Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Deacon Blackfire

In 1988's The Cult, Gotham City's homeless population is disappearing. Batman investigates, and ends up finding an underground army of Gotham's poor and downtrodden, lead by Deacon Blackfire, a charismatic cult leader. Drugged and tortured, Batman is eventually brainwashed into becoming one of Blackfire's followers, even to the point of committing murder while under Deacon Blackfire's spell. Blackfire and his cult take over Gotham, hoping to purge the city of crime by keeping it under the rule of the homeless army. Eventually Batman is freed, and he gets in a Batmobile that looks a lot like a monster truck (see it here at the History of the Batmobile site), and takes down Blackfire and the cult.

Pros: Blackfire's a somewhat interesting villain, in that he appeals to Batman's sense of justice, but he takes it too far.

Cons: The Cult was a controversial story for its violence and gore (decapitated heads, Batman murdering someone, a badly scarred hooker). It's also out of print, I think, so Blackfire is not going to be all that well known. And the central element of his story is breaking down Batman until he's crying like a little girl, which is not exactly consistent with the badass Batman we know and love. The idea of Batman as a superhero to me is that he may not have a superhuman body like Superman, but he has a superhuman will, and seeing someone break that will just doesn't work for me.

How I'd do it: Eh, I don't think I would. But the basic premise of a cult leader recruiting the downtrodden to take back the city works. I just don't know about the brainwashing of Batman.

Casting Guesses: I could see Russell Crowe doing it.

Verdict: Personally, I hated The Cult. I hated Emo Batman, I hated the Bigfoot Batmobile. It tries really hard to be The Dark Knight Returns but it isn't. Not even close. However, lots of people disagree. Kirk at the Weekly Crisis listed it in his top 10 lesser known Batman stories, and IGN put it at #6 on their top 25 Batman stories ever. So some people don't hate it, which I guess makes it possible.


Anonymous said...

I loved the cult. It was all about censorship and a backlash against it, thats why it went so over the top. I think it's 1987, not 1991, as Jason Todd is the robin at this point (and actually for the first time a really cool one.) Batman isn't forced to kill people by blackfire, he kills one person IN blackfires homeless army after being drugged up and he thought it was two face. And I think the breaking of the bat is amazing, it's what made Bane memorable after all, and I think blackfire was better. I think this would have to be my 3rd favorite batman story ever, so I'm curious, what didnt you like about it?

Bill said...

Oops, you are correct, it was '88. The trade version was published in 1991, which had me confused.

The whole thing felt way too derivative of the Dark Knight Returns. I don't really mind the "breaking of the Bat," but not the way it was handled in the Cult. I feel like there were 30 panels of close-ups of Batman making a crying face. I guess it's just personal preference, because many people seem to love it. As I mentioned, IGN had it in the top 10 Batman stories ever, so you're not alone.

Mind At Large said...

I'd have to agree. The Cult is one of my top 5 favorite batman stories. Its bloody, gruesome, psychologically appauling, and Gotham city is literally almost destroyed. Even the US Military cant beat Blackfire. The Joker was trying to break Batman in much the same way, but since their duality is too balanced, batman overcame and wins. But with Blackfire it's on a whole other level. Both movies focused on the iron will that batman attains, and constantly exhibits throughout his career. What better way to show his still "wet behind the ears" of fighting crime than to have someone come along and actually ruin his whole psyche so early on. It would be an ultimate exhibition of who did it, how he handles it, and how it makes him stronger and into the great Bats we know and love. Plus, the fact that Blackfire builds a terrorist army out of the same type of people that had slain Bruce's, that actually SUCCEEDS where Joker left of in destroying Gotham, is a huge climatic touchdown.

Mind At Large said...

EDITS: Bruce's parents.

also, a side note, looking for pictures of Blackfire online for my wallpaper lead me to finding your glorious site. fate, have you?

Bill said...

I remember Blackfire being one of the hardest villains to find images of decent quality for. Wallpaper-sized, that's probably tough. A quick search shows this to be the biggest I could find. Not much of a wallpaper, really.

dshultz said...

I also really loved "The Cult". One, the story was great, and having the strongest aspect of the Batman, his will, being what is broken. Everyone thinks that Bane was the only person to break the Bat, but Blackfire did it first, and better. Also, the art by Bernie Wrightson is absolutely kick-ass. The only thing I dislike about it is that, I have the "Frankenstein" book with Bernie's illustrations, so any of his other work pales in comparison. That's all.