Friday, December 5, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part II

Who Is The Black Glove?

Boy, did this reveal put some bees in some folk's shorts. I'm talking talking about some extra large Japanese death hornets gallivanting in people's boxers and doing catastrophic damage to their junk. So, after reading Batman # 681, who shall we believe The Black Glove really is?

The man himself claims to be Batman's father, Thomas Wayne. Batman believes him to be Mangrove Pierce, star of the cinematic "Black Glove". The Joker seems to imply that our Big Bad is The Devil himself. Confusing, yes?

Let's not go crazy, kids. OK, maybe Morrison didn't hit you over the head with it like a lead pipe. What did you expect? If you want dull and easy, find another author. Seriously. It bears repeating: Grant Morrison is writing on a more subtle level. The devil is in this case quite literally in the details.

Yes, I'm telling you that the Black Glove is actually the goddamn Prince of Darkness. And not that geriatric mumbler who once fronted Black Sabbath - the cool one. Satan. Yeah, baby!

It's appropriate to be very impressed with Timothy Callahan, noted Morrison scholar and avid comic book reader. He called his shot two weeks before the book hit - wow. But let's not just take his word for it. Time to break down Batman # 681 and demonstrate the point with the text.

Clue # 1: The Joker recognizes The Black Glove as The Devil

The grand plan to break The Bat landed all parties involved at Arkham Asylum, which is of course the Joker's current address. Cue hijinx:

Now that phrase is actually quite cryptic and doesn't exactly seal the deal. If you were to ask me exactly what I thought that line signified, I couldn't begin to guess. Morrison studies a lot of stuff - perhaps he bumped into some religion of school of thought that has some demonic significance attached to the number two.

A couple of important things there. One is that we get the word "devil" thrown in there, and Joker is very definitely attaching that moniker to Dr. Hurt. He has some intuitive gift that allows him to pierce the deception and come up with Hurt's true nature.

The second item of import is Joker's reaction to that realization. If you were expecting a quivering little ball of deference and humility...guess again.

How much fun is this scene if you buy into the Black Glove as Satan story! He snaps his little cronies neck, says the Joker trumps him, and tells the Dark Lord that he's betting on Batman to kick his sorry ass in about five minutes. It's wonderful, people. Accept it. Enjoy it.

And listen, if that's all there was to it, I wouldn't buy into the Devil routine, either. But there's more.

Clue # 2: Batman # 666

Remember how odd and confusing that issue was plopped in the middle of Batman & Son? We had Damien as Batman fifteen years in the future fighting replacement Batmen who think they're the anti-christ. Doesn't seem quite as odd now, does it?

Damien drops a zinger toward the end of that issue - he claims to have traded his soul to the Devil in exchange for the future of Gotham. Is that literal? In continuity? I don't know, but there's that darned Devil again. And he's hanging around Gotham, and he's interested in Batman.

And again, if that were the only piece of evidence, we'd probably have to throw it in the trash. But wait...there's more.

Clue # 3: The Final Confrontation

There's quite a blow-by-blow verbal battle high above Gotham between the Black Glove and Batman at the end. It begins with the line that most of the internet has grabbed hold of and refused to let go:

I'm your father, Bruce. I'm Thomas Wayne. BAM! And it's quite a bomb, designed to hurt and punish, which is exactly what the Black Glove has been doing to Batman all along. Torturing him in every sense to break him down. But that's not where the battle ends. Because Batman immediately calls the revelation a lie:

"You're not Thomas Wayne."

A declarative with no frills. Batman isn't the type to delude himself. If there was evidence that the Black Glove was his father, he'd face it down with the same icy resolve he faces everything with.

But he didn't do that. He called it a lie. So does the Black Glove defend this untruth? Far from it. He instead says: "and still, the cloak fits. And if not dad, have you dared to consider the only alternative?"

Batman offers back with Mangrove Pierce, star of the film "Black Glove". Hurt dismisses this idea immediately. "No. I skinned Mangrove Pierce alive and wore him the Mayhew's party."

So he's not Thomas Wayne, and he's not Mangrove Pierce. Who in the hell (rimshot, please) is this guy??? He continues: "I am the hole in things, Bruce, the Enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning."

A few points to make on THAT bit of nonsense. In the biblical book of Job, there is a figure who essentially tortures Job and brings him to the mental and physical brink. He's known in that book as the Adversary, and he's typically thought of as the Devil. Sound familiar? Dr. Hurt has done the same to Batman, and now claims to be the "enemy". Hmmmm.

He also claims to be "there since the beginning". A few ways to interpret that. Satan was God's top lieutenant in the old stories before the Council of Nicea tossed out all those gems from the Bible. So there's that beginning.

You may also remember the story of Adam and Eve got tempted by this jerkwad serpent in the Garden of Eden. And that was the Devil again, this time as the Serpent. And that was a beginning as well. Interesting.

This whole scenario is also reminiscent of Jesus "temptation in the wilderness". Before he begins his travelling priesthood, The Devil tests his mettle. For 40 days Jesus fasts, and Satan puts him through the ringer - he's physically, emotionally, psychically beaten down.

Sound familiar? Again, this is exactly what Dr. Hurt is doing to Batman. That temptation business closes at the top of a peak looking over Jerusalem. Here Batman is challenged to the heights overlooking Gotham. And it doesn't work exactly as the Gospels do. It's really a cross between a "temptation in the wilderness" and a "Faustian bargain". Both archetypes involve guess who? Satan.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you must interpret this text as Black Glove = Satan. Hurt could be lying out his bum to try and intimidate Batman. But I'm tired of listening to forum posters trying to say that the idea is preposterous.

What's preposterous is that you read the book and missed all the bread crumbs Morrison left for you. If you aren't digging it, fine. I'm not suggesting you have to think it's a great idea. But at least understand what you're bitching about, you damn heathens.

Would you believe there's more Satany goodness available to analyze?

Clue # 4: Batman thinks the Black Glove is The Devil

How do I know that? Because I read the book, that's how. Remember those final journal entries in Batman's black casebook? Here's how he puts it to bed:

"In my attempts to see clearly in the deepest dark, in my efforts to go to the still eye in the storm of madness, did I open myself to some pure source of evil? Did I finally reach the limits of reason? And find the Devil waiting? And was that fear in his eyes?"

There's that rascally Prince of Darkness again. And he's afraid of Batman, which is BAD ASS. Sorry, it just is. And fun.

And quite frankly, I think the fear is mutual. Batman put away his cape and cowl and completely disappeared for six months. We know he's not dead from Part I - so why did he do that?

My interpretation is that he took the Black Glove's curse very seriously. What curse? The one that Dr. Hurt bestowed on Batman as he took off in that soon to be exploding helicopter:

Batman brushed up against the source of pure evil, and that source declared Batman to be cursed. Wear the cowl and die, kid. So he hasn't. Can you imagine anything other than a major demonic figure getting Batman to back off being The Batman? It doesn't really make sense to me any other way.

- Ryan

Next up: Zurr-En-Arrh!

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