23 June 2013

Little Gotham and the Rough Edges

I read through Batman: Little Gotham, #10-12, this month. It remains one of the last vestiges of the DC Universe that existed before the current “New 52” continuity. Or rather, it’s a particular reflection of that universe.

In Little Gotham, not only are there no dead Robins, but most of Batman’s protégé(e)s are on good terms with him and each other. Jason Todd and Cassandra Cain are hanging around Wayne Manor. Nightwing and Oracle are still dating. Damian brings his (sometimes) little friend Colin home with him for play dates instead of keeping him secret.

In other words, this is the universe that many fanfiction writers seem to prefer imagining, where all interpersonal friction among the heroes has been sanded down to nothing more than amusing grumpiness. (Oh, that Jason!)

Little Gotham’s Damian continues to act out of character, as defined by his interpretations in the main comics. He was raised within the al-Ghul clan of assassins and world-conquerors, and in #10 he doesn’t recognize the name Napoleon. (He calls it his favorite ice cream. Overly obsessed Robin fans know that Neapolitan ice cream was Jason’s favorite. Not that I know that fact. No.) Like the Robin of the Teen Titans Go cartoon, this Damian seems greatly concerned with food.

In another panel Damian comments on American men’s fashion from the 1980s and ’90s, when he wasn’t even supposed to be alive. While the Little Gotham Damian has the same lack of patience and politesse as the character in the main comics, his history and outlook are unrecognizable.

That change seems to be part of the same process as the change in the rest of the Batman family: this Damian has become more cute, at the cost of the rough edges and details that made him distinct and more interesting in stories.

A couple of these issues left me with questions about their editing. The villain of #10 is Bane, and about halfway through he develops an accent (“d” for “th”). Batman fans of Latino descent disagree on the use of Spanish words and phrases in this story.

Another editing issue was word-balloon placement in #10-11. (Usually editors handle that job and letterers carry out their instructions.) On several pages I struggled to find the right flow from one balloon to the next unclear. The credited editor, Kristy Quinn, has years of experience with Wildstorm and DC. But maybe those issues were a learning experience for an assistant.

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