Does Tony Isabella Have A Point About Batman?

The Internet blew up recently when Tony Isabella posted to Facebook that he doesn’t care for Batman. It’s an opinion I’ve heard before, but not by someone that actually has worked on super-hero comics.

I scrolled through the comments on this post and wanted to see if I could find fans going a little more in depth about this opinion by Tony Isabella. That assumes that they share it, of course. One trend ran through the comments. It seems the general consensus that it all started going downhill with Frank Miller.

Frank Miller

Frank Miller is responsible for two seminal Batman stories. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is a tale of future where  Batman comes out of retirement to save a grim and gritty Gotham, He even faces off in it against Superman. He also wrote Batman: Year One which tells the first year Bruce Wayne spent as Batman, forming the basis for his methods and relationship with Jim Gordon.

In Dark Knight Returns, Batman grows increasingly violent. This makes it easy for the public to believe that he has killed the Joker. It also drives the government to send Superman after Batman. This was so effective, the sequel to Man of Steel went from starring Superman to giving him second billing to Batman. Much of the climatic fight between the two was taken from Dark Knight Returns.

Batman: Year One owes much of it grim and gritty nature to artist David Mazzucchelli. Miller does make several alterations, including making Selina Kyle a prostitute. Between this and Dark Knight Returns, the success changed the overall tone of Batman almost overnight. There had been a movement away from the camp and corniness that had marked Batman in the Silver Age. Of course, this peaked in 1966 with the Adam West television series. After the success of these two series, a push was made to mirror the style.

Motion picture success came with this darker mood. This tone was developing within the comics. Eventually, Batman’s costume went from blue and gray and transformed into all black. The villains became darker with murder as a regular plot thread. Batman became more violent and detective work took a back seat. With Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, more was made of Batman’s vast equipment and physicality. Batman became a zealot with unlimited funds.

Grant Morrison

The general consensus in the comments is also that Grant Morrison was a brief return to readability. I once heard a podcast interview where he described where he saw Batman as less of a sociopath. He also dealt with the notion that with all of the equipment at his disposal, it would make it easy for anyone to discern that Bruce Wayne had to be Batman. He had Bruce Wayne throw this assumption off by announcing that the murder of his parents drove him to fund Batman. When Morrison left and the New 52 started, this rationale was reset.

The Rich Sociopath Dominates The Relaunch

His portrayal became the rich sociopath again. The detective took a backseat to beating criminals in alleys. In films this gave us Batman v. Superman where Batman killed dozens of criminals, especially with machine guns on his Batmobile. We keep getting versions of Batman on television and in the films, apparently always defaulting to his advantage being his vast wealth.

At one point in the past decade, half of DC’s publications were related to Batman in some manner. New events are almost guaranteed to revolve around Batman in some way. Tony Isabella pointed out that DC has made Batman the center of their universe. looking at the recent publishing history, it seems that he has a point. While he hasn’t expanded on this post, he has stated that to do so would be better suited for a blog post. Let’s hope that’s coming sometime in the near future, because Tony Isabella does have a more unique perspective.