This was one of the last minute tickets I bought as I had not been to many stripped events. I am so glad that I went to it, as it was definitely one of the highlights of the festival. Stuart Kelly arrived to the event dressed as The Riddler, giving the event a definite Batman feel right from the start.
Above are some pictures of the hand outs that Stuart provided us all with during the workshop.
The first riddle we were asked was:
What do we talk about when we talk about Batman?
It depends on who is telling the story as it is a myth that has been told by many writers. We all thought that the Jack Nicholson version of Batman was gothic at the time but the Christian Bale version of Batman makes the older versions look like Gothic camp.
The above panel is the original batman origin story. Stuart stated that the second panel is one of the worst bit of comic strip writing and I have to agree. In the second panel, it tells you the same thing in three different ways, that there is a bat in the picture.
Batman has been going know for over 60 years and there is a constant tension in the history of Batman as people felt the violence within the early comic strips should be more realistic. Ultimtely the main relationship in Batman is between the rich man and the personal war he has.
Superhero comics are the cultural glue within society. People know about them without having actually read them.
Time for another riddle:
What don’t you need to know to read a Batman comic…..
The entire history of the Batman comics (though it helps)
This is mainly due to the fact that each writer has rewritten the Batman history differently. Batman can be retold again and again. You don’t need to read Batman to know you he is, he is written into our culture through pyjamas, lunchboxes and toys for example. This is what makes him a myth as few things within our culture have this kind of power.
Stuart them took us to a world where D.C. comics are true and took us through the various history that have occurred over the years.
Above are the original iconic villains, Catwoman (she originally had a cat head), The Joker and Pengiun. These villains reoccurred through various Batman comics.
Above are other iconic original villains; Two Face, Scarecrow, Mr Zero (the original Mr Freeze), The Red Hood (the first supervillain to appear in the comics), The Monk (first Batman villain to appear in the comics), Dr Death (the first reoccurring villain), Polka-dot man and the Penny Plunderer. In Batman everything goes back in the box and there is creative tension as every writer wants to tell new stories and these original villains are drawn on for inspiration.
From around 1956, D.C. Comics started to redesign various characters: this is sometimes referred to as the change from the “Golden Age” to the “Silver Age”….
The above image shows the redesign of Flash and Green Lantern. Fans accepted most of these changes but obviously wanted explanation.
These changes were explained within the comics -in The Flash September 1961- as being due to the existence of multiple parallel realities. The “Golden Age” took place on Earth-two and the “Silver Age” on Earth-One… And there were many more “Earths”. The physics behind these alternative realties started in 1959, why the comics went this way is a mystery. In Flash there was major changes in the shift from Earth-two to Earth-one. In Batman and Superman these changes were more gradual.
But then another change in 1985, the franchise was “rebooted” and all the universes collapsed in one each other creating just one universe. This new universe introduced some major story lines.
“A Death In The Family” was one of the most notorious Batman stories of all time. It was an event to establish that Batman was not a children’s comic. There was even a phone line you could call to save Robin or kill Robin. Nobody dies in comics, the phrase “he goes for a dirt nap” is used to establish death. This story established a different tone and it was the beginning of the darker comics.
This was an experiment in a long multiple comic story. It introduced a moral seriousness to the comic.
In total D.C. comics have destroyed and remade the universe five times and this is why it has longevity. When Marvel comics do this they just keep the new universe running alongside the original.
Time for one last riddle:
What do you have to have to be the Caped Crusader?
He has to have nothing!
Nothing happened to him in a explosion
He was never but by a radio-active bat
He didn’t come from the planet Krypton
An alien didn’t give him a Power Ring to access the emotional spectrum
HE’S JUST A MAN
ALBEIT A RICH ONE
This is a crucial part of his story as it has always been about the grief he has suffered due to what he doesn’t have. Superman is painted against a blue sky as he teaches us what it is to be human. Batman is painted against a night sky as he teaches us what it is to be a myth. They compliment each other perfectly.
Most batman villains tend to be human and they are all interesting from a physiological point of view. The majority of them represent chaos and batman represents that force trying to contain this chaos. Chaos is something that people can relate to.
Comics are constantly product testing their own environment and there is a stage where they have to been seen as growing up. By using ridiculous stories it keeps them in the adolescent stage. But the new story line with the Joker using his face as a mask is an experiment to see if we can let characters grow.
Comics are hard to read cause you have to suspend disbelief. You have to let stories have own contours but collaborations do happen.
With that final thought the hour and a half workshop was brought to a close.
All photos are taken from the hand-outs provided by Stuart Kelly at the workshop.