Tuesday, August 4, 2015



DC's now-shelved Elseworlds line was an interesting way to take a peek at alternate interpretations of the iconic characters, sometimes with drastically different qualities. You might read about Wonder Woman if she were a cowboy, the Flash if he were a formula one racer, Batman if he were incredibly bad at solving mysteries or Superman if he had a hair-trigger temper and threatened to kill people with almost no provocation.

Then they repaint that tiny figure a hundred different ways
and sell each one as a "variant" at Comicon
OR, failing an Elseworlds, you can read a canonical mainstream story in which Batman briefly believes that he might be Superman's long-lost brother from the planet Krypton despite the absolute absence of any compelling evidence. "Batman, Son of Krypton" (World's Finest vol.1 No.146 Dec 1964) tells the tale of Batman completely misinterpreting childhood memories and basically making everyone's life very difficult for positively no reason whatsoever.

Hanging out with Superman in the Bat-Cave, the Caped Crusader is busily testing a new ray-beam device on his young ward, Robin, which is literally ninety percent of Robin's job. "Stand in front of this ray, Robin," he might tell him, expecting unhesitating obedience, "Test this bullet-proof vest for me," or "I found this on the floor, taste it" he might instruct the gullible little half-wit. His famous last words, "It tastes like mashed potatoes, URK," and Robin is dead.

Anyway, Robin is actually testing a machine which makes little 3-d models of people and which Batman intends to use to create more perfect mugshot technology, even though it's clearly perfect for making action figures. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's how the WWE does it. All things being equal, though, it's absolutely irrelevant because the tiny-model-mugshot-machine doesn't play a role in the remainder of the story in any fashion whatsoever, which is clearly a violation of Chekov's 3-D Printer.

Jet fuel can't melt planetary cores, Bruce.
Don't buy the lie.
What does affect the story is Superman boring the tar out of his allies with a series of home movies about Krypton's destruction. When Batman spouts off from memory an inscription found on ancient Kryptonian monument, it's somehow not taken as the Dark Knight Detective sarcastically letting Superman know that he's told this story a hundred fucking times already. Nope, it leads to a MYSTERY! How could Batman know strange secrets about Krypton? My guess is he read a book, because according to Superman's comics, every book in the DC Universe is written about Krypton in some fashion.

But no, Batman has further memories of Krypton, and of flying around a room, and lots of other stuff he's apparently repressed even though he can't stop remembering his dead parents for eight straight seconds. This leads him to the home of Dr.Thomas Ellison, former neighbor to the palatial Wayne estate and occasionally Bruce's babysitter when he was a bat-infink. Dr.Ellison has a guilty secret about the world of Krypton, evidently, as he damn near drops a whole milk carton and a dozen eggs when Bruce mentions it during his visit.

The reason? Well, it turns out Dr.Ellison DESTROYED KRYPTON. Accidentally. He'd been peeping on the planet with the use of a frankly impossible telescope which I'll nonetheless let slide, and had figured out that the planet was imperiled. Inventing a ray-beam which was intended to defuse the alien planet's unstable core, it apparently actually accelerated the destruction,causing the whole planet to explode. This is what you get for not testing a ray beam on Robin first.

Are you sure you don't want to pick a less-stupid name?
This is simultaneously reassuring and troubling for Batman. On the plus side, he's not really from Krypton, which would have made him an orphan on two separate occasions. This is good because he'd been saddled with the incredibly stupid name of Bruce-El and also because if he were a double-orphan, he'd have to increase his Batmanning by 100%. And he's already Batmanning as hard as he can!

The downside is that Superman overhears all of this and decides to murder Dr.Ellison.

Luckily he doesn't, and it actually turns out that the whole thing is quite a jolly misunderstanding (insert avuncular chuckling). Dr.Ellison's raybeam did reach the core of Krypton's unstable mass, but rather than accelerating anything it actually just did nothing at all, according to file footage of Jor-El. Again, a good reminder to test your rays on Robin first.

The weirdest part of this story, however, is Batman's memories of Krypton. While under the care of Dr.Ellison - a self-described "lonely bachelor" - young Bruce was shown pictures and told stories of Krypton. Fair enough. Dr.Ellison, extrapolating on what he knew of the planet he'd been subjecting the relentless invasions of privacy, also knew that a Kryptonian on Earth would have amazing powers. To show Bruce what that means, he dresses the youngster in some Kryptonian baby clothes he happens to have around and then stages some photographs using a complete studio setup he has in his house, showing Bruce "flying" and "breaking bars" and god I hope that's all.

In hindsight from our very cynical age, this is ... unsettling ... behavior on the part of Dr.Ellison. I assume nothing untoward happened, of course, because of the medium and the era and also because this would spur Batman to start Batmanning at 125% of his current level of Batmanning at the very least, and that's just overclocking his Batmanning.

Hey I'm Batman / And this is crazy
But if you lure Superman / Call me, Robin

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