If you hadn’t already heard (or read) the news, today (March 30, 2019) is the 80th anniversary of Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27. To commemorate the occasion, DC Comics published the 1000th issue of Detective Comics.
Typical of comic books these days, a whole bunch of variant covers were released for the landmark issue. This is the one I ended up buying, a retro-style cover by Michael Cho.
Surprising myself, I passed on the Frank Miller cover. As much as I love Miller’s work — and the heavy influence he’s had on Batman — that illustration was messy and dark. I wanted something more fun. Cho’s cover also alludes to how versatile Batman is as a character. He works in any genre, any style, something I wrote about five years ago.
A few months ago, my nieces stopped over for a visit. With their mother around, watching TV or playing with the iPad wasn’t an option. So the kids went to Uncle Ian’s room to find some toys to play with or books to read.
While we were doodling on sketch pads, Junior Niece asked me, “Why do you like Batman so much?” What do you mean, kid? Why do you ask think I like Batman?She then took some Blu-rays from my TV stand and set them down in front of me. Hmm, the kid had a point.
She definitely caught on to a theme. And that pile didn’t even include the Justice League and Batman v Superman discs that were also on the stand. Or the many other DVDs/Blu-rays I keep in a folder. She continued to bring me things scattered throughout the room.
All right, all right — she made her point. And that was without finding the other Batman toys in my closet (because I don’t have any place to put them), the complete Batman: The Animated Series Blu-ray set near my armchair or, most importantly, the stacks of comic books and paperbacks — some of which are kept in a box illustrated with Jim Lee’s Batman art.
(Fortunately, Junior Niece didn’t discover my copy of Batman: Damned #1, which infamously featured a disrobed Caped Crusader and his, er, Dark Knight. She really would’ve had to be looking for it, though. And there is a lot of shadow in Lee Bermejo’s art… but just enough light.)
Both of those kids know their uncle is a big Batman fan. (And Niece No. 3 will catch on when she’s old enough.) How could I even try to deny it? The evidence is all over the house. For instance, the treasured notebook that A. bought me a couple years ago:
Or Batfleck watching over my desk:
Every time those kids go for a snack, they see this on the refrigerator:
I’m not sure they’ve seen me drink out of my Batman coffee mug, though. (Thanks, A.!)
Up until a year ago, this was the background photo on my desktop monitor:
This is still the background on my laptop screen:
Whenever they’re in my car, they see this hanging from the rear-view mirror. This Batman toy has been in every vehicle I’ve ever owned, going back 25 years. It’s my good luck (Bat-luck?) charm.
This little guy also lurks somewhere in the car, standing guard and ready to be tossed between sisters in the back seat:
I keep thinking someday I’ll eventually outgrow my love of Batman, but that’s almost certainly not going to happen. (Eat it, 1 Corinthians 13:11.) Maybe when my nieces are teenagers and I’m pushing 60. But what if I get a Batman tattoo sometime before then?
To keep the celebration of Batman’s 80th anniversary going, let’s put some other things down for the record.
Favorite Batman comic book
Probably predictable, but it’s The Dark Knight Returns. This is my favorite scene in any Batman comic I’ve ever read.
However, when writer Gail Simone asked her Twitter followers for their favorite comic starring Batman, I named this story from 1984:
Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places, but Mike W. Barr is one of the best Batman writers ever and I think he’s woefully underrated. In “The Player on the Other Side,” with fantastic art by Michael Golden, Batman confronts his twisted counterpart.
The Wrath is what Batman could’ve been had Bruce Wayne grown up on the wrong side of the law. His parents were killed by police when he was a child (on the same night Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered) and by holding law enforcement responsible, he targets Commissioner Gordon.
First Batman comic
I’m not completely certain, but these two stand out in my memory. It was either Detective Comics #495 or Batman #319.
Favorite Batman artist
There are so many to choose from. Marshall Rogers, Don Newton, Frank Robbins, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Jim Aparo, Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Alan Davis are the artists I grew up admiring. Later, Tim Sale, Darwyn Cooke and Jim Lee. Going back to the ’40s and ’50s, Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang. These days, Greg Capullo, Clay Mann and Mikel Janin are among those drawing excellent Batman comics.
But Neal Adams’ work on Batman was iconic.
Favorite Batman movie
The Dark Knight is the best Batman film, arguably the best superhero movie ever made. But my favorite is its predecessor, Batman Begins. Maybe it’s more of a conventional superhero movie, but its emotional notes are more powerful to me (and in some cases, personal). And it has my two favorite Batman movie scenes.
Favorite Batman actor
If Ben Affleck had starred in a standalone Batman movie, I think he could’ve been the best to play the role. But since he didn’t, Michael Keaton remains the champ. He was especially good as Bruce Wayne, which is really the key to playing Batman.
Favorite Batman: The Animated Series episodes
I have to admit, I’m re-familiarizing myself with these cartoons now that I have the complete series on Blu-ray (and can also watch some episodes on DC Universe). They don’t stick in my memory like I’d expect, probably because there’s only so much room in the brain as I get older and try to shoehorn in as much media and culture as I can. But these are the stories that stand out for me.
Robin’s Reckoning (two episodes): I’ve always been conflicted about Robin. I think Batman works better without him, yet Dick Grayson is one of my favorite comic book characters. Not only was he Batman’s sidekick, but he eventually outgrew the role and struck out on his own.
Two-Face (also two episodes): Two-Face is my favorite Batman villain, and the tragic downfall of Harvey Dent got the origin story it deserved in the animated series.
Heart of Ice: One of the best episodes of the series. Mr. Freeze is portrayed as a much more tragic, sympathetic character here than he ever was in the comic books.
Almost Got ‘Im: One of the many reasons Batman is arguably the greatest comic book character is because he has the best rogues gallery of villains. Only Spider-Man comes close. Here, several of Batman’s most infamous adversaries trade stories on how they almost took him down.
Perchance to Dream: This is a bit melodramatic, especially if you watch scenes out of context on YouTube. But it’s a really intriguing take on Batman. What if Bruce Wayne has everything he wants and lives his perfect life, via a dream created by the Mad Hatter? However, Batman somehow doesn’t know it’s real, maybe because he knows he’s supposed to be the Dark Knight.
DC Universe has a huge archive of old cartoons and TV series. It’s great for a nostalgic deep dive, but some of the shows don’t hold up. Yet I’m still watching The New Adventures of Batman from 1977 whenever I can.
Maybe I’ll check back in 20 years, if I’m still around, to see where I still am with Batman on his 100th anniversary. I could have collected a whole lot more Bat-stuff by then and my nieces will still be asking me why.