Happy 80th birthday, Batman! It's a big year for the Dark Knight

Art by Jim Lee. Copyright DC Comics Inc.

The cover to Detective Comics #1000.

 

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Happy Birthday, Batman!

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the Dark Knight’s first appearance, on March 30, 1939, in Detective Comics #27. So DC Comics is having a yearlong birthday party, highlighted by Detective Comics #1000, arriving March 27.

Detective isn’t the first comic book to hit that milestone – Action Comics #1000 came out last year, and Dell’s Four Color passed four digits in 1959, three years before it was canceled. But Detective Comics is the book the publisher is literally named for, and it began in 1937, before those other two books. Plus, you know, Detective has Batman and the others don’t.

So what’s in this special issue? Well, a lot – it’s 96 pages long, with “stories from Batman’s past, present and future,” according to the solicitation. The lead story, by Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke, will feature the debut of  the videogame character “Arkham Knight,” whose identity is unknown, but whose purpose is to snuff the Gotham Guardian.

Other highlights include a two-page spread spotlighting the current state of the Batman universe by Jason Fabok, and a wraparound cover by fan-favorite artist Jim Lee, inker Scott Williams and colorist Alex Sinclair. Veteran Bat-writer Denny O’Neil will present a sequel to his famous 1976 Detective story “There’s No Hope in Crime Alley,” with artist Steve Epting.

Other writer/artist teams include Kevin Smith and Jim Lee; Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev; Warren Ellis and Becky Cloonan; Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen; Christopher Priest and Neal Adams; Geoff Johns and Kelley Jones; Tom King, Tony Daniel and Joëlle Jones; Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo; and James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez. The publisher also announced 30 variant covers by many of the industry’s best.

“Batman continues to have an impact on entertainment worldwide” said DC Publisher Dan DiDio in a press release, “and the 1,000th issue of ‘Detective Comics’ is a testament to the creative genius of Bob Kane and Bill Finger and is a fitting tribute to Batman on his 80th anniversary.” For once, the hyberbolic bombast from a publisher isn’t much of an exaggeration.

In addition to Detective #1000, DC has also published a commemorative hardback, Detective Comics: 80 Years Of Batman the Deluxe Edition ($29.99). It features a new story by former DC Publisher Paul Levitz and artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz, revealing a seminal moment from Bruce Wayne’s youth.  Fleshing out the 424 pages are a sketchbook from Bob Kane ghost artist Lew Sayre Schwartz; essays by various Bat-experts (including Neil Gaiman); the first appearances of Batgirl, Bat-Mite, Batwoman, Clayface, Riddler, Robin, Two-Face and more; and reprints of non-Bat-related “Detective” stars over the years, including Air Wave, Boy Commandos, Slam Bradley, Martian Manhunter and the 1970s Manhunter, Paul Kirk.

Copyright DC Comics Inc.

The cover to Detective Comics: 80 Years Of Batman the Deluxe Edition.

But there’s more to Batman’s birthday than books (although for true Bat-fans, that’s probably enough).

The yearlong celebration began March 14-17 at Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle with Bat-oriented panels, but really made a splash March 15-17 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. According to the Austin Chronicle, roughly 1.5 Mexican free-tailed bats from “the planet’s largest urban bat colony” launched from under the Congress Avenue Bridge March 15 for their nightly feed, to the applause of roughly 500 attendees on the bridge itself. Other commemorative events included the Bat-Signal glowing on Lady Bird Lake, and a Bat-mural by local artist Mez Data.

Bat-activities were also scheduled for C2E2 in Chicago March 22-24. WonderCon in Anaheim, California, is being held March 29-31, and will hold a “Happy Birthday, Batman” panel on March 30, the actual anniversary of Detective Comics #27.

And that’s just March! There’s really not enough room to list every 2019 Bat-event across the globe. But here are some highlights:

To the Batmobile: Select cities will flash the Bat-Signal on Batman Day, Sept. 21.

Global Gotham: Six Flags and Warner Bros. theme parks across the U.S. will celebrate #LongLiveThe Bat, as well as Warner Bros. Movie World Australia, Parque Warner Madrid and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. Shanghai will feature a special Bat-exhibit this summer, as will Romics – the comic book, animation and gaming convention in Rome, Italy – in April.

  • Bat-Fitness:  Select cities will host 5k and 10k runs in September (Bat-costumes encouraged).
  • Revenge of Clayface: Madame Tussauds locations in Orlando and Sydney will unveil interactive Bat-experiences in September.
  • Bat-Signals: DC’s broadcast partners will host Batman programming marathons in March and September, including Cartoon Network, DC Universe and a Bat-branded channel from AT&T.
  • Generation Robin: Boys & Girls Clubs of America will partner with Batman in April during National Boys & Girls Clubs Week for an upbeat campaign.
  • Wayne Enterprises: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, iTunes, Walmart, GameStop, Google Play and other retailers will offer special Bat-merchandise. LEGO, Mattel and Funko will release exclusive Batman 80th anniversary products.

Cover art by Jock. Copyright DC Comics Inc.

The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight one-shot features a character who combines the best of Batman with the worst of The Joker.

Of course, this is all in addition to the regular Bat-tery of Bat-content available already.

On Screen: Dick Grayson, the original Robin, appears on the live-action Titans, and a variety of Robins appear in the animated Young Justice on the streaming service DC Universe. An animated Harley Quinn show will join them there in October, while Joker – starring Joaquin Phoenix – arrives in movie theaters the same month.

At the comic shop: In addition to Detective, there are no less than 19 other Bat-related monthly (or twice-monthly) titles available in March. Highlights:

  • The Batman Who Laughs: The Grim Knight one-shot ($4.99) features an evil, Joker-ized Batman from the Dark Multiverse – just as smart and capable as the Dark Knight, and just as murderous as the Clown Prince of Crime. Other Bat-titles include Batman, Batman and the Justice League Manga, Batman Beyond, Batman: Damned, Deathstroke, Heroes in Crisis and Justice League.
  • The Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale graphic novel ($16.99) stars a 14-year-old Selina Kyle learning to survive on the streets – and finding her identity. Her adult self stars in Catwoman monthly.
  • Batgirl #33 features the return of Barbara’s murderous brother, James Jr.
  • Harley Quinn #59 inserts the Maid of Motley into Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, because why not? Harley also appears monthly in Suicide Squad Black Files.
  • Nightwing #58 continues the story of Dick Grayson after a head wound has removed all his memories. Is he even a Bat-character anymore? Various Robins (there are a lot of them) star in Adventures of the Super Sons (Damien Wayne), Red Hood: Outlaw (Jason Todd), Teen Titans (Damien), Teen Titans Go! (Dick), and Young Justice (Tim Drake).

And did I mention the trade paperbacks and hardcovers? Bat-collections this month, like most months, could fill a column by themselves (although I do recommend this month’s Batman Noir: Gotham by Gaslight HC, which includes the story that launched DC’s “Elseworlds” line).

Still not enough? Well, there are always the Bat-toys, of which there are roughly umptyquadrillion. And what would be more appropriate on Batman’s birthday than a few of those wonderful toys?

Find Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), on his website (captaincomics.ning.com), on Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or on Twitter (@CaptainComics).

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