To my ears, the guitar line from “Angel” by Shaggy featuring Rayvon sounds like the guitar line from Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.” And yet, it’s not a sample – at least, it doesn’t sound like a sample. For some reason, I find sampling to be a legitimate idea, but when you take someone else’s music and reproduce it without it being obvious… this gives me pause. Read the rest of this entry
Catch phrases are awesome. It’s fun when characters always say the same thing, because I don’t like things that are different! Read the rest of this entry
Batman: The Long Halloween is a graphic novel (trade paperback?) that compiles the thirteen issue limited series of the same name. Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale worked in the continuity of Batman: Year One, created by writer Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, colorist Richmond Lewis, and lettering by Todd Klein, although Long Halloween is superior to Year One in just about every way possible, although I would say Sale and Mazzucchelli’s artistic skills are fairly even. It’s not enough to say that Long Halloween is better than Year One; I have to make it clear that Long Halloween is probably the best comic book limited series I’ve ever read, and even that’s not giving it enough credit, because these days, Marvel and DC push out zillions of awful limited series every year, to the point where I had to stop buying them all together – see Batman Odyssey and Siege for examples of this.
If you read Batman: Year One, then you should be right at home with Long Halloween, but I wouldn’t call Year One required reading by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I don’t have much to say about Year One – at least, I don’t have much praise to heap on it. I assumed it was going to be an origin story, but it really isn’t; essentially, we just see a young Batman who makes a lot more mistakes then we’re accustomed to seeing Batman make. Details and character development are not delivered to the audience in abundance, and ultimately, the book damaged my opinion of Frank Miller. Essentially, Long Halloween grabs the undeveloped mob characters from Year One and develops them. (If you’re interested in an origin story for Batman, you may as well go watch Batman Begins again – which borrows from Year One, but fleshes out the characters (especially Batman) in ways that Year One never even attempted.
Perhaps the greatest contributor to Long Halloween was Mark Waid, who did wonders for Captain America after Mark Gruenwald’s 10 year reign of terror ended with his untimely death. Waid suggested that Loeb work with Two-Face’s origin, and the rest, as they say, is history. There is a ton of Long Halloween in The Dark Knight’s script, and frankly, The Dark Knight is one of the greatest action movies of all time. But Long Halloween is more than a template for The Dark Knight; it’s very much its own story.
Although Long Halloween is said to focus on a younger Batman than we’re accustomed to seeing, it’s not really true, at least not in my mind. Batman is presented as the character we all know and love, it’s just that certain events haven’t come to pass yet in the Batman time line: Gordon is still Captain Gordon, not commissioner yet; Two-Face is still Harvey Dent, which is a major plot thread in the story; Dick Grayson is presumably on tour with his parents and the circus as he doesn’t make an appearance… Yet, nearly every major Batman villain is already established and presented in the story without explanation: the Joker, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Mad Hatter, The Scarecrow, Calendar Man and Catwoman are all in Long Halloween. I don’t have any problem with this, and the use of the Rogue Gallery is brilliantly done here, but I wouldn’t say we’re anywhere near the beginning of the Batman story.
One curious bit about Long Halloween is it’s over abundance of homages to The Godfather. The very first page of Long Halloween is Bruce Wayne saying, “I believe in Gotham City,” to Carmine Falcone, just as we see Bonasera say to Vito in the first moments of The Godfather. Falcone wears a similar suit to Vito Corleone, and his nephew is getting married, just like the first scene in The Godfather, except it’s Vito’s daughter who is getting married there. Pages later, after a shootout in Flacone’s office, he says, “In my home. On my nephew’s wedding day,” similar to Micheal’s reaction to his attempted assassination in Godfather II: “In my home! In my bedroom, where my wife sleeps! Where my children come to play with their toys.” The homages don’t really end there, but then, when you’re writing about gangsters and you choose to make allusions to the Godfather… it’s kind of a joke, but its well done, but it might also be viewed as cheating character development; you just immediately associate these characters with the characters from The Godfather… but it’s original enough to keep you interested.
For the most part, Long Halloween is a story about Batman, Gordon and Dent teaming up together to take down the mob, so you can easily see how the The Dark Knight they borrowed this angle. The movie adapts a scene where Dent and Batman burn down a warehouse full of mob money as opposed to The Joker doing so in the film. There are scenes up on the roof top with Batman, Gordon and Dent talking and planning (similar scenes appear in The Dark Knight), but their investigations and arrests provide little in the way of results. A killer emerges who targets the mob, always committing it’s murder on a Holiday (and the press so names the killer ‘Holiday’) and leaving both the murder weapon and a token that represents the particular holiday, like the jack-o-lantern that is left with the first victim, who was killed on Halloween. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Yeah, the story is a bit repetitive, yet still engaging. I’d say it was a mistake to force 13 issues (I did say force… why do 12 issues when you can do 13? The Poison Ivy plot thread is as silly as the Scarecrow thread is useless) and given that I read the trade paper back (Graphic novel? Can I use those terms interchangeably or what?) rather than the individual issues as they came out once a month, I had to deal with quite a bit of reintroduction that could have been easily edited out, but wasn’t. I think I read that “Carmine Falcone is Gotham City’s
Untouchable Crime Lord” about 20 times. Although they’ve packaged all 13 issues together, no effort was made to have it move seamlessly like a novel with chapters, and I guess that was intentional – they dropped in some cover art before each issue started, and I was glad to have it, but they could have stuck them all in the back and edited it together at least a little bit.
While I wouldn’t say that Batman: The Long Halloween is perfect, there is no doubt that it’s great. I loved it, and I look forward to reading it again – I guarantee you that by the end, you both WILL and WILL NOT have correctly identified the Holiday killer. Riddle that out! If you like The Godfather and Batman, Long Halloween is a no brainer, and even if you only like one of the two, I sitll recommend you pick it up.
NOTE: The girlfriend that gets you a graphic novel (trade paperback?) for Valentine’s Day really understands and accepts you!
MORE IMAGES FROM LONG HALLOWEEN:
“I’m chatty – it’s part of my charm.”
Ah, Dick Grayson, the original Robin – even all grown up as Nightwing and voiced by Neil Patrick Harris in Batman: Under the Red Hood – what a great character. Watching Nightwing and Batman hopping around all over the place brought back found memories of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures even more so. But that’s not where this movie opens.
Fans of the aforementioned series (not to mention the Batman comics) should be fairly familiar with all the characters accept the first hero we meet: Jason Todd, the second Robin, who makes no appearance in either series, but is instead replaced by the third Robin, Tim Drake. This might tempt me to go into a, “What’s with Batman taking scantly clad kids into battle with him all the time?” essay, but maybe some other time. As the film opens, we are ‘treated’ to Todd’s death at the hands of the Joker. If you missed this way back in the 1980s, Todd’s character was so unpopular that DC comics held a poll that would let the fans decide if Jason lived or died, and the fans chose to kill him. The vote was close, but that’s got to be a blow to somebody’s ego, huh?
The movie skips ahead a few years and we find that the new criminal mastermind, The Red Hood, an alias once used by the Joker, has begun to consolidate his nefarious power through brutality and murder and is now setting his sites on the Black Mask, his competitor for control of Gotham’s underworld. Now the movie makes no attempt to hide that The Red Hood and Jason Todd are the same person, as comic book fans already know this, and it doesn’t take the other characters very long to figure it out, either, as Todd wants Bruce Wayne to know it’s him. The movie is really about two questions that Todd’s character wants the answers to:
- Is the brutal crime fighter/criminal he’s become his true nature, or did his lazarous pit resurrection drive him over the edge?
- Why didn’t Batman avenge his death and kill the Joker?
This is where the movie is going, and the questions it’s trying to answer, but only get an answer to one of them. You want there to be redemption for Todd, but there isn’t any – he’s gone way past the point of no return, and the movie ends with a flashback to Todd’s first day as Robin, which he proclaims as the greatest day of his life.
The story is great, the movie is well paced, but its essentially a fan only experience. Ra’s al Ghul is much different in the comic books than the character we met in Batman Begins, and the lazarous pit is probably hard to accept if you’re not familiar with the history of Ghul’s character. The action sequences, especially the chance scenes, were a ton of fun. I enjoyed the flashbacks and their attention to detail: notice how the Batmobile is different in the past.
I liked this movie, I really did – but saying it’s a fun ride is probably not the right phrasing. It’s sad at it’s core, and even depressing. There’s no happy ending, justice doesn’t prevail and Todd doesn’t return to the Batman family at then end of the movie. But it’s a good flick, and a must watch for Batman fans. I plan on watching it again soon – that should tell you something.