Dec 15, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 659: Batman #285, March 1977

I fell and really hurt myself rollerskating last night, so I'll blog this one when it's not an exercise in pain. Not a very Christmas-y cover, but the story inside is pretty cool. Hopefully more on it tomorrow.

Alright. Catching up.

There's some fairly uncomfortable Orientalism going on in this comic that we sadly have to ascribe to the period within which it was written (a few years before Said's monumental book). The villain, Dr. Tsin Tsin is the textbook illustration of the "inscrutable Asian" stereotype, down to his Fu Manchu whiskers. (Though I'll admit this pales in comparison to the Karate instructor in a recent Swinging With Scooter comic I picked up.)

If we can momentarily look beyond the racism of the comic, though, we have a lovely little Christmas story, something that was a bit of a tradition in 70s Batman comics. I certainly don't mean to insinuate that we should not recognize that there is a pretty awful racist depiction in the comic, but one of the sad facts of just about every creative medium through which we express ourselves is that they contain outdated social constructs that, in our present moment, we find at best embarrassing, and at worst repugnant. Try watching Friends again, and note that there is a joke at the expense of homosexuals in virtually every episode.

Batman in the 70s celebrated Christmas every year in stories that, for the most part, didn't seem to involve brutality and blood. "The Silent Night of the Batman" is probably one of the most well-loved holiday-themed superhero stories, a wonderful, wordless depiction of how someone like Batman (well, an older version of Batman) spends his evenings at Christmas. In today's comic, Tsin Tsin erases everyone in Gotham's short term memories, such that no one can keep track of what's going on, and they all forget that Christmas has arrived. Everyone but Batman, that is, who saves the day.

I think what I really love about Batman stories from this era is they're rather nicely straddling the camp of the Adam West series and the grittiness that eventually finds its apotheosis in Millers Dark Knight. Batman still has some problems - let's be honest. You don't dress up like that and beat up criminals unless there's something a little loose in the brain. (Though a little loose in the brain is not always a bad thing.) But instead of the problems being the sole defining feature of the character, they are something he instead integrates into a relatively healthy outlook on life. We should all be so lucky.


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