Thursday, December 03, 2015

30 Days of The Fade Out: Noir in Tinsel Town -- and in Gotham.

Prior to their move to Image Comics and the release of Fatale and The Fade Out, we constructed our best take on a comprehensive list of the collaborations between Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  We focused on those "major collaborations" that just featured the pair, but we also included Phillips' work inking Michael Lark's pencils for Brubaker's Scene of the Crime and his cover artwork for Gotham Central, which Brubaker co-created and co-wrote.

That list was partially prompted by a 2011 reprint of the pair's earliest major work, the prestige-format comic originally published in 2001, Batman: Gotham Noir.

I have been struck by the common elements between this Elseworlds story for DC Comics and The Fade Out, their latest creator-owned work published through Image.

  • Both are set in the late 1940s, beginning in October, 1949, in Gotham and in the fall of 1948 in Hollywood.
  • Both stories star an alcoholic and a character suffering from the trauma experienced during World War II -- combined as a single detective Jim Gordon in Gotham Noir, paired as the screenwriters Charlie and Gil in The Fade Out.
  • Both feature a doomed love interest, damaged by the wealthy and extravagant elites who run the town.
  • Though The Fade Out hasn't ended yet, neither story presumably has a happy ending:  the hero can't find justice and simultaneously save himself.
  • And both stories play on our prior knowledge of the world in which their set, with new takes on the Batman and his supporting cast, and with cameo appearances by real-life Hollywood stars and writers.
By no means does that suggest that either work is disposable.  They're both excellent, as each have their own stories to tell, and the pleasure is in the telling of that tale and not just the invocation of noir archetypes.

The differences are just as intriguing as the similarities:  one is an arguably too-short story told in a single extra-long issue, the other is a sprawling drama, and careful readers can see the creators' maturing over the last 15 years while retaining their distinctive styles.

On top of all the other reasons to check out the book, I believe Batman: Gotham Noir is the first cover art by Phillips to resemble an old-school publication, complete with simulated wear and tear.  We would see the same approach for variant covers for the first issue of Incognito: Bad Influences, the first issue of The Fade Out, and the Criminal Special Edition one-shot.

If only because the original release has that weathered look, I prefer it to the 2011 reprint and its cleaned-up cover: on the other hand, the reprint includes a second Batman tale written by Brubaker, with art by Scott McDaniel.  If DC were smart, they would collect a good bit of their hard-to-find material by Brubaker, by Phillips, and by the duo -- and Gotham Noir could provide the perfect cover.

Since it shares a lot of common ground with The Fade Out, which concludes at year's end, there might be no better time for fans to track down a copy of Batman: Gotham Noir.

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Blogger Scott Ruhl said...

Funny, I just reread GOTHAM NOIR the other day and was thinking the same thing. I think it makes a great double feature with BATMAN: NINE LIVES by Dean Motter and Michael Lark. It deserves to be put back into print as a hardcover and be held in higher esteem.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Nine Lives! That was a great book, and I definitely need to reread it.

...and I seem to remember Uslan's Dectiver No. 27 was a good read, too, and it wouldn't make be a bad book to round out this noir/detective trilogy of sorts, with a non-masked Bruce Wayne getting involved with the Pinkertons.

12:19 AM  

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