The Virgin Reader: Have you ever read a comic book before?
Sharon Miller: No.
TVR: This is your first ever?
Miller: I think so. I'm pretty sure. Well, does Mad magazine count?
TVR: They sell it at comic book stores. But it doesn't count. Why did you pick this comic?
Miller: Because I've heard of Batman, back in the 60's when it was on television. I've heard that it's "different" then that. I thought I'd like to read this and figure it out.
TVR: Is it true that your father used to tell you that he went to school with Batman?
TVR: Do you think he really did?
Miller: No. No, I don't think so.
TVR: Did you like this?
Miller: Yeah. Well, I'm confused about a thing that happened at the beginning. There's like three or four things going on in here, right? But...what I'm confused about is...well.
TVR: Well, are you confused about something with the art? The writing?
Miller: Well, I guess because I'm not familiar with it, I had to read the first two pages three times because--I thought that [character] was Batman, but...well, it is, I think. I couldn't really tell what was going on here at the beginning. I read it three times.
TVR: Are you still confused?
TVR: According to our fact-checker, yes.
Miller: Well, it looks like Hush shot Batman. And it looks like Batman is lying around in a pool of blood, and they are going to take him away and take his organs out. I can't figure out who that out--is this guy Batman?
TVR: I don't know. That doesn't look like Batman.
The Factual Intern: You know who that is.
TVR: Nightwing? The Virgin Read, speaking to the new comic reader: Nightwing is kind of the Batman rip-off, but no one ever comes out and says it. He hang-glides and he lives somewhere in a similar city. The storylines don't usually cross, but I guess they are kind of crossing this time?
Miller: Well, it looks like Nightwing and Robin came and saved Batman. Is that Batman? But here, they are dragging Batman away. Then here, these two dudes, Robin and Nightwing come in--but then Batman is up?
The Intern: There's a jump that you've missed here, which is not your fault. This whole sequence, with Robin, Nightwing and Batman, is a bank robbery. The story just jumps to a different location. That picture is Batman. This other guy, the dead guy Hush shot? That's not Batman. The Hush character dresses up crazy people, these crazy people in the hospital, he dresses them up like Batman and then kills them. Because he's weird. There's a small text box...where they point it out. The only specific statement about that is that portion.
Miller: "There's a lot to be said for the blind obedience of one's staff."
The Intern: He pulls up the mask, and it isn't Bruce Wayne.
Miller: So. That would be really confusing to me. Was really confusing, I guess. Having never read this, or any comic before, I would've never figured that out. I thought Hush shot Batman! That took me ten minutes! It took me a while to figure out this text, what it means. [Sharon is referring to the "thought balloon" portions of text] That Hush threw something to cut the guys face, and then Hush says "Here Bruce." So I figured that was Batman. Because he's Bruce, Bruce Wayne. Then Hush shoots him, and he's dead, or dying. Then I completely understood the backstory. I don't understand why this Hush kid was a little crazy. Why did he decide that [his father's death] was Bruce's fault? That kind of surprised me.
The Intern: The reason he thinks it's Bruce's fault is that Hush set up his parents to die so he could have all their money. But Bruce's dad, who was a doctor, saved his mother's life. So Hush was stuck with his mother.
TVR: Her face is creepy.
TVR: But still?
Miller: So he blamed Bruce?
TVR: Or did he blame Bruce's dad?
Miller: Well, hey, if you're going to set up your parents to die, then you're just a little...
TVR: Crazy anyway.
Miller: Yes, right. Well, I got that backstory pretty much. I didn't know that--that a mugger killed Batman's parents.
The Intern: You didn't know that his parents were murdered?
Miller: No. I didn't know anything about Batman. I know that..basically, all that "Holy whatever Batman." Biff, pow. Batman was fun. I thought I got this, but...so they are at a bank robbery? Weird.
TVR: Did you like the art? Did you find it clear?
The Intern: Yes.
Miller: This part, "That goes double for the alley cat." I figured, "alley cat", "Catwoman," she used to be in love with Batman....and this? "Mentor and pupil?" Who's that?
TVR: Would you say you enjoyed reading the comic?
TVR: You don't have to say yes.
Miller: Oh. I could get into some of the storylines.
TVR: Would you read a comic book again?
Miller: Yes, I would read it, if it were around. I don't think I'm going to make a point to go out and buy it. I don't have the time. It's not like I have spare time. I can't read the things I'm supposed to read.
TVR: Will you encourage your daughter to read comic books?
TVR: Be honest.
Miller: Well, they're too violent for a four year old.
TVR: What age are they appropriate for?
Miller: Let me think. Based on something I learned about developmental stages last year, probably when they were 12 or 13, when they can really separate reality from fantasy. When they have a clear definition of fantasy and reality.
TVR: Do you remember what age it was?
Miller: I think it's in the teens. I don't know, maybe it's 11 or 10. I can't really remember.
TVR: So at least 10 or 11. I'm going to jump back to another question. What prior experience have you had with super-heroes?
TVR: I ask that all the time.
Miller: "Aquaman, Aquaman!"
TVR: No, that's the Spider-man song.
Miller: Spider-man! I also saw one of the movies, about five years ago. The basic guys. Superman, Spider-Man, Aquaman. Speed Racer.
TVR: Is he a super-hero?
The Intern: No, he's just a Japanese dude who drives really fast.
Miller: He's Japanese?
The Intern: Maybe he's not, I don't know. His name is "Speed Racer."
TVR: Would you consider this comic book experience better or worse then your other experiences with super-heroes?
Miller: It's interesting. I've heard, maybe in the last five, six years that I was getting a sense that there was more to these characters then what I knew. I thought that would be interesting to know that--but like I said, given my time limits, it's not like I can go out.
TVR: On the scale of one to ten, how would you rate this comic book?
Miller: I have nothing to compare it to. Ten being...putt putt?
TVR: Yes, ten being putt putt, one being punched in the face.
TVR: If this comic book were a snack food, what snack food would it be?
Miller: I'm not a quick thinker! I'll think about that question for three days! I'll be calling you up and saying "I've decided what snack food Batman is."
TVR: Bring up five that come to your mind right now?
Miller: FIVE!? Pretzels.
TVR: Because of the twists?
TVR: Maybe you used to eat Cheez-its when you watched Batman.
Miller: They didn't even make Cheez-its when I watched Batman. We're talking forty years ago. I don't think they were around. Doritos weren't around.
TVR: I think I've asked all the questions.
Miller: I would read the next one, to find out what happens to the little guy. The one who's taken away by the straw man. Wait--the Scarecrow?
TVR: The Tin Man!
Miller: He's covered in straw! All the straw!
TVR: Any final thoughts?
Miller: I would read the next one to find out what happens with psycho Hush.
Nina Stone, Sharon Miller, 2008