Friday, December 2, 2016

Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years

DC Comics has published several additional hardcover “celebrations” marking the 75th anniversary of several characters, and this Batman volume is essential for any collection. From the first Batman story by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, through each wild decade, readers are treated to the diverse interpretations of Gotham City’s Dark Knight. Many of these early stories have been reprinted before, but it’s nice having them in a deluxe hardcover full-color presentation. This anthology series also reproduces most of the covers. Notable here is “The Jungle Cat-Queen” from Detective Comics # 211 in 1954, Catwoman’s last Golden Age appearance by writer Edmond Hamilton and artists Dick Sprang and Charles Paris. “The Batman of Tomorrow” from Detective # 216 from 1955 by the same team is a delight. Naturally, we are treated to “The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team” from World’s Finest # 94. The entries from the swinging 1960s showcase stories by writers John Broome, Robert Kanigher and Gardner Fox with artwork by Carmine Infantino, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella. The key story here is “The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl” from Detective Comics # 359 from 1967. Then we get a classic Neal Adams tale, “The Secret of the Waiting Graves” written by Denny O’Neil. Here is where I nitpick the collection; I could a have used a few more of the Denny O’Neil stories from the early 1970s. The long-lasting influence of writer Denny O’Neil with artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano is underappreciated. Writers Steve Englehart and Mike W. Barr and Doug Moench are well represented with artwork by Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, Michael Golden, Alan Davis, Paul Neary and more. My problem with the later entries being that the stories are often incomplete. The era of stand-alone stories is gone, which is an ongoing mistake by comic book publisher’s today. Today’s comics are created like soap operas with cliffhanger endings and story arcs that don’t conclude for months and months (or years). On the plus side, the writing and artwork is strong. Still, there’s great material here and Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is recommended for Batfans of all ages.

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