“Funny Money” is the back-up story for this issue of Batman: Gotham Knights. Part of the Batman Black & White series, these stories featured story and art by people who don’t normally work on the Batman books and feature black & white art. The stories are not necessarily set in continuity, giving these diverse creators more freedom.
“Funny Money” revolves around two treasury agents bringing Batman in to bust a counterfiting scam. Ellison explores both the detective nature of Batman as well as his ability to just scare the hell out of a man. Gene Ha, artist of Top Ten, provides a semi-realistic art and produces a very interesting image of Batman.
Ellison’s Batman back-up story was announced by him in his Summer 2000 issue of Rabbit Hole (the official newsletter of the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection). Here are a few selections from that item:
Ellison writes ‘Funny Money’
“Close on fifteen years after writing, ‘The Night of Thanks, But No Thanks’ for Detective Comics #567, Harlan will return to the character of Batman with a new story. ‘Funny Money’ will appear in an upcoming issue of Batman: Gotham Knights. Although the exact issue has not bee scheduled (but soon, very very soon), one of HE’s favorite graphic artists, Gene Ha, has been assigned the black and white art chores by DC Comics editor Mark Chiarello…
“‘All through last year’s “No Man’s Land” arc, Batman became concretized in the role of a humorless brute. I [HE] have elected to go back to basics with my view of Batman in this story. First, I let him be what he hasn’t been permitted to be–what he was created to be–for many years…a detective.'”
UPDATE: I wrote the following paragraphs when the issue first came out about an inconsistency in dialouge between what HE described in interviews and what was acutally printed. I have since been corrected, in a way. Here was my initial, INCORRECT, statement:
An interesting note of comparison. Before the story appeared Ellison mentioned this piece of characterization “‘There’s a scene where Batman meets Commissioner Gordon and some treasury agents, and even though he calls Gordon by his first name through the whole story, here you must have Batman say ‘Commissioner’, because Batman isn’t sure Jim Gordon wants the feds knowing how cozy he is with a vigilante.’ (Comics Buyer’s Guide, #1380, April 28th) In the story as printed the scene plays very differently, with the Commisioner and Batman exchanging some very paly dialogue:
Comissioner Gordon: So What’s New Kiddo?
Batman: Same Old Same Old
CG: Some Coffee? A Soft Drink? A Little Herb Tea?
Batman: C’Mon, Jim. I’m Tired. It’s Been A Long Night. I’d Like To Pack It In And Get Some Sleep.
I don’t know if HE changed his interpretation of the relationship between the two characters, at least in this public form, or if it was requested by Editorial. The back-up does come at the end of two months of exploration of that very relationship and comes as the back-up in the final story in a cross-over dealing with a shooting of Gordon in the line of duty.
In fact, according to an email I recieved from Mr. Ellison, the exchange where Batman calls “Commissioner Gordon” instead of “Jim” took place a page earlier, on the second page of the story, where Batman lowers some criminals onto the roof. As the email reads:
“To clarify the seeming inconsistency between what I wrote in CBG, and the finally published version . . . there actually is no glitch, because you picked the wrong exchange between Gordon and Batman.
“The initial exchange occurs as Gordon stands on the rooftop with the two feds. Above them, Batman is lowering the trussed hoods to the street below. It was in THAT scene that I had Batman address Gordon as “Commissioner,” rather than more familiarly as “Jim,” as he would if they were alone . . . and which he does, later, in the scene in the office.
“In fact, that was the ONLY editorial change DC made, and I suppose they did it because they hadn’t thought it out as fully as I did. On the roof, Batman doesn’t know who these other two strangers with Gordon are, so he plays it formally: “Commissioner.” But when he comes into the office, he understands that Gordon is allowing the feds to see that he has a personal liaison with Batman, and the two of them make smalltalk, “Jim,” in their usual manner.
“I wish DC had left it the way I wrote it, but it’s such a picayune alteration, the pique-factor is moot.”
I thank Mr. Ellison for the clarification, and always welcome corrections and other comments from readers and creators.
The rest of this issue of Batman: Gotham Knights features the conclusion to the “Officer Down” storyline that ran through the Batman titles this month. In this story Commissioner Gordon is shot and the Gotham City Police Department, as well as the Batman Family, all mobilize to find the shooter in their own methods. This issue is written by Greg Rucka, with art by Rick Burchett & Rodney Ramos (letters, Willie Schubert and colors, Digital Chameleon).