Friday, October 07, 2011

Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire part 2 just went up on Mockingbird

Part 2 of the new series for Mockingbird has just gone up.  I've been eager to tackle this set of essays for months but if life teaches me anything it is that the things that seem easy can prove difficult and things that seem difficult can prove easy. 

As with any literary venture the difficulty of writing is never the writing itself.  Nearly anyone with adequate motor skills in the hands and patience can write or type pretty much anything.  What delineates the difference between doggerel and poetry; what delineates the difference between prose that is prosaic and prose that is effective is not the mere physical activity but the clarity and potency of thought.  A writing teacher in high school once admonished me (and the rest of his class) with the axiom "Sloppy writing is the result of sloppy thinking."  As Black Dynamite might say, "This is also true."  What Dini, Burnett, Timm and the others did with Batman: the animated series was (and is) too big a thing to attempt to summarize in a mere 500 or 700 words. 

I am still, to be honest, tackling essays 4-6 in this project because writing about this revolutionary TV show has proven more difficult than the earlier series I have written for Mockingbird.  Knowing what to include and what to omit is important.  For part 3 (coming up) I eagerly wished to include the observation that Mr. Freeze and Batman have related musical mottos.  When Batman appears in an episode to lay the beat-down on a criminal we often hear an bold Wagnerian brass fanfare outlining his musical motto, the theme that became the opening music for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.  If you listen to Mr. Freeze's music in "Heart of Ice" at the start of the episode you'll hear that Freeze gets the same notes.  Yet in contrast to Batman's Wagnerian brass chorale, Mr. Freeze's melody is taken by a piccolo over pizzicato strings and harp glissandi.  It's as though Batman's fanfare had transformed from Wagnerian boldness to the desolate, emotional detachment of a waltz from a string quartet Shostakovich wrote to mourn the loss of his wife to cancer. 

Some of Walker's most brilliant composing and scoring lays in that strange, surrealist waltz and I wanted to write about my fondness of the music.  The Mr. Freeze theme is an ingenius reworking of Batman's motto because both Freeze and Batman are defined by their experience of loss and desire and how they respond to it.  Where Batman first looks within at his wounds and then looks outward to serve his neighbor, Victor Fries, having reached out to seize what he thought was a solution to his problems and failed, turns inward and resolves that he will ultimately make the rest of the world feel his misery and wrath as he wallows in self-pity.  Fries is a tragic figure for all sorts of reasons but I don't want to get too spoilerish about part 3 now that part 2 just went up!  Let's just say that "Heart of Ice, Heart of Wrath" was kicking my butt until I accidentally reached for G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy when I was really going for C. S. Lewis' The Four Loves.  I'll just leave you in suspense about what Chesterton and Lewis have to do with Mr. Freeze.

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