It's possible that the public perception of Batman
has been tainted by the blockbuster films by Joel Schumacher, accused of betraying the character's rich, long history. So, it is immensely gratifying to see a detailed chronicle of this popular culture giant who has successfully infiltrated and conquered a variety of media beyond his beginnings as a dark counterpart to Superman way back in 1939.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Batman is that, for such a dark and angst-ridden character, his continuing ability at re-invention for new generations while never sacrificing the core appeal remains a significant strength. Comics historian Daniels has provided an excellent commentary of Batman from his genesis via various inspirations (DaVinci, Film Noir) to his current status as popular culture icon. Crucially, the author never forgets that, despite his multi-media presence, it emanated from the comic books. Filled with fascinating trivia, Daniels makes sure to highlight some of the lesser-known aspects of the Batman-Mythos, particularly Bill Finger, responsible for many of Batman's long-standing elements. Had it not been for Finger, Batman's costume might have ended up bright red!
In the visuals department, Daniels' text is spectacularly complemented. Chip Kidd once again weaves his design magic to produce pages that are brimming with atmosphere and photographer Geoff Spear makes various Bat-memorabilia leap off the page. Don't believe the films, Batman is as strong as ever--and this is the proof. --Danny Graydon
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
These days we devour super-sized meals, ogle strutting supermodels and experiment with superconductivity. But once upon a time there were only superheroes. Murmur their names, and from out of memory's deep emerge lazy summer afternoons spent on covered porches with a bottle of Orange Crush and a bag of Fritos, weekly bike rides to the revolving wire racks in corner drug stores and, of course, our increasingly daring leaps, from picnic tables and brick fireplaces, with an old sheet fluttering from 9-year-old shoulders: "I can fly, I can fly." And we could -- if only during that moment when we flexed our knees and pushed off into the air. Then, for one blissful second, we were commensurate with our dreams.
But, ah, those names, how they thrilled and fed our imaginations: the Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aqua-Man and Hawkman, the Mighty Thor, and a little later the Silver Surfer, Spiderman and the X-Men. To the ignorant eyes of parents, our carefully tended stacks of 20, 50 or 200 issues of Action Comics, World's Finest, Detective Comics, Marvel Comics and so many others merely appeared to tell the same story, again and yet again: A gaudily costumed crime fighter battles a seemingly unbeatable enemy -- sometimes the oddly loquacious alien from another planet or dimension, sometimes the white-coated mad scientist with his destructo-ray, often (and best of all) the monstrous result of some laboratory experiment gone horribly wrong.
Never such innocence again. Nowadays, comics have grown up and taken steroids: They are swarthy, mean, perverse, complex, adult. They even require specialized stores -- like X-rated videos -- and aspire to literature. "Graphic novels" can be intricate and wonderful -- ask any student of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman or look at the pastiche brilliance of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- but they would likely frighten or puzzle the children who lingered for hours over the early adventures of Superman, Batman and Wo