For those of you living under a rock, Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman recently disappeared from the Batman family of comics following a story called Batman R.I.P. Here's a summary of the ending as I understand it. Batman encountered one Dr. Hurt who claimed to actually be Dr. Thomas Wayne, Bruce's supposedly dead father. At the end of the issue, Batman and Dr. Hurt/Wayne disappear in a helicopter explosion, not to be seen again by anyone for the foreseeable future.
Okay, so they did a death of Batman story. That happens a lot these days. The only problem is what comes next. I read in last week's "DC Nation", a column in the back of DC comic books discussing upcoming projects in the DC Universe, that the Batman family of books is being canceled while they show the effects of Batman's death. This means Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey, Batman, and Detective Comics are all being shelved (for now). Also, they'll be doing a series called Battle for the Cowl, in which there will most likely be a fight to see who takes on the role of Batman in Bruce Wayne's absence.
The problem I have with this is that it's almost a direct copy of what happened in the aftermath of the 1992-93 Death of Superman story. After the Man of Steel's defeat at the hands of the monster Doomsday, there was a story entitled Funeral for a Friend. These showed the rest of the world - superheroes and mere mortals like - and their reactions to the death of the greatest hero they had ever known. Following this, no Superman titles were published for a couple of months. The idea behind that was to scare readers into thinking Superman really was dead for good and that he wouldn't be returning. After that came Reign of the Supermen, a time in which 4 imposters claimed to be the real Superman back from the dead, and the world (both in and out of the comics) was undecided as to which one was the true Metropolis Marvel. It turned out none of them were, and the original Superman finally re-appeared after several months off the scene.
So DC has run out of ideas for Batman. How long can you have a guy be "dark" (whatever that really means) and run around striking terror into the hearts of criminals while stopping the seemingly daily jailbreaks at Arkham Asylum? I guess they decided it was time for the Caped Crusader to die for a while so people would miss him and clamor for his return, just as they did with Superman some 15 or 16 years ago. Now I know it's not cool to like Superman right now, because as many a fanboy has told me, "Batman is dark!" but I don't really care. I'm a Superman fan through and through and I say this is desperation on DC's part. It's a shame to see them wasting the talent of a great writer like Grant Morrison on such a derivative story. He dies, his books get cancelled, everyone misses him, he comes back, sales go through the roof for a few months, and Dan DiDio laughs all the way to the bank.
This reminds me of a story from a few months back when it was announced that the Superman film franchise would get a reboot (I believe the exact word was "reintroduce") in the wake of The Dark Knight's rousing success. While I loved TDK, I was not pleased when I heard that Warner Bros. wanted to show the darker side of Superman. HUGE MISTAKE! Superman is NOT a dark character. Superman is a symbol of hope! He is supposed to be the beacon that we all want to follow. He has his faults, sure, but that's part of Clark Kent. Superman is as American as white picket fences and apple pie, to paraphrase Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner. You can't make him into a morally gray guy with cool cars and gadgets. That's Batman. It works for Batman. Doesn't work for Superman. They're different characters. They can complement each other when they're used together in a story, but you can't mix them together and see what you get. Am I alone on this? I can't be. Leave me a comment and let's discuss!
Let me end by quoting, from memory, mind you, the introduction to the 1950's Adventures of Superman TV series starring George Reeves. I think this sums up Superman's essence:
Wow. That was such a huge part of my childhood that just typing it gave me chills. What say you? Don't be shy. Use the comment box!
Faster than a speeding bullet!
More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Look! Up in the sky!
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
Yes, it's Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men!
Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great Metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way!