How can Batman compete with himself?
Not everyone will understand this, but sometimes I enjoy movies more than I enjoy books. It’s a rare occasion, but sometimes there’s a movie that’s done so perfectly, yet altered certain aspects of the book it was based off of in a way that change it entirely. That sounds odd, and it rarely happens for the better, but if a movie hits you the way you want it to hit you, then you almost don’t want it to be spoiled by a book that, while different, may or may not be better; or at least give you a different perspective on the characters involved.
This is how I felt about Batman when I entered comics. Sure, Batman is comics on some level, and of course, everything created about the Caped Crusader stems in some way, shape or form from comics that have been written about him for decades. I’ve been a huge Batman fan for a long time, and yet, never read comics, so never read his stories. How could I be a huge Batman fan then? Well, it’s tricky. Sure, the movies in the 90s were good, hell, I even liked Batman and Robin enough when I saw it; but it wasn’t just the movies, it was just Batman himself, and what he represented.
He was just a guy in a suit, with billions of dollars and one hell of a grudge. Okay, he’s a hand-to-hand combat expert, and all that jazz, but in the end, he’s just a man. On that level, he’s relatable, and even though there are superheroes out there on that level more nowadays (even though I can’t think of any off the top of my head…feel free to leave names below if I’m that far off outside of the Gotham city/Wayne family) Batman is the be all, end all of human superhero characters; at least in my opinion. That’s basically all I knew of Batman growing up, but it was enough to make me a fan of his, and to make him my go-to superhero of choice.
Why didn’t I get into comics earlier and read about this masked vigilante on a more consistent basis? Well that’s a good question, and I’m not really sure why. I guess the timing just wasn’t right. I never really thought about it, there were movies out there, and an animated TV show, plus, the finances weren’t really there to have me thinking on the level of purchasing monthly comics. Honestly, I have no real, finite answer, as I can’t even remember thinking about comics until this past summer. Well, that may not be entirely true.
When Batman Begins came out I was awestruck. Now I’m sure there were a lot of Batman fans who had read every comic up to the point, and knew the ins and outs of the Dark Knight, but this was all new to me, and I loved every moment of it. I’m a huge fan of origin stories if they’re done correctly, and in my opinion, Batman Begins has set the standard. When I heard during the development of the film that Batman himself wouldn’t be seen until at least an hour into the film, I was intrigued, if not excited. An hour of Bruce Wayne, and delving into the mind of the man himself and get a deeper understanding of why he wages this one man war on crime instead of just a flashback or two of his parents getting shot in an alley, and him falling into the Batcave.
This had huge potential in my eyes, and it didn’t let me down. Watching Wayne learn martial arts, and self-discipline, as well as valuable lessons along the way from a man who would soon be his enemy in Ra’s Al Ghul…it was all remarkable, and in my eyes couldn’t be topped. The world that Christopher Nolan had created was real, it was right there in front of my eyes, and I could watch things play out in perfection. Why ruin that by going and buying Batman: Hush, and entering some sort of cartoony world where we’re back to square one with the Penguin being a squawking, umbrella carrying lunatic? This was, of course, my impression of what these books had been and would be compared to this realistic movie.
Then The Dark Knight was released, which saw Heath Ledger, in my eyes, recreate The Joker. There was no other Joker, whether it be Nicholson or any comic version that had come before. What did I have to base this off of? Well, I knew Nicholson because I’d obviously seen the original Batman in 1989, but I had no basis of the comic versions of The Joker, yet how could they top Ledger’s masterpiece, as a man just out for pure chaos in a world as realistic as the Gotham City Chris Nolan had created?
These were my feelings when I entered the comic shop to start gathering the books I’d add to my pull list, the books that would be “my books.” How could I not be reading Batman when he was obviously one of, if not the key guy I looked at when comparing all other heroes? Well, I decided that I’d at least give it a try. I’m odd with movies, in the sense that I felt that if anything altered the reality Nolan had created with Gotham City and its inhabitants, I’d feel let down. Then again, maybe I didn’t realize it may have been the zanier Batman Forever and Batman and Robin that had put this cartoony vision of Gotham in my head in the first place, and I just expected the same from the comics.
After some looking around I found I’d entered this field at one of the better times for a newbie to be coming in. Why, you ask? Well, it seems from the books I’m reading, and even the ones I’m not, that almost everyone, in some way, shape or form is getting a reboot, or a fresh start with plenty of back-story to read up on if you choose to do so. Everything was right there for me to come into the Batman saga with ease, as Battle for the Cowl had just finished, and that entire series was ready for purchase individually on the shelves of my store.
Now, I had no idea what this Battle for the Cowl was about, and with a little bit of prodding I found out that Batman had indeed been ‘killed.’ This intrigued me, and I noticed there were multiple Batman titles available that week, as Batman and Robin #1 had just come out, along with Streets of Gotham, Batman, and I believe Red Robin as well. Gotham City Sirens and Detective Comics were also out I believe, and this entire shelf of Batman titles got me a little overwhelmed.
I asked the newbie questions like, with all these titles, how do they keep track of the one, main ongoing story? Well, I was then told that when a hero has multiple titles, sometimes various stories may cross over every so often, but mostly they’ll tell their own stories. This had me confused, as why would something be happening in Batman and Robin, while Batman is busy fighting someone else entirely in his self-titled comic, and then again in Streets of Gotham…wouldn’t they have to be taking place somewhat around the same time period? Don’t some characters have to know things are happening elsewhere?
Again, it was overwhelming, and I’m still not 100% happy with it, and while I’m a bit behind on the likes of Streets of Gotham, I have noticed that they’ve begun to at least hint at the ideas of what’s happening in that book in the self-titled Batman comic. From that statement it’s likely obvious now that I did end up jumping on board, and again, I think I did so at the perfect time. I bought all the Battle for the Cowl issues (little did I know that I’d bought a variant cover of #1, and #2 was sold out everywhere, so that’s one I’m missing, leaving me with two #1 issues) on the spot, and ended up putting them aside.
My first huge purchase and I didn’t even go home and read them? Yes, as I stated in my first column, I’ve got that strange desire that causes my bank account to hate me, and I researched which books I’d need to catch up to the point of Battle for the Cowl. A few days later Batman and Son, The Resurrection of R’as Al Ghul, The Black Glove and Batman R.I.P. were in my hands. These were the stories that would bring me up to date well enough that I’d be able to start picking up fresh monthly titles and have an idea of what was going on.
I devoured all four books, and found Resurrection to be the weakest (of course I found out later that it wasn’t entirely necessary to the overall plot, but alas, still wasn’t too bad) and the rest to be fantastic. I especially loved R.I.P. and just couldn’t get enough of it. I thought it had all the traits of a great crime saga, with Batman on the brink of destruction the entire time. Maybe that’s just because I’m so new to comics, so every story, even rehashed will seem new and fresh to me, but I ate it up, and at the moment it may be my favourite book to date.
Up to date, I entered the store with a new outlook, and quickly snatched up the two Batman issues that had been released after Cowl. I was hesitant with picking up Batman and Robin, even though I was told that it was the main story to follow after R.I.P. as it was being written by Grant Morrison, and would lead into future stories as well. The reason I was hesitant was that everyone was talking about how it was going to be reminiscent of the 1960’s show with Adam West, and that put a sour taste in my mouth. I didn’t want to read *BIF* *SOCK* *POW* during every fight scene. So I let it slide for a couple of months before finally realizing I wasn’t getting enough Batman every month.
Needless to say I have no idea what people were talking about when they said it was a throwback to the Adam West show. Even Morrison himself said this, but I couldn’t see it at all. I consumed the first three issues, and highly anticipated the fourth. I thought it was edgy, and dark, just as the rest of the titles had been, and still don’t get what references people were throwing out as far as Adam West and all that was about.
I realize now that I have talked quite a lot, so I’ll try and bring this to a satisfactory close. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are two fantastic films, and the third installment, whenever it’s announced is already my most anticipated movie to come. My hesitancy to enter the comic field, and the world of Batman on the coloured pages may have been in vain, but I believe I came in at the right time, with the right understanding of everything that allowed me to open myself up more to what the Batman books offer me today.
My pull list holds four Batman titles in Batman, Streets of Gotham, Red Robin, and Batman and Robin. I’ve picked up three issues of Detective Comics, and have read the first so far. It’s said to be one of the best, and while it did intrigue me, I’ve just been so busy, and overwhelmed with other titles, it just hasn’t stayed on my radar just yet. Luckily, it’ll be one I can go back and pick up during a slow week (which rarely happens with me, or if it does, I cherish it, as there’s likely some event title I need to pick up that isn’t on my list already.)
I’m happy I decided to take Batman on, and haven’t been let down by the stories recently on any level. I even went back and picked up Hush, which I thought it was fantastic as well. I’ve yet to learn many of the artists’ names, but Jim Lee…fantastic work there, as everyone reading this likely knows already. There’s a lot for me to catch up on still, but I like where I’m at right now. Gotham City is dark and realistic, just like in the recent movies, and it’s a city I love to read about, and yet every issue continue to ask myself how it stays so populated.
On that note, until next time…hope you survive the experience.
Tags: Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins, Batman R.I.P., Bruce Wayne, Christopher Nolan, DC Comics, Detective Comics, Grant Morrison, Red Robin, RIP, The Dark Knight