Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Night Fights: I just hope you understand sometimes the clothes do not make the man

As has been mentioned here and there, Batman is a master of timing:

Solo #9 panel

Yowza! That's a pretty good sucka punch, Batman. And I could just leave that for my entry in Friday Night Fights, call it a good evening, and go make chocolate chip cookies. (Mmmmmmmm.) But there's more to the story than that punch, and b'lieve me, it makes the punch that much sweeter. Even sweeter than cookies!

You'll find the bat-punch in Scott Hampton's issue (#9) of the late lamented spotlight anthology series Solo. It's in the lead story of the issue, "Batman: 1947," written by John Hitchcock and illustrated by Hampton. As the story opens, a man heads out for his night job as Batman. Sounds like Bruce Wayne beginning his patrol, doesn't it? Not quite:

Solo #9 panel
Panels from "Batman: 1947" in Solo #9 (April 2006), script by John Hitchcock, painted art by Scott Hampton, lettering by Jared K Fletcher

That's not Bruce Wayne—it's an actor who puts on a cloth Batman suit to appear for publicity purposes. He's worried his son will be disappointed when he finds the truth: that he's not really Batman. His wife comforts him and sends him on his way.

The suit in the story is remarkably like the Batman costume in the 1943 and 1949 movie serials...

Serial Batman

...which is an appropriate art choice for Hampton, as the suit's being used to drum up publicity for a Saturday morning Batman movie serial to adoring fans, especially wide-eyed kids. Well, who wouldn't be wide-eyed to meet Batman? I know I would be!

Solo #9 panel

It'd be a nice vignette but not much of a story if the whole comic consisted of our ersatz Batman standing around signing autographs and lowering the value of those copies of Detective #27, so of course Hampton ramps up the action by adding those ultimate nemeses of Batman: bad guys:

Solo #9 panel

You got excuse me for printing that entire page there, but I just loves it so much. If I was to have any page of Scott Hampton original art—and there's a lot of great ones—I'd pick this very page. I love the wide-eyed expressions in the first panel, the middle-tier pleading and dilemma, and the instant shift to a wild sprint as Batman springs into action, unlike some other would-be heroes who step aside when robbers run past them (coughpeterparkercough).

Of course, this is a guy without spider- bat-strength or agility or dexterity, and what happens next is what you would expect to happen if you dress up as a bat and give chase to criminals: they pull a gun on you:

Solo #9 panel

And that's when all heck breaks loose.

Solo #9 panel

Here's where that Batman punch comes, and isn't it more satisfying now that you know the set-up? And Batman displays not only his uncanny sense of knowing when to strike with his fists but also the unparalleled comedic timing that is synonymous with the Dark Knight:

Solo #9 panel

I'm not making fun of that, by the way. Batman should make a joke once in a while. It doesn't have to be a gutbuster. It can even be scary. But Batman oughta be fun. As usual, he's got the best lines. And how freakin' awesome is a Batman who gives you a thumb's up?!?:

Solo #9 panel

The actor gets the credit as the Batman escapes to the rooftops. Actor returns home to his wife and son. End curtain to one of my favorite short Batman tales of many recent years. It's Hallowe'en this coming week, so I think this is the perfect tale to prep you for Wednesday night when you pull on your leather boots and strap on your foam-rubber muscle suit. Remember when you put on the costume it's an awesome responsibility and you might be called upon to defend and uphold the mantle of the Bat. And doing so is not just about the fighting and the punching, it's about believing and daring and doing what's right, in order to feel proud in what you do and feel supported by the love and respect of your family.

But of course, it's also all about the punching:
Solo #9 panel

Bahlactus will autograph your copy of Fantastic Four #50, anywhere, anytime.


Anonymous said...

Ya'know, originally Gunsle meant, according to the handy dictionary,

1914, Amer. Eng., from hobo slang, "a catamite;" specifically "a young male kept as a sexual companion, esp. by an older tramp," from Yiddish genzel, from Ger. Gänslein "gosling, young goose." The secondary, non-sexual meaning "young hoodlum" seems to be entirely traceable to Dashiell Hammett, who snuck it into "The Maltese Falcon" (1939) while warring with his editor over the book's racy language.

Which means that comic propsal in the alt text might not be for young readers.

Mike Haseloff said...

Oh man, this was a great story!
Not that I'd have the cash to splash, but I really wish they could've kept Solo going.

That was a really fantastic series. Darn shame!

[Nice FNF!]

Rich said...

That was really great -- thanks for the extra detail re: the story. And totally in agreement, that's some splendid art.


SallyP said...

Very nice. I haven't come across this before, so thanks for the opportunity.

Novice said...

Ohh, I want it! The art is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Agreed, lovely retro look. This is the Batman I enjoy - a man of the darkness, but not necessarily consumed by it.

Also, Bully, the mouseover captions this time are hilarious.