Friday, June 13, 2014

Celebrating the Batman's 75th Anniversary: Graphic Novels Part 1 of 2

In honor of the Batman’s 75thAnniversary, I offer a series of posts highlighting various Batman titles you can find at the Burbank Public Library. Born 75 years ago out of Bruce Wayne’s childhood tragedy, the Batman has long been a part of popular culture. What his creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, began has endured, with popularity beyond their wildest imaginings. Batman can be found in almost any form of entertainment: graphic novels, books, movies, animation, and more.
As the Dark Knight began his life in comic books, it is only fitting that we begin the first part of our review with some of the many graphic novels that you can check out and read.
The below titles are on some of the many "Best of" or "Greatest" lists of Batman graphic novels found on the Internet.
Excellent lists include's new 75th Anniversary top 25 list.'s original 2005 list. Rolling Stone's The Dark Knight Reads: Fifteen Essential Batman Graphic Novels: and's top 25 list.  While Burbank PL doesn't own all the the titles found on these lists, there is much Batman that can be found to recommend.

So, where to start?  How about beginning with the beginning: Batman Chronicleswhich chronologically covers Batman’s original stories.  Volume 1 has his first-ever appearance from Detective Comics #27. The Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told [features the terrific Steve Englehart / Marshall Rogers Laughing Fish and Paul Dini’s Slayride]  is an excellent general story collection that covers a wide range of Batman vs. Joker  stories from the early 1940s to more recent efforts.
No writer has had as long, weird, and wild a ride as a Batman writer during the past decade as Grant Morrison.  Whether you love him, hate him, or suffer a headache from getting your head around his story lines, Morrison is a must-read. Among his and Batman’s best are Arkham Asylum : A Serious House on Serious Earth, the definitive work about the best know insane asylum in fiction. The inmates are loose and running the asylum and Batman must venture through a nightmarish journey for his sanity.  The story also alternates with an exploration of the sad, tragic origin of Arkham.  Dave McKean's art,   dark, surreal and scary is some of the most impressive you'll ever see grace a Batman book.. Batman, Gothic features a seemingly immortal killer while dealing with a horror from his own youth. Lastly, Batman and Son features the beginning of the relationship of Bruce Wayne and his son, Damian. (A terrific Joker story can be found here too.)

Jeph Loeb has well-earned multiple mentions on this list.   His run with Superman and Batman in Superman Batman: Absolute Power and Superman, Batman.  Public Enemies are hugely entertaining, and would well serve Zach Snyder as reminders of how their dynamic works in storytelling. That said, Loeb really leaves his mark on Batman with three year-long Batman tales. With superb art by Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, followed by its sequel Batman: Dark Victory can be read as one long continuous story set in Batman’s early years.  Long Halloween explores a lot of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Harvey Dent [later Two Face], while Dark Victory explains how Dick Grayson came to become Robin. Later in his career, Loeb teamed with Jim Lee [we all wish we could draw like him] with Batman: Hush, which introduced a new arch villain, the titular Hush, and provokes controversy with its plot twists and Catwoman relationship. These three stories are noted for running Batman through a gauntlet of many of the biggest names in his rogues gallery. 

After the wildly pop culture success of the Batman TV series, one of Batman's key artists, Neal Adams, came onto the comic book scene.Batman illustrated by Neal Adams. which the Library owns the earliest volume where you can see Adams' initial work that artistically began to ground Batman back towards his roots as a dark detective.  Adams, along with writer Denny O'Neil created one of Batman's greatest villains, Ra's Al Ghul.

A global eco terrorist, Ra's operates on a world scale and has been compared as being Batman's Moriarty.  Mike Barr's  Batman, Son of the Demon with excellent art by Jerry Bingham, explores the Ra's/Batman relationship and the end of this book left the story thread later developed by Grant Morrison in the above mentioned Batman and Son

Another relatively recent villain can be found in Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's Batman. Mad love and other stories which features the origin of Harley Quinn the Joker’s girlfriend.  Puddin' has never sounded so distasteful.  
Look for part 2 to be posted next week.

These and many more Batman graphic novels await your reading pleasure at your Burbank Public Library. Enjoy!

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