NML Crossing

NML Crossing, Episode 042 – Batman #561 (1999)

NML Crossing, Episode Forty-Two

Batman #561 (January, 1999)
“Bruce Wayne Goes to Washington, Part Two: The Witness”
Writer – Chuck Dixon
Pencils – Jim Aparo
Inks – David Roach
Letters – Todd Klein
Colors – Lee Loughridge
Edits – Gorfinkel & O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.99

In which Bruce Wayne takes the stand and pleads the case for Gotham City to be bailed out by the United States government… and comes across as completely tone deaf and out of touch!  Not a good outing for the fella I’m struggling to remember is also actually Batman!  With advocates like this, who needs enemies?

Plus: The long-awaited (by me) return of the NMaiLbag!

NML Crossing on Youtube




6 thoughts on “NML Crossing, Episode 042 – Batman #561 (1999)

  • Although the execution of the stylistic/formal device used in this issue (every other page a splash page of a different scene with the hearing’s dialogue overlapping it), I do like the potential of that approach.

    I think the poor execution came down to two flaws, the second of which ties into one of the bigger problems you mentioned in this episode:

    1) The scenes they picked to illustrated these splash pages are almost all about Batman’s past instead of Gotham’s past and current situation, which seems to make tying it to the dialogue from the hearing about rebuilding Gotham flimsier. The villains spread seems like the closest thing to actually being close to content of the hearing for Gothamites, not just Bruce’s life. Things like the Ra’s al Ghul spread are the weakest, because they have very little to do with Gotham’s current state (yes, it was loosely tied to Scratch’s “demons”, but that’s a weak connection, especially since we’ve only seen him in that one Chronicles story).
    2) This point is somewhat related to the last point, but since these scenes are largely tied to Bruce/Batman’s past instead of Gotham, it does make Bruce seem disconnected and like he didn’t really know what he was doing in his defense of bailing out Gotham. It seems like these scenes are more for the reader’s benefit, even if they don’t connect to the dialogue well. This stylistic device or approach is tricky to do for this reason; the overlapping dialogue and images need to have the dual effect of making sense to both the people in-universe and to the comic readers, and it seems like this only succeeded with the latter (and even then, only partly so, since many of those images were more about pre-Cataclysm).

    Somewhat shameless plug, but it’s relevant to this point: I used this type of approach to a degree – in the final issue of the 4th and final volume of Rebirth of the Gangster, the comic I write – and I know I tried hard to avoid this trap. I didn’t do the every other page was a splash panel, but the frame story was a speech for the falling action part of the story, which also echoed a speech in my first issue, connecting to the “rhyming” point Chris U made a few days ago. That speech’s dialogue served as a transition to check in on the other members of my cast and their final fates. Making this approach avoid the top issues, especially issue 2, was very hard and I don’t think I was completely successful with it (although I think my successes outweighed the failures and made the approach worth it).

    This might be a long way of saying that my own writing experience might still make me critical of how this was done in this Batman issue, but I have more sympathy and understanding for the failures than I would’ve otherwise. (Creating my own work has helped me do this a bunch when reading comics, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’d recommend people create on their own: to see how hard it can be and to be less upset when creators don’t do things as well, even if we still don’t like the product itself).

    Different notes:

    A) the Jed MacKay Avengers is pretty good, the best Avengers for me since Busiek/Perez (not at that height, but better than Aaron’s or Bendis’s stuff – Aaron and Bendis had some good moments but overall I didn’t like their runs). I like a lot of MacKay’s stuff, Moon Knight and Dr. Strange being some bigger ones.

    B) Also, I really enjoyed your X-Men Vignettes (and I like those stories themselves a lot overall). Like Chris U. caught up or reread/reslistented to your stuff during your hiatus, I did this too, reading your blog and these vignettes were one of the best things from my time doing that.

    C) Also, I wanted to let you know how your work has been a resource to me in my research for articles and books on comics history. For example, I’m writing a book called “Comics Tell the Truth: A History of Nonfiction and Informational Comics in the US”, and I have a chapter on superhero PSAs; the Cosmic Treadmill episode of the Teen Titans PSAs, and your blog posts about them, have been very helpful. Don’t worry: I’m not lifting your stuff word for word, and I am giving you and Reggie credit! Maybe knowing this will help ease some of the loneliness of writing/podcast producing you mention (that Chris U. seemed to do too, probably in a better way than me) that I also know from my own creative experience.

    • And, yes, the book I mention I’m writing is definitely something that we can call a niche within a niche within a niche!

    • Please let me know when your book gets published. I would love to read it, especially that chapter on superhero PSAs.

      • I might have misunderstood Chris S.’s point about the Ra’s al Ghul panel, but I think Chris S. was more saying that it didn’t have much to do with the Cataclysm/NML storyline, so while the Demon’s head connection to Scratch’s demons is a connection, it’s a weak one. I think he acknowldeged the Demon’s Head connection, maybe more by implication than explicitly saying that connection, but he spent more time on it being a weak connection for the Cataclysm story.

        I think that’s the point he (and I, in my comment above) were trying to make. Yes, there’s the Demon’s Head connection, but there could be a better image that relates to the hearing and Cataclysm/NML (like, even though I don’t like Scratch or his demons, an image that shows Batman fighting Scratch’s demons would make more sense with the story and with his implication about the politician being swayed by Scratch’s demons).

      • Will do! I’m thinking it won’t be for a year or so, since I still have a few chapters left to finish before the first draft is done and then I have revisions.

        I’m also in the process of writing other pieces on comics history for a different collection, very tentatively titled, “The Cost of Comics: True Stories of Martyrdom, Commerce, and Politics in Comics History”. Lately, this focus has been taking more of my time, in part because (while the pieces are thematically connected, they are more self-contained than the Comics Tell the Truth chapters, so it’s easier for me to work on them when I have less time).

        Of the pieces I’ve written that would be in this book, there’s a piece on Hector Oesterheld, the Argentine comic writer who was killed for speaking out in his comics against the genocidal junta ruling Argentina, a rule he also fought with the group the Montoneros. I’ve also written a piece called The Cost of Comics, about the history of labor organizing and unions in the comics industry.

        Future pieces I plan on writing are A License to Cartoon, studying Schulz, Davis, and Watterson’s different approaches to comics as art and licensing/commerce, a piece on comic creators who originally created for big companies before leaving to create their own characters (Caniff and some other newspaper creators; the founding of Image; Substack), and others like that, including an epilogue on Why I Write, given some of the negatives these pieces can reveal (and given my own struggles, especially financial/finding a large audience).

  • I don’t believe you didn’t get the Ra’s ai Ghul panel. Bruce is talking about demons, and Ra’s al Ghul is “the Demon’s Head”.
    Bruce really has his hands tied during his testimony. Bruce Wayne, playboy businessman, looks like he is trying to line his pockets. If he could reveal all he has done as Batman it would sell his point more, but he can’t reveal that he is Batman. Just like Batman couldn’t punch an earthquake he can’t punch Congress and solve Gotham’s problems either. Batman can save Gotham. Bruce Wayne can’t save Gotham. He has finally come up against an enemy he can’t defeat. This has got to be mentally taxing for him like nothing else.

    It was nice to see that the Wayne Enterprises plans to help individual Gotham citizens were brought up again. I loved Lucius Fox’s line about the plan not having a snowball’s chance of succeeding. Ever the realist that man Fox. No wonder Bruce trusts him with all his money.

    All of your criticisms of modern comics are the reason why I’m into Bronze Age issues now. No super-interconnectedness to be seen at all. Every title is self contained and most issues can be read without needing either the one before or after it. It is a time I miss, so that is where my comic fandom lives today.

    You keep writing an i’ll keep reading. You keep talking and I’ll keep on listening.
    Still the best site about comics on the whole internet.


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