How to Destroy Superman: The Doctor, Batman, Senility, and the Pandorica

[Note: This post contains spoilers for the DC Comics’ The Death of Superman storyline, and The Dark Knight Returns (among others), and Doctor Who Series 4 and Series 5 including the episode “The Pandorica Opens.” It has not yet aired in the United States. You have been warned.]

I am going to tell you right now that Batman is the greatest superhero of all time, precisely because his only superpowers are a bank account and psychological trauma. He is the superhero that is closest to the reader, even more so than Stan Lee’s everyboy Spiderman, who fulfills all of our empowerment fantasies, but always shows us the best in ourselves. Batman is a triumph of the human will to fight back in the face of unbearable pain in order to inflict that pain on others. He is our darkest fantasies brought to life.

The Ninth Doctor bears a strong resemblance to the pre-Frank Miller era Batman, a man who has found new purpose as a result of losing almost everyone he loves, and he slowly creeps toward the darkness and thirst for vengeance that belongs to both the Tenth Doctor and The Dark Knight we see in The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, and The Dark Knight Returns.

Dark Knight Returns is an interesting topic to bring up, because it shares so many connections with the Doctor’s current [Eleventh] incarnation. The Dark Knight Returns is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world where a formerly retired, middle-aged Batman dons the cowl once again to bring down Two-Face after the treatment Bruce Wayne funded fails to cure him of his psychopathic tendencies. But the Gotham police force is a little less grateful than usual. They’re not sure Batman’s vigilantism has a place in this world anymore. He’s become outdated. (Remember Eleven’s “I’m stupid.” statement? How often has he been missing things lately, making the wrong calls?)

Batman’s reappearance also pulls the Joker out of a catatonic state in Arkham, suggesting that the hero attracts, even rebuilds his villains unintentionally. (iDaleks anyone?)

“You’re like iPods. One in every color.”

(Dark Knight Returns also sports a female Robin who rivals Amy Pond in terms of quips and needing to be rescued.)

The interesting thing about the Doctor is that he is both Batman and Superman. As of the 2005 revival, he has a dark trauma in his past that gives him the purpose and drive to save the universe again and again (because he failed to save his own people.) Like Superman, he is an orphan of a dead culture, and grew into the individual we know and love as a result of his “adoption” by humans. (I know it’s hard to think of William Hartnell as a baby Clark Kent, but just go with me on this one.) The Doctor’s companions softened him from a persnickety old man to a formidable clown whose cartoonishly long scarf or piece of celery in his lapel hid a dangerous brand of competence. (We are going to ignore Colin Baker’s silly costume.)

Pay no attention to the man in the tacky outfit. 

This paradox of the Doctor as both Batman and Superman was brought to a head with the most recent episode of Moffat’s new series. Continue reading

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I Want Bill Nighy to Say Nice Things About Me Someday: Musings on “Vincent and the Doctor”

[Note: This post contains spoilers for the Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor,” the tenth in series five. It has not aired in the United States yet. Read at your own risk.]

This is going to be one of those “dark night of the soul” posts, folks. So sorry in advance. I’ve been missing thanks to a particularly rough patch of what the Elizabethans called “melancholia” and busy-ness (a combination about as ill-advised as mixing tequila and Everclear.) And then there was the moving back to New York just in time to say goodbye to one of my dearest friends who had to return to her homeland, Leeds. (In my mind, she wanders the moors like Catherine in Wuthering Heights, except less obnoxious and prettier.) And now Glee is becoming uneven and boring and even kind of problematic at times.

The good news is the essay for Smart Pop has now been proofed and sent for formatting, so you can look for the book, which is a kind of post-mortem dissection of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse edited by (Whedon family writer and creator of Warehouse 13) Jane Espenson, in October 2010. I’m still sort of in awe about that happening, but I’m also getting all kinds of anxiety about it now. It’s stupid really. It’s just one essay in a book of 18 and it’s not saying anything (too) offensive and sometimes it’s funny, which is great, and the conclusion is actually kind of powerful (I think.) But I guess my anxiety has a lot to do with Doctor Who and Vincent van Gogh. Ready for a dramatic leap? Here we go!

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