Soon All Comics Will Be Batman: DC Announces Arkham Manor, Gotham Academy And Digital-First Bat-Manga Translation
Between three monthly titles, a spot in the Justice League, an ongoing weekly series in print and an ongoing weekly digital-first series, you might be under the woefully mistaken impression that there were enough comics about Batman going around to satisfy everyone's needs. If you are, then you, my friend, are wrong. We always need more Batman. And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Today, DC Comics announced not one, but three new Batman comics, set to be released soon: Arkham Manor by Gerry Duggan and Shawn Crystal, Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, and a digital-first collection of Jiro Kuwata's Bat-Manga, translated and reprinted in its entirety for the first time since it was originally published in Japan in 1966.
As revealed by Entertainment Weekly, Arkham Manor finds Duggan and Crystal, who previously worked together on Marvel's comedy book Deadpool, exploring the premise of what happens when a catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, leading Gotham City to find a new place to house its most notorious villains. And judging by Crystal's cover for the first issue, that new place is Batman's ancestral home, Wayne Manor.
It's an interesting idea. Despite various revisions and additions over the years that have included a prison floor plan based on the Nine Circles of Hell (not exactly a great way to promote mental health, when you get right down to it), Arkham itself has been characterized since at least 1989's Batman: Arkham Asylum as a stately mansion that was turned into a treatment and detention center for the criminally insane. At the very least, that sets a precedent for taking Old Money homes and turning them into prisons for your various Riddlers and KGBeasts, but at the same time, you'd think that given the track record at play here, maybe Gotham would want to try to do things completely differently than this time.
What's really intriguing about this is that Wayne Manor itself has rarely been used as a plot point or a setting for Batman stories, and certainly not as the focus. There's a bit of Batman: RIP that takes place there, and Court Of Owls featured an invasion of the manor, but usually those stories focus on the Batcave beneath the manor rather than the house itself. It raises a lot of questions about just what's going on here -- has Bruce Wayne volunteered the use of his home in order to keep a closer eye on his foes, or is something else going on? Either way, it's something we haven't really seen before, and that's pretty exciting.
In Gotham Academy, also announced at EW, Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl are also doing something that feels like a pretty fresh take. There have been a few attempts to show Gotham City through the eyes of characters who weren't superheroes -- most notably in Gotham Central, the police procedural about the cops trying to deal with supervillains and the consequences of Batman punching out their suspects and leaving them tied to lampposts outside the station -- but never presented as a "teen drama" that, from the looks of things, is about schoolgirls in Gotham City.
It's worth noting that Cloonan has already secured a place in Gotham City as the first woman to ever draw an issue of Batman -- something that took over 70 years to happen, a fact that boggles the mind -- but seeing her launch a new Batman title, especially one with this kind of new take, is pretty exciting stuff. As for Fletcher, he and Kerschl previously worked together on the Flash story in the Wednesday Comics anthology, one of the highlights of the book that really underscored how underrated Kerschl is as an artist. All together, they're not the sort of team that you'd really expect to see working on a brand-new, high-profile Batman book, which is exactly why they're so exciting.
According to DC's press release, Gotham Academy will feature "new characters and old, plus a secret tie to Gotham’s past," raising the question of just how many secret pasts can one city have. I'm pretty excited to find out.
The final Batman-related announcement, from the Los Angeles Times, focused on the Batman stories created in Japan in 1966 by Jiro Kuwata, which are being published in America for the first time as a digital-first comic, with a print version presumably to follow, starting with the famous "Lord Death Man" story.
Kuwata's manga was popularized a few years ago with the release of Bat-Manga, a book compiled by graphic designer Chip Kidd that was nominally about the impact of Batman's popularity on Japanese comics and toys. For many fans, Kuwata's manga, reprinted from photographs of the original yellowed pages, was way more of a selling point than the photos of old toys, which is one of the reasons that it rankled when Kuwata's name was omitted from the cover. Now, though, he's front and center with the digital rerelease.
Bat-Manga had a huge impact among Batman fans, leading to both a brief animated adaptation of "Lord Death Man" on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, as well as influencing Grant Morrison and Yannick Paquette's creation of Batman Japan, whose civilian name of "Jiro Osamu" was a tribute to both Kuwata and the legendary creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka. Unfortunately, Kidd's reprints were based on the original forty year-old magazines that were still available, while DC's digital series promises that it will present the stories in their completed forms. Finally, we will all know exactly what happened when Batman fought Professor Gorilla.
For complete and total process nerds, it's worth noting that, unlike Kidd's versions, the digital Batmanga strips have been completely relettered in a style that's more in tune with Western comics:
Arkham Manor debuts from DC on October 22, Gotham Academy starts October 1, and Batmanga debuts this Saturday, with Kuwata's entire run reprinted in three paperback volumes later this year.