Wednesday, April 21, 2021

That most memorable moment from Batman and the Outsiders #1

I've been co-teaching a comic book class for a few years now. For the last three semesters, we've covered several different works, and one of the closing writing assignments asks the student to identify four of the the most memorable scenes from the books.

There have been sixty-five students in each of the three classes, and they identify various scenes. However, the scene that they identify more than any other is from the opening of Batman and the Outsiders #1 written by Bryan Hill, drawn by Dexter Soy, and colored by Veronica Gandini.

During the semester, we read issues of Black Panther, Ironheart, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Noble, and more. We read The Killing Joke. We watch episodes of Static Shock, Batman: The Animated Series, and The Mandalorian. People are moved by key scenes in those books. But when I look over their various writings, that scene from Batman and the Outsiders #1 receives the most mentions.

The scene is from the beginning. A villain shows up, causes a car accident by attacking a man and his daughter, Sofia. He kills the father and throws Sofia off an overpass onto a gas truck causing an explosion. 

Sofia lives and walks away. 

Among the dozens of scenes we witness in the comic book class though, this is the one that really sticks with people. 

Early in the semester, we discuss the concept of "women in refrigerators," the pervasive problem in comic books and films where a woman character is harmed or killed for the main purpose of inspiring a male hero to seek revenge through bold actions--usually killing groups of people who are responsible. 

The students point out a scene in The Killing Joke where a woman character is shot by the Joker as a key refrigerator moment. However, the students don't discuss Sofia like that. Maybe because she survives. The violence she endures is unsettling because of the way it appears on the page, but it is also mysterious and not related to a male character's journey of vengeance. 

The artwork of the image is really captivating. That could be what causes students to site the scene as most memorable. One student noted that "it is the very beginning of the comic, and it starts off strong with a tragedy. Also, many readers may not know of Sofia’s metahuman powers." 

Another student highlight the artwork: "The art [of that scene] makes it feel like it isn’t in a comic that you’re watching, as if it happened live. The coloring and art shows just how intense the scene is."

One student mentioned that the scene with Barbara getting shot in The Killing Joker was memorable in a negative way because it followed a familiar pattern of reducing a woman character. The dramatic action of Sofia being thrown off the overpass but then surviving is anything but a reduction and could explain why it moves so many students.     

We tend to cover Batman and the Outsiders #1 after the mid-term, which is to say the students, even those new to comics, have had a chance to think about various books by that point in the semester. Things start to get familiar, possibly even predictable to them at that point. And then, we out of nowhere we encounter that far out scene.  


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