Jul 10, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 502: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5, November 2010


The Noir is a genre I'm sure I'd enjoy, and now that I'm on a break from my program and actually have time to read, I'm hoping to delve into it. I've got Chandler's The Big Sleep on my bookshelf. I just have to work my way through the queue.

I'm a little confused by the time frame within which this story takes place, though saying such a thing while reading a time travel story is slightly ridiculous. It seems to be set in the Forties or Fifties - there's reference to a psychiatrist helping shell-shocked veterans, though I suppose that could be from any of the numerous wars of the 20th century. But Bruce is ostensibly conscripted into helping solve the murder of his parents. While, from a real-life chronological perspective, this did indeed happen, ostensibly, in the late Twenties, in a contemporary, for the series, setting, Bruce can't be much older than 35, meaning his parents were murdered in the early Eighties (is it awful that I had to use a calculator to work that out? That's what an English PhD does to one's math skills!).

Now having said that, I'm the first person to say that we should be reading superhero comics from a far more metaphorical perspective than might be usual. If we're to consider the insertion of the myth of the Batman into American literature, which is the way I've always thought through this story, then placing this tale into an appropriate time period pays tribute to not only the pulp detective stories that inspired Batman, but to the origins of the character in the mid 20th century. And, aside from the importance to the over-arching narrative that's taking place, this tribute is one of the main thrusts of the series. Superheroes do not appear out of a vacuum in 1938. There's a long history of their precedents, and a long history of historians of the genre and the medium trying to secure their places in academic circles by making definitive statements about the origins of the genre. But I often think that genre, much like theory, is a matter of perspective, that, really, we're talking about one thing from a bunch of different viewpoints. The Return of Bruce Wayne demonstrates both this and the geneses of the superheroic character, one that encompasses all of the characteristics of these previous genre characters. But, if we're to go with my previous statement, then these characters are all simply (or rather, not so simply) iterations of character, a particular kind of character seen through the lens of particular kinds of narrative.

I'm not going to say what kind of character, because I've typed the word "myth" in this blog so much that the term is losing all meaning. Which is interesting in and of itself.


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