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You Can Always Count on Peter Tomasi…

For a little cute gag every issue or so.

Whether it be working song lyrics into the dialogue or stuff like this, he always seems willing to not take it all too seriously, which I appreciate a lot.


It’s funny, even with the poor grammar!!!!!

OK — as far as I’m concerned, BATMAN ended about 1970, so the joke means nothing to me anyway … is the (apparent) grammatical error part of the joke?

“IS Barbara and Gordon okay?” Are “Barbara and Gordon” a single entity, or is Batman (that *is* Batman, no?) a moron? (Or Peter Tomasi? Or his letterer? And/or his editor?)

Hmmm … Greg’s post (which showed up while I was composing mine) indicates that Tomasi simply doesn’t grasp the rudiments of grammar. Curmudgeonly editor that I am, I’m going to suggest that the guy (whom I don’t believe I know from Adam) has no more business being employed as a writer than I do as a nuclear physicist. It’s bad enough that James Robinson is absolutely tone-deaf to the English language, but now we’ve got a guy who apparently *normally* communicates in Bizarro- & Silver-Age-DC-baby-speak?

Jesus christ.

And who’s his editor? Didio the already-proven cretin?

Mother of god.

I’m surprised someone hasn’t done this sooner. Also, it’s amusing that all three of them have, at one time or another, gone by “Robin.”

But why exactly are they busting out of the Owlship?

And looking at that panel again, Tim’s leg can not be in a comfortable position to be kicking at that angle to his body.

The joke is that Red Robin is Jason Todd (who as formerly Robin) and Damian Wayne is the new Robin. Dick is now operating as Batman with a sunset clause.

Lighten up about the grammar. It’s probably just a lettering error from a change in the script. Yes, it should have been caught, but it’s not a sign of a bad writer.

Actually Red Robin is Tim Drake

If the joke is that there is too many Robins and not enough Batman, then I is not laughing. If your writers is having to point out how silly your plots is, get new plots.

I hope Batman’s return explains how he’s raised all these boys to manhood and he’s not 60 years old.

Is that guy Robin? He doesn’t look like a Robin.
My problem is I haven’t actually read a Batman issue this decade.

Nice. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened several times before.

…and you can always count on commenters to piss on any parade.

Wow, 7 out of 11 of you: lighten up.

En serio, que pinche gente tan amargada de veras…
Sorry, it was the first thing that came to my mind.
I’m Mexican by the way.
And yeah, it WAS a cute gag Brian.
Luis Jaime

And YOU can count on ME waiting for YOU in the parking lot.

Perhaps Bizarro Tomasi wrote that panel. He am good writer.

The people in this thread complaining about grammar or too many Robins are a bunch of man-babies with sticks up their asses. This was a funny joke in a good comic. Enjoy it for what it is. It’s actually pretty funny because it happens more than once in the issue.

The problem isn’t so much that it’s bad grammar, as it is that it’s so badly timed that it ruins the joke for me. I can’t get over attempting to parse that balloon long enough to get back into the flow of the conversation. That error — typo, poor scripting, poor editing, whatever happened there — kills the joke, because you’re suddenly wondering if there’s a second joke there written by the “I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGERS” cat guy. . .

Brian, thank you for posting this. It seems pretty funny to me (outside of the grammar error – which isn’t good, but is hardly something to get worked up about). And I didn’t even realize “too many Robins” was something people were pissed about.

Why WOULD the grammar be perfect? No one speaks perfectly all the time, hell, I teach English and I use contractions, colloquialisms and poor sentence structure when I get on a tangent all the time.


October 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I teach English and I use contractions, colloquialisms and poor sentence structure when I get on a tangent all the time.

Especially when you are kicking out windows!

Little known fact: Barbara Gordon’s middle name is “And.” Problem solved!

You do realize he is asking about Barbara and her father

Yes, icdeez, it’s safe to say that everyone who’s commented on this entry is familiar with both Barbara and Commissioner Gordon. But don’t you mean he are asking?

Is that Tim Drake?
isn’t he supposed to be smaller than Dick (or Jason)?
He looks pretty big there.
Guess those “got milk?” commercials actually work after all.

Writing “Is Barbara OK?”, deciding to expand it, adding “and Gordon” and forgetting to change “is” to “are” is a dumb mistake, but definitely doesn’t prove that Tomasi is a bad writer. A bad self-proofreader, but that’s a very minor offense.

I don’t buy the naturalistic dialogue angle – yes people make grammatical errors in speech all the time, like double negatives, but rarely do people screw up subject-verb agreement.

And I agree that it’s extremely nitpicky and trivial, but I also agree with everyone who says that it kills the joke, which is inherently chuckleworthy. My brain got distracted from resolving the Robin/Other Robin bit by fixing the is/are bit. It’s a shame.

>>the grammar error – which isn’t good, but is hardly something to get worked up about

Unless the editor-type (it’s what I do for a living) just got back from the doctor’s office after getting a shot in his ass & prescriptions for an antibiotic ointment & erythromycin, along with a temp reading above 101 … all from a stupid infected stye, of all damned things.

So yeah, I was even more irascible than usual!

(But seriously, does a major corporation like DC not employ proofreaders? Gimme a break. Pathetic.)

There was a typo elsewhere in a DC book this week too. I think it was Batman, where someone said “whereever”. Methinks one of the DC editors did a less-than-stellar job of proofing.

…and yes, it is funny. Too bad the Internet comics community has a stick up its collective bum. (You have no idea how tempting it was to write “it’s” instead, in a rebellious form of irony.)

I’m going to go with, no, DC and Marvel don’t employ proofreaders. Probably never have. I’m guessing there’s the editor, maybe an assistant editor (I’m not even sure they have these anymore), and the writer.

And, yeah, it was a dumb mistake that probably happened in a rewrite and should have been caught, but it’s hardly the first time. Stuff gets by editorial in at least one comic book by the Big Two at least once every couple of months.

I picked up Atari Force at Mid-Ohio-Con a couple of weeks back, and instead of running a letter column in #4 they ran a full length column apologizing for mistakes made in the profile pages the ran for each cast member in earlier issues. Originally the profile pages had each character’s stats in standard US measurements, but then they thought it would be more accurate to use metric. But instead of converting the measurements, they just changed “feet” to “meters.” So now, instead of being “six feet tall,” someone was “six meters tall.”

This was in 1984.

So, yeah, this kind of stuff has been going on forever. I’m sure that even without this blog post it would have been corrected for the TPB. Editors are people just like the rest of us. As long as this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time, like it does in Powers, I’m willing to let it pass.

… and of course there’s a typo in my last post.


>>I’m going to go with, no, DC and Marvel don’t employ proofreaders. Probably never have.

In which case I’m even more embarrassed for the industry than I was before.

I mean, my own stuff at work goes online without proofing by any eyes but mine, but, like, I’m a super-genius. So I figure it’s OK.

Judging by the amount of mistakes that I find in Jeph Loeb’s work (spelling “Arctic” as “Artic” in Ultimatum) and other books, I sometimes think that people at Marvel don’t bother to read his scripts.

There was a typo on the FIRST page, the RECAP page, of Incredible Hulk #602. “Mobile” was spelled “Moblie”

Wow. Not that I had any reason to read anything Loeb’s doing these days, but now I really have a reason not to …

amen garbut, amen,

and mutt, batman was able to raise 3 boys to adulthood and still be in some nebulous 40-ish age bracket is because he is a character in a superhero comic.

"O" the Humanatee!

October 15, 2009 at 9:58 am

@Wesley: DC, at least, used to employ proofreaders, who were supposed to check not only for mistakes in text but mistakes in the art. I know this because years ago I took a proofreading test at DC. (Didn’t get a job, but I suspect this had more to do with their already having a full-time proofreader than with any deficiencies in my proofreading.)

And DC and Marvel still use assistant editors. They’re listed in the credits of every comic.

DC and Marvel used to not list assistant editors in the ’70s and (I think) ’80s. I don’t know if that was because they didn’t have assistant editors or if they simply weren’t credited. If the latter, then it’s even more disspiriting that editing seems to have gone down the tubes in recent years. Not only are there grammatical errors like the one under discussion and inconsistent spelling of proper names (in Batman Confidential #33 one character is called Rogachenok on one page and Roganchenok on the next, and another is Georgy on one page and Georgi on the next), but more important, I’m noticing more errors in basic storytelling. Dialogue will be inconsistent with the art in the same panel, or characters will use weapons that are not depicted in previous panels. These things throw me out of the story far more than any grammatical or spelling error.

“O” —

I tend to cut the non-Big-Two publishesrs some slack when it comes to the sort of outright negligence you’re talking about (though, in truth, I’ll probably never get over seeing a character in a Bluewater comic a few months ago refer to being “ancy” … that really, truly borders on sheer illiteracy, at least in my book), but DC & Marvel?



No excuses. Not when we’re talking about a pattern of behavior.

Though I admit I truly envy those of you who have decided not to give a damn about plain ol’ incompetence, or I suppose even think it’s cute or something. I’m sure your blood pressures are lower, & that’s all to the good.

Yay! I typoed “publishers”! I, too, am well on my way to not giving a damn about anything! Yay, me!

>>If the latter, then it’s even more disspiriting that editing seems to have gone down the tubes in recent years.

Since they evidently don’t proof text or art or continuity or anything, does anyone have any clue what these folks do? Make coffee? Play online games?

I’m genuinely curious.

"O" the Humanatee!

October 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

@Dan: I assume they do, among other things, a certain amount of production editing: overseeing the assigning and coordination of creative staff, managing schedules (although deadlines sure don’t seem to be taken as seriously as they used to), that kind of thing. They probably discuss plots with writers and make some effort to coordinate them with other titles (though again, they don’t do that very well, especially when up against the demands of “event” storylines).

But they don’t seem to oversee the kinds of details I mentioned. From what I’ve read, Jim Shooter used to lay down basic rules for storytelling; the only one I can remember offhand was, be sure to include an establishing shot for the scene. While his rules seemed excessively rigid to me, nonetheless they represented a genuine effort to set standards for telling stories clearly – something that may be extremely important for novice creators. Many editors today are people who haven’t ever written or drawn a comic, and may not even know these basic skills. (Not that such experience is absolutely necessary for being a good editor: I don’t think Julie Schwartz or Karen Berger ever wrote a comic.)

Re: Dan Bailey — “as far as I’m concerned, BATMAN ended about 1970″; that’s a shame, because you missed Batman the Animated Series, Batmania ’89, The Dark Knight film, and some truly excellent comics (including Year One, Mad Love, and that Batman annual with the Neal Adams Two-Face cover).

On the other hand, you did get to miss the Batman & Robin film, “Az-bats”, “Face the Face”, Batman Family (including it’s short-lived 2002 revival), and Polar Blast Batman, so… eh… you know.

Have a good day.
John Cage

John —

Yeah, I know, but or purposes of my advanced age (40 1/2 years later, I’m still traumatized over the price increase to 15 cents), the mainstream DC universe pretty much stops in 1970. (For Marvel it’s about 5 years later.)

Brian or Greg or Greg wrote a darned good column about this sort of thing just a couple of weeks ago …

Hell, I’m already buying waaaay too many new titles (50-odd mostly independents at last count, depending on which mini-series ended last week or is starting next week, what one-shot is coming out when, etc.) to even entertain the notion of trying to pay any attention to the superhero mainstream. Closest I come is … lessee … POWER GIRL, JSA, INCREDIBLE HERCULES & DEADPOOL, none of which are particularly close, I’d say, though probably I’m forgetting a couple.

he’s in middle of a fight with zombie green lanterns and people think he should worry about grammar? I knew the internet was full of people who for some godforsaken reason think it’s a holy crusade to clarify that Alanis Morrissette doesn’t know what irony is(as if it matters for the song…some people just don’t get it) but to worry about a character who has repeatedly refered to commissioner Gordon as Gordon and has a strong personal history with Barbara(surprised he didn’t say Babs to be honest) is going beyond nitpicky.

nobody uses proper grammar all the time, especially during a fire fight with zombies.

I hope I’m not shattering any of your illusions, Capt USA(Jim), but …

Batman isn’t *real*. Peter Tomasi & his editor(s) *are*.

Anyway, as noted above, I don’t read the comic … but assuming that stressful moments are pretty de rigeur for the character, is Batman constantly using poor grammar? As long as it’s a consistent characteristic, cool. (Like stealthwise above, I certainly know proper grammar, but during informal speech I often toss around the double negatives, ain’ts, backwoods constructions, etc. that I grew up hearing.)

Heh, you know Tomasi used to be an editor?

So, this is extra embarrassing for him.

Can't Wait for $4.99

October 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Maybe if DC charged $3.99 for all their books, then we could get subject-verb agreement added as a perk, you know, instead of those backup stories…


October 15, 2009 at 6:22 pm

as if it matters for the song…some people just don’t get it

Not to justify you’re feelings about the net, but if a song asks ‘Isn’t it ironic?’, it probably should have given you an example of actual irony if it wants you to respond with a ‘yes’.

I didn´t get the joke, could someone explain it to me?

Has anybody noticed there´s a grammar error in the last speech ballon?


October 15, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Has anybody noticed there´s a grammar error in the last speech ballon?

Oh, Wow!

I thought everyone was talking about the lack of question mark after the ‘yeah’!

"O" the Humanatee!

October 15, 2009 at 9:44 pm

@Dan: When you write, “I certainly know proper grammar, but during informal speech I often toss around the double negatives, ain’ts, backwoods constructions, etc. that I grew up hearing,” it sounds like you’re confusing prescriptive grammar with dialect. The former consists of the so-called rules that dictate how you’re supposed to write and speak if you want to be taken seriously in certain circles, but the English dialect you “grew up hearing” also has a grammar (some people might prefer the word syntax) that is internally consistent. Linguists have done lots of research establishing that this is true of socially-looked-down-upon language variants. As linguists sometimes say, the difference between a language and a dialect is that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. (You may know all this, but it wasn’t clear from your comment.)

@Capt USA(Jim): Your claim that “nobody uses proper grammar all the time” is true, but such errors arise largely when people reformulate their thoughts mid-stream, and are often accompanied by halting speech or filler syllables like “um.” As someone noted above, subject-verb number agreement errors like the one that Dick commits here are rare.* If Dick had said, “Is Barbara – and Gordon – OK?” it would have been more natural. (It also would have suggested that Dick thought of Barbara first, and only considered Gordon as an afterthought.)

As for your mocking people for how much this bothers them, it’s all relative. Some people don’t notice if a character is drawn missing an arm. If the dialogue balloon had read, “Is Barbara and the Gordon Commissioner OK?” I bet even you would been thrown out of the story – though that error could occur the same way a number of people (myself included) think Dick’s error occurred: by a script revision that wasn’t fully completed and wasn’t caught by the editor.

* One major exception is cases along the lines of the following, “The report on the details were rejected.” That’s actually not a great example, but the point is that sometimes a noun that is closer to the verb than the subject is “attracts” the verb. A lot of research on this kind of error has been done by people who study the psychology of language; they’ve observed, among other things, that it happens much more often when the subject is singular and the “attracting” verb is plural.

"O" the Humanatee!

October 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm

@Ralph: The grammar error is the misplaced comma. Dick meant to say, “Damian is Barbara and Gordon, okay?!?” It’s one of those comics things where multiple people share the same body – you know, like Firestorm or Starhawk.


October 15, 2009 at 9:57 pm

You don’t think it should be ‘are’ instead of ‘is’?

“O” —

What is it I see the young people saying on the ‘net every now & then? Oh, yeah:

“I find your ideas intriguing & I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.”

Although the fact that you used a hyphen after “socially” has me reconsidering …

(Just kidding, of course. The proscription on hyphens after “-ly” [& all other? I’m not awake enough yet to remember …] adverbs is one of those rules that I see as rather quaint at best, though of course when editing copy here at work my attitude is the same as my stance as regards the AP Stylebook — ‘The rules say it, I enforce it, that settles it.’ I see it broken all the time in submissions & stories that cross my terminal, & at some point I’ll reach my breaking point & slaughter the neighborhood, I suppose. Still, it’s not as bad as the infernal en vogue phrase “going forward,” which drives me mad — the most useless, empty linguistic crutch I can think of, utterly needless unless the speaker needs to specify that “going backward” isn’t a possibility.)

And yeah, I was aware of the internal coherence, as it were, of dialect, though god knows you delved into it more intelligently than I could probably hope to do. Now, if I could only figure out why half the time I invert words like “however” & “whoever” in speech & say “everhow” & “everwho” … I sure as hell don’t recall ever running across that practice back home in rural Arkansas. Hmmm. My first mother-in-law hailed from the Appalachians …

(And yes, in informal writing I definitely use elllipses & dashes much more than most people. As the young people also have been known to say, that’s just how I roll.)

"O" the Humanatee!

October 16, 2009 at 9:07 am

@Dan: I’d reply to you privately but don’t have your e-mail address. So everyone will be witness to my shame – I am a former copy editor who went on to get a doctorate studying the psychology and neurobiology of language. So when I read and write, my strict inner prescriptivist and forgiving inner descriptivist are locked in fierce battle. Makes the Hulk vs. the Thing look like Hello Kitty vs. My Little Pony.

I like “everwho” and “everhow”! I’ve been trying for years to promote “elsewhat,” “elsewho,” “elsehow,” and “elsewhen,” by analogy with “elsewhere.” No one listens….

I actually mulled over the hypenation of “socially”! But when I read “socially looked-down-upon,” sans hyphen, I thought it looked like it meant “looked down upon when one is being social” rather than “looked down upon by society.” I chould have written “societally,” I suppose. In formal writing I would definitely change it into “variants that are looked down upon socially” instead of using such a long chain of hyphens.

Everyone who’s interested in language issues should look at Language Log (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/), which frequently delves into the problems of prescriptive and descriptive grammar.

Now where was I? Oh yeah – Dad Didio sucks!

“O” —

Feel free to email me — dpbailey@att.net. Sounds like you’ve had a really fascinating career track. I’ve only ever been a line editor, but I’m very much a copy editor at heart, I think, which may well be why at my last two newspapers I got along much better with the copy desk than any of my other city desk colleagues did.

i forgot to press the sarcasm buttom.

"O" the Humanatee!

October 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm

I got it, Ralph – I just decided to go one step further.

Wow, good to know I’m not the only comics-loving editor/linguist out there. I’ve appreciated all of the intelligent linguistic discourse so far—keep it up, everyone!

And while the “is” in the final word balloon IS a bit jarring, it’s still a great (recurring) joke from Tomasi. Thanks for posting this, Brian—I knew I liked that issue for some reason, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. (And what’d everybody think of the ending of Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps this week? Twisted stuff, I must say.)

The subject/verb agreement issue that I see/hear a lot of late is “There’s lots of books” instead of “There’re lots of books.” It doesn’t sound quite as bad in contracted form, but it still bugs me. Anyone else?

(Oh, and for my fellow editors, feel free to respond to my comments about what I feel to be a horrible movie poster that was shown in a recent CBLR entry from Brian. It’s the [so far] last comment here: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/09/03/comic-book-legends-revealed-223/ And yes, I tend to overuse dashes. And parentheses. And fun little sentence fragments like this one—though the tons of sentence fragments and comma splices found in comics nowadays tend to drive me crazy.)

“Is Barbara and Gordon okay?”

So Dickie-bird is supposed to be an IDIOT?

Human error, it happens. But, I think “could care less,” is a useful phrase to me it is different from “couldn’t care less,” and there is no reason that , but or and, cannot start a sentence. Those two words work perfectly well, its an arbitrary decision to say they can’t start a sentence. Same as how faux is pronounced. I perfectly deviate from its correct pronunciation, because it just makes our language harder.

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