We begin, as all things do, with the end. All beginnings are endings, and all endings are beginnings; the beginning is the end of what came before, and the end is the beginning of what comes after. Both are just words for change.
So is “apocalypse.”
This is the moment at which the DCAU is born in fire, the Harlequin’s changing of the stage to something brighter and more fun. Recall what I said more than two years of weekly posts ago: the DCAU is not the DCAU until it has two series in it, anymore than an event which has only happened once can be annual.
Batman: The Animated Series, then, is the “what came before” that ends here. Note how dark Krypton is in those brief first seconds of the Superman: The Animated Series opening. The House of El is dimly lit, the night sky visible through its enormous windows. The rocket launches, and we see that Krypton is surrounded by darkness, just before it explodes into light.
But Superman’s pod outruns that light; it is still dark when the Kents find him. And then, as the music accelerates from its tentative, mournful beginnings to a stirring Shirley Walker piece that evokes John Williams’ classic Superman theme without imitating it, we see the light return, surrounding a teen Clark Kent as he runs and leaps into his future as Superman.
Light is the source of Superman’s power, the light shining from the fires Harley Quinn lit. Up until this point, Batman: The Animated Series existed in darkness, literally: it was famously drawn in light colors on black backgrounds, the reverse of standard animation practice. Superman: The Animated Series, however, uses the traditional method of drawing in black and color on white backgrounds. It is literally a brighter, sunnier show, as befits a character who derives his power from “Earth’s yellow sun.”
There are more ways in which this is a more traditional opening than BTAS. That opening was a short film, a self-contained story presented straightforwardly, albeit without dialogue. STAS’ opening is also a story, but it is one told in clips and snippets of things to come. Kal-El is launched from his dying world–the dying darkness of BTAS–into a bright new world, raised by loving human parents, then emerges as Superman. He meets Lois and Jimmy, Lex Luthor and other villains, journeys across the world and into space, but ultimately returns to Metropolis. As in BTAS’ original opening, the name of the show is never actually said, but the S-shield that flares from Superman’s chest to fill the screen in the final shot accomplishes the same purpose–it is as synonymous with Superman as the word itself.
Over the course of exploring the ideaspace around BTAS, we have uncovered three conceptual pillars and one central question to this project. The pillars are the apocalypse, the protector fantasy, and trauma; the question is whether it is possible to reconcile the first two, to create a superhero who fulfills the positive aspects of the protector fantasy without bringing in its dark side, who can allow positive change while protecting against negative.
We still don’t know the answer to that question. But now we have light to look for it by. We have apocalypse–the source of our light. We have the protector fantasy–there’s a reason Superman’s symbol is a shield.
And as for trauma, well…
Current status of the Patreon:
- Latest Near-Apocalypse article ($2+/mo patrons can view): What’s up with (My Girl)
- Latest video ($5+/mo patrons can view): Vlog Review: Gravity Falls S2E5
- Latest Milestone: $100/mo: Monthly bonus vlogs!
- Next Milestone: $150/mo ($49 away!): Second monthly bonus vlog!
I was hoping to get it done before this post, but I’ve got too many things going on at once, namely end-of-month Patreon obligations month, rewrites on the next book, and a convention in three days. So… expect significant site maintenance next week sometime, including updating the menus to actually reflect the last two years of posts.
Reminder that Patreon backers can see these videos 3-4 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles 3-4 MONTHS early!
How to participate in the liveblog chat: Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Psycho-Pass and commenting there starting at 1:00 p.m. EST.That is AN HOUR EARLIER THAN NORMAL.
I won’t be here today because I am absurdly swamped in con prep and Patreon obligations and wasted half the morning obsessively rewriting a post yelling at people complaining about a show I barely watch, because I’m an idiot who makes bad choices. Would appreciate if someone could comment with the log after the chat.
A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.
- Stormbound: The Tholians use the stolen Tox Uthat to attack the Na’kuhl, which is total word salad if you haven’t watched at least three different Star Trek series aired over 40 years.
- Honod System Patrol: The recently-minted Cpt Saga has an adventure on the Oracle.
- Khaiell System Patrol: Cpt Norivek of the Helen responds to an urgent request for aid from a Romulan colony.
- Badlands Control: The Terran Empire invades the Badlands.
The Table of Contents has been updated!
Immediately following the end of The Batman Adventures, the follow-up comic, The Batman and Robin Adventures, began. The title change corresponds to a shift in the responsible creative team, including a significant increase in Paul Dini’s involvement–he wrote the first three issues and multiple thereafter. And who else would Dini make the villain of a two-parter comprising the first two issues of the second Batman: The Animated Series tie-in comic than Two-Face?
In discussing “Two-Face,” I suggested that Batman is a creature of both hope and guilt. I also suggested that Grace, Harvey Dent’s fiancee, was precisely what her name implied, a symbol of the possibility of forgiveness and healing. Now we have “Two-Timing,” the story which closes off that possibility. At a regular weekly visit from Bruce Wayne and Grace (because of course Two-Face’s visitors come in a pair), we learn that Harvey feels he is improving, that he might be able to have the operation to fix his face and, possibly, eliminate the Two-Face personality forever. But the Joker, for his own amusement, starts planting the seeds of jealousy, suggesting that Bruce and Grace are having an affair, and Bruce is only paying for Harvey’s treatment to keep him out of the picture.
There follows a curious scene in which Bruce and Grace attend a society function, and their conversation is fairly easily readable as Grace coming on to Bruce pretty intensely. It’s not quite blatant enough to be the only reasonable reading, but it’s certainly plausible, in which case we can read this as Grace giving up on Harvey. It’s understandable that she would: it has been months or years at least since he became Two-Face, in which time she has been presumably alone (romantically speaking), while Bruce is right there, emotionally available, attractive, single, familiar, and going through the same stresses regarding Harvey that Grace is. On the other hand, for those same reasons she might reach out to Bruce not because she has chosen to give up on Harvey, but simply out of momentary confusion and grief. Regardless of her reasons, she kisses Bruce, and Harley Quinn snaps a picture, gives it to the Society editor at the local paper of record, and then flees. The fact that she then runs straight into Batman means Bruce must have abandoned Grace immediately after the picture was taken.
So on the one hand we have Grace–the possibility of redemption and healing–abandoning Harvey (at least momentarily), and on the other we have Bruce abandoning that same possibility to become Batman. In other words, Two-Face has been abandoned by Grace, redemption, and healing, and Bruce has similarly abandoned that possibility. Where Two-Face is concerned, Bruce’s hope and friendship are a grace he will no longer receive; now there is only the judgment and vengeance of Batman. Certainly that would explain the second part, where Batman refers to Two-Face by that name, prompting Two-Face to say that Batman has given up on him. Batman doesn’t argue; the implication is that Two-Face is right. Later still, when Two-Face is taken away in a scene that parallels the ending of “Two-Face,” Grace isn’t crying as she was in that episode, but glaring after him, a clear rejection.
Two-Face can never be healed. We know that, have known that since he first appeared. Once a villain, always a villain, or at least eventually back to being a villain, because that’s generally how the characters are most interesting and memorable. But, crucially, Batman didn’t know. Bruce Wayne never gave up on his friend–but now he may have. The ending of this story at least implies, even if it stops short of outright declaring, that he and Grace will no longer be visiting Harvey weekly. This is largely confirmed by Grace’s next and final appearance 20 issues later, which suggests that she has not visited Harvey since–he states that he hasn’t heard from her in a year.
Grace offered herself to Bruce Wayne, and he rejected her to become Batman, who no longer hopes that Two-Face is redeemable. There is no longer grace or hope for Batman’s villains, and therefore none for himself. This is a step on a long road that leads to his falling out with Robin, his refusal to fully join the Justice League, his eventual withdrawal from it, from crime-fighting, to a bitter old age alone–and Beyond.
There is only darkness left for him. We must seek elsewhere for light. Fortunately, we know how to find light, the same place from which it always comes: Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…
The End of Volume 2 of the Near-Apocalypse of ’09
Current status of the Patreon:
How to participate in the liveblog chat: Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Psycho-Pass and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.
I won’t be here today because I am sick. Would appreciate if someone could comment with the log after the chat.