Brainiac On Banjo #001: Back In The Saddle Again!

For those who came in late: Well, hello there! After a nice half-year nap, I’ve gone back to the magic keyboard to unleash my innermost thoughts onto a weary public, now, here on this fabulous new site Pop Culture Squad! I have some concept of what’s likely to happen at PCS – we’re in “soft launch” mode right now and lots of weird and synapse-melting things are coming down the pike, particularly in the realm of multimedia.

If you’re new to my sundry waxings, you’ll catch on pretty quick. Brainiac On Banjo is a line the late great Vivian Stanshall uttered in the song “The Intro and the Outro” on the very first Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band album, and that’s the same record that gave Death Cab For Cutie its name.

As one might infer, Brainiac On Banjo is about the ever-broadening world of comic books and related media. I’ve had some experience laboring in those fields forever and ever – if we haven’t already, I’ll probably have something of a bio up on PCS soon, as in “after I’m told to write one.” I’m also involved in lotsa other shit, like the Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind radio show (see below), and I’ll indulging in my most offensive political fantasies right here on Pop Culture Squad starting this Thursday.

Be warned. It’s been quiet out there.

Too quiet.

I’m going to kick off the return of Brainiac On Banjo by doing something that might confuse or even startle long-time readers: I’m going to praise a DC Comics production without once writing about their unrequited passion for slapping the reboot button like a monkey in a crack experiment. Nope, not even once. Really.

Last week I read one of the best-conceived and best-written Batman stories since about the past four reboots since Steve Engelhart met Marshall Rogers. Yes, I know, this Batman-marries-Catwoman storyline has been hogging our Bat-attention spans for a few months now, and this book, Batman #49, is part of all that. Yes, I know, this Batman-marries-Catwoman storyline has been well-telegraphed, culminating in the wedding issue, Batman #50, which will be released this Wednesday. Yes, that’s the fourth of July. But if you work at a comic book shop, you know this because selling this comic will be what you’ll be doing instead of hanging out with your family and friends, doubtlessly counting thumbs before and after the fireworks. If you haven’t realized where DC’re headed and you’ll be busy this Wednesday, Sunday’s New York Times already outed the finale. Spoiler Alert: it’s right here

Jeez, you just couldn’t wait, could you?

But let’s go back to the previous issue of Batman’s semi-monthly eponymous title. The one I’ve come to praise, not bury.

Written by Tom King and drawn by Mikel Janin, perhaps the coolest part of this story is that Batman does not appear in the story. It’s mostly a brilliant and revealing conversation between The Joker, who lusts to be Batman’s best man, and Catwoman, The Joker’s occasional partner-in-crime. Both are incapacitated, both are on the verge of bleeding out. While trying to out-game one another despite their circulatory issues, we learn a lot about what makes both characters tick.

They also spend some on-panel time discussing their fellow villains and the relationships they have had with them. Both bleeders talk about their take on such characters as The Penguin, Two-Face, and The Riddler – experiences they’ve had, impressions they’ve gathered, attitudes they’ve developed. To my sensibilities, these were the most interesting aspect of the issue by far.

Were they lying or exaggerating? Who knows. They are who they are. And I would say it doesn’t matter in the long run, but I already committed to not discussing those crack monkeys, remember?

Tom King has become the King of the Mountain of contemporary superhero writers, a mountain that is quite slippery and has been known to quickly turn to mud. He deserves the accolades – not only for this issue and this story arc, but for his work in general and, in particular, on the current Mr. Miracle twelve-parter.

You do not have to have read the preceding stories that lead-up to Batman #49, nor will you need to read Batman #50 if you don’t want to. This was a risky and challenging issue, something that one rarely sees in the midst of one of those Major Story Crossover Events (careful, Mike; you said you’d lay off those crack monkeys!) and it stands alone quite nicely.

Next week: I dunno. Maybe I’ll write about Nancy.

Our award-winning and creepy contributing editor Mike Gold also performs the weekly Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, and on iNetRadio, (search: Hit Oldies). Well, sort of. It’s been on hiatus for a while because shit happens. Weird Sounds will return with all-new shows streaming its heart out and your ears off starting, give or take, late this Sunday, July 8. He might explain what he meant when he said shit happens, and, maybe, why he persists on writing about himself in the third-person. Gold also scribes another weekly column for, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind (get it?) each Thursday and, be warned, it’s chock-full of yummy political histrionics.

7 thoughts on “Brainiac On Banjo #001: Back In The Saddle Again!

  1. Fantastic stuff Mike. It was a terrific issue. King’s self-challenges have been impressive throughout this run, and his artists have been able to keep up admirably. Looking forward to more of this from you.

  2. Welcome back Mike. It’s been too long.

    I don’t have the same high opinion of this story as you do. Maybe I shouldn’t expect any sense of realism is a book about a man who dresses up as a bat but there should be some kind of internal consistency just to maintain the suspension of disbelief. For one thing the Joker clearly is shooting a 6-shot revolver. He gets off 15 shots before he and Catwoman are both incapacitated. Then they spend the rest of the issue reminiscing while they are in danger of bleeding out.

    It wouldn’t have been a big deal to draw a Luger or Glock to get around the “too many bullets” problem but I suspect that Tom King isn’t concerned about such trivialities. This issue and the previous one, (I have problems with that one too), seem to be intended to be psychological profiles that set up the end of the wedding storyline, (“If you make him happy, he isn’t Batman.”)

    That could have been accomplished and still maintain the suspension of disbelief. I spent the last couple of weeks, since issue 48, hoping this whole thing was a fantasy in the Joker’s mind. In #48 the Joker kills an entire wedding party, but there is no blood evident, not even when he shoots the bride right next to his face. No blood splatter on him. And the wedding was at night? Who gets married at night? The reception, yes. But not the ceremony. The real problem is how ineffectual Batman is. He does nothing. Doesn’t save the bride, he kneels down and prays with the Joker, something I think neither would ever do.

    But man the art is great.

    Are Martha and Mindy coming aboard here?

    1. Hey George-

      Mindy will be joining us here at Pop Culture Squad, however I don’t have a start date for her yet

  3. George, welcome to Pop Culture Squad. Nice to have you over.

    I’ve given up on internal consistency within the DC Universe. Clearly, the organizational diagram of the DCU was designed by M.C. Escher while he was on some very bad LSD. However, The Joker’s six-shot revolver firing 15 shots… hey, that’s The Joker for you. Always going for the gag.

    As for who gets married at night — well, I did, the first time. It was held after the conclusion of the 1977 Chicago Comicon — at a different venue — and while killing time my best man and I went to the charity benefit art auction dressed in our tuxedos. We bid the first dozen or so items up, and then left for the wedding. Hey, it was for the Literacy Volunteers of America. Get a little more coin in their pockets.

    I have a problem with The Batman. He’s a complete asshole. Even though he’s better than he was back in the 1990s, he’s still too much like the WWE’s version of Judge Dredd for my taste. Dedicated, tough justice is fine. A sociopath for justice is not… to me, at least. Besides, there are something like a hundred and fifty-two other Batmans in the DCU, so he’s hardly unique. Catwoman is a far, far more interesting character — certainly over the past several incarnations.

    I’m not certain who are going to be the regular columnists here at PCS. I knew this at ComicMix where I was editor-in-chief, but over here our editor-in-chief (ergo my editor) is Adriane Nash. She’s very, very good at it, and I’m totally enthralled with pounding the keyboard without having to whip out that red pen. However, I think I’ve got a few more comics to edit before I call it a day.