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Riddle Me This, Batman: Essays On The Universe Of The Dark Knight edited by Kevin K. Durand and Mary K. Leigh

01/04/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Riddle Me This, Batman: Essays On The Universe Of The Dark Knight edited in the USA - or Buy Riddle Me This, Batman: Essays On The Universe Of The Dark Knight edited in the UK

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pub: McFarland. 222 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP34.95 (UK), $37.99 (US). ISBN: 978-0-7864-4629-2.

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I’ve kept the sub-title of this book, ‘Riddle Me This, Batman’, in the main title above or you might well think the subject matter is solely the 1966 TV series otherwise. Although there is an examination of the more viewer friendly bat-version portrayed by Adam West, the fourteen chapters are actually devoted to the Batman in all his carnations, especially the latest two films. What will happen when the third film comes out later this year, we’ll have to stay tuned, same bat time, same bat…

Sorry, nearly got carried away there. Before I move away from the 1966 series, having watched it again last year, the second chapter, ‘Adam West Matters’, by the book’s co-editor, Kevin K. Durand, actually addresses and identifies which of the Bat-comicbooks were lifted for said series. Something I knew was done but this is the first time I’ve seen this in print. This alone makes it worth the admission price. Durand also points out that this version of Batman having his Robin partner automatically had some humanity lost in the partnerless versions.

The other co-editor, Mary K. Leigh, in chapter one, ‘Virtue In Gotham’, digs a little deeper into why the Batman never kills the Joker, considering the mayhem and death he causes. Although she pulls it out of the last film in that Batman is too self-righteous, I’ve always put it down to the fact that he doesn’t want to drop down to their level and be no better than the villains he chases and captures. Give them a good walloping perhaps but it might be an indictment that killing them removes justice. In his own way, the Batman prefers justice not pure vigilantism.

We’re back into the possible gay relationship between Batman and Robin with Jenée Wilde’s chapter ‘Queer Matters In The Dark Knight Returns’. Although much of this is acknowledged history since the days of and caused by Fredric Wertham’s book, ‘Seduction Of The Innocent’, I do wonder why no one ever addresses how Bruce Wayne is incapable of being unable to protect his ward from not taking the same pursuit as himself. It isn’t as though he started his vigilante activities as young as any of the young men who wore the domino mark. Nor it is though they are adequately masked to hide their real identities. An odd point to remember although not explored here is that Batman was not the only one with a young prodigy at DC. Green Arrow had Speedy. Sandman had Sandy and that’s not to mention the undisguised mascots like Snapper Carr at the JLA.

Melanie Wilson’s chapter 22 deals with dark humour, comparing the Watchmen’s Comedian and Rorschach to the Batman and Joker, using ‘The Killing Joke’ as the example for the later and completely forgets that both were written by Alan Moore, who himself is cynically black-humoured and would have come out that way anyway. Considering how little humour actually comes out in comicbooks, I did wonder if she should addressed the fact that so few writers in super-hero comicbooks are capable of writing it as a natural function of a story.

I’m only using the above as examples of material that made me do some thinking and that’s reflected here. I could have carried on with the last chapter where there is an examination of Two-Face and how everything was based on the flip of a coin but as you’re a Batman fan, I presume you would want to read for yourself. There is enough to make you think and I hope these writers will go back and do some further investigations, even if it’s only stirred by the third film. In the meantime, pull down your cowl and carry out your investigations here.

GF Willmetts

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