Friday, July 13, 2012

Nerd Rant: Somewhere Out There, a Comic Book Supervillain is Missing His Face


I don't read monthly comic book series anymore. They're too expensive for my budget these days, so I have reduced my comic book intake to stand-alone graphic novels and multi-issue compilations. I stay informed of what DC and Marvel are doing through comic book reviews and news updates, so I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the Joker had his face cut off at his own request a few months ago. Yes, really:

Can you read this J-J-J-Joker Face?

I heard about this plot development a while back but I didn't pay much attention to it because of the other stuff that DC had been doing at the time with its company-wide reboot of all of its characters and their respective comic series. Batman series writer Scott Snyder has been touring the news outlets as of late to promote his upcoming story arc involving the Joker called "Death of the Family", which will begin in October. As part of this arc, Joker will be sporting a new look à la Leatherface, with his removed face attached to his head as a sort of mask.

This wouldn't be the first time that Batman has dipped his toes into giallo/slasher territory. Even though their origins pre-date Italy's golden years of giallo and America's slasher movie craze of the 80s, Batman villains such as Two-Face, Mr. Freeze and Scarecrow have backgrounds that are very similar to giallo/slasher villains. In fact, Snyder's recent Batman arc, "Night of the Owls", was clearly influenced by the giallo/slasher subgenre of horror, from the masks worn by the killers to the dramatic unmasking of one of the key villains. Read on for more thoughts about the Dark Knight's repeated flirtations with horror and how they never go anywhere in the long run.

The "Night of the Owls" arc and the faceless Joker come on the heels of four new additions to Batman's rogues’ gallery: Professor Pyg, The Absence, Flamingo, and the Dollmaker. Here are some tidbits about each of these villains, courtesy of Wikipedia and the Batman Wiki:

* "Professor Pyg has an obsession with making people "perfect", which he accomplishes by transforming them into Dollotrons, a process that bonds false "doll" faces to their own, presumably permanently. Professor Pyg uses cordless drills, hammers and ice picks along with the "doll" faces in the process of converting his victims into Dollotrons. It appears the operation he performs involves brain surgery or a form of lobotomization and possible gender realignment."

* The Absence is one of Bruce Wayne's former girlfriends. After surviving a gunshot wound to her head (which has left a permanent hole through her cranium--seriously), she stalks and kills Bruce's other former mistresses.

* "Flamingo is a psychotic hitman. He was lobotomized by the mob and was recruited by them. Despite his name, as well as his pink uniform and vehicles, he is a sociopathic, mindless, killing machine, nicknamed "the eater of faces", a title he has lived up to."

* The Dollmaker is a "Gotham City Serial Killer who creates "dolls" out of the skin and limbs of his victims. ... His mask is partially made of skin from this deceased father." The Dollmaker also has a "family" consisting of disfigured, sewn-together minions. The Dollmaker was also the same character who removed the Joker's face (a face that I'm assuming that the Flamingo will not eat).

As a horror fan, I love when superhero comics feature story lines that are strongly influenced by pulp horror; thus, I would really like to believe that the Batman comic book series will finally commit to becoming a horror comic. Heck, with new villains like this, now would be a perfect time to put Batman in a crossover miniseries with the characters from Hack/Slash.

Yet in light of previous attempts by DC to make Batman "grittier" (read my previous posts about Batman's so-called grittiness here and here), I'm certain that all of these new characters and the now faceless Joker are just more gimmicky and forgettable look-at-how-insane-Gotham-City-has-become-THIS-time stories, something that DC has been trotting out regularly in its Batman titles since The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke during the 80s.

No matter how psychotic and grisly Batman's villains get, the status quo in Gotham City will never change in any significant way (just ask Jason Todd). Such predictability makes DC's attempts at providing grindhouse-style shock and gore through its most popular superhero character feel anticlimactic and feeble. If DC really wanted to be edgy, it would add figures such as Removable-Face Joker, Face-Eating Flamingo, Disfigured Dollotrons, and a Mix-and-Match Dollmaker Family to Fisher-Price's Imaginex DC Super Friends toy line for the ages 3 to 8 demographic.

Look--here's a Fisher-Price Batman play set with a Bane action figure. So where are 
the Broken Back Batman and Paralyzed Bruce Wayne (with Wheelchair) action figures?

If someone from DC Comics is reading this, please take this message to heart: Stop teasing us horror fans like this! Either commit to making Batman a horror comic, or put your new deranged villains into a horror title of their own and not a superhero comic. Anything else is simply a cop-out. Furthermore, DC, in case you're still wondering why Batman doesn't seem to fit so well with the rest of your universe, it could very well be because Batman is busy fighting cannibals, serial killers and sadomasochists while every other character is just being a superhero, like they're supposed to be. In other words, if you make having superpowers seem unremarkable in your comic book universe, then your superhero characters are going to be unremarkable too.




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