Batman: Jazz #1
September 24, 2012
Batman hates rock and roll, but what does he feel about jazz?
(Open where the last episode leaves off: Linkara is aiming his gun at Holokara, the gun that disproves Holokara's invincibility)
Holokara: Ah, good, you're here! Uh, listen, this probably requires some explanation.
Linkara: Pollo has gotten me up to speed using his short-range transmitter. I presume you're responsible for the (holds up communicator on his wrist) communications breakdown?
Holokara: Ah, no, actually, we lost contact with you about a month or so ago. We suspect it's some sort of malfunction on board Comicron-1. The Cybermats are looking into it.
Linkara: I see.
Dr. Linksano: (struggling to his feet) Be careful, Linkara! He knows how to use his hologram form!
Linkara: Computer, deactivate emergency reviewing hologram.
Holokara: Wait, let me explain! (but it's too late; he disappears)
Dr. Linksano: (dumbfounded) Eh? WHAT?!?
Linkara: You guys did know you could just do that, right? (Dr. Linksano wiggles his fingers nervously) Is everybody okay?
Harvey Finevoice: (getting to his feet) I've been better. (groans) Good thing that idiot doesn't know how to set the bazooka.
Linkara: How is he?
Harvey: (looking down at floor) I think he'll be fine.
90s Kid: (lying on the floor; weakly) Don't worry, Funshine Bear... We'll stop No Heart...
Harvey: I take it your magic piece is working again.
Linkara: (looking at his gun proudly) Yep. And I think the same can be said about the enchantments on this place. Otherwise, I presume we'd be seeing a lot more bullet holes in the walls.
Harvey: It's good to have you back, kid.
Linkara: Well, it's good to be back. Wait, it's Monday, isn't it?
Harvey: Yep, all day.
Linkara: (removing communicator) Then I have a review to do. Linksano, do what you can for Pollo. (walks off)
Dr. Linksano: I'm on it.
(Linkara sits down at the Futon, with the camera out of focus briefly before coming in properly)
Linkara: Ah... So, hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Say, do you remember how Batman hates rock 'n' roll?
(Cut to a shot of the comic in question: "Batman: Fortunate Son")
Linkara (v/o): If you don't, here's a quick refresher. A few years ago, I reviewed a comic called "Batman: Fortunate Son".
Linkara: It sucks. A lot.
(More shots of that comic are shown)
Linkara (v/o): The story is about a rock 'n' roll star who is haunted by the ghost of a stand-in for Elvis. He goes on a drug-induced rampage across the United States, where he threatens people, rants and raves about how it sucks that he "lived a privileged life" instead of starving on the streets, about how music used to be so much better and meant something, destroyed public and private property, and was eventually shot down by police for absolutely no reason. He was an annoying-as-all-hell whiner who I'm pretty sure we were supposed to sympathize with, despite having no redeemable qualities whatsoever. It turned out that his death was orchestrated by his manager, who wanted to turn him into a legend. It was, in a word, DUMB! How does Batman fit into this? Well, we get some interesting revelations about Batman's history, like how Bruce Wayne's father told him rock 'n' roll was evil, right before he got shot to death, because lazy writers like to inject pathos into Batman by having lots and lots of meaningful bullcrap happen right before his parents died, as opposed to it just being a senseless tragedy that could've happened on any night. If that wasn't bad enough, apparently, in between training to be the best crimefighter in the world, Batman spent some time as a groupie for a Sid Vicious knockoff, and said knockoff murdered his girlfriend. Thus, "Bruce discovered the horror that is rock 'n' roll music!" I am not kidding! And thus, it gave us this memorable quote...
Batman: (audio from review) "Punk" is nothing but death...and crime...and the rage of a beast.
Linkara: And I didn't even get into half of the insane pieces of dialog about Batman and "the beast". The review was running long, and (rolls eyes) I was just getting so infuriated that I started skipping dialog segments in my recap of the story.
Linkara (v/o): Now, with all of this talk about Batman hating rock 'n' roll, about rock 'n' roll stars who murder and threaten legitimate businesses just because they're selling CDs, and even throwing grenades into crowded rooms, you'd think that the creators of the comic actively hated rock 'n' roll, were the kind of people who made the Christian propaganda film...
(Cut to footage of said Christian propaganda film...)
Linkara (v/o): ...Rock It's Your Decision, which stated that rock 'n' roll leads to devil worship and mind control.
Linkara: But here's the thing that'll make you tilt your head. The creators of Batman: Fortunate Son? They don't hate rock 'n' roll. They made the book as a tribute to rock 'n' roll.
(More shots of the comic follow)
Linkara (v/o): There's some brief behind-the-scenes information in the book that explains their motivations and their own love for classic rock. They honestly thought this was something insightful about the music they enjoyed. It's fascinating in a way just how out of touch they actually were. Bear in mind, Fortunate Son was made in 1999, but you wouldn't believe it with the references they kept making. They seem to celebrate rock musicians from, like, the 1960s or so, as if they were still the same kind of music that was in 1999! Hell, the most out of punk rock that we might've gotten in the book was the Sid Vicious stand-in, but that's it. They talk about Elvis a lot, the Beatles, I think even Buddy Holly gets an appearance. The residents at Arkham bring up Nelson Riddle and ABBA – yeah, ABBA as rock 'n' roll; wrap your head around that. Maybe Black Sabbath, but no grunge rock. Not a lot of heavy metal. It's mostly just the guys responsible for the foundations of rock. It's mind-boggling how completely not in tune it was with music, despite supposedly being a book about music! Oh, and don't get me started on the horrible artwork, or the writing that allows Batman to understand everything there is to know about rock 'n' roll by locking himself in a room for a few hours and studying it!
Linkara: So, why am I bringing all this stuff about Batman: Fortunate Son up? Well, that's because today's comic has the same writer. Let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Batman: Jazz #1".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card for this episode has "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" playing over it; cut to a shot of the cover for this comic)
Linkara (v/o): Before we begin, a disclaimer: I am not a music expert. I know, right? Shock of all shocks! What with the many times I've had to call upon my fellow music reviewers on ThatGuyWithTheGlasses for assistance. As such, it should be pretty obvious that I am not on the up-and-up about jazz music or its history or the like. I don't "get" jazz.
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang)
Joel: How would you describe jazz, anyway, Tom?
Tom Servo: Oh, man, if you have to ask, you'll never know.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): The only thing I can say is that when I was younger, there used to be a radio station that played smooth jazz, and I liked that music. So we're walking into this strictly on its own merits and not as some insightful piece about jazz music.
Linkara: Not that I actually believe that this has anything meaningful to say about jazz; I'm just pointing out that some stuff might go (runs hand over head) right over my head.
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is... bizarre. Batman is frickin' huge! It's like if Batman was the Hulk or something! Now, sometimes, this art style can work to depict him like that. What immediately comes to mind is (images of Batman and Superman are shown in this style) Ed McGuinness, who manages to make it work, in my opinion anyway, by the fact that the art is a bit more cartoony. The same can probably be said about the bulkier version of Batman from the Brave and the Bold cartoon. Here, however, they decided to put in gritty, rather painted artwork, and it just makes it look ridiculous. And at first, I thought Batman had some kind of weird spider symbol on his chest, but then I took a closer look and I realized that this is all supposed to be his blood! There are glass shards imbedded in him all over, but there are black outlines on the blood as well, making it look like it's a stylized emblem instead of, you know, BLOOD! Hell, the blood is coming out so cleanly and flowing in almost symmetrical arcs with itself that it's ridiculous. The only place where it actually looks like blood is the stuff dripping off his hand. And yeah, a massive Batman bleeding from glass shards embedded in his chest and arms; that screams jazz, right? And as if in answer to that, they just Photoshopped a bunch of blue-tinted saxophones into the background. When I first saw this, I thought they were wrecked buildings. Good job integrating those saxophones! (the comic opens to the first page) We open on a park, where someone wearing a very loud and poorly-drawn coat is accosting an old man playing some loud and poorly-drawn music.
Man in loud coat: Old man, this is our park!
Sax player: I'm just playing my music.
Man in loud coat: Our park, we play our music.
Linkara: (as man in loud coat) Joey, play our music!
(Suddenly, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" plays, while Linkara crosses his arms and nods his head to the music)
Sax player: You boys ever listen to jazz?
Man in loud coat: I say we listen to our--
Sax player: Jazz is our music!
Man in loud coat: Uh-huh. I heard this one. Jazz. African-American art music. Classical music of America. The glue that held black culture together.
Linkara: (pretending to be a robot) I am a robot... that studies the ways of the human...
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, did he memorize the dictionary definition of "jazz"? Who the hell talks like that? Speaking of... uh, speaking, the musician decides to throw this at the thug in response...
Sax player: You're not as dumb as you look.
Linkara (v/o): Dude, the guys just proclaimed that it was their park, and there are three of them. Does this seem like a smart thing to say? The thug, in turn, yanks the saxophone from the guy and tosses it away. I think he shoves him, too, but the artwork is so dark it's difficult to tell. However, this is the signal for Batman to come in, gritting his teeth and looking like an early '90s image character. And oh, me, oh, my, does he have some narration for us!
Batman: (narrating) It must be the music that brought me.
Linkara: (as Batman) I always hear my theme music when I attack. (hums a tune as Batman)
Batman: (narrating) Fast and fluttery as a bat's wings, but floating* as an owl over the cement darkness.
- NOTE: Batman actually says, "...floating weightless as an owl...".
Linkara: (as Batman) Ooh, I need to write that one down. I've got a poetry slam tomorrow.
Batman: (narrating) Full of mystery. And there may be other mysteries in life than "who killed who?"
Linkara: (as Batman) Like Twinkies – how the hell did they get the cream inside the Twinkies?
Batman: (narrating) This is Uptown, where sounds in the night usually lead me to violence and pain.
Linkara: (as Batman) People throwing their TVs out the window when they realize that Honey Boo Boo is a real show.
Batman: (narrating) Tonight I followed a sound for its beauty. And it leads me to the same.
Linkara: (as Batman) An old man getting beat up because he's playing his saxophone. Beautiful.
Linkara (v/o): And yes, I know he's referring to the "violence and pain" thing, but the sentence structure implies that he's referring to the remark about beauty. Anyway, one of the punks grabs a gun and shoots, but Batman easily bends his over-muscled body so he can kick the guy in the face. You want to know how messed up this artwork is? I can't tell if that's the back or the front of his leg.
Batman: I won't debate turf with you. Or music tastes.
Linkara: (as Batman) Unless you like rock 'n' roll, in which case (holds up fist) I'LL PUNCH YOUR FACE IN!
Batman: I will suggest you respect your elders.
Linkara: (as Batman) I'm Batman for American Seniors Insurance.
Linkara (v/o): The other punk scolds the guy for carrying a gun, and they make a hasty retreat under Batman's urging. The old guy picks up his sax and laments the growing amount of gangsters.
Sax player: Guess a young man's got to give himself a purpose.
Batman: There are better purposes.
Sax player: Like swinging around the city in a mask?
Linkara: (as Batman) Oh, my God. I never thought of it like that before. I'm gonna go home and rethink my life.
Batman: ...think you'd better find a safer place to stay*.
- ANOTHER NOTE: It's actually "play", not "stay".
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, why the pause after he says "I"? This is not some profound bit of wisdom, Batman. In fact, why the hell are you even still talking to him? Move on! Other people are in danger!
Sax player: I never liked it safe. And I found what I want here. I found myself here.
Linkara: (as old man) I found out I'm a homeless drifter who could play a saxophone semi-decently, does not have regular food or warmth during the winter, and I wear a coat that smells like urine.
Sax player: So what's with the mask, anyway?
Batman: I need it for my work.
Sax player: Oh yes. I fooled myself with that once. Over something worse than a mask.
Linkara: (more than a little annoyed) Hey, you wanna know why Batman Begins is my favorite of the three Christopher Nolan Batman movies? This scene. (snaps fingers)
(Cut to the clip in question)
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale): People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I'm flesh and blood. I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol... As a symbol, I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.
(Cut to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Is this guy suggesting that Batman is fooling himself over his need to wear a mask? Who the hell is this asshole?!
Sax player: It's about your past, isn't it? There's somebody you used to be--who you can't be anymore.
Linkara (v/o): And Batman actually has this shocked look on his face, as if, again, he had never thought about that before. This is probably up to individual interpretation of the character...
(The artwork of Batman and Superman together is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): ...but I've always felt that the primary difference between Batman and Superman is that Bruce Wayne is the mask for Batman, whereas Superman is the fake identity that Clark Kent puts on. Clark Kent was raised by loving parents who showed him a strong ideology and moral focus that he transferred into something inspiring. Bruce Wayne is a child, who died alongside his parents, and was reborn as a creature dedicated to ensuring that it happened to any other child.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): What the hell is this comic suggesting? That Batman is just lying to himself about his crimefighting and that he should hang up his cape and play a saxophone?! For crying out loud, there are two kinds of people who make an analysis like that: one, the unimaginative who think far too much about Batman in comparison to the real world, or two... VILLAINS!! Anyway, the musician invites Batman to come to the Paradise Club, and that he's been told he plays like "Blue Byrd".
Batman: I've heard of him. He died in the '50s, here in town. The father of be-bop.
Sax player: Not "be-bop." Modern jazz.
Linkara: Which, according to Wikipedia, is pretty much synonymous with be-bop. And yes, if I get that wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments, but please just make sure someone else hasn't corrected me already on that.
This guide is not complete. Please finish.