Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Brokeback Titanic"

I gotta address Superman/Batman Annual #1 because it's a comic that's ripping the DC fanbase clean in two. Love it or hate it, you have to admit it's odd.

I am of the camp that totally loved it. It was completely silly and over-the-top but...it was also completely silly and over-the-top. More than anything, I am just surprised that they took the joke so far with the big two characters.

The Superman/Batman series has been a bit of a joke since it started. It's not bad by any means. It is certainly a little mushy (who am I kidding? It's practically one long romance novel), and a bit of a playground for the writers (mainly Jeph Loeb) to play around with the biggest icons in comics. For the most part, what happens in Superman/Batman stays in Superman/Batman, and doesn't affect the larger DC universe. DC has referred to Superman/Batman as their "big summer blockbuster." I see it as more of an experimental indie film.

Anway, let's look at Annual #1. Basically, it's a tongue-in-cheek re-telling of the classic comic, Superman #76, the first Superman and Batman team-up, and where they first learned each other's secret identities. Both Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne end up on the same cruise ship. For whatever reason, there is a booking error and they have to share a room (sure...a billionaire can't secure a private room...whatever). Then trouble pops up and they both want to change into their hero suits...secretly. Let's roll the clip:

I have to say, that's pretty anti-climatic. I very much like this new version of the same moment (after a couple of panels of both men waiting for the other to leave):


The updated version is what they are calling a "re-imaginary story." It's pretty much a Bizarro comic, in that it's a comedy piece that breaks the fourth wall repeatedly. It also serves as something of an official response to the endless jokes, or endless devout beliefs depending on who you ask, that Batman and Superman are totally in love with each other. This is DC reclaiming its characters and saying "Hey, if they're gonna be hitting on each other, they're doing it on our terms." Actually, to be more correct "If people are going to be implying that they're gay, then we're going to make our own characters do the implying."

I give you these pages, which pretty much sum up the feel of the whole comic. They are also really, really funny.
Yeah...there was no bed-sharing in ol' Superman #76. Nice touch.

I could scan the whole thing and give a 100 item list of things that delighted me about this comic, but I'm trying to stay focussed. What I would really like to get into is how this comic, however ridiculous, is basically spoofing its own series. I could show countless examples of panels that go way over-the-top with the intensity of Superman and Batman's relationship just in the first six issues of Superman/Batman alone. That might have to wait for a later post. And I really do have to think about making some posts related to other heroes.

Even if you took out all the camp and silliness, I just really enjoy a fresh look at the moment that they discovered each other's secret identities. I would like to see more classic comic moments re-visited. Comic book heroes have become so gritty and realistic that it's fun to throw them into a zany golden or silver age adventure.

In this comic, I really like that Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne basically hate each other. Then they find out that they are really Superman and Batman. Then they continue to sort of hate each other.
And, yes. "Brokeback Titanic" is something that is actually said in this comic about Bruce and Clark sharing a room. There's also this:

You know, it kind of takes the fun out of hunting for homoerotic subtext when they just serve it up on a flashing neon platter like that. And maybe that's the point. I'm sure that DC is sick to death of the slashers waiting impatiently for the ultimate hook-up. I sort of see this as a gift to slashers (because, hey, they're paying for comics too). Or perhaps it's the ultimate weapon against them (taking away their fun).

What we learn in the end, though, is that Mxyzptlk is a Superman/Batman slasher because the whole story was one that he made up in an attempt to "spice up" a classic. I always suspected as much.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this synopsis, and putting the Annual in its historical context. Nicely done. I think I got more out of your post than I would have from the actual issue.

rachelle said...

Thanks! I would still highly recommend reading the issue. At least for the comical facial expressions alone!

plok said...

Oh no, who wrote and drew this, I must know!

rachelle said...

It was written by Joe Kelly and drawn by... (wait for it)

...Ed McGuinness, Ryan Ottley, Sean Murphy, Carlo Barberi, Dexter Vines, Cliff Rathburn, Don Hillsman II, Bob Petrecca, Andy Owens and Rodney Ramos.


Surprisingly, Jeph Loeb has nothing to do with this love-in.

Jon Hex said...

I loved the Deadpool guest appearance. Wade Wilson, indeed!

Viagra said...

DC really took a high risk on this. Batman and Superman carry the banner for DC and trying to make "fun" of them both is just risky. Not of my favorites but it does the trick for a while

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