[personal profile] lego_joker posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Back in ye goode olde days, Gotham villains didn't need no stinkin' telekinetic powers or rotting corpses to do their bidding. No, they got by through bein' tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties, and makin' it square. Well, as square as drug-running, arms-smuggling, "protection"-selling, and cold-blooded murder can be, anyways. Of course, the sheer snazziness of their character designs didn't hurt, either.

Like most of you, I imagine, I can't muster up any enthusiasm for the new Ventriloquist running through the pages of Gail Simone's Batgirl. As dull as I'd found Peyton Riley's story, I'd happily take her (preferably written by Paul Dini) over this SAW-wannabe any day.

But, as with many things in life, none can compare with the original.

Note: four pages from Batman #588, one page from Batman #589, four pages from Batman #590, two-thirds of a page from Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #6, five pages from Batman #622, and four pages from Batman #625.

Let's begin with Brian K. Vaughan's "Close Before Striking" three-parter, a fill-in arc that took place during Brubaker's run on Batman in the early 2000s. In many respects, it's a by-the-numbers "Bruce turns into a cold, heartless asshole because of reasons, almost crosses THE LINE, realizes his mistake, and swears to turn himself around... until the next writer comes by with the same idea" story. But I can't fault Vaughan for being one of the few writers to try expanding on the whole "Matches Malone" element of the Bat-mythos, and the very fact that he chose Arnold as the main villain earns massive points with me.

So, anyways, Batman Matches Malone has just put on a little show for the patrons of the bar he chose to troll tonight, denying Nightwing disguised as Batman any information on the latest rumors about a shipment of armor-piercing bullets, and going so far as to spit in his interrogator's face. The manager of the bar takes some keen interest in him...

Scarface runs the nightclubs these days.

Matches discusses the speech issue.

Bruce swoops in on Scarface and his crew, beats down all of Scarface's other men, and chases the brains of the operation onto a moving freight car...

What a ventriloquist does.

Yep. Vaughan is one of the few writers who seems to have actually thought about what uses being a ventriloquist would have in a battle. I approve.

Scarface lectures his assistant.

We skip ahead about twenty or thirty pages, past all of Bruce's exposition about his first, failed attempts at infiltrating criminal groups, and the history of the Matches Malone identity. The important thing to know is: the real Matches Malone is still alive and kicking. And he's chosen this particular moment to come back to Gotham.

Matches meets Scarface.

Come the next issue, Wesker and Scarface go on the lam, for reasons explained below.

Scarface has good taste in movies.

Heh. Scarface being a Cagney fan - that's another little touch I really like. Every villain has their own tastes, their hobbies, their likes. Even homicidal mob boss puppets.

Soon enough, though, Nightwing in a Batman costume shows up to ruin their movie marathon.

Scarfaces has a little problem.

There's long been a debate between fans and creators alike about just how independent Scarface is. Is he really a malevolent entity possessing a piece of wood? Is he a split-personality inhabiting Arnold's brain? Or is he a complete lie, an excuse made by Arnold himself, who actually knows exactly what he's doing? Vaughan's take, at the very least, draws the line at Scarface's puppet body having functional senses.

Scarface meets Matches.

For the record - this is Bruce.

We come to the obligatory epiphany, where Bruce realizes that he's come this close to crossing the line again. Fortunately, he manages to stop himself just in time... so what does he do instead of wringing Arnold's neck?

The death of Scarface... for now.

Yeah... this might not seem so harmless if you subscribe to the theory that Scarface really does live in Arnold's head - can you imagine the poor guy having to listen to his "roommate's" screams at being burned alive every waking minute?

Ah, well. He'll craft a new Scarface in Arkham's wood shop sooner or later.

Next, we go to Dan Slott's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. Most of my pals on LJ hate this story, but since it's one of the first Batman stories I ever read, I can't hold too much of a grudge against it. I personally think it's a decent story... that just really doesn't have much to do with Arkham (or, for that matter, Gotham).

Arnold and Scarface, like the rest of Arkham's regulars, make sporadic appearances over this six-issue mini. A seemingly-minor plot point in the earlier issues was that Lunkhead (pretty much a Killer Croc clone, except he's allowed in Gen. Pop.) had broken Scarface into pieces - but once we hit the climax in the final issue, our one-man duo gets his sweet, sweet revenge.

Some context: one of the inmates has opened a portal to Hell in the catacombs beneath Arkham (or something) and summoned a bunch of demons (as well as the vengeful ghosts of all the people that the Arkham inmates have killed over the years). Said inmate has most of Arkham's other inmates, plus most of the staff, tied up in the catacombs and awaiting sacrifice to summon the head demon.

Do not mess with Scarface.

According to TV Tropes, media depictions of ventriloquists have waffled between simply being able to throw their voices, and being able to do pitch-perfect vocal imitations. It would seem that Slott favors the latter interpretation of Arnold, which would lend even more storytelling possibilities to him.

Last, but not least, we have Brian Azzarello's "Broken City", immediately following "Hush". In many respects, it's a very similar story - a mystery story with a last-minute twist or twelve, copious flashbacks to Bruce's youth, appearances from a bunch of the Bat-Rogues - but the execution is very, very different. Unlike Loeb and Lee, who firmly stuck to Batman-as-superhero, Azzarello and Eduardo Risso play the angle for all the film noir elements it's worth, with shadows, graphic imagery, and wordplay galore.

Risso's take on the ventriloquist also deviates from the Norm - Norm Breyfogle, that is. Instead of sticking to the pudgy, gumdrop-like Arnold Wesker that Breyfogle set down like most other artists have, Risso instead chooses to draw Arnold as thin, almost emaciated - I haven't decided yet whether it's a good take, but it's certainly creepy.

Some context (again): A kid's parents have just been shot down in front of his eyes. Batman witnesses said murder, has a flashback, and promptly turns the city upside-down looking for the one lead on the case, a man named Angel Lupo. After subjecting the Penguin to Beatdown for Information #4179 over at the Iceberg Lounge, Batman narrowly avoids being gunned down by Scarface's men.

Scarface seems to have lost his impediment.

Note also that Azzarello has chosen to dispense with Scarface's trademark "b"/"g" speech impediment. Did he think it was too silly to fit into such a dark story? Did he just not get the memo? The world may never know.

Scarface issues discipline.

Bruce confronts Scarface.

How Scarface likes his cigars.

Arnold loses it.

Bruce proceeds to jam a tap hose into into Scarface's mouth, and burns away a good portion of the dummy's face, because that's just how he rolls in this story (did I forget to mention that this story featured of the most psychotically-driven takes on Bruce this side of post-2000 Frank Miller's? Because it totally does).

Several issues later, Batman's finally tracked down Angel Lupo... only for him to get gunned down seconds later by - who else:

Arnold shows some backbone.

Rest in peace.

Arnold elaborates on his motives.

Angel, you son of a...

Well... it's certainly an original take on Arnold and Scarface. I'll give Azzarello that much. The idea of Arnold not only being able to defy Scarface, but actually having a life outside the mob - and at his age, too - is a touching one, to say the least. Too bad...


Angel wasn't the killer. Oh, well. C'est la vie.

Now for one last note, of no meaning or significance whatsoever: I want Arnold/Scarface's ride so, so badly. Only he could get away with having a set of wheels like that in a modern-day city.

Thank you, and good night. And don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for the first part of my review of Every Chuck Dixon Joker Story. Ever., coming in just a few days!

Date: 2013-06-15 05:03 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
One thing I remember discussing with someone at a comic shop back in the day was the notion that, creepy though the "Magic" style alternate personality manifested in a puppet was, what with the chronic "B" problem he had, how effective it would be if Wesker was actually a really, really BAD ventriloquist, and his gang could actually see his lips move when Scarface talks but are too shit scared to say anything about it.

Date: 2013-06-15 05:51 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Given my age, maybe that was what started the conversation, though it was a long time ago now, so my memory ain't what it was.

Date: 2013-06-16 02:02 am (UTC)
ozaline: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ozaline
I know this was meant to distract from the new Ventriloquist, but now I'm wondering if the judge on Gotham's Next Idol Star who has Talent or whatever that show was called was correct in stating she could see the new Vent's lips move... It's certainly fun to have as a rage button for any version of the character.

Date: 2013-06-15 05:14 pm (UTC)
dcbanacek: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dcbanacek
"Eh, Rico, I was watchin' the boss and the guy's lips move when he has that thing talk."

"Bruno, do NOT let the boss hear you say that EVER again. The last guy who said that... after the boss was done, the JOKER threw up when he saw what was left of him."

Date: 2013-06-15 05:25 pm (UTC)
fungo_squiggly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fungo_squiggly
What annoyed me about Peyton Riley is that, in my opinion, a big part of the point of Wesker and Scarface is that the ventriloquist is a nebbish and the puppet is a badass.

If there must be a female ventriloquist, she should be dowdy, harmless looking, middle aged, and also kind of pudgy.

Bonus points if her puppet is the one dressed up like vamp. Double bonus points if she makes it come on to Batman like some kind of creepy wooden femme fatale.

Date: 2013-06-15 05:55 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Peyton being a sort of moll to Scarface's gangster makes a certain thematic sense, though in a different, more complementary sense from the chalk-and-cheese of Wesker and Scarface.

Date: 2013-06-16 10:03 am (UTC)
espanolbot: (Default)
From: [personal profile] espanolbot
As Icon said, she was meant to be a moll to Scarface's classic Gangster, so themetically it still worked albeit in a different way to Arnold and Scarface.

Still kind of annoyed about how the character ended, frankly. When Frank Tieri's storyline Gotham Underground seemed to have her in a coalition with a bunch of other Gotham Rogues, only to get taken away by Tobias "Even more like Kingpin than normal" Whale's goons and implictly killed offpanel.

Date: 2013-06-16 10:20 am (UTC)
mrstatham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrstatham
This, of course, assumes that anyone actually took any notice of Gotham Underground, right? Heh. I mean, given the 'Spoiler' appearance in there and stuff like that, which was promptly ignored, I thought Gotham Underground was one of those things people just consigned to the 'crap' pile.

Date: 2013-06-16 10:23 am (UTC)
mrstatham: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrstatham
I always found Peyton a bit interesting because Dini was respectful enough to tie her in to the complete mess that had been made of Wesker during Face the Face. By giving her a backstory already involving the puppet, it worked. And I liked the hint of something creepily supernatural going on, somehow - like something had happened to the dummy with Wesker dying. And the abusive nature of their relationship was still kind-of preserved, too, in particular scenes. Coupled with what everyone else has pointed out about her, and I'd much rather have her over the current new take in Batgirl.

Date: 2013-06-16 07:33 pm (UTC)
grazzt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grazzt
The other thing was that the events work whatever your theory on Scarface was. Is he a malevolent supernatural entity who just switched hosts? Or was Peyton so broken by what happened to her that she just latched onto Scarface as a symbol of her own power? Or was she an unreliable narrator and using Scarface for his name recognition to start up her own underground empire and personal revenge quest? You can basically apply the demon, insane, and faking it theories as easily to Riley as to Wesker.

Date: 2013-06-16 09:48 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
I prefer the idea that Wesker was a genuine dissociative personality, and Peyton was just latching on to it. I never felt that a supernatural element was needed to make Ventriloquist disturbing.

Date: 2013-06-17 06:07 pm (UTC)
grazzt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grazzt
Exactly, but her background works for that, too. Any theory you could apply to Wesker works equally well for Peyton Riley, while still being different enough to not be an outright clone. That's a brilliant balancing act and I'm impressed that Dini pulled it off.

Date: 2013-06-15 11:11 pm (UTC)
captainbellman: It Was A Boojum... (Default)
From: [personal profile] captainbellman
I wish someone would post some of the Ventriloquist/Scarface material from "Batman: City of Crime". The plot of that particular venture was sub-par, but the character writing was gold; and it had one of the most ingenious uses of Wesker's particular talent I've yet seen. In the story, it's shown that he keeps his entire gang completely silent while doing individual "voices" for all of them as well as Scarface - and this is accompanied by poor Arnold himself sitting there with a near-catatonic expression, his white glasses completely disguising his eyes and thus making his true mindset a mystery.

By the by, who else thinks Chevy Chase would be a perfect casting call for the two of them, come the month of Sundays that they got an appearance in a Batman movie? He's physically perfect for the role, and "Community" has shown he's capable of doing the nasty puppet-voice. Though they'd probably have to do some sort of dub instead of teaching him Ventriloquism.

Date: 2013-06-15 11:49 pm (UTC)
qalchemist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] qalchemist
Oh, man.

I'd never have thought it, but... looking at recent pictures of him? Chase would be -perfect-.

Date: 2013-06-16 01:12 pm (UTC)
captainbellman: It Was A Boojum... (Default)
From: [personal profile] captainbellman
Eh, you're not wrong. It was essentially Batman mooning over a Paris Hilton clone for pages and pages because she got offed by the thoroughly less-than-impressive villain, and yet another set of bloody fear gas hallucinations. All rather tedious, if you ask me.

Date: 2013-06-16 01:13 am (UTC)
skemono: I read dead racists (Default)
From: [personal profile] skemono
Hm. If the Penguin and Ventriloquist/Scarface are rival mob bosses of Gotham, have there been any stories about them facing off against each other?

Date: 2013-06-16 10:05 am (UTC)
espanolbot: (Default)
From: [personal profile] espanolbot
I remember in the Batman cartoon (the one by the guys behind Jackie Chain Adventures) they updated which version of Scarface the dummy was based on. So rather than being a 1930s/40s gangster he was explicitly based on the Al Pacino version from the 1980s... which sort of worked. In as much as anything did at the beginning of that show.

Date: 2013-06-16 09:50 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
That series is just known as "The Batman", and I liked the idea for the update, it was a cute reflection on time passing.

I also liked that BTAS actually has a happy ending for Wesker.

Date: 2013-06-16 07:35 pm (UTC)
grazzt: (Default)
From: [personal profile] grazzt
That's a really nice touch, having the Ventriloquist drinking and smoking while Scarface talks. What can I say? I'm a sucker for the classics.

Date: 2013-06-16 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] kingofmadcows
I really love how in the Animated Series, Arnold eventually destroys Scarface and actually has a somewhat happy ending.

Date: 2013-06-16 08:27 pm (UTC)
jaybee3: Nguyen Lil Cass (Default)
From: [personal profile] jaybee3
My main problem is the super-powers thing. Batman villians shouldn't have super powers. It just ruins the balance that the whole Batman is a regular guy in a suit vs lunatic villains kinda thing. If I remember right DC orginally wanted Misfit/Charlie to "replace" Cass as Batgirl before they picked Stephanie and Gail Simone they shouldn't do because Batgirl shouldn't have super-powers like Misfit does. I feel the same for Batman villians.


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