Endgame, or, Happy Belated 75th Birthday Batman!


Looking good for 75.

Endgame, the major story arc in writer Scott Snyder and artists Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia’s Batman book during the character’s 75th Anniversary last year, initially had me the littlest bit weary. Plot details for the arc had been kept under wraps until the debut of the first issue but by the close of Batman #35 it was clear that the antagonist was the Joker, a character who, in clumsier hands, could easily, loudly steal the spotlight from the caped crusader on his 75th birthday.

Fortunately, and unsurprisingly, the Snyder/Capullo Batman team didn’t turn in a crazy-for-the-sake-of-crazy Joker story. Much like Death of the Family before it Endgame doesn’t thrust Joker into the spotlight so much as use him as a spotlight to highlight Batman and, in this case, his tireless, decades-long mission.

Endgame introduced a terrifying new fold into the Joker’s character – a bit of straight up hatred. After his last encounter with Batman the Joker returns spiteful and malicious. Despite the despicable cruelty the Joker has displayed over the years it’s almost always seemed to be in the name of random violence. The Joker is a force of chaos, a force of meaninglessness. Endgame gave the Joker spite and in doing so gave an avatar of seemingly unpredictable and pointless carnage purpose.

That purpose is contradictory to Joker’s supposed core values and in succumbing to that which he rages so hard against, purpose, the Joker undermines himself and is philosophically defeated long before he and Batman come to blows.

Furthermore, giving Joker such a specific purpose in Endgame highlights how the character has actually had a broader purpose all along – the pursuit of proving the purposelessness of it all. He’s a contradiction. He’s a smokescreen of terror and cruelty that at its core can’t hold up to even the slightest bit of intellectual scrutiny. His terrorism in support of meaninglessness gives him meaning. He is his own counterargument. His crusade is a joke. Go figure.

Where Endgame triumphs, other than the very cool segment on jellyfish and the consistently fantastic art, is in showcasing just how flawed and broken the pursuits of Batman’s antagonists are and, in contrast, how sturdy and true Batman’s own 75 year old mission continues to be because Batman fights for meaning. He’s dressed head to toe in symbolism and his bread and butter is deriving significance from the exact kind of senseless violence the Joker so haphazardly hocks.

Unlike the Joker, Batman has a philosophical center that holds up to scrutiny because it is inarguable. We can gleam meaning from our days, be they triumphant or tragic. It’s a sentiment that rang true in 1939 when Batman’s origins were first revealed in the pages of Detective Comics #33 and it’s a sentiment that rings true in the final panels of Endgame. All this is to say Endgame that while it might be the Joker on the cover of the Endgame graphic novel, it couldn’t be a more Batman-centric tale.

Endgame was the perfect story to tell on the occasion of Batman’s 75th birthday.


A Lighter Knight, or, Batman: Brave, Bold and 75

Back in grandpa times Detective Comics #27 marked the very first appearance of the batman. It was a pretty big deal. Detective Comics followed Batman’s more mysterious adventures for over 800 more issues before DC Comics (guess what “DC” redundantly stands for) “rebooted” its entire roster of titles in 2011, setting  Detective Comics all the way back to issue #1.

Get it? HE'S SAD.

Get it? HE’S SAD.

Now, two plus years later, the landmark series has worked its way back up to that fateful issue, #27, and in recognition of the original Detective Comics #27’s significance DC Comics went ahead and made it a 96-page “special mega-sized anniversary issue” with content created by an  A-list team of writers and artists from throughout Batman’s history.

I, on the other hand, have taken the issue’s significance as an excuse to look back on the character through the prism of one of my favorite adaptations of Batman, The Brave and The Bold animated series.

In film Batman has become the supreme brooder in a world of despair.

In comics his son is dead and he fights a Joker who wears his own severed clown face trapped to his head with belts and fishhooks.

In video games the Dark Knight has to thwart deadly assassins willing to use the lives of innocent citizens in a ruthless contest to kill the Bat. On Christmas Eve.

In the second episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold the titular hero teams up with Plastic Man to investigate the terror on Dinosaur Island.

A dinosaur. You know, from Dinosaur Island.

A dinosaur. You know, from Dinosaur Island.

The Brave and The Bold partners Batman with a rotating cast of heroes from throughout the DC Universe and pits them against everything and everyone from the Joker to gorillas on dinosaur-back to Gentleman Ghost. It’s most definitely a kids’ cartoon. And it is most definitely Batman.

He looks like Batman. He’s constantly over prepared like Batman. His parents are dead like Batman. And he most assuredly sounds like Batman.

For many the voice of Batman will always be Kevin Conroy, who portrayed the caped crusader in the 90s animated series, a selection of animated movies and the first two Arkham games. And rightfully so. For a lot of folks my age Conroy defined Batman. But Diedrich Bader, you know, the shorter guy from those two guys from the show with Drew Cary, give Conroy a run for his money.

Bader’s portrayal is somewhere in the midst of Conroy, Bale and West, which is fitting, as the same could be said for the feel of the show.

The Batman of Brave and the Bold is just as much Batman as the gloomy incarnations in consoles and theaters. But Brave and the Bold doesn’t limit the Dark Knight to the shadows. A discussion of Brave and the Bold is relevant when celebrating the character’s history not only because its iteration of the Bat is a concoction of Batmen from over the past 70 years, but because it walks that iteration through scenarios indicative of the character’s entire career.

While the film The Dark Knight was blowing minds in theaters across the world in 2008, in comics, Grant Morrison set about legitimizing every aspect of Batman’s past, including the goofier ones The Dark Knight fought so strongly against. Morrison’s run is twisted and brutal, but it also tackles subjects like the interdimensional Bat Mite, and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. It’s pretty wild, and it’s the adaptation of Batman closest to Brave and the Bold in that they both leave no stone unturned in the Bat’s sordid history.

Yes, Zur-En-Arrh Batman is the coolest Batman.

Yes, Zur-En-Arrh Batman is the coolest Batman.

Unlike Morrison’s run, however, your kids can enjoy Brave and the Bold without having to wrap their minds around a ‘roided-out, brainwashed cop in a Batman outfit murdering prostitutes.

We all spend moments in darkness. One of the most appealing facets of Batman is that he stands in the dark with us. While Superman may be a beacon of hope and potential shining down from above, Batman operates in the bleak and the grit we all sometimes find out minds wandering to.

Lately, however, Batman has been anchored to frit in a sea of psychosis and depression. I love Batman, but for the last 10 years he’s been a bit of a bummer. An awesome, awesome bummer. But Batman is a hero. He’s the right to crime’s wrong. He can be inspiring. He can be uplifting. He can even be funny. And he’s been all of those things before. The Brave and the Bold embraces that.



The first season of Brave and the Bold recently released on Blu-ray, and there are a handful of episodes streaming on Netflix as well. If you’re a fan of Batman, be it Adam West or Christian Bale, there’s something for you in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.



1. What is your favorite iteration of Batman?

2. Does continually reinventing a character lessen the character’s impact and poignancy? Are the best characters one and done?

3. Do you think you’re a better Batman fan than me? That’s hilarious. I’ve seen The Dark Knight twice.


For more on the new Detective Comics #27 check out this week’s bonus episode of the Pony Tricks Comic Cast. For more on Batman, Batman, Batman:

Arkham Origins

Batman: Requim

Batman v. Superman Speculation

Zero Year v. Year One

Death of the Family