Posted by: Doc Comics | January 29, 2010

Batman: Year One

In class, we’ve discussed the mythic and rhetorical perspectives on comic book superheroes, distinguishing mythic archetypes from fantasy culturetypes to chart a narrative’s evolutionary stability and change.   BATMAN: YEAR ONE is yet another telling of Batman’s origin story by Frank Miller, one which followed his wildly successful The Dark Knight Returns.  This re-telling of the origin story (what we will later discuss as “Ret-Con” or retroactive continuity) is an excellent example of adherence to key mythic elements with fresh new culturetypal variations, changes which reflect and reinforce contemporary cultural ideology, socio-political critique, and economic interests.  A few questions to guide our MoreFunday Comics Monday discussion:

Image result for batman year one

1)  Which mythic elements are preserved in Batman: Year One? Using Doty’s ‘polyphasic’ elements of myth, what culturetypal innovations do you notice in terms of the graphic storytelling, narrative conventions, or mood? What is distinct about this Batman’s scenic setting, characters, and actions?  How does Miller’s Batman tale return to the early roots of the character?  What kinds of narrative reasoning can you identify in this cynical dystopia?

2) From the “Mythic Perspective” of Rushing & Frentz, these powerful narrative forms and archetypal symbols also imaginatively tap powerful meanings that circulate within our Cultural Unconscious.  Because they “dramatize a culture’s deepest beliefs and dilemmas,” our mythic narratives “can point the way to cultural growth and individual self-actualization because these psychic potentials represent moral possibilities for a culture; However, that can only happen if they are interpreted carefully and acted upon consciously.”   What kinds of questions does a Mythic Rhetorical Perspective use to interrogate texts? What kinds of ‘master myths’ are circulating in Batman: Year One? What lessons do we learn about society, or what warnings can we derive, from this ‘Hero Quest‘ of Batman?

3)  How does Batman’s origin differ from Superman‘s? If Gotham City is a synecdoche for America, what is the character of societal institutions, authorities, human beings, and collective action? What kinds of actions and agents are required by the scenic conditions? What purpose motivates Bruce Wayne, vengeance or justice?  How significant is it that the Golden Age Bat-Man trades his gun for a kid sidekick, and what are the socio-political and economic factors that drive this alteration? Does Batman need a Robin?

4) Since protagonists and antagonists often ‘mirror’ each other, what can we make of how Miller depicts Jim Gordon and Flass, Catwoman and Det. Sarah Essen or Gordon’s wife, the villains and police, or Alfred? Are there any “good guys” in this Detective Noir tale? Are any of Miller’s characterizations problematic (i.e. Selina Kyle is here a prostitute-turned-thief)? Is Gotham worth saving?

RESOURCES:

Golden Age origin of The BAT-MAN

Bat-Man and Guns

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Responses

  1. This was a great miniseries. I think I read this before I even read Dark Knight Returns, and I loved it. The two series work a bookends to the Batman story, the beginning and the end.

    It’s just too bad that Miller has apparently lost his damn (I should I say “Goddamn”) mind, when it comes to writing Batman, as evidenced by Dark Knight Strikes Back and All-Star Batman & Robin.

  2. The many origins of The Batman:
    http://www.cbr.com/history-of-batmans-origins/


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