Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Gardner Fox is credited with writing the origin of Batman. In 1956, Bill Finger, the co-creator of Batman, wrote "The First Batman", a soft retcon of the origin, revealing that Bruce Wayne's inspiration for the act of dressing up like a bat was subconciously influenced by his memory of a costume worn by his father, Thomas Wayne, at a party held at Wayne Manor.

This story has been retold several times, with subtle variations. Sometimes new characters are added, the costume worn at the party is redesigned or substituted with another ( in Ed Brubaker & Scott McDaniel's retelling, Thomas wore a Zorro costume ), and in the excellent episode of Batman: The Brave And The Bold, "Chill of The Night!", Batman himself attends the party and assists Thomas, but the outcome is the same: an attempted robbery by a gang of party crashers is foiled by a man in a batsuit. Wayne of Gotham is essentially a retelling of this story, which author Hickman uses as a vehicle to showcase the relationship between Thomas & Martha Wayne and presents a convincing portrayal of what their lives were like as young adults amidst Gotham City's social scene, as well as fleshing out the story of Lew Moxxon, the gangster who played a key role in Finger's tale. I think Finger was trying to revise Fox's origin story to suit how he saw Batman, which is why he would retcon the death of the Wayne's as a mob hit on Thomas orchestrated by Moxxon, as opposed to a random mugging by Joe Chill, who was also retconned by Finger as a hitman who panicked and killed Martha as well.

In Wayne of Gotham, the twist is that Thomas wasn't wearing the bat costume that evening: a new character, Denholm Sinclair, drug-addled vigilante friend of the Waynes gone mad after force-fed a mind-controlling cocktail drug by an ex-Nazi scientist whom Thomas was unwittingly assisting, becomes the catalyst in Hickman's storyline, which jumps backwards and forwards to present-day Gotham, where the repercussions of the events from that night are felt by Batman, who discovers that the mind-control drug is now being used on members of his rogues gallery to make them puppets in an elaborate revenge scheme, where the mastermind knows Bruce is Batman. The overarching theme is similar in execution to Archie Goodwin, James Robinson & Marshall Rogers' "Siege" story from Legends of The Dark Knight. That tale suffered from having a dull villain who was defeated easily; Wayne of Gotham also has a dullard unveiled as the brain behind the curtain at it's denouement, but Hickman was wise enough to pepper the book with Batman's classic rogues gallery to give it some snap - Joker in particular.

There are also easter eggs. Thomas Wayne drives a Lincoln Futura prototype - the car that became the template for the 1966 Batman batmobile. And then there's the status quo in which Hickman sets the book. This is the element of the novel that stayed with me long after I had finished's a mashup of various alternate futures for Bruce Wayne as Batman. Hickman's Wayne is older, working solo ( all the "Bat-Family" members/sidekicks/allies are conspicuously absent, save for Alfred Pennyworth, who is portrayed as being more agile and active than you would think he should be), cultivating a public image of a Howard Hughes/Charles Foster Kane-esque eccentric recluse, while trying out a new hi-tech, strength-enhancing Batsuit that sounds like a precursor to the Batman Beyond batsuit. I dug up any pictures I could find around the net that would complement what I was picturing. Not since the prologue to the 1st episode of Batman Beyond - with gray-haired Bruce Wayne having a heart attack while attempting to save the daughter of his old girlfriend Veronica Vreeland - have I been intrigued about reading another "old Batman" story. This isn't a bad book - it's well-written, but I think Hickman could've gotten away with less - a character story about Batman keeping up with the times while becoming more aware of his mortality - there's a Batman novel for you...NOT like The Dark Knight Returns, but more like the plot to Mr. Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes film starring Ian McKellen, which was a very good movie, by the way. A Mr. Holmes-esque Batman film/novel would be interesting...or maybe this was it..

No comments:

Post a Comment