Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by: Lee Bermejo
“Evil, it’s REAL, and its coils wind around every heart that beats.”
The legendary Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo have teamed up again, and this time Batman and his fans have an entirely new Gotham, without the Joker, to consider. With The Sandman’s John Constantine narrating Batman’s journey, Azzarello and Bermejo have raised the bar on what it takes to rethink an iconic hero, and the villains that come with him, in a larger DC Universe.
Batman: Damned begins with a lot of blood, Batman’s blood, as he is rushed away from a crime scene in an ambulance. Not too big of a fan of other people controlling his life, identity, or fate Batman has only one choice. Escape the ambulance, figure out what is really happening and solve the crime. He’s Batman. That’s what he does.
Word on the streets of Gotham, at the Gotham City Police Department, in the Gotham City News is that the Joker is dead. The Joker is dead: to begin with. Dead as a door-nail. But the story is not about the Joker, mind you. It’s about Batman. It’s about his dark side, his vigilante levels and limits, his illusions and his realities, and the stories he tells himself in order to keep going. Batman’s ego (and alter ego, the Joker) are the very reason for existence as a hero.
And remember all those times Joker mentioned to Batman that they love each other, that they cannot exist without each other? Batman and Joker are a Ying and a Yang. Batman must now face Joker’s death and the consequences in Gotham that come with it. For that reason, Azzarello and Bermejo have gathered a diverse array of DC heroes and villains to step into the Batman’s portion of the DC Universe, and each must decide if they are friend or foe to the know Jokerless Batman.
Katie’s Korner is coming up on it’s tenth year anniversary in 2020. I’ve always hoped the column helps families, educators, and librarians to embrace graphic novels in educational settings. But, I must admit, I’ve spent a lot of time in Ivory Tower settings, where the disconnect between what’s really happening in schools and libraries seems a million miles away from the reality of teaching and learning with actual kids in school. Now, back working in the real world of high school education, the power of a young mind, a mind that will play a part in the future of literature, a mind that will help define the graphic novel’s role in the 22nd century, and a mind that told me before I read Batman: Damned that it was a game changer has given one of the graphic novel’s biggest fans some hope for the future of this literary genre?
I am so happy to let readers know that one of my students suggested I read Batman: Damned. I told him that DC Comics had already asked me to write a teaching guide for the title. Instantaneously, my student’s pupils turned into shinning, anime stars. I had momentarily forgotten how fortunate I am to work with Diamond Bookshelf and DC Comics on a regular basis. But my student’s reaction to why I was reading Batman: Damned, and all of our conversations after that day, have reminded me that the graphic novel has the fan base it needs to grow into the 22nd century. Comics and graphic novels have always been popular with children and teens, and in a world where I sometimes wonder where there is hope I see a lot of hope in what my students deem as classroom worthy literature.
Language Arts Elements of Story
Plot: The Joker is dead. Batman stands accused and actually feels guilty. But reality and illusion are playing games with Batman’s sense of reality. Did he really kill the Joker? Why is the Sandman’s John Constantine poetically narrating his story? And what’s going on with Thomas Wayne’s mistress and a young Bruce’s experiences from knowing about such a relationship?
Major Characters: Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne, John Constantine, Commissioner Gordon, Boston Brand, Thomas Wayne’s mistress, J Blood, Joker, Harley, Demons, Angels, Enchantress, Etrigan, Swamp Thing
Major Settings: Ambulance, Gotham City, Bruce’s Memories, Hotel, Batcave, Wayne Manor, The Cavern, Swamp
Themes: Identity, Love and Hate, Life and Death, Desperation, Friendship, Sandman Literary Connections, Illusion and Reality
Lesson Plan Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards
Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
* The number(s) referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.corestandards.com)
Directions: Ask students to choose two themes from the following list: Identity, Love and Hate, Life and Death, Desperation, Friendship, Sandman Literary Connections, Illusion and Reality.
Before Reading: Ask students to read with their two themes in mind while taking a Book Walk through Batman: Damned. Next, have students write down definitions and brainstormed ideas about how they think their themes of choice might effect the Batman: Damned storyline. Encourage students to keep a list of other stories that have similar themes.
During Reading: While students read, ask them to pause each time they encounter one of their two themes. After pausing, students can use Post-It Notes to document how their theme is best used visually and in written words on each, individual page of their choice.
After Reading: Students create a Batman: Damned storyboard that includes in-text quotations and visuals (on poster paper) to document how both themes (with at least 3 quotational examples each and 3 visual images each) grow and develop throughout the storyline.
Dr. Katie Monnin is the author of eight books about teaching pop culture, comic books, and graphic novels in 21st century classrooms. Since 2010 she has written two monthly reviews and two corresponding lesson plans for her Diamond Bookshelf column: "Katie's Korner: Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools & Libraries." In 2018, Dr. Monnin founded "Why so serious? Productions," a consulting business that creates pedagogical materials for 21st century teachers, librarians, and publishers who want to teach pop culture. She served on the San Diego Comic Con jury in 2013, and she frequently travels the nation and the world to discuss teaching with pop culture in 21st century classrooms.