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Mavademics: Batman Graphic Sanity Check

Ok, so I just spent waaaaaay too much time designing an infographic for a SINGLE slide of the presentation I am doing this weekend. Like, literally, I just meant to throw something together and then I went overboard. So now that I have, I’m wondering does it even make sense. I’m sure it will with explanation, but without context will it.

So… I’m asking… With zero context (except I guess the name of this post), what do you think is going on here? I expect there will be vastly differing amounts of familiarity with the concepts subject matter that is covered in the image — comics, literary theory, and quantum mechanics — and in fact quite probably no one that has a good working knowledge of all of it. So that’s why I’m really curious what people get out of this when they look at it. Feel free to describe as in depth as you want to. Seriously, all interpretations welcome. I need to know how confusing this is.

Also, is it weird to try and fit comics, literary theory and quantum mechanics all into one talk?

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34 comments for “Mavademics: Batman Graphic Sanity Check

  1. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 4:58 am

    LEGO Batman is the one true batman. With Adam West being his worthy predecessor.

  2. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 5:58 am

    It feels like an evolution of Batman, with some groupings based on very specific depictions (detective vs. dark knight vs. heroic… etc.).

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 6:05 am

      Hmmm…. In all honestly, I hadn’t thought of it that way at all. But I guess I see why you said it. Now I’m worried. 🙂

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 6:32 am

      That’s close to what I get from it, with size saying something about the the popularity or impact of a given depiction?

  3. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 6:29 am

    Depicts Batman/Bruce Wayne as a multidimensional complex character. It covers everything from his vague commitment to justice (in the beginning) to his dark and sinister role as an instrument of retribution and touches upon his the strange and displaced famililial ventures that occur in his story lines a few times each decade. Then there are the homages to the merchandising that at least make non-comics readers (girls) somewhat familiar with who Batman is. I think what is missing (or at least not blatant in the images used is Batman as the womanizing playboy hound who turns out good girls (young Barbara (?) Gordon chick) and various bad girls of crime.

  4. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 6:55 am

    My quick guess: On top, the continuing evolution of the comic book character in the supposed never-ending narrative from 1939-present. In the lower half, the media adaptatins that have altered the popular perception of the character, allowing Lego Batman to present so many distinct, unique, but “real” versions of “Batman.”

  5. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 7:47 am

    I think i get whats going on but only because we discussed this talk in person. I like the graphic.

  6. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Hot take: you’ll be talking about how Batman has evolved and taken shape in different ways and how different mediums have changed his character.

  7. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Funnily enough, I just finished teaching a whole unit on Greek tragedy and I referenced Batman constantly as an archetype with consistent story elements that remain essentially the same in different incarnations even as the overall tone of the different narratives diverge and the adventures go in different directions.

    So I’m going to say that you’ve been reading my mind and/or lecture notes and I can’t wait to see your slide wherein you tie this in with the Orestia and the different surviving versions of Electra.

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Hmmm…. I may call or text you this evening. I’m curious as to who you’re using to make the points.

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Strikes me as interesting in that Bruce Wayne’s vice (lust) was always a dirty little implied secret, whereas Tony Stark’s was flagrant.

      Serious question, was it just the times, that is, 40s and 50s versus 60s and 70s, or was it the Stan Lee position that every hero has to have a demon character flaw?

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Stan Lee’s specific intention was to write “real person problems” into every hero. This changes a bit as time goes on. But the idea behind the 60s relaunch of Marvel was that all the characters (Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Hulk, Iron-Man, X-men) had readily apparent non-supherhero issues that the reader could relate to (school, rent, marital problems, alcohol, racism, etc.) in addition to the superhero problems that could serve as allegories to them.

  8. avatar
    Derrill Holly
    October 19, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Depicts Batman/Bruce Wayne as a multidimensional complex character. It covers everything from his vague commitment to justice (in the beginning) to his dark and sinister role as an instrument of retribution and touches upon his the strange and displaced famililial ventures that occur in his story lines a few times each decade. Then there are the homages to the merchandising that at least make non-comics readers (girls) somewhat familiar with who Batman is. I think what is missing (or at least not blatant in the images used is Batman as the womanizing playboy hound who turns out good girls (young Barbara (?) Gordon chick) and various bad girls of crime.

  9. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    So Joe Darowski and Meron Langsner are pretty close (no surprise, really). It’s a literary interpretation of the Many Worlds theory, simplified, that I’ll be extending with a more complex interpretation of the multiple histories theory.

    What you’re seeing in this image is the way we tend to theorize a popular myth character (as Meron said) for instance Batman.

    Batman has no “truth copy” narrative. The “truth copy” of Elizabeth Bennet is in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Any other interpretation from a film adaptation to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the Youtube series Lizzie Bennet Diaries, necessarily inherits from that single truth copy. We judge them by an assumed purity to the “real narrative.” Austen has “authority” as the writer.

    Myths have no truth copy. There are loosely agreed upon details that we agree upon… but they’re rough and mediated by multiple interpretations. There is no truth copy of Hercules or King Arthur or even Jesus. There are multiple interpretations of any of the stories. You can view a later story (Disney’s Hercules, Camelot 3000, Southpark) and assume it roughly inherits from “some version” of the myth. It doesn’t matter if you have all the details right. So long as the character is “close enough” to be recognizable, it just works for you.

    Batman is a myth. There’s a conceptual starting point in Detective #27, and all other versions of the character roughly inherit from this, as though you could presume it’s the same character, but it doesn’t need to be. as Joe pointed out, there’s a theoretical “truth story” that follows the “big canon arrow” leading out the Detective 27 logo, but there’s nothing “special” about it. It’s just been arbitrarily blessed with the “canon tag” by the company. It’s not even really consistent. We just treat it like it is. Except when there’s a reboot moment like Crisis… but even still, we behave as though it’s just one ongoing narrative that starts in Detective 27 and continues til today and that everything that isn’t “on the line” is a deviation, like the way we view Pride and Prejudice.

    But it’s not. If I start at a random non Austen P&P (Say the movie pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and then try to move to another P&P instance (say Lizzie Bennet Diaries), I don’t have the essence of the characters or storyline. I can’t expect relate the stories or fully understand them without the truth copy. I can’t jump from chapter 2 of P&P&Z into Episode 3 of LBD and expect it to make sense.

    BUT, I can do that with Batman. I don’t need to read Detective 27 because the big canon arrow is arbitrary. Detective 27 is no more the truth copy than Michael Keaton’s Batman from 1989, or Adam West’s from 1966, or Conroy’s Batman TAS or the Arkham Asylum video games… No one alive today has read ALL of Batman in order. It’s just impossible. And no one starts at the beginning, and I expect the vast majority of people don’t even start with the comic. Instead you absorb the essence of the Batman myth from the zeitgeist and you pick a point to start experiencing the narrative with. So I can start with Keaton, West, Conroy or the video game, and for the most part, I can jump into a later story (or even an earlier one) and follow along.

    And to address Shelby Davis. Lego Batman is special because it’s the one that directly acknowledges it’s multiple history inheritance in it’s own metacommentary in the story (specifically addressing all the versions that are in it’s direct line to the left of it).

  10. avatar
    October 19, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    im getting that your showing where the books branched out from and then when they got “rebooted” but then you have all the movies in one place and all the shows…. but the video game are interspersed with the comic books, thats whats confuses me

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Ah! yes… that’s actually a good question… everything is roughly placed to represent the era of the character that they were designed during (PreCrisis, Post Crisis, New 52, Rebirth). The eras aren’t to “scale” in real time… but Adam West’s Batman exists purely in a PreCrisis context… EXCEPT for the Batman 66 comic which shares it’s continuity (roughly) and was produced in a post Flashpoint context.

      Burton/Schumaker and Nolan films follow each other in real time production, though not continuity (at least not intentionally so, they arguably can given what I said above), the they were ALL released during the PostCrisis era. As opposed to the DCEU/Snyder-verse films which are products of the New52 Era (which extends into Rebirth)

    • avatar
      October 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Got ya… Little confusing but with explanation I get it.

  11. avatar
    October 20, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Well, I get it, but I suppose I don’t count. 🙂

  12. avatar
    October 20, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I wouldn’t worry about the Evolution of Batman angle. In the context of your talk the meaning will be more clear than just seeing the graphic.

  13. avatar
    October 20, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I guess I missed the “evolution” angle of this by overlooking the 80 year timeline and seeing Bruce Wayne/Batman more as a character than as a product or franchise, Characters are often interpreted in the context of time as presented in different eras. There are a few popular culture figures that could be subjected to similar timeline study, but not many. The gaps occuring from fading in and out would make that difficult, I think. Won’t be there for the talk, but am interested in what you have to say about the subject,

  14. avatar
    October 23, 2017 at 6:57 am

    I agree with your argument regarding Batman (and similar mythological stories), but I think I disagree with a portion of your argument.

    You state that many stories have a truth copy and that all other variations are judged based on that. But I think, in terms of variant media, that doesn’t actually hold up. Let me use Jurassic Park as an example.

    The truth copy for Jurassic Park should be the original novel, based on this theory. And to some degree that holds true for the original movie. However, due to the popularity of the original movie (compared to the popularity of the original novel), I think the movie has become the truth copy for the series as a whole more so than the book. I’d even go so far as to argue that there are two truth copies, one for each type of media (book vs. movie), with the movie truth copy influencing other versions (parodies, video games, etc.).

    Basically, I don’t feel the theory works as well across different types of media. I think that when a story enters a new medium, an additional truth copy can be created that simultaneously owes its creation to the original and becomes the standard by which all other interpretations in that medium (and possibly others) are judged.

    Now, as I said, I agree with you argument regarding Batman, specifically because whatever truth copy might have existed in Detective Comics #27 quickly evaporated purely based on stories within the comic book medium. However, I do think that the inclusion of things like the 1966 series, the animated series, and the movies muddies the water a little, specifically because they are different media.

    • avatar
      October 23, 2017 at 6:57 am

      I am now wondering whether the switch from “truth copy with variations” to “myth with no truth copy” really reflects nothing more than mass of content. James Bond is what comes to mind.

      The truth copy for James Bond was originally the Ian Fleming novels. Then “Dr. No” was released on film in 1962. Three more Connery movies were made before the 1967 Casino Royale was released.

      Casino Royale was clearly a parody. Whether it was a parody of the movies or novels isn’t 100% clear, but it clearly wasn’t considered canonical James Bond, while the Connery movies were. And this where I think things get interesting.

      At this point, we had a definitive truth copy (the novels). At the same time, though, the movies, which clearly deviated from the novels (easily proven since each movies was based on a specific novel) were also considered canon. This sorta suggests that Bond is movie towards myth status, with no truth copy. Yet Casino Royale is clearly treated as non-canonical and is judged based off the accepted truth copy (which, at this point, I think was more the movie universe than the book universe).

      The whole situation gets even more wonky when Connery bows out as James Bond (for one movie and then “permanently”). Lazenby was clearly trying to reproduce Connery’s interpretation, so he can be ignored. Moore, on the other hand, wasn’t. He intentionally introduced a lighter interpretation, a character with only a passing resemblance to Connery’s version.

      Yet his interpretation is also considered canonical, and arguably part of the truth copy. And there is no better evidence of this than “Never Say Never Again,” since this movie brought back Connery to once again play James Bond. Yet this movie, with a Connery Bond is not considered canonical while Octopussy (released in the same year), with a Moore Bond, is.

      Basically, at some point, despite the fact that the movie series literally contradicts its own history at points, the Eon films became truth copy for all other interpretations (James Bond Jr, Goldeneye for the N64, etc.), except for the original books. And other than mass of content, I don’t see any explanation for why the films were able to take on their own truth copy. However, I am also curious why the series appears to have avoided falling into the realm of myth when all signs says it should have (multiple writers, multiple main character interpretations, etc.).

    • avatar
      October 23, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Good questions!

      Ok, keeping in mind that what’s in this blog post and even the comments, represents about 2 min worth of the 25 min talk I gave this weekend. Also keeping in mind that even that talk is only derived from about 5 pages of a 200-300 page dissertation I’m doing.

      So that said, a few corrections that are relevant and should affect how you think about my here:

      The truth copy is NOT the original copy. The clearest example here is Romeo and Juliet. William Shakespeare’s play is UNDOUBTEDLY the truth copy. BUT it isn’t an original piece. His version is an adaptation of a longford Italian poem called “The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet” by Arthur Brooke, which is in itself an adaptation of the Italian novella “Giuletta e Romeo” by Matteo Bandello, who adapted it from the similarly named “Giulietta e Romeo” by Luigi da Porto who adapted it from earlier versions with less recognizable character names but the same base story.

      But I’d absolutely say Shakespeare is the Truth Copy. The truth copy is really just an abstraction. I tend to take a post-structuralist view of literature based on the teachings of Roland Barthes, one of my favorite literary/cultural critics. The details aren’t super important here, but the point is, for any given story in any medium we all have out own view of what happened. The story lives in our heads — if I ask you to picture Romeo Montague or Elizabeth Bennet in your head, and then draw a picture, or I ask you to write a 500 word summary of their stories, you probably come up with something than I do… and that’s sort of fine… but definitely, unless I tell you otherwise, you’re likely to draw or summarize the Shakespeare or Austen versions of the character. It’s just generally assumed that those are “the real ones” even though “real” doesn’t have much meaning since we’re talking about fiction. Convention tells us that barring extra information (Summarize the Baz Luhrmann Romeon and Juliet or draw Elizabeth Bennet fighting a zombie) most of us are going to assume the truth copy.

      I would agree that doesn’t work with James Bond. I don’t know that I agree it doesn’t work with Jurassic Park. I expect that at this point, the film is popular enough that if I said “draw Ian Malcolm” the expectation is that he damn well better look like Jeff Goldblum. Similarly, I expect Harry Potter to look like Danielle Radcliffe and and Heroine Granger to look like Emma Watson, despite the fact that there are pictures IN THE BOOKS that predate their casting.

      But I’d say the definitive example here is “Wizard of Oz.” If you are making a adaptation of Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s shoes are probably going to be ruby red… but they’re not in the book. They’re silver. They just changed it for the 1939 film to show off technicolor. The 1939 movie isn’t even the first adaptation, It’s like 8th one or something… they made Oz movies a LOT back in the day. And there’s been a bunch since. But at this point, the 1939 movie is definitely the Truth Copy of that story.

      But the real point of my talk is more that the truth copy is irrelevant anyway. It never matters. That’s actually sort of Barthes’ point in “La Mort de L’auteur.” Authorial intent is irrelevant since the story lives in the mind of the reader. Barthes does’t even have a Truth Copy concept. I made that up. It’s my extension to the theory. The only distinction with “myths” is that because there is no pretense of a truth copy its easier to accept multiple histories as being valid.

    • avatar
      October 23, 2017 at 7:55 am

      Good point on the original copy vs. truth copy. I still think it is possible to have two or more truth copies that differ significantly (even if one owes its existence to the other), but you are right that the original doesn’t have to be one of those copies (just often will be).

      Your response has me asking another question, though. Can truth copies be different for different groups of people (depending on culture, generation, etc.) or does that immediately mean something has reached the status of myth?

    • avatar
      October 23, 2017 at 8:09 am

      the short form answer to that question is YES, they can be… the long form answer is:

      Yes, but that’s what makes the truth copy largely irrelevant. Towards the end of my talk, I showed this video:

      the idea here, is that we’ve seen Thomas and Martha Wayne die MANY times. Maybe you’ve seen all of these. Maybe you haven’t. It doesn’t matter which one you accept as “canon” to the idea of Batman that exists in your head. All that matters is that “some version” of it does exist in your head. It might be exactly the one from Batman(1989) or exactly the one from Gotham. The murderer could be Joe Chill or Jack Napier. They could have been seeing Zorro or Robin Hood. They could have been at the Opera. Martha’s pearls might have been broken when she got shot or they could have been pulled off ahead of time…. or not at all.

      So long as you have “some general idea” of how Tom and Martha Wayne died, MOST Batman stories make sense.

      If my version of the Batman myth has Joe Chill killing the Waynes but your version has Jack Napier killing them, 99% of our Batman conversations don’t change. We can discuss the BvS “Martha moment” and it just works fine… It only gets weird when we are specifically talking about who the murderer is.

  15. avatar
    October 23, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    I noticed seemingly random NES Batman Return of the Joker in there…

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