Sunday, January 5, 2014

On the Coffee Table: The Batman Chronicles

Title: The Batman Chronicles, Volume One
Writers: Bill Finger and Gardner Fox
Artist: Bob Kane
via Wikipedia
DC Comics's Chronicles series collects many of their classic comics in full color and chronological order of publication: exactly what I want.  Batman, Volume One, for instance, runs from the Caped Crusader's first appearance in Detective Comics #27 through issue #38 (May 1939-April 1940), plus Batman #1 (Spring 1940).  While popular in his own right, Batman in the beginning was riding the coattails of Superman, as was the rest of the comic book industry.  However, I have always considered Batman to be a more interesting character than Superman.  True, he has no real superpowers and is far from invincible.  But from a literary perspective, his vulnerability only serves to make him more compelling.  The Batman story is darker and earthier (literally: Batman is a native, Superman an alien from Krypton).  However, the best part of the Batman universe has always been the villains, especially the greatest of all superhero nemeses: The Joker.
via Wikipedia
The Joker made his first appearance in Batman #1.  From the beginning, there was something different about him, something that set him apart.  He announced his crimes before committing them: "At precisely twelve o'clock midnight, I will kill Henry Claridge" and sure enough, at 12, Henry dropped dead.  His victims died with a maniacal grin.  He already had his own evil lair with a throne and everything.  He taunted Batman and Robin.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I root for the Joker but, as with Long John Silver in Treasure Island, the story is always more interesting when he is around.

Catwoman also debuts in Batman #1, though she is referred to as simply "The Cat" and has yet to discover bodysuits.  She, more than the Joker, Robin, Commissioner Gordon or anyone else, provides some character development for Batman.  Turns out, he has a weakness for women, even the evil ones.  He essentially lets her escape because he's smitten.

Over the decades, Batman stories have not always worked for me.  I'm way behind on the movies.  The Dark Knight Returns comics by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson are good, though not enough to inspire my long-term devotion.  I preferred the Green Lantern stories in the New 52 relaunch a few years back.  The old 1960s TV show is fun, though I know it irks many among the devoted.  I'm not even sure I like Batman himself as much as I enjoy the supporting cast.  I enjoyed these early stories, though, and will keep an eye out for others - especially if they include The Joker!


  1. Interesting perspective on Batman! Usually if someone talks about him they're obsessed with the Dark Knight. There are some good Joker stories to explore. My picks would be Arkham Asylum and Lovers and Madmen, although The Killing Joke has a devoted following as well. There's also the Batman Beyond movie Return of the Joker.

    1. My interest in both DC and Marvel is fading but a few of the more interesting characters can still hook me back from time to time: Batman and Green Lantern for DC, Wolverine for Marvel. Even though their comic book worlds are not nearly as well-developed, my lifelong affection for Star Wars and Star Trek are more potent.