There has been a lot of discussion about the connections between comic books and hip-hop this year. Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree has been growing in popularity, Marvel has been releasing variant covers based on famous rap albums (also having released Run the Jewels variants earlier this year), and rapper Darryl “DMC” McDaniels has been producing comics under his publishing company Darryl Makes Comics. Two cliques of artists and fans that seem like polar opposites on the surface are finding that they have more and more in common with each other. And why not? Rappers and comic book people are total nerds. They both focus deeply and passionately on words that allow a constructed world to come to life, or help reality rise to the surface.

READ: Are you a Batman obsessive? Then you have to read DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE!

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Tom MacDonald

Of all the MCs today, it doesn’t seem like anyone is quite on par with Batman fanboy/Vancouver-based rapper Tom MacDonald. On October 1st, MacDonald dropped a three-part music video that also serves as an epic Batman short film. Clocking in at thirteen and half minutes, the piece is MacDonald’s operatic ode to the Dark Knight, and is truly unique. While the film presents an original Batman hip-hop story shot in a style similar to the Christopher Nolan trilogy, the rise, fall, and eventual triumph of Batman become an allegory for Macdonald’s own hardships and desires.

WATCH: Check out Tom Macdonald’s epic Batman music video here!

In the first chapter, “Hour Glass,” MacDonald is presented as Bruce Wayne archetype, but with his own unique style. He’s got wealth, women, and power, but he’s still covered in piercings, tattoos, and his signature biker apparel. While living it up at his mansion, he has a vision of himself in a morgue. In this trance, he gets up from a gurney and discovers Harvey Dent’s body. Before he can view the body’s face, he wakes up in horror.

Here MacDonald does a great job of establishing how wealth and luxury wasn’t enough for Bruce Wayne; there were other voids that needed to be addressed and other causes that needed assistance. This is reflected in MacDonald’s own words, as he reflects on a life as a biker hustling drugs, knowing he is capable of greater things. Despite receiving all the benefits of white privilege, he is still searching for some way out of the game that is leading to his own spiritual death.

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MacDonald in his badass Batman/Biker outfit

By the second chapter, “Who I Am,” the action begins as MacDonald’s character works up the courage to put the Batsuit back on. The plot reveals that Robin has disappeared, and while it doesn’t reveal Robin’s fate, it’s pretty evident that Batman is pissed. Batman suits up, and rides his bike into the city to kick some ass, and this is where the film’s production shine’s most. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fan film that so accurately captures the lighting, tone, and overall style of the Nolan films. During my first viewing, I thought I was watching footage directly taken from THE DARK KNIGHT until I saw MacDonald in his batsuit blazing through Vancouver. The costume designer deserves an A for creating a totally original Batman design by combining the classic character with MacDonald’s own biker persona. The result is a patched-up, leather clad, hair-metal, hustler, Batman-biker of the apocalypse. In the epic final chapter, “Bout it,” MacDonald’s Batbiker confronts a bearded and knife-wielding Two-Face, and they duel in the back alleys of Vancouver.

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MacDonald’s alternative vision of Two-Face

MacDonald’s Batman-based opera is successful because it is a work for the insiders: it’s for all the die hard Batman fans who don’t need oversimplified plot or subtext to understand they are witnessing a tribute to their classic Dark Knight. If anything, the only real downfall about this work is that it is constrained to some certain standards that have become tropes in rap videos. MacDonald’s depiction of Bruce Wayne as a hustler is a little much considering all the drama he is going through as Batman. Plus, the depiction of women is less offensive than it is just completely unnecessary.

As Bruce Wayne deals with the weight of his vision concerning Harvey Dent in the opening scene, two women walk around in lingerie and serve him his cigars and liquor. Not only are they waiting on him hand and foot without saying a word, but once he decides to leave his mansion, he is practically pushing them out of his way. For as big a fan as MacDonald obviously is, I’d like to think that he is being ironic, and understands that Bruce Wayne’s bachelor life was mostly a cover for his work as Batman, not an outside indulgence as a billionaire playboy. But that’s much harder to read into.

READ: Check out the latest Batman epic, BATMAN: EUROPA!

It should be said that this video is far from perfect. There’s very little connecting what MacDonald is singing to what the audience is viewing on the screen. This work lacks both the context and linearity that would clearly establish it as a “hip-hopera” piece. As a result it feels more like a collection of Batman related videos rather than one continuous story. With that said, I have never seen such a well produced fan-made short. If MacDonald is able to focus on narrative, and create the same studio-level cinematography in the future, he will be able to make something truly masterful. Whatever he comes out with next, I’ll be excited to see a return of Biker Batman: White Boy Rapper/Playboy Extraordinaire/Warrior of the Night.

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