I’m not alone in saying I could listen to Kevin Smith talk for hours. In fact, while I enjoy his movies, and find Chasing Amy to be a genuine masterpiece that examines the shaming of female sexuality, the fragility of modern masculinity, and the beating heart of geek culture, I’ve probably listened to him on podcasts, live Q&As, and director commentary ten times as many times as I’ve watched his films or read his work. He’s a larger than life force, a genuine celebrity who is still, after all these years, us. He loves comics – specifically superhero comics – with a burning, lasting intensity. I can’t think of a single behind-the-scenes tidbit more compelling than Smith’s retelling of his failed Superman movie, which was to be written by him and directed by Tim Burton (LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo2KB1dEDdk), which was even the subject of The Death of SUPERMAN LIVES, a recent documentary by mad director Jon Schnepp.
That ill-fated superhero movie wasn’t Kevin Smith’s only brush with writing – and almost writing – costumed heroes. The Green Hornet was another flick that never came to fruition, but Smith’s script was turned into a comic by Dynamite, which helped revitalize that brand for the publisher. For the Big Two, Kevin went on to enjoy runs as writer on Daredevil, Green Arrow, and Spider-Man, but said series were plagued by delays, and his Daredevil/Bullseye mini actually remains incomplete to this day. Smith writes in his introduction to Batman: Cacophony that he feels he’d become “persona non grata in the comics community, due to (his) incessant lateness.” And he’s probably right but, as I write this, having freshly re-read Cacophony, I don’t think it’s fair to get down on Kevin for lateness. But I’ll get to that.
Batman: Cacophony started off a proposed trilogy of series featuring the Caped Crusader written by Kevin and drawn by long-time friend Walt Flanagan. Cacophony is three-issues long, and introduces a new antagonist named Onomatopoeia. It paves the way for The Widening Gyre, which Smith says is “the best Batman story either of us can do.” Though sales were pretty great, and judging from its constant placement in bookstores with the other top-selling Batman books, lasting, Smith’s “persona non grata” comment was unfortunately prescient. Some comics websites came up with the normal horseshit you can expect from them when someone big and controversial writes a title like Batman – you know, the whole “worst Batman comic I’ve ever read” hyperbole to draw in readers. Some of the content of Smith’s Batman pissed readers off, and the inevitable delays – I mean, damn, the third installment, Bellicosity was supposed to come out in 2014, and as 2015 comes to an end, there’s no hint of it on the horizon – were… well, inevitable. But here’s my question. Could the man who has talked about Batman, basically as his profession, for the entirety of his career really be clueless about what makes a good Batman story?
Of course not. Batman: Cacophony and, later and with greater intensity, takes liberties with certain aspects of story and characterization, but these are out-of-continuity, big-name-writer-can-do-whatever-he-wants stories. The first one has an inoffensive, if not particularly kick-down-the-door set-up: the Joker gets bailed from Arkham by the new baddie, and barrels into a conflict with both Batman and Maxie Zeus, who has cutting Joker venom with ecstasy to sell as a designer drug. It’s a clever story with pretty standard execution – it could’ve benefited from having two more issues to explore the effects of the drug or give us more of Batman’s POV, as this definitely seems to be more of a Joker story, but it’s all-in-all a good miniseries that sets up for Kevin’s crazier storytelling in The Widening Gyre.
Cacophony isn’t a classic like Year One or a game-changer like what Snyder’s doing, but it’s a good, solid foundation for a trilogy I hope Kevin Smith finishes. Because no matter what the comics community says, as long as Kevin wants to talk or write about Batman, I’m listening.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Family Pets, Anonymously Yours), novels (Charmed for HarperCollins), and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). He’s considering getting into the whole podcast thing, but, as everyone knows, public speaking is terrifying.