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Weekend Aside: Batman Adventures Annual #2: “Demons”

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Batman Adventures Annual #2

Story By: Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
Art By: Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami

Summary: When Ra’s Al Ghul retrieves a mystical tablet from beneath a Gotham building, Batman is forced to turn to Jason Blood for help. However, Blood hides from the world a horrifying secret….

Background:

In spite of their backgrounds in animation, the DCAU team has always been drawn to print work for DC (and occasionally Marvel). In the intermezzo between the conclusion of the first run of Batman episodes, Timm, Dini and artist / director Glen Murakami were all involved with a significant amount of comics work (Modern Masters claims this is Timm’s most active print period, and I don’t think I can argue that), producing, amongst other comics projects, the acclaimed Batman: Mad Love. However, a similar project that slipped through the cracks was the introduction of another Kirby character, The Demon Etrigan, in the second Batman Adventures Annual.

Timm thought that, more than the Demon itself, the fact that Jason Blood operated out of Gotham in Kirby’s series made him a natural to appear alongside Batman:

I mean, I like the Demon comics. It’s not my favourite Kirby comic or even my favourite DC Kirby comic, but I always kind of liked The Demon and the fact that he was based in Gotham City, even in Jack Kirby’s version, it just seemed interesting to team them up.

Bruce Timm, Modern Masters, p. 62

Once the Demon idea was presented, the issue was put together in the “Marvel Style” – namely, with the artists working off a relatively skimpy plot outline and generating much of the story themselves. As Timm explains, this led to the book being done in a very short period of time for an extra-sized Annual:

We had less than a month, I think, from beginning to end. We started out working from such a simple plot, it wasn’t plotted out in-depth at all, just because of the time factor.

Bruce Timm, supra at p. 87

The resulting issue was one of the team’s best Kirby tributes, and as we’ll talk about next time, is a rare occurence of a tie-in comic being essential reading in order in order for the animated series to work.

Thoughts:

As Timm notes in his interviews, this issue is pretty much just him and Murakami drawing as Kirbyesque a comic as they can get away with and still call it Batman. Setting Etrigan agaisnt Ra’s makes sense, given that they’re both immortals moving through the world as it ages and dies around them, and Ra’s is certainly not a villain who would be against the idea of using magic to further his goals. Plus, it results in great images like this, as Blood tracks Ra’s back to colonial-era South America:

Batman Adventures AnnualBatman Adventures Annualpg14

And, of course, Ra’s is just about the perfect foil for Batman as well, especially when Talia chooses to tag along. She ties into the standout sequence of the issue, as after she ambushes Batman he suffers through a dream sequence featuring both surreal and romantic visions:

Batman Adventures Annual #2 pg21pg22pg23

As Timm tells it, the dream sequence originally wasn’t even part of the plan:

So as Glen was going through it, he got about halfway through the book and realized it was time for the climax. It was like, “Wait a minute, we can’t just have them fight for the last 20 pages.” Talking it out between the two of us we came up with the ide of doing that dream sequence. Glen said, “Okay, I can do that,” so he just went crazy for eight pages, slowed the book down, and filled up the pages. (It was v)ery Kirby. That was the only time in the entire book that I took Kirby books out and had them laying in front of me to actually swipe stuff from.

Bruce Timm, ibid.

However, even though Timm didn’t think that they could fight for the entire final 20 pages of the book, it wouldn’t have been out of place at all, because Ra’s’ plan to summon a vile eldritch sees a creature straight off the cover of an early Fantastic Four issue attack Batman and Jason Blood:

Batman Adventures Annual #2 pg32

Batman’s subsequent usage of Talia’s felings for him to fight back also helps a bit in explaining why she seemed somewhat more distant the next time they encountered each other (in the Superman episode “The Demon Reborn”, which is often confused with the first Etrigan episode). However, Batman does get his way and manages to summon Etrigan, leading to perhaps the greatest comic spread in history:

pg37

Of course, Batman and Etrigan manage to beat back the monster, andthe two are left contemplating the price of their victory, as well as one last dedication of the issue to the master:

pg43

Great issue all around, and it’s just as good an introduction to the Demon as his actual cartoon intro.

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Categories: Weekend Asides
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  1. March 3, 2010 at 8:47 am

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