The Great Comic Book Cull of 2010/2011 Part Two: DC Comics – Lots of goddamn Batman

The goal – To read every comic book/graphic novel I own, and get rid of the ones I don’t want anymore in an effort to create space. I expect this to take me about 6 months. I also expect this to make me even more of a social outcast then I already am.

Batman – If you’re reading an entire bookshelf of DC trades that are sorted alphabetically, it’s not going to take long for you to get to Batman, but it IS going to take a long time for you to read them all. When I started this, I had about a shelf and a half of just Batman trades and GN’s. I ended up getting rid of approx. 15% of my Batman trades, which ended up creating quite a bit of space.

What I discovered was this: It’s easy to write a passable Batman story. Easy. Yeah, I said it. When you have a character with such simple and relatable motivation, and combine it with one of the most effective costume designs in comics history, it’s pretty hard to write a “bad” Batman story. Not impossible though, as Grant Morrison has shown.

So I found my standards being raised during this project. Since I had a lot of Batman trades, I needed to raise the bar and keep only my good-to-great books. Unfortunately, I had a lot of those too. What I found was that my Batman books could be split into four categories:

The Classics – These are the books that everyone considers to be classics, and I happen to concur with that assessment after my reread:  Year One, Dark Knight Returns, Strange Apparitions, my collected Neal Adams hardcovers, A Lonely Place For Dying, Death In The Family, Most of Paul Dini’s Detective Comics run, Batman Black and White, Killing Joke etc. There’s a reason those are considered classics, and I’m keeping those. There’s also books like Ego & Other Tales, Death & The Maidens, or Face To Face, all three of which I still love very much, but aren’t universally as acclaimed as the previous batch I had mentioned.

The Classics Part Deux – These are the ones that I liked less than I remembered, but still had something special enough to want to keep them in my collection: Great art, important continuity event, etcetera. Books that fell into that category included: Long Halloween, Hush, Arkham Asylum, War Crimes, Knightfall, No Man’s Land, Matt Wagner’s Monster Men series, Gotham Underground etc.

The happy surprises – These are ones that I wasn’t expecting much from, and ended

 

One of my Batman shelves. Yes, there's more than one, much to my wife's delight.

 

up rediscovering some bit of brilliance in each. The biggest one here was the Batman Adventures comic series, specifically when it was written by Kelly Puckett, but others included David Lapham’s City Of Crime, Brian Azzarello’s Broken City, Robinson and Sale’s Blades story, Brubaker’s The Man Who Laughs, and more.

The not so happy surprises – To be fair, most of these weren’t “bad”, but as I needed to create space, I had to be brutal. Some of the ones that I got rid of include D.O.A., Sam Keith’s Secrets, Asamiya’s Child Of Dreams (I’m already regretting that due to Asamiya’s stunning art), Andy Diggle’s Rules Of Engagement, Gotham By Gaslight, most of Grant Morrison’s run, as well as my 1950’s and 1960’s collections (I’m keeping my ‘70’s and ‘80’s collections, as well as my Archives Vol. 1 Hardcover)

The other thing I learned from rereading all of these comics is that Batman’s history can be split into five parts:

1940-1941 – Bad ass vigilante. Very similar to the Batman we know today, with the exception of some VERY slick purple gloves. Initially, he’s not afraid to kill those that need killin’. Suffers from a severe case of “Shadow Envy” in this period.

1942-1949 – He falls in love with a 12 year old boy, and mellows out a bit. This is his fun loving crime fighter phase. Some douchebaggery, but he’s still fighting crime, and he’s still a detective.

1950-1968 – The “lost years”, though as far as I know he didn’t spend them in a hotel room with Harry Nillson. He spends most of this time period as captain of the gay ship lollipop. He’s not so much a superhero as he is a rich crazy person with a cosplay fetish. And he occasionally travels to outer space. Nothing of note here, and nothing worth keeping.

1968-1985 – The Dark Knight Detective period. DC puts the pig in the bathtub and attempts to wash off the stink of the last two decades, not to mention the TV show. Julius Schultz is running the Bat-ship by now, and has left us with some fantastic stories by Dennis O’Neal, Len Wein, Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers, Jim Aparo, etc. A lot of my favourite stories ended up being from this era.

1986 -2007 Frank Miller gets ahold of Bats, which would provide two very good stories, but then essentially ruin the character for the next two decades. He’s now asshole Batman. Mean to his friends, mean to his family, kicks puppy dogs, etc.  Once a year he’s so mean that he gets a wake up call to be nicer to people (usually given by Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Superman, Alfred, or some combination of the four), pretends to be nicer for 3 issues, then goes back to being an asshole, just in time for the next big event. Not to say that there isn’t some good stories that came out of this era, but the character itself seemed to stagnate, though there was a lot of activity in this time period.

2007 to present –  Bad ass vigilante, but with a heart of gold. Character is definitely more likeable these days, and is quite similar to his 1970’s incarnation. Mark Waid started this trend with his fantastic Babel storyline in JLA.

I had a lot of fun with this batch, though when I was done I never wanted to read another Batman book again as long as I live.

Next up: I read more Batman.

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