To say that Greg Rucka had a profound impact on DC Comics in the 21st Century is underselling things quite a bit. After arriving on the scene in the late '90s, he became one of the few writers to have written all three of DC's biggest characters, with critically acclaimed runs on Action Comics and Wonder Woman. It was on Batman, however, where he made his biggest impact, as one of the writers for the year-long No Man's Land crossover, the relaunched "New Gotham" era of Detective Comics, and cowriter of the enduringly influential Gotham Central.
Today, we begin an in-depth look back at Rucka's tenure on the Dark Knight, starting with No Man's Land, both the comic and its surprisingly popular novelization, in which Gotham City becomes a dark dystopia following a cataclysmic earthquake; his feelings about the core idea of Batman; and his frustrations on seeing the Joker show up in the pages of Superman.
When Gotham Bay is plagued by a mysterious toxin, boatloads of fish are turning up with a grotesque disfigurement: The trademarked Joker perma-smile. Batman -- working alone again -- is energized to be back on the Joker's trail, and soon learns that a binary compound of the toxin can affect humans, too. Written by Paul Dini and based on comic book stories by Dennis O'Neil and Steve Englehart, this episode of Batman: The Animated Series packs the kind of action and adventure the show is known for. How can you not love a shark wrestling scene?
The Arkham Sessions is dedicated to the psychology of Batman, so it seems almost like an ethical duty to cover a movie about Arkham Asylum, Gotham City's mental health facility for the "criminally insane." In the newly released direct-to-video animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham, a highly-skilled group of assassins and outlaws are called together by Amanda Waller to take part in a risky -- possibly life-threatening -- mission to infiltrate Arkham Asylum.
Does it help or hurt that members have a history of incarceration, criminal activity, and psychiatric treatment related to lack of moral sense? Perhaps Waller is brilliant to devise a plan that can only succeed via the knowledge and insight of persons who have been through the system.
In this episode of The Arkham Sessions, we gently put aside the VHS and screen a contemporary work from DC Universe Animated. Use the player above to listen to our spoiler-free analysis of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, King Shark, Black Spider, Killer Frost, KB Beast, and, of course the Joker.
I was an unabashed fan of the 1989 Batman movie around the time of its release (particularly after it hit VHS), but the years have worn down my appreciation of it, and quite a few aspects of it don't entirely stand up to the scrutiny of a critical lens anymore.
There are a few pieces of media related to the film, however, that I feel just as positively about as I ever have. The Prince soundtrack, for one. And for another, the Sunsoft-developed game for the Nintendo Entertainment System that included a few cutscenes with lines from the movie, and largely ditched its plot otherwise. I took a stroll down memory lane with it, and it still holds up.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman movie, The Arkham Sessions takes a break from analyzing the psychology of Batman: The Animated Series to pay special tribute to the legendary film that influenced the style, music, and dark themes of the animated show. Consistent with her measured, analytical approach to the characters and stories of BTAS, Dr. Andrea Letamendi offers psychological conceptualizations of Burton's Batman and Joker with the help of co-host Brian Ward.
Is the film, as Burton once described, a story about the intertwined paths of Batman and the Joker, culminating in a "fight between two disturbed people?" Furthermore, how does Keaton's Bruce Wayne compare to Kevin Conroy's version when it comes to the maintenance -- or fusion -- of multiple identities? How is Nicholson's Joker more destructive and dangerous than Hamill's? Listen to this special edition of the The Arkham Sessions and reminisce about Batman '89 in a whole new way.
Character mash-ups -- especially when they involve Star Wars -- can get pretty tiresome, but I can give them a pass when they involve the original actors who portrayed the iconic characters in the mix -- or when they involve Batman: The Animated Series.
So when actor Mark Hamill got a Twitter request to make Luke Skywalker and his version of The Joker meet up -- at least vocally -- at Star Wars Weekends at Disney World, and then he did it, it was pretty magical.
Batman may be the one turning 75 this year, but DC Collectibles' recent celebratory release schedule was big on the Clown Prince of Crime. Topping off the some 50 pieces of Batmerch coming from the company between now and the fall will be a Batman Black and White: The Joker by Dick Sprang statue. Though the posted prototype photo recreates Sprang's simulteaneously rubbery and wizened version of the Joker as was seen in his many decades drawing Batman in periodical comics as well as the newspaper strip, it's also a dead-ringer for the villain taking a moment in front of a mirror to take a selfie. Truly fiendish!
Q: Who do you find more psychologically interesting, the Joker or Lex Luthor?-- Jordan, via email
A: You know, it's weird. As much as you see Superman and Batman together in stories where they're continually contrasted against each other, full of endlessly terrible first-person narration about how "Clark likes pancakes because he can't understand what it means to be vulnerable" but "Bruce always told me Alfred makes the best French toast, he has so much trouble trusting others" or whatever, their arch-nemeses don't often get compared with each other in the same way. They team up from time to time, sure, but usually the focus is just on their common goal of murdering the good guys, so you don't get too much there. That said, I like both of those characters a lot, and after thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that as the World's Foremost Batmanologist, as someone who has written extensively about the Joker and his relationship with Batman, it's definitely Lex Luthor.
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