Sunday, July 27, 2014

Holy Major Anniversary! It’s Batman Day!

Holy Major Anniversary! It’s Batman Day!
by rick olivares

Last Saturday, Batman Day, was belatedly celebrated in all comic shops all over the world. While the first Batman comic ever, the now seminal Detective Comics #27, came out in May of 1939, the character’s American publisher saw it fit to give the fictional super hero his own day on July 27 (that also coincided with the week of the medium’s biggest celebration, the San Diego Comic Book Convention).

To celebrate the day, DC Comics gave away free copies of a modern version of Detective Comics #27 that features the original six-page piece by Bob Kane and Bill Finger as well as modern re-tellings by Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch and Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy and Batman masks from various eras.

Here in the Philippines, the biggest celebration was at Comic Odyssey at Fullybooked Bonifacio High Street where aside from the free comics giveaway, there was a comic book sale, a trivia contest regarding the Dark Knight Detective and his long history, a raffle, and a Cosplay. 

While the “classic” and more prominent Batman stories are The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, and The Killing Joke*, there is literally a bookshelf of other stories written and drawn by a literal who’s who in comics royalty who all need to take a stab at the character.

Aside from the three aforementioned classics, here are seven more Essential Batman stories that you should read and have in your collection.

The Long Halloween (written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale) This was first ever Batman story to mine what Frank Miller created in Year One. It tells of the serial killer known as Holiday who murders people during holidays. The 13-issue long series also tells of the origin of Two-Face.

Prey (written by Doug Moench and drawn by Paul Gulacy). Another story that takes place early in Batman’s career and also spins out of Year One. This was a story arc in Legends of the Dark Knight, an out of continuity book with different sets of creators for every arc. But this one worked so well that it’s now considered part of the regular mythos that introduced Hugo Strange as a villain as well as the creation of the Batmobile.

Son of the Demon (written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Jerry Bingham). For so long this stood out of continuity but I loved it because I always like Ras Al Ghul as one of Batman’s deadliest villains and this is perhaps the best story featuring the two antagonists. And perhaps more than Catwoman (who I personally dislike the attempts to make a pseudo-hero), I always thought that Talia Al Ghul was probably perfect for Batman. And their brief time together begets Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian, unnamed at that time and who would not come into prominence until Grant Morrison re-introduced him in the Batman and Son story arc.

World’s Finest (written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by Steve Rude) A wonderful story originally published as a three-issue limited series that explores the complex relationship between Batman and Superman. This story takes place early in their respective careers as they temporarily trade cities to deal with the Joker and Lex Luthor who have both decided to expand their activities far from their usual haunts. This story runs contrary to the grim and gritty stories that have become the norm after The Dark Knight Returns and Year One.

Arkham Asylum: A serious House on Serious Earth (written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Dave McKean). A chilling look at Batman’s infamous rogues gallery. When a riot takes place at Arkham Asylum with its legion of killers and cutthroats taking over, Batman is pressed into service to quell the uprising. What follows is a psychological thriller where Batman fights for survival and against the madness that inflicts the asylum. In doing so, he learns the origin of the place and how the world outside affects the people within.

Gotham by Gaslight (written by Brian Augustyn and drawn by Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell). The first Elseworlds story told out of continuity. It’s basic treatise is what if the Batman operated in the 1800s with Jack the Ripper fleeing London and taking up residence in Gotham City. Its critical and sales success spawned a host of Elseworlds stories not only for Batman but other DC heroes where they were pulled out of their normal settings and placed in different times and eras.

* The Dark Knight Returns was written and drawn by Frank Miller who also penned Year One although it was drawn by his Daredevil collaborator, David Mazzuchelli. The Killing Joke was written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland.

During the raffle, I won Ian Sta. Maria's artwork of The Joker. But I gave it to old friend Gab Chee Kee who wanted it bad. In return, I got a buncha back issues from Comic Odyssey. Thanks, Sandy!

Recording a video-podcast with JV Tanjuatco and Jason Inocencio.

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