Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paul Dini's "Dark Night"

I really wish DC Comics' upcoming graphic novel, Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso, were released now instead of in June,  because, for my money, that's a more-interesting read than a lot of the Batman comics offered right now (and yes, that includes Dark Knight III: The Master Race*). So..as with that Ducktales preview art and Spider-Man's cameo in the Captain America: Civil War trailer (or...is that Spider-Man: Civil War? ;) ), I/we must make do with speculation and inferences based on whatever tidbits available.

Dini's Dark Knight is actually more like Realworlds, the series of standalone one-shots from DC's Elseworld's imprint, which offered stories of the effects fictional characters  (in this case, DC Comics superheroes) had on the lives of people in the "real" world. Superman was about an ex-con who had a tattoo of the "S" shield on his chest; Batman was about what happens when a developmentally-disabled boy whose habit of role-playing as the "goody-two-shoes" Adam West Batman in his interactions with others becomes influenced by his exposure to darker incarnations of the character. Dini's tale, however, is autobiographical, and in this sense, reminds me of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. In 1993, Dini was mugged and beaten to within an inch of his life by two thugs. The incident left him shaken and despondent; he goes through a considerable amount of soul-searching before he recovered. Batman, the Joker, and other characters appear as avatars for Dini's thought processes throughout the story.

When Dini was recently interviewed by Kevin Smith and Mark Bernardin in an episode of Smith's Fatman On Batman podcast, Bernardin popped the 1 million dollar question: Did this incident change the way he wrote Batman? This is interesting, because according to the timeline, Dini recalled that he was working on the script for Batman: Mask of The Phantasm and considered being pulled out of the production. I'm not sure which scripts of Batman: The Animated Series credited to Dini were completed before it happened or after, but he did observe (with the air of it being the first time anyone had asked him that particular question) that his Batman became more "..circumspect..more human." It's very tempting to say that he began writing Mad Love, one of the greatest Batman stories ever told, in the aftermath, but certainly, all of his creative output, post-1993, would've fallen under the auspices of his "circumspect" Batman, even his run on Detective Comics during the past decade. I imagine it will to look backwards and re-read/re-rewatch all of Paul's stuff when this book comes out.

I can make one observation: Risso's cover depicts Paul wrapped in bandages, similar to how Harley Quin appeared in the ending to Mad Love. Harley has become Paul's signature character; for a time, it was logical that Paul be brought in to write her reintroduction, be it in a new Batman cartoon series  ( The Batman ), a spin-off  ( Batman Beyond: The Return of The Joker ), webseries ( Gotham Girls ) or a video game ( the Arkham City series ). I remember being disappointed when DC chose Karl Kessel instead of Paul to write Harley Quin's first ongoing comic book series (especially when it turned out that Kessel wasn't really familiar with the character's appeal/popularity and the book coasted on the artwork of Terry Dodson). So, with the character more popular than ever before  (and likely to increase exponentially when Suicide Squad hits theatres), it is fitting that it coincides with her creator  (technically, co-creator, but the character was born out of a cheesy sketch by Dini - which was eventually revisited and given new life as a pricey statuette from DC Direct) would offer an experience that parallels a moment from his most-acclaimed work...and just as other writers, artists and actresses begin putting their own spin on Harleen Quinzel. If you've seen the trailer for Squad, you've noticed Margot Robbie's performance is the first to eschew a facsimile of original Harley Quin-potrayer Arleen Sorkin's exaggerated vocal stylings...though I recall a rumor that we might see her wear an outfit resembling the classic Harley Quin, the Tank Girl-meets-Rainbow Brite look is more interesting than Harley's current look in the comics.

Like I said, I wish this was available to read right now...

*issue 2 had a nod to World's Finest  in one panel..that was cute.

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