[SFX: Intro music]
JIM DOOM: Hello and welcome to this week’s Podcast of Doom. This week saw the release of two significant second-generation hero books, Captain America #50 and Battle for the Cowl #3 of 3. I’m joined by my co-host, Doom DeLuise, to discuss the second of those two books. How’s it going, Doom?
DOOM DeLUISE: Always a pleasure!
[SFX: music fade out]
JIM DOOM: I sat down and read Battle for the Cowl #3 at lunch the other day, and when I turned the last page and finished it, I thought to myself “That is one of the worst stories I have ever paid money for.” I’m going to give you an impromptu list of what was so bad about it.
DOOM DeLUISE: Everything?
JIM DOOM: 1. I didn’t feel the outcome was ever in question. That is not necessarily a bad thing — it’s entirely possible for a great story to have an ending that’s known in advance, with the fun being how you get there. But this had an obvious ending and a terrible middle.
2. I stubbornly resisted years of DC trying to convince me that Dick Grayson was a whiny, mopy, incompetent boob, as I clung desperately to the somewhat recent presentations of the character by Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek, showing him to be an awesome badass. Well now finally they’ve convinced me. Dick Grayson sucks. There’s nothing to like about the guy anymore.
3. Think of all the characters that were teased for this series that never appeared, or at most appeared in tiny cameos. I don’t expect a teaser image to reveal everything, but at the same time, I don’t expect a teaser image to be a complete misrepresentation.
4. I’m tired of making this list. You’re right — everything sucked about it.
You talk for a while.
DOOM DeLUISE: I don’t use the phrase “character assassination” very often, but this thing was chalk full of it. They made Damien even more of a worthless little punk for three issues, and now we’re just supposed to accept that he’s the new Robin on the second to last page, though we’ve been given absolutely no justification for the move? Didn’t Dick learn anything from Stephanie Brown?
And they took Tim Drake, made him look like a complete pussy, threw him under the bus, and left it at that. I don’t care what comes next for him.
JIM DOOM: One more thing about Dick being a dick — remember how Tim decided he was going to be Batman? And then he almost died because Dick is a whiny moper? And then Dick just decided he would be Batman? Didn’t that essentially translate to “Hi Tim, sorry you almost died. I’ll be Batman now, punk. And oh yeah — I’m going to ask Damian to be my Robin.” Tim should join the list of Robins who want to kill Dick.
But good point on the character assassination. Let’s run down the list of Bat-characters and how they emerge from this story:
1. Dick: whiny moper who only begrudgingly accepts the Bat-mantle after costing the safety and security of the city and dozens of lives.
2. Tim: after years were spent building up how he’s really the only one qualified to fill Batman’s shoes, he’s completely punked out in 3 issues.
3. Damian: what you said.
4. Jason Todd: Paul Dini teased a great character turn for him in Countdown, and every subsequent writer has done their best to forget that. Give Tony Daniel credit for displaying absolute contempt for the concept of Jason Todd being a multi-dimensional character.
DOOM DeLUISE: 5. Alfred: Made to look like a chump by a chicken-[bleep] little kid.
DOOM DeLUISE: I hope that when Damian dons the Robin suit, his first encounter with Killer Croc shows him scream for his mommy.
[more audience laughter]
JIM DOOM: The tagline for Battle for the Cowl should have been “The people of Gotham think they’re screwed without Batman — learn how right they are.”
JIM DOOM: Coming this spring from SUPERSTAR TONY DANIEL!
JIM DOOM: I mean way to tear down the franchise, morons.
[sound of one person clapping slowly]
DOOM DeLUISE: Think of what it’ll be like a year from now, when they bring back Bruce Wayne and shuffle Dick back down to being Nightwing. There is not a writer alive who can redeem that character.
JIM DOOM: I’m obviously being over the top somewhat, because it’s not like the Batbooks will go away because of this, but I never imagined DC would put out a story this bad and this damaging to so many years of decent character building.
At this point, why would a writer want to redeem that character?
DOOM DeLUISE: Nostalgia?
JIM DOOM: Can you believe the holographic will that Dick played for Jason? I was like “Oh wow, maybe there’s going to be something that actually explains Jason’s behavior.” But no. Batman tells Jason he needs help, and that’s apparently enough to send him so far over the edge that he has orange eyes.
This was really awful.
DOOM DeLUISE: I’m curious about one thing that I’d like to ask Tony Daniel. How the hell do you write a story that feels both rushed and incredibly boring at the same time?
JIM DOOM: That’s quite a feat.
I hope I never meet Tony Daniel, because I’m really bad at faking nice conversation.
“Hey Tony! Yeah… I read Battle for the Cowl… it had a great shipping schedule…”
DOOM DeLUISE: Oh, by the way, going back to that holographic will, isn’t it funny that Bruce’s holographic speech stopped when Jason Todd threw a knife through its head?
That’s perfectly logical, right?
Another thing, and this is kind of just a funny little nitpick, but when I read the last two pages of this story, my first response (in my head) was, “Wait, I’m Batman?”
DOOM DeLUISE: I think the awfulness of this story can really be summed up with a comic-book related analogy. Look at Captain America. After Rogers died, Bucky went on a hunt to murder his killer, ran into a wall, and was convinced, though he was reluctant, to take on the role of the new Captain America. He had a backbone, gave his conditions, and accepted the role. From there, he has gone on to prove himself as the proper successor. In this bull[bleep], Dick just whines for a while and then decides to accept his birthright. Screw that. Somebody else should just call him out on being a chumpstain and make him step down immediately.
JIM DOOM: I read Captain America #50 during the same lunch, and I was also amazed at the similarities in the situation but the complete polar opposite differences in the execution. It’s probably unfair to hold anyone up to Ed Brubaker, but the maturity in Bucky’s character is undeniably absent in the painfully melodramatic monologue Dick delivers throughout this. It’s what I imagine a 7th grader’s journal would be like.
DOOM DeLUISE: Do you have any interest in any of the Batbooks leaving this “event?”
JIM DOOM: Oh man, not at all.
I might buy the Grant Morrison book, at least for an issue or two, because he made Batman seem like a cool dude.
DOOM DeLUISE: Yeah, but he’s also the man behind creating Damian.
Who I hate.
By the way, you have a broadcasting degree, don’t you?
DOOM DeLUISE: Would any news organization ever interview somebody if they were wearing a ski-mask and a hooded sweatshirt?
JIM DOOM: No, and I’m glad you brought that up. I’ve been thinking about writing a blog on this topic lately, about how comics creators are capable of presenting realistic and believable representations of virtually anything from the real world with the lone exception of the media. Whether it’s ridiculous mock-ups of what newspapers look like or absurd caricatures of reporters, it’s as if comics creators have only their imaginations to go on when deciding how to represent media figures.
DOOM DeLUISE: Like the shot in Final Crisis where it shows the newspaper cover photo of The Last Remains of Humanity, taken from the middle of space?
JIM DOOM: Well, I’ve been thinking about it in regards to Marvel’s awful Ultimatum ads done up like newspaper articles, but what made me think it in this case that was the live reporter’s line, at the scene of a disaster, when she says “The targets of the raids? Harvey Dent…” blah blah. Like live news reporters talk like that. I remember going on a similar rant when we reviewed Johnny Monster. It’s like TURN ON A TV. You have several options to examine how newscasters act each day on multiple channels freely available over the broadcast spectrum.
Actual live-scene reporters don’t set themselves up with silly questions like that. Well, and if they do, they’re awful.
DOOM DeLUISE: If they do, they don’t have a job for very long.
JIM DOOM: And I doubt Tony Daniel’s point was “Get a load of this network hack!”
DOOM DeLUISE: hahaha
Considering it was Vicki Vale, I doubt that.
JIM DOOM: I assume it was more like “This is how a TV reporter would talk in Dramatic Land!”
And obviously, there are liberties taken in comics in terms of what is rooted in reality and what isn’t. But in theory, you’d deviate from reality to make something cooler, more interesting or more engaging — not more like the middle school audio video club.
Again, I go back to the middle schooler thing.
Maybe Tony Daniel is 12.
DOOM DeLUISE: Speaking of reality, what the HELL was that scene where Two-Face shoved a guy into the harbor after dropping in a bunch of blood and fingers and ears and stuff, to feed him to the sharks? Is there a single upper east coast big city that has sharks circling the waters just off the coast line?
How many shark attacks are reported in Boston per year?
If nothing else, though, let’s be fair. This book is full of really great catchphrases or tough-guy one-liners, like, “Move over, Mary Poppins!”
DOOM DeLUISE: Or, “His pulse didn’t lie.”
JIM DOOM: I went to grab my copies of the issues to refer to more specific things that bombed, but honestly, I don’t even want to open these again.
Oh but one thing — did you notice how Jason wore a mask under his mask?
DOOM DeLUISE: Just in case?
JIM DOOM: Just in case … Tony Daniel can only draw one adult male face?
DOOM DeLUISE: Maybe the Domino Mask is actually a tattoo.
Did you notice the big double page splash at the start where everybody was posing for Dick’s speech? That was nice. Kudos on the torn up fishnets on Black Canary.
JIM DOOM: Oh I know. I literally laughed out loud at that.
“Hi, we teased that you’d be in this series, so strike a pose. Ok thanks.”
DOOM DeLUISE: Yeah, what the [bleep] was Metamorpho doing there?
JIM DOOM: I guess he was there since he and Dick were in the Outsiders together?
DOOM DeLUISE: Or Tarantula? That’s just sooooo stupid
“Hey, Tarantula, remember that one time when you killed Blockbuster and I just stood there and let you do it and then went through a year of anguish for failing to do the right thing? How’s it hanging? Wanna help us fix Gotham now?”
JIM DOOM: Oh but one thing I forgot to mention today, even though I’ve addressed it in other posts — there’s nothing wrong with having the readers know something that the protagonists don’t. It can be a very effective storytelling tool and can be great for building up tension. But when that happens, and when it’s done well, I should say, it’s because the readers have access to information that the protagonists don’t. It’s not because there’s something so obvious the readers can figure it out immediately and the main characters don’t know it because they’re too stupid to get it. That doesn’t create drama — that creates apathy. The fact that it took Dick so long to figure out Jason was behind everything — that is, until he just suddenly knew Jason was behind everything — just made Dick seem that much stupider and that much more useless.
It’s even more amplified when you consider he’s the successor to the world’s greatest detective.
What a terrible terrible series.
Maybe Dick can make a deal with the devil and undo it all or something.
DOOM DeLUISE: The weird thing is that it’s teased that it may or may not be Jason behind everything, but then it just is. He never admits it or anything, they finally just know it WITH NO JUSTIFICATION.
JIM DOOM: That pretty much sums up the series — an obvious, predetermined conclusion with absolutely no idea of how to get there.
DOOM DeLUISE: And for a cover featuring Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Firefly, and Harley, it’s kind of annoying that none of them are present. That’s just stupid.
JIM DOOM: It just makes me wonder why they drug all these completely unrelated and uninvolved characters into the promotion of this series. Did they know it was going to suck and felt like they needed to do something to build interest? Or were they just unaware of the message they were sending by heavily implying it was going to be a much broader story than it was?
DOOM DeLUISE: I don’t know the answer to that rhetorical question. And I don’t think they do either.
JIM DOOM: A reporter should ask that question on live TV while standing next to a masked man.
DOOM DeLUISE: But she should tell him to turn around and whirl his head around so that his pose is cooler than just him standing there.
JIM DOOM: Let’s wrap this crap.
[SFX: outro music starts]
JIM DOOM: Any final thoughts or are you good?
DOOM DeLUISE: I’m good. This was dumb.
Waitaminute. WAITAMINUTE. I just remembered maybe the dumbest thing about this entire thing. In Dick’s monologue while riding his motorcycle, he says the true reason that he refused to take the mantle of the Bat. It’s because Batman told him not to. THAT IS SO [bleep]ING–