Jun 22, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 484: Batman and Robin #3, October 2009
It occurred to me while reading today's comic that new Bat-villain Professor Pyg is in a lot of ways the darkest of reimaginings of Mr. Nobody from Doom Patrol. In particular, he mutters a line ("hrrrn the box...the box, the "Despair Pit", he said...in the corner...the inside went on forever.") that echoes Mr. Morden's experiences that turn him into Nobody. I'm fascinated by the overlapping generic tendencies that can exist simultaneously in comic book universes. In an article I published in The International Journal of Comic Art, I called it "inflection theory." The idea is that while we're reading something like Batman and Robin, a grim, bloody, Noir-ish piece of writing, we also always have to remain aware of the fact that this universe is also inhabited by such characters as The Heckler, or Ambush Bug. Where Batman is a detective noir, Ambush Bug is a superheroic satire, almost a cartoon, yet the adventures of these characters take place in the same imaginary universe. If this is the case, then every time we read a noir in Batman, the story has to be inflected, even just slightly, by the satire. The nice thing about comics is that this inflection is not only demonstrated in the genre, but also in the art style. A comparison of Richard Case's work on Doom Patrol with just about anything by Alex Ross reveals a huge disconnect in the way the world is depicted, but this disconnect can never be fully...disconnected, I suppose. The characters are always in the same universe.
I'm still working out the ins and outs of it, but this resonance of Pyg with Nobody adds a very interesting layer.
The other interesting thing about this series so far is reading it retrospectively with regard to Damian Wayne. Something happens to him down the line, in the closing chapters of Batman Inc., but it's actually quite easy to see it coming. In the simpler world of the superhero, certain characterizations (such as leaving an innocent girl in a burning lab so that he can catch the villain) point us to his inevitable fate.
(Man, can I talk my way around spoilers or what?)