Somewhere out there, theres a version of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol where clerk Bob Cratchit takes an axe to his employer, Scrooge, steals his cashbox and escapes to the Bahamas without his family. The story has been reinterpreted time and time again in stage, screen, animation, book and probably ancient Greek.
Now Batman (aka the Dark Knight) meets Charles Dickens in Batman: Noel a graphic novel by artist Lee Bermejo. (For those who read comics only irregularly, a graphic novel is a glossy-papered comic published as a book, dust cover and all.)
The original story penned in 1843 by Charles Dickens was a hit. The story of a stingy old miser who is visited by three ghosts who change his ways, making him into a generous open-handed philanthropist, is a Christmas-time staple.
In Batman: Noel, Batman who also is multimillionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne is a grim, menacing character.
He literally terrifies Bob Cratchit when he first meets him doing an odd job as a courier for Batmans blood enemy, The Joker. Batmans take on Cratchit is that he is little better than vermin.
Batman releases him as bait despite the fact that Cratchit will probably die when the Joker arrives.
So the question arises: Has Batman lost his humanity as Scrooge did? Here, the good guy seems as evil as the bad guy.
Back in the batcave, a lonely Batman broods over his dismal life and his dead friends. He watches, via secret camera, the Cratchit abode waiting for the Joker to arrive. He hacks, gags and sniffs as a cold takes over.
Is it the cold medicine that makes him see his deceased partner, Robin, who announces Batman will be visited by three ghosts?
And were off, to his past the fun part of his crime-fighting life with the appearance of a nubile and leather-clad Catwoman; his present his friend, Superman, making an appearance; and his possible future death at the hands of the Joker and oblivion of his existence. No one cries about the death of Bruce Wayne or Batman.
Of course, A Christmas Carol is more than just the story of Scrooge. Its also the story of Bob Cratchit, the oppressed clerk who works endless days so that he can provide for his family.
Here, Cratchit has just one son, Tim, who still has the idealism of youth. He makes a Christmas tree out of a dead abandoned plant, decorates it with ornaments like a broken bottle and a smashed beer can scrounged from a dumpster, and loves his father. Its for Tims sake that Cratchit was the Jokers courier, and, for Tim, that Cratchit acts the way he does at the end when the Joker arrives.
Batman: Noel is more than just Batman roaming around beating up bad guys, and dispensing justice. Its how an embittered man finds a way back to his humanity told through brilliant drawing and very graphic violence.
Its an interesting take on a Christmas classic.
Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo; DC Comics (112 pages, $22.99)
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