You’re reading The Complete Infinite Crisis, a Comprehensive and Encyclopedic look through the universe-changing superhero event published by DC from 2005 to 2006. Shelfdust are proud to provide a complete overview of the story, and everything that happens in it. Things have really started to escalate here though – we’ve had to bring in a bunch of specialists to explain what’s going on in detail!
Last time round, we were in the middle of hearing about why Wonder Woman killed Max Lord when the bombhsell dropped: apparently Batman once shot someone? We had to stop everything to hear more – and Sean Dillon is here to explain just what happened!
Emma Houxbois told us that Batman – who I’m pretty sure doesn’t like guns – used a gun to shoot someone? Who did he shoot, and why?
Sean Dillon: Going in order, the person Batman shot was Darkseid, who Batman says he made a once in a lifetime exception to his ban on firearms. Though not stated explicitly in Final Crisis, in Batman #702, it’s explained that the bullet is a magic bullet. The idea of a bullet to pierce the devil. It’s every bullet that’s ever been fired from the gun of Gavrilo Princip to Joe Chill as one gun. It’s the ultimate tool of evil. And, as Batman is wont to do, he uses this tool against evil. Tellingly, Bruce ultimately wounds Darkseid rather than out and out kill him.
It’s a trick to make the ultimate evil think he’s won against the symbol of humanity, only for humanity to reply with “Gotcha.” The magic bullet is ultimately a lure for the Black Racer to come and take Darkseid to his long awaited death. He should be dead, his story should be over. But he remains within the narrative, a rotten idea clinging onto life and taking the rest of us down with him. (On an unrelated note, Darkseid is also a metaphor for capitalism, fascism, and cruelty.)
Has he… has he ever shot anyone ELSE?
Dillon: Is this the first time Batman has shot someone? No. The obvious place to go with this would be the Golden Age, where Batman was frequently killing his rogues gallery and using guns like a traditional pulp hero. KGBeast probably also counts, though that was more leaving to die rather than shooting him.
But the example I want to use is actually from one of the most acclaimed Batman comics ever written: The Dark Knight Returns. In it, Batman is faced with a small child being held hostage by the mutants, a gang of thugs in this dystopian future. But when he’s reached the final gang member, who threatened to shoot the small child, Batman grabbed a giant as all fuck machine gun and blew his brains out. And no one noticed it happen – not even Frank Miller.
I know Darkseid is a bad guy, but doesn’t Batman normally prefer to send villains to Arkham? Doesn’t it break the character for him to just up and shoot someone?
Dillon: As you note, typically he sends his baddies to Arkham. But Darkseid… strap in, because I am going to have to explain the New Gods. See, contrary to what a lot of writers might have you believe, the New Gods are larger than typical superhero fiction. Indeed, this is explicit text within Kirby’s initial series. Though Darkseid makes his first appearance in a Superman comic, it is both a) not the main Superman title but the also ran Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen; and b) always on a computer screen rather than in the flesh. Indeed, Superman shares but one panel with Darkseid in the whole of Kirby’s New Gods Saga, and he’s drawn in such a way that you can only tell it’s Superman because of the other panels on the page. Superman, and the superhero, are too small to deal with the New Gods because they’re, well, Gods.
Lesser writers like John Byrne and Jim Starlin have tried to frame the New Gods as merely space aliens out for galactic conquest, but Kirby was blatantly writing them as a new mythology for the 20th century. Morrison, while missing a lot of the specifics of a number of the characters (though, in his defense, writing Orion is probably the hardest task to ask a comics writer because most of them just flatten him into being merely a meathead who gets angry and hits things), understood this. For Morrison, Gods are more like sentient ideas. In the second volume of his Wonder Woman: Earth One series, Morrison writes of the Greek Gods “Gods are ideas, real and immortal. Always looking for new ways to express themselves in solid matter.” They are not so much beings of matter as symbols for things.
To list a few, Mister Miracle represents the human need to rebel; Orion is the tension between love and war, nature and nurture, and the potential to be better than we were when we were younger; and Metron, the quest for knowledge. As for Darkseid, he is the core of cruelty within the human condition. The feeling in the back of our spines that tells us that life is cruel and there is nothing we should do about it. He is every bigoted thought, every justification of cruelty. As Kirby put it, “Young humans see me– even in “Happyland!” But you elders hide me with “cock and bull” stories to keep the premises smelling sweet!”
Darkseid takes many shapes – from King/Gerads’ unseen presence of cruelty infecting the world akin to Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness to Castellucci/Melo’s systemic sexism loudly and unsubtly demonstrating itself to the world. You can’t imprison an idea any more than Sisyphus could get a boulder down a mountain.
Batman, who devoted himself to fighting the very concept of crime, thinks he can pull it off. He doesn’t send Darkseid to Arkham, no. The game’s changed from cops and robbers to Beowulf. Darkseid is the Dragon, is Grendal, is the Jabberwocky. And Batman is the hero with the sword, the arrow, the gun who slays the beast. Though as time goes on, the story changes. Once, mere brute force would be enough to slay the beast. So Batman doesn’t kill the devil, or at least not his human host. Rather, he wounds Darkseid enough to allow the Black Racer (the New God of DEATH) to take the idea to his death. A New Myth for the 21st century.
Oh god. Oh NEW GODS. That was… that was a lot to take in, Sean! Thank you very much for that – this brings up SO MANY more questions! I’m going to have to find somebody who can answer them! Watch this space – we’ll follow up on this New Gods situation next!!
Sean Dillon has written for publications including PanelXPanel, and is prolific on their Patreon page, which you can find here. You can also follow Sean on Twitter here!