except that I do. And I read somewhere that Miller later regretted how he portrayed Selina as a prostitute... not to mention dominatrix... not to mention possibly lesbian. Wow, I hope I'm not opening up a huge can of worms. Because you could read it as annoying that this lesbian character has to be a prostitute, etc. But it's such a better characterization to me than that silly introvert played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie.

So did Miller change the course of history for Selina? Or what?
 
 
Jack Fear
22:21 / 12.12.02
I don't know... am I the only one who finds YEAR ONE overly... reverent? Miles away from DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, which took the piss out of the whole doom-laden-loner myth from the get-go, and for Frank Miller to then turn around and revisit that myth and play it absolutely straight, without a hint of irony—self-conscious, but not self-aware—it just seemed like an incredibly regressive move to me.

It's as if, having done DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, he felt he'd gone too far, and had to do YEAR ONE to prove (to the fans? to himself?) that, "No, really, I love these icons and I do take them seriously, really! Here's the Most Serious Batman Story Ever!"

A huge step backwards, I think. He buried the genre, then pussied out, dug it up, and tried to make it dance—but I can see the wires, and the corpse is starting to stink.
 
 
sleazenation
00:31 / 13.12.02
actually jack i think you are giving miller way too much credit here - DKR isn't really transgressive - it services the same tired old hero stereotype - i really think that he is buying into the whole doom-laden hero shtick.
 
 
Jack Fear
01:49 / 13.12.02
I disagree. Frank Miller has always had satire on his mind--it runs through most of his work, from GIVE ME LIBERTY to DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, even ostensibly "dark" works like SIN CITY.

Most of the satirical elements in DKR are obvious to the point of caricature, but it surprises me that so many people assume the Batman himself is being played straight... when in fact he's as ludicrous as everything else in the book: he's just a different stripe of ludicrous. The over-the-topness of the whole thing--the harder-than-hard-boiled internal monologues, the distortion of Batman's body, the absurd scenes of him charging into town on horseback.

Perhaps we've become so inured to the idiocies of the superhero subgenre that we don't even recognize it when somebody takes the piss out of it: the legions of "grim and gritty" superhero books that sprang up in the wake of DKR and WATCHMEN are a classic example of people Missing The Point en masse.
 
 
sleazenation
12:06 / 14.12.02
Don't get me wrong there has always been an element of satire to Miller's work - most especially pronounced in give me liberty - but he does tend to detourn that - or piss it away to use your term, by buying ino the superhero cult. Yes batman on a horse in DKR is fucking ridiculous - but any impact that might have is lessened by miller's equal emphasis on how fucking cool batman looks on a horse. If the superhero is being buried in DKR then why does batman survive?

In short i do think Miller is attempting to use satire, but i don't think he's very goood at it.
 
 
grant
23:33 / 14.12.02
bio k9:Anyone interested in Mazzucchelli's work should check the back issue bins for Marvel Fanfare #40 and The Comics Journal #194.

But what's this "exile" business about? What's he been doing since??
 
 
moriarty
00:09 / 15.12.02
Since his departure from the Big Two, Mazzucchelli has attended a print-making class, contributed covers and short cartoon essays and stories to the New Yorker, Snake Eyes, World's Funnest, Little Lit and other anthologies, adapted Paul Auster's City of Glass into a graphic novel, visited a comic company in Japan for six months, self-published three issues of Rubber Blanket and is currently teaching in New York as well as working on a new graphic novel and repackaging his Rubber Blanket stories for republication.

Stalker!
 
  
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