Three Concepts That Will Change The Way You Think About Batman

by Tito W. James

Homage, Continuity, and Intertextuality. These are three concepts that invite you to look at comics more deeply. To help define and explore these concepts, I decided to focus on a comic character we all know and love, Batman.

An homage is an allusion or imitation from one artist to another. The intention is respectful rather than being a knock off or stealing ideas.

Batman: Zero Year is filled with easter eggs and homages from previous Batman stories. It’s Snyder and Capullo’s way of celebrating the greatest Batman stories from the greatest artists.

However, much like a pop-culture joke, the story has to work whether the reader understands the reference or not. Zero Year is an engaging story by itself even if you don’t spot all the easter eggs.

Continuity is mentioned a lot in comic book culture in reference to how books and characters are interconnected. Continuity is the basis for ideas like a “shared universe” and a character’s actions having consequences beyond their own book.

In Joker’s “simplified” origin story, he used to operate as the criminal known as Red Hood until falling into a vat of chemicals that bleached his skin. When Joker enters the Batcave, he recognizes his old Red Hood mask.

Intertextuality is about how stories are shaped by the meaning of other stories.
On the night Bruce’s parents get murdered, he and his family are exiting a theater playing a Zorro movie. This is a reference to how Zorro was one of the many “pulp era” characters that inspired Batman.

Arkham Asylum is a reference to Arkham Horror and the works of HP Lovecraft that deal with madness.

In Batman R.I.P., Grant Morrison references a Silver Age comic about a super-powered Batman called the Batman of planet Zur En Arrh. In Morrison’s take, “Zur En Arrh” is a trigger-phrase that hypnotizes Bruce Wayne into unleashing a more primal version of Batman.

The story concludes with a flashback to the final conversation between Bruce and his parents. His father casually slips the trigger-phrase into the conversation, suggesting that Bruce was destined or even programmed to become Batman from birth.
This is combining homage and continuity to create intertextuality. To me, it’s more interesting because it enriches the story instead of making a cute reference or a constricting timeline. I hope to see this concept applied to comics in the future.

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