Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Batman Strikes! Joker's Wild by Bill Matheny, Terry Beatty, Heroic Age and Christopher Jones (Raintree Press)

Batman Strikes - Jokers Wild

Written by Bill Matheny and Terry Beatty
Illustrated by Heroic Age and Christopher Jones

Published by Raintree Press

Batman isn't exactly the sort of character you'd really call 'kid friendly' and yet there seems to be a plethora of Batman merchandise aimed at kids, which puzzles me somewhat. Are parents basically ignoring the age ratings on the movies and letting their kids watch them? Or are they letting their kids loose on the equally violent and 'grown-up' DC comics?

Of course there are Batman stories for kids, and we discovered one in our local library and thought we'd give it a go. Charlotte, because she's probably heard me raving about Batman enough times to be curious (though obviously I won't let her anywhere near my comics or movies) and me because I wanted to see how anyone could dilute Batman down enough to make it suitable for a young audience.

At the hands of a large but extremely talented team, Raintree Press's "Batman Strikes" series is a slick and classy production that, with limited success, conveys the darkness and chaos of a good Batman yarn.

I'm at pains to point out here that the story still contains violence (though it's more in line with the "60's Batman" stuff - still violence all the same), and of course introducing one of Batman's most murderous and psychopathic adversaries is never going to be easy in a kid's strip. Here the Joker is portrayed more as an avaricious arch-criminal than a dangerous lunatic, a player of games, a clown prince than a taker of lives.

Charlotte found the story "boring" in her own words, which is a bit of a shame because I wouldn't want it to put her off investigating the rich Batman comics and movie universe when she's a lot older (like 10 years or so from now). She liked the Joker though, even here in his relatively tame form, so maybe there's a glimmer of hope there yet!

Lesson learned though, and I'd still like to check out the rest of the Raintree "Batman Strikes" series just to see if other uber-crims like Bane and The Penguin make the transition. I also have a sneaking suspicion that if Raintree had opted for a Catwoman story, they might've snagged a few more girl readers - the range does seem a little bit too boy-centric, as if girls have no place anywhere near ol' Bats.

Charlotte's best bit: The Joker's smilex custard pie. Tasty, but deadly!

Daddy's Favourite bit: A brave attempt to produce kid-friendly comics based on a well-established grown-up comicbook hero. Perhaps too distanced and diluted from the originals but aside from a few instances of comic violence, pretty 'safe' for 7 and up - certainly more so than any of the DC Batman fare.