Friday, December 27, 2013

Red, White and Blue Batman

We don't normally see Batman associated with the American flag so that is why I was struck by this image in the recent issue of "Batman and Two-Face" number 25.  Written by Peter J. Tomasi and penciled by Patrick Gleason, issue number 25 explores a partnership of sorts while the brain trust behind the Batman comics tries to figure out if they should appoint a successor to Robin or not.

I'm not really going to get into the plot of the story, this is more of an insight into the artwork involved and the association with Batman and all things patriotic.

First, if there is one superhero associated with all things Americana and the flag it is Superman.  Which is a bit of irony that shouldn't be lost on too many comic readers and or movie goers.  Superman is an alien from another planet yet he has been historically associated with all things red, white and blue. He grew up in an all American small town and there no more "apple pie" than Big Blue and it's a wonder he doesn't sell Chevrolets!  But let's face it, he's not of this world!

The movies have gone to great pains to couple Superman with the flag also.  None more so that the Christopher Reeves series.

So why is it we never see Batman "Waving the flag"?  Is it because of his darker themes?  Is it the creature of the night persona or his propensity for striking fear as opposed to Superman's symbol of hope?  Batman is an Earthling.  Bruce Wayne was born and bred right here in the good ol' USA.  Perhaps it is because Wayne is a billionaire and he is naturally difficult to identify with. 

Even Christopher Nolan in the last Batman film went to great pains to portray Wayne as the recluse billionaire and had his alter ego seemingly fight to protect Wall Street and all it entailed.

This is what makes the artwork of Patrick Gleason (with colors by John Kalisz and inks by Mick Gray) so out of the norm.  The above panel is a terrific shot of Batman coursing through the night sky, framed by the American flag and ready to mete out justice.  It's almost as if Gleason and his team can't accept Batman as a patriotic figure as the colors have been muted and the scene takes place at night filled with eerie bats.  Not nearly as inspiring as a day awash in the glorious sunshine filled with the rich hues of the red, white and blue.

Yet the above frame is inspiring.  Batman follows the lead of the flag as it extends from left to right,  (maybe Bats is a Republican) even his entourage of bats follow the path to truth and justice as they all head in the same direction.  A direction in which Batman doles out his own version of justice that usually entails a severe beating before the evil doers are eventually left for the police.  (Hmmm, maybe that has a lot to do with it.)

Will we see more of Batman draped in the red, white and blue?  Probably not.  It's just not a theme he is normally associated with.  Justice,yes, but of a more darker grimmer kind.  I can't recall Batman or Bruce Wayne extolling the virtues of the American way or perhaps I've just missed it.  That doesn't seem likely as that would have stood out as the images published above.  I can accept that.  Maybe it is Batman's humility that lends itself to be less jingoistic.

As long as he gets the job done it's ok he doesn't wave the flag.  We know whose side he is on.