• ERIC BUTLER

Feelings, Comics, and fuzzy beasts

Updated: Aug 24


I am in a reflective and downright melancholy mood. It is 2:26 a.m. in Texas and I have yet to finish what I wanted to share in today's post. I am finishing up the 2nd story for the Ephraim Godwin Chronicles - The Early Years but every time I think I am finished, the story refuses to end. So as I continue to write the tale of Inspector Kimbell's first meeting with the Whitlocks, I decided to pivot.


Instead, I am going to write about a few things and then most likely fight a husky for my spot in the bed. If I'm lucky it's the younger one and not Totoro, pictured below.



I want to jump right into my angry rant about DC comics and Batman but first, I feel some back story is needed...


For lack of a better explanation, I am sad. I'll let you in on a little secret, I have to take medication to help balance some anxiety issues. Nothing too crazy, just something to allow me to function. Once I start to feel level, I have a tendency to forget about them and miss some doses...which then leads to times when I get sad because let's be honest depression can be a bedfellow to anxiety. Mine feed off each other like 2 fat guys in a pie-eating contest.


That being said, I've been pretty consistent with my daily doses during this pandemic so it hasn't been an issue. Except it can flare up under extreme stress, something I thrive in normally, but when compounded with other outside forces can overwhelm my feels...I also think allergy medicine mixed with said meds has a wonky effect but what do I know...anyways...


July and August have been 2 months of extreme stress and I have found myself experiencing emotions I usually ignore or tap down until they fester. You know like most men are taught to do by their fathers and/or society. You have to understand I come from an older generation, where feelings are a sign of weakness and unappealing as a mate.


I'm talking about getting upset at commercials kind of feelings. The kind of feeling where the right thing at the wrong time will leave you a blubbery mess with no rational explanation.


<Insert joke about women here>

then find yourself on a comfy couch

It's the reason I lay down on them before we buy them. I need to make sure they don't kill my back if and when I am banished...or can't convince one of the dogs to make enough room for me.



Seriously though it's been a roller coaster of emotions but it feels like it's leveling off a little as we get closer to football starting and the boy starting his senior year of high school.


And now we get to my issue with DC Comics and Detective Comics in particular...

So usually I will do everything in my power not to spoil a movie, book, or comic with too much info in case you are inspired to go and check out whatever nonsense I am recommending. But today I will just warn you...I am going to spoil the collection leading up to the 1000 issue of Detective comics. You have been warned.


I have three ways I read comics now in my old age. Large collectible omnibus style, trade paperbacks, or on the kindle. I prefer to read comics in a "book" format. Just something about it, even in the oversized collections, reminds me of reading these stories in the old days. It's a special thing for me, especially since I was into these characters way before it was cool to call yourself a fan.


Stan Lee said it best...

"Comics are like breasts. They're fun to look at on a screen but better to hold in your hand." And true believer, I don't think it's wise to argue with the creator of Spider-Man.

That being said I do purchase a few series on my Kindle so I can read at night after Dawn's gone to sleep and I've wrestled a few inches of bed space from the hounds. You can find collections regularly on sale and score $25-50 books for pennies on the dollar. Add in the out of print factor on some of the older books, and it's the best way to grab a collection to read. While I have Batman, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and the Suicide Squad Rebirth collections in Deluxe Hardcover editions...the Rebirth Detective Comics made it to my kindle during a massive sale.



Enter Detective Comics - Mythology: New collection, new writer, new artist, and leading up to issue 1000 - a pretty big deal. Let me set the scene...



It was late. I was tired but not sleepy tired just emotionally/mentally tired and the best way for me to unwind is to read a few panels or if I'm more in book mode, a few chapters. I had just downloaded the newish collection (I'm years behind in some of these stories as I've given up reading them issue to issue).


The story starts with the murder of 2 people - identical to Bruce Wayne's parents. Psss-Bruce Wayne is Batman - just in case. Of course, Batman is going to be like, "Listen, Gordon, I know I'm a dude in a bat suit but I'm going to take lead in this investigation because I'm close friends with Bruce Wayne" BIG WINK, and then he's off to put the clues together.



That's part of what makes Detective Comics different from the other Batman titles - it's written more towards solving the crimes, detecting whodunit so to speak, and less punching bad guys in the face. I mean sure, he's still going to punch people in the face...someone just made 2 people look like his parents and murdered them in the same way.


So far so good, I mean this is an interesting premise...I won't lie and say the "someone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman" story is getting a bit tiresome as they continue to pull from that well yearly but I get it. I mean how many times has Tony slipped up with the bottle or Captain America die only to return months later? Frank Miller even used some of the same themes and ideas in both his Batman work and his Daredevil material so it's not unheard of to see the same idea recycled.


Yet as this continued and the clues led the Batman on a merry goose chase, the writer did something unexpected. He started to attack those who helped "create" the Batman. The people in his life that taught him the skills needed to become the world's greatest detective...its greatest superhero.


So we are getting to the spoilers if you've come this far...well be warned the ride is about to get bumpy. 2 characters who shaped him more than anyone except the killer of his parents and if you want to nitpick, Bruce Wayne himself. Those characters are Alfred Pennyworth & Leslie Thompkins.

Alfred is a given. He is the Wayne's butler at the time of their death and the man who takes care of Bruce from the age of 10 on. He is in every cartoon, comic, and movie with Batman. He is as important as the Batmobile, Robin, and Batman himself to the mythos. He is the father figure not only to Bruce but to those that Bruce brings in to join his mission. He is the rock of Wayne Manor.


Leslie Thompkins is different. She wasn't introduced until 1976. Her character was initially shown as the woman who comforts Bruce the night of his parent's murder. She dedicated herself to helping slum kids avoid a life of crime. Every day on the anniversary of the death, Batman visits with her but she doesn't know it's the boy she comforted all those years ago.


As time went on, the writers tweaked her back story and soon she was a friend of Thomas Wayne - Bruce's father - and she took it upon herself, with Alfred, to look after Bruce and help him deal with the aftermath of his parent's murder. Her character comes and goes, depending on the writer at the time, and builds a stronger connection with the Batman and Bruce. When Rebirth began (DC's millionth relaunch) she was back as a central character. The mother figure to Alfred's father figure so to say.


Enter Detective Comics issue #995, the killer stayed a step ahead of the Batman. He is forcing the great detective to play catch up and when he discovers what is happening he calls Leslie...who is being attacked by the killer. Bruce sweeps in to save her but before it's over, Leslie is somehow dosed with Joker venom. He rushes her to the Batcave and while he and Alfred attempt several antidotes, she starts telling him all these things. Things a mother might feel necessary to repeat if she thought she might never see her child again. Things that she would feel were important for the man who dresses up as a Bat might need to remember to keep on living.


As it becomes clearer that none of the Antidotes are working, we are forced to watch Bruce accept the fact that he's failed another "mother" figure. While no one could argue that a 10-year-old should carry the burden of his parents' death; that is exactly what Bruce has done the entire series. His guilt is the reason he became the Batman and the reason he suffers from every disaster Gotham City faces. Tie in the loss of Catwoman as his bride to be(check out Batman for those stories), and this is very easily a breaking point for Bruce. It is an emotional tour de force and incredible feat in any writing but especially in the comic book format.



Almost as quickly Alfred is stabbed and left on life support. While it makes for an interesting idea, there is no way they are killing Alfred off. There was no need, the death of Leslie Thompkins is the type of catalyst that would not only affect issues of Detective but the entire DC universe. However, this does remove the "father" figure from the board if only for a bit. Something that has become a big player in the Batman mythos lately is the control he has over his emotions, the cold and logical way he faces every and all problems. With these 2 characters out of the way, will we be seeing a meltdown...an emotional explosion - especially since it didn't happen after Catwoman left him at the altar.



I closed the Kindle that night, affected in a way I haven't been by the written word in quite some time. When I awoke the next day, it was the first thing I thought of...the daring to carry it off - the brilliance in its simplicity and the horrible imagery that her death would play on Bruce as she died from a toxin created by his greatest foe. That night I went to bed earlier than normal, just to see what was about to happen. Was Bruce about to unleash the Batman to capture the one responsible for Leslie's death and Alfred's current condition?



All that the writer had created was a lie. Near the end of the collection while the Batman battles the villain one of the speech balloons spills the beans..."Batman is the villain, he set the whole thing up, everyone is still alive...because it's an &#@$%$*! simulation."


The weakest of weak story writing. The power Leslie's death erased in a panel. Turns out every year, on his birthday, Bruce hooks himself up to a computer and runs a simulation...it gets harder every year but it's still a simulation. I never wanted to throw a book across the room so badly as this. The disappointment was almost as intense as the real emotional connection I had with the material the night before.


The moral is don't do "it was a dream/simulation" if you are writing...especially if you can convey the heartbreak and loss experienced by Bruce on those few pages. While some may argue that this approach forced me to experience the book more intensely, and here I am days later speaking about it...they are wrong. I want to fly to the next convention, roll up issue 995 and smack the writer on the head for a full day while I say "no" over and over.


Okay, that got a little more personal than I normally would like but I had to get this travesty off my chest. And while I have been a little up and down these past few months, I know why and have been taking care of the matter. This can be a very serious subject if left untreated.


And it's okay if you're having a tough time right now. Isolation and other pandemic factors can have a serious effect on your well-being. Heck, everyday life can affect you and those around you. Don't be scared to reach out to your family, your friends, or even a stranger if that makes you more comfortable. Let them know how you're feeling, that you're serious - in case like me you joke about things more often than not and that you need some help.


There are resources out there to help: check out Lifeline for more information.


And feel free to find me on Facebook or email me through this site. I'm always happy to lend an ear.

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