ON COMICS: BATMAN CACOPHONY

250px-Batman_Cacophony_1Batman: Cacophony (Kevin Smith/Walt Flanagan/Sandra Hope)
DC Comics, November 2008 – March 2009

Kevin Smith was the one who got this whole thing started for me. Eventually, he referenced his own comic writing on Daredevil and Batman and somewhere in the recesses of my mind, something clicked. I had heard of The Widening Gyre, the second book in the Smith/Flanagan series in some previous incarnation and thought it was the coolest title I’d ever heard. I knew Cacophony was a short book, but I heard enough from Kevin to realize I needed to check it out.

When I re-read this book, a lot of it seems pretty standard. Smith himself has admitted he and Walt Flanagan had no idea what they were doing and that Widening Gyre was a leap forward. (It was, but that’s a post for another day!)

But three things always standout, two of which are specific to the book. The third thing I always takeaway from this book is a much larger concept – one that intrigues me to this day.

1. THE JOKES – Cacophony was the first comic I had ever read that was funny. There were solid jokes in this storyline. (Mostly from Joker, naturally.) Even as dark as the book is, Smith and Flanagan don’t take themselves too seriously. This book reminded me that for all the exquisite artwork and narrative heavy-lifting…it’s still a comic book. And those should be fun to read. I don’t think anybody’s written a more fun and silly Joker to date.

2. THE TEXT – I may sound crazy, but I could hear the dialogue in this book. The font, the boldface and the bubbles combined to do something pretty amazing on the page. I’m not a comic book writer, but I do write songs and blog pretty often, so I’m always intrigued by just how much can be accomplished by a few letters on a page. Even something as simple as Joker saying ‘lo, Floyd’ instead of “Hello, Floyd” was conversational and realistic. Up until this book, I had never encountered that.

3. THE JOKER(S) – I saw this in Cacophony for the first time, but it became clearer with every Batman story I read. There were (and are) thousands of takes on the Joker. And it’s not that I had every held just one “character” in my head – I didn’t even think about it. The notion that writers would so deeply and creatively mine the Clown Prince of Crime was completely foreign to me. Until Smith did it. I love this book because, yes, I love the Joker. All his personalities.

I understand comic books aren’t for everybody, but I can’t ignore all the joy and confusion and surprise I’ve gotten from comic books over the past few years. And the most amazing news about that is this – these books keep giving.

If you ever thought for one second, “Maybe I’d like comic books,” I can guarantee you’re right. Sure, it might take awhile to find your particular flavor, but take a few books and go buy some books. You’ll be glad you did!

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