Friday, June 20, 2014

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


In honor of the Batman’s 75thAnniversary, we 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.

Here is Part 2 of my survey of the best Batman graphic novels that the Burbank Public Library offers. Click here for Part 1.

Writers Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker (with artist Michael Lark) explore the world of the Gotham Police Department in Gotham Central . Imagine this as a sort of Hill Street Gotham. Look for the terrific, Eisner Award-winning Half a Life Two Face storyline, and Soft Targets, one of the great Joker stories. Brubaker also authored a terrific Joker tale in Batman, The Man Who Laughs, which is the first time that Batman encounters the Joker. Just as Batman had to learn on the job, so did the Joker--and that is not a pleasant thought.
Batman, Black and White books are noted for a fun and artistically challenging concept. What happens when the best talent can write/draw any Batman story they like, but are limited to only eight pages in length and the art can only be in black and white? A wide variety of takes on Batman! The results are funny, moving, weird, and inventive, and definitely need to be read.


Batman has proven to be quite versatile in that he has been place living in the past and has been set into future times. Gotham by Gaslight : A Tale of the Batman, by Brian Augustyn, sets Batman back in Victorian-era Gotham City, battling Jack the Ripper. Batman and Dracula: Red Rain, by Doug Moench with creepy art by Kelly Jones, pits Batman against the ultimate Bat Man, Dracula. Batman is also equally at home in the future: Batman. Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? with other tales of the Dark Knightby Neil Gaiman, speculates on what would happen if Batman died, while Batman: Year 100by Paul Pope, sets the revival of Batman 100 years in the future in a dystopic society which needs the hope that only the Batman can provide. 

While BPL doesn't own Strange Apparitions, the groundbreaking first collaboration of writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers, do find time to read their second run on Batman: Batman: Dark Detective. Here the Joker takes up politics and features the most honest campaign slogan ever used: “Vote for me or I’ll kill you!” It also revisits one--maybe the best--love interest that Bruce Wayne ever had, Silver St. Cloud, but you need to savor Rogers's stylish illustrations. Truly one of the best ever to take pencil to the Batman.


Two hugely influential stories in Batman’s 75 years are Batman: A Death in the Family, by Jim Starlin, which features the death of Robin; and Batman: Knightfall , which contains the famous appearance of Bane and the breaking of the Bat. (This is revisited in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises movie.)


Author J.M. DeMatteis wonders what would happen if the Joker ever succeeded in killing Batman in Batman: Going Sane. DeMatteis returns with Batman, Absolution, which explores how far Batman will go to seek justice, whether those who commit crimes can reform their lives, and can the Batman, perhaps be wrong?


Scott Snyder’s current run on the main Batman title has been met with critical and popular acclaim. The first two volumes covering his Court of the Owls storyline prove that indeed new stories with memorable characters and lasting impact can still be added into the canon of Batman. Keep an eye out in our graphic novel sections for Vol. 3 Death of the Family featuring the Joker and Vol. 4 Zero Year-Secret City the first part of the current storyline looking at Batman's early career.  Both are soon to be added into our collection. It isn’t easy to add something to the Batman universe that will have a lasting impact, but Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have the blueprint.
Other recent Batman books worth reading include Batman: Noel  by author/artist Lee Bermejo, which is a take on Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, filtered through the world of Batman. Bermejo is one of the best artists working, and this is a worthy introduction to him. Geoff Johns' finally has a go at writing a Batman story and with Batman Earth One he is well up to the task with an alternate take on Batman's orgigings and Bruce Wayne's early struggles to make the whole caped crime fighter concept work.  Gary Frank's artwork is steller and some of the supporting characters get updating.  Alfred in particular gets a more contemporary take, former military special units background and is not someone to mess with. And to show that even I need to be alerted to good books to read, I now intend to read all 4 volumes of Batman and Robin. A library colleague and fellow comics fan highly recommended Vol. 4: Requiem for Damian which upon my reading does indeed deserve consideration in future Batman "best of" lists. Volume 1, 2 and 4 are soon to be added into the library's collection.

I’ve saved until the end the titles that are entrenched in a three-way battle for the best-ever Batman story of all time! Fittingly, they are by two of the most important and influential authors / illustrators ever in the comics medium. Alan Moore, with Brian Bolland’s art, gives us Batman: The Killing Joke , perhaps the most renowned Joker story ever. This story redefined Barbara Gordon’s role within the DC Universe and also proved how strong and necessary a character Jim Gordon is in Batman’s world. Frank Miller holds the honor of telling the most important first Batman story and what is likely the definitive last Batman story with his Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.


Year One parallels Bruce Wayne struggling with his initial crime fighting efforts with Jim Gordon’s arrival in Gotham to join a deeply corrupt police force. TDKR brings Batman out of retirement to take on mutants, Two-Face, the Joker and the fight that finally answered the question of who would win if Superman and Batman ever had to fight. Rumor has it that TDKR will heavily influence Zach Snyder’s 2016 Superman vs. Batman movie. Any of these three masterworks can sit at the #1 spot, and all three deserve to be read for the first time or reread for the Nth time.

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

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