Last month, I looked at my collection of Superman comics. I had so much fun writing about the not-quite random assortment of Superman stories and titles that I thought I’d do it again with Batman. Once again, I’ve never been a consistent Batman collector. I love the character (I once dressed up as Batman for Halloween as a little kid). But by the time I started buying comics regularly, there were so many Batman titles that it was hard to know where to begin (of course, I didn’t have that problem with the X-Men- I just bought everything). So here it is: an assortment of Batman stories that have caught my attention over the years.
Detective Comics #500 (March, 1981):I would have bought this out of a back issue box at some point. I don’t remember exactly when, but I do remember why. The promise of 7 “special stories.” The list of prominent creators, including Joe Kubert and Walt Simonson. The cover with its numerous guest-stars, including Hawkman, Hawkwoman and the Elongated Man. Happily, the stories between the covers lived up to my expectations. This issue falls right in the midst of the best of Batman. Len Wein is one of my favorite writers, in general and on Batman, and this comes near the end of his tenure. Jim Aparo is one of the artists whose style defines Batman for me. Having those two as the creative team for the main story was exhilarating. Everything else- Hawkman by Joe Kubert, Elongated Man by Mike Barr and J.L. Garcia-Lopez- was just icing on the cake.
Batman #436-442 (Aug.-Dec., 1989):Even though I like Batman (as I mentioned in my introductory paragraph), I’m more of a team fan, a Titans fan and a Nightwing fan. And that pretty much explains why I bought these issues. The first four are the “Year 3” story by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick, re-telling the origin of Dick Grayson as Robin. The final three are part of the “Lonely Place of Dying” crossover with New Titans in which Bruce and Dick mourn for Jason Todd in their own ways while Tim Drake discovers their secret identities in an attempt to convince them that the world needs a Robin. It’s great stuff. I’ve probably re-read this short run more than any other Batman stories.
Batman: Prodigal (Nov. 1994-Jan. 1995):I’ll admit it: I like Knightfall. I thought it was a great, epic story. But I don’t actually own it, as I borrowed it from a friend. So we skip to this epilogue of a sort. Dick Grayson was miffed that
Bruce had asked Jean-Paul Valley to fill in as Batman instead of him. So, now, shortly after reclaiming the cowl as his own, Bruce takes an intentional leave of absence so that Dick can have a turn. It’s not always a great story as it jumps through four titles, with a varied quality among its creative teams.
But, as a Dick Grayson/Nightwing fan, it’s a story that always brings a smile to my face. And, with contributions by Chuck Dixon and Phil Jimenez, it’s occasionally a very well-told and well-drawn story, too.
Batman: Thrillkiller and Thrillkiller ’62 (1997-98): I love this one. It’s an Elseworlds story by artist Dan Brereton of Nocturnals fame. It features a sexy romance between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon as an adult Robin and Batgirl. It’s a highly stylized noir story. It’s just really different, and really good. And the sequel, with Dick as Batman, Barbara as Robin and a gang of Joker ladies as the villains, is even better.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83, Batman #563, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #120, Batman: Day of Judgment (March- November 1999):At this point, you might notice that my Batman collection mirrors my Superman collection. They both include ‘80s arcs by favorite creators like John Byrne, Marv Wolfman and George Perez. And they both include ‘90s events, as I dropped in on the titles to see what was going on. These four issues represent a sampling of the big Batman crossover “No Man’s Land.” I would have picked up these issues based on their cool covers (the new Batgirl by Tony Harris, Joker by J. Scott Campbell) or because they featured supporting characters like Nightwing and Robin. I wouldn’t have picked up more because the few issues I did buy were either disappointing or misleading. For example, the Joker doesn’t actually appear in the issue for which he’s on the cover. The disappointment was more of a spillover effect because I was annoyed by the way in which Nightwing’s own storylines were being interrupted by the big crossover. Even so, I kind of like the underlying story with Batman’s supporting cast caught in a modern wasteland, fighting against chaos and anarchy.
Batman #575-581 (March-September 2000):Once again, my Batman collection mirrors my Superman comics. Only a couple of months after giving the Superman titles their first real chance, I did the same for Batman. I was drawn in by the creative team of Larry Hama, whose work I had loved on Wolverine, and Scott McDaniel, who had been a star on Nightwing. They started out with a bunch of done-in-one stories focusing on street level criminals, before moving on to a trilogy against new villain Orca. I’m not entirely sure why I dropped the series after only half a year, but it’s possible the Orca trilogy had something to do with it.
Batman #655-658 (Sept.-Dec. 2006): And the correlation continues. As with Superman, I gave the Batman line another chance as part of One Year Later. This time, the creative team of Grant Morrison, whose work I loved on JLA, and Andy Kubert, whose work I loved on the X-titles, were the draw. And the opening story, “Batman and Son,” featuring Batman’s son Damian as an annoyingly precocious adolescent, is incredible. Plus, Morrison brings in Man-Bat as a second villain. It’s hard to beat that. And the Kubert art is simply gorgeous.
Batman #663 (April 2007):I skipped most of the Batman fill-ins. That’s one difference between my Batman and Superman collections. But I actually picked up this predominantly prose story by Grant Morrison with illustrations by John Van Fleet. This is probably the scariest Joker story I’ve ever read, beating even Alan Moore’s “Killing Joke.” It’s downright creepy.
Batman #666-669 (July to Nov. 2007):This is the story that broke me from my most recent Batman habit. I loved the idea of an international gang of Batmen. I just like international heroes and kooky ideas like this. But the story fell apart for me somewhere along the way. I was pretty much confused before it was done. Grant Morrison is like a mad genius. Sometimes, he’s genius (see the previous two entries). Sometimes, he’s mad, as in crazy, and I have a lower tolerance for that than a lot of other readers.
And that’s an assortment of comics from my Batman collection. I didn’t mention everything, but that should give you a general idea of what I like and what I’ve bought. It’s only about half the size of my Superman collection. For some reason, I’ll try two Superman titles at a time, but only one Batman title. And I have yet to hit upon a long run of collecting Batman, as I have with Superman over the past couple of years. Of course, I also have a long run of Batman and the Outsiders. But that’s another story.