This is not an illusion, you are not imagining this column. “The Couch,” as I’ve so affectionately dubbed this writing space at CBD, is back in full force. Party favours can be placed atop the refreshment table on the right, please leave your comics on the coffee table and feel free to sit down on the sofa; do make yourself comfortable.
Over the last few months, as I made mention in my Wizard World column, my comic book related “side-mission” has been very much insane, but in a good way. As many readers on the site might be aware, in addition to writing regularly for Comic Book Daily for the last two years, I’ve been working as Senior Editor for an independent comic book publisher here in Toronto since last September. In that time I’ve taught myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, worked on a number of scripts for comics coming out later this year, learned how to letter a comic, lost some sleep, arranged store signings, prepared the company’s digital comics (which is tedious), been to several comic shows and now have several comic book editing credits on my resume. Add on my Social Media Manager duties for the company, and that’s the summary of why my reviews and columns have been low in their numbers for the last little while. But no more, I say!
How do you know I’m serious? Watch this. Are you watching? Okay: Mark Waid’s Daredevil is still a mediocre-at-best comic. Seriously, who edited issue 14? How can someone lose their sense of touch for the first time twice? How does a man with heightened senses not know the material his cell is made out of? Come on. With that said, however, issue 16 sees Mr. Murdock having done something rather dark and questionable, so that’s a step in the right direction. Just no more, “I’m not Daredevil,” shirts. Please Mark?
Convinced? Now, on to the meat of the column.
I was finally able to watch The Dark Knight Rises a couple of days ago, after having carefully walked on eggshells during my internet browsing so as to avoid being remotely tipped off about the plot. While I was right about two pretty obvious plot-points, which in turn took a bit away from the reveals, the movie as a complete package was very good. It wasn’t on par with The Dark Knight, but still provided the heart of what a Batman story can be. Although it felt rushed at junctures, the movie’s story brought us full circle with Christopher Nolan’s Batman epic, corralling some of the best plot threads from Batman arcs over the last 40 years into a fantastic story with the one thing we could never expect from a Batman comic: a relatively happy ending. There’s a measure of completeness in Nolan’s Batman trilogy that any ongoing series can only wish to attain. The reality of the comic book movie as it’s developing is that it’s becoming more of an extension of the graphic novel format, very similar to DC Comics’ “Earth One” universes where there are definitive consequences and repercussions for the characters and their respective worlds. This is something the ongoing, serialized format cannot lend itself to. Nolan’s Batman comes face-to-face with those consequences, and in spite of it as the title implies, rises beyond his reclusiveness and more importantly himself to stand against his antitheses. The full-circle nature of the plot, combined with the symbolic nature of what the mantle of the Bat represents in this world, provides a satisfying epilogue that contrasts the popularized view that a vigilante’s life can only end in tragedy. I find worth in that as a refreshing telling of a superhero genre story, making the Nolan trilogy arguably the best comic movie franchise put together.
I find with stories, notably novelized fiction, that their finiteness creates the threat of impending conclusiveness to a plot and is what makes it interesting. There needs to be the threat that a main character will meet their end with an assured degree of finality, or that a plot will have far-reaching repercussions that won’t simply be tucked away because a company’s editorial team decides it to be so. That’s something we really only see outside Marvel and DC to varying degrees, and while obviously those two companies are the driving forces behind the medium both in print and digital formats, on the creative end, I feel you’ll only find that far reaching plot finiteness in independent works. That there’s a certain end, or a foreseeable one, is where I find interest. The opposite has always been where the comic medium lays, but perhaps in the near-future, we’ll find or begin to realize that the comics themselves are the primary medium relative to the bigger budget motion picture; film becoming more of a multi-million dollar promotional vehicle for the books themselves and the stories directly associated with the movie plot. I feel that crossover appeal can benefit companies, leaving the film adaptations and comic versions to stand almost as equals, one promoting the other in the grander multimedia landscape of marketing approaches.
Nolan’s Batman shows us beyond anything the power of these characters and what they can represent. Shining a different light on these archetypes, telling their story as a comic writer would, helps build the medium that much more; reinforcing its viability and sustainability while providing worthwhile contributions to the art-form for generations of comic fans to dissect and talk about both inside and outside of the comic book shop.