Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Frank Miller's Gone and Lost It...

The idea behind the Ultimate Marvel universe was to free Marvel's best-known characters of 40 years of continuity and thereby try to bring back what had made them so fresh to the comics-reading community some forty years earlier. It was quite successful (though I, personally, didn't give them much business, with the exception of the Ultimates), which was why DC, even after repeatedly one-upping Marvel in terms of single-issue sales (as opposed to overall sales), decided to borrow the concept.

Balderdash, some might say. The idea behind the "All Star" line was simply pure storytelling, blah blah blah. Well, I've read (without actually buying) the first two issues of Frank Miller and Jim Lee's "All Star Batman" and I can with certainty that, yes, the "All Star" line is a thinly veiled ripoff of the Ultimate concept, even without altered origins. In fact, there's something rather unpleasant about the dialogue in particular which is the reason I'm even posting. Here's a sampling:

"Sleep now, my ward."
"What's that mean?"
"Shut up. I'll do the talking."

"What are you, retarded? I'm the goddamn Batman."

"That's not his real voice. He's just doing a lameass Clint Eastwood impression."

By itself, Frank Miller's attempt to "update" Batman's dialogue by having him say things like "retarded" and "cool" and "this is gonna be great" is just plain awful. I could never get into Ultimate Spider-Man because I couldn't stand Bendis' dialogue for the teenaged Peter Parker, but I will concede that at it was at least age-appropriate. Ultimate Bruce Wayne's sounds retarded. It doesn't help that he doesn't look anywhere near as young as Miller claims he is supposed to be.

However, what makes Miller's script reprehensible is that it is a cheap shot at the Batman scripts of old. His every line seems to scream "Haw haw look how lame the dialogue was back when Batman first met Robin. No wonder everyone thinks they're faggots!"

I've never been a DC fan, but theirs is, as the tagline goes, the original universe. Comics as an art form owes a lot to those early, "goofy" issues. After all, if it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be a Batman today. They deserve respect, whatever their foibles may have been.

Even Stan Lee, the father of Marvel Comics and of so much that is pleasant about comic books today, wrote reams of hopelessly hokey dialogue in his day. After all, you essentially had a forty-something trying to talk like a teenager (at least in the case of Spider-Man). You don't see Brian Bendis or Mark Millar laughing at how cornball the dialogue is.

With "All-Star Batman", Frank Miller seems to be betting that he can script Batman and Robin's earliest adventures in such a way that no one will make pedophile jokes about them again. That's a pretty tall order, I should think, but I honestly don't think it will help for him to trample all over the work of the guys who came before him.

If the future of comics is so full of contempt for what came before, well, I'm really not aboard for the ride...