Batman: The Caped Crusader Volume 1 (2018)
Reprints Batman #417-425, 430-431, Annual #12
Written by Jim Starlin, Mike Baron, Robert Greenberger, and Christopher Priest (as James Owsley)
Art by Jim Aparo, Ross Andru, Norm Breyfogle, Mark Bright, Dave Cockrum, Dick Giordano, and Pablo Marcos
Jim Starlin had established himself as the new main writer for the Batman title by this point following a spotty run by Max Allan Collins. While Collins chose to play loose with the timeline, setting some stories earlier and others closer to present day, Starlin shrugs all that off and firmly plants his feet in the present. Robin (Jason Todd) is about 15/16 and Batman has an established lengthy history. If you compare this to John Byrne’s work on Superman that series feels like it is starting fresh with the hero, reintroducing his villains. Starlin came from a place that all of Batman’s rogues’ gallery is well-known already. That didn’t mean he was just going to play with the toys he was given and this collection begins with the introduction of a villain who is still around today.
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Batman: Second Chances (2015)
Reprints Batman #402, 403, 408-416 & Batman Annual #11
Written by Max Allan Collins, Jo Duffy, and Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin, Denys Cowan, Chris Warner, Ross Andru, Dick Giordano, Dave Cockrum, Kieron Dwyer, Mike DeCarlo, and Jim Aparo
Batman: Second Chances collects the issues just before and following Frank Miller’s iconic Year One arc. The stories here focus mainly on establishing a grittier tone for the post-Crisis Batman while developing Jason Todd, who served as Robin. The result is a jumble of small arcs and one-offs that aren’t brought together for any thematic purpose. Instead, this is just a means to collect some stories that would never have a place otherwise. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it as a historical artifact, a record of what Batman comics felt like in the late 1980s before other creators like Alan Grant and Chuck Dixon became the architects of a new Batman mythos.
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Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Volume 1 (2018)
Reprints Detective Comics #568-574, 579-582
Written by Mike W. Barr, Joey Cavalieri, and Jo Duffy
Art by Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Jim Baikie, Terry Beatty, Norm Breyfogle, E.R. Cruz, Carmine Infantino, Dick Giordano, Pablo Marcos, and Klaus Janson
At the same time, Frank Miller was reinventing the Batman mythos in the pages of the titular book; very different things were happening in Detective Comics. It was a very different experience and an example of how DC Comics editorial had not thoroughly planned out the post-Crisis period, much like how the New 52 reboot wasn’t as coordinated as it could have been. Things begin messily with Joey Cavalieri penning a Legends crossover. If you have read the Legends storyline (one I highly recommend), you’ll quickly pick up that this crossover is entirely unnecessary and not coordinated with the actual event. You can see this in G. Gordon Godfrey, who looks like this in Legends and looks like this in Detective Comics. I thought there’d be some sort of editorial guidance for artists when using characters from crossovers so that they would, at minimum, look the same.
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Batman: Year One (2007)
Reprints Batman v1 #404-407
Written by Frank Miller
Art by David Mazzucchelli
I’ve immensely enjoyed going back to older DC Comics these last few years, and every once in a while, you’re reminded of how great a particular work is after it faded in your memory a little. Batman: Year One is a comics masterpiece. One thing I’ve liked to do is go to the DC Database, search an issue I’ve read and see what else was published that same month. It can give you a great picture of what the publisher felt like at the time. Batman #404, the opening chapter in this story, hit the stands in February 1987, almost one full year after the final issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths (March 1986) was published and a month before Legends wrapped up (April 1987). This was right in the middle of DC Comics reinventing itself as a modern comics company, trying to catch up with the headway Marvel had. Year One was sharing the comics rack with Byrne’s Superman run, Watchmen was halfway through its twelve-issue run, George Perez’s Wonder Woman #1, and a handful of mini-series and other comics attempting to inject some new life into these characters. Nothing came close to Batman: Year One.
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The Batman (2022)
Written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig
Directed by Matt Reeves
There are few comic book characters with as many iterations in popular media as Batman. From the 1943 movie serial to his appearances in Zack Snyder’s superhero films, if you’d like to see a version of Batman, you only have to take your pick. One of the aspects of Batman we haven’t seen too much of in cinemas is that of the Detective. Most films centered on the character focus on action and big set pieces but give little time for investigation. However, some of the best Batman stories from the animated series focus on the character following clues and uncovering the truth. Matt Reeves has delivered the first Batman feature film to really showcase that aspect and has also provided some of the best interpretations of the series villains we’ve ever had.
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For most people, The Riddler is seen as either Frank Gorshin’s iconic performance from the Batman ‘66 series or Jim Carrey from Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. This portrayal of the puzzle-obsessed villain mimics the persona of The Joker more than presenting how The Riddler was shown in the comics. It makes sense, The Joker is the villain we most associate with Batman, and that type of insanity is the element actors pick up on. Tommy Lee Jones’ performance as Two-Face in Batman Forever is another example of someone aping the mannerisms and behavior we would expect from The Joker. So just who is The Riddler then?
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Few Batman’s Rogues Gallery members have seen as many radical changes as The Penguin. He first appeared in Detective Comics #58, co-created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Like many new villains of the time, he had no secret identity and was simply The Penguin. Creators would come up with concepts for adversaries for their title heroes without any real plan for them to come back. They would merely gauge how the audience felt through letters or how the creators themselves felt after the fact. While most villains had an apparent gimmick (The Joker uses deadly pranks, The Riddler leaves riddles, Catwoman is a cat burglar, etc.), The Penguin was a bit of an odd duck (no pun intended). His crimes were often bird-themed, but he was also known for using gimmicky umbrellas…you know, like a penguin.
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Superman/Batman: Generations Omnibus (2021)
Reprints Superman/Batman: Generations #1-4, Superman/Batman: Generations 2 #1-4, Superman/Batman: Generations 3 #1-12
Written & Illustrated by John Byrne
Superman debuted in the pages of Action Comics #1 in the summer of 1938, with Batman following closely behind in Detective Comics #27 in the winter of 1939. In 1999, comics legend John Byrne decided to write and draw an Elseworlds series that asked what would the DC Universe look like if these characters and their supporting casts aged in real-time? Immediately, this opens a lot of new ideas and story avenues, and the first volume is one of my personal favorites in the Elseworlds series. It’s not the most incredible story ever told in the DC Multiverse, but it’s a very fun one.
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Shadow of the Bat (Season 1, Episodes 57 & 58)
Original airdates: September 13 & 14, 1993
Written by Brynne Stephens
Directed by Frank Paur
Shadow of the Bat does many things and feels like a movie boiled down into weekday afternoon animation. It’s the best modern presentation of Batgirl we’ve ever gotten outside of the comic book, and it really showed how poor she was brought into the films with Batman & Robin. What’s interesting here is how separate & independent Batgirl is from Batman & Robin, the characters. Her origins are born out of a story centered around her, and the established heroes play supporting roles in this two-parter, with Robin being the more prominent of the two, in my opinion.
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With the success of 1989’s Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns, it was clear that Warner Bros. was going to cash on this newfound love for the Dark Knight. One of those ventures was Batman: The Animated Series, which aired on Fox before moving to the WB network for its final season. BTAS exploded on the children’s television scene as nothing else had before. This was not the Superfriends, or the other Hanna Barbara takes on Batman. It also wasn’t exactly a one-to-one match to Tim Burton’s vision of Gotham City. While the series was undoubtedly influenced by the Burton films, it also owed much to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. There’s even a strong vein of Hitchcock through the series with its emphasis on the darker aspects of the human heart as well as explorations of the subconscious mind.
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