I was never that in to Batman as a kid. Sure, I had the Underoos, some toys, and I watched the Justice League cartoons on Saturday mornings, but my interest in the character never extended beyond that into the medium where he originated. It’s been a sordid affair, my relationship with comics, but one I could never completely divest myself of. One of my best friends, David, was still pretty into comics by the time we were teenagers, and his devotion to the medium rekindled my interest. He turned me on to The Punisher, especially The Punisher War Journals, and I began collecting just about anything my small town convenience store would stock. It was hit or miss, but because the selection was such a hodgepodge, I developed a fearless attitude towards comic book reading.
I’d try anything, and my collection quickly swelled with titles such as Spider-Man, The Punisher War Journal, Green Arrow, Archie, Star Wars, Cable, and some offbeat titles that I can’t even recall now. Sadly, after moving from place to place in my twenties, that box of comics has been misplaced. I had the very first Dark Horse Star Wars comics, the Dark Horse reprints of the original Marvel Star Wars series (ugh) and two copies (including one sealed copy) of the #1 issue of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man series, and the following four issues. I hold on to to hope that the box is sitting unmolested in my parent’s house somewhere, but as of this writing it is still at large.
Nevertheless, my love for comics as an adult continued as an on again off again relationship, largely due to the availability of the collected graphic novel. Oh, I still manage to pop into a comic store from time to time, but it’s hardly a regular event. Monthly subscriptions are expensive, and just not my thing. But the graphic novel allows me to get a good dose of the comic format from time to time, and since my neighborhood Barnes and Noble stocks a wide variety of titles, I’m able to keep up with what’s new in comics without having to run the monthly gauntlet of role playing aficionados. God bless ‘em, though. That lot is the staple of the comic book store, and without their patronage the brick and mortar comic store would probably go the way of the record store.
As an adult, my comic reading has largely stayed within the realm of sci-fi or fantasy, and over the past 20 years or so, Dark Horse Comics has become my favored comic publisher. Nowhere has their commitment to story and art been more apparent , though, than in their adaptations of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. These books, usually borrowed from my dad, have been the cornerstone of my comic book reading for the past 5 years.
The world of the superhero, in all honesty, is a bit intimidating. Where does one start? Superhero series can go on and on for years, with multiple story arcs, reboots, and alternate timelines and universes. Which brings up another problem with the monthly comic format: When I have found something that looks interesting, it’s almost always right in the middle of the story arc. Who wants to spend their days flipping through stacks of back issues only to find that you’ve got issues #1-34, but you’re still missing #13, #17, and #23? I can’t stand coming in on the middle of a story. If I can’t get the whole thing, I won’t bother with it.
But some time in the fall of 2010, and for the life of me I still don’t know why, Batman began to steal his way back into my imagination. Maybe it was the impression that Watchmen left on me, when I finally invested my time in its pages, that reminded me that the superhero wasn’t just child’s play. I began to see titles on the shelves of comic and book stores that suddenly seemed so inviting to me, but my interest always seemed to run back to one title: Batman: The Long Halloween. For a lot of adult comic book fans, the modern adult-oriented superhero story begins and ends with the name Frank Miller. Frankly (heh heh), though, art has always been the first thing to draw me in to a comic story (isn’t that the point?), and the penciling and colors of The Long Halloween appealed more to me than did Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Heresy, I know, but I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.
So, I was quite excited on Christmas Day when I unwrapped a gift from my son, and found that it was The Long Halloween. My adult fascination with The Batman had formally begun. I finished The Long Halloween about a month ago, and I’ve since re-visited Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Returns, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. And I’ve got designs on several other incarnations and adaptations including the1966 Batman: The Movie, Batman: The Animated Series, Nolan’s wildly revered sequel, The Dark Knight, Loeb and Sales’ sequel to The Long Halloween; Batman: Dark Victory, and Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One.
So I invite you, dear readers, to join me as I probe the dark Gotham alleys of midnight blue, purple, and gray in search of the mythos of the winged vigilante, Batman. While Batmania grips The Sound and Fury, I’ll be publishing my thoughts and reviews on the movie adaptations and graphic novels as I get them down on “paper”. Stay tuned to this bat channel and long live The Batman!