Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm a veteran, kid.

Like many fans my age, I'm a comic veteran.

We're like those grizzled soldiers in old WWII movies, giving our world weary advice to the bright-eyed private that just joined the outfit. We've seen it all and, more often than not, we've read it all before too.

Which is why the release tomorrow of the final chapter in the much touted storyline "Batman, R.I.P." fills me with a sense of "meh."

We've been down this road before, we veterans. We stood in amazement years ago when people actually thought that Superman was dead ("dead, dead, deadski") and never to return. We knew then that Superman would never REALLY die. He'd go away for a little bit but then come back. It was inevitable as Jim Carrey making a bad movie. So we watched while all the media did this little dance and the weak-minded bought copies of the black-plastic-bagged issue where Superman took his dirt nap, thinking that they had just purchased a new retirement plan.

Then Superman came back and we veterans walked away, our heads shaking because people had bought that pack of cow patties once again.

Now Batman is going to die... supposedly. To be fair, no one knows for SURE what will happen in the new issue but the general belief is that Bruce Wayne becomes worm food... or a New God... or retires... or joins an off-Broadway review. Whatever. It's all too familiar.

Not that long ago, by comic book standards, Batman had his spine snapped by Bane and was supposedly "done being Batman". What happened? Bruce got better. Within a year or so, Bruce was back to being Batman and you'd never have known that this same character had a life-shattering injury. But, hey, it's comics! What do you expect?

The cynical among us (and, after all, you don't get to be a comics veteran without being cynical) agree that Superman and Batman will never really die. Why? Because they're a brand. It's to the companies best interest to continue to promote the Clark Kent/Superman and Bruce Wayne/Batman because that's what the public knows. That's what is comfortable to them. They'll go to a movie with Bruce Wayne as Batman not one with someone named Tim Drake or even Dick Grayson as Batman... or so the company fears. Doesn't matter if it's true or not, fear makes more company policies than any Board of Directors ever will.

What doesn't help is DC's recent atmosphere of flop sweat. The company is under more attacks through sales reports and gossip rumors than they've probably ever been before. Every decision Executive Editor Dan Didio makes is instantly scrutinized by the fans and generally despised. If Bruce Wayne does die, can Didio stand tall against the coming sound and fury of the fans? Or will he cave and hire some cheap creative team to come up with a lame way to bring Bruce back? ("It was my evil twin!" "It was really Alfred!" "It was a Batman from Earth-BS!")

So now Batman is shuffling off this mortal coil, joining the choir invisible, becoming (in the words of John Cleese) "an EX-Batman". And, like all good comic veterans, I can only say, "I'll believe it when he stays dead!

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