Batman and Madness   3 comments

Today’s quick update:  I have reached page 231 in The Musketeer’s Apprentice, but that isn’t what I wanted to talk about today.

A lot of what I read comes to me by pure serendipity.  It just happens to wind up in front of me, and I pick it up and start reading.  This happened recently with two graphic novels from D.C.  One is Superman/Batman: Vengeance, written by Jeff Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuinness, inked by Dexter Vines.  (Is that a real name?).  The other is Batman: Arkham Asylum: a serious house on serious earth, written by Grant Morrison with art by Dave McKean. 

This blog started this morning with me thinking how strange/weird/ugly Dave McKean’s art is, and how I don’t like it.  Then I got to thinking that McKean is a genius and far better at what he does than I am at what I do, and for me not to see how brilliant his work is shows a serious lack in me, not in Dave.  I called it a lack of sophistication, and that might be it because I’m really a barbarian at heart.  I do like simple situations and simple solutions, and I guess I like simple artwork.  McKean doesn’t do simple artwork.

By contrast the art of McGinnis is very clean.  The inking by Vines is full of primary colors.  It’s all ZAP POW YARRRGG!  In other words, just what comics should be.  No sound effects in McKean–just weird geometric signs and collage lettering that is almost illegible.  You have to strain to read the story, and that becomes part of the story’s effect on you.  Loeb’s story zooms along at the speed of reading, crossing worlds, dimensions, and universes with ease and joy.  Morrison’s story crawls like a crippled blind man in a debris-strewn maze.

And yet, both stories feature Batman and the Joker.  Both stories are a Joker plot to destroy Batman.  Morrison’s tale is earlier, 2004.  Loeb wrote his in 2006.  Morrison’s story delves inwards–into the guts of an insane asylum that is no asylum for anyone.  Loeb’s story moves outwards, transcending the barriers of any single universe.  Morrison’s story is grim and creepy.  Loeb’s is frenetic and funny.

I like the Superman/Batman World’s Finest team-up with 5 versions of Superman, Batman, and Supergirl in it.  I’m revolted by the murky horror of McKean’s Arkham.  There are no primary colors in that book.  It’s all dark, murky, muddy, hard to see, hard to understand.

And yet, I have a feeling that when I’m done with both books, it will be the Morrison/McKean creation that stays with me.  Loeb’s universe-hopping extravaganza will be soon forgotten, although I have to say I really like McInness’s art better than McKean’s.

I thought it was very kind of the Joker to tell Batman that if things got too hectic for him in Gotham City there would always be a room waiting for him at Arkham Asylum.

Anyway, these graphic novels are available at better public libraries everywhere, including Phoenix Public Library.  For two different takes on Batman and the Joker, get them, and do your own compare and contrast.


Posted August 14, 2009 by atroll in Uncategorized

3 responses to “Batman and Madness

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  1. I tried the Morrison/McKean story too, many years ago, and couldn’t get through it. McKean sometimes does real well and sometimes doesn’t. I think he lets “art” get in the way of storytelling at times. But I also thought the story itself was too depressing. I prefer fun escapism in my reading.

  2. I have never had any use for McKean’s art; I think it is pretentious and over-rated.

    There is a class of art– both visual and literary– that manages to evoke an aura of sophistication, sort of an “Emperor’s New Clothes” effect. Critics get the impression that there is something there that they don’t quite understand, and feel that the fault is in them and not in the work, so they praise it.

    Me, I’m not afraid to say that the Emperor is naked.

    Apparently we missed both of these; we tend to avoid McKean art, even though we are Morrison fans, and we tend to avoid Superman, even though we are Batman fans.

  3. I don’t think McKean’s art is that kind. He uses different technique, and usually his stuff is not just the comic’s words put into picture. It is a story, it has to be read itself. While it might not be for everyone I’m dead sure this Emperor is clothed. There are some Emperors whose dress is failing, that’s for sure. 🙂

    I think Morrison is totally mind bending. When I pick up his stuff I almost never “get it” at once, but repays repeated readings. I definitely understand why Arkham Asylum staid with you, Ken! I think it’s marvellous. On the other hand, I hate super hero comics in general, and anything that involves “caped crusaders” of any kind has to be pretty damn odd to interest me.

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