The Alternative History of the DC Universe #3 hits the mind-’80s with Batman and the Outsider’ s member Katana cast as this issue’s narrator. Another solid and substantial issue that re-evaluates the nostalgia-tinted stories of yesteryear from the hard-hitting perspective of minority characters.
The Other History of the DC Universe #3 looks to recount a large proportion of the 80s and early nineties comic book history through the jaded eyes of Katana, and thereby offering up the first issue that represents another minority character’s perspective on past events. Minus the nostalgia, as we get another alternative interpretation of events from the comics I grew up with. And it got me thinking.
We’ve all seen this type of take on comics. Going way, way back to Watchmen (and even before that with Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams fresh new tale of Batman in the early Seventies). But, it seems to me that John Ridley’s frank and oft-times unnerving take on the comics that are sacrosanct to many fans, like myself, is one of the most in keeping with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons magnum opus.
When Watchmen first came out there was a lot of talk about the symbolism of the bloody smiley face badge. It was summed up at the time as the violent, bloody world of reality coming crashing down on the garish, colourful world of comics. And, with just a change of viewpoint, Ridley’s brings that same aesthetic to his storytelling that Moore did all those decades ago. An innocent, nostalgic time now forensically reviewed through a lens more in tune with reality and real social, cultural, political events.
Thus we get – rightfully so too – a Deathstroke described as a “pedophilic rapist”, while Katana herself tales advantage of the Oriental stereotypes harboured by white Americans that suggest all heroes are skilled in the martial arts, to make a rep for herself. And so the Force of July – a short-lived supervillain team that fought Batman and his Outsiders – are easily reinterpreted as representing the worst of American xenophobia then, as now. Recast as a ‘cultural war between progressive minds and regressive factors.” These cartoon characters thereby become more significant in the wider story Ridley is telling. A story that often includes real-life horrors such as the Japanese internment camps of World War II. And not for the first time is billionaire Bruce Wayne cast as something of the ignorance white saviour in all of this.
Deathstroke is a great example of this Watchmen-like storytelling. Called out for being a manipulative older man of some wealth, Ridley dares the reader to decode him as other real-life successful men of affluence. Men who have used their money to the what they want. Powerful men, dangerous men. And so, in this one example, we had the best example of Ridley’s infusion of inconvenient truths into affairs.
And while Ridley is in no ways a female Japanese writer, one can imagine that the shared experiences of being an African-American can be similar enough to those of other minorities in the United States. Segregation, exclusion; being the ‘outsider’. A role Katana – like Black Lightning – comments on when she takes her place amongst Batman’s crime-fighting team.
Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi do another fine job of paying homage to many classic scene for the two main books paid tribute to here — Batman and the Outsiders and The New Teen Titans – almost lifting whole panels from the source material to lovingly recreate them in a style reminiscent of the original artists, George Perez and Jim Aparo. The continues reliance of long prose passages to rightly tell these stories is once more wonderfully balanced out in the clever and graphically aware page layouts.
It’s a dense but informative read that I dare say some will have problems with accepting. But, those blinkered fans won’y be picking this up any time soon, I imagine. It’s may just be one more new take on the events of the past and with each issue the DCU is more and more enriched and complex. But, it’s certainly the most exciting in its willingness to take well-aimed shots at these sacred cows.
The Other History of the DC Universe #3 is out now from DC Comics/DC Black Label