Bat-Man is Lost in a Woods by David Enos
32 pages, full color.
Published by California Clap
The greatest mystery Bat-Man has ever faced may be the disappearance of his wife, Amity. The wooded acres surrounding their castle home offer few clues, and months of searching have led him no closer to the truth. In a case of this nature, even his unmatched investigative techniques may not be enough.
"Many corporate comics promise a reimagining of a classic superhero. Rebooted series promise all-new, all-different characters or revisions of characters that have been used continuously in one form or another since the 1930s. Over the arc of history, that has meant changing the joke-cracking, Nazi-punching doo-gooders into grim and gritty spectacles, garbage people for readers who have been reading the same floppy comics for the past 20+ years. But in some ways, these characters exist outside of their gigantic corporate silos in the public domain of popular culture. No character lives in that space more than Batman, introduced in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Batman’s many iterations include multiple live-action movie series, multiple animated television shows, and probably most notable, a live-action TV show from the late 1960s starring Adam West. Batman
‘66, as this property is sometimes referred, is the base from which David Enos builds Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods, a 32-page full color comic from California Clap, a small comics and records label based in Oakland.
In Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods, Batman is searching for his lost wife Amity in the woods surrounding his castle. Over time, he loses track of time and place as he searches for Amity, finding sustenance and shelter out in the wild. Enos’ Batman is lost and wrapped up in his own mind, full of regret and resignation. Batman, as a co-opted character in Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods, allows Enos to juxtapose the collective memory of Batman and his goofy crime-fighting antics with this narcissistic loner who wanders aimlessly, observing the world at a distance. Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods is also a meditation on the idea of “Batman” and what a real person, gone through the things the character has gone through, would act like. When your most prominent memory is that of your parents being murdered in an alley, how fixated on the past would you be? In some ways Enos’ Batman is a more realistic portrayal of humanity (although we rarely ask for our superheroes to be human).
Batman’s rumination on his failures and regrets is what drives Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods. In one panel, near the end of the book, Enos captures that feeling succinctly. Batman addresses a crowd and says “When I was a younger man, I could whistle every tune. No melody escaped me.” The crowd is baffled and irritated. They’re here for another reason.
Enos’ art is hand painted, and the color selections in Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods tend towards the putrescent. The characteristic royal blue of Batman’s mask is contrasted with umbers and yellows; the whole comic looks sickly. The styling and lettering is vaguely reminiscent of Marie Jacotey, although some of the profile shots are almost Clowsian. And Enos’ Batman is stuck in the past, completely inwardly focused - much like Clowes’ main character Andy in The Deathray. However, unlike Clowes strongly focused plots, Bat-Man Is Lost In A Woods meanders, and sometimes feels very stream of consciousness in its construction. The comic’s ending is muddled and odd, much like Enos’ Batman himself. These creative choices make for a disjointed, befuddling read; I’d take it over a DC Batman comic any day."
"On the periphery, there is always the woods. For many they are “lovely, dark and deep.” For others, they are a place where one can “live deliberately.” But for some, the woods are wild, unfettered, where the witches dance, the place outside the social order. For those people, the forest is as much about possibility and mystery as it is about freedom. The woods are poetry and the procreant urge.
Weird shit happens out there in the trees.
David Enos’ Bat-Man is Lost in a Woods embraces this sentiment fully with pages of painted panels that squeeze you right between that which you know and that which you envision. It stands heroically both within and without, one foot in dreams, one foot in some other place. That which is familiar is now seen anew.
There is a narrative to Enos’ work. Publisher California Clap has the following solicitation for this book: The greatest mystery Bat-Man has ever faced may be the disappearance of his wife, Amity. The wooded acres surrounding their castle home offer few clues, and months of searching have led him no closer to the truth. In a case of this nature, even his unmatched investigative techniques may not be enough. Yet this description allows access only, an opportunity to reference and to put up walls. Bat-Man is Lost in a Woods gathers familiar objects in order to provide a map into reverie. This is not super-heroics or even a plotted out here-to-there. It is Lynchian, a blurred Magritte, full of plaintiveness and unease.
Enos’ art is static, flushed with the colors of bile and dissociative nightmares. His Batman throws us back to the comfortable Adam West iteration of the hero, but removes the campiness and replaces it with a fugue state. The hyphen Enos adds to his Bat-Man forces the dichotomy that has always been at the heart of the character. Here, though, the pause between the two words becomes the focus.
Bat-Man is Lost in a Woods is a right brain book out of left field, shepherding intellectual property out of the city and into the forest. Where you stand is in the middle, smiling and shaking your head in the end."
-Your Chicken Enemy
"Batman. Now, there’s a subject for you. Most of us out there can easily hook into Batman. What David Enos has done is play with that familiarity. His Batman taps into arguably the most accessible version, the Adam West model. The Enos Batman is a no-nonsense guy with little room for drama. The big case he’s on in this story is familiar enough too: a search for a long lost love. It’s the sort of plot that can easily be deadened by a too obvious treatment. Enos is having fun with these tropes by taking everything right up to the edge of the banal. He throws in some light humor and sets this whimsical Batman off on a surreal landscape, a mashup of grim, dark, and camp.
It is a rite of passage for any cartoonist to create their take on superheroes. There is a divide that will always exist between independent cartoonists and the world of mainstream genre. There is little crossover but, when it happens, it is something to study on a case by case basis. When it does happen, the big two comics publishers have found interesting ways to work with relatively indie creators. It’s pretty simple, the most popular superheroes are mega-franchises. Not just anyone is going to be handed the keys to the Batmobile. The mistake is when an indie cartoonist dismisses genre comics out of hand. As David Enos demonstrates here, there are endless possibilities to work with genre, subversive or otherwise. DC Comics and Marvel can always learn something new from alternative cartoonists.
It is a lot of fun to watch this banal Batman recalling the bittersweet days of his marriage to a pretty young woman named, Amity. Understandably, this is not a character from Batman canon. But she does make for a suitable match in the spirit of Silver St. Cloud. Amity is younger and more prone to pouting than anything else. She just wishes that Batman made more time for her and that they had more of a normal life together. Ah, isn’t that always the way with these sort of relationships? Enos deftly pulls the strings on what seems like a merely juvenile plot that unfolds into a dreamy and disturbing narrative, more like HBO’s “True Detective” but also hinting at the sinister origins of Batman going back to his debut in “Detective Comics” in 1939. There was always something weird about Batman. That’s what makes him interesting. David Enos celebrates that weirdness in this comic."