By John Byrne
Okay. enough griping! Let's talk about something I'm actually enjoying for a change!
A few years back I started what seems to be turning into an ongoing project, in a punctuated equilibrium kind of way. The book was/is Generations, and it was born very much out of the Batman & Captain America book I did a few years before.
The premise of Generations, for those who might not have seen it, is simple: what if all the characters in the DC Universe had aged in real time since they were introduced. What if they had grown older, married, had kids, died. What if their kids had grown older, married, had kids, died. . .
Nothing really new there. We'd seen "Imaginary Stories" addressing some of these elements before, and indeed I asked that Generations be identified as "An Imaginary Tale." No "Elseworld" this! (Another conceit of the series lay in the fact that I wanted to include all the contradictions that had crept into the mythos over the years. Hard to do that if dealing with a solid, straight line "continuity.")
Immediately upon embarking on the first series, however, I discovered a small problem. If Batman, who along with Superman was the lead in the first series, was to marry --- Who was he to marry? Unlike Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne did not have a Lois Lane in his life. There was no one woman who had been the constant love interest from the get go. (His fiancee, Julie Madison, had drifted out of the series and finally been written out altogether.)
So who would Bruce Wayne marry, in order to produce Bruce Jr, the Robin we had seen established at the end of Bat/Cap?
I kicked around a couple of ideas. Of course, the first candidate was Julie. I planned to include her in the first Generations chapter, anyway. And, by the "rule's" of the series, there was no real reason she would have drifted off as she did in the "real world." Then, too, there was Selina Kyle, who was pretty much everybody's first choice to be Mrs. Batman. But that had been done, on "Earth 2," and I wanted to maintain a careful balance, in Generations, between what was familiar and what was fresh -- and what was freshly familiar!
I did have one character I most wanted the bride to be, and that was Kathy Kane, the 1950s Batwoman -- but there my own rules got in the way again. I'd decided, you see, that characters would "first appear" in Generations contemporaneously with their published first appearance. (Thus, Barbara Gordon had to become Jim Gordon's granddaughter, so she could turn up, as Batgirl, at the right time.) This made Kathy inaccessible, at least as the first Mrs. Wayne (and I planned no more than one), since calculating backward from her earliest appearances made her far too young to have been courted by Bruce within the timeframe I needed.
So I decided never to reveal who Mrs. Wayne was. Seemed like an easy enough thing to do. Just never call her by name. "Honey," "Sweetheart," "Darling." Those words were practically invented to cover situations like this. I could bring in Mrs. Wayne -- Alfred, of course, would always call her that, or "Madam" -- and just "forget" to mention her name.
But then I had an even better idea!
Not only would I never call her by name -- I would never show her face!
In the first go round of Generations, fans picked up on this immediately. And the Question began to circulate: who is Mrs. Wayne? In Internet chat rooms, on message boards, at conventions, this one superseded the old stand-bys. No more "Will you ever work with Chris Claremont again?" A steep reduction in the instances of "Will you ever go back to the Fantastic Four?" A complete overshadowing of "Why did those ^@%$#s cancel Hidden Years?"
"Who is Mrs. Wayne?" became almost a mantra.
And I love it!
Because this, to me --- this is old time comic fandom! This is woven from the same cloth as "Who is stronger, the Thing or the Hulk?" "Who is faster, the Flash or Superman?" This is what fans used to wonder and ponder and worry about.
And I'd made it happen without even deliberately intending to do so. Cuz, well, think about it! When I'm really cooking, when I am having one of my all-too-infrequent "Damn I'm Good!" Days, I can lay down some of the best lines in the Bidness -- but I am also the first to admit I have a fairly limited range of female faces. "Character" faces, sure. Got buckets of 'em. But the "heroic" faces? The glamor faces? Well, Sue Storm and Jennifer Walters and Diana Prince and Janet Pym. . . not much other than hairstyle and color to distinguish between 'em. Sorry. I try, but. . .sorry!
Which means, of course, that I could have shown Mrs. Wayne's face. Right from Panel One. She could have been walking around, thrusting her face into the reader's in every shot -- and it would not have helped. Especially if she was a character I had not drawn before (like Vicki Vale, say). There would have been no frame of reference. And, indeed, in G2, I did show her face, twice -- once in Halloween drag, and once as an old, old lady.
But still the fans wonder. Still they ask. "Who is Mrs. Wayne?"
And I love it.
And I wonder why the heck more conversations about comics can't go along those lines, instead of worrying about office politics and the egos and income of the Pros. Instead of wasting mind power and energy on stuff that is, let's face it, none of your friggin' business! Instead of just having fun with the books, as we were all meant to!
Uhm. . .
Well. . . you all knew it would turn into a gripe in the end, didn't you?