Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

The Dark Knight Returns The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Finished reading Frank Miiler's The Dark Knight Strikes Again last night. This is the sequel to Miller's ground breaking graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns.

The story almost reads like a comic book: In the mid-'80s, the comic book industry was dying. Sales were down, comics were ignored by mainstream culture and superheroes were impotent in the face of real-life villains such as recycled plots and tired characters.

But just when things looked darkest — look, up in the sky ... — Frank Miller appeared with his groundbreaking graphic novel "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns." Miller grafted modern angst onto comic book mythos and created a genre-defining piece of literature. Batman became a dark vigilante in an apocalyptic Gotham City, fighting crime, the police and anyone who compromised with evil.

Time and Rolling Stone praised Miller's book as high art. Director Tim Burton credited the graphic novel as the inspiration for his 1989 hit movie, Batman. Because of Miller, comics began to explore new artistic directions, which brought a new generation of readers into the market and helped push comic sales to all time highs. For a while, the comic book world was once again safe and sound.

Now fastforward to 2002 and "The Dark Knight Strikes Again," Miller's sequel to his original classic. Initially, the release of "DK2" (as the sequel is called, in parody of recent movie-title trends) attracted more media attention than any other comic book in years. The publisher, DC Comics, forced reviewers to look at advance copies under guard in DC's New York offices. Major magazines trumpeted the return of Miller's Batman.

The reason Miller struck a cord in the mid-'80s with "The Dark Knight Returns" is that comic books weren't living up to their potential. American culture had long valued visual arts, such as movies, and literary arts, such as novels, but the mixing of the two was considered the stuff of adolescent boys.

Miller refused to accept this. Instead of emphasizing hyperkinetic action over plot and character development, as comics had done for years, Miller created complex characters to whom readers responded. Bruce Wayne went from a silly playboy to a borderline psychotic obsessed with dying a good death. His nemesis, the Joker, became a demon bent on fulfilling a perverse love for the Batman by killing him.

In many ways, "The Dark Knight Returns" mirrored the new way America viewed heroes. It was like seeing an RKO cowboy serial from the 1940s suddenly turn into Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning Unforgiven.

Yet the revolution Miller started has gone to excess, as today's comics have grown increasingly dark and serious. Call it the Dark Knight syndrome — a belief that today's superheroes must be even grittier than Miller's Batman in order to succeed. This means that the joy comics used to provide — such as imagining how much fun it would be to turn invisible, or to fly — is lost. And this, in essence, is what Miller is attempting to provide with "DK2": a return to joy in comics.
At first glance, "DK2" is an odd candidate for joy. Set three years after the events in "The Dark Knight Returns," America is now a police state where the Bill of Rights has been repealed, people are powerless and a holographic president is controlled by business tycoon Lex Luthor.

Worse, most citizens don't worry about the freedoms they've lost — they're too busy watching sex shows and holding candle-light vigils when pop music groups break up. By asking if it is better to be happy and enslaved, or hurting but free, "DK2" takes on some thematic weight.

The only real weakness of "DK2" is that it lacks the character development of Miller's other works. But satire has always taken liberties with this aspect of storytelling; many times characters in "DK2" are there not for who they are but for what they stand for. Because Miller is dealing with characters who are familiar to readers simply by virtue of our media-drenched society, he can get away with this.

But overall this is also a style defining graphic novel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Nothing to say

You never had a dream like this
Never felt the cold cold steel
Slam you like a fist
Break you down until you kneel
Just like a beggar man
Asking only for redemption
All the things that can't
Make a man believe in heaven

Fix your eyes upon the bars
Memorize their other side
Like the tatoos on your arms
The brag so loud and tough that night
But now the truth comes out
Fast as feel can do your talking
It sets you free as one guard shouts
Dead man walking

When neither light nor darkness
When neither night or day
When neither kind nor heartless
When neither lost or saved
When neither still or moved
When neither held or free
Oh to be so human

Dead man walking

When neither light nor darkness
When neither night or day
When neither kind nor heartless
When neither lost or saved
When neither still or moved
When neither held or free
Oh to be so human
Oh to be

Somewhere in a dream like this where
Light of love leads us home
Broken worlds will not be fixed
Engines take us as thy own
We're just like beggars now
On our knees we hear our names
God forgives somehow
We have yet to learn to save

- Mary Chapin Carpenter "Dead Man Walking (A Dream Like This)"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Randomness in Calcutta

Had been reading the Fab & Funky Guide of Calcutta, it's part funny, part nostalgic, part true and couple of things wrong. Sometimes I wonder how these foreign tourists get some part of Calcutta culture very much right and how we Calcuttans fail to notice them. Sometimes we are even ashamed to admit it even. Like the alternative Calcutta tour some shady tour operators has been offering for couple of years; they include trip to not so popular bastees, only one temple (Kali temple in Kalighat) and lot of interaction with people (ok trip to Olypub or the Someplace Else can hardly be called as interaction with people, but still!!).

Found a fantastic Bengali Recipe site. Has lot of common and lesser known dish.

Tommorrow's agenda is to visit Chotu's shop. Now, this is really an interesting shop in Free School St. He has an amazing collection of pirated DVDs, VCDs and major artists in MP3 format. Plan to buy Battleship Potemkin and/or Cinema Paradiso.

Visited the Gibson Digital Guitar site. Have to really fiddle round it to understand the difference it's making.

Blues Brothers rule!!!! Downloaded couple of live performances today.

Now reading stuff on ASP.NET Custom Controls.

Me musing on life and times I had over the years today. Wanted to visit the museum and bargain the pirated books outside.

Let's see if I can make it this evening (bargaining part only - the museum will get closed by that time).

Been listening to Dave Matthews Band from the morning. At first I didn't like his music, but it slowly grows inside you. Wish I ever see him in a live performance.

Last night has started reading G K Chesterton's The Complete Father Brown. Very witty and very different kind of detective novels; written very much from human angle which in most of super sleuth novels gets overlooked. Very old world and little less victorian. Plan to finish the book by the weekend.

Want to buy Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. Got a mixed review from the friends. Let's see if I can get hold of a pirated Delhi-print copy!

Surya and I want to go out on coming satday to College St. for old book hunting and for the yummy sherbats at Paramount. It's been ages I've visited the place. My earliest memory of College St. is a visit with Sumit while we were in school. I remember me buying some Mad mags from the stalls and an old Life mag. After that we had cutlets & coffee in The India Coffee House and took the tram back to G'hat.

This reminds me of the quotation - Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life. -Herbert Asquith

Watched Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and The Blues Brothers the last weekend. This weekend don't have any new CDs to watch. Planning to copy/buy any movie from Chotu's.

Food for Thought/Thought for Food: Why not start a professional gastronomic tour of the city for the travellers?

Music: Save me - Dave Matthews (feat.Trey Anastasio & Tim Reynolds)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mission Statement

Mission Statement : To use this blog as an outlet for randomness that would otherwise be wasted upon myself.
Endure at your own risk.