Friday, 30 November 2012

The Ballad of the Superhero Cafe

Why are superhero comics so dour these days? Particularly DC Comics. How great would it be if there was a light hearted Batman and Superman comic like “Superhero Cafe” from “How It Should Have Ended”?

“How It Should Have Ended” (HISHE) is an animated series on YouTube where the animators create an alternate take on the ending of a popular movie like “Titanic” or “Hunger Games” and quite often they do superhero movies too. At the end of their superhero sketch they usually cut to Superman and Batman who are sitting in a cafe booth talking, accompanied with whichever superhero movie HISHE has just parodied.

Superman is leaning back, relaxed, talking casually, brilliantly boastful, lightheartedly; Batman talks in that breathless whispery growl Christian Bale did, sitting with a cup of coffee. It’s perfect! Two famous superheroes, sitting in a cafe having a cuppa joe, yakking about whatever, with Iron Man or Thor or whoever.

It’s a take on the heroes which isn’t seen at all in the comics; they’re always super serious. Batman is either currently battling the Court of Owls and slowly losing his mind or the Joker is picking off members of Batman Inc., while Superman goes from being either the cool and energetic figure from Grant Morrison’s “Action Comics” to George Perez’s stodgy take in the poorly titled “What Price Tomorrow?” to the heinous interpretation in J. Michael Stra-too many letters for a surname’s “Earth One” series.

Occasionally you catch glimpses of Batman doing ordinary things like eating a sandwich in the Batmobile in Kevin Smith’s “Widening Gyre” or sitting down with his adopted kids and Alfred for a showing of “Zorro” with a bowl of buttered popcorn in - I’m not sure what book that was. It was definitely recent, maybe one of Grant Morrison’s?

Anyway those glimpses are great and there should be more of that instead of trying to make every B-list rogue the terrible threat to Gotham they clearly aren’t in whatever throwaway story they've put Batman in to make some dough. Deadshot, really? Are the Gotham PD so incompetent that they can’t deal with that guy?

How about... a book where Batman goes for a burger with Nightwing and they talk about their drunken weekend last month? They could talk about singing a duet of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, the crazy chick Nightwing hooked up with, prank calling the Joker until he lost it. Batman could lead the crowd in shots, telling them his benefactor Bruce Wayne - wink wink - will foot the bill so let’s all have a good time, eh?

But DC won’t do that. It seems all most people want to read is “Serious Batman”. Batman can’t just hang out and be normal or do silly things, everything he does has to serve a purpose in his never-ending war on crime. Just one title, that's all I'm asking. Call it "Batman: After Dark". Ho hum.

I love Batman and will keep reading him but “Superhero Cafe” is an excellent series which only makes the comic book reader’s heart grow fonder for their beloved costumed heroes as they have a quiet drink in between major battles and saving the world. Here’s hoping DC loosen their ties (and cowls) a little and try some new approaches in 2013.