Sunday, 5 August 2012

Batman Titles

How do titles convey beginnings, endings, returns and new beginnings? The Return Of Sherlock Holmes tells us that it is a sequel, thus that there was at least one previous volume, and His Last Bow tells us that this volume was intended to be a conclusion. (In fact, there were four volumes before The Return and there is one after His Last Bow.)

Batman titles can vary because an alternative phrase, "the Dark Knight," also refers to the central character. Batman comics written by Frank Miller give us:

a beginning, Batman: Year One;
a return, The Dark Knight Returns;
an ending, The Dark Knight Falls;
a second return, The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

I regard ...Strikes Again as a text book case of how not to write a sequel, throwing away all the subtleties of the original and adding content completely out of tune with the original. I really would have liked to read a sequel that simply followed from the Dark Knight mini-series, showing us:

Bruce and his survivalist army getting organized in the "endless Cave";
Gotham City continuing to decline above them;
Bruce spying on the world above but keeping out of sight;
no superheroes, apart from the flawed Kent (they were kept out of the original, which got it just right).

However, since I am here primarily considering titles, it has to be acknowledged that ...Strikes Again, like ...Rides Again, Return Of.., ...Returns, Son Of... and Children Of..., is a recognized kind of sequel title.

The Batman film tetralogy gives us:

a beginning, simply Batman;
a return, Batman Returns;
an on-going title, Batman Forever;
a new beginning, Batman And Robin

- although it would have made more sense if the third and fourth titles had been reversed.

The Batman film trilogy gives us a beginning, Batman Begins, then two titles that look as if they belong to a different series, albeit about the same character:

another beginning, The Dark Knight;
a sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, the exact opposite of Miller's "ending" title above.

However, these films follow Miller's lead in switching from a "Batman" title to some "Dark Knight" titles. When they are explained, the titles in the trilogy make sense. The anonymous vigilante, whose career begins in the first film, has to become the Dark Knight of Gotham City because its District Attorney has failed to be its White Knight. The Dark Knight, having fallen out of Gothamites' favor, rises again in their esteem in the concluding film. Thus, these titles, when explained, are fully coherent.

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