Next year will mark the 10th Anniversary of the debut of the current Batwoman, and what better way to celebrate than with a big-screen blockbuster? Yes, Kate Kane may not have the same name recognition as other members of Batman’s extended family, but as Marvel Studios continues to demonstrate, audiences are more than happy to be introduced to new concepts. Batwoman is a terrific character with a lot going for her. Here is how I would harness that for the silver screen.
The Concept: This is a street level action-drama. There are plenty of supernatural elements in Batwoman’s comic book adventures, but I would save those for future outings. For this first film, I would concentrate on grounding the characters in the familiar territory of urban violence. At the same time, I would plant seeds of a larger conspiracy, as Batwoman gradually uncovers the organization behind Gotham’s criminals’ increasing audacity. This group is led by the charismatic, unbalanced Alice. She would serve as Batwoman’s primary antagonist for the film. I would stop short of actually connecting this organization to The Religion of Crime as, honestly, I never found it to be one of Rucka’s most intriguing ideas.
In case you don’t read the comments here I am going to preface this writing with the omission that I am not a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman; like not even a little bit. I’ve read the first trade which I thought was cool, a couple of other later issues that I thought were pretty lame, the Death mini series for Chris Bachalo’s art and that was it. I would roll my eyes when I heard people talking about how great the series was while my mind wandered to Frank Miller drawing Daredevil doing ninja moves in a dirty alley. Oveture for reasons that I still don’t fully understand, has had a strange pull on me. I remember being in Jamaica on my honeymoon when it was first announced and thinking “Oh I gotta get that” then Immediately thinking ” Wait, why the fuck do I want this?” I would scroll past preview pages and feel the need to stop on them and gaze at the brilliant art work. I sat through a Vertigo Panel at this years NYCC waiting to get past all the Sandman talk until I saw the interior art on a giant screen in all it’s glory and the upcoming covers for issue 2. One of the audience members got to read the comic for 17 seconds and when asked to describe it in one word she cheated with two and called it “fucking gorgeous” I was sold. I’m happy I succumbed to the enduring allure because Sandman: Overture was the first time in a very long time that I’ve really felt like I was part of an actual event in comics.
After a slight delay (which hopefully will be the last), Gaiman resumed his return trip to The Dreaming this week. While the first issue took place in the year 1915, the second opens with a flash-forward to now. In the present, Dream announces to Lucien that the time has come for him to fulfill an obligation which he cannot ignore. So, leaving Lucien to entertain visiting dignitaries, Dream travels to chat with a certain Henriette. Henriette, better known as Mad Hattie, has long been a fixture of the magical corner of the DCU. She previously played a role in the life of both Dream and his sister Death. On this occasion, Dream and Hattie take a walk through a deeply haunted house in search of an item that she once hid there. Retrieving what appears to be a pocket watch, Dream bids Hattie farewell, and returns to the current duties of his realm. I trust that this expedition amounts to more than a visit with familiar faces and that Gaiman is laying the groundwork for something that will be important later in Overture.
The issue then picks up where the previous left off in 1915. Dream had been called away (more like forcefully seized by mystical powers) to an unfamiliar place. Even more disorienting is the fact that he is surrounded by creatures who appear to be strange variations on himself. It soon becomes clear that each of these figures represents an aspect of Dream’s essence. They are all one, yet also separate. While not expressed in quite this manner before, this theme has always played a part in the Sandman mythos. Dream appears in the form the viewer would best comprehend. Thus, when visited by a cat in “Dream of a Thousand Cats,” the Dream Lord appears as a feline. Throughout the series, artists portrayed Dream in a variety of ways, depending on their personal style. Williams pays homage to this tradition by dressing one of the Dream aspects in a flame-patterned robe which bears a strong resemblance to a garment worn by Marc Hempel’s Dream in The Kindly Ones.
Gaiman also uses this conclave of Dreams to hint at future events. As the conversation meanders through philosophical discussions & digressions, Dream asks if he is always like this: “Self-satisfied. Irritating . . . unwilling to concede center stage to anyone but myself?” Yes, is the answer he receives. “Ah, fascinating,” Dream muses. How Dream just described himself fits perfectly how his personality has been for millennia. The core of his character arc in Sandman is how he gradually learns to relax and allow himself to be more open to others. In the past, readers have concluded that it was Dream’s time in captivity which first sparked this reassessment. Here, however, Gaiman seems to be suggesting that it started a little earlier. Was it this experience with the aspects of himself which first forced Dream to confront who he was in all his ugliness? If so, will we see more hints of this shift before the conclusion of Overture?
Towards the end of the issue, Gaiman reintroduces a threat familiar to fans (hint: Doll’s House). Then on the final page he leaves the reader with a bit of a shocker. Less surprising is the fact that Gaiman continues to be a cat person.
As for the art, Williams simply amazes with every page. Somehow he has found a way to outdo his own stellar work on Batwoman. Each page is imaginatively constructed and beautifully rendered. From the shifting fantasy background of The Dreaming to the horror house tour with Mad Hattie to the cosmic setting for the gathering of Dreams, Williams shines. Credit should also be given to Dave Stewart’s outstanding colors, especially the bright reds of the ruby pages; also, Todd Klein deserves notice for keeping clear a wide assortment of fonts in the conclave section. And of course, no Sandman comic would be complete without a Dave McKean cover . . .
Overall, this issue seemed to be a bridge getting us through some exposition on the way to the primary conflict. Regardless, it is a very lovely bridge, which is a pleasure to stroll along. Having done so now, I am eager to see where the third segment of our journey will take us.