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CSBG Archive

Comic Critics #180!

Here is the latest installment of the Comic Critics strip, courtesy of Sean Whitmore (writer) and Brandon Hanvey (artist)! You can check out the first hundred and seventy-nine strips at the archive here and you can read more about Sean and Brandon at the Comic Critics blog.


Let us know what you think, either here or at the ComicCritics blog!


When he gets to the harbor, Joker will encounter the underwater wing…

Ha, great commentary on how utterly ineffectual and useless modern Batman is.


As opposed to… historical Batman? Post-modern Batman?

As opposed to… historical Batman? Post-modern Batman?

This really needs explaining? Seriously? The fact that there are different eras of Batman with different characterizations?

You’ve never heard the terms Golden Age, Silver Age, early Bronze Age, pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, modern Age, etc?

T: I think his criticism was rather that NO ERA of Batman has ever been effective (save perhaps gun-toting Batman) by those lights. Ergo, why single out modern Batman?
(Or at least, that’s what I’m going to pretend his criticism is. Nothing else makes sense.)

I personally found this strip much funnier if you imagine Mark Hammil voicing the Joker.

Then again, just about everything involving the Joker is better when Mark Hammil is doing the voice.

LOL. I guess this is inspired by Arkham City, which I won’t buy until a GOTY edition with all the DLC comes out. I also love the bit about the Aquaman signal.

I wonder what an Aquaman signal would even look like. I mean, he had that A-symbol on his belt buckle, but projected in the sky it would just look like a V. Maybe just a nice picture of a fish.

I’d love it if Batman would just kill the Joker and be done with it. I’m sick of that character. In fact, I’ve been sick of seeing the Joker for about 35 years now. Just think what a deterrent to crime in Gotham City it would be if Batman mounted the Joker’s head on a street sign on the corner of Crime Alley.

Come on, Bats! Just this once! Kill the sombitch!

——— Nice job, Sean and Brandon!

T: I think his criticism was rather that NO ERA of Batman has ever been effective (save perhaps gun-toting Batman) by those lights. Ergo, why single out modern Batman?

I single out modern Batman because early Golden Age Batman faced more murderous foes but was willing to occasionally kill them or let them cause their own deaths. Few made repeat appearances. Even the Joker in his first appearance was almost killed and Batman and Robin lost no sleep over it. Later on in the Golden Age and during the Silver Age, Batman no longer killed and never touched guns and his foes began escaping and returning regularly, but the murderous levels of his villains went down at the same time to make up for it. Joker only killed on occasion, not in every single appearance, and it wasn’t a huge body count whenever he did. So either way, you felt that Batman was saving more lives from the Joker than he was allowing to die from the Joker.

Modern Batman on the other hand has a Joker more murderous than the worst Golden Age villain with a body count in the triple digits, maybe more, who can easily kill dozens of people in a single appearance, yet with a Batman as rigid in his moral code as the Silver Age Batman with a Silver Age style revolving door justice system to boot. The mismatch makes him more ineffective and useless. It feels like at best he breaks even in Joker-related deaths he prevents compares to Joker-related deaths he allows. I think he may in fact be running a deficit in that department.

Haha! Not funny.

I loved this strip.

And if the next video game is Arkham Nation or Arkham Planet, I say you demand royalties.

Now that I think about it, it does suggest an elegant* solution to the question of which state Gotham is in**: The District of Arkham.

*(by which I mean, of course, absurd)

**(Correct answer: disarray. Or New Jersey. Same difference.)

Anyone else now want to see an Aquaman signal in his solo book? Or is there something wrong with me?

Aquaman signal reminds me of that episode of Entourage when they put the fish on the guy’s car.

“It’s to send a message”

“What’s that?”

“Aquaman is Back!”

I got a chuckle out of that, Matt! Let’s give him an Aquacar, too!

Ok, I’ll bite. Batman can’t kill criminals. His brand of vigilante justice is bad enough when he doesn’t kill. If Batman suspects you of a crime, he will eavesdrop on your phone calls and violate your rights; you have no recourse when Batman accuses you of a crime. He’s not accountable to anyone like the police are. Basically, the only check on Batman is that he hands criminals over to the police and the courts for trial. If Batman becomes the executioner then there are no checks on his power. What happens when Batman kills someone who turns out to be innocent?

You can’t really have a separate set of rules for a particular person like the Joker. If Batman has to kill the Joker to prevent him from killing a lot of people, then he would be justified in killing any potential murderer. If you argue that the killing the Joker is acceptable because he is a mass-murderer then how many people does a criminal have to kill to qualify for summary-execution by Batman?

Basically, Batman is perfect the way he is. He’s not the Punisher, and he should keep using his mind, martial arts, and wealth to fight crime without killing.


November 15, 2011 at 12:03 am

T, theste is commentary on the game Arkham City, not a critique of modern Batman.

Also, your critique of Batman falls down when you consider that you’ve got to re-adjust modern Jokers death count with the daily death count of the DCU, not comparing it to our world.
Millions die in terrorist attacks (DC One Million), or super villain rampages (Coast City), and there’s more people in the world populating the made up cities (as they are in place around our cities).
So if you were to scale in all the untimely deaths for inflation, Joker isn’t such a menace.

Also consider, if Batman killed the Joker, he’d be wanted for murder. The Justice League would take him down. It’s his job to catch the crooks the law can’t, and he does that with style, but he’s not Judge Dredd – Batman catches people, he doesn’t put them on trial.
It’s The DCU legal system, and let’s face it, jail guards, who are letting everyone down.

Or maybe people should accept that it’s a genre convention that flashy supervillians recur and lighten up, like, 30 notches.

It might be better if writers remembered that supervillains recur and lowered their death tolls, so that we don’t have people surpassing Hitler’s bodycount turning up once every few months.

There actually WAS an Aquaman-signal of sorts. Once upon a time Navy officers blew into a big conch shell to sound an alarm that summoned Aquaman and Mera.

Depicted in the Aquaman Big Little Book, “Scourge of the Sea!”

I’ll agree with Omar on this. The Joker being written the way he is serves to make us think the only reasonable solution to his behavior is to kill him, considering he is irredeemably evil, always commits atrocities on par with third world dictators, and always escapes again to kill another day. Under those circumstances, having Batman not only spare him, but protect him from everyone else who wants to kill him, makes Batman look ineffectual. Writers could easily solve this by having Batman save more lives or more effectively imprison the Joker and showing enough restraint to use him sparingly, or at least not use him solely as a nihilistic death god like they seem to, all without forcing Batman to resort to killing. Why this is so hard, I just don’t know.

The writers keep upping the ante. I think there’s a sizable portion of the readership who likes “extreme Joker.” DC staying in a state of perpetual adolescence sucks for those of us who see high body counts reflecting poorly on the hero. The new DC seems even darker than the recent pre-new DC. I like Wonder Woman (a dark book) and Batwoman (dark but with a bit more going on), but the new-DCU isn’t a world I want to read about.

I think the ’60s tv version of Batman was the only one that made sense in the ‘Batman doesn’t kill’ reguard. Batman fights petty criminals the police don’t really have time to fight because they are going after the murderers, and the Batman villians mostly don’t kill anyone so jailtime as opposed to death is a reasonable punishment.

I mean, if Batman sees the Joker kill a person/people, then you have to assume that Batman’s own moral code (which allows him to beat criminals mercilessly but not kill them – good thing none have heart conditions or any prior health problems where a pummelling might be a problem) trumps someone else’s right to live that he portends to be helping, and that’s equally as disturbing as someone robbing a bank.

In short, Batman’s enemies all need to be robots so he can rip them to shreds.

Captain Librarian

November 15, 2011 at 11:52 am

I humbly submit that the issue is at least partly ambition. Writers always look to create the next “Death in the Family” storyline where Joker seems that much worse or pushes Batman that much harder. A story like “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” works as a ‘final’ Superman story but you can’t have stories with key characters being killed or villains crossing lines they never had before every new story or the whole thing reaches a…maybe the phrase I’m looking for is “Critical Mass?” We’re just overwhelmed by how much Joker’s killed to the point that Batman not killing him is puzzling to most. Even many opponents to war argued that Osama Bin Laden’s killing was justified for instance. It’s one reason I think Captain America’s usual characterization works best. Avoid killing if at all possible, especially outside the theater of war, but if it comes down to killing or letting someone take innocent lives, he’ll do it. Not happily but he won’t mope about it either.

I will say I do like the way Batman not killing the Joker often ends up being a sort of meta commentary on comics. Ledger’s Joker’s summation at the end of the The Dark Knight works very nicely. It could even be read as a metaphor for the war of good and evil in general.

Something that I find interesting is the expectation that it should be Batman who kills the Joker. Why can’t the legal system? Yes I know he’s been classified as insane, but something like that hasn’t stopped governments in the real world from bending the rules occasionally.

Can you imagine a story where Batman captures the Joker and special dispensation is given to execute him by the government? Thats another thing, why send him to a place within the limits of a major city? Isn’t there somehere VERY FAR away they could send him? Like a Guantanamo style prison, on a desert island? At least make it difficult for the bugger to get to a sizable population.

Heck, there’s so many secret government agencies in the DCnU these days, why not send a black-ops sniper?

Yes I know it’s a comic and there’s a suspension of disbelief needed for a lot of it, but the fact that the legal system or government agencies don’t do something more effective with a character who is, in effect, a genocidal maniac, is a bit too much.

The Joker is genocidal? I missed that. Which ethnic, racial, religious, or national group is he attempting to wipe out?

All of them.

Seriously the death tolls are getting ridiculous when it comes to the Joker. It must be in the thousands now.

Also consider, if Batman killed the Joker, he’d be wanted for murder. The Justice League would take him down. It’s his job to catch the crooks the law can’t, and he does that with style, but he’s not Judge Dredd – Batman catches people, he doesn’t put them on trial.

There are three legal standards that exist in almost every jurisdiction and presumably apply to the DC Universe as well.

First, killing someone is perfectly legal if done to defend one’s own life. Given all the times Joker has tried to kill Batman, Batman responding with legal force would be perfectly justified, and I highly doubt anyone would prosecute him for it, or that he wouldn’t be pardoned immediately if someone tried to prosecute him. Who’d want to be the DA who prosecuted the guy who killed the Joker, murderer of thousands? Who wouldn’t want to be the politician that pardoned the murderer of thousands? It would be like someone trying to open up an investigation into the legality of Bin Laden’s murder. No one would ever do it because who would want to be that guy?

Second, killing is perfectly legal if done with the intent of preventing the immediate murder of someone else. Under these circumstances Batman has had plenty of chances to kill Joker as well. Instead no matter what’s at stake he’s always tried to go for the nonlethal route of disarming him or punching him in a nonlethal way.

Third, most jurisdictions don’t have a Good Samaritan law, meaning that if someone is dying, even if it is well within your means to save him, you are under no obligation to do so. You could be an olympic level swimmer and there is a child drowning 10 feet from you and it would be a piece of cake for you to save him, yet if you don’t do it, you are not guilty of anything. Batman has rescued the Joker tons of times in the comics I’ve read. I’ve even read issues where the Joker seems to be falling to his death and Batman would even risk his own life to save the Joker, doing things like diving to catch and save him or throwing a batarang around his leg to catch him. That’s ridiculous. Even in the golden and silver age, sure Joker would fall to his “death” over and over again and always turn out to have not died, meaning that there’s no guarantee that any fall would really kill the Joker, but at least they didn’t actively show Batman going out of his way risking life and limb to guarantee the Joker lived to murder another day.. I even read a Batman story in the late 80s or 90s where Batman went out of his way to save the Joker from death row by clearing his name for a murder he didn’t commit. He raced against the clock to find the real killer so that the Joker wouldn’t fry. That’s just ridiculous.

I was gonna bring up that Joker on death row story that T mentions at the end of his last comment. Not sure what it was, but yeah, that’s getting to the levels of ridiculousness.

Especially given that Batman’s “mission” is, in essence, to prevent what happened to him from happening to anyone ever again.

Yeah, that’s ridiculous too, but it’s a little boy’s dream of vengeance on the killer of his parents.

Then there’s the Joker sequence in DKR, too…

Man, I HAVE that Big Little Book that Hatcher mentions, but I haven’t read it yet. That’s friggin’ awesome!

I’m one of the last people who would ever say that a hero should kill the villain, but as pointed out by several on this thread, the Joker is a different case. There is no reason for him to continue living. Of course a fun reverse story to justify allowing the joker to live, is to have him create a cure for cancer/aids/infertility etc, thereby somewhat justifying not killing him all these years.

I also agree with Omar’s comment about how the writers have to realize that the characters will always come back and that upping the death toll to the degree that they have, has basically numbed the reader to the atocities their villains have commited. How many times has Batman actually teamed up with the Joker, or others with Cheshire after their crimes? heck even a hero teaming up with the Punisher is a joke.

I don’t think Batman could ever kill the Joker, it’s just not in him.

But as an alternative, why couldn’t he get into the prison business? He could do it as Bruce Wayne, buying Arkham or wherever and making it truly effective – or as Batman, building a secret Bat-Guantanamo for the worst of the worst. Just cut Jeremiah Arkham and Gotham’s court system out of the loop altogether. Could that go wrong? Absolutely! But it could also serve as a way to keep 100% guilty murderers like Joker away from the public.

Hey, you guys know you’re arguing over the moral and legal merits of a fictional character, right? Batman’s writers, editors and intellectual property handlers decide what “Batman” does, not, um, Batman.

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