Here's a weird thing about this career that I've found myself in: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a few disparaging remarks about one Andrew Bennett, the weepy star of DC's I... Vampire, and the next day I got an email from one of my childhood heroes asking, jokingly, what I thought of the Andrew Bennett story that he'd done in the pages of Brave and the Bold. The writer was Batman: Year Two's own Mike W. Barr, and the issue in question was BATB #195, where he and artist Jim Aparo sent Bennett on a team-up with the Caped Crusader to deal with a sudden wave of vampire crime in Gotham City. To be honest, it's really one of those perfect superhero comics for Halloween. It's fun, it's exciting, and as you may have guessed, it's more than a little weird.
Largely because it takes the World's Greatest Detective to figure out that all this vampire crime might have something to do with Gotham's newest business, Club Dracula.
This week sees the start of DC Comics' big The Multiversity event series, and if the related books on sale over at ComiXology -- ostensibly to get everyone up to speed -- are anything to go by, then that thing's going to be chock full of weirdos. Seriously, I already knew they were going to be throwing Captain Carrot in there, and for some reason people can't get enough of that one story where Batman becomes a Dracula, but there are some deep cuts in there, like that one Chuck Dixon comic where the Justice League are all cowboys, and this weird thing from the '90s called Kingdom Come, where Superman fights Cable.
And then there's Kamandi.
But should Kamandi start crossing over into the main DC Universe, it won't be the first time. For that, you have to go back to Bob Haney and Jim Aparo's Brave and the Bold #157, for a story where Kamandi was sent back in time, and ended up being brainwashed, made invulnerable, poisoned with snake venom, joining up with the mob and punching Batman in the face. It... It's a weird one.
As much as I love Batman, and I think the record will show that I love Batman a whole heck of a lot, I haven't really been looking forward to sitting down and cracking open the new Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years hardcover. Last year's Superman anniversary hardcover was a disaster of revisionist history, 300 pages that would have you believe that one of the world's greatest superheroes did nothing for seven and a half decades but cry. With that in mind, I had no idea what DC Comics was going to do with Batman. If you'd asked me to bet on it, I would've put good money on a prediction that they'd craft a narrative that acknowledged Batman only as a scowling vigilante, consumed with vengeance and every bit as crazy as the villains he fought.
But it turns out I didn't have to worry. The Batman hardcover is exactly what it says it is -- a celebration of Batman across different eras, with a roster of stories that highlights one of the character's true strengths: How well he works across different kinds of stories.
I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, but there's definitely one thing that I think it did right. Burton's Gotham City, redesigned for the screen by Anton Furst, is absolutely beautiful. The Academy Award-winning production art direction is stylish, terrifying, visually engaging and arresting on a level that the rest of the movie has a hard time living up to, creating a world that looks like Batman could exist there.
It's also one of the movie's lasting influences on the world of the comics. Ever since Furst and Burton unveiled their version as a backdrop for the Joker blasting Prince from a boombox while trashing an art museum and Batman blowing up a chemical plant with his remote-control car, Gotham has adhered to their vision of the city, transforming from the bustling stand-in for New York that it was before and becoming its own unmistakable entity. And in true comic book fashion, the comics accomplished this by blowing everything up and starting over.
We make a regular practice at ComicsAlliance of spotlighting particular artists or specific bodies of work, as well as the special qualities of comic book storytelling, but because cartoonists, illustrators and their fans share countless numbers of great pinups, fan art and other illustrations on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, DeviantArt and seemingly infinite art blogs that we’ve created Best Art Ever (This Week), a weekly depository for just some of the pieces of especially compelling artwork that we come across in our regular travels across the Web. Some of it’s new, some of it’s old, some of it’s created by working professionals, some of it’s created by future stars, some of it’s created by talented fans, awnd some of it’s endearingly silly. All of it is awesome.
I think I've made it pretty clear over the past few years that I'm something of a connoisseur of strange comic book stories. I love comics where things get weird with that sort of cheerful rejection of all logic, where things don't quite add up, but the truth is, I sometimes get to a point where I think I've seen it all. I start to get jaded, and think that nothing can ever match the weirdness that I've already seen. But every time, I run across a story that makes me realize that in all my years, I've only hit the tip of the iceberg of bizarre stories. And it usually happens when I'm reading a Bob Haney comic.
Case in point: Bob Haney and Jim Aparo's "How To Make A Super-Hero," where the World's Greatest Detective decides it would be a good idea to let a homeless Plastic Man fill in for him while he's out of Gotham City, and guess what? It goes horribly wrong.
A couple weeks ago when I was writing about why the Penguin has never been one of my favorite Batman villains, I mentioned one of my earliest favorite comics: An issue of The Brave and the Bold that was nominally a Penguin story, but was more focused on the Joker. The main point then was that the Penguin was kind of a bit player even in one of his own stories, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that there might be some subtle nuances to this story that would be worth a closer examination.
There aren't. I mean, it's a mid-80s issue of Brave and the Bold, and those things are about as subtle as a brick upside the head. But it is a pretty great issue, and as an added bonus, it features a handy guide to everything you should not do if you're running a business in Gotham City.
After a blockbuster video game that thoroughly explored Arkham Asylum and a follow-up set in a section of Gotham City that featured every significant landmark from Crime Alley to Ace Chemicals, you might be wondering where they could go next. This week, we found out, when Batman:Arkham Origins producer Guillaume Voghel revealed that they wouldn't just be taking Batman back to the past, they'd be packing him up and sending him off to Ninja School.
Well, the term they used was "a monastery in Asia" and not "ninja school," but if you'd rather think of shadowy intrigue and instruction on poisonous darts than an owl bringing young Bruce Wayne his acceptance letter to Kirigi's School of Ninjacraft and Ninjary, that's your problem.
With a run on Detective Comics in the late ’80s that includes some of the best Batman stories of all time and other work that includes Son of the Demon and the co-creation of Batman and the Outsiders, it’s no exaggeration to say that Mike W. Barr is one of my all-time favorite writers. Recently, he returned to Batman alongside artist Tom Lyle for a three-part tale of Batman, Robin and deathtraps in DC’s digital-first Legends of the Dark Knight, and ComicsAlliance decided to mark the occasion with an extended interview about his long history with Batman.
Today, continuing from part one, Barr talks about the creation of Batman and the Outsiders, The Maze Agency, and his new Legends of the Dark Knightstory.
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