NEW 52: What We Talk About When We Talk About Carrie Kelley

1. The ridiculous cover of Batman and Red Robin #19

Batman and Red Robin 19 Carrie Kelley

The latest publicity stunt for DC, the branding of April’s gatefold-cover shockers as “WTF Certified,” fell apart when DC realized people don’t enjoy cuss words in 2013. We’re just beyond that as a society, I guess. The letter f is just too much for our fragile collective consciousness to bear at this point in history. Also, it wasn’t a particularly bright idea to begin with, since it sets DC up for failure and fans up for disappointment (how “WTF?” could these covers be, exactly?). I was originally going to do a post on just “WTF Certified,” examining the rigorous certification process, going through the educational and professional backgrounds of the board members vetting these potentially heart-stopping pieces of cover art, but some truths are so self-evidently stupid I figured why bother.

In this month’s Batman and Red Robin #19, the gatefold cover flips open to reveal none other than Frank Miller’s creation, Carrie Kelley, who served as Robin in the classic The Dark Knight Returns and the not-so-classic The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Carrie Kelley as an in-continuity Robin? I’ll take that. I discussed the possibility a year ago, and there’s a lot of reasons why it could work, but the cover of Batman and Red Robin #19 has nothing to do with anything in the actual issue itself. Carrie dresses up as Robin for a superhero-themed costume party and that’s that. She’s certainly not swinging through the lightning-filled sky with an older, grizzled Bruce Wayne. People thinking, “Wow! Carrie Kelley as Robin!” when they look at the cover are going to be thinking something else by the time they get to the last page (probably “F–k DC. F–k DC so hard.”)

2. The Dark Knight Returns Carrie Kelley versus New 52 Carrie Kelley

Carrie Kelley The Dark Knight Returns

Frank Miller’s Carrie Kelley was a 13-year-old. Peter J. Tomasi’s Carrie Kelley is an 18- or 19-year-old. What difference does it make?

Well, being a teenager is a pretty terrible experience: your body is essentially an amorphous ever-changing blob with acne reserves on standby, your hormones are raging but your parents forbid you from having intercourse and it’s unlikely most members of the opposite/same sex are interested in banging you anyway, and biology has determined that you’ll be more angry, depressed, shallow, and cruel than at any other point in your life. Now cram several hundred people going through the exact same thing into an enclosed space and force them to interact with each other. That’s high school.

Navigating those treacherous waters is Miller’s Kelley, who still finds the time to fashion a homemade Robin costume and spend her after-school hours wandering into gang territory to fight crime. That’s pretty awesome for a 13-year-old.

If you can afford to go (which is an entirely different can of worms), college is that post-teenagehood respite period where you can stay out as late as you want, drink alcohol and smoke, sleep in, skip class, engage in casual sex, and basically do whatever the hell you want without being under your parents’ thumbs. Plus, you’re being inundated with a ton of world-changing ideas that you can barely grasp let alone convey to strangers, which is why college kids can be some of the most boring human beings in the world.

Tomasi’s Kelley is spunky enough to throw a pizza at some creepy strangers, but she’s not overcoming any obstacles greater than finishing a term paper. She’s a computer nerd advising Damian on television-filming techniques. That’s dull. Her natural Tim Drake-like curiosity regarding Damian’s disappearance is understandable, but she’s not exactly gearing up for a career fighting evildoers by playing Wii Fitness. If she’s destined to take up Damian’s mantle, I fear she’s going to have a pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths Jason Todd origin where she just sort of stumbles into the Batcave and winds up Batman’s sidekick.

And where are her green glasses?

3. Before Watchmen

Rorschach 8

Alan Moore, despite his famously easygoing nature, made a remark about DC going back to the Alan Moore well for Blackest Night (and be sure to check out Ethan Van Scriver’s response, linked to on that same page). And while Moore may have been wrong about the specifics, DC does tend to spend a lot of time attempting to repeat past successes.

Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns did a lot: took the grimness of ’70s comics and made them de rigueur, popularized the phrase “graphic novel,” and stood as two of the greatest stories ever told in the history of the medium (I understand Miller’s Batman: Year One was also quite popular and influential, but I think TDKR was more of a revelation than B:YO).

There was considerable uproar over DC taking everyone’s beloved Watchmen and cranking out a series of prequels of varying quality, the main argument being: leave well enough alone. Now that the Watchmen well has been re-tapped and run dry, introducing TDKR‘s Carrie Kelley to New 52 continuity feels, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, needlessly stunt-y and desperate. As those sad commercials for Secret anti-perspirant will tell you: stress sweat smells worse than regular sweat.

4. Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown

Batgirl Cassandra Cain Stephanie Brown Robin

Quick: name two characters that are fan favourites, people are desperate to see, and have yet to be introduced to New 52 continuity. If you said Ralph and Sue Dibny, you’re right, and I’ll be examining Elongated Man’s storied history in my next post.

There’s also ersatz Batgirls Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. Cassandra’s career met a rather undignified end while Stephanie Brown returned from the grave (more or less) to become surprisingly popular before the New 52 put an end to her adventuring. Why re-introduce Carrie Kelley when two established female characters with large and loyal followings are waiting in the wings?

5. Continuity

At one point during Batman and Robin #19, Batman says this:

Batman and Robin 19

Does this mean Death of Superman and Batman R.I.P. happened? I fully admit I haven’t spent much time on the near-impossible task of reconciling New 52 DCnU history with pre-Flashpoint DCU history, but can readers at least be given some sort of half-hearted History of the DC Universe or something?

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9 Responses to NEW 52: What We Talk About When We Talk About Carrie Kelley

  1. Awesome article, as always.

  2. luckra says:

    Great article!

    1. I’m really not in favor of this WTF covers. It feels like a dumb marketing move which will ultimately disappoint everyone (so far not a single WTF cover made me think otherwise).

    2. I don’t really see where they are going introducing a new Robin so fast. Well regarding the messed up Batman “continuity” it would be plausible but in reality…
    I think it’s just another little feat to attract readers (and Kelley will not be Robin for a long time).

    3. I didn’t read Before Watchmen yet. I’ll think i’ll give it a go when all series are over.

    4. I don’t really like Cassandra but Steph is a personal favorite of mine. I hope they will re-introduce her soon but at the same time I fear what she will become in the New 52.

    5. I think we have at least 3-4 years ahead of us before the series make sense regarding continuity with Batman 😀 . They should throw a good old Crisis to shake things up a bit.

    • I agree about the covers. I think Kelley would be a neat Robin, if the circumstances were right (they’re not now). I, too, fear what Stephanie Brown will become in the New 52 (if she ever shows up, that is). I’d like to see the New 52 continuity gel, but since the point of it was to reboot the entire universe and make continuity a non-issue, I can’t see it being anything other than a post-Crisis on Infinite Earths cluster.

  3. neinkampf says:

    The more I look into the New 52 to try and make sense of it, the more I realise what an utter fustercluck it is.

    Most fans agree if Batman was given a career of say 10-12 years, which ties in nicely to the underground vigilante aspect, whereas Superheroes en masse have been around 6 years, you can just about hamfist the supposed still valid continuity in there.

    Heck, with the jeans and tee Superman Grant gave us he could have a career before he became a worldwide phenomenon.

    However the death of these two still poses some issues even with the 12 year leeway.

    But no…

    DC says it all happened in 6 years. If we could just have some cohesion, an official spider diagram/ timeline, or something effectively stating Batman has a longer past, or that Batman comics are set 4 years after the New 52 present? Anything but all this ‘hey look at this months one trick pony while we destroy logic and continuity even more’.

    *facepalm*

  4. Timestampede says:

    There is a interesting chance that Relic may just suck the universe dry *****Heres hoping***** and return us to the DCU we all prefer and love!

  5. I didn’t get the point of calling in WTF Certified month in the first place. Shouldn’t the job of the cover be to make the person at the racks to go “WTF?” and buy the comic. Anyway nice article and I found your opinion very interesting. Do agree with you. Carrie Kelley was a lot better in the Dark Knight Returns though I did find it interesting how they tried to bring Kelley in the mainstream DC universe.

    • I’m interested in seeing what ends up happening to Carrie Kelley in the DCnU. I guess it’s not over yet and she could, theoretically, turn into an amazing character.

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