Saturday, October 16, 2010


- Noun
1. A party (The “Original Batman” Ball), dance (Danse Macabre), or other (Club of Heroes, Villains) festive gathering of persons wearing masks and other disguises, and often elegant (“Original Batman”, Black Glove), historical (Knight, Squire, Musketeer, Legionary, Gaucho, Man-of-Bats) or fantastic costumes. (DOMINO MASKS are required because there is a minimum requirement of masking.)
2. A costume or disguise worn at such a gathering.
3. False outward show; façade; pretense.
4. Activity, existence, etc … under false pretenses. (See: LIVING A LIE.)

- Verb
5. To go about under false pretense or a false character; assume the character of; give oneself out to be.
6. To disguise oneself. (See: SUPER-HEROES)
7. To take part in a masquerade.

From the root-word: “MASQUE”
1. A form of aristocratic entertainment in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, originally consisting of pantomime and dancing but later including dialogue and song, presented in elaborate productions given by amateur and professional actors.
2. A dramatic composition for such entertainment.
3. A masquerade; masked ball; revel.
(An aside on Masque ... whenever I hear it I think of "The Masque of the Red Death", by Poe. Poe is notorious for his use of masquerades in stories, and what a coincidence ... a quote from Poe's "The Raven" is scrawled on the crypt of Alan Wayne, a man who is ridiculously Poe-like in his depression and Gothic gloominess, and who lost his wife early and pondered doing terrible, beyond-mortal things to get her back.)

(Another aside on Masque ... whenever I think of the Masque of the Red Death I think of the film with Vincent Price. And whenever I think of Vincent Price I think of the 60's Batman TV show villain "Egghead".)

(Yet another aside on Masque ... I do believe I've just come up with a really slick idea for a Jason Todd/Red Hood storyline that echoes or even references "The Masque of the Red Death" and features the first in-comics appearance of Egghead ...)

See also: “MASK”
1. A covering for all or part of the face, worn to conceal one’s identity.
2. A grotesque or humorous face worn at a carnival (See: CIRCUS), masquerade, etc …
3. Also called swim mask. A device … blah blah blah (See: KING KRAKEN)
4. A gas mask (see: SCORPIANA)

Why the digression into masquery? Every single person in this issue is wearing a mask … but more important, I think, are the classical concepts involving “Masques” with a –QUE. Everyone. EVERYONE. And none moreso than the BLACK GLOVE. But to clarify who is wearing what mask to the masquerade, let’s peruse our Cast of Characters for this production – in order of appearance.

1. TIMOTHY DRAKE. His mask is one of boastfulness, used to conceal the fact that he’s still jealous about losing the role of Robin to Damian, and indicating that although he is standing amidst what is essentially the “Grown Up’s League”, he’s not as ready to grow up as he’s pretending to be. The lads over at MINDLESS ONES gave Tim Drake a pretty hard time back in “Bristol Bay”, but it seemed clear even then, and especially now that the JLA (And thank Christ there are some “old faces” in there who actually KNOW Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake) pity the kid and are skeptical of him – however Wonder Woman, in her usual standout way, is so compassionate and so empathic, that her look is one of caring and concern more than standing around wondering why this meeting was called at all. Oh yeah … the Robinson-era, Post-Final Crisis JLA (and some “guests” – iconic reservists) are in here, too. And let’s not forget that Tim’s LITERAL mask, his new cowl, is a highly Batman-like full-cowl, instead of a domino mask.
2. JLA. In order of IMPORTANCE to anything related to BATMAN. Wonder Woman. Green Arrow. Black Canary. Flash (Barry Allen). And Cyborg-Starfire-DonnaTroy-DoctorLight-Starman-Congorilla. (Ollie conveniently occupies the space accidentally filled by Hal Jordan in “Bristol Bay” in an art gaff. Except for Wonder Woman, the JLA are wearing the kind of masks that patient parents might wear while listening to some wild story coming from an emotional little kid.
3. BRUCE WAYNE. His mask is pretty obvious – that of the Private Investigator mentioned back during Batman, R.I.P. by Mayor Sebastian Hady to Gordon. But it’s more than that – he also wears the mask of his father, particularly the mask his father wore to the masquerade involving Lew Moxon.
4. MARSHA LAMARR. She wears the mask of “ally”, when she’s in fact, an enemy. No shocker here … she’s an actress … she’s playing a role for Doctor Hurt, she’s equivalent to Jezebel Jet, and she’s basically his “agent in the field”, the mouthpiece for the lies he invents and concocts. She also wears the mask of MARTHA WAYNE, much like how one of Hurt’s masks is that of THOMAS.
5. GROVES. The Kane Family Butler. If BATMAN has an EVIL DOPPELGANGER, somewhere, Alfred must, too. It has been suggested that Groves probably portrayed “Alfred” in the Black Glove’s film. But I doubt it’s very important.
6. BETSY KANE. Her mask is the mask of hypocrisy. For starters, she makes some allusions toward wasps that immediately stood out as regarding WASPs. One blogger made mention that Greg Rucka pegged the KANES as Jewish, But I think it’s probable that the KANES (Martha, Bruce’s grandparents) are not related to the KANES (Kate, Jake, Bette, and probably Kathy). It of course suspiciously draws the question of WHY IN THE HELL ARE THERE SO MANY KANES IN BATMAN’S WORLD? But chalk this one up to the universe being made in the image of the creator. She also wears the mask of suspicion and accuser, probably as a means to hide her own shame at the scandal of her daughter disowning her.
7. RODERICK KANE. Actually, old Grandpa Roddy seems to be one of the only characters whose mask is not of his own making. He seems like a bit of a pushover, but he does wear a mask – a permanent mask of a paralyzed face, since he had a stroke.
8. CARTER NICHOLS. Carter is like Roddy, actually. His mask is more that he is blinded. He’s a victim. But he’s definitely wearing a “brave face” around some scary people.
9. SIMON HURT. Mask on top of mask on top of mask on top of mask. Thomas Wayne. Jack the Ripper. Simon Hurt. Mangrove Pierce. Black Glove. El Penitente. This guy goes from one mask to the next as easily as a disembodied spirit hopping bodies. He certainly hyper-adapts. But we’ll learn more about him as we go. Point being, he always has one of his masks on. Including, of course, a domino mask.
10. THE VETERAN. It’s probably METRON, as most people spotted right away. The New Gods in Final Crisis appeared wearing other people’s faces (and attempting to remake the flesh & blood world in their image). Hard to say – it’s important, I think, to note the wheelchair. But I think it’s equally important to note that the veteran only has One Eye. Singular vision. We’ve gotten that theme repeated to us in the form of mysterious “prophets” all over the place. Honor Jackson only had one eye. Lone-Eye Lincoln has two, but that nickname had to come from somewhere (possibly a glass-eye). If you see Presidential surnames, look for one-eyed men. And then – pay attention – note that ARCHIVIST BRUCE BARBATOS-BARBELITH ALSO only has ONE EYE. Could all of the ONE-EYED characters be “helpers” projected into the Time-Stream by Bruce at the End of Time to help in places where they are needed?
11. JOHN MAYHEW. Here he wears a domino mask as a member of the Black Glove. But we already know that Mayhew is an adulterous bastard, who possibly murdered his wives. So he wears all kinds of masks in his public face.
12. GILLIAN LOEB. Yeah, he’s in the Black Glove, too. We know Loeb because he was ousted by the combined might of Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent, and then he was murdered by one of the Hangman killers.
13. MAYOR JESSOP. Had his employer, Mayor James, assassinated so he could become mayor. Black Glove organization.

SCENE 1: Timmy the Emancipated Boy Wonder and the Adventure of the Adopted Dad’s Skeptical Super-Team.
Interesting how the present-day “Search for Bruce” JLA task force stuff has been in order. We learn that off-page, Superman’s team swiped back that Final Crisis rocket and left it at the Hall of Justice before heading to Vanishing Point.

We get the skinny about the recording Bruce made in Batman # 701 and # 702. I’m curious what it would look like if EVERY JOURNAL ENTRY from Morrison’s run was lined up in order. Could clues be gathered from it?

Wonder Woman says “You all know what to do”. It’s a nice thing to say, but Christ, it’d be nice if they’d let us in on it. Punch Batman in the balls if he shows up? Trap him in a bottle? I mean … what are the options for an Earth-based, non-Hyper-God-Magick team of fantastical, but far from Godly heroes?

SCENE 2: Nice transition from Wonder Woman to Marsha Lamarr’s ass.
Checkered floor alert. You’ll notice that Lamarr is moving across a checkboard toward Bruce DIAGONALLY like a Queen Piece. Bruce, naturally, is a Knight Piece. She wants to use him as a Pawn Piece.

Lamarr’s purple lipstick is ALREADY applied. We of course know from classic Primary vs. Secondary color that Purple and Vivid Green = TOXIC/POISON. The Joker’s colors. Luthor’s colors. Jezebel Jet wore a lot of purple and drank purple champagne. Marsha Lamarr wears green, with purple lipstick. I really don’t need to go on about The Joker’s constant use of green poisons (See: Frazer Irving’s entire coloring of every “Joker Scene” in Batman and Robin) and Talia al Ghul herself tends to wear a lot of purple and green. Hell … come to think of it … there’s Catwoman’s old costume … Ra’s al Ghul … Riddler …

Doctor Floss.

Mordecai’s notes: (Note the anachronisms, of course, Bruce Wayne himself IS an anachronism right now)
The scars on my body --- numerous --- from my head --- found stacks of grit on --- stone. If only I had a … microscope --- tip of ---

Breathing on JUPITER. Something to that … can’t place it now. King of the Gods. Maxie Zeus. Astrological ruler of Sagittarius, guardian, protector … yeah, I’ve got nothing. But since it’s referenced directly in involvement with Lamarr’s nasty smoking habit, I’d look more toward the relationship with CANCER. I mean, talk about poisonous, or cancerous – later when they explore the Wayne Family Cemetery, she ashes one cigarette under her heel and immediately lights another.

Cool bit: They take the BRISTOL FERRY up BRISTOL BAY to whatever Hamptons-like rich community the Kanes live in.

SCENE 3: Meanwhile, at Stately Kane Manor …
More acting from Lamarr. She switches gears when Betsy Kane comes to greet her. When’s the last time you trusted anyone who said “It’s been EVER SO LONG”. Like I said … it’s that Jane Austen satirized, very particular era of snotty, aristocratic English. Dame Judi Dench probably plays Betsy here. And you’ll notice that unlike Wayne Manor, the parlor in the Kane Mansion DOES NOT have checkered tiles.

I think I’ve nailed down the “Wasp” thing. I mean, apart from alluding to the fact that these Kanes are WASPs themselves. It occurred to me when I thought about them being snobby OLD, OLD, OLD money. With their old butler and their OLD mansion. Old and shabby. They’re in the same frail condition as their house. I thought immediately of my grandmother’s house. Before it burned, there were beehives and paper wasp nests in EVERY WALL of the place.

If they’re so rich … can’t they afford to call an exterminator? Partly an indicator of the hard times Gotham has fallen upon (even for the rich – she mentions immediately that Roderick sold Kane Chemical to Ace Chemical – Man, Gotham really was designed to build the Batman) and partly to help explain why she’s so bitter and jealous that Martha basically ditched her miserable, miserly, dilapidated, crotchety parents to go live with young philanthropist Thomas Wayne, who of rich families in the Depression whose wealth was decreasing, the Waynes were on the rise still.

Oh, it’s entirely speculation on my part … but I’m certain of the “Dilapidated” thing. And they can never even leave their house. They’re shut-ins. She’s in a wheelchair … do you see any ramps? Ramps wouldn’t be proper. He’s in a damned iron lung. They don’t get out much … of course they’d believe every lying fucking word Marsha Lamarr tells them about what their daughter is doing. And if Doctor Hurt pays a visit – and it seems from Betsy’s statements that he did – how would they know he’s not the real Thomas Wayne? He could say pretty much anything to them.

“Patrick and Silas had to cover up the whole thing”. – Betsy Kane.
Betsy seems fairly aware that Patrick and Silas Wayne had some sort of family secret they were covering up – but if anything, it’s the same secret we know about. That Doctor Hurt is really Thomas Wayne of the 1700’s … again, Alan Wayne knew about it, and apparently built the secret room and passed it down all the way – we learned in # 701 that Bruce’s parents told him never to go in there. And in the fringes of continuity there is rumor of an “older brother” at Willowood Asylum.

HOW would the Waynes go about EXPLAINING that their 250 year old Great-Great-Great Uncle was still alive, a practicing Satanist, killing people, haunting their family, and possibly holding Black Masses in the basement hidden room of Wayne Manor? They couldn’t … if the question ever arose rumor of a “brother” or something at the asylum would have to suffice.

Awesome though, that Bruce’s boarding school experience with Manfred is directly referenced here. Is that the FULL REFERENCE the MINDLESS ONES were looking for? I believe so!

Betsy Kane reads the tea-leaves. And what do we see? Two bat-symbols, a W, and what could be the Grim. Reference to the “two Batman”? No … I rather think it’s probably reference to Barbatos grafting itself onto Bruce. But it’s hard to say … this one will be answered next issue so I’m not worried about dissecting it.

“Thomas told you this? AFTER his alleged death?” – Bruce’s question pretty much spells out the fact that 1700’s Thomas began pretending to be Thomas Wayne to torment people and gain access back to Wayne Manor if he could.

Every time anyone mentions Thomas Wayne it’s different. One minute they’re referring to Tommy, the next Tom, the next Thomas. And every time it could mean BOTH.

“Whoever that man was, it wasn’t Tom Wayne!” (Did she mean whoever the man was who came and talked to her afterward, or the man who died in the street?) We take it to mean she thinks Thomas Wayne hired a lookalike (Pierce?) to fake his own death … but it’s so nonspecific as to which part of Bruce’s question she was ranting about. Indeed Marsha’s line later – “Martha’s relationship with her family deteriorated years ago. You heard how Betsy felt about Tom Wayne.” Could easily mean that the Kanes knew of 1700’s Thomas (Many of Gotham’s aristocratic elite would … potentially … have heard the rumors or even met the man.) and didn’t want Martha getting involved with ANY of them.

SCENE … 4? Yeah, 4.
Willowood Asylum IS Arkham Asylum. A little Batman history lesson.

Arkham Asylum was founded back in … whenever. The early 19th Century or so. The peak of the Sigmund Freud era, and the height of fervor between your lobotomy proponents and those newfangled psychologists who were using drugs to treat patients.

The history of Arkham can be pretty neatly read about in Grant’s own “ARKHAM ASYLUM: A SERIOUS HOUSE ON SERIOUS EARTH”. Duh.

So why then, did Arkham first appear in the comics in the late 60’s (I think … although chronologically now after various Crises, and thanks to being in The Long Halloween and so forth, it reopened in Batman’s 2nd Year of Crime-Fighting. Which of course, Grant primed us for by having whoever in LAST RITES say in a flashback “there’s even talk of the old Arkham Asylum reopening.”

Willowood was of course the Asylum where The Brave and the Bold’s “Thomas Wayne, Jr.”, Bruce’s not-quite-in-continuity older brother with a mental disability lived. He apparently got possessed by Deadman then cured, then died.

So Grant fuses the two. ARKHAM closes after the “Mad Dog” incident. Later the building is used as the military insane asylum called WILLOWOOD. Later on, during the rise of Batman, it reopens as ARKHAM.

But while it was WILLOWOOD, Doctor Simon Hurt worked there. (No wonder he just waltzed in and stole control of Arkham Asylum from Jeremiah Arkham!). At least, that’s the going theory.

This Asylum is large, and Ryan Sook has drawn it to look a LOT like Arkham. But it looks like its upstate, and shouldn’t Gotham River be right behind it? It’s impossible to tell. But the fact is … the building looks almost exactly like how Tony Daniel depicted Arkham during R.I.P.

Nice art cue, as Marsha’s car is parked at the Asylum and later we see they’re out back.

THERE IS A STATUE OF A BOOMERANG ON DOCTOR HURT’S FILE CABINET which could indicate that the “Boomerang Killer” of The Brave and the Bold was indeed, very much, one of his historical “masks”.

Carter Nichols re-enters the story as a young man. Frankly, the story goes (and you can skip Final Crisis if you want) Batman # 700, Batman # 701, Batman # 702, Return of Bruce # 1, Return of Bruce # 2, Return of Bruce ->

The “Time and the Batman” trade is pointless. #700-#702 should be included as immediate prologue for the Return of Bruce TPB. But enough of that chatter – I never usually complain about the dull market aspects of comics.

Enemy time travel. A villain who crops up over the centuries but not consistently? Could Hurt be time-traveling, too? It doesn’t seem likely. Nichols backs out of the bet in the end. He decides his soul isn’t for sale, and it seems like that kind of amazing technology is not available to Hurt.

Hurt apparently gave Roderick the stroke … possibly assassinated the Waynes. Probably IS a Wayne. Probably is the Boomerang Killer. Bruce is trapped inside a BOX. Joker has apophenia and can seemingly see the box form, see the city grids. Grids/boxes/same idea. The grids might be constructs of the box, moving pawns here and there, shifting history around Bruce. Only crazy people can see it. The Hyper-Adapter may very well be the black, broken heart of Gotham City … constructing grids and frameworks within the Ancestor-Box to build the legend of the dark knight and ensure the Omega Bomb.

Who were the other TWO tall dark and handsomes?

We know that Jack Valor gave the bat-casket to the VAN DERMS, because years later in the cowboy era, the Van Derms still have it. Jack delivered it to a brother and sister in Gotham Town – NOT at Wayne Manor, which means Wayne Manor was probably not built yet. It was built in the late 1790’s, and he probably would have been dead at the time.

But there are instructions written onto his notes stating the casket should go to the catacombs. Who wrote them? The Van Derms? They were building the mansion for Darius, after all …

It’s hard to tell which … because we’ve been seeing this “bat-beast” or “bat-demon” transposed over Bruce, tied to Bruce, and he’s supposed to be a likely candidate for Barbatos. But I’ll put forth that Barbatos might be the Hyper-Adapter. It certainly explains a lot of things if that’s the case. Another “we’ll see”. I’m not really prepared right now to dig up all evidence of that.

But they directly refer to it as an UNEARTHLY LIFEFORM and I’m pretty damn sure that means Barbatos is the Hyper-Adapter, and it’s Gotham’s black heart. Of course, a moment later they refer to it as “The Hunter”. That’s been related back to the likes of ORION and Batman throughout the run …

Crime Bible ties should not surprise anyone at this point. Grant was an architect of 52. He and Rucka covered the Gotham stuff, primarily. Rucka stuck with the Crime Bible, and it was incorporated heavily into Final Crisis with different covens and ultimately Libra arriving as some sort of messiah to herald Darkseid.

Interesting that as the eclipse passes and Bruce vanishes … his grandfather, Roderick dies.

Final points: Tim Drake crying “SEAL THE HALL OF JUSTICE” is exactly the same thing Batman yells when he realizes that Kraken harbors GRANNY GOODNESS.

And of course … there’s our Mandelbrot-bat-barbatos-barbelith-one-eyed Archivist Batman. What in the hell is he going to do next?

I had some interesting ideas about the nature of Mangrove Pierce (“My father’s double … and mine”) especially now that we’ve seen Bruce Wayne, Thomas Wayne, and Thomas Wayne-HURT all dressed in the “Original Batman Costume”. I mean … the name “Pierce” itself is a word that means “Putting a hole in something”. And we can all but confirm that Doctor Hurt personally puts holes in things – whether it’s holes in Bruce’s memories that he could fit into, storywise … amongst other psychological attacks.

He lobotomized Flamingo. He gave Roddy Kane a stroke. He drove Pyg over the edge. The list goes on and on.

My presumption is that Mangrove Pierce was just another one of Hurt’s “False Identities”. I haven’t had the time to compile evidence to build on that thought, and I’ve had people argue against it quite succinctly so more on that at another time.

Really, in the context of this latest issue, which is a massive info-dump (although still maintaining that air of “dots ready to be connected, that can’t quite be connected yet”) yet another re-read of the entire run so-far is in order. Maybe next weekend, if I have time.


  1. Great observations as usual. CANNOT WAIT for the next issue. Crazykirbyness aplenty according to GM.

  2. Well done, RW, I think you actually win this round of The Battle of the Annotators (although the preamble about masks was largely, excuse me for saying, free-associating and extraneous) got in a nice groove checking the nitty.

  3. In my eyes, typically, whoever completes notation first often covers the hard details (Like the Frontiersman, Jeremy Coe's appearances ... or the issues the Hellerites appear in ... or the first mentions of Mayor James or Mayor Jessop) and for some reason, all that initial stuff out of the way, whoever releases later annotations kind of lucks out at having a less well-rounded, but more inquisitive (and typically more loose, or more "unscripted") aspects.

    I'd had the luck of reading Dave Uzumeri's and Rikdad's notes prior to this and had the luxury of not really having to retread any of their research or facts. I think that reason is primarily why some of these blogs work really well as companions to one another in as much as they're companions to the books.

    Yeah, the preamble wasn't so vital to the events of the book ... but I've recently (especially having done some research on Greek Theatre, and later things like A Midsummer Night's Dream) come into the realization of just how ingrained into our culture the concept of mask/masque/masquerade is and it's taken for granted.

    In comic culture especially (With Batman being its high-king and messiach) ... it's right there in front of us EVERY DAY. Short moral stories. Drama. Comedy and tragedy. And especially costumes.

    And doubly so ... the concept of Masquerade seems to be fueling Grant's whole run on Batman. Where Superman doesn't really wear a mask ... everyone in Batman does. They are the carnival of crime, the festival of freaks, the battle in the costume ball. Joker's choice of Oberon Sexton and all the Shakespearean imagery - Gravediggers as clowns ... Oberon the Fairy King ... and his talk in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House about Batman being the king of the freaks ... all speaks to this larger symbiosis between Batman and classical elements of masquerade.

    The entire world of Batman could even be described as Classical Theatre masquerading as something else.

  4. What do wasps make their homes in? Pulp.

  5. I think the Kanes and the Kanes are absolutely related. Greg Rucka pegged Kate as Jewish; but there's no reason that they all have to be Jewish. Remember Judaism is passed down from the mother, and Jacob's (Kate's dad's) marriage was not a result of the Gotham socialite scene but from their time in the army together.

  6. There's certainly been a lot of speculation on the Kane/Kane relation.

    But here's something we know:

    Current Batwoman "Kate" Kane is DEFINITELY related to previous Batwoman "Kathy" Kane.

    Bruce Wayne was apparently engaged to be married, and stood up at the altar, by Kathy Kane. Would that not make them kissing cousins?

    Anyway, it's purely a matter of unknown quantities now. We know the Batwoman Kanes have Jewish background, although not specifically how much of it. We don't know anything else about Batman Kanes vs. Batwoman Kanes (as opposed to Batgirl Cains).

    Hilker, when I moved into my house 16 years ago ... there was a paper wasp nest 3 feet by 4 feet in diameter. How do paper wasps get into your house? Through HOLES and cracks in the walls.

    Holes in the house and hidden lairs made of paper ... it feels very much like some of Grant's more existential "comics thinking about the nature of comics" moments (Like Final Crisis, Monitor's end, when everything sublimates back into a blank white page.

    You're of course absolutely correct with saying "Pulp", too, since the pop culture term "Pulp" that we use to describe things like newspaper serials featuring Cavemen, Pirates, Cowboys and Private Eyes were called "Pulp" because of the disposable "Paper" they were printed on. It's the very same root that the very same worm seems to be gnawing on.

  7. The Jupiter reference was an allusion to Marduk.

    In Babylonian astrology, Marduk = Jupiter.

    ...Anyway, I really hope Hurt isn't a Time Traveler. That would just make him lame. Like, some Legion Time Trapper-wannabee that operates only in New Jersey.

  8. Another Marduk reference? The God of War is getting a lot of play here. This Jupiter bit ... Orion ... Mordecai slaying a Tiamatian hyper-dragon.

    Agreed about Hurt. I can see exactly why he was hoping to get his hands on Nichols' time-travel device, but it's strangely telling that when he doesn't, he stops even trying.