The WorkBook - Main Street Seems So Lonely Now

previously _ "Where I'm Going Tonight, No One Can Ever Hurt Me" _ here

The Warm Up

Something about that Teen Spirit allusion puts me off. Not from any point of particular malice or offense, but rather the gimmick. The size of it subdues any opportunity of homage or expansion on the initial thought, and only decadence is left as any bit of subtext because of Courtney Love and permission. Sure, “the price of fame,” but what’s different about Jay’s delivery or approach? The lyrics are the same, except a tad more agile in delivery. Watch the Throne said it better.

Allusion? Nah. A cheap lede at the head of some Arts & Living rag; another man’s words carrying another man’s song; or a hurried plea for a piggyback, and by the five minute mark you regret not listening to Nirvana instead.

Let’s centralize this time. Ditch the loud remarks and brutal tactics, and we’ll pick up on exact measures. Maybe we’ll let Joey put down the booze, too. We owe him that.

The Feature

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #6Grant Morrison | Klaus Janson | Steve BuccellatoDC Comics

Grant Morrison makes it no secret that his “Gothic” takes from others. The Coleridge quote spearheading the story’s second part gives it away, and so do the cathedral set piece and supernatural backing. It’s out in the open: “Batman: Gothic” practices literary tradition, so rather than argue the point, let’s accept it. Deal?

I’m fond of this specific moment in "Gothic": Part 1.

It comes as one of those typical super hero alleyway scenes. A coupla’ thugs, a swoop and a dive and an “innocent” saved at the nick of time. We’ve all seen it – again and again. Though this time, it serves as a strong reintroduction to an old and familiar character, casting Batman under Morrison’s gothic lens with a bit of that Janson angst. It’s also a moment to switch perspectives in what is mostly a third/first Batman POV-driven story and see the Dark Knight from the angle of ordinary.

Take the splash panel, for instance. As the audience, you peer over the shoulder of the thug Batman’s about to demolish, seeing pretty much what he sees. Janson draws the character with immensity, and he pays attention to the creature that is his cape. The shadow crawling up the wall behind him contributes to his size, completing the illusion. The subsequent panels draw attention to the “victim’s” reaction – horrified. He sees Batman almost as the thug does. I love that last panel. As if the tail of the cape was enough to strike terror.

These details cast Batman as both symbol of fear and misunderstood deity (something seen in a number of Batman stories), and it’s oddly enough the first interaction, besides the appearance of Alfred, between anyone and our protagonist. Heroes in gothic lit. are typically isolated either voluntarily or involuntarily, and this brief scene emphasizes this position in the character's fictional world. Granted, it makes sense for a thug to fear and not want anything to do with Batman, but the thug’s victim, with his wide eyes and pleas for mercy, says the most of Batman’s isolation. Even the man he helps is driven away. It’s that bit in Nolan’s The Dark Knight realized. “They will hate you.”

Whether it’s voluntary isolation or not is up for debate, but I like how this scene can be recalled as you complete “Gothic”.

Even with the trees, there’s a lot of space in this image, and as Batman seems to saunter off, Janson creates isolation by drawing this lone figure, dabbed in shadow, in the midst of nature and ancient ruin. It’s a lonely fucking picture, and Morrison’s bit of narration provides a hollow tinge.

“But These Are Only Stories”

As if Batman’s own life will one day be a simple legend told to children, just like the tale the monk’s tell in a prior issue. It’s a brutally sweet moment of futility, but familiar with Morrison these words also ring with powerful warmth. Being a story isn’t the worst fate. You live forever; you achieve size. You escape “reality.”

Plenty of other gothic elements line “Batman: Gothic”, but I’ll leave that for some qualified academic ripened by pedigree and palette. This isn’t an essay, anyway. More a jumbled thought, thunk on a whim.

 The Riffffs

Background | Middleground | ForegroundAndy BurkholderOily Comics

Oh, man. More Oily comicbooks. Bias? Probably, but the quality says it all.

These are three mini comics cartooned by a Mr. Andy Burkholder. I believe he’s from Chicago.

I’ll admit up front that Background, Middleground and Foreground are a bit (actually, waaaaay) leftfield, but there’s something in Burkholder’s work which deserves our attention. Sadly, I really can’t place said something into words. If anything, it’s probably Burkholder’s ability to tell a story with so many distractions. His comics are somewhat akin to sitting on a bus and filtering through the noise of public conversation shortly before the one interesting nugget, about love, loss and skin, bubbles up, making its point.

The visual style is minimal, though crammed with panels, and he approaches sexuality with an entertaining mix of humor, mysticism and stark exposure. Though, the work isn’t entirely sexual. Just at moments.

There’s a motif of winners and losers running throughout Background, Middleground and Foreground, and while all three mini comics can function separately, you’re more likely to gain a clearer picture reading them together.

$3 for the set. Try it.

COPRA #7Michel FiffeSelf-Published

I’ve written about COPRA at length before, but it’s safe to say Fiffe’s monthly-grind comic still kills. Issue 7 reminds me of a Bendis Avengers book, though with more of an edge and willingness to push the aftermath of a series-changing event.

I’ve said it all before. Fast. Vibrant. Heart.

 The Exit

Aulisio drops the bottle. It’s his third. Whiskey.

The bastard’s had it, and he shakes his head in defeat signaling acknowledgement of that fact. It’s gotta stop. The molly needs to wear off, and the shirt’s gotta go back on. Party’s over, boys. Pack up the blow.

Everyone has exited the bar. Even the bartender gave up. Lights out, Aulisio slumps onto a stool, head cycling back. At this point I’ve put the notebook down, but I can recall the faint statement he uttered before crashing into an earned sleep.

“Those god damn fuckers ... didn’t know what they had.”

He falls off the stool, loud as can be. I look towards the light framed off by the front door.

“Those god damn fuckers,” I repeat.


Follow Alec on Twitter. @Alec_Berry

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