12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 11: BATGIRL

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Batman and Robin both faced the tragedy of witnessing their own parents’ murders; not surprising each of them decided to fight a war against crime. But what about Barbara Gordon, daughter of Batman’s ally, Police Commissioner Gordon? She had no great loss to define her, didn’t have the resources of a Bruce Wayne to train and equip herself, and wasn’t a physically imposing male, either.

No, Barbara Gordon was inspired by Batman to fight crime simply because it was the right thing to do. Introduced in 1967’s “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!” by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, Barbara- Babs to her friends- has been an off-and-on member of the Bat-Family ever since.

Bruce Wayne trained for years, traveling the globe and studying with the finest teachers in every field, from martial arts to forensic science. Barbara had a library card. Batman had a nearly-unlimited fortune to outfit himself with Batman’s non-lethal arsenal. Barbara had significantly less to work with.

Even Robin was raised by Batman: he had the best crimefighting teacher possible. Barbara bootstrapped herself into the role of Batgirl. Batman’s often referred to as the most “realistic” superhero (which is, itself, kind of silly), but Batgirl did even more with far fewer resources, just her brains, skill, and tenacity.

Tomorrow is the final installment of 12 Days of the Batman, a man who’s brought a lot of smiles to the world. Go to bed.

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12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 10: TALIA

Batman’s war on crime leaves him little room for romance. Mutual attraction to Catwoman aside, Batman seems to have forsworn love for justice. Of all the women in Bruce Wayne and Batman’s life, I believe Talia, daughter of his enemy Ra’s al Ghul,  is the one he truly loves, and the only one who’s ever tempted him away from the dark.

Created in 1971’s DETECTIVE COMICS #411 by Denny O’Neil and Bob Brown, and later refined by Neal Adams, Talia was later revealed to be the daughter of the demon, Ra’s al Ghul, criminal mastermind. Talia and Batman fell in love almost immediately, but out of loyalty to her father would not leave him side. Over the years, Ra’s and Talia both considered Batman a worthy suitor for Talia, but of course Batman wouldn’t join them. Not until Batman and Ra’s joined forces and, by the laws of Ra’s (ill-defined) forebears, Batman and Talia were instantly wed and soon conceived a child. But to keep Batman fighting their common foe, she faked a miscarriage and the marriage was annulled. This story was later ruled out-of-continuity, a Bat-Son considered too big a loose end.

Until writer Grant Morrison revisited the idea with Damian, Talia and Bruce’s son, whom she raised in secret and trained as an assassin. Renouncing his evil heritage, Damian becomes the latest and most aggressive Robin.

Morrison also refashioned Talia to be a darker character, a subtle manipulator and head of the worldwide terrorist organization Leviathan. Now a full-fledged villain in her own right, she and Batman fight over the soul of their child across the globe.

While these changes have given Talia a lot more agency as a character- she was often merely a pawn for her father’s schemes- I think it’s robbed her of what made her most interesting before: her unconditional and contradictory love for two irreconcilable forces. She couldn’t choose either, because to choose one was to betray the other. Her resolve to remain true to both was as unwavering as Batman’s own resolve to honor his parents’ memory. Maybe more so.

I tried to give Talia fuller features and a straighter nose, suggesting Ra’s North African heritage. Hair by Bruce Timm, always.

Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and time for the next million-dollar installment of 12 Days of the Batman.

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 5: ROBIN

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Raised on the high-wire, the boy who never looks down!

Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman’s most faithful sidekick, was “the character find of 1940!” when he debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS #38 in a story by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. He was added to give the solitary Batman someone to talk to, a Watson to his Holmes, and was a child so readers- then assumed to be entirely young boys- would have a character with whom they could identify. A circus boy orphaned by crime, he became Batman’s ward, and a chance for Batman to restore to someone the childhood he himself never had.

I like Robin because he’s the son who can never grow up to be his father, but eventually learns what his own unique strengths are. He is light in the darkness. He makes Batman smile.

This is Dick Grayson, the original, my favorite, in Tim (Robin III) Drake’s Neal Adams-designed costume, a la BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (much as I love Robin, that short pants look is just… No).

Tomorrow a killer (for real this time!) installment of 12 Days of the Batman!

Gatchaman: Washio No Ken Minibust


The hero of my all-time favorite cartoon, SCIENCE NINJA TEAM GATCHAMAN, known (in bowdlerized form) as BATTLE OF THE PLANETS or G-FORCE in the US. Gatchaman is seen here in his unmasked civilian guise, Ken. The stand is a replica of  Ken’s handy weapon,  called a “Sonic Boomerang” in English (in Japan he’d shout “Bird GO!” in English when he threw it). The producers of the 2000s TEEN TITANS cartoon used this same birdlike boomerang design as Robin’s weapon.

Ken as he appeared on the cartoon.
Comic book painter Alex Ross is a fan of the series, and did some nice covers for the DVD sets as well.

The big Gs in action.

 

Update 6/22/13:

They’ve made a live-action GATCHAMAN movie. I have no idea whether or not it’s going to be any good, but the trailer is suitably flashy: