New Feature: Batman Comics Revisited

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Today starts a new column where I read, discuss, review, and revisit the Batman-family canon of comic books. I should preface this by saying that it has recently become my personal reading project to reread the Batman comics canon, starting from “Knightfall” and ending, well, it will probably never end. I have many goals for this project, the first of which is to simply be entertained. That’s what comics are all about in the end. It’s entertainment. 

Another goal is to get more familiar with the Batman mythology. As a long-time reader of just about everything Batman, I’m pretty familiar with it already, but the geek in me wants to have these myths more firmly entrenched in my brain.

And yet another goal, and the goal more directly related to this blog, is to see how these stories stack up against the present-day Batman. When I say “present-day” I mean the “New 52 Batman,” the Batman that is currently portrayed and written by Scott Snyder. Not only do I want to compare past Batman stories to the present, but I also want to see how the stories have aged through time. Are the stories still “good”? Do the stories show their age, or do they still hold meaning and relevance for the modern reader?

I decided to start with “Knightfall” because it’s a good starting point. It is the first crossover event in Batman comics. Its various chapters were spread throughout the entire “Bat-family” line at that time. Previous to “Knightfall”, there were other events, but they were DC wide events, such as “Crisis on Infinite Earths” or “Millennium,” but since there really wasn’t any other Batman comics in the 1980s except Batman and Detective Comics, there was little or no opportunity for events to spread across multiple titles. That being said, I would not recommend reading “Knightfall” first if you have never read Batman comics.

So why not start with “Year One” or “A Death in the Family” or any of the other well-known story lines that came before “Knightfall”? That’s a good question, and to a certain extent starting at “Year One” might have made sense if my goal was to simply read and discuss “the modern Batman.” So many other “reading lists” and discussions on the internet point to “Year One” as the place to start. But simply creating a list is not my only goal.

Reading and discussing “Knightfall” gives me an opportunity to view the character and stories in a new light. For me, “Knightfall” got me into comics, and even when I “left comics” in the late 1990s, I still occasionally picked up Batman, if only to see what was going on with him. The “Knightfall” saga also took place at a time of collector speculation in the comic book market and, being a 1990s comic, it was published at a time when everything was “big.” There were big guns, big muscles, big everything. Looking back on these stories, it will be interesting to see how much of the story suffered due to some of the trends that were taking place in the 1990s.

But don’t worry, this column will definitely revisit pre-“Knightfall” material, but this will be done on a sporadic basis. Aside from these sporadic interludes, this project will proceed in chronological order. To me, reading in a chronological fashion is the purest way of reading serialized stories in bulk. To clarify what I mean, reading “Year One” first would make sense if I wanted to find out what happened first in “comic book time.” The story discusses what happens to Batman in his first year, but it was published in 1987. Even in 1987, there were almost 50 years of Batman comics that had already been published. So, in other words, “Year One” takes place after Batman #1, published in 1939. For the record, “Year One” encompasses Batman #404-407.

I also plan on discussing other Batman-family titles as well, so consider this an “All Batman” column. One-shots, mini-series, and other material will also be read and discussed, so if there is any material you want to see featured, let me know.

The next post will be a discussion of my recent rereading of the “Knightfall” storyline.

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